The purple tree at the end of the road

The bright lights were almost too much for Joan to handle. She almost closed her eyes before remembering that she shouldn’t. She remembered thinking to herself, this is the finish line then, this is where it all ends…

When she woke up, she felt strangely at peace. It was an unsettling feeling, for she had never known such peace, ever. She opened her eyes to what looked like a park. She was lying on what seemed to be grass which was rapidly turning white. She looked around, it was snowing. That threw her a bit, she could’ve sworn it was July. Funnily enough, she wasn’t cold at all, nor was she getting wet even though she were standing in the snow in what passed as summer clothes. She realised that she was standing halfway up a hillock. She looked up to see nothing but darkness on the path leading up. A little way down from where she was, she spotted a strange tree that emitted a purple glow. She wondered briefly, how she could tell that it was purple, for other than the ghostly white snow, all was dark.

She hesitated for a minute or two, then decided to make her way down to the tree. As she walked downhill, she became aware of the changing light. It became brighter, but not piercingly so. Bit by bit, her surroundings became clearer. It wasn’t night anymore. Nor was it snowing anymore. She was walking on a grassy path. There were tiny yellow and red flowers under her feet, peeking their heads up shyly, as if to say hello. There was a light, pleasant, breeze that reminded her of the late springs of her childhood. She walked until there was no path to walk on. She was at the edge of a pond with clear, glassy green water. She could see life underneath. There were plants in a variety of colours that looked as if they were lit within. There were schools of fish and other life forms, some swimming placidly by, others resting among the plants. She looked toward the tree again. She didn’t know why, but she felt that it is her destination, somehow, it was very important that she get there.

As she kept looking at the tree, the water that was lapping at her feet swept away to both sides it. There was a path of completely dry sand leading up to the tree. She hesitated for a moment, all of it seemed too easy, too good to be true. She made up her mind to take a chance and stepped on to the white sand. She walked right to the base of the tree. She looked up to the branches, there seemed to be no end to them. She couldn’t see where the tree ended and the sky began. She didn’t know what to do now. She looked up again, to see her mother smiling down at her. At her shoulder were everyone she had thought she’d never see ever again, all smiling down at her. She was at a total loss for words. She smiled through her tears as her mother took her in her arms and said, “Dearest, you’re home again”.

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Growing old

Every grey hair, every new facial line, made her face a universal truth she didn’t want to. Contemplating one’s own mortality, is, after all, not a pleasant business, for anyone. In the ledger of regrets, the reds were the things she never found the time to do, rather than the ones she did. Watching the seasons go by had a poetic beauty that appealed to her. But the reality was a tad more daunting. To think that one day in the not so distant future, she will cease to exist was almost unfathomable, no matter how real it was.

 

Peace

She seemed to have walked into an old churchyard without realising it. She didn’t know what time it was, or how long she had walked. She had been thinking about an incident at work, and seemed to have lost all track of time and direction. She looked around in confusion. She really had no idea where she was ! And she didn’t have her mobile phone on her either. Her computer quitting on her all too often at work had put her in a rather technophobic mood and she had left it at home. She looked up at the steeples of the church, rising defiantly into the sky. There were no lights anywhere. Perhaps it is abandoned, she thought to herself. But it didn’t look so. It looked old, sure, but also well maintained, the hedges surrounding the yard were neatly trimmed, there was even what looked like a small garden in one corner. It was dark, too dark to see anything clearly, but she was, surprisingly, not scared at all. It was quiet too, the only sounds were the usual nocturnal insect noises and the breathless whispers of the light breeze. She stopped fidgeting and stood still for a moment, breathing in the night air. For the first time since that morning, her mind was finally quiet. Her thoughts had stopped churning endlessly. Finally, there was peace.

-In response to this prompt, https://godoggocafe.com/2019/05/07/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-tuesday-may-7-2019/.Pe

The white room

It was one of those rare instances where reality matched up exactly with the imagination. This was exactly what Jonas had imagined a completely white room to look like. It was devoid of all furniture but for a table with two chairs (big surprise, they were also white!) facing each other at the exact centre of the room. Jonas couldn’t remember how he got here. He didn’t even know where here was or why he was here. He looked around again to see of he had missed anything. He felt a little unsettled, but he didn’t feel like he was in any immediate danger. There was nothing to do but wait, he thought to himself, as he walked over to the table and sat down on one of the chairs. For what ? A slightly squeaky voice at the very back of his mind asked. He didn’t have an answer to that.

Jonas had heard the expression about the silence being deafening, but he had never actually thought about it, nor had he ever understood it. But he was starting to now. The only sounds he could hear were his own periodic breaths and heartbeats. He strained his ears, listening for any other sounds, there were none. He sat back in the chair and decided to think this out rationally. He didn’t have any trouble breathing, so that’s good. But he didn’t know where he was, how he got here or why he was here – bad, bad, bad. Also, he was getting a little thirsty. He was looking around aimlessly as he thought this, and spotted a drinking fountain (also white, with white pipe fittings?) in one corner. His brow furrowed, it surely hadn’t been there when he looked around earlier. He walked tentatively towards it and held out his hand under it. He removed it hurriedly as a clear, odourless liquid streamed through it and fell into the basin underneath. It looked like water all right, he thought. He wet one of his fingers under the tap and tasted it. It tasted like water as well. He had never quite liked the idea of sticking his head under the tap at drinking fountains. Just as he thought he’d have to bow to the inevitable and drink directly from the tap, he spotted a glass right next to where he had rested his left hand at the basin. He could’ve sworn it wasn’t there a moment ago. He picked it up and examined it. It looked normal, and he was too thirsty for a closer inspection.

He drank a glass of water from the fountain, filled the glass again and brought it with him to the table. He sat back in the chair, and yet again, took stock of the situation. Well, it hadn’t really changed in the last hour, and there wasn’t anything he still could do. So he just sat there, listening, waiting, watching for any change in his surroundings.

Memories

The chamber had been her father’s study of old. It had a general air of neglect, cobwebs littered the tables and chairs, and the gentle pitter-patter of scurrying mice echoed in the silent corridor. Hers had been the first human feet to enter it in the last twenty years or so. Every one else who had known of its existence had perished long ago. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, not quite knowing how to feel about being back here. Her memories of her father were interlaced with a confused mixture of emotions. The man who played with her and the man who sang her to sleep was also the man who had abandoned her mother and herself. He was the man who caused the deaths of countless people, her mother and brother among them. He was the man who came to her in strange dreams and begged for her forgiveness while professing his unconditional love for her. She no longer knew how she felt about him.

On the shelf in one corner of the room stood the harp he used to play to her, the silver harp of the Silver Harper. It was a wonder it hadn’t fallen to pieces in all this time. She hesitantly plucked a string. Its plangent note almost startled her. She hadn’t expected it to still be in tune. She gently picked it up and held it to her breast. It was the first time she had ever held it. She had been too young and too small to do so without dropping it the last time she was here. She walked back to the door, still hugging the harp close to her heart. As the door shut close behind her, disappearing once more into obscurity, it symbolised more than anything, her feelings for her father. Perhaps unconsciously, she had decided to keep the good memories and discard the bad ones. She might never actually forgive him for the transgressions that had hurt her mother and given her severe abandonment issues, but she may have made peace with the fact that he did, in fact, love her.

  • I’ve been binge (re)reading and binge (re)watching Game of Thrones for the past week, so maybe this counts as some sort of obscure fan fiction. Any guesses as to which character I’m talking about ? Hint: She’s already dead in canon.

Presence

When the musty smells of Winter move over for the freshness of early Spring, I always think of you. When the dewy snow drops melt into nothingness, and trees stand proud wearing their crowns of new leaves and tiny yellow flowers, I feel your presence. I don’t know why this particular change of seasons reminds me of you, there are others during the year that do not. When I walk the empty roads, thinking about anything and everything in the light, refreshing rain, I often feel like you are watching me. Are you really, or is it just an echo of a wishful thought? As every new spring day dawns, I tell myself that I’m being silly, conjuring up these thoughts and moments and feelings, while I should be living out in the world rather than inside my head. And yet, and yet, I just can’t help thinking them and feeling you, all day, all around.

In the dark

Sophie’s life had been one filled with rash decisions. Being a life long advocate of ‘living in the moment’ had certain drawbacks. Being alone and scared in the darkness of her own home was just the most recent one. Ever since she had seen Dan on the street a few days ago, she had been seized by a nameless fear. It was irrational, she told herself, he hadn’t even seen her. Moreover, whatever had happened between them happened over a decade ago. It was way beyond water under the bridge. 

Try as she might, her fear refused to dissipate. She just couldn’t get his last words to her as he was being led away in handcuffs, out of her mind. He had said, “You’ll regret this, bitch. I’m coming back for you”. A shiver ran up her spine at the memory. It wasn’t so much the words that had unsettled her. It was the naked hatred in his eyes, the expression of a tethered wild animal, that set her teeth on edge. She heaved a sigh and closed her eyes. It was just a coincidence, she told herself. There was no way he could’ve found her. She had moved across the country and changed pretty much everything about her in an attempt to put that part of her life behind her. It was highly unlikely that his being in this city had anything to do with her at all. She was almost halfway through convincing herself that all was fine when she heard the sound of leaves crunching in her driveway. 

Moment

There was nothing dazzling about him. That was the first thing that she had noticed. He seemed rather normal. The tall erect form, the dark curly hair, the laugh that scrunched his nose up, they were all pleasant, but not extraordinary. That helped her relax a little bit, prone to severe social anxiety as she was. She always hid it very well, so that no one really knew about it. She breathed deeply and listened to him talk. He was so passionate about everything, and he actually knew quite a lot of things. Since he had arrived, he had had an opinion about everything. They weren’t the half-cooked opinions born of arrogance, but rather, well thought out reasonings that made one think. She slowly raised her eyes to his face. To her utter shock, his eyes locked on to hers. They were kind, so kind, and so far removed from his blustering manner.They were the warmest brown possible, sheltered by long dark lashes. She forgot to breathe. She felt as if this was the moment, the only moment that had ever occurred, the only moment worth living for.

In the midst of sadness and despair

Joy was nowhere to be found. Everywhere she looked, she saw only people in rags, crying, complaining about everything. It wasn’t their fault, really, she thought to herself, there wasn’t enough food or water to go around. She had lost count of how many days it has been since they have been stranded here. Death had been the only constant companion, arriving to claim someone every other day. She had lost count of the ones taken as well. She wondered if they might actually be at peace like all the religious books said. She hoped that they were, at least their misery has ended.

She walked to the edge of the clearing. Most of them were huddled in the centre, around the hastily concocted fireplace, relying on the dying embers and each other for warmth. She sat down by herself under one of the trees that lined the path to nowhere. She rested her back against its dense roots and looked back to where the others were. She wondered how many of them would survive this place. She wondered if she would. She wondered if any efforts were being made to find them. She leaned back and closed her eyes. She was hungry, cold and exhausted. She thought back to the day she left home, to the simple luxuries that she had taken for granted, like a soft bed and a hot shower, to the man she had met the night before who had seemed nice, to her parents who must surely be crazy with worry … It all seemed rather remote to her, almost as if they were images from another person’s life, which she seemed to be observing with mildly interested detachment. She sighed and turned her head to her side, as if the mild shake would dislodge these thoughts from her mind. All they would do was depress her further.

Her stomach growled, signalling the healthy appetite of a young woman. There was nothing to do about it. What food remained had been rationed and she had already had her share for the day. She decided to ignore her stomach. That had been her motto for the past few days, to blatantly ignore the things she can do nothing about, those phantoms that lurked above her head, above all of their heads, hunger, fear and death. She concentrated on her breathing, mimicking the breathing exercises she had seen in passing while switching channels on the television. She was drifting on that semi conscious bliss between sleep and wake when she was rudely interrupted by a light object falling on her face and then picking its way down her clothes. She startled awake and sat up, annoyed. She looked down to her lap and saw a tiny flower, yellow with a smattering of red freckles on its petals, still carrying the green vestige of its bud, delicate filaments poking through proudly almost like it was baring its teeth in a smile. A slow smile appeared on her face as she stared at the offending object. It widened and grew. She felt a relief that she hadn’t felt in days. It felt almost like a pleasant memory, of bright, warm, normal things. Amongst all this horror and death and ruin, in the midst of sadness and despair, here it was, one simple bloom, a tiny ray of light, a glimmer of hope, a testament to the fact that there is still life to be lived and beauty to be enjoyed. She felt as if a weight had lifted off of her shoulders.

The edge of forever

He started walking from the tree of knowledge. He didn’t want to see or think anymore. He hoped that the activity of walking and the associated fatigue will keep stray thoughts from invading his mind. It wasn’t until the needs of his body outweighed his need for no coherent thought that he stopped awhile. He looked around. He had reached the pond they called the sea. He sat down in the sand by its bank and tentatively reached out a hand to touch the water. But he couldn’t. As he reached his hand forward, the water seemed to recede. The further he extended his hand, the further the water receded. He sighed and gave up. He sat, staring at his reflection for a moment. His hair was matted, his eyes bloodshot and sunken, his face grimy and lined. He wondered, how long had it been that he had started walking, has it been days, months, years … He found that he didn’t mind having lost track of time at all. He raised his eyes to the horizon, the road lay spread out, far and wide. There was nothing of note to see around. He wondered, if it indeed was the way to go. He took a deep breath, braced his hands on the bank of the pond they called the sea, and thought to himself, perhaps this is it, the path to where he had set out for, the path to the edge of forever… He closed his eyes and dove in.