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In the final decades of her rule that was characterized by an intense yearning to preserve memory, Mon Jiera, Reina of Lusan, Protector of Bisyas, and First Citizen of Danao, decreed the creation of a precise replica of her three maritime kingdoms. Those were days of incontestable bounty and quiet peace when the network of roads and island-spanning bridges were new and led to uttermost parts of the kingdoms, when fishermen did not have to go beyond a cigarette’s distance from the deep harbors to make a day’s wage, when being a policeman was a part-time job due to the indolence of the dwindling number of criminals, and when the theatrical recitative was at its creative zenith, inspiring narratives about knowledge and devotion mostly in the vulgar tongue for the edification of the masses. Within the Royal Enclosure of Lusan (that part of the grand manse where royalty of old celebrated with tuba or witnessed beheadings), Mon Jiera summoned Simon de los Santos, multi-decorated architect, composer, playwright, perennial beauty pageant judge and champion stock car driver; at forty-eight years old already famous for the intricate pneumatic fountains at the Gate of Idad, the choreopoetic transliteration of Ibn al Faran’s Gestures Under Rainfall, and for being the five-time offroad record holder of the Seibu Annual Rally. “Favorite,” the withered Mon Jiera addressed him. “Would you say that under our rule our lands have come to a remarkable state of prosperity?” “I would, my Queen,” Simon de los Santos replied with a graceful bow. “And would you say that what we have built with our hands and hearts will last forever?” the Queen asked. “My Great Lady,” Simon said, choosing his words with care. “Only the human spirit is immortal. That, and the legacy of free will, beauty and law that we pass to those who come after us.” “But will we be remembered?” the Queen asked. “Will everything that we have created, all that we have worked for, will everything be remembered as things are?”
then off into the polished streets where beautiful brown-skinned women with dark hair trembled in sadness and handsome men with broad noses daubed their eyes with handkerchiefs. “Books will be written. But those cannot possibly cover everything.” the Queen said. mercados.” Simon de los Santos protested. “That would be quite prideful. washers. rising daringly to his feet. and finally into the broad countryside and beyond across the islands to the satellite towns. “It cannot be true!” “Spare us your theatrics. photographs commissioned.” “As you will. mechanics. She opened her eyes and looked at Simon directly. no. and into the mosques. gesturing for him to resume his initial kneeling position.” “But-“ Simon began. We will wear our funeral shroud soon. “You will undertake a task for us that will make all your previous achievements pale like virgins about to be taken by brutes. my Queen. amusement parks and massage parlors where obese men’s hearts were given a double workout. closing her eyes. my Queen. gas stations.” the old woman said. food courts. “Everything. flitting from lips to ear to lips from courtiers to officers of the court before escaping down the hallway in the mouths of secretaries and serving boys and from them to the scullions.” A gasp resounded throughout the Royal Enclosure.” “We need everything to remembered. We do not believe that the miracles of science can etch the lives of people on to strangely flavored particles. my Queen. “There is no true palliative against time. favorite. we possess no charm to reduce our kingdoms to the size of a biscuit and keep them in a glass box. murals.” “Yes.” Simon nodded.” Simon de los Santos interjected. And we do not think that people in heaven keep track of who has done what.” “True.“As things are?” Simon repeated.” Mon Jierra interrupted him. smoothening the near-invisible wrinkles on his white linen suit.” the Queen said. yes. “And spare no expense. villages and crofts where the news was met with great sorrow. of course. “Oh.” . “Favorite. “I am your servant. Now. deliverymen and gardeners on the palace grounds. paintings.
” Simon de los Santos said softly.” the Queen said. my Queen. staring at the half-eaten soft-boiled egg in front of her.” Simon de los Santos replied with moisture in his eyes. It must be exact. and thought about glassworks. “Free willed. Then he began to drive home. Mon Jiera.” “You will create. bowed and walked away on legs weakened by the impossible weight of the Queen’s imperative.“Indeed. what we achieved. beautiful. a replica of our three kingdoms as they stand. science and religion.” “With all my heart. lawful art. with the barest of pomp to a large field on the outskirts of the capital where a huge tent housed Simon de los Santos and his labors. when we yet lived?” “Art. It took the better part of the day for her royal retinue to convey her. Begin. what do we have left to keep the memory of whom we were and what we did.” the Queen said. “Impossible. Her travelling throne was set securely on a narra platform in the tent’s dimly lit interior. . lit a cigarette.” the old woman on the ornate throne told him. “We intend to see some semblance of its wonder before we close our eyes for the last time. favorite. You will perform this task with all your talent and all your strength. “And in the absence of magic. * Eight months later. She steadied herself as the platform slowly ascended to thrice a man’s height. You will capture the spirit of our people and all we have built. pale and tired. beginning this very day and without relent. taking the opportunity offered by every stoplight to make calls on his cell phone to people he knew and to people who knew people he didn’t know. squinting into the shadows that offered tantalizing shapes and forms. “Now go. tuned the radio to sentimental love songs. faithful and true.” Simon de los Santos stood.” “At once. cartography and the flickering nature of memory. and when he was alone in his car. my Great Lady. was informed over breakfast by one of her attendants that Simon de los Santos’ miraculous replica was completed. Great Lady.
historians. standing on some lesser elevation. engineers. Simon fought back the sudden nausea that enveloped him. geomancers.” he addressed her. when artificial waves lapped against the shores of the multitudes of islands. Provinces and their capitals glittered like gemstones. When everything on display was fully lit. met his gaze. dancing troupes and child volunteers. his amplified voice echoing in the vast interior. rested a hand against the nearest mountain peak. they are too small. “After months of dreams and labor.” * .A lone spotlight suddenly illuminated Simon de los Santos. When the Queen and her retinue had departed. unmoving and unmoved by the spectacle. Simon de los Santos addressed the dejected crowd of set and lighting designers.” And with that pronouncement. gardeners. electricians. slender bridges arched across water linking island to island to island. miniaturists. Simon de los Santos raised his eyes toward his Queen.” Simon said. “We cannot see the cities. carpenters. the show was over. Do better. “Everything needs to be bigger. “Clearly. It is not as things are. “My Queen. obliterating vast tracts of miniscule forests. All around him. and when all the tiny rice fields transformed from paddies into bountiful harvest synchronized to the rhythm of a troupe of dancing girls. was on display. Mon Jiera. documentarians. and thought about what to do next. hidden voices began to sing as lights shone in structured sequence. certain in his heart of his success. caterers. Every single geographic feature of the each of the three kingdoms. eliciting murmurs of delight from the courtiers and officers that stood below the Queen’s platform. reporters. gleaming roads racing towards coastlines. musicians. cartographers. my friends. As the Queen’s platform descended. stretching his trembling arms to full extension. revealing Simon de los Santos astride the Cordil mountain range rendered in miniature. every famous river and volcano and plateau. forests and lakes and plains sprawled outward. broad shoulders squarely set in a crisp white linen suit. I humbly present Your Majesty’s three kingdoms!” At his signal.
powered by liquefied petroleum gas. Massive tractors and excavators. after a period of intense personal review and scrutiny. except out of respect for Ramadan. on an intricately designed wheeled conveyance encased in a delicate glass bubble. Over the next decade. from Luisan to Silong. When those who dwelled there were informed that their entire province – every road and field and house and mango grove– was needed. to simply be there for her as she faded. their famous university transplanted to another province. With an escalating portion of the kingdoms’ budget allocated to the immense project. and Simon de los Santos was never one to accept failure. his furious concentration undermined only by rumors of the old Queen’s failing health: that she had suffered multiple strokes that left majority of her body paralyzed. materials arrived on the site via helicopters. submerging all the small towns in a line from San Padro to Alamin. ten-wheelers and barges. animatronics experts and animal rights advocates worked with officers of the Queen’s Navy to ensure the veracity of every beach. In the midst of this all. cove and estuary as well the appropriate distribution of each locality’s maritime wildlife. But a challenge was a challenge. A network of polyvinyl chloride pipes stretched from Lagun Bay and created a new coastline. flattened hills and shattered rocks. thirty days to tour the province-sized scale model of her three kingdoms. Simon de los Santos and his growing population of workers and specialists and their families and hangers-on settled in and began to work. teamed up with landscape designers to render the archipelago in perfect scale while oceanographers. Over the course of years he fought back the temptation to stop. Simon de los Santos kept everyone and everything on schedule. Through it all. to say that it was enough. Work never stopped. that her mind had fallen prey to the disease of forgetfulness. that he declared the marvelous replica completed and sent a brief formal telegram to the Queen’s Office of Communications. to rush to his Queen’s side.The nearby province of Lagun was selected as the site of the next replica. no matter how well-cloaked by extenuating circumstances. that her fatigued heart had been replaced with a mechanical marvel that permitted her no dreams due to its incessant whirring. * It took the Queen. with Simon de los Santos mounted on a champion racehorse. It was only when he was satisfied. the general response was to give way to the Queen’s will and to begin the task of uprooting themselves. doctors of forestry and mathematics. accompanied by her retinue and palace security in various vehicles. she kept her opinions to . With the provincial boundaries determining the edges of the site.
Simon de los Santos permitted himself a sigh.” the official said. “Everything is too small to remember.” Simon de los Santos stared unseeing at the ground. On his part. Simon de los Santos rode to the lone radio station that once served to broadcast his regular instructions to everyone involved in the project. a signal for the aerial team of meteorologists and hydraulic engineers suspended above in a balloon to make rain. ignoring the arthritic pains his own advancing years had developed. He turned his face to one of the Officers of the Court for help. quietly . Simon de los Santos left no detail unmentioned. Even as he mouthed his practiced words. He slowly knelt in front of her. beset by sudden phantom aches.” the official continued. he noted that it was her silence that affected him the most. Then he began to read from the papers in his trembling hands.” When the Queen and her retinue had long gone. “You are to start again. But he also could not help but look the old woman behind the glass. her shrunken frame covered in Bengut blankets despite her bubble’s climate controls. “Her Majesty remembers you and commends you on your good work. permitting her guide every bit of space his narrative required as he gestured to this mosque or that tree-lined hot spring. Her lips moved and he strained to listen but could hear nothing but a soft whirring from inside the bubble. drawing her attention to the transition from dry season into wet with an elegant flourish of his hands. The old Queen’s movements were so economical that Simon de los Santos often thought she had stopped breathing and was utterly relieved when the tour was done. he could not help but sense the fleeting nature of her attention. It is Her Majesty’s will that the scale be larger. “But Her Majesty says that everything is still too small. As he wondered how well she remembered him.herself. that memory must be writ large. He stared at the microphone for moment before taking out several sheets of paper. She gestured to him from within the bubble. and that the streets stand sadly empty.
I thank you for all your time and effort. her eyes blinked. Goodnight and goodbye. brazenly taking her small leathery hand in his. with the guards stationed at the door the only other people in the room. encash any of the monies allocated for the continuance of the project. these are the things Simon de los Santos did not do: make new plans for a larger replica. looking at him uncertainly. “My Queen.” Ah. Upon seeing the Queen’s favorite. so people could remember things as they are. Mon Jiera. I personally thank you for your commitment to seeing the project through. Go back to your true homes with pride in your part in this tremendous achievement. on behalf of the Queen.” Simon de los Santos softly said. she nodded once and with great effort. “Do you remember what you asked me to do for you?” No. entertain questions about the mysterious next phase of the project. as this… part of the project is complete. “My friends and colleagues. set down the congratulatory list he held and spoke into the microphone. At a certain point he stopped. When he was informed at 4 o’clock one morning by his sources that the Queen’s final day had at last arrived. barely recognizable. the Officers and Ornaments of the Court respectfully accorded him privacy. and made his way in the predawn darkness to the rooms of suites on the top floor of the hospital where the Queen waited for death. “You tasked me to create a replica.thanking every project team leader.” he said.” * In the next three years leading to Mon Jiera’s demise. opened her still bright eyes. nor watch the races. judge any beauty pageants. You are released from your duties. . Simon de los Santos dressed himself in his customary white linen suit. she offered. “Do you remember me?” Yes. Instead he did two things: he waited and kept himself abreast of all the minutiae of the dying Queen’s medical conditions. “My Queen.
With great tenderness. newspaper vendors. She smiled and took one last look at Simon’s replica. grey and black and white. was it was as much for you.“The first one I built was too small. . to the nearby armchair next to a window. my Queen?” Yes. your memory. in clusters and crowds as the city roared into life. And her hand in his. turning shadows into verdant greens and browns. When the sun was higher in the sky. stretching and winding and intersecting in the city. they waited. I cannot build you what you asked for – but I can give it you. People began to appear: joggers. When dawn came.” Oh. her brow furrowed slightly. when every tree and monument and lake and building was enveloped in sunshine.” She looked at him. schoolchildren in their khakis. Then the roads sprang gently into the light. Mon Jiera sighed her thanks and leaned her head against her favorite. delivery men. And third. “For the third and final replica. the vanished strength of his youth belied by the quiver in his hands. as the first motorists and bus drivers drove their vehicles of red and yellow and blue and silver. I realized three things. he carried her in his arms. there is an insurmountable problem of scale. “Will you let me show you. then as the sun rose. as it will be for those who come after all of us. and the second was still not big enough to encompass memory. in ones or twos at first. First. Second. its radiance spilled first over the distant mountains. she nodded.
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