If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Monday, January 27, 2014

Laura Stamps: Actually, She’s The Friend Of A Friend Of My Best Friend

“Don’t worry,” he says.  “It’s true.  I’m older than I look.”

How does he know what I’m thinking?

I study his face again, the smiling face of this stranger I’ve just met.

Maybe I missed something. Maybe it’s that odd ruggedness lurking beneath his youthful features, those sharp edges softened by playfulness.  They tug at me.  It’s as if he’s experienced more hardship than he would ever admit.  Although maybe he just did.  Maybe this comment about his age is a confession.

Still, he doesn’t look a day over thirty.

“You can read my thoughts?” I ask.

“No.  It’s your eyes.  They’re very expressive.  You’re easy to read.”

I snort.  “Hardly,” I say, as I begin to gather up the magickal cat toys in my booth.

It’s after six o’clock, and the Mayfest Arts and Crafts Fair is officially closed for the day.  When it’s done, I’m done.

“Are you a Witch, too?” I ask, grabbing the plastic storage tubs hidden beneath my display table.

“Not me.”  He sets the bag of cat toys he just purchased from me in an empty chair.  “But my brother is married to one.”

“Really?”  I fold the tablecloth and tuck it into a tub.  “Who is your brother?”

“Drayton Manigault.”  He turns the display table on its side to collapse the legs.  “He married Sara Gadsden last month.”

I smile.  I guess he was serious about helping me pack up my booth.

“Ah,” I say.  “I heard about that.  Sara and I have mutual friends.”

Laura Stamps is a Pagan novelist and poet living in South Carolina.  Her fiction and poetry have been nominated for seven Pushcarts and published by Texas Review Press, Ninety-Six Press, and McGraw-Hill, among others.  She enjoys creating experimental forms for her prose poems, blurring the line between fiction and poetry.  http://www.pw.org/content/laura_stamps

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Deepti Nalavade Mahule: Sailing Away

In the gathering dusk, Shantanu sits on the worn-out back door steps of his uncle’s house, absentmindedly flipping through a book that belongs to his cousin when a familiar voice calls out his name from beyond the compound wall. His best friend Nitin hops off his motorcycle and pushes open the creaking gate. 

“Will it be the last time he comes over like this?” The thought flits through Shantanu’s head.  He hastily brushes it off and smiles up at him. 

Six years ago, it was Nitin who had first approached and befriended Shantanu when he was newly admitted to their school. A poor boy who had recently turned orphan, bounced from one relative to the next until he landed up at a reluctant uncle’s place, Shantanu had found himself adrift in the sea of his uncle’s own four children as well as two other nieces overflowing a single crumbling old house in a town far away from his own. Nitin had saved him from drowning, had pulled him ashore by consoling him when his uncle beat him and everyone else barely even noticed or acknowledged his existence. 

Nitin, who had shared his lunch with him, played with him, invited him home, and lent him school textbooks.  Who taught him to ride a motorbike, introduced him to girls and constantly hung out with him.  Nitin, who had given him someone to call his own when he had absolutely no one else. Now after spending almost every waking hour together through college, he might tear himself away, changing time zones and crossing seas. 

After completing first degrees, both of them had applied for and had been offered jobs in the same company in a neighboring city.  But Nitin had wanted to give higher studies a shot. He had applied to five universities in the U.K., out of which he had received rejections for four of them, much to Shantanu’s relief. They both awaited the arrival of the outcome of the final application with increasing anxiety, wishing for opposite results as each day melted into the next.  

Now Nitin is walking towards Shantanu with a long envelope in his hand.  It might as well be a ticking time bomb that he is bringing towards his best friend’s hammering heart. 

“What have you got there?” Shantanu asks coolly.

“It’s here!” Nitin replies, breaking into an excited grin. “The letter of response from the last remaining university.”

“You haven’t opened it?” He asks Nitin.

“I just picked it up on the way out while coming here.” Nitin replies. Shantanu has a feeling that his friend has waited on purpose to open it in front of him.

“Wish me luck!” Nitin says, carefully tearing open an edge of the envelope and pulling out the document.

Shantanu keeps sitting on the steps, watching Nitin’s face as his eyes hungrily eat up the contents of the letter. The light from a nearby street lamp illuminates his face like a stage and the actors on it – his features - change emotions rapidly from excitement and curiosity to disappointment, then anger and finally sorrow. Shantanu tries to hide a relieved smile as Nitin shakes his head at him. 


He gets up and gently pats Nitin’s shoulder. “It’s alright. We...I mean you already have a great job offer in hand.”

Nitin shrugs. “You are right. What did I expect? Getting into a Masters program at such a prestigious university without prior work experience...”  He still looks crestfallen. 

Shantanu takes the letter from his hand and reads the dry words informing Nitin of his rejection. Beginning to fold the piece of paper in his hands, he starts walking towards the end of the backyard beyond which flows a dirty canal.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Nitin asks him.

“Wait, just watch.” Shantanu says and keeps folding and turning the paper until Nitin can see a boat emerging out of it. Bending over the short wall separating the house from the canal, he drops the paper boat into the water. 

Nitin throws his head back and cackles. “I get it! I get it! You don’t have to be so dramatic!  I’ll let it go.” 

They both laugh together but Shantanu is the loudest as they watch the boat sailing farther away, bobbing up and down over the dark water.

Deepti Nalavade Mahule is a software engineer by profession.  One of her short stories was commended in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 1999, run by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association.  Others have appeared in Muse India, Six Minute Magazine and Siliconeer.  She blogs at 'Dancing Fingers Singing Keypad' (http://dfsk.wordpress.com/). 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Michelle D'costa: Memory

His tongue in her mouth felt like an intrusion of privacy. Yet she didn’t mind.

First she let him into her soul. Slow and steady wins the race. Her mother always said. Love need not be rushed. It should be a steady stream not a gushing waterfall if you wanted it to be everlasting and that's what she had wanted- A Happily Ever After Ending.

So Preeti waited like a faithful devotee for her prayer to be answered. She had almost come to believe that she was meant to be alone forever. She had killed her expectations. A slow poisonous death.

But as she closed her eyes all she could see was his face. She had read in romance novels that a kiss could take you to unknown heights. She was flying. Not that she ever flew before to know how it felt. She hadn’t been privileged to be lifted off the ground leaving all her sorrows behind in the land it was born(although temporarily). She had dreamt of flying though. Leaving bits of her dreams suspended in clouds and if God willed they would rain on her someday making them come true.

Every experience has its own ingredients of discovery. No two moments can be paralleled. Nothing in the world could have prepared her for her first kiss.    

Adam knew that Preeti couldn’t forget that moment ever. As he was the first man to kiss her. He knew because he had unlocked her lips full of secrets and her tongue that tasted freedom with the gratitude of a prisoner set free. He was happy to be her rescuer.

It wasn’t his first kiss though but he knew it wasn’t his last. He wanted more. Only from her. He would kiss her on places he knew existed on the female anatomy but was yet to discover for real. He felt her fingers creep into the spaces between his fingers and at that moment he felt complete. Like a scissor is complete only with both blades.

*  *  *

Now he wants her to do the same. He pleads. ‘Hold my hand Preeti. Please.’

But she doesn’t. The events of the night flash before him.

He had decided he would do something special for her. Just to see her smile. Special people deserved special treatment. Not on their birthday or valentine’s.

Any day, every day.

He opened the car door for her. She hesitated. She was chided before for trusting too soon. ‘Can’t we just walk it down?’

He sensed her discomfort. He wanted her to take the ride with him. The car was part of the surprise. But he reminded himself she wasn’t like other girls. To gain her trust in itself was an accomplishment. He wouldn’t dare to jeopardize that.

So he shut the car door and bent his left arm so that she could place her palm in the crook of his arm.
‘Sure ma’am’

She smiled, relieved and held his arm firmly.

They had to cross the road to see the surprise. They had to.

Crossing the road is just one among other routine acts we do without much thought that could prove to be fatal some day.

Routine acts like forgetting to light the gas ring or using the hair dryer in the bathroom or crossing the road.

If only they had taken the car…

*  *  *

Now he held her limp fingers to his tearing eyes. His grip slippery. ‘Please respond darling.’

‘Mr. Adam, you are wasting your time.’, the doctor stood behind him in the dimly lit room.

‘Her brain has severely suffered from the trauma Mr. Adam. She won’t remember anything. Even if she survives, she will just be a vegetable.’

The doctor’s words seemed to be coming from one end of a dark tunnel.

Questions hijacked Adam. His own voice very loud in his ears.

If not for the amnesia post the accident, would she have remembered me forever? Would she have treasured our first kiss? If not for the accident, would she have liked the surprise?

Her reaction will remain a surprise forever. He thought.

No. She will remember. She has to. She will see what I have done for her. And she will love me back. Am I selfish to still expect her to love me?

Isn’t it because of me she’s here in this condition?

If only I had insisted on taking the car.

The beeping of the heart monitor got louder. It reverberated in the small room.

It pierced his thoughts. Brought back to reality he clenched her fingers with all his might. ‘Don’t leave me’

The line on the machine went flat.

Putting full stops to all his old questions and giving birth to new ones.

The doctor reached for his shoulder with one arm and with the other arm he switched off the machine.

‘Whenever you’re ready Mr. Adam’

The silence that followed engulfed Adam.

He longed for the variations in her heart beats.

When the monitor was beeping it had annoyed him but now he knows that that was better than silence. At least it meant that Preeti was around.

He realized how lonely silence could be. She loved to talk. And he loved to listen.

Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


As of June 25, 2015, The Bactrian Room is closed to submissions.


Search This Blog

Notice of Copyrights

Original material on this site is copyrighted by the authors and artists. No material may be copied or reused without the permission of the respective author or artist.