I Am

 “A strange holiday practice. A short family trip; nature excursion into the wilderness, trekking on hills, or roving the streams hidden among distinct shades of green. Why do most, if not all, excursions end beside a bonfire under the moonlit sky accompanied by a blaring array of loud-sounding chords?” 

“This is my land, this is my verdure, this is my home… well, this is it. I am the Spirit of the forest. I care for all those that live in it.”

Gives out a deep exhale; quivering the leaves beneath and all the ones above. Whispers- “Nah! Not true. Let me do this again. Ahem. I am one of the many spirits, not the spirit of the forest. We are many… we are one. We are – never mind. It’s complicated.”

“But when they come walking in, looking bewildered and terrified; watching the twilight mirage, they beg me for help, they pray me for the safety of themselves and their loved ones.”

And –

“Oh! Right. I shall first get to the point. Let’s make this clear – I’m the spirit of the forest, not a beast of the night. They – the beast, sleep by the day, awakening only when the night strolls by.”  

“I am the spirit of the forest; I do not kill, and I do not take that, which is not mine. I’m the spirit of the forest, living on sweet fruits by the day and laying wherever I can for a rest in the night. I’m the spirit of the forest, far from the city’s clearing, away from the clan, and away from all the tribes.”

“We live in and with an indescribable harmony together; the spirits, the divine trees, the beasts, the birds, the demons, the pebbles, and the tiny sand gravels.”

“Help me with these crates, TJ!” A shrill voice called out, shaking us all awake.

“Here, they come on their nature excursion.” I take a deep sigh; they quivered below and all the ones above. “Spirit! When will they ever get used to my sighs!?”

I sway a wee bit closer to see how these beings appear to be. “Will they sense my presence? A thought I always get, especially when the new guests arrive. I’m unseen, unfelt by most, but I must be on my utmost guard, I must hide and watch. I shall not have the molecules in the air that they breathe getting mixed up with those of mine?” My face scowled “Well … I could… but I would not. Not at least till the time I’m revered, not at least till the time I know they shall not put me and my loved ones in any harm.”

“I shouldn’t have to come. This is only a pretense. Holiday with nature. Year by year, why must we be here!? Why is this the only place for a summer vacation? This wilderness is not where I ever want to be. Oh, why! Oh, why!” That’s how sitting on a soft glazed rock he lamented and sighed.

Footsteps of a small angel. “I know them; I know they care. They are the ones that skip every step within permissible boundaries; an image painted by their thoughts and their curious mind. Sometimes that makes me contemplate, intrigued by their perception… or is it deception? Why do they see me the way they do? I am the only reality – I know this because I can see and I can think the same way as they do.” 

“Get off you demons! Stop bombarding. You stupid buzzing thingies. Am I your only meal today!?” Putting his shirts back on, tucking it in, trying not to show off any more of his skin than required. Waving around his little arms, but to no avail. They were everywhere around, as if in love with him.

“Heehee”, the other giggled – an ice candy giggle. She came and sat next to him on a large glazed rock. Picking up the stones and tossing them together, it splashed before they dived in the calm lake water. The laughter, the giggles, oh, it makes me swell with pleasure. Landing back on the shore beside the edge of the lake, covered in soiled water and the useless mosquito repellent, I see them still swatting off the little devils. I sent in the frogs, I sent in the swallows. They began a brand-new chorus, forgetting to welcome the dragonflies, those that I sent in a while later. Oh, never mind. Soon enough they sang in harmony together. The swatting stopped only to begin an incessant chitter-chatter and a little more laughter.

The trees and the bushes swayed with me. Pleased we were together.

Suddenly one turned back in a flash and glared right through as if momentarily, he heard me whisper. Holding the hand of the other, barefooted and careful, they walked on the path of grit, dirt, seeds, and sharp gravel. I wait, I wonder if they reach the edge or sprint away in terror? His sullen eyes watching me, the other skipping gleefully, humming a continuous chorus, unconcerned of the world but happy with relent from the bugging scoundrels. He looked up at the blue skies, the drifting clouds that expanded and contracted, dissolving somewhere behind each other and creeping up again, thickening, forming shapes all in front of his gaze. Enchanted cheerful faces; I sent in the wind filled with sweet pollen and colorful dust. Quickening bare steps bare on the foot, the path of grit, dirt, seeds, and sharp gravel. “Careful,” I whispered, but of course they couldn’t hear, so I softened the earth with green moss and dewdrops.

“Oh, look! A jeweled beetle!” he stopped, pointing out the bug on the green moss.

“Ahh, look at these… the creepy-crawly centipedes.” Picking one up gently with her soft hands, letting the centipede move around her palm towards her arm as if on a clear path, throwing a gregarious giggle.

He walked along with a frown, not waiting for the other “Careful there! Don’t crush them under your muddy foot”.

“I’ll do what I have to! No one tells me what not to do!” Upset on receiving instruction by another as little as he? He walked away stomping his foot, thrashing the obstructing bushes, hitting them with small bare fingers.

“Wait for me!” She ran, giving not a thought to the oh, tiny – falling – centipede.

I sighed once again, and together they quivered all below and the ones above. So this was it. Mood swing. One moment of laughter and the other distress. Living within straight lines of a rectangle, a square, how will they ever comprehend with the curves, squiggles, wiggles, and the shaded life of my world? The distress of theirs becomes destruction to us. When will they realize, Oh, Great Spirit, when will they accept? This earth is my ownership, they are merely a tenant. I am a reality; they are a living illusion.

“TJ! Isa! Time for supper!” An acute piercing voice shrilled once again, silencing the tenants of the woodland.

A second instant and the sound of retracing, fading footsteps on the path of grit, dirt, seeds, and sharp gravel filled the moist air.

Yamini Mathur – A graduate in psychology; born and brought up in India; Yamini lives in Thailand with her husband and two children. Part-time writer, part-time baker, she has 12 years of work experience in the hospitality industry. The onset of her debut short story ‘The World Within’ took off her journey towards the field of writing. An avid reader, she is also a volunteer in an International school giving reading classes to a group of students.