When I launched Winamp just now to listen to some internet radio, I thought it said the title of the song now playing was “I Sing the Body Elliptic,*” although when I took a second, closer look, it said something quite else. For all I know, that might actually have been the name of the song, only it changed it’s mind and decided to be something else. It’s hard to say for sure. I had just finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, (almost straight through,with only one brief interruption), and my realities haven’t quite settled down again after such a wild ride.
Gaiman, AKA “The Sandman,” has the dubious distinction of being the first author who has ever crossed over from one of my realities into another. Usually, I start a story with a character in mind, and if the story needs other characters, I decide who they are and what they look like, decide how they act and add them to the story. Sometimes, I have to tinker with a new character (or the story, or both) to get things to fit together and play nicely with each other. This was one of the rare instances when I needed a character and one just showed up, walked right into the story and was perfect in the role. Sometimes he appears as a tall, spare, somber man with tousled black hair who looks remarkably like Neil, and sometimes as a great archetypal wolfhound with tousled black fur, but dog and man are two sides of the same coin. Being a good dog, he came when he was called and brought his name with him. It was almost like he sprang fully formed from the forehead of Zeus or something. I didn’t even stop typing to figure out what his name was. It was just there: Narna.
He lives in that house beside the Clyde, within the stand of trees where there always seem to be so many ravens. He came there because of Macca, she of the fiery auburn hair and heather green eyes, who is small for her size (“I thought you would be taller.” “What makes you think I’m not?”). He loves Macca as a dog loves, with a fierce, irrevocable love. Narna is her dog and nobody else’s.
The house, which is currently a two-story, oak-paneled, grey stone farmhouse, has changed it’s shape and substance several times whenever it was necessary, but it has been Macca’s abode since not all that long after the ice went away, and Narna has lived there with her since not very long after that. There’s a grandmother and a daughter involved (isn’t there always?) and they both belong to Macca. Her mother is named Danu, and she is older than the vast amounts of ice that used to be there a long time ago, until it all melted. I haven’t remembered what color her hair was originally yet — it’s white now, — but her eyes have always been green. Macca has a red-haired, green-eyed daughter named Aine who lives in Cornwall with the King of the Fairies.
I don’t recall any of them ever using the name “Hempstock,” but I know they came from that same vast uncharted territory that’s out there somewhere, beyond the event horizon, where all the things that could be, and might be and may be come from and go to, where anything can be true or false, or even true and false. And who’s to say what’s true and what isn’t? Truth is a mirror and nobody who looks into it ever sees the same thing anybody else sees.