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  • Jasper Woods

Who's telling this story?

Myrtle sits and crosses her legs. Minish places a cup in front of her. As she reaches for it, Minish holds up a hand. “I must summon the story.”
Myrtle nods, uncertain. Guess he wants to get the stage lights on first.
Minish sets his cup down, raises his arms, fashions his fingers into a circle above his head, and closes his eyes. His voice a whisper. “Myrtook, Myrtook, acrumba bara niminio kara jarkat, acrumba gar Shyaklá, porcard gar Sam, bey achie Arisia durnos acua. Myrtook, sosharona oernesta, luango niminio yais Myrtle acrumba bara sosharona.”
Lowering his hands to his lap, Minish opens his eyes.
Myrtle stares back. “That come in an English version?”
- Trajectories: Prologue, The Hermit

Minish is a Time Nomad. About half-way into the novel I asked myself, “Who’s telling this story?” This story that crosses times from 12,000 years past (the Paleolithic), to the near future, and onto the far future. Who could tell such a story?

A Time Nomad Summoning a Story, outsider art

An image of a hermit was flitting about for some time while writing Trajectories. I dabbled him into a scene in the far future, haunting a patch of woods near the Lawrence Enclave. At some point he became an abandoned nonnative, left the world of people, and became a living breathing ghost. I liked the idea and the character but he never got to the point that he was propelling the narrative forward. It was just an interesting, fun scene. Unfortunately, interesting fun scenes do not a story make. And so Minish was placed in a folder.

A Hermit haunting the woods outside of Lawrence, KS

But then, during my development edit conversation my editor mentioned something about the voice of the narrator. That’s when it hit me. I needed to decide who was telling this story. I plucked out the Hermit. Gave him a bit of backstory. Out he popped as a Time Nomad still haunting the woods near the Lawrence Enclave. Had Myrtle stumble across him. Had him need to release this story. Minish whisks Myrtle away to his “Pause. A place in-between, outside of and surrounded by time ….” Where he set in on telling Myrtle the story of the Dream, as only he could know it, being a Time Nomad and all. As he says,

“I sail on Time’s blue lights. As I sit with you in this now, I am there 12,000 years past, a hundred years, 52 years. I am there now in all of those nows.”
A Time Nomad sailing time's blue light in all nows

In many ways, Trajectories is a love story about telling stories. Minish is telling the whole story, a history of the future happening now, to Myrtle. Squirrel, a planetologist (amongst other things), is telling a story of a planet to Emria. Sam tells his story of his encounter with Pasha. Shyaklá tells her story of her encounter at the hilltop. There are internal stories. The ones we tell to ourselves about ourselves and the ones who others tell about who they think we are vs. who we are. And on and on. In some ways, Trajectories is a nesting of stories. In other ways, it is intersecting hoops of stories.

Intersecting hoops of stories, outsider art

The concept of hoops comes from a true story. Trajectories is deeply informed by Black Elk Speaks. Here’s a quote I reference before Minish meets Myrtle and the story of Trajectories begins:

“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”
- Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk), Wičháša Wakȟáŋ of the Oglala Sioux Nation

As I experienced the story of Black Elk, I felt he knew what he was supposed to do but he didn’t know how to do it. In many ways and at its heart, Trajectories is a story of how we might realize what Black Elk envisioned.

In the end, all the story hoops of Trajectories interact like passages on a musical score flowing over, into and over each other to create, as Minish puts it: “A symphony of synchrony.”

Resources: Black Elk Speaks

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