The Lord of Light (Esingle)
Having brushed all the sand from his back, Lilian began abstractedly to scratch doodles with her fingernail on his shoulder. “You don’t know,” she said, “how repulsive it is to have all those ninnies calling at me in the street. You never heard some of the things they say. But you. . .” She paused, on the brink of declaring something, but then thought better and sat mute for a moment. Suddenly, with a fierce intensity, she exploded: “I hate it!” She withdrew her hand, folded her arms around her knees, and gazed red-eyed, angrily, at the horizon. There were the makings of a sunset in the sky. The girl reached back and impatiently pulled the confining strap from her hair, so that it blew out and around her in the breeze. She got up and walked pensively away, down to the breakers, watching her long brown toes dig into the beach. — Joseph Campbell, “The Lord of Light” from Mythic Imagination: Collected Short Fiction
In this short story, set just after the American entry into World War II, Joseph Campbell explores a theme he’d study for many years as an academic: a young person’s encounter with the ineffable. The very human protagonist receives a call to adventure, comes into contact with a transcendent presence, and has to choose whether she will be transformed or destroyed by the experience.
This short story and six more are collected in Joseph Campbell’s Mythic Imagination: Collected Short Fiction