A fateful encounter that changes a girl’s life forever …
or leaves it forever same.
I know you won’t believe me. You can’t. Nevertheless, just hear me out.
Yesterday I met a young stranger. He was an epitome of loveliness. I was a common sunburnt
Kolpa girl. Indeed, it was like a fairy tale.
‘You will help me, yes?’ he looked at me. I stood up promptly.
‘Can we get a nice view from here of the Holy Prayer?’ He stared at the ancient Temple of Azurpa.
He was a tourist, all right. The local sands rarely produce such beauty. I thought of Crasika, once my neighbour, who had become a temple priestess two months ago.
‘If we climb the upper branches’ I nodded ‘we get a really good view of the Worship Porch.’
‘Let’s go.’ He reached out for me. With fluttering heart, I followed him.
He was Ronja. He had come here for an important job. He enquired about life here. How the priestesses of Azurpa were chosen. How they only came out for morning and evening Prayer. How the head Priest spent his life in constant meditation, hidden behind the red, curtained chamber in the temple.
The toll of the Holy bell announced the morning Holy Prayer. Locals and tourists alike, abandoned all the work and mumbled prayers with raised arms. That was the rule.
I was happily breaking it.
Then the golden gates of the temple flew open and the priestesses marched out in rows of two. With their red robes and white blindfolds, they looked otherworldly. Being one of them was the highest of honours and a life long duty. Crasika, an orphan, was one of the chosen few. I liked her but I was jealous!
I spotted her chanting to heavens, youngest of the sacred lot. So gorgeous! With the change in their chant, the people around the city bowed.
Ronja shook my shoulders hysterically. ‘Can I speak to priestesses?’
‘You can ask for their blessings once the gathering is concluded.’ I blinked at him. The city said its final prayer. The gathering was over. ‘It’s too late…’
I only saw his shadow, dashing through the revitalised streets. I scurried after him.
Dense crowds swarmed the priestesses. Big brutes in white attires waved away anyone who got too near. They were the priestesses’ guards. Ronja fought through the devotees, stopping below a priestess.
It was Crasika. She was whispering blessings in the ears of worshipers.
‘The life is still filled with colours.’ His voice was hoarse with emotions ‘It calls us.’
Crasika froze, then bent and whispered something in his ears. He reached out to her but a white brute pushed him away.
With wet blindfolds, Crasika left. The crowd dispersed. Only Ronja stayed, slumped in the dust.
Life is very unfair. Priestesses were having princes chase them and I had nothing.
The Crescent moon rose quietly above the horizon. Time again stopped to pay its respect to Gods. By one bowl torch that illuminated the Worship Porch, I searched for Ronja.
As I bowed in reverence to the chanting priestesses, I saw Ronja bowing, too close to the porch. Crasika was standing right above him.
While everyone bowed again, Ronja did not. He pulled Crasika down by her waist. She screamed as the guard took hold of her one slender arm. The devotees gasped.
I do not know why I did it. With all my might, I pushed down the bowl torch towards the porch, which tumbled with a thunder, igniting everything in its way.
Crasika fell limply in Ronja’s arms as the guard yelped and everything turned in a tumult. A horrified clamour of perplexity maddened the masses.
I shoved past blurred faces, to where they stood embracing. Her blindfolds were off. ‘Thank you, for your help.’ He smiled, taking her hand in his ‘whoever you are.’
‘I am…’ but he didn’t wait for my reply. They had disappeared into the multitude.
I stood there, alone. That was the end of my fairytale. I looked at my burnt hands. I hated Crasika. Why couldn’t Ronja…?
I had committed a sin and I decided to purge myself.
At the temple, the porch was still ablaze. In all the confusion, I sneaked into the temple.
‘Blasphemy!’ my voice echoed in the hallowed hall ‘A priestess has eloped with her lover! Her name is Crasika!’
Nothing! Angrily, I entered the forbidden chamber beyond the curtains.
There sat the saintly being. Every part of his body was covered white and red silk.
‘Please break your…’ I peeped under the veil. I stopped dead.
There was no skin, no flesh, only bones. A skeleton!
My body shivered.
His hands, hidden in his sleeves, were clasping a relic. It was a strange disk, engraved with numbers up to twelve and three sticks. In spite of all my fears, I touched it. The sticks become alive, moving with faint ticks. I instantly stepped back. World had calmed.
Suddenly, the skeleton grabbed my hand, its bony fingers burning in my wrists.
‘You shall know’ it hissed at me through the lipless teeth, glaring with his hollow eyes. ‘You shall know, and you shall tell but no one shall listen!’
I screamed and pushed the spectre away. I ran away wailing. I dashed outside and left the chattering skeleton behind.
A cloud of dust engulfed me. I was blinded, deafened, numbed. Then I heard screams, crying for help all around me. I reached out, finding only dust.
The sand was suffocating me, strangling my life out. Breathing my last, I saw bodies, corpses lying in the dust.
Then I died.
‘So…’ someone enquired politely ‘We all died yesterday?’
‘In a way’ I grinned ‘Yes.’
They all burst into laughter.
My father patted my head ‘Stop wasting your time, girl!’
Savouring his loving touch, I saw them all engulf themselves in their daily, mundane tasks.
It was time.
‘You will help me, yes?’ He informed me.
I picked myself up, by instincts. However, I know you will not believe me.