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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The Legend of Merida and Kes

For all of you who are following my progress, it’s very slow. I’m halfway through the NaNoWriMo experience and I can tell you already that I’m behind. I’ve got a lot to do, but, I’m happy. I’ve created a story within a story, sort of within a story and although the edits are going to be massive at the end…it’s shaping up to be an epic of sorts. Below is the Legend of Merida and Kes:

Kytö gently got up, out of bed and went to his files. He searched for the legend of Merida and Kes and tapped to begin. Icons as options appeared, he needed text only, and he read:

“The legend of Merida and Kes tells the tale of a love only imagined. Fierce and relentless, the love took hold of the two never to leave them. It is said even after death, the souls are linked, forever inseparable.

Merida lived with her father, a fisherman, in painted house by the sea. Her livelihood and her future were tied to the sea.

Everyday Merida would wait for her father on the shore, as the sea lapped at her feet and she would watch for the little boat silhouetted against the setting sun, to come in with its precious load. When the boat came in, Merida would hand her father a knapsack containing his supper and, together they would go to the market to sell the fish he had caught. They lived this way, content with each other and their world for many years. Once a month, when the moon was full, Merida would become half fish, for she was a mermaid.

(This was in the time where humans and beasts melted at times, into one, where they could converse with one another.)

One day a stranger arrived on shore. Broken and unconscious, eyes closed and barely breathing. Upon seeing the stranger, Merida ran to him to see how she could help. Instantly, she fell in love. She gazed upon his face dirty and burned and ran her fingers across his jaw. She felt his warm breath on her hands and then remembered herself. She was Merida, her father’s daughter, one of the guardians of the sea. She would help this man, but she could do no more.

The man was surprisingly light, as if his bones were hollow and his flesh were paper. As Merida dragged him to her house she wondered if he were real, or whether he would even survive, so fragile he seemed in her arms as she lifted him and carried him across the sand.

And indeed, the man proved to be the most real being to Merida, as everything else around her began to fade. As the stranger drew strength from the broth Merida offered him and as he drew courage from Merida’s compassion, the man began to improve.

Merida’s father could only watch on helplessly as he saw the man, whose name was Kes, fall in love with his daughter. Merida too had succumbed to a kind of magic which can only be found in someone who is so far removed from one’s own reality.

Kes could remember nothing from his past, except a memory of a name, which worried the old fisherman. The stranger had been with them for nearly a month and soon it would be time for Merida and the rest of the fisher-folk to change into their truest form and take to the sea. Merida’s father presumed he would see Kes’s truest form at that time also. He suspected that he was not the same as Merida and her people; something about his eyes shone too brightly and gleamed gold like the sun.

As the moon waxed little by little in the night sky, Merida and Kes continued to grow closer until the finally the moon was at its fullest, pregnant with expectation.

The lovers moved closer and closer to the sea to allow them to swim, without hindrance, when the change came. The sands were teeming with the fisher-folk, all naked, clothed only in moonlight. The children giggled as the mothers and fathers held on tightly to their hands. For some of them, it would be their first change.

Kes felt a tingling as the moon rose to its highest point in the sky. As stars appeared one by one, by one, right next to the silver disc, like stray diamond dust, suddenly all he could hear were frantic splashing and cries of relief and release. For some of the fisher-folk, the oldest ones of the village, they would not return.

He looked for Merida as she waved helplessly from the sea. She realised that Kes was not like her. All night Kes waited on the shore and Merida tread water. They gazed at each other with longing until sunrise when suddenly, as the sun hit the horizon, a different kind of change took hold of Kes.

His arms grew longer and his chest swelled. His mouth and nose merged to form a sharp, hard beak, which curved to a deadly point, and within seconds, Kes was in the air, feathers of gold glinting in the early sun. He circled in despair and delight. Memories came flooding back. This is who is was. For a moment, he forgot Merida but then he saw her swim to the shore. She would change back now and he would be forced to circle overhead and only perch near her where she sat.

Merida called to Kes and Kes came. He landed near her on a boulder buried halfway in the sand. He purred and cawed gently in answer to her tears. Why were they so different, she asked the wind?

All this while, the old fisherman only watched. There was nothing he could do, the bond somehow, had been formed and this was the way it was meant to be. They were destined to remain childless, he knew and this would be the biggest blow for his Merida, as the fisher-folk could only mate in the sea when they changed.

When the sun set, Kes changed back to his human form. The lovers embraced and kissed and cried. Kes told of his past and how he had flown too close to the sun and was carried by the west wind and finally dropped in the ocean. He had no family but he had a duty to his people to return, as he was the rightful ruler of his land. He promised to return before the next full moon, he told Merida and his father.

Before he left, secretly he spoke to the old fisher man. “Make Merida forget. She deserves a future without me,” he said.

The old man knew that only dark magic would have the power to make Merida forget her love for Kes. He had lived many years and he knew all about the power of love. He refused at first, even though he knew that Merida would suffer in Kes’ absence and in the knowledge that she would never bear his children. Kes pleaded and finally made the old man promise him that he would find a way to make Merida forget that she had ever met the birdman, Kes.

Kes left in the morning, believing that he would never see Merida again. His heart was heavy and with every step he took he felt as if every bone in his being had been shattered.

Merida, meanwhile sang the fisher-wife’s song, which told of a heart’s patience and strength, whilst waiting for her beloved to return from their work at sea.

That evening Merida went to market alone with her father’s catch as her father had an important errand to complete, he had said. She did not wonder what this task might be, as she wondered only about her love, the birdman, Kes. And all the while she sang as she sold fish to the folk of her village.

The old fisherman, in the meantime had gone to visit the wise witch who lived in the caves above the sands. She was cursed, or blessed, one could never agree on which, as she had stopped changing many years ago and was forced to remain upon the land until she died.

She knew both light and dark magic but practised only the magic of healing. The fisher-folk were simple folk and rarely needed charms and curses. So when the old fisherman arrived asking for a cure for his daughter, the witch smiled and readily agreed. When she asked what ailed her and the fisherman replied that she had fallen in love with a birdman, the witch shook her head.

“I cannot cure your daughter,” she said, “for she has no sickness.”

“But he has left and will not return. He loves her enough to ask me to help her forget him.”

“But that goes against the laws of love. By asking her to forget only binds his love further. There is nothing I can do.”

“Can you not give her a draught which will help her forget?”

“But that will be dark magic. Light magic and healing will have no part in this.”

The conversation went on until dawn. The witch finally relented.

“I will give you a potion which will be somewhat of a kindness. Both Merida and Kes will forget their love for each other, but they will also be unable to love anyone else. However, it will only last for the duration of one of their lifetimes. As soon as either one of their souls should leave their bodies, they will remember the love they carried for one another. Is this what you want? There is always a price to pay.”

“I will pay you, whatever I have.”

“You do not understand, Fisherman. It is not I who demands payment.”

The fisherman thought he understood. All he saw was the belief in his daughter’s eyes, that Kes would return. All he foresaw was the pain when she watched the horizon only to see it remain empty. He felt like he had no choice. If Kes were to return, then perhaps the old man could reconcile himself with the fact that Merida would be happy despite not being able to bear children, but it was Kes himself who had told him that he would not return. For Merida’s own sake, he wanted Merida to forget him. This way, too, the fisherman would be able to keep his daughter forever. She would remain his devoted daughter.

Reluctantly, because he felt as if the only choice he had left, was all he had left, he asked the witch to prepare the draught.

It swirled black and blue and green and yellow, like the sea, the darkness, the sun and the earth. When the old man held the glass vial in his hands, it seemed to be filled with a kind of resentment, which hummed and whined to be released.

Merida was already home when the fisherman returned. She was fast asleep and for a moment, the fisherman had second thoughts. His daughter looked too peaceful to be in any pain but then he thought of the morning and the hope which would rise and die with each nightfall until eventually Merida would find herself broken when the moon became full. What if she chose not to return to shore? What if the heartbreak forced her to remain in the sea? The fisherman could not bear to see the pain in Merida’s eyes.

Gently he shook Merida awake, kissing her forehead the way he would when she fell asleep on the sands as she waited for him, when she was only small. Her eyelids fluttered open and she smiled.

“What is it Father?” asked Merida. The old man held her hand and explained to her that she had been looking pale recently. He told her that he had been to a medicine woman who had advised that Merida take the medicine which he held in his hand.

Merida laughed and tried to persuade her father to go to bed, but the old man was as stubborn as his daughter. Merida finally relented and drank the potion which was bittersweet to the taste.

She slept fitfully after that. Dreams of hawks and flying and falling filled her mind’s eye. She felt as if she was drowning, suffocated by the salt water sea, which had nurtured her like a mother and she could not understand why. When she awoke, her eyes were filled with tears and she could taste the salt in which she had dreamt she was drowning. But she remembered nothing of Kes.

The old fisherman did not sleep that night, as he watched his daughter toss and turn in her bed and when she awoke he wiped the tears from her face and tried to hold her close. Merida confused and angry, pushed her father aside. She knew who he was but she had forgotten how to love him, she did not recognise the love in his eyes. Love was tinged with grief and Merida’s father remembered the witch’s words. He finally understood his foolishness and could do nothing except mourn the loss of his daughter.

The following weeks passed in near silence between Merida and her father. She no longer waited for him on the shore, instead, she met him at their stall in the market. She helped sell the fish and she cooked for the both of them, but she ate alone. She felt something was missing but could not fathom what it might be. She felt cold and lonely and she no longer smiled.

At the next full moon, Merida and her father waded into the sea but Merida felt no joy or relief in the change. She swam to shore and waited for sunrise. Her tail flapped in the water as the tide rose and pulled at her. Ignoring the sea, as if it were an annoying child, she watched her father. Something seemed to have happened to the old man. Elders surrounded him and he nodded solemnly. Occasionally he would look back at Merida and their eyes would meet. Suddenly he dove into the dark waters and she did not see him return.

Sunrise brought nothing but emptiness for Merida. She walked on two legs back to the hut, which seemed darker and shabbier than before and she set about bathing and dressing. She would leave this town, she decided, and find somewhere else to call home.

Meanwhile Kes had also forgotten about Merida. He knew only war and of ruling. He became a harsh leader, unrelenting and unforgiving and many of his people resented him.

One night, while he slept an assassin entered his room. As quick as a flash, the stranger slit the throat of the sleeping king and somewhere far away from Kes’ kingdom, Merida screamed out in pain.

As Merida writhed on the floor, images of Kes and her father flashed before her eyes, their voices, the memories of their touch, the warmth, it all overwhelmed her until she could bear it no more. She found a knife tucked away in her skirt, which she used for opening clams and looked at it with hope. It glinted in the pale moonlight and Merida could stand it no longer. Deep and sure, she thrust the knife into her chest until the pain in her chest overtook the pain in her heart. Eventually, that too, passed and Merida, of the fisher folk was no more.

It is said that when Merida died, moments after Kes, her soul rose up into the sky in search for her love but was pulled into the sea. Kes’ spirit flew, in the form of a hawk and scanned the oceans until he found Merida, the mermaid leaping through the waves. They would follow each other thus, merging as one, once every month when they would become one soul, half fish, half bird and this is how it would be for all of eternity.mermaid


The Good Wife

It’s been such a long time since I posted any fiction, I thought that I really should do something to rectify it. Have a read of my story of ‘The Good Wife’ featured in Kindle Magazine.

The link is below

http://kindlemag.in/good-wife/


Layla and the tea cup

The tea-cup lay emptied of its contents, waiting to be washed and put away, to be used again. Layla stretched lazily on the bed. Waiting for an excuse to move, a reason to get dressed. Nothing.

Far away, she could hear the train; the loud bass howl as it trundled down the tracks. She wondered what would happen if she bought a train ticket and just left. A baby wailed in the flat next door and she knew that the neighbours had heard enough from her own flat the night before.

She wished it were different. She wished that the walls were thicker.

The inside of the tea-cup was stained brown from the tannin, there was a chip on its lip but the delicate handle curved smoothly, beautifully and perfectly from top to bottom.

She held it in her hand and ran her fingers along the raised blue lotus on the white china. She loved the cup, although the saucer had been broken many years ago. It fitted snugly in her hands, weighing just enough to lend gravity to the one daily ritual that allowed herself to be herself.

She would need another cup of tea before getting out of bed, she told herself. She called for the maid, a little girl of fourteen who ran away on her wedding day, two years ago.

The girl entered, looking irritated as if she had been interrupted. It amused Layla to see such presumptuousness from a servant, and a young servant at that. “Take my cup and make me another cup of tea. Oh, and put the geyser on as well.”

Layla luxuriated on her bed with the ceiling fan turned on to a midway point, blowing a gentle cooler air on her face. The Kolkata summer was made bearable by air conditioning and fans. She was lucky that her current lover had provided Layla the means to purchase both. She alternated between sleep and lucidity and was glad that she had the space, at last, to choose.

The maid knocked quietly on the door, as she was taught to by Layla, and waited for her mistress to give her permission to enter. Savita gave up blushing, long ago, at seeing the top of Layla’s breasts exposed, her long hairless legs, like sticks poking out from shorts that looked like panties. She did not mind such indecency as long as she was getting paid and she knew she had the freedom to leave. She suspected Layla only had the luxury of one of those conditions.

Savita brought in the tray and placed it on the bedside table. She raised an eyebrow at her mistress as Layla asked for it to be brought closer to her.

It had been six months now and it intrigued Savita to see how far she could go in expressing her distaste. In truth, she liked Layla, she was not like the last ma’am she worked for, who would scream and shout at every mistake and would cheat her out of pay every month with an excuse that her work was not satisfactory. No, she was not like the last ma’am she worked for, who made it a point to pull her hair and drag her into the kitchen every time a mark was left on the dishes.

Layla frowned and raised an eyebrow of her own, in response. This was getting silly, she thought. Nevertheless, the girl made good tea. She sat up, and held the cup to her lips, kissing it lightly before taking a sip. Life, she thought, could be much, much worse.


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