The Keeper of Memory

There once was a boy who was the Keeper of Memory.

The boy lived in a village where the people labored with faith and dedication.
In order to build their homes — on the west side of the valley — the people had to collect heavy stones every day from the east.
There were only two paths to get from east to west: the short way and the long way.

Every day, the villagers took the short way. All of them walked together.
Every time they did, though, they were splashed by the mist from the water that ran under the path: water from the silver river.

The boy knew something that nobody else in his village did — and of course, nobody would believe him when he tried to tell them.
He knew that when they went to sleep that night, they would forget themselves. They would forget their history, their songs, their ancestors, their accumulated knowledge.
They would even forget the pain of losing their memory.
So when the villagers woke up, they were only preoccupied with building more houses, even though they felt lonely and wanted desperately to take a break.

The boy watched this happen many times, and he felt pained. His heart was full, and he longed to help them. He resolved to find a way.
One day, he had an idea. “I’ve got it!”
Thankfully, the boy had learned many skills from watching his elders, and it happened that he was an experienced builder.
So he began his project. He began near the river, and labored long hours. His bones grew weary as he laid stretches of pipe down, one after another.
He built supports, hammered nails, and sealed long stretches of tubing.
He worked in isolation, but hummed as he went.

After 10 days and 10 nights of this, he fastened the final pieces and the project was complete. A masterpiece!

The next day, a young girl from the village stumbled upon the piping after she ran off the short path to chase a blue jay.
She paused, puzzled as she approached the tubing, and reached out to feel the cool surface of the pipe under her fingertips.
Intrigued, the girl started running along the length of the structure until she came upon a clearing. Here, the boy had built the rest of his machine.
“What the…” she exhaled, eyes widening. “Where am I?”

The boy smiled from behind a large boulder as the young girl walked closer to the apparatus. As she did, she began to hear music.
The machine was huge — around 20 feet tall — and looked like a sundial, like an Aztec mural, like a wheel of time.
It had many translucent pipes that criss-crossed and encircled one another, entangled like the ancient roots of a redwood.
Within the pipes, the girl could see the silvery water from the river — it swished and coursed from tube to cog, pushing air through tiny pipes as it passed.
An enormous organ.

As she would soon realize, the giant organ played a song. A beautiful song, with airy harmonies that instantly transported her to another world. A realm of overwhelming tranquility and calm.
The girl smiled when she heard the song, and it felt familiar. It felt like home.

In the middle of the sprawling web of pipes, there was a map.
The map had an engraving of the village and its surroundings, including the silver river and its mist.
But it held many other things as well.
It held names and dates, the faces of founders. There was musical notation, poems, and scenery from plays.
Names of spirits, deities, sages, and mythic heroes.
The boys hands were still sore from the construction, and they stung to the touch. But he watched her explore the device with curiosity and joy, and he smiled as she did.

Looking up, she noticed a special engraving on the central plaque:
The blue water is for drinking; but silver erases.
Let the platinum shimmer remind you that you have forgotten infinite things.
And give you a moment of clarity to pause and choose what you will remember today.

The boy, the keeper, watched from the boulder as the girl drank in the music and stared at the machine with eyes wide as dinner plates.
It wasn’t long before another villager — the girl’s older sister — arrived at the clearing too, looking for her.
“What in the…” gasped the older sister. And she, too, began to explore the contraption, probing its bells, whistles and mysteries.

Many days passed, and word had spread. Everyone in the village had come to see the organ, and they had also seen the map.

After that day, they had began to change their ways.
Eventually, the people stopped taking the short path through the waterfall. Instead, they walked the longer route, which ran by the clearing with the organ.
As they walked, they heard the song, and they smiled, and they remembered.
After the machine was built, when a child was born the people brought the young one to the organ and listened to its song. It was the song of their creation and their continuous renewal.
They had crafted chimes that could play the melody, too, when wind passed through. They hung these chimes above their burial grounds, which had been mostly barren before then.

The villagers never found out who had constructed the organ. And the boy never told.
The boy lived alone, after all, and spoke little. He was afraid he would forget himself and his calling if he became distracted.
He wanted a family. Wanted to let go of his duties, of his worries. But he was afraid. He would get there someday, perhaps.
But for now, he was the keeper, and this kept him occupied.

At night, he would climb up a hill nearby.
He’d listen to the water above the silver river — the water that eventually spilled into his labyrinth of tubes and cogs.
It clinked across the pebbles, playing a xylophone song that the boy knew was coming from the Great Beyond.
In these sacred moments of encounter, he remembered.
Remembered his place, his purpose, his center.
Remembered how easy it was to forget; how quickly memory slips into nonbeing. How some things, when they’re gone, cannot be recovered.
And this saddened him. But it was nature’s way, and this gave him comfort. He had no more interest in pushing back against the great forces.

In the reflection of the silver, clinking water, he peered closely and discerned a face: the face of his father. The song he was hearing — the clinking xylophone of smooth rocks — was the one his father used to sing to him.
This melody was the same one that the organ played — soft and flowing, simple yet infinite.
This was his own little secret — that the organ song was an echo of his life, of his early memories — a private truth that he savored in his heart. Like chocolate for the soul.

After a long sit, he thanked the river with a bow. He stood up, and began trekking back down the path to his humble shelter in the village.
He had done his job, he knew, and he’d done it with a full heart.
Renewed again, refreshed, reborn, he departed from the river, half dreaming as he walked.

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My mantra is: “I serve the world daily by helping people heal.” My goal is to do this, in whatever form it may take. andrewvargasdelman.com

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Andrew Vargas Delman

Andrew Vargas Delman

My mantra is: “I serve the world daily by helping people heal.” My goal is to do this, in whatever form it may take. andrewvargasdelman.com

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