“Please! Please! Let me go! Who are you people?”
A herd of ferocious creatures dragged Annika along the coarse edges of the ground. The golden feather-like leaves turned to ripping blades piercing through her delicate legs, sketching scars all over her subtle flesh. Her hands streaked the marks of the ropes that imprisoned her; her head was off the pitch with concussion. Gasping for breath, she tried to make out what doomed palace she was in, but all of her efforts proved fatal. Miles afar, all that seemed to exist was an uproarious blanket of silence and a shield of menacing darkness.
Somehow catching some breath, she managed to catch a glare of the crowd that carried her tied up exhausted body as though she wasn’t even alive. They were normal people; men, women, the young and the old. However, what made their ordinary existence a little extraordinary was how all of them were dressed as if they were a part of some kind of a traditional cult; the women wore a saffron chiffon, a lace so fragile and transparent that one could see right through their enticing beauty while the men had an aghori-like outlook, three wide white lines smeared on their head as if representing the symbol of their cult. Amidst the woods, Annika was nothing but a slave of her patience.
“Put her behind the bars and whoever tries to show mercy or set her free will be hanged.”, the voices echoed in Annika’s head as her vision was obliterated. The sound was indeed of a young girl, a naïve who did not even understand the depth of life yet probably. Why would a young girl try to hurt her? To decode her assumption, she tried to look through somehow and all she could get was a glance of the girl’s smooth wavy black hair.
Soon she was thrashed like a useless baggage of trash into a cage built with perfectly carved and flourished bamboos as if it was the work of a skilled man. She screamed frequently in a hope for mercy, however her fate seemed to have lost its course. It was near midnight and she was famished when she heard a mild whispering,
“I could give you some fresh apples if you would like”, uttered an old woman of about sixty years of age. The strands of her hair were all grey with little streaks of a golden shade, her eyes so tiny as if most of it was embedded deep into the skull. Her voice however outshined the delicate appearance as even the whispering seemed to be heavy.
“Please! Why am I here? Who are you people? You can have whatever you want just let me go”, Annika expressed with utmost sorrow.
“sh...! Be quiet child. If the queen hears us, I will be damned”
“Queen? Who is your queen?”
“She is the goddess of your life and death!”, smirked the old woman as though hiding a series of mysteries.
“Please, let me go. I will offer your queen with all the precious jewels just please I can’t stay here.”
“What our queen wants is to enslave you! Now do not make a fuss or I will snatch the only mercy I could offer you in spite of putting my own life in danger. You should be grateful to me you spoilt child.”
Annika rested her eyes on those luscious red apples wondering if they were poisoned. Since she was no longer hopeful, concluding that death by poison would be better than a lifetime of enslavement, she blinked her eyes in affirmation. As soon she got the bite of those delicious treat, she was delighted for never in her life had she ever tasted apples so savoury and sweet. However, as her hunger calmed down, there was absolutely nothing else left to distract her from the anxiety and fear.
Under the canopy of bamboo bars and a surrounding encasing nothing but woods, even the stars seemed to scare her. She crawled into a corner and pondered over her life before all this; how perfect her life could have been if she had not recklessly complicated it. She thought of all the good things she might never get again; the giggles of her loved ones, the satisfaction of being free, a crystal clear sky without any bars. She regretted not her passions and desires when she had the chance to. It was when she began to drown in the fear of fading into the oblivion, when she spot a shadow against the moonlight. She knew, it was the girl.
“Why have you kept me here like a prisoner? I deserve to know”, stuttered Annika as her voice broke down after crying her heart out.
A wrinkled paper, crushed vigorously was passed to her through the bars with some words written on it: “YOU MADE ME EVIL THEREFORE I WILL CONTROL YOUR LIFE. YOU WILL SOON KNOW WHO I AM.”
“What? That’s absurd! I don’t even know you.”
The girl reclined and in the tinge of the light Annika was quick enough to observe a dark spot on one of her forearms. The shadow disappeared. Annika wasn’t even sure if the girl had heard her voice. She was convinced that was the queen but why would a young girl want to destroy her life was a mystery she could not yet understand.
In those totally helpless hours, the memories of her happy days flooded back to her; how perfect her little compact life was and how recklessly she let those moments fleet away. She craved for the warmth of her loved ones, the red hot flame of her passion, the laughter and giggles that would make her tummy pain out of joy. All those ordinary instances seemed like a paradise of eternity. If only she could relive her life again!
The reminiscence of the good old days infused a sudden rage in her veins. She decided whoever the queen was, did not deserve to claim her life. Her eyes rummaged for a weapon or tool or any possible object that could help her escape and there, few inches off the cage she found a chiselled rock had come to her rescue. She, laid on her knees, bent as much as she could, stretched her arms out of the bars with all her might and caught hold of the weapon. Cautious of not making any conspicuous noise, she started to rip off the bamboo bars with the rock. She could hear her heart pounding, pearls of sweat trickled down her spine, the fear tried to paralyze her soul however the fury of hope; hope for a second chance at life triggered all of her bottled up aggression. Within few minutes, she was free!
A blend of anxiety and faith surged through her blood. She ran like it was the last race of her life; a race of freedom and slavery. The chivalry of nature transformed to her most horrific nightmare, the huge trees looked like a shape shifting monster, the playful movements of adorable animals were heard as the footsteps of the de*il, the glossing moonlight put her in the spotlight for the ultimate destruction, but she didn’t look back and “thud!” her legs crackled against a hidden rock and her head hit the ground.
She tried to open her eyes but the sudden flash of lights blinded her. After gradually trying, she got a track of her senses only to find her in her own room huddled up in a cozy blanket. She took a look at her hands; there were no carvings of the tied rope, no scratches on her flesh. She thought why she would have such an absurd dream and who would actually want to entrap her. She rolled her eyes, stretched her frazzled body and gave a stupefying glance at her distorted mirror; those black wavy strands of hair, a dark patch on the forearm; there she had found the queen! The queen who held her as a slave! The goddess of her life and death!