The Shed Outside
The day started slow and now, after lunch, it had almost come to a stop. The blistering heat had pushed everyone indoors, lulling the entire household to sleep. Except for Rahul, of course. He was sitting outside in the veranda. The garden seemed yellow, trees were shedding their leaves and the grass refused to grow anymore. Far off he could hear the ice cream vendor’s bell and some traffic.
An ant walked up to his toe, prodded and eventually got bored. Rahul’s eyes followed those six legs awkwardly navigating large stones on the garden floor. He picked up a stone, squinted one eye to aim better, and flung it across. The stone just missed the ant but bounced and hit the shed door.
Oh, the shed!
Their shed was always locked up, opened only to move big furniture in or out. Sometimes his Mom would throw old toys in there. He still remembers his big yellow truck – the one that lifted soil off their garden – locked away in that shed. He didn’t realize it earlier but the door to the shed was ajar. Mom probably forgot to close it. This was it. His only chance.
He looked back. He couldn’t hear much except for his grandfather snoring. He tip-toed across the garden, in slow swift movements, and pushed the weathered door. It creaked. He froze. There was a gap but not enough for him to slip through. He pushed some more, it still creaked. He closed his eyes. One more sound and his Mom would get up and scold him the entire afternoon. He pushed; the door creaked, but finally left a gap enough for him to slip through. Leg first, hands, and then his body. He pushed, pushed with all his force and finally fell inside.
It took him a while to adjust to the darkness. There were two dirty windows through which sun-rays gleamed through, highlighting the ruffled dust particles. Clearly, they didn’t like their intruder. Rahul’s eyes scanned the scenery: broken chairs piled on each other, a huge almirah, skyscrapers of files and folders, his old desk table, broken buckets and their finely carved sofa. That was his favourite sofa (Mom never listened to him complain when they put it away) because it had a secret map hidden in its side handles. He picked up a small stone and placed it on top of the side handle.
He revved his engines. He could hear the sounds echoing off the cave walls, the monster engine grunting and groaning. When the lights turned green his car pushed with such force that it left deep scratches on the polished hardwood surface. He swerved right, and immediately left, avoiding a fall that would have left him paralyzed. He zoomed in a circular road before the path swirled in tighter circles going straight down. Just before hitting the floor his car made a miraculous jump onto the opposite side of the road, continuing his journey on the difficult patch on the left side of the sofa. Quick turns, smooth corners, sudden drops, his brilliant driving helped him jump to the first place in the race. But it was not over.
He now entered the dragon’s lair. This was the tricky part where his car could no longer help him. It was a flat surface – the carpet – but it was full of dangerous paths not to be touched. The black parts was the River of Dragons and the moment you touched them you would instantly be devoured by evil dragons. The red parts were even worse, lava flowed through them and you would never survive if you stepped on it.
He placed his small feet on a safe corner, a green and blue patch providing him with a straight stretch before turning right. With both red and black on either side, Rahul walked slowly. He easily jumped over the broken bridge and made it onto the dirty yellow patch (where Bade Mama had dropped wine and Mom kept scrubbing all afternoon).
He tip-toed across the side and put one foot on the whirlpool of white-and-blue. He swung his body across to bring both feet on the same area. This was the easy part, and from now onwards there were streams of black and red running parallel to him. Rahul bent to his knee and put his left arm on one green patch.
He was really good at this!
Rahul jumped, and his feet landed exactly on a large center circle. This circle was large, so he rebalanced himself to stand vertically straight. He leaned forward and put his left foot on another patch. The gap was wide but he knew he could cross it. He tried to move his back foot forward but almost lost control of his balance. He tried to move back but couldn’t do that either. His legs were stuck.
He looked down and saw the river of dragons. There was turbulence, bubbles coming from underneath and he could hear sounds of dragons breathing. The river flowed faster and faster, the sounds become louder and louder.
Rahul put his hands out to prevent his wobbling and stabilized himself. He tried again but this time bent sideways to pull his other leg in a circular sweep, with his hands flapping in the air. He pushed, re-balancing his body weight, but could see from the corner of his eye his right hand outstretching to break the fall, landing straight in the middle of the seething foaming black river and he let out a loud wail the moment it touched.
* * *
In another room, across the garden, a mother opened an eye after a short nap. The house was a bit too quiet, and for too long.
She knew Rahul was up to no good.
(Image Credit: dcsaint)