A few days later, as Chess was wandering restlessly through the hallways, Sariel found him. On the other side of a doorway, she was just standing there, waiting, in a wide shaft of afternoon sunlight.
“It is so dusty in here,” she commented, frowning. “Come out and sit in the sun with me.”
Grateful for company, Chess accompanied her to the courtyard, where they settled near the cold fire pit. Sariel smoothed her skirt carefully around her, and then she fixed him with her deep gaze. “I have a story to tell you,” she said, with a little smile. “The story concerns Chess the thief.”
Chess sighed. “Hasn’t that poor guy had enough stories told about him?” he protested.
“Hush,” Sariel answered. “Once, Chess the thief took on an assignment that was much too dangerous, even for him. He completed his mission, but he was badly wounded in the process. However,” she smirked, “his bold activities had come to the attention of a magical creature who resided nearby… and who had been watching him with interest.”
“Magical creature?” Chess echoed. “You mean, like a dragon? Or a god?”
Sariel shrugged. “Perhaps it was a local demon,” she suggested.
The word unexpectedly brought thoughts of Gryff flooding into Chess’s mind, and he felt his face growing red. But Sariel did not seem to notice, and, after a moment, Chess felt almost certain that she had not been purposely trying to reference Gryff. He let the thought go.
“Uh… how about a jinn?” he proposed, after a quick mental search through game mythology.
“Very well. This jinn, seeing that Chess had been gravely injured, took him to its fortress -- yes, the genie had its own fortified palace,” she said, anticipating his question, “and nursed him back to health. And it was quite a long time, actually, before Chess felt that he was strong enough to go out on his own again. And, during that long and peaceful time that he spent with the jinn… eating good food, and having good conversation -- and engaging in other activities that, I hear, are most delightful with such magical creatures -- Chess found that he was, for perhaps the first time in his life, almost happy.”
“Magical Creature,” Chess murmured, letting the warm sun relax him, “why don’t you just tell me what you want to say?”
“Also, during this time,” Sariel continued, ignoring his question, “the jinn had fallen in love with Chess. And it begged him, ‘Do not leave. Stay with me always. Each day, I promise, we will watch the world in wonder, together. And each night, we will fulfill every desire.’ And, so, Chess stayed.
“Still more time passed in this manner, and Chess began to feel quite comfortable, and his days of adventure seemed very long ago. His former need for constant activity began to fade.”
“Is there something wrong with that?” Chess protested. “That all sounds very nice.”
“Perhaps. But Chess, for some unknown reason,” she added, raising an eyebrow, “began to feel that he was changing. He wondered if he was still capable of doing things that he had done in the past. He began to wonder if he was losing the qualities that had caused the jinn to fall in love with him. But, more than that, he could not forget the world that he had left behind: the people, the problems, and all the things that he still wanted to accomplish. ‘If I stay much longer,’ he thought, one night as he was gazing out at the stars, ‘I will lose the last bit of energy that would enable me to leave. And I’m afraid,’ he whispered aloud, into the darkness, ‘that I won’t like myself anymore. I won’t be myself anymore.”
“But who says that being myself – uh, being Chess,” Chess protested, “is so great, anyway?”
In reply, Sariel only gave another of her intensely irritating shrugs.
“You… want me to go?” Chess asked softly, feeling somewhat confused and hurt.
“No,” she told him solemnly, “but I think you want to go.”
He rose to his knees and studied her face. Her dark eyes were so familiar to him now, and yet, they concealed the deepest mysteries. “Is there someplace that you want to go… with me?” he asked.
“Not now. For now, I think it best that I stay here,” she answered. Then she smiled at him: a broad smile, such as she had never given him before, filled with joy. And she laid one hand on her belly.
Chess gaped at her suddenly. “Sar, are you…,” he whispered the word, “pregnant?”
Continued next page...
"Come on," he said to Valentine one day. "Let's fly away and live forever."
"We can't," she said. "There are miracles even relativity can't pull off, Ender."
"We have to go. I'm almost happy ..."
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
There is at least one more writer that I would invite to weigh in on this tricky problem of infusing our interpretations of the world with our own personal ideologies: Edgar Allen Poe. In his work The Imp of the Perverse, Poe discusses or, rather, disparages the science of phrenology, which was popular during his time:
It cannot be denied that phrenology and, in great measure, all metaphysicianism have been concocted a priori. The intellectual or logical man, rather than the understanding or observant man, set himself to imagine designs -- to dictate purposes to God. Having thus fathomed, to his satisfaction, the intentions of Jehovah, out of these intentions he built his innumerable systems of mind.
Phrenology was the the study of the shape and bumps of a person’s skull in order to determine key points about their moral and intellectual qualities. It’s easy to see why a thoughtful person might have been skeptical of this science. But then, there were many strong beliefs and ideals in Poe’s day that we no longer believe today. How many of our certainties will be debunked in a future age, where people chuckle at the way we deluded ourselves, never recognizing the overt cultural assumption that was integral to our “facts”? Perhaps all of them?
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