Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 19, 2012


Story: Moyukh
Cover art: Sadia Islam

He would look up at the sky every day to see signs of it turning red. The sky had to be red soon, his mom had promised it would, but the sky remained a persistent blue, and the April sun seemed to remain perched in one corner like an old mean willed parrot. Young hopes die late. And so every evening when the last glows of the sun would be all that's left, he would go to the terrace and through the narrow grills look out for that hue which was bound to eventually come and it never did, at least not the way he thought it would.

He never talked of his dreams like other children did; his dreams were very vivid and he took them for granted, maybe just for the sole reason that they were so surreal. Each night he dreamt of pilgrimages to distant cities under stars, camels, purple horses and placid gorillas. The dreams got stranger every night, and he knew that something changed in them from the day he started looking for the red sky. He started dreaming of a plain blue sky. And each night there was only a subtle change to the colour of the sky in his dream and each morning he woke up feeling that the red sky was at hand. Walking alongside the newly erected stone palaces that lay sprawled upon the city and got stuck in a limbo of development midway, he started thinking about the day the red sky would come. He would run up to his mother, drag her to the window if necessary, and it would mean he would go to see his brother and father in the country he imagined to be filled with bigger and better people.

He took a long time to fall asleep that day, never fully able to stop thinking of the shapes the passing car headlights would cast through his window on his wall, or the nocturnal sounds open to his imagination. There a cat just scared a woman, and a man got killed, and a speeding car just ran over someone and screeched to a halt and then geared up and was gone. He thought he heard the cry of a bird. Yawn. Then there was the sky, still like a mean willed parrot - a Macaw, with wings spread, blocking out the sun with its bloody red colour and the clouds were cherry and the skyline shrouded. The Macaw was bleeding red from the bullets of a woman with two faces, who had a smiling, beautiful face upfront and held a rifle to shoot down the bird and the little people on it. And the more she fired, the redder the sky became.

His father had fallen asleep on the chair in his office in the land of better men and he dreamt of paper boats in tangerine forests. The day was warm for the time of the year and perfect for a siesta; he never noticed when the images from Beatles tracks playing on his computer had jumped off the speakers and slowly made their way into his head. The boat slowly floated without tide or an oarsman, through the forest with rocking horses and everything he saw was through a kaleidoscope and there were happy people all around in the forests eating strawberries. He got into a submarine which had floated up in front and he it took him to the top of a giant Macaw, trying to perch on the skyline of a city which was at a standstill and there down was an ugly creature with two faces firing away at the beautiful bird.

The dishes could wait till tomorrow; the hired help should do something. She deserved some rest and he had called again, she wondered how he was. The kid was getting obsessed with the sky again. She wonder if her other son looked at up for the red sky too. She turned the TV on, flipped through channels and finding a show she had watched before, kept to it and lay down on the sofa. The main characters were quarrelling about something; in the midst of all a kid was complaining about how he wanted a pet bird, a parrot. Yawn. A big red parrot, blocking up the sun so that the skyline disappeared and all everyone could see was red feather adorned with blue. The little kid was looking up at it, coaxing the bird to come down and play with it, oblivious to the sharp talons and the hooked beak that would rip him apart the moment it came down. She had to stop that and with the gun in her hand, she started firing, and the more she fired the redder the sky got, and the more excited the kid became. She started weeping and the huge drops of water from her eyes ran to the gutter that led to a forest and she somehow knew the devil was on his way, riding a boat over the waters of her tears.

In the land of bigger men and brighter days a little kid was at school, sitting on the last seat of the big classroom. The teacher was being funny, teaching math through little stories he had made up and which made no one but himself laugh. He dozed off and the teacher too engrossed in his own wit was too busy to notice. Fragments of sentences made way to his head, in a forest five birds are sitting on a tree. Someone shoots one and then there was something. The one that got shot was a big red bird, and while all the rest stayed in the forest, it was the red one that flew away to a big, somehow familiar city, where it perched on top of the very tall buildings. Someone was still shooting at it, and it was crying in anger. He was trembling, caught between the shots that rang in his ear forever and the angry bird which flapped its wings furiously. Slowly and still trembling he was trying to get away, and then he saw a boy, a little older than he, who was looking at him. He looked up to see the most gentle and reassuring face he had ever seen. The two brothers walked over to the city edge and sat without words looking away from the bird and the woman with arms still around each other. It has started raining red and the fight got fiercer and all of sudden, the ground shook, knocking him away from the other boy to a place where if a bird got shot, all the others flew away.



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