“Run, Missus! It is not safe for you here any more” the boy implored. “Nonsense, Jonathan. You have a very active imagination.” She ruffled his hair, noting with a slight smile how he coloured when her fingers grazed his forehead accidentally. “Now get to work” she reminded him firmly, but not unkindly. Several moments passed with the pair working perfectly in unison. “Your Master was married twice before, was he not?” She asked suddenly. The boy nodded. “Do you know how they died? I have heard people talk. I know he can be a bit rough around the edges, but he is not as bad as they think him to be.” She continued. The boy looked surprised, peered at her from between his sandy hair. For a long time, he didn’t say anything. She watched him. He seemed to be shifting from foot to foot, contemplating and struggling with something. “He killed them, Missus! He is a bad man, he deserves to rot in Hell. You shouldn’t be here!” He burst out hotly, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. “Jonathan!” She went after him, shocked at his outburst. She was ready to reprimand him strongly for what he said. She followed him, and found him sniveling while feverishly ruffling around in the Master’s workshop. “What do you think you are doing?” She said sharply, pulling him away. “Wait, please… I want to show you something.” He pulled out miniature ceramic figurines of women, rendered so beautifully. “He made this? They are so life – like. He never told me about his artistic abilities”. She was astonished. Showing her the figurine of the woman in a bath tub, Jonathan said “This was his first wife. God bless her, she was as saintly as they come. She was his cousin. She always had a kind word for everyone.” He paused. ” How did she die? I heard that she died shortly after childbirth.” She inquired. “The Master wanted a boy. She gave birth to a girl child. The Master was displeased. He drowned them both in the tub and threatened me with the same fate if I told anybody. Besides who would ever believe that someone of his stature would do something so heinous?” His voice rang out in that shed. She shuddered slightly. Regardless of whether it was true, it was a horrible story. She was tempted to cut the boy’s pay for the day. What a horrid boy, him and his imagination! Spreading such lies! She crossed her hands, gazed at him levelly betraying none of her thoughts or emotions. “And what about this one? I am presuming this is the second one then?” She asked him as she turned around a figurine slightly more voluptuous than the first one with a sunny smile. This one looked to be in repose. “She was indeed his second wife. The post master’s daughter. We were classmates. She was vivacious and had a lovely, singing voice. I liked her a lot. You could even say, I was a bit sweet on her. And I think she knew. Which is why it came as a shock to me when the Master brought her home as his new bride.” Jonathan looked away, his eyes burning. She reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “She was seventeen, and with child when she supposedly fell down the stairs. I had heard them arguing the day before. He was accusing her of infidelity, and she, the same. It was true that she had taken up with a young writer at the lodge down the street and she was planning to run away in order to escape the tyranny of the master. Somehow, the Master found out. A passionate fight ensued between the two of them. She was never one to mince words. When it happened, they were the only two people in the house. Or so I am told.” The words spilled out, as if he had held them in for years. He probably had. She mused. “What makes you think I am not safe anymore?” “I found this when I was cleaning the shed yesterday.” With trembling fingers, he handed over a brown paper bundle tied in string. Puzzled, she unwrapped the bundle, and let the contents fall to the ground with a scream. There lay on the ground, fragments of what was earlier, a perfectly rendered miniature figurine of her.
I looked through the shimmering glass window. I saw her ornate writing desk, half opened like someone had gone through it looking for something. A lot of things I remembered placing there were missing. A few journals, I think. There were a few loose sheafs of paper. I recognised her handwriting. Those were my words, in a different time. The Sun was setting in the distance, I looked to my right side. The bed so perfectly made. Mine. But it wouldn’t be slept in, it had not been. For a long time. Briefly I considered just that. I sat there and soaked in the room. My one and only chance to see it. This wasn’t my time. I had to go back after all.
I closed my eyes. I remembered. She walked around, she seemed restless. She had never been more alone, but she had also never felt more free as she looked at the elephant that seemed to have materialised before her. The elephant didn’t seem afraid of her, she felt calm looking at it. She walked towards it. It sat down, so did she. She stroked it gently. Murmured words of comfort, and also relaying her predicament. How strange, she thought… That a creature she had only encountered a while ago should make her feel so safe, as though everything was going to be just fine. She sat down, her back resting against the elephant and closed her eyes. And waited. I felt the hours pass by. I knew what was coming. Sure enough, there appeared a white bird in the sky, the wings flapping majestically. The bird rose up towards the Sun, as though to devour it. There was a great explosion of light, like a canopy of shimmering fragments of diamonds enveloping the entire forest they were in. She rose, she was free.
She had arrived at the beach. She watched as the waters lapped at her feet gently, an ever present cool breeze playing with her curls, casting them about hither and thither. She opened her arms wide and received all of it, smiling serenely.
It was at once, the most peaceful and the most heartbreaking thing I had ever seen. I wanted to see no more, I opened my eyes. My eyes flooded with joy and envy, I know not if those tears running down my cheeks were mine or hers. It does not matter.
Here I am. Once again. Till the great white bird comes, I bid you all adieu!
A Queen whose machinations shape the fate of a powerful empire. Another, a Princess whose words would change the history of that empire forever. That woman whose grace, prowess, intelligence and beauty made the prospective Emperor bow before her. Yet another, a fierce warrior. A Goddess of unparalleled skill, chosen for the most elite of missions. One woman who is driven by duty and family, the very family that goes on to betray her. Another, driven by love. A Queen she remains, even in captivity. Living without lament for the loss of her love, his life most cruelly snatched away well before his time. The other is driven by duty and sacrifice, inspiring the Saviour to take up arms and thus, changing the trajectory of his destiny forever. Setting in motion, a chain of events that inexplicably intertwined the tales of all three women as they powerfully come together to defeat The Man.
“Welcome. Here you are. We have waited for you, a long while. Ever since that night of December 1969, to be precise. You do remember, don’t you?” King Minos spoke softly, his eyes twinkling with malice. The soul before him quivered from fear. In the earthly realm, she was a famous and influential writer. Her claim to fame was writing sub – par romance/horror novels involving underaged protagonists and supernatural creatures. “Please, My Lord… It came to me in a dream. I did not do it consciously.” She pleaded before him, hoping that there might be some compassion lurking in his heart still. “TAKE HER AWAY AT ONCE!” He bellowed. The denizens of the Phlegethon rose steadily, their shrivelled, ghostly fingers grabbing her by the ankle and began dragging her downwards into the circles of Hell. They cackled and chanted in a way that made her hair stand on end, she tried to free herself but she couldn’t seem to.
She woke up sweating and panting hard. She looked at the clock on her bedside table. 4:42 A.M. What a nightmare, that one! She shivered, drawing her sheets closer. There was a movement beside her, and a minute later… she heard her husband ask her groggily “Steph? You alright?” She nodded absently and thought back to the red eyed soulless creatures. She stayed with that image, and a new book began to take shape. She hurriedly slipped on her house slippers and quietly padded down to the study, where she began writing.
Meanwhile, somewhere outside their multi million dollar home, lurked a shadowy figure with his huge, dark powerful wings folded quietly. “You do not heed your guardian angels. Your time too shall come, Stephanie” he sang softly, as a sinister promise to himself and also to Minos.
This was the second exercise we undertook in the writing workshop I have mentioned in my previous blog post titled “Free Writing – piece 1”. The rules remained the same for this exercise, however the interesting part this time around was that Rohini pulled out a slender, wooden box which contained a few decks of tarot cards. We were each asked to select a card, focus on a card and write a story based on that image. The one I drew was the Death card from the Rider Waite deck.
Since I have dabbled in tarot, I felt the need to inform her that I knew what the symbols meant and that an element of bias might possibly creep in. Having said that, off we wrote. The timer was set for ten minutes. Here is what I wrote:
The buildings were burning. A heavy layer of soot and smog engulfed the place. He felt a distinct sense of unease. Death had definitely visited his village, and taken many with Him. If he listened carefully, he could hear the heart breaking wails of many people trapped beneath the ruins. His heart clenched painfully, his eyes teared up but he resolutely moved forward. He ran like he never had. His boots made a dramatic crunching sound, when juxtaposed with the eerie silence all around. He stumbled over bodies of friends and people he knew, but never paused.
There, House no. 43! He had finally reached his destination. All the memories of his childhood came back to him, flooding his senses with nostalgia as he walked through the house. He looked at the charred bodies. Father. Mother. Sister. Wife. Every single one of them was lost to him. He heard a faint wail. Could it be? He headed straight for the crib where lay his boy. His boy looked at him and began crying loudly. Bless the boy, what a pair of lungs he had on him! His boy, as if symbolic of the journey that lay ahead had his face darkened by ash and soot, but remained unharmed. He picked up the child carefully and walked out, feeling a bit more lighter and hopeful than when he first set foot in the village.
The rays of the Sun had began to break out in the distance, enveloping he village in a sort of unearthly brightness that seemed to him, more sinister than optimistic. He reassuringly pressed his son to his chest, and kissed the top of his head.
Yesterday, the sixteenth of July 2017 I attended a writing workshop conducted by Rohini Malur and Queer Arts Movement India (QAMI). I had a great time, meeting new people and an adorable dog that wandered in. So, the workshop began with a free writing exercise, sort of stretching out the mental muscles in order to keep them limber and flexible before embarking on the journey, for the day. The only rule we had was that we had to write without pause. The topic was Movie Character. The timer was set for five minutes, and here is what I wrote:
“She is this amazing, free spirited woman. She gets up to all sorts of shenanigans with the boy next door, who wants to be a writer when he grows up. I like her because she is relatable in that we both want to live our own lives, unshackled by societal expectations. She leaves home at a very young age, to pursue her dreams. And boy, does she have a LOT of them. It is not that she is just confused about what she wants to do professionally, but she wants to do many things. She has one vision of herself, standing before a cheering crowd and receiving all the fame, and adoration as she belts out tune after tune. She has this lovely, scattered energy about her, which is what the aspiring writer falls in love with. Unwittingly, each day the friends grow closer, as they both are in the same city. They are new there, and don’t have anyone but each other to lean on. So the duo help one another with their professional aspirations, she becomes his muse after a fashion. Eventually, the inevitable does happen. The two friends fall in love. But while he is okay with taking their relationship to the next level and obey the diktats of society in doing so, she is not.”
The timer ran out here, and I had to stop at this point else I would have been able to flesh out a great deal about the external conflict, and the internal conflicts that threatened the friendship, the relationship as well as the growth that both characters have to undergo before they can come back into each other’s lives once again. Indeed, the brightest dawn follows the darkest night. But setting all that aside, let’s continue with what happened at the workshop. We had to guess which character each person had written about. Nobody got mine. You know why? She is the every day woman. She is striving to live her life, pursue her dreams while subsequently wanting to break free. She is extraordinarily ordinary. She is you, she is me.
There in lies the beauty of it.
(Part 2 of the Toaster series… Please read Rage of a Toaster, in order to understand the chronology of events in this story)
The lights were switched off, the toaster was unplugged but he found it difficult to sleep. His left side was starting to make that mild, annoying rattling noise again. He tried not to think of what he had done, or what might happen when they found out.
Soon dark gave rise to dawn and it was the horrific screams of the youngest of the house that sent the whole house into a furore. Their favourite Captain America blue waffle maker was in the tub and by the looks of it, completely not functioning. Accusations were hotly flung, as was the word punishment and accountability. The children seemed genuinely distraught over losing the waffle maker. Mom said “Now you know that was expensive and a one time thing, we cannot bring that sort of thing again. Let’s go downstairs, think calmly while we have some good old fashioned toast.” Dad smiled at her sensible idea and each separated a kid, leaving the youngest to walk behind them terrified. The youngest had come up with a theory about how the toaster might be culpable because he was old and the waffle maker was new, and he may have been jealous. Dad ruffled his hair and said “Good imagination, kiddo. Why don’t you write something?” and the whole family laughed it off, feeling significantly lighter despite their recent loss.
The Toaster watched them carefully over days, that same joy was no longer felt either in him nor on their faces, he had been called “boring old toast”. Oh they thought he didn’t hear them, but he did. Every life had a price, he thought. His was 10.99, he was truly shocked when he found out when Mom and Dad were discussing how much a new waffle maker would cost and if they were any cost cutting measures they could take, to get the kids another one by Christmas. To be honest, his conscience niggled away at him so much he was being inattentive and ended up burning the toast many a time. He thought about his old friend, her sweet smile, her trusting nature, the fear in her eyes… No! No! He would not think about it. No matter how hard he tried though, he could still seeing her body filling with water, and the mewling sounds coming out of her, and finally… Dead silence. His own rattling problem got worse, his handle stopped working and then he heard the words he thought he would never hear in his lifetime, when Dad said “Looks like this one is going too, we might just have to give the toaster for service.” Service? Oh what fresh hell was that? He had never been to that place ever before. Whenever something was a little iffy with him, Mom usually fixed him up in a jiffy. He liked Mom and her gentle hands, fixing him. He didn’t want to go to some Repairs Man. Yuck!
But the following day despite his vehement protestation which Dad didn’t register of course, he was sent away. In a strange fit of doom and gloom, he thought it would be a fitting end for him. He resigned himself to his fate, as he was taken apart and lost consciousness. When he came to, he was looking at some stranger. A kindly, old face with twinkling eyes “There you go, you will be right as rain soon and you will be able to go home.” The Toaster was baffled. Did this man understand him? He tried saying something in return but all he heard was a squeak, so he shut up. “Rest now, you have given a lot of service. We are going to have to completely replace some parts but you will be good as new once we are done”. Again with the kindly smile. He felt lulled into a sense of calm and let the events take over.
One week later, he went home to an over joyed family who were happy to have their Toaster back, it turns out they did miss him, value him. Only differently from the waffle maker. This time, when the new but slightly used waffle maker came home, he would make sure to be welcoming. His old friend deserved at least that, he thought as he popped and crackled joyfully, happy to be serving his family once again.