Saturday, 29 June 2013

Underwater Gods

Underwater Gods - Image courtesy of Didier Massard

Not all gods live in the heavens. 
Countless have their abodes on earth.
Some others are banished to underwater depths, where no living creature, whether with or devoid of faith, knows to pray.

The Earth Gods largely outnumber the Sky Gods. 

The latter are understandably the most sought after and people always looks up to the heavens when they remember God.

The former are so many in number and so commonplace now that people have had to pick favourites; which gods grant their wishes and which don’t, which ones are reputed for speedy answers to their prayers and which ones aren’t. 

But not many know about the Underwater Gods.

Sometimes a diver or two loses his way in the waters and wanders into the cathedral. Often he returns with a cast of hundreds, and the cathedral is photographed and marvelled upon. Replicas are built on land, stories of faith are woven around it, and tourists pause to be overwhelmed by the possibility of underwater worship.

Sometimes people go down in search of God. Usually they end up being distracted by the dazzling colours of underwater life and return to the surface believing they have found God. 

Whenever there are visitors, the gods freeze themselves into little statues adorning the arches of the cathedral. They make no sound, no movement, and hold their breath until the visitors have left. 

If you ask them, they’d tell you discomfort is the little price they pay to preserve their privacy. They know that if they remain hidden, people will soon stop looking for them.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Cinderella Tale

A Cinderella Tale - Image courtesy of Terra Kate

When she received an invitation to the ball, Cinderella scurried about the house looking for the things she would need before her fairy godmother arrived at dusk.

Cobwebs spun by twelve-legged spiders would be woven into a fine gossamer dress for her to wear that evening.
One large pumpkin she had stolen from her neighbour’s garden last Halloween (but she couldn’t remember how), this would become the coach to take her to the ball.
She wasn’t particularly fond of mice, so she thought she would instead ask the white doves to draw her coach.

We could transform the stepsisters into horses and make them draw the coach, a little voice piped up.
Cinderella shushed the voice and busied herself in her household chores.

Think about it, continued the voice. The stepmother would make a fine coachman, seeing as how good she is at using the whip.
Cinderella ignored it, and dusted the furniture.

What if the pumpkin is all rotten from the inside and the coach collapses as soon you step on it?
Cinderella shut out the truth of possibility, and swept and mopped the floors. 

What if the fairy godmother doesn’t turn up?
Cinderella told it to shut up, and did the dishes.

What if the prince already has a lover leaning on his arms?
Cinderella sang aloud, and washed the clothes and hung them out to dry.

When evening came and her stepsisters and stepmother left for the ball, Cinderella ran up to the attic to wait. Evening bled into night but no one came. Cinderella started to sob at the realization she was doomed to a life of eternal slavery, and that there was no happy ending in store for her.

Look, said the voice. You tried it your way and it didn’t work. You might as well let me have a go at it now.

Cinderella kept mum. And as suddenly as grey clouds conquer a clear sky, Cinderella stood up and shook herself. She wiped the tears with the back of her hands, landed a swift kick on the pumpkin and sent it hurtling down the stairs, and tore around through the house like a whirlwind. She picked a rucksack from one of her stepsisters’ room and filled it with good clothes, sensible shoes, and loads of money from her stepmother’s wallet, and slipped out of the house.

The stepsisters and stepmother returned home to find a note from Cinderella saying she was gone and that she had paid herself in cash and kind for all the household services she had rendered all these years. The note also carried a warning against reporting the incident to the police or attempting to track her as she would then be compelled to produce proof of how her father’s death came about at the hands of her stepmother.


She is writing a book now, titled Cinderella and I, recounting her escape and subsequent adventures across the world.

Preface to ‘Cinderella and I’:
I am sorry to break this to the world but Cinderella was damaged goods. Who wouldn’t be after years of domestic abuse? She needed someone to look after her, someone real, not illusory figures like Prince Charming or fairy godmothers or some such fantastic figment of imagination.

I am happy to say Cinderella is well and recovering now, under my careful oversight and guidance, though she keeps mostly to herself these days. The miracle was that she found it within her to bring about the transformation. As her closest friend and ally, I am honoured she considers me her true voice and has given me this opportunity to present her story, our story, to the world.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

I am sorry. I do not have a story for today.

I am sorry. I do not have a story for today. Image courtesy of Flux Fotography

I am sorry.
I do not have a story for today.
I am sorry.
But I have already said that, that I am sorry.
(There I go again!)

The truth is, I did have a story to begin with. 
A nice, succulent tale that twists and turns and coils and uncoils itself, sometimes with the beauty of Rapunzel’s golden braids, at other times with the sinuousness of serpents. A story with a well-defined beginning, a distinct middle, and an incontrovertible end. The kind that stays with you, as a good friend does, long long after it has been read and forgotten.

I unearthed the story from the little burrow under the hedge that separated our garden from the rest of the world. (I had often seen Caramel digging there furiously, making himself a neat little hideout to nestle in on a lazy afternoon. I had always assumed it was a bone he had hidden there. One day I saw it (that which I had assumed was a bone) move and whisper and sing and dance and quiver in the wind, and it was when I went to take a look that I discovered what it really was. A tale waiting to be told.)

I scooped the tale into a little jar I had meant to keep butterflies in, but the tale was just as beautiful and flitted about in the jar just as prettily. And I set out on a journey from my home in the middle of the garden on the edge of the rest of the world, so I could bring the tale to you.

From all the stories I had read until then, I knew all there was to know about the seven mountains and the seven seas. And so I had no unforeseen difficulty traversing them. But after I crossed the seventh sea and stepped onto its shores, a little path led me up a river to a little wooden bridge over it. 

Under the bridge stood a troll, who appeared as if he had been waiting for me. When I approached him, he said he was pleased to see me but unhappy to learn of his portrayal as an ugly, dim-witted, thieving creature in the story I carried in my jar. And because he gave me such a piteous look, which was unbecoming for a troll, I held out my jar and he took the story in his clumsy fingers and gave it a little pinch here and a tiny bend there, then put it back in the container and lidded it and handed it back to me. When I asked what he had done, he said the troll in the story was now a different character, one that helps The Little Prince cross the bridge instead of trying to kill him.

I crossed the bridge, leaving behind a happy troll, only to find an unhappy The Little Prince waiting for me on the other side. He leapt out at me brandishing a sword, demanding to know why I had let the shape of the story be changed. I recounted to him my encounter with the troll under the bridge. After which The Little Prince pointed his sword at my chest, and growled that because the troll’s life has now been spared in the story, he (The Little Prince) would have to kill someone else as the prophecy would otherwise remain unfulfilled. I thought The Little Prince meant he was about to chop my head off, instead he grabbed the jar, let the story out, and gave it a snip here and a nick there and handed back the jar to me. I did not stay to ask what he had done, instead I ran into the woods as fast as my legs could take me without my heart exploding, stopping only when I realised I had come too far and no longer knew where I was, where I was headed, where I had come from. 

I began to panic, but soon fear gave way to relief when a little fairy appeared from nowhere and hovered above me. I wanted to ask her if she could get me out of the forest and take me to you safely, but as she glided nearer to me, I could see she was crying. She said The Little Prince had killed her in the tale in my jar because the troll had tricked me into sparing his life. And she said she was crying not so much because she was killed but because she is required in a later chapter where she saves The Little Prince from the clutches of an evil witch, but now that he has killed her in an earlier chapter she couldn’t see how she was going to fulfil that role anymore. And of what use is a story if good did not prevail over bad in the end? I held the jar out to the fairy, she sprinkled some stardust into it, and the story shimmered and sparkled and luminesced like coloured powder on a butterfly’s wings. She told me to head east until I found an oak tree that would tell me what to do next.

I reached the oak tree not too long after. But my legs gave away under me as I sank beneath the tree. And where there was earth only moments ago, was suddenly now a hole that grew larger and larger by the instant, and sucked me inside it. I fell through the hole, and I kept falling, endlessly it seemed, and I fell some more, not like a comet hurtling from outer space but like a feather gliding, biding its time, guided by the gentle breeze. And when I landed, it was like coming to rest in slow motion on a feather bed. Only, the bed was severely undersized, large enough for me to barely rest my right leg on it. 

And it was there that I found Alice, large and oversized, like a big child who had somehow found her way into her favourite dollhouse and figured it wasn’t as comfortable and fun on the inside as it had appeared from the outside. I asked her if she could help me get out of there and she said there was only one way out. And she put her hands over my face and closed my eyes and I drifted into a deep sleep. 

When I opened my eyes next, I found myself by the little burrow under the hedge that separated our garden from the rest of the world. The sun shone in my eyes, Caramel lay in the burrow chewing on his bone, and in a little jar beside us a butterfly fluttered, the colours on its wings stolen from the far corners of the earth. Caramel nudged me and I uncovered the jar. The butterfly landed on my cheek for a fleeting second, then darted to land on Caramel’s wet nose, and flew away into the sunlight. And with it, took the story I wanted to share with you.

And so I am sorry.
I do not have a story for today.

Edited to add: I had to put in this image here, it is just so apt for the story. Ideally I would have loved to build another story around it, but looking at it reminds me of today's tale and I doubt I'd be able to write another distinct story for this picture. Perhaps in the distant future, not in the near one. But it is a lovely image, and I wanted to share it.

I don't fit this world. Image courtesy of Julie de Waroquier

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

En Route to the Sun

En Route to the Sun - Image courtesy of HÃ¥kan Johansson

The path leading to the sun is straight, which, in my opinion, is a little strange. I would have expected it to be littered with obstacles and dead-ends and little side streets that appear to be shortcuts but really end up leading you nowhere close to the destination. But no, not this one. No twists and turns. No hairpin bends. It is straight as the truth. 

For some reason, it seems right to walk single file, and so we do. When we reach the end of the pier, the path leading to the sun ends abruptly. The ocean lies sprawled at our feet, its waters shimmering like diamonds on fire. 

The old man says we are ill-equipped to cross the ocean to reach the sun, and that it is best to turn back. His wife nods in agreement and they walk back single file, she stepping into his footsteps.

The young man thinks it is a shame to give up after having come thus far. So he decides to build a boat that would take him across the ocean. And so he turns back, planning to head back into the forests for wood. 

The little girl sits by the edge of the pier and dips her feet in the water. She calls out to the mermaids who say they’d ferry her across but only if she sings for them. And off she goes.

Caramel suggests we try to leap across. I am skeptical at first but he keeps tugging at his leash. He puts a paw over the edge and a fragment of a bridge appears under his foot. He steps on it and puts another paw over the edge. And more of the bridge comes into view wherever he intends to step. And that is how we skip all the way to the sun, one sure step at a time. 

When we look back, the bridge has disappeared, as if it had never existed. Caramel tells me to not worry. We will find it again when we need it, he assures me.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Stringing Wishes on A Tree

Stringing Wishes on A Tree - Image Courtesy of Wishful Thinking (A Girl's Right To Dream)

Every evening, the girl who lives in the house at the end of the lane hangs lanterns of twinkling candles from the branches of the oak tree in her garden. It looks like a fun thing to do. And she seems like a lovely girl. So when I turn up at her doorstep, eager to be part of the ritual, she gladly agrees to teach me how to make and put up lanterns on her oak tree.

It doesn’t take long to figure that making the lantern is the easiest bit. The tricky part is the getting the right ingredients for it.
The first thing you will need, she says, is a jar of glass. A jar old enough to hold a story, she stresses.
Next, a handful of pebbles that bring back a wonderful memory. 
And finally, a scent you wish to forget, she concludes.

The next evening I show up at her doorstep, my loot in my hands. 
A little jar that had once held the hearts of all my loved ones. I found it in the toolshed, forgotten and cloaked in a thick blanket of dust.

The pebbles, Hummer fetched for me. 
One by one. 
Choosing each one meticulously.
It took him all afternoon.
But when he will be gone and I will have grown too old and forgetful, the pebbles will remind me of his warm fur.
The pebbles fill my jar halfway. 
And the girl plants a candle in the centre. 

Shen then turns to me and asks me to light the candle with the fragrance I wish to forget. I put my lips to the brim of the jar and gently blow on to the wick of the candle. A hiss and a spark and the candle bursts into life. The girl looks at me curiously. The scent of a lost lover’s kiss, I answer her unvoiced question.

She smiles and loops a string around the neck of my jar. 
You could wish for anything you know, she confides, when you hang the lantern. 
Anything? I ask.
She nods.
What do you usually wish for? I ask her.
Every evening, she says, I wish for the lights to show me the way long after I have run out of stars and dreams.
I take a cue from her and wish for hope and strength to last me long after I have run out of loved ones.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Midnight Mischief

Midnight Mischief (In another age and another place, the image was labeled "Tonight Belongs To The Wolves")

The crescent moon hung in the inky sky like an unfulfilled promise. She cast a dull silvery glow on the forestland that lay sprawled at her feet, no more than an endless clump of interfused silhouettes at this time of the night. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves, and the whispers and the susurrations travelled urgently to the far ends of the forest.

Two little heads peeped shyly out of the hollow at the base of the oldest eucalyptus in the forest - a three thousand-year old resident of the woods well-versed in the ways of children and only too happy to abet mischief makers and trouble seekers.

The boys - no older than five and seven - hesitated. 
The eucalyptus stirred and with a stray root gave the lads a little flick each on their backsides. “Off you run, you two,” the tree bid.
“Ow,” yelped the little one.
“Thank you, Mr. Eucalyptus,” said the older one with more composure than his slightly raw rump would permit.

The boys tiptoed through the forest as quietly as they could, which, to tell the truth, turned out to be a very noisy affair and would have scared away the moon, the older boy admonished the younger one en route.

But they made it without incident to their destination - the edge of a clearing secretly tucked away in the folds of the forest. They abandoned the camouflage of the trees and stepped into the clearing together, then looked up longingly at the moon.

“Could we play tonight?” they beseeched her.
No response came their way.
“Could we play tonight?” they implored once more.
She opened one eye lazily and muttered, “Manners.”
“Could we please please please play tonight?” the little voices chorused.

The moon let out a languorous sigh at first. But unable to conceal her pleasure for much longer, she puffed out her cheeks and billowed out like a balloon into a perfectly rotund shape that adorned the sky as its centrepiece. Under her argent watch, a little centaur and a tinier unicorn frisked and frolicked in the clearing all night. 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Golden Boy

The Golden Boy

The golden boy sat by the stream, his gaze fixed longingly at the waters prancing and rollicking past. It appeared to me he wanted to take a dip without running the risk of having the colour washed away from him. As with everything unusual, I was mistaken.

He said he did indeed long for a dip but he did in fact want the yellow to be washed off. But the water was blue and he did not want to turn blue.

I tried to convince him that water had no colour in it and that it appeared blue only because it stole the blue from the sky sometimes, usually when it felt drab and colourless.

At that he began to worry that a dip in the stream would leave him drab and colourless. And the thought conjured up in his mind the notion of invisibility. His voice quivered. He did not want to vanish from the world, he stressed.

I asked him what his favourite colour was and whether I could paint that over the yellow. He shook his head sadly and said that right now his favourite colour was the colour of skin, and that he could not recall having ever liked any colour more than he now longed for the colour of skin.

I asked him how he had turned yellow and he said a little yellow girl had kissed him. Mother had warned him about the faeries of the forest and had forbidden him from playing with the colourful kids, he cried quietly.

I could not think of anything else to say or do, so I offered to give him the colour of my skin in exchange for his. At that the boy leapt up in delight and hugged me with a wrap of his arms around my legs, so tiny was he. I buried my face in his hair. The thick unruly but fleecy locks of the little child caressed my cheeks. The scent of lavender and lemongrass filled my being. 

When we pulled away from each other, I could see he was transformed into a rubescent cherub. My hands and legs were as flaxen as my tresses.

The boy thanked me and gambolled away into the meadows.

I sit by the stream wondering whether someone would come along to my rescue. How long would it take, I wonder. I think I will bathe in the stream. I am not sure if it will simply wash away the yellow or turn me blue in the process. Or render me invisible. What if the stream turned yellow?

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Boy in The Cloud

The Boy in The Cloud - Image courtesy of Ben Goossens

The boy in the cloud tells you it is a fairly easy climb. It only appears difficult because people (adults that is) generally do not take enthusiastically to such endeavours, climbing one step at a time surely but steadily, heading upwards one rung at a time. And because many people in general do not take to such endeavours enthusiastically, it only appears difficult.

Understandably, you can’t quite grasp his logic and tell him as much.

He says it is a vicious cycle, the kind that keeps going in a loop such that you forget where it started and can’t figure out where it is supposed to end. 

He makes no sense so you keep mum not wanting to sound thickheaded again. 

He watches you keenly for a while. Your fingers cross and uncross themselves in the depths of your pockets while the rest of you stands taut. 

“A penny for your thoughts,” he throws the bait.
“Give me a penny first,” you say.
“Give me your thoughts first,” comes the reply. 
Only he manages to make it sound like a command and you are sure you had sounded like Oliver Twist.
“Alright,” you concede. “I was thinking that you were merely trying to trap me in wordplay. All that talk of vicious cycles and repeating a sentence backwards to make it appear as if you had uttered two entirely different sentences in the breath of one. I think you are ...” You pause. He is too young for profanities.
“Go ahead, spit it out,” he challenges you. “You think I am what? Bullshitting you?”
“I didn’t say it,” you promptly go on the defensive, sensing those scarlet eyes boring into yours, his thoughts and yours bridging the great distance between the two of you, pulling you closer to him while also tearing you apart.

His lips are pursed. The blood-red eyes are incongruous on the cherub face of the little child. Incredible. Because the harder your look, the more you realise the face is yours, from all those years ago. 
“You could prove me wrong, you know,” he teases. “Grab the rope, climb up, and let your legs dangle over the edge.”
You hesitate.
“It is a nice feeling, you will see,” he promises.
The air around you shifts as if it were trying to dispel your doubts. 

You stumble forward, warily at first, and as the rope comes into greater focus, the clarity lifts your spirits. You break into a run, feeling light as a feather. When you near the rope, you leap and grab it with both hands and begin your upward scramble, lifting your weightless self effortlessly on the newfound strength of your arms. Rung after rung you clamber up. 

And when you reach the top, you are near enough to see the boy smiling. Rather evilly. As if he has just pulled a fast one on you and you proved an easy prey. He stretches one arm towards yours as if to pull you over the last rung and onto the ring of cloud. Even as he does, his flaming red eyes dissolve into a black emptiness. Lines of age bite deep into the virgin skin of his face and hands. His puckered lips crack at the edges and fade from a moist pink to an ashen lifelessness. His tender locks of hair evaporate into the air and the few strands that remain are a spectral grey-white. 

As you see yourself age seven decades in an instant, the boy - now an unrecognisable assemblage of withered flesh and old bones - leans over to you and says “I have no pennies to spare” and shoves you over the edge. 

You make a grab at the rope but all your manage to grasp is a handful of airy emptiness. 
And you fall. 
Limbs flailing.
The lightness of your being as you sprinted towards the rope is now replaced with a solid heaviness that drags you down with such force you are certain it emanates from within you, from the depths of your chest. 
Your heart beats incessantly like the flapping wings of a hummingbird, so rapid it appears still. 
Bells toll in the distance. A funeral, you wonder. Perhaps yours?
You wish the bells would stop. The racket is now inside your head, growing worse than the pounding in your chest. 
You cannot bear it any longer. 
You know your heart is about to explode and cover what remains of you in a million broken pieces. 
You squeeze your eyes shut.
You are forced to surrender.

Your body strikes the hard ground and you crumble into lifelessness.
And you wake up in another world.

As you slam the alarm shut, you think you will be late for work again today. You have a fleeting thought, something to do with bad pennies, but before you can consider it, it slithers away into the realms of the unconscious, forever out of your reach.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A Post on Books and The Utterly Wonderful Things They Are

Have you ever found something that you adored so much you were torn between sharing your find and keeping the precious thing a secret all to yourself for just a wee bit longer? 

The last few books I read were so wonderful that although I wasn’t thinking of keeping them secret, I wanted to wallow for a long, long time in the emotions their endings brought in their wake before talking about the books with you all. 

Instead, what I did was jump from the end of one book headlong into the beginning of another, trying to fill the void created by the conclusion of one with the promise of another beautiful story.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

The first book I read in this phase of incessant reading was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Here is a brilliant review of the book, and I love how the reviewer says the novel is “a great big confidence trick - but one that invites the reader to take part in its deception.” 

The story revolves around Ursula Todd (among a plethora of characters) right from the day she is born, at first she is still-born, then in another chapter the catastrophe of still-birth is avoided by the timely arrival of the family doctor on the scene, through her childhood where she is once a victim of a drowning accident but then again is not when she is given a chance to relive her life, to her sixteenth birthday when she is a victim of rape and she is with child as a result of the episode and her mother turns cold against her and her life is reduced to a series of wrong choices made out of guilt and misery, and yet again to her sixteenth birthday, only this time she is able to kick her attacker in the balls and escape becoming a victim and goes on to lead different lives altogether, once as a friend of Hitler’s mistress, in another path of life she helps in the war efforts. And so much more. Each time she is given a fresh chance at life, a chance at walking a different path, at choosing the other path in the fork. 

As Atkinson makes one of her characters say towards the end of the book: “What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?”

It took me two weeks of reading after work and two days of incessant all-day reading while on a holiday to finish the book. At first I felt it moved very slowly, but once the book had me in its grip I could not let go. Every time something bad happened to Ursula, I knew she would have a chance to do it again and better this time. And that kept me going.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This is a Gothic suspense novel although I did not know that when I first picked up the book. It is the story of a bookshop owner’s daughter and author - Margaret Lea - who is called upon by a famous novelist Vida Winter to write the latter’s biography. Winter has secrets in her past that have so far eluded journalists and now she wants to bare all to Lea. There is an element of the supernatural in this, and since I have a habit of reading until I am asleep, I spent many a sleepless night while reading this book.

The prose is beautiful, like music. 
Like the passage below.

Words I can understand. Give me a torn or damaged fragment of text and I can divine what must have come before and what must come after. Or if not, I can at least reduce the number of possibilities to the most likely option. But music is not my language. Were these five notes the opening of a lullaby? Or the dying fall of a lament? It was impossible to say. With no beginning and no ending to frame them, no melody to hold them in place, whatever it was that bound them together seemed precariously insecure. Every time the first note struck up its call there was a moment of anxiety while it waited to find out whether its companion was still there, or had drifted off, lost for good, blown away by the wind. And so with the third and the fourth. And with the fifth, no resolution, only the feeling that sooner or later the fragile bonds that linked this random set of notes would give way as the links with the rest of the tune had given way, and even this last, empty fragment would be gone for good, scattered to the wind like the last leaves from a winter tree.”

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

This one got right into my head. It is a thriller and is narrated from the point of view of Nick - whose wife disappears on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary - and his wife Amy through her entries in a diary until the day of her disappearance. Right at the outset the author makes it evident that Nick has been withholding information from the police and from the readers as well. Halfway through the novel it becomes clear that Amy has been deceitful in her narration too.

Flynn has a way of voicing her characters’ thoughts so well you might as well be right in their heads where it is all happening, all the thoughts and the thinking, the planning the plotting, the cheating and the conniving. I didn’t quite like how the story ended when I finished reading - but now that I have had time to think about it a little more, I suppose it couldn’t have ended any other way. I can’t say more without giving away the plot.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

I finished reading this only yesterday so I can’t quite talk about it without something inside me shifting at the thought of the book and the memory of the emotions it stirred in me as I read it. 

The book follows the journey of Harold Fry who is walking a 600-mile route from Kingsbridge in the south of England to Berwick-upon-Tweed from where an old colleague of his (from more than 20 years ago) has written to him to say she is dying of cancer. Somehow he believes that by walking to her, he will save her. He will keep walking, and she will go on living. The book is a story of his remarkable journey on foot, the places he traverses, the people he meets, his introspections and reflections en route, his memories, his regrets, his doubts alternating with confidence, moments of desperation to give up interspersed with wretched determination to stay on course. It is also narrated from the point of view of his wife Maureen, who swings from indignation at his having walked out on her to doubt and regret at having let the past twenty years of marriage slip away in quiet rage to remembering and rediscovering the man Harold was when they had first met.

If Setterfield’s narration was music, Joyce’s prose is like listening to the compositions of Beethoven or Bach. 

“Late in the afternoon, the rain stopped so abruptly it was hard to credit there had been any at all. To the east, the cloud tore open and a low belt of polished silver light broke through. Harold stood and watched as the mass of grey split again and again, revealing new colours: blue, burnt umber, peach, green and crimson, then the clouds became suffused with a dulled pink, as if those vibrant colours had bled through, merging as they met. He could’t move. He wanted to witness every change. The light on the land was gold; even his skin was warm with it. At his feet the earth creaked and whispered. The air smelt green and full of beginnings. A soft mist rose, like wisps of smoke. 

Harold was so tired he could barely lift his feet, and yet he felt such hope, he was giddy with it. If he kept looking at the things that were bigger than himself, he knew he would make it to Berwick.”

(All images courtesy of Goodreads)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Telephone Booth

The Telephone Booth

It is an plain-looking telephone. So although it has been placed in a cosy corner (and someone has thoughtfully set down a vase of orchids beside it) with a grand entrance announcing its presence and availability, the telephone remains mostly unused. The busy people zip along the corridor without so much as a second glance at the little black device. 

An emergency and a smart but dead phone was what it took me to step into the telephone booth and pick up the receiver. I stuck out my forefinger to jab at the numbers that made up my mother’s phone number. (I am proud to say I have an acute memory for phone numbers; the increasing ability of inanimate objects to remember and repeat has not eroded my memory.) 

Only there were no buttons on the dial pad. No numbers to dial. Where the dial pad ought to have been was a smokescreen, tendrils of white mist and rainbow colours swimming beneath the surface as if in a crystal ball. I picked up the receiver, that seemed to be the only thing to do. 

Hello, crooned a voice so rich it seemed to spill warm golden sunlight on me. It asked me where I wanted to go and I said that I had no plans to go anywhere and that I was only trying to place a phone call but that there was no dial pad on this device, which is strange, I added, because it says Telephone at the entrance and of what use is a telephone without a dial pad, I asked.

The voice, which seemed to come from nowhere near but from all around me at the same time, enveloped me in a warm cocoon and said it was sorry to hear of my ordeal. And in order to compensate me for the trouble I have had to face, it offered to arrange for me to visit the person I was trying to place a call to. All expenses paid, it added.

I said that was very kind indeed and that I would love that. 

Very well, Ma’am, said the voice, and with a clap and a poof I was gone and reappeared at the gate to my parents’ house.

I find it is a useful thing, this inconspicuous telephone. So far, at my bidding, it has sent me on little jaunts to many places across the globe. But time travel is beyond its capabilities, it says. It is unable send me to a past or a future where telephones do not exist, for the simple reason that I wouldn’t be able to return to the present, it explains.


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