Nobody ever challenges me to anything. Abhishek Mukherjee, on the other hand, gets a lot of delicious challenges, the latest of which is from the esteemed Devapriya Roy (whose lovely book I reviewed here)
The challenge was that Ms. Roy supplied Mr. Mukherjee with 14 photographs, of which he had the freedom to choose any 10, in whatever order, and build a story around them. This is the result of that challenge, and I request you to please read it before you read on. The story is perfectly fine, if a bit disjointed, but it’s a rainy Saturday morning, and I’m home alone, and I don’t want to read about a tearful spinster dreading her upcoming wedding.
As I just mentioned, nobody challenges me to anything, so I have to scavenge other peoples’ challenges for inspiration. This is the story I wrote this morning, based on the exact ten photographs that Abhishek used, in the same order.
Hope you enjoy it!
His men had asked him not to step out onto the balcony, but the Boy King went anyway, drawn by the sound of wailing. The royal courtyard was covered with bodies- bodies of sailors and fishermen, unmarked, unbloody, they could almost be taken for sleeping, had it not been for the ripe smell of carcass that hit him full in the gullet. Even the widows, wailing like alley cats, kept a small distance from the pit that now smelt like nothing apart from death.
“They washed ashore. In hundreds, the fisher-folk would have us believe. They’ve dragged these bodies out for His Royal Person to see.” The information came from his royal guard, Bankejiwan Murali, a giant of a man with an overall air of slickness.
“Wha..what’s killing them?”
“Kaali Kapalini knows. Some sea disease probably. They talk of some stone eyed monster from the deep. But that’s just fisherfolk talk, your highness. They want the King to protect them.”
The boy turned away from the gilded railings overlooking the sinister view below. “My father. They want my father to protect them. Take me to the Lizard Children”
The Lizard Children were misnamed. It would have been closer to the mark to have called them the Chameleon Children, for they could change their colors to match their environment, and had tongues half a mile long tucked in their throats. His father bought them back, suckling infants, twins from the womb of a Narigodhika, from his last conquest, the Garden City. The King had been grievously injured even in victory, and had lingered for two weeks before his bleeding, rotting innards took him away to a better place, but the twins had thrived. That had been four years ago. Now they no longer looked like identical wrinkled foetuses. Vedaara, at four, had the size and strength of a ten year old. Kataki had not grown after her first year, keeping her resemblance to an angelic toddler in a basket with wheels. They both looked perfectly human, till you peered into their eyes .
Today, the Lizard Children, grey against a grey sky, turned their head in unison to look at the Boy King approach them. “Your highness,“ Kataki krilled, “we have been expecting you. The days are dark.”
“You have heard, then, of the massacre along the coast?”
“The Godhaks do not need to hear, King.” It was Vedaara who looked at him this time.” We can smell death. We can smell the storm. We know what approaches”
“What approaches, then? What haunts my sea-farers? Tell me if you know!” the King was finding it difficult keeping the desperation out of his voice.
The children looked at him with cold, unmoving eyes. Then they spoke in one voice, the krill-krill of their throats making the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
“He sleeps the deep, the depth of dark
No god may ever touch his mark
He dreams the world, he dreams the sea
Awaken not the Mahitsuri”