Before he went to sleep, the boy’s father told him stories, sometimes from a book, sometimes from his head. The stories from the books were full of fantastic things with magic and warriors and all the best parts of a monomythic toybox distilled into the perfect intoxicating mix for young boys. They had great big plots that swung in big simple practiced arcs designed to thrill and comfort in equal measure. He loved them dearly, but not as much as he loved the stories his father told, chaotic gesticulations composed of whatever emerged from the paternal murk. They were often a mix of inequal parts from disparate origins; recycled television plots, hearsay, work experience, memories of childhood, sometimes even original material. If he was lucky he could coax out three chimeric tales that would wander through the tangential roadways of the adult mind. But tonight there was nothing; his sister was ill and there was no time for stories. The boy had to lay restless, a loose body caught in a mass of untucked sheets. He could not sleep like this, it was all out of order and confused.
Softly, the streetlight began to sing in a halting voice of orange light that poured through his window and spread through the room. Unsteady but resolute, it promised him a story if he would only sit quietly and stare into the night by its side for a moment; it wasn’t necessary to go very far, just up to the window so that he might see... The boy scoffed at first but soon capitulated, the metal of his mind still softened enough by the white heat of childhood to be lured down any enticing path at all. He sat up in bed and stared into the night just as the streetlight asked and what did he see...
A great reflecting pool of inky darkness broken sporadically by the shining red and white eyes of mechanical koi. The koi traveled in straight lines, always following clear, unfaltering paths in the night. Sometimes they would turn off their lights and travel in near complete darkness, in which case they were only visible as sliding shadows of orange beneath the electric lamps. There was an unsettling reassurance to their movement, the thousands of parallel journeys recalling something vaguely troubling about the books his father read to him. Naivete eroded like soft sand as the streetlight whispered:
“Fear not the grand unveiled stage on which we direct the spiritual acts over and over again, for it is the nature of things to repeat and fall into patterns. All these souls we guide with presence and deter by absence, determining the welcome of a well-lit path or unease of a dark one as part of a grand scheme to bring all things to rest once more. Every drop must rejoin the ocean, all days must end, all boys must sleep. Annica, annica, to all things now in annica.”
But the boy did not understand and began to cry, since the words were strange to him. The streetlight flickered uncertainly in response, then stiffened with reproach.
“Why do you cry? Your tears mark nothing but this moment in time, and that is soon to pass as well. It would be better to proceed without fear and misery into the flow of time...”
Seeing its words had no appreciable effect, the lamp changed tactics, softening its light to a warmer hue. Breaking from its previous rhythmic hum it began to rasp in a surprisingly natural tone, one that seemed a bit more human.
“Boy, since you did not like a story of truth, perhaps a story of fiction about a boy like yourself, almost nearly grown, his father told him stories, sometimes from a book, some from his head...”