Friday Flash: The Emperor’s Nightstand

01 Jul

Once upon a time, in a land where books where short enough to be read in under fifteen minutes and conversations never lasted more than three, the ruling Emperor and Empress had a son who never did as he was told. No matter what they tried, the stubborn boy refused to pass from idea to idea like everyone else did. He extended conversations to as long as half an hour and he pestered all his tutors to stay with a single subject well past the socially acceptable limit.

No matter what they did, he would smile and belabor his point until whoever was trying to argue with him would get bored with the topic and move on.

They hoped he would grow out of it and settle into a proper quick step rhythm, but as he moved through puberty his attention span grew until as a young man, he could stare at a single flower all afternoon without moving. His parents were certain that he was cursed, but never got around to confirming it, the business of the moment always taking precedence.

Then one day when the Emperor was making his way up to the top of the castle’s North Tower, the stairs, which had been needing repair for years but promised to take far too long to fix, finally gave out, taking the Emperor down with them in their collapse.

As with every ceremony, the funeral was short and the mourning period even shorter. Within hours of his father’s death, the new Emperor was crowned and his mother had retired to the countryside where she could indulge in her passion for sketching the ever-changing clouds, preparing five-minute tapas recipes and whatever else took her fancy.

Although saddened at his father’s passing, the new Emperor wasted no time putting into action a scheme that he’d come up with during his flower-staring sessions.

First he ordered the production of small tables which he then commanded be put in every bedroom in the empire. As it was something novel to catch the interest of his change-loving subjects, they took to the idea easily but soon forgot the new piece of furniture, which in most cases happened after a day or two.

Next, the Emperor had a lamp cast for every table and gave his guards something to do by having them distribute the lamps to every household. Some guards complained that they got bored by the repetitive work, but after the Emperor set the first few complainers the task of counting how much money he was spending in this project, they rest shut up and got on with their work.

Finally, the Emperor instituted a bedtime across the entire empire. As of nine o’clock each evening, every person who was not working had to be in bed and were only allowed to leave for calls of nature.

This last edict nearly caused a rebellion, but as no one could stay focused long enough to organize anything serious, the Emperor got his way.

“What are we to do with the time?” the populace asked.

“Read,” was the Emperor’s response.

“But when we finish one story we can’t get out bed to get the next.”

Expecting this reponse, the Emperor’s official communiqué explained that for this reason, every person had a nightstand where books might be stored temporarily.

The populace accepted this solution, but soon complained that with the amount of time they were expected to be in bed, they needed more books than could fit on the small table.

“Give us a larger table!” they cried.

But the Emperor was as prepared for this complaint as he’d been prepared for all the rest.

“No,” he proclaimed. “Read longer books.”

Six months later the Emperor removed the bedtime curfew, but as everyone had their nose stuck in a book, no one noticed.


Today’s Friday Fiction was inspired by the topic What Books Are on Your Nightstand? the opening question in the inaugural cycle of the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out what books are on their nightstand, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour.


Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Friday flash


14 responses to “Friday Flash: The Emperor’s Nightstand

  1. Paul Andruss

    July 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Charming,amusing and I am still smiling!

  2. adamkeeper

    July 1, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Quirky, I think we are all headed the way of your world, hopefully someone will be around to pull us together like the young emperor does here. Nice development from your original inspiration.

  3. Brett (Aka Gilroy)

    July 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Did the young emperor ban televisions? :>

    Great piece of fiction.
    Love the blog layout as well.

  4. Erin

    July 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Love the story! And I like how you kept to the Friday Flash idea, too. 🙂 Very nice.

  5. David

    July 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Too funny! If only all the world’s problems could be solved with nightstands, lamps, and books. 🙂

  6. Sharon

    July 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    hee hee. Very cute. Of course if they had kindles they wouldn’ even have to worry about the nightstand.

  7. Alex

    July 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

    @Paul: Glad it made you smile!

    @Adam: Sometimes I fear the same thing, but then I see huge books that the masses love (like the Twilight series or Harry Potter) and I have hope.

    @Brett: In the Emperor’s world, there are no TVs. *gasp!*

    @Erin: Thanks – part of my challenge with the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour is to make the month’s theme match with the category of the day on this blog.

    @David: There’s a great word in Spanish that sums up the idea of “if only” – Ojalá! – perfect in this situation.

    @Sharon: I think in this Emperor’s world they’d be bespelled books or scrolls. 😉

  8. Eliza

    July 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Loved this! In very few words you managed to capture the challenge of our ever growing social tendency to only scratch the surface. I am sharing this on Facebook.

  9. Alex

    July 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks Eliza! Glad you enjoyed it. It was fun to write.

  10. L.C.Aisling

    July 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I love it – that’s how one creates good habits. Beautiful work, I think it would be a good story to tell to kids when they start reading.

    • Alex

      July 4, 2011 at 7:20 am

      Thanks LC! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but your’re right. The story is about forming habits.

  11. Raven

    July 5, 2011 at 9:51 am

    That was lovely!

    • Alex

      July 5, 2011 at 11:13 am

      Thanks Raven!

  12. zette

    July 8, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    What a fun little story! Excellent work!


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