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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

# 27 - Very Short Story - Piklu

As the rain lashed outside, 8 year old Piklu stared out of the window with his mouth wide open.
He recalled what his elder brother had told him a couple of years ago.

"That's not really a tree you know?" His brother had said matter-of-factly, pointing at the giant Sal tree that could be seen from the window. 

"Oh yeah? Then what is it?" Piklu had asked eagerly, sensing a story.

“It’s an old cursed monster”, replied his brother, with an air of theatricality.

Piklu belonged to that delicate age group when stories of knights and dragons from faraway lands had started losing their appeal, but he wasn’t yet old enough to completely disregard them.  After some thought, he said “You’re lying. I don’t believe you.”

His brother was a master storyteller who knew how principles of attention worked; with a shrug he said, “Fine. Don’t believe me. But what I was about to tell, would’ve helped you” and with that bit of mystery hanging in the air, he got up to leave.

- Okay, okay, tell me the story.

His brother sat down with a smile and started his narration.

-Many many years ago, there was a monster who used to terrorize people, eating them up. Eating up ten people at a time, sometimes even twenty.

“Why?” asked Piklu.

-What do you mean why? That's what monsters do, don't you know anything?

- Yes yes. I know. I was testing you. Go on.

-So the villagers went to a sage for help, because this monster was eating 30 people a day, and soon no one would be left.

-You said he ate 10-20 people.

-Yes, it was okay when he was eating 10-20 people a day, but he later started having 30...that's when the problem started. Interrupt me again, and I will slap. Now listen... So the old and powerful sage went up to the monster and asked him to stop eating people up...but the monster, full of arrogance, refused, so the sage and the monster had a great fight but –

-Don’t lie. Sages don't fight.

SMACK...retribution was swift and hard, and Piklu's cheeks turned a shade of red rather quickly. Pondering whether to cry and complain, Piklu realised that the story was unfinished, and didn't say a word.
-The next time you interrupt, I’ll slap you even harder. Some sages fight. Anyway, as I was saying, so the sage fought with the monster and finally defeated him. But, being a sage, he didn't kill him, he just made him sleep, chained him up and turned him into this tree so that he is rooted here and can't go anywhere else.

- That's it? What a stupid story. and why did you hit me? I am telling Maa.

As Piklu got up to run, his brother sensed that Piklu's complaint could lead to him receiving a thrashing of his own, so he grabbed Piklu's hand and said "Arre Piklu, the story may be finished, but the lesson isn't. I want to warn you, there's a particular time when the monster is awake, and if you don't tell Maa, I will tell you what that time is so that you can be safe."

Curious again, Piklu sat down. His brother thought for some time and then told him how every time it rained at night, the monster woke up, while still rooted and immobile, it was almost certain that anyone crossing the tree at such an ungodly  time would be eaten up, as the monster's hands were free and he could swoop up people.

The story left a lasting impression on Piklu, and he believed it - indeed every time it rained at night, the three storeys high tree appeared no less than a monster. The howling of the wind seemed like a growling demon. The dark outlines of the tree clearly betrayed the shape of a monster trembling in rage, flailing its arms wildly to catch passers-by, it was sheer luck that no one ventured close to the tree at these times, Piklu thought.

Then one day, the unthinkable happened, after a particularly stormy night, in the morning Piklu saw that the tree had been uprooted, it had been struck by lightning, and was mostly burnt - the monster had fallen lifeless.

Piklu felt relieved, the monster was finally dead. Now everyone could cross the area, even when it was dark and raining.

Soon thereafter, in the vacant area where the tree had once been, construction work began, finally, they would have a neighbour. A house was built, and much to Piklu's disappointment, the family that moved in didn't have a child.

It was a young couple, the husband had long hair, which he tied neatly in a bun, he wore round glasses, and fashioned a beard almost long enough to rival Tagore’s, whose framed picture hung in Piklu’s study room .
 They seemed nice enough but hardly interacted with anyone.

It was that time of the year again, the dreaded kalboishakhi, the monsoons.

One rainy evening, Piklu, out of habit, stared out of his window.

Where the Monster had once been, stood the newly constructed house. The windows were open, and the light from the bedroom spilled over to the drawing room where the man was standing.

His hair was no longer tied, it was all frizzy and falling over his forehead, he held a bottle in one hand and was trembling, his wife was kneeling beside him, crying for some reason, and with his free arm, he took a swing at the woman, knocking her out, yet he kept hitting her, laughing as he did, Piklu couldn't hear his laughter over the wind, or perhaps his laughter was the sound of the wind.

Standing by his window, Piklu started shivering -  the monster was back.

Note: One of my earlier short stories, in fact still pretty proud of this piece. Not sure if that's a good thing or bad.

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