Image by Jr Korpa
Death
The presence of death adds value to life

Sadness is annoying. Debts are annoying. I already had only one meal a day, most probably a soggy piece of bread. I thought of moving out of my shabby room as I barely stayed in it, doing all kinds of part time jobs. I had just finished my shift at the store and started walking down the alley when I saw him.

 

Moonlight seemed to ripple on his skin, his form tall and lean. His stance made me feel he was waiting for someone. I tried to ignore him as I made my way down the street, and surely that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

 

“Miss,” he said. I turned to look at him, his hair white and his eyes a blinding silver. I immediately sensed that what I was looking at was not human.

 

“Yes?” I asked, trying not to get scared.

 

He turned and walked silently towards the mini beach. Walking wasn’t what he did exactly, though. It seemed more like gliding while tapping the road in between. The rational part of me was terrified, yet I followed him without questioning as if I was under his spell.

 

He sat down on the sand, facing the waves and drew his knees close to his face. His eyes were fixed on the blurred horizon where the sea meets the sky. From the intensity of his stare, it seemed he could make out the distinction between the two, though it was barely visible for me in the night sky. I sat down beside him, waiting, well, I don’t know for what, may be to hear him out. We sat there together, don’t know for how long, with neither of us uttering a word and the sight fixed on what seems like the end point of the world. This silence, the rhythm of waves crashing on the sand, the movement of clouds in the emptiness and fullness of the air and the darkness – everything here had an aura of otherworldly peace.  

 

There was no sound, yet I could feel a distant cry in my heart. In seconds I heard another one, as if in response.

 

When I saw the inky blackness thin out, a light pink appear in the sky and the waves turning grey, I decided to speak. Among the million questions that ran through my mind, what I spelt out was this, as if I am talking to myself: 

 

“Does peace exist?”

 

The man didn’t move or make a sound for one solid minute. His eyes were still fixed on the horizon. Then his mouth opened ever so slightly, and he began to speak.

 

“No. But the idea of it drives the world. Everyone strives for their idea of peace. Peace can never be found because life is made of hope and desire for something and these two causes are in conflict. True peace is nothingness, but nothingness contradicts your existence.”

 

“Then”, I cleared my throat, “is there peace in heaven?”

 

He chuckled.

 

“There is neither heaven nor hell. When you die, the pieces of your soul get scattered and dissolved into the universe while the body reunites with the earth.”

 

I could feel his words inside me as if they had been there all along. Well, we could relate to something that is already a part of our inner being.

 

I heard a giggle, somewhere farther, it seemed.

 

“Why am I hearing things?” I asked him.

 

“What we are hearing is actually happening, somewhere. The giggle you heard is of a little girl continents away. There are many other things I could let you hear, but then it would drive you crazy. If you do not move, think or feel, you can hear your soul speaking. Your soul is made up of everything in this universe, and it will guide you.”

 

“How can we not think or feel?” I wondered.

 

“You can if you try. It works differently for everyone. If aided by someone not human, it could be a lot shorter and easier.”

 

“Are you not human?” the question gushed from me, without knowing, “Who are you?”

 

“I cannot prevail more upon you, if I do, you’d be stripped of everything that makes you human. The little power I have used is fading, and now we can see the return of the human in you, the annoyance and the curiosity.”

 

I returned to silence till he spoke.

 

“I am death. Everything comes from and returns to me.”

 

I was numb, not shocked, not scared. Just numb and blank. He broke the momentary void inside me as he spoke again.

 

“I am also the cause of what is in between the beginning and the end – the Desire! Because it consumes life and returns it to me. Without desire, life is death.”

 

I nodded, as if I’m starting to understand.

 

 “Then why are you with me now? Am I dying?”

 

“Not only you. I show a glimpse of me to every life before they finally return to me. Life, to be valued for it’s beauty, needs to know my existence.”

 

Everything started making sense now.

 

“Then- ,”I started to say something, but I could no longer see him.

 

Everything felt vibrant, colorful and energetic. I felt like I had woken up from a long sleep. All I could hear was the sounds of the waves and the vehicles of early risers. The world had gone back to normal, but something was different for me.

 

I could still feel his presence all around me.

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The Knight & the Princess
The Knight becomes symbolic of the modern man caught in a world where sly stratagems overpower goodness.

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The brave knight sighed at the sight of the mountain of skeletons lying in front of him. He didn’t feel angry. A strong wave of sadness swept over him as he stood staring. He wore his shining silver armor and mounted on his gleaming white horse cantered to the tower fearlessly. Upon arriving, the knight spotted an enormous dragon like figure curled around the top of the tower, just as the letter had suggested. It was a glistening black, with a long tail tipped with gigantic, deadly sharp spikes. Its talons were as long and thick as its legs and the terrifying beast’s teeth were huge and sparkling white. Its eyes spoke of death.

 

Something seemed to bother him, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Had he gazed into the creature’s eyes for a little longer, he would’ve noticed something, and everything would’ve been different. But, instead, he quickly turned his eyes away as his mind was preoccupied with something else. His sense of urgency washed out his sense of danger. 

 

The mammoth size of the creature couldn’t intimidate or suppress the valor of the knight, as he quickly unsheathed his long, silver sword and sprinted towards the enemy. The fight that ensued didn’t last long. Not long enough as the knight expected.  The weak attack and the modest resistance put up by the creature did surprise the knight, but he didn’t dwell on this contradiction and rushed towards the tower, jumping over the giant slain creature.

 

He quickly ascended the tower, which was surprisingly beautiful and well-maintained. He finally reached the highest room and opened the door. A beautiful maiden sat at a half-curtained window, tears running down her cheeks. Her golden hair glowed in the darkness, paralleled by the moon-like shine of her skin and the faint sparkle of her lavender-colored dress.

 

“I’m here, princess,” he said merrily to her. She turned and looked at him. After a brief silence, she smiled. Her blue eyes gleamed as she pulled a golden chair for him to sit. “I will just be back, O brave knight” she said.

 

The knight sat happily waiting, pleasantly surprised at his good luck. The princess returned with shiny silver trays of juicy, colorful berries and warm, creamy cakes. The princess poured a red liquid into his glass. “It’s enchanted,” she said with naughty smile. “It will bring prosperity to me.” The knight took a few quick sips as soon as she had poured it.

 

Overwhelmed by joy, he again missed the point but quickly returned to his senses realizing the princess had said that it would bring prosperity to her instead of him or them.

 

The princess slowly walked to the window. “Many heroes have come here, upon my cry for help. None of them survived,” she said. The knight sensed the tinge of pride in her last line, rather than sorrow.

 

To his horror, everything around him started to revolve. She slowly walked towards him, bent forward and looked into his eyes with a malicious smile. Tapping on his cheek gently, she said “I coerced her to switch our bodies. It’s a pity you didn’t notice her wet eyes before the fight. The one you killed out there was the one you came here to save, and you saved someone from a curse whom you came here to kill. Isn’t this what writers call irony?”

 

“What did you put in the drink?” the knight asked her, as his vision turned blurry. She sighed and then calmly said to the knight, “I didn’t put anything in it. You happily drank plain pure poison.” She laughed out loudly. The knight tried to reach the princess to hit her, but a slight push from her hand sent him back to his chair. “You are lucky. You die with the sweetest taste on your tongue and the prettiest girl in your eyes,” she said with her signature malicious grin. Her words seemed to come from far away now and everything seemed to be random blots of color for the young, brave poor knight. He struggled to shout, only to be patted on the head by her. “Hush, now” she said sweetly while the knight struggled to stay conscious and keep eyes open.

 

And then something unexpected happened. As the witch princess turned around to sit on the couch, she felt something sharp rammed into her and as she looked down, she noticed it was his silver sword.

“Don’t worry, the sword is poison coated. Isn’t this what they call Karma?” the knight tried to laugh with all the strength left in him and both collapsed on the floor.

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Shailey Bellamkonda is from Hyderabad, India. She is currently studying in Class X and has been writing stories since the age of 8 years. Her first story was published in an online Magazine in 2018. She is an avid reader. At present her stories are mostly in Magical realism.