Friday, February 17, 2017

The Stone of Sorrows - A Short Fiction

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, lived a usual boy. Atop the high guarding walls he used to tarry at evening, cherishing the scenic sun melting into oblivion behind the snow-capped proud mountains. As darkness curtained over the dome of the sky with its twinkling dots, the boy used to climb down and shuffle through the bazaar, toward his home.

It was one such night; the boy was engrossed by the artifacts one merchant brought from the realm beyond the mountains.  He paused and examined one of them. In the wavering light of torches, the oval shaped item glittered. Squinting his gaze, the boy found a ring of runes marked over the middle of the bulge. The writings were alien to him, but he had a strange feeling that he had seen the same markings somewhere. The question lingered in his mind for a long time.

For a week, every night while returning back to home, he stayed before the egg-shaped item and wondered about the markings.

“Lad,” the merchant finally lost his patience, “that worth 2 gold coins.”

The boy looked at the merchant and then at the item. “I am not here to buy it. I am just interested in the writings over it. What does it mean?”

The merchant’s face grimaced as if a firefly accidentally got into his mouth. “What are you talking about, lad? There is no writing over it. It is the most polished marble egg ever carved from the stones beyond the mountains.”

Taken back by the revelation, the boy picked the stone-egg for confirmation. It tickled his skin like a frozen piece of water. Amusingly, he ran his fingers over the shape and felt the carvings. “You must be mistaken, Sir. There is writing over it. See.”

The merchant checked the item and said with agitation. “Lad, off to your home. Don’t waste my time.”

The next day, the boy brought his two friends with him and showed the oval stone. His friends rejected the idea of writings. Though disturbed and perplexed at the same moment, the boy decided to note the writings on the piece of the parchment. As he was noting down the runes, the nib of his quill scratching the scroll, the merchant sighed with irritation, and his two friends mocked at him.

The markings stood dark in the fleeting light of the setting sun, and the boy wondered where he had seen it. He rummaged through his memories, but failed to hold on anything substantial.  Back to his home, he called his mother.

A lady in her mid-thirty appeared. A mother doesn’t need another look over his child to confirm the uneasiness. She asked, “What is troubling you?”

The boy offered the piece of paper to her.

The lady read and was surprised. “Who gave you this?”

“Do you know what it means?”

The lady’s face was white as if she had seen a fabled phantom crawling on the walls. “Where did you find it, son?”

The boy obediently ushered his mother to the merchant in the bazaar. The lady paid two gold coins and brought the stone egg to their home.

The boy didn’t understand what just happened. “Mother, what do those writings mean?”

The lady tore her gaze from the artifact and looked at her stupefied son. “Your grandfather was once a miner in the mines beyond the mountains.  He once discovered an oval shaped polished stone.  The people of the realm thought he pulled out something that should have not been found out.”

“But why?” The boy asked. “What could a stone possibly do?”

 The lady took a moment, sighed, and then continued. “A famine struck the kingdom and the people suffered. Everyone blamed your grandfather for their miseries.”

“It’s nonsense!”

“Yes, it was,” the lady said. “But that’s what most of the people do. Blame someone for their sorrows.”

The boy stared at the egg-stone with more interest. “But what about the writings? Why only I can see it?”

The lady silently turned and walked toward the window. She pushed open the shutters and watched the dark shadows of the mountains at the horizon and the glittering stars above them. “People wanted him to punish for they thought he pulled out the stone against the wishes of Gods. And now they were facing the dire consequences. An offering must be made, to pacify the rage of Gods.”

The boy inched a feet. “And what was the offering?”

An owl hooted somewhere, disturbing the silence the lady had  prolonged before answering. “They torched your grandfather alive. And they labelled it as a Divine Punishment.”

The boy, unsure what to do, just braced his mother from back.

“And I had to see his flesh burning in front of my eyes. His agony, his screams, his helplessness.”

For a brief time, the son and the mother remained motionless and silent, just like the egg-stone on the mantelpiece. Then there was a movement. The boy stepped back as his mother turned and squatted, clutching onto his arms. “Your grandfather was aware about the arts of the ancient, and so he embedded a message on the egg stone for us. The one who had the same blood in their veins can only read it. When I read it, during that time, I was so angry that I threw the stone away from me.” Her moist eyes couldn’t hold the tears anymore.  They began to roll down over her cheeks.

The boy tried to scrub away the streaks of tears.

“I was too angry, son,” she sobbed. “My father was murdered by a horde of people who believed in someone who they had not seen and assumed the stone was cursed!”

The boy cupped his hands over her face, his heart wrenching.

“And I lost the stone,” she sobbed harder. “The only thing that my father had died for, I had lost it!”

“Mother,” the boy asked, “what do those writings mean?”

Sighing heavily, she took him to the room nearby. As the door swung open, the boy noticed the markings minutely painted below the portrait of his grandfather.

“It means,” she revealed, “under the sky, bright and night, dig into yourself.  Find something worth fighting against the world, and leave a legacy to follow.”


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