Down in the dark, sitting against the damp, mossy stone with one of us tending to the tiny fire, we huddle close and whisper. Bigger and more dangerous things than us rule this world, and while we have mastered fire, we have not mastered them.
Hunters, we are still hunted.
So those of us who watch, who guard, crouch against the darkness with spears at the ready, some facing inward, some facing outward.
Down in the dark, we whisper our thoughts of how the world must work. We invent the idea of something better than us, more powerful, more knowing. We give it a thousand different names. We imagine the idea of shelters we carry with us, of houses that walk on their own legs. We invent the idea of food that falls from the sky like rain, of a place without predators, of a place without monsters.
We build our stories a piece at a time, and from this vision of what is not but could be, we build ourselves. One piece at a time, we try ideas from the stories we’ve told, seeing if we can make places without monsters, seeing if we can create plentiful food, seeing if we can create better walls and better light to keep out the things that move through the dark.
One idea at a time, we create a safer, better world for the humans our children and their children will become.
We who imagine cannot see the future. We can only see the picture in our head of something that could be different than what exists — and then we play with that picture, seeing the good and the evil of it, taking it apart and putting it together again, until we decide it might be worth trying. Or until we decide it would be something worth preventing.
Stories built us, let us see ourselves as we could be, gave us the path to be something better. Stories gave us wings, let us think that we might somehow fly, gave us the dream that when made real let us reach the sky and touch the face of God.
We cannot see the future. But stories tell possible versions of it — both good and evil — before we build the future our children will live. Imagining how that future could be better, we can then make it better, one story and one idea at a time.