Fairy tale / A observation deck / A kaleidoscope / 508w
FFC 2018 Round I Entry
There was once a young boy who liked nothing better than looking into his toy kaleidoscope. At almost any given moment, he could be found with the paper tube pressed to his eye, his fingers working gently as he twisted and tilted it, tumbling the bits of colored glass inside into ever new designs. Many people – his friends, his neighbors, a curious stranger – asked him why he was gazing into the kaleidoscope, and his answer was always, “I’m just looking.” The boy’s parents, having tolerated this for as long as they could, decided one day that their son had to start looking at the rest of the world, too. Certainly he would be drawn to something.
They spent no small sum to take him to a series of potentially captivating places in their country. The royal menagerie fluttered and whooped and snarled with every kind of beautiful beast, but the boy hardly glanced at them. In the hallowed, echoing Halls of Alchemy, strange experiments were performed, producing all manner of sparks and smoke. The boy, uninterested, preferred to switch the tube of the kaleidoscope from one eye to the other. He accompanied his parents on a walk through a forest of ancient soaring trees, which formed with their canopies a living green basilica. Beneath this the boy walked, tripping over roots and grazing his knees, the kaleidoscope knitted to his eye. It didn’t seem he wanted to look at anything.
His parents, their frustration mounting, hoped that the famous lookout point would provide a sight stunning enough to draw his attention. They spent hours to get to the top of the tallest mountain, where the weather, luckily, was perfect for viewing. Gazing out at the splendor of the landscape, the parents forgot for a moment their stubborn or misguided or uncaring son and sighed in pleasure, their hands linked atop the lookout wall.
After a time, the mother looked at their son, and was shocked to see him staring straight ahead, the kaleidoscope hanging at his side. Tears had left damp tracks down his cheeks. The mother gasped, and she and her husband shared a moment of joy at having finally torn the boy away from his little world of mirrored shapes.
But then the boy sniffled, and his parents realized that he was not, in fact, moved by the majesty before him. Instead, he was crying with sadness. His father asked him why; what about the breathtaking vista could possibly be upsetting?
The boy lifted his kaleidoscope, causing the chips of glass inside to slide and clink. “I realized it will never look the same way twice,” the boy said. “And there was one pattern I wanted to see again.”
He wasn’t seeing the view from the lookout; not any more than he had seen the other sights, or even, they realized, any of the new and beautiful designs he made with each turn of the kaleidoscope. So what had he been seeing all this time, if not any of those things?
The answer, unfortunately, was nothing.
I can’t believe it’s the Flash Fiction Challenge 2018 already. I’ve been pretty lax in updating the blog, although I have a few partial drafts. Life has gotten a bit hectic this summer, but fortunately I have some people in my life who help keep my little story flame alive, so look for updates soon.
Not sure this is a prototypical fairy tale, but it has enough elements (universal truth-ish, vague descriptions of people and places, some distantly fantastical elements) that it’ll hopefully pass muster. The parallelism thing occurred to me in the 11th hour of the competition, which speaks to the power of revisiting and revising your own work. Let’s see how this does!