[Remember I’m writing my Braille Face pieces a day behind the album releases? Rescue came out on the 8th and Braille Face commented it was appropriate because it was the most political of the albums he wrote in 2015. Coming up with this story, I fixated on a line from the first track, ‘Lever’: ‘I can’t believe what you see’.]
Once there was a village that was taken over by a band of trolls, cruel-eyed monsters with rock-hard muscles and a lust for gold. One half of the village watched aghast as the trolls smashed down the beautiful new chapel to dig a rough cave in the rubble, ate up the whole harvest and amused themselves by throwing some of the villagers into the river to drown. “How can you do nothing while these trolls destroy our village and kill our neighbours? If we banded together we could drive them out!” But the other half of the village cheered the trolls on. “Protectors at last!” they cried. “They’ll set this place to rights!”
As the sad villagers stood wringing their hands a strange old man approached them. “Come with me,” he said. He took them into a hidden room in the hollow of the hill where there was nothing but a great lever. “Pull this lever,” he said, “and you will see what your friends see.”
They pulled the lever and went outside. The trolls looked just as ugly as they had before, though perhaps their muscles seemed even larger, and there was a sort of frightful magnificence about them. But now there was a shadowy host of enemies looming at the crest of the hill. Each of them was marked with a sinister curved sign. The stones from the ruined chapel had that sign on too – even though the villagers remembered building it with their own hands and decorating it with paintings and designs of their own making. And there seemed to be far fewer people being thrown into the river. The few that were had the sign branded on their forehead.
“Is this the truth?” the watchers asked.
“One of the versions you have seen is the truth,” said the old man.
“We know what we saw first was true,” said the watchers. “It is wrong to drown people, and the dead had always been our good friends and neighbours. We will pull the lever again.”
So they pulled the lever again and went back to watching the horrible things the trolls were doing.
“Can we bring the other villagers and pull the lever so they see what we see?”
“You could try,” said the old man. “But they’ll pull the lever again, just as you did.”
“What can we do?”
“The only thing you can do is to tell stories. Showing them is no good. Arguing is no good. But stories are the most powerful thing: tell them love stories, give them characters, give them emotional arcs. Avoid allegory, however – it’s annoying.”
“Stories about what? We don’t know how to start.”
“You have to start. Start with – “ but the old man blurred, shifted, broke up like the tuning on a radio and was gone.
So the sad villagers stood talking and trying to think of the right stories. But they knew there were other stories too. There were stories you could weave like a bower and crawl into for the winter; stories that were doors into a sweet past that never was. The leaves were falling, red and gold, and they would make a rich soft mantle for one lying down to sleep.