"Once upon an eclipse, the moonlight shone so bright that the street lamps bowed down. The black river gleamed in royal glory. Fountains spurred in a way no one had ever known before." said the old queen.
"What's a fountain?” asked young Mimi, collecting shells from the debris.
It was another day in the valley. The neighborhood was simple: farmers, artisans, small business owners living peacefully. Things seldom changed here. No one became richer, or poorer. Governments, policies, world politics, sensex had little value here. Cinema, television was yet to enter these parts. As a result, one needed something for the long waking hours: stories. And Chanda, natively known as the old queen ensured there were many.
"A fountain is like dancing water, jumping from unknown faucets, said Chanda, with her large wrinkly eyes gleaming smilingly. It is the biggest spectacle: a musical fountain amidst the river.”
She continues, “A large fate visits the city: golden and silver and brass bangles, amulets. It was a lot of work, she sighed. But I arranged it. The strength of youth, you know. Would you like a ticket?"
"Yes", said Mimi grabbing the red maple leaf with zeal.
The ramshackle hut, cobbed webs and Chanda's unfinished wooden bed told another story. She was just very old, slowly losing her sight, and along with it, probably her mind. This at least was a general belief. There were some curious silver amulets, and a maroon velvet blanket to her name, but these were barely royal. A local flea vendor, must've sold them to her on his way to the city.
It was difficult to predict the era of Chanda's arrival to the valley or to answer if she ever had any family. For most residents, she was there since the beginning of time, just as old, and just as imaginative. Like an old Banyan tree, forever rooted to its site, her silver tresses, its low-lying branches, her unknown past, its deep-seated roots.
A bunch of girls came to visit the old queen later at dusk. God knows, she had but a few days left probably. Not just to take care of her, the girls found her presence amusing. She didn’t intrude much and seemed to keep an open mind. Much to the liking of the girls.
Neelam looked intently at her silver earrings, "Chanda tai, where did you get these? These markets do not have this quality." she asked.
"And this design, another girl looked”, slowly reaching her ears.
"You wouldn't know, many of you were not even born then. I had a million of these, we kept silver bars for charity. My kingdom loved me. And rightly so, seldom are queens so modest." said Chanda with pride dancing in her eyes.
"If it's all true, Arzoo retorted. Where did it all go? Your palace, your people, where?" Stop concocting stories now Tai, and stop giving these maple leaves to children as tickets. Have some fear, your days are almost over." The sudden exhortation silenced the air. It was not as though Chanda had not heard it before. But it was still difficult to hear.
"I want to rest. Mimi, can you take me to my house?" she said.
The old queen retired to her chambers. The dim light cast her shadow on the kuchha floor. The log of fire nearby was slowly dying out.
"I do not lie, you know. I was punished as a result of a sin."
“Against the silver half-moon, in the middle of the river, there is music and fountains. Fireworks and markets. Now, there is little I can do to prove myself. Except for these stories." she sighed. Her skin was cold and felt heavy. Her voice felt calm and sullen.
"I believe you tai", Mimi held her hand as the old Queen fell into an eternal sleep.
Days passed in the valley. They buried the old queen on the bank of the river. It was perhaps a bit dull after her. No more stories of the big fountain, the fireworks, no anecdotes of the good old days when silver was abundant. The old queen was dead.
Mimi felt emotional that day, the valley was taken by fierce winds. All around the village fell red maple leaves. They reminded her of Chanda. She decided it was time for a final farewell, and set for her river.
As she lay by the grave, something felt different. Mimi knew in her heart that Chanda was not a cheat. Despite the old rotten wood, the worn-out velvet and the dated silver, was a heart of a queen that genuinely hoped for collective prosperity. More than any truth, she was her friend!
An unfamiliar broke her reverie of thoughts, "Ma'am, there is a fete organized at the end of the river. A travel company has organized it, they say there will be an elaborate fountain between the river. And at the fete, the finest quality silver: amulets, ear rings, bangles. I would like to take you." said the man neatly dressed in a red and gold uniform.
"I may not be able to come. I have no money. Anyway, what is the fare?" sighed Mimi.
"A hundred of those maple leaves," he said.
Writer's Highway- As children, we grew up on stories. We heard them, played them in our heads and sometimes added our own words to them and made them our own. But with time we lost this ability to hear or tell stories. The world of stories, although fictitious, often whispers life's deepest and hidden truths to us. Now CitySpidey offers you a platform to rekindle the spirit of the imaginative writer in you. We invite all writers to pick up their pens and travel free through the highway of thought. We welcome original stories and poems that would be featured on our website. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Kindly keep 'Submission for Writer's Highway' as the subject of your email.