CHAPTER 3-JOURNEY OF SOULS.
‘He dosen’t talk much, does he?’ laira wanders as she passes by a busy market street, trottling along side the traveller. This was the first human settlement she had come across after 5 days of long trip on the road with him. And till now, she had managed to get nothing off him except that he was a reaper, he took away souls and that he travelled between the gates of human and mystic realms to accompany them for their safe arrival between the gates. And, unfortunately for her, she was trapped along side him now, doing the same till a portal opened for her to get back home.
Frowning at the thought, laira digs in a big bite of zurger. Why name it zurger anyway..if it still tastes like burger? she complains, taking out a coin out of her minibag that the traveller had handed her for safe keeping. The shopkeeper stares at her confused and opens his mouth to reply but soon stops seeing the man standing beside her. ‘Oh your lord forgive me for my impudence..You little girl can take it for free‘ he says trembling and bowing down low. Traveller does not say a thing beside staring at him and walks away. Laira follows him, confused, leaving the coin at the plate.
AS they stride, she notices that everyone around him were clearing their way to let them pass. People stopped while doing their chores and children stopped while playing, to bend low there heads. A lady abrupty jerks her little son’s head by force too to make him bow, that takes laira by surprise. ‘Donot look at lord’s face son’ she hears her say. ‘if you are a bad boy, he will take away your soul.’
The whole street now starts looking like a ghost town to laira with people who didnot speak. She too follows the traveller silently but curiously with her eyes running around to the stalls that featured variety of strange looking foods. Now and then, She meets the gaze of people, trying to get a glimpse of her while still bending their head, with eyes filled with pity in some and fear in others. ”Well… he is the reaper so behold people” death passing by with a girl servant...” laira humors alone inside her head. Then sighs, recalling the sunday markets back in her own home country, wondering if sunday has passed yet there. ” i wonder if my mother has noticed by now that i am missing..”
They come to a stop at the edge of the city, what traveller referred to as ‘human settlement area’ entering a small antique looking house. ‘Lord Raven‘ an old man screams with excitement as soon as they step in the door, of what looked like a pub to laira. ‘And laira‘ he adds, reaching out to hug her, after tightly embracing the traveller who awkwardly returns the welcome with a pat on his back.
‘Growing old..Bran‘ the traveller speaks smiling at him, once he is seated at the wooden table. ‘Yes. All because of kindness of your highness..i have managed to live through these years‘ the old man replies cheerfully, preparing a glass of alcohol to serve him. ‘But i am not prepared to die yet... However, if i do.. i will be very pleased, if you were the one who took me to the gate’ he says placing the fine looking glass on the table infront of him.
Just then, the house shakes lightly and windows clatter. A strange noise plays in the air like song of angels, laughs of babies.Tempted, laira stands up and walks hurriedly to the window to see..and what she sees shakes her, for she stands staring through the window without blinking her eyes for minutes.
‘It is called ‘hansha’ the parade of souls” the old man now explains, standing beside her, passing her a glass full of mango juice. A creaking sound of door is then heard and they see the traveller march towards the parade. Laira stares at him,too scared to call him back,seeing him leave through the glass, to a mass of walking, floating spirits, ghosts following a person on veil in the front who held a scythe similar to him. ‘Are they on their journey?’ she asks,after a while, her eyes still blankly staring at the transparent entities next to where Raven was now standing.
‘Yes‘ the old man replies. ‘It’s a long journey. Those floating spirits are the babies and old people and all those walking are the adults who can follow on legs‘he says pointing to the crowd. ‘I also walked. It’s fun. Your legs don’t touch the ground. Its like you are moving but a lift is taking you all the way‘. he chuckles, as if remembering a hilarious incident.
‘what?‘ laira widens her eyes,her expression clearly seeking the answers. ‘Yes. i was a ghost laira. or Say just a soul without a body.Because, i died young in human world, where you came from. And joined the parade to be reborn again‘ he says scratching his head. ‘Then how are you are here? Shouldn’t you have already reborn again?’ she asks.
‘Yes, but i didnot get to the gate. Lord Raven helped me at the gate to escape..’
Laira looks at him confused like she had no clue what he was referring to at all. So the old man explains. ‘I died young laira due to a tumor in my brain. i was just seven years old. I had a bad luck yes’ but i really wanted to live. i had seen nothing of the world except the locality where i lived and the hospital i was getting treatment at. I saw no faces other than my parents, a few students in school and doctors and nurses in the hospital.. But i wanted to meet many people, travel around the worlds.I had so much dreams. Unluckily my time was so less..So i was not willing to go. i was holding back. Unlike, those souls who vanished once they accepted in their heart that it was their faith whether by forgiving those who murdered them, or learning life is not just to all. But for me, it didnot happen. The parade started with thousands and by the time we reached the gate there were only 400 to 500. i was the youngest one.Perhaps because of that, Lord Raven felt pity for me and helped me escape..’ He looks at the window, while saying that, watching the traveller now return after his brief meeting with the other traveller, with gratitude filled eyes that were now filled with tears.
‘Who is this father?’ a woman’s voice then interrupts the conversation, looking intently at laira. ‘She is laira’ the old man replies smiling warmly at his daughter, rubbing his eyes. ‘Still so young?’ she gasps. Laira looks at her astounded, hearing that.