I am sorry.
I do not have a story for today.
I am sorry.
But I have already said that, that I am sorry.
(There I go again!)
The truth is, I did have a story to begin with.
A nice, succulent tale that twists and turns and coils and uncoils itself, sometimes with the beauty of Rapunzel's golden braids, at other times with the sinuousness of serpents. A story with a well-defined beginning, a distinct middle, and an incontrovertible end. The kind that stays with you, as a good friend does, long long after it has been read and forgotten.
I unearthed the story from the little burrow under the hedge that separated our garden from the rest of the world. (I had often seen Caramel digging there furiously, making himself a neat little hideout to nestle in on a lazy afternoon. I had always assumed it was a bone he had hidden there. One day I saw it (that which I had assumed was a bone) move and whisper and sing and dance and quiver in the wind, and it was when I went to take a look that I discovered what it really was. A tale waiting to be told.)
I scooped the tale into a little jar I had meant to keep butterflies in, but the tale was just as beautiful and flitted about in the jar just as prettily. And I set out on a journey from my home in the middle of the garden on the edge of the rest of the world, so I could bring the tale to you.
From all the stories I had read until then, I knew all there was to know about the seven mountains and the seven seas. And so I had no unforeseen difficulty traversing them. But after I crossed the seventh sea and stepped onto its shores, a little path led me up a river to a little wooden bridge over it.
Under the bridge stood a troll, who appeared as if he had been waiting for me. When I approached him, he said he was pleased to see me but unhappy to learn of his portrayal as an ugly, dim-witted, thieving creature in the story I carried in my jar. And because he gave me such a piteous look, which was unbecoming for a troll, I held out my jar and he took the story in his clumsy fingers and gave it a little pinch here and a tiny bend there, then put it back in the container and lidded it and handed it back to me. When I asked what he had done, he said the troll in the story was now a different character, one that helps The Little Prince cross the bridge instead of trying to kill him.
I crossed the bridge, leaving behind a happy troll, only to find an unhappy The Little Prince waiting for me on the other side. He leapt out at me brandishing a sword, demanding to know why I had let the shape of the story be changed. I recounted to him my encounter with the troll under the bridge. After which The Little Prince pointed his sword at my chest, and growled that because the troll's life has now been spared in the story, he (The Little Prince) would have to kill someone else as the prophecy would otherwise remain unfulfilled. I thought The Little Prince meant he was about to chop my head off, instead he grabbed the jar, let the story out, and gave it a snip here and a nick there and handed back the jar to me. I did not stay to ask what he had done, instead I ran into the woods as fast as my legs could take me without my heart exploding, stopping only when I realised I had come too far and no longer knew where I was, where I was headed, where I had come from.
I began to panic, but soon fear gave way to relief when a little fairy appeared from nowhere and hovered above me. I wanted to ask her if she could get me out of the forest and take me to you safely, but as she glided nearer to me, I could see she was crying. She said The Little Prince had killed her in the tale in my jar because the troll had tricked me into sparing his life. And she said she was crying not so much because she was killed but because she is required in a later chapter where she saves The Little Prince from the clutches of an evil witch, but now that he has killed her in an earlier chapter she couldn't see how she was going to fulfil that role anymore. And of what use is a story if good did not prevail over bad in the end? I held the jar out to the fairy, she sprinkled some stardust into it, and the story shimmered and sparkled and luminesced like coloured powder on a butterfly's wings. She told me to head east until I found an oak tree that would tell me what to do next.
I reached the oak tree not too long after. But my legs gave away under me as I sank beneath the tree. And where there was earth only moments ago, was suddenly now a hole that grew larger and larger by the instant, and sucked me inside it. I fell through the hole, and I kept falling, endlessly it seemed, and I fell some more, not like a comet hurtling from outer space but like a feather gliding, biding its time, guided by the gentle breeze. And when I landed, it was like coming to rest in slow motion on a feather bed. Only, the bed was severely undersized, large enough for me to barely rest my right leg on it.
And it was there that I found Alice, large and oversized, like a big child who had somehow found her way into her favourite dollhouse and figured it wasn't as comfortable and fun on the inside as it had appeared from the outside. I asked her if she could help me get out of there and she said there was only one way out. And she put her hands over my face and closed my eyes and I drifted into a deep sleep.
When I opened my eyes next, I found myself by the little burrow under the hedge that separated our garden from the rest of the world. The sun shone in my eyes, Caramel lay in the burrow chewing on his bone, and in a little jar beside us a butterfly fluttered, the colours on its wings stolen from the far corners of the earth. Caramel nudged me and I uncovered the jar. The butterfly landed on my cheek for a fleeting second, then darted to land on Caramel's wet nose, and flew away into the sunlight. And with it, took the story I wanted to share with you.
And so I am sorry.
I do not have a story for today.
Edited to add: I had to put in this image here, it is just so apt for the story. Ideally I would have loved to build another story around it, but looking at it reminds me of today's tale and I doubt I'd be able to write another distinct story for this picture. Perhaps in the distant future, not in the near one. But it is a lovely image, and I wanted to share it.