The Three Golden Pills by Crad Kilodney
February and March 2000
Once upon a time there were three peasant boys named Moe, Zink, and Willy. They lived in a poor, tiny hamlet in a country that was so backward, hardly anyone knew what year it was. The boys were very unhappy because their lives were dull and full of hard work. There was no future to look forward to except day after day of hard work and boredom until they got old and died. They longed to go out in the world and see what was there and have some sort of adventure. Of course, they knew nothing about the outside world but imagined that it must be very exciting and that if they went out to explore it, something good would happen. If they stayed in their hamlet, nothing would ever happen.
The boys talked about this many times until finally they decided to take a chance and see what the world had to offer. Secretly, they packed bundles for themselves, sneaked out early in the morning, and met at a place on the outskirts of the hamlet. After taking one last look at their miserable little cottages in the distance, they headed off. This was it! There was no turning back!
It didn’t matter which direction they chose. Any one would do.
After several hours, they found themselves deep in a forest they had never been in before. The trees were so tall they blocked out the sun, making the forest dark and spooky even in the daytime. There was no path to follow. The boys just walked straight ahead.
“I think we’re lost,” said Willy.
“We’re not lost, we’re exploring,” said Moe. “There’s a difference.”
So the boys continued ever deeper into the mysterious forest.
As they approached a large tree, a lovely young woman stepped out from behind it. She had long, golden hair and was dressed in a beautiful blue gown. The boys were startled.
“Who are you?” asked Moe hesitantly.
The young woman replied, “My name is Ella. I’m a fairy.”
The boys looked at each other in amazement. Zink said to Ella, “We’ve heard of fairies…but we never met one before. I sure hope you’re friendly.”
Ella smiled. “All fairies are friendly. Here, I have a surprise for you.” She held out her hand. In it lay three golden pills. “These are for you…if you want them.”
“What are they for?” asked Willy.
The fairy replied, “These are very special pills. One will make you very rich. One will make you very strong…And one will kill you.”
The three boys stared in fascination. “Which one is which?” asked Moe. “They all look alike.”
“Yes,” said the fairy. “That’s the point. You can’t tell one from another…until you take it, of course. Now, since there are three of you, you may each take a pill and hope for the best.”
“Do we have to?” asked Zink nervously.
“You don’t have to do anything,” said Ella. “You can go back home for all I care.”
Well, that sounded like a dare if ever there was one. For three peasant boys in search of adventure, it would be hard to refuse three magic pills from a fairy, even if one of them would kill you.
Willy asked the fairy, “What are the rules? Do we have to swallow them now? Can we trade them? Can we throw them away if we don’t want to take them?”
“You can do whatever you like,” replied the fairy.
Moe got up his courage and took one of the pills from Ella’s hand. “I’ll take this one. But I’m going to save it for later.”
Zink reached out and took another. “I guess I’ll take this one.” He compared his with Moe’s and wondered if he should trade. But since they looked the same, what difference would it make?
Willy reached out and took the last pill from the fairy’s hand. “I might as well go along,” he said. “After all, I can change my mind later.”
“Of course, you can,” said Ella. “Good luck, boys.” And with those words, she stepped behind the tree and disappeared.
The boys stood there for a while trying to grasp what had happened. They knew they weren’t dreaming because three people can’t have the same dream. They looked at their pills. If they all took them, one would become very rich, one would be very strong…and one would end up very dead. It was a lot to think about. They put their pills in their pockets to save them for later.
As they continued walking, they wondered if there were any more fairies lurking in the forest, waiting to give them golden pills or other mysterious things. However, they didn’t meet any.
“Maybe it’s all a joke,” said Willy. “Maybe the pills don’t do anything.”
“Don’t be silly. Fairies don’t play jokes,” said Zink, as if he knew what he was talking about.
“Well, then, why don’t you take your pill and find out?” said Willy.
“I’d rather not, if you don’t mind,” said Zink. “At least not now.”
The boys stopped for a while to eat some food and drink some water. After a short rest, they continued on their way.
“I’d like to be rich,” remarked Moe as they walked. “Rich is best.” The others agreed. The rich pill was definitely the best.
“Of course, the strong pill would be good, too,” said Zink, who was not very strong. “Being strong is certainly good if you can’t be rich.” And the others agreed.
No one wanted to speak of the third pill, which was the death pill.
Sometime in the afternoon, the boys emerged from the forest and found themselves facing a ridge of high, rocky hills. They did not look particularly safe for climbing. In fact, the whole place looked barren and not very nice at all. And to make things worse, dark storm clouds were brewing. Far away, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. It was heading their way.
“This looks pretty bad,” said Willy. “We’d better find some shelter.”
The boys walked along the base of the hills, looking for any place to take cover, when they saw a huge boulder. “What a strange place for a boulder,” said Moe. “Right up against the hillside.”
“Look! I think there’s a cave behind it!” said Zink.
The boys looked closer. Yes, the boulder was indeed blocking the entrance to a cave!
“If we could only get inside!” said Willy. He leaned against the boulder, but it didn’t budge. All three of them tried, but it was no use. It would take the strength of a giant to move it. They looked at each other. They were all thinking the same thing: whoever had the strong pill could probably move the boulder.
They all took out their pills and looked at them and wondered.
“I assume the strong pill makes you strong for the rest of your life, not just for one time,” said Moe.
“Of course,” said Zink and Willy, only because it seemed logical.
The rain began to fall. It came down harder and harder, driven by a fierce wind. Lightning flashed many times, filling the air with terrifying thunder.
“We can’t wait around wondering! We have to get inside the cave!” said Zink urgently. “Come on, Moe, you’re the brave one! Take your pill!”
“But I wanted the rich pill!” said Moe.
“Never mind that,” said Zink. “Whoever gets the rich pill will reward you. Take your pill and see if it’s the strong one.”
“Please, Moe, hurry!” exclaimed Willy.
“All right,” said Moe. He put the pill in his mouth and swallowed it with some water from his flask. He waited a few seconds to see if he could feel anything, but he couldn’t tell one way or the other. Finally, as the rain pelted down on them in torrents, he leaned against the boulder and pushed with all his might.
“Push as hard as you can!” the others urged him.
So Moe pushed as hard as he could, straining every muscle until the veins in his neck bulged and his face turned red. After several seconds he let out a painful gasp — “Oh!” and collapsed flat on his back. His eyes were open for a moment as he tried to speak, but his last words choked in his throat. Then his eyes closed, and he was absolutely still.
Zink and Willy knelt over him. They slapped his face. They shook him. They shouted at him. Then they felt his pulse. There was none. They looked at each other in horror. “He’s dead!”
“He must have taken –”
“–the death pill!”
The two boys cried as they hugged Moe’s lifeless body. The cold rain poured down upon them, chilling them to the bone, but they no longer cared. Their lifelong friend, Moe, was dead. They lay there with him until the storm passed, which seemed like forever.
As the last few drops fell to the earth and the sky began to brighten little by little, Zink and Willy sat quietly in sad reflection. “I wish we’d never met that fairy!” said Zink angrily.
“Me neither!” said Willy.
There was no way to bury their friend, for they had no shovel to dig a grave, and the ground was much too hard anyway. The best they could do was to cover him with some branches and stones. Then they said a little prayer and told him how much they’d miss him.
When that was done, Zink and Willy looked around, wondering which way was the best to go.
“I want to go this way,” said Zink, pointing east.
“I’d rather go that way,” said Willy, pointing west.
They argued a bit but could not agree. “Well, let’s part here and wish each other good luck,” said Zink.
“Okay,” said Willy. “Moe got the death pill, so at least we know both our pills are good. One of us will be rich, and the other will be strong. Either way, we have something to look forward to.”
“Perhaps we’ll meet again someday,” said Zink. “I’ll tell you all about my adventures.”
“I will, too,” said Willy. And on that note, the boys shook hands and went their separate ways — Zink to the east and Willy to the west.
Zink walked for a long time, imagining a wonderful future. Would he be rich or strong? Well, there was no reason to save the pill any longer, so he decided to swallow his now before he lost it along the way.
He walked through beautiful meadows with lovely flowers and sweet-smelling grass. There were songbirds in the trees singing as he had never heard songbirds sing before. In fact, he had never imagined such a beautiful land in all his dreams. He came to a stream and drank the water. It was clean and tasted good. There were bushes along the bank with sweet berries. He couldn’t have felt happier. Everything was going to turn out fine. I’m such a lucky young fellow! thought Zink.
He crossed the stream, which was not deep at all, and found a path on the other side and decided to follow it. He walked through the beautiful countryside until he came to a house just off the path. It was the finest house he had ever seen, not at all like the small, shabby cottages of the hamlet he had left behind. This one was shiny with gold and silver trim, excellent stonework, and polished wood. There were rosebushes all around and fine shade trees. The door had a golden knocker. A very rich man must live here, thought Zink. Unless…unless this house was meant for me!
He knocked at the door. There was no answer. He pushed it open. It wasn’t locked. He stepped inside, and his eyes widened in disbelief. The room was filled with riches — chests of gold and silver coins, jewels, goblets, and exquisite carvings! Yes, this had to be Zink’s house! “I got the rich pill!” he exclaimed ecstatically. He dug his hands into a chest of gold coins. “It’s mine! It’s mine! It’s all mine!”
Suddenly a loud voice shouted from the doorway behind him: “STOP, THIEF!” A pistol fired, and a bullet ripped through Zink’s heart. He fell dead.
Meanwhile, Willy had walked many miles in the other direction, and at the end of the day, he found himself on a high bluff overlooking a valley. A peaceful stream gurgled far below, and the sides of the valley were covered with beautiful trees and shrubs as far as the eye could see. The setting sun lit up the scattered clouds with red, gold, and purple. It was the most magnificent sunset Willy had ever seen. I’m so lucky! he thought. Now was the time to take his golden pill, he decided, with everything so perfect. So he swallowed it with some water and lay on his back, watching the stars come out one by one in the deepening twilight. Yes, tomorrow would be the beginning of a wonderful new life. He would either be very rich or very strong. Tonight he would have happy dreams about his glorious future. And with these happy thoughts, he closed his eyes…for the last time.
Willy never saw the sun rise again. You see, Willy’s golden pill was the death pill.
And what about the others, you must be wondering. Zink’s pill was the strong pill, which did not protect him from the rich man’s bullet. As for Moe, when he tried to move the boulder, he strained himself too hard, and a vein burst inside his head, killing him. His pill was the rich pill, which did him no good.
by Crad Kilodney
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Crad Kilodney, P.O. Box 72577, 345 Bloor St. East, Unit 7, Toronto, ON, M4W 3S9
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