Fiction by Tara Thiel
Once upon the beginning of time, in a vast kingdom of loyal subjects, the King climbed to the pinnacle of his ivory tower and looked down at all he had, just as he did every day. When he looked to the west and the north and the east, he was pleased with what he saw. His subjects were happy and sang his praises in the streets, because he was a good and wise King, and because there was no hunger or suffering to be found anywhere within his kingdom. But, when the King looked to the south, he stared down over a great nothingness and was filled with sadness. The nothingness seemed to stare back at him with its own sadness and a wish to be something more than a lonely void. The King resolved to make it so.
The King called together his loyal subjects and said, “Here, in my kingdom, it is bright and shiny, with golden streets and pearly gates and the luminous faces of you, my good and faithful servants. But to the south lies an immense vacuous space that serves no purpose and brings no joy. And so I’ve decided to fill this wasteland with abundance.”
The King’s subjects were not surprised at this proclamation, for the King had long desired to spread goodness and joy amongst his subjects, and so it was only natural that he would wish to expand his efforts. In truth, his subjects were blithely joyous, for there was very little to occupy their time in the kingdom other than to sing praises to the King, and they looked forward to having more abundance to praise. The King knew his subjects would support him in the endeavor as they supported all of his endeavors, none of which had ever been ill-fated.
And so the King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and began to direct the work of making nothing into something. The King decided the first thing the wasteland needed was division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, dark from light, heaven from earth, land from sea, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was neat and uncluttered. But still it was desolate, and desolate orderliness was not a much better view to the south of his ivory tower than nothingness had been. The King did not despair, as despair was unbeknownst to him and his kingdom, but instead set about to direct the growth all kinds of vegetation and the influx of all sorts of living creatures until the land and its waters were filled with all manner of multiplying thing. And this made him happy.
Now, from the pinnacle of his ivory tower, when he gazed to the west and the north and the east, the King was still pleased with what he saw. His subjects were happy and still sang his praises in the streets, because he was a good and wise King, and because there was still no hunger or suffering to be found anywhere within his kingdom. But, when the King gazed to the south, there were no subjects to enjoy the beautiful wilderness he had created, and he was once again filled with sadness. The wilderness seemed to gaze back at him with its own sadness and a wish to be enjoyed by more than hapless creatures. The King resolved to make it so.
And so, once again, the King called together his loyal subjects and said, “Here, in my kingdom, it is bright and shiny, with golden streets and pearly gates and the luminous faces of you, my good and faithful servants. But to the south lies a beautiful wilderness that serves no purpose and brings no joy. And so I’ve decided to fill this wilderness with more subjects.”
The King’s loyal subjects were a little surprised at this proclamation, for the King had long desired to share all that he had with them, his only subjects, but the King had worked hard, and it was only reasonable that he would wish to share the fruits of his labor with others. In truth, his subjects were greatly pleased, for there was very little to occupy their time in the kingdom other than to sing praises to the King, and they were looking forward to disbursing the workload. The King knew his subjects would support him in the endeavor as they supported all of his endeavors, none of which seemed yet ill-fated.
And so the King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and began to direct the work of employing new subjects. The King decided the first thing new subjects needed was division, and he set about the process of dividing this from that, man from woman, dominate from submissive, labor from devotion, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was kempt and orderly. And now it was no longer desolate since the land to the south of the ivory tower had grown into a beautiful garden that was perhaps too vast for his new subjects, of which there were as of yet only two. The King did not despair, as despair was unbeknownst to him and his kingdom, but instead set about to divide the land further with a flowing river that branched out into four flowing rivers and so kept the garden watered and the fields and orchards divided. And this made him happy.
But now, from the height of a mountaintop, Leviathan glared to the west and the north and the east and was upset with what he saw. Most of the King’s subjects were happy and sang his praises in the streets still, but Leviathan did not join them. Leviathan thought he would make a better and wiser king. He had grown tired of singing the same songs and grown unimpressed by the lack of things that had never been, such as hunger and suffering. And so, when Leviathan glared at the paradise to the south and at the new subjects who inhabited the paradise, Leviathan saw a chance to prove to himself a worthy opponent to the King. Leviathan resolved to do so.
Leviathan disguised himself as a common creature of the paradise and called to the King’s new subjects and said, “Here, in your kingdom, you may do as you please, for everything here is yours to eat because you have been good and faithful servants, but you must also learn to command as good and faithful masters. There, in the middle, lies a beautiful tree whose sole purpose is to make you wise like the King if only you take of its fruit and eat. You’ll never be able to govern your kingdom properly without this wisdom.”
The King’s new subjects were sorely surprised at this proclamation, for the King had told them everything in the paradise was theirs except for the tree in the middle. But suddenly the woman was overcome with desire for the fruit from that tree, and that tree alone. None other would do. She ate from it, and fed her husband from it also, and together they became aware of the thing they had not known before, which was inequality. In truth, they were not pleased, for inequality meant they must be divided from the other creatures, and the other subjects, and even from the King himself, which they accomplished by their own hand as they hid from his voice when it called to them. The King was angry and promised punishment to his new subjects for their deceit and to Leviathan for his insolence. The King knew his loyal subjects would support him in the endeavor as they supported all of his endeavors, only the one of which had ever been ill-fated.
And so the King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and began to direct retribution toward those whose will had not aligned most specifically with his. The King decided the first thing retribution needed was division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, humanity from paradise, pleasure from pain, necessity from desire, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was crisp and antiseptic. And now paradise was cut off and one of the King’s subjects with flaming sword stood guard to the garden, of which the two shamed subjects had been cast out, south of the ivory tower. The King did not despair, as despair was very little known to his kingdom, but instead set about to provide clothing and shelter for the two outside of paradise and promised still to watch over them. And this made them happy.
From the depths of their caved shelter, the married couple looked neither to the west nor north nor east nor south, but only at each other and began their lives outside of paradise. Mostly they were happy and sang his praises from the land that was not garden and did not grow without toil, because they had managed to keep some of the King’s good graces for themselves. Children were born and grew and brought gifts to the King, who was a good and wise King because there was very little hunger or suffering to be found anywhere within the land. But, when the King regarded the gifts, he found only one given with love and consideration and the other to be a mere afterthought of last minute negligence, and the King was once again filled with sadness. The indolent gift-giver was not sad, but expectant of praise, and angry at the lack thereof. His jealously was overwhelming, such was his desire to be commended more highly than his brother, and he resolved to make it so.
And so the King called to this most disloyal subject and said, “Here, in the fields you work, you have done as you pleased, discontent to accept what you have earned and unwilling to earn more. You have spilt the blood of your brother, who was my good and faithful servant, and insisted you had no responsibility for his welfare. Therefore you are cast from this land, and destined to roam without comfort.”
The indolent gift-giver was surprisingly vexed at this proclamation, and most concerned for his own welfare after having disregarded any other’s. Having no choice, he left the land of his King and sought out another and had children who had children who had children in a city that was named for the first, and everything in that city was theirs except for the rule of a good and wise king to sing praises to. In truth, they were less than pleased, for hunger and suffering had found their city, which was a long way away from the ivory tower, and they pled with the King to support their endeavors, though they had supported none of his, as a result of which their lives were ill-fated.
And so the King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and began to direct the descendants of those whose will had not aligned most specifically with his. The King decided the first thing descendants needed were division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, blameless from corrupt, imperishable from mortal, regrettable from favorable, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was firm and disunited. And now land was cut off and rain fell without ceasing for longer than the moon’s cycle unto a great boat that bobbed like a cork in the sea. The occupants did not despair, as despair was for those left outside of the vessel, but instead set about to provide food and care for the pairs of each they had promised to watch over. And this made the King happy.
From the safety of their floating oasis, the sons and their wives and the animals of the earth and the sky surveilled west and north and east and south until finally the tops of the mountains were visible from beneath the deep and dark seas. And then they were happy and sang the King’s praises because the dove had not returned a second time with a second leaf. The people emerged with the creatures and presented gifts to the King, who was a good and wise King because hunger and suffering had been temporarily eliminated from the land. The King regarded the gifts and was pleased with the intentions of the gift giver and returned the gift with a gift of his own in shining hues of brilliance meant to wipe clean the slate of sadness. The King intended the gift as a both a promise and a reminder, and he resolved to make it so.
Then one of the brothers called to his other two and said, “Here in the tent our father has done as he pleased and drank a good share of the wine made of the grapes from his own vineyard.” But the other brothers were unamused by the joviality of the one and their father was most irate upon his waking, so that he cast the farceur from him and cursed his heirs to be foisted into slavery.
The jokester was surprised at this proclamation, which may or may not come to pass generations later on the sons of sons of sons of cities of clans of nations to come. And that was when the people of the common language desired to share the heavens, which belonged to the King and were not meant to be shared. In truth, the King was heavily displeased, for he felt they should have occupied their time by singing praises to him instead of building towers for the sake of personal glory and tower building prowess. The King felt certain he would be better served if his subjects were each taught to sing in a different language. And so the King did not support the endeavor, any more than he had supported some of their earlier endeavors, as they had all been ill-fated.
The King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words and began to direct the languages of the people so that they spoke differently than they had before. The King decided the first thing language needed was division, and he set about the process of dividing this from that, word from meaning, confusion from understanding, connotation from denotation, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was deft and systematic. And now the intentions of one were cut off from the resolve of another until they had scattered across the face of the earth in frustration. Then the people were in despair, as despair was much known to every man and woman and child who was familiar with hunger and suffering. But there was one soon-to-be nomad who did not despair, because the King promised prosperity in yet a different land still. And this made the one soon-to-be-nomad happy.
From their travels through many lands, the nomad and his beautiful wife searched west and north and east and south in a time of famine until finally a lesser ruler offered the nomad many gifts for the wife he referred to instead as sister. And then he was happy because he had material possessions and unpaid labor at his fingertips, but the wife was not because she had been given away. Then the King ordered the ruler to return her to the nomad, even as the nomad was allowed to keep his ill-gotten gains so long as he sang the King’s praises for his wealth. The nomad, and the nomad’s nephew likewise, were rewarded for their gifts to the good and wise King while hunger and suffering crept back into the overcrowded land. The King evaluated the overcrowding and suggested a division of nomad from nephew and from all that was one’s from all that was the other’s, and so they parted amicably. The King told the nomad that all he could see to the north and south and to the east and west would belong to his offspring forever, and the King resolved to make it so.
But a man who had escaped from war called to the nomad and said, “There, in your nephew’s land, the people have done as they pleased until the war that they fought was lost and they were taken as prisoners.” The nomad took his relatives and, by night, recovered all that had been taken, along with its rightful owners, and restored them to their places, and in return the King promised a star-filled sky as heirs, which was much the same promise as he’d made previously.
Still, the nomad was somewhat surprised at this proclamation, for he had planned to leave behind all that he had to a good and faithful servant of his own household. In truth, the nomad was mightily pleased and agreed to bring gifts and sing praises to the King, but, unfortunately, fell into a deep sleep before the task was completed. The King was somewhat displeased, and therefore foretold four hundred years of wandering after an immense period of hunger and suffering in a state of servitude for the nomad’s offspring’s offspring’s offspring. And so the King only supported half of the nomad’s endeavors, of which only half were deemed worthy of his support, as he himself had foreseen that the rest of the endeavors were ill-fated.
The King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and began to direct the propagation of multitudinous nations through the nomad and his wandering descendants. The King decided the first thing wandering descendants needed was division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, man from foreskin, given name from rename, righteous from wicked, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was rigid and factious. Even so, the wantonness of one spread in raging conflagration to the others so that sulphur rained down and salt sprang up. Then the leftover daughters of corrupt destruction were in despair, as despair was all that was guaranteed to husbandless and childless women with no prospects of a future void of hunger and suffering. But even so, despair was for those who did not have both father and bottomless wine available, and so they made do with what they had in their cave dwelling above the Little City. And this made them pretend to be happy.
From their travels through many more lands, the old nomad and his old wife moved south and continued to declare the wife as sister, partially because the half-truth was truth, but also because fear of death and want of material possession were more powerful masters than the King. Once again, a lesser ruler gave the nomad many gifts for his sister, and, once again, the nomad was happy his deceit had produced gain, and, once again, the King ordered the ruler to return the sister-wife while the nomad sang the King’s praises for his wealth. The sister-wife was rewarded for her unquestioning submission to her brother-husband’s inane judgement, for hers was also questionable at best, and her jealousy dictated the removal of child who was not hers along with mother of child, who had once been hers until she had gifted the woman to her husband, from the land. And the nomad resolved to make it so.
The King called to the nomad and said, “Give to me your son, who is now considered to be your only son because you have cast aside your first-born at the wishes of your sister-wife and have done so with my blessing.” The nomad took his nephew-son on a three-day journey to give his “only” son as a gift to the King, but when he arrived the King decided it was the thought that counted and accepted a ram instead.
The nephew-son was exceedingly surprised at this proclamation, for he had never known the plan to begin with. In truth, the nomad had suspected all along that he wouldn’t really have to give up the boy since every time before when he’d given up his wife she’d been returned to him only a little worse for the wear and with more than enough wealth to cover the damages. And so, the ever-aging nomad continued to travel with his ever-aging wife until she died in a land where he owned no land and desired the local’s best land for his family’s burial plots, but decreed their best daughter not good enough for his son. The nomad declared that his nephew-son must have a cousin-wife from the house of the nomad’s brother because he remembered the King’s promise to take the land away from its current owners and pass it to the nomad’s descendants. The nomad enlisted a servant to support his endeavor, of which servants have no choice but to support all endeavors, and never once consider whether or not they might be ill-fated.
The King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and began to direct not only the marriage of the nomad’s son, but also the remarriage of the nomad himself. The King decided the first thing marriage needed was division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, wife from concubine, legitimate child from misbegotten, birthright from second-born, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was exacting and seditious. The birth of twins brought further division, down to the level of household itself, while the shadow of famine brought forth claims of sister over wife from the nomad’s son, who had no doubt learned the trick from his father. But the lesser ruler did not take the wife this time since he spied the two in marital bliss from his window, and was angry that one of his men might have been unwittingly tricked into outrageous violation of a wife they believed only to be a sister. The nomad’s son was thus deprived of material gifts for his wife, but did not despair as he managed to become wealthy of his own volition nonetheless, so that the lesser ruler asked him to leave the country. Others wealth did not make him happy.
From the place they’d been removed, to each place they were removed to, amidst all the wells that were dug, the nomad’s son and wife settled and immediately disapproved of their oldest twin’s choice of wives, which was not because he took two, but because they cared for neither. Still, the nomad’s son intended to pass along the all that is reserved for the first-born son and irrevocably allows nothing to flow to any other, and would indeed have done so if he had not been tricked by his wife and the younger of the twins. The twins were sent away to take cousin-wives and the King promised the younger twin that all the land from east to west to north to south would be his. The younger twin was touched by this generosity, and promised the King he would return one-tenth of everything the King gave him for seemingly no reason at all, further singing the King’s praises for his stolen blessings and lack of hunger and suffering and consequence. In the east, the twins’ uncle was easily convinced to give away a daughter for seven years free labor, and two for fourteen. But the oldest daughter was unloved, having been forced upon the younger twin by trickery so that she determined she must have sons in order to earn love. And the unloved daughter resolved to make it so.
Then the younger twin called to his father-in-law-uncle and said, “Give me my wives and children so that we may return to my father’s home or, if you will not, then give me all the black and spotted sheep and goats from your herd so that I may build my own herd.” So the father-in-law-uncle acquiesced to the latter and the younger twin grew his wealth immensely until his brothers-in-law became upset and forced the whole of them to flee without parting gesture.
The father-in-law-uncle was angrily surprised at this lack of proclamation, for he claimed that he would have thrown a farewell party if only he’d been given notice. In truth, the younger twin was the most angry at having been slighted his fair share over the course of twenty years hard work so that the father-in-law-uncle agreed to a pact and a truce and a boundary line that neither would cross. And so the younger twin continued to travel with all that he owned and sent word ahead to the older twin, whose birthright he had stolen, that he was coming home and wished to be friends. The older twin replied he would meet his younger half with an army of four hundred and the younger twin, who was sorely afraid, sought to win the other’s good graces by singing his praises and plying him with gifts. But the older twin had managed sufficiently without the stolen birthright and had no need of such gifts, and so the twins settled in the same land again and all was forgiven. It was just as well because the son of a lesser ruler committed a grave transgression against the daughter of the younger twin and then, to add insult to injury, the perpetrator dared to request the hand of the wronged girl in marriage that the wronged girl’s brothers swore would never take place. Still the perpetrator was the son of a lesser ruler and enlisted the lesser ruler to support his endeavor, of which fathers often choose to support such endeavors, rather than stop to consider whether or not they might be ill-fated.
The King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and began to direct revenge for the wronged girl at the hands of her brothers, but also for her father, the younger twin, who had not gotten any gains from the birthright he had stolen despite his having been crafty enough to steal it. The King decided the first thing revenge needed was division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, friend from enemy, dying breath from first cry, father from son, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was tiresome and prostrate. And the children of the children’s children had more children who had children who declared themselves lesser rulers throughout the lands, even though to have rulers means to have those who are ruled over through division. But the younger twin was used to division, and divided his children further by providing one of the youngest with favor and a coat of many colors, and the multicolored-coat-wearer divided further himself by asserting that his dreams declared him to be a lesser ruler of future wherein he would know no despair at a time when it came upon his brothers. This did not make his brothers happy.
From the field where they stood watch over their father’s flocks, the brothers planned to murder the multicolored-coat-wearer, but were convinced by ease of effort to sell him for silver instead. The younger twin was then tricked by his sons into believing the multicolored-coat-wearer had been mauled by a wild animal. Of the tricky sons, one gave his son to be married, but the married son of the tricky son died of wickedness and so his brother was committed to the dead man’s wife instead for the purpose of producing heirs. But the brother of the wicked was also wicked and died of wickedness, and then the wicked boys’ father, who was himself a tricky son, was tricked into believing his daughter-in-law to be a woman of nightly professions, and so thusly produced an heir with her. Still, the multicolored-coat-wearer flourished far away in a land where there was no hunger or suffering, except amongst the slaves whose lives were unimportant anyway, until the wife of the master of the multicolored-coat-wearer became bored and lusted after the multicolored-coat-wearer. Denied, she swore vengeance, and resolved to make it so.
Then the first-in-command of the far away land where the multicolored-coat-wearer was now imprisoned called to his prognosticators and said, “Tell me the meaning of dreams in which seven emaciated are capable of devouring seven bloated.” So the butler who had been imprisoned years prior with the multicolored-coat-wearer suggested that the aforementioned was also a reliable interpreter of visions, and said aforementioned was therefore released from prison to do so.
The newly appointed diviner-of-dreams was surprised at the proclamation that, based solely on his divining, he was also to be appointed second-in-command, which was quite the bump up from long-term prisoner. In truth, the newly appointed, second-in-command was perfect for the position as he had been taking care of other people’s affairs throughout his many years of slavery and imprisonment. He performed well and stored up much food for the first-in-command’s people during the years of prosperity in preparation for the foretold years of famine. So it was that he found himself in charge when his tricky brothers arrived and sought to win his good graces and buy food but did not recognize the countenance of the multicolored-coat-wearer from long ago. The multicolored-coat-wearing, diviner-of-dreams, second-in-command accused the tricky brothers of espionage and demanded an account of the missing youngest brother, which required the boy appear before him posthaste. The oldest of the tricky brothers felt confidant of the comings and goings, provided he took with him help from the King, but the younger twin, who was the father of these men, worried that would not be enough, and sent with them many gifts to bestow, for he considered the endeavor to be ill-fated.
The King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words and continued to direct the transformation of childhood dreams of power and grandeur and particularly inflated opinion of self into reality. The King decided the first thing lofty dreams of absolute authority need are division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, the haves from the have-nots, brother from brother, guilt from innocence, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was wearisome and arid. And the very youngest brother of all the brothers was accused of theft, so as to divide them further even as he sought to unite them again, for it was then that the second-in-command identified himself as the multicolored-coat-wearer. Although the multicolored-coat-wearer sang the King’s praises and forgave his tricky brothers their transgression, he favored the youngest the most, and lavished him with many more gifts than the others, who hid their despair because despair was pointless. This made the younger twin, their father, very happy.
From the far away land where the multicolored-coat-wearer had been sold into servitude, he looked upon his tricky brothers and invited them to join him in his prosperity, them and their families and their families’ families until many wagons were full in migration. He looked to the west and the north and the east and suggested they establish themselves as shepherds by trade in a part of the land that was the only part that did not despise shepherds nor outsiders quite so much as the rest. His family was happy and sang his praises in the streets, because he was a good and wise second-in-command, who gave thanks to the King because there was no hunger or suffering to be found within his household. Meanwhile, the people of the land were themselves still starving from the midst of famine, and so spent all of their money and traded all of their livestock and sold all of their land before giving over themselves as serfs in exchange for stores of grain. But all that mattered was that the second-in-command was a shrewd and astute businessman who gained everything from everyone in the name of the first-in-command. Which was the very thing he had resolved to make so.
Then the younger twin, who was the father, called to his son, the second-in-command, and said, “Here, in this land, swear that you will not bury me when I am dead, but take me instead to lie beside my ancestors in the best of the land that was purchased by my nomad grandfather. The land here, where your own two sons that I have decided to name as my own have been born, will not do.”
The second-in-command was not surprised at this proclamation, for his mother had been the wife who was loved while her sister was the unloved daughter, and so it was only natural in his mind that he would wish to bestow more inheritance upon her children. In truth, he was happy to once again have his father sing his praises, and was only concerned when the old man gave the birthright due the oldest instead to the youngest, for he himself was unaware that his father had stolen the birthright of his older twin in youth. But the younger twin explained that the King would do exactly what he’d long said he would do and support him in the endeavor to make the younger greater, because he saw no reason such an endeavor should be ill-fated.
And so the King did exactly what he said he would do, for the King never did anything that was against his words, and continued to direct blessings of dubious meaning from the mouth of one self-important man unto the heads of many others, excluding only the heads that belonged to women. The King decided the first thing blessings needed was division, and so he set about the process of dividing this from that, wolf from lion, beast of burden from fruitful tree, wine from milk, and all that was one from all that was another, until it was fixed and immutable. And then the younger twin died, who was the father who had bestowed these dubious blessings, but the multicolored-coat-wearer despaired only momentarily, for soon enough he himself would be dead and all of his tricky brothers along with him, and despair would then be a problem for those left behind. And this made him happy.