A Mostly True Fairy Tale
by Kat Beyer
In the days when SUVs were small as doormice and organic vegetables were ugly, there lived a girl who could talk to machines. She had them bring her treasures: cappuccinos and camping stoves, software and silks. She taught them to make lovely things to sell that vanished the next day. But one day the machines came to her.
"Everything you make is gone the next day," they told her. "And none of it helps other people. If you do not change this, your powers will disappear."
Naturally she didn’t listen. So she lost her powers: no more silks and stoves. She sat alone in the dark, for she could not even speak to the machine that made the light.
One day someone knocked on the door. "Come in," she said. In the doorway stood an old lady.
"I can’t stop long," said the old lady. "Others to see about. Here,” and she held out a jewelry case.
The girl opened it and saw a necklace of strange letters. She asked the old lady, "What do I do with this?"
"You'll either work it out, and get out of here, or you won't and you won't," said the old lady, and left.
The girl thought this was really too much. First she cried, then she yelled.
Much later she took out the necklace again. She could only feel the letters in the dark. There were no "A's" or "B's" -- not so much as a "Q." They didn't even feel like kana, or akshara, or anything like that.
Studying a long time, she found one letter that always spoke to her of birds, and another of mercy, and another of sunrise, and she learned that she could rearrange them without breaking the necklace, making letter-pictures that shifted and grew in the dark and did not disappear the next day.
One day she made a letter-picture that turned the light on.
After she got over her shock she noticed the door handle. It felt good to turn it.
Outside, the air was bright and smelled of coffee.
The girl lives out in the world now. Her letter-pictures pay off people's debt and froth cappuccinos and do many other wonders besides. Machines and people like to come and visit her. If you have seen the old lady lately, maybe you could let her know the girl would like very much to thank her.