It was a thunderous afternoon and it mirrored the disposition of the Queen of Neverland, as always. The wind hastened to do her bidding, apologizing on its way to the scowling trees that shook and swayed, disgruntled because they were always being pushed around. The loyal waves lashed out on the shores with ferocity equal to none. Who dared disturb their beloved Queen?
The kingdom was in an uproar. The people were in a tizzy. What had happened to their Queen? Had she gone barmy? Didn’t she know that the bad weather upset all the crops? Didn’t she know that the animals could be struck with fever? Wasn’t she aware that if they closed their doors to the weather, they would also close the doors to her heart? Why was she torturing them? Didn’t she care?
Under a wise old Banyan Tree, unshakeable and impenetrable, the elders gathered together, as they did everyday before dusk. But today, they were joined by almost the whole kingdom. The Banyan Tree was a magical tree, like every tree in the kingdom. They all showed their feelings. It would grunt and make fun of the discussions happening under it. It would periodically shake itself and shower the loud and obnoxious wife of the jeweler whose tantrums were famous. But it also cried when the Queen’s mother died. Soft sobs that nobody could hear but were felt by everybody. A lot of things were possible in Neverland.
The self-proclaimed people’s chief sat on a natural pedestal made by the bark of the tree. He was convinced that he was a sensible man and knew what was best for everybody. Although the blood of pirates, vicious and gory but long dead and buried, ran in his crumbling veins, he was blessed with a noble visage which still shone in his old age and helped in enforcing his saint-like status. Everybody looked up to him.
Everybody sat united on the ground in front of him. But it was only an illusion. A person who looked deep would see those subtle boundaries in the midst. They were all divided into cliques. The suffering farmers sat together. The ladies of the court and the scribes sat on the left. Both were united by the love of gossiping. The intellectuals were on another, surrounded by the ‘bureaucrats’. And as usual, the Court Jester was in the middle. Nobody was quite sure which clique he belonged to. He seemed to be a part of every group. He was a clique on his own.
The Chief started speaking and the Tree started humming. It wasn’t perturbed because he knew what was wrong with the Queen. The vines crawling on the Castle’s window had told it. It laughed when the farmers expressed their worry. The traders were angry as their ships couldn’t sail because of the ferocious weather. The cattle breeders were scared that their animals would catch fever. The ladies of the court said that the Queen had gone daft She wasn’t much fun any more. The tree scowled, listening to their talk. They were all so selfish, it thought. All they cared about were themselves.
Everybody was complaining. Except the Court Jester. But then he had failed in his duty, thought the Banyan tree. He was supposed to make her laugh and keep her happy. But then, the poor fellow was in love with the Queen. That was a laugh, since a jester would always be a jester. He could never be king. The tree sighed, pondering over the way of the world. It felt the misery, the pain of unrequited love and the turmoil inside the young man’s heart as he listened to the rants of the people around him. He stared wistfully at the magnificent towers of the Royal Palace, high upon a cliff in the distance. The Towers, encircled by dark grey clouds, had a quiet strength of their own, just like their Mistress. He remembered her bewitching song and her mirth. Her sunny laughter. How she smiled so mysteriously sometimes that he suspected she saw through him. How impatient she became when he didn’t show her the tricks she wanted to see. How she always took care of everybody. How she took care of him. But he had to forget and forget he would. Not even a small flicker of pain was visible on his face. Sometimes, the funniest people had the gloomiest hearts. He looked up towards the Great Towers again, in spite of his renewed vow to suppress his longing, wondering what she was doing.
The Queen was not a plain woman but her beauty would have been rendered inconsequential if it weren’t for those enchanting eyes, which seemed to stare its way down a man’s soul. They stripped a man naked, shed those layers and layers of artifice and laid his soul bare, naked for everyone to see, inspiring ordinary men to become poets. They all were in love with her. There was nothing they couldn’t do for their Queen. Except today when mundane matters like earning a livelihood and feeding their children were in danger of suddenly becoming all encompassing, threatening to take over the carefree life they were living. It made them realize that nothing, not even their Queen, in whose name they sang such sweet sonnets and dedicated their lives, was more important. Everybody was dispensable, the Queen sighed. Clad in dark velvet robes on her grand old bed, her beautiful eyes lay hidden underneath her curls as she clung to an insignificant pillow in the fetal position. In some ways, she felt like an unborn child. There was so much still to see. So much to feel. So much that she couldn’t do. She was going down under that ruthlessly large burden, that invisible but suffocating grey cloud of duty and responsibility. It was threatening to rain down and drown her into such depths that she would never dare come out. She sighed and stood up, wandering over to the window. The wind was still howling and in constant motion. It would never rest as long as she wasn’t calm. A tree, at the edge of the cliff, shook as it faced the wind’s assault. It tried hard to resist. To defeat death and to survive. But it was the unspoken rule of the world. Only the fittest survived. It stood shocked and cried as one of its limbs broke away and fell into the depths. Suddenly, it dawned clear on the Queen what she was going to do.
The Jester felt that something was very very wrong. His being was not at ease and somehow, he a strange restlessness, as if he was going to lose something and not do anything about it. He looked around him. People were becoming slowly still. The din was ceasing to exist. It was if life was slipping into a quiet slumber. Everybody looked perplexed as the rushing wind came to a standstill, bringing a giant vapor of dust to rest. Then, it picked up gentle momentum as it soothed the waves in the ocean, singing a sweet lullaby and bringing them to rest. The grey clouds started shifting, making way for a clear sky. Soon, people started smiling as they realized everything was coming back to normal. Their animals were safe. The crops would not fail. The goods could be sent to another country as the sea was calm again. The Queen was back to herself. They looked at the Great Towers, silently saying their thanks. But wait, why was there no light in the queen’s window? Somebody was moving towards the edge of the cliff. They strained their eyes to see clearly. It seemed as if an angel in flying white robes was standing at the edge.
She stood tall and strong. Her face had strength of purpose and it shone. Yet, she was still afraid of heights. Don’t look down, she warned herself. But her senses betrayed her as she looked down. All she could see was a mist, threatening to swallow her. At that moment, all significant moments of her life flashed past her, as if a film reel was rolling on. She saw a small girl, herself, singing a rhyme as she sat on a swing. The same girl was now hiding behind a great lady, her mother, tall and formidable. A man with a beard was smiling and bending to pick up the girl, to gather her in her arms. The same man, her father, was now staring at her with angry eyes. She was now all grown up, strolling in her garden. The scene shifted as she saw herself being thronged by admirers but her attention was fixed on a quiet young man who watched her from a distance. She stood crying silently as the prince galloped away on a horse, never to come back. The moments changed as she tried to grasp them and keep them safe in her heart. Her parent’s graves stared back at her. The mourners were crying their heart out. Why hadn’t she cried? The Governor was placing the crown on her head. She looked so serious, she had ceased to be a child. But there the memories stopped, bringing her back to the present. She smiled. She had to take a chance. Taking a step further, finally she took the plunge.
The people had finally realized that the angel in white was their Queen. The Jester stood paralyzed as he realized what she was going to do. They watched as she took the plunge. For a moment, there was total silence. Their mouths gaped open as they saw no body fall down. All they saw was a golden halo in the sky, its brilliance lightening up the whole kingdom. It lasted for a moment and then the sky was dark again. The jester laughed loudly, and cried at the same time. His tears wetted the earth and flowers took birth at the same place.
The Queen had become a legend.