It was over my sleeping time when I sneaked out of my tiny room. Mummy and Daddy thought I was asleep when they left me after I acted to drift off to sleep as they told me old fairytales according to the daily routine before my sleep time. I loved listening to stories before going off to sleep so when I dreamed I was in the magical world of the tales that my parents so enthusiastically narrated to me.
But tonight wasn’t the same. While telling stories, I saw tears filling up mummy’s eyes and she fisted the corner of the blanket tightly that she released when she realised I was staring at it. Daddy was lying on my other side, narrating most of the story where as mummy described the thoughts and the feeling of the characters in the fairytale. Daddy was gentler today, more than he already was normally. He covered up for mummy whenever her voice went off the tune and she couldn’t speak further. I knew mummy was trying hard not to cry, but I didn’t know what the reason was. I wanted to know.
I was sandwiched between them and I felt warm and secure with their loving arms wrapped protectively around me. It was my favourite place in the world.
Now I stood at the door of their bedroom and pressed my ear against the wooden door. The first thing I heard was sobbing. The second thing was my father whispering gentle words to my mother and I knew they were hugging.
“It’s okay... I will come back as soon as we find it, there is no need to cry...” He said.
Instead, the sound of my mother’s sobs increased, ascending into a cry and I couldn’t believe mum could even cry.
“Oh my dear Swati, no need to cry. I will be back soon and when I do, our life will be better, the villagers will respect anyone who volunteered to go and when I am back, will not be a mere filthy butcher’s family...” He paused.
My stomach tightened at the last thing he said. ‘Filthy butcher’s family’. The other kids used to tease me...
“They have a perfect plan,” father continued, “They had searched for it for years now and we know how to go there safely. The Vallery will be the first of its kind to sail for this purpose and we will be the first ones to step on that land... Imagine, just think, my dear, how much respect we will gain when I am back, all the spots that have been stamped on our family for centuries will all be forgotten and we will be accepted among others. It will be the start of our new life, for us, for our son. It’s all possible if after we finally acquire that stone.”
There was silence after that and for second I thought they knew I was standing outside. My stomach fluttered in anticipation and fear of getting caught but all my worries washed away when mum finally spoke.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too, darling.”
In the seven years of my life, that was the first time I heard them say those words to one another and, also, the last time. I walked back to my bedroom and went off to sleep.
It was a dark afternoon, the clouds thundered above though the winds were steady and slow it looked we were going to get quite a lot of shower this time. I ran in the narrow streets of the village after the other kids who had decided to race towards the beach and see who won. The winner would become the leader of the group. The last one would be a frog, untouchable for a day.
I sprinted after them, leaving three people behind. I wanted to be the first to reach there. Running long distances at fast pace was a piece of cake. There were many hurdles in the path: tiny stalls of the vegetable vendors, merchants selling clothing and cheap ornaments in the streets. It was the closest thing to a city in our village. I tried jumping over the stalls, losing balance most of the times, listening to the vendors curse after me, but getting up quickly if I fell before they could get hold of me.
I ran past four kids now, I heard some of them calling me names but I wasn’t going to listen. My lungs were burning with all the jumping and sprinting but I didn’t stop. Six more people were yet to beat if I wanted to win the race. I left ran past one more kid now. Five to go.
Slowly, the numbers of people to beat were decreasing. Four... three... two...
We were very near to the beach now and I still had to run past one more person. Bala.
He was the strongest of the group, his father a known warrior in the village, and he was the ‘leader’ of this group of kids. But I wasn’t going to be intimidated by him. I wanted to prove it to him that I was better than him, mummy had always told me I was.
In moments I was right beside him, I wanted to laugh at his face which looked like a squeezed lemon when he realised I was equally winning. I started advancing ahead of him when I something hit my back and I tumbled, twisting my ankle and I fell down on the sandy land of the beach like a pile of clothes.
I couldn’t get up no matter how much I tried. Bala and the gang finally reached the destination and gathered around me.
“Look who is the frog,” one of them pointed his finger at me and said. They all laughed. My cheeks reddened and my stomach felt sick.
Bala came forth with a malicious grin on his face. “Well, this is no fun. He is already untouchable, a frog for life. It wouldn’t have mattered if he lost or not.” They all laughed louder now.
“Aw, see, mummy’s boy is crying,” the other boy with pathetically light orange hair said.
I didn’t realise I was crying until her said it. Slowly my vision started to blur, my face became hotter as they laughed.
I hate them. I hate them. I hate them. I chanted it like a mantra inside my head.
Bala and his gang left me after calling me names like frog, filthy, untouchable, garbage. After that I was alone, the sand stuck on my sweaty legs because of the humid air, and I tried to get up a few times.
Then all of a sudden I heard a cry pierce out from somewhere near the sea. I knew I wasn’t hallucinating when I turned my head in the direction and saw a girl around my age crying and holding out cloth tightly against her chest. Somehow I got up on my feet and walked towards her, my ankle throbbing with pain in my every step.
When I got closer, I saw she was holding a torn armour in her hand which was dripping and covered in wet sand.
When she looked up, I recognised the girl from the dancing group that always performed in local events and ceremonies of the village. Her eyes were red and a little puffed out from crying. I wanted to reach out to her and touch her shoulder but thought better of it in case she shouted if I went even an inch close to her.
I didn’t know what to do, I just couldn’t seem to remember her name.
She ignored me and looked down at the armour, crying more.
Seema? Sita? Anjali?
Think think think.
She was sobbing now.
Astha? Agni? Anushree? Anara?
By mistake, I said the name out loud and she looked back at me. Her lips quivered through the long hair that fell on her face.
“Your name is Anara?”
I hesitated for a second but decided it was better to ask. “What... What happened?”
She took time to reply and when she did, her voice was completely broken. “My daddy... It’s my daddy’s...” She held out the sand covered armour to me. “Look, it has the heart I stitched for him before he went way in Vallory.” She quickly added.
My stomach sunk to my feet and I dropped down on the ground on my knees. Vallory.
“Father.” Was all I could say.
The days after my father’s death after the sinking of the Vallory were the worst we could have expected. Remains and pieces of the ship were found everyday at the shore and we all knew it was a storm that swept everything away from us. The whole village mourned for months. Mummy cried every day and I couldn’t make her smile. The pain of losing someone you love is greater than any pain you’d endure in your whole lifetime; this pain had the power to change a person completely.
A lot of lives were lost. Many families were mourning the loss of their beloved sons, fathers and husbands.The other kids stopped calling me names. At times some of our neighbours offered us food, though they still didn’t touch us and despised us but not as much as they did before.
There were some people who would throw stones at our windows, called us ‘filth on earth’, ‘bad luck’ and blamed daddy for the sinking of the ship. They said the Amethyst was angry with them that they brought ‘a blasphemer’ and it killed everyone in anger.
The amethyst. Everything after that was a blur but I could never seem to forget that word. A little word that changed my life forever.
Years after that, many other villages tried to go there and it always ended in more loss of life. Rumours said that the sea had creatures who protected the island which was why every ship sunk near the island. Some also said that it was the entity’s powers emanated and destroyed anything that came near. There were many stories that were told from village to village.
It was painful to know that there more children who lost their father, wives who lost their husbands, mothers who lost their sons. But even Suma wasn’t deterring away from their plan. They were preparing another ship, a new plan to reach the island of amethyst that was said to have the most powerful entity in the universe. Being the oldest village who respect all the morals our ancestors taught us with all their heart, we felt it was our duty to protect the amethyst from evil hands and keep it with us so that no evil conquers the world and destroys it. It was about the safety of our world. It was the Sumanians’ responsibility to take care of the world. That’s what everyone in the village thought.
They started training young kids to become warriors one day and the plan was to take them to the amethyst hunt instead of the local people, correcting the mistake they made the last time. Hearing this, I knew what I had to do.
I would train to become warrior, gain respect in the village and hunt for the amethyst. But I didn’t want any power. It was the source to all the loss of lives, everyone was after it so they could be powerful. Something as cursed as that couldn’t make me powerful. I wanted these killing to end.
So I decided to do what no one would do. I would destroy the amethyst.