Grandma and I diligently stepped away from sturdy thickets and straight, menacing lines of somber green as we made our way to where the great beast was expected to arrive. Down the stream of dust, I carried, and dragged across, a bag I was assigned with austere instructions to protect through the course of the insane journey we were to embark on.
“Do not let the coconuts roll off. They are little ones, and you can take care of them, can you not?”
A curt nod of his head signaling affirmation, and his teeth biting onto his lower lip with determination, were implications enough of strength for his grandmother.
The two had begun their journey at noon, and now, it was almost dusk. A few more steps, and they would arrive at the secret station.
“Do not fear the great beast, Ubi. The ground will tremble with its arrival, but do not frolic your feet about. The air will scream with alarm, but do not rip your ears off. People will plead from deep within the alcoves of its belly, but pay them no visual heed.”
They stumbled onto a clearing and his grandmother stood still. Ubi clawed tightly into her cotton sari and waited.
There it was, far in the distance, two luminous eye-globes anxiously taking in the darkness of the forest, charging forwards with terrifying purpose, carrying with it an urgency for life that even death would fail to garner. Trees arched in reverence and shed exotic leaves as offerings. Dust caved in upon itself to pave the most intricate path for the slithering beast. Animals hid their families and watched on with tranquil vapidity.
With its raging prowess, it came pulsing forth to the clearing where Grandma and Ubi stood trembling, bowing their heads as to not lose their minds to the mesmerizing energy of the beast. It slithered up sturdy oaks, leaving indelible marks of such violence in its wake that Ubi wondered, for the smallest fraction of a second, if he saw the barks cower in fright.
Shoots of the tallest trees were raked into an eloquent spectacle of wavering fractals as the beast wound its metal frames about creaking wood, eventually, from up above, opening its mouth, a rudimentary snare for beings of soft flesh, to let the two reluctant passengers in.
A ladder, hollering of its rambles of mighty battles lost to the empires of rust, extended itself out for the passengers to clamber on.
“Mind the gap!” shouted Grandma to Ubi as she jumped and pulled herself, rung by ludicrous rung, up to the gaping hole above. Ubi followed immediately, blowing away scents of the earth wafting about the feet of his grandmother.
The metal door slammed shut, Ubi remembered, with a heaviness much alike the one held by the door to his little locker at home. He wound himself closer to his grandmother as the two bodies were ushered, by the intangible ascendancy of one’s will by the incessant nature of collective stares, deeper into the stomach of this hungry locomotive.
The beast thundered forward and Ubi was thrown against a sweltering net of human hands and limbs, shielding him from the inevitable death awaiting anyone who dared to expunge himself out of the cradling tracts, harboured within the body of the beast, while it flew. He looked gratuitously around and acknowledged the myriad pairs of shimmering eyes vibrating with the motion. He stood up, raising much furore in the process, ducking whenever pickle jars and suitcases flew towards him in the gravity-defying cauldron he now found himself in, and held his bag close to his ribs.
As Ubi slowly crept towards a bench he thought had space to accommodate him, he suddenly realized that his grandmother was missing. He looked around frantically, but her familiar pair of kind eyes could not be spotted in the dark. But, he knew, in that moment, that there was no meaning to tears shed in darkness, that the beast had swallowed her whole, and that she was peacefully lost to the magnanimity of the journey.
Ubi sat on the softest patch of wood he could find, between a woman with a hat and her well-clothed cat. In what was a concoction of suppressed fury and rational clarity, he professed to himself of the concretes that held his identity together, of the inconsequential idea that, by merely being in the belly of a beast racing towards time future, one would dissolve the cohesiveness of the mortar that retained the monolithic beauty their ego.
He parted textured shutters from its furry base and pondered gaily over the streaks of metaphysics that he knew he would, one day, rise to command. He inched his head further out into the rippling wind, watching closely the head of the eccentric beast that he knew he would, one day, grow to tame. He let the air praise his hair as he closed his eyes against the night, and grasped the truth of what he knew he would, one day, live to be.
By Aravind Deepak