Posted in family, love, my library, reading, short stories

Test of Love #2


In case you missed out on one here u go

https://evamuturi.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/and-the-mountains-echoed-2/

…..There followed a forty-day mourning period. Every day, neighbors cooked meals for the family and kept vigil with them. People brought over what offerings they could tea,candy, bread, almonds—and they brought as well their condolences and sympathies. Baba Ayub could hardly bring himself to say so much as a word of thanks. He sat in a corner, weeping, streams of tears pouring from both eyes as though he meant to end the village’s streak of droughts with them.You wouldn’t wish his torment and suffering on the vilest of men. Several years passed. The droughts continued, and Maidan Sabz fell into even worse poverty. Several babies died of thirst in their cribs. The wells ran even lower and the river dried, unlike Baba Ayub’s anguish, a river that swelled and swelled with each passing day. He was of no use to his family any longer. He didn’t work, didn’t pray, hardly ate. His wife and children pleaded with him, but it was no good. His remaining sons had to take over his work, for every day Baba Ayub did nothing but sit at the edge of his field, a lone, wretched figure gazing toward the mountains. He stopped speaking to the villagers, for he believed they muttered things behind his back. They said he was a coward for willingly giving away his son. That he was an unfit father. A real father would have fought the div. He would have died defending his family. He mentioned this to his wife one night.

“They say no such things,” his wife replied. “No one thinks you are a coward.”

“I can hear them,” he said.

“It is your own voice you are hearing, husband,” she said. She, however, did not tell him that the villagers did whisper behind his back. And what they whispered was that he’d perhaps gone mad. And then one day, he gave them proof. He rose at dawn. Without waking his wife and children, he stowed a few scraps of bread into a burlap sack, put on his shoes, tied his scythe around his waist, and set off. He walked for many, many days. He walked until the sun was a faint red glow in the distance. Nights, he slept in caves as the wind whistled outside. Or else he slept beside rivers and beneath trees and among the cover of boulders. He ate his bread, and then he ate what he could find—wild berries, mushrooms, fish that he caught with his bare hands from streams—and some days he didn’t eat at all. But still he walked. When passersby asked where he was going, he told them, and some laughed, some hurried past for fear he was a madman, and some prayed for him, as they too had lost a child to the div. Baba Ayub kept his head down and walked. When his shoes fell apart, he fastened them to his feet with strings, and when the strings tore he pushed forward on bare feet. In this way, he traveled across deserts and valleys and mountains. At last he reached the mountain atop which sat the div’s fort. So eager he was to fulfill his quest that he didn’t rest and immediately began his climb, his clothes shredded, his feet bloodied, his hair caked with dust, but his resolve unshaken. The jagged rocks ripped his soles. Hawks pecked at his cheeks when he climbed past their nest. Violent gusts of wind nearly tore him from the side of the mountain. And still he climbed, from one rock to the next, until at last he stood before the massive gates of the div’s fort.

Who dares? the div’s voice boomed when Baba Ayub threw a stone at the gates.

Baba Ayub stated his name. “I come from the village of Maidan Sabz,” he said. Do you have a wish to die? Surely you must, disturbing me in my home! What is your business?

“I have come here to kill you.” There came a pause from the other side of the gates. And then the gates creaked open, and there stood the div, looming over Baba Ayub in all of its nightmarish glory.

Have you? it said in a voice thick as thunder.

“Indeed,” Baba Ayub said. “One way or another, one of us dies today.”

It appeared for a moment that the div would swipe Baba Ayub off the ground and finish him with a single bite of its dagger-sharp teeth. But something made the creature hesitate. It narrowed its eyes. Perhaps it was the craziness of the old man’s words. Perhaps it was the man’s appearance, the shredded garb, the bloodied face, the dust that coated him head to toe, the open sores on his skin. Or perhaps it was that, in the old man’s eyes, the div found not even a tinge of fear.

Where did you say you came from?

“Maidan Sabz,” said Baba Ayub.

It must be far away, by the look of you, this Maidan Sabz.

“I did not come here to palaver. I came here to—”

The div raised one clawed hand. Yes. Yes. You’ve come to kill me. I know. But surely I can be granted a few last words before I am slain.

“Very well,” said Baba Ayub. “But only a few.”

I thank you. The div grinned. May I ask what evil I have committed against you so as to warrant death?

“You took from me my youngest son,” Baba Ayub replied. “He was in the world the dearest thing to me.”

The div grunted and tapped its chin. I have taken many children from many fathers, it said.

Baba Ayub angrily drew his scythe. “Then I shall exact revenge on their behalf as well.”

I must say your courage rouses in me a surge of admiration.

“You know nothing of courage,” said Baba Ayub. “For courage, there must be something at stake. I come here with nothing to lose.”

You have your life to lose, said the div.

“You already took that from me.”

The div grunted again and studied Baba Ayub thoughtfully. After a time, it said, Very well, then. I will grant you your duel. But first I ask that you follow me.

“Be quick,” Baba Ayub said, “I am out of patience.” But the div was already walking toward a giant hallway, and Baba Ayub had no choice but to follow it. He trailed the div through a labyrinth of hallways, the ceiling of each nearly scraped the clouds, each supported by enormous columns. They passed many stairwells, and chambers big enough to contain all of Maidan Sabz. They walked this way until at last the div led Baba Ayub into an enormous room, at the far end of which was a curtain. Come closer, the div motioned. Baba Ayub stood next to the div. The div pulled the curtains open. Behind it was a glass window. Through the window, Baba Ayub looked down on an enormous garden. Lines of cypress trees bordered the garden, the ground at their base filled with flowers of all colors. There were pools made of blue tiles, and marble terraces, and lush green lawns. Baba Ayub saw beautifully sculpted hedges and water fountains gurgling in the shade of pomegranate trees. In three lifetimes he could not have imagined a place so beautiful. But what truly brought Baba Ayub to his knees was the sight of children running and playing happily in the garden. They chased one another through the walkways and around trees. They played games of hide-and-seek behind the hedges. Baba Ayub’s eyes searched among the children and at last found what he was looking for. There he was! His son Qais, alive, and more than well. He had grown in height, and his hair was longer than Baba Ayub remembered. He wore a beautiful white shirt over handsome trousers. He laughed happily as he ran after a pair of comrades.

“Qais,” Baba Ayub whispered, his breath fogging the glass. And then he screamed his son’s name. He cannot hear you, the div said. Nor see you. Baba Ayub jumped up and down, waving his arms and pounding on the glass, until the div pulled the curtains shut once more.

“I don’t understand,” Baba Ayub said. “I thought …”

This is your reward, the div said.

“Explain yourself,” Baba Ayub exclaimed.

I forced upon you a test.

“A test.”

A test of your love. It was a harsh challenge, I recognize, and its heavy toll upon you does not escape me. But you passed. This is your reward. And his.

“What if I hadn’t chosen,” cried Baba Ayub. “What if I had refused you your test?”

Then all your children would have perished, the div said, for they would have been cursed anyway, fathered as they were by a weak man. A coward who would see them all die rather than burden his own conscience. You say you have no courage, but I see it in you. What you did, the burden you agreed to shoulder, took courage. For that, I honor you. Baba Ayub weakly drew his scythe, but it slipped from his hand and struck the marble floor with a loud clang. His knees buckled, and he had to sit. Your son does not remember you, the div continued. This is his life now, and you saw for yourself his happiness. He is provided here with the finest food and clothes, with friendship and affection. He receives tutoring in the arts and languages and in the sciences, and in the ways of wisdom and charity. He wants for nothing. Someday, when he is a man, he may choose to leave, and he shall be free to do so. I suspect he will touch many lives with his kindness and bring happiness to those trapped in sorrow.

“I want to see him,” Baba Ayub said. “I want to take him home.”

Do you?

Baba Ayub looked up at the div.

The creature moved to a cabinet that sat near the curtains and removed from one of its drawers an hourglass. Do you know what that is, Abdullah, an hourglass? You do. Good. Well, the div took the hourglass, flipped it over, and placed it at Baba Ayub’s feet. I will allow you to take him home with you, the div said. If you choose to, he can never return here. If you choose not to, you can never return here. When all the sand has poured, I will ask for your decision. And with that, the div exited the chamber, leaving Baba Ayub with yet another painful choice to make. I will take him home, Baba Ayub thought immediately. This was what he desired the most, with every fiber of his being. Hadn’t he pictured this in a thousand dreams? To hold little Qais again, to kiss his cheek and feel the softness of his small hands in his own? And yet … If he took him home, what sort of life awaited Qais in Maidan Sabz? The hard life of a peasant at best, like his own, and little more. That is, if Qais didn’t die from the droughts like so many of the village’s children had. Could you forgive yourself, then, Baba Ayub asked himself, knowing that you plucked him, for your own selfish reasons, from a life of luxury and opportunity? On the other hand, if he left Qais behind, how could he bear it, knowing that his boy was alive, to know his whereabouts and yet be forbidden to see him? How could he bear it? Baba Ayub wept. He grew so despondent that he lifted the hourglass and hurled it at the wall, where it crashed into a thousand pieces and its fine sand spilled all over the floor. The div reentered the room and found Baba Ayub standing over the broken glass, his shoulders slumped.

“You are a cruel beast,” Baba Ayub said.

When you have lived as long as I have, the div replied, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color. Have you made your choice?

Baba Ayub dried his tears, picked up his scythe, and tied it around his waist. He slowly walked toward the door, his head hung low. You are a good father, the div said, as Baba Ayub passed him by.

“Would that you roast in the fires of Hell for what you have done to me,” Baba Ayub said wearily. He exited the room and was heading down the hallway when the div called after him. Take this, the div said. The creature handed Baba Ayub a small glass flask containing a dark liquid. Drink this upon your journey home. Farewell.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/test/

Advertisements

Author:

Living my life, exploring it, yearning more of it and learning from it.

Your views will be appreciated

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s