Quest for The Nectar

Siddhant RajDecember 4, 2023Finding MeaningFiction

Artwork by Iryna Tsisaruk, age 15

In this great labyrinth of life, one who knows how to find beauty in even the most monotonous of times is one that can transform the most absurd of dreams into reality.

In the late 19th century, there lived a young girl named Aaliyah. She resided in a remote village known as Tamult with her grandmother, Lucienda. Aaliyah lost her parents in a devastating landslide when she was only 4 years old. Ever since, she lived in the countryside and followed the lifestyle of her grandmother. By the age of 11, she started working as a waste collector to help her grandmother make ends meet.

The prefecture of Tamult was clearly divided into two parts — one was an idyllic prosperous society for the wealthy and the royal, and the other was for the impoverished. Aaliyah belonged to the society of the poverty-stricken, but hoped to find herself on the privileged side, someday.

Aaliyah’s life was quite mundane. Every day, after school, she would collect and dispose of garbage. During her leisure hours, Aaliya would dream of a time when she would no longer have to toil all day just to earn a meager few pennies. Lost in her thoughts, she often found herself buried under an avalanche of qualms. She yearned for a life of wealth and splendor, and could not stand the mere prospect of living around people so complacent. Her only mode of expressing her feelings was through poetry, for that was the sole way for her to peregrinate through her imaginative realms and gallivant in her mind’s dream world. Writing poems also helped tame the inner conflicts that constantly tainted Aaliyah’s head. However, she preferred keeping her poems to herself and did not like to share them with anyone else.

One unusually grim evening, the skies were dressed in a drab shade of crimson. Aaliyah was dulled by fatigue after a long day at school and work. On her way back home, she encountered a rather bizarre predicament. As she traversed the wilderness to go back home, a peculiar entity clad in matte black robes appeared before her, whispering the words: “The Devil shall come, and shall destroy. Beware, damsel, for The Devil is your doom! The Devil shall slither through your soul and break it! The Devil shall suck all that is pure within you. Quest for The Nectar, and you shall be able to avoid His apocalypse!”

Aaliyah was in a fog, her face ashen like that of a corpse. “What on God’s green Earth just happened?” she stammered, her chocolate-brown eyes wide open and her lips pursed. Pondering all the way over her enigmatic experience, she finally reached home. She didn’t realize that she was late and had completely forgotten that her grandma was unwell. As she turned the doorknob to enter her house, she thought to herself: “Who could that queer figure be? What’s the reason for this sudden quandary?” Her pensive contemplation was then interrupted by the shrieks of her grandmother, who was at her wits’ end waiting for Aaliyah to come back home. “Ma! You are supposed to be on bed rest, remember?” said young Aaliyah. “Tut-tut, little girl. I don’t need any bed rest! Where were you anyway?” Lucienda was vexed. “Uh . . . Nowhere, just left a bit late, that’s it,” stuttered Aaliyah.

“By the way, there’s beetroot soup in the fridge. You can have it for dinner.”

“Ugh! The same thing again and again. Can you not make something else, ma?” As Aaliyah gobbled her food, her skin crawled in disgust. She told her grandmother about her encounter with the strange entity. Lucienda simply smirked and did not utter a word.

The next day, as Aaliyah opened her eyes, she heard a strange sound of something breaking. She shot out of her bed and ran straight to her grandmother’s room. “Ma! Ma!” she frantically called out. She went to her neighbors’ house and asked them if they knew where Lucienda was, but they just drew a blank. Aaliyah started sweating bullets. Lucienda had vanished into thin air! “Where could she go? She can’t just drop out of sight like this.”

Aaliyah looked for her grandmother in the woods, but much to her chagrin, Lucienda was nowhere to be found. An amalgamation of emotions swirling around her mind, tears started pouring out of Aaliyah's eyes, dripping down her cheeks and toppling to the ground. Weeping, she yelped, “Why me, oh, lord? Why me?” As much as it was difficult for Aaliyah to fathom the situation, she still continued with her daily chores, but something had shifted in her. She was no longer desperate to move to the prosperous side of Tamult society.

Before long, Aaliyah took a break from school to take care of the house. She now realized how blessed she was to have Lucienda in her life. Every night, she would sit on the veranda and gaze at the moon, wondering when she would be able to meet her grandmother again. A few days later, on a balmy Sunday morning, she was strolling through the woods and happened to run into a small family that lived in a cave. She was instantly perturbed to see how pale and dejected their faces were, weakened by weariness.

Aaliyah felt a glowing sensation of gratitude in her heart and decided to help the family and make them some food. Looking at the family indulge in their warm bowls of beetroot soup filled Aaliyah’s mind, and kindled in her a sense of pride. This 14-year-old had finally found her purpose in life — to help others and change their lives, for she now believed in the everlasting power of kindness and compassion, and the profound impact it can have on people. Aaliyah’s primary motto was to find beauty in monotony, to find light in the gloomiest of times, and to perpetually see love, not feud.

She now realized that mining for the flaws in her life inhibited her from appreciating the myriad of privileges she was blessed with. Suddenly it dawned on her – her encounter with the strange entity in the woods. “Hm, now I see . . . ‘The Devil’ is my resentment toward everything that I have, and ‘The Nectar’ is my gratitude toward life.” She looked up with a smile, after this epiphany. A divine melody reverberated across the turquoise skies, and the green gold trees started dancing, swaying and swishing. The birds harmonized the music with their melodious chirps, and a voice resonated through the heavens: “Lo, let beauty outshine ignorance! Lo, let belief sweeten all that is bitter! And lo, let the flowers of love add fragrance and eradicate that stench of hatred!”

Although taken aback, Aaliyah let her bedazzlement outweigh her confusion. She was now motivated to change the world for the better, breaking all inhibitions and spreading only felicity and joy. As she unlocked the door to her house, she was astonished to see her grandmother again. Before Lucienda could say anything, young Aaliyah quickly gave her a tight hug. “Thank you, ma! I will never let you go away from me again,” she exclaimed, and time stood still.

Siddhant Raj is an 11-year-old from a multicultural family in India. He loves to call himself a bibliophile and aspires to be a published author someday! Riverside School is the space where he gives shape to his thoughts and dreams. Writing stories and poems is Siddhant’s superpower.