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art by Wi Waffles

Bedtime Stories

Jayson Sanders is a software engineer who writes in his spare time. This is his first published story.

You arrive at dusk as you always do, during that fragile moment when a thin, orange ribbon struggles to restrain the onrushing blackness.
For one sweet, pregnant moment you pause, and we are like a child, in a world all his own, watched by a loving mother he does not see.
"Bedtime, children." Your clear voice rings out for all to hear, eliciting a chorus of groans from around the world. "No! Pleeeease, just a little longer. We're not done yet."
"I'm sorry, children. It's time," you say. "There are others waiting."
Slowly we acquiesce, and the nighttime ritual begins, one you've seen play out a thousand times on a thousand different worlds. Some run to forgotten caves in nearby hills. Some fight. Some hide. Some merely sit and wait.
That's when you begin. You tell of days first started. Young eyes and fresh voices--shouting and laughing, running and playing. Promise and potential. So many hopes and dreams. Futures not yet lived and presents not yet here. Story after story--of sadness, triumph, lives well lived and lives too short.
On and on you go. We listen in rapt attention, not daring to miss our part.
You tell of death and birth and life repeated a billion times over. You tell of afternoon sun and dreams fulfilled and wishes not.
We laugh and cry because we know, we know.
You tell of wars and waste and wanton chaos. Drones and debts and hacking bots. Abel's death and all we lost.
We hang our heads because we know, we know.
At last you fall silent. The time has come.
Our coal-fired, petro-gulping progress finally bankrupts itself as belligerent holdouts surrender at last to our species' final destiny. With no garish, neon lights to hide them, starry smears emerge through deepening twilight, bathing us in a phantom glow.
"What will happen to us when we close our eyes? Will we be forgotten?"
You laugh a loving, tender laugh. "No, children, not forgotten. Do you think I told that story just for you? My words were etched into your places, so those who are to come will know of you and what you've done."
"Everything?" we ask.
"Only what is right," you say.
Heavy-eyed, we plead, "Tell us another story... please... just one more."
And you do. Only this story isn't for us. It's for those yet to wake, ones who have a future but no past. You weave a tale of Eden and Onogoro, Pan Gu and Pele, serpents, eggs and volcanoes. A story full of beginnings and no end.
We sleep content because we know, we know.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Author Comments

Myths and fairy tales have always interested me, especially the common themes of creation and destruction that run across cultures. When the first line of the story stuck in my head, it led to this idea of death and rebirth, and how out of one ending springs a fresh beginning.

- Jayson Sanders
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