This story was written as a first draft close for Home Of The Wriggler. Ultimately it was boiled down into three paragraphs and in so doing turned from Fairy Tale into Legend.
“This is a story from the future. It starts with Once Upon A Time, but for us it is a story about things that have yet to happen.
Once Upon A Time there was a King who had a problem. His kingdom had been rich and happy, but now people were coming to him complaining, “There is an invisible gas that is causing our children to wheeze and splutter,” they said “And whilst we’re at it,” they added, “the winters are becoming terribly cold, whilst summers are too hot, spring is always too wet and the autumns are definitely too windy. What are you going to do about it?”
The King thought his subjects were spoilt and ungrateful but they kept complaining bitterly until he was forced to issue a proclamation. – Whoever can rid this kingdom of its wheezing and foul weather may take my beautiful daughter’s hand in marriage – “what more can I do?” he muttered as he set off hunting.
Soon princes were coming from far and wide, each fell in love with the King’s beautiful daughter and each failed in the challenge. Years passed and the wheezing and weather got worse. Finally, when the people, and thus the king, we all in despair, a young girl came to the palace and asked to speak with the King. “I wish to take up your challenge,” she announced to the king’s astonishment. “Very well” he replied doubtfully, “but listen, if you succeed you won’t be marrying my beautiful daughter, understand?” the young girl said she understood and that she needed three things before she could complete the challenge. “Name them and they shall be yours,” said the king immediately regretting it. “I will need a large factory, one year and all the diamonds in the kingdom,” said the little girl with a smile.
The King was furious. “I can give you a factory and a year, but I cannot give you all the diamonds in my kingdom!” he roared. “Then I cannot help you,” replied the girl who promptly turned on her heel and left the palace.
Now the people had heard about the young girl and were anxious to know what had come of her meeting with the King. When they learned of the enormous price she had demanded there was a huge argument. People without diamonds where happy with the price, those with diamonds were not. Those without diamonds accused those with diamonds of being selfish. Those with diamonds suggested those without diamonds buy their own if they were so anxious for them to be given away to small girls.
Just as the argument looked like breaking into a fight, a tall, elegant woman stepped forwards and spoke calmly “I have a beautiful diamond necklace and I would happily give it to the girl as I never wear it anymore. All the dances I used attend are cancelled because of the foul weather. I love to dance and would happily dance without my necklace if the weather allowed it”. On hearing this, a short plump woman came forward. “I only have a small diamond, it is precious to me because it is part of my engagement ring, but it is not as precious as my son who choughs and wheezes to sleep every night. I would gladly trade my ring if it meant he could run around and play again”. With this, more people promised their diamonds until, eventually, even the king was shamed into promising to give the girl some of his smaller diamonds.
The next day the King reluctantly summoned the small girl back to his palace. “I cannot give you all the diamonds in the kingdom as you requested, but I can give you enough to make you the richest young girl in this or, I venture, any kingdom” with this the king poured a dazzling pile of jewels at the little girl’s feet. The king expected the girl to be delighted, but instead she looked at the jewels with a sad face. “I know this should be as many diamonds as any girl could want” she sighed “but they are not enough for me. As I said at the start, I need all the diamonds in the kingdom”. “This is madness!” the king ragged “Your price is far too high, people will call you greedy, hate you and try to steal from you”. The little girl thought for a moment “I see that this is difficult for you, so we will strike a bargain. I still need all the diamonds in the kingdom, but I promise only to keep them for one year, at the end of this year they shall all be returned to their owners”.
So all kingdom’s diamonds were collected and given to the little girl, who took them in sacks to a big old factory on the edge of town where she started work. For a whole year no one was allowed into the factory and the girl never came out. Occasionally she asked for sandwiches to be delivered, for a ball of string or a hacksaw, but apart from this all was quiet and after a while people almost forgot about the small girl in the big factory. Then, as the year drew to its end, things changed, rumours started, people grew suspicious of the girl and were anxious to get their diamonds back.
On the last day of the year a huge crowd gathered at the factory gate. A small door opened in one of its vast green buildings and the little girl came out in her white plimsolls, white dress and play fairy wings. “Where are our diamonds?” The crowd shouted through the railings. “Open this gate, let us collect them.” “Your diamonds are all safe at the palace with The Keeper of the Kings Jewels” she smiled. Frantic with worry now the mob charged to the palace screaming and shouting, but The Keeper of the Kings Jewels was a huge and fierce man who wasn’t to be intimidated. He made them all stand in an orderly queue and anyone who pushed was sent to the back, eventually every last person had their diamonds returned to them, as good as new.
Everyone was so interested in the fate of the diamonds that it was some time before anyone asked about the challenge but eventually the little girl was summoned to the palace. “Well, we paid your price and gave you your factory, a year has passed and it seems to me you have failed in your challenge,” rumbled the king, “I have a good mind to throw you in the dungeon!”
“Your highness” replied the girl, “I beg you not to throw me in your dungeon but first to listen to this lady” and with that a short plump woman wearing a diamond engagement ring stepped forward. “I don’t know if it is this girl’s doing,” the woman started “but we live close to the factory and about six months ago I noticed my little boy was coughing and wheezing less and less, now he runs around and plays as happy as can be”. “That’s as maybe” said the king “but what about the weather? I can’t see that has changed”. With this a tall, elegant woman wearing a beautiful diamond necklace stepped forward “Of course it is difficult to spot patterns in the weather but last night we threw our New Year’s Ball and for the first time in years all our guests arrived safely. I am sure this winter has been less harsh that those before it.”
So with these and further tales the King was grudgingly satisfied that the Girl hadn’t cheated him and had maybe even done some good. People had stopped moaning so much to him about the wheezing and the weather and all it had cost him was an old factory he didn’t really need any more.
Everyone thought that was the unspectacular end of the story, but six months later there was a loud knock on the palace door. It was a furious headmaster holding the little Girl tight by her left ear and demanding to see the Keeper of the King’s Jewels. The Keeper of the King’s Jewel was told how the little girl had worn a large pair of diamond earrings to school that day, that they had been confiscated and now the Headteacher was searching for their rightful owner. The Keeper said no one had reported any missing jewels to him so he followed, with the king, as the Headteacher marched the girl to the police station. The Chief of Police said he had no reports of missing earrings. So he followed with his deputy as the little girl was marched to her factory and forced to unlock the gates.
Inside the illustrious crowd wandered around, unsure where to go or what they were looking for. Eventually the King came to the biggest building in the factory, pulled open its huge sliding door, let out a high-pitched scream and fainted. The chief of police grabbed the girl and said “Right girl, you’re coming with me” but no one else moved or said anything. Inside the building it was dark, despite the wide open door, and holes cut in the ceiling and walls. In the darkness, sparkling like a million stars were all the diamonds the Girl was supposed to have returned to their owners six months ago.
“Let me explain,” cried the girl wriggling free of the Police Chief’s grasp, “let me show you how it works,” and so she took the astonished crowd on a tour. She showed them how thousands of engagement rings focussed all the sunlight the entered the room down into bracelets that in turn reflected and refracted light in and out of rainbows and how this light was combined, using necklaces and pendants strung across the building on string, in towards a central point where the King’s biggest ceremonial diamonds sat, held in rusty old school science stands, alongside the biggest diamonds from the Lords of Industry and those from banks and corporate strong rooms. These large stones each focussed the light into a small black box.
“Don’t look in there!” shouted the girl as the deputy chief of police leaned forward to inspect the box, “it’s too bright, it will blind you”. “I don’t understand,” the Keeper of the King’s Jewels scratched his head, “I thought we had returned all these diamonds.”
“We returned all the original diamonds,” said the girl “Each night I smuggled out a bag for you to take care of it was because I had already made their replacements. I made all the diamonds you see here, they are brand new.” And sure enough, wearing welding goggles, it was clear to see that in the black box, very slowly, at the centre of the smallest brightest blaze of light imaginable, the little girl was making diamonds.
Every daylight hour the factory was sucking in the invisible gas and breathing out pure oxygen. Each diamond was a permanent carbon store highly compressed, a museum containing carbon from the Great Fire Of London, Oil Fires in the Gulf, forest fires in Australia, exhaust from school runs and Grand Prix races, Hitler’s breath, Martin Luther King and Olympic Rowers, choirs singing, homes being heated, airplanes crossing the sky, whatever you care to imagine, each clear glinting stone held its trace.
The King, the Headteacher, the keeper of the King’s Jewels, the deputy and chief of Police and the little girls granddad stood amazed, their jaws slack, dribbling slightly not knowing what to say or do.
Gill has two ends to the story. In one the price of diamonds plummets until a mysterious explosion at the factory blows the girl and all her diamonds into the air where they are lost to scavengers and the rubble. Tonight he chooses the happy ending, in which the price of diamonds plummets and over time everyone comes to wear them and glittering buildings are bejewelled in them and the whole kingdom sparkles in a host of rainbows as a gentle rain falls the through clean air of tranquil sunsets.”