This is my response. I dipped into the mythology of my own Shadow Forest to offer up a story about Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After, two of the higher powers which exist beyond the Door.
“This is for you.” Once Upon a Time offered the jar to Happily Ever After.
Happily Ever After gazed at its contents, clear to the eye through the pristine glass.
Sparkling blue waves lapped upon the gleaming expanse of a beach. Only the faintest hint of clouds marred the purity of the tranquil moment.
“Whose memory was this?” Happily Ever After attempted to keep his voice steady.
“Does it matter?” Once Upon a Time frowned. The gleam in his eye dimmed.
The clouds grew grayer within the jar. For a moment, the sand stirred. The earth beneath them trembled.
“It belonged to someone who didn’t appreciate this peaceful scene.” Once Upon a Time took a deep breath. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten it.”
The sands stilled with his attempt to quiet his temper, to stop it from shaking this moment in a jar, along with all the other moments in his thrall.
“Perhaps that someone will value such peace, now it’s been sacrificed.” Happily Ever After meant his words to be light, allowing them to placate his opposite.
Instead, they came out flat and somber.
A chilly breeze tickled at the air, not within the jar, but around the two shadow masters.
“You can’t value what you don’t remember.” Once Upon a Time released his breath, adding to the cold. “You don’t like my gift.”
“It’s beautiful,” Happily Ever After protested. He meant every word. The beach was a beautiful memory, which he could shape into a perfect ending.
Why did he feel like a thief for contemplating such a thing? It was his function, his title.
The sky within the glass darkened, turning the ocean gray.
“Precious.” Once Upon a Time moved forward to lay his hands against Happily Ever After’s temples. “You’re troubled by where our materials come from.”
He leaned his forehead to press it against his companion’s.
“Don’t ever doubt us,” Once Upon a Time whispered against his skin. “We’re doing good work here.” His lips were inches away from Happily Ever After’s. “We give the shadows something more than endless drifting and hunger.”
“By forcing them in a shape of our design,” Happily Ever After murmured into that inviting mouth.
He looked up into his opposite’s eyes. Once Upon a Time’s were a glacier reflection of Happily Ever After’s own. A mingled blend of colors radiated and swirled within his irises; blue, purple, red, gold, silver, and green. Only Once Upon a Time’s were paler, chillier versions of those hues; ice blue, lavender, pink, cream, crystal, and lime.
The colors reflected the man, if one could call Once Upon a Time a man. He took on male form. When the two shadow master coupled it was as males. Sometimes. Many times.
Happily Ever After couldn’t remember them all. Sometimes, they blurred, only to return in flashbacks of eroticism which made the earth pulse and the wind sigh.
More memorable were the times when they let go of their physical forms to take to the wind. They’d rush through the Shadow Forest together, shaking its leaves, kindling excitement in those who walked beneath them.
Happily Ever After wasn’t sure why their cauldon of creation took on the form of a forest. Perhaps it reflected Once Upon a Time’s tastes, his idea of beginnings.
His companion loved beginnings, along with the role he played in them.
If only Happily Ever After loved endings as much. They were quite different than beginnings. They were terrible.
Happily Ever After tried not to shudder at the thought of what truly lay at every ending. Perhaps something better lay beyond, but this meant getting past the true end.
It was better to stop before, to leave his creations on a happy note. Even if doing so made Happily Ever After a liar.
“Everyone here is hungrier because of us.” The words escaped from Happily Ever After before he could think better of them.
Once Upon a Time recoiled, dropping his hands from Happily Ever After’s flesh.
“Every living thing must eat.” Once Upon a Time’s lower lip trembled. “Life consumed lives in order to exist.”
“It still makes me sad.” Happily Ever After let his gaze drift to the jar.
“Put your sadness to good use.” All softness left Once Upon a Time’s face and voice. “Create something beautiful for someone who wants it.”
Once Upon a Time stood up, straight, growing a little taller. His shadow fell over Happily Ever After, chilling his opposite, leaving him tiny and small.
“It saddens me how little you appreciate your master’s gift.” Once Upon a Time fixed Happily Ever After with a stern, patriarch’s gaze. “You don’t appreciate the trouble I went to in providing you with such beautiful building material.”
“Forgive me, Once Upon a Time.” Happily Ever After cast his eyes down in submissive respect, lowering his eyelashes to hide any rebellious thoughts which might reveal themselves. “Thank you for your gift.”
“Be of good cheer, my beauty.” Once Upon a Time reached out to touch Happily Ever After’s cheek. “It’s clear to me you’re growing empty. Once I fill you, you’ll scream with the ecstacy of pure creativity.” He winked. “Regret shall leave you in peace when I do.”
Happily Ever After lifted his head and managed to smile.
Once Upon a Time would be as good as his word. Once he coupled with Happily Ever After, the other would be overflowing with ideas breathed and released within him. Bursting with strength, he’d craft ending after ending, filled with joy, lust, and anticipation, leading his creations to feel the tug of a hopeful future.
It wouldn’t last, though. It never lasted.