Grotesque

A poem, after a while. Inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Enjoy 🙂

barely here nor there

Grotesque

The click, clack of my many legs on the wooden floor.
The miniscule slide just before the clack
Is probably the worst part.
It would offend my human ears!
Oh, the irony! My human ears?
They would not even hear!

But me in my current insignificant form,
I am painfully aware of the
Click, slide, clack, slide, click;
Nails down a blackboard.

The eight spindly, hairy protrusions
From my bulbous arachnoid torso,
A non-descript back-brown mass
Bulging with – I do not know what.
I slide, click, slide, clack, slide, stop.

“How did this happen,” you ask me?
“I don’t know,” I shrug with eight shoulders.
I woke up this way and now,
My eyes see in all directions.

I slide click, slide, clack, slide, glide –
Across space on a rope of silk
Which I trail behind me.
I catch the light in the thread as it
Unspools…

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A story about a father, a mother and a little girl

Reluctantly, Suva sat down on the tiger skin and was at once struck by the warmth and softness of it. She fell into the familiarity of listening. She was receptive once again. Her anger was washed away and she accepted the strange man with matted hair who needed to tell her a story.

“There was once a girl who lived in perfect happiness with her mother and father in a cold grey land, seven seas and thirteen rivers away. The cold and the grey did not touch them, for when they were together they created colours and warmth beyond anything the eye could imagine or the hand could ever touch.

But one day, tragedy befell the family. The mother, beautiful but frail, fell ill. It was as if she was cursed. Where she once laughed, she now cried out in pain. There was nothing anyone could do. The father, usually so sure, was filled with a hopelessness he had never felt before. What could he do? Doctors could not cure his wife, they could find nothing to explain the pain and the tears. Some people said that the little girl needed a mother but the little girl did not notice. She was entranced by her father who could weave magic with his stories and who could make dragons and fairies appear with just a word.”

Suva listened in disbelief. This was her story but it was wrong. Her mother was happy, always happy while her father was with them. Nevertheless, she could not interrupt. The man continued.

“One day, the father sat down in secret and spoke to the girl’s mother. ‘What is it, my love? This is no physical pain. Why are you so sad?’ The mother, whose eyes were so dark and which reached so deep into her father’s soul simply pointed to her belly and then looked at the girl. He knew then and understood.”

Suva did not understand. What did he mean?

As if hearing the question in her thoughts, the man continued, “the mother wanted another child but could not have one. She could not explain why she needed another child so badly, only that she felt a pull so strong that it forced her to call out in pain. For months and months she would not tell another soul. She would only weep, clutching her stomach in pain. You see, when the girl was born, there was a complication which meant that the mother had to have her womb removed. She could never carry another child again. At the time, the new parents were so grateful for the miracle of life, twice (you see, the mother should not have lived but they begged and begged for both of their lives, mother and child) that they promised each other that it mattered not that there could not be a second. And for a good few years, perhaps four or five years, this was true. Remember, the colours and the warmth?

One day, however, something Evil entered their home. He did not have a name and barely had a shape but he was there, walking amongst whispers which fell from bitter aunts and twisted neighbours. He came because he could not stand the happiness these people feasted on every day. They had cheated death and they were not paying for it, not as far as he could tell.

He came when they least expected it, when the child slept and the man smoked. The mother was reading a story about a wronged wife and she tutted and clucked at the sadness of the woman on the page. Oh, how smug, she was, thought the Evil. ‘You too, have been wronged. Not by your husband, mind you. Fate has wronged you, my darling,’ whispered the Evil, ‘You will never have another child. The child who sleeps without a care in her heart, robbed you of this simple right. The child who is the light of your husband’s world has robbed you of his love too. Do you notice how he barely looks at you anymore? He is not concerned with you anymore. You are no longer a priority to him. She did this!’

The mother tried to swat the Evil away but it was of no avail. Night after night, the whisperings haunted the mother and there was nothing she could do.

Eventually she succumbed and was overcome with guilt and anger and then guilt again. For a long time, she could not look at her daughter, the one who had brought her so much love and laughter. For many months all she could feel was a hole filled with bitterness. Hands grew out of the hole and clutched at her heart and her mind and the pain grew more and more unbearable.

One day, after she confessed, after she admitted that this desire and hate made no sense, she agreed to talk to a doctor who was skilled in helping people who suffered thus.

As you can imagine, the Evil could not have this. He could feel his power loosen and he became smaller, but then he had another idea. He was Evil, after all. He had no limits to what he could do.

He whispered one last time, into the ear of the mother and was most insistent that he had a cure for her sadness. All she would have to do was to kill the girl. It was that simple. Once she was gone, life could return to the way it was before she was born. The mother could return to being the woman she once was. The father would love her again.

She did not understand. This was not right. She looked at the little girl and saw her for what she was. She was her little girl. She was her bundle of stars and planets and hopes and dreams and all of a sudden, the whispers stopped, the Evil was gone. He was banished through the window he came through. He could not stand it! He threw himself against the wall and lay broken on the floor. After a while, he flew up the rooftop and howled. How could he lose when he was so close?

There was nothing for it. He would take the girl himself and the mother, in her confusion would blame herself. That is what he would do.

But it was harder this time, to get back inside. The windows, though open would not let him in. There must be another way, he thought.

He called from outside. ‘Little girl, little girl, let me in. I have a secret to share with you. Or better still, come outside. Come up on the roof and look at what the night sky holds.’

The little girl was asleep but she heard the whispers. She rubbed her eyes and looked around her room. There was nothing there. She went to her window and saw a little bird. It was like no other bird she had seen before and she certainly could not name it. It came so close, its orange beak was touching the glass. It tapped and hopped on the sill outside, beckoning and charming the little girl until she opened her window as wide as it would go.

Gingerly, she stepped outside into the cold. She could see her breath as she puffed her way across on the outside sill. There was no plan. She was simply following the bird which hopped up higher on a ledge she had never noticed before.

All at once, the door slammed open from inside the room and the girl’s father stood in the doorway, holding his breath, in case any movement would cause his little girl to stumble and fall.

The little girl turned and looked. She realized then what she had done and was all at once, afraid. She would not be able to get back inside without help.

“Daddy,” she called, her voice, barely above a whisper.

“I’m here, don’t move,” he replied. But as the father moved closer he began to hear the whispers too.

“You can have the girl if I can have you. Surely that would work? What have you got to lose? There’s nothing left for you here now anyway! Can you do this one thing for your family? They’ll be better off without you. You know that.”

“Would they?” he asked. This was the worst thing he could have done. For, once he engaged the evil in a conversation, he could never win. The only way to defeat evil was if you did not acknowledge it, did not give it the space to breathe in your thoughts. It could always find a way to use your thoughts against you.

“Yes, they would. They need to move on from you, with space to love each other. You will only get in the way. Your wife needs to see your daughter for the wonder that she is and your daughter needs to see the love your wife has for her too. Right now, the girl thinks she is unloved. Is that any way for a little girl to grow up?”

“No, you’re right.” And with that the man, the father and husband stepped into the darkened room and walked to the window.

“Hold my hand,” he called to the girl. I’ll help you back inside. And she came and hugged her father tight.

“I did not know what I was doing. I was following the bird. I’m sorry, Papa,” the girl sobbed into the man’s shirt.

It did not take long to settle the girl into her bed. It was simply moments before she was asleep, breathing peacefully into the neck of her favourite toy. The man stayed in the room the whole time, watching the rise and fall of her little form. He had made up his mind and had made his peace. He couldn’t bring himself to kiss his wife goodbye, though. It was possibly the one thing that might have persuaded him to stay.

Silently, he stood up and walked towards the open window once again. He climbed out onto the sill and stood. For a moment he faltered, when a breath of wind tried pushing him back against the wall.

“Remember your promise,” whispered the Evil.

“I remember.”

And with that, he stepped off into a void.


The Sea Hag and the Moon Queen

Darkness is only the absence of light. Everything else exists. So, as Suva fell she could still feel the walls, the damp and the raw honesty of fear.

Suva fell and fell into what seemed like an endless abyss. Her organs seemed to float upwards inside her and press against her throat. Nausea filled her mouth and brain and all she wanted to do was to stop. There was no light, there didn’t even seem to be any sound except for the rushing of blood in her ears. Disorientated, light headed and sick, Suva craved nothing more than to pass out and just when she thought she would, she felt the ground wind her as she landed with a thud.

She was in a cave lit with millions of tiny lights. They glowed yellow, flickering to some sort of rhythm. The very walls seemed to pulse and hum. Suva wondered whether she had indeed passed out and this was something she was dreaming, feeling within her, rather than something she was experiencing without.

There was nothing of reality to cling to now. No sun, no trees, no Kajol Didi, no grandmother, mother, no moon, nothing she had ever experienced before. Where was she?

“You’re home,” whispered the Fairy King, “Come, there are stories to tell and there are souls to meet.”

“Who is down here? What stories?”

“No time to explain now, you must come with us, immediately.”

Suva ran as she chased the fairies through the dimly lit cavern.

The space finally opened out before her and she found herself in a room full of creatures she had only read about in stories. Centaurs and Fauns, elves and goddesses graced the hall. Whispers filled the room and sounded like the sea inside a shell. Suva was rooted to the spot and could only stare. She remembered the goddess in her room, she remembered Frog and wondered if she would find them here if she searched. She was just about to begin looking when she heard a tiny peal of bells, only just loud enough. The hall fell silent and from out of nowhere seats appeared where before Suva would have sworn that there were none. Everyone sat but Suva stayed standing where she was.

A voice, like a sweet song rang through the silence and spoke to all in the room.

“Welcome, one and all, welcome. I am grateful to all of you who could come, especially you, Suva. Thank you. I understand it was not an easy journey.”

The voice seemed to smile and Suva wondered where it was coming from. She could not see through the crowd.

“Come to the front, my girl and we can all formally introduce ourselves,” continued the voice.

Suva wove her way through the bodies, the feather and the fur, the antlers and the horns until she reached a stage. Upon it, was a throne and the unmistakeable owner of the voice which sang.

A face, so beautiful, which belonged to neither girl nor boy beamed at Suva. The creature, iridescent and holy, it seemed to Suva, rose and took her hand. They wore robes of the most delicate silk, as if woven by the fairies themselves. Their hair, a deep black, which seemed to shine with emerald and purple and blue and gold, as it caught the twinkling lights which lit the cavern. Their eyes were golden and their skin so pale, it was almost translucent.

“Who are you?” asked Suva. Her voice shook as she asked.

“I am the Moon Queen, my dear. I am nothing but sand and stone. Do not be afraid,” sang the beautiful stranger.

“Come up, my love. There is a story to tell and there is somebody to meet. This is Suva, the one who will save us and the one who will be saved. Her mother is in trouble and we all know that a child without a mother can often be lost for too long. Who will tell their story? But of course, who else but the Sea Hag?”

Suva climbed up onto the stage which seemed to have been carpeted with moss and flowers and leaves. There was an empty chair just for her and Suva sat down gratefully, ready to listen to whatever the Sea-Hag deemed fit to tell.

The Sea-Hag, presumed Suva, rose from the crowd and came to join them at the front.

“Do you know of our love? Have you heard our songs?” The Sea Hag, a hunched woman of infinite age, it seemed to Suva, with gnarled fingers and silver hair, long, neatly plaited, spoke. She was blind because her eyes were missing. Suva should have been afraid but she wasn’t because when she looked into the Sea Hag’s eyes she saw the ocean and the stars and space. She saw the beginning of time, the first star and she thought she saw her father.

“I do not know. Whose love? Tell me,” asked Suva, who was tired now; who did not know how her little body could hold so much that was so new and so unbelievable.

“Our love; the Moon Queen and the Sea-Hag. Our love is where love began. The love your father has for you, the love your mother has for your father, the love you have for them both…it began with us.”

“How? Tell me your story,” pleaded Suva.

The crowd erupted into cheers. “Yes, yes! Tell us! Tell us again!”

“Of course, my children, I will tell you.

“Once, there was no sea, there was no sky and there was only land. Flat, even, brown earth. Above was only empty space.

The Sea Hag took off her cloak of silk and seaweed, she shook out her hair and golden sand fell and black sand fell, which glittered like stars for a moment as they moved through air.

Her voice, which grated like bark became something which soothed and Suva felt her eyes grow tired and her head grow heavy. She could close her eyes and listen, she thought to herself and if she rested her head on the back of the chair, as she lifted up her legs and tucked them underneath her, surely no one would mind. Not here. Before she knew it, the Sea-Hag had covered her with her cloak and had kissed her at the top of her head and Suva did not know why, but it felt just as if her mother were here.

“When I was a young girl,” began the Sea Hag, and she beckoned to the Moon Queen who came and held her hand, “I would yearn for something more than the flat earth. I longed to dance. I would move over the land and I would stamp my feet and shake my hair. I was beautiful once but the land grew tired of me. It wanted peace to sleep. It was still resting. It was not ready to wake and so the earth cracked and groaned but I would not stop. Soon, the lord of the earth, a sleepy old man, hunched and bent, came to find me. He tried to explain that he needed to rest and that I should wait for a few more centuries, until he was ready to be born again. I did not understand what he was saying and I had no consideration for the earth lord. All I knew was that I had to dance. Why was I here? I had no mother, nor father, in fact, I did not know of these things. I had just come to be and I was here to dance.

The earth lord, in desperation, shouted a spell, you see he was older and more powerful than I could ever be. He tethered me to the ground. I could not move, I could not dance, I could not even lift my head.

What do you think I did? I shall tell you. I wailed and wept. I cried and shouted and gnashed my teeth but all to no avail. For many years, I must have been tied to the earth. My tears fell but it felt as if they fell in vain until one day, shoots of green appeared and looked up the empty space above them. They grew and grew and grew. Taller and taller they climbed and I was proud. These were my children. They came from me and my tears. But with that, I could not cry any more. I became still and hopeful. I watched my shoots blossom and become trees, which in turn, bore fruit. The fruit fell to the ground and more shoots appeared. But this time, they withered and died. I felt as if my children had passed away and I wept again and all this time, I was still tied to the ground.

The earth lord must have been ready, for he arrived again, just in time to see my tears run afresh.

“I am deeply sorry,” he said, “but there was no other way.”

I found then, that I had been untied and changes were taking place all around me. For one, there was the sky above me, with a sun so bright and hot that I felt as if I would melt. The earth had also turned green in places. There was life, at long last and I did not feel so alone. Eventually, though, a deep yearning began again and I thought I knew what it was I had to do. I would dance. It was as simple as that, in my mind. But it had been so long and my joints were stiff. My muscles had grown weak. I did not know if I could dance again. However, I lifted my feet and my hands and I stamped and twirled and bowed and arched and I was dancing again. I felt as if air had rushed into my lungs. I danced to the trees and I danced to the flowers. I tried dancing to the sun but the ball of fire seemed angry and threw down arrows. It was then, that I vowed to have nothing more to do with the sun.

Although my being was satisfied for a short time, there was still something missing. My heart ached and longed for something else. The earth lord appeared again and this time he was younger. He no longer walked hunched and slow. He was taller, straighter and more confident in himself.

“For centuries you had to endure. Ask, and I shall give you what you want,” said he.

I could barely form the words to shape the thoughts I was experiencing. I did not know what it was that I wanted. I wanted a missing piece, a partner to dance with.

Without realising what I had wished for, water gushed from my hair. It fell over my right shoulder and formed a river. It became dark and after days of searing, relentless heat, there was a calm coolness now. I looked up and there, above me, was a ball of silver. I could make out a figure inside. There was movement and music. I hadn’t heard song before but I knew what it was.

I started to sway, slowly, at first and then my feet tapped and my arms swung. I was spinning and stamping. I was dancing again and I was free at last. Closing my eyes in bliss, I felt arms around me. Cool arms, strong and sure. They held me and spun me. I dared not open my eyes. To know that I was, in fact dancing with someone, was enough. I was jubilant!

We danced and danced until we collapsed, my partner and I. It was then, that I finally opened my eyes.

Before me stood a pale figure, pearlescent, shimmering in the new light above us.

“Who are you?” I managed in a whisper.

“I am the Moon Queen. We are tied together now. I will love you and pull you to me as long as the earth turns. And you must come to me. Will you?”

“Of course,” and I meant it.

From that time on, there was night and day, trees and plants and the water to quench the thirst all life. From that day on, there was the beginning of love, real love, yearning love, quiet love, patient love and dutiful love.

You see, Suva, I have sown the seed for your mother, father and you. All life comes from me.

sea hag

Sea Goddess: Google Images


The Pearls of Tears and the The Fairy King

oberon

Suva remained on the cold tiles in her grandmother’s room, alone. She looked over to the bed which looked empty. As she moved closer to it, however, she saw the thin frame of what used to be the old lady, all crumpled and hollow, so thin it looked as if it could be blown away and scattered with a only a small gust of air.

Kajol the maid walked in, as if she knew, and covered up the old woman as if she were still alive but only cold.

“Do not worry, I will look after you,” she said to Suva. She went about straightening up the room, putting things away, dusting, turning things off, switching things on.

“Would you like to go to school today? Can you manage or do you think you want to stay at home?” she asked Suva, never pausing. She continued to pick up things from the floor and sweep away the dust with her broom.

Suva struggled to think. She had not slept and the sun was appearing through the netting which covered the large glass doors that opened out into the garden.

Orange and yellow, promising to be fierce, it set fire to the horizon first, then the forest, then the pond and then finally the garden.

Suva’s eyelids felt heavy. She mumbled something about not being able to go to school today and almost was too tired to make it to her own bed. Kajol caught her just as she fell and helped her into her sheets.

Gently she moved the hair away from Suva’s face and kissed her lightly on the forehead, before finally placing the patchwork blanket made by the old woman who had just died, over Suva’s shoulders. Sleep was a blessing, she thought, as she left the room to finish the rest of the tasks for that morning.

It was difficult to say whether Suva’s mother was aware that Death had come and gone in the early hours of that morning. She did not stir. The funeral arrangements were made with as little fuss as was possible. Suva would not remember much except the actual passing. She longed to see Frog and the goddess again.

A few days later, Suva asked Kajol about the bracelet, remembering her grandmother’s story.

“Wait there. I will bring it,” was her reply.

Suva expected Kajol to have lost it or apply some kind of special condition before she handed over the precious jewellery to a child, but there was nothing of that sort and so Suva waited and watched.

When Kajol returned, Suva felt an unexpected new nervousness. Actually having the bracelet in her hands would make all of this, all of the strange things she had seen and experienced, real. She would know for sure that she had not been dreaming or hallucinating, as she sometimes told herself that she might have been.

It shone strangely in the light, in Suva’s hands. It felt reassuringly heavy as she slipped it onto her wrist. And warm. It felt warm to touch too. The pearls were a silvery grey and had that iridescent sheen all pearls did, she supposed and yet, she knew they were tears. Each one was slightly different to the last, all solid salt water droplets of varying sizes and shapes. Some pearls were so small that they could have been grains of rice, whilst others were as big and round as a pea.

“I’m glad you’ve got it now,” Kajol said, “I wasn’t comfortable keeping it with me. It sings at night, you know? It takes me a long time to fall asleep when all I can hear are the crickets and that thing!” She nodded towards Suva’s wrist and walked away quickly; she still had the evening meal to prepare.

Alone in her room, Suva held the bracelet up to the evening sunlight. She watched the rainbows dance on the surface of the pearls. She tried to listen for the singing but all she could hear were the birds and the insects which filled all her evenings.

Her mind wandered to that time when the fairy pinched her on her cheek and thought she could see the shape of it in one of the pearls. When she blinked, she could no longer see it. It was just a trick of the light and the shadows, the tiny imperfections of the tears she held up to the sun.

Suva placed the bracelet back on her wrist and closed her eyes. Leaning back on her pillows she felt the sun pleasantly warming her body, from her toes to her belly. The ceiling fan was off, winters in Calcutta were like perfect English summers, and the evenings were too cool to need fans.

Was that singing she could hear now?

Suva opened her eyes and blinked hard. She could still hear the musical buzzing. It wasn’t coming from her bracelet though.

She turned her head slowly to the right and saw what could only be described as a perfect ring of fairies holding hands and swaying. They smiled at Suva as they sang and one or two nodded.

Suva was holding her breath as she watched, gasping for air when her brain forced her to inhale.

Tiny, perfectly formed humans, they seemed to be, although their clothes seemed to be stitched to allow for wings and an extra pair of arms.

For over a minute Suva watched as the tiny creatures danced and bowed and smiled and sang until they all bowed a final time and waited for Suva to address them, as they knew she wanted to.

She blew on them instead. All her instincts drove her to dismiss the little beings as if they were dust. As soon as she did so, her hand went to her mouth. It was terrible mistake, she knew.

They flew back in surprise, as if a gust of November wind had taken them by surprise. They flew closer to her face, angrily buzzing and zipping around her head until Suva stopped trying to bat them away and stood with her eyes scrunched tight, screaming the word, ‘sorry’ over and over again through clenched teeth.

They stopped eventually, chittering and chattering in grumbling tones, amongst themselves when one of the fairies, or whatever these little creatures were, addressed Suva directly. The rest of them fell silent.

“We show ourselves to you at great risk and you insult us by trying to blow us away! Why would you do that?”

Suva bowed deeply, from her waist. She did not look up as she spoke.

“I am deeply sorry for offending you, your Royal Highness,” began Suva, “My mind, and every instinct that I have, told me that you and your people were not real. I’m not sure why I blew but I do know that I regretted it from the moment the breath left my mouth. Please forgive me.”

The fairy who had addressed Suva, was indeed the king and he was deeply moved and charmed by Suva’s little speech.

“We forgive you, little one. You must be wondering why we are here?”

“Yes indeed, your Royal Highness. I have no idea why you would see fit to visit me at this time.”

Suva wasn’t sure why she was talking like this but somehow had a feeling that it would be extremely unwise to insult the little fairy king further. She was still bowed and looking at the floor when she felt a tiny sensation, much like a kiss on her cheek.

“You may get up now, little Suva,” whispered a voice in her ear.

Suva straightened up and looked again at the ensemble of little flying creatures gathered in her room.

They wore their gossamer wings proudly on their backs, as they fluttered restlessly above the surfaces they chose to stand on. Each little fairy, with their pointed faces and ears had two pairs of arms and two pairs of wings, long like that of dragonflies. Their bodies were long too, almost like stick insects but they resembled humans more than any creepy crawly Suva ever saw. They were the height of matchsticks and about as thin and each one was so very beautiful. Their skin shone, much like the pearls on Suva’s bracelet but with hues of pink and peach and brown and black. Their hair was long and tied in intricate braids, even the king and the other males, and Suva wondered at how ugly and clumsy she must look to them.

“We are here to take you to where you must go. Come.”

And with that the fairies flittered and frolicked excitedly back and forth until Suva followed them out into the garden and through to the forest.

“There’s a story, you have heard it, I am sure,” called the king as he flew ahead of Suva. She found it difficult to see the fairies in the light but could just make them out as tiny orbs of stray sunlight hovering just above eye level and always ahead. They grew clearer in the darker green light of the forest and they were easier to follow, to Suva’s relief.

As they flew, they sang and Suva knew at once that this was the singing and buzzing Kajol Didi had spoken of.

“What story?” asked Suva, intrigued.

“The story of Tara and her adopted daughter.” The king was slightly out of breath at this point and finally rested on Suva’s shoulder, as she followed the rest of the fairies. He did not mind that Suva did not turn her head to look at him but he could not help but pull on her earlobe from time to time, in excitement.

“No, I do not know this story. Will you tell me?”

“Yes, once we get to headquarters. There is someone there with whom you must meet.”

The rest of the conversation fell away in Suva’s memory, and she could never remember it when later she tried, but the feeling of excitement and relief remained, as did the smell of the forest fruits and foliage.

Eventually the undergrowth grew thicker around them. Where leaves and branches would only occasionally brush against Suva’s body or face, now they had to be moved away and Suva would have to step through vines which would sometimes wrap themselves around her legs or arms, ensnaring her in tangled trailers, and pulling her back.

She found that if she did not think about the scratches and bruises and obstacles, but moved as if she were water or air, and not solid at all, she could avoid the traps and trips set by everything around her. She ceased to look at things individually, and they became whole, she with them and suddenly the journey became much smoother.

Soon they stopped. The fairies flittered and twittered and their king alighted ceremoniously, again with a small bow and Suva bowed back. She looked around her and saw that she was in a clearing in the forest. A perfect circle of trees formed a natural kind of stage. In the centre of it all was the great fairy king himself who stood now upon a perfectly placed rock. The rock rumbled and tugged at the ground, the earth shook and all the fairies hovered still and quiet until it eventually sank into the ground revealing a great hole, as black as night.

They all hovered above the ground before darting into the blackness they really should not be a part of. Surely hey belonged in the light, thought Suva. Even the king had gone, she noticed. Suva felt she had no choice. She followed suit and stood above the hole. The trees watched patiently Suva made up her mind to lower herself down.

What approach should she take? She wondered. Should she jump? Should sit on the edge and lower herself down. As she looked into the hole, where she stood, she could see nothing but blackness. There were no dancing buzzing fairy lights.

Suddenly she felt a gust of wind. She felt pushed and there was nothing she could do but fall, legs first. She was Alice down the rabbit hole and wondered if the story was not made up after all. Nothing now, would surprise her.


Daily Prompt: Percolate


image from artist @hatecopy.Check her out on instagram!

via Daily Prompt: Percolate

Hot, bubbling brown mess of a thing!

You better sit there and think about what you’ve done!

Percolate, brew, stew and then articulate

Your apology.

How dare you be who

You dare to be?

And in that you become,

Wholesome, flavoursome, strong,

Awake.

What apology, Sir? Sit down and listen.

I have risen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Kytö and the Broom Tree

japanese painting

The legend of the Broom Tree is featured in the Tale of Genji, a Japanese epic of sorts, famed for being the first modern novel ever written, and by a woman, no less, called Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th Century. Unfortunately the actual story of the Broom Tree is very hard to find and so I made it up. In my version it uses the original Japanese idea of the tree being unapproachable but I’ve added my own little fable to go with it. I hope you enjoy it.

“Through the door of light, you came. Like the colour blue. Come, sit with me and I will tell you a tale.”

The old woman, whose face looked familiar sat hunched, next to an ugly looking dog. The dog stared at him with bulging eyes. His back legs looked deformed.

“Where am I?” Kytö could only ask weakly.

“You are at the beginning.”

“The beginning of what?”

“You’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.” The old woman cackled.

“Now listen, sit, have some tea with me.”

Kytö found a stool and sat down. He looked around the room or more accurately, the space he was in and saw nothing except white light.

A table appeared with a cup of milky tea. The tea Kytö was accustomed to, was usually black, red or green. However he did not want to offend. Tinges of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves played in his mouth. The flavours were familiar but he could not think back to when he might have experienced a tea such as this before. His world was sterile; eating was not a comfort or a pastime, it was a necessity.

As he sipped the hot sweet liquid and experienced all that was the joy of tea, he saw appear, in the distance, a tree.

The leaves were a dirty green and looked dry and unnourished. They reminded him of the sticks for an old broomstick that witches were said to ride into the sky like sky-bikes.

“That is the hahakigi tree, the broom tree. The closer you get, the further away it will appear, it may even disappear completely depending on how determined you are.”

“Why is it here?”
“Good question. You will answer that yourself soon enough. Why are you here?”

“I don’t know.”

“You are here because you need to be,” the old woman explained. As Kytö gave into what he assumed was another hallucination or dream, he remembered Suva. Perhaps this old woman would be able to tell him about her. After all, this was the first time Kytö had actually interacted with anyone in any of these ‘dreams’.

“Let me tell you about the tree, Kytö…

Long ago, in an ancient land there lived a king. He was kind and thoughtful but sometimes a little too spontaneous. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Kytö nodded.

“In this far off land, the kings were called emperors, powerful and knowledgeable. Usually they were escorted everywhere they went, by their servants and body guards. They could have whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted except to be completely alone.

One day, the emperor ordered for a new garden to be designed, where he could sit outside and imagine being alone. He did not want to guess at the presence of any of his bodyguards or his servants. He wanted to feel alone and not to be seen.

He hired the best gardeners in the land and charged them with the task of creating a garden cloaked within itself, where if one sat in one corner one would be hidden from view unless someone were to pass directly in front of them.

Most of the gardeners were confused and they argued amongst each other. One of the gardeners, however, knew the magical secrets that plants only whispered to each other, for he knew how to listen to the grass and the leaves and even the fallen fruit which one might think would have no voice. He knew the laments of the willow and pine and the joys of the maple and he knew of the bitterness of the cherry blossom and the wisdom of the broom tree. And it was this wisdom which the gardener would use to construct the garden of gardens for the emperor who wanted to escape.

Now the ministers and the bodyguards tried to argue with the emperor and wanted him to change his mind. After all, it was impossible for the emperor to be protected if he could not be seen, they reasoned.

“ Then I shall have a garden where I can still be seen but I cannot be disturbed. I want to feel as if I am alone,” decreed the emperor.

And that was all the emperor would say on the matter. To those who did not agree with him, he threatened with banishment and even death. And so it came to pass that that the emperor had his garden and the wisdom and the magic of the broom tree.

Are you with me, so far, my young one? The broom tree…”

Kytö could only nod and the old woman continued with a voice which rasped and sawed at the edges of the air between them and her words became pictures which danced before Kytö’s mind’s eye.

“Now the wisdom of the broom tree is to be without desire, without conception and without finality. The closer one desires to come to broom tree, the farther away it appears. So our emperor could sit under the tree but he could not be approached. The gardener had even thought to ask the plants to create enough whisperings and murmurings so the emperor could not even hear anyone else in the garden and so he had the feeling of being completely alone.

However, the challenge lay in the emperor himself approaching the broom tree, you see there is a secret to it. Like all things precious, like all things desirable, once it is possessed, it becomes damaged and the Broom Tree knew this. The only way one could approach the clever tree was to befriend it.”

“Befriend it?”

As soon as the question fell from the lips of Kytö the old lady and all that came with her disappeared.

He was left with the andro in his room, with Layla’s device discarded on the floor.

The andro remained by the door. That look of polite surprise still plastered across its face. Kytö eyed the device and remembered the voice.

He dared not guess at what had happened at what was happening. He did not want to touch the device right now. He felt betrayed and afraid.

“Andro, what is going on?”

“The device is a key, although I have no knowledge of what kind of door it is designed to open.”

“Did you see the old woman? Could you hear her, at least?”

“I have calculated that you were not here for 0.01 seconds. The old woman you speak of must have met you wherever it was you went.”

Kytö picked up the device as carefully as he could. He turned it over and over in his hand and then gingerly placed it back into its packaging. He needed to stop being scared and passive. Things were happening to him and now he needed to find out how to make things happen himself if he was ever to find a way out of this mess.

“Do you think the device is responsible for me travelling or leaving?”

“Yes.”

“Are you really being tracked?”

“Yes. An unknown source is tracking me. We have to leave.”

“Where do we go?”

“I do not know.”

Kytö packed a few clothes, some food packets and the device into a carry-all.

“If you come with me, they will be able to track me too. I think I should leave you behind.”

“I can disable my tracking device. Whoever is tracking me is using protocol. There is nothing complicated in their methods. Should I disable my tracking devise?”

“Yes, of course! Why didn’t you do this before?”

“Because I was under Layla’s command before and she knew that I would be tracked. She wanted me to be tracked to you. You must be seen to be important. You are important.”

As quickly as he could, Kytö finished packing. He picked up his communicator and thought the better of it. If he used it, he could be tracked. If Layla wanted to communicate with him, she would be able to do so quite easily, he thought wryly.

Once outside Kytö could not think of where to go. He had never thought of leaving his hometown before. People didn’t leave.

Public transport would take him as far as the city limits but he could not risk using his own payment credentials. Cash would have been really useful at this time. The documents he had scoured mentioned physical payment methods in exchange for services. These could be untraceable. Every transaction could be traced back to him now.

Kytö looked at the andro and wondered at the absurdity of it. He was running away with no means of doing so, at the word of this machine, which he trusted above every other living creature he knew.

“Where do we go, Andro? How do we even get there?”

“We must go on foot. Public transportation will cost cantars, and any cantar transaction can be led back to you.”

“That’s what I was thinking, but where do we go?”

“Where the stories lead you.”


Frog

More from my novel, ‘Stories’
Please do comment and let me know your thoughts.

barely here nor there

Suva padded quietly, barefoot to the old woman’s door. Kajol was on the bed, pressing a saturated handkerchief to a shrivelled brow. Low moans emanated from the old woman and Suva knew at once her grandmother must have been very unwell. She had never seen her like this. Her grandmother would never admit weakness, if she could help it.

Suva turned away, but heard her name called, croaked hoarsely from her grandmother’s room. She went back and this time entered the room fully.

It felt like walking into another realm. Although the lights were on, it was still dim. Pinkish tones from the red lampshades and yellow light bulbs cast shadows as if they were in a cave in the underbelly of the earth. Perhaps they were in the belly of a whale. Suva’s mind wandered for some time until she noticed the smell of mothballs. She had never been…

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