Once upon a future time

I can imagine you, wide-awake, in your tent, working through the lists – when you should be asleep. I can write about this, not because I really know your, “Once upon a future time“, but because I remember our family photos, which I can use to represent our whole past – Storytelling Tip.

I remember times, when we have lain awake, chatting in our tent. I can easily recall the feeling of our sleeping bags – pulled tight, darkness all around us. I can burrow into the detail and create descriptions of torches, lighting up our chins, while we shelter cosily under canvas.

You would demand more stories and I – my tired, adult eyelids drooping in the dark – could never say no to you. And when you visit the lists of all my favourite things, you’ll work out that I borrowed from the ideas in many of my favourite stories to tell new stories to you. Storytelling Tip: This is what writers do.

And so, this is one of many other stories that exist.

And, by the way, you won’t always enjoy reading it.

At times, you will feel angry that we are not together. Other times, you will believe that reading this is the only way you can feel close to me. Neither, and both, of those things are true.

You will spend too much time looking at our family photos, until you won’t know if you’re an adult or a child anymore.

You will look at your own children and realise – as adults eventually do – that the things you thought separated you from me – time, age and experience – are the things that will later bring us back together.

It will all become clear. We will be but a breath away, from once again reaching out to touch and hug each other. You will think, what if you knew me when I was a little? How would we have played together?

Storytelling Tip – you can imagine a different future, or another version of the past, by telling yourself a new story about it.

In a future dawn – like my present one – I write that you rise.

Meanwhile, here, at The Beginning of the story, I let the dawn light into my eyes.

In the future, you step outside and remember me in our family photos – always out of the tent early, drinking tea in the porch.

I know, I miss you too.

In the future, you stand, look up at the sky, stretch, head out to the toilet, then back to dress. You ‘forget’ to clean your teeth, again. But then you remember me, nagging:

“Brush for two minutes, look at your mouth, reach to the back.”

Those things adults say to children, when children are growing up.

You smell your own breath and grin, remembering how cross I could become, about the little things you didn’t think were important.

You will think of what you might have said back to me, one of those things children say to adults, when children are growing up.

Then you will honour me, by going back to the campsite washing place, to brush your teeth properly.

Your morning sun creeps upwards in your sky – like it does for me, at The Beginning. The birds, which were singing so much, in my dawn, just a few of my moments ago, are calming down now around you, in the future.

As you enjoy your clean teeth and the morning light, you realise you have come to the love the sunrise, just like me. You wish you could tell me this. Don’t worry – I already know.

At The Beginning, once I stop writing, you will wake in our house for the last time – in your room, next to mine. You will pull on socks and clothes, layering your daytime outfit over your pyjamas – the amount of times I’ve told you not to do that.

You’ll think of me in the room next to yours and enjoy ignoring my imaginary voice in your head. Ignoring whatever I say, of those things adults say to children, when children are growing up.

You will imagine yourself replying sarcastically, with one of those things children say to adults, when children are growing up.

Later, you will regret not listening to my imaginary voice in your head, as you walk six miles – from the crossroads where you are dropped off – sweating hard, in your layers, your pyjamas stuck to you.

You won’t enjoy hearing my imaginary voice in your head, saying those things adults say to children, when children are growing up:

“I told you so.”

The midday, midsummer heat will shimmer above the sticky, tarmac road. You will be scorched, as you travel up the centre of the valley. And you will have a little one to carry for the last part of the walk too, remember?

Imagine me now, at The Beginning, shaking my head – knowing this would happen – which I am.

Remember, how I would get, when I would give you a list of all the things you hadn’t listened to me about?

Well, I knew you would regret not charging your phone last night.

I knew, on the journey, you would feel wretched that you can’t text me, or check if you have any messages from me.

When you eventually switch on your phone, you will see After, Words.

You will read my story once straight through, then read it again slowly, many times, clicking on all the links.

I’ve tried to stretch time, make ten minutes of the written word speak of a lifetime of me – far away, but also next to you.

The sun has again risen,
The Beginning,
I am letting the light in
Are you?

This story is like a poem –
It has The Middle,
The End,
A looping rhythm, of me and you.

Once upon a future time,
You’ll get lost in your story,
You’ll feel lonely without me,
It’s going to be okay.

You can choose The Beginning,
You can write The Middle, The End,
You let the light in,
On this After, Words day.