Sketched on 19 December 2019
Sketched on 19 December 2019
Postcard from Munchland
Sketched on 20 December 2019.
All it needed was a puff of air to disturb the regally arranged dandelion seed-heads, and off went the fluffy little seedlings riding the wind to little-does-one-know-where-to. Could she hear a chorus of “follow me!” from the tailing cluster? Next was the pinwheel that Dad had given her. Made with gaudy purple glossy paper, her little piece of joy on four vanes. Another puff of air from her lips started up this mini windmill. Across the sea when it again meets the land are places where there are real windmills. She has seen pictures on her Dad’s computer. Hundred times larger than her little pinwheel. How do the people of that country look like? Maybe they are tall as the elves or short and mimicking the dwarves or an incarnation of evil like the goblins. Their king is a tall and bearded wizard! A wise king and everybody else has pointy ears. Ha Ha Ha…
There, that cloud looks like a goblin with his mouth open — some coincidence, the cloud next to that one is a little kid sleeping in her pram. And, that one a teddy bear, correction — may be a teddy bear — has an ear missing. That one looks like a deer, needs bigger antlers. And, that one is a short man playing a big trumpet. Someday maybe they will all descend on land and we will be calling them the cloud people and cloud animals. They will all need to be made whole, the teddy will need ears, the deer antlers.
“Jill… Jill” that was Dad.
Amy will be here soon. Amy — she reminded of Aunt Amelia who lives by the narrow river and to reach her place takes three bus rides. Aunt Amelia is 61. For Jill’s birthday in March, she had got her yellow bangles. She is Dad’s distant sister. Wonder how this Amy will be? She does seem friendlier than Becky and Monique, and at least she doesn’t try hard to blend in and put up a false face like Teresa. Or talk in a funny manner like some of the girls she never liked at her school.
Pink, purple or orange? Will she care to check out her dress? Oh yes, she definitely will. Why is she even second-guessing?
In various ways, it is better than meeting a prospective mother-in-law. A mother-in-law will probably lock horns in mind games and house politics, but what sort of an adversary is an eight-year-old? Is she really an adversary? She looked cute dressed in a yellow frock for the Thanksgiving lunch last year.
‘Try not to look over-generous, be honest and do not to fake your emotions — she will catch you’, that was the caution from Fred. She is offended by fake people. She did not like Monique because she had not read “Tom Sawyer” and her skirt was too short.
Purple! She will dress in purple. A purple ensemble or a contrast — a purple top with a light blue skirt? No, go for the ensemble and team it up with a light grey overcoat.
‘Don’t doll yourself up with make-up and perfume’ was another advice from Fred. Heavens what sort of a moral compass does this girl have?
Fred (10:22:41 am) >> We are waiting for you. 🙂
Amy (10:23:11 am) >> My cab has crossed the Jacob’s Creek railway station. I should reach you in 10 mins. No real traffic in the countryside.
Fred (10:23:52 am) >> She is in a perfect mood. Was running around in the meadows and now she is holding my hand and giving me a piece of her mind about ‘how the government should protect the spiders of this county.’ My messages may be lagging, W&T network is rather poor here.
Amy (10:25:03 am) >> Perfect mood — who? your grandmother?
Fred (10:25:43 am) >> LoL 😀
Amy (10:27:04 am) >> I really want this to work.
Fred (10:27:57 am) >> So do I.
Fred (10:28:11 am) >> It may not even be a real interview, it can be just a chit-chat, a banter. It is about the connection.
Amy (10:28:32 am) >> Suddenly, I feel like the red riding hood going to her grandma’s house :-\
Amy (10:28:51 am) >> Shut up, you don’t need to dig out a red-riding hood meme to get back at me! No silly memes for today.
Fred (10:29:16 am) >> LMAO I was just about to do that
Fred (10:29:43 am) >> Just be calm and easy. You like children, that is sure to work in your favor.
Amy (10:30:07 am) >> More like the purple-woman-in-a-cab, I chose purple for today.
Fred (10:30:44 am) >> 🙂
Fred (10:31:32 am) >> There, is that your cab? Can you see me?
“Amy is here. And there is our horse carriage as you had asked for” Dad said to Jill.
“Yes — driven by two horses,” Jill said and turned to the carriage driver and asked him, “Hello there, what are their names?”
“Jill, his name is George” Dad said.
“That is just fine,” George said with an affirmative nod.
“The left one is Autumn, and the one on right is Russell” George said to Jill
“Not Black Beauty,” Jill asked with a smile.
“No, that happens in the storybook” Dad said and then picked up Jill in his lap and took her inside the carriage.
“George… George, where are we going to?” Jill asked.
“It is a half-hour ride to the riverfront, and you can stop me where you wish to enjoy the view. People usually prefer it closer to the cliff and the waterfall. All in all — say about one hour, give or take” George said.
Dad sat beside Jill and Amy sat facing them.
“Your Dad tells me that you always wanted to ride a horse carriage?” Amy tried to break the ice.
“Yes! ever since Aunt Mary read to me ‘Black Beauty’ ” Jill said.
“How was your cab ride Amy?” Jill asked.
“It was good. There is hardly any traffic and the morning air was pristine and I was looking forward to meeting you.” Amy said with a smile.
“Dad told me that you two are colleagues. He is more into the web part of it and you are a manager. Is that it?”
“Yes! I am in marketing and Fred is the webmaster and software expert. He works from home with our teams based in Buenos Aires and Warsaw and I report to our city offices.”
“Will you be okay reading me rhymes and singing for me when I go to bed?”
“I have never done that, of course since I have never lived with a lovely little girl like yourself, but I think I can try.”
Jill looked out of the window and then back at Amy.
“Tell me what do you like to read?”
“Right now I am reading an anthology of Russian short stories, which has both stories from classical Russian authors as Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev and those from the modern Soviet era, such as Mikhail Bulgakov and also the Strugatsky brothers. There is a story by Nikolai Gogol where a man’s nose just falls off his face and takes a new identity, wears an overcoat and goes to the church”
“Ha Ha Ha Ha …. what is the name of this book, “The Nose who goes to Church?” ”
“It is named as “The Nose.” It is a short story” Amy said with a smile.
A very subtle and slow nod from Fred was a signal to Amy that things are on the right keel.
“What games do you like to play? Aunt Mary used to play snakes and ladders with me. Can you play snake and ladders?”
“I can play snakes and ladders, but I will suggest that we try scrabbles that will help you to polish up your vocabulary and maybe chess, which is a game of strategy and power”
Jill looked out of the carriage window and looked at her Dad, “How about we get down here and Amy can continue the journey?”
Drat!… this is what he had been fearing.
“You really think so?” Dad asked Jill nodded.
“See you then,” Jill said as she and Dad got off the carriage.
That is a No? A bat crazy loud No. A No in a font of 36 — make that 72. Rejected by an eight-year-old. Did she give wrong answers?
Her phone beeped.
Fred (11:07:33 am) >> It is all right, go home and we can talk in the evening.
What had gone wrong? She was no Piaget. But was it Chess? Or was it Gogol? What had gone wrong? Oh No! — Jill has forgotten her pinwheel.
“George, can you please go back to where we dropped off Fred and Jill? It should not be too far off.”
“Maybe half a mile. A little more — give or take” George said.
After a few minutes, Amy opened the carriage door and got down.
“You came back! You came back. I am so sorry” Jill was shouting at the top of her lungs and came in running and grabbed on to her waist with her little fingers.
“Hey! what happened?” Amy asked.
“You came back!” Said a teary-eyed Jill.
“Yes, you had forgotten your pinwheel,” Amy said as she returned it to Jill.
Dad came sprinting to the scene of action.
“I am not sure what happened, she saw the carriage returning and started running towards it,” Dad said.
“I never forgot, it was a test,” Jill said.
“Test?” Dad asked.
Amy crouched on the ground to size down for Jill.
“I am sorry Amy, I thought…” Jill hugged Amy.
“It is okay, what happened?” Amy said.
“I left my pinwheel, it was a test. If you come back you are the mum I have been looking for.” Jill said with words interleaved with gasps and sputters.
“It was a test if I come back to return your pinwheel?” Amy said and looked at Dad with a just-shoot-me face.
“She is indeed our grandma,” Dad said with a grin.
Amy picked up Jill on her lap and rubbed away her tears.
“I am sorry Amy. I took you to be like Teresa and Monique”
“It is okay,” Amy said.
“Did you play this game with them? This test?” Dad asked.
“No, I did not like either of them. Teresa was a rude girl and Monique … This test is the last thing — if you pass the test then you can be my mum.” Jill said.
“Jill… you should not speak ill of people” Dad said
“A test to scour my soul?” Amy asked
Jill squinted, nodded her head and smiled.
“Amy, have you seen that cloud?” Jill said pointing to the sky.
“Oh no, it is gone now. There was this cloud that looked like a Goblin… it is gone.”
“This one rather looks like a fat man puffing on a cigarette” Amy said.
“Yes… Yes, it does” Jill said with a smile.
How The Singularity Arrived
My micro-fiction at 365tomorrows – https://365tomorrows.com/2019/08/14/how-the-singularity-arrived/
The Days of the Gray Skies
That is a small tortoise. Or, is it a turtle? Didn’t the scriptures from Naumachia make such a prediction? Lernilo had told her,
“A thick shelled meek one will show the way.
The black fox will do away with the gray skies.”
Cryptic writings from yellowed and decaying papyrus. Did it really show the way to her destiny? Away from this world which has lacked in both color and in spirit? And, no animals – until now. Dressed in a black garb is she the black fox? Thoughtfully she looks up, only to find the sun straight up above her head.
* * *
A time ago, she was very ill. And, then one day she got well and daringly flew out of her room. It was as if a wizard with a long silvery beard and a pointy hat from a distant fairyland had waved his magic wand and conjured up the impossible. She fancied herself with a ‘big W’ on her bright red shirt teamed with a yellow cape. She flew away far until the houses down below looked like toys. She joyfully rode the wind, and smiled to herself. Often across the clouds she would hear the name ‘VANESSA’ being whispered into her ears. Who is Vanessa?
She was someone else, no more the girl on the bed who just would not get well. She did not wish to come back to home, and maybe she was not supposed to. She played with the clouds and chased the birds. She waved to an airplane and giggled at the passengers staring at her from the tiny windows. A little later she yelled at the top of her voice, “Hey there mister!” startling a high flying rider on his glider. She wished to see a hot-air balloon but there were none. And then, almost suddenly, a tear in the sky made her tumble in the clouds and reach Rhyfeddod.
At first it looked like a poorly made pencil sketch and then as she came closer to the surface she started to see more of it. Piroja clear ocean, gray skies, and a yellow sandy beach. Three colors broadly dictated the settings – blue, yellow and gray. But, it seemed that the blue and the yellow were shaded out from the parent gray, than as distinct colors. She descended down to the beach with some inkling that she is in a new world. She looked back at herself, and she found that she was now dressed in a cloak of coal color – rather licorice. An irony for a world which had never seen the night.
Walking on the beach she came across 2156 medium sized cubes made of Lonsdaleite, polished and shiny. Not too big, neither too small. And, one of them moved just a wee bit to catch the edge of her eye. Getting closer she struck up a conversation with this cube and got to know that this place is named ‘Rhyfeddod’ and the cube’s name is ‘Lernilo’.
She left the cubes and the beach behind and a gentle stroll of a few hundred odd yards led her to the magnificent ruins of a mesaionikós city. The city stood in silence, not a soul to talk to. It must have been a sprawling civilization with the palace, the marketplace, the observatory, cobbler’s shop, medicine man’s clinic, granaries, the court of law, the amphitheater and a myriad of houses. Everything, but disused and covered in a thick layer of dust. The metal parts had started to wear out. At least rust added a touch of sabuja to the mundane drab of three repetitive colors. Yet, no trees, no grass. The sand had prodigiously taken over, and the ruined city looked like an extension of the sandy beach – more sandy yellow to follow the sandy yellow beach. Peering past the vast ruins, beyond the clock tower and beyond the slender minarets it led to an unforgiving and unending desert. The people had left without a care. Maybe they had got tired of perpetual day, clear ocean, yellow sand, and gray skies? Did they all jump on to a ship and set sail to destinations beyond the ocean’s horizon?
After her survey, she trotted back to Lernilo at the shore of the ocean.
“2155 mutes and one talking cube, is that all we have here?”
Lernilo spoke into her mind, “You can be the 2157th cube and add one more to the talking crowd?”
“Or, maybe I can take a new name?” she said.
“That is also an option,” the cube said.
“How about being a saint? santo? I am the only human here and hopefully God will not have any qualms to call me a holy soul?”
“Hmm … and since you can already fly, talk to Lonsdaleite cubes and travel across worlds in a flash … that makes for the three miracles,” the cube sure had done its homework.
“… and I am sure Mister Cube that you can dig out stories of some good saint who was put to death and then resurrected to eternal life, we can always play it around?”
“Let us go with Vanessa, as that name has often been troubling you. Saint Vanessa less saintly but surely more feminine than the licorice cloak makes you look” that was blatant hash-tag humor-me from the cube.
“Not very bad and I didn’t need to die to get resurrected for my sainthood” she said with a suggestive smile.
The cube did not reply. It had a tendency to go dumb after answering a few questions. Vanessa left the cubes and walked toward the ruins. There was a flutter in the air as the ocean slapped the beach fervently. The ruins shook up to an earthquake and stones rolled down the cliff. It was not too intense, yet a stone hit her on the head and knocked her out.
* * *
Vanessa came to her senses, it was raining. She opened her mouth to get a taste of the water and it tasted like … strawberry. She could hear a rhyme, though nobody spoke.
* The Mystery of Rhyfeddod *
Wonderful ruins, tell me who you are?
I come to find your tale, a journey too far,
Who were your people, who was your czar?
Where did you go? was there a curse in your stars?
Cubes on the beach,
And shadows hardly make a reach,
Not a soul in the street,
An empty palace, reminding me of Crete
Where are the Rhyfeddodians?
Did they set sail like the Phoenicians?
Or, go around the globe to find the Indians?
Or, did they plan to catch a bounty at the Caribbean?
Why did I arrive here?
Seas abound, and am I the sole buccaneer?
To witness your ruins as a licorice seer?
Or, to write about you as a William Shakespeare
Saint Vanessa, A flying saint,
A talking cube … quaint,
A world which is ain’t,
… or is it all a feint?
She sat up and wondered on the words, Czar? Crete? Phoenicians? William-who? Is there any other soul in this painted landscape who wrote this rhyme? Finding answers was not the order of the day, and she did not try to push her destiny too far. With nothing else to do, she walked down to the beach.
“Lernilo, are you talking now?”
One of the cubes did a little jig as though to attract her attention. Is it Lernilo? Didn’t it go mute at the far end of the big mess of the cubes?
“Are you … Lernilo?” she asked in surprise with a fleeting voice.
“Oh! Yes, I am the hablador” the cube replied.
“Do all of you take turns to talk? Is that how it happens? Take turns to be the hablador?”
“Oh yes, what a big confusion it would be if all of us were to talk at the same time. 2156 voices of cacophony.” The cube replied.
“Can all of you think? And only one speaks” she asked in utter disbelief.
“Why, aren’t you one of us?” The cube asked.
“Of course not, I am a human being not a cube” Vanessa replied in a revolting tone.
“It is believed that all of us used to be something like you, with hands and legs, but seems the great artist wanted us to be nothing more than cubes.”
Vanessa did not reply, looked on. The cube continued.
“We are all cubes, as time melts away”
Vanessa did not reply to that bit of poetry either. The cube kept up its ante.
“All of us see you as another cube. Maybe you are new in here, but we are not too different. In time, things may change, and of course there is the prophecy.”
“Prophecy …!” Vanessa was already on the edge of her rational beliefs when the cube added another dose of uber fantasy.
“Your arrival was always expected. The scriptures from Naumachia said that,
“A thick shelled meek one will show the way.
The black fox will do away with the gray skies.”
and, we all wait for it to happen.” Lernilo said.
“Why am I the black fox? Don’t you think that a saint should not be referred as a fox?”
This time the cube didn’t reply – its time was up.
“Silly cube” Vanessa muttered to herself as she walked away. The sun was up in all its might, unmistakably straight over her head. It was then she realized that she has never felt hungry in her entire stay, nor has nature called on her …
“Thick shelled meek one” she said to herself in the hope that the proverbial bulb of intelligence will light up in her mind. Did that mean the cubes? After all, they all have a thick shell, and they all are meek – at least their hablador is a shy one for sure. It could have also meant a person with an intimidating appearance and a shy personality. It can mean a pearl in its shell, a magical pearl which will lift the existential curse of this place.
She was exhausted. She walked towards the ruined city in search of a calming shadow, a place to rest and sleep.
* * *
“This medicine is still in experimental phase. It has been tried on only 2000 odd people across the globe. Dr.Wolfe, you really want my wife on this medicine?” Rudolph is far from calm, and his rhetoric lacks any semblance of humor.
“This medicine has been tried on 2156 patients across the globe over the last four years, 1081 in the US, 62 in Canada, 511 in Europe and 18 in Australia. I cannot claim anything yet, but one of the patients at the Milton trauma center had been put on this treatment last spring and he came to his senses and is doing well. As on the previous occasion I will need your consent. Any information about your wife will be most useful as we are dealing with a mind and trying to resuscitate it with known pieces of information and thought patterns. A brain is not a mind; we really cannot restructure her thoughts with artificial neuronal impulses …”
The door opens interrupting the doctor’s explanation and the nurse on duty shows a little girl into the room.
“Daddy!” The little girl smiles at Rudolph.
“Daddy, is mommy still sleeping? How can she sleep for this long?”
“Vanessa, mommy is not well. We are trying. Dr. James Wolfe is helping us.” Rudolph replies as he introduces the doctor to Vanessa.
“Hello Dr. Wolfe, when will my mommy wake up?”
“I am trying. It can be anytime soon.” the doctor replies with a reassuring nod.
“…is that also Lonsdaleite?” The doctor curiously asks Rudolph as he looks at the pendant on Vanessa’s neck.
“Yes, Lonsdaleite has been a zen-like connection for Louisa. We met at Crete, she was studying the history of medieval civilizations and I was surveying the geology of the island – minerals in the eastern Mediterranean area, Lonsdaleite among them. Our wedding ring and Vanessa’s pendant – both are made of Lonsdaleite – it is the strongest known mineral. Louisa also gave my mother a similar pendent. ” Rudolph says.
“You did tell me that she is a double major in English literature and medieval European history, and has a doctorate on Mediterranean cultures. You also told me that she is a published poet.” Dr. Wolfe says.
“Yes, Louisa’s doctoral thesis was on, ‘The Long Term Impact of the East–West Schism of 1054 on the Mediterranean Cultures’. Languages, societies and cultures have always appealed to her. Other than English, she can speak Spanish and Welsh fluently, she had picked up bits and pieces of Indian languages during her stay in India for three years. For her doctoral research, she had to learn a few of the biblical languages, such as ancient Hebrew and Amharic. ”
“Anything else, which may help us …” the doctor asks trying to find more pieces to the proverbial jigsaw.
“We got married in a small fishing village in rural Norway; it was her idea, so sun never sets on our love. She had wished to read our vows on a hot air balloon, unfortunately our minister did not agree to it. She often reads fairy tales to Vanessa. She is not into pets, but enjoys visits to the local aquarium. The weekend prior to the accident she had taken Vanessa to watch Wonder Woman. And, her favorite artist is Salvador Dali, her favorite composer is Franz Liszt, favorite poet is Coleridge and her favorite author is Julio Cortázar. Then again, I am not sure if these bits and pieces of information are of any help to you James.”
“For all I guess Louisa can listen to us. Her brain scans reveal that she has brain activity – she can think. The previous medication, Licorice-4G32 got her brain working, but it seems that she has not been able to connect thoughts with facts with the happenings of this real world. I would wish to believe that she can dream and experience a very fake and weird reality of some sort.” James explains.
“Licorice-4G32, didn’t you say that it is designed on turtle brain DNA?” Rudolph asks.
“Yes, and it is still in testing phase. Since the developmental process draws serum from turtle’s brain tissues, I am not sure if we can ever get it to the commercial market. Animal rights activists will be at our throats. Trading a turtle for a human being may trigger debates in the ethical circles. The new drug is named Black-Cox, after the two scientists who discovered it – Jonathan Black and Adele Cox. It should yield results in the next 36 hours. As a start, we can play Liszt around her for about 15 hours in a day. And, maybe Vanessa can visit her twice, an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. And, can we get a few of Dali’s cubist paintings up on these walls? The psychic healing process has to start from inside.”
* * *
She looks back at the tortoise and then walks towards it. She picks it up in her hands. There are strange markings on its shell, ‘ታገሱም, ተመላሾች ናችሁ‘. Is that magical? Vanessa wonders as she touches the markings. The turtle is amused and lets out a yawn and turns its neck to look at her.
Then! she spots a gaping hole not too far away. The turtle must have risen out from it – a turtle hole. She puts the turtle down and walks up to the edge of the turtle hole and is surprised to find stairs leading into it. She can hear the melody of a piano concert playing far away – deep inside the turtle hole. She has listened to this composition previously. Should she follow this tune into the turtle hole? Will the black fox indeed do away with the gray skies?
Spontaneity wins over logic, and she walks into the turtle hole – a leap of faith, a chance with predestination and the hope to see newer worlds.
Man and Dog
Pencil Sketch, made on 4th August 2019.
Painted on 18 July 2019