For Scorpio Smith (son or daughter of Suzie Lane and Andrew Smith)
Last time I saw you, you were the size of a peanut. That’s how big your mummy said you were anyway. I use ‘see’ loosely. I can’t see through your mummy’s belly because sadly, I don’t have X-Ray vision. Maybe you will. Maybe that will be your superpower. You might be able to see through people. Anyways, I’ll be on holiday when you’re born but I’m very much looking forward to meeting you, Scorpio Smith, son or daughter of Suzie Lane and Andrew Smith.
Your Dad said to his friend, my husband, Chris Coleman: ask Aimee to write about why it’s ABC (in that order) and not ZFE, for example. Until today, I’ve never paid any attention to the order of the alphabet because, well, who cares? Well. Your Dad cares. It’s because he’s curious and he likes to have answers. It’s this question that has led me on a treasure hunt into another world. A world I’d like to share with you in good time.
What’s funny is that on the day I embark on this little story telling adventure, a magpie gave aerial chase to me as I was minding my own business walking along Beach Road in Melbourne (four and a half months before you’re to be born). It’s a sign that I need to write you this. You see, during my friendship with your mummy and daddy, both of their experiences with magpies have been a source of both fear and laughter – for all of us. Today, that was a sign to me, that this little task was going to be a funny and perhaps a scary one at times. Don’t worry though, we’ll figure it out together
I hope when your mummy or daddy read this to you, you are sat comfortably. Actually, I’ve just turned on my magic vision and I can see you. You’re in your pyjamas, lying in bed, smiling. See, I told you.
Anyway back to the story I need to tell you. It’s not just about ABC. It’s about all the others letters too. Why they’re in that order. Because you see, they might not be in that order for much longer. There’s a power struggle going on. Hopefully, the battle can be solved peacefully.
To tell you the story, let me take you to the place I visited once. It’s an enchanted place. A place I spent all of time and no time at all. Take my hand. I’ll open the great wooden doors for us…
The doors creak. The sound echoes in the giant circular room. We’re in the very middle of a spider web – a big dome with tunnels heading in all directions. The air is cool and dusty. I don’t think the doors have been opened in a while.
Do you see the gentleman behind the desk over there? That’s George. He looks scary but he’s not. Those wrinkles are deep with wisdom you see. George has seen them – all of the letters, I mean. He knows. He knows their history, what they’ve done to and for the world. He doesn’t see them like they see themselves. They see themselves in relationship to each other, a comparison. But he sees them exactly how they were intended – equal. All twenty-six of them, all gods in their own right, lined up next to each other. He sees them in their youth, when they held hands in one long daisy chain, smiling.
When they started out.
I want you to go and pick yourself a book. Go ahead. Run along.
You stand still for a while. There’s something about this place that feels different. There are things that look like a library but behind the desk, down one of the rabbit holes, you can see bright colours. You walk. Small steps at first. Your shoes are your compass.
The smell of sweet popcorn and jam doughnuts leads you past George and down one of the stacks. His face is so still you’re not sure if he’s real. You’re not sure, but you think he winked at you. There’s movement in the distance but you don’t see or hear anyone.
You walk slowly, looking around, taking in first purple then blue. The higher you look, purple blends with black. It’s a rich midnight sky bright with fairy lights, stars that twinkle. You feel like you’ve walked into space. A warm silence collects you, you can’t work out whether the sky is moving or you are. Whether you’re inside or out. What’s real and what’s not. Are you above or underground? You can no longer tell. Is that the universe, you ask yourself? Or is it someone’s story of the universe?
This stack is built with books. Instead of bricks, the walls seem to be made of books. Spines that are thick, thin, hard, soft, pink, brown, orange, tan, leather, plastic, paper, aged and wilting like old bones ground down over time, untouched and sturdy and shiny.
You can barely see your shoes any more, there’s a soft mist carpeting the floor, like the stars and sky have started to drop and you’re walking amongst the clouds. Your toes are toasty. You look down at them and wiggle them against the cloth of your running shoes.
Something in between the books to your right catches your eye. It’s the light of the stars reflecting in a train of mirrors that appear to be floating between the shelves. You look closer. The mirrors have moved now. They no longer look like mirrors. They look like plain glass behind which are rows and rows of books.
I’m watching you pick one. Your hands stroke the spines, as if by touching, you’re feeling whether or not it’s the right story for you in this moment.
You’ve never been here before have you? Have you a library card?
Who said that?
I can’t see you.
You can, you’re looking straight at me.
No, I’m looking at a book called Alpha Beta
Yes, that’s me.
You look around. You wonder who is playing this trick. You wonder if you’ve fallen asleep already and are curious about whether this is a dream. I can assure you, it’s not.
The book is still but the golden foil of the book title is sparkling, glinting as the voice whispers around you. When the voice stops, the foil becomes dull, solid, just words on a hardback spine.
Though you can’t really believe the book is talking to you, the warmth from the carpet cloud is keeping you calm. There are thoughts buzzing around in your head, each flying and reverberating against each other so you can’t see anything clearly.
Do you like doughnuts?
Yes, you say.
Would you like one?
Yes, please, you say.
Walk down to the bottom of this row and Angelica will be there, she’ll get you a doughnut and some warm milk. Once you have your treats, come back to me. I’ll have the beanbags laid out. I have a story to tell you.
What is it about? It’s about alpha beta.
You mean: who are they? They are the letters of the English alphabet, each a god in its own right. They’re not at peace right now, but perhaps by the time you get back peace may have been restored. You look confused.
I am, you say. I’ve never been to a library like this before.
That’s what everyone says.
Run along. Hurry back. I may only have time today to introduce you to one or two of the gods. We may have to delve more into the story in your next visits.
You hurry towards the sugary scent. You can feel your mouth getting warmer and wetter with each step you take.
Angelica is a child like you but she doesn’t act like one. She stands quite straight. She smiles like your Mummy. She seems to know things that you don’t yet. Don’t worry, you might one day, it just takes time.
Angelica passes you a thick papery bag that’s hot and a little moist with oil from the doughnut. It’s curved sugar dusted doughiness peeps out from the top of its pouch. You lick your lips.
Thank you, you say.
Angelica gives you a couple of napkins to hold under the bag. Once in place, she hands you a cup of warm milk with two marshmallows bobbing on the surface.
No worries. Enjoy yourself. And don’t be frightened, it’s going to be fine.
When you turn back, the floor reconnects with the tunnel you came from. A few metres ahead, you see a chair. It’s more like a sofa chair. Except it’s not solid, like the one you have in the living room at home. This one is gaseous, it’s seems to be shaped out of cloud. There’s a footstool too.
Go on, sit down, says the voice.
I… Erm… is…? Will…? You can’t produce the words you need so you use your hands to work out whether the cloud sofa chair will take your weight. It’s strange. You can feel it and press it and yet your eyes tell you it isn’t solid. You try putting your mug of milk on the footstool as a test. It works. It rests comfortably against it. You turn and lower yourself into the chair. Your whole body feels toasty like your toes.
You retrieve your milk and take a sip. You try to get of the marshmallows but it’s slightly to big so you take a bit of the doughnut instead. Delicious. It feels as soft as the clouds.
You nod, enjoying the doughnut too much to be able to say anything.
I’ll begin. You can ask questions at the end.
You nod, the strawberry syrup is now at your lips making them sticky.
I need to explain a few things to you before we go in. You no doubt understand by now this is no ordinary place and this is no ordinary book. In it are the Gods responsible for all stories written in the English language. However you come to think of them, remember that these Gods may not be the Gods you are taught about at school or in the old religious books like the Bible, the Torah or the Quran for example. We don’t pray to them, though we respect them and we expect a lot from them. We expect them to lead us to places we hadn’t imagined.
These Gods are like people – with strengths and weaknesses. They are special but also ordinary. They aren’t perfect. They are the blueprints for all other letters that you see everyday in every book. You see these Gods are called Gods because they are the originals. They are the leaders of the letters. All other letters being clones of these originals. It is the job of the Gods – Alpha Beta – to make sure their clones are being used correctly. They are the almighty readers and editors. They try to make sure the humans – you people use their clones correctly and tell the stories that need to be told in sentences that expand the mind, touch the soul and connect you to those other humans you don’t yet know.
Each God is a she and a he. They are just one ‘person’, although they shift beyond people or animals, beyond, solid and liquid and gas. But I know this is a lot to take in so for ease, let’s call them people though they are not human like you.
Where was I? Ah yes, they are but one, but they are both girl and boy, masculine and feminine, yin and yang. This is how it will be in the future of the humans I think. You will not know yourselves as either girl or boy. You will be you and only you. A unique blueprint, made up of all the letters, all the words, and all the experiences the Gods gave you.
Some humans place too much value in being either a boy or a girl and they have attached meanings to each of those words, those identities that the Gods did not intend in the beginning. Before they started to bicker and then the power struggle, they were talking about how they might address the problems in the world that had arisen recently since the expectations attached to male and female had slowly, steadily began to take away the uniqueness of the human children. The Gods believed that as a boy or a man, you should be able to cry freely, express sensitivity and vulnerability without being judged or feeling silly. A girl should be able to build a house with her own hands – apply her body, her strength, her mind to the physically and mentally demanding task of constructing something from bricks and mortar, a team she directs, and her own labour. She should be able to build something, influence others, bring resources together to create a structure a symbol of protection and security, in an environment where she too is protected and secure. An insider not an outsider. When you’re fully grown, I know you’ll help them in their crusade.
The Gods they have power but not absolute power. Yet. They are all neither all good or all bad.
It’s not a god at all. Like the rest, it’s neither male nor female, just an entity. But unlike the rest it is wholly bad. It’s an outlier, an outlaw, and an outsider. Always wanting more, more, more.
Its name is Ampersand and it looks like this:
We don’t know where it came from. There’s a myth that he arose out of a desert storm. It’s not an alpha beta. He and she is twisted like a desert beast, like a snake in your world, perhaps, entangled in his own wretchedness. She and he is used to represent ‘and’, always more. The Gods have tried to imprison him between their letters but he keeps trying to get out. For she and he is greedy.
Oh no, I see you must go now. She’s waiting for you. The lady you came with. Look.
You turn to look behind you. The sofa chair becomes more gaseous, more dense, it’s almost like it is inflating to become bigger and straighter, upright so it supports you to a standing position before you have even decided to get up.
Sorry Scorpio, I’ve not yet had time to introduce you to them. Will you be back tomorrow night?
Yes you say. There are some sugar specks around your mouth and a few on the tip of your nose.
Meet me here. Angelica will make you some doughnuts if you wish. Goodnight Scorpio.
Goodnight, you say.
See you tomorrow.
The letters on the spine are dull. It looks like every other book you’ve seen before.
You turn around. The clouds have disappeared. You walk out into the cool fresh air. It’s dark and you’re tired. Close your eyes. The library will still be here tomorrow. I can tell you’re going to make some great friends there.
(c) Aimee Coleman 2017