He sat alone on a bench in the park. It might have been easier to say he sat alone on a park bench, but it’s possible that a park bench might not find itself in a park. Better to be safe than sorry. The worst thing you can do is start off a story with a confusing first sentence.
Some stories never recover.
She saw him and walked over to introduce herself.
She was in her late teens and an inquisitive soul. She was about get much more than she bargained for.
After a few cursory questions were exchanged between the two of them, he asked her if she was a religious type.
She answered that she was still in the process of figuring out that very question.
“Well” he began, “don’t buy into that heaven above us and hell below us stuff.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“Think about it. Leave the surface of the planet and you freeze to death. Completely inhospitable. Ask any astronaut.”
Yes” she countered, “but dig to the center of the Earth and you burn up.”
“Exactly.” He smiled and produced a sandwich from his backpack.
“Exactly what?” she inquired.
“The only place we can survive comfortably is here in purgatory.” He extended the sandwich as if to invite her to take a bite and she waved him off. “I don’t take sandwiches from strangers. No telling what meat is lurking between those two slices of bread.”
“A wise policy” he offered.
“So you believe that this place, this reality is just purgatory. A stopping place on the way to somewhere else?” she asked.
“Perhaps.” His chewing slowed. After finally swallowing he resumed. “All I know is that we need heat and light. Darkness and cold… not so much.” After a brief rummage through his backpack he withdrew a box of juice. “We can look inward or outward for answers, but was it a coincidence that they threw virgins into volcanoes?”
If you would have lined up all the possible images he was going to offer up to the girl and put them end to end before she would have gotten around to guessing a volcano, those images would go back and forth to the moon at least a dozen times. A lineup that admittedly would be downright breathtaking to behold.
As if to prod her into some sort of response he added “Look at the number of deities associated with the sun. As soon as there were men there were men worshipping the sun.” He then turned his attention to poking his box of juice with a straw. The straw seemed ever-so-slightly larger than the hole provided.
“So you think that the beautiful young virgins lined up at the lip of a smoking volcano were actually just getting somewhere else ahead of the folks pushing them in?” she asked.
“There’s a lot to that question. Even assuming they were beautiful is tricky. Are you thinking physically or spiritually? And the ‘somewhere else’ could be debated endlessly.”
Beginning to appear exasperated, she replied “So why bring up the topic at all?”
“Because it’s a story, and stories are more important than either of us. Stories are the manifestation of our shared Logos. They last far longer and have a much greater impact on cultures.”
She laughed. “Even ones that are full of shit?”
He laughed. “Especially those ones. Just ask the maidens on the volcano.”
“Neath the sea the land sinketh, the sun dimmeth,
from the heavens fall the fair bright stars;
gusheth forth steam and gutting fire,
to very heaven soar the hurtling flames”
– The Poetic Edda, The Prophecy of the Seeress
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