We have a saying, we folk of Uru
Perhaps the ending has not yet been written.
These were the words of Atrus, written down long ago, when he realized that the Myst book he had lost might be found by someone, and that the story of his youth, the turmoil of his family, which seemed to have come to a peaceful resolution, could reawaken into a new chapter. And so it did.
For Atrus, there would have been two sides to this “perhaps.” On the one hand, he had hope that his new life with Katran would be peaceful and fruitful. He came to hope that the D’ni civilization, dead before his birth, might be reborn from the scattered survivors. On the other hand, he must have had some worry that the cultural failures that brought down the D’ni could doom them again and that his own family’s tragic legacy would return to haunt his future and his children. If he had those fears, they were justified.
But for us, the latter-day survivors of D’ni, it is the first meaning we hold, the message of hope. “Don’t give up.” “Tomorrow is another day.” And our hope has been justified. We have our Uru back.
We also share the sense that stories don’t really end, there is always more story, though it may be a new chapter. And someone else may write it. And we, individually, may not be there to read or hear it.
Sometimes, though, when I look back I see endings. I see places where a tale really did end, though the end point may have been obscured by epilogues that faded gently away against a background of emerging new tales. Call them chapters, if you like. Though the endings are not always (or even usually) happy and sometimes painful, I see them, these break-points, these transformations, these turnings of corners, as healthy and natural. Our lives are filled with unwritten but real endings, from which we simply move on, one way or another.
As for me, I have discovered I can write endings. In my once and future life as a writer of fiction, I have always taken great satisfaction in crafting a good ending for a story. It is not easy to do. We all struggle with it, and some writers never figure out quite how to get it done. But I have found that I cannot successfully write a story unless I at least know how it is going to end. The last words on the last page are seldom the last thing that I write. Occasionally they are the first.
But, of course, this is not really (or only) about stories – formal narratives with beginnings, middles, endings and then the book is closed – it is about life also. I do not fear endings. No need to go into why; just accept that I don’t. In fact, many times I embrace endings because they allow new beginnings. They free one to let go and continue on and move forward into a new chapter.
The best, happiest endings are the ones we move through without awareness, without catching on the hooks of loss. When we turn and look back and say, “Oh! That was when that chapter closed. That was when the arc finished. That was when it was over. Well, then. That’s done. What’s next?” And our faces were already turned to beginnings with such eagerness that we did not even think of the ending as a loss, or only in passing. Sometimes the ending and the beginning were simply two sides of the same time.
What is behind all this jabber, unsurprisingly, is my becoming aware of having achieved one of those “good” endings (I’m not prepared to characterize it as “happy”… yet. Though it is shaping up in that direction) in the last couple of weeks. And though I could have written it long before the story got to that point – it was so perfectly symmetrical, poignant and yet easy to walk away from – and though I in fact engineered it, I didn’t spot it coming or going and only saw it looking back, so absorbed was I in my beginnings.
But I am glad I did not go so far as to close the book. Who knows what will appear upon the next blank page? Perhaps the ending … has not yet been written.
[Written in character, and yet not, which is kind of the point...]