Once upon a time, there was a girl who liked to tell stories. She lived in a wonderful place where people understood the power of words and the magic to be found in the tales people told.

 

On one particularly beautiful, sunny day, she climbed a little hill overrun with blossoming wildflowers. At the top of the hill, a large crystal bell glistened in the sunshine. It was a very special bell, which was only rung when someone had a story they wanted to tell.

 

 When the girl reached the top of the hill, she took hold of the silver cord connected to the clapper of the bell and began swinging her arms from side to side. A single, clear note resonated across the nearby countryside each time the clapper struck the side of the bell.

 

Slowly, people followed the sound of the story teller's bell until they reached the little hill, then found themselves places to sit amongst the delicate, fragrant wildflowers. Some of the people who came were old friends of the girl, while others were strangers who came to hear what tale the apprentice story teller had to share.

 

When the last peal of the bell faded, the girl turned to those who came to listen with a gentle, inviting smile. "Thank you everyone for coming today. I'm still learning to tell stories, and I probably always will."

 

She noticed a few grins and knowing nods from some of the more experienced story tellers. "Just the same, I'll do my best to tell the story as well as I know how. I hope you'll all be able to enjoy it."

 

The girl sat down on an ancient stone, worn smooth by the same action of all the previous story tellers from uncountable ages ago, then began speaking in a familiar cadence that told her listeners a tale was about to begin.

 

"In the beginning, there was nothing. To be more precise, there was something, actually everything, but it was all in such a small space, it took up no space at all.

 

"In that incredibly tiny space was the first story teller, and nothing else. For an infinite amount of time, which was actually no time at all, since it too was squished down into that tiny space, there was nothing else.

 

"Then, the story teller spoke the first word of the first story, and created another story teller. Together, they started telling the most amazing story ever. They told the story of everything.

 

"That's when the universe exploded into the tale we're experiencing today."

 

The girl stood up and humbly bowed in the tradition of all story tellers before her as she said, "Thank you for listening to my tale."

 

There was a smattering of polite applause, as much to show appreciation for the effort put into telling a story as to encourage the apprentice story teller to continue in her chosen vocation.

 

Just as some people started standing, the girl spoke up again. "Before you go, I'd like to give each of you something to think about. Although you may not be aware of it, you are each really in a story, as am I. When this story is over, this hill, with all the pretty flowers and the sun shining over us will be just a memory."

 

The girl smiled shyly at the mixed reactions of all those surrounding her. "I guess some of you might think I'm a silly girl telling a silly story. I don't mind that at all so long as you're willing to listen, because I'd like to share something you may need to know some time in the future."

 

She took in a deep breath, looking uneasy but determined. "When this story is over, you'll still be in a story. That won't mean what you experience then will be less real. Stories are more real than most people realize."

 

A powerful silence fell over the hill as the girl looked at each of her listeners, making sure she had their full attention. "The most important thing I hope you take away with you today, is the realization that you are each the tellers of your own stories. That's both an incredible freedom as well as a great responsibility, but it's also the most ... magical experience when you start really telling your own story."

 

The girl turned a gentle smile on her listeners. "Whatever you do, tell your story as well as you know how, and make it the best story you can."

 

With just the faintest hint of sadness, combined with warm compassion and the sparkling glimmer of hope, the girl said, "And now, my story truly has come to an end."

 


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