Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.
Here’s the story so far. The story continues:
A Secret Is Born
(Containing the birth of a secret that is already born.)
“The first time we met,” King John the Cute began to tell the old man his idea to save the Land of All Legends, “I could see in the bubbles that came out of your mind that when you looked at the horrible lines that mar my face, you saw the stories behind them. You understood who I was. You knew where I came from. You instinctively felt the stories of my life. And that is important for my plan.”
“And what is your plan?” inquired the old man, his eyes still shining from the events of the last thirty hours.
“My plan is to open the second door,” answered King John the Cute. “My land is sick because the twin lands are uneven. I will soon die and be reborn in the Afterdeath. There, I must find a way to open the second door and to allow free passage back and forth. All those who had died must fill the old land and give it life. The lands must become even, and death must once again become a revolving door, but in a different fashion. The dead of my land must cross over to the lost land, and the dead of the lost land must cross over to my land. That is how evenness will be restored and how both lands will be healed.
“The problem is that only Death can open the second door, and Death cannot enter the Afterdeath, nor can he enter the lost land of legends. Therefore, once I am in the Afterdeath, I must become Death. I will be the other land’s Death. I shall open the door, and I shall let everyone live.”
“Ambitious plan,” said the old man. “I like it! How will you become Death?”
“I want you, who know my story so well, to change my story. In the same way that Doctor Dave Daniels had given the Original Monster powers he did not have, you must tell a fairy tale that will make me Death, but only once I am in the Afterdeath.”
“I am deeply sorry, King John,” said the old man, “but that is not a good idea.”
Desperation appeared in the king’s eyes. “Why do you say that?”
“I have read Daniels’ book, and he is not a writer, he simply put words on a page. This is why the Original Monster is now stuck in the Afterdeath.”
“What did he do wrong?”
“He forgot that stories have drama. You cannot simply ‘give’ a power to the story’s hero out of nowhere and expect the story to work out. That lacks story logic. Story logic clearly states that things will go wrong, imperfections will appear, enemies will surface, and previously unseen tunnels may bring you to the Afterdeath. In adding to a story, you must take into account that things will go wrong. Fortunately for you, I know how to follow and obey story logic.
“I will write a story about King John the Cute, but it will not be the story you asked for. It will be a better story, a story that will hopefully insure that when you die and will become Death.”
King John the Cute was about to thank the old man, when bubbles upon bubbles began to emerge from the old man’s head. The park was dark at night, and the king could not discern the content of the bubbles. As the bubbles emerged, the old man rambled on to himself, “The story has to be consistent with the rules of everything that has happened so far. I will not write a story that will contradict something you told me. No, I won’t do that. However, what I don’t know, I can invent and write about…
“The story can’t begin now… It has to begin long ago… It has to begin in the beginning of the story… I know! King John the Cute, I know how it will begin!”
“I am listening,” King John the Cute said, his own eyes sparkling brightly for the first time in a long while.
“The story will begin before you were born, when your mother, still Kate the Catty, had just found out that she was pregnant with a little boy. My story will begin with the prophecy of John the Cute. You have told me the prophecy, King John the Cute, all eight lines of it, and I cannot touch it. However, in my story it will turn out that there were two more lines to the prophecy. These two lines predicted the outcome we desire, but your mother never told you about them.
“Why did your mother never speak of those lines? Why…? Why…? I know! She was afraid! I will write the last two lines of the prophecy in such a way as to say that you will rule that other world… I will call it the Under World, because it lies underneath the Land of All Legends, just like half of Earth is underneath the other. I will have the prophecy say that you will rule the Under World, but your mother will think that you will rule the Underworld, which is the Afterdeath. That would be too horrifying for her and so she will never mention it to you.
“Good! Good! We are making progress!
“We have put a seed in the beginning of the story, a seed that contains the ending we desire. Now… We are not yet done… We must make sure that you will have any help you need to achieve that goal… Hmmm…
“All right, the next stage in the story will be immediately after you become king. Once you become king and your mother comes to visit you, she will be proud of you, as you told me she was. However, she will also become too horrified that your death is so near, and that you will become something worse after Death, that her secret of those two lines will burn inside her. It will torture her, and she will not be able to speak to anyone about it, for no one must know those awful two last lines of the prophecy except for her and your dead father…
“And so,” the old man continued, bubbles sprouting out of his head like gushing water, “once she leaves you, she will go the deepest and darkest crevice in the land, and she will yell her secret into that crevice. Then, when she leaves, feeling slightly better, the secret itself, finally released but filled with clouds of frustration and swirling mists of fury, it will swirl closer and closer together, until it will bear the form of a human being. It will be a dark human being, a cloud of fury and frustration. That, my dear King John, that dark figure will be your secret helper.
“Let us name that figure Shadowy Secret, at least for now.” So many bubbles were coming out of the old man’s head as he spoke, that the park was filled with bubbles. King John the Cute could not see into the bubbles in the dark, nor could he see the park for all the bubbles.
The old man continued, unaware of the bubbles, “And since Shadowy Secret isn’t human at all and is not really alive, then Death cannot kill him. Yes, oh, yes! In my story, he will help protect you from Death, and so… Do you remember, King John, that a mysterious being that you know nothing about took Death’s hand, and thus Death was unable to touch you when your name appeared on Death’s list?” The king nodded. “You know nothing about that being, do you?”
“Then I can write any story I wish about him. That being that stole Death’s hand, that was Shadowy Secret! Yes, I’ll write that he’ll steal Death’s hand, but he will never actually use it to kill anyone. Because he is a being of good, borne of your mother, and he is there to help you.
“Oh! I have it! And just as you are stabbed, Shadowy Secret will no longer need the hand. And so he will give it back to Death… But he will delay Death just enough to allow you to disappear from Death’s grasp and to reach Earth.”
King John the Cute looked at the old man and saw the story form in front of his eyes in a way he never conceived possible. The king realized that he comes from a land of stories, not a land of writers and imagination, and that there is a difference.
The old man continued, “Now, wait, something is missing. Shadowy Secret is there to make sure that the prophecy is fulfilled. To that end, he must raise the prince from the dumps, mold him into a man, and train him to kill you.”
“Why?” King John the Cute felt his chest, which had been burning with pain for days now.
“You are stabbed anyway, so what does it matter?” answered the old man. “This way it fits into my story, so that is how I will write it. Now hush and let me think.”
King John the Cute accepted the writer’s words reluctantly. The old man fell into silence. Bubbles geysered out of his head. By now, the bubbles filled the park to the treetops.
“Let’s work it out,” said the old man. “Shadowy Secret is stronger than Death and he is dark and shadowy. At the same time, he is there to help you with the prophecy, and yet… Ah! I know how you become Death!”
“Shadowy Secret, you see, is Death. He is the other land’s Death. By which I mean that he is the power of Death. He will be able to cross over with you to the Afterdeath, for the ordinary rules of life and death do not matter to him. Once in the Afterdeath, he will blend with you and give you the shadowy and eternal qualities of Death. And thus, in the Afterdeath, you will become Death and open the door.”
“That is great!” King John the Cute leapt to his feet. “That is the story!”
“No, no, no,” the old man shook his head. “The ending is too simple. Stories do not work that way. I am sure that if I write the story in this way, then when you arrive in the Land of All Legends, something will prevent you from going through the door and entering the Afterdeath and dying as any other creature would. That is the nature of stories. Conflict comes and unexpected troubles arise. I have to write one more part to make sure that you succeed.
“I know! I will write that once you arrive there is a great battle. I won’t go into detail. I will write that all the forces of good in the land will fight by your side, including the strongest of them all: Shadowy Secret.”
“What or who will we be battling?”
“It doesn’t matter and I do not know. I will not go into detail. Something must have happened while you were away, I have no doubt, that will stop you from entering the Afterdeath. And the only way for me to make sure that you enter the Afterdeath is to say in the story that there is a battle, that Shadowy Secret used all his powers to protect you, and that the battle was won and you entered the Afterdeath. I assure you: this was Doctor Daniels’ chief mistake. I will not make the same one.
“Good! Now let’s have the ending: I will write that Death successfully delivers you to the Afterdeath. There you will be re-formed. You will touch Shadowy Secret, for you are the only thing that can make him disappear. Shadowy Secret will dissolve and re-form around you, giving the two of you together that which you did not have separately – the power of Death. You will touch the second door, and it will open before you. Then I will write that you will go through it, and that everyone in the Afterdeath comes out, and evenness ensues. There! Everyone else lives and dies and lives again and dies again happily ever after! The story will end and you will have your fairy tale!”
“Wait, wait, please,” said King John the Cute, his voice pleading. “The story cannot be over.”
“What is it, King John?” the old man put a hand on the tired king’s shoulder.
“Can you insert two more events into the middle of the story?”
“It depends. What do you find missing?”
“I want Shadowy Secret to go to my mother… I want him to tell her that she has misunderstood the prophecy, that I will be fine… that a great future awaits me… and that I will be happy… and that decades later, when she dies, we will see each other again…”
The old man thought about it, bubbles furiously forming from his head. “Yes. I can do that. A little scene in which Shadowy Secret hides behind a wall, pretends to be you? It’s been done before. I can do that. What is the other thing you need in the story?”
“I want Shadowy Secret to deliver a message to Queen Sarah O’Connell. I want him to tell her that when I return, I shall return to the palace. She must wait for me there.”
“Done,” said the old man. “I believe we have a story now that solves all of your problems.”
King John the Cute nodded with relief. “Indeed. I hope so. It fits my life’s story. Now you must write this story and finish it by the morning.”
“By the morning? Are you insane!”
“The story must be read or heard by millions of people across the world by tomorrow at noon, for I shall not survive a minute longer. Only when the story is heard by millions, will it become true in my land. It must become true before I cross over again.”
“King John, I believe I am eager and hot and excited enough now to actually finish it in time, but there is no chance the story can be published by that time, and certainly not read by millions.”
“Do not worry about that, for that is a problem I can solve easily. Please. Go and write. Will you be able to do it?”
“I will write a short story now, containing only these events. Once you are gone, I will write the entire saga, as you have told it to me. But for now: Yes, I will do it by morning!”
The old man produced a pen from his pocket and a small notebook from his back pocket. He walked quickly to a café at the edge of the park, and there he sat alone, and began to write.
King John the Cute sighed heavily. The burden felt heavier, and yet it was lighter. It would not be long now until the happy ending.
This has been the second story of the second meeting of the old man and the king, in which Shadowy Secret’s shadowy secrets were revealed plainly to the readers.
(To be continued on Tuesday…)
You can win a chance to have a fairy tale written about you in the Tickling Butterflies universe!