Thursday, September 25, 2008


It was a dark night then. The coiling winds that otherwise palliated the coarseness of the alfalfa that grew yellow and green, thick and large over miles outside the country, aggravated its customary tenderness to a more feral conduct, blowing all and sundry into the vastness of the Field. Quiet plugged all emotion, but not the occasional sniveling of the upset wolves that ran the grounds howling to the white weary loop that stood in all its length and glory, completing the dark skies above. The night was doomed to singularity, to serve that that never would be loved, but remembered, though with an apparent objection and with the regular roll of eyes, and yet, in the deepest hearts of some, with deference for having been, but different.

In the thick of the black and against the rush of the vindictive winds, with the most feline gait even in the most uneven walks, ran an overtone of black, dodging the labyrinths of the tall grasses, running but deeper into them. Laayela pulled the pashmina hard against her cold face, her heart walloping against her supple chest, as she rammed against the shrubs and to her purpose, looking back every few moments. She, must not be seen. It had been a demanding week for her, having tripped over Nagartha, the unbounded ranches of Outertown, having almost been caught, twice, attempting to relieve the magic from the lakes beyond, and now scuttling through the hardnosed, fat grasses of the Field, all but being an overtone of black, not to be seen. And yet, she knew she was being watched, and would sooner than later, add to the count of her kind taken in this Hunt. So for days had she not broken this run, and with her ran , camouflaged in the blackness of the night and in the falseness of illusion, the belief of her folklore in the long-kempt craft of magic that for ages ran in her blood, and now in her pace.

Laayela, hadn’t always worn black. There was once an age when the sun flamed yellow over the neatly mown grasses of Nagartha, turning the green greener, on which a little girl with other little girls blew bubbles of color in the heat of the air outside, that would turn lighter and larger as they floated atop, only to burst with a sudden ‘pop’. The girls always laughed at that. Little Laayela then, would clutch the end of her claret frock tight and run the length of the town to rework the effect of the bubbles to her mother. Never had Nagartha enjoyed the reputation of being a decent escape, for all feared the eeriness it lent to the country, not to forget the horrid rumors that always did the rounds, of witchcraft and voodoo that they said the parish of Nagartha had ever since fathered. And when man, blessed with nothing but the ordinary, chose to cave in to the temptation of emulation, that they say has the capacity to wreck the best; Nagartha, even in all its mind and muscle, couldn’t manage a win. Nagartha lived no more, and little did live of the magic that destroyed it, and of that little, Laayela, this day, knew a lot..

Laayela felt the lands turn coarser against her thwarted feet as the grasses thinned, the numb of her left ear further tranquil being stung by the bitter winds, whispering of the purpose that drew closer each moment, her batted eyes follow the grey smoke as it spiraled in the darkness above hinting of what probably burned in a distant clear. The recklessness that had for days refused to flee from the depths of her mind and from the look on her face fractured to the most contented smile Laayela had ever smiled since the commencement of the Hunt …she knew her peace was closer than ever before.

Loud callous laughter cut through the silence of the night spiking alarm to Laayela who’d never really liked the witches of the Outertown for their conduct. Sisterhood always spoke of how subtlety and calm best house the rushes of irrepressible magic; the faction of Outertown, from what Laayela had heard, propagated quite the contrary, tagging strident, braying activities most appropriate to keep alive the extraordinary, for both shared the pulse of haste and the will to awe. Laayela pushed hard against what seemed like the last tress of grass that rooted the Field, to face the circle of five gifted women and a blazing fire. For a moment, the best could fall fool to the casual ambience that added to the warmness of the fire; it looked more like a tea party that entertained a handful of middle-aged women, where they could complain of their lives, swear upon their lovers, envy famous women and blush unapologetically as they’d narrate concocted trysts with well-built lumberjacks that sweat a few blocks from their place. Laayela knew it was no tea party, and the women that soaked the warmness there, laughing, did not share jests this inappropriate., and so she walked closer, clearing her throat and declaring her presence.

Ah, another visitor, and that too this pretty”, sniggered a rather sturdy, black woman, closest to the heat, as she stared at the rest; her eyes that of a bufo-bufo suggesting private humour. And so the rest obliged, snorting and hooting out loud; warm whisky spilling off their lopsided mugs.

Laayela smiled back. She neatly laid all paraphernalia that she knew she’d need later, and joined the circle.

And our missy would be?

Laayela from the town of Nagartha. Sent here, by the sorority of the worthy Sisterhood.

The humour in the group fell immediately punctured. None showed no more of their jabbed brown teeth or rolled around feigning hilarity, none drank more of the intoxicated drink that lay uncorked next to each one of them; they knew never before did anything require more of their minds than their magic, than this.

The witch, who sat on Laayela’s immediate left, pulled up the azure hood that veiled the best of her face from the light of the fire, and turned to her right; her hard pursed lips giving away absolute incredulity. She was bald and an albino, the best haulers of the craft as the old always said, with hide as clear and visible as their purpose. Her eyes pressed hard into Laayela’s, peering harder in, to which, Laayela looked away.

It’s true that they say then...” she whispered, in the most silken tone, “you do sing?

Laayela nodded gently, still stealing her eyes from the albino, staring hard into the fire. All, except the albino gasped, hands pressed hard against their breasts, immediate fear draining them of all the extraordinary. Laayela stole a glance at them and smiled; it’s amusing, she thought, how the slightest stigma of association with death could blind the best with the darkest fold of pretence. The albino stayed unruffled though; she smiled back at Laayela, and in swift move grasped Laayela’s cold hands in her own warm ones.

And for?

Laayela knew she’d be asked that, and she had her answer prepared for long. Sisterhood asked of her to reveal only that it deduced best for all but Laayela had never quite agreed. For long, she knew, had her kin suffered for their attempts at blatant fabrication and for presuming that the world would never be ready for them. She wanted to believe that it was this day, and if not even today, then never would they be granted acceptance in their own kind, and its best to go out there and fight than to hibernate in the soils of shameful lies.

I sing for the blessed” spoke Laayela in the hoarsest tone the cold of the night allowed her, “I sing for those that carry the magic

Laayela’s hands fell out of the albino’s grip, as she cupped them hard against her face. The black witch sitting diametrically opposite to Laayela shrieked out loud, dropping all whisky into the blazing fire; bursting it into wrathful flames that hissed and slithered against the wind, detesting the liquid as much as the uncalled revelation. The flames spiraled out against the circle of women, burning sights of all in rude shades of yellow; Laayela stood up and backed a few steps, her skin blackened by the burning flames and the rage of those around it. The tears that boiled in her eyes, in the briefest moment, brought to her the realization that she hadn’t after all, been wise.

You invite death to us?” cried the black witch from the other bay of the thick stands of fire that twisted and turned mischievously, throwing nasty knots of flame akin to a veteran cowboy. Even through her soggy eyes, and against the rowdiness of the fire, Laayela could feel the hatred and the avenge of a crying chagrined witch, who with a purpled blade in her left hand, and eyes reddened in fury, stood ready to fight the serpentine flames as much as the ally of her biggest foe.

Laayela knew the damage was done. She knew she could do away with her black housecoat now, now that no darkness could shadow her truth. She stood there waiting no more to be understood or be accepted in the slightest, or maybe she’d lost much interest to seek the same; she could now see the sureness of impossibility drawn by the insubstantial human mind, and had finally, chosen to come to terms with it. The blade that smothered in the shaky hold and the look of supreme aghast that stole each face, assured her, that belief, was something she’d never be granted.

Laayela wanted to run against the harshest and the thickest of the flames then, and to that black witch, hold her hard against her bosom, like a sister to another, like a mother to a mislead child, and narrate to her, the part of the story that none in the world ever chose to believe. She wanted to cry out loud to the cold of the night, that never did she, or any of her kind, bid death to anyone, but only helped those, for whom it lingered close, prepare, by singing to them the customary requiem. It was a service they were doomed to afford, a service that they had always been shunned for. Fear, she now knew, always casts the last spell.

The cold suddenly turned unbearably bitter. Laayela no more felt the heat of the flames as the ends of her fingers numbed, sending the chill across the length of her spine and to her within. Salty waters flooding her eyes halted, only to rush back again, wild and escapable as the million human emotions, of panic, of joy and of absolute grief. And the numbness finally conquered her mind, sighting it against the brilliant light and to the Call. Laayela had known this sensation for long, and better than any other now, she knew it was time for her to play the part; she knew it wasn’t her decision to make as much as it wasn’t her song to sing..

A slow stinging cry cut through the quiet like the sharpest knife. It wasn’t music; it wasn’t noise either, but a stable painful wail that flowed with the winds, calming and caressing them of their annoyance as it diffused into the enormity of the Field; powerful and chaste as the Element. It had no tune to it, nor did it have the slightest variation, all that remained of it was the plainest, basest quality, that in all ease fooled the night of all its intentions, and culled absolute peace. The black witch, as she stood against the brands of a fire that now gently purred in joy, providing warmth as warmth is required, dancing in the black of all eyes; stared harder still at the pretty young woman kneeling in front of her, the branching green veins of her throat showing in all clarity, as they pulsated in and out, producing the melancholy, that now drowned all silence.

There was an immediate movement in the grasses around, voices of rough men talking in vernacular reached the fire as the clanking sounds of metals and boots grew louder every second. The night, with no reason, had begun to explain itself…

Blank of any emotion and even in the deepest of the trance, Laayela knew they had finally been hunted, and that the End now lay close. The Men, led by the envoys of revulsion and bitter desire had reached her magic, their magic, and now there remained no escape. The six witches with the fickle fires had lastly been cornered. And yet Laayela knew that it wasn’t her call that trooped them here, and that it was only sung but to tip off their arrival; she knew that her gift with the entire happening would be misconstrued as it’s always been, and this pained more than anything, than the bite of the cold winds, the burn of the wrathful fires, the fear of being taken, the agony of having lost her sweet, little town….

The albino, who now stood next to the black witch, calming her, gently walked towards the fire, her eyes unfocussed as they wandered with the tender movements of the low-lying flames, hurtful in the least.

The end we know is close, but what end, is yet, for us to choose

All followed suit and the circle drew closer.

The Banshee's only done what a Banshee does


Ko said...

someone from SAASC ought to comment on this, you know. i'm still waiting for one of you to judge this!

Piyush Goswami said...

Quite well written. It's apparent that a lot of time and work has gone into this. Very interesting imagination too.

I like the roots of some of your ideas-
1. 'And when man, blessed with nothing but the ordinary, chose to cave in to the temptation of emulation, that they say has the capacity to wreck the best'- originality and emulation here.
2. 'Fear, she now knew, always casts the last spell.'
3. 'belief, was something she’d never be granted.'
These say depth and intelligence to me.

This, however- 'narrate concocted trysts with well-built lumberjacks that sweat a few blocks from their place' was avoidable.

Your writing was what I sometimes refer to as verse like prose- has a kind of flow to it. Yet, there is a wish- I would like for you to write more accessible writing- use simple, shorter sentences and avoid obscure words. Think about it- that kind of writing has a certain beauty to it, in its simplicity.

Disclaimer: It is not my intention, aim or inclination to judge anybody, their writing or their ideas. It's just that I like reading good writing and have some ideas of my own.

And its good that you are regularly writing for the saasc blog, as I asked you to.
Best of luck.

Piyush Goswami said...

Hmmm...on second thought, I am not sure if I want to give you the 'verse like prose' adjective yet.

And adding, your choice of adjectives and descriptions is quite interesting. I usually use the word 'interesting' in a positive sense :)

the turncoat said...

Thanks for the suggestions sir, appreciate it much,
will make it a point to write stuff thats a little more regular from the next time.,
thanks again :)

Ko said... a river of prose

rivers are fun when you let them take you along, but don't get swept away.

it would only add to the beauty of your writing if you built a few bridges for the reader to cross over.

excellent work

Piyush Goswami said...

@Anuj: Didn't ask you to write 'regular' stuff at all, my friend. Please don't. The subject matter you choose to write on is entirely up to you and if you ask me, the more off-beat the better :). All I said and Ko actually put this a lot better- 'a few bridges for the reader to cross over'- that's all.

the turncoat said...

@ kokil:
thanks a lot :), I shall.
@ piyush:
got it now sir :)