To highlight the winners and honorable mentions of the 2019 Kathleen Downey Short Fiction Contest, Richard Mayne heads this series to share their work on the New Worcester Spy. Each entry includes an interview with the writer followed by their notable piece of short fiction.
Self-Described “Hippie at Heart”
By Nicole O’Connell
At a New Worcester Spy meeting not too long ago, Richard Mayne suggested we publish the winning stories of the Kahleen Downey contest along with profiles of the authors. Seeing as Mayne himself ended up being an honorable mention of the contest, and being too modest to write his own intro, it seems the task has fallen to me.
Mayne, a junior English major, impressed the judges with “The Release of the Seas,” a mythology/fantasy tale that’s part of a larger work he’s writing, The Giver and The Guide.
“It’s a creation story,” he explains. “It’s the first part of the story of Madrú and Padrú,” the titular Giver and Guide.
Mayne enjoys writing fantasy the most, but has penned a play and admits, “journalism’s cool.” He cites an impressive set of influences, listing Chinua Achebe, George Orwell, Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Edward Said before admitting there’s “too many to name to be honest.”
Mayne describes his writing process as, “a little bonkers,” saying, “I’m not entirely sure how I finish pieces to be brutally honest. I’m such a perfectionist. I’m my own worst enemy and even worse critic. I tear my own work to shreds, constantly, borderline religiously.” Let’s be thankful he’s not writing his own introduction or things might get a bit dismal!
Mayne is looking forward to finishing The Giver and The Guide, but he’s also working on other pieces including another collection of stories and a Western novella. He’s also interested in pursuing writing in the future, saying, “I’d love to become renowned, gain a certain level of wealth and affluence, why not?”
Note: Mayne can be contacted through email at email@example.com
“The Giver and the Guide”
By Richard Mayne
The world began in the Skies Above.
There was only the Giver of Life, a goddess known as Madrú. A divinity of unimaginable beauty and grace. She remained in the skies for what must’ve been hundreds of years, for time did not exist yet. No one dead or alive will ever know how long she overlooked the emptiness of the world. An eternal darkness called the Chaos, plagued the Skies saddening Madrú to no end.
So she wept with her eyes closed, believing she’d exist in darkness for eternity. When she opened her eyes, she found the Skies were lit by her tears, which now glowed in the darkness as stars. She was brought to a state of divine stupor, spending years admiring their beauty.
When she arose, she again wept from being the only one able to admire such beauty. Her tears created two Stars that shone even brighter than the ones before, and would be the brightest in the Skies Above. They would come to be called The Traveler’s Guide, and The Maiden’s Comfort. It is known The Traveler is seen in the same place every night in the Skies Above. While it is said the Maiden is never seen in the same place twice in the Skies Above.
“Weep once more, my love” Madrú heard a voice whisper. The wind stirred below the skies. “Weep once more, and give life to the World Below” the same voice said aloud. The wind picked up and gusted towards the Skies Above.“Do not close thine eyes Madrú, behold the beauty you create” the voice said louder.
“Who are you?” Madrú asked in fright.
“I am Padrú.”
“I am the Skies Above” proclaimed Madrú.
“I am the World Below” Padrú answered.
“Why can I not see you?” Madrú asked.
“I cannot guide, if you do not give” Padrú declared. “Weep once more, but do not close thine eyes, and you will see the World Below.”
And so Madrú wept for a third time, but for the first time, with her eyes open.
She watched her tears fall from the Skies Above into the World Below, and beheld the beauty it created. Once her tears soaked into the ground, trees and grass grew. The Giver admired the beauty her tears created, and this time she didn’t find herself in a divine stupor.
Madrú saw the World Below and found herself in a state of divine consciousness.
“Do you see? My love?” Padrú asked.
“I do” Madrú responded.
She smiled, and the stars in the Skies Above shone even brighter than before in the World Below. Madrú began to dance in the Skies Above, and a meteor shower began in the World Below.
Madrú saw Padrú, for the first time.
A divinity of endless knowledge, Padrú wandered the World Below until the first stars were created. Unbeknownst to her, Padrú knew he was bound to her, and Madrú to him. They would be the Giver and the Guide. Bound to one another for either eternity, or until Chaos consumed them both. She would create the Skies Above in the image of her beauty, and he was to guide life in the path of his knowledge.
“This is but the beginning” Padrú said. “Weep once more, and do not close thine eyes.”
Once more Madrú wept. As her tears seeped into the World Below, flowers grew and bloomed, trees bore fruit, and vegetable seeds took root. She wept for a fifth time, catching her tears in her palms. When her hands were filled with tears, she used them to create the lakes, ponds, and streams of the World Below.
“Please rest, my love” whispered Padrú. “You will need your strength” he continued aloud. “For the next time you weep, you will release the seas. You will rest five nights, one for every time you’ve wept until now. Arise the sixth night, and I will guide you.”
Madrú then found herself tired, and no longer wished to admire the beauty She created.
The first two nights, the Skies Above were peaceful as Madrú slept.
On the third night the World Below was restless. The wind howled, lightning struck, and thunder cracked. Madrú dreamt of her first born children, a girl and a boy. Both were stars, too big for her tears to ever create, but Madrú knew they were hers. The girl shone like Madrú’s brightest star, but was as big as a hundred Travelers. The boy was a burning star, it gave light to the World Below, and was as big as a hundred Maidens.
“These are my gifts, my love” said Padrú.
“What are their names?” Madrú asked.
“Whatever Madrú desires” Padrú answered.
“The girl is the Star of the Skies Above” Madrú proclaimed. “The boy is the Light of the World Below. The Moon and the Sun, my love.”
“Arise on the sixth night, and I will guide you” Padrú whispered.
With that the World Below settled once more, and Madrú rested the fourth night.
On the fifth, and final night, Madrú dreamt a final time. Her Stars shone less and less, and total darkness consumed both the Skies Above and the World Below. When the Stars seemed to disappear from the Skies Above completely, her eyes stung from a light she’d never felt or seen before. Madrú wished to open her eyes, but the wind swirled from the World Below up towards the Skies Above, and as it twisted Padrú spoke in its whispers.
“It is not safe for you to open your eyes. You must leave.”
“Where would I go?” Madrú asked.
Thunder boisterously clapped in the air. The strike of lightning sent to the World Below lit its darkened surface, and for a moment all was visible below the Skies Above.
“To the other side of the Skies,” Padrú answered. The wind was gentle, even calming. “This is not the only place you must give life to.”
“How would I reach the other side?” Madrú asked.
“I will guide you” Padrú answered. “Though you must blind your eyes from the Light.”
“The Light is my son” said Madrú.
“Your son would not harm you, but my Sun could burn you. You must not lose sight. I’d fear for the Skies Above and World Below if you should lose thine eyes, my love.” The wind from the World Below gusted and howled. Padrú was laughing. Madrú’s tears flooded in the lakes and ponds, as the surface of the World Below shook around them. “I will guide the Light, and you will watch over the Stars. When you leave one side of the skies, all the Stars will follow you. The Light will chase you” said Padrú.
The wind blew steadily, from both the World Below and the Skies Above. They weren’t in agreement with each other, though not clashing with each other, either. An unnerving silence consumed Madrú; an uneasy calm fell over the World Below. Finally, she spoke.
“My love-“ Madrú began, as a single bolt of lightning struck the ground.
“Do not fear,” responded Padrú, interrupting her, as wind swirled around the bolt.
“He listens to me, follows me- he’ll only rise after I break the Horizon. I will wait for you to reach the other side of the Skies before I break it.”
“I may never bare witness to my son?” asked Madrú angrily.
Lightning filled the skies above, and thunder cracked louder than Padrú had ever heard. The ensuing strike of lightning seemed to shake the entire surface of the World Below.
“Do not concern yourself with my Sun” Padrú responded in equal anger. A cyclone formed and began to spin in the World Below, in the openness between the lakes and ponds. It grew and grew in size, and began to blacken, while the winds began to swirl violently. It nearly reached the Skies Above, when suddenly it began to shrink in size, almost as fast as it grew. “Please trust me, my love,” said Padrú calmer.
The wind from the World Below again howled, this time unkind to Madrú’s touch, not harsh, but instead a bearable cold. Tears fell from her eyes, ones she hadn’t wept. They froze before they reached the surface. She shuttered, and the wind from the Skies Above was made kind to her touch, but still a bearable cold.
“Padrú?” Madrú asked.
“It is the sixth night” he answered.
“Why do my tears freeze?” Madrú asked instead.
“I will guide you” he answered. ”Arise, my love.”
She smiled instead.
“Madrú?” Padrú asked.
Suddenly, Madrú arose from her sleep with the Guide’s voice echoing.
She opened her eyes, and with it the Stars appeared, and the Moon followed not long after. Night fell once more. She looked in astonishment at the changes that had occurred. The trees she created had grew and grew, many of them were now, near colossal wooden trees, and sublime sights to beheld.
Some had bright, greenish-yellow leaves, others had darker, reddish-green leaves, large in shape, but the sides of them were jagged quite a bit. All of them had sprawling wooden branches from where the leaves sprouted. Other trees had bristly, thin, leaves, mostly green and brown. They were smaller than their more colorful counterparts, but still quite enormous in their own respect. They seemed to grow closer to each other, some seemingly intertwined and tangled with each other.
The smallest of the trees weren’t wooden at all, weren’t even trees at all. There were two types of gigantic plants. One with budding red flowers, large in size and round in shape, which hung from thick vines, green in color, covered with deep black thorns, large in size, the tips of which were dark purple.
The other had low hanging, orange flowers, smaller in size than the red ones, but more numerous and abundant. They were round, and seemed to be in full-bloom. They grew out of thick yellow vines, covered in smaller white thorns, the tips of which were also dark purple.
It sprawled across an entire portion of the World Below.
“What is it?” Madrú asked.
“I call it a forest, my love” Padrú answered.
“It’s beautiful. Is this the only one?” Madrú asked.
“No” Padrú answered. “It is the largest.”
The forest created a breeze that Madrú hadn’t felt before, warm and kind to her touch. It didn’t whisper, but whistled instead. The Maiden, Traveler, and the Moon gleamed in the Skies Above, and shone bright over the World Below. The forest was to be a child of the Giver and the Guide, much in the way the Sun and the Moon were to be their children. Madrú had given life to the forest with her tears, but it was Padrú who had truly awakened them, and guided their growth during Madrú’s slumber.
“It sounds so different” Madrú said.
“The wind from the trees create a sound not heard by thine ears, my love.” Padrú responded. “They speak to each other.”
“Do you know what they say?” asked Madrú.
“No” Padrú responded. “I guide life, not control it.”
Madrú smiled, and from it a reflection off the lakes of tears was visible. With amazement she gazed upon them, and the light from the Stars fluttered in the Skies Above. There were three of them, all not far from one another.
Wind swirled on their surfaces and created the currents. On the shores of the smallest lake, it was sandy and smooth, and looked most appealing to Madrú. The shores of the largest lake, were more rocky and rigid, but looked most intriguing to Madrú. While the last of the lakes had no shores at all, and was between the other two. It was the most distinct to Madrú, having two smaller streams connecting it to the other two.
“Do they have names?” Madrú asked.
“They are your tears” Padrú responded.
He smiled. “I cannot name what is not mine.”
Small flies, and other insects buzzed atop their surfaces, and small fish leapt to feed on them. The largest of the fish leapt and fed on the smaller fish. Frogs and toads, both tiny and small, colored green and red, with spots of purple and yellow, croaked loudly and jumped from leaf to leaf on the surfaces of the lakes, feeding on the flies and insects as well.
Madrú widened her eyes, and saw a number of what appeared to be small boulders swimming among the shorelines of the lakes. The Stars and Moon brightened as Madrú tried to focus in on what her eyes beheld.
“Are those rocks swimming?” asked Madrú, curiously.
Padrú knew she spoke of the bale of turtles floating in the lakes.
“Rocks?” he asked.
He laughed and laughed. The wind whistled through the trees, and howled up towards the skies above.
“If it is not a rock, then what is it?” asked Madrú.
She created a wind of her own, strong enough to cause the surface of the lakes to ripple.
“I call it a turtle” Padrú responded.
“Tis a beast that dwells inside a rock?” asked Madrú.
“Tis is a shell. Not a rock, my love” Padrú responded. “It protects the creature living inside it,” he could not tell if Madrú understood, but continued nonetheless. He made the trees whistle, and the turtles dove. “The turtle will be blessed by your tears. They will be powerful, and fast swimmers.” After a few moments he made the trees whistle once more. The turtles swam back to the surface, and were some distance from where they dove.
“I call the turtle’s brother a tortoise. It will be blessed by the air, and fly through its currents.”
Madrú was silent, and with it the winds of the Skies Above were also silent.
Padrú took this for confusion, and created a whirlwind from the smoothest of sands, from the shore of the smallest lake. The column grew higher and higher, and with it came closer and closer to the Skies Above. It did not spin violently, nor was it malicious or dark, or cold and stormy. Its wind whistled, at first low and deep, and growing higher and higher in pitch, the closer it came to the Skies Above.
“You do not desire to give them names? Madrú?” Asked Padrú.
Madrú shook her head, slowly, and the light of the Moon fluttered in rhythm with her.
Padrú sent the winds of his column scattering in every direction, as Madrú continued shaking her head. It was then she witnessed the golden sparkles of the sand, glittering in the light of the shuttering Moon. The sand itself had a natural red radiance when viewed from afar, and Madrú watched in bewilderment.
Madrú again widened her eyes, and smiled.
“Does the sand always glow?” Madrú asked.
“No. For Madrú,” Padrú responded.
“You are the one that makes this so?” She questioned Padrú.
“There is no reason for the shores to glow during the day, my love.” He laughed and laughed, but Madrú could not understand why.
“Why would that be?” She asked.
“You would not be here to see!” He responded emphatically. “Tell me, my love. What are their names?”
“Whatever Padrú desires,” Madrú responded.
Rather than answer, Padrú hesitated. For he knew what loomed ahead for Madrú. He thought about the difficulty she would face in releasing the seas of the World Below. Though he was eager to see their creation, he was also burdened by it. For after the seas came to be, the coming of the First Light would follow.
“I would call them the Weeping Lakes” said Padrú, finally breaking the prolonged silence.
“So shall it be” responded Madrú.
In an instant, Madrú noticed a change in the Guide, and asked “what’s wrong, my love?”
“Before long, you will have to begin your task” Padrú responded.
“As I’ve known, my love” said Madrú. “If you bear a burden, bear it no longer. I am not afraid, and am not in danger. I can only hope to give what is needed for you to guide, for those are who we are. It brings me joy to know life will follow in your path, my love.”
Madrú closed her eyes, and wept. Not because she was told to, nor was it to give life, but because it was what she desired. Her tears came down slowly, and when they’d hit the surfaces of the Weeping Lakes they made sounds. The largest of them made low-based, hollow sounds, the smallest made high-pitched, sharp sounds, and the last of the lakes made a combination of the two.
“I do not fear for life” said Madrú, still weeping. “I am the Skies Above.”
“I am the World Below” answered Padrú.
Madrú opened her eyes, slightly, and her tears came down more steadily; and slowed moments after, with Madrú closing her eyes. Madrú continued this for an extended amount of time, changing the pattern of her falling tears as she desired. Never once completely opening her eyes. The noises blended seamlessly, and even more elegantly.
With it, Padrú fell into a state of divine infatuation.
“Tis music” Madrú proclaimed.
It was Padrú’s solace.
He created a gentle wind, and it began to swirl across the surfaces of the lakes, whistling through Madrú’s falling tears. The wind swayed back and forth in symmetry with the tears, and twisted and turned the wind as he desired. Padrú then created a second wind from the sands which radiated red.
When Madrú’s tears seeped into the sands, they hardened. The radiance off them became darker and darker as more and more tears fell, and so it spilled onto the surface of the lake. The radiance lightened the further it ventured onto the surface, becoming pink in spots. The light blue color of Madrú’s tears, and the red of the sands created a purple surface.
Madrú began to blink continuously, and quickly. The lights from the Maiden and the Traveler flickered, but the Moon shone brightly. The colors on the surface changed every moment, from red to pink and back to red, blue and red into purple. She screamed and screamed, louder and louder each time. The Skies Above and World Below shook with thunder, lightning struck the World Below in continuous bursts. Then abruptly, Madrú opened her eyes completely.
Her tears stopped. She smiled, and with it entered a state of divine pleasure.
“Close thine eyes, and do not re-open them until I’ve told you, Madrú.”
She closed her eyes.
“Only in states of infatuation and pleasure, when both the Giver and the Guide are bonded as one, may its release lead to the creation of the seas. When you open thine eyes, my love, your tears will flow uncontrollably, until the seas have been created. Do not fear, do not tremble, and do not resist. When your tears have stopped flowing, do not move. When your tears have stopped flowing, close thine eyes for it will be necessary to rest. When your tears have stopped flowing, I will speak. You will be near the Horizon, on the cusp of the other side of the Skies. If you should break the Horizon, the coming of the First Light will have begun. Do you understand, Madrú?”
“I do, my love” said Madrú.
“Open thine eyes.”
Madrú did so, with it the creation of the seas began.
No one will ever know how long her tears flowed, but when the last drop of them fell from her eyes, Madrú could keep her eyes open no longer. She immediately closed her eyes, and began to rest them. The release of the seas had consumed her entirely. Both the Skies Above, and the World Below rested for a time. Madrú wouldn’t witness the beauty she’d created until she opened her eyes again. When her eyes were opened again, it would begin the coming of the First Light, and the rising of the First Sun.