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Christine Kim

Grade: 10

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Scott Parsons

The One Hundred and First Night: The Tale of the 101st Soul

Short Story

The One Hundred and First Night: The Tale of the 101st Soul

The following night Dinarzad said to her sister Shahrazad, "For God's sake, sister, if you are not sleepy, tell us a little tale."

Shahrazad replied, "With the greatest pleasure":

I heard, O great King, that there is a powerful demon. A demon that is greater than any demons I have told you before. A demon, so great and powerful that he challenges God himself. And it dwells beneath an ancient well that has dried up in a small quaint island village. The island is so small, smaller than the size of the small bronze coins used across China and Korea that it is impossible to find on a map. It is known to be just off the coast of the Korean peninsula, a tiny speck of land with even tinier people living there.

Now legend says, that this demon is an Imoogi. They are sea serpents that must serve 1,000 years on earth until they collect three Yeouijus allowing them to rise to the heavens to become a dragon. These yeoijus were beautiful floating orbs a color indescribable by humans appearing differently in every eye as translucent shimmering whites, or solid jade the color just in between blue and green with specks of white mixed throughout that matches the glittering scales of a majestic sea dragon as it rises to the heavens the morning sunlight creating a golden halo around its body, or the color of swirling rainbows as it received the blessed touch of God. If they failed to collect their orbs because they had not accomplished good deeds helping mortals, they were doomed to stay on earth forever stuck in their mortal forms as slithering sea serpents. And these sea serpents haunted little children appearing in their nightmares and tormented the villagers out of spite that they have failed to become a dragon. However, this particular demon was no ordinary Imoogi. He was the prince of all sea dragons destined to be king and therefore his quest was far more taxing than any others.

There was a dangerous plague that had broken out across the whole land of Korea and thousands died each day. There were heaps of carcasses that lined the streets with crows pecking the flesh of rotten corpses. In a particular cave made of rough rocks washed up by the angry waves lay a single baby frail and malnourished from the harsh conditions laying on top of the pile of bodies. The infant's mother had died of the unmerciful plague but as if it were a cruel joke of fate, the wailing baby was untouched left much alive next to its dead mother. Although people had heard the babies pitiful wails echoing across the vast chambers of the cave, nobody bothered to save him. They had seen one look at his face and fled running as fast and as far away from the cave. The baby had a set of dark greenish scales crawling its way up the side of its face, neck, and forearms, the rough scaly texture looking almost too similar to the evil sea serpents that cackled in the corpse infested swamps with dark beady eyes that narrowed into tiny slits of maliciousness. The young prince opened his eyes and screamed as he saw himself surrounded by cold, gray bodies. He cried out for help praying to God that he would be saved. He prayed night and day shivering in his damp clothes coughing up burning saltwater every so often as the raging waves crashed into him making him hold onto rocks and lumps of limbs trying not to be washed away with the angry sea. He spent 500 years in the cave praying and drinking the meager water that fell from the high ceilings to soothe the sharp pangs of hunger. And at last, after 1,000 years, the prince had realized even God had abandoned him in the miserable cave, never to come. At that moment, there was a sudden shift in the air filled with the stench of unrecognizable body parts. It was as if the temperature had dropped even further than the numbing winters filled with snow and ice. It was a bone-chilling feeling that swept across the small land radiating a dark aura from the cave. The eyes of the fallen prince snapped open an enticing gold spreading from his irises, the scales on his body darkening to a green so dark it was almost the color of coal, and an inhuman snarl twisting on its face as he was filled with burning, hot hatred.

But morning overtook Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence. Then Dinarzad said to her sister, "What a strange and entertaining story!"

Shahrazad replied, "What is this compared with what I shall tell you tomorrow night if the king spares me and lets me live!"

The following night Dinarzad said to her sister Shahrazad, "Sister, if you are not sleepy, tell us one of your lovely little tales to while away the night."

Shahrazad replied, "With the greatest pleasure":

I heard, O King, the prince fell from the grace of God as he failed to persist. All he had to do was endure the weight of the crown. Endure the solitude, the hatred, and disgust, the anguish as the path of a king was lonely and harsh. The prince had not prayed to God for salvation. He had prayed for vengeance. He had cursed God for sending him to a place filled with evil not knowing that he himself had become one with evil. As his 1,000-year-long pursuit came to a final end it marked the beginning of an eternal punishment stuck inside a puny human body.

The prince who became a demon exited the cave prepared to unleash havoc upon the world when something quipped his curiosity. A shiny, sparkly chair that only one person could sit on. He thought that if he could not have the throne of the heavens, he would have one on earth. He quickly struck the old king to take his body as if he were pulling the strings of a puppet. The hideous scales on his body shifted slowly over to the human king and the harsh gold seeped through permeating every inch of his eyes coloring them the bright colors of molten ore. The kind king's crinkling laugh lines around his lively warm brown eyes disappeared instead replaced with a permanently etched deep scowl along with the uptilted corners of his mouth that pulled down to a frown. The demon brought in terror after terror and the small nation wavered tethering on the verge of collapse as it fought wars, blights, and illnesses. As every day repeated with shrill screams and cries of help, the entertainment was no longer delightful as it once was and the demon was becoming bored. He was in desperate need of a breath of fresh air and it happened that he set his eyes on a pretty young girl years later.

But morning overtook Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence. Then Dinarzad said to her sister, "What a strange and entertaining story!"

Shahrazad replied, "What is this compared with what I shall tell you tomorrow night if I stay alive!"

The following night Shahrazad said:

It is related, O King, that this fair maiden was so beautiful she was adored and worshipped. Common people described her as a goddess and claimed there was a halo that encompassed her and a flock of 101 doves that surrounded her protecting her everywhere she went. This enchanting girl had the name of Zia and was also the daughter of the late king. It meant wise and beautiful. Zia was quite bright and once she realized her father was possessed by the demon, she quickly escaped to a small island village where she bid her time plotting to avenge her father.

After years of cunning scheming, Zia went back to the kingdom disguised as a servant and watched the demon closely. She saw the small twitch in his lips as he heard another poor servant being tortured, the way his eyes would glint like a predator about to trap his prey when looking at the fearful people, and how he left the small corner beneath his throat unguarded as if taunting anyone to try slit his throat. When Zia waited, blended with the shadows of the corridor until the demon fell asleep, she quietly slipped into his bed chambers and flung her arm up to pierce his throat. She closed her eyes sending a silent prayer to God and her father to forgive her and she thrust the dagger down. She gasped in surprise to see a large hand wrapped around the blade dripping black blood and a pair of alluring golden eyes staring at her with curiosity. She paled dropping the blade as she backed away towards the door. The demon with his larger strides pushed her against a wall blocking the exit with his body.

"Oh my. What do we have here?" The demon asked showing his rotten yellow teeth.

Zia shook with anger and fear the tears of sorrow turned to rage. She hissed, "You! I am not afraid of some savage demon. I will make you pay for taking the body of my dear father!"

"You may." The demon simply said the bored expression grazing his expressionless face once again. Zia blinked in surprise, stunned by his revelation.

"Your lying. You would never give me my father with nothing in return," she said narrowing her eyes.

"What a clever girl. Why of course I have a price. I want you. More specifically your body." the demon said a sly grin spreading across his face.

"You cannot!" Zia shouted in panic. Even the 101 doves that trailed her bristled anxiously.

"All we're doing is simply trading a soul for a soul. It is quite fitting perhaps. You are a princess, you have power, and most importantly you are young. This host is disgustingly old and weak!"

"You cannot have my father nor me! I will not make a bargain with such a filthy demon like you!"

"Greedy aren't you? You can't have both. But. You can lose both. Decide quickly this body doesn't have much time left." the demon said.

Zia's eyes frantically looked from her father to herself. She looked down in defeat and opened her mouth in determination when the demon said, "And little girl, I will be taking your lovely doves as my slaves as well."

Zia's head snapped upward. Her doves were blessed and gifted by God himself that she adored dearly.

"No," Zia said her gaze hardening.

"What did you say?" the demon scowled.

"I said no," Zia said more firmly.

"Too late." the demon snarled and ripped a scale off his face and shoved it into her mouth. He forced her to swallow and the scales on the king started to fade. Through the pristine mirror on the wall, Zia saw her reflection her eyes slowly turning into the hard gold chips and her porcelain skin covered with faint green scales. Zia fumbled for the dagger she had dropped earlier and clumsily tilted it towards her stomach. Both the demon and Zia gasped as the blade pierced her soft skin.

"You!" the demon screamed his face twisted in fury and pain.

"You will never have anything!" Zia said and her eyes closed, her doves shifting to 101 ornate porcelain jars. The demon gleefully laughed, "But I already do," before he vanished into the deep underground, slithering in his mortal body waiting for the foolish girl to bring back his immortal soul.

But morning overtook Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence. Then Dinarzad said to her sister, "What a strange and entertaining story!"

Shahrazad replied, "What is this compared with what I shall tell you tomorrow night if the king spares me and lets me live! It will be stranger, more amazing, and more entertaining."

The following night Shahrazad said:

I heard, O happy King, that the evil demon remained in a well in the small quaint village where Zia once plotted her revenge, slowly digging his talons into the soft minds of the villagers. He whispered into their ears the prophecy that on the 444th year that marked his death on the 4th day of the 4th month a sweet baby girl would be born abandoned in the same cave that he was once trapped in. She would be raised by the villagers and loved by all, the girl with strange gold eyes. Until then the villagers would collect 100 pure souls in the dove-shaped porcelain jars and keep them. Only one would be left and when the golden-eyed girl turned 18, they would lock away her soul in the last jar and prick her for a single drop of blood that was to be dropped into the well. They would bring a shaman and perform the rite of resurrection and draw a ring around the well with the powder made from morning glories. Once the shaman finishes the rite she would become the vessel to collect the thunder towards his reincarnation.

On the 444th year of the demon's death on the 4th day of the 4th month, true to the demon's words, a golden-eyed girl was born. Over the years, she would awake from dreams that seemed so familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time where she stared at the same frightened gold-colored eyes that matched hers filled with anguish as if calling out to her to save him.

On her 18th birthday when the sun had set the night so dark that the only light was coming from the silver full moon, the villagers who had waited 18 years marched towards the girl's house to collect her soul. The shaman who finished the ritual was just waiting for the drop of blood. The girl gasped waking again from the dream of the gold pair of eyes that held the weight of the world in them. She jumped hearing a loud bang as her door opened and 101 villagers piled in each holding dove-shaped jars and the last person holding the empty jar. They grabbed her their unfocused eyes glazing even further and dragged her out. She thrashed and screamed for help as the villagers carried her to the well. They dumped her inside the ring of morning glories and when she tried to crawl away, the shaman quickly sliced her wrist letting the blood drip into the well. She hurriedly tried shoving the girl's soul into the jar, but the thunder crackled and shocked the shaman lifting her up into the air as she chanted her spell. The well rumbled and exploded into a thousand pieces and there stood a handsome young man with gold eyes looking right at the girl whose soul was not sealed in the last jar cast away to the side.

But morning overtook Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence. Then Dinarzad said to her sister, "What a strange and entertaining story!"

Shahrazad replied, "What is this compared with what I shall tell you tomorrow night if the king spares me and lets me live!"

The following night Shahrazad said:

"I thought I told you to do one job and put her in the jar! My immortal soul shall no longer be in the body of a mortal!" the demon bellowed his voice echoing throughout the empty forests where not a single bird chirped. The demon snapped his long fingers once and the villagers disappeared slowly treading back to their warm beds where they fell asleep not remembering the prophecy, nor the girl they had raised, nor the capture of the 100 souls.

"Hello, Zia. We meet after 444 years don't we?" the demon said and the girl who was not speaking before as if entranced by his golden eyes finally blinked, her eyes widening.

"You…" she gasped as the puzzle pieces fit in place.

"Yes indeed. I am back like I told you and I will have you." The demon howled in laughter.

"Why! Why could you not let me go! You killed my father! You trapped my doves! You took everything from me!" Zia exploded.

"Don't you dare raise your voice at me mortal! You should be honored that I have picked you to be my host!" the demon pointed a finger at her.

"And why should I be! You will bring destruction to the world! Why must you do this!" Zia yelled in frustration.

"Yes, I will bring destruction to earth! I will do it because I please to do so!" the demon screamed.

"And to do this I must have your body which carries my soul and your pure soul and the 100 sacrifices will finally bring me my three Yeoijus so that I shall rise as king of heaven." the demon said.

"Why do you want to be king when you have failed to do so! I have heard the legends that you cursed God! He will never forgive you! You will never have the crown!" Zia shouted.

"Shut your mouth human! I will show you who is in power! I will show the world who I am!" the demon laughed hysterically.

"Why must you do this? You can receive your Yeoijus without killing innocent souls. Let these humans go." Zia demanded.

"Little girl, have you heard of the tale of the 10,000-year-old fox who serves his punishment for eternity because he broke a single forbidden rule?"

"No," she responded cautiously.

He picked up one of the dove jars and said, "This is him. My dear friend who wronged me. 200 years ago when I was waiting for the 50th sacrifice…"

But morning overtook Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence. Then Dinarzad said to her sister, "What a strange and entertaining story!"

Shahrazad replied, "What is this compared with what I shall tell you tomorrow night if the king spares me and lets me live!"