Spek and Stil Meet Gen

Spek and Stil wandered the world. They walked on sand, sometimes soft sand that was tiresome to walk through, and sometimes salty, crusty sand that went crunch, crunch, crunch as they walked.

Spek was looking for someone to talk to. His friend Stil listened to words and understood a little, but he was not a good conversation partner because he never spoke. Stil was looking for objects to ponder. He had experienced the sun, the sky, a hill, some stones, and lots of sand. Was there more to the world?

After walking a long while Spek saw a patch of green on the horizon, some rare color in an almost colorless universe. “Do you see it, Stil?” asked Spek, pointing with his finger. Stil stopped his reflective pondering and gazed at the green spot. His face, unexpressive for the most part, showed a flicker of interest.

The Grove

The friends soon came to a grove of willows with drooping branches and leaves. The wind rustled through trees, making sounds like laughter and conversation. A pool of water glittered at the center of the grove. Stil walked directly into the shallows and stood with his arms outstretched, feet in the water and his face turned to the sky, pondering the in-between, wet and dry, water and air, earth and sky, in a pose of blissful contemplation. Spek knew that Stil would stay like that for a long while. With a sigh, he sat down to wait.

Screened by trees, Gen observed the intruders.

Spek began to write in the sand. He wrote about difference, water and land, Spek and Stil, talk and silence. He wrote about the real, the imagined, and the represented. He wrote about the in-between. As he finished his sentence, he noticed a footprint in the sand. It was smaller than his foot. It was smaller than Stil’s. Then he saw a shadow fall over him. He turned and saw Gen. “Who are you?” he asked.

Gen scowled at him. “I am Gen,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

The Lady of the Grove

Spek thought that Gen was the most beautiful person he had ever seen, though it was true he had not seen many. And she knew words! She could talk! Spek introduced himself and started explaining writing, the importance of words, the names of the stones, the cactus fruit, everything he was thinking about. His heart was singing too much to register her displeasure. And he recited a poem about Gen:

Black hair and brown skin
Water and trees in green eyes
Lady of the grove

Gen scowled again. “No, I meant why did you enter without permission? You are trespassers.” Spek pleaded ignorance. He said, “We are recently created. We did not know to ask.” Spek felt strong feelings he had never felt. He wanted to embrace Gen, but her eyes said no.

“What are these marks you have made in the sand?”

“They are copies of words I thought in my head.” Spek began reading them aloud. Gen said, “No, no. Don’t say the spell. It is bad enough that you wrote it! What is your friend doing in the water?”

“I am not sure because he doesn’t speak, but I think from his body language that he is thinking about being wet and dry at the same time. He is thinking about water and air and in-between. For him, all the universe is one, but there are wrinkles, divisions and differences that interest him.”

“Can you make him stop?”

“I don’t think so. He will stop when he is ready.”

A New Creature

A small green creature hopped out of the water. Gen was startled. “What is that?” she cried.

Spek looked carefully. “It is a new creature. Stil made it, I think. I did not know he could do that. It lives in water and on land. I will call it Frog, an in-between creature. It will be happy here. You will no longer be alone.”

“I was quite happy being alone with my trees. Now you come into my home, put your feet in my water, talk about everything under the sky, make creatures, and write on my sand. Go away and take your creatures with you!”

“The creature cannot go. It was made to live here. It will take care of itself. But we will go, since we are unwelcome. I will leave now. Stil will leave when he is ready.”

Out in the water, Stil lowered his arms.

Fals Brings Writing Materials

Spek erased his writing. He turned to say goodbye, but was surprised to see that yet another person had arrived. It was Fals, master of copies, representations, and lies. It was Fals who taught Spek to write. Spek introduced Fals to Gen.

“Ah, so you have made another friend,” said Fals, apparently jealous. Fals changed its shape, making itself look exactly like Gen. “Am I as beautiful?” it asked.

“You are beautiful, but you are a copy without Gen’s soul. You are not the same,” said Spek.

Fals was displeased. “My lady,” Fals said, “I have brought paper and ink for Spek, who has learned to write. I meant to give it to him, but he is ungrateful and impolite. I will use it myself.” Fals went to the water’s edge, and using the surface as a mirror, began to paint its face. It drew black shadows around its eyes and colored its lips red. “Now am I more beautiful?” it asked.

Gen Learns to Draw

Before Spek could answer, Gen responded. She asked, “Your ink is amazing. Do you have more colors than black and red? Do you have green? Could I use your ink and paper to draw pictures?”

Fals was pleased. “Yes, my lady. Pictures and writing, ink and paper are good for both.” Fals unrolled the paper and began teaching Gen to draw.

Stil began walking out of the water, covering his eyes to avoid looking at Fals. Spek met him and said, “Let’s go. We are not welcome here.”

Spek and Stil wandered on, across the endless sand.  Spek was thinking about Gen.  Stil was thinking about everything.


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Spek and Fals Invent Writing

Spek wandered the world. It was a dry, quiet part of the world. Spek was sad because there was no one to talk to. Speaking words was what he did. He loved arranging words, mouthing them, vocalizing them, pronouncing them. He loved naming things, and speaking about them, telling stories. He loved shouting in a loud voice and constructing arguments. He loved the sounds of words and putting them together in rhyming, chiming patterns. He loved the rhythms of words in lines and sentences. He was an orator and a poet. But he was alone. He saw nothing but sand and sky. No one to talk to.

Speaking with Stones

After a while, Spek came to some stones on the sand. Some were round and smooth, perfect for sitting. Some were cracked and jagged. Some were larger than Spek, but some were smaller than his hand. Spek introduced himself and began talking. He commented on their different sizes and shapes. He remarked upon their beauty and dignity. As he touched each stone, he gave them names, carefully chosen and enunciated. “I will call you Gran,” he said. “I will call you Bas,” he said. “How do you like your names?” he asked. But the stones were not listening. Their thoughts were long and slow. Spek’s words were momentary vibrations, too quick for stones to catch. Spek listened carefully, but he heard no response. He was discouraged. He tried to think of a different topic, or a word game he could play with the stones, but the stones were definitely not listening. He decided to move on.

Speaking with Cactus Plants

After more walking, Spek came to some cactus plants. They were green and covered with spines. They grew in different shapes, and some of them looked like they had large, flat hands. Spek could tell that they lived at a faster pace than stones. He introduced himself and began to give a speech on the value of words. “Words,” he said, “can describe the world.” “I can even describe you cactus plants. You look like you are in a frozen dance. You wave your hands in the air. Your bodies take on magical positions. Your skin is prickly and dangerous. What do you think of that, cactus plants? I can paint a picture without paint or canvas. Without words, can you describe me? I can teach you words.” The cactus plants were not paying much attention. They were too busy trying to find some water with their roots and taking energy from the sun. After a long while, they thought together about what to do about the strange being who spoke to them. They decided to do nothing.

Spek waited a long while for a response, but the cactus plants did nothing. Then he noticed that the cactus plants had purple fruits. He felt hungry and asked if he could eat one. The cactus did not say yes, but it did not say no either. Spek grasped one of the fruits, taking care to avoid the spines. He broke it loose from the spiny green hand of one of the plants. The cactus plants were horrified! A dirty fruit stealer, a plant breaker! Spek ate the fruit. It was delicious. He thanked the cactus plant. “Well, at least he is polite,” thought the cactus. But it did not speak.

Speaking with the Silent One

Spek went on, looking for someone to talk to. He was feeling very lonely now. He came to a low hill. At the top of the hill, someone was sitting cross-legged on the ground. It was Stil, the silent one. Stil was thinking about how big and empty the world was. He had ears and a mouth, but he had never, ever spoken a word, or even thought one. Spek introduced himself and said, “I have been looking everywhere for someone to talk to. Will you talk with me?” Stil looked up, but said nothing. It took a while for him to leave his thoughts behind and recognize that someone was speaking to him. Actually, he had never met another person before. Spek was so happy, just because Stil looked at him. It was a response! He finally had someone to talk to. So he began to talk and talk and talk. He talked about words, about his travels, about the sky, the sun, the stones and the cactus plants. He described things. He told stories. He argued that words were important. Stil listened. At first, he didn’t understand. His thoughts had always been about spaces, about the sky and the sun, and his own body. He didn’t know words. But after a while, he began to understand a little. After a longer while, he understood even more. But it was hard for the words to have meaning. They slipped away. They didn’t attach to things. Stil became tired and confused. Finally, he put his hands over his ears. Spek didn’t notice at first because he was so caught up in his words, but when he noticed, he stopped talking.

Spek felt ashamed. He had talked too much. He hadn’t listened. Even though Stil did not speak, he should have given him space. He sat down next to Stil and was silent. A long time passed.

After a while, Spek noticed that Stil’s hands were no longer covering his ears. Spek asked quietly, “Would you like to see the stones?” Stil got up, ready to follow.

They walked together in silence for a long time. Spek had used up his words for now and he knew that Stil was tired of them. After a while, they came to the stones. Spek introduced Gran and Bas and all the other stones. Stil sat on Bas and began to think about stones. They were new thoughts for him. He had never seen stones before. The long walk and thinking about stones calmed his mind. He was in peace again.

Speaking with Fals

Spek was thinking too. He was thinking about how quickly the wind blew his words away. If he wanted to talk to stones, he needed more lasting words. He was still thinking about this when he saw a figure approaching. He got up and walked toward the figure. He didn’t want a stranger to disturb Stil’s stone thinking. As the figure approached, Spek said, “Hello, I am Spek.” The figure changed shape until it looked just like Spek, and said, “Hello, I am Spek.” Spek said, “You are confused, I am Spek. You are someone else.” The figure repeated what Spek said. Spek should have been excited because he was having a conversation, except that it did not feel like a conversation. The figure just repeated everything that Spek said. Spek stopped talking and sat on the ground. The figure did the same.

Spek thought for a long time. How could he break this pattern? Finally, he said, “I am not Spek. I am called Fals because I tell lies.” The figure repeated Spek’s words, shivered, and changed shape. Spek had forced it to speak the truth and broken the pattern. Now Fals began to talk. It said, “I am the master of copies, simulacra, illusions, tricks, and representations. I seem to be the truth, but I am a lie, or a defective copy of the truth. I am unreliable, but I am useful. You need my help.” Spek considered this. He asked, “How can you help me? I need nothing but conversation, and your conversation is repetitive and frustrating.” It answered, “You want your words to last. I can make long lasting copies.”

Spek did not trust Fals, but what it said was true. He wanted to speak to slower creatures. He wanted his words to last a long time. He wanted to speak to creatures who might not even exist at this moment. These were big wishes. “How can you do this?” Spek asked.

Fals Teaches the Alphabet

Fals began drawing shapes in the sand with its finger. “This shape represents a sound,” it said. “This one represents another.” “This one is Ah. This one is Kuh.” Fals made shapes for many sounds. Spek learned them and began spelling words. He was amazed. The words remained after they were written. He could read them over and over. But Spek’s happiness was brief. A little whirlwind came across the sand and blew away the words. Spek said to Fals, “Your words last only a little longer. It is no good.”

Fals said, “You just need more durable material. You can carve words on wood or rock. You can mix soot and water or oil and write on plant material. You can draw letters on wet clay. There are many ways.” Spek asked, “Will it last long enough for stones to read?” Fals said, “Stones read very slowly. It is best to carve your words on the stone.” Spek thought that might hurt the stone and make it angry, but he kept his words to himself.

Spek Writes a Message

Spek and Fals walked toward Stil and the stones. When Stil saw Fals, he covered his eyes. Spek saw that Stil was disturbed again. He told Fals, “We will meet again, but my friend needs peace. You should go now.” He watched as Fals walked away. Spek told Stil that Fals was gone. Stil uncovered his eyes and went back to thinking about the nature of stones. Spek knelt in front of Gran and wrote in the sand, “Hello Gran. I am Spek. Do you like your name?” He sat on the ground and waited for a response.


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