Theandric Thursday : Princess And The Closed Room - Part 3
This is the third part of the story. Find the first two parts here and here. The first 'here' points to the first part. ;)
Note: This part is narrated from a third-person's point of view. Doing this from Joy's POV was my initial resolve, but it wasn't coming along as good as I wanted to, so I decided against it.
This is a loooooooooooooooooong post.
'Let me help you!'
'No, I 'm good!! I'll ...just...have to...jump a...little...higher...ahhh.'
'You'll get hurt. And what if someone sees you jumping like this?'
'What of it?'
'You're a Princess!'
'Oh, all the... better...Nobody...will say...anything..."oh fishes"...to the...Princess.'
'Here! Take my knife. It'll be easier with it.'
She waited out of pride, contemplating whether to take the knife or not, thinking she was definitely capable to do it by herself, but then she took the knife and this time swung it with her jump. A big orange-yellow mango fell down and I caught it.
'Nice knife! Great! Now let's eat,' she said radiating and extending her hand to return the knife.
'You like the knife?' I said taking it back
'Then you keep it. As a gift.' I said, giving it back.
'Really? But I don't have any use for a knife.'
'It'll come to use when you need it.'
As I said those last words, I felt a Deja-Vu of sorts. I had heard those same words somewhere earlier too, but where, was what I couldn't remember.
It was a sunny day when we, me and Princess, had gone out to check out the gardens and she had noticed a mango tree hanging with ripe mangoes, while she was still at the house. We had come back to the house after smothering our faces with mango pulp.
Joy felt a little tug at his heart when Abernathy, the pixie, came to his room and informed him that the Princess was back. He was delighted, but he was angry too. He hadn't forgotten the day when they had sat down by the edge of pond after a long day and he had asked her if she would leave them and go back someday and Lily had replied in full enthusiasm, that she would never want to leave him or Sheamus or anybody there. She had said that she wants to live there forever. Nor has he forgotten the day she left them.
He came out to see everyone sitting in a huddle around her, happy and chatty. She looked happy too, but as he noticed, not as much as before. Joy stood at a distance wondering how Leo had managed to get the Princess back after the way she left the house. After some time Leo stood and announced that 'Princess Lily' was back with a purpose and that she needed to go to the closed room to deal with some unfinished business. Of-course, everybody knew what that unfinished business was, there was something terribly wrong with that room, something in there which needed to be put an end to.
As Lily moved towards the top floor, the crowd followed her. Everyone wanted to see what was in there. But when Lily opened to door, all of them had to literally scamper around due to the blinding light that erupted from something in the tiny corner of the room. It hurt the very back of their head to open their eyes in any direction. Lily had to move away too, covering her eyes and for a moment she thought that that dream, that nightmare had come true. But then, from somewhere above, Joy came flying in and cutting through that bright light made a dash at that thing in the corner, making a slash through it with some kind of a sharp object.
The light stopped coming out of the thing and he noticed that a beautiful rug, the size of a flying carpet, slid to the floor. He had ripped the thing from center to the left edge and it lay lifeless on the floor. But Joy now stood transfixed by what he saw. He stayed there wide-eyed looking at it for some time and then, without a word to anyone, came out and flew away. He could not believe what he had just seen. It was practically impossible, yet it was there. In those few moments, when he was in the closed room, looking at the rug, a train of memories had come crashing down on him, of his home, of his loved ones, of his life before all this. He recalled where he had lived before coming here, in this kingdom. He recalled what his parents looked like and looking at that rug he recalled that the rug which was now lying there was actually, his rug. And it wasn't just another object, it had been one of his most prized and loved possessions.
Lily came out of her room and started walking quietly towards the nearest staircase. It was midnight and most of the house was asleep. Joy hadn't made an appearance after his sudden exit from the room earlier that day. As soon as he had left that morning, the rug had started mending itself automatically, fibre-by-fibre, thread-by-thread, until it was back to being perfect as new. Leo had then gone and come back with oil and matches. He had poured all of it on the rug, soaking it wet and dripping and had set fire to it. The monstrous flames which had risen high, right up to the roof, had gotten slowly reduced and put out eventually, leaving the rug completely unscathed. And no matter what one tried, it had stayed unharmed. Finally, it was decided that the room be left closed and alone until something is worked out. But Lily was going to the closed room now.
'You have a plan?' A voice came from behind and Lily spun around startled. She saw Leo sitting by the fountain near the staircase, in the dark.
'What? You gave me a heart attack! And wait, are you.. are you guarding my door?' Lily said incredulously.
'I am not that good! Your Majesty!!'
'No need for sarcasm. And you can go and sleep in your room. I am fine.' She started climbing back the stairs. Leo stood up and jogged after her.
'You didn't answer my question'
Lily gave a sigh. 'No, I don't have a plan.'
'Then I am coming with you.'
'No you're not.'
'Yes, I am!'
'No, you're not!' she turned and said, poking a finger at his chest.
'Then you're not going too. Remember what chief said? It isn't safe.'
'I know, and I am still going and you're not coming with me. Because you don't know how it is, nor does anybody else.'
'But I want to know, I want to see too what it shows you.'
'It doesn't work like that you dumb!'
Leo stopped and Lily turned around to see him staring at her, offended.
'Sorry...... Leo see, it is not something two people can go into together. All-right? It doesn't work like that. It's a dream, it can either be yours or it can be mine. We can't see each other’s dreams.'
Leo stayed silent for a moment then said, 'Well, then I am staying with you in the room. I'll wait while you're gone.'
'I doubt even that will work. It doesn't want anybody in there with me. You yourself saw a proof this morning.'
‘So? What should I do then? Play around in the pond with our little chief while you go in that dangerous place?'
'Leo, it is my kingdom, yeah I know what you'll say, but it still is. It is my doing that all this has happened and only I can make it right. It is not that you are not doing anything or contributing, I feel stronger because you are here. And knowing that you are still here, waiting, I will somehow know that I have to come back.'
Leo stood resigned. 'Okay,’ he said, ‘I'll wait for you outside the room. And I'm not moving from there.'
Lily smiled. 'You're stubborn,' she said.
They both moved towards the door again, and Leo asked on the way as to where did she exactly learn to speak like that. Like a grown up. And Lily replied that she was a Princess not for nothing. At the door, they wished good lucks to each other and hugged and in a minute, Lily was in.
The room was gloomier than ever before. It was apparent more than ever that Lily wasn't the only soul present in there and it was upset with Lily. She walked up to the window and after a while started speaking, to nobody and nothing in particular. She said that it was her friends who had forced her to open the door earlier that day and that she didn't want to do it at all. She said how she hated Joy and Leo for doing what they did today and how she had just now, very difficultly, managed to keep Leo out because she didn't want him to come into the room, her room. She said, standing there by the window and looking out, how she wanted to keep her little treasure only for herself. Then she broke down and kept saying sorry until the rug which was hovering near the roof in a corner came down and lay at her feet on the floor. It was hours before she went to sleep on the rug.
Lily was standing in some kind of a medieval village market. There were carts and makeshift shops selling fruits and vegetables and clothes. Kids were running around in the mud which nobody seemed to mind a bit. Women were going about with their shopping baskets, buying stuff, arguing with shopkeepers, often chatting with other women and telling their kids not to fool around. Lily was trying to know why or where she was when Joy came laughing and gasping from behind.
'Oh here you are! Lily, come let's go,' he said taking Lily's hand and pulling her after him.
'But, where are we going?' She was running, trying to keep up. He was laughing non-stop.
'Stu is following us, he's angry. I took his jar of pearls and ran and he came after me and fell down and got all wrapped in the mud,' he said and erupted again in a delirious laughter.
'Stuart, of-course. Quick, we should hide somewhere.'
They found an open barn just at the end of the market and went inside. After some time, when it was apparent that Stu has gone some other way, they came out and went to Joy's house on the moor. Joy's mother was in. They sat down on the table and talked and ate something Joy's mother had baked.
Later, when they were sitting in Joy's small room and he was showing her his own collection of pearls, she saw something rolled up in the corner.
'Oh yess,' Joy jumped down and fetched the rug.
'This,' he said spreading it on the bed, 'is my most loved gift ever. Father brought this when he visited the east. Stu is jealous that I got this and he didn't. And that is when he got an even better present. He got a cloak. It's so soft and so light that you wouldn't feel it was there. And it is so strong that it can withstand any pull or stretch.'
'But why would Stu get a present from your dad?'
'Why, isn't he his son too? If only, he's more eligible.'
'Well, you know why...’ he said and suddenly the surroundings around Lily started to dissolve quickly and within a moment, she was standing somewhere else.
It was the path that cut through the forest and connected the market to the moor that I found myself standing on. The rain was coming down hard in spite of the presence of shelter giving trees and making the whole road blotchy than ever. For some reason, I was not getting wet from the rain. There was nobody around except me and, as I noticed a low moan, an extremely frail and old man with shabby hair and beard, who was sitting by a tree, trying to rest. He was shivering and looked ill, and he was definitely in some kind of pain. I walked up to him and asked if I could help him with something, but he didn't reply. I asked again, but he didn't even look at me, as if I was not even present there.
Just then, I saw somebody running towards us from the moor's side. It was Joy and he was carrying something in his hand.
'Thank God you're here. Look at this man, I think he needs help,' I said. But he too didn't seem to notice me.
He just bent down, put something in front of the old man and started looking for something around the trees. He found some sturdy enough wooden sticks and using them and the cloth that he was carrying made a makeshift tent around the old man. He then poured out something hot in a bowl in front of him, soup maybe, and gave it to the old man to drink. After the man was fed and content, Joy promised that since he(the old man) couldn't come with him, Joy would leave and come back a little later with something else and left.
After a few hours, Joy came back with something more to eat and a dry pair of clothes. Rain too had almost stopped by then. The old man, after eating the food and taking the clothes, then spoke, 'Son, you have a very good soul. You have surely saved my life today. May Lord reward you with a gift deserving of your deeds.' And with that he bent ahead and touched Joy's head. A little glimmer of light appeared on Joy's forehead which he didn't notice.
The old man then reached into his equally shabby looking cloth bag and took out a knife and gave it too Joy. 'I don't have anything except this to give my thanks to you. Please keep it,' he said.
'But what use would a boy like me have for this?'
'Don't worry. It will come to use when you need it..' he said and smiled and though I was standing there, clearly invisible and maybe not even physically present at the place, this time he looked towards me, straight into my eyes.
The scene dissolved again.
This time, I was plunged straight in between an argument that was going on between Joy and Stu in Joy’s room. Stu was shouting at him.
'You're lying!! You're not telling me how you do it because you're afraid that I'll get better at it than you. Aren't you?'
'No! It's nothing like that. I seriously don't know how it happened. I didn't do anything, I was falling, how could I do anything while falling? It just happened all of its own.'
'NO!' Stu shouted, 'You're a liar. You must have something with you, an object, a magic stone, something. I know you have this secret.'
'I don't have! Al-right!! I fell down from the edge and then when I was about to be crushed, I started flying, automatically. I don't know how and from where did I get that power, but I flew and there was nothing that helped me to do that.'
It was evident that Joy was telling the truth and Stu knew that too, but he was just not ready to accept it.
'I know you. You always want to make me feel lesser to you,’ Stu said, ‘You're always the superior, the better. But not this time! I am going to get that power to fly no matter how or what. I am going to fly too, and then I'll be better than you.' He spat, and left Joy's room in anger. Joy looked heartbroken.
The scene dissolved and formed again. I was standing in the same room but there was something very different about it this time. It was filled with sadness. Joy was sitting on his bed with Stu's cloak in hand. Tears dropped from his eyes on it and rolled down right till the bottom without ever soaking in. I knew something bad had happened, but what and how? I couldn't talk to anyone; I couldn't walk up to Joy to make him stop crying. I went out and came back after I didn't find anything about the reason for this sadness. Stu wasn't there in the house. I stood there watching Joy cry quietly until that scene dissolved too.
Lily had been sleeping at something hard and cold. She woke up to find that she was surrounded by big stones placed in rows all around. It was a graveyard and she had been sleeping on a tombstone. She stood up and started roaming around, thinking what she was doing in a place like that and all alone. Maybe Joy was going to show up here as well. But she roamed around for long and he didn’t.
She looked over the boundary wall of the cemetery and saw something familiar. On the right of it was a forest and on the left, long open land. It was the cemetery, she remembered, that stood at the edge of the forest. She had seen it before. But there wasn't any light coming from the houses in the moor. In-fact, the houses, from what she could make out from there, looked eerily uninhabited. Right then, the sound of a leaf crunch came from behind and she spun around.
A small boy of 4 or 5 stood there behind her- quiet and calm. He observed Lily curiously, with his head slightly tilted to the right for a long time, then said, 'Hello'
'Umm...hello. I am Lily. Who are you?'
The boy didn't reply. Lily thought that the kid looked familiar but she couldn't place him.
'How come are you here, so late at night?' she asked.
The boy remained quiet. Then like he understood it late, he said, 'I live here,' quite stoically.
'Here? Err... don't you have a home?'
'What home?' he asked curiously.
'Home! Like one of those houses there,' she said, pointed towards the moor.
The boy looked in the way of her hand and said, 'Nobody lives there. It's empty.'
The boy was now busy picking up some small gravel stones. 'They left' he said as indifferently as it was nothing.
'And you live alone?'
'Yes!' The boy gave an innocent smile and started walking towards the center of the graveyard. He was starting to creep Lily out. She followed him, a little behind. He stopped near a grave and started to throw stones at it with his face growing to become angry.
'Hey hey, what are you doing?'
'I am punishing'
'Enemy?' She walked up to the grave in hurried steps to look at the headstone and was shocked beyond belief to see 'Joy Peter Brendan Littlebrown' written on it. It was Joy's grave! She stood there stunned for a long moment, then got her senses back and started shouting at the boy, 'Stop it! Stop it! What are doing stop!!' She took the stones out of his hand and threw them away.
'How can this be possible? How can this...' she was muttering now, shaking her hands, pacing around the grave. But she couldn't make out why or how has it happened. Joy was alive, outside this dream. She knew it. Then how could she be at his grave.
'Who are you?' she smacked at the kid with a shrill voice. He was sitting at another tombstone now, shaking his legs, sullen and restless.
'I was!!' he said, 'I was the rightful son, but he got all the good things. He got the most love, he got the best gifts, he got all the praises, he got that beautiful rug, it should have been me who got all that if he hadn't come to our house. Didn't you see, Lily Waters, in the vision just now, that it was always me who got the lesser and he, who got better. Huh?
He was the adopted and I, I was their real son. Then why did he get more love than me? Why did he get the power to fly, when all I got by jumping down the same cliff was death? Even God favoured him.'
He said vision instead of visions, that meant, Lily thought that the other two were something he wasn't showing her. Perhaps that’s why she wasn't part of those two. And the boy was young and innocent only by his appearance, there was something else altogether inside him, Lily thought. She was confused and disgusted at the same time when she ran his statements and malice a couple of times in her head.
'God favours good people. Everybody does. Perhaps you should have thought of it earlier, before you stupidly jumped over that cliff. And the boy who you call your enemy was crying when you died. He missed you. He loved you.'
'NO!!' screamed the kid, 'he did not. He didn't love me, nobody loved me. That unwanted weight, that boy, poked fun at me, teased me and hurt me. And when he got that flying power, he made my life living hell. He was the one responsible for my death. But he didn't succeed this time. Did he? I am still alive and powerful and he's lying dead.'
At this, Lily became absolutely furious, but she wanted to listen to him first. He went on.
'You know, why there's no one in those houses and why he's dead? Because I made it all happen. You don’t believe he’s dead, right? Well, that’s because you’re in the future. This is how it's going to be when you won't return to that kingdom. Everyone would wither and die because you would have left them alone. It took me a long time to find out how the magic of dream kingdoms worked. You leave your kingdom unhappy and it doesn't disappear, ever. It waits for you to come back and sometimes, like in your case, there are real living beings there, who depend on you for survival.’
He waited snarling and smiling like he was thinking about some great achievement.
‘I was the one who got him there, I was the one who wiped his memory so that he would also begin to believe that he was born/created there for the princess. I got inside that rug and brought you here the first time. And I got you to leave, so that they would suffer. I wanted him to suffer and die slowly.
But that friend of yours brought you back. Doesn't matter! He's not going to bring you back this time. You are trapped in here forever now, little Lily. Forever!'
Lily couldn't just believe what she was hearing. She held herself trying to form words, breathing deeply.
'I thought you could be argued with, Stu. But you can't. You are evil and what you have done can never be forgiven. You think you're gifted with powers? That you are alive while others are dead? No!! You are cursed and punished to be here, to be alone and lifeless in this abyss, to never get out of here. And you know what, you have brought down all this upon yourself and the best part is, you deserve all this! You deserve to be here!'
The boy started trembling with anger, his face grew red and started twitching and contorting. He rose into the air and suddenly, a cloak, his cloak, started appearing over his head and started covering him. Lily stumbled in surprise and in her effort to move back fell down. He had started to grow bigger and bigger inside that cloak which has turned to black. Monstrous shrieks started coming out from what he was transforming into.
Her mind was working furiously, Lily thought what to do next. She came here to find the secret of the rug and destroy it, but she never thought it would turn this ugly. She hadn't planned for any of this.
Stu had become just a cloaked figure now, with two bright yellow eyes gleaming from under the hood for a face. There were no hands or feet. She had no idea what she was going to do if he attacked. She had just the small knife Joy gifted, with her. 'Wait,' she thought, 'the knife. I have the knife, and the old man said it will come to use when I would need it.' She took out the knife and looked at the petite-ness of it.
Just as she had taken the knife out, the cloaked figure took out a huge sword from under the hood and plunged at her. 'There, I am dead,' she thought. She was already down on the ground and watching it dive at her, she crossed her face with both arms. Just as the sword was about to hit, the knife turned into a full-fledged shield and on contact, threw the attacker backwards. The hooded figure lost its balance and finding that opportunity, Lily leapt to her feet and driven by mixture of fury at its evil, desperation to defeat it and a hint of excitement even at holding a sword, which the knife had now turned into from the shield, made a run at it.
Before the hooded figure got any chance to stop the attack, Lily had jabbed the sword in its middle. It looked down at the place where Lily had driven in the sword and slowly, with its cloak, started to evaporate. For once, she couldn't believe that it had ended as easily, but as she saw the air clearing up, she felt relieved that it had ended for good. As soon as the whole mass of the hooded figure dissolved in the air, the scene around her also started to disappear and she found herself going back.
She woke up on the rug which felt softer than ever. From the window she saw that the dawn was just drawing, and making her feel good from inside. She felt free.
Lily came out to see Leo dozing off in the early morning attack of sleep. He had been resting by the door, and as she had opened it, he had fallen down only to leap up on his feet the next moment, alerted.
'That's how you wait for me? Sleeping on your bum,' she said making a face.
'No, I just... I was... was I sleeping?'
'Yes you were' she said and smacked his head.
'Oww. Watch you!! And did you destroy the rug? What happened in there? Even though you're dripping with victory show, has it ended really? Tell!'
'Calm down sleeping boy, Yes I did! Wait I'll tell you and Joy the whole story together,' she said smiling and they walked down the stairs chatting. The early risers in the house were just starting to appear. Both of them went straight to Joy's room.
Lily told both of them all what had happened in there. They listened attentively, Joy with a sad expression. After she finished telling and answering Leo's curious questions they went and Lily told the pixies to assemble all the, albeit few, inhabitants of her kingdom who did their job quickly. When all had come together, she told them, in short, what was there in the closed room and why all what happened, happened. She just was careful enough to cut out any part that linked Joy with the 'evil of the room'.
After assuring them that the evil has gone and there’s nothing to fear, she also told them that even though she loves being there, she has another life outside, with her parents and friends and that she can't stay forever. She told them how happy she was to be with them but it had to be her last day there and that she will be leaving the next morning. She said that after she would leave, they will all go someplace else and even though she didn't know exactly where, she was sure it would be a good place. And that they won't grow weak and miss her so much this time. That's how the magic of the kingdom works, she told them.
The next morning, Joy took an early leave from the house. He suspected that he won't be able to say Goodbye without getting emotional which he didn't want to get. He knew, perched on that high branch of one of the old trees in the field that soon, he was going to forget all what had happened in the past months. The last few months had been like that flight in the air where you go high up in the sky then fall down and just when you are about to hit the ground you go up again. They had been crazy. He looked around, at the forest, the pond the magnificent house and then his eyes got fixed at the straight tree lined path and at the two outlines that were moving towards the Iron Gate.
We were walking down a quiet suburb street, me and Lily. Dull-bland houses lined the alley on both sides. Strolling, we came around a bend and found ourselves in a familiar sort of place. It felt as if we had been there before but I couldn't make out why I felt like that. There was nothing extraordinary about the street and all the houses had a slight greyish tone to them. We strolled on, exploring.
P.S: Was this awesome or what? I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing. :D
P.P.S: This is not a short story though, so I take back any claim made by me at any point of this three part story saying it was.
P.P.S: This is not a short story though, so I take back any claim made by me at any point of this three part story saying it was.
This post was part of Theandric Thursday, a
fortnightly whenever-she-feels-like-posting feature hosted by Ashna Banga.
The dictionary definition of 'Theandric' is 'Relating to the joint agency of divine and human nature'.