"Run wherever you may, Arvin. Hide however you wish. You will end up with my kind. I curse you that from this day, your life will serve a purpose only for others, and you will wander here to there without a home." She said, thrusting him out of the hut and slamming the door on his face.
"Please, try to understand, Sira. Do you think I'll live happily without you?" He pleaded, rushing over to the window. "I am a simple boy from an unimportant family, and you are.., You know what you are, right! This town will never accept our union once they find out what you are. They will kill us. There is no future for us."
"We could have worked it out. Two people loving each other always do. It's a pity I loved a coward." She said as she showered herself with a pot of oil. "I don't want to live in a world where love gets sacrificed for the sake of pleasing the society."
"No, no, no! Don't do this, Sira." Tears ran down his cheeks as a shiver of alertness gushed through his body. "Look at me. LOOK AT ME, SIRA. I am not going anywhere." He tried to thrust down the window with his bare hands. He was not strong enough. Meanwhile, she found a matchbox.
He stretched his arms from the window and banged his head with the bars, pleading her to stop. "I am yours, Sira. Only yours. Please don't do this." He cried and begged like a motherless toddler, but it was too late.
"You will be free when two becomes one, and one breaks three." She said and lit the match.
An aggressive whoosh of fiercely catching fire in the closed room threw Arvin away from the window, and the heart-rending cries of Sira wreaked through the quiet of the night.
"SIRRAAA...!!!" He cried and woke up wide-eyed with streams of sweat running all over his body. It was dawn still. He sat for a while, holding his head in both hands. A year has passed, and it feels like if it had happened yesterday. And I am yet to solve the mystery of the last words of Sira.
'Runaway, son, before it's too late. And never come back. Or they will kill you.' His mother's Parting words echoed in his ears. Then he looked around and realised a year of aimless wandering had led him on top of a small hill somewhere amid the jungle. The heralds of the sun had the sky painted orange in the east, and against it, he saw threads of white smoke rising merrily to merge with the clouds above. A sign of human habitation in the middle of the jungle. Interesting! Maybe my shelter awaits here, or perhaps I will be kicked out as always.
He laid there idly, waiting for the sun to rise. For he had nothing else to do. His whole body ached from the hardship he had suffered along the journey. And the fresh new cuts on his arms and legs reminded him of the close escape from the pack of the wolves last night. He wondered why did they stop chasing after he reached the top. They almost had him, and he had nearly given up. Maybe they weren't hungry enough and pursued me just for the sport of it? It's strange.
The crimson sun rose in the east as if in answer to his question. And as the sunlight grew, he noticed the place around him for the first time. It was oddly well-kept for the merit of the jungle. A uniform oval-shaped stone stood beside him, which he had used as back support, and two enormous sacred figs grew on both sides of it. The remainder of fruits and flowers lay scattered around the rock. Offerings, I guess?
Looking closely at the rock, he saw some words were carved neatly on it. 'Pathh it, pathh it oh! Pathik' read the first line of two. Before he could read further, he saw, against the sun, a few tribal people with wooden spears approaching him, chanting strange chants. Some of them carried baskets of fruits and flowers. It was already too late to run or hide. He knew it. Hence he sat right there surrendering himself to fate. Their chanting ceased to murmur and then stopped at the sight of him. They stood dumb-struck in front of him, looking at one another confused. And then they fell to his feet all at once. He sprang up to his feet, startled.
"The holy goddess has listened to us." One of them said.
"Our saviour has come at last." Another one said, now standing up.
"Come with us, oh! Ancient one, and deliver us from our miseries." Said a tall and sturdy man who looked like their leader. He then picked him up on his shoulders and began to walk towards their village. The others followed with enhanced enthusiasm chanting the same chants as before. Arvin insisted for a while that he could walk but gave up eventually when they declined fiercely, saying: 'We are not allowed to divert from our customs even for the chosen one.'
* * *
They presented him before the chief of the village. The entire townlet had gathered there to witness the long-awaited legend unfold before their eyes.
"We do not wish to know your past, for you are our future." The tribal chief spoke politely. "And we understand your turmoil, but know this, our scriptures state in detail about it, and we have waited decades for a stranger to wake up on that hill. Cheer up now. You will tune into our custom in no time, for it is your destiny. Now tell me about your abilities."
Arvin knew he was doomed if he told them he was a mortal just like them. Judging by the eagerness in their eyes, they were waiting for him to chant those sacred words and transform into a peacock or something. His survival instinct tingled. He had to lie, but it must be a believable one.
"I am a Seer." He said. Disappointment flickered plainly on their faces. No one spoke. They stood there hungrily, waiting for more.
" And a Dream decipherer." The words escaped his mouth as if they had a will of their own. He regrated it instantly, but to his astonishment, it brought tears of joy in their eyes, and they broke out into a celebration. What is a big deal about Dream decipherer?
* * *
It was not until midnight that the celebration ceased, and the chief came over to Arvin. "I guess I know what you may be wondering. Come with me. I want you to meet someone." He said and led the way along the dark narrow pavements of the village. It led them to a small hut outside the settlement. Deem yellow light flickered from its windows. Strangely, it reminded him of the Hut of Sira. The door opened on its own, and they went inside. A hearth fire crackled merrily in the middle of the hut, and a woman with her hair open sat quietly gazing into the flames.
"I will speak with him alone." She said, and the chief left, bowing down to her. The door closed itself behind him.
"I did not sense you coming. Who are you? And why do you lie to us?" She said, now standing up with lantern in one hand.
She lifts the lantern in level with his face. And in its dim light, her young face glimmered brighter than the lantern. She looked barely 20. Their eyes met, and he forgot how to speak.
He opened his mouth to tell her everything, but she put her hands on his lips as she observed the wound on his hands. "Shh..!! Don't tell me anything, or it would spoil everything. I should not have doubted the guardians. It seems you got escorted thoroughly to the hill." She said with a hint of a smile.
"ESCORTED? I got hunted by the wolves on my way to the hilltop."
"Do you believe you would have been alive if they were hunting you? They are our guardians. If they allowed you, that means you serve the purpose."
"What purpose I do serve? And what is happening with me?"
"I should have known it. Believe me. I am desperate as you are. Something has gone amiss. You came here as you should have, and you said the things you should have, yet you're not what I was seeking. The abilities you lied about, you should have possessed."
"You speak as if you had planned it all. Tell me what you want? Who you are?"
"I do not yet know how much I should tell you. Go now and sleep, if you can. Play your lies well tomorrow, or you will get killed." She said and sat down in front of the hearth fire.
"I am not going anywhere until you tell me something." He said and sat down in front of her. "Look, there is no purpose to my life. But it seems that yours have, and I have a part to play in it. I want to help you, but how can I if you don't tell me anything."
She opened her eyes, and they sat there for a while, staring at each other. When she realised that Arvin would not budge, she gave in.
"My name is Kathaya, and I am a dream weaver. When I was young and stupid, one of my teachers caught me mocking her of her old age behind her back. Enraged, she cursed me, saying: 'Instead of helping elders in their old age, you take pride in mocking them, you young bastard. You will not age a single day from now on and live your life in fool's paradise.' I begged for her forgiveness and to reverse the curse. Then she said, 'only a cursed fortuneteller can set you free. And I know it is against the rules, but I will not tell you the counter curse. You will have to find it out yourself when it's time.' I abandoned my town after that and found this settlement. And from that day, I am playing a dream weaver in this fool's paradise waiting for my fortuneteller to arrive."
"You see, Arvin! Their life is worthless without my dreams. They have nothing to do in this wilderness. My dreams give them hope, fear, and thus a reason to live. In the earlier days, I was hopeful, so my dreams brought them prosperity. But of late, I mostly dream of fear and tragedy. It makes them feel like they're on the verge of inevitable doom. That is why, to give them hope, I told them long ago that their saviour is coming. And look, you are here to deliver us from our misery."
"I am no fortuneteller, Kathaya. You know it. I am not able to free myself. How can I free you and your people."
"You should have been a fortuneteller by now if you had not messed something up. Everything has unfolded as it should have, just this one thing. I can not figure out what it is. And even if I could, I wouldn't be able to tell you, for there are some fine lines in my lore that I can not cross. If I tell you, it will not work."
"But you can give me a hint."
That brought a smile to her face as the sunrise brings blossom to a lotus.
"Use the Athenaeum near the temple of the goddess. READ!"
* * *
His life as a Seer and a Dream decipherer began the next day. The townsmen gathered in front of his hut beside the temple of the goddess. He discussed some of Kathaya's dreams with them. He twisted the plain meanings of the dreams, smeared them with hope, and made them look like they were leading towards the greater good. People went about their business that day with a smile on their faces and a warmth in their hearts.
Another day he would foresee a great future for them. It would feel their eyes with dreams and sow the eagerness to achieve those dreams in their hearts. In his free time, he would go to the Athenaeum and read. The townsmen were happy. Their saviour was working miracles for them.
One day, while reading in the Athenaeum, he stumbled upon a strange book titled The Curse Lore. The moment he took the book in his hands, he knew she held the answers to all his questions within her pages. Once he sat, he read and read for that whole day and a night as if the book held him in her spell. She took him with her through her pages into the glorious history of witchcraft. He performed magical spells with alluring witches and died many a horrifying death with them, burning or hanging on trees. He learned the types of curses and the lines one should not cross while performing them. He took notes of important passages while reading. It read:
A witch can bewitch anyone by making them utter or read specific words.
She could free the victim from her spell only if she remembered the words she used to bewitch them.
A skilful witch can bewitch animals too if she wishes.
If a witch curses someone in the face, she must provide the victim with the counter curse and the situation to use it.
A witch can not reverse the curse given to someone by another witch, even if she knew the counter curse. (there are debates about the exceptions)
When he finished the book, the sun had begun to set already on the second day. He went through the notes swiftly and began to connect the dots. He thought about the encounter with the wolves. A skilful witch can bewitch animals too if she wishes. Then he remembered about the oval-shaped stone and the carvings on it. A witch can bewitch anyone by making them utter or read specific words. The course in which the dots were connecting made his head spun. What if I had read the entire carving on the rock? Is it the only missing piece of the puzzle? If it is, I know what to do.
He ran towards the hill without caring about the observers and their speculations. The sun had set already, and nearby the wolves greeted the full moon with their howls when he reached the hilltop. The oval-shaped rock stood there between two sacred figs. The carvings on it shone in the moonlight as if inviting him to read.
'Pathh it, pathh it oh! Pathik,
Cha bhavati mama dasya.'
As he read it, dizziness began to grow heavy on his mind. The ever-young face of Kathatya swirled before his eyes for a moment, then he smiled and surrendered to the earth's gravity.
* * *
When he reached the village, his heart sank when he saw Kathaya burn the huts one by one, laughing like a maniac. People ran here and there aflame and aghast. Children cried and begged from the burning huts for rescue.
"KATHAYAAA...!!!" He cried and woke up wide-eyed with streams of sweat running all over his body. It was not an ordinary dream. He knew it in his heart. He even knew the meaning of it. For the abilities he had lied of possessing, he had woke up with them today. If I do not help Kathaya soon, no twisting or sugar-coating will save the village from her dreams of fear and despair.
* * *
"Now, I am what you were seeking." He said, bringing himself to Kathaya.
"I sensed you descending the hill and running all the way here as if I were your shadow. You do not know what have you done to yourself to free me."
"A witch can bewitch anyone by making them utter or read specific words. I know."
"So you found the book."
"And I've connected all the dots as well. Yet I do not see any path leading to your liberation."
"I know. I have with me, my cursed fortuneteller. I have the ideal situation as well. But I do not have the counter curse."
"Ah! That makes you as hopeless as I am."
"Oh! What are your counter curse and situation?"
"When two becomes one, and one breaks three." Said Arvin, "The two are slowly becoming one. I can sense that without my enhanced vision, but there's no way one spell can break three curses. Right!"
That brought a smile to her face as the sunrise brings blossom to a lotus. She shyly came closer to Arvin and kissed him gently on his lips, and said:
"Pathh it, pathh it oh! Pathik, Cha bhavati mama dasya."