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Fiction Fantasy Bedtime

Five years ago the despondent, grim-faced prisoner was found guilty of treason, contesting a corrupt law that only favoured the rich, the greedy and the malicious. In his mind, the concept of power should have been divided equally amongst the town, to the joyous people, and dispensed like a wheel of cheese, for all the mouths in the village to feast upon uniformly, but it wasn’t meant to be. 


“You call yourself a king!? The people are starving, and you sit on your pompous throne fattened like a rotten boar! You’re a no good rat!” Cauldron shouted at his tribunal, handcuffed and already knowing his fate. And that was it, a foolish statement uttered grandiose, echoing throughout the halls for all to hear. A righteous king laughing victoriously as two armoured guards ushered the small gnome away from the castle grounds.  


As a consequence to his rebellion, the miniscule prisoner was reprimanded by a frightful king who deemed him a nuisance, a good-for-nothing peasant, sentencing him to a cramped life of misery inside a dark, lonely cell until death. 


I witnessed Cauldron with pity sitting in his barren imprisonment; moonlight shining onto the stone floor from the unfavourably pathetic, barred window, the rest of the room covered in a thick blanket of shadow. If I could free the gnome, I would but I had responsibilities, a family, a post as guard and a duty to the unruly king. 


To contest the laws of a self-proclaimed God would mean my own incarceration, and this thought would keep me up at night, stirring in an uncomfortable bed, circling around the premise that I might be a coward, or a survivor. I wasn’t certain, always doubtful as to which, but never showing it to anyone. I was secretly in favour of his opinion but I would never utter these confessing words, for fear that I would become him, and as I looked upon his pitiful state, I was resolute in my decision to keep quiet, and to never surrender to doubt or ill will against the governing land, the throne, and the king.  


Cauldron shivered, sitting there in a dingy, desolate corner, darkness overwhelming his ball-shaped, constricted frame; his knees huddled close to his rounded chin, his pointed hat dirty and foregone to better days. Next to his enormous head, bloodied, horizontal markings on the wall to collect the time, counting the days before he could roam free in the woods again; his long, overbearing nose protected from a burning sun by a canopy of leaves and branches, his toes rustling through dewy, morning grass, and laughing boisterously as gnomes do.  


His bare feet were now grotesque, unwashed and hairy, his toenails identical to his fingernails, filthy and uncut. He would continuously rock back and forth, his head hitting the back of the wall repeatedly, either to sooth his troubled mind, or to damage enough brain cells so that his unwanted, displeasing memories would vanish forever, to be replaced by nothing but an empty void, to be absent of thought; a prequel to death he concluded in such a constricted, discouraging state of being. 


Cauldron looked up, his eyes wearied and black as molasses, a haunted look exaggerating his expression. I looked at him with wonder and fright. Here was a gnome, who five years ago would energetically float through the village with bare feet like a preacher, always trying to find an opportunity to help, to redeem, to console, a gentle spirit trying to caress his own imaginings of a world he thought could exist. 


Some potential within urged him to look at everything as if through a lens, a microscope, and fix a wounded village, one soul at a time. For his extraordinary tiny size, his heart could be compared to a roaring wilder beast and everyone knew his name, shouting at Cauldron from the crowded streets, or by a lake while sauntering through the woods, merry, singing cheerful songs and aimless. 


But now, five years later, here he sits distraught like a vagabond whose only consolation is to eat dirt, and worms from a withered, wet ground. His broken spirit could be comparable to a candlelight sitting on a mantel, and outside an unforgiving gale, which remains unending, never allowing light to prosper; Cauldron the extinguished flame.   


He suddenly looked at me, his ghostly appearance looming an ominous glow. I however, peered into his eyes, and noticed a glint; something remained strong and impenetrable from far within him, similar to a faint jewel shining at the bottom of a muddied, darkened well, a light that nobody but Cauldron understood, a hopeful secret. 


He then spat onto the floor, and sniffed metallic air into his shrivelled, old lungs. His fingers trembled as they approached a blistered wall, nearing the horizontal markings. His sharp, fingernail dug into rough stone, crossing another line neighbouring a previous one, his movement methodical and filled with purpose; in order to record a moment in history, another solemn night lost to the passage of time.


The night outside was quiet but cheerful, crickets chirping a sweet song, or trying to find a mate for lovemaking. Either way, it sounded peaceful to a listener, to a foreign ear.  


Cauldron opened his mouth, as if to say something but suddenly thought against it. He spat onto the floor once more, unable to contain something vile in his gums, something similar to contempt or a salty glob of saliva. Then the gnome finally spoke to me, a brush of cold air filling his exasperated lungs. “You know a long time ago, I used to be a prince, and a charming one too. Can you believe that? You should…”


I looked at him confused, brow furrowed, unsure about how to respond to such a proclamation. “I have no reason not to…” I blurted out strangely. Cauldron then continued, uninterrupted; his memory lost in a distant, foregone world, while staring through the constricted steel bars.  


 “…And people used to say there goes Cauldron, what a fine prince that Cauldron, a fine fellow, and that used to make me laugh without end until my ribs hurt. And one day I couldn't take it anymore. So in order to cure my laughing spell I tried to sleep it off but when I woke, I was still laughing and I became troubled because nothing was funny, but there I was howling, and for no reason whatsoever, well none that I knew of, but that's what I did. People used to give me things for no reason at all, here you go Cauldron take this, and take that, you deserve this, and you especially deserve that! Cauldron my boy, here you go, for you, my gorgeous daughter so and so. Oh! Thank you very much sir, you're too kind and stupid I must say. And they would laugh cheerfully with good spirit, and so would I. And off I went with two beautiful maidens tied to both my arms like an overfed camel with two saddlebags, crossing a dessert without a light in the sky! And I became more disturbed by the day, always laughing, the world in my lap, and never knowing if I was having a good time or not. I took everything without question, and kept it like a miser and they celebrated me like a king. I became so fattened, and overjoyed with silly things, wealth and goodness that I suddenly became bored, and overwhelmed by the weight of it all. I stood on a mountaintop, and I looked down onto the lands, and it felt glorious, but only for a short while, until a cold wind swept at my feet, and I became weak from staring at a golden sun that never seemed to dim, and I gasped! For air to breathe! And then I wondered, what's the point? Maybe I should turn back? What's at the bottom I wonder? I've never been to such a place. And one day, that's what I did. I burrowed a hole and down I went from the mountainside. And everyday, I would ask myself what does the top of that mountain look like because I can't remember too well and that makes me laugh.”


Cauldron then laughed to himself, coughing immediately afterwards as if his body were unable to handle such an inappropriate, forgotten response. 


I then looked at him curiously, knowing his past well, brought up a peasant and living a quiet life with his wife Lola, and well known throughout the village as a storyteller, until the day of his imprisonment. I continued to press him, knowing that he might be delusional, but wanting him to finish nonetheless. “I don’t understand. You used to be a prince and you just threw it all away?”


“That’s right. I had quite enough, and my curiosity found the better of me.” 


“And what did your curiosity find?” I uttered, wanting a resolution.  


Cauldron coughed once again, his lungs struggling to cope with such confined conditions. “So far, nothing. But I think about that decision I made every day as I continue to burrow down, further and further, the light dimming, trying to find something, anything at all but I haven't found it yet.”


“And what are you going to do now?” I continued, feeding his fictitious wandering. 


“I'm going to keep searching, and burrow into that hole, to find light because I know it's down there. It'll come one day, as a revelation maybe, but until then this place will always seem funny to me, whether I know the reason, or I don't. And most of the time, I don't.”


“Cauldron, are you feeling alright?” I finally confessed. His retort confused me even further, his lips trembling as he recited a final poem.   


“A lonely fool sitting on a hill full of gold is a meaningless thing. A castle must be filled with a damsel of old, and laughter, a wonderful king.” 


He then turned towards the wall filled with markings. Suddenly, a look of shock overtook him, as if seeing a ghost. Staring at the wall, his disposition immediately changed, a rupture of laughter booming a chorus. Cauldron rolled onto the floor, holding his rounded belly, tears running down his cheeks.


His laughing spell quickly vanished into a coughing fit, his lungs tightening. I could then hear him struggling to breathe, gasping, his eyes growing wider and wider, filtering in and out of consciousness, his tongue sticking out from his teeth. He collapsed onto the ground, his eyes closing stiffly, his body drifting into an unending sleep. I suddenly panicked and rustled with my keys, trying to open the rusted, cellar lock but I knew it was useless. Cauldron was gone. 


Once inside the cell, peering down at his miniature body, I looked upon the prisoner and noticed on his face a bewildering expression, a dim smile as if lost in a pleasant dream. He wasn’t breathing, his chest immobile. 


Then, to my astonishment, I noticed the bloody markings on the wall had completely disappeared, much like the forgotten gnome as if he were never there to begin with.


--


William woke up from a strange dream, his sleepy, bloodshot eyes blurring his vision. He could still hear something ringing in his ears; the sound of muffled laughter. 


In front of him a magnificent room coming into focus, fit for a prince. Laying next to him, still lost in sleep, a beautiful, plump maiden snoring loudly, her mouth open and slightly drooling but nevertheless attractive. On his opposite side, another maiden, also snoring endearingly.


To his left, a balcony opened to the world, a soft wind rustling the purple curtain. In the distance beyond, a glorious mountain, a sun gleaming onto its snowy peaks. 



December 28, 2020 23:51

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8 comments

K. Antonio
15:33 Dec 30, 2020

I really enjoyed the moral of the story! That scene where the gnome offers a quick and final poem, but also counsel was great. I was wondering how you were going to incorporate the prompt, and using this dream-like scenario was very interesting and creative. The description of the gnome comparing him to candlelight was great, that poetic description was probably my favorite. This was such an enjoyable read!

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Philip Alexander
15:53 Dec 30, 2020

K. Antonio! You're the best, thanks.

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Anonymous 1
08:45 Jan 07, 2021

I guess I'll soon see your name in one of our local bookstore. Great writing👍👍

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Philip Alexander
15:13 Jan 07, 2021

Thanks!

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Gerry Hughes
16:22 Dec 29, 2020

Fun read. Illustrations are very creative.

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Philip Alexander
16:23 Dec 29, 2020

Thanks :)

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Andrée Bouchard
03:04 Dec 29, 2020

Love how you catch my attention from the start to the end. And love how I am surprised with how it ends. Your style of writing is exceptional. My imagination is constantly building the characters as I read.

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Philip Alexander
03:06 Dec 29, 2020

Thanks! ;)

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