Mortality Makes Us

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write a fairy tale about an outsider trying to fit in.... view prompt

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Adventure Fantasy Speculative

   “You know the cost, you sign this, young prince, you give up your mortality and your throne. They’ll believe you dead, but you will never die. You will live amongst your people, a commoner, a beggar.” 

   “Anything for my kingdom. My sister can take the throne, she is just as capable as I, but I cannot bear to see my people die.”

   “Very well.”

   I remember the day I said those words and signed those papers as if it were yesterday, but it’s been nearly three hundred years now. At the time I was so sure of myself, so sure there would be no flaw in this devil’s deal. I couldn’t bear to watch my kingdom fall so I wandered the towns as a beggar.

   The first pang of regret came some 20 years after the deal. I pushed through crowds, much thicker than usual, just trying to hear the announcement being made at the entrance of the palace I once called home. I hid my face with a hood, knowing it was still too soon for the people to have forgotten my face. No one can ever know of the deal I struck with the devil, so I must carry on in secret. 

   Rumors had spread about some grave announcement regarding the royal family, my family. I wanted to know with all my heart, but could hardly get close enough to hear with my beggar’s disguise. Those wearing more regal clothing were allowed towards the front, and even as I pressed forward others continued to push me back. It wasn’t until the crowd dispersed and the announcement had been made that I got to hear of it, and even then only through the whispered conversations of those passing by.

   “I can’t believe the queen’s mother is dead.” 

   “Yeah, her husband, you know, the old king, died so long ago, so I guess I knew it’d happen eventually but sometimes I just imagined her living forever.”

   “Such a kind woman.”

   I stepped back, taking a moment to digest the words that were said, before I ran to a nearby alleyway. Tears streamed down my face, my mother was dead and I didn’t get to speak to her once for the last two decades of her life. I reminded myself of the good though, that my kingdom still stood, unharmed. The illness that once stole the lives of thousands of my citizens no longer touched them, my kingdom still stood, safe, all thanks to the agreement. Who knows, perhaps the illness would’ve taken my mother and she wouldn’t have even gotten those twenty years; and so I did away with any regret that might have surfaced regarding my decision. 

   The second time I found sorrow in my ordeal was the death of my sister, occurring 30 years after the death of my mother. I watched as her throne was passed to her eldest, a son, my nephew whom I had never met. Nobody questioned whether or not he would be a good leader, being near 40 years in age he was certainly mature, and he had plenty of time to prepare. Perhaps if I was there in my old home, if I was with him I could’ve seen the nature of his heart, but alas, I was not.

   Hence the third blow made by the monster that is regret. I had to learn through announcements and whispers and papers that the new king murdered his two siblings, for fear of them taking his throne. A monster ruled over my kingdom, but I chose to ignore it, for the kingdom still stood. My family was gone and the monarch was cruel, but the kingdom still stood.

   The king was not capable of loving another, and died childless for it, and so I watched as ill-prepared cousins gained the crown. Unlike their predecessor, their hearts were so clearly in the right place, and I witnessed three generations of kind fools make their country a target. They were too giving, not nearly strong enough to last, and were eventually assassinated.

   Once a man has lived so many years, they all begin to blur together, and so they did for I afterwards. The next in line took the throne, then died, then all over again. War caused by those foolish cousins raged all the while, my once strong country now a known easy target, attacked by larger kingdoms and empires in want of our land. 

   History books were made, and my face was printed inside so I had to hide it, and still do even now, but I no longer care. Today I must watch the very thing I tried so hard to prevent. War fills the streets and some internal part of me knows what happens next. My kingdom that I love so much, that I traded the sweet luxury that is death for, will fall. Some bigger power will take it, and it will be just another conquered piece of land. 

   I do my best to avoid the weapons that come at me from all around, knowing that the crossfire might give me away. To be hit by bullets and never die would reveal too much, and terrify these poor people, though I don’t know why I care. 

   The white flags raise high in the air and I know we’ve lost, surrendered to save the few remaining soldiers and citizens. I can no longer shove away this horrible regret. It suffocates me, causing me to kneel over. The devil once told me I knew the cost, but I did not. I did not understand how grave of a decision I was making, but now I do. Now I wish I could’ve lived as I was meant to and die the same. It hurts to have witnessed so much irreversible pain, and I cannot make it stop. It all comes back to me at once, each member of my family dying without allowing me a goodbye, each incapable ruler that came after.

   I once signed away my sanity so that my kingdom may live, and here I am, watching it die, and yet, I must go on. I hide from death, blend in with society, and hate the endlessness.

April 10, 2021 03:56

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