The Most Beautiful Thing

Submitted into Contest #43 in response to: Write a story about transformation.... view prompt


Fantasy Kids Adventure


She paused by the door. “Yes dear?”

The little boy hesitated in the dark.

“You want to hear it?”

The gentle rustling of bed sheets indicated her son was nodding his head.

“Alright,” she said and turned the lights back on. Her four year old was tucked neatly in bed, covered with a blanket full of cars and planes. Only his tiny head and the tips of his fingers protruded out from the safety of the bed covers.

As his mother walked back to the bed, the boy sat up and a wide smile spread on his face. He pulled his legs closer so she could sit at the edge of the bed next to him.

“The most beautiful thing?” she asked, taking a book off the shelf and sitting next to him.

The boy nodded with excitement.

“Fine,” his mother smiled. “What was I thinking, forgetting to read it to you tonight? I’m a looney!” She tickled him on the tummy and he tucked away deeper into the blanket for defense, laughing.

Mom then opened up the familiar book and looked at her son with a playful grin. “You better be fast asleep after this one, or I’ll read you a monster book next time!”

The boy giggled. “No you wouldn’t!”

He was right. She would never do that.

She cleared her throat and turned the book to the first page. “Ready?”

Her son nodded, eyes wide and body completely still, anticipating the story.

“Once upon a time,” his mother began with a voice of a storyteller, “there lived a king, in a far away land. So vast his riches were, that all other kingdoms’s kings and queens combined, could not surpass his own. He was the richest man in the whole wide world and many claimed that he could even buy the world itself, if god were to place it for sale.

His palace was the closest thing to a paradise on Earth. Large enough to run a marathon through it’s halls and never cross the same room twice! And filled with artifacts and beautiful objects, gathered from all across the lands, for the king was a passionate art collector. His palace was filled with such beauty that simple men, who had the divine privilege of seeing it, believed they had died and went to heaven.

But, in all his riches, the king was not happy. With an indoor pool the size of a small lake, he rarely swam in it. With large and lush green gardens, filled with the sweet scent of colorful flowers and the cool shade of exotic trees, he rarely took a walk under the branches. With a spacious circus, the biggest in the whole world and crafted with such skill and mastery that it dwarfed even the cathedrals, he rarely rode in his chariot or attended the races as a spectator, which seemed to thrill so many others.

No, the king was not happy. He gathered countless pieces of art, of beauty and of mastery, but none could seem to keep his spirits high. None seemed beautiful enough to him, to fulfil him. There was a deep need in him, that the king craved to be filled. ‘If I can only find something beautiful enough,’ he often said, ‘then I’ll be happy.’

And so his search continued for years and years. Being the richest man in the world meant he often received gifts and those things that he did not get for free, he bought. He bought even things that were not for sale or that people said ‘he couldn’t put a price on them’. He bought them all. He bought himself a wife, many of them. He bought himself friends. He even bought a new set of parents. But one thing he could never seem to be able to buy, was happiness.

Those who tried selling the king happiness, by means of witchcraft or shamanry, quickly realized the king was no fool. He did not believe in magic and did not fall for trickery. The only thing he fell for, was art.

And so one day, the king had an idea. It thrilled him so much that he jumped out of his enormous bed and climbed over all his seventeen wives, to get to the bell and call his personal attendants. And before the sun even rose, the king’s decree was already being distributed throughout the palace, then the city, then the kingdom, and then the world.

The king was calling out for the greatest artists, musicians, painters, composers, writers, poets, sculptists, weavers, smiths, tinkers, architects, masons, inventors, imaginatives and all others who thought they had something of beauty to give or to create. He sent word for these people to gather on his court for there he will give them the task of a lifetime.

Surely enough, the king’s palace was soon filled with people from all over the world. Everyone came and then some. There was not a place or time in history when more diverse cultures, races and religions of man combined in one place at one time. Besides the artists and inventors, there came the common folk as well, farmers and carpenters, bakers and fishermen, all hoping to improve their own fortunes with the promise of the king’s big task.

And when the palace was filled, when every room, nook and cranny was occupied by guests, the king addressed all who gathered to give his task. He said: ‘You have a year’s time to present to me the Most Beautiful Thing that there can be. It must be so beautiful that God himself will come down from heavens to appreciate it. The one who can accomplish this will be rewarded beyond their dreams.’

The king was very pleased with his plan. To him, it seemed like a fool proof plan. And the artists, the guests of the king, immediately went to work. Such a task was suspected, but when it finally came, it was met with renewed excitement and enthusiasm. For what more can a creative ask for, or any other individual for that matter, than to produce the most beautiful thing he or she is capable of?

And for a year, they worked. The palace turned into a construction site, a workshop and an art gallery all at once. The king had to move into his other palace, for he couldn’t sleep at night, due to the musicians composing, the sculptures hammering away and the inventors debating feverishly. 

Some worked alone, others worked in pairs or in groups. There were those who only talked and planed of work, but couldn’t produce anything, as the pressure was too great. There were even those who stole ideas, and whole pieces, from others, to present them as their own. But mostly, people created like never before. For that year, the king’s palace turned into a place of such creativity and ingenuity, the likes of which the world has never seen before, and would never see again.

And then, the year was over. For some, it felt like merely a month has passed, for others the time dragged on as eternity. But when exactly one year passed, to the hour, the king came back to the palace and demanded all work to stop. Some haven’t finished yet and some only now got the inspiration, but it was no use. The king had them thrown out of the palace, if they didn’t obey. So, with everything done, the king ordered for the artists to present their creations, one at a time.

It took a whole month for the king to go over everything that was created. And what a heavenly delight it all was! There were paintings so astounding that one could stare at them for days and still not take in the entirety of their beauty! There were musical compositions of such grandness that it felt like a choir of angels descended down to play and sing! There were statues of stone, of metal, gold and jewels, that were so lifelike one kept looking if they’d move! There were tapestries, carpets, vases and even a whole temple built in the king’s gardens. There were dance performances, acrobatics art, masterful novels and books of thought provoking philosophy. There were glass sculptures and garnished foods. Animals were brought and handsome people, there were acts and objects that words cannot describe in full.

And the king enjoyed most of them. Some were utter rubbish, feeble attempts to fool such a grand art admirer as the king, but most were great creations. Many of them were true masterpieces. Some even pure genius.

And while the people who saw these creations were swept away by their beauty and could not stop admiring them, the king eventually got bored of each and every one. None could hold his attention for long. None could make him happy. None was beautiful enough.

One by one, all the artists were asked to leave the palace, free to take their art with them, as it was not the Most Beautiful Thing. And many took it, to try to sell it elsewhere. Though some were so upset they destroyed their art and went mad with the king’s rejection, having poured their entire souls into their work.

The king waved a dismissive hand to all of them. At the end, when the last golden statue was taken out of the throne room, there remained only one man with an art exhibit to present. The king, bored and miserable, first took him for a foolish beggar, for the man’s clothes were simple and dirty. 

‘I am a monk,’ the man said, noticing the king’s reaction to his clothes. ‘Here is my gift to you, your majesty.’

The king raised an eyebrow at the cart this monk pulled behind. It was small and had a plank-like object standing up-right on it, covered with a brown tarp. It looked like a concealed canvas.

‘Very well,’ said the king and, wanting to get this whole grueling contest which brought him only more misery done with, walked closer to the monk and his cart. With a cup of wine in one hand and an apple in the other, the king nodded.

The monk pulled the tarp off his exhibit.

Underneath, there was a mirror.

The king’s face showed his confusion clearly. ‘This is the Most Beautiful Thing?’ he asked, expecting it to at least be a painting. ‘It’s just a mirror.’ And it was, just a regular plain mirror.

‘The beauty is not the mirror,’ the monk said, ‘but what is inside the mirror.’

The king frowned. He stepped closer.

Are there diamonds in the glass, he thought.

He stepped even closer, until he was only a few inches away.

He looked hard and close, squinting his eyes.

And then, he noticed.

His cup fell to the floor, wine spilling at his fine clothes. His jaw began to tremble, pieces of chewed apple trailing at the corner of his lip.

His eyes watered and his whole body shook.

There was a man in the mirror, looking back at him. He wore fine clothes and even though he was losing some hair and gaining a belly, he didn’t look that bad. In fact, now that he thought about it, the man in the mirror was beautiful. It was him.

The king fell to his knees and wept. He wept like a small child, hurt and scared. He wept for an hour and kept weeping. None of his attendants knew what was wrong or how they could help him. The guards locked the monk in a prison, thinking he somehow hurt the king.

And it took five days and five nights for the king to finally stop weeping. On the morning of the sixth day, he called forth the monk. And when the man came before him, the king fell on his knees, fresh tears running in streams from his red puffy face.

The king wanted to shower the monk with gold and riches, titles and luxuries, women and mansions, but the monk simply smiled and gently shook his head. He did take one silver coin, as much as the mirror was worth, and thanked the king. Before he left, he said: ‘You were beautiful even before you looked in that mirror. The mirror is not magical, but you are.’

Then the monk left, pulling his empty cart behind, carrying a single silver coin.

And from that day onward, the king was a changed man. He started smiling, laughing even. Cracking jokes with people and being kind to them. He gave away all his extravagant possessions, as he realized they brought him nothing but misery. He was happy enough with what he saw in that old mirror every morning, so he didn’t need anything else. But not in the sense that he became narcissistic, no. He simply realised the beauty within him.

The king even gave up the throne to his eldest son and left the palace. He went out into the world, living a simple life as a craftsman, polishing and selling mirrors. 

He was no longer a king. But never before, was he so loved by the people.

And never before, was he so loved by himself.”

The mother kissed her son’s drowsy forehead. “Good night, my love,” she whispered under her breath. The boy’s eyes closed and she smiled. She gently closed the book and put it back on the shelf, then tucked the blankets over her son’s exposed shoulders.

After she turned off the light she paused by the door and whispered to her son, sending him a message to guide his dreams.

“You are beautiful and I love you. Don’t wait for life to have to show you a mirror to realize that.”

Then she left the room.

The boy smiled in bed and fell into a dream. A dream where he was walking up to unhappy people and giving them small mirrors.

May 25, 2020 13:13

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Elizabeth Sacks
06:24 May 31, 2020

This is a beautiful, well told story. I have to agree with other commenters. I could hear the mother reading it, and it just felt like a fairytale that has been around forever. I hope you win! Good luck, even if you don't need it!


Harken Void
07:49 May 31, 2020

Thank you Elizabeth, I am flattered :)


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A. Y. R
19:19 May 25, 2020

So did you present this to the king? Because this was one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read! I especially loved the style you wrote this in, I felt like I could hear the mother's voice telling this epic narrative. What you've created here feels like a timeless story that's existed alongside tales like The King's new clothes or stone of Aesop's fables. Though it does feel a bit hypocritical of me to point out there's a few grammar mistake with tenses here and there, but it doesn't make it any less of a truly beautiful story!


Harken Void
19:38 May 25, 2020

Haha I see what you did there :D But it was actually the king who shared this story with me and said it was ok for me to post it here (though if it wins I do owe him some royalties). I was going for that bedtime story feel with something simple yet carrying a deep lesson for life and am very happy, and humbled, that you see it alongside the classics. I actually made myself shed some tears at the end so that was funny. Ah, thanks for pointing those out! I got grammarly recently, but since I'm not used to it I automatically uploaded the stor...


Kelechi Nwokoma
21:32 Jun 05, 2020

I also got grammarly recently😂


Harken Void
22:21 Jun 05, 2020

It's a pretty cool tool... if one remembers to use it xD


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Kelechi Nwokoma
21:34 Jun 05, 2020

Harken, once again your story is really incredible. I enjoyed your descriptions, and noticed a lot of comedy in it. I also agree with the comments that this story can stand alongside those famous classic fables we were told (or we read) when we were kids. From your story, I was able to see the concept of how fables do a lot of telling, and you told your story incredibly well. You're a great writer, and I hope to read more from you. Keep it up!


Harken Void
22:29 Jun 05, 2020

Thank you, Kelechi, you are very kind :) In this case, 'telling' worked since it was a fable and the boy's mother was reading him (telling him) a story. If I removed the scene with the boy and his mother, then the whole thing would seem a little stale, as there would be no context in which the story was told. You're no short of awesome yourself! I only read one of your stories so far, but I hope to find the time for more.


Kelechi Nwokoma
22:43 Jun 05, 2020

Thank you so much for the compliment. The rest of my stories might not be as good as the last one you read, because after each story I write, I find better way to narrate it, so I use what I learn in my next story, and the cycle continues like that. So you'll find out the best I have is the latest one, and the least captivating is my first one. Again, I'm a little bit new to writing, so I feel these changes are necessary for me. Once again, great job writing!


Harken Void
08:24 Jun 06, 2020

I get what you're saying - it's the same with me. My latest stories tend to be 'better' than my earlier ones, though you will find gems in my old work as well as dung in my newest haha. Practice, practice, practice. While it can't really make you perfect, as the saying goes, since there is no such thing as perfection, it can make you damn good!


Kelechi Nwokoma
09:41 Jun 06, 2020

Yes. That is true and very insightful. That's the beauty of writing - there really isn't any rule to it, and someone might find potential in a work you felt wasn't too great.


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Roshna Rusiniya
03:16 Jun 01, 2020

This is a beautiful story. I loved it!


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L. M.
01:32 May 27, 2020

That is such a clever idea! Nice story.


Harken Void
07:54 May 27, 2020

Thank you Lara :)


L. M.
01:10 May 28, 2020

You're welcome!


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