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The Need for Tall Tales

Published on June 2, 2021

Aftermath participates in a cleansing ritual within caves once inhabited by Neanderthals in France.
Aftermath participates in a cleansing ritual within caves once inhabited by Neanderthals in France.

There are very few lightning-bolt moments that has shaken my worldview to such an extent that it has forever altered my perception of the reality around me. On one such occasion, I was nose deep in Demons Don’t Dream, a novel that utterly broke the fourth wall between between the reader and the book, it itself a story following a character who’s own fourth wall was being broken down between his reality, called Mundania, and a magical Florida-shaped world called Xanth. How could a book be so self-aware? Seventh-grade me, quite amused and addicted to the story, would read the tales just before wood shop class. What a place to explore shattering realities! A tale of fantasy, a blank canvas and a wood shop in which to create!

Growing up as an 80s baby, the Space Age was in full force, with images of Neptune beaming back from the Voyager 2 space probe, and promises of planets beyond inspiring the youth of the era to reach for the stars. Annoyingly, those space probes were quite slow, and I’ve already read all the astronomy books that I could lay my hands on from the library. The tools that were afforded to my imagination as a youth were NASA, drawing shoddy Super Mario Bros. airships on construction paper, diving into the fantasy worlds of Xanth and Death Gate Cycle, and finally, via the Information Superhighway, learning of another fourth-wall breaking story, a video game called Myst. It was a hopeful time, with promises of a great utopian future.

I began writing my own stories of floating islands and a people caught between magic and technology, and how this environment affected them. My experiences in high school became the dramas that played out in these fantasies. Some wrote in a journal; I would excitedly craft worlds of magic that would explain what happened during the lunch break that day: A tall tale of my life. I shared these stories with my friends, and they entertained my weird ways and helped enrich the stories.

During a multi-day stay within Neanderthal caves in France, a spontaneous and improvisational ritual formed in celebration of friendship and to the ancestors who once roamed there. We'll later learn that those caves were infested with mosquitos and tick.

Tall tales, as you know, are not just limited to a story about Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox. I found stories of a historical past that shimmered in warmth and gold within Rembrandt, and enormous worlds of absurdity and the surreal within Dali. And, in adulthood, a temporal out-of-place and out-of-time Temple of Juno through David Best.

Without knowing the process of how such a structure could be built, only to be burned down within the week, my imagination ran wild. I imaged a sage-like tribe, toiling away in the heat of the Black Rock Desert, creating a sacred space that could only be done by those who achieved a state of self-actualization endowed by those who have been touched by God himself. This group of light workers are totally, without question, operating at another level. This was a mythology I wove to myself that explained something I did not understand.

Tall tales, by their own definition, are highly exaggerated. However, it is these stories that make