The Stories of Your Name

by J. M. Melican · from issue 3

If I were Palaeolithic, I would paint your name on sacred stones with ochre and ash.

After a thousand generations archaeologists would discover my work, and would marvel at it. They would protect your name and preserve it, ascribe meaning to it, infer understandings from it, and formulate inadequate hypotheses for its being. Your name would be a clue to their origins. It would lead them to transcend their ephemeral present and connect them to the epoch of their kind.

If I were an Arstesian biosculptor, I would shape your name in tissue and bone.

The flesh-nurses would feed your name nutrients and watch it grow, would monitor its microbiome for disease vectors. They would call surgeons to treat your name, and care for your name in its recovery. When their job was done your name would be exhibited. Arstesian royalty would come to perform conspicuous admirations of it.

If I were an oracle, I would speak your name portentous.

I would gift it to the pilgrim who had climbed to my cliff-top temple, and with it she would return as a saviour to her people. For long years she would remember your name, and those whom she had saved would remember it too, until your name became a part of their language, a synonym for good fortune, for fecund fields and fair winds.

If I were a wrench-head on a Skaralic Starcruiser I would hack the aft plas-cannons while the officers hibernated.

I would blast your name into the flank of an un-named planet as we passed. I would make your name a geomorphic scar, a hemishperic graffito. It would persist for millennia. The planet which I marked would be long distant when the crew woke from their hyper sleep. They would never know your name, but after all of the might of the Skaralic military had been spent in futile and mutually destructive vainglory against the Mercerne System, that planet bearing your name would remain.

If I were a philologist, I would find your name in every tongue and text.

Where people spake riddles, your name would hold the key. It would occur in signs and gestures, in glyphs and runes. I would trace your name diachronically, and with it I would track an Empire’s rise and fall. Your name would be threaded through centuries of expansion and aggression, of colonisation and resistance, of revolution and reparations.

If I were an acolyte, I would make your name my mantra.

Sequestered on an island monastery, I would kneel six times a day with my forehead pressed to the damp stone floor and my lips would silently shape themselves to your syllables. When the fae powers coalesced around me I would gather with my fellows on the shingle beaches and we would pool our magics and call to the Ancient Gods in their benthic crypts. They would rise from the waves, spume-flecked and tentacular, and with your name they would greet us.

If I were a writer I would make a story of your name.

A very short story, perhaps.

I would narrate it in the first person directly to you, the second. I would insist upon the subjunctive mood. I would tell the tale conditionally, never committing to anything more certain than ‘if’… ‘would’. I would share my story with others, for them to make of it what they would, but I would not give them your name.

It is yours, and only you may give it.