Last week I shared about my short story project, trying a different writing prompt each day and trying to complete a short story or flash fiction piece that day. I planned to try it for seven days, and wound up writing eight short stories in nine days…one of them 9,000 words and split over two days as a consequence!
Today I’m sharing Story #2, from Day 2. I call this one “The Once and Never King,” and it’s the only one that didn’t come from a writing prompt. There’s a certain song that has fascinated me for years because it hints at a wonderful story–but it’s not based on a specific legend, piece of history, or anything else. So I finally wrote the story myself. I’d rather not tell you the song, to see if anyone can guess at it!
They walked slowly together down one of the long boulevards branching out from the market, into the narrower, smaller streets that crowded together by the river. One friend, then another, joined them as they went, falling into step as they all made their way towards home, done with whatever tasks they did in the bustling city to stay alive another day.
They were a kind of army, he thought sometimes. An invisible, disregarded army, sweeping away dirt, digging ditches, chopping wood, performing a hundred, a thousand other tiny, menial tasks. Each one insignificant, all together necessary to keep the life of the city going.
And sometimes he thought to himself that he shouldn’t put them in such terms, that he shouldn’t think of martial things anymore. That he shouldn’t try to make his life now more important, more meaningful. He swept the steps of a dozen people and lived from one day to the next. That was all.
As they neared the river, the royal palace came into sight. It was so big, so grand, with soaring towers and shining lights, marble arches and peaked roofs. It was as beautiful and otherworldly and inaccessible as the moon.
“I lived there once,” he remarked, his eyes on the glowing windows of the palace.
He heard the soft chuckle of his friends, felt Alden pat his shoulder. “Of course you did.”
He knew they thought him slightly mad, slightly touched, on this point at least. He didn’t mind. They were always kind to him, and he valued their kindness all the more, when they showed it to one they thought mad.
For a long, long time he would not have dared to say such things. But it didn’t matter now. The old king, the wicked king, had been killed a dozen times, was living in exile in a dozen places. Everyone was sure that the wicked king that was had gone far, far away, in this life or into the next. And after years of sweeping streets and living rough, with accumulated layers of rags and dust, with his hair faded and his back bending, he no longer looked like the imperious monarch who had once sat on the throne.