by Prajith Roy
“I used to be someone, but not anymore. Now, I walk the earth as an apparition forevermore. I am doomed to repeat this story, my story to anyone willing to listen.” Said a frail old man to a kid, who was wandering through the forest outside his village.
“Aah! Who are you?” asked the boy in terror. He was forewarned by his parents not go to that part of the jungle. The boy was curious to explore the dangerous jungle, but to his surprise, an old man was all he found.
“Do you want to listen to this story or not?” asked the old man while coughing profusely.
“Why not, sure. Go on old man, tell me the story.” Said the kid without a momentary thought. The boy was fond of stories, so much so that he didn’t care about knowing the identity of the orator.
“Alright! But you must not interrupt me while I tell the story.” Said the old man in a stern tone.
“But…What if I have a question to ask?” Asked the boy reluctantly.
“I do not have any answers for you. You must resolve your doubts yourself.” Said the old man. The boy sighed in agreement.
“Heed this as a cautionary tale or not, but your destiny is already bound.” said the old man and began to tell the story.
“It is said that, greatness can only be achieved by those who dare to wonder beyond reality. Destiny is more often than not cruel, but once in a millennium, people are born with the power to change the world. Those people don’t just live their lives, they become an idol for infinite generations to strive towards.
There must be something lying dormant inside power, something that has the power to corrupt the noblest thoughts and turn them into mindless evil; or maybe it’s something inside of us, I wonder. Time and time again, individuals have risen above the foul clutch of ambition, but they are none but a droplet inside the endless tides of history. In this new world, where all think that they are destined to be the bearers of change, what becomes of stability, what of peace. An idea as pure as it is, has and will continue to bring chaos. Would it not be better if we all were as we once were in the age of creation, uncorrupted by the ways of our new world.
There were days that I wished, I could stop thinking and enjoy the day as it was, but I was but a puppet tied to the front of the coming change. Whilst I looked upon the starlit sky in all its glory, I urged myself to retreat away from the plan, but the unquenchable ardor kept on burning within. As my heart yearned for serenity and bided me accept the world as it is, I said, no, if I lose the idea then I lose myself. I used to wonder, what becomes of the ones who can’t stop, what end might they meet? Now I know it to be to a dreadful end, that is the price of trying to change the world.
We can only bring about change, when we ourselves assimilate into the wings of change. Somewhere in the madness, I lost myself to the idea. I did things…things that I cannot speak of, truly horrible things, all the while I kept telling myself that it was all for the greater good, for a better tomorrow. Huh, but if one cannot even do the right thing today, then what hope does tomorrow have. After all, I was just another man with an impossible dream; not any man, but a man nonetheless.
I must have been… well, very young, about your age. On a day much like this one, my destiny was revealed to me, and with it my path. The only distinction between the right path and the wrong is that they are both different, the difference can only be known by the one who’s traveled both. Then, I was a naïve boy with no purpose in life, I was simply wandering around, till I saw it, I couldn’t fathom what it was or of its origin but I picked it up nonetheless. Once I touched, it latched onto me; it felt as if an endless sword was lodging into my head, I had no means to understand this newfound knowledge, but with time and focus I was able to decode my destiny. Even now, I am not sure whether I found it or it found me, but after that, I knew exactly what I had to do. Perhaps I could’ve forgotten about that day and went on to live a simple life, but I never had the luxury of choice or maybe I did and failed to realize that. The solemn truth is that I didn’t want to realize that I too had a choice in life, it was much easier that way. Once I found what I could be, there was no going back. With every step I took toward my glorious future, I began to lose myself.
A king… a single king ruling the whole wide world could only be construed as blasphemy, but it was not unheard of. The idea was around, but no king was worthy till then. Glory has always had a high price, and I was willing to pay with my life. As the first step, I had to leave everyone and everything I loved behind, and thus my journey began. I crossed seven seas, and lands of all men in search for my destiny. I fought countless wars under countless flags, in the name of justice. I was invincible in battle; I always believed that it was because of my true convictions and bravery. With every battle I won, my name became synonymous with greatness. My glory overshadowed the kings that I fought for; soon I had enough followers to fight any battle, against any king.
If someone had told me that I would have a castle and kingdom, I would have laughed at them. But sometimes our life becomes greater than our wildest fantasies, so I began to live in the paradise of my own making. Slowly yet steadily my kingdom grew, so did my ambition. People began to forget the skeletons that laid beneath my kingdom; I told them what they needed to hear to accept me as their king, and forget about the blood I spilled for my greed. They were oblivious to the bloodthirsty creature that was lurking underneath my starry eyes. It wasn’t that I didn’t care for them, they were my subjects; it’s just that I felt that their lives were insignificant in comparison with my own. Soon I started the preparations for the invasions, my patience had started to wear off. I convinced my people that it was all for their benefit, that they were meant to liberate the world from tyranny; hmm, if only they knew they were heeding the words of the man who wasn’t even the maker of his own thoughts. People from far and beyond came to kneel before me, they brought along all the knowledge of the tribes and kingdoms. All able-bodied men and women were allowed in my army; my persuasive words had gifed me the greatest army in the world, their numbers stretched as far as the eyes could see and as far as the mind could envision. Hence, I armed my men with the most menacing weapon in the world, an idea. On the day I began the conquest, the sun glowed brighter than it ever had. The arms of justice covered my body as my impenetrable armor.
I still remember the day, as if it was yesterday. I looked magnificent; at that moment I felt anything was within my reach, I believed the world would spread its soft petals to welcome me as its king, however, the reality was quite grim. Bloodshed was not foreign to me, I knew that the world would have to bathe in blood before I conquer it. From one kingdom to kingdom, my banner travelled with the stench of blood. Some yielded in fear, others died in vain fighting to preserve their honor. Kneeling men nor toppled heads made my eyes twitch. Wherever I went, death and destruction followed. Soon the arms of justice began to recede from me, and ambition took its rightful place. As I witnessed the horrors that I created, I told myself that it was only temporary, that the time for peace and happiness was after the wars. I learned to ignore the sufferings of the people, I could only see it as the necessary price for the future that I envisioned. My generals only followed my commands, not my dream; when they advised me against aggression and spoke to me about morality, I told them that I couldn’t afford morals. People addressed me as their liberator, while others saw the devil in my acts. It doesn’t take much to turn a valiant into a tyrant, and I was pacing toward becoming the very evil that I set out to extinguish. Years went on. Countless sieges and battles had been fought, I had almost conquered all that needed to be conquered. My coffers were overflowing with riches. One thing I knew I could count on was the greed of men; with money and men I was able to fight many wars at the same time. But just before I claimed my destiny, I found a moment of peace.
Love… when I found it, her; for the first time I felt peace. My heart told me that I should halt and live for happiness, and I did, at least for a while. When I looked upon the vast empire that I created, I saw a void; I felt it in myself too, but I kept telling myself that life cannot get any better than this. A few years felt like eons. While prosperity and unity mended my vast empire, I was crumbling from within. Inaction proved to be my personal purgatory; I began to suffocate in my own happiness. The love I felt wasn’t strong enough to fight the destiny. One last kingdom had to be conquered to reach the end, but I didn’t care for it anymore, I only wanted to rectify the horrors that was already done. My heart begged me to stay, but… I couldn’t, I was no longer the steerer of my actions. I gave my heart to her and told her that my love was with her yesterday, and will be by her side, today and forever; as I rode towards my final battle, I took comfort in knowing that the only good part of me was with her. hmm…. I wish I hadn’t left her for an empty dream.
There I was, standing at the precipice of my life. I along with my men engaged the enemy head-on, not having the high ground wasn’t a big issue as my pride. A smudge of overconfidence is all it takes to end everything; thinking the enemy is not as worthy as I, was always my greatest flaw. It was too late when I realized that we were lured into a trap with no exit. Screams and anguish were what I could see when I looked around. When the rival infantry broke through our formation, we were already halfway dead. In that chaos, time froze. All my memories made their way to my thoughts, soon I realized that I was the biggest fool in the world. There were so many moments that were blissful, if only I could’ve been stuck in them. I always knew the wretched idea would be my end, but the idea never told me to commit atrocities. It was me… I was the one who chose this path, maybe glory was never supposed to be grand, but subtle. I released my sword and with it my ambition. I looked up at the sunny sky, as an axe was entering my chest. I felt as if the axe was liberating me from the prison of my body, I was willing to embrace death with both my arms. Hmm… if only I could die, I long for the day I can finally die. But the sins of my past will never let me die… cruel as my present fate is, I deserve much worse.” After ending the story, the old man sighed and got up. Tears filled his lifeless eyes. The boy was shocked by the story, he was trying to gather his thoughts about the story’s authenticity.
“Old man, is this really your story? Were you really an emperor?” Asked the boy. All the while he kept telling himself that the story was a figment of the old man’s imagination.
“Hmm, that is not important. You must not do as I did, be better.” Said the old man while gently caressing the boy’s head. The boy was rightfully perplexed by the words. When the boy looked up, the old man was nowhere to be seen.
“Old man, where have you gone!” the boy began to search for the old man, but he found no trace of him. “What did you mean?” The boy whispered to himself.
Seeing that the sun was setting, the boy began his walk back home. As he was walking, he could think of nothing but the story. The pain and sorrow he heard in the old man’s voice made him believe that it was a real story, he felt sorry for the mysterious man. As he got nearer to his village, he saw something in the forest. There was a strange light emerging from the woods, he walked towards it. He got close enough to the glowing object, and began to look at it. He was curious and wanted to know what it was, so he picked it up; and thus, the cycle began again.
About the Author:
Prajith Roy is an emerging author with a deep passion for storytelling through various literary forms. Currently pursuing his degree in English Literature, he has already made a significant impact on the literary scene with his published works. Prajith’s diverse writing repertoire includes short stories, poems, and novels, each displaying his unique style and creative prowess.