Chapter 2: Camila, The Way Old Fairy Tree?
With Graham long behind me, I continue on my trail to the fairy tree. The closer I am, the more I realise how majestic she is. She stands like a queen-- firm on her roots upholding a trunk that stood the tests of time. She stands above everything else in her vicinity, with her branches wide like a queen on her citadel’s balcony. If she doesn’t know where Jo is, I don’t think anyone does.
I hover over the cold river, dark and deep, shielding a moon of its own. The moon underneath seems considerably closer to reach out to rather than the one in the sky. It makes me wonder why no one might have attempted the same. I hold myself from investigating the possibility right there, right then. It was bare and empty, after all. What will it change if I successfully reach out?
I am now only a few feet away from the fairy tree. And another few feet away from Jo. I bring myself to a halt when I reach a distance from where she could hear me, “Ma’am, have you seen a little girl?” The fairy tree doesn’t answer. She seems to be stargazing. I decide to ask a bit louder this time, “She is a young girl. She is missing.”
That gets her attention. Not much, though. She asks me something widely different, “Isn’t it beautiful?” I am unable to understand what she is trying to convey. “What is?” I ask. She is a wise lady. The ones with wisdom always make the simple things appear cryptic. Perhaps, it is what this is.
“The stars. The night sky. The cold wind. Look around. With your eyes open.” She says. Is this a riddle? Does she mean that I am not looking hard enough? But where is Jo? The tree continues, “Did you find what you are looking for?” Now, it’s a bit terrifying. Not terrifying. I am not terrified. But it feels weird, like a murderer asking whether their prey is happy tonight.
“I am Camila. And you?” Camila! What? Why? Camila literally means young. And she is old. Way old. Her barks seem to have wrinkles like that of Jo’s grandmother. This is hopeless. This psychic tree is not taking me anywhere. Why is everything so fruitless tonight?
I walk away from her. Some part of me still anticipates a call from behind, finally sharing the relevant details. But she doesn’t. She goes back to gazing at the blank sky the moment I take a few steps away from her. Hopeless. A small blade of grass is called Graham, and a too old fairy tree is called Camila! Who even names these people?
I know the chapter feels like a let-down after what might have seemed like a nice start. I wrote the beginning a few weeks ago, but I could never finish the chapter after that. So, this is much more of a rough effort to get things done rather than a well-written chapter. I hope you guys forgive me for that (: The chapter does follow the outline, just not good enough... I will try and make up to it with the next chapter ^-^ Hope you guys like it!
"Anything else, dear?"
Sabrina politely refused Mrs Taylor's offer with that sweet smile that could only belong to her. It was that gracious giggle that made the young lady famous in town, even when she rarely appeared down here. Her house is somewhere near the woods, the young boys say. It was the sole thing her father left her with, says the older fellas in the armchairs. And yes, to have stories told about you can be exciting. But not always.
"Oh, and I could use a broom, Mrs Taylor. The old one leaves more dust than it sweeps."
And that was the moment when everything changed. Mrs Taylor, who had been busy totalling all the prices despite her poor mathematical skills, gazed up at her in shock. The young boy, fiddling around with the worn-out bicycle tires, stood still as his tires rolled down the stairs to the harbour. The senior gentleman, busy scanning the papers beside her, no longer cared about the headlines. Clearly, they just beheld the beginnings of the forthcoming big news in town.
Even as Sabrina left the store, no longer wearing her adorable smile, she could feel the stares. How can someone feel those eyes? She doesn't know, but those eyes pierced right through her skin. The broom stood projected out of her little jute basket, and no one hid their suspicions as she walked to the edge of the town. Sabrina could hear the faint whispers amidst the cacophonies of the busy street. And for some reason, she knew they were talking about her.
Sabrina walked a little faster, feeling a growing sense of uneasiness clawing about her insides. Unfortunately, this only adds to the suspicions of the piercing eyes. She could now hear their breath. Perhaps if the town was quieter, she could have listened to their heartbeats too. Soon enough, she could hear the footsteps following her in stealth, closing in for the day's prey.
And before Sabrina could restrain herself, her legs took off, attempting their best to carry their keeper to the safety of her home. The jute basket slipped off into the gutter, soaking her favourite cookies in the swamp. But she couldn't care any less.
Of course, the home could not keep her safe. But sometimes, it seems to be the solution to everything. Returning home. But in those nefarious eyes, it was no longer a home. It was a coven. And Sabrina, a witch. Their prey. The one to burn while they relax and watch.
"Burn her." There never was much Sabrina could do. Apparently, the young man, whose love she refused, had seen her cooking potions. Smoke billowing out of her little coven. And another little girl who had seen her in her nightmares. All she could do was beg, and she did. But the men took the decision for the Gods, and how could she prove them wrong?
The young man was smirking as she got carried away by the relentless guards. The little girl sneaked behind her mother, unwilling to listen to the pleads of a witch. One day, they might take her away too. She doesn't know. In the name of God, they say. How could one kill an innocent girl in the name of God?
She doesn't know, but as she felt the fire melting her skin, she realised it. Her father loved the legends of the lost kings and their declining realms. They perch helplessly on their thrones when the Wicked takes over. In the name of the King, they say. But the King would have long lost his hopes on bringing happiness back to his kingdom. He just shuts his eyes and says it's dark. Sabrina wouldn't blame him. There wasn't much he could do.
Even as the young lady could feel Life doing its best to hold on to her, she was perplexed. Who was more terrifying? The King or the Wicked?
I got a long explanation to make, haven't I? *innocent lauughter* Well, to start off, I am in college! As if that justifies everything XD Well, I messed up. I guess that's pretty evident when it's about me *facepalm* But yeah. Well, technically, life messed up way better than I did this time around, so I guess I did okay XD Anyway, I will try to come up more often from now on. And yes, this story will (from now on) hold the record of the fastest story I have ever written ^-^ It took me about... an hour? An hour and a half? Well, definitely not a week or longer, as it normally is XD I hope you guys like the story. Missed you all too much!!! Warm hugs everywhere ^0^ <3 <3 <3
#fiction, not the last part (:
Book3: Part I (2021)
Attention, booklovers! This is Chacko Stephen, your personal entertainment companion. And welcome to Book3, where we discuss everything novel. Let us hop right in!
So, this is how it works. It is simple. We introduce three new books (which I plan to read soon...), describe the plots, and pick a favourite from the previous article. Trust me. This will be fun! And perhaps, you will find your next big read up here!
And to be honest, this is not the best list out there, but we have some gems lined up here tonight. Without further ado, let us get into it!
1. Welcome to Nowhere (Elizabeth Laird, 2017)
Genre: Fiction, War.
Plot: Twelve-year-old Omar and his brothers and sisters were born and raised in the beautiful and bustling city of Bosra, Syria. Omar does not care about politics - all he wants is to grow up to become a successful businessman who will take the world by storm. But when his clever older brother, Musa, gets mixed up with some young political activists, everything changes . . . Before long, bombs are falling, people are dying, and Omar and his family have no choice but to flee their homes with only what they can carry. Yet, no matter how far they run, the shadow of war follows them - until they have no other choice than to attempt the dangerous journey to escape their homeland altogether. But where do you go when you cannot go home?
And I was desperate for a leap out of my comfort zone! When I read the plot, it suddenly struck me that I had never read anything that features;
One: The plights of immigration.
Two: Any of the Arab Nations (except once in Inferno where they visit Hagia Sophia)
Three: Something that focuses on Muslim characters.
That’s a terrible lack of diversity that I can see in my reading habits! And when I thought about more of these lacks, I was surprised by the number of items I could come up with. It is about time that I start exploring these new realms... (And the book is described in the first person, so I felt it could help me a bit with my current project. It did.)
2. The Rise of Wolves (Kerr Thomson, 2017)
Genre: YA, Mystery.
Plot: Innis Munro is walking home across the bleak wilderness of Nin Island when he hears the chilling howl of a wolf. But there are no wolves on the island - not since they were hunted to extinction centuries ago. He decides to investigate his island home and accepts an ancient challenge: he who jumps the Bonnie Laddie’s Leap wins a fortune. As the wolves rise from the darkness of history and long-buried secrets resurface, Innis’ adventure truly begins ...
Well, there was a more specific reason why I chose this one. I was planning on writing a novel set in Scotland somewhere in between all this time. (Nope, I didn’t write it. I didn’t.) And I wanted to know as much as I could about Scotland and the Scottish before I began. And as you might notice, the next pick is also set in Scotland!
And there are wolves! But no, that wasn’t the primary reason. (It is more like a secondary one...) I also figured out that even as a teen, I had never explored many YA novels before. So, I went for a YA pick, and why not wolves and teens?! It is always fascinating! Except for Twilight, perhaps...
3. Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist (John Young, 2017)
Genre: YA, Contemporary.
Plot: Quick-witted, sharp-tongued Connor Lambert will not take it any longer: the bullying, the secrets, the sympathy. He has been dying from cancer for years, but he is not dead yet. He is going down fighting.
Forming an unlikely friendship with fellow juvenile delinquent Skeates, the pair stage a breakout and set off on a crazy tour across Scotland -- dodging the police, joy riding and extreme partying -- to find Connor’s dad, an inmate at Shotts prison.
But Connor’s left two things behind -- the medication he needs to keep him alive and the girl who makes living bearable. A fresh and bold debut novel-- full of heart, guts and raw emotion. Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist is a brilliantly funny, thrilling exploration of friendship, identity and mortality populated with witty, sharply drawn characters.
Yep, I needed something messed up. And this one was satisfying the criteria splendidly! I mean, what could be messier than two crackhead teenagers out in the open? They don’t even have to break out of something here. Trust me, I know!
And it’s set in Scotland! It’s a beautiful country. I mean, I don’t have very high expectations with this one, but I think this will be a fun read.
And that’s it! That’s the three I am about to delve into for the time being. (Well, I might have already finished one of these and almost finished the other two, but let’s just say I didn’t. That’s not the concept of these posts...) Since this is the very first in the segment, I don’t think this was (It isn’t) the best way to present the books, but I will come up with better ideas next time! I assure you that!
Since this is our first edition, we don’t have a favorite book from the past article. But we will have one next time! I do have some lovely books in the next list! Do let me know which one among the three caught your interest! Anyway, this had been Chacko Stephen, your personal entertainment companion, and we will see you soon with another segment of Book3. Now, grab your novels, play some music, sit back and enjoy. Happy reading!
I actually had plans to put out the next chapter of Has Anyone Seen Jo tonight. But then, this week didn’t really pan out the way I thought it would *facepalm* I am sorry. But then, I thought I will pull this one up now. I had it in my drafts for a while, so I thought this might be the perfect time to put it out there! Hope you guys enjoy it, and perhaps, actually find something interesting! And I assure you that I will come up with a refined, better version next time ^0^
Lots of love,
#nonfiction, or is it?
Popcorn Starbucks! (September 2021)
Attention, film fanatics! This is Chacko Stephen, your personal entertainment companion. And welcome to Popcorn Starbucks!, where we discuss everything cinema. Let's hop right in!
So, this is how it works. It's simple. Every month, we will check out ten movies that stand out from the crowd, pick an old favorite from the past month, and share our personal thoughts up here. Trust me. This will be fun!
September 2021. It's not the best list out there, but we have some gems lined up here tonight. Without further ado, let's get into it!
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller.
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson.
Plot: After she is poisoned, a ruthless criminal operative has less than 24 hours to exact revenge on her enemies, and in the process, forms an unexpected bond with the daughter of one of her past victims.
Cyberpunk and neon lights! It's totally cool! And yes, that could turn out to be the only positive thing about this movie. It looks cool! Totally cool! But don't raise your bars so high up with this one. Yes, you got Mary Elizabeth Winstead and all-time-versatile Woody Harrelson in there. But something feels off. The action sequences could be neat, though. After all, it's produced by the studio that gave us the brutal John Wick trilogy.
9. Prisoners of the Ghostland
Release Date: September 17th, 2021
Genre: Action, Adventure, Western?
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley
Plot: In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber is sprung from jail by a wealthy warlord, The Governor, whose adopted granddaughter, Bernice, has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.
In Cage's own words, it's the wildest movie he's ever made. And that says something. After acting in Ghost Rider, Face Off, and even a Superman flick, if this is the wildest, it's indeed one to look out for. Of course, the plot is a lost cause, but give the trailer a watch. You will be intrigued to know more! It could be a fantastic cinematic experience. And that gives it a rank in the list.
8. Dear Evan Hansen
Release Date: September 24th, 2021
Genre: Drama, Musical
Cast: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams.
Plot: A high schooler, plagued with social anxiety, concocts a story to become closer to the family of a deceased classmate.
The lighthearted ones are here too. Once a generation-defining Broadway phenomenon is getting adapted into a movie. And yes, the trailer looks promising. It might be a little tearjerker that can take us on an emotional journey. And I am all for it, are you? Moreover, it's brought by the director who gave us The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and Wonder (2017).
7. I'm Your Man
Release Date: September 24th, 2021
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sci-fi?
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maren Eggert, Sandra Huller
Plot: To obtain funds for her research, Alma is persuaded to participate in an extraordinary study. For three weeks, she has to live with Tom, a humanoid robot designed to be the perfect life partner for her- tailored to her character and needs.
Now, that's a plot! Uniqueness, here we are! And, of course, it had to be German to be unique! "Hallo, personen!" No, I don't know German. Another heartwarming movie, for sure. Yet again, the trailer promises a beautiful story to be unveiled. This one will fill your heart. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst!
Release Date: September 3rd, 2021
Genre: Historical, Drama, Legal.
Cast: Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Amy Ryan.
Plot: An attorney learns a lesson in empathy when he is faced with the near-impossible task of determining how to compensate families who suffered incalculable losses as a result of the September 11th attacks in 2001. Based on factual events.
Yes! Yes! A hundred times yes! Michael Keaton, Amy Ryan and Stanley Tucci in a legal drama! How can I not say yes?! It's based on the book 'What is the Worth?' by Kenneth Feinberg. And the fact that it is based on actual events adds to the hype! The movie could be slow-paced and not everyone's cup of tea. But I am all for it! Bring it on, people!
Release Date: September 3rd, 2021
Genre: Musical, Teen, Fairy Tale
Cast: Camila Cabello, Billy Porter, Pierce Brosnan.
Plot: Cinderella is a bold new take on the traditional story you grew up with. Our heroine is an ambitious young woman whose dreams are more powerful than the world will allow, but with the help of her Fab G, she can persevere and make her dreams come true.
Look, I get it. No offence. I like Camila Cabello. You brought in Pierce Brosnan! And I like the Cinderella story. I know you all have a magnanimous library of rich resources. But do some originals, man! They are rebooting things far too much. It's exhausting now! The world needs more tales to be told! At least, do something a little different, like, perhaps the story after the union of Ella and the Prince. Wait! That could be a great story!
4. Afterlife of the Party
Release Date: September 2nd, 2021
Genre: Romantic, Comedy.
Cast: Victoria Justice, Midori Francis, Spencer Sutherland.
Plot: Cassie, a social butterfly, experiences the hugest party foul of all--Dying during the birthday week. To her surprise, she is given a second chance to right her wrongs on Earth by reconnecting with loved ones, and most importantly, prove that she is worthy enough to get into the big VIP room in the sky.
A creative rom-com. Thank heavens! It had been so long. We missed you! It's directed by Stephen Herek, who brought us Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), 101 Dalmatians (1996) and The Three Musketeers (1993). A polished British guardian angel, jokes on superstitions- this will be a fun flick to look out for. After the kinds of Evan and Bruce Almighty, it's time for a lady to take the stage. This might not be one to remember forever, but sit back and enjoy your leisure time. But be ready. We all know what they might do at the end.
Release Date: September 10th, 2021.
Genre: Horror, Thriller.
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, McKenna Grace, Maddie Hasson.
Plot: Malignant focuses on Alan Gates, a cancer patient with a terminal diagnosis who is resigned to his fate until he discovers that his tumor is actually a mysterious parasite. Granted a second lease on life and incredible, otherworldly powers, Alan must fight against an evil army buried beneath society skin, all the while unlocking the secrets of his forgotten past.
James Wan. Horror flick. Need I say more?! That man can make the audience remain on the edge of the seat for as long as he wants. The plot feels a bit far-fetched, but mark my words: This movie will have its moments. I am not the biggest fan of horror films, but I have faith in this guy. Hell, he even made Aquaman scary at times!
2. The Duke
Release Date: September 17th, 2021
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama.
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Matthew Goode.
Plot: Set in 1961 when Kempton Bunton, a 60-year old taxi driver, stole Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. It was the first (and remains the only) theft in its history. Kempton sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting, but in turn, the government should agree to provide television for free to the elderly. What happened next became the stuff of legend. Only 50 years later did the whole story emerge – a startling revelation of how a good man set out to change the world, and in so doing, saved his son and his marriage.
I know many of you might disagree with Cinderella up at 5th and Malignant up at 3rd, but come on, everyone! Watch the trailer once. If that doesn't play a little with your emotions, I am confused with your state of mind. This will be a good story. Yes, I know it is based on actual events. But the performances, the filmmaking-- this movie will leave us all with some well-earned emotions. This could even be my favorite on the entire list. And given that Jim Broadbent (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter franchise, Narnia Franchise) and Helen Mirren (The Queen, Hitchcock, RED franchise, Fast and the Furious franchise) are playing titular roles, this will have stellar performances too.
1. Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Release Date: September 3rd, 2021
Genre: Action, Adventure, Superhero.
Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh.
Plot: Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he's drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
Yes! If you know me, at least a little, you saw this coming! This had to be on the top of the list! Asian superheroes and Martial Arts in the MCU- I am already in! And they brought in legends like Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh in there! The trailer looks marvelous (forgive the pun) and beyond what the MCU is used to. The visual effects are off this world! I am excited.
Since this is our first edition, we don't have a favorite flick from the past month. But we will have one in October. Oh, we do have some lovely movies releasing this October. Do let me know which one are you looking forward to this month. This had been Chacko Stephen, your personal entertainment companion, and we will see you next month with another segment of Popcorn Starbucks! Now, grab your popcorns and Starbucks, play a movie, sit back and relax. Happy watching!
*radio noises* Hello. Hello. Can anyone hear me? Hello! It's clear. Alright! Start, action!
Hey everyone! I am thinking of starting something new. Some things new, to be honest. And yes, one of them (this one) is called Popcorn Starbucks! I know. That's a silly name. I love silly names *chuckling* It's just, I had to get out of the fictional realm. I need to gain some knowledge in other fields of writing too. And this felt like the most easiest one in the list. I do talk a lot, and I love watching good movies. So, I thought this could be a good place to begin. I watched about 40-45 trailers last week, and read a ton of synopses XD I mean, it was fun! The difficult part was refining the list! I am absolutely horrible with choices. Anyway, let me know what you guys think (:
Lots of love,
Always Read the Challenge First. Always.
It surprised me not to find this name when I skimmed through the challenge entries: @Clarity. If you had known me for a while, you might know that I am a mad fan of her work. She is not around these days. But she was, is, and forever will be one of my favourite writers on Prose. Her novels are a must-read. Her ideas are ingenious. And if you still haven’t read her works, my friend, you are missing out.
I am trapped. Will keep it short.
@GLD: She changed me as a writer, and furthermore, as a person. I think that says a lot.
@Mnezz: She is the lifeblood of Prose. Period.
@Danceinsilence: I have said this before, and I will say this again. Since the day I met this man, I have never felt the lack of a proper father figure in my life. And, less is more.
Chapter 1: Graham, The Little Blade of Grass?
Alright. Let’s take this step by step.
The first question is when: When did Jo go missing?
It was somewhere between 11 and 12 in the night.
The second question is where: From where did Jo go missing?
It was from her bedroom.
The third question is how: How did Jo go missing?
I zoned out for a minute, and she was gone. Therefore, we shall draw the first conclusion that she must have sneaked out by herself. It’s an impossible window for an abduction. The odds are too vague.
The fourth question is why: Why did Jo sneak out in the middle of the night?
Unclear. Jo’s mind works in strange ways. I told you-- she is the dumbest there is!
The fifth question is who: To whom could she have gone?
That brings us to the suspects. I have two doubts.
One: Mr Derrick Watson. Eighty-year old (Neighbour). Short white hair. Black eyes. Dark brown complexion. A little plump.
Two: Ms Elizabeth Bennett. Ten-year-old (Friend). Shoulder-length brown hair. I don’t know, strange eyes? Beige complexion. Petite.
The final question is what: What can I do to find her?
Darling, you have no idea what I am capable of. Before the sun rises in the east, I will bring Jo back home. And no one will ever know a thing. Let’s set out, shan’t we?
I rise from the bed, aiming for the windows. I will need a view. A broad one. If Jo is somewhere out in the open, I need to know. If that’s the case, I am sorry, lads. The story might end quite sooner than you anticipate.
But no. Jo might be dumb, but my hovering presence around her could have brought around some change. But before we move on to the suspects, I need to collect some evidence. I cannot gather direct testimonies from the neighbour or the friend. They will never even be able to sense my presence. I need to ask someone pure of heart. And I think I have already found the perfect witness.
There she stood, above the hill. The only one in the whole region. She glistened in the moonlight, and her tender leaves shone in the darkness. She must be old. Dozens of years must have passed since her birth. She must be wise. And standing above the hill, she could see every last thing that transpires on the island. The fairy tree.
I glide through the windows, taking the first step in the quest for Jo. To be honest with you, reader, I don’t think our journey together will last that long. The moment I reach her, our adventures might conclude before they even have the chance to begin. And to be furthermore honest, I can’t really see why I should care about that. I hover, close to the grass, steadfast on my way. Nothing can stop me, and nothing will.
“Ow! Watch where you are going, stupido!” The voice brings me to an immediate halt. What is that? A little squeaking creature. Is it a rat? But rats rarely keep their pureness of the heart for long. I need to know the answer. “Who is that?” I ask aloud.
And in all fairness, the owner of the feeble voice surprised me. A tiny blade of grass! How dare a piece of nothing raises its voice against a guardian angel? “What is your name, little thing?”
“Graham.” The reply nearly cracks me up. It must have been no more than a few days old. Such a feeble, childish voice with the name Graham? “Who named you, squeaky?”
I see how irritated and disturbed the arrogant little thing becomes. Speaking against a guardian angel with such temper, he must be taught a lesson. And his reply cracks me up again, “God did.” The determination and confidence in his voice are too silly! Considering that his answer is one born out of zero wisdom and knowledge, I feel pity for the thing.
“God,” I laugh, “God named you? How relevant do you think you are for the Great Lord? You are nothing but a tiny, trivial piece of grass. Your life is meaningless. It lasts as long as one day when the cattle bite you off your roots to satisfy their hunger. Or perhaps, a little storm. How dare you even say his name?”
The determination and confidence I saw early in his eyes are long lost. Is he crying? All it takes is a little monologue, and he realises his worth. How could these beings be so absurd? I can see him struggling to hide his tears. How melodramatic! Jo was the same. She couldn’t even handle the least of insults-- Breaking down in an instant. I wish the children were given more wisdom.
“You are not an angel. You will never be one.” How pathetic! As much as I want to laugh it off and stick to my goal, I feel this rising need to let it know its value, “I am one.” Without another word, I continue my path. My valuable time is not to be spent arguing with worthless things. I have to find Jo, and I have to do it soon. And so, for the time being, I am avoiding the whimpers of the little one behind in my path.
The Runaway Queen.
Disclaimer: The following content is for entertainment purposes only. It is strictly not personal. And mostly, unreal.
P.S: Change dialect to Indian English for a better experience. Don’t know how? Just add more yaars and dudes at random places. And most importantly, make sure that no ‘R’ can ever be silenced. We, Indians, believe in equality when it comes to relevant things like these. When it’s irrelevant like gender, sexuality or something, it’s adjustable.
Some of you might not have understood the person I just addressed. Well, it’s a long story. If you would like to know, stick with me here. I will explain.
Far, far away, in the distant land of Odisha, where every day tends to be festive (without pretty much reason), a young girl was born. Her name was Smruti. No, yaar, I am just kidding. Her name was Smruti Swarupa Mahapatra, and as far as I know, her name could be longer! Like, Smruti Swarupa Mahapatra something, something, something.
But you might still be wondering why I would address her as ‘Your Radiance’. Unbeknownst to most, Smruti is not an ordinary young girl. She is a queen in a faraway land, where mighty dragons soared the sky and wicked sorcerers performed their rituals. Now, their realm is in total disarray, and according to the prophecy, only the runaway queen can save their kingdom from their menacing enemies.
And where is she? Well, you can see her roaming through the empty streets of Odisha at midnight because sleeping during nights is not fun enough. And then, she sleeps through the noons since it’s entertaining after a heavy lunch. Oh, sorry, dude. Not a heavy lunch!
If there is one person she loves most in the world, it’s herself. She takes the term ‘self-love’ to a whole another level! If you could quickly snatch her phone away and check her gallery, half of the pictures will be herself. Half? I doubt that too. It could all be herself, with one or two exceptions.
But it’s not as bad as it sounds. The queen also spends a long time giving good advice to people who require it the most. It’s so helpful for broken people like me. Her advice can be as philosophical as ‘Just be yourself, and everything will be alright!’ to ‘Why don’t you take photos of yourself?’. I mean, like, that’s an integral part of your life! You have to take pictures of yourself and frame them across your room. So that you can later be Charles Darwin 2.0 and prove that humans are going back to monkeys.
But you could still be thinking, why ‘Your Radiance’? Why wasn’t it ‘Your Majesty’ or Your Highness’ or something? To be honest, I don’t know, yaar! She can be compulsive about things without any reason. I mean, she is still a teen, and it’s totally understandable, right? No, it’s not. Why? I will tell you.
She is certainly not a teen.
She is manipulating her identity. I can be very sure of this. Why? She is too mature for a sixteen-year-old, dude! I have seen her contemplating things that regular people don’t even think about in their sixties!
I think she might have had an existential crisis the day she was born! She might have been thinking, “Oh, I have a life now. But it’s so worthless, yaar. What am I supposed to do down here on Earth? What is the purpose of my life?” And everyone must have thought she was crying as usual babies do, but no! She was going through an identity crisis right there, right then! That’s how complicated she is!
Ah, I am sorry, Smruti. I didn’t mean any of this, okay? It is purely for entertainment purposes and fulfilling your challenge, okay? Oh wait, I didn’t tell you about that one, did I? She created a challenge asking others to roast her! See, crisis! I mean, like, what sort of misogynistic person would do that on a random morning? It will be like, “Oh, I am feeling so bored! What will I do? Oh wait, I got an idea! I should ask everyone to say negative things about me! That would brighten up my day like it’s summer!”
I mean, seriously? If she asked everyone to say ten positive things about her, I could have understood that. I mean, I would have struggled to do that, but that’s understandable. But “Come on, everybody! Make me feel worthless!” is not something everybody says on a fine morning! Not everybody, but Smruti Swarupa Sakthi Ranjan Mahapatra! I don’t know if that’s a part of her title, but I think she will be alright with that. If I could do the same, I would have named myself ‘Chacko Is A Horrible Name, Mr Stephen’.
I mean, who doesn’t like long names? As a matter of fact, everyone in Odisha has long ones. It will be fun if their teachers want to punish them. They would hand their students a sheet of paper and tell them, “Go write your name a 100 times.” It would literally keep them occupied for hours, and their hands would be all sore by the end! Dolores Umbridge would be proud!
And when I say this, never think that I am any better, okay? We also have quite the alphabet system! It literally feels like that game where you help Mickey find the way out of the maze. If Ariadne in Inception knew Malayalam, she would have surprised Cobb solely with every last one of our letters. That’s how mesmerising it is!
And do you know that game where you have to draw something without taking the pen off the paper? We invented that! We have letters like “eru” that looks like the rough plan of a theme park joyride! You can’t even find where it begins! It’s basically a loop! And the best part is that it gets worse!
Anyway, back to Smruti! As I said, she is too complicated for me to explain. I might be able to go on for days and describe other things like her family reunions that can be announced as district festivals and her love of writing. But I have already crossed a thousand words, and I am unsure of the word limit here. To be honest, I am more afraid of whether the queen will decapitate me and then stitch my head back, give me life, and kill me again. This could be the last time you might read one of my posts. Pray for me, won’t you?
Lots of love,
I am just going to say #fiction so that she doesn’t go far too ruthless in coming up with methods of execution (:
Whoever is reading this, I am Jo’s guardian angel.
And yes, I know what you are thinking at this precise moment. What a weak opening! He doesn’t even acknowledge the fundamental laws of writing!
Oh, please! It is my book, and I will do whatever I please! And do you think I am bending your precious rules of writing? Oh no, darling, you have got it all wrong. I am breaking them. Every last one of them!
And tonight, that would be my least of concerns. Has anyone seen Jo? I was supposed to protect her with my life and hover over her shoulders for all of eternity. And now, I don’t even know where in the world she is! This is a nightmare. Have you seen Jo?
She is a young girl, age ten. Brown hair, brownish eyes, pale, thin. I wouldn’t call her the brightest of kids-- Who am I kidding? She is dumb. The dumbest there is! If you see her, I need to know.
Oh wait, I know what you are thinking. That’s not how you describe a person according to the golden edicts of writing. You have to scatter the descriptions throughout the story to preserve the freshness.
Honey, please don’t. I am not here to gratify your reading passions. And if there is one thing I need to know, that’s Jo’s coordinates. And if your writing persona feels so violated right now,
Sweetheart, we have barely begun.
This is difficult to explain.
Alright, I first thought of returning with an explanation for my frequent disappearances. Then, I thought an apology would be a better idea. But then, I realised that I wanted this post to have a positive tone. So, here we are!
I am not going to explain all the reasons that kept me away because, it's a bit complicated. And the reasons were different almost every other day, so I think it would be a colossal, massive waste of time. But I can assure you that if there was a way, I would have made it here the very next moment. Maybe, I had a way, but I got too caught up, and I am horrible in time management. If I had figured everything out sooner, I would have been here way earlier. This little place is too important for me now.
That's when I thought of a pardon. I owe it to this place. I cannot simply take off, and leave someone else confused. That's not fair. And it's a wrong thing to do. I am really sorry for that. But the more I thought about it, I felt it was worthless. My apologies are worthless. I am afraid I had been using them as more of an excuse rather than a pardon. Maybe, I didn't mean to, but does that change anything? I am sure it doesn't.
But I am sorry. I know I have come off as a disappointment to many of you in more than one occasion during the past few weeks. It wasn't what I wished for, but it was what I had to do. Or at least, that's what I believed so. And I can't run against time and do something different, so I guess the best thing I can do is to apologise. I was an idiot. I am sorry, and I will try not to do this again.
And that's another thing I am going to change now. Every time I use the word 'try' in an assurance, it seems like my mind always opts the weaker alternative. And I think I might have hurt someone with that word, no matter how much I meant and wished for those to come true. I am sorry, buddy. I will not do this again.
Well, it turns out that the post was not as positive as I thought it would be. That's on me. I am sorry about that. I will do my best to return to the always-energetic, way too talkative, mostly silly late teen as soon as I can. Hopefully, from the very next second. Wish me luck (: And slap me in the face if you ever see me do this again. I deserve that!
Lots of love,
Chapter 45: Of Memories Lost and Made
Corpses. Lifeless things. Pale. And cold.
Until then, the morning mist had wrapped the gruesome sights beneath its haze like a blanket. But when the sun emerged beyond the hills, the images were left naked for the eyes to behold. Yet another day in history chronicled how the selfishness of a few crooked men could lay waste to hundreds of innocent lives. Little cottages brought down, children wailing for their mothers, mothers mourning for their children- it was no less than a battlefront with the combats ceased. After all, the dams would never have submitted to the reigns of chaos and anarchy. But the influence of the rich was too powerful to resist, and they never once fretted about the feeble lives living underneath their citadels.
But no, they would still walk free. The rich neither had a penalty for the crime nor held the least of repentance. The lifeless forms could no longer be of protest, and their voices will never rise again. The lands were left barren to take over, and no hands would ever rise to prevent them. Their visions began here, but no one will ever know how many dreams laid six feet beneath, never to come true.
It was not that Frank Birchard Kincade had not seen deaths before. He had seen far more horrendous and terrifying seas of lifeless frames, but somehow, this particular day felt different. The clouds were constantly competing with the sun, striving to shield it from the horrors of humankind. The water had seeped down back into the streams, but the marshy terrains clung on to one's feet as if threatening to drag them into their darkness. The daybreak seemed like twilight, and the downpour waited, aching to uncover its grief over this forsaken land.
Frank stood there, feeling more and more hopeless every moment in finding another soul alive. His crew was the closest to the incident, and being trained for something contrary was not enough of a reason to keep them away. Lives needed saving, but they all purposefully forgot that they could have saved them when they were alive.
But Frank was feeling weaker the longer he stood. His eyes blinked faster; his breath felt louder; his knees felt heavier. He had questions that needed answering, but then, he could not recall the questions. He had tasks left to do, but then, he could not recount his instincts. He felt a void growing heavier and darker within his mind. Suddenly, a single puzzle arose in his mind, sweeping everything else off like a whirlwind, "Where am I?"
Frank glanced around, but he could not recollect where he was or how he arrived there. The uncertainty tore him apart from the insides. The wails of the children seemed to reverberate within the chambers of his mind. He sealed his ears with his palms, but the voices prevailed. The eyes of the dead pierced right into his soul and invaded his memories like a plague. How did I reach here? Where is this place? What happened to all these people?
"Captain! Captain, are you alright?" The voice took Frank back to his reality if there ever was one. Captain? He was gradually able to recollect bits of his past that were caught in the mist. Am I losing my memories like my mother? But he soon realised that he could not even remember her face.
"Seems like everyone wants a piece of this chap." William uttered as he abandoned the newspaper back on the couch. Cora had previously scanned through the articles that morning. Nearly all the states had raised demands for the remains of their late President, Jefferson Davis. She held neither love nor hatred towards that man, but she could not fathom why they were all so compulsive to have his remains.
"Cora, there is something in my mind. It might sound absurd, but it hurts me not to ask." Since the two was alone on the couch for what seemed like an eternity, Cora had no idea what her uncle yearned to know. They never shared such a close bond, but she could not even imagine making them upset on their visit after such a long time. And she had absolutely no idea where her brothers were in the midst of all this. And unsurprisingly, her husband was missing as well.
"Ask away, Uncle William. Why would you even hesitate?" Cora ensured that her grin covered most of her face and attempted her best not to make it feel artificial. Though she found her grin was quite reassuring, her uncle gazed away for a moment as if pondering how to present his dilemma in the best way he could, "What does the S stand for? Harry What Truman?"
Though she had no specific answer to the question, Cora felt relieved that the response was not something that she had to develop from scratch. It was not the first time she encountered this inquiry, but she did remember that she never could provide a satisfying reply until then, "Oh, it's complicated." Cora let out a little giggle before commencing her little monologue, "John fancied his middle name to be Schipp like his father. But I really coveted it to be Solomon."
"But who is Solomon?" Although Cora did notice that question approaching from a distance, somehow, she could never convince anyone with her justifications. How could she possibly say that she loved that name so much that she aspired her husband to be of that name? And when that ended up different, she ensured that her son will be of that name, but John's parents were so desperate to name him Harry. All I am asking is for, at least, a middle name. Don't I deserve that? I am his mother.
But none of her outcries made it out of her mind, and her uncle remained in his uncertain posture. In the end, Cora gave up seeking to obtain a more plausible reason and chose to let out what she felt, "I really love that name." But before William could laugh out loud or fill the upcoming silence, she went on to describe the rest of the events, "But John and I ended up disagreeing, and it was so difficult to find common ground. So,"
From his face, it was evident that William was not impressed- not in the least- with her defence. But he did succeed in concealing his laughter and presented her with a much comforting response, "That's great! You are leaving him the privilege of choosing his own identity! He can name himself anything he wants with a S, like,"
"Shit!" It was John who proclaimed the wrong thing at the wrong time right then. He appeared at the doorway, drenched, "I am sorry. It was Harry. He made a bit of a mess." John must be feeling embarrassed from every single thing that is going on, Cora chuckled. But she never skipped her duties as a partner, though her health was not at its very best. Yes, it had been a month since Harry came out to the world, but the causes of her sickness were not solely physical.
Cora rose up from the couch, ready to take her turn in managing the infant. But before she could make it all the way to her room, inaudibly mocking her husband with her cutest gestures, her beloved uncle stood up to the cause, "Cora, you deserve a rest. I can handle one of these. I have a fair share of experience." William winked, assuring his niece that he was capable of the task.
As the two left their separate ways, Cora, once again, found herself all alone in a house that brimmed with people. The loneliness shook her every once in a while. Spending a whole forenoon on the couch beside her uncle with little to no talking helped her preserve her sanity, but the moment no one was around, Cora discovered herself beneath the dark clouds again. Ever since Harry's birth, the clouds pursued her like prey.
At times, Cora wondered why she held no intimacy with her son as any mother should. Even when she attempted to stay closer to him, she sensed a distance from her lifeblood. John might have discerned that from the beginning. He regularly found more time with his son whenever he caught Cora lost in her thoughts. She was unaware of anything that transpired around her.
As Cora made her way upstairs, she could still hear the heavy rain pattering against the weak ceiling. She needed some space, or so she believed. Cora hopelessly wanted someone to hold on to, but something told her that it was absurd, even though she was surrounded by souls who sincerely cared about her. But when she arrived at the garden on the terrace to take in a splendid view of the downpour, she noticed something way more beautiful.
Cora could see, at the other end, her mother and adopted brother sharing a tranquil moment. The two relaxed there, watching the rain- Jeremy on the rug with his mother conveniently lying back on her wooden chair. He was not even her real son, yet, he was always there for Azalea when she needed a shoulder. He dropped his Masters in Science solely because he knew his mother would feel alone with the loss of her husband. He deserved her more than any of them did.
"He does a better job than the both of us, doesn't he?" Cora was startled by the voice behind her. In such a climate when the lunchtime resembled a dreary night, her fears were not misplaced. The blues of the hanging clouds blended right in with the greens of nature- the sight beyond them was as artistic as someone could ask for. But none of it hindered her from being brought back to reality with a jumpscare from her twisted sibling, "A thousand times have I told you not to, and yet, you never change." Cora embraced her elder brother in a tight hug that prolonged forever. She could feel the void inside her shrinking the longer she squished her brother within her arms.
"Hasn't Randy returned from the stores yet?" Charles stretched himself out of the hug since there was no other way it could have come to an end. He must have very well known that Randolph might not have carried an umbrella with him and might have been waiting somewhere for the rains to come to a halt. And though she realised, Cora returned him with the exact response that he had on his mind. They stood there by the window, ensuring that their sounds never bothered the ones on the terrace.
It was only later that Cora noticed Uncle William and her husband involved in a conversation near the entrance. Storms had a peculiar way of bringing people together. John had reacquired his authority over Harry. He held him in his arms, patting his back in a way that would even shove the viewers to sleep. "What do you think those two are doing down below?" Cora asked her brother, breaking the momentary silence between them.
"Ah, it gives me enough reasons to believe that your uncle is assessing your husband." Charles replied with a giggle, impressed by his own retort. And Cora kept no reluctance at the moment to admit that his joke was not that poor, unlike their usual sibling melodrama, "Ooh, what do you think happens if he fails?" She returned with a playful smirk, one that she had not worn for a while.
"I don't know. Are you satisfied with your married life, Ms Cora? Because if you aren't, I could totally use an extra hand with chores." Charles' raised eyebrows and convincing posture precisely represented what he intended to do, and Cora was not a fool not to realise it. He had done the same ever since she could remember, and Cora was not planning to fall for his trick this time around, "Chores? I am sincerely satisfied with his care!"
The two burst out into laughter that drowned in the loudness of the rain, but the growing graveness that occupied her brother's features was something he failed to conceal, "Are you, Cora," Charles waited for a moment before proceeding, "satisfied with his care?" Having seen her brother for years on end, Cora knew in an instant that he was not joking around anymore. Did he notice what I am feeling too? But this was never about John. Even I am unable to understand what this is about.
"I am. John understands. And he loves me. Like a lot!" Cora beamed at her elder brother, and soon enough, she could perceive that he was still concerned about her. She wanted to make him feel better as much as she desired to open up, but she was still uncertain what was altered within her, "You know, if it wasn't for the rains, I would have loved to visit all our old places." She gazed away into the woods, memorising all the fun times they had together with Jeremy.
"I don't see why we still cannot." Cora had detected that tone in her brother's voice before, and it never ended up good for the siblings. But when she returned her glance towards him, she was already assured that the end of the day would be rather memorable, "You really are the worst brother." Together, they sneaked off through the kitchen doors, and sure, they required no umbrellas anymore.
The storms never came to a halt that day, and the Kincades were equally turmoiled in their insides. Another Brimford will walk the Earth in no less than an hour, and the entire family anxiously anticipated the arrival of Arthur Jr. The pangs Fiona had passed through that day had no boundaries that even Arthur felt a bit abashed of his childish desperation. If it was not for his longing for a younger variant of himself, Fiona would not have to go through all these again. But again, no one could swim against the tides of time, and the greater purpose of a new life acquitted his mind off the guilt for then.
Soon, they heard footsteps from the space where Fiona was taken into. The clinic, though the single one in the region, never possessed an overflowing crowd. And in the middle of the night, the family was fortunate to find a physician down there. But when the female doctor in her whites emerged from the doorway, it gave birth to a second of excitement followed closely by a hush of anticipation, "It's a beautiful baby girl."
But the adorable chuckle of the gentlewoman was undermined by the tremendous roar of an aching father, "What?!" And hence, Arthur Brimford possibly declared the worst statement a father could likely deliver upon the most delightful moment of childbirth. No matter how many times Chadlynn replayed the incident in her mind, the end always made her laugh out loud wherever she was. History always tends to repeat itself, she thought to herself, recalling back to her time of birth.
"My dear cousin, are you losing your mind?" It was Fiona who appeared by the door, her entire frame leaning against the wall. It had been a few minutes since Chadlynn escaped the kitchenette, affirming Fiona of her immediate return. But here she was, laughing her brains out on the front porch with no apparent reason, "I am sure there must be a logical explanation behind that hysterical laughter, and I am more than willing to lend my ears for that." Fiona proceeded, a slight sneer then occupying her features.
However, before Fiona could sit down for once on that tiresome day, the latest entry in their family commenced her celebrations with a piercing shriek. They had all came to an agreement at the last supper that Little Artemis might be their fiercest symbol of girl power in their family, solely based on her determined outcries, "Sometimes, I just want to throw that little woman against a wall." Fiona winked, preparing for the conflict she was about to endure.
Dinners were often the times when the family embraced their love for each other. Their conversations would vary anywhere from the shallow neighbourhood gossips to enormous political controversies and philosophical confrontations. Chadlynn still remembered last night when the topics began with Artie's clamours to even the freshest Sherman Anti-Trust Act. None of them even had an actual comprehension of the subject, but the possibilities they went on to discuss seemed endless.
If Arthur and Sam returned home from their evening stroll along with all the little ones, they could have had their dinner by then. But again, Chadlynn suspected that it might have been their laziness to partake in the dinner preparations that made them late. These irresponsible men, she let out a big sigh just before she noticed her mother on the other end of their yard.
Chadlynn rose up from her father's old armchair and walked up to Etta. Her mother seemed to watch the sunset from the exterior, but Chadlynn very well knew when she looked like that- Something is troubling her mind, "I hate to break it to you, mother. But if you are staring to prevent the sun from going beneath the horizon, you probably won't be able to do that."
Etta gave out a little laughter, but Chadlynn knew that laugh very well too. "In a way, I am, Lynnie." Etta spoke after a while, "My life is approaching its sunset too." Chadlynn could see her smile, but every time she saw that smile on her mother's face, she knew that the forthcoming words could be hurtful. "And you are right. I can't stop the sun from going down its path, but if I could, I would love to revisit the best parts of the day once again."
Etta then looked at her daughter in the eyes. She told her everything she wanted to without telling her anything she prepared to. Chadlynn knew that her mother was not requesting her permission but rather letting her know her intentions. She was like the sunset- neither the words she could say nor the actions she could take would hinder her mother from going down the path. She was the most resolved lady that Chadlynn had ever come across in her life, "But mother, you are in no condition. Are you sure about this?"
Chadlynn knew her words were only worth a try, but it would have hurt her not to ask that one last time. Etta looked beautiful even at the dawn of her life; the evening sun seemed to enhance her youthfulness. The mother placed her hands below her daughter's ears, shoving her free strands of hair behind them. Etta came closer until their foreheads met each other, "You are a grown woman now. It's time to let me go. I have given you everything I can, and that part of me will always live through you. I will always be proud of you, my little fairy queen."
Chadlynn propelled herself tighter into her mother's arms, feeling her warmth as much as she could. Tears never ceased caressing her cheeks, but her arms clung around her mother like a toddler. She was never ready to let go of her, no matter how old she grew up to be. And now that she had to, she was not intending to regret any of the last moments she could spend with her. The two agreed on keeping this a secret and retired to the comfort of their home for one last supper.