Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tales within tales

I'm gonna admit right up front here that I ain't got much experience in the whole "gonna go do somethin that is gonna get someone killed and even though I don't wanna do it I've been told by a couple gods that I gotta do it so I'm sorta resigned to bein complicit in murder, but that's prolly ok because I have been raised by ninjas, after all, but I still want to understand what's going on and is there really such a thing as fate" thing. I have, however, had quite a lot of experience with chicken wings, which is sorta the same thing. I been sittin on my porch of a Saturday afternoon thinkin to myself that what I could really go for is a whole mess of chicken wings, some fries and a pitcher of frosty barley pop while I'm watchin whatever's on the game. At that point in time, it's pretty well assured that I'm gonna find myself in Ed's Chicken Shack and Discount Record Store in a couple hours with a veritable charnel ground of chicken bones heaped up before me like I'm the barbarian who conquered the chicken yard, one or two fry ends sitting among a field of salt, a forest's worth of orangified, greasy napkins strewn about like the petticoats of a fast woman in the 50s and a quarter pitcher of my favorite ale sweating on the table as I work up the courage and stomach space to polish that sucker off. I know this is gonna happen as soon as the thought pops in my head. But I also know that I will wake at 1:30 am the following morning with a family of starving flame beavers attempting to chew their way out of my body, lower end first. So I sit there in my rockin chair, whittlin away at whatever project I'm currently on, and debate myself. I say, "Pat, them wings is mighty delicious." Then I retort, "I ain't denyin that, Pat, but that hot sauce ain't gonna do your stomach a good turn, and if you spend too many more nights sleepin in your recliner, your back's gonna be so twisted and deformed that you'll be able to sit a magazine on the toilet tank while you're doin your business and read it just fine. And you know you're gonna be doin a whole lot of business after them wings." Then I'll shoot back, "But PAT! They're delicious!!!!!" And so it goes. Before I know it, I'm sittin right where I knew I would be from the beginning, pile of bones up to the ceiling, leanin back in my chair and burpin fire, gettin ready for the pain to come.

So, even though it ain't never led to anyone dyin or anything like that, I know a little somethin about inevitability. I bet Hiroki was feelin a little like confused-over-chicken-wings Pat when he was given the magical saw and sent off with Loki to get himself a piece of the tree.

That's prolly why he started askin questions like, "Are you really going to kill him? Baldr, I mean?"

"Oh, no," replied Loki, "I couldn't possibly kill my own brother. There's almost nothing worse than a fratricide. I'm going to have Thor do it for me."

"But why? You're going to be chained to a rock and then destroy the world!" Hiroki was shouting by now.

Loki lowered his eyes, "I know."

"Then why do it?! Is a hammer so important?"

Loki sighed, "I don't have a choice. And neither do you." Then he wept a little.

The young ninja wrinkled his brow. This was very unexpected. "What do you mean?"

Loki pulled himself together with visible effort. "I love my brother," he said. "And I hate seeing him die, but it happens over and over and over, and there's nothing I can do to stop it."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm just a story, that's why!" He shouted, throwing his arms into the air. "I'm just some words, some pictures in someone's head! And so are you!"

Hiroki was taken aback. "I am not a story, I am Hiroki Hatayama, son of Tetsuo Hatayama, member of Clan Platypus, and I am a real person."

"No," Loki replied, "no you're not. You are naught but words and imagination, Hiroki. So are my brothers, so is this tree, so is all of it."

"It can't be true," Hiroki gasped. "How do you know this?"

"A little birdy told me." Seeing that this answer didn't satisfy his audience, Loki went on. "As you may know, my brother Odin once hung himself in a tree for nine days, as a sacrifice to himself. During those nine days, a raven came to him and offered him omniscience in exchange for his eye. As you saw, he took it."

The ninja nodded, "That's in the Havamal, I believe."

Loki chuckled, "It is the Havamal. But yes, you know the story. What's not in there is that, in gaining omniscience, Odin learned something he could not bear alone. So he talked me into sacrificing for the knowledge as well."

Hiroki looked at him askance. "You still have both eyes."

"Smart kid," Loki shot back. "The raven didn't want my eye. I had to sacrifice something more. And so Baldr dies, I get chained to a rock with water dripping on my head for thousands of years, and when I get out, everything gets destroyed. And what do I get in exchange? I get to know that we're all really just stories.

"Listen, boy, I know you don't like to hear it, but it's true. This place we live in, it's not as it appears. We're just words and images. And the nature of our universe is such that, when a story is told or remembered, it becomes real. So just now, when I told you of Odin in the tree, that was really happening. Somewhere out in a far off corner of the universe, there was a real Odin hanging in a real tree somewhere.

"And me, I can imagine a man standing on a planet speaking to an army of ghosts about this very story and that is real, too! And maybe that man imagines, I don't know, a man sitting at a magic box where he presses some buttons and makes all those stories come to life, something crazy like that. Even that is real. It's all real. And we're all imagining each other and making it real. We're all products of each other's imaginations, you see.

"So whenever you read a story or tell a story or even remember a story, it becomes real all over again. Each time you read about me getting my nephew to kill my brother, it has to happen somewhere. But I'm omniscient from that first sacrifice and so I know that I do it over and over and over again. I have no way to stop it or to not know about it."

Hiroki fell to his knees. "Can it be true? Am I nothing more than some ink, some words?"

"It's true," said Loki.

"Then how can I go on? What meaning does any of this have?"

"That's a good question, boy."

No comments: