Beginnings are never so sharp as they are in stories. In our world, beginnings and ends are soft, malleable, blending together like watercolour paint. We label them as such to categorize our own thoughts, but things never begin or end, really. They change. They change quickly, they change slowly, and we throw darts in the middle of the change to settle on a defined end and subsequent beginning. But, as time does not stand still and thus there can be no present, there can be no fixed end or beginning. Everything is ever-moving, ever-changing. The universe obeys no red lights.
A story comes from many places, dear Reader. An idea, borne from experience, borne from memory, fallible as it is. Molded into shape by the rhythmic pounding of fingertips. Pen-scraped and ink-slashed to a frictionless form. Then, finally, set to the page. But if you replace the head and the haft of Lincoln’s axe, is it the same axe? After a dozen drafts, what do we call the true beginning, the true ending?
But, no. It does not matter who first read the first chapter, the first paragraph, sentence, word, letter. Certainly the writer doesn’t matter. I don’t matter. Nor does the editor or the writer’s significant other or the die-hard fan who snatches away the first edition, hoping to plant a little flag inside every loop of every letter. They have no claim on this beginning. What matters is you are reading it, now, and you know that the story begins—so sharp!—with that first letter B.
This is a story about you and me. Reader and Author. After all, we’re in this together, now. We’re traveling partners on this road of letters. You may forget me, sometimes—do not apologize: it is a compliment—but I will never for one second forget you, my friend. Our link is a psychic one: a transference of thoughts, of similar shapes emotional and intellectual, sensory and memory. I paint an idea constructed of my own history and you repaint it with knowledge constructed from your own. The differences are mysteries even to us, but they make the story ours—alone, individual. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder, yet possess our own hearts.
I admit already to feeling a closeness to you, Reader. I do not know a thing about you, but our proximity, psychic though it may be, compels me to like you. Indeed I believe you are a fine person, classy and noble in your way. I imagine turning my chin over my shoulder and seeing your assuring smile, the twinkle in your eye to show interest in where I am leading you—oh, the sense of adventure in you!—and this more than anything is what compels me forward.
And as I know nothing of you other than what I dream, you shall know nothing of me except what you learn (or rather, imagine) over the metaphysical phone cord that is my story, here. If you are frightened to be traveling with a stranger such as I, please ease your neck, dear Reader, and know that without you I am a whisper in a black cell, lost and invisible and silent as the ocean floor. You are my air, you are my sky.
Shall we begin again?