Monday, July 27, 2009

Possibility of Consolidated WIPlash

As per suggestions made in class, I'm going to look into the possibility of publishing a four-year consolidated edition of WIPLash with a reputed publisher. Accordingly, I'd like everyone from the previous years who hasn't submitted their story (or submitted it and took it back) to send it to me. I have the stories submitted by the 2007 batch but not 2008. Please mail me your story as soon as you can, preferably the final one but could also be classwork if you think it's good. You all have my email address since I sent you all email invites to this blog.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Desert Soul or The poet.

my word was Zanit. i wrote this in the dead of the night in a wild fit of passion, do not expect Thrill and NEVER expect excellence.

Ishmael ibn Ziauddin Haq was a poet. Like the poets you see in the riverbanks watching sunset, like the poet you find in the intoxicated Mehfil of a Sufi singer. The poet you find in the eyes of a late-night visitor of a Kotha, he was the poet that you yourself want to be when the first monsoon catches you in the streets of a scorched city.

Ishmael was a poet who did not exist for the rest of the town. There was a statue of a poet in front of the town hall, a statue made of stone which has turned moss-green due to its age, it was worshipped by the rest of the town and all the poets followed his style to earn popularity. Ishmael was the only one who thought, discussed and talked about his own poems. Very soon Ishmael was ridiculed and taunted by the townsmen because he dared to call himself a poet without knowing Zanit. It was referred now and then in his poems, his lectures, manuscripts, paintings and other works. One such poem says-
“The wounds that I get do not heal,
The fires in my heart never die—
The desert is drunk and calls for Love!
I dance with my naked feet and whisper in thirst—
oh! drench me in sorrow and pain! My zanit!

Nobody knew about this poet’s life or where he came from, he also had a weird habit of not signing his name in the poems. Learned men always quarreled to prove their opinions, several people had several ideas—some said Zanit was thirst, some said melancholy, some said death and some of them said that it was celebration of life though each breath that one takes in. Ishmael said nothing, one morning he came home from his walks, took a sack of his belongings and set off for the desert. Poets sometimes take other poets very seriously and literally. Ishmael was one of them.

On his 3rd day of traveling, Ishmael realized that The Thar was not as easy as he had previously thought. Very soon he regretted his decision. The desert did not provide him Zanit. It provided him the adequate amount of devastation, melancholy and thirst. Ishmael lamented over his crazy idea of seeking Zanit in the desert, the desert where wolves sharpen their fangs at the end of the day and bones from long forgotten skeletons whistle in the wind. Ishmael was about to give up and head homewards when he saw a silhouette in the horizon. There was a man coming towards him from the wilderness.

Night fell, they met, the man from wilderness gave him water and dry dates. Ishmael narrated his story, his story of the quest for Zanit. Now, the problem with men from wilderness is that they have all the answers but somehow the wilderness does not allow him to give away something without checking the intensity and the passion of the seeker. The wilderness purges out their emotions, sympathies and pity, in the end, the man himself becomes the image of the wilderness. It seldom matters whether if the other person took a poet seriously, it hardly matters if they are the only two people sitting by the fire in the midst of the desert and it never matters that both of them are easy preys for the giant hunger of the night-time desert. The man from wilderness promised him that he would reveal Zanit to him if he does what he orders. Ishmael was ready for anything. Thus, he was ordered to write his name in the sand; two hands of width and three hands deep. The man also warned him about two things—firstly, he would write and move with the flow of the Urdu alphabets without ever looking back, secondly, he would not straighten up his head at any cost and break his concentration. Ishmael agreed to both of the clauses. Ishmael started writing, the sand felt cold and soft. The work became more and more stressful because of the giant area he had to cover. By the time he finished the work, the Sun was young on the horizon. Ishmael went up to a dune to observe his work. To his horror he saw the last alphabet fading out with the falling sand from its edges and sides, the rest was gone. There was no sign of the man from wilderness, not the date’s remains, the water casket, the ashes—nothing was there to prove the uncanny encounter of the previous night. The shock and the horror left a ghastly expression on his face. Suddenly his face contorted, eyes glazed and he broke into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Tears rolled out his eyes. Ishmael found it, he found Zanit. Ishmael had found out that Zanit is when you write a line so powerful, that the crudest desert is bound to remember it, by branding it with the sheer thrust of magnitude of creation. So that the desert remembers a name; even when Time erases it from the world.

This happened a long time ago but if you visit the town today, then you will find two statues in front of the town-hall. The two dead poets had a common habit, they never signed their names under their poems. One is Ishmael, the other, is the poet from the wilderness.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ekti shundor kobita

Bitchy people everywhere
Bitches on the trees
Bitches, all, I just don't care
Bitch on all you please!

:D Ting!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Four elements theme exercise.

I resent how predictable this turns, and how long too, because it's so condensed I could hardly work on minor points, which I love. Anyway, for whatever it's worth.


A fights down the urge to turn up his collar as he steps into the darkly lit bar. Instinctively his eyes take in the alignment of lights inside the space and his body moves seamlessly to become a part of the surroundings. A knows he is good, because he is the only white man at the bar, and even in this city of starers people have barely noticed.

A low jazz saxophone wails from invisible speakers, seeping into the room an air of sophisticated forlorn. A’s practised eyes seek out the four-person table forty-five degrees to him, and feel a twinge of regret at how easily they find it. The young, dark-skinned woman who sits alone at the table is wearing simple, demure clothes, he notices, but she has a long way to go before she learns to merge into the background.

‘Good evening.’

‘Mr. A,’ the girl looks up from her drink. Large, expressive eyes, long curls pulled back from her temples. The lips hold the smile a few seconds too long for it to be a mere gesture. Too much warmth, too much heart. How old is she: eighteen? twenty-five? She still has a long way to go.

‘Just A, no appellative.’ With a fleeting grin he pulls himself a chair, ‘And you must be W.’

She nods amiably, and follows his questioning gaze to offer, ‘The master will join us shortly. He has left briefly to attend to others he must meet.’ No recognisable accent, A thinks. Good. E was always an exacting trainer. Just as well, since when has E been “the master”?

He takes a long time over the drinks menu to evade the awkwardness of no small talk to make. He knows a little bit of the history of the girl. Picked up by E from one of the tsunami-hit coasts of the Indian Ocean, right after the disaster struck. All the people she loved are dead, her old life completely destroyed; must be, for her to be here. Perhaps if he asks she will still tell him their names, and the name she used to go by. But A must not ask, neither tell her anything of himself. Names and personal histories are required to become non-existent, peel off their beings like dead skin, till they are nothing but the uniform, pervasive grief that binds them to their resolve. That is the cardinal rule.

A is relieved of his discomfort by the light touch on his shoulder that announces the arrival of E. They greet each other as E settles into one of the chairs. He is glad to see E again, to be in E’s benevolent, soft-spoken presence that radiates a Buddha-like calm. No man who hadn’t encountered E would ever know what lethalness was concealed behind that saint-like exterior, and no man would ever encounter E. E may once have been Japanese, and the mildly greying hair provide an indication of age, but beyond that A has never guessed much about him. E’s unspoken seniority among them may be of age or of being around the longest. E’s other life may have been taken from him in one of the many earthquakes in Japan, but A does not know which one. Which did not matter. The exact details varied and were irrelevant. The why was always the same.

‘F is on her way. Caught in the traffic, I understand,’ declares E as he orders a round of snacks. He relaxes in his chair and starts whistling casually to the music in the background. How cheerfully murdering the John Coltrane tune, A privately muses while he pretends to pay attention to the cricket match displaying on the screen on the opposite wall. At the edge of his eyesight he is aware of W shifting and shifting. So young! Is there nothing else in the world she would rather be doing?

Despite himself, A’s mind is drifted to the time he too had been young, in another country, more than a decade ago. He had a name, a house, parents, one younger brother, the childhood dog he loved. There was a university in another town, friends, a girlfriend whose name still rings in his mind like sad music his ears must never hear again. He had brought her home on a break; the brush of her skin so soft against his, the faces of his parents so proud to watch their son take his first steps into adult life. And then the storm had struck, more violent than anything he had imagined in his life, and his two-storey wooden house had crumbled like a sandcastle. Even in this age of technology, in the richest and safest country in the world, all it had taken was a few hours’ storm to deprive his life of each of the people who had given it any meaning.

And then, as he sat at the rescue camp bitterly speculating why he had been spared, two unknown men had approached him with an offer. He would eventually know them as E and W, when he had agreed to take up the role of A. A still remembers the previous W, a sagacious man with a flowing grey beard and a voice like the gurgle of a forest stream. He had died a year ago and A never came to know where or how, just as he was never told the details of the death of the one who had been A before him. The group does not dwell on of information that was not essential, even within itself. The current four are always the only four.


A’s thoughts are interrupted by tumultuous entrance of F through the front door of the bar. Yet again he is struck with fascination by F’s particular brand of inconspicuousness. In her mid-forties, F’s brown-haired, green-eyed, coffee-skinned appearance blends in anywhere between Asia and the Americas. And F is always visible, walking in the middle of crowds, singing aloud at karaoke bars, but she does it all with such an easygoing mediocrity that people forget her as soon as she’s left the scene.

After F is seated and gets her drink, E opens their discussion. ‘The reintroduction of W completes us again,’ E’s gravelly voice sweeps over their table, ‘and I shall reiterate the reason why we exist. As we know, there are four elements that sustain and destroy this world. Each religion in this world agrees to their existence, though some may confer upon them the title of god, while others merely acknowledge them as forces. But these entities exist, and while time has moulded into them several human-like characteristics, the essential strife and reward of human existence escape them. To them we matter not…’

He has heard the introduction repeated till they’ve become part of his brain’s fabric, and A’s mind wanders again. Meeting after years at a randomly selected bar in a landlocked city far away from where each of them was born, and no one except the four of them knew who they were or why they were here – at times all this strikes A as entirely unreal, but that is only a proof of their efficiency. The four of them are the oldest and most secret society in the world, existing since the dawn of time, so secret that they don’t even have a name. Names attract identities, and the world tends to notice that kind of a thing. They have no documents, no records, they leave no memoirs. Ever since paper identification had been invented, each of them has possessed multiple names, passports, personal histories, and sometimes these pass on smoothly as death replaces one person with another. They train at different places under different pretexts, picking up each skill from a different part of the world, and the final assimilation is always done on their own. As far as the world is concerned, the four of them do not exist.

This was essential, since unlike other secret societies which existed for the sake of political power, ideological stances or the worship of particular gods, they were a group of humans who had declared war against entities nearly god-like themselves. What right do the elements have to sweep thousands of human lives away like playthings, lives whose intricate beauty they cannot fathom, all the intense love and hope and effort that go into building each of those? This little society has existed for millennia, silently working, each small step by step, towards its final, nearly unachievable mission. Its members had once been prophets and adventurers and scientists and kings and builders of enormous civilisations. They had only one thing in common: all that their lives had been worth had been reduced to nothing in one unforeseen stroke of natural disaster, leaving them with nothing but an alphabet to identify the element they must redress their inexorable grief against.

They met scarcely and trained in secret; long, painstaking years of preparation. Training was even more important than strategy. The elementals did not change their habits from day to day. But centuries have been spent in preparation – in the study of religious, philosophical, scientific and every other text that led them to a weak link they could break through; in rigorous exercises of the body and the mind to raise them beyond the flaws of the mortal coil. Each new member has to internalise centuries of accumulated skill before they could add something new to the repertoire. Ten years have only enabled A to speak thirty languages and debate with clerics with all the Semitic and Aryan religions. He walks without casting a shadow, his bones are nearly unbreakable, he can outsmart the most skilled spy on the planet, and yet there is so much left to learn. To become barely competent.


After the meeting breaks F takes a hasty leave and E slips away to the back of the bar to reunite with the others he was meeting. Finding himself alone outside the bar with young W, A asks her if she would like for a walk along the uncrowded night streets. She blushes and agrees. Blush, he notices. The girl’s spirit is overwhelmingly feminine, a serious flaw, and how had E overlooked it?

‘I cannot help wondering why you refer to E as “the master”,’ he finally mentions, when they have walked far enough from the bar. ‘None of us do that, you must have noticed.’

‘But he is the master, is he not?’ she looks at his face in surprise.

The feeling of something being not quite right strikes A again. All through the evening, every time a remark was addressed to her, he had noticed W turn her eyes imploringly at E. E had surrounded her, mouthed her words, like a protective guardian answering for a child. That was not how A has known their society to function, for the four were never meant to have a leader. If six months of training had not instilled that self-sufficiency in the new W, clearly something had been amiss in either her selection and training, and how could E have committed either?

A remembers that his own training had been overseen by both E and the previous W, occasionally joined by F. The new W had been selected and trained by E alone, and what E had been doing? Was it mistake, negligence or deliberation, and was there a way he could find out?

‘E is certainly the eldest and most skilful of us; without his training you or I would be nothing,’ A carefully says. ‘But the purpose of our training is to renounce all the identities that define us, is it not? I’m not Mr. A because A is not my name; I have no name. There is no hierarchy within us, because hierarchy must come from identity, which we do not have. Is that not what you have been taught?’

Essentially, yes,’ says W, her figure shifting uncertainly. Then her voice turns stiff, ‘I am sorry, should I answer your questions? Is it not forbidden to inquire or divulge of information beyond the strictly essential?’

She is brave, loyal and has learnt her lessons right, A thinks with a hint of irony. Each of the four is alone, independent and dies with their own small secrets. Yet how easy it was to twist those rules, and A suddenly realises how much he has never been taught about the group. Has there ever been a traitor in the history of the four, and how were they intercepted? Would he be a traitor tonight if he spoke of his doubts to W, or would he be a traitor to hold his tongue?

‘You are right,’ he tells the girl, frowning to contain his thoughts. ‘I only implore you to remember that those rules apply equally to each of us. If you have been taught otherwise… you have been taught wrong.’

‘Water and earth are sympathetic elements,’ W starts speaking in a distant voice, staring ahead, apparently unconcerned with his presence. ‘Water nurtures earth, and together they give forth vitality and life. It is a relationship water shares with neither air nor fire.’ The girl’s voice trembles, as if with the great effort to hold back tears, ‘It has not been easy. Sometimes death has seemed easier. But I have given myself to this mission. I will not disappoint.’

Her hand casually brushes against her belly, and suddenly all of A’s doubts are dispelled. In his other life he had been a forensic student – why has it taken him so long to notice? And the weight of the realisation shakes him to the core. What has E done, the man under whose tutelage he has trained, the man he had aspired to become all these ten years? That preposterous theory held all the answers he needed. The four of them were not the elements themselves, they were mere human crusaders, and who would know the distinction better than E? And if E had fallen from the ideal, what was their society worth any more?

A tremor goes through the earth and throws both of them on the ground. Panicking madly, A looks up to see the silhouettes of the buildings on both sides of the street shaking violently against the night sky, their lights flickering, and the cars in the street screeching as they hit one another. ‘An earthquake! Run!’ he yells at W, a second before a surge of terrified people comes rushing down the street in the direction they were walking. He pulls W up by the hand and they both get carried down by the crowd, further and further away from the bar where E is, and which seems to be the centre of the earthquake.

The ground shakes again, the walls of buildings collapse, and W, holding on desperately to his hand, sobs out aloud as she runs, ‘But the master! He is still there!’

‘There is nothing we can do for him!’ he yells at her over the screams of the people. ‘Nothing more than he can do for himself. Earth is his own element, and he is more powerful than even the two of us combined!’ But as he runs a strange premonition fills A’s mind. He has never been in an earthquake before but he has studied them enough, and who had ever heard of an earthquake that rises so violently from its centre and yet quiets down within so short a distance? Where they had started the buildings are already razed to the ground, but less than a kilometre away the crowd is fanning out. Everything is normal in this part of the city. Even the windows of cars have hardly shattered.

They spend the night in A’s dingy hotel room in Paharganj. He does not prevent W when she turns over from her side of the bed and curls up against his chest. She sleeps uneasily, shivering in her dreams. But A lies wide awake as he runs his fingers impatiently through the depths of her hair. He had always wondered how others of the group found out when one of them was dead, and now he knows. But how exactly did it happen? E could not have triggered that earthquake himself, he had not yet mastered those powers. Or had he, striving alone to push the boundaries of his immense knowledge, the oldest and wisest of the four? Was that what he had tried to convince W? But when did E break away from the rest of them, and how, and why? Will A ever find out, or will the next E simply not be told because the other three did not know? But again, who will recruit the next E? What if they do not inform F? What if no one is recruited? What now, what now?


A year later a postman climbs up an Alpine hillock to the cottage which young Mr. and Mrs. Silverstein, a strangely reclusive inter-racial couple, had made their home with their equally mixed-race infant. Mr. Silverstein, cradling his dark, slanting-eyed baby in the garden, receives the envelope and sees the postman off with a smile and a few coins. Putting the baby down on its cot he opens the letter and reads the blue handwriting:

Beloved children,

I write to you to say that perhaps all that has happened has happened for the good of everyone, and none of us must blame ourselves for it. A dream has been expelled, a dream dreamt by hundreds of people over millennia which had perhaps grown just too large for four mortals to carry it further. How far can mortal fabric be stretched before it rips quietly at several significant points? How far can we humans renounce the flesh, blood and soul we are made of?

I have built my house on the earth that had once been husband, children, parents, an entire hometown to me. An entire life flamed down to nothing but dust, can you imagine? But of course you can, the two of you have been through the same. But you are young, you can rebuild your lives. I am glad you have chosen to do so. My house stands alone on this barren ground, as do I, for I have forgotten how to make friends. But oh! what a relief it is to pronounce those dead people’s names again, to remember them without guilt, to freely grieve those who I loved more than my own life! I can spend the rest of my life in this meditation, and there will be no greater reward.

Who was it that said that we are never truly dead until we are forgotten? All the people who had been the four had erased their existence from the world, receded to nothingness, the reason why the current four used to always be the only four. I implore you, children, to never let your memories die. Remember the pasts that have abandoned you, the people you have lost. Remember the man who had led you on an impossible track and perished in his own ambition. Remember with fondness, pain or hatred, with your imperfect memories, write their names down everywhere you can. The elements forget, we do not. That is our greatest victory over them.

Yours truly,

Emily Ojibwa, erstwhile F.

There is no address anywhere on the letter, no request for a meeting. Meetings are a thing of the past none of them want to return to. Mr. Silverstein folds the letter, puts it in his pocket, picks up his wailing baby from the cot, and goes inside to inspect what his wife has been cooking. The air is unnaturally still. Soon there may be thunderstorm.


Natural Calamities

This was written for the elements prompt, please excuse the lame title. It also needs a fair amount of refining, but this is as it was on the day we were supposed to finish it, so. [/lame justification]

*** ***
A girl walks into a forest, feet dragging and walks steadily—unsteadily—away from the fringes, away from the huts of hunters and woodcutters that cling to them like mud to the hem of her skirts, and deep into the heart of it, where even the birds are quiet. Her feet track blood on the fallen leaves and her slender body shivers with the coming cold—it is winter, and the trees are bare. And though she fears to sleep, yet sleep overwhelms her, and when she wakes, the sun has sunk and risen again, and the east sky seen through the latticed branches is a dark gold, shot with red.

And the woman standing before her, back to the bole of a tree, one slim arm twined about a low branch, watching her through narrowed eyes, is dark, near the colour of the earth and the wood—dark skin, black hair in coils, brilliant black eyes, and long black lashes. “Who are you?” she asks, not without trepidation—though the woman is slender and seems unarmed, she has seen too much of the malevolence of women.

“I am your mother,” she says, “and you, child, what is your name?”

“Vasudha,” she says, “but you are not my mother, lady, though you smile as she did, for she walked as though her feet were shackled and her back was bent and her shoulders stooped, and you carry yourself like a queen.”

“A queen? What know you of queens, child?” And yes, what can she know, mud-stained shabby clothes and small, dark body and simple braid and all? But she does.

“I served a queen, lady, till a week before.”

“A good queen?”

“Nay, lady.”

“A wise one?”


“A beauty, then?”

“Yes, lady.” She stops, lips pressed tight, and the woman looks at her with kind eyes that remind her of the mother she lost so long ago. “But not kind.

“Neither a good queen, nor a wise one, nor kind.” The woman seats herself by Vasudha, puts a gentle hand on her shoulder. “You did well to leave her service.”

“I left it not, my lady,” she admits, “She sent me away.”

“Why sent she you away, my Vasudha?”

“She received in tribute a new vase,” she starts, stutters, stops, wonders why she speaks so freely to this woman she has never seen, and brings out the rest of her words in an agonised rush, “and I broke it.” The memory of the queen’s anger colours her cheeks a dark rich red, and she looks away, down at the barren ground, and the cracking carpet of leaves on it.

“For so little a crime?” the woman muses, voice full of restrained anger. “Have you a home to go to, child?”

“Nay, lady.” No home, she thinks, but the glittering Palace she has had to quit, that she has stayed in since she was a child sold in the slave-markets, plucked from kin and home in war.

The woman sighs and the leaves lift and fall with her exhale, and stands, one hand briefly on her head in benediction. “Then come to my house, child, and meet my kin.”

There is no guile in those eyes when she meets them, nothing but kindness, and she rises, and takes her hand. “You are too kind to me, lady.”

“My name is Vasundhara, child, and I bid you call me mother,” says the woman and smiles her dead mother’s gentle smile. “For as a mother I will be to you, for a little while, while you dwell in my home.”

“I cannot,” she says, and oh, it is hard to speak the words. “I have been forbidden shelter and food within the limits of Suryapur. It is death, mother, to disobey.”

“I live not in Suryapur, child, and I fear not the lady in Surajgarh. Come to my home, child, and live therein.”


It is no mean distance to Surajgarh—a full day’s ride, or a week’s walk, along Vasudha’s meandering route—and the trees ’round Vasundhara’s home have put out new leaves and new flowers, while those in the Palace gardens remain still bare, when a stranger enters first city limits, and then walks slowly up to the Palace gates. He comes wrapped in the scent of incense, and all he passes feel the balmy breath of spring wrap them ’round.

Into the Palace he walks alone, and into the audience-chamber, where Rani Indumati rules on her son’s behalf, and there stands, some unfelt wind ruffling his uttariya, and tangling in his hair, and making soft music of his strings of rudraksha and tulsi wood.

“Hail to thee, Queen of Suryapur,” he says, and his voice is the susurration of wind through trees laden down with the bounties of spring.

“Hail to thee, Brahman,” she answers, “who are ye, from whence come ye, and for what purpose?”

“My name, lady, is Anilesh, but that” he smiles, “is of no moment. I come from Raja Banhishwar, and I come, lady, with a message.”

“What message is this that you bear, from this King who I know not?”

“Raja Banhishwar rides to war against you, Rani Indumati, and that is the message I bear.”

“To war against me?” There is curiosity in her voice, and no fear. “But what harm have I or Suryapur done him?”

“You have greatly harmed his kin,” says Anilesh, and seems unaware that he should be afraid of Rani Indumati, that his hands should shake and his voice falter.

“How,” asks Indumati, and in her voice is anger, “can I harm the kin of a King I know not?”

“All men are kin to Raja Banhishwar,” says the Brahmin, and his voice carries the heat of the wind crossing desert sands, “and greatly have you harmed them.”

“How dare this King of no name and no realm thus criticise me?” The anger in her voice is evident now, and guards creep closer to the Brahmin.

“I have told you his name, lady, and all realms are his realm.”

“But not mine,” Indumati snarls, and gestures at the guards.

“Even yours, Rani Indumati, I promise you this,” answers Anilesh, nothing repentant, and raises his eyebrows as the guards put heavy hands on his shoulders. “I am a messenger and inviolate.”

“You have stood in my halls and insulted my rule. Neither caste nor age nor being a messenger can keep you inviolate, Brahmin.” Indumati smiles as Anilesh’s wrists are shackled. “Nor will your master be able to free you.”

Anilesh looks at his chained hands and then at the Queen, eyes cold. “I serve no master, lady. I came bearing a message,” he says, and his voice is an insidious icy wind, “and I have told you it.”

“And now you will regret telling me it, in my dungeons, without food and water.”

Anilesh smiles. “I am glad I came, lady, for I have now seen that in truth you are not a good queen, nor a wise one, nor even kind.”

“You dare?”

“I dare, lady. And now farewell.” The shackles fall clanking to the floor as white mist swirls around the Brahmin’s form, and his form dissipates, and the mist turns air.


At the height of summer, when all Suryapur’s farmers are praying daily for rain, for thunderstorm, for massing monsoon clouds, a barge sails up the river and docks at the Surajgarh jetty and a man walks to the city gates and hires a palanquin that takes him to the Palace. At the gates the guards move to stop him, and fail, and later think he flowed ’round them like a river breaking its banks, and shake their heads, bemused.

Into the Palace the man walks, and into the audience-chamber, where Rani Indumati doles out what she calls justice, and there quietly stands—the light from the many windows lighting his black curls blue, and shifting over his garments in illusory waves.

“Hail to thee, Rani Indumati,” he says, and his voice is waves lapping the shore.

“Hail to thee, stranger,” she answers, “who are ye and whence come ye?”

“I am Ambupati the merchant, lady, and I come from Rani Vasundhara with a message for thee.”

“What message do you bear?” she asks, and though her voice is steady, yet a shiver goes through her.

“I bear news of war, lady.” The Queen and all her court tense, for the sound of a tide rolling inexorably in is in their ears.

“Why bring you this message to me, when I never have seen your mistress?” The anger in her voice is tinted with fear—even Suryapur, prosperous and powerful cannot wage war against not one realm but two.

The merchant laughs like a jaltarang being played. “Oh, lady, she is no mistress of mine. And she wages war against you for you have grievously injured her kin.”

“I have injured no kin of hers,” Indumati says, fighting fear down in favour of rage.

“All women are kin to Vasundhara,” says Ambupati, and in his voice is the rumbling of a thousand thunder-storms. “And grievously have you injured them.”

“I let no man, nor woman, stand in my halls and instruct me in king-craft,” Indumati answers, voice deceptively gentle, eyes hard. “Even rulers I know not, even envoys they send.”

Ambupati inclines his curly head. “I have given you the message I bore, lady, and I will say naught else.”

“You will tell me, merchant, all I wish to know,” says the Lady of Surajgarh, as her guards chain the merchant’s hands behind him. “In the dank dungeons, you will tell me all.”

“I am a messenger, lady, and inviolate.”

“You are in my realm,” smiles Indumati, “and in my power.”

The merchant smiles, sunshine on water. “Aye lady.”

He lets them take him to the dungeons, and push him, still shackled, inside. But all night the guards hear the gurgling as of a spring rising from between the dungeon stones, and in the morning the merchant is absent from his cell, and the barge from the jetty. And the river slows to a trickle as it crosses Suryapur on its way to the sea, and all the streams become mud and all the pools dry.


It is monsoon by the seasons, but only by the seasons is it monsoon. No rain has fallen on Suryapur’s soil, and no trees have burst into leaf and flower and fruit. The royal granaries have begun to dole out grain, and even the seed-corn in the granaries has gone to fill the hungry bellies of the farmers. And then the cracked soil turns the brown of wet earth, and the trees unfurl new leaves and petals, and the mingled fragrances bring Rani Indumati into her gardens, away from the starving men she has had thrown into the dungeons for stealing food.

And in the garden, beside a flowering jutika plant, gathering up the fallen petals—so soon flowered an so soon fallen—she finds a dark, shabby, woman, easily dismissed as a gardener, save her bearing—when she unfolds, she stands as though no servant, as though a queen meeting another.

“Hail to thee, Rani Indumati, lady of Surajgarh, queen of Suryapur.” And though the voice is hoarse, the cadences are crisp, and so too are the words.

“Hail to thee, woman.” And she turns her face away, to look at the flowers and revel in their redolence. Surely the gods are pleased with them, to send thus this bounty, and without rain make the trees burst into leaf and flower and fruit, and turn the ashen bark the rich colour of the woman’s hands. The woman’s hands that are close to hers, now. And Indumati turns, all mellow pleasure gone—and rage coursing her veins. This woman, so shabby, earth-shaded skin and threadbare clothes—this servant, this shudra, how dare she? “I was not aware,” she bites out, longing for the guards she has dismissed, “that my gardeners employed woman to sweep away the leaves.”

“Do they so?” The woman’s eyes are like dead coals. “I know not, Rani Indumati, I number myself not amongst them.”

“Where number you yourself, then? Amongst the cleaners of slop buckets, or the eaters of carrion?”

The woman smiles, reaches to pluck a flower. “Neither, lady, though they are my kin, as all women are. I am Vasundhara.”

Indumati moves, finds a root catching at her feet, stumbles and steadies herself against a tree-trunk, flattens her back against it. “And you go needlessly to war against me.”

The woman plucks another flower, and another, and another, and begins twisting them all in a chain. “Not needlessly, Rani Indumati,” she admonishes, reaches out to pluck more flowers till the bough is bare, “for you have grievously injured my kin.”

“And you would avenge them?” She fights back the fear in her voice—this woman cannot fight, let alone defeat her. And yet she looks so calmly certain.

“I would,” answers Vasundhara, still calm, and raises her flowers to wrap them ’round her neck, and finds the chain fall short. “But that is not all the reason, lady, not the real reason.” She reaches her hand out towards the bare bough, and plucks a flower from its new burden. “You are not a good queen, nor a wise one, nor kind.” She twists the last flower into the chain and the chain round her neck. “And that, Rani Indumati, is why I go to war against you.”

And she smiles again, soft and gentle, and moves deeper into the trees, while Indumati stands in her garden, bark rough against her back, and the trees in her garden shed fruit and flower and leaf.


“Have we displeased the gods?” The raj-guru shakes his head, mute. “Then magic is being worked against us.”

“No, lady. These things that are happening—they owe naught to gods or magic. They are natural.”

Indumati grips the carved arms of her throne. “Natural? There has been no rain this year, no grain can be brought in because the river has dried, the land breaks the plough, and you call this natural, priest?”

It is autumn, and the granaries are bare, and the people, hungry all summer, have begun to starve, when a man on a bay horse comes riding through Surajgarh, up to the Palace gates. There guards try to stop him, this stranger dressed for war, but neither their flesh nor the iron-barred door can bar his way.

The murmuring audience-chamber falls silent as he enters, and the chastened raj-guru rushes gratefully away from Indumati. And Indumati rises from her throne to greet the stranger who stands before her throne, sunlight throwing living flame aross his copper ornaments.

“Hail to thee,” he says, “Rani Indumati of Surajgarh.”

“Hail to thee, northerner,” she answers. “Who are ye, and whence come ye, and for what purpose?”

“I am Raja Banhishwar,” says the man with flame in his hair, “and I come with news of your defeat, lady.”

“My defeat?” she asks, then again, forcing her voice steady, “My defeat, when you have not fought me?”

“Need I fight you, lady, when your granaries are empty, and your people starving? Your soldiers could not lift sword or spear against me.” He smiles with the warmth of a new-lit fire on a cold night. “Come, lady, step down from your throne.”

“You are one man,” she says, eyes wide and curious, “no matter how well-fed; and I have in this Palace at least a hundred warriors. And yet you speak of my defeat?”

“I am one man,” Banhishwar echoes, and draws from his scabbard a sword along the blade of which flames play. “But I am, lady, also the devourer and the scourge of all things. Step down, lady, for you are defeated.”

But Indumati does not step down. She stands before her throne and watches her guards let their weapons fall clattering to the ground, watches her son shrink behind his tutor, watches the raj-guru stare and stare and stare at Raja Banhishwar, as though his aged eyes see what no-one else can. And she pulls a sword from the nearest guard, hefts its weight in both hands, and moves towards the man with fire in his eyes, her own eyes clouded with crimson rage.

And Banhishwar laughs like the crackling of a forest fire and pulls her into his arms, and stifles her cries against his shoulder, and holds her as she burns to cinder, to ashes floating down to rest in a pile at his feet. “Not a good queen,” he says, as flakes of ash fall from his hands, “nor a wise one, nor kind. But brave.”

At the open doors of the audience-chamber the raj-guru stops him. “Will you rule us, Lord?” he asks, eyes wide and hands shaking.

“Nay, priest, not I,” he smiles, and takes the old man’s trembling hands between his. “We will bring you a queen in place of the one you have lost.”


It is winter, and the trees are bare. Yet, though it has not rained all year, nor has soil been ploughed, nor crops sown, yet in Suryapur there are bellies and granaries are filled and the river in danger of overflowing its banks.

A girl walks out of a forest, over a crackling carpet of leaves, under the dawn sky red against the latticed branches. She walks steadily away from the heart of it, where even the birds are silent, and at the eaves of the forest, where the huts of hunters and woodcutters cling like zari work to the hem of her skirts, she mounts a dappled horse and takes its reins from a white-garbed Brahmin.

And then she rides alone towards Surajgarh to take its throne.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Nonsense word exercise.
By- Shayeari Dutta

Yet again, life stirred in the land of Wambo.
And yet again, life pierced its way into existence.
But the inhabitants were elated…gigantic thought-bubbles captured the coveted desire of their hearts…the desire to skate around the pulsating slimy orb of their suffocatingly tiny land and shout out to all who may hear- “bokaroo! Bokaroo at last!”
And youthful eddies of wind swooped down upon the echoes of their cry and carried them afar. The news must spread…and with that, a sudden burst of blinding light.
“that light, again!” the inhabitants exclaimed. This was the very thing they had been scavenging for all this while! “bokaroo at last!”
This light was indeed a strange creature. It had tentacles that were wax-tipped and always had a glaring tongue of fire burning at that tip. At first, it was an object of extreme paranoia. But with time, the inhabitants learnt to harness their fears and learn more about this strange creature….and so they learnt about the hypnotic powers of this flash of light…the power to distill and dispel clouds of one of the greatest things these inhabitants lacked in their lives- bokaroo! Clouds and clouds of intoxicating, rejuvenating bokaroo! Bokaroo of the sort that flushed their hearts with a cozy warmth. Bokaroo of the sort that made some of them tie their skates on to their heads and spin around till giddiness restrained their acts!
How they cherished this sudden feeling of bokaroo! Tears welled up in their eyes when sharp and stinging memory broke through the walls of their mind and reminded them of the infinite acts of desperation which they had adopted to grasp even a single wisp of this bokaroo…they had robbed chemical labs, begged at street corners, dealt with bootleggers for alluring packets screaming promises of ‘an eternal state of communion with bokaroo!’ only to be snubbed later by bitter grains of salt!
And now! Now bokaroo was in the very air!
With this they anticipated the entry of their god. The god, who would come riding the tumultuous winds with a charm that would melt the hearts of all. The god- he who is the harbinger of the elusive bokaroo that seems to take great delight in playing peek-a-boo with the inhabitants of Wambo. Now the king would come! He would come with his infant projects of urban and rural development. The government of Wambo would unthinkingly relinquish every acre of land that he has. The walls of his ridiculously tiny country would expand, every single brick would would be re-laid, far far away, and in the very heart of the country, the god’s secret laboratory would be established. Hush! The inhabitants would say, pointing bony fingers at the spherical building throbbing and vibrating with strange sounds from within… “hush! For the god is working in his great chambers for us!”
It did not seem to bother them that the god was from an alien world, that he had forced his way through, ripped through the gates of their land. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. The air of bokaroo was spread like an oxygen mask on a giant face turned pallid by dearth of oxygen. The air of bokaroo was a savior. And nothing mattered anymore….
But the oldest inhabitant remembered. He remembered the feel of a cloud of bokaroo in his palm. He was not supposed to touch it. So had the foreign god warned in his benign tone. But the cloud had rested there in the old inhabitants palm, almost as though it had a purpose to do so. At first, it just lay there, couched in his palm, purring like a contented cat, eliciting burps of bokaroo that almost tickled the inhabitant to death. But then, he slowly started feeling a pain. A distant pain, almost an out-of-body experience. But the pain escalated, it surged forth and he dropped the cloud with a loud cry. His palm was scalded, the acrid smell of roasted flesh snaked its way to his nostrils and fear gripped him tight, in a suffocating embrace.
‘I don’t want bokaroo!’ he had screamed, skating madly through the streets.
and the god directed him to be sent to an asylum.
But the truth would be told one day….some day…when the world of Wambo would care to listen to this madman.
Then, he would have horrific tales to re-count.
Tales of the chamber of the god expanding to gigantic proportions, of the great flood that the god had summoned to keep his precious chamber afloat, where millions had perished. And yet, the victorious shouts of ‘bokaroo is here! bokaroo is here!’ penetrating the eardrums. The heavens had screamed in agony, in extreme pain of what the madman did not know, and all the while that she shrieked and roared, the god had smartly pushed out his massive chamber in periodic heaves. And the chamber! The chamber was no more of the bulbous shape, now it was a creature with arms and legs! The government had cried out to the god- ‘please do not move out your project from our land! We would extend all the support that we can!’ yet, he had moved out. And with his exit, the world of Wambo had collapsed, like castles in the air built with a pack of cards…..
The land had met its own demise….
Bokaroo does not exit. Or maybe it does. But wait, of course it does!
They sell it in inconspicuous bottles without labels on them. The inhabitants of Wambo pierce their veins with syringes spurting bokaroo. Sometimes they purchase it in dark alleyways, packets of powdery bokaroo which they snort. And how it fills them with limitless bokaroo!
Ah! Bokaroo! The very source of all life!

{Wambo is a Proto-Germanic word, (hypothetical prehistoric ancestor of all Germanic languages, including English.) meaning, the womb.}

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Thursday Morning

Nonsense word exercise.
Word picked: zanit.


In Thursday morning’s class the insanely beaming teacher asks us to speak on why each of us is special. Every child must have secret specialty hidden somewhere about them, or primary schools would cease to function. Freckle-faced Simran is special because of her purple pencil-box with Mickey Mouse on it. Joydeep, clumsily fixing the spectacles on his nose, is special because his class-works never fail to return an A+. Anurag, stodgy and heavy-breathing, is special because his mum bakes the best chocolate cakes in the world.

I try to lower myself into my desk till the teacher’s eyes inevitably spot me. ‘You, Chintan! Tell your friends why you are special, won’t you?’

‘Um. I’m not,’ I give her a stupid, confused stare as I drag myself up to stand. ‘Really,’ I add by the way of emphasis, taking care to sound just the right amount of pathetic.

My classmates duly dissolve into peals of laughter. Someone snickers behind my back. The teacher quips, ‘Oh, my poor boy,’ and proceeds to silence the uproarious class. With a sigh of satisfied resignation, I sink back into my seat and return my attention outside the window, where a guava tree sways gently in the summer breeze just outside the school wall.

That guava tree is my regular refuge. Its highest branches – so thin that even a cat can’t balance on them – are a dreamy nook of intertwining light and shadow. The leaves dance lightly in the breeze, tickling your skin continuously, making you flicker and ripple at the edges. You can see for miles from up there. You can occasionally let the air current dislodge you off your branch and gently float about in circles above the city, shimmering transparently in the sunlight and not upsetting any cosmic balance anywhere in the world. You can even take a peaceful nap, save for the trouble of the rare collision with a bewildered bird in mid-flight. While the rest of my class learns the mysteries of multiplication, I spend my afternoons on the top of the guava tree dangling my legs.

It’s a good thing that the teachers have given up on me. No one bothers me any more if I spend the entire day dozing on my desk, or staring glassily out of the window. Some children are born… a little slow, as it is politely said. It’s not anyone’s fault, especially if those particular anyones are being paid good money by the parents of the said child to keep him at their school.


‘What’s up, eh, Chintu Master?’

I turn my head to look into the wild, grinning face of Anita inches away from mine. It amazes me how Anita always manages to look scruffy – even her shimmer has a grainy quality to it. Anita is twelve and agile like a monkey. When she wants, she can slip through cracks in windows and holes in fences as if her body did not possess any mass at all.

Back in school Anita studies two classes above me and scores even worse. Anita is a certified retard. Her parents spend thousands of rupees running from child psychiatrist to counsellor and back again. Anita doesn’t care. She dislikes that other life far worse than me. She despises every bit of it.

This particular afternoon Anita is puffing on a small, oblong item that looks to me suspiciously like a beedi. ‘You’re smoking,’ I tell her reproachfully.

‘Ah, yes,’ Anita gives me a toothy grin. ‘Wanna try?’

‘No, thank you,’ I grimace, angrily adding, ‘This your newest hobby, is it? What would your parents think if they found out?’

‘Who cares? My parents think I’m a drooling, babbling retard,’ Anita shrugs. She sways her legs furiously. ‘A stain on their blood.’

‘That’s because you’ve never spoken to them, Anita. You’ve never even uttered a word! You’re so smart, maybe you could even pass off as a normal kid if you tried. Why don’t you make the effort?’

‘Well, who wants to be a normal kid? My sister was a normal kid and she will be married off as soon as her college is over and be someone’s miserable housewife all the rest of her life. I say a zanit’s life for me!’ Anita grins widely and stretches.

I don’t answer, so Anita drags at her beedi happily and rattles away, ‘Say, did you hear of that massive power failure in Bombay yesterday? That was Manish Iyer, you remember him? Tall dark guy with a severe case of acne, used to go to DAV Public? It’s unbelievable the things he does with technology! And that doctor in Vellore whose pants spontaneously caught fire last week? Such a roar! That was a girl called Preeti Mohanty from Cuttack. Just a little older than me. Her folks had taken her for treatment out there.’

She laughs aloud by herself, swaying her head like a transparent dusty doll. Then she suddenly notices my silence and pokes me in the ribs. ‘Don’t you think they’re the coolest, Chintu? When I grow up I’ll be cool like them! Hey, what’s up, kid? Want me to punch that long face out of you?’

‘Those people sound just as horrible as you,’ I return her glare.

Anita smirks at me and aims the remaining beedi at a sparrow perched a few branches away from us. She misses, and the beedi lands in our school courtyard. ‘Then what do you want to do, sit on a guava tree like a sad little ghost all your life?’

‘I don’t know, Anita,’ I tell her. ‘Don’t you think we zanits could do better things than playing nasty pranks on normal people? We can do so many good things, useful things... we can help people, can’t we?’

‘And what good will that be to us? They’ll never find out who did those things.’

‘They would, if we told them,’ I tell her. ‘We could all tell them. There are so many of us.’

‘Hahahaha, you think they would? Is that really what you think?’ Anita laughs out at my face with sudden viciousness, and then her voice turns dark, ‘Listen, kiddo, how old are you? Ten next month, eh? There’s a lot about the world you need to learn. You’ll tell them, and they’ll believe you, a bunch of slow-brained, drooling, stuttering children who can’t tell mama from papa? They’ll lock you up in asylums for life, and you’ll be thankful if they do that, because at least in asylums they leave you alone. Or else they’ll send you to laboratories and cut you up, try to find out what’s special in your genes and how they can replicate them. They’ll keep you under watch, stick things into you, make laws and invent devices to ban you from going where you want and doing what you like… You’ll never, never be able to fly about by yourself!’

She pauses to catch her breath, and then dangles a finger in front of my nose, ‘If even one of us gives away, all of us are destroyed. Never forget that! A zanit keeps his lips zipped.’

I stare at her in horror, the callous, cheeky Anita I knew peeling away into this new, ferocious person who sounded so much like as adult. ‘Where – where did you find out these things?’

She reaches out and pats my cheek with her small, rough hand. The unprecedented gesture of affection takes me by surprise. ‘We all find out, Chintu Master,’ she sighs, ‘You’re still too young to worry about these things. Enjoy your stupid guava tree! I’m here for you, no?’

The school bell rings below us and Anita’s face lights up with another grin. ‘Well, here they come! See you around, Chintu Master… Ta!’ She puckers her lips and throws me a flying kiss – knowing perfectly well that it embarrasses me – does a couple of somersaults in the air above the guava tree and glides off smoothly towards the school building. I will follow her after a few minutes: the older classes are released before the younger ones so it will still be a while before a teacher gently nudges me to leave my seat and start walking towards the gates.


For now I dangle my legs at the guava tree and wonder, How difficult is it to be special? All you need is a mum who bakes the best chocolate cakes in the world. How difficult is it to not be special? I did not choose to be a retard, I did not choose to be a zanit. I cannot tell if I would’ve taken this, given a choice. I know Anita will say she would, but would she either, honestly?

But a zanit keeps his lips zipped, even to his own kind. So be it, then. So be it.

Monidipa Mondal

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Nonsense word exercise: grumelisk

At the crossing of Andromeda Avenue and Lakshmi Lane there stands a very grimy statue of Confucius, his features obscured almost beyond recognition by the incorrigible smog of the lower levels of Paradise.

If your vision of heaven is filled with graceful arches and naked cherubs and voluptuous apsaras, then let me tell you, you’d have to be the bloody Prince of Eden himself to get them. For the rest, especially here in the lower levels, Heaven is just another shanty-town. Everything is caked in sooty squalor because of the filth percolating down from the upper levels. Shabby and derelict apartment buildings lean on each other’s shoulders, spilling onto the narrow, dimly lit, cobbled streets. Welcome to the divine tragedy.

But I digress. I doffed my halo to the grimy sage before me and ambled down Lakshmi Lane until I came upon the Café Manichaean. It lives up to its name by seeming to be in eternal struggle with itself to bring some kind of uniformity to the décor. Mismatched chairs stand huddled around dirt-encrusted antediluvian tables. Each wall of the tiny cafe had several layers of peeling wallpaper on them, each a different design. I swear, even the waitors wore mismatched uniforms.

I perused the menu, holding it with my fingernails for fear of infection and thought it safe to order an apple cider. I had hardly handed back the menu when I saw Terziel enter the shop. “A small coffee,” he said to waiter without prelude. Noting down the order, the genie disapparated into the kitchen below, perhaps in a hurry to get away from Terziel’s singularly ugly face, which no amount of ambrosia can cure.

“Do you have the grumelisk I wanted?” he asked once he was sure no one was eavesdropping.

“Certainly. But explain to me exactly how you intend to kill GOD,” I replied.

“How I intend to kill GOD?” he repeated. “It’s really very simple. But first, do you know what grumelisk is?”

“Of course,” said I. Fuck you, I thought. How dare he insult me like this! As if there was a single apparition in heaven that did not know. It is, in a word, the quintessence of one’s soul. In effect, it is used as a raw material to power the divine city’s generators. Every new soul that manages to reach heaven has to pay a ‘grumelisk levy’ of one-fifth of one’s soul in exchange for a visa into Paradise. This collected soul is decomposed in special vats into grumelisk before entering the city’s power grid. The tax has been rising steeply for the past few centuries from a mere two percent in my time, more than five hundred years ago.

The waiter deposited our orders on the table and floated away again. Terziel wrinkled up his nose at the smell of alcohol in my cider. Fuck you, I thought again. Paradise was a better place without the likes of you!

Ah, heaven had been a very different city in the day. It was only seven levels high when I first arrived here. But the great spurt in human population following the Industrial revolution has led the city into a state of gargantuan overpopulation. The city has grown into a massive eighty-two levels high, with each new level that is added filthier, and more crowded, and more dangerous than the one above.

And correspondingly GOD’s powers have grown. Gaian Operations Division, as it was once called, controls grumelisk production, which means GOD controls energy, which means GOD controls the city. GOD’s energy monopoly has allowed its insidious growth into a Byzantine monstrosity that uses new souls pretty much as walking-talking grumelisk production units. GOD has introduced twenty new forms, to be filled in by immigrants seeking to enter heaven, in the last century alone, charging 1% soul for each. By the time new immigrants arrive at the Pearly Gates for the grumelisk levy of 20%, they may not 20% to give. I have heard of many souls who have simply disintegrate onto the floor just then and there. GOD doesn’t care.

Gaian Operations Division is our only interface with the mortal realm. Once a benign and innocuous agency, it has grown into a draconian and dictatorial bureaucracy which controls every aspect of our lives. Even Archangel Michael, the duly elected President of Heaven, does not dare to oppose GOD publicly. They maintain a vicious shadow government which monitor’s people’s lives without their knowledge. If a prominent angel disappears mysteriously, we all know he’s been fed to the city generators by an agent of GOD for publicly denouncing them.

Terziel took a sip of his coffee and said, “Well I shall use the grumelisk against GOD. Ironic, don’t you think? I have recently perfected a device that runs on grumelisk … an explosive device which can destroy every soul in the radius of one kilometer. The device is strapped onto my chest. I need only push a button, and…boom! Penetrating the facility will be cherub’s play with the gate-pass you have provided me. You have very influential backers.”

“You can be damn sure I do,” I said, keeping my voice barely above a whisper. I did not intend to meet my end as raw material for powering heaven’s anti-gravity engines. Not when I’ve come this far.

Terziel was exactly the thing I had hoped for: hysteric, malicious and stubborn. You could say he was fulfilling his destiny. You see, Terziel had been a terrorist in his before-life. A suicide bomber, to be precise. In fact, he was one of the last terrorists to get into paradise before the 723rd Mount Kailash Conference back in `82, which banned people with a history of violence from entering heaven.

Terziel never had a chance. Public opinion being the way it is, the stigma of terrorism hung over him like an ominous cloud. Nobody wanted to hire him. His last steady job had been as a garbage collector in Valhalla New Town. That had been seven months ago. He had lived his entire afterlife as a dreg in the lower levels, and he could take no more. He focused his anger against GOD. GOD had stopped others like him from entering. GOD bled him dry of grumelisk every chance they got. GOD had never explained to him that the phrase “seventy-two virgins” isn’t gender-specific.

“But won’t you perish in the blast as well?” I asked, feigning concern as I had a sip of my cider.

“A small price to pay,” he replied. “Trust me, I’ve done this before.”

“Excellent,” I said, as I indicated to the suitcase sitting at my feet. “The grumelisk as per your specifications, in concentrated vials.”

“Your master must be a powerful man, to acquire this much grumelisk in such a short time,” he answered.

I thought to myself, You have no idea.

At last, GOD shall fall! Years of planning are finally to bear fruit! Luckily, their facilities stand well on the outskirts of the divine city. The annihilation of a few thousand new immigrants as collateral damage was well-justified.

“It happens tomorrow,” Terziel said, as he got up to leave.

“Godspeed,” I said without thinking. With a withering look, Terziel was gone, his coffee unfinished. If all went according to plan, I would not be meeting him again.

I gave a sigh and reflected upon my inner demons, for you see I have many. In fact I always keep one tucked inside my left nostril in case I need to send a message across quickly.

“Take a message,” I commanded, as it hovered obediently at nose level.

My Lord President Michael,

Our plans are going perfectly. GOD shall fall tomorrow, and you shall soon be undisputed master of Heaven and Earth. I can only pray that we do not meet the same fate as befell your brother Lucifer.

Your most obedient servant,
Joanne de Arc.

P.S. Can’t wait to see you tonight.


Rimidi was good enought to point out that Terziel has in him shades of Achmed the dead terrorist. However, the biggest influence was Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion", which taught me to verbalize my deep suspicion of God(s).--- Sharad

Colour Exercise: Green

You sit in front of the astrologer, eyes anxious, as his eyes pore over the spider-web of your palm. “Emeralds,” he says, drawing out a selection that winks up at you like the eyes of so many snakes—too many Harry Potter references chasing themselves in your skull. “Emeralds assist in intelligence,” he insists, and you frown over the cost and pick the smallest—the cheapest—and it gleams against your skin like rain-washed leaves.

“Emeralds for intelligence,” you mutter, and pay him with figuratively green money for your green stone that has nothing to do with wealth at all.