My mother used to tell me a story. It was a long story, a sad story. It had swordplay, and it would make me cringe and go "eww" when I was a kid at the romantic scenes, but it was a story I never tired of, no matter how old I got. My mother would tell it to me when I was sick, when I had a nightmare, or just plain when I asked. And I used to ask whenever I could. It would be a reward for doing my chores, and it was always a suitable bribe. Perhaps it's because I always seemed to feel like I was a part of it, like I was there with the heroine. Or perhaps it was that her eyes always seemed to be far away when she told me, as if it had actually happened. It was strange.
But now, I sit on a stool beside my mother's bed, holding her hand as she looks at me through half-lidded eyes, the cataracts clouding her once-sharp, sparkling, mischievous green pair. Her skin was like dried parchment that had been scraped of writing once too many times, the blue veins visible beneath the surface. She seemed so frail. Not like the mother I once knew; so strong and unrelenting in whatever she set her mind to. Her hair had thinned out, becoming a pure, pure white that held merely a ghost of the color it had once been. Her wheezing sent shivers through me every time she breathed, for I knew that she didn't have much time left.
Slowly, she raised her hand and placed it on my arm. I shivered once again, as it was so cold, weighing almost nothing. I placed my other hand on top of hers, faking a smile for her. i wouldn't want her to worry.
"Mama?" I asked softly, "What is it? Can I get something for you? Mama?"
She shook her head, smiling to herself, cracking her too-dry lips in the process. Taking a long, wheezing breath, she spoke, in a voice so soft it was hard to hear.
"Once...the world was not so peaceful as it is... right now."
She was starting the story. I shook my head, squeezing her hand lightly, "Shhh. Don't waste your energy."
She arched one thin eyebrow and continued despite my protest, "The sky... was not so bright... and the trees... not so green."
She was going to start and finish it even without my consent. But her eyes seemed to cloud over - not from the cataracts, but as if she were no longer there - as if she were more telling herself than me. I knew that this time, the story would be different. And I was nervous as to what she would say, having hidden it for so long...