Stories on the edge of familiarity

If the World Were Flat

There once was a world that was flat. On one side, the sun shone all the time and, on the other side, the moon and stars reigned. Right in the middle of the moon’s side sat a woman who spent her days staring up at the stars with sadness and hope in her eyes.

One day a pelican flew from the side of the sun to the side of the moon, and saw the woman, cross-legged at the centre of the world. It landed next to her and asked:

“What are you looking at?”

“The stars and moon. I wish they were bright enough to show me myself.”

“The sky on the other side of the world is much brighter than this one,” said the pelican. “What if I took you there, where you could be lit up by the sun?”

“Oh, no.” The woman drew her legs to her body and shook her head. “This light is all I am meant to have. Any more and every would see how hideous I am.” The pelican paused for a moment, as if to think, then flew away. After a while, it returned and placed a rock in the woman’s hand.

“This is a gem of great beauty,” it said to her. “But yours is greater by far.” The woman smiled politely and turned the stone over in her fingers. It looked like nothing of value in the light of that side of the world, but it felt smooth.

“Thank you. It’s nice,” she said, setting it aside, and resumed her staring. After a pause, the pelican flew off again, this time returning with a full mouth of more smooth rocks which it placed next to the woman.

“These are gems of great beauty,” it said, “But yours is greater by far.”

“They look like nothing to me,” said the woman gently. The pelican shook its head and flew off again, returning with more of these rocks. It proclaimed the woman’s beauty, and the woman politely disbelieved, which only caused the pelican to go and return again with more. This continued until the pile of rocks next to the woman had become a mountain, but the pelican’s insistence did nothing to change the woman’s mind.

Then, while the pelican was away, an eagle came to the moon’s side of the world. It noticed the woman, the hope in her eyes, and its heart fell to see the sadness that kept the hope powerless. It flew down and settled next to the woman, asking the same thing that the pelican had, and received the same answer.

“My lady,” the eagle said, “I am an eagle, and my eyes are the strongest of all creatures, but even the blind mole could see your beauty, no matter what lit the sky.” Then it flew away, but its words echoed in the woman’s heart and the hope shone bright in her eyes.

“Even the blind mole?” she asked herself. On a whim, she stood and stepped towards the mountain next to her, suddenly hungry to see its supposed grandeur. With that step, the balance of the world shifted and it started to turn upside down, rotating slowly at first, but with greater speed the closer she came to the mountain. Before long, a bright light peeked over the edge of the moon’s side of the world. It rose gently from the horizon, filling it with blue. The woman stopped moving, watching the sun as the world settled again, watching as the brightest of lights came to rest in the centre of the sky. And when the woman looked back at the mountain, she put her hands to her mouth in surprise.

The mountain blazed with colour, with ruby and emerald, sapphire and diamond. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen…

Until she saw herself reflected in it.

May you see your beauty as clearly as those who know you.


This story was originally sent to my email list, and first appeared on the web on The Twins of Darkness and Good, where Liana Brooks, Amy Laurens, and I post short, unedited, mostly-weekly fiction.

Amy Laurens is currently running a serial story called The League of Absolutely Ordinary Superheroes. There are five parts so far and the latest one involves the League… preparing for a math competition? Clearly, there’s something nefarious afoot.

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