#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller


Another Story

Once upon a time, a mortal lived in a hut. It was a comfortable hut, pretty well-equipped, actually, and it’s no accident, my dears, that hut rhymes with rut.

The mortal was content, for the most part, but sometimes, he/she would look out the window, see the foothills in the distance, and wonder what was beyond them. (Besides the mountain, I mean.) Was there a valley, lush and green, nestled between the foothills and the mountain? Were there people there? If so, what we they like? Were they friendly? Would they welcome her/him, if he/she chanced to visit?

Oh, sometimes she/he yearned to go out there and explore, with an intensity so deep it hurt.

But he/she was afraid, and with good reason. Or so she/he thought.

What was there to be afraid of?

Well, there were bears on the porch. Big, hungry, growling bears. They would surely devour her/him in great, bloody chunks, if he/she dared step over the threshold! Sometimes, at night, she/he was so afraid, he/she pulled the blankets over her/his head, and trembled with the terror of it all. There WERE bears out there. What if they stormed the place? What if they got inside the hut/rut? Oh, they were there, all right. She/he could hear them. She/he could see them. In fact, when he/she looked out the window, toward the hidden valley he/she just knew was there, one of them would pop up and scare her/him out of her wits. Very big. Very ugly. Very bad teeth.

One day, he/she received an email from someone called Messenger. (I told you the hut/rut was well-equipped. It has a state-of-the-art computer, completely wireless.) You shall know the Truth, the message went, and the Truth shall set you free.

Easy for YOU to say, the mortal wrote back, affronted.

Messenger happened to be online at the time, and got right back to her/him with: The bears aren’t real.

Well, the mortal was even MORE insulted. Did this Messenger character think he/she was so stupid she/he couldn’t recognize an illusion?

The Messenger knew this, somehow, and sent a smiley face emoticon.

The bears are REAL! Mortal insisted, but some of his/her fury was waning. What if Messenger was right? What if the bears weren’t real?

Come and get me, he/she wrote. Right now! I want to get out of here. I need help.

You have all the help you need, Messenger shot back. If I lead you through the bears or make them disappear, what will you learn? You are hypnotized, for all practical intents and purposes, and only you can break the spell.

Mortal: I don’t want to learn anything, damn it. I don’t know how to break spells. I just want to see the valley!

Messenger: Only one way to do that. You’ve got to walk through the bears.

Mortal: Great. They’ll eat me.

Messenger: They can’t eat you. They’re NOT REAL.

Mortal: I don’t believe you.

Messenger: We have a stand-off, then, I guess. There’s only one way out. Through the bears.

Mortal (hopefully): Isn’t there a Plan B?

Messenger: Well, you could learn to train the bears. You could make pets out of them, give them names, sew up little tutus for them to wear. That’s all avoidance, though.

Mortal: It’s a risk.

Messenger: It only seems like a risk. Actually, it’s a sure thing.

Mortal: Who are you, anyway?

To be continued….

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