It Stayed So Long…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… I’m kidding. A couple of years ago, not so far from here… Wait, not quite. Once upon a time – no. Just no.

Okay. Let’s start simply. In the beginning, there was this odd sort of thing called – well, let’s not say what it was called. I’ll leave that to you. Anyway, this odd sort of thing. It twisted and turned and was very, very long, like a racetrack for cars. Sometimes, it got longer, like a plant. Sometimes, it just stopped, like a train. On Mondays, it was black and blue and yellow and orange and red and white. On Saturdays, it was white and red and orange and yellow and blue and black. Some days, it was backwards, and others, it was upside-down. Then, there were the days in between, which were neatly laid out in stripes, like T-shirts. One day every year, it was good. Not random, not exciting, but good. On this day, people congratulated others; it felt that they were halfway out of the dark. The thing did its best to help the people all year round, by feeding them and letting them choose their own colours. This way, it got to know them; it knew that Sarah, who lived on Baker Street, liked pink, and that Victoire, in France, loved the white of snow. But there was one thing that stopped it from seeing what Gregory wanted to eat, or what Terry really needed for his new coat.

This thing was a black cloud of pressure, a weight of a thousand planets, a matrix of swirling lines and clanging chimes of doom. It hung over the people for centuries, as all the colours faded to greys and the odd sort of thing shrank again, desperate. Over all its years of existence, it had learned that it wasn’t ever fair – how could it be, with the storm cloud rushing in every time it tried to help the people?

   In the centuries that passed, it realised something. It couldn’t keep going forever, like a circle. It couldn’t always be there for people, like family. But most of all, it realised that that was okay. It didn’t always have to be there. All it had to do was be there more than the black cloud. And, with a sudden surge of strength, this odd thing crushed the cloud with its fist. It wouldn’t always be there. But today, it was staying. It stayed for so long that the people gave it a name. Here, we’ll call it  Sue, though that wasn’t what they called it. Sue was the great and terrible beauty.  And this time, it would be fighting. Do you know what it was yet?

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The Two Cities

Once, there were two cities, built on top of each other. The above-ground city, known as Overtown, believed themselves to be the best of the best, supreme masters of life. They lived in luxurious manor houses, and thought nothing of the Underlanders from the other city, who were enslaved to them. For centuries, the Underland and Overtown despised eachother, and were cruel in their own ways to their “opponents”. While the Underlanders were beaten and abused, many Overtowners fainted at the sight of the dead rats in their boots and the spiders in their closets, which appeared so innocently overnight. One day, a cloaked man came to the cities and spoke in a hushed voice. “Spare thee, Father, for I have sinned.”

The people of both cities were utterly perplexed; what did he mean? To whom was he talking? But the man disappeared just as quickly as he arrived, leaving the townspeople to carry on with their lives. That night, every person in both cities had a dream, in which the cloaked man appeared to them and asked them what they wanted from the other city the most. The Mayor of Overtown answered immediately, “A king must have servants. Isn’t that obvious?” Meanwhile, in Underland, a widowed mother of three young children demanded revenge, and declared that they had taken her husband’s life. The cloaked man nodded and vanished.

The next morning, something was wrong. The mother awoke in a bed of soft quilts and many pillows… the Mayor was disgusted by the rotting bedframe and unlit candles. The cities had swapped places.

That day, the Underlanders rejoiced in their good fortune and enjoyed their luxury in peace, as the Overtowners moaned and groaned in the dark lower city. However, as night fell, the newly-rich realised that it wasn’t nearly as perfect as they had been told. Every night at eleven o’clock, every single house in Overtown caught fire and burned to the ground, reset a moment later. Every day was a repeat – no matter how hard they tried, they went to bed having accomplished no more than the day before.

Back underground, the Overtowners were starting to understand how their “slaves” lived. They learned to cook, to sing and to bring joy into the darkness. It wasn’t so bad after all…

Almost a month later, the cloaked man came back. “Now, you have seen the other sides. What do you choose to do?” Without even thinking about it, the townspeople knew. They created one city, united them selves and their families. The Mayor proposed to the widowed mother and she gladly accepted. At their wedding, they said not vows but another line, a line everyone knew so well it was like second nature. They said, loud and clear, “Spare thee, Father, for I have sinned.”