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THE ARBORETUM

The young man rubbed the sweat from his forehead. A monstrous wall was blocking his path. He had travelled day and night without any stops on the way. Leisure was a luxury he could not afford. This wall won't stop me, he thought.

The wall was old and strong, at least twenty feet high. It was built well fortified to keep trespassers out. But it was equally likely that it imprisoned whatever hideous things it had within it. He started scaling the wall, the cracks and holes made it easier but his journey had made him weary. As he gained the top of the wall he stole his first glimpse of the arboretum. He had finally reached his destination, yet the most difficult task lay ahead.

Our hero jumped down and observed his surroundings. The garden was full of plants the likes of which he had never seen before. The Garden was a circular piece of land surrounded by walls on all sides with no gates. A scientist had built it once upon a time and sowed plants he collected from all over the world, and experimented on them. Most plants mutated and lived on through the ages. According to legend, there is a flower at the centre of the garden which can cure any disease. That was the goal of our hero. Many had climbed these walls hoping to obtain this flower but none had returned. He adjusted his sword and cautiously moved ahead.

The garden was silent and not a single bird or animal could be seen or heard. A noise to his right drew his attention. A plant had spread its creepers over a massive space as if claiming the territory to be its own. A gaping hole could be seen on the stem of the plant which seemed out of place somehow. Suddenly he felt something grab his leg and in the blink of an eye he was facedown on the dirt, being pulled towards the hole. He took out his sword and viciously sliced at the branches and leaves, quickly freed himself and got himself out of reach of the creepers. It is then that our hero noticed blood splattered around the hole. The plant spread its branches once again and silently waited for its next prey.

He continued on his quest. A few minutes later, a sweet fragrance piqued his curiosity. It was a seductive, subtle scent and his body was subconsciously drawn toward it. There, he thought, that beautiful flower is emitting such heavenly aroma. A voice nagged him at the back of his head but by then he had little control over his limbs. By sheer force of will, he raised his sword drew it, agonisingly slowly, against his forearm. Searing pain shot through the newly formed wound and pain took over his senses. And through pain, he found freedom. It was then that he noticed skeletons of dead birds and rodents near the plant. He backed away from the plant quickly, holding his breath.

In a little while, he neared the centre of the arboretum. His ironclad determination had carried him this far. He was the champion of his village. His plague infested village. He must return with the flower to save his people; to save his love.

It was then he saw the beautiful red flower and instantly knew that his search was over. As he came closer, the warning of the wise men of his village rang in his ears. “Don't let the blood sucking insects bite you and more importantly don't get a scratch from the thorns. The flower saves life but the thorns kill instantly.” Two dead bodies lay near the plant; one was decomposing while the other was already a skeleton. Poor souls, he thought, failing after coming this far. It won't happen to me.

He took off his shirt and wrapped it around his hand. With the sword held in the other hand he moved forward. Night was falling and he had to hurry. As he touched the flower, a swarm of insects came out of nowhere and drew up in an angry cloud around him, biting wherever they could. Alas! The sword which slew so many beasts proved to be of no aid against such an inferior foe. The young man was losing his strength, he could see himself failing…

Suddenly he heard a woman screaming his name. The world of fantasy shattered and reality came pouring in. The woman screamed again, calling the child and ordering him away from the flowers and into the house. The child grumbled, but quickly donned his shirt as the mosquitoes were about to make an evening snack out of him. He threw away the stick he had picked up earlier and gave the rose bush a dirty look. The thorns were rows upon rows of aggressive poker faces.

The child heard his mother calling for him once again. Giving one last look at the wall creeper at one end of the garden which he had viciously sliced few moments ago, he hurried back inside before his mother came and found out what her son's creativity had done to her garden!

By Mahir


 

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