Original Works

The Myth of Politicus and Zhen [12 Genre Months]

“I’m here to see Professor Lin. My name’s Rob Whelan–I made an appointment.”

The secretary–who looked like a student of the university itself–scrolled through a list on his tablet. When he found my name, squeezed between a Professor Doherty and Doctor Lyon, he rose from his seat and gestured at the oak door to my right.

“She’s expecting you,” he said.

Already late for the appointment, I thanked the young man and stalked into the mahogany-themed office–a uniform decor of the historical establishment.

“You’re late,” she stated.

Lin was seated behind a polished wooden table, surrounded by books stacked high on the carpeted floor–the bookshelves against the four walls offered no space for the newer editions.

“Sorry. Bad habit,” I replied.

“Have a seat,” she prompted.

Lin’s dark straight hair, deep set eyes, and thin lips were the same as how I remembered them to be. But on that sunny afternoon, Lin wasn’t in a pink, silk gown. She donned–what most educators in a place as such would–a dull, black and white suit.

“It’s been awhile. How’s your book doing?” she asked.

“Not good. My publisher wants another. Soon,” I admitted, planting myself on the velvet armchair across her desk.

“And… that’s why you’re here.”

“Partially.” I smirked.

Lin chuckled. “So, what do you want to pick my brain on?”

“The myth of Politicus and Zhen.”

“What about it?”

“I have a few ideas to run by you.”

“Something you could’ve done via email.”

“True. But I wanted to see you–it’s been awhile, like you said.”

Lin and I met when we were ten. She lived with my family for two years, while her parents had ‘some issues to sort out’. We kept in touch after she returned home. And, once in a few years, our families would get together for Christmas. But since she began teaching at the university, it was almost impossible to meet her–she was a fourteen-hour flight away and always working on the holidays.

“We can catch up later. Let’s get to work first,” she said.

“Right. So, Politicus and Zhen–do you think they could’ve actually existed?”

“The Empire of Chrysus isn’t in any historical records, neither is King Politicus and Queen Zhen. I would say their story is parallel to Greek mythology.”

“But, I did some reading online, and some people theorise that Queen Zhen was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gaozu.”

“None of Emperor Gaozu’s daughters left their country. That’s a fanboy theory, Rob. But, a good one to roll with. Is that your intended direction?”

“No. I just wanted to know what you think.”

“I don’t think they’re real.”

“I see. Personally though…” I hesitated.

“Personally what?”

“I believe otherwise,” I stated. Lin raised her eyebrows. But as her lips parted to question my belief, I continued, “Anyway, do you think it’s possible for Politicus to retain his memories after each life?”

“The original tale didn’t say he could. But since you’re writing fiction, anything goes.”

“Do you think, that with his memories, he can help Zhen remember their past?”

“How–with true love’s kiss?” Lin chuckled. “Wait, is this new book a romance novel?”

“A little romance doesn’t hurt.”

“The themes of this myth are greed and violence. The consequence of Politicus’ brutality was an eternal curse–witnessing the death of his lover in each life cycle, with no hope of happiness. You can toss in a little romance, but a happy ending will be far-fetch, not to mention, cliche.”

“He can break the curse.”

“By wakening Zhen’s memories?”

“That’s a good idea, isn’t it?”

“Not really. It doesn’t quite make sense.”

“Why?”

“Is your story set in the twenty-first century?”

“Yes.”

“Then first off, Politicus claiming to be Politicus will make him seem insane. Nobody will believe him, let alone Zhen. Secondly, Zhen recalling her memories won’t save her since thematically, the myth isn’t about love. What I logically foresee, is Zhen living in an endless loop, well aware she only has twenty-nine years each cycle. And, the idea that Politicus helped her remember–under the pretense of breaking the curse–paints Politicus as selfish as he was before. It won’t be a show of love. Making the love of your life aware of eternal damnation isn’t love. Love is Politicus suffering alone until he breaks the curse, which is unlikely to involve wakening Zhen’s memories.”

“Right.”

“But, that premise can make quite an adventure–Politicus and Zhen working together to free themselves from the curse.”

“It just… doesn’t make logical sense to you.”

“It doesn’t.”

I sighed. Why couldn’t I see it before? Still, I had to ask. “One more question,” I prompted. “If you were in Zhen’s shoes and Politicus awakened your memories-”

“I might grow to resent him,” she interrupted.

I nodded. “Well, I guess it’s safe to say romance isn’t my forte.”

Lin chuckled. “Stay away from romance, Rob. Stick to your action-adventure-treasure-hunting stuff. It’s what you’re great at. Honestly, I thought you were going to ask me about Politicus’ sword of vengeance. The sword makes a good set-up.”

I forced a smile. “It sure does.”

There was no need to ask about the sword–I knew a lot about it already. And she was right; the sword did make a good set-up. It brought upon a curse I could only blame myself for. But trust me, I’ve tried. No matter how far and wide I’ve searched–in this lifetime and the ones before–I’ve yet to find anything that will break this eternal damnation. But admittedly, I am selfish to wish I wasn’t alone. Is it wrong to desire recognition from the one I love? I’ve lived more than a thousand lives with her by my side, but not once has she looked at me the way she did when she first died. Even in this twenty first century life–a month and fifteen days before her death–there was no love in her gaze. And, if I didn’t want her to resent me, I will have to watch her die… again.

“Free for dinner tonight?” I asked.

“No questions about the sword?”

“None.”

“I should be free tonight.”

“Great. It’ll be awhile before we get to meet again.”

Lin chuckled. “That’s life, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “That’s… how it always seems to be.”

Perhaps in our next life, I’ll finally break the curse—ending this vicious cycle–and make what Zhen calls a cliche ending… our reality.

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Cave of Dreams [12 Genre Months]

It began with a curse, passed down from one generation onto the next–a curse many of his ancestors called a gift. Yet, in the mind of this boy king, he was condemned–condemned by the boy in the mirror. For unlike his father and the kings who ruled before him, he loathed his reflection.

What he saw, even in his human state, was a beast. His deep-set eyes hung tired from the fear of death. His youthful grin lost in the kingdoms he had conquered. His sword-wielding arm stained by the blood of his enemies. Never was he just a boy–always, he was a monster hungry for the next victory, the next throne, the next war. What a miracle it would be, if he stopped swinging blades for a day. And, a miracle it was.

“This will be my last battle,” he said.

Sheathing his double-edged sword, he strolled to his steed with his royal army behind him.

“This will ruin your empire,” his advisor replied. “This will ruin you, your majesty.”

“I’m already ruined.”

“You are more victorious than the kings before you. And, you can do so much more.”

“This isn’t me. Before I lose myself again, I must do this.”

During the battle at Vita, while his men pillaged the kingdom, he heard of the Cave of Dreams. Some of the citizens of Vita had braved the beast within in order to flee the war. Alas, no one knew what became of the courageous few. But as Vita crumbled to ashes, the folklore reached his ears–what seemed like a myth was hope.

“Your majesty-”

“I am a monster. I have no control over this body and what it becomes.”

“You are a warrior–a king–not a monster. What will our kingdom become if this beast takes your gift?”

“Gift?” He chuckled.

Arguing with any of the men in his royal court was a futile endeavour. They were the first to reap the harvest of war and would say anything to stop him. Deciding he had wasted enough time with the pointless debate, he excused his advisor and mounted his horse. Reining his stallion East, the journey began.

The Cave of Dreams nestled within the Eastern volcanic range, by the foot of the tallest mountain in the snow-capped massif. From the ruins of Vita, he rode through the pine-dense timberland, crossed pebble-shored rivers, edged around slippery cliffs, before reaching the valleys of the mounts. The tallest of the mounts rose at the head of the range–the colossal grey rock was both daunting and magnificent. But unlike its siblings lined behind it–all birthed from the same phenomenon–it homed the gift only bestowed upon the first born: the cave.

From above the valley, the cave was invisible to the human eye. But as the entourage descended into the first basin, stirring with a bone-chilling breeze, the cave made its presence known. Its mouth, as wide as his kingdom’s iron gate, opened to an unwelcoming darkness. No sound escaped its cracking lip. Nothing living grew within. If he was a common boy, who had never faced death, he would’ve rode by without hesitation. Unfortunately, he was a king–owning a list of enemies before he even became a man.

Dismounting his steed, he strode to the mouth of the cave. But as his men lit their torches, ready to go before him, he had the strangest thought. It wasn’t his own–or at least, it didn’t feel like his own.

Taking a blazing torch, he said, “I’m going alone.” The captain of his army parted his lips, but before the soldier could insist, he repeated, “I’m going alone.”

His men knew not to challenge him. Retreating to their horses–possibly wondering if his nine year-old brother could fill his shoes should he never return–he turned his back toward them. Then, with determination to break the curse, he pushed forward.

He had no fear. He had seen darkness far more consuming than the one before him. He had swam in silence far more lifeless than the hollow engulfing him. He lost his soul at the age of twelve, when the weight of the crown was placed upon his fragile shoulders. And though he had feared death for the past three years, he didn’t fear it anymore. With each step he took, he set his eyes on salvation. But, how many steps were there? The walk down the burrow felt like an endless journey. The entrance of the cave had long vanished–only blackness surrounded him. When he finally spoke, as a question to himself, he found the answer.

“When does this end?” he murmured.

“It ends… when you want it to end,” a deep voice echoed.

“Are you the beast?” he asked the disembodied voice.     

“I am… what you want me to be.”

“Then grant me a wish, as the people say you will do.”

“What do you wish for?”

“I wish to be human.”

“Human? You look human.”

“I am not. There’s a curse upon my family–the men who wear the crown become monsters on the battlefield.”

“Then… take off the crown.”

“I can’t–I will only be passing the curse to my brother.”

“I will grant your wish, if you take off the crown.”

“You will break the curse?”

“Yes.”

“Very well.”

Without contemplation, he lifted the gold, ruby-encrusted crown off his head and placed it on the uneven ground.

“Good. Now,” the voice said, “wake up.”

He opened his eyes. The bright light, streaming through the window of his doctor’s office, blinded him for a second.

“How do you feel?” his doctor asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied, blinking his eyes into focus. “Am I supposed to be a different person?”

“Hypnotherapy doesn’t reflect immediately after a session. Let’s see how your week goes before we give it another try.”

“Sure. I can do that.”

His doctor grinned, before swiftly scribbling on a page in a leather-bound book.

“What are you writing?” he asked.

“You said, you can do that.”

“Is that… odd?”

His doctor merely smiled. “I’ll see you next week. Same time?”

“Sure, doc. I can do that too.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)