Monday 16 September 2013

Note by Scribble - a story


Note by Scribble
A story by Bruce G Charlton

There once was a wizard – in fact a failed wizard.
He was capable of magic, but as a matter of fact actually did none, nor had he ever in his whole life done any magic – although he talked about it a lot.
So, he was not really a wizard at all – because, at the very least, a wizard must be able to do magic – even if he never actually does magic (for one reason or another).
This not-wizard was called Scribble and he lived in a world where, officially, nobody could do magic for the simple reason that magic did not exist – or so the officials said. Therefore anyone who claimed to be a wizard was actually a not-wizard.
This meant that all real wizards were regarded as not-wizards – but the trouble was that there were several other kinds of not-wizard. Some were real wizards who did real magic; others were like Scribble – not-wizards who would have been magic wizards if only they had been properly instructed, but in this world there was nobody to instruct them (or, at least, nobody who would or could instruct them).
But there were also crazy-non-wizards and fake-non-wizards. The difference was that crazy-non-wizards believed that they were wizards but they were not; while fake-non-wizards knew they were not wizards, but wanted other people to believe that they were.
Scribble’s natural magic was indeed very weak, although it was perfectly real. Even under the best possible conditions, with the best possible teachers, he would never have been a Great Wizard, nor even an average wizard.

He would have been one of those minor wizards who fetch and carry, run messages, look up technical details, copy out magic books and the like. And the fact is that he would not have been very good even at that kind of basic work.
Yet he was not without talent. He had a magical gift, however it was not a magical gift that was much valued by the non-magic – and indeed it was not very impressive; although perhaps it should have been valued a bit more than it was.

Scribble couldn’t actually do anything very well, but he was instead a kind of seer; that is to say a see-er, and that is someone who sees what other people can’t.
But, even here, Scribble was not the kind of seer who attracts plum jobs with kings or warlords. Because Scribble could not see into the future, which is what most people want seers to do. Indeed he could not even see into the past, but only into the present.

And for most people, in fact everybody who Scribble ever met, seeing into the present just didn’t count as magic, they thought it was useless (even if it was true, which they doubted) because (they reasoned): Who needs magic, who needs a seer, to see what is in front of them and all around them?
Because he was a seer but had not developed his magic, Scribble made notes. He went around taking notes – people thought it was a diary or journal, but it wasn’t even that! Anyone who looked at Scribble's notes saw something too incomplete to be a diary and insufficiently detailed to be a journal...
These 'notes' were not usually about Scribble himself, his thoughts and opinions (which would not have interested most people, but would at least have been understandable), yet neither were the notes about the surrounding world (which might have been interesting to some future historian) – they were apprently random. Little snippets about this and about that.
Some seemed irrelevant, some seemed very obviously wrong – but there were a few, a very few, which were actually important; or perhaps a better word is significant. They might have been very useful to certain people at certain points in their lives, if only they had known about them, if only they had been interested enough to find them… but that would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack!
In the end, Scribble died, and all his notes were left behind – as was the plan from long ago.
And he found himself in a far off land where he met his big brother, who was extremely solid and bright – and it was only at this point that Scribble realized that he himself was not solid and bright, but instead rather like a wisp of smoke!

He also felt very different than in the old country. Scribble realized that now he could perceive things very clearly indeed, and in particular he remembered some extremely important things which he had almost completely forgotten.
At any rate, his big brother was very kind – how wonderful it was to meet him again! – and BB instructed Scribble in his new duties.
It turned-out that Scribble's notes might have some use after all. It turned-out that a 'Note by Scribble' was a thing of some value; at least if discovered by the right person at the right time and in the right circumstances...
Scribble had a job in going back to that place where he used to live, and delivering ‘notes’ to particular people at particular moments when they might (if taken notice of) be very helpful to them, especially when they had asked for something of the sort.
Nothing very spectacular; nothing like being one of the big brother’s wise men or strategists or healers, but certainly a useful job: a job that needed doing.
All this was excellent, except that – being a mere wisp of smoke – Scribble found it hard to learn, and couldn’t actually do very much. He had to rely on other people for a lot. But, on the other hand, he knew what he knew, and could do what he could do, and there were plenty of people of various types who were more than willing to do for him those things he could not do for himself.
Later, Scribble was given a new body. This had long been promised, and Scribble didn’t have to earn it – but he needed to wait until things had been finished in the old country.
Now they were finished, and all sorts of new plans were afoot, and Scribble needed a new body to do a new and somewhat different job: a more demanding job, indeed; a job that took more out of him, but which he found more rewarding.
It had taken a long time – or so it seemed; and matters had been delayed more than ideally they might have been; but Scribble had grown. He found he could learn more rapidly and more securely than ever before.

Life opened out before him!

Now: his first task before starting the job was to look for that lady he once had known and loved, but had somehow lost touch with some time ago.

She was here somewhere, he knew.

He had another chance.

And this time, he hoped, things might work out even better than they worked out before. Scribble had - after all - learned something.

Note: This micro-story came to me in a lump after brooding on JRR Tolkien's wondeful allegory Leaf by Niggle. Aside from literary quality and length, one difference is that Tolkien's is on the theme of Roman Catholic theology, incorporating purgatory etc.; while Note by Scribble is a Mormon allegory. 


Anonymous said...

I've returned in my thought to this allegory several times in the past few days. Perhaps it's because I also just read GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday, but allegory always strikes me as an apt way to describe our otherworldly longing.

Does magic correspond to faith or the Mormon conception of priesthood---or is that an unanswerable query? It seems to me also that the lady Scribble had loved should feature somewhere earlier in the story as well, given LDS focus on the family as the primary unit of religion.

Bruce Charlton said...

@rb - I'm sure you are correct. But the trouble is that I am not a natural fiction writer, and I don't think I am capable of anything longer or more elaborate than this - which came to me in a hour or two.

The lady could have been his wife or another loved woman whom he never married (for whatever reason - chance, tragedy...) - but probably his wife but (for whatever reason - there are many - I wanted to leave this open) the marriage had not been celestial and thus ended at death, now they have another chance.