Kan ya ma kan fi qadeem azzaman. That is how we begin stories, myths. We begin by telling names and places, but I have none for you today. We begin with ancient genealogies, with the telling of a history replete, adorned with all the ornaments of time, a history that precedes everything and carves rivers, mountains, gods, mortals, jinn, legendary beings into the story. But the history for this story was misplaced.
I will begin telling it anyway. I will tell you about a being that is neither mortal nor god nor jinn. She knows no rivers, mountains, or seas but reigns over them all. She has no name, no signifier. Gracefully, adeptly, she escapes appellation.
A storyteller once called her a ghost, but a ghost she is not. Ghosts lack weight and presence. Let her weight and presence be known and never questioned. She is ghostlike, perhaps, rarely seen, without substance, without constraints, without a soul. She is another kind of creature, omnipotent, omnipresent. She has no body but is everywhere. She has no vision but sees everything and bends it to her will. She is a being of contradictions—contradictions that sustain her but must also be her downfall.
You might ask me if I speak of magic, but there is nothing supernatural here. Oh, but she has a special kind of magic, all her own. She feigns immortality, and she makes you believe. She makes you believe. She whispers, her waswasa shifting balances and scales, changing the colors of seas, the anatomy of bodies, the geography of moons and planets. She says she will always be with us, her inevitability cannot be negotiated.
And just as she is immortal, without end, she is without beginning. She is primordial like the elements. They will tell you she was never born, for she always was. She is not from a place, though mythmakers sometimes steal land to call it her home. She may lay claim to Mount Olympus, to ancient expansive time, to a world before worlds. They may say she was there at creation, but she arrived much later (but who was there at creation to say otherwise). She is a being without origin, left out of the archives and the mouths of hakawatis. And who wants to write a history of something that always was and always will be. It is rather exhausting.
She writes her own histories instead, but she claims no authorship. A ghost writer in the truest sense. She is at once a mythmaker, a hakawati, a historian, and a judge, her signature scrawled invisibly on all documents.
She has many children of many races and peoples, but she does not claim them. Who wants to claim evil children who fight and sow discord? She is happy simply to watch over them, as they, like the Titans, build and destroy, creating expansive margins of freedom for her to colonize. She chastises them from time to time, gently, the way you reprimand a neighbor’s wayward child. Though she has given birth, she is no mother. She is a beneficiary.
When they cannot sleep, she does not sing to them. But she is a musical being with a sonorous voice and a wondrous harp. She can change sounds in the airwaves, intercept, redirect, reveling in a dissonance she creates. She thrives in noise and in quiet.
She is a gardener of sorts. She plants seeds that are not organic, but somehow they grow. She breathes life into things that spread over the world like a resilient weed, an invasive species that somehow leaves everything barren.
And through it all she promises freedom. Freedom from what, you might ask? But shhh she says. Let us think of better things.
She talks of rising, levitation, flight, and that all sounds so beautiful, so soothing. She lulls you to complacency. She promises prosperity for all. A world we can all take a part of for ourselves. She hopes you will remember sometimes and at other times forget; forgetting is her most powerful elixir.
She is religious. She sings hymns to many gods, for she cannot be asked to choose just one. But her piety wavers. She grows tired sometimes and throws them together, discord arising from the sharp relief.
She is a preacher, a proselytizer, but never a penitent, though she will tell you to ask for penance. She says ask your gods for deliverance, for plenty. She says ask your gods for patience, for victory. She says ask your gods, but do not ask me.
But she is the only god that matters, and they all worship her though they may not realize it.
Her story was never told, never transcribed. She flits between the pages of history. And if you try to apprehend her, she slips away without a trace, leaving you to wonder if she was ever there.