THE TRUE NAME OF A STONE • by Andrey Pissantchev

I moved my tongue, swallowed, and then silently mouthed a few of the odd syllables in the name. I blew air out, inflating my cheeks. I was about as ready as I would ever be.

I looked at the stone. It was a slab about two-thirds my height and almost as tall as Ravzar. It was stood upright, close to one end of the forest clearing. Around us, birds sang their songs and ferns grew thick.

The old man gestured impatiently.

I took a deep breath, and finally spoke the stone’s True Name.

I waited for a moment. Not much happened. I glanced at Ravzar, who remained straight-faced. Had I mispronounced the name, he would’ve shouted at me.

So I spoke again, addressing the stone with its True Name once more, commanding it to move.

It did not. It remained stubbornly in place, much as it had before. I was about to try another time, louder, but I heard a choking sound from Ravzar.

He was red in the face, hunched over, tears making an appearance at the corners of his eyes. As he saw me, he couldn’t hold any longer. He burst out laughing, barks of mirth so powerful he doubled over.

“What?” I asked. “Did I make a mistake?”

He barely managed to shake his head. I felt embarrassment creep up the back of my neck. I was missing something.

“But I named the stone with its True Name, didn’t I? It should be listening to my commands, right?”

Ravzar was almost on the floor. The old branch he used as a walking stick was the only thing that kept him from keeling over. He took a few deep breaths, then collected himself enough to look at me and say:

“Joro. Throw yourself in the river.”

I frowned.

“What?! No. Why?”

Ravzar laughed again, this time losing his balance and falling onto the grass. Then, I understood.

I stayed there feeling stupid until Ravzar calmed down. He grabbed his stick and pushed himself upright.

“Hoo. Well, Joro, lad. That was fun,” he said, dabbing at his eyes with a frayed sleeve. “I’ll see you back at the house.”

“What’s the point of knowing the stone’s name if I can’t tell it what to do?” I asked.

Ravzar shrugged.

“What’s the point of knowing anyone’s name? You got the stone’s attention.”

“But the magic—”

“That is the magic, you pigeon-headed fool. If we met in the forest and you didn’t address me by my name, I wouldn’t give you the time of day. If you did have my name, you couldn’t get me to fly or swim but at least you could bore me with your ramblings for the next few minutes. It is a power you should not underestimate.”

He hobbled away, moving surprisingly fast as he always did. He raised his voice and spoke without turning back.

“You have the afternoon off. When you’re back I can teach you the True Name of the mop bucket.”

I watched him leave, holding my breath, blood pounding in my temples. It was a few minutes before I felt I could breathe normally again.

I looked at the stone next to me. It sat silent, impenetrable. Most of it was rough and jagged, but one side was flat, as if it had broken off from a larger layer of rock many years ago. I glanced around. There were other rocks in the meadow, but they were smaller and a noticeably different shade of colour. The stone in front of me must have travelled from afar.

So I called the stone by its True Name again, and spoke to it. I spoke of how I came from a far-away village myself. How Ravzar had taken me on as an apprentice and brought me all the way here to learn. How much I missed my family and how I sometimes wished Ravzar would stop treating me as a child.

And the stone listened.

Andrey Pissantchev is a Bulgarian writer living in Leeds, UK. His fiction has appeared in Idle Ink, Sirens Call Ezine and Tall Tale TV, among others. His first poem was recently printed in Spectral Realms No. 13.

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