Stories seduce, and I, I fall freely into their embrace. To revel and despair as they bid me, to endure and delight at their mercy. And while they surge on a hidden course too compelling not to explore, there is no obstacle insurmountable. No danger or evil too perilous to face. No broken heart beyond repair. Is it any wonder I go willingly? Or that I tremble as I do?
As lives unfold and faces grow familiar, each dutifully brings voice to all that is good and bad within the world. Mine as well as theirs. Stories told within stories birth the desperate wish for glory and redemption, for restoration to safety and happiness, and I remain their breathless captive. Rage, love and anguish felt on their behalf make me persevere. Page after page, until they are triumphant. Vindication! It was right to believe. Right to hold out hope. With them I am freed. All is right once more, and better than it ever was before. Predictable, and yet… infinitely more complex and surprising than promised at first.
Somehow, mingled with this beautifully sweet exultance, there is a deep resentful sorrow, acrid with the pang of parting. It is, after all, their lives I have lived. Their tears I have shed. Their blood I have spilled, and I do not wish to leave them now that finally they are home. But stories hold no care for what becomes of their audience after the final words are wrought. We do not belong there and are not intended to linger, but rather to move on to the next and be spellbound anew. Such is the nature of stories, and perhaps for most this is enough. More than enough. But for me it is a reluctant extraction back to a reality that seems lackluster in comparison. I do not want other stories. I want more of this one. Please?
Nevertheless, beloved voices must needs eventually fade into an unwritten everafter into which I cannot follow. They remain, together, living perpetually in the grace of their final glory, while I, a mere mortal from a far more ephemeral world, must part. After everything we have been through together, there is no more. And the loss is mine, and mine alone.That is perhaps the hardest part, that sudden sense of loneliness while memories and emotions linger still. Like dying embers of a once life-giving fire, still kindling enough warmth to whispering alluringly to me. That impending void is a chasm of grief that rivals any peril lived with the story itself. Worse, its only ending is Time’s slow numbing of memory and the awkward awareness that it will happen whether I wish it or not.
Still, relentlessly, I covet the seduction nonetheless. There is, I think, a madness, as well as a blessing, shrouded within the gift of imagination. After all, how else can one defend in sound mind the pursuit of an inevitable and heartbreaking end?