More Than Bibles

Andria Lane Spring

Louisville, KY

J. Graham Brown School

Fiction

          Drunk as ever, he said to me, “Pour your soul into the whiskey, smoke yourself into the drag, carry yourself into the stars.”

         So I said, “You’re trying to make me love you again. Not this time.”

         And he replied, “Fair enough. But can you at least get on with the story? Dialogue was never your thing.”

         I said, “All right. You’ve got me. But where should I begin?”

         And with a sigh, he said, “You’re the writer. You tell me.”

         So I looked him deep in the eyes, and I started with the best beginning I know.

         “A long time ago, among the turquoise ocean of flora and fauna, there were millions of tiny things that didn’t yet have names.”

         He stopped me and whispered, “You must be high.”

         So I kissed him pink and nodded my head, “I am. And within these tiny, nameless things, there was the potential for passion, and above all else, pain.”

         I paused for a moment, ran my fingers through his hair, and he blinked. I went on.

         “On the inside, ants were artists. They built their mindless colonies, obeyed their queen, but at night, they sang the first jazz, darted their legs to the rhythm of the earth being made, wrote poems in the hums of their movement, and painted their gods on the leaves they carried. Yet still, during the long days, their heavy eyes and aching legs were dutiful.”

         I looked down, breathless, at my fingers, and pressed them to his mouth for warmth. He smiled.

         “But ants, you must remember, can carry ten times their weight and still remain uncrushed. So the tortured artists—the first ones, anyway—kept their heads high. And one day, among the moss, after what seemed like, and had, been centuries, a God-like bird swept down below, and spoke to the ants in the grove.

         The Bird said, ‘I have watched your kind for years. You ants spend your sunny hours working together in your colonies, feeding the young, tending to the sick, building churches to your queen. And as the sun sinks on the horizon, a mass of you create what the rest live for. We call this art. We call this music. We call it love. We call it pain.’

         The ants whispered to each other, of the holy being before them. They became a stir of noise and anticipation.

         The Bird spoke again. ‘For these reasons: for your soul, for your love, I have decided to give you bigger minds. Larger canvases. Lives longer than you have ever imagined. In exchange for this, you must leave this life behind. Wipe your mind of its memory, leave the safety of your home and spread your art into the unknown. With this sacrifice, you will become all that you have ever wanted to be. If you so wish this new destiny, step forth, and you shall have it.’

         The ants below thought about this. To spread their passion, to be remembered, to live and breathe far from the hill they built with sweat and blood. Many of them, too afraid of the future the Bird had offered, fled back into their homes, carrying their berries and twigs, content. Still, some remained; the chance of beauty and meaning much more enticing than the work and toil that awaited them at home.

         The Bird looked upon these chosen ants and beamed. He waved his wing toward them, and they were graced with new life.

         Now, thrust into the world, one of the ants became Vincent Van Gogh. Another, Georgia O’Keefe. Jackson Pollock, Tupac Shakur, Kurt Cobain, Maud Lewis, Maya Angelou, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Amy Winehouse, Sylvia Plath, Jim Morrison, and so on.

         The ants took breaths with human lungs, and now felt the world with hands and feet, and their eyes of black became blue, and green, and gold.

         Some lifted brushes and painted the Earth as it came to them. Others took pencils and pens and wrote the stories and poems that their minds conjured. Some opened their throats and gave birth to voice.

         And though the Bird had told them of the beauty they would possess, he did not tell them of the pain that would break them until roses grew from the cracks.

         The ants had no choice but to find ways to ease their souls. They took to liquor, and drugs, and cheap love. And though this numbed them for a while, for most of them, this was not enough.

         Soon, the beauty was laid to rest; graves dug and prayers sent to the heavens, for the artist’s pain is enough for millions.

         As they died, the Bird recited the same tale over and over again to the tiny souls below. Ants became artists, artists died, holy Birds replaced idols for more idols, knowing that humans need more to worship than Bibles and the few paintings left behind.”

         His eyes turned grey. So did everything. He asked, “So what happened next?”

         And I smiled.

         “They keep coming. Josh Tillman does LSD every morning. Chris Cornell ended up hanging himself. Every good rapper smokes their weight in weed or pops pills like candy. You’ll never see a painter in an AA meeting.”

         He nodded.

         “But sometimes, we take a magnifying glass to an ant hill. And the ruin makes us feel better. Even if we don’t know why.”

         And he spoke, “I think you’re an ant.”

         I lit a cigarette and laughed, “Of course, I am. Where do you think all these goddamned vices come from?”


EDITORIAL PRAISE

The author has a distinctive voice, neatly tying together the story's mythical and realistic elements to create a thought-provoking message about the intertwining of beauty and pain, art and vice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andi Spring is an a 2019 graduate of the J. Graham Brown School in Louisville, KY. Writing has been a passion for her as long as she can remember.