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M. Sarrale

(written in 2549)

This account of how the legendary King Dúhar died comes from a collection of short stories by the Qemrí author. Imagining how her husband, Dúhar, might have faced his own death, his widow Défonde comes to his grave, a mound deep in the Forest of Dhelétrels, and begins to construct her own imaginary death.

Whether he was a mighty king or a petty chief, a smiling monarch and unhappy alcoholic, or just the sober figurehead of an imperial court; whether he was a king in mind or a pauper in spirit or indeed, as now, a queen in body is irrelevant to what eventually became of him, and how he was able at the end of his reign to transcend all these earthly and minor details which constrain us all in life.

But he needed one day to seek some quiet space, and so went into the forest, or maybe some hunting park, and struggling through the undergrowth and down ravines and unused riverbeds and chines, he finally found himself in a glade amongst the tallest, most elegant trees in the whole kingdom, not knowing quite what he was doing there. But his mind buzzed like a swarm of hornets and seethed as if their queen had been attacked, as sometimes before his eyes this world had swirled, dislocated from whatever reality he had constructed over the last thirty-odd years. Or forty, or twenty, it hardly counts…

Here he comes; with him he brings the silent suffering of a lifetime, lays himself down flat on his back, eyes the sky with nonchalant resolve and reminds himself to say farewell to all this life for good; for he has decided, as he had decided many times before, to bring to final fruition his plan to send himself into so deep a slumber that he will never wake from it. In fact, as he takes off his clothes and spreads himself on his back across the middle of this glade, he is determined to fuse into the earth on which he has been walking for all these strange years.

He sets his head far back, arches his back to straighten his spine into the flatness of the soft, springy grass, and presses his limbs against the ground, as if to hold his whole body as close to the earth as is humanly and consciously possible. This is the first stage.

He closes his eyes, and the warm sunlight blazes red into his head from behind the lids. It may be later that these very lids will secrete the same tears that distinguish us all as thinkers and feelers, but the hot waters which will line the edges of these shutters will dry and serve only to weld them together even tighter.

Through the king’s head dance and twirl a number of faces, opening doors and offering plates of food, smiling and chasing him along streets dappled with colour from the red behind his eyes, and as he grapples with the elimination of these pictures, his inner space plays games with his memory, bringing these people into conversations and conflicts he knows never happened, though doubt is never far from the edge of his inside realm. These moments are the beginnings of dreams, points at which we wake for a second or two, wondering where we are, or if; these points are the slender tendrils which gather and multiply and bloat and entwine with each other until, surrendered again to tiredness, we ourselves are smothered into their reality, our eyes seemingly feverish and intent on escaping their head.

He does not want to go that way. This time will be different, as it has been different so often before. He will not be tempted by the images, by the call of the familiar. Today, he seeks and craves the unknown, the pure, an experience which would shock his very core of consciousness, if he had any left by the end of this process of self-dismantling, this sacrifice.

An inner voice calls him, not distracting, not ruffling the calm he now inhabits; a voice whose gentle ripples he has heard from the inside all his life long, a voice which laps quiescently up to his edges and whispers across his breaths to slow his mind. With every inhaled lung-full now, every invasion of outside air into the depths of his body, he should fall into ever deeper supine bliss.

© Copyright Paul David Holland 2017