I am happy to announce that I have published a new short story, entitled "Love (in a World of Sludge)" in Love: A Short Story Collection. Basically, this is my contribution to a collection prepared by me and a few of my writer friends which explores the broad topic of "Love" from a Baha'i perspective. As you can see, I took a rather unique approach to the topic, instead focusing on familial and societal love rather than anything too romantic. Here's a short preview from the opening paragraphs of my contribution:
Come one and come all, to those who would listen, and watch me weave a tale of love.
Though it be a subject that I, admittedly, know little about.
But then again, perhaps I know no more nor less than anyone else who lives and dies, tied as we all are to heart’s beat as we beat our way across this wide world. For all of life’s a mystery, and love the greatest mystery of all. So then must I ask, my dear listener, what dear price do you pay with your attention, to spend a few heart beats in my perception?
So let us begin our tale. And let us begin our tale in another world.
Let us begin in a world of sludge.
Now, this world wasn’t always a world of sludge. But long ago, longer than anyone alive could remember, the sky began to rain down falls of thick, black, slimy, sticky, smelly sludge. It started as a trickle, every few weeks or so, and soon became an everyday torrent that coated everything it touched and turned it into an almost unrecognizable mess of mud. The grass was covered in sludge. The trees were covered in sludge. Even the streams were now streams of sludge, slowly slopping and slithering down to a great slick sea. In fact, the only bit not covered was the very top of a tall mountain at the center of the world, beyond the reach of the sludge clouds, where a very wise and immortal being was said to live.
Now, the rest of the people in this world were not so lucky. They lived down deep within the sludge. But the people there, they were adaptable. Resilient. They were able to cope with all the slime and the muck. They learned to cultivate food in the sludge, mushrooms and toadstools and things that grew in the dank and the dark. They covered their bodies with sludge, decorating their arms and faces with ornate designs. The sludge was hardened through fire and used to make all sorts of items: sludge tools and clothes and furniture and even trinkets.
They carved a huge city deep into the mud, using each sludgefall to thicken and embellish the walls of their new home. At first, they dug caverns deep into the sludge, a labyrinth of sludge catacombs towards the heart of the world, much of which was later abandoned as each sludgefall further deepened the layer of sludge. The wealthier members of society moved towards the sky, shaping a cluster of great spires of sludge that housed hundreds of thousands. The culture of the world became a sludge culture, as the people became more and more dependent upon the sludge for their survival. Children underwent a ‘sludge ritual’ soon after they were born, ensuring that they too, were inducted into the society of sludge.
And so it was that the people were able to build a life and forgot that there was ever anything else, before the sludge.
Certainly, this may seem like an unusual way to begin a love story. After all, sludge hardly seems like a fitting foundation for romance. But let’s be clear: love may be romance, but romance is not and never will be love. Love is far too boundless to ever fall within such clear delimitations. And love can find itself in any field, no matter how murky or mucked. So trust me when I say, that the sludge is perfect for our present purposes. For, as we will see, love is stronger even than sludge.
And this love begins, like so many will do, with the birth of someone special. Someone who didn’t quite fit in or fall into the sludge mold, as it were. And this someone just happened to be a girl, a child who was born to the poorest of parents, deep down in the dankest part of the city. A birth which, in most circumstances, would have largely been ignored, if it were not for her distinction.
You can download the rest of the story along with the other excellent stories in the collection for $1.99 from the Amazon Kindle store here.