I had the opportunity to take part in a writer-illustrator collaboration on Amino, wherein writers from “Creator Archive” Amino wrote short fiction story starters, and artists from “Drawing” Amino chose to illustrate the story as it is written, illustrate a possible ending, or both. I chose to illustrate both for a story written by “Creator Archive” Amino user CHANce. I have the author’s permission to share, but they were very humble and didn’t give me more information than just what I could see for myself on Amino to credit them. So CHANce, whoever you are, thank you so much for writing such a compelling story starter and allowing me to take it and run with it! Feel free to identify yourself in the comments here or on the YouTube video if you wish.
I am releasing this blog post alongside the video where I read the story (along with my added ended) while timelapse footage of the artwork plays. If you would rather watch a listen, hit play:
The part of the story represented by the four alcohol ink illustrated panels was written by Chance, and the ending represented by the gansai tambi painting was written by me (Jenna Rideout).
It’s that time of year. No one knows when it all started, but all they know it that it’ll never end. Every year is the same. The bright and happy days of summer begin to lull, and each day gets shorter. When the days are short enough, then begins the ceremony. The ceremony is a familiar sight to you. You’ve seen it every year. The crowd of people lining the sides of the path to the cliff, each and every person dressed in a beautiful shade of browns, reds, yellows, and greens; their eyes solemn, and their voices silent.
Above them lanterns hanging from the tree illuminate the browning leaves and the dull path below. The path is unkempt, uneven, and dirty. After all, it’s only used once a year.
Yes, the ceremony is a familiar sight to you; but this year, it’s different. Instead of the soft, warm colours that covered you from head to toe, this year it’s a solid white. Instead of you watching the procession quietly from the sidelines, this year you ARE the procession.
You walk slowly and quietly, your white clothes dragging against the dirt ground. At first, you glance side-to-side to see everyone else’s expressions. Some are neutral, some are solemn, and some are even a little sad. But as you continue to walk down the rows of people, fear tugs at your heart as you meet the onlookers’ eyes. You stop to collect yourself.
In all honesty, you want to run away. You want to turn around and escape. But you can’t. You’ve seen what happens to those who try. In fact, you’ve BEEN part of the crowd that descends upon them and finishes the ceremony with force. And you’ve heard the stories; stories of the catastrophe that occurs if the ceremony remains unfinished. You can’t run away.
Your feet begin to move forward again. You manage to hear a few sighs of relief. You do not look to the sides again. You are afraid to look. Instead you look forward, toward the cliff. Somehow it draws you in. Somehow, it’s reassuring.
You approach the edge of the cliff and look down. It’s pitch black. Even the darkness of every night combined does not compare to how black the canyon looks to you. You shiver. It’s still hot out, but you feel chilly. You wonder what’s down there, and what awaits you. You imagine being transported to a different realm, or meeting a god. You imagine seeing a huge monster, or a land in a pile of feathers or snow. You imagine gaining the ability to fly and soaring through the sky. You imagine nothing. You feel your heart become heavy, and tears start pouring out of your eyes. What if there is nothing?
Before you can think anymore, you feel a push on your back. Time seems to stop when you realize you are falling. You are scared, but you can’t close your eyes. You are frozen in fear as you feel the air beneath you fail to slow you down. The air becomes cold, and darkness envelops you. You cannot see anything. You cannot see how fast you are falling, or how close to the ground you are. You brace yourself.
But somehow, after a few minutes of free-falling, you start to relax. You realize the wind isn’t whipping at your face anymore. The cold isn’t sucking your warmth from you. You think you are floating, but you can’t see anything. You can’t feel anything. And then, the scenery before you begins to change…
Tiny points of light begin to chase away the darkness, and soon those tiny points of light grow into balls of colour. Some are brightly burning balls of warmth; reds, yellows, oranges, and a few so hot they’re white. Others are beautiful swirls of blues, greens, and browns. Some are surrounded by a glittering cloud of gold, and as you look closer you notice that those clouds of gold are coming from those who fell before you.
Each orb of swirling colours is being fed, or perhaps revived, by living sacrifices in white robes. There’s little left of some of them now, but the scene isn’t horrible. You feel peace, and hope. One globe in particular catches your eye, and as you study it, it seems to pull you in. You float closer, closer. The same golden cloud begins to flow out toward this world, and you notice that it’s coming from you. You reach out toward this beautiful new world, searching for life, and a feeling of love and devotion floods you in response.