Everything is a Lie
“Everything is a lie …” – Sage Didymas
Our tale begins not with an opening scroll of “a long time ago and far, far away” followed by epic orchestral fanfare. Neither is there an introduction of “once upon a time” by a honey-voiced enchantress with fairy-tale music accompaniment. We have no wizened wizard’s gravelly-voiced narration to set the tone for a most unusual adventure. And we refuse to use that morose monotone to mumble another moronic monologue describing a post-apocalyptic dystopia.
We end up having to make the unenviable choice of either emulating Homer’s invocation of the Muses, or shamelessly plagiarizing Dickens’s rhetoric, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” neither very palatable to the serious readers of the twenty-first century. We therefore decide to launch directly into the crux and climax of the unlikely, unfortunate, and unfathomable events that befell upon one ordinary and unexceptional girl by the name of Victoria Solana.
The saga began with the tinkle-tankle and the tintinnabulation of clanking steel. It woke Victoria from her dark dreams. She was greeted by a headache of biblical proportions. She felt as if all her bones had become disjointed. A scorching fire raged underneath her skin. The sweet smell of burnt flesh filled the air. It reminded Victoria of Chinese barbecue pork. The first addled thought that came to her addlepated mind was, “Where is my unicorn?”
Victoria Solana was the most unremarkable person you could ever know. For most of her life, she had lived in the inconspicuous town of Dundas about forty-five miles (75 km) west of Toronto. It is a part of the city of Hamilton and is a short bike ride to McMaster University. In a small town where everyone knows everyone, Victoria had a hard time getting people to remember her face or her name. She once bumped into her homeroom teacher Ms. Notrump outside of school and the poor woman got all flustered trying to remember where she had seen this girl before. Victoria had such an average appearance and nondescript demeanor that if she stepped inside a room with more than three individuals, her presence would immediately disintegrate into quantum uncertainty.
Fortunately, Victoria was an only child, and therefore her parents doted upon her. She did not care a whit about what others thought of her if she could live a calm and ordinary life being close to the people she loved, namely her parents and her two best friends Bella and Jackie. This would be quite enough for her. Victoria was living precisely the kind of idyllic life that she wanted, and she was blissfully happy.
Victoria had three faint moles on her face. One was high on her left cheek where beauty moles were usually located. Another one was near the left corner of her lip, which was supposed to signify that she would be a lover of good food. The last one was right at the center of her chin below her lips, which by the mystical science of molesophy meant that she was a loving and considerate person.
This is the paradox of Victoria. She was by no means a plain or homely girl. If one studied her features carefully, one might even find her quite attractive. After all, didn’t Confucius say “there are no ugly girls at sixteen.”? Maybe he did not say that, but a sage most certainly said “there are no ugly girls, only lazy girls.” In any case, one thing could be said about Victoria—she was not lazy.
Today was Victoria’s birthday. It was her Sweet Sixteen. She could ask for anything her young heart desired and her parents would have indulged her, as long as it was something appropriate and within the narrow limits of their modest means. Victoria’s parents were immigrants who spoke broken English with a heavy accent, and they worked at part-time jobs paying hourly wages. But they got by and they had money put aside for this occasion.
“Why don’t we just have dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant?” Victoria suggested. “Besides, Jackie can’t come because she got grounded for swearing and Bella’s going through a vegan phase.”
“We go every year the same place,” Victoria’s mom complained. “This your Sweet Sixteen. We can afford better. What you think, Daddy?”
“You have some suggestions?”
“I feel adventure … rous,” Mommy said. “What about Thai?”
“Can I have a suggestion?” Victoria asked.
“Sure, this is your birthday,” her dad said. “You decide.”
“Let’s not go crazy,” Victoria said. “Let us go to the place that we already know makes our favorite dishes at a reasonable price. Besides, we go there every year; they know it’s my birthday so we’ll get a discount and free desserts.”
Victoria knew her family’s financial situation. They were always tight with money. They had never traveled or engaged in any costly activities. Victoria had no complaints. She did not have great affinity for adventure. Heaven to her was curling up in bed inside the warmth and safety of her blanket with a good book. Victoria loved books. She was a veritable bookworm. She ate books for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In fact, both her parents also loved books. That was another reason why the family never seemed to have any money. They spent it all on books, and they had a houseful of it. There is an old Chinese saying, “you can find golden abode and jade-like beauty in books.”
Most of Victoria’s adventures took place within the pages of her books and inside her imagination. The longest physical trip she had ever taken was her recent visit to the Bethune Memorial House at Gravenhurst, Muskoka. It was a school trip and it took all of two hours to get there; but for Victoria, it felt like a journey to the far side of the moon.
Victoria shared many interests with her mom, such as cooking, singing along with musicals on video, and sewing her own clothes. She had a close relationship with her dad as well and shared some of his interests in classical music, chess, and watching sports on TV. While her dad loved to watch soccer, Victoria loved hockey and baseball. Victoria would catch some UEFA and FIFA matches with her dad; in return, her dad would sit through some Maple Leaf and Blue Jays games with her.
Victoria’s dad was an amateur stargazer. He had taught Victoria since she was a young girl how to recognize the major constellations and the brightest planets. He also followed up by telling her the tame version of the Greek myths.
Victoria loved Cirque de Soleil. Her aspiration before grade three was to become a magician and join the circus. It is a phase most kids go through. She later became a fan of the Amazing Randi and Penn & Teller. She taught herself how to do some of their tricks and became adept at prestidigitation and misdirection. In the process, she learned the lesson never to believe in magic.
Although Victoria’s parents were orthodox Christians in their old country, they gave that up when they came to Canada. They encouraged Victoria to learn about the different faiths but they did not try to influence her on the matter of religion. They believed that the search for the meaning of existence was a personal matter. They also had a whole shelf of books on the subject and Victoria could read them whenever she had teleological questions.
As a whole, the Solana family was a happy and contented entity, consisting of three interacting bodies that had achieved perfect harmony and perpetual equilibrium. They never experienced any three-body problems.
For reasons unknown to Victoria and she never got a satisfactory explanation, her parents never encouraged her to partake in any sports, physical games, or competitions. It was just as well, because Victoria did not like gym, sucked at dodge ball, and she certainly did not fancy acting like a klutz in public. On the other hand, Victoria played a mean game of chess, and could probably beat quite a few other players at school, but she did not like being watched over her shoulders, did not enjoy humiliating her opponents, and would just rather be a kibitzer. That way, she could checkmate others in her mind, and enjoy it just the same.
Despite living a mostly sedentary lifestyle, Victoria was amazingly healthy. She could not remember the last time she needed to see a doctor. She had been extremely lucky. Life was all too harmlessly and graciously Canadian for Victoria, and Victoria was as Canadian a Canadian could ever be, ranking way up there with the Canada goose, lumberjacks, maple syrup, ice hockey, and saying sorry when someone steps on your toe.
But without warning and in the blink of an eye—or as Goethe would say, “den Augenblick”—Victoria’s life turned upside down and inside out. She lost both her parents and everything else she held dear. She could no longer be sure who she was. Her past life became a puff of smoke, suspending precariously in the air, to be dispersed into nothingness with a wave of the hand. By and large, she was like an ant on a Möbius strip or a ladybird in a Klein bottle, at a loss as to which dimension she belonged to. Victoria was lucky to still have her two best friends, but she would soon be separated from them by a continent and an ocean.
Never having stayed overnight anywhere outside of Dundas in her life, Victoria ended up half way across the world in a strange land, trying to survive among people who spoke a different language. Meanwhile, she had to evade sinister assassins, having to stare down the barrel of a pistol aimed point-blank at her face, and narrowly escaping death in a fiery car crash. She jumped off a plane mid-flight without a parachute, almost got crushed by six container trucks during a high speed car chase, and sank to the bottom of the sea while strapped inside a car. She dangled from the window at the top of the tallest building in China, wrestled with a hungry tiger, jumped off a cliff, and killed three men using one arm. All this happened to Victoria because, without being aware of it, she held the key to the greatest mystery of the universe.
“Stop exaggerating,” groaned Victoria as she struggled to get up. “Just tell the story the way it happened, please.”
Dear Lord! This is unprecedented in the history of storytelling. The heroine of this epic tale has made a direct request for how her story should be told. While this is highly unconventional, given that she is the protagonist, she does have the prerogative. For those readers who may find the pompous and hifalutin lexicon of this literary fabrication discombobulating—or as Jane Austen would say, “very vexing”—the last sentence means Victoria Solana is the boss, and we do what the boss says.
So let us begin again, with less poetic licence and with minimal embellishments, to describe the improbable adventures of Victoria Solana and why she woke up wondering what happened to her unicorn. As we all know, the unicorn is a mythical beast; it has no place in a factual story.