Martha stood in a vast river, feeling the chill down her knees. The river, clear as clean glass, babbled around her, swirling and surging, but there was no shore. White mists loomed over the water, but she felt as if she could see through this endless pale veil, all the way to the end of the river. She wondered where the river came from.
Birds were chirping, their chorus went through the open window, bringing in the wind of early spring. The wind flipped open a few pages of a notepad, but Martha hardly noticed. Her roommate, Yang, came in and called to her, but Martha did not respond, so Yang just placed a cup of coffee on the table.
But even the normally pleasing smell of coffee failed to be a distraction. Martha sat motionless, staring at the pages in front of her. Her mind was in a different place.
Sounds came from beyond, but the mists were like a thick white curtain, making them distant and unreal. She wondered for a moment if she had forgotten something, but the feeling passed.
The river flowed faster and louder now. The chill was still there, but now felt pleasant. She bent down, and dipped her hands into the stream. It was beautiful, like liquid crystal, but also lacking. It was too clear, contained no life, no diversity. She saw no colorful stones at the riverbed, no fish swimming, no banks dotted by flowers.
But she saw possibilities.
Martha picked up the pen and began to write. She felt the words flow, as waters of a vast river loomed by thick white mists. She wrote page after page, as coffee grew cold, as the birds flew off, as Yang came and went without getting noticed.
She knew what she needed to do. The white mists were still there, but lighter, happier, as songs flew above the river. There were not only fish and stones and flowers and trees, but also dark corners and shadowed edges. The river's flow changed too, no longer continuous, but with sharp turns and falls, rocks and rapids.
The banks were solid now, forming a specific path for anyone who would walk alongside the river to see things she intended to display. Even as Martha stood there, she felt the rush of the river, urging her to go down. But instead, she turned.
And saw that the beginning of the river still hid itself in the thick white mists.
Soon after sun down, Martha rose from the chair, grabbing the sheets and claiming victory. Yang, now sitting on the sofa, offered her what was left of the dinner.
In the end, it was not a thick book, but a small pamphlet with a black and white cover. Martha made a few copies and distributed them down the street.
Most were never read, ending up in dumpsters or gutters, but a few were picked up. The readers would skim through, then read again, this time, more carefully, methodically. They read it with a cup of coffee, or when waiting for the bus, or as they climbed into bed before turning off the lights.
They did not realize what would happen when they flipped open the pages, and even as they went through the words, thought it only a curiosity. A fine piece, but no more. But that night they would dream.
They dreamed of the vast river. They dreamed of banks and valleys, of waterfalls and sharp turns, and the white mists looming over. And they walked the same path, water spattering and lapping at their feet. They felt the river rushing down, urging them to continue, to feel the flow and become part of it.
In the morning, all had forgotten what they dreamed. They got up, and continued their daily life. But somewhere in their head, a river in the white mists flowed. Quietly at first, but becoming louder and louder as they dreamed of it each night.
Then, a few times, after a day’s work or study, they would go home and begin to write. The river ran through them as words formed on paper or screen, and grew louder and louder.
“This is actually working! I can’t believe it.”
“I mean, this is exciting! Like, this is really original.”
“So you mean this is coooool.”
“No, Yang. Stop that.”
“I like how you did it, though. Pens and paper, all old-school. I thought you would be typing it down from the start.”
“What's the matter?”
“When I get this thing bigger next time, be sure to remind me that we live in the modern age and actually have laptops.”
Martha stands again in the vast river, ready to create something new. She pictures something that will not just convey the urge, but a feeling more powerful. Maybe to make them see themselves, to form a new view, or even to shape reality. They will know as the river runs through them, with endless possibilities and endless power.
Martha looks back, to the thick white mists looming over, and wonders where the flow comes from.