by Joseph Carrabis
Joseph Carrabis has been everything from a long-haul trucker to a Chief Research Scientist and holds patents covering mathematics, anthropology, neuroscience, and linguistics. He created a technology in his basement that was in use in over 120 countries and was selected as an International Ambassador for Psychological Science in 2010. Now he spends his time writing fiction based on his experiences.
There was once a little boy who left his village and returned knowing how to journey the way shaman do. He returned to his people wearing tassels on his wrists and everybody who saw these tassels knew they were magic but nobody said anything to him about them.
Each day, the young boy helped tend the village herds and fields, each evening he ate with the old and not-so-old, the young and not-so-young in the village. He laughed at their jokes and made some of his own, cried at their grief and learned all of his own.
One evening, a little girl came to the boy. “Boy, what are those tassels you wear on your arms?”
She did this at the village fire. Everyone grew quiet to hear what the now older boy would answer.
He smiled at the little girl. “What do you see, little one?”
“I see snakes,” she said. “Big, beautiful snakes. Snakes to ride on and carry me away.”
The boy nodded. “Thank you, little girl. Thank you for telling me what these tassels on my arms are. Now I know they are snakes. Thank you very much.”
The little girl smiled and laughed and the older boy did, too, as the little girl went off to play.
A few nights later one of the oldest men in the village came up to the boy as he sat by the fire. “What are those tassels on your arms, boy?”
“What do you see, Grandfather?
The old man thought for a moment. “They are the waves of the great waters.” He paused, seemed to think again, then stared deeply at the boy’s tassels, smiled and went on. “Yes, they are the waves of the great waters. And look! There! There are the great canoes my grandfather’s grandfather crossed those great waters in, the same canoes which bade him safe passage to this place.” The old man looked into the boy’s eyes. “That’s what I see.”
“Thank you, Grandfather,” said the even older boy. “Thank you so much for sharing with me what you see in these tassels on my arms. I did not know what they were and now I do. Thank you for telling me what you see.”
The old man and the now-older boy hugged each other and the old man walked away, smiling as he remembered the great biadarkas which brought his people to this place where they lived.
And so it came, over time, that each person in the village told the boy what magic they saw in his tassels and he thanked them for the stories they told.
All, that is, except three old women. Each time they saw the boy they laughed. Finally one of the women asked, “What are those cords wrapped around your wrists?”
The boy shook his head. “I don’t know, Grandmother. I always let people tell me what they are, that way I learn. What do you think they are?”
The old women huddled amongst themselves in whispers for a moment then laughed. “We thought they were strings to bind your sandals, but see you wear none. Probably just strings you found, are they not?”
The now grown boy saddened and counted this lesson as perhaps the greatest of all. He lifted his tassels and stared at them before he answered. “Why, yes, Grandmothers. If that is what you see, that’s what they are.”
The three old women cackled to themselves and walked away.
One day a great trouble came to the village. It came quickly and swiftly and no one was warned. Many in the village had already died when the little girl who had first spoken to the boy ran up to him and cried out, “Boy! Boy! You must do something quickly. Hurry! Our village is dying.”
The old boy shook his head sadly, no. “But there’s nothing I can do.”
“Can you save us?”
Again the boy shook his head. “No. Each person has to save themself.”
“How?” cried the little girl.
The old boy unwrapped the tassels from his wrists so they flowed like snakes upon the ground. “Tell me what you see, little one?”
“Snakes!” she screamed. “Beautiful, wonderful snakes!”
And so there were. Two huge glorious snakes coiling on the ground. They lifted their great heads up to face the little girl and slithery said, “Come, little daughter, get on our backs and ride us to safety.”
And so she did and so she is safe. The terror engulfing the village reached her not.
Then came the old man. “Boy! Boy! How can I save myself?”
The old boy swayed his tassels before the old man’s eyes. “What do you see, Grandfather?”
The old man calmed and smiled. “I see the waves of the great waters, and on them the canoes that first carried us to safety here.”
And thus it was so. Suddenly the old boy and the old man were up to their waists in the sea with a great biadarka floating beside them. The old boy helped the old man and all in his family into their canoe. Suddenly a great wave came and the old man, his family, and their canoe sailed away. The old man turned and waved and then the very old boy was back in his village. The old man, all his people, the great biadarka that carried them, and the waters they sailed were gone.
Each person who came to the boy now came again. As each came the boy reminded them of the magic they saw in his tassels. Each person took their magic and went away to safety. There were great eagles and stars and waterfalls and buffalo, walking trees and talking waters, all flowing from the ancient boy’s tassels to the people in the village.
All except the three old women. They came to him crying and screaming, “Tell us what magic you have for us, boy, that we might be safe as are the others.”
The old boy remembered these three old women but there was nothing he could do.
“Surely there is some magic in those strands for us,” they demanded.
The old boy shook his head and cried. “No, the only magic in my tassels is that which others put there. All the magic I gave others they already had. I merely reminded them of the magic within them. You saw nothing in my tassels, so there’s nothing I can give you. There is no magic in you for me to remind you.”
The boy grabbed his tassels and tied them around his hands. Suddenly his hands and tassels became great feathered wings which carried him away from the danger to where he was safe.