The Fairy Tale You Haven't Heard Yet
Words by Bettina Baysic
Art by Paul Libatique
Once upon a time, humans were born into the world. Gifted with intelligence, they built themselves from the ground up. Man prospered and explored, even reaching the remote corners of the Earth. Their numbers grew, creating vast communities.
But wherever people were, pests they called “problems” surfaced too! Up from the ground surged these scoundrels who turned smiles upside down and made the air heavy. The jet black tinted varmints invaded homes and workspaces. Before the humans knew it, problems became an intrinsic part of their lives.
Such was the world a lad named Hugh Manny Ty was raised in. Everybody knew Hugh. You could spot him laughing with the postman or the store owner down the street. All the youngsters at the playground would tug on his shirt so he could lace their sneakers. Ring him up and your phone would be glued to you for hours. Hugh always spoke about becoming a famous painter. But this journey to greatness would be a long climb up a tall ladder. Diligently, he washed the dishes, studied his notes, and went to bed. He stared every night at his ceiling, envisioning his bright future.
Hugh, like everyone else in the world, had his fair share of problems. They went by many names. Sometimes, nasty thoughts kept him up at night, whispering worries into his ear. Sometimes, his neighbors bickered over small, button-sized inconveniences that got under their skin. The worst ones were towering, intimidating troubles that tormented entire nations. And if Hugh wanted to be a successful artist, he would have to tackle all the pesky problems that cropped up. The best way to do so was to deal with them. Head on. Sure, the trivial ones were fine, but they always came back, like perennial weeds that ruin gardens.
But there is only so much strength one boy can muster to juggle all aspects of his life. There are only so many laces Hugh could knot or hours in a day he could work until he's drained. If his problems were too much to handle, he’d put it off ‘til tomorrow. And if it was still too much tomorrow, he’d put it off ‘til the next day. And the next. And the next. This was the best alternative, Hugh thought. This is what the world had taught him and everyone else.
And when people put it off, they blew themselves bubbles to hide in. They paid no mind to the less fortunate who needed their help. Not everyone had the means to solve their problems or live in bubbles. It turned into a game of "pass" in helping their countless bare, hungry, and lonely brethren. “Someone else will care for them”, the privileged thought. “I've done my part,” Hugh assured himself. But relying only on the good deeds of several people cannot solve everyone's problems. More issues sprouted every time people ignored their responsibilities. They kept sweeping those rascals under the rug and walked away. And one day those problems piled up so high that they fused into the epitome of mankind's ignorance.
With one quick huff, a monster raised its head and breathed a thick, suffocating fog from the east. It was a curse! It circled the continents, creating pandemonium. The beast was ugly, but the situation it created was even uglier. It made the clock stop ticking. It made the world stop turning. Mankind was driven into isolation. People were now forced to be separated by walls and masks. Kids couldn't play at the park; families couldn't visit loved ones. Buying a drink had never been more complicated. It had burst Hugh's bubble. It had taken his freedom.
"How unfair!" Hugh exclaimed. He deemed himself a responsible, active member of society. Such undeserving punishment from this monster!
But so too thought the rest who were cooped in their shells. It hadn't dawned on Hugh Manny Ty that every choice to dodge his dilemmas was like adding another playing card to a flimsy pyramid stack—seconds away from collapsing. And now that it had finally crumbled, the consequences fell onto him all at once.
Hugh cried, "I wish I could do some good with these hands." And magically, it was granted.
Over the phone, his friends narrated a peculiar phenomenon. He heard that several people awoke to an odd sensation. Power coursed through their arms and gushed through their palms. Then, the strangest thing happened. They began to give! They gave slippers to the barefoot, meals to the hungry, and shelter to the infected. Right after he got off the phone, sparkly fairy dust formed around him. Suddenly, his knees fell to the floor and he clutched his chest. He felt his heart move again. The same magic began surging inside him too! Hugh began to give advice to his anxious pal, give compliments to the security guard, give his time to his family, and give thanks to those who risked their lives to fight the curse.
He rang up his neighbors speaking more lively than usual. And the magic began to spread. They told their friends and their neighbors—who told their friends and neighbors. It was contagious. The whole town joined in, and it wasn't long ‘til it spread to the next town. And the next region. And the next country. Soon enough, the rest of the world gained magical power too!
Instead of pointing fingers, people picked each other up. Instead of quarreling, they spent many a night contemplating on the self. The terror shrank, and the fog lifted. The monster grew weaker every time someone confronted their issues. The gears of the world were slowly beginning to grind again as they conquered their limitations.
Baffled by the success, Hugh hoped it would work again. He invoked once more, "I wish I could better myself."
Bippity-boppity-boo! And so, more odd behavior ensued. Several people felt their hearts swell with courage, their muscles tingle with ambition, and their spirits lift. And the strangest thing happened. They began doing things they had never done before! Some learned to whip up delectable treats. Some picked up a brush to paint vivid illustrations. Some took to their laptops to type up thought-provoking tales. Others found out they could speak different tongues if they tried. Hugh buried himself in books and learned more than he ever thought he could.
He had shed his indifference now that he had opened his eyes. Like an emerging superhero anticipating the ultimate battle, he looked the colossus straight in the eye. Hugh Manny Ty started to tackle his problems one by one!
All thanks to this newfound power gifted to the human race. Never had their vision been clearer, or their minds brighter, or their lips ever softened with thoughtful dialogue. Why didn't they have this before?
The kicker is that they did. It was in them the whole time. This was never a fairy tale. There was no magical force pulling the strings. They couldn't close their eyes and wish for better things with a flick of a wand. But if Hugh could do so one final time, he would say: “I wish I could rid the world of the curse.”
There truly was no fairy dust or secret incantation. But there was always faith. And there was always hope. That's all they ever had and that's all they ever needed. Of course anyone can dance; one just needs to try. Of course anyone can draw; one just needs to believe.
Of course we can rid the world of the curse; we just need to try and to believe. We conquered our limitations. We can do anything.
The curse is still a problem. A nasty, unsettling, despicable problem that continues to torment the whole planet. But problems are meant to be there. They reflect our choices, our environment, our character—the consequences of all these and how we choose to respond. They remind us of who we are, of where we started—someone like Hugh who lived in his bubble.
Step by step, like everyone else, he was finding his way around the curse. He wasn't going to run away or bicker about some teeny inconveniences because now he had faith, and he had hope. He finally understood. Problems are an intrinsic part of his life, and he will deal with them. Head on. Because it makes Hugh Manny Ty better than who he was once upon a time.
JULY 31, 2020