There was once a king. He lived alone with many servants in a castle with one hundred rooms. He loved each of the one hundred rooms and his servants that appeared and bowed, and disappeared so gracefully. The castle had tall rooms with priceless things from places he believed in but had never seen, and small rooms with almost nothing in them that he could visit when he needed to feel that he was far away.
When he was young, he liked to play in the rooms where you could open things, then hide them and find them again. Later he enjoyed going from room to room, down through the long corridors, pleased with the doors he knew well but that always led somewhere.
He loved to watch the seasons turn through the rooms, sunlight from the long windows moving through the year, now gleaming on a marble stand, now flaming in a tapestry, following the light as it moved through the spring and winter, then summer again. He thought that the rooms kept the memories of the sun forever.
One day, the king desired to see the whole of his realm. He knew that there were stairs that climbed and climbed, and wound and wound but he had never before wished to use them. But now, great was his desire as he opened the door and began climbing to the Tower Room far above, his eyes looking up through the winding windowless stairs.
The Tower Room was on the highest turret of the Castle with the Hundred Rooms. From here, he could survey his realm that stretched forth from horizon to horizon. He looked out over the great parks, long avenues, lakes, bright fields with their quiet creatures, and forests that stretched into the misty distance. He loved to watch the small people so far away, moving slowly through the fields and woodlands, turning and going, coming and disappearing, then appearing again.
No longer young, he spent most of his days in the Tower Room, watching over the years and dreaming himself far away as if he were walking through the lands of his realm. He would sit for hours listening for what he couldn’t hear and imagining what he couldn’t touch.
One day, he suddenly had a great longing to go out to his parks and lakes, the long avenues, fields and forests. He wanted to see the creatures and maybe get close to them, and perhaps converse with the people he would meet. So he wound down the winding stairs, through the Hundred Rooms and out onto the great stone staircase that led into Everything.
Quickly and lightly, he descended the steps until he found himself on a verge of grass with endless flowers beds that opened outward to the horizons of his realm. He stopped for a moment. The earth beneath his feet felt oddly hard and soft at the same time, bumpy and uneven to walk upon. There were many odd smells all mixed together, some he didn’t like to think of, and others that were like the large white flowers in the big rooms and good days he suddenly remembered. One side of his face felt hot from the sun at his shoulder, the other cool and shadowy. The front part of his body breezy and his back too warm. And somewhere in the hedges there were strange rustlings and stirrings.
Feeling confused and doubtful, he turned and went back up to the castle. The marble stairs of the great staircase felt just right beneath his step, even and firm, he didn’t even need to look to see where he was going, and all rested comfortable and still.
But from then on, he felt a sadness in the light that followed him from room to room. He seldom went to the Tower Room anymore, and when he did, he felt restless and lonely. Almost every day, he would go to the great stone staircase, stand on the very last step, and watch his realm for hours until the sun passed behind the far hill.
One day, a thought filled his heart. He would have a new room. One built right out onto the grass verge amongst the flowerbeds where his realm began. Not a big room, a small room, with almost nothing in it so he could sit and feel the far away. It would be like his lands, with a window in the middle and one on each side, so that the sun could wander from one window to the other and the wind whisper at every corner. And so it was. He never went to his Tower Room again, but sat through the years, still and content, watching his realm as the seasons past over its long avenues and parks, its fields and forests.
Then one day, after he had become very old, he sat in his chair with the high wooden back longer than unusual, and the sun began setting over the furthest hills. Suddenly felt the earth shift under him, and something wake in his heart. Something was coming, moving from the far horizons over the long avenues, down over the fields and forests. He was overwhelmed with the desire to throw open the window, to feel the world breathe on him and to wander out and watch for that which was Coming, coming over the distant hills, was already in the nearest fields.
But getting up was hard, his bones were weak and his hand unsteady. Then he saw that there was no latch on the window. He fell back into his chair. And that which was Coming, came silently through the window without a latch, gathered him like a gentle Spring breeze, and breathed its breath of distant hills, broad waters, and misty forests upon him, and carried him at last like the lightest cloud, out over his realm, and its bright land beyond.
David Russell OFS Fyn