Skin by Skin: A Soulful Affair. Preface: Before the Beginning

Serene Voyager stands on the edge of a thin, rocky ledge in the last precious moments before the beginning. Her silhouette disappears and reappears. Her body sparkles, sways and shines with traces of fire and swaths of smoke that emanate from within. Her long hair dances and crackles behind her, though there is not so much as a breeze brushing by.

Down below lies a ravine through which she can hear, though not yet see, a river flowing swiftly. She peers into the darkness. Her brow furrows.

She squints and looks to her right, where she can just discern the outline of a park bench. On that bench is a hard-shell suitcase decorated with golden sunflowers. Her suitcase, sitting open and empty. Waiting. She trembles.

Suddenly, two piercing eyes bound into view. Barking and howling seem to come from all directions. Both the eyes and the howling are aiming straight toward her.

She breathes in and out and steadies herself for confrontation. But as the shiny, silver eyes draw nearer, they break up the gloom, and her own eyes spark in pleasurable recognition. She opens her arms to receive an enormous wolf she has named Endless Curiosity.

Serene watches with fresh awe as the wild creature leaps. The wolf’s long, sinewy legs cut through the air, stretching farther than any earthly wolf could dream. She lands, softer than a whisper, by Serene’s bare feet.

“Endless Curiosity!” She runs her fingers through the wolf’s thick coat and scratches behind her sharp, pointed ears. “How you’ve grown! What an appetite you must have now!”

She laughs as the wolf licks her face and hands. The two old friends roll and play.

Her spirits boosted by the reunion, Serene returns to the ledge and sits down. Her legs swing—both together, then one at a time—dancing to an ancient rhythm only she can hear. Endless Curiosity lays her head down in Serene’s lap.

She absently scratches her wolf’s back as she considers. There is but one reason the wild wolf has come: she will be joining her on this upcoming trip. They will once again embark together on a quest to sniff out life’s answers—meaning, purpose, belonging and the ever-elusive happiness. Many times before, they thought they came across it—the ultimate answer, the key that opens all life’s sticky doors—what she and Endless Curiosity have dubbed the Great Truth.

But truth-seeking has proven to be tricky work. In the past, only when she has truly embodied the found fabrics of truth, sometimes wrapping them around herself like a second skin, could she detect problems with fit or texture. Sometimes, the truths were too tight. Other times, far too itchy. And sometimes, though it was difficult to prove, the truth simply felt fake, like a poor imitation of a finely-spun silk. She and Endless Curiosity have not yet found the Great Truth. Not completely, anyway. No, not yet.

The wolf, sensing her growing somberness as the minutes pass, whines and nuzzles at her hand. Her companion’s muscles are taut, as if she is ready to jump at a moment’s notice and ride the river to their new beginning—a still-undisclosed time and place. But what her wolf friend may not remember is how, in the Earth Realm, many times and places now ban rebellious, game-changing and intimidating creatures like Endless Curiosity from entering their doors. Challenging times may lie ahead for her indeed.

Serene Voyager leans forward to peer once again into the abyss where the still-invisible, rushing river crashes against the rocks. She looks at her empty suitcase. Her lips purse. She taps her temples.

Postponement of this trip is an option.

Canceling would carry no negative consequence.

She stands up and takes a single step back from the edge.

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