The Start, by Andrea Cini - Insite's Short Story Competition



Take a deep breath before you read this.

Here’s an idea.

It might get you thinking.

If you’re interested, read on…

However, if you’re not, feel free to stop reading here.

If you insist on reading this, read it carefully.

The idea may seem a bit bizarre.

But let it sink in.

This is the story of how it all started.

You may be asking, what started?

Well, the start of everything of course.

Throughout history, mankind has looked up to the heavens or down to the pits of the earth for answers. Some believed that the fate of the world was in the hands of twelve almighty beings, others believed in one deity. Some, the more sceptical ones, believed that none existed. But, what if I were to say that only three existed, what would you say then?

That we see them each time we watch a leaf turn from green to brown? Or each time a petal falls from a vibrant rose? Or as mountains rise from the earth and then crumble?

They go by many names, in many languages and epochs but for simplicity’s sake, for in this world of ours, very few things are simple, let’s call two of them - Life and Death. The third will appear eventually but not for now. No one can really say how much later but it must be later as that is how the story goes.

Back in the beginning, in the darkness and the solitude of the universe that was then, the chances of Life and Death meeting was exceptionally slim. But once, although painfully brief, they did. No words in existence or ever to be created can ever describe this encounter. After an existence of solitude to Life, Death appeared like a cosmos, dark and mysterious but full of stars just waiting to receive wishes. To Death, Life appeared strong and vibrant and ever wondrous like nature itself.

These two beings only met once but, on that one occasion, their hearts had split into 2 explosive halves. They were forever connected, each one sharing half the heart of the other. However, just as Atlas stopped the Sky from embracing the Earth, even Life and Death were forbidden from meeting again. In that one meeting, they created something both beautiful and terrible. From that collision of fates, Time was created, forever destined to separate Life and Death with an ever growing void.

Or so the stories go.

Time however, pitied Life and Death for the pain he caused them. It was in its nature to separate them, and Time couldn’t change the tides he created.

No matter how much he tried.

And believe me when I say he had tried!

But he could do something small.

He could act as a messenger.

Thus started the flow of Time.

Using Time as his conduit, Life created beautiful gifts that would eventually be passed to Death, each with it’s own beautiful tale to tell her.

And she kept each gift Life sent her in her loving embrace, forever.

The first gift Life gave Death was a beautiful light, the first star he had created to disrupt the darkness. The brightest star any of Life’s creations would ever see. It acted as a reminder to all of the beauty and radiance that was Death, even millennia after she had received it, it continued to shine. Life, Time and Death continued this dance for as long as Death could remember, but slowly, as Time continued on his journey, Life began to forget the fairness of Death’s face, of the constellations embedded in her eyes.

He had seen her only once, after all.

His love, although genuine, was not timeless.

And so the story goes…

Life continued to create gifts that Time continued to carry to Death, but slowly, his gifts became less beautiful and more fearful and ugly. Some even feared meeting Death, the entity they were created for. Life had forgotten the reason why he had once created beautiful gifts. However Death always kept each gift Time passed on to her, irrelevant of their beauty, they were all priceless to her.

She never would forget.

She wouldn’t let herself forget.

Once, Death wished to thank Life for all his gifts, and to remind him of the beauty he once used to create. Death wanted to give Life a gift, just as his first creation to her had been a star that would glow for all of eternity she crafted from the blackest of stone a star that would only shine in Life’s grasp. But such a thing had never happened before, in much the same way as Life and Death could never meet, what Death touched could never return to Life.

That is, until a particular child was born.

This child was born in death. Death wept that night for the gift Life had sent her- a small child whose life had come to her before it had even begun, before it could even take its first breath or emit its first cry. This was not the first child she had received but that night Death had had enough and she wept for the first time in all her millennia of being. She wept for the stories this child never got to live and tell her, and for the downward spiral Life’s creations were falling into.

And her tears did something extraordinary.

The child took its first breath in her arms.

But still, Death could not return the child to Life with her gift as what Death touched could never return to Life.

And so Time pitied her still.

Time couldn’t travel from Death to Life, that is not his nature, and as long as the child travelled alongside him the gift would never be received.

So Time too, that night, did something extraordinary.

Just as Life and Death shared each other’s hearts, Time gave half of his to the infant as well as took up half her own.

That night that child became Timeless, free from Time’s endless flow. She would never again follow Time’s rules, her heart, if it were to beat, would beat at her own pace, at her own time.

On Earth this child had possessed no beating heart and she had stopped growing long before she hit a decade of her bizarre life. Although in appearance she appeared young and naïve thanks to her Timelessness she was bestowed with knowledge very few would ever possess.

Even as the world around her continued to crumble and flood due to the actions of Life’s creations she refused to deviate from her path. Just as Death never forgot Life, she never forgot her quest and the mysterious stone she held within her possession.

The story goes that she still walks the Earth, as unchanging as Time is turbulent. You may have seen her once, standing in line at the supermarket or listening intently to stories told at campfires. At first glance she may appear as ordinary as any other child. At a second glance however you’d see from her eyes that she has seen more than her age reveals. However, she would have long since vanished after that first glance, for although she has all the time in the world she does not remain in one place for long.

So if you ever do meet such a child, stop and listen to her stories for, after centuries of life, she has many to tell. She will tell you, just as she had told me, of the dance of Life, Death and Time. She will tell you of her quest and of her heart that refuses to beat. She will give you her wrist where, true to her words, a pulse will be absent. She will show you a stone of the deepest black that refuses to shine.

That’s how the story of the timeless girl goes.

Written by

Andrea Cini

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