Updated: Oct 15, 2022
Long ago in the kingdom of Shantam, King Utham decides to crown both his twins as his successors instead of picking one of them to rule. While the first brother is contented with what he has been given, the second brother craves desires that are beyond his reach and power. In order to fulfil his desire, the second brother takes up a voyage against everyone’s advice.
Read R. S. Chintalapati’s kids’ story “Immortality” to know why setting unattainable goals and seeking personal desires isn’t a wise idea. The flash fiction shows even after giving one’s best, a quest with the wrong desire leads to catastrophic conclusions.
The kingdom of Shantam was perhaps the only kingdom in the world ruled by twins. Unable to decide who should be given the right to rule, King Utham, instructed his sons Chitram and Vichitram to rule together rather than dividing the kingdom. Of the brothers, Vichitram was ambitious and wanted to conquer the entire known world. However, even he knew that it wouldn’t be possible to do so in a single lifetime.
So he sought a few of his preferred scholars to find a solution. From them, he got to know that there is an island named Amrutham at the edge of the world where there is a lake filled with the elixir for immortality. One drop from this lake of milk which tasted like honey could make anyone immortal by giving them a chain. As long as they wore the chain, these mortals were meant to be immortal and invincible.
Finding the map to reach the island with the help of the same scholars, Vichitram gave his brother the complete authority to rule Shantam and prepared to set sail along with one hundred men. Even after Chitram, the former king and queen, priests, councillors and a lot of commoners pleaded with Vichitram not to travel since such a pursuit which was against the laws of nature wouldn’t be fruitful; Vichitram neglected them. His brother even pointed out the fact that two kings from the past who set sail to this island never returned. However, the more people opposed his voyage, the more Vichitram rushed towards it thinking he was getting near to his dream.
After setting sail, Vichitram and his men had no trouble for a long time until they reached the Sea of Nightmares. During their time in this sea, none of them could sleep and even if they tried to take a nap feeling exhausted, they would begin to experience their worst fears coming true. Living in that hell for a fortnight, the men passed the sea and once they crossed it, none of them could control their sleep anymore.
When their guards were down one night, a big octopus called ‘Rakhta’ broke both the ships and as men drowned in the dark ocean, sharks feasted on them. The next morning, Vichitram woke up to see the Sunshine and he was on the coast of Amrutham. He could only see fifteen of his men were still alive while the rest floated in the sea.
Thanking Yama for not taking him to his home, Vichitram recalled how the scholars mentioned that they would have to solve a couple of quests before reaching the lake. Presuming the first was the sea and the second was the monster, Vichitram prayed to the Lord of Death before stepping forward to see the Golden Gate that touched the sky. He walked along with the others towards the gate that was built by the Gods themselves, to see an imprint that read, “Only the beautiful voice that could impress Lord Indra can open these doors.”
Even when most of them knew how to sing, neither Vichitram nor his men could sing to impress the great Lord Indra. So the King looked around to notice a parrot sitting on one of the trees before the wall that parted them from the lake. Approaching, Vichitram requested him to sing a beautiful song. The parrot asked, “I’ll say a few lines which will open the doors but what will you offer in return?”
Vichitram promised that when he returned immortal, he shall take the parrot to his kingdom and give him the comfort that he has never seen in his lifetime. Convinced by the offer, the parrot said, “Oh Mighty Lord, once there lived a king who was young and charming. Blessed was he with a fortune but desire never stopped him. He wanted more and more until there was nothing. One day he knew about an immortal lake and when he tasted it, he returned to absolutely nothing!”
When the parrot finished, the golden gates opened. Thanking him, Vichitram entered along with his men. The moment they stepped in, poisonous creepers got hold of everyone and only those soldiers who still had their swords could proceed while the rest of them died.
After passing the creepers, Vichitram was left with five soldiers. Not one of them was left unpoisoned but to their relief, they were only two steps from the lake. Before them was a sign that said, “Only containers made of bone could hold the elixir!”
Not believing in it, Vichitram took off his armour and bent it in the form of a bowl before dipping it into the late. He could see that the metal just melted as soon as it touched the white milk. Before he could even turn back, he heard his soldiers’ swords clashing.
Though they just needed one dead soldier, they fought to the last man standing. It seemed like the surviving men’s thoughts were poisoned too. After all of them passed, Vichitram killed the last one and took a scalp and dipped it into the lake.
When he tasted the cold and sweet milk, it felt like heaven for a moment. He had tasted nothing like it in the past and within moments, he regained all of his strength and a chain of three jewels formed around his neck. Noticing the ruby, sapphire and emerald, Vichitram started to shout, “I will conquer the whole world!”
As his voice echoed, the golden gates started to close. Even though the all-powerful King ran to the best of his ability, the creepers held his feet making him collapse before dragging him back. As he lay on the ground noticing the closing door, Vichitram heard the parrot say, “Another Immortal King caged!”
The moment the doors closed, Vichitram could neither see nor feel his sword or creepers. When he stood up, neither the dead soldiers nor the lake was present. All he could see were two skeletons with a chain each and a sword before him. Presuming those were the former immortal kings his brother had told him about, Vichitram just smiled, gazing at the sword.
This anthology is available in paperback & ebook.