A long, long time ago, deep in a forest,
there was a hidden village
where tiny blue humanlike creatures lived.
They called themselves the Smurfs.
And they were good.
No more than three apples tall, these Smurfs lived in peace, caring for each other and for all living things in the forest. Few humans had ever seen them, or even knew where their village was. But those who saw them knew how friendly they were with those taller than they were.
Then there was an evil wizard who came into the forest called Gargamel. Unlike the other humans the Smurfs had met, Gargamel hated them, and for years tried to destroy them, but each time he failed.
There had been many stories written about the Smurfs, the things they did, the places they went, the adventures they had. Where many of these stories came from, very few people know. But every story didn't always tell what really happened, and some of those stories never really happened at all.
But don't think that these Smurfs never existed just because half of what's told about them isn't true. They may exist now as fantasy, as myths, as legend, but...
And with that said, it's time to tell one of their stories.
As it really happened.
It really happened, as with most of their stories, during an age when fantasy and magic was as real and common as kingdoms and knights. Also as in most of their stories, the Smurfs were busy in their village doing their daily things: growing and gathering food, cooking, cleaning, building, repairing, creating, mending, playing, and most of the time talking with each other. Except that on this day, the Smurfs were busy setting up things for a party they were going to have. They celebrated many holidays as well as at least a hundred birthdays each year, which in this case this party happened to be. One Smurf was baking a giant cake, another was hanging banners and lanterns, and some others were wrapping up various kinds of gifts.
Smurfette, a female adult Smurf with long cascading blond hair and a simple flower dress, was walking around the village on this day with some younger male Smurfs and a young female, collectively called the Smurflings, when they noticed what the other Smurfs were doing. They had no idea that there was going to be a party that day, let alone a birthday party.
When she saw the Smurf wearing a baker's hat and an apron at work in his kitchen, she entered. "Say, Greedy, who are you smurfing that cake for?" she asked pleasantly.
"Wish it was for myself, Smurfette!" Greedy answered excitedly. "This is for Empath Smurf. It's his smurfday today!"
"Empath?" asked Smurfette, confused.
"Yep...the luckiest Smurf who's ever smurfed in this lifetime!" Greedy nodded.
"But who is Empath? And where is he?" she asked.
"Excuse me, Smurfette," Greedy interrupted. "I've got something in the oven that's smurfing out just about now! I'll smurf with you later." With that, he shooed her out of the kitchen, where the Smurflings waited for her.
She and the Smurflings tried to ask the other Smurfs who or where Empath is, but they were too busy with setting up for the party to answer her.
"Well, of all the nerve..." Smurfette huffed. "I didn't know how more important he is to them than I am!"
"Maybe we should ask Papa Smurf about Empath," said one of the Smurflings. "He isn't too busy today with anyone except Baby Smurf not to smurf us an answer."
Smurfette sighed. "Maybe we should."
"Okay, can we say 'Smurfette'?"
In a house set up like a laboratory, with shelves of books and a table full of test tubes and beakers, an older adult Smurf with a white beard and a red suit was busy with an infant Smurf, teaching him how to talk. The older Smurf was called Papa Smurf, for he was both the leader of the village and a father figure to all the other Smurfs for 150 of his 547 years of age
-- or so the stories say. His time is constantly divided between working in his laboratory as an alchemist and being with the other Smurfs, whether it's dealing with a problem, directing them in their duties, or just socializing. He is also a master sorcerer who uses his power to protect the Smurfs from danger, though his real strength comes from the power of his heart.
Papa Smurf saw Smurfette and the Smurflings waiting outside his door. "Yo, Pappy, can you please tell us who Empath is?" asked Sassette, the young Smurfling with orange hair and a pink jumper.
"That's Papa, not 'yo, Pappy'!" he gently reminded Sassette as he let her, Smurfette, and the other Smurflings inside. "I'm sorry that neither me nor the other Smurfs ever told you about him. You see, Empath is a very special Smurf because he was born with an ability called ESP -- extra-smurfory perception -- which allows him to smurf things with his mind that other Smurfs cannot."
"You mean like smurfing objects without even touching them?" asked Sassette.
"Or like smurfing into the future?" suggested Snappy, a Smurfling with a yellow shirt, who was easily excited by anything new to him.
"Can Empath read other Smurfs' minds?" questioned Slouchy, who wore a red shirt with a turned-around hat and was more laid-back in his approach.
"Empath can smurf all those things and maybe even more," Papa Smurf replied with a slight chuckle.
"But where is Empath?" Smurfette asked. "How come he isn't in the village where anyone can smurf him?"
Papa Smurf's smile faded. "Empath doesn't live in the village, Smurfette," he answered. "He hasn't lived here for years. Empath was raised by similar beings like us since he was born, called the Psyches. They possess the same abilities that Empath smurfs, so they can train him how to use these powers wisely and safely. However, the Psyches don't know anything about teaching him how to be a Smurf, so he is allowed to visit us for a year once every ten years."
"Doesn't Empath get lonely living with the Psyches for a long time?" asked Sassette.
"He probably does, Sassette, but he must live as a Psyche when he is in their village of Psychelia, which means he cannot ever smurf what he feels to anyone. I don't know how he can live like that, but I do have to respect their ways and so does he. This year he is supposed to be released from their care; I just hope their leader would still honor that wish." With that, he let out a heavy sigh.
"He must really be that special to you, Papa Smurf," Natural Smurf, a ragged-clothed Smurfling, suggested when he noticed a certain sadness in Papa Smurf's voice.
"He is special to all of us, Nat. He is still a Smurf, no matter how different he really is."
Psychelia, the village of the Psyches, was located far from the reaches of the forest where the Smurf Village existed. It was very different in its appearance. Polished stonelike structures, simple in design and arranged in a specific logical pattern around a larger towering structure, filled the area outside the trees, with polished stone walkways threading their way through the structures. It was a beauty that surpassed even the disordered quaintness of the mushroom cottages that made up the Smurf Village, yet everything looked mechanical and lifeless.
The Psyches, who looked more like humans than like Smurfs with their hair and Caucasian-colored skin, looked as every bit as lifeless as their surroundings. Wearing black bodysuits with silver cuffs on their wrists and ankles, the Psyches go through their daily routine of working and studying without much talking and with blank expressionless faces. To them, life is only work and no play, no joy, not even sorrow.
Empath was with a group of Psyches, clearing down trees with axes, using his mind power only to make sure the trees fall without landing on a Psyche. He was about to start cutting a felled tree into logs when his instructor approached him. "Empath Psyche, the Psyche Master commands your presence in his chamber immediately," he told Empath.
"This one acknowledges," Empath replied without any hint of emotion. He turned in his axe and headed straight for the towering structure where he knew the Psyche Master monitored everything the Psyches do.
The chamber in the tower was dark save for a rainbow-colored beam of light in the center, where a face that barely looked anything like a Psyche appeared. This was how the Psyche Master chose to appear to all, for he barely concerned himself with having to leave his chamber to attend to his Psyches.
“Empath Psyche, designation 1137-K, acknowledging his presence," the Smurf announced.
“Empath," the Psyche Master spoke in an omnipotent tone, "I believe the being you call Papa Smurf requires your presence in his village to celebrate your birthday, as he does every ten years. Therefore, I grant you permission to leave here for the Smurf Village immediately."
"This one acknowledges," Empath replied, with an eye-level bow.
"However," the Psyche Master continued, "this leave I grant you this time is permanent. Once you leave Psychelia, you are never to return here again."
Empath looked surprised. "Psyche Master, this one does not understand why you do not wish this one to return here. This one's training as a Psyche is not yet complete."
"As I see it, that will be all the training you'll have from us," the Psyche Master answered. "I will not continue to train a Psyche whose mind is clouded by feelings and ideas that do not belong to a true Psyche."
"But I am not a Psyche," Empath explained. "You know that I am a Smurf, and feelings are part of what being a Smurf is."
"Don't call yourself 'I' in front of me, Empath," the Psyche Master rumbled, shaking everything and Empath with his voice. "I know you are a Smurf, but you were raised a Psyche, and here in Psychelia you must behave like one. Papa Smurf should not be wasting your time trying to teach you about such trivial things as feelings."
"Wait a minute, Psyche Master," Empath shouted, feeling insulted. "Papa Smurf has been everything but trivial or a time-waster. He cares enough to be with his
little Smurfs, not above them all day like--"
"Silence yourself!" Psyche Master commanded. In that instant, Empath felt an incredible burst of pain in his head that made him fall to his knees.
"Now you will do as I say, Empath," he continued, with Empath still on the floor, feeling the pain. "You will leave for the Smurf Village immediately. You are never to return here again...ever. Is that acknowledged?"
"This one...acknowledges,...Psyche Master," Empath forced out from his lips. He had no choice but to obey.
The pain vanished, and as the cuffs on his wrists and ankles came off and clattered noisily on the floor, Empath picked himself up before leaving the Psyche Master's chamber.
Back in the house he shared with another Psyche, Empath changed from his black bodysuit to his white Smurf hat and pants. His housemate, Polaris, watched Empath pack his belongings. "This one sees that you are leaving for that other village again," Polaris said.
Empath nodded. "This time, this smurf will no longer be able to return here."
"Maybe it is time you need to be with your own people for more than a year," Polaris explained. "If only this one can go to this Smurf Village with you, this one would."
"This smurf understands," Empath answered. "There is nobody here this smurf would want to have with this smurf in my village than you. But you belong here, as this smurf belongs with my own people. This smurf will miss your presence."
"As this one will miss your presence here as well," Polaris replied as they looked at each other for one last time. “Farewell forever, fellow Empath.”
“Farewell forever, fellow Polaris,” Empath nodded.
Walking to the outer reaches of Psychelia where Papa Smurf sent a ride for him, Empath couldn't help thinking about living without Polaris, who was the only Psyche he made a friend with, and in time understood everything Empath told him about the Smurf Village. He was like Empath in that he really wanted to know what existed beyond the range of his own village. He wasn't afraid of the Psyche Master in wanting to know, either. But now they both had to go their own separate ways, and the next time Empath would see Polaris, he will know of nothing but what the Psyche Master would want him to know. Unfortunately there was nothing either of them could do about it. It was his time to go.
Instead of a crane waiting for Empath as usual, this time Handy was there, wearing flight goggles and riding a winged vehicle that looked familiar only in his thoughts.
“This is my latest invention, Empath -- a smurfplane," he called out over the noise of the propeller. "Not that you'd need something like this to fly, but since it's a long smurf to the village,..."
“It's an interesting invention, Handy!" Empath shouted back his compliment. "This smurf knew you'd someday find out how to fly."
"Hop in and smurf for yourself," Handy invited.
Empath did. This would be interesting, indeed.
Handy turned the smurfplane around and headed it down an empty stretch of land, causing the Psyches to flee from the oncoming vehicle. Slowly it lifted itself off the ground and circled away heading toward the Smurf Village.
Empath looked below to see Polaris waving him goodbye, then looked forward and relaxed in his seat as he and Handy climbed high over the mountains separating the Psyches from the Smurf forest.