Souls are places; I’ve always thought about this. A soul can be explored like a place and felt like a place. A soul can be retreated to like a place and intruded upon like a place. A soul can be fragile or strong depending what it is weathering and what it is built upon, just as a place.
I’ve always found my soul to be a castle, the interior of which is an endless library. The castle is high on a rock overlooking a vast sea. Outside it is always night. Too much light would ruin the volumes and volumes packing every available space inside. Books which contain my memories, my knowledge, my ideas. They stretch out into every room of the labyrinthine castle, up into towers and deep into basements. The castle is sturdy. It has to be. The sea brings many storms.
Here in this forever night, it is quiet and still. Here I can be reflective and private, contemplative and questing without noise and distracting light^.
My light is that of bright, but flickering candles and shimmering silver stars.
The library inside the castle is curated by tiny creatures who store away my knowledge and thoughts in volumes of clothbound* books. Everything is lit with a glowing candlelight, warm and comforting.
The highest tower has a glass ceiling where the galaxy of stars can be seen in all their majesty. I keep the door locked. Only I am privy to this place. This is where I seek inner peace and solitude. This is where I recharge. There is a hearth here, and comfortable seats of all kinds. Upon the hearth are the moving images** of those few beings who have touched my soul. The fire is not a fire. Instead, there is a resonating glow, a pure unearthly and unbound light, warming and healing. This is where my soul touches something bigger, something I do not fully understand, but have always felt connected to. The light in the hearth is where my soul touches the Universe***.
The books in this space pertain to my morals, fears, hopes, and truths. They are always expanding. There is also a chest where my deepest secrets are kept. The key is around my neck. It cannot be removed even by me. I have opened the chest for only a few. I have emptied it for none. There will always be a secret in the chest.
There’s a children’s wing filled with toys I loved, imaginary friends who once danced through my life. There is a tree with gold leaves. The books kept here are those that ignited my imagination as a child. Characters come and play here reciting old poems and favourite passages from long lost memories. A shabby treehouse sits between the branches. I know there was a light in there at one point, but it sits dark now. I’m too big to get up the ladder. The child that plays here doesn’t ever go there. Someone sits up there though; sometimes dripping can be heard.
Recently a new wing opened to me. It’s been opened a couple of times before and closed again. I like it here now. Everything is different than what I ever remember it being here before. This place is warm and smells faintly of the sea. There is passion here for many things, for life and love and work and happiness. A man sits here, smiling. He is surrounded by books about sports and sailing, about battles won and lost, and odd snippets of information pertaining to many subjects. This room radiates love. Honest love. Devoted love. Intelligent and respectful love. Though the outer world is always night, here there window which lets sunlight in. Here I can say anything. Even the ugliest shameful parts of me are accepted. Here who I am is always enough.
There are many monsters which roam the library of my soul. They vary in shape and size. One is a pushing, violent thing, with teeth which bite and claws that cut. One is sweet and small and gentle to encourage trust, but it always lies. One is always moving and carries a clock with a dial which spins too fast. It likes to jump out onto the shoulder and whisper maddening prophecies in the ear. The worst is nothing but a blackness which feeds on me when I am not looking. It likes to lurk in places it shouldn’t and is often trying to break into the highest tower.
There are many weapons available to combat the monsters. The weapons are easy to find but hard to wield. Courage is a shining silver sword. There is a humble long-bow which can be armed with arrows made of truth. Acceptance is a shield. Trust is a dagger that must be given away.
Other artefacts reside in the library of my soul. I have a spyglass which allows me to see benefits which may still be far away but are worth waiting or fighting for. This spyglass is patience. It doesn’t have a fixed place and can be hard to locate. There’s a compass for the lost which always points to the heart. There’s a little candle which pops up whenever needed. It’s flame changes; it can be tall and unyielding, or dim and in need of cultivating, but the candle is always lit even if just as an ember. The candle flame is actually a little living thing, made from the hearth fire. It is hope.
A dragon stalks the halls sometimes, which of course breathes fire from time to time. I’ve tamed him somewhat. Right now he is raging beyond my want to control him. I spend energy putting out the blazes, but by the time I get there he has already taken off to some hiding spot to regain his strength. I’ll get around to catching him again soon. At the moment I need the fire a little bit. It’s helping to keep the dark monster at bay.
I’m not sure where the castle ends, there are new places being revealed all the time. There are towers that are shut away and stairways up and down. I may never discover every element of it. I haven’t divulged everything here now even, just that which I needed to remember. Just that which needed to be rediscovered to aid me through recent events.
Perhaps your soul is a carnival or a garden or a humble cottage at the edge of the world. This is only what my soul has always been, a castle library on an unpredictable sea beneath a vast universe.
~The featured image can be found here (I don’t own it, yadda-yadda-yadda) and is the Ravenclaw Common Room (which is ma house. Big up my fellow kind of wit and learning). Honestly, one does not affect the other. It’s just coincidental that this is the nearest comparison to what I’m describing. But that in itself is pretty amazing, I won’t lie.
*Not leatherbound. No animals were harmed in the formation of my soul.
**Much like the paintings in the Wizarding World, although in my renditions, the figures are unable to move between portraits. I’m not sure what this means.
***It occurs to me, I say this a lot but have never really explained it. There could be a post about this in its own right, but for now, I will say the following. The Universe is not a god. I don’t believe in a divine being who wrote a book of rules or came down to greet us in human form. I believe in what I see, a great vast expanse permeating everything, connecting everything. And yes, I hear when it speaks to me, and yes I speak to it. It’s hard to explain, but I do not have to explain. I’m not asking you to understand or to believe. The burden of proof is on me, but I have no proof for what I experience subjectively….. It’s just what I feel. You’ll have to roll with it.
I wanted to create a simple story focused entirely on plot theme (aka a fable). Fables traditionally don’t emphasize character development or complicated scenes. The idea is to keep it simple and drive the theme (and moral) right through to the end. I tried to experiment with language use, but, as you can probably distinguish, my personal style faded back as the story progressed. I actually think it’s a decent first go at a type of storytelling that’s very well known. I just hope the moral stands out. Thoughts? You can comment below. Enjoy
The Tale of Tip and The Stone
By Alice Radwell
Once upon a time there was a small village of strange creatures. They were small, so small they could hide behind the leaves of the forest, and each one was slightly different to the other. All were basically the same from the front. They all had two eyes, a little nose and a mouth through which to speak. All had two arms to collect the vegetation of the forest, and all had two legs to carry themselves over the branches, and all would cry when they were sad and smile when they were happy. However, stuck on the back of each creature was a magical stone; each individual creature had a separate stone. They were all different colours and shapes. Some had red or yellow or green. Some resembled hearts and others looked like fish, but everybody had one, except one creature who lived high, high up in the tree.
This little creature was named Tip, and he stayed safely at the top of the tree. From high up he could watch all the other creatures scurrying and having fun below, and he could see all their beautiful stones glowing on their backs.
“Oh,” Tip signed, wearily. “How beautiful they are. If only I had a pretty stone all my own, then I would be happy too.” But poor Tip just didn’t know what to do, and he sat by himself at the top of the tree thinking about all the wonderful stones the other creatures had.
Sometimes the other creatures would climb up to see him. Often they would sit with him and talk about how sad they were.
“Oh, Tip,” said Bun, one day. “I wish my stone were like Brush’s stone. Mine is small and looks like a cake, but his is tall and looks like a paintbrush. All I can do is bake. I wish I could paint glorious pictures like Brush. Why isn’t my stone as nice as his stone?”
And little Tip smiled at Bun. “Your stone is wonderful,” he replied, truthfully. “With your stone you make the best cakes and bread in all the tree. Why, if I had a stone as wonderful as yours, Bun, I would be happy and proud and bake all day long!”
Tip would do this for everyone who came to him in woe; he would be so happy to see their stones glowing again that he would even forget he didn’t have one. Then when night came and it was quiet, he would look up at the sky and feel sad, because he just wanted to be like everyone else, and have a stone as special as wonderful as everyone else. “Why Mr Sky?” he would ask, mournfully. “I’d do anything to have a stone all my own,” but Mr Sky just stayed very still.
Then, one night, Tip was woken by an odd noise outside his leafy home. Something was ruffling about outside. Tip hurried out to discover a large, white and black bird. It’s little eye shone in the moonlight, and in its beak, twinkling like a tiny star was a small stone. Enchanted, Tip hurried over to the bird. “Hello! Hello!” he called, gleefully. The bird turned to him, laying the stone down on the branch. “Mr bird! It is wonderful to see you tonight!”
“Thank you, little one,” the bird replied. “My name is Mrs Magpie.”
Tip stopped suddenly, his cheeks flushed at his mistake. Mrs Magpie laughed kindly and gestured him over with a wing; Tip hurried over, despite his embarrassment. “I’m Tip,” he said. “People call me that because I live at the tip-top of the tree. I was just wondering, Mrs Magpie, where you found such a beautiful stone.”
“There are many of them in the pond not far from here,” she explained. “They glitter in the water in the moonlight, and I take them for my nest.”
Tip was elated. Finally! If he could go to the pond, he could choose a stone, and then his stone would be as lovely as everyone else’s. “Thank you, Mrs Magpie!” Tip exclaimed. “Tomorrow I will walk to the pond and get a stone for myself.”
Surprisingly, Mrs Magpie laughed again, in a kind way, as though to a silly child. “Tip, why would you venture so far for such a silly trinket?” she asked.
“I would like a beautiful stone like that one,” he said, resolutely. “Goodnight, Mrs Magpie!” and he hurried inside to pack his things for his journey. He packed a map and some food into a bag and went to sleep.
The next day, Tip climbed all the way down the trunk to the bottom of the tree. He set out across the grass, which was taller than he was, motivated by the thought of his perfect star stone waiting at the bottom of the pond. When he returned with something so special, all the other creatures would smile and cheer, and agree he had a stone as wonderful as any. But, suddenly, a little way from the tree, Tip heard a strange noise. Sniff sniff, sob sob. Confused, he began to call out. “Hello? Is somebody there? Do you need help?”
“Hello?” came a small, shy reply. Tip followed the voice to a small bush, where two yellow eyes peeped out at him. “Who are you?”
“I’m Tip, who are you?”
“Amber,” she responded.
“Why are you crying, Amber? Are you hurt?”
She shook her head and gave another quick sniff. “I’m lost. I’ve been going around in circles for days and days, and I don’t know what to do.” The poor creature looked scared and lonely, and Tip thought she must miss her home very much.
“You can have my map!” he said, pulling the paper from his bag. “If you follow the route on this map, you’ll get back home in no time!” and without another thought, he handed the map to Amber. She beamed at him, taking it in her tiny fist.
“Oh thank-you!” she said. “Now I can go home!” And she hugged him quickly and started off for her home.
Tip continued towards the pond, but after just a few more minutes of walking, he heard a strange noise nearby. “Grrrrooorrrrrrggghhh” it went, and again, “Grrrrrooooorrrrggghhhh” So, curious, Tip followed the sound to a rock. Sitting against the rock was an elderly creature, clutching his belly, which rumbled loudly. “Hello,” said Tip. “Are you alright?”
“Oh! Hello!” the old man, replied. “No, no I don’t think I’m alright. I wondered too far and ran out of food, and now all I can do is lay around, too hungry to move.”
“Oh no!” Tip cried. The poor old man must be in pain having not eaten for so long. Tip dug his hand into his bag and pulled out the bread and jam he had packed for his journey. With a smile, he held it out to the hungry man. Instantly, his eyes brightened just looking at the offering; he quickly snatched it up and devoured it. Tip smiled. Suddenly, the rumbling of the old man’s belly stopped and he got to his feet.
“I can stand!” he exclaimed. “Oh, thank you, thank you! I should go home!” And he was off, using his new energy to get himself home.
And little Tip continued on, getting closer and closer to the pond, and to his dream of owning a stone. At last he would be special. What colour would it be and what shape? He remembered the stone Mrs Magpie had and smiled to himself. If his stone was half as enchanting he would never be unhappy again.
Suddenly, for the third time that day, Tip heard an unusual sound. “thud thud thud, huff!” it went, and a minute later, “thud thud thud, huff!”. Tip scurried over to find out what the problem was. Someone was rustling through the grasses, pushing between the blades. Every few seconds they would stop and then begin again. “Hello?” called Tip. “Do you need some help?”
“Thud, thud, thud, huff!”
Tip pushed through the grass until he found the source of the disturbance. A woman plodded along, her arms heavy with large berries. As she stumbled forward, her face hidden by the round delights, she lost her balance and the berries fell to the ground. Thud, thud, thud. Frustrated, the woman gave an audible huff. She noticed Tip and placed her hands on her hips. “I have to get these berries home!” she said, “my children will want their tea, but every time I walk, I drop them.” Tip felt for the poor woman and her children waiting for their dinner. If she only had something to carry the berries, she would get back to them in not time. Then, Tip remembered he had given away his map, and his food and now his bag was empty. He promptly offered the empty satchel to the woman, opening the top to allow her to place her goods inside. She gratefully unloaded her arms, moving them around to ease the stiffness in her muscles. “Thank-you!” she said. “Now I can carry these with no problem!” She secured the bag over her shoulder, and bid Tip farewell, walking with ease away through the grass.
Finally, as the sun began to set, Tip reached the pond. He was hungry and tired, but could only smile at the sight of it. Sadly, he could see no stones twinkling at the bottom, only his own reflection on the surface of the calm water. As the light faded, Tip rested his feet and peered down into the pond, and surely, as the sunlight dimmed and finally gave way to night, glimmering spots appeared in the water. Tip’s eyes grew wide as he watched more and more stones shimmer beneath the waterline, hundreds of them. Which one should he choose? Tip removed his shoes and waded into the water. The pond was cool, and rippled with his movements. He dived down and reached for a stone, now so near. The cool, slippery surface of the stone found him even in the darkness; he closed his hand and pulled it up with him.
At least he had it. A stone his own. He swam back to the land, excited to see what it looked like, to see it shine as he remembered, but it did not. The stone was black and dull, with no twinkle at all, and it was a lump of bumps and dimples. When he tried again, he emerged with a similar stone. No matter how many times he tried, he couldn’t find a beautiful stone, not one that shined like those on the back’s of his fellow creatures. Dejected, he sat alone watching the water fall still again, realizing the sparkling was simply a reflection of the night sky. And the stars were simply too far to reach.
Tip fell asleep on the bank of the pond and was woken the next morning by Mrs Magpie. Sadly, Tip had been fooled by the moonlight on the stone she had found, and had been tricked by the laughing stars. “I don’t understand why you wanted one anyway,” Mrs Magpie asked. “When you have that pretty one right in your back!”
“What? But I have no stone!” Tip replied.
“Yes you do!” Mrs Magpie, insisted. “I thought, when I saw it, it was the most beautiful jewel I had ever seen.”
Tip rushed to the water, and turned his back to see his reflection in the dawn sun. Sure enough, right there on little Tip’s back was a shimmering stone, as lovely as any he had seen. “It’s true!” he cried, happily. “A stone my very own, right here on my back, but I couldn’t see it!”
“That’s because it’s on your back,” laughed Mrs Magpie. “It makes it easy for others to see, but not you.”
“It’s green!” Tip continued. “It’s green and it looks like a watering can!”
“I think they call you Tip,” said Mrs Magpie, “not because you live at the tip-top of the tree, but because you tip up your kindness onto others.”
And Tip remembered all the people he helped at home and on his journey, and he was proud of his stone which was as lovely as everyone else’s.