Preamble Stumble

A SHORT STORY PREQUEL

In the beginning there wasn’t just one word, there were several, and some were missi_

On another plane of existence, Jawanza the orator makes worlds come to life by reading aloud from a mysterious script to celestial spectators. Despite birthing countless flawless worlds into being, for the first time ever he's forced to improvise. One wrong sentence could destroy an entire civilisation but a whole paragraph could really mess up an otherwise pleasant realm.

Sample

ABOVE AN ODD LITTLE WORLD IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE a celestial carriage appeared with white gossamer wings spread wide. Following the same route it did every eon, it coasted down a cosmic aisle through rows of spectators, towards a grand amphitheatre. When the docking platform came into view, the carriage plunged beak first then levelled out just above the ground. A few graceful wing sweeps sent a cool breeze across a large crowd of colloidal wellwishers that gathered on the forecourt hoping to catch a glimpse of Jawanza, the great orator, before the Revelation of Worlds.

 

‘He’s here!’ the first wellwisher to notice the carriage cried out in excitement.

 

All eyes turned to the platform as the carriage landed with a thump sending long-settled dust into the atmosphere. Its wings folded then the doors swung opened to an expectant silence.

 

‘What’s happening up there?’ a wellwisher further back from the platform called out after a while. The orator usually appeared the moment the doors opened.

 

‘He’s not there!’ someone at the front called back.

 

Mouths dropped open and eyes grew wide. ‘How could he not be there?’

 

It was a mystery to all except the usher, Jink, who’d caught a brief glimpse of Jawanza on the carriage step when light shone on dust that settled on his shoulders. Jink knew the effort it took for the orator to appear enough to be seen, but also that the wellwishers expected to see him. The effort usually involved applying coloured balm and a visibility cloak. ‘He’s here! Do you see?’ Jink pointed at a tall, glassy entity whose large head carried mostly mouth and a one-track brain good for broadcasting stories across great distances and not much else, but a breeze brushed the dust away before anyone could see him.

 

Under the shadow of the departing carriage, unseen and clasping a rolled script thick with words, the great orator walked to the edge of the docking platform. Arms out, he greeted the crowd with a pleasant smile. ‘Hello, wellwishers! It’s good to be back!’ His captivating and omnipresent voice carried far and wide with no telling where it came from.

 

Confused expressions fell on faces. Heads turned in all directions. Wellwishers cried out.

 

‘Where are you?’

‘We can’t see you!’

‘Is he really here?’

 

Jink climbed onto the platform and identified the orator by a thickness of the atmosphere. She leaned towards him and whispered, ‘Jawanza! You forgot to put on your balm and cloak!’

 

‘I did!’ the orator confessed with an awkward laugh. He excelled at reading out loud but was otherwise absent-minded. Presenting as ethereal wasn’t the sensational arrival everyone expected and seeing eager faces was the encouragement he needed before the reading. He felt bad that he’d let everyone down.

 

Jink took off her cloak and handed it to him.

 

‘Thank you, Jink!’ Jawanza gave a nod of his giant head. The basic fabric didn’t reveal the orator, but it contoured his shape. He hoped it would assure everyone that he was indeed there and that the show would go on.

 

All cheered, except for one. ‘What if it’s not really him?’ a sceptical wellwisher in the midst of the crowd wondered.

 

‘Who else would it be?’ someone nearby countered.

 

‘It could be anyone,’ someone a little further back remarked.

 

‘The words appear only to him. No one else can reveal worlds.’

 

‘It’s definitely Jawanza,’ someone from the front assured. ‘Jink saw him before offering her cloak.’

 

‘He’s wearing Jink’s cloak,’ someone called out for those in the back to hear. The message found its way through the crowd. All it took was one person to mishear it for the message to get lost.

 

‘The cloak’s jinxed!’

‘The orator’s jinxed!’

‘The reading’s jinxed!’

‘The worlds are jinxed!’

 

The rumour didn’t reach all the wellwishers but most who heard it passed on their worries. Some believed, some didn’t, but it still grew strong enough to alter the collective mood.

 

Oblivious to the spreading concerns, holding the script high the orator followed Jink down into the crowd. Jink swept a path through wellwishers and they made their way towards the grand amphitheatre.

 

‘Speak loud and clear!’ someone who hadn’t heard the rumour shouted.

 

‘I shall!’ Jawanza answered.

 

‘Make us feel like we’re there!’

 

‘I shall!’

 

Enjoy the reading, Orator!’

 

‘I shall!’

 

‘Don’t worry about the jinx!’ said someone who had heard the rumour.

 

‘Pardon?’ Jawanza heard the comment but it didn’t register.

 

‘It’s probably not true!’ said another worrier.

 

His smile fading, the orator’s face registered confusion. What was going on?! He stopped and frowned. ‘What isn’t true?’ Pushed along, he heard no reply and let it go until someone else called out.

 

‘Everything’s going to be okay!’

 

His frown returned. This wasn’t wellwishing! It was reassurance! The lack of smiles on faces worried him. Frowns were many, jumps of joy were few.

 

Jink also noticed the gloom. For the reading to go well, getting the orator away from wishes other than the wellbeing sort was vital. Instead of gliding through an accommodating crowd, she pushed through a distracted one. At the tall iron doors of the backstage entrance, she turned a large ornate key in the lock then ushered the orator through. Following him inside, she closed the door which muted the bad mood and left them facing a long, white corridor.

 

In keeping with tradition, Jawanza silently followed Jink down the corridor to a plain white door. Jink stood aside giving him a moment which he used to steady breath and empty mind. It almost worked. His mind kept going to the wellwishers outside the amphitheatre that had offered reassurance instead of encouragement. If they thought there was a problem, it was a worry. His fist tightened around the rolled parchment. Closed eyes open, he turned to Jink and asked, ‘Will it go well?’ Concern dulled his voice.

 

Standing calm and sturdy Jink faced Jawanza. ‘You have never failed to bring the worlds to life and entertain the spectators before and you won’t now!’ It took more than worry and doubt to break Jink’s cheerful will and Jawanza was easily appeased.

 

Jink held the closed stage door by its edge. ‘Are you ready?’

 

With one last long breath, Jawanza nodded. Jink swung open the door and Jawanza stepped through.