Once upon a time, after chaos but before order, the magic brook Geirion had great power, for its water revealed fearsome visions. These visions terrorized the folk round about; terror implies attention, which implies belief, and belief is the food of elementals such as Geirion.
But one day a traveler in black arrived, intent upon his single-minded mission of bringing order out of chaos. He quizzed a local about the magic brook; the local, perplexed, wished out loud to know the brook’s true nature; and the traveler said, “As you wish, so be it.”
The local suddenly realized that all of Geirion’s visions were false. He and his friends took to consulting the lying brook to rid themselves of baseless fears; under their mockery, the elemental’s power waned.
Later the traveler returned to witness Geirion’s last three lies. First the magic water revealed a vision of Utopia, where all is right and all are happy; where there is no injustice or want or failure or confusion; where all problems are solved, all desires are satisfied, and all tears are dried; where the lion lies down with the lamb, and even lunch is free.
But the traveler threw a pebble into the water, bursting the false vision, and he said, “You are bitter, Geirion. Have you no sweeter lies?” Then the water revealed a vision of Dystopia, where there is no law nor truth nor even peace in death; where down is up, and foul is fair, and folly is wisdom, and war is peace, and slavery is freedom; where bleeding never stops, and even figures lie.
The traveler broke this false vision with another pebble, and he said, “There, there. And what of yourself?” The magic water revealed a vision of that same brook, sometime in the future, showing a vision.
The traveler in black said, “As you wish, so be it,” and waved his staff of light. From then on Geirion never showed another vision, but was instead merely a beautiful forest stream of pure water.
Moral: Truth is free of power.
Comment: This tale is a tribute to John Brunner’s “Traveler In Black”. Dystopia is a terrifying illusion, and Utopia is even worse.