Ruler of Waters

Pristine waters so tempting and forbidden.

Ominous black clouds wrapped Saiylie in a blanket of stifling tropical heat. She had been summoned, among hundreds of compliant subjects now shuffling reluctantly into the palace of King Manzi, Ruler of Waters.

Clad in black, as per custom.

Eyes downcast, as per custom. No witness to the magnificent waterfalls cascading down the façade of the palace, to the rooftop fountains and fantastical tributes to the Ruler of Waters. Eyes downcast, gazing into the moat below. Now devoid of deadly creatures. Now the world’s largest swimming pool. Inviting. Tempting. Forbidden to all but the 10-year-old Prince.

“My legacy,” screeched King Manzi, in a grating voice bereft of the gravitas of a great ruler.

“My legacy, my gift to you my people, is The Speaker,” and the ruling elite beamed in admiration as they gathered en-masse in the palace forecourt. The ailing and bumbling King had emerged from his private sanctum to deliver unto his people ‘The Speaker’.

The Speaker would be the voice of all future AI applications, into eternity. King Manzi was adamant the one single voice would emerge from his people. Thus, Saiylie was now shepherded between a sea of electronic cables belonging to the world’s pre-eminent AI experts tasked with measuring clarity, timbre and resonance before selecting the voice to rule all voices.

King Manzi gazed skywards, addressing the black clouds. Holding the clouds, holding his audience.

The recording began. Saiylie waited; for orders and relief from the heat. None came.

The ruling elite performed at their erudite best in the search for perfection and the hope of becoming The Speaker.

Eyes downcast, Saiylie saw the first drop, then the second. The clouds had begun to empty. An umbrella was thrust into Saiylie’s hands, and hundreds more soon snapped open to protect the elite and their precious recordings.

The rain grew heavier.

“Closer,” Saiylie was ordered.

“Closer,” and she shuffled closer to the surrounding umbrellas to form a compact canopy over the aristocracy. Massive drops of monsoonal rain then pounded defiantly on the King’s forecourt and sent the elite into a harried cacophony of raised voices.

“Continue,” commanded the King.

Louder and louder they spoke until they created their own cloud of steam underneath the canopy.

“Continue,” King Manzi yelled.

Temperature rose inside the canopy. Saiylie began rocking to and fro with uncontrollable giddiness. She felt increasingly lightheaded, and felt her feet leave the ground as the cacophony of voices created their own microclimate. Saiylie began to float, upwards and away from the voices.

Was she fainting?

Was she flying?

She rose higher and higher as the heat and humidity turned the interwoven umbrellas into a hot air balloon. Higher and higher they rose until above the palace walls.

Saiylie spotted the moat below. She released the umbrella and raised her arms skyward, slipping out of her black robes and into the blissful waters of the moat.

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