The Mythmaker’s hands smelled like the dust that caught in the creeping light of morning. Like fabric and unwashed skin and waking. The fingers of his right hand were braided with veins, veins that popped his knuckles out like knots of wood, worked tough and solid from gripping his pen and dipping his ink a hundred times a day. The fingers of his left hand were cold, always cold, from forever reaching into those shadowy parts of the night.
His hands, that was the first thing you’d notice about him.
He made the moon his mistress
in the fated folds of night.
The stars, they were his courtiers
in the drafting of birthrights.
He read the sky and coaxed her
from the dark into the light.
From them he gathered destinies;
from them he gained his sight.
The Mythmaker was a very old man. In his youth he had seen the stars pop into being like water bugs dimpling still water. He could not remember what was before the stars, but he remembered all that came after. The water bugs stirred and chattered and rippled the dark. When that very first ripple welled, he caught it with the tip of his finger and wore it as a ring. He now had thousands of rings, singing against each other on his fingers, and plenty of room left for more.
He was a little man, with bones built like the body of a flute, hollow and whistling. The millenniums had carved the divot into his nape, sculpted the hunch into his spine. He liked to make boasts of once having black hair, radiant as the unclouded night. But that was so long ago, and his liver-spotted scalp told another story.
His age, that was the second thing you’d notice about him.
Astrologer, they called him —
the man who loved too hard.
A romancer of destiny,
the night sky’s only bard.
But he, he knew the truth of it,
of why he held his guard —
to wean from constellations
their secrets, long since scarred.
The Mythmaker had never left his tower. He had been so high up for so long that the below had become a mystery to him, a myth even feebler than the moon that shimmered at the end of his fingertips. But it made no matter what happened on the ground, for he only ever needed to look up.
He spent his nights reading the stars, tracking dances across the sky, naming clusters and systems, painting patterns that emerged against a backdrop of dust and dark matter. Everything he needed to know about that unknown below, he knew from them. And he wrote it all down, everything, in his book.
An old sun, white and withered, plucked from the night with a sigh. A long, unexceptional life, slipped into death unnoticed. Two stars collide around a void at the heart of the galaxy, and emerge as one. Two families feuded for position, and pulled away joined by their children. The moon wakes red and swollen, slow to cross the night. A soul woke dripping with blood, slow to know her peril.
He wrote down the fates of people that he would never meet, dictated the birth and destruction of nations that he would never see rise or fall. His rings rattled when he dipped his pen into the ink, and his heart fluttered as he wrote their stories. Their stories of salt and stains and shimmery somethings that gleamed in the stars and dripped at the corners of his eyes.
His elbows squeaked against his desk. The scratches of his pen punctuated the silence that hung over the world, the silence that he would whisper fair words into until his voice fissured. And though he loved the night, he loved the stories she gave him more. Stories about treachery and romance and macabre. Stories that swelled and multiplied and rippled, but retreated into the dark as quickly as they came. Stories about a below that he could never touch.
His loneliness, that was the third thing you’d notice about him.
Lady moon, she bore her dark side,
but he, he turned her round,
and leapt to kiss her cratered face
to taste tomorrow bound.
The stars, they shyly winked at him,
but he, he heard the sound
of a future falling from great heights,
a sun crashing to the ground.
The Mythmaker cried out when the book slipped from his fingers. He had lifted it from his desk to catch the moonlight on the blank page, because in that moment he swore to himself that he saw something flicker on the leg of his k, in the loop of his o, across the arch of his h. It was not wind that stole the book from his fingers (for there had never been wind before), nor was it an error of coordination (for he was old, but not unbalanced). No, what spun his book of fates over the edge of the tower was something much more visceral. The fingers of his right hand seized into stone, and then the muscles spasmed and his grip weakened. The fingers of his left hand drained of blood, and then the skin turned white and his hold deadened.
The book hurtled into the void, flapping piteously, like a canary shot between the ribs.
Perhaps it was meant to go like that. As an accident, a freak twitch of thumb, a numbing of palm. Perhaps it was meant to be that the hand that wrote and the hand that reached betrayed him both.
He did not think of that in the seconds it took for the book to become swallowed by the below. He only thought of the million mysteries that breathed and lived and died and decayed down there. He thought of what it would mean for them to have the book, to read the book, to know their fates and the history of everything that ever was or ever would be.
His dread, that was the fourth thing you’d notice about him.
Mythmaker, they called him —
the man who tempted fate.
A philanderer of futures,
a seducer of great stakes.
But he, he knew the truth of it,
of how his dalliances narrate
the crossing of impending stars
in the sealing of soul mates.
The Mythmaker reached after the crumpled canary book with hands that smelled like the dust that caught in the creeping light of morning. Like fabric and unwashed skin and waking.
And he fell.
He thought it funny, how calm he was as he plunged down the neck of the tower, away from the amorous breadth of night, away from his desk and his ink and his solitude, and towards, no less, a land he knew everything about but nothing of what it looked or smelled or tasted like.
He thought it funny, how he had spent his endless existence finding fortunes in the sky and understanding how destiny worked, and still — he had not seen this. He knew that the night kept no secrets and that it always revealed a purpose, though he fell, with his hands first, for nothing.
He thought it petrifying, that his book could touch the ground.
And he fell and he reached, with fingers that sang with a thousand rings.
His hands, that was the last thing you’d notice about him.