The Old One

This is a short story (sort of) I wrote many years ago, based on a strange dream I had.  The dream took the form of internal dialogue from an extremely ancient creature.  I don’t know to this day if it happened under the ocean or out in space, because it consisted of very little imagery.  Dark, hazy surroundings highlit by the occasional flicker of colour. It felt so powerful I had to write it down. Every time I read it back, even to this day, I remember that dream vividly.  I read this to the group a while back, and if anyone was there at the time, sorry!


I am old.  I am the oldest of them all.  I have existed for longer than even I thought possible.  And yet, here am I.  Abiding and old.

For all this time I have lain here, watching with my eye all the things that have ever happened.  All things are known to me and nothing can happen that I do not know of.

Ah!  So much time… What point is there to it?

Look!  There is a little plunsett!  See how he flits, so fast.  So fast that he dazzles me with his brightness.  Ha!  How he whirls around and around me like a trail of lights, all colours and brightness.  How he cheers me.  And yet he pauses for a while in his teasing to look at me.  Now I see him.  He is like a tiny flame… and off he goes again.

Oh, careful my small friend.  You flit close to the Torssen Twins.  Go not too close to those malicious brothers, for they are full of hate and will drag you into their dreadful maws with those long, trailing tendrils of theirs.  Ha!  Yet you are too fast even for them.  How you enrage them with your speed.  They cannot catch you and you bedazzle even them.

What’s that?  You have a question for me?  Come closer and ask.

Are you mad?  Can you mean what you say?  Surely you cannot ask this of me?  And yet you implore me so beseechingly.  It must be a great task you have been set.  No.  I am sorry.  You must go alone.

I see.  This troubles me.  You are fast, but the journey is long.  You cannot sustain yourself over such a vast distance.  But to ask me to leave my cave where I have dwelt for  – how long?  I am not sure that I can now, even if I wanted to.  And yet you ask me, and I do not like to turn you away.  You who are so bright and who has cheered me.  Yet the journey is dread and I do not know if even I can reach this far place.

Adventure?  What is adventure?  I know only the safety of my cave and the things that happen around me.  I miss nothing, you know.  What will happen to the world if I were to leave here?

But you beg me so earnestly.  How can I refuse?  I am reluctant, but I will try.

Little one.  You must sit upon my shoulder.  Yes, I know the way.  It will take half an eternity to get there, so you must rest.  Sleep.  I will carry you where you, with all your energy and light cannot go, for you who burn brightly also burn briefly and you must dim your spark for a time.

Sleep now.

And so I leave.  My burrow was safe and warm, and I wonder if I will ever return to its cosy darkness again.  The void is dark and cold, and the currents of the deep are full of peril.

Ha!  Torssen Twins, barbs in my side for all my memory.  Stay out of my way now, for you cannot defy me!  I am the Old One, and you are unworthy.

Darkness and cold are all around me, but the plunsett glows dimly to light my silent and lonely way.  Small and vulnerable though he is, I feel comforted by his presence.  No.  I am not alone in the blackness.  So black.  I feel something I remember as fear, but we will not be harassed.  I am the Old One.

At last, ahead, I see the place we must reach.  What purpose my little friend has I cannot tell, but I should wake him now.  He has slept for such a long time.  He was right to ask me, even though I did not want to help.  He could never have made this journey.  Plunsetts have no stamina, but ah!, such speed and brightness.  What a delight!  No.  He could not have made this journey.  Only I could have.

I am the Old One.

And off he goes, bright as a flame, flitting here and there.

This… This cannot be!  All he touches changes and becomes light!  Now, slow that I am, I approach the place, and I see other plunsetts… she-plunsetts awakening to his touch.  Ah!  So that was his dire purpose?  And yet there are others there who are not plunsetts who are also enlightened by him.

How can this be?  Such a small, quick thing.  How can a plunsett change all these things?  There are other Old Ones here!  Are they as old as me?  Can this be?  They are awakening and leaving their dark caves, glowing all colours like the plunsett himself.  They are dancing.  The Old Ones are dancing.

I feel…  I feel out of place here.  I am the only one unchanged.  I, who brought the plunsett all this way am drab and dark.  I, who powered through the black void to bring this quick, bright plunsett to this place remain unaltered.  And yet, I am not the same Old One who left his cave many eons ago.  So long ago, I cannot remember what was so dread about the Torssen Twins.  Why is it that I seem to recognise these glowing reaches?  Have I been here before?

And why does everything around me glow so warmly?  If I could turn my eye to see myself, perhaps I would see that I, too, have been changed by the plunsett.  Perhaps I do, indeed, glow.

3 thoughts on “The Old One

  1. I like this too, it’s short and strange and I like that. I personally would have liked a bit more imagery, I like to know a bit more what I’m dealing with, with environments/ characters etc. The phrase ‘watching with my eye’ made me pause a little too long to note the singular and then think that it wasn’t natural to say what you’re watching with and it made me wonder about the physical without having a full answer – quite teasing and I personally would have liked a bit more. Same with the Torrsen Twins. But that’s maybe more reflective of me and my lack of imagination than anything 🙂 I generally don’t read sci-fi or fantasy novels because I struggle with just that so I’m probably not the best person to critique this genre. But despite the lack of imagery it does have a strong sense of atmosphere, which is quite an impressive thing to pull off in so few words. And it’s a very distinctive voice. It is mysterious and so maybe, actually, to pin down exactly what this is all about would spoil it. Good luck whatever you decide to do with it!


  2. It’s hard to critique this, as it’s a dream and I’m guessing you’ve just transcribed it as it appeared.

    It’s a lovely idea and I like the stream of conciousness style.

    However, to make it a short story, I think you should make more of the journey, which supposedly took half an eternity. Maybe the plunsett’s time is much shorter than the Old One’s, so you could play with that. The Old One can’t hurry, but the plunsett needs to get there before his light fades.

    Also, he describes his burrow as dark and warm, but the void is dark and cold. Surely, if he lives in the dark, he won’t be afraid of it. Maybe instead of warm, his darkness is familiar – he knows the currents, the sounds or whatever, depending on if it’s space or an ocean etc.

    The Torssen Twins – great name and idea. Maybe we need an actual threat from them. Maybe the carcasses of plunsetts who ventured too close and their light went out – now just papery shells fluttering from the tendrils, like ghosts.

    Anyway, lots to play with there – how lucky to get such a mysterious and coherent dream 🙂


    • Thanks, Chella! I like your ideas – especially about the Torssen Twins, who might have been either deep-sea monsters or harsh binary suns.

      Yes, maybe I’ll develop it into more of a story and (erk!) submit it somewhere.


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