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