What’s Up

Hello again.

So, the month of July is at its end, and as promised, ‘Black Rose’ now has a collection of two hundred posts, the last sixteen of which were published this month, under the new category ‘Autumn’. Now I realize it may be a huge overstepping to assume you have loved each and every chapter in the category, but I hope you liked it overall, and somehow connected through it, and may be even liked it chapter for chapter. Thank you for that, if it is so.

But it is time to move ahead. So what have I been up to while you were reading ‘Autumn’? Well for that I will have to begin from the beginning of July, and so it might be a long post, but I’ll try to bring it down to a small topic, postponing more minute details for later posts. Among happening things, I paid a visit to Agra. If that name strikes a chord with non-Indians, you’re probably not wrong. Agra holds in it one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. I’ll obviously not bore you with its descriptions, which you might have already learned time and again in history books or if you were ever doing a thesis on it, and so I’ll keep it short by saying, it was a good trip, but I think a trip in the winter would have probably helped me appreciate the Taj more than I did this time. Moving on, so, yeah I am an engineer now; which for those who are new to Indian college system, means that I have finished four years of my undergraduate studies and now have a ‘placement offer’, which really means that I work in a firm for nine hours a day to earn a living. Yeah, four years have passed, isn’t it sentimental? I had started this blog five months into my college. Long time. Anyhow, so while I work for most of the day, I do have free weekends when I try to do some writing for the blog, some learning up of vocabulary so that my future posts could have a little more of better words, new words. Neologism it is called, the making of new words; well that is something I learnt while learning new words. There.

In other news, when on one hand I have stopped reading ‘A Feast for Crows’, postponing it for a later time when I have lesser things on my mind, right now I am taking up two courses on Coursera, which I hope, would help me increase my value; to what extent, only time can say. Andrew Ng from Stanford has offered a course on Machine Learning, which is very interesting indeed; I urge you to look it up online sometime and may be take the course when it is offered the next time, you will probably have a very good time through it. Dan Boneh, also from Stanford, is offering a course on Cryptography, which is a bit difficult, at least for me, since I did not have the course in my college, but it is okay and kind of doable; you might want to go online and check the site for more courses which are better aligned to your interests.

Apart from that, what else is on my mind? I have started working out a little, so you might see a completely reformed ‘me’ in a few months from now. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Coming to my blog, well August would be slightly less packed, and I think I will put up not many verses and prose around here this month, so that if you really want to read and haven’t read ‘Autumn’, may be you can read them up. I have an array of plans for this blog ahead, which will represent the new ‘Black Rose’, celebrating two hundred posts. You might see a shift in ideas, a change of paradigm, and a new approach to writing. Apart from that, I really want to delve more into analytical writing, and reviews, but I don’t know how much successful either of them would be. So I think I will start with analytical writing soon, writing on issues and interacting more with you, talking more about what your views are, and how they are aligned or not aligned with mine. So yes, that might be an interesting notion, which I may experiment with, soon.

Fiction. Well, no, I think I am not going to post much of fiction in the coming two months. For fiction, you will have to wait until October, when I promise I will bring to you a new dimension of fiction for this blog. They say though you might not always get what you wish for, you will always get what you work for. I want to put this thought into action and stop for now, and go do some work that might help me. Happy reading! And I hope the verses this month help you develop a keener sense of imagination, and a predilection towards fantasy.

#15 – The Gale of Winter

Bello woke up sweaty. He had had a bad dream, he knew it wasn’t really much of a dream, more of a warning it was. In his dream, Fahhr stood in front of him, in both his hands were two heads, both had their eyes closed, and a wry smile on their faces. They were killed in their sleep, Bello realized. He tried to imagine how the last moments of Syra and Kazh might have been. That was the point he woke up. He was late. They had to be on their way, along with the others, to cross the mountain, before the Things could reach them. Then came the gale.

The wind blew so hard more than half the people got buried in the ice. The Mountain was close. They could see the peak, and they knew they had to reach it somehow. Amidst the noise of the gale and the rain and thunders, Bello felt he heard a screech. He kept quiet, because he didn’t want his fears to creep into the others. The Things couldn’t be so near, he heard himself say. They kept walking. The screeches and the hisses kept getting louder. Were they actually around? No, it couldn’t be. His dream indeed came true. Moments later, Fahhr came and stood before him, in both his hands were two heads, both had their eyes closed, and a wry smile on their faces. Syra and Kazh. “The oak fell on them,” he said. “Many more have died.” Bello kept silent. He couldn’t undo it, and there was nothing he could do about it either. He pretended to be a stoic, and kept walking. He had to be strong.

They walked another mile, then another. Bello saw a huge man walking through the mist. He had the face of Brad, he felt, but said nothing. They looked at each other, and in the next moment, Brad’s nails thrust deep into Bello’s throat. Bello spit up blood, and looked up at him. “I am of this world a Thing, and will remain so forever,” Brad whispered. Bello closed his eyes, one last time.

Suddenly, the sky turned black, as if night crept on morning. Fahhr looked up into the sky, and for a moment his mouth remained wide open. He saw them, thousands of them, flying in the sky, ready to swoop down upon them. “Run!” he shouted. But running wouldn’t do. They swooped down all of a sudden, the screeches louder than ever, louder than the shouts of the people around. And then there was fire. Fahhr rushed to the Headmaster. “What do we do now?” he asked. The Headmaster laughed, ever so loudly. “There is nothing you can do but to surrender to us, you fools!” he cried, and slowly he grew until he was of the shape of a Tasmanian tiger. He breathed out fire, until Fahhr was charred black, and then he flew, screeching, “Fly! Now! Fly! Now!”

It was the dawn of a new world, a new era where everything would be ruled by a sect who were once people, normal humans, but had turned to become only Things. Such was the tragedy of life, that they had to submit to the more powerful, and allow them to rule over them. Such was the tragedy of life.


#14 – The Hiss of the Dragon

The dragon hissed loud. The Things knew. They knew how close they were to the men of earth. They kept flying. The whole thing would be over in a while, they knew. They would kill each and every one of them, lay a new foundation where the earth was ruled by them instead of the humans, who were stupid and far below their level in terms of power, intellect and resources. They knew.

When they reached the Mountain, they stopped. It was only dusk then, and the humans wouldn’t cross it until dawn. They would be taken by surprise, thought one. A journey that would have taken hundreds of days got cut short to such an extent, and how did they do it? He laughed at himself when he thought about it. They had never thought of it before, and he didn’t know why it had been so. They had forgotten the basics of what they had been taught lives ago. They didn’t remember they could journey through the center of the earth. If that done, their time would have reduced on every trip that they made, but then, they had to have learned it some time, and this was the time.

They drank and they sang and they danced all night. Winter would be on them soon here. They had to enjoy the summer as much as they could, for this was the foretold Land of Always Summer. They had only heard about it, but now they witnessed the very being of it. They feasted on meat and their bellies were tight on alcohol. Yet they kept celebrating. It was almost midnight when one Thing, called Xaroxys, was so drunk he blew out fire and burned another Thing. The Death of Phaxys. The singers made a song on that, and sang throughout the rest of the night, whilst Xaroxys told stories of how it happened.

It was almost dawn when finally the singing stopped. Through the patters of the rain and the rumblings of thunder, the Things heard it. The humans were coming. They were near. The Things smiled. Someone was in for a big surprise. They put off their fires and put out their wings. Then they soared into the sky, one last time.

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#13 – The Death of the Raven

Syra moved stealthily, all the while surefooted on the slippery ice, while she made her way into his room. She stood at the entrance, looking at the entire room, her eyes moving from one corner of the room to the other, deciding if it were the right place she was in. Then she entered.

Outside the door, a man waited. He was a cobbler in his days, now he had nothing but his son and a wife who didn’t remember him although she was always around. Kazh, he was called. Once he had a happy life, but now only the remnants of it in his memory served to bring up a smile on his face once a while. He waited. He knew it would not be long before his guest came up. And soon he did. Clad in brown, fur and leather, always bearing a wicked smile, his hands stronger than any that ever lived, he came and stood by him. He was his son, Fahhr. Or so everyone thought. But Kazh knew the truth. Only if he could speak up.

When they entered man and son, Syra lay on the bed with him. She tried to cover herself, but after a moment she decided it wasn’t worth the effort. He stood up. “Kazh and Fahhr.” He smiled. “I have seen you in the litter, and heard a lot about you as a boy, yet I knew not that our meeting would be in this fashion. People think I am dead. You would know I am not.”

“Yes, headmaster. But.. there is this I cannot comprehend. We saw you get buried in stones. How did you manage to come back amidst us, back from your afterlife?” The headmaster only smiled. “There are things I have learned, boy, in this journey. And much of it you may not believe, though know this for sure. The Things are for real. I have seen them, and they are coming. Even as the raven on my window-sill died today, it croaked and I listened to it. It said, ‘Fly! Now! Fly! Now!’ Do you know what that means?”

“No,” came the reply.

“Then I will tell you,” replied the Headmaster. “I will tell you. I will tell you. For now, it’s our time to fly.”

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#12 – The Howl of the Wolf

The Things sat around the Fire, shouting, screaming, singing and drinking. They prayed to their gods. New Things would be joining them today, and they would arise from the Fire they prayed to. They had been praying for hours and days together now, but neither had the Wolf howled nor had the Fire given them their presents. They feasted on meat of the horses they rode, now that they could fly, who would need the horses? And they kept praying.

From the fire, rose the bodies of the new Things. They were happy. They knew that the Things were not the only kind of creatures on this world, but whatever other creatures existed, they would slowly all turn into Things. The Fire would do that, as it had been doing all these years. The wolf howled. A boy emerged from the fire. He had a wound on the left, where they knew the fabled humans had their hearts. Now it was theirs. “Tell us your name,” they demanded.

“I am of this world a Thing, and will remain so forever. This thing’s name is Brad.”

A smile gleamed over their faces. “And tell me, Brad, what do you remember of your previous life?”

“Nothing. I am of this world a Thing, and will remain so forever.”

In the next one hour hundreds of such came, increasing their strength manifold. The Things smiled at all, sharing their beer and bread with every one of them, until they all decided it was time to put off the Fire. Once the fire was out, they flew. To the humans. They flew.

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#11 – Barren Trees

Brad was laid down on Bello’s lap. He murmured something which was too faint to hear. When Bello brought his ear very close to his lips, he kissed him softly on the ears and whispered, “Fly now.” He was dying. The pain was too much to endure. When the wolf had first torn his flesh, it had hurt; but then it started numbing down as the doctor gave him the ointments and medicines. Yet before long, he knew what the doctor had done. He didn’t tell anyone, he didn’t want others dead too, but he knew that the doctor had been poisoning everyone with his medicines. All the medicines contained the same chemical, which was soothing in less quantities, but over a period of time, it would kill everything inside a man, and finally take his life. He knew it. He knew he was dying. Yet he didn’t mutter a word.

When Bello promised him they’d die together, Brad had smiled. He knew nothing of this world. Brad had higher dreams. Once dead he would join the Things. He would persuade them to not enforce their laws on the human world, and would see a happy end to the journey at both ends. He closed his eyes and dozed off. Bello kept praying. When his eyes opened, there was an arrow through Brad’s chest, where he knew the heart was. There was only one man who knew to use the crossbow, and Bello rushed into his tent.

‘Edward!’ he cried out. The Headmaster was sitting on his bed, feeding grains to the raven. The raven shrieked “Fly! Now! Fly! Now!” but no one paid it any heed. Edward tried to stand up, but Bello kicked him on his groin and threw him down on the ground. “Why did you kill him?” he asked. The Headmaster only smiled. He stood up again, and Bello kicked him down again. “Why did you kill him?” he shouted louder. Edward wanted to explain how he couldn’t allow his teachings to go into a waste, how he couldn’t allow the smaller children to see two men loving each other, how he himself had once loved a man so dearly and how heavy a price he did pay for it, but instead he only smiled. That was his last smile.

Under the barren trees, they laid the bodies of Brad and the Headmaster. They looked so alike, and no one knew how much alike they actually were. Their eyes were serene, and under the glistening moon, they covered the father and the son in layers of ice. They kept walking ahead, but the raven on the tree above still croaked, “Fly! Now! Fly! Now!”

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#10 – A Cold Night

The hills used to be stagnant, though no one could tell how long it had been since they started moving. The clouds burdened with mist, made their ways into the lands and seas. It rained today, and it rained heavily. Pellets of water came first, but pellets of ice followed soon after. In a moment everyone was rushing to the nearest shelter. The Headmaster’s daughter rushed to a tree beside her. She staggered now and then, her strength not yet revived from the birth she gave a fortnight ago. Then everyone saw her guy come and pick her up and take her beneath the nearest oak, to shelter from the winds and the ice. Only a few days ago had he saved her life. They had always shared the same rugs after that, until now. A huge creak sounded and everyone looked up. It was falling, the heavy trunk was uprooted. In a flash it happened.

It took some time to pull out the bodies of the two from underneath the tree. Their eyes were open, blood tricking from the forehead towards their lips, yet frozen beside the ear. Ice and blood, the duo was lethal. They buried the bodies, and moved ahead. The road was covered with ice up to their knees. Tonight would be a cold night. They would have no choice but to light the fires. And when they did that, they knew the signal that they would send. Fire. They already had ice and blood that day, and now they would have a fire. Everybody knew what the three together meant, except the ones who were so young they still suckled at their mothers’. They had no choice. They kept walking.

The road was long, and for boys who were young, it was no easy task. Janas limped, even more than before, his leg aching, his hands frozen, the stump of his other leg turned into an icicle. But he never stopped. He knew he wouldn’t make it for long. But he would have the night’s dinner, he was hungry, he would eat and he would sleep, and then he knew he wouldn’t wake up. That was no reason to give up. He would walk. He prayed to the gods, to let him see another day, and wished fervently that they would listen to him.

Night approached them like a hungry wolf. It encumbered Janas even more. And then someone did him a mercy. The air whooshed around him and the next moment he looked down he saw an arrow through the place where they had learned the heart was. He fell to the ground, trying to look behind, to see who did it, to see who the gods had sent to mock him. His eyes had almost closed by the time he turned around. And then he saw. Through the quarter-opened slit in his eyes, he saw. He was carrying a bow, though he looked too old to use one. Could it be true what he was seeing? He came up to him, bent a little and said, “Remember me in your afterlife, boy, and remember I taught you about death, once today, and once more long ago. Do you remember?”

“Yes, when we were in school, Headmaster,” was the last thing Janas muttered.

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