The Seeker And The Light
The Seeker And The Light9 mins 173 9 mins 173
The sky was darker than usual. Flickers of lightning, glinted the purple sky, the only source of light for the night. The sheer chilling touch of wind reminded Aluna of her unwelcomed presence in the forest of stones. Legend has it that no soul could ever leave the forest without the will of the wind. ‘Enter a soul alone, once lost- you turn to stone.’
Aluna was well aware of the perils, her journey through the forest of stones possessed, but she was helpless. She had committed the unforgivable sin of stealing someone’s name. In the village of Noma, such crime had only one punishment- the punishment of death. Aluna knew, how the villagers were frantically hunting for her, that her hut was being raided and her family was being heckled. What other option did Aluna have, than to leave her home and runaway? So, she ran for dear life into the eerie thickness of the forest.
Surrounded by rivers on three sides and the forest of stones on the other, the village of Noma was an ordinary village with uncanny traditions. The dogma laid down by the merciful ancestors of the village was held supreme; so much that any act of perpetration was punished with death.
“I may as well be turned to stone than be pelted with one” Aluna mumbled.
She kept walking deeper and deeper through the bushes. The thicker the forest grew, the safer she felt. “They can’t find me now.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. Aluna kept walking and walking till she found a creek. She was tired of running. Her feet were sore and her parched throat yearned for a gulp of water. So, she rushed and crouched down by the creek, and gently filled her cupped palms with water. She brought her hands halfway to her face and slowly soothed her throat. Each gulp, a blessing to her tired soul. She rested her back against a tree and closed her eyes. Her life had changed within a few hours. She reminisced all the happy days of her life, her hut and her family “I was happy.” She thought. “I was welcomed. Now, I don’t even know where I belong anymore.” She sighed. “I don’t know where this forest leads to, I don’t know if the legends are true. Does it even matter?” she thought. A cold gust of wind lashed against her “Let me be, oh wind, let me rest for a while.” She pleaded. “Turn me to stone if you will. But let me rest now.”
Her eyes woke up to a glow of white light, brighter than the lightning she had witnessed earlier. Aluna was blinded by the refulgence. “What is it?” she wondered. “Where am I?” she looked around and the forest was gone. Aluna was lying on a bed of stones, paralyzed. She tried to turn her head to catch a glimpse of her surrounding, but all she could see was the bright white light.
“Hello?” Aluna yelled. She received no answer. “Anyone here, please help. Help me move.” She continued, “Hello?” She lay there, helpless; hoping for some help to arrive. Hours passed, but no one came to her aide. Hours passed as she lay paralyzed on the bed of stones. Enchained to a bed with unseen shackles. Hoping to be saved. But, ‘Be saved from what?’ she thought.
“The escape,” said a voice.
That was the first voice, Aluna had heard in hours or perhaps days. Each minute felt like ages, as time stood still on the bed of stones. Yet a glint of hope escaped her cynical mind. “Hello?” She screamed with apprehension.
“Escape what?” she screamed.
“Help” she yelled.
She felt dejected. Infuriated by the continuous mockery, “I’ll not speak” she said to herself.
The legends of the forest were true. The forest of stones was no ordinary forest. It held the secrets of a thousand stones and perhaps more. Aluna realized that her fight was futile. She had no power over the unknown, so she gave in.
“Please stop.” She sobbed, “Show yourself.”
No one answered. “I beseech you, please.”
A ray of golden light appeared, shapeless.
“What are you?” Aluna murmured through her tired breath.
“I’m Kyoshi, the keeper.” The light answered.
“Why have I been held captive here?” Aluna asked.
“You’ve not been held captive. You’ve caged me.” The light said.
“Caged you? I don’t even know who you are.” Aluna frowned. How could this unknown entity blame her for a crime she had not committed. ‘Is it all that I am now?’ she doubted.
“I know I’m a sinner. But It is not you who I’ve harmed. I don’t know you.” Her confidence roared in her voice.
“Who did you harm then?” asked the light.
Aluna gaped at the light. She could not come up with an answer. ‘What was I escaping from?’ she tried to recollect the chain of events that led her to the bed of stones. To her despair, she could not remember anything.
“Why are you tricking me? Why can’t I remember anything?” She yelled, frustrated.
“You only remember the important,” Kyoshi whispered in a lyrical cadence.
“What do you mean? I want to know the reason I’m stuck here. I remember being called a ‘sinner’ but I don’t remember the reason. Why am I a sinner? What did I do?” Aluna fussed. “Please show me.”
“What do you mean you can’t? Why are you here? Who are you?”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Aluna” She screeched.
“I’m Kyoshi” echoed.
“Please, please Kyoshi, I’m scared. Will I be turning into a stone?”
“Why do you remember the curse?”
“It’s scary. It’s important.”
“I’ll not be breathing anymore, Kyoshi. Of course, it is.”
“Fear is easy to remember,” Kyoshi whispered. “Look deeper, and tell me what you see.” Said the light.
A whirling stream of light twirled in front of her eyes. Slowly, the streams coalesced into a giant ball and inside that ball, Aluna saw herself. “Is it me?”
Draped in a robe of cotton, she found herself standing at a shop, buying bread for her family. The streets of Noma were not crowded, but that day the streets of Noma witnessed higher footfalls than usual. “Why are so many people on the streets today?” Aluna inquired. Suddenly it started raining and people rushed for shelters. “Rush, they’ll let you in.” The shopkeeper pointed toward a tavern at the end of the street. Aluna knew that the tavern of Noma provided shelter only to the members of the clans of Noma. Poor Aluna lived in the outskirts of the village, and she belonged to no clan. She knew, it would take her an hour to reach her hut from the market, and that she would have been drenched, and so will all the food she had bought for her family, by the time she reached her home. So, she lied at the gates of the tavern, she spelled her name ‘Aluna Losian’ and was given shelter from the rain.
She saw herself peacefully sitting on a chair, resting her head against the wall when she heard a ruckus at the gates. “Anything that matters?” She heard the owner yell. “A lady at the gate says her name is Aluna Losian, but Miss Losian has already been admitted.” yelled back the gatekeeper. “For I am Aluna Losian” pleaded a lady. “You lie, remember lady stealing a name to enter this roof is a sin. You steal one’s right, you die” yelled the gatekeeper. “Go back to your rotten hell.”
“Believe me, I bear the Losian crest in my pendant good Sir, let me in.” the lady pleaded. “There must have been a mistake.”
“We make no mistake, we hold the pillars to the roof,” The gatekeeper said, “We make a single mistake and the whole roof crumbles to dust.” Said his proud voice.
“Perhaps you have let an imposter in. I stand in the rain, while she slurps soup in my name.” The lady pulled her necklace out and pointed towards the emblem at the top. “Losian crest.” She yelled.
“Heavens, I regret lady, your name can not be re-written. However, a crime has been committed. A punishment shall be given.” Ordered the gatekeeper.
The row was growing louder and louder. Aluna knew the threat she had called upon herself. She hid her face with her cloak and swiftly pushed her way through the crowd, to the back gate. On her way out, she stumbled upon a maid, who yelled “Look before you leap lass” she peered through Aluna’s cloak and yelled “This one’s not from the village. I have seen her buy from our market several times. She doesn’t belong to our shelter, she’s not one of us. IMPOSTER”
Aluna clenched her fists and pushed her way out of the tavern. She ran and ran, till she reached the river of Noma at the edge of the village. For a moment, she contemplated plunging in, but she feared drowning to death, so she ran faster and faster into the forest of stones.
The ball of light dispersed.
“All I wanted was to find a shelter in the rain” Aluna sobbed. “They threatened to take my life for a shelter?”
“Did you find your shelter?” asked the light.
“Did it last long?”
“No, it didn't…” she sniveled “It wasn’t for me.”
“It wasn’t me” echoed.
Aluna noticed her rage slowly pacifying.
“Who are you Kyoshi?” she asked.
Aluna felt the stream of light caressing her, healing her, as she lay still. She was not fighting the stillness anymore. She was resting in it. Her fears began to seem irrelevant to her. She found peace in the stillness, in Kyoshi.
Gradually the stream of light grew weaker. Aluna knew it was her time to leave. The unknown realm of light in the forest did not scare her anymore. The chilling wind was starting to make her feel comfortable.
“Kyoshi, Will I be a stone when I wake up?” she asked. Somewhere in her mind, she was hoping to remain a stone.
“Not anymore” answered Kyoshi.
The light faded into the darkness of the night. Aluna opened her eyes, ‘Was I dreaming?’ she wondered. Somewhere the anxiety that was creeping in her mind had settled. She could remember the chain of events that led her to the forest, yet she could feel no fear or shame. Perhaps, the veil of reality had been lifted by her dream. Perhaps, Kyoshi was real, more real than the forest of stones and the village of Noma. As she pushed the ground to lift herself up, her palms slipped on the wet pebbles she was sleeping on. “All the while I was really lying on a bed of stones?” She thought. The bed of stones extended as far as her eyes could reach. Aluna was startled at the sight of a beautifully paved path of stones amid the mud and dirt of the wet forest. As if, someone had crafted the road just for her. “But It wasn’t there last night I remember clearly,” She said.
“They, who seek, find the way,
Yet some are lost, while some remain.
Wisdom withstands rain and decay.
The truth once known, fades all despair.”
“Kyoshi!” Aluna knew the voice; she remembered the source.
“For you, I’ll be the gatekeeper at the shelter,
Or, the one who ensnared you, if need be.
I’ll be the name of the lady, you stole
Time and again, if you need me.” The voice crooned.
“Those who have lost me, are here to stay,
Turned to stones, they will guide through.
I will be born again in different forms,
Each time you seek inside you.”