Norah was thankful to discover that she was on the espresso bar when she got to work. It gave her a chance to zone out a bit and think. She only needed a tiny fraction of her brain to make lattes, especially for all the morning regulars. Phoebe was working the till so they didn’t really get a chance to talk until the morning rush slowed down. Phoebe came back to help her wipe down and restock the bar.
“Did you get anything else written last night?”
“No. Just a start. But the weirdest thing happened this morning.”
“I was going to ask you what is up, you seem really in your head! I thought maybe you were just composing your opus.”
“I am a bit, but mostly because of what happened. I met my main character.”
“Oh that’s important! What is she like? Or is it a he?”
“No, you don’t understand, and you are not going to believe this.”
“Ok. I mean I literally met my main character. In the flesh.”
“You mean like someone who inspired you?”
“No, I mean my actual main character.”
Phoebe looked blankly at Norah. They usually didn’t have this much trouble communicating. Phoebe was naturally intuitive but this also made her skeptical. Norah was wracking her brain for a way to explain when the woman walked in.
Phoebe didn’t have a chance to respond because the woman came up to the till and ordered a tea. She smiled at Norah and said “I would love to sit and chat with you more. And with you, Phoebe, if you want.”
Phoebe gave Norah a look. When the woman went and sat down she said “this is getting really weird but I am just going with it. I am guessing that’s her?”
Norah breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah.”
Just then the next shift arrived. Phoebe had a lunch break and Norah was done for the day.
“Shall we go and talk to her?” Phoebe asked?
“Sure. I only met her briefly this morning. She is from the Council of Literary Heroines. Apparently I wrote enough last night to conjure her into being.”
When they all sat down together Norah and the woman took turns catching her up on the brief encounter that morning. Then the woman turned to Norah and said “it wasn’t really fair of me earlier, to ask you to commit to writing your story, when you don’t know everything that is involved.”
“What do you mean?” Norah asked.
“There are forces involved in this that are very powerful. They are the forces that make people forget the stories, both the fairy tales and the modern ones, and even make them forget their own stories. When you don’t remember the stories, including your own, then you are more likely to make destructive choices.”
“What are these forces? Do they have a name?”
“They are called many things, and very few people know their true name, which is how they would have it. They are called the Letheans, because they make people forget.”
“Wait. Letheans? Like as in the river Lethe?” Norah was familiar with mythology, and she had studied Greek in university.
“Yes, just like. They make people forget.”
“They have many ways of erasing memories, but their main tool is their ability to leach the beauty out of the world. They can’t actually take it away, but they are very good at distracting people so much that people can’t see the beauty right in front of their faces any more. They use money, power, anything in their grasp to lure people away from the truth. Then the people who do see are so marginalized that people tend to think they are crazy. In your case, Norah, they are using fear and monotony to dull your ability to see clearly. But you are stronger than they have imagined, I think. And you have a friend who is stronger still.”
“Me?” Phoebe asked.
“Yes, you are a naming force. You see the power Norah has as a storyteller, and you push her and encourage her to use it. The beginning of her story wouldn’t exist without you, Phoebe, and I wouldn’t either. Together you can be a powerful force for truth and remembering. But you should also know the dangers. Once the Letheans realize you intend to write your story, they will do everything in their power to stop you.”
“Why is my story so important?”
“I don’t fully understand that, and neither does the Council, but sometimes there are hinge moments, where the balance of the world can be tipped by just one small thing, and right now, that small things seems to be your story.”
Norah wasn’t sure why, but she believed the woman. “I hardly understand this at all, but I suppose I have to try. I really don’t know where to start, though.”
“Phoebe was right, you need to just sit down and write. The story will come through you if you just begin.”
Norah looked at Phoebe, who smiled and nodded at her, and then looked at the woman. “Well, I suppose I should start by giving you a name. I know what it is now.”
The woman looked up hopefully.
Aletheia smiled, and her edges seemed to grow stronger.