“You’ve got 2 days,” the angry boss shouted at me. He frowned and waved his hand signaling me to get out of his office. I slowly collected the papers I gave him and walked out of the room. My eyes were filling up with tears. I could see my fellow colleagues, looking at me with sympathy. It was sure they were not that sad, they were just thinking how lucky they were to get a job here, that I was struggling to be on.
My name is Shirley, I am a trainee at the State Newspaper, one of the top newspapers of my country. It took me two whole years to find a job after graduating from college. At last, I got selected as an assistant reporter but I have to finish my training period of six months for becoming permanent. I was given an objective of submitting a story of social value and something that matched the level of this newspaper. I have submitted eight of them and every one of them was rejected by my boss. Now I have two more days left of my training period. I need to submit a story or I will lose the job.
Thima, One of my friend, who works as chief of the photographic department came to my desk. Her eyes were anxious to know what the boss told.
“What happened? What did he say?” she asked. The tears in my eyes were swiftly noticed by her. It was a great relief to have a person like her at the office. She was the only person I could rely on such a difficult situation.
“The same,” I told her and gave her the report that I submitted to the boss. At the bottom left corner of the page, it was written in red REJECTED. She patted on my shoulder.
“Don’t worry. I will talk to him. Let me see what I can do,” Thima, tried to comfort me.
“No, don’t. Its ok, I will find some other job. This may not be my field.” I said. So hard have I tried not to cry in front of her but I couldn’t. She embraced me.
“Go home. Just have a good sleep. It will be over. I am here for you.” She smiled at me. I thanked her and took my things and went out of that tremendously huge building. Why does a newspaper company want such a huge building? I’ve always wondered why.
It was way past afternoon. As I walked down the busy main road, I started to feel very uncomfortable. Something trying to squeeze the life out of me. I looked across the street and saw some children playing at the park with their parents. It was peaceful to watch. I walked across the street to the park. The place was such relief from this miserable city. I slowly walked down the pavement in the park, breathing some fresh air, syncing in with nature. But something else caught me. Near the trees, on the green grassy ground sat a young man with a guitar. He was playing it, I could hear the faint sound of its rhythm. I walked towards him to get a clear picture. It was sublime, the fast but melodious tune made my soul elevated. My body was now moving to his tracks.
Further, I went in I saw that there were no one around, just him. But hardly did I see, that he was not alone. Around him, in a semi-circle with him as the center sat many birds and rabbits, rats and squirrels and so many other creatures that I have rarely seen in this city. It felt really magical to me. These creatures around him had their eyes locked at him, moving to his tune. The sunlight struck his face making him look more majestic.
The music pulled me towards him, I was a little over ten feet closer to him. But neither he nor the creatures bothered to look at me. I waited there, closed my eyes and listened to it, going with the flow. Then suddenly the music stopped, I was in a beautiful world. It took me some time to realize that the music stopped. When I opened my eyes all I could see was the birds fly off, the rabbits and squirrels running back to their burrows and holes. The man was doing something with his guitar.
“It was great. Your music,” I tried to appreciate him. It felt awkward for me to start a conversation with a stranger who was not at all paying attention to me.
“Oh! you heard my music” he turned to me and asked doubtfully. His face became more clear now. Pale and skinny it was. He sported a goatee and a nice thick mustache. His dress looked like someone from a play. White button-downed shirt and a black overcoat with same color pants. He had a black bandana covering his head.
“Yes, I was listening to it. Sorry if I interrupted you” I apologized to him for intruding in.
“No, I am much obliged that you listened to my music. Not many people here could enjoy it,” he said with a smile that could light the whole park. I felt so impressed by the man’s words. He made me feel lighter and completely stress-free. His smile made me smile.
“Yeah, they don’t have time for these things. They are always running after something they can’t get.” I told him.
“You are not like them, I assume?” He asked me still sitting on the ground and tapping on his guitar.
“No, I am one of them. The same, who run after something I can never get my hands on.” I sighed, my mind went back to the boss and my job.
“I don’t think so. You are not one of them, fair lady.” He told me. It felt weird. His talking and dressing evoked some doubts in me. I nodded just to agree with him.
“Where are you from? You don’t look like a person from here” I asked him just to make my doubts clear. He smiled at me. His blue eyes twinkled like pearls in the light. The long skinny face looked like a piece of diamond. He held the guitar and started to play some notes. He was trying to hypnotize me or I thought so. I sat on the soft, cozy ground near him. He was murmuring something slowly, his melodious light voice echoed through the trees.
Where I come you ask,
thus where I come I shall tell you.
Between the green mountains and
above sundry rivers, I dwell
were all my folks are doing well.
Listen up to the woods that we do,
to look them up is what we need.
From the sky, we fly,
from the seas, we swam,
from the Earth, we grew and
to depths, we find the heart of our woods.
Still, where I come you may ask,
which I can’t tell.
Listen up, It lies far away,
to the east, you may look,
to the west, you shall find,
to the north, it lies,
from the south, you will go.
Thus where it is you shall find,
When my music shows,
my heart of earth and
the earth of all my heart.
I stop to leave it to your mind,
where you can find it for yourself,
tomorrow you will see,
or is it after-tomorrow
or in the tomorrow’s to come.
I leave you to your mind and my woods,
where you will find my place and what you seek.
He stopped there, I still was flowing in his soft melodious voice that I failed to decrypt most of his message. I found out that he didn’t want to reveal where he was from. But something in my mind told me to keep up with him. I found a fascinating story in him that I could write and submit to my boss. It may work I thought to myself.
“So, you live in a forest?” I asked.
“You may call me a forest dweller, where I live with my kin in the middle of my fellow trees. and I will call you city dwellers, where you fight with your own folks in the middle of earth eating structures.” He told me, his face started to become red. I was not sure if it was because I called him a forest dweller, I didn’t call him that anyway. Suddenly his face turned back to normal. A smile he gave me, that eased the tension.
“I see that you are not a city dweller.” He asked me. He started to lean towards me and stared right into my eyes. I felt that he was looking into my soul. There was a cool breeze, that went through me. I wanted to move away but I thought not to.
“No,” I told him looking back into his eyes. He smiled and lifted his hands. There in his right hand held a small green leaf or something that looked like one.
“What is it?” I smiled and asked him. There was something incredible with that leaf that made me want to get it from him.
“This is a Leaf of the Great Radhar tree, it is considered sacred by my kin. I gift it to you”. He held it with great pride and stretched it towards me. The man didn’t hand it to me. He slowly stuck it to my left ear. I felt completely embarrassed, but something in it made me sit still and wait for him to finish it.
He leaned back after that and smiled at me.
“It suits you perfectly,” he said. I was blushing. His pale face and blue eyes seemed to make a somewhat good image in me.
“How did you find I was not a city dweller?” I asked suddenly remembering where I left off. His smile widened, the blue eyes shining, going deeper into my soul.
“I can see it in you.” He slowly held my hand and placed his warm, softer hands on my palm. “Your hand, it shows who you are. I can feel the nature in you. The world in that you love, not this busy land. Somewhere in you lies a forest full of happy roses and gentle streams. I see it in you.” All this time, he was looking inside my heart. It was all true, I grew up with my parents in a village near a stream, they were farmers. I don’t know how he found it out, but I always loved to be in my garden full of roses.
Suddenly he started to stand up and strap the guitar on his back. It all happened in a second or two. I was stunned to see him suddenly recover from a position like it.
“Oh! You are leaving?” I asked him. I didn’t want him to go to be true, his diamond face, pearl blue eyes and his melodious voice all wanted me to make him stay.
“Yes, fair lady. I must be moving.”
“My mother calls me, there are woods
I need to see before going back into the depths of my land.
So many are the trees that I have to listen upon before I go back.
Fewer are the steps to the depths, still, it is the fairest you will see.
I must be going, there are woods I need to see before going back.”
He sang a song as a reply. What was he? I wondered. Still, I wanted him to be with me, telling me more of his stories, singing more of his land.
“What is your name?” I asked him. His smile faded, the blue eyes left lifeless, the pale diamond shape turned red. I wanted to take back the question, but he smiled again.
“No name of mine shall I tell you,
for you may call me forest dweller,
tree listener so can you call,
or a beloved singer, so and on.
Farewell to you, fair lady,
you’ve been nice to this lonely singer,
who listened to the songs which none did,
sooner we may meet, but no sooner I say.”
I knew he was saying goodbye to me, which he did and walked away without looking back again. Into the depths, as he said, he went. Well, the sun started to get low and I needed to get home but I didn’t want to go back into that four-walled cage of mine. There was a long debate between me and myself. And I decided to go back to my cage.
All the way, his music played in my head. Who was he? What was his purpose here? Was he a thief or someone who hypnotized people into liking him and rob them? No, I don’t think so.
It was getting very late, I failed to keep track of time. It was an almost dark night. I didn’t want to go back to my apartment. The guitar guy was all in my mind and my head. What was wrong with me? His music got a hold of me. And suddenly I saw a dark image of what looked like the guitar guy pass across the road. It was dark, I was not sure if it was him, but I wanted to find out.
I followed him through the paved silent path. Nobody was out and it was an uncomfortably cold night. I crossed the road and followed the black figure. It was him I was sure, same height and size. And now he was playing the violin, but no sound came out of it. Behind him followed some animals. Dogs and cats mainly. I kept a safe distance between us. He turned right into a narrow and dark gap between two buildings. I hid behind a garbage bin and peeped out. I wanted to call him but I waited to see what he was going to do.
Suddenly he stopped and turned back. My heart started to pound faster now. It was not a good idea I thought, but I waited there for something to happen and it did. One or two dogs started to bark. The sound of it started to grow as it was slowly moving towards my direction. I began to move away from my hiding and paced my way out of there. But as I looked back the dogs were now running towards me, in fact, three or more dogs and a countless number of cats were following me. They looked frightening. I ran from there. No one could be seen on the streets. What was happening? I thought. Suddenly, one of the dogs got hold of my pants and bit me. I felt no pain, was it because of the adrenaline rush I do not know. But many other creatures jumped on me. It scratched me, another one bit me on my neck and it bit deep. Blood covered my face and flowed on the streets. I cried out loud but only that no sound came from me. Slowly blackness covered my eyes. The only thing I had in my mind was why the man had to kill me? Was that because I followed him. But a familiar sound came into my slowly dying senses. A distant sound of a guitar. It was roaring in the silent night. The dogs and other deadly creatures on me scattered and ran away. My eyes were covered with blood, but I could see the face of the cruel guitarist before me.
“You?” I frowned at him. Only a faint sound came from me. But he looked like he heard me.
“It was not me. Come on I will take you somewhere else. It is not safe here anymore.” He told and lifted me up. He started to shout out loud and a white light surrounded us. I could not see clearly, but the white light seemed to grow every second. My Eyelids felt heavy, it slowly closed. It was the end I knew that.
“Stay with me. I’ll save you.” He told me, but I fell into a deep sleep.
The barking of the dogs was heard again and I woke up from my sleep. I looked around nothing looked familiar. My head ached and my neck hurt. I rubbed my eyes slowly and again looked around. A wooden cabin it was. A strange but mind-bending aroma filled the room and it made lose all my pain. I felt the bed, it was all leaves and some flower petals. It was soft and the most beautiful bed ever to be seen by a human being. I smiled and wondered where I was. A sudden cool wind blew through the opening in the right side of the room. That’s when I got a look of where I was. My eyes widened, I walked out of my bed to the opening. Outside it was all Yellow trees. Not yellow, more like Gold, it glimmered in the bright light of the sun. I was in heaven or somewhere better than that.
“I see you are awake and perfect,” a voice from behind woke me up from me wondering. The voice was familiar, I hesitated for a second, should I look back. Truly I wanted to but he tried to kill me. Anyway, I turned back to see a man, the same man with the guitar but now looked different. He didn’t wear the bandana, his long hair, black from the top but became gold and white while going down. It reached his shoulders. His beard as same as before had a slight gold color now. He wore a perfectly fitted white shirt and black pants, with a smaller guitar on his hands, it looked like some kind of a mandolin.
“Yeah!” I told him but for a second I was stunned, I wasn’t wearing the same clothes I did before. It was now a white long gown or something. “What is this? Where are my clothes?” I asked in wonder.
“Oh! yours were all blood and dirty, I had to put this on you.” He said smiling. I was bewildered by his reply. Did he put this on me, or someone else did?
“Don’t worry, It was not me. Mother put this on you.” He answered my questions. He did understand my heart. I smiled finding that it was his mother. Then I came back to reality.
“Where am I? What happened? Why did you try to kill me?” I shot out my questions one by one to him. His smile disappeared, but this time his face did not turn red.
“Come on out, I’ll tell all you want to know.” He told me and went to a door. It didn’t look like a door but a wooden wall that suddenly opened on his command. I walked out with him and my jaw dropped. Now there were trees with rose leaves all around us. The further I went out, I could see in the distance green, red, rose, yellow, white and gold-colored trees. The ground was all fresh green grass with white flowers blossomed. It was a paradise. He stopped at the middle of the ground and turned back and with great pride he said:
“Welcome to Lorkieda, My land.”
I looked back and saw a huge tree lying on the ground. I was sleeping inside that tree, and I guess he lives in it.
“Yes, I do live in that great tree.” He said answering to my thoughts. “It has been here even before I was born. My mother brought me here.” The place was a paradise, there were trees everywhere, flowers of all kind on it. The wind brought down a few flowers on them. I jumped out of joy, can this be real or am I still dead. Either way, I don’t want to go back. A few white rabbits ran towards the man and knelt and patted them.
“Can I?” I asked him, I couldn’t contain their cuteness. He smiled and nodded. I walked towards them but they didn’t want to come near me. The man kept a hand on them and spoke some unknown language to them and the rabbits came to me. I held one and others jumped on me. I laughed. They were so fun to play with.
“What is this place?” I wanted to know more about this place. He smiled and pointed up into the sky. A bright white light was seen, It must be the sun I thought, but it wasn’t. It was white and kept us from seeing anything more in the sky. Slowly, the light made way to the thick blue sky, there were so many other bright lights in the sky, like stars on a night sky. It kept me wondered.
“I know you would not understand anything. I may not have the time to tell you everything, but I will give answers to your question. But first, you must follow me.” He said. And I stood up from the green grass and walked after him. The rabbits were in my hand and some followed me.
We walked for a while, nobody talked. I was still enjoying the surroundings. This is not at all a place in my city or even my world. I was surely in some fantasy magical land.
“It was not me, you saw last night,” he broke the silence. He was still walking. I waited for him to complete it. We reached before a giant river that gently flows over green grassland. It was white and the clearest water I’ve ever seen.
“Listen, things you are going to hear are not meant for mortals to know. We should not talk with mortals and not ever bring one to our Land.” He said turning back at me. “So what I tell you must be kept a secret and protect it with your life, will you do that?”
“Yes, I will,” I agreed to him. No matter what happened I wanted to know everything.
“Wonderful,” he sighed, we sat by the river and he continued talking but I stopped him.
“Could you sing it for me”. He smiled and took his Mandolin and played a note.
“The land you see is the land I live,
from the trees up high to the ground down low.
See for you know its the land of Lords, and
Lords it is who lives down here,
for I am but a noble servant of them.
To look after the woods is all I do,
and listen up to them is all I need.
Could I see a tree life suffer,
no, I can’t and see a fair lady hurt,
that I will never too.
My job is to make things good for,
all life’s on the Earth.
To make a place like the Land you see,
and the land you see is the land I live.
Not just me are the servants of the Gods,
many such folks do what they should,
like the seaman who looks under the waters
and sky people who care the pure light
and one such was that you saw yestereve,
cruel he is not, but its what he does.
While I hear trees and cure the ill,
with the music, I’ve been blessed with,
just like all my folks.
Music, he does use to find the life’s
which, are ill that make our woods unwell.
He finds them, binds them and brings them,
to the Lords of doom, he sends them.
Time bought you to him,
or it was me some doubts,
Not some doubts, but it was me.
Apologize, I could, that is all,
a tree lover, a life saver, a noble servant do.
But you are in the Land you see,
the Land I live, from trees up high
and ground down deep my feet.
Angel among mortal you are,
for I am blessed to have met the
fairest of our enemies or what my folks say.
See our Land, fairest it is and
even fairer are my kin around.
The Land you see is my land,
The Land of Lords and Kings, and
The Land is Great Lorkieda.
The song kept echoing through the trees, the gently flowing river gave to support his music, and the wind played the best part of it. Making it more august.
“So, the other man who tried to kill me, he did so because he kills people who hurt the trees?” I asked curiously.
“Yes, he tried, but he couldn’t.” His face felt drooping. He was sorry for what happened to me and he blamed himself for it. “You remember I asked you “did you hear my music?” the first time we met at the park and you said “yes” ”
“Yes, I remember,” getting back the images of our first meeting.
“That is because my music can only be heard by the people who are trees in nature. People who give everything to others not bothering to get anything in return. The people who value other lives. People who love the Earth. And you heard it. Seldom have I seen people like you. And that is why I gave you the Leaf of Great Radhar tree. This leaf in your ear will stop you from hearing evil voices which dwells all around us and will help me to find you in need.”
“So, that is how you found me when I was being attacked.” I finally understood all the jigsaw puzzles.
“Yes, but you couldn’t hear the other folk’s music, could you?” He asked.
“No, It was all silence. Why was that? Was he evil?” I asked out of fear. I have seen evil humans but never seen an evil like that.
“No, he is no evil. But the music he played was not meant for you or people of your kind. But if he or the creatures possessed by him see any mortals around them. They won’t leave anyone to tell the tale. That was why they attacked you.”
“So are we safe now?” I enquired. His face had fear in it, the blue eyes looked confused.
“No, he will find us here. When he reach here you can go back to your land and that won’t be long” he raised his hands and felt the wind. He spoke something to the wind in an unknown language. “He is near, we need to find your way back ere he comes.”
“But, wouldn’t you be in trouble if they found out you brought me here?” I asked him, I didn’t want anything to happen to him because of me. He didn’t reply, I repeated the question, after a silence he spoke.
“I need to get you back safe first. My way, that I can find out.” That explanation was not good enough for me. But he didn’t care to tell me more. We stood up and walked and reached a place that was all white. Grasses were thick white. The trees had a brown trunk but the leaves were all snow white. It was not snow, but it was how it was.
“Where are we now?” I asked not seeing anything else around us. He had a big smile on his face.
“We are here to see my mother,” he said. I was excited to meet his mother, how lucky she would be to have a son like him, I wondered. The path led nowhere but suddenly he stopped and knelt. He plucked a small white grass and chanted a song in the unknown language. And a yellow light appeared in front of us.
“That is my mother,” he said. The yellow light stood straight to my eyes. It was just a light, as big as a pigeon. But to my surprise, it spoke.
“Welcome to Lorkieda, Lady Mortal.” It had an austere womanish voice. I felt it was staring at me. The one thing I loved was how they called me. Fair lady, he called me and now Lady mortal, his mother calls.
“You must not be here. This place will bring danger to you but I know why my son brought you here. I can’t stay here long nor can you. But I say one thing to you. Look after our trees. Because we were the one that planted all these even before the dawn of living creatures. Protect it and one day you can rightfully be here.” It said and slowly started to disappear. I didn’t ask him much and I think he didn’t want me too. He stood there and didn’t move.
The wind started to get stronger and mightier, a sense of danger grew around us. Is this the other man. I do not know but something was not right, I could see it in his eyes. He knelt near a white tree that looked fresh and young, he began to speak with it. The same unknown language but the tree now began to move to his pitch and so did the rest of the white trees, they all were swaying to and fro. Now he stood up and held his mandolin and started playing it.
The wind was stronger now, really strong. I was hardly holding on but he kept playing, harder and louder was now its sound. I turned back and saw another figure, the same person I saw other night, he was holding the violin. He came briskly towards us and was playing it. I couldn’t hear it like he told me, but from his playing, I could feel the rage in it.
I held on to my man’s arms but he was staring out front and now at the high voice he sang,
“Mother of mine and all my kin,
I plead to all my might and all the sin
to have a drop of your life on the fair lady,
my fair lady.
Open up her world, and let she be freed,
where she will look after what is ours,
and wait for you to take her to the Lord’s hours.
Mother of mine and all my kin,
I plead to all my might and all the sin,
let tomorrow be with her and in her world,
where she will be the angel you wanted me to be”
The bright yellow light appeared again and now bigger than me, it glowed, making the whole place yellow.
“GO!” He told me and looked back, the other man was running towards us with his violin.
“What about you?” I asked I would not leave him with the other man. I would never.
“Don’t worry about me, I will always be here looking after you, waiting for you to be here when my mother calls you.”
The other man was real close and the almost got hold of me then my man played a loud note on his mandolin and the other man was blown away. The wind became even stronger and mightier.
“GO NOW!” he shouted and forced me into the yellow light. He smiled and held my hand.
“Aarshan Shegar of the woodland clan, my name it is. You asked me once but I didn’t tell you. Farewell, my fair lady.” he said, tears filled my eyes, I saw the other man jump over him and the light went away and I was lying on a dark road. It was night and no one around. I was wearing the old dress that I did before and it was the place where the dogs attacked me. I knelt there and cried a lot not knowing what happened to him.
Days went on, I lost my job. I could have written the stories he told me but I wouldn’t, I promised him. Instead, I went back to my parent’s village, did farming and lived the rest of my days there. But that was not enough for me, I searched every kind of book and every source of knowledge to get more of the place I visited. But none could be found.
Slowly the memories disappeared and the leaf he gave me, I planted it on my farm. A rose flower grew from it, I was not sure how it happened but it was beautiful. Years and years went by and one day I heard the music of the man again. His soft, melodious voice with mandoline in the background, I knew he was out there looking over me. I would find him one day and together we will live in his tree home.
“Sooner we may meet, but no sooner I say”