Saturday, 31 August 2013



The little boy skipped through the forest as surefooted as someone who has been on the trail a thousand times blindfolded. I had to run to keep up with him.

He was leading me to the waters, so I paused for breath and drained the remaining drops of water from my canteen, but not without a second thought.

“Hurry up,” he whooped from somewhere far ahead of me. 
I stumbled after him, praying once again (to any God that cared to listen) I wasn’t being misled.

In my mind, I was convinced we were heading in the wrong direction.
The cave from where the waters had gushed forth relentlessly, we had long ago lost somewhere in the wilderness behind us. The boy had said the best water would be found downstream, and although he was merely a child, he lent a certain conviction to his words and I had found myself incapable of doubting him.

But that was then. Now I realised that with each step forward, the roar of the waterfall had subsided imperceptibly. At first it had reduced to the gentle gurgling of a little stream, and then there had been the occasional swish of water lapping over pebbles. And even that had died away when I wasn’t paying attention. When I asked the boy about it, he said we had to leave all the noise behind and that the growing silence meant we were on the right path. 

Now and then I hear the sound of a drop of water falling but we are so far away from the waters now I am convinced it’s just the voices in my head playing tricks with my mind. We have come so far ahead now that even if I were to retrace my steps, I wouldn’t be able to make it back alive. 

Lost in these morbid thoughts I continued to plough ahead, head drooping so low in misery  I didn’t notice the little boy jumping up and down excitedly ahead of me nor did I hear him whisper out my name. He grabbed my hand when I reached him and pushed through a lump of overgrown weeds. 

On the other side was water, clear as day and quieter than silence. It lay in a narrow pool that stretched endlessly up and down the forest. The water was so still it felt sacrosanct to disturb it, I thought for a fleeting instant, before putting my lips to its cool, shiny surface and hungrily swallowing it in huge mouthfuls.

Only when I was satiated did I lift my head and the waters returned to a stillness that did not seem incongruous to its nature. It carried in it the reflections of the clear skies and snow-capped mountains, as if a whole other universe existed peacefully in its confines, mirroring the one above, so you couldn’t tell which one was real and which was merely an echo.

I asked the little boy about it. And he said one was the other and vice versa too, so it didn’t really matter which was which. Because, he explained, if you left the noise behind and stared long enough at your reflection, it would reveal your true soul.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Monsters, of all kinds, are to be trusted under no account.

Monsters, of all kinds, are to be trusted under no account - Image courtesy of PrettyHowTown

The little monster was dressed as a clown. In loud, bold colours and with a red bulbous nose to top it all. He insisted the nose was real and when I tried to yank it off, he howled, so I let go. 

Granny said monsters, of all kinds, were to be trusted under absolutely no account. 
But the clown and his pumpkin looked so tiny and pathetically harmless, I dismissed her warnings and asked him what brought him to our neighbourhood. 
He said he has come to offer his services. 
What kind of services?, I asked.
He must have known somehow that I had little patience with children of any gender or size or age, for he offered to stand guard at our doorstep on Halloween and attend to the little imps that will make their customary call at our house that night yelling trick-or-treat.

I was only too happy to not have to repeatedly answer the door to the summons of pesky kids. But I also had good sense enough to ask him what kind of payment he sought for his proposed service. He coughed and cleared his throat and said that the only payment he sought was in kind; chocolates to feed his little pumpkin, he said, patting the orange fruit on its head. I agreed. The pumpkin’s toothy smile widened and it bounced up and down in a hideous display of happiness.

Silly as it may sound, I made the necessary arrangements to ensure a steady supply of confectioneries for the pumpkin, and left the clown and his fruit pet to their own devices. I did not see them again until Halloween when they reappeared at our doorstep. 

The instant she saw them, Granny huffed and said monsters, of all kinds, were to be trusted under absolutely no account. I told her that this year we will not be troubled by demanding little imps knocking at our doors in the dead of the night. Even that did not assuage her. She only shook her head and said monsters, of all ... I tuned her out and returned to my chair by the window where I sat knitting.

When the first of the children came to our house, the clown caught their attention before they could reach for the door. He spoke in animated gestures but I could not hear what was being said. Perhaps in response to what the clown said, the children then stuck their tiny hands into the pumpkin’s mouth - presumably to grab their treats - when the pumpkin opened its mouth wide, as swiftly as ink blotting on paper, and in one sudden gulp swallowed the kids. The little children, there now, gone forever.

The following morning, I found the pumpkin had ensconced itself in our backyard. Whole and ripe, ready to be cut and cooked. No toothless grin. No hollow eyes. Just a harmless fruit. The clown was nowhere to be seen. Granny said monsters, of all kinds, were to be trusted under absolutely no account, and bade me destroy the fruit. 

I tried hacking it to pieces, kicking it out, and even setting fire to my backyard. When nothing worked, the clown’s voice piped up out of nowhere, offering me his services. Granny’s words rang in my ears - monsters, of all kinds, are to be trusted under absolutely no account. But this time, I truly have no choice.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Through The Looking Glass

Through The Looking Glass - Image courtesy of PrettyHowTown

They say if your bed faces a mirror, a part of your soul slips away from you and floats into the mirror when you are asleep at night. When I brought this up with the landlady, all she had to say was Balderdash! 

She pointed out that they also say that were a black cat to cross your path, you were in for a lifetime of bad luck. And Tabby, her black cat, has been a lifetime companion to her and so far as she could tell, she had done pretty well for herself in life, she said with a sweeping motion of her arms to indicate the sprawling farm and the three-storeyed house with thirteen rooms that she owned. 

She insisted all these were simply old wives’ tales and also politely said she had no other rooms to let and nowhere else to put the mirror. 

So I told myself that all the things they say are not necessarily true and paid the landlady a week’s rent in advance.

The following morning, a piece of blue sky appeared in the mirror, although the skies outside were a heavy grey and raindrops haltingly trickled down the window behind the mirror. 

The second morning, white clouds swam across my personal blue sky in the mirror. 

On the third, a fiery little sun made its appearance in the glass and winked at me as I came out of the shower. I threw my towel over the mirror to keep out prying eyes. 

By the end of the week, in the mirror had appeared tiny stars, a little angel, one grey cloud, and several colourful curlicues not unlike the twisted tangles of my hair.

I showed my landlady the mirror and told her these were all bits and pieces of my soul locked away in the looking glass. At first she said she will never again dismiss everything they say. She offered to let me take the mirror with me, in a gesture of redress, an offer I promptly took her upon as I didn’t want to part with any piece of my soul.

She reckoned I must have a good soul, going by all the lovely little forms and shapes that have cropped up. But, she added thoughtfully, that the true test of my goodness perhaps lay in what the characters in the mirror get up to when no one is looking.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Trees On A Mission

Trees On A Mission

The trees are in a hurry. 
You can tell they have come a great distance from the way their trunks seem to have disappeared from under them, as if eroded from all the walking. Or gliding. Or dragging. Or whatever it is that trees do to get themselves from one place to another. 

They know we are watching them, so they momentarily freeze in place. Innocuously, as if they have stood their ground all along. As if the visible absence of their trunks were some sort of nature’s well-intended aberrations. 

We ask them where they are headed but they maintain a stony silence.
The instant we look away, they shuffle forward. 
Shuffling - that’s the word! Shuffling is what trees do to get themselves from one place to another. 
(Like determined old women tottering through memories to find the right one. Or like maidens in Elizabethan gowns skipping over moorlands in small steps, their feet searching for safe ground to step on amid the cascading folds of their skirts.) 

We have been following them for days now.
We keep ourselves well out of sight, as otherwise the trees would halt and make no further progress. 
Theirs is a noisy group. There is constant chatter amongst them and with other trees.
So far we have only caught a few words from their conversations - war, the Dark One, danger, annihilation.

We have also figured out that the trees can keep going only as long as they have enough leaves to keep up the momentum. When they fall short of leaves, they seek help from other trees en route, but they keep going. 

They worry winter is fast approaching and soon there may not be enough leaves to go around. But if it comes to that, we think we can help by carrying them on our backs until spring arrives.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

In which you encounter angels banished from Heaven and looking for a place to live on earth

In which you encounter angels banished from Heaven and looking for a place to live on earth
- Image courtesy of PrettyHowTown

The angels admit they were banished from heaven but they will not reveal why.
Some say the angels must have done terrible things but the angels themselves neither confirm nor deny these rumours. 

They (the angels) say very little, in fact. 
They mostly stand at the market square all day, still as stone, so you can’t even see their nostrils flare or their chests heave and you wonder whether they breathe. Or perhaps they are just cheap mannequins stationed to prey on the generosity of tender-hearted souls, you think.

And so you move closer to them, wondering whether or not you could glide the back of your hand over their smooth cheeks to determine if they are made of flesh or stone. 
You finally muster up enough courage to hold your finger under their noses and feel their warm breaths tumble over your skin in unwavering rhythm and dissipate into the atmosphere.

You fish around in your pockets for a dollar or two but come up with a handful of loose change, all that you’ve accumulated so far this month. And you are about to tip the coins into the jar but the angels say they have no use for your money.

You look up but they remain motionless. Their lips unmoving, their eyes looking vacantly into the distance. Yet you can hear them speak. They tell you what they really need is a roof to live under, a place to call home, and ask if you would be so kind as to invite them into yours.

You shrug your shoulders and pretend to not have heard them. The coins feel uncomfortably heavy in your hand and you tip them noisily into the jar and walk away, mentally patting yourself on the back for having done your good deed for the day. 

There is nothing more you can do, you tell yourself. After all, mother did teach you to not talk to strangers. And angels are no exception to the rule.


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