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

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Suvojit Banerjee and Sheikha A.: The Crimson Tiding.

They ignored the sign when a great famine ravaged the earth, and a great war tarnished whatever was left of humanity. Amidst the crimson tide and gray skies, befell the third prophecy - death, the third horseman rode through. And along came his army of undead.

A few of the remaining houses still stood lined like brave soldiers in a once thriving boulevard now desiccated to a thin spray of embers. The horseman of the army wore no mask, and neither did the rest. On his shoulders gloated a large, bone-mass of merciless veneer as he turned to Pestilence hanging in a far corner of the dominion, hands bound like a prisoner walking the revived march of a resurrection he was once meant to initiate.

One of the houses flickered precariously, the light inside gasping for life, giving the appearance of a soldier ungiving to impending death until a ray of promise for continuance cued. Inside, a soldier did breathe. Her dark eyes projected through the window by the front door. The night could not be denser than the darkness in her eyes but there was a glint, of resilience, that shown visibly through.

Pestilence knew those eyes well. He had looked into them and through them into another world he imagined existed but wasn't allowed entry. He had been created from a different element altogether, pre-tailored for predestined tasks. It was her eyes that had roused a sensation in him he wasn't familiar with; now knowing was an urge to flout the predefined.

Since time immemorial our manuscripts and arcane texts had predicted the end of days, alerting us with the signs when the seven seals would be broken. A day of cataclysm, when heaven’s wrath and hell’s terror would engulf the human kind: but we were too ignorant. When the first signs appeared – we failed to pay heed. The Great War ravaging the lands were dismissed as acts of human greed, and the devastating famine afterwards was called an aftermath by the pundits.

Then on a day when the sun lashed crimson-red rays onto the barren land, the third prophecy manifested itself. Ancient tomes said he rode a pale horse whose hooves were as ominous to vigor as a hawk to mice. But here, beneath the soigné cut-suit and a glass of chardonnay in hand, Death looked more like a businessman out on a trip.

“I’m utterly bored. Looks like War and Famine had a field day.”
He lowered his sunglasses, and took a sip from the glass, looking at his watch.

Behind him, armies of undead continued sapping the lives of the remaining souls. A few faint screams were heard at a distance, but apart from that, the living did not resist. Death was like a saving grace for them, and they embraced him with open arms.

She watched, as the insidious talons of Death clawed at all living matter not unknowing that the eyes of the rider of the pale horse bore her with a foreboding. She knew they were coming for her. Her eyes travelled the trails of the massacre as far and wide her vision would enable. Gifts of clairvoyance unassisted by a greater power to leash such rampant carnage seemed futile to her, this moment, as she felt her frail cage of an earthly body, which had been a keeper for a fierce empathy for humankind, begin to dysfunction.

In Death’s queue, she desperately sought Pestilence. Her body crumbling rapidly as her eyes darted and careened through the army that stood not far from her house. The cage that held her fragile frame, in this world, shed off of her spirit as did leaves from their branches in jilting winter. Pestilence was her rescue. Eyes in which she had witnessed a softening for the eccentric principles he initially reckoned as weak morals of a decrepit land, those for which she saw, in his eyes, an acceptance, if not readily, but with steady inclination. Those eyes, she had also begun to realise, were missing.

She continued to dissipate, until only her essence remained. Casting away the cloak of a weak vessel she wore, she was now reinstated to her primal, feral self. Akin in appearance to the bone-masses approaching her, bare in true form, compassion began eroding what otherwise had held her petite earthly face as eyes -  they gouged  invertedly as if a different entity sucked them in from the inside as fodder or feast, relishing it as if having long awaited this resurrection.

There was not going to be a Resurrection – a Convention, yes. She was to unite – with Pestilence and save mankind.

As she watched the army inching towards her house, through menacing cavities that now formed her eyes, the ground underneath crippled away into the chasms of a deathless death, a death she’d been visited by once before, she knew it was time. She only had to get to Pestilence. And order would restore.      

The sand appeared a faulty red; almost mirroring the scarlet shades of a poseur sky. The war had initiated. The war was fought. But the war hadn’t ended.  Bodies were now historic remnants of souls without abodes to go to – no traces of posterity, the earth and sky were now beyond distinction. All that remained was a gathering of mist.

The council was too buried in enjoying the destruction that their henchmen brought upon mankind. Dressed in glorious golden and murderous red, they gorged on the visceral scenery that the big portal presented in front of them. While the metallic smells of rivers of blood were giving their minds lascivious wings, one of the minions cried out: “Sir, Pestilence hasn’t yet completed his course!”

“Silence!” One of the councilmen snapped, “He will show up soon! Do not interfere!” And the minion disappeared into one corner and melted with the pillars.

Amidst the ruins of a massive city, a lanky young man slowly moved about. His eyes were two shiny marbles of emerald, and with them he scrutinized every corner of the dying conurbation. The poisonous footsteps irradiated the earth whenever they fell on it, and the hideous plague flowed from his hands in a serpentine line of dazzling, sparkling green smoke. There was a neigh in the background. Stirred, he looked back. The majestic white stead with the same emerald eyes as his stood there, hooving the ground. “Looks like we’ve been summoned”, the man said, and smiled. He rode the horse and disappeared through the outskirts of the city.

She stood before them, unarmed and reneged. Her body had dilapidated but grazes of her empathy that clung to her like war-bruises glowed strongly through her torn skin. She still awaited Pestilence – before these men, her strength crumbling, but with determined intent.

“I want Pestilence!” She screamed with the last bits of accumulated strength.

For a moment, there was a smirk in their faces. Then, a demonic hiss released through War’s closed jaw. The hollows of his eyes flared as he roared, “Pestilence!”

The rumble of dead leaves gave way to a whirlwind of green and black, and when the dust settled the lanky man with green eyes was standing in front of her, looking at the defiance of a mortal. He had been thinking about the visions: that the future would be written by not man, not angels, not demons, but by an alliance; and that he was chosen.

He was looking at the other piece of the puzzle, but he did not know how to put them together.

“What now?” He said, and looked at the rest of his brothers.

They were looking at her. When Pestilence looked at her a second time, he saw something no human had ever done in front of the horsemen of apocalypse.

She was smiling.

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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


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