Once upon a time far far away, so far away, in fact, that not even a tiny bit of sunlight or moonlight reached this land, there existed a secret kingdom. You’re probably wondering how the people of this land lived without light. Now you see they did have light, they had the glow that was emitted from the Castle of Light. This castle was covered in sparkles of every imaginable kind and colour. The source of this light was the queen’s great love for her people and her caring smile. This light covered all the land spreading only joy and prosperity.
But like every story this one has a dark side. No one had ever been inside the castle to see the queen because it was forbidden. But everyone knew that inside the castle was great darkness, pitch-black darkness, and that was how it had always been.
But then one day the pure light seemed to flicker and grow a little dimmer .The people thought nothing of it at first. But as days went on the light only grew dimmer and dimmer until it was almost pitch black. The town slowly grew into despair and famine. Everyone thought that their good queen had abandoned them and so they cursed her. Finally the people decided to go ask ‘the old woman who sees before’ how they could get their light back. After all she claimed to see parts of the future so if anyone could help it had to be her.
So they journeyed to the edge of the village where there stood a small cozy cottage and they knocked on the front door. An old woman opened up, “Yes I know why you’re here, you want the same thing as me, to get our light back but I can only tell you how. The future isn’t as clear to me as I would like it to be,” she said.
“Okay, just tell us how much you know.” A woman in the front replied.
“Very well, only he who is truly blind can bring back the light.”
The people were confused and started to mutter amongst themselves but they decided it was their only option and so the old blind man of the kingdom came up to the front “I will tr-”
“No not you, you are merely lacking sight, you are not truly blind,” the old woman stopped him.
“You” She pointed to a young man standing at the back of the crowd. “You will be the one who brings our light back,” she proclaimed. The crowd turned to face the young man she was pointing to. And as soon as they did they all protested in outrage for this young man was hated by every citizen of the kingdom. Why you ask, well you’ll find out soon enough. In fact one time the people were so fed up with him they even tried to have him drowned. Ever since, he had developed a nagging fear of drowning.
The young man rolled his eyes and yelled over the protesting crowd. “This is stupid, this solution isn’t even logical. I mean I’m not even blind. But I’ll go if only to prove this old hag wrong.”
Ignoring the fact that he called her an old hag, she said, “I will give you a good luck charm to help you on your quest”. She then walked up to him and handed him a green orange “Here is thy magical orange.”
“This is even more stupid than this quest but sure why not, let’s believe that oranges are lucky,” he said sarcastically as he slipped it in his pocket “Do not fail us young man our fate rests in your hands,” she said to him. He shook his head and then stormed off to the castle. “By trying to prove fate wrong he is only fulfilling his destiny.” The old woman chuckled to herself.
As the young man opened the doors to the castle he muttered to himself about how he was going to prove them all wrong and make them see that he was the only logical one. The castle doors creaked open and he was engulfed by the darkness. “This doesn't make any sense either, this castle is our light source and yet these walls seem like they’ve never been touched by light.”
Suddenly the room seemed to grow damp and cold. He noticed the feeling of water rising around his ankles. He felt the color drain from his face. Horrible memories of drowning and passing out underwater seemed to take over his thoughts. He panicked and started running blindly through the castle, his legs splashing through the water.
Without wanting to he thought about the day he almost drowned. He still had no recollection of what had happened after he passed out that day, all he remembered was the feeling of warmth surrounding him before he woke up again in his bedroom. At first he had thought the whole thing had been a dream but he could feel that his clothes and hair had still been slightly damp. “No matter what the case I won’t let it happen again” he had said that day.
When he finally stopped running he realized he was lost. That’s when he started to hear the voices. “You’ll never be right”. It was the old woman’s voice. “YOU! You’re the one behind all this?” he yelled. The voices didn’t reply; they only repeated the same thing over and over again. He thought he was going insane and started to whimper in fear. He hugged his body close for warmth and when he did he felt the lump in his pocket. THE ORANGE! He took it out, out of sheer hopelessness and to his surprise it looked like the orange was glowing slightly. The voices seemed to die down. “This doesn’t make any…” he stopped. He didn't want to jinx it. “Well…. I guess…being wrong wasn’t the worst thing in the world,” he thought to himself.
With newfound strength he started to walk again and finally came upon a room from which he heard a girl crying. He walked in only to find a girl who was translucent and slowly turning to ash crying on the floor. “This must be the queen.” He thought to himself. He walked up and knelt next to her. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“I… don’t have any more light left to give,” she sobbed. He was taken aback. “But how do we…” She stopped him “Do the people still think about me?” she asked looking up at him hopefully.
“No not really, they just want the light back,” he answered casually ignoring her feelings. She sobbed even louder and more of her turned to dust. “NO! I mean they think you abandoned them but… but…” he tried hastily to make it better but it wasn’t working. “You know how this castle works?” she sniffled. He shook his head “Well no.”
“You see, the castle amplifies a person’s love and happiness and turns it to light. But it comes at a price, the person’s happiness is sucked out of them and love needs to be renewed. I… didn’t want to ask people to renew the love I needed because this castle it’s not safe. Because inside these walls it doesn’t amplify love and happiness, it amplifies your greatest fears. Mine is… being forgotten and the castle made me think I needed to sacrifice my happiness to be remembered. But it was a trap. I forgot myself in the process and now when I’m gone … no one will remember me.” She sniffled again. “What… what’s your fear?” she asked.
“Drowning I guess,” he replied. He was still processing how all of this was highly illogical.
“Oh it’s you, you’re the boy I saved that day.” He was gobstruck. “Wait… it was you who saved me? But how? You don’t leave the castle.” He was completely and utterly confused now. “I don’t need to leave the castle to be with my people. You all lived in my light, that light is a part of me. I see my kingdom through my connection to the light and it was with this same light that I saved you,” she replied. His brain seemed to turn to mush. “But… why did you save me?”
“ Well because even though you might be a jerk who is completely oblivious to other people’s feelings, I still love you as I love all my people. I think... maybe if you were a bit nicer and a little less self obsessed it wouldn’t have happened in the first place.” She replied.
He didn’t know what to say. No one had ever done anything like that for him. Suddenly he realized what the old woman had meant when she had said that he was blind; he was blind to the feelings of others. He looked down again at the poor fading queen and decided he needed to save her, no matter what. “There must be some way we can save you,” he announced.
“Well, there is one way. But I couldn’t ask you to do it. It’s far too dangerous now that I’m already half gone,” she said. “No, tell me, we’ll do it together.”
“What’s the point, no one remembers me and they’ll never remember me,” she whined. “I’ll remember you, no matter what happens I won’t ever forget you. Please let me help you” He comforted her. It was a strange feeling for him, he’d never felt it before and he couldn’t describe it but it felt… nice.
“You don’t know how much that means to me.” She smiled and seemed to glow for a second. “Okay well there’s a ‘Pool of Selflessness’ on the other side of the castle. Only if someone truly cares about me will it heal me. So I can’t do it by myself. You’ll need to carry me and come into the water with me… that is only if you actually care about me” She explained. “Of course I actually care... but wait… I have to go…into the water?” he stuttered.
“I’m afraid so… look I know you’re scared but you have to trust me. It’s the only way.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Okay… okay I’ll do it.” He picked up her half faded body and followed her directions to the ‘Pool of Selflessness’.
He was surprised that he couldn’t hear the voices any more. “Did you hear any voices some time back?” he asked hesitantly as he walked. “You hear many voices in this castle, but each person will only hear their own fears coming true. It’s another one of the castle’s tricks. What did you hear?” she asked. “They were saying that… I was wrong.”
“Well it seems drowning isn’t your only fear. Do you still hear them?” she questioned curiously. “No they stopped a while back” he replied. “Interesting,” she said slowly.
“What? Why?” he asked, suddenly scared. “No, you see the voices only stop when you get over your fear,” she explained. “Oh well I guess I did,” he said sheepishly. He then went on to explain how he had reached there in the first place. When he had finished she smiled, making her glow again slightly. “That orange wasn’t magic or lucky in any way. In that moment you believed you could be wrong and you wanted to be wrong, you weren’t scared anymore. That’s what made the voices stop. Not the orange,” she said. “Oh…. Well I guess that makes more sense.” He smiled. But then he realized her light seemed to be growing dimmer at a much faster rate. “Right, no more talking. Save your strength,” he ordered. She complied and they continued on in silence.
When they finally reached the pool, she had almost faded completely. He saw the glint of water with the faint light she was emitting. He slowly walked towards it still carrying her. He was shaking by the time he finally put his feet in the water.
“Deeper, we need to go deeper,” she whispered. He groaned loudly but startedwading deeper into the pool. Finally he reached a point where his legs no longer touched the bottom. He stopped. “Trust me, you won’t drown.” He heard her sweet voice urging him on. He took a deep breath and immersed them both in the cold water. Then all he saw was bright light.
The next thing he knew he was waking up in a soft bed. “Had it all been a dream?” he wondered but then he looked around and realized he wasn’t in his own bedroom. In fact he couldn’t understand where he was at all. That’s when she walked in. At first he couldn’t recognize her but when he saw her smile he knew immediately, it was the queen. “You...you look different,” he stuttered.
“I feel different,” she replied. “Wait… are we in the castle?” he asked confused. She grinned. “Yes, yes we are.”
“But… there’s light,” he pointed out, still dazed. “Yes I know. Isn’t it wonderful?” She exclaimed and closed her eyes basking in the glow. She seemed to shine more brightly than he ever could have imagined was possible. “I don't understand...how…?” he said.
“Right, sorry. You see the Pool of Selflessness was much more powerful than I imagined. Well technically, you cared about me more than I ever thought anyone could. When you immersed yourself in the water, you got over your fear; you were completely pure; you had no more fears. The only feelings you had were… well… compassion and love. Also when you said you would never forget me my fear of being forgotten was also washed away. When both of us were together, the castle no longer needed to be dark, for the castle’s only purpose was to make a person the strongest they can be. And well when we’re together we are the strongest we can be,” she explained “And so the light’s returned,” he finished.
“Yes, brighter than before” She smiled. “But…. There is another thing; you can leave if you want. You are free to go. The light will not fade if you do choose to leave because I know you won’t forget me,” she said sadly. “No… why would I leave? I would rather stay with you than be outside with people who don’t care about me,” he said softly and she smiled a smile he would never forget. He had never felt this much emotion for a person before. He didn’t want it to go away, it was a feeling he didn’t want to lose. “But there is one person I need to go meet,” he said smiling a cheeky grin.
This time when he reached the cozy cottage on the edge of the village he was alone. He knocked on the door.
“Well it seems you have fulfilled your destiny,” the old woman said as she opened the door. “Yes, I just wanted to say thank you and give this back to you. I don’t need it anymore,” he said as he handed her the orange. “Ah yes thank you,” she replied, taking the orange. “I was regretting giving you my only orange,” she said as she started peeling and eating it.
He laughed and said ,“Yeah... I guess a banana would have done just as well.” She nodded, as her mouth was too full to give a reply.
With that he left back for the castle and from that day on the whole kingdom lived happily ever after.