Thursday, January 30, 2020

#655 : Short Story of the Month (January 2020) - Ate


Genre - Sci-Fi

Maya stood next to the picket fence gasping for air. After all, she managed to escape being caught by Nirmal, her friend. That was no ordinary feat. She looked around expecting him to surprise her by pouncing from behind and getting her out. She scanned the yard for places to hide. They always played in Nirmal’s backyard, but today they decided to move to Ami’s house. Nirmal’s mom wasn’t keeping well. This backyard was trim and clean unlike that of Nirmal’s. Nirmal’’s dad, Mr. Ashok loved bikes and cars, hence his yard was bare with various vehicle parts littered all over the place. Since she was the smallest of her friends, physically, she could hide behind one of those mammoth engines or  door frames that on the yard. If Nirmal was chasing, he would always catch her by surprise in spite of her not making any sound. 

Today, she had no such thing to hide behind. Ami’s yard was filled with potted plants all arranged neatly. She had managed to reach the far end of the yard without tripping over the pots. She turned back and looked at all the plants. They were in varying stages of growth. There were flowers of all colors and sizes. A strong scent of wild Jasmine hung in the air. A slow smile crept to her eyes. There was rectangular patch towards her left. Four long wooden poles stood rooted in rectangular form, covered with vines and leaves. A small wooden horse lay rocking gently inside. She tiptoed towards it and sat on the horse. If felt a size smaller for her frame. That didn’t really prevent her from gripping the handle and rocking the horse gently. For a moment she forgot all about Nirmal and their game. It felt so nice to be in the garden and enjoying a rocking horse. She lived in one of those tall buildings with glass lifts. Her house was on the 7th floor. She hated that she couldn’t go out and stand on the balcony like her brother Rajesh did. He was taller than her and older too, though by just two years. This whole place felt dreamy to her. May be, she could persuade the gang to play in Ami’s house often. Ram came running out screaming and kicking down many pots in the process. Nirmal followed him laughing. At least he was careful enough not to step over the fallen plants. 

Maya sulked and stood up. It was time to end the game.She would walk straight to Nirmal and ask him to get her out. She wanted to stay in the garden taking in the scents and sights. She was bored of the hide and seek game. Her gang of 9 kids from her school almost always played this game for a year now. They had all joined the Sunny brook school in their kindergarten. Now they were all in the third grade. As she walked to towards Nirmal who was now in the floor tackling, a small figure appeared suddenly in front of her. It shot out of nowhere with a low swishing sound. It looked like it was some kind of a creature cut out from a tree. Two tiny black eyes blinked at her as she looked at it with curiosity. It reminded her of that woody thing from the movie her dad had watched on the TV few days back. She scratched her nose to try remember it’s name. It slowly stepped forward towards her. She looked at with curiosity. Were such things even real, she wondered? 

She stepped forward. It stood still and blinked at her. A pearl of sweat dripped over it’s little nose. Ah! It looked like groot. Groot was the name of that woody thing from the movie her dad had seen earlier that week. It smiled at her slowly revealing just two pearly white teeth which were almost pale yellow in color. She smiled back and move near it to touch it. It stood still without moving. Just as she was about to touch it, it’s lips moved and in a low electronic voice it said, “Hi. Eat me!” She jumped back in shock. Could trees actually talk? Why was it asking her to eat it?! Her tiny head began buzzing with all sorts of questions. 

“Who are you?” she asked in a small voice. 

“I’m alvera. I’m what your people call “chocolate angel”. I’m here because you wished to eat a bar of chocolate yesterday. So what are you waiting for! Go on, eat me!” it replied. 

Her eyes literally popped out. How did that “angel” know that she had wished for a chocolate! She wondered!

“But….but… feel like a living thing, you talk! How can I eat you?” she asked. 

“Well, how do you normally eat a bar of chocolate?” it asked. 

“Chocolates that my mum buys for me comes wrapped in plastic covers and papers. I tear open the wrapper, peel the paper away and eat the chocolate. And if it’s melted, I lick the paper away” she replied. Her mouth started watering at the very thought of chocolate.The tall man wearing white coat, the man whom her mother had called dent-something had scared her  by telling that if she ate chocolates frequently, her teeth would turn into brown color just like chocolates and fall off. 

It started her for a minute as if processing what she had spoken. Using it’s small twig like hands, it took out a small black round thing. 

“Subject asking for wrapper dress. Drop dress.Over!” it spoke into it in a loud squeaky off key electronic voice. 

“Drop confirm in 5 minutes.Over!” the black thing crackled. 

Maya looked at it with fascination. It felt like being in that groot movie her dad watched. A low buzzing sound interrupted her thoughts. She looked up to the source of it. A small plate like object flew just above Alvera’s head. One tiny red lamp glowed in the middle of a plate and just like that the plate fell over Alvera’s head transforming into a dress. 

Maya broke in a high pitched giggle. The Groot like object looked funny. It’s face and hands peeped out a box which resembled the packing of a chocolate. 

“What are you waiting for now? Go on, tear open the cover just like you do and eat me!” it said in an excited voice.

Maya couldn’t control her laughter. She doubled over laughing and was on the floor rolling. 

Since it insisted,  she stepped forward and touched its limb like structure. It felt cold but soft. She licked her fingers, trying to taste the “thing”.

“Maayaa! Darling. Wake up!” said Ravi in a sing song voice as he tickled Maya awake. 

“Daaad!” replied Maya in a groggy voice. 

She rubbed her eyes and shook her head and looked around.

It had all been a dream. 


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

#654 : The Lady in the Mirror by Charu Vashishtha : Review

The book is a collection of eight short stories involving various facets and traits of life - Jealousy, honesty, revenge. The characters are majorly women and they seem very realistic, it is fairly evident that some traits of the characters and aspects of the story have probably been modeled after characters the writer is directly acquainted with. The stories cover a plethora of “daily” subject ranging from god to effect of miscommunication.

Written in simple language, the stories were a simple joy to read. The narration, the characterization, the plotting were bare minimal reflecting much on traits as important as self-love. While the book may be an effective light night time read, it lacks the punch that a short story ought to deliver. There is no evident flaw with the way the stories are written, but then there is a feel of something that is missing that could have made it more effective. There are times when a reader wishes the story had that little unexplainable something extra, for me, this book was that case. In a way, the stories felt like a children’s moral tale only that it wasn’t really so.

It is quite a herculean task to bring a central theme in collection of short stories which look diverse at the outset. However, this writer has brought in a theme very subtly which the reader would probably realize upon completing the whole book and contemplating about it. The theme is not evident on the surface but could be related to upon pondering over the stories.

A good one time read.