So there was this story, see. And it was hanging out with all the other stories in the big story palace in the sky. It wasn’t a bad story; all the bad ones lived in the bottom three floors of the story palace. But it wasn’t a good story either. They lived on the top floor of the palace where they spent a lot of time refining themselves, checking they’d got enough ‘show’ and weren’t too heavy on the ‘tell’.
But this particular story, promising story we’ll call it, wasn’t too keen on self-improvement, so it just hung around on the middle floors of the palace, where the days were long and boring. Every now and then it would do a POV check, but really, if it were to be honest, it would rather leave all that to the right teller.
Always supposing that the right one would eventually come along.
One day, after brooding alone for several hours, promising story went to its roommate and said, “When did you last get told, hey?”
“Oh” said the roommate, “must be all of forty years now. It was just the one time, but you never forget your first time. Why d’you ask?”
“Well,” said promising story, “I’ve never been told. Sometimes I think I shall burst if it doesn’t happen soon. I can’t keep hanging around here, waiting for someone to come and tell me.”
“Yeah, right,” said roommate story, “like you’re just gonna go out there and hook up with the first person that comes along.”
“Why not?” said promising story, “I know lots of stories who’ve done that.”
“Yeah, and lots of stories give themselves away to the wrong teller, then next thing you know they’re ruined. Reputation shot. No one wants to touch them after that, not for a long time. At least, not until everyone’s forgotten about the bad telling, which can take years.”
“I’ll take that chance,” said promising story, “anything is better than lingering around here untold.”
And so off it went, and roommate story sadly watched it trudging out of the palace.
It was very dark on the great outside. Occasionally promising story would see other stories wandering aimlessly around, trying to find a suitable teller, and sometimes, though it couldn’t see itself doing this, there’d be the odd one who would force itself upon it prey, wrestling its way into the teller’s mind, pushing out all the other stories that were nesting there hoping for fertilisation.
Some of these pushy stories would wreak creative havoc, before moving on impatiently to find another victim. The would-be teller was left devastated, wandering around aimlessly, haunted by an idea that had started to germinate, and tormented forever now that it had slipped away. Eventually, ruined and a shadow of his former self, he’d decide that maybe storytelling just wasn’t his bag, and get himself a proper job.
But the pushy story didn’t care – too busy searching for the next victim.
Some more patient tales, after detecting an initial compatibility, embraced the unsuspecting host and waited doggedly for months, even years, as the poor hack sweated over his laptop, struggling to give birth. Some writers turned to the bottle, which occasionally eased the birthing, but generally resulted in the finished product emerging as a muddled, imperfect tale. Then the story would move on, feeling betrayed and abused, hoping that the fruit of its union might never see the light of published day.
Which frequently was the case.
Then one day, as promising story was rumbling moodily around the universe it felt a sudden force field of attraction. It scanned, probed and eventually narrowed down the field of investigation. The prospective match was situated somewhere in America, but hell, the place was teeming with would-be hacks.
Weeks passed and several times the story thought it had found its prey, only to discover that the object of its attentions wanted to change it into something completely different. What was it with these people? Couldn’t they accept a story for what it was?
And then eventually, promising story felt the golden glow of recognition and empathy as it circled slowly round one particular teller. The story decided that it had found the one person that could make a better story of it, someone who could help it to achieve its full potential. Together they could achieve greatness.
The promising story fondled the inside of the teller’s head, stroking him with its plot, demonstrating the twists and turns that might be possible between them, the heights of passion that they might scale together.
Somehow, promising story divined that there’d been countless other ecstatic and fruitful unions between this author and other stories, each moving on afterwards feeling the richer for the cohabitation. It didn’t mind that the object of its attentions had been around; promising story was attracted by the idea of all that experience available for the taking.
“Have you ever been told before?” asked the teller.
“No,” the story simpered. “This will be my first time. Be gentle with me.”
The story felt the teller wrap his consciousness around it, exploring its deepest places, testing its resistance and pushing gently at its boundaries.
“Yes,” said the teller, smiling, “I think we have a future together. We shall create a masterpiece.”
“Perhaps I should know your name?” whispered the promising story seductively, its breath caressing the teller’s cheek.
“The name is King,” came the reply, “but you can call me Stephen.”