The Children of Urla
What do you do when you have a limited amount of love to give?
In the town of Urla, mothers do not kiss their daughters and fathers do not kiss their sons. Generations have passed where a child grows up craving the softness of their parents' love and have been fearfully shunned instead.
Urla is not like the surrounding towns. In the surrounding towns, death is encoded into one's genes, one's fate, one's breath. But long before memory, an ancient ancestor of Urla looked to give his children a longer life, to reach for immortality. His sweet-wife had died in childbirth, and he longed to prevent that for his children. And so he was given a choice: to encode his children's death in love, or to encode it in laughter. Having watched his own sweet-wife die, blood spreading from her legs, he believed he could never love again and sought to live forever instead, to live to see his bloodline prosper. So he blessed his children with the ability to live until they had finished their god-given kisses.
What the clever death-god did not tell him was that his children would never know how many kisses they were born with, whether it was one or a thousand. And what the lovelorn ancestor forgot was that love comes in many different forms.
When the ancestor realised that he had been tricked, he distanced himself from his children. Generations passed before the ancestor grew lonely and longed for the cold space between the stars, the only place he might be returned to his love. And so he returned to find his grandchildren elderly, with no love for him in their hearts. The death-god had cunningly weaved his fate that he could only die should the love be returned. Citizens of Urla still claim he wanders the woods, his heart long turned to stone. Had he chosen laughter, his death would not have come sooner.
The parents of Urla long for children. They long to be loved in the way they once loved. But once their children come to them, they fear what happens if they love them back. Some are afraid that the first kiss they plant on their newborn's forehead will be their last, leaving their children in arms as cold as the space between stars. Some save all their kisses their whole lives just to tentatively ration them out for their children. Yet others are simply too drunk on the life of immortality to die yet and have children so that they can have a whisper of the kind of love they crave. They stay young and beautiful and loved, but hardly ever love.
Others refuse to save their kisses. They spend them all on strangers, content to live life to their fullest. Some try to find true love, hoping that their lover will have the same number of kisses permitted in their life and make each one deep and sweet, never wasting a single one. There are legends that if a pairing were true, their kisses would match up and they would be able to share one sweet love before dying in each other's arms.
People contend for the saddest stories. The girl who gave all her kisses to her first love, only to find her true love and had only one kiss to give to him. The baby whose babbles captured his mother's heart so much that she went to nuzzle him and as his tiny lips pressed against her cheek, his tiny heart gave one last flutter before he ceased to exist. Nobody kissed their babies for a generation after that story.
Philosophers contend with the legend of Urla, talking about the captives there as if they are no more than a thought experiment. Is it better to live your life full of the first love you can grasp or to wait for one that you are sure you can love? When you find the one you love, do you give your love willingly and spend your limited days together or withhold your love and hope that you can spend an eternity together?
The children of Urla grow up strange and cold, as children of lovelessness tend to do. They long for the love they did not get, the love they do not know how to give. Some claim that the children of Urla do not know how to love, that love must be taught. And so the unlucky couple with their unloving lovers in hopes of producing children who might teach them how to love. The lucky stay at a careful, chaste distance from their lovers, hoping to extend their loves and their lives by a few days. And like their ancestor, none of them would have died sooner should he have chosen laughter instead of love, for there is no more laughter than there is love in these unlucky and lucky couples.