In the midst of all this creativity and culture, I am continuing to find voice, story, and character. Like the short story I wrote for The Local Vocals Variety Show, "The Boundless Imagination of Knecht".
The main character, Knecht, is directly inspired by Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. I'm still reading the book, and I am only on about page 80 of a small type book that has over 350 page. So I can't really tell you what the book is exactly about yet. But that doesn't matter. Inspiration finds you, not the other way around.
I wrote this story the morning of the open mic. It took me about two and a half hours. Later that evening, I read it. Everyone was surprised that I wrote it that morning. I just wished I had practiced reading it out loud at least once before the evening. I felt myself stumbling. It definitely wasn't my finest performance.
But the story? I think the story speaks for itself. It is all about destiny and imagination. I think it's great. Then again, I am the author.
Please check out the next The Local Vocals Variety Show, a monthly themed open mic, on FRIDAY, October 19 from 7pm to 9pm at Progressive Grounds (2301 Bryant Street, SF). The theme is Native Roots, performances about ancestry and homelands. If it is anything like the last open mic, there is some SERIOUS TALENT! So make sure to check it out.
Without further ado, here is "The Boundless Imagination of Knecht".
Knecht was a young man whose imagination was contained only by his surroundings. Early in the morning as he walked the dirt path to school, it leapt skyward painting all above in rich colors that moved like water. Sitting at his desk, his knees pressed against the metal legs, it spilled onto the wooden surface like sand in a sandbox. At home in his cupboard of a room, it exploded like a watermelon dropped from the fifth floor of an apartment building. Knecht’s imagination was boundless except Knecht, himself, was not. Thus, he felt his imagination was not free.
One day, Knecht found himself walking home as dusk kissed the far western horizon. The slight slope of the earth as it made its way to the sea hid the setting sun. So his imagination drew a sun in the sky transforming the deep navy into a brilliant azure. Then, it created fantastical flying creatures the likes of which Knecht read about in books by C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, and the brothers Grimm. There was a griffin and Pegasus and a glowing lion that flew without wings and angels, fairies, butterflies, and dragons.
But there was one creature in particular that was wholly original and caught Knecht’s eye. It was a golden calf with a beak like a stork, the wings of an albatross, and a cheetah’s feet. It zipped through the air faster than a hummingbird going to every corner imaginable. Knecht followed its movements until it finally made him dizzy and he had to lie down on the dirt path.
“I cannot go back to my cupboard of a room,” he thought to himself. “My imagination needs a moment to roam free.”
As his imagination continued to fill the sky with more fantastical flying creatures, Knecht slowly composed a prayer to the golden calf with the stork’s beak.
“Dearest, golden calf,” said Knecht aloud when no bit of sky could be seen and the horizon started feeling claustrophobic, “I wish to see the land of the setting sun. All my life have I walked this dirt path, a line that defines my confinement, and never have I veered from its course. Home. Path. School. Path. Home. Path. School. Path. Home… on and on and on it goes. I fear becoming lost within its cycle. I fear the loss of you, my golden flying calf. Just once, I wish to watch the sun set over the sea. Just once, I wish for a detour. Just once, I wish you would rescue me.”
The golden calf whose wings when fully extended covered half of the sky glided down to the dirt path and gently landed beside Knecht. It made no sound, and Knecht was discomfited by the silence that surrounded his imagined god. He couldn’t even hear his own thoughts, and if he had he may have not done what he did next: he hopped on the back of the golden calf with the cheetah feet.
They flew to the west chasing the setting sun. In the air, Knecht’s imagination was finally and completely free. The land beneath him became mountainous and peppered with grand castles found only in fairy tales and old countries. He saw the mythic sphinx guarding the entrance to a cave, and he wondered what riddle it was pondering. A blur of green below turned out to be a wood elf hunting a stag. The stag fell, and the elf carried the carcass upon its back.
As the mountains crumbled into a desert, Knecht saw a giant red balloon. It stood starkly out against the dull yellow sand. A little man whose crazy gray hair was haphazardly tucked into a top hat climbed into the balloon’s basket. A crowd gathered around the wizardly man. Knecht knew not where the crowd came from. It was as if the sand had created them for they were as dusty as the land.
The balloon filled with hot air and started rising. Knecht knew exactly who that man was: he was a character of no character, and Knecht wanted nothing to do with him. He patted the golden calf on its neck, and his imagined god responded by turning left.
No matter how long they flew, they never got to the land of the setting sun. No matter which direction they turned, the sun was always in front of them.
They flew over gray cities that stretched for miles and in which no green could be found. They flew over jungles buzzing with billions of insects including a giant hungry caterpillar that ate whole trees in a single bite. They flew over forests so dark you could see its ghosts from the sky. He saw Alice and Charlie and James and Lucy and even a queen made of human hearts. There was even a lone house made of sweets that looked so tempting it made Knecht want to eat.
Everything Knecht had ever read passed beneath him as the golden calf with the albatross wings carried him west.
Knecht never slept nor did he ever grow hungry. It was as if his imagination literally fed him. It was the nourishment of creativity for which he so long had longed. In fact, it filled him so completely he began to feel bloated, and the grace he had felt upon the back of the golden calf turned into nausea. He closed his eyes to compose himself.
As Knecht’s eyelids fell, so too did the golden calf. They fell until they landed on a dusty dirt path. Knecht was fast asleep, and his imagined god gently laid him down. As the last brown hair of Knecht’s head hit the dirt, the golden calf with the stork beak, albatross wings, and cheetah feet dissolved. Then, the sun set.
Upon the dirt, Knecht tossed as if in the throws of a black dream that matched the stormy midnight sky. Lightning illuminated all around Knecht, and if he had been awake he would have seen a million miniature devils dancing above his head. He swatted at them unknowingly for in his dream he was pushing through brambles trying to make his way to the sea.
All night he swatted and pushed as the rains fell as if they were a waterfall. The dirt beneath him turned into mud, which turned into a pool until, finally, Knecht was surrounded by a sea upon which his body floated.
As the sun rose a thin red line of pink encircled the sea. Knecht slowly woke unable to remember the flight upon his imagined god’s back or his dream of brambles. His eyes first caught the glimmer of pink upon the western horizon, and his heart sank. While he had forgotten how he had gotten there he had not forgotten his wish: to see the setting sun upon the sea. He believed he had missed it and was only seeing its final light disappear.
Then, the breeze of the East whispered to him.
“Dearest Knecht, whose imagination knows no bounds, welcome to the unending sea. Your imagined god and black dream carried you here. Now look to the east and witness the glory that is the rising sun.”
Knecht’s eyes moved eastward, and he saw the glorious sun rise on the undulating horizon. He spent the entire day watching the sun slowly travel its predestined arc. Never once did his imagination wander, and never once did he take his eyes off the sun. Finally, it set in the west, and as the last shred of pink faded from the western sky his eyes closed and he fell into a dreamless sleep.
He awoke the next morning in his cupboard of a room. “It all must have been a dream,” thought Knecht. And then he tasted the salt of the sea upon his lips and knew that it was real.
Contained within that salt was a revelation.
“The sun is freer than I shall ever be, “ Knecht said, “and still it travels its predestined arc.”
From that day on, Knecht never felt that the cupboard of his room or the dirt path he daily traveled or the desk whose metal legs pressed coldly upon Knecht’s knees bound his imagination. No. Those were just his predestined arc, and both his freedom and the freedom of his imagination were found when it was followed.