A Fable of Two Halves

David Luntz

Writer’s Note: Myths and fables have long interested me. So, I tried writing a quirky fable that shows how we lie to ourselves so easily. Originally, the story came to me as kind of thought experiment where I wondered: what if a person had a chance to live two separate lives at the same time, would they tell their other half the truth about their own life? From a craft perspective, I grafted some sentences from a poem that didn’t work out onto the body of the piece. I enjoyed seeing how those once abandoned sentences injected the piece with life and color.  

When the man woke from his lurid dream, he fled outside into a sudden storm, swallowed a bolt of lightning, and was cut into two. One half went back home to bed, to his sleeping wife, got up the next morning, and went to work. A jagged scar ran across his chest. Proof he hadn’t been just sleepwalking or dreaming. His other half took off with a band of Roma in their painted wagons, then left them to live off locusts and wild honey in the wilderness. There he spent his days mapping drifting clouds from memory, removing thorns from the paws of lions, and cultivating birds’ nests in his armpits. Occasionally, when both of them were sleeping, their dreams drifted into each other like two rivers flowing into a delta. The half who’d wandered off told his twin about swimming naked across the Bosporus below a full moon’s raving current, summiting Kilimanjaro, and sailing the Pacific in a hand-rigged catamaran with naught but stars to guide him. But he said nothing about his time in the wilderness. Nor how relieving the suffering of living things sometimes brought him more than a transient sense of peace. In turn, he heard about trips to Disney with children he never knew he had, job promotions, and pride at paying off the mortgage. But he never learned about the piles of other debts, months in rehab, or the divorce. Each secretly hoped, sometimes, the lightning would fuse back what it had cleaved and give them that other life they’d missed out on. And the lightning had a lot of chances to do this, but always delayed, not because it knew better, but because it was waiting for one of them to tell the other the truth first.

David’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best Small Fictions (2021), Vestal Review, Pithead Chapel, Reflex Fiction, Fiction International, trampset, X-R-A-Y Lit, Orca Lit, and other print and online journals. Twitter: @luntz_david.