Like a cymbal crashing, Maya’s heart bumped against her chest as the airplane experienced a greater turbulence. There had been earlier waves during the journey but none that jerked her gut that way.
Her mystic senses had told her there was some evil, vile energy lumbering the atmosphere around her. Maya had rarely been so sure of her senses. And that energy was reaching the pinnacle of activity.
The hostesses were calming the people around. Even without any mystic senses, the hostesses as well as some of the people around could sense the oncoming danger. What with the already crackling lightning, the blackness that sizzled with the electric smoke in the sky and the random but frequent jerks, this bigger turbulence seemed like the last straw, the culmination “of it all”, as Maya’s dramatic daughter, Riha would’ve said. Maya thanked God that she was down on the earth, safe with her father, Maya’s husband.
Even as Maya thought that, her attention directed itself to the small pigtailed head bobbing beside her. A tall, handsome man, around Maya’s own age, sat next to the girl, possibly her father. He had a lined face and a grim expression. A sort of angry tiredness emanated from him. The little girl was murmuring to herself, her head bowed and her hands joined.
‘Children…’, Maya thought, with a mental sigh, ‘the way they are…always hopeful.’
But this hope seemed to do it. The air around went still. Everyone relaxed. Maya though, clutched her armrests tighter, knowing that things could turn around at the least expected moment.
A minute passed. Two did. Maya felt nauseous. She had always known that the actual thing never was the main villain. It was the waiting building towards it and the trail of some negative emotion left after it that were more villainous.
But the actual thing never happened. The people began talking again. Everything was calm and fine. But everything didn’t feel fine. Maya closed her eyes. Her breath whizzed in and out. Her mind flashed random thoughts. Maya was on the edge of passing out when a violent shake wrung the entire sleep out of her in one go. Okay, maybe, the last straw was yet to drop.
A hostess was silencing a hysteric couple. Two others were making their way towards the cockpit. Yet others were calming people here and there with uneasy and false smiles.
The girl near her started murmuring again. In another five minutes, as the aircraft tailspun into a complete chaos of scared and terrified people, her murmur reached a crescendo so that Maya could make out words.
“Oh God! Don’t let this flight fall! Save us, God! Save the people around me. They look as scared as I am. And they are adults!” and she kept on muttering, her tone no longer rising but a rhythmic, audible thrumming. ‘Such a wise, young girl’.
Then, things went white all around. A silvery white. Why were things white?! ‘What’s wrong?’ Maya thought. She could barely see. “Little one”, she addressed the girl next to herself, “is there a white light around? A pale silver white light?”
“Is there?” She burst out in an ecstatic cry.
“Woman, don’t spill rubbish in the ears of my child”, the man next to the girl now spoke. He croaked rather. “There’s no white light around.”
Maya wondered why the man seemed so irritated. It was that angry tiredness that emanated from him. Or was it a tired anger? Maya didn’t remember. Her mind filled with the light. She knew it were her mystic senses. But they felt wrong somehow. Unnecessary rather.
For a brief second, the chaos became clear and orderly. Then everything went haywire. Just before slipping into unconsciousness, Maya realised that it was the Absolute that had come. The Absolute that was different to everyone and yet, a single one for all.
Providential help had arrived to rescue them. To Maya, it was a beautiful white vision that filled her eyes. With her mystic senses, she was able to sense and, in a way, see Him long before the rest of them.
To her, the Absolute came in the shape of her father, a great seer who seldom went wrong. He smiled at her, his eyes crinkled in an elderly, primeval way, the gaze a fatherly one. He held in his one hand a locket which Maya remembered from her childhood. The locket had Maya and her mother’s pictures in it. In the other hand, he carried a wooden staff that had been his prized possession and that had been laid with him when he was buried. It was an heirloom that Maya had denied taking, wanting to keep it with her father.
He was cloaked in a violet, velvet robe, a colour of mirth and chivalry. His face was just the way it had always been towards Maya, affectionate and kind. He was extending his staff towards her. The vision was so good. So good…
The plane shook the way a dog’s tail wags when it is happy. And it was fun. But after it happened thrice and the fourth shake seemed a bit larger shake, Naha decided it was serious after all, especially because they were up in the air, in an airplane.
She prayed. Her father gave a low grunt when he saw her. Naha could still not figure out why her father didn’t believe in prayers. It had started ever since mum left Naha to go away with the angels of God. Naha missed her a lot. Sometimes she cried and went to her dad, snuggling in his arms. She felt comfort there. But she missed her mother still. Her mother’s images had started to fade from Naha’s memories and the only definite picture was the one on the mantelpiece.
That was why she was praying for the people around. Her mother had been in a train and not a plane, but she had still been far away from Naha. It had been an unexpected, sad parting. It was a rose bush of a memory, soft and sharp. She choked on the memory at times. Naha didn’t want other people to feel the way she felt.
As her prayer grew, the shakes subsided. Naha stopped. The angels had listened…
‘Or maybe not’, Naha thought as a violent shake lurched her insides and the woman beside her woke up with a startle from a second-long sleep.
Naha started praying again. She didn’t realise when her prayer became audible until her father tugged at her. Before he could say anything though, the lady (her voice was very soothing) asked her if Naha saw a white light.
Naha couldn’t help her excitement. Weren’t the angels and God associated with a white light? Unfortunately, her father didn’t let Naha answer. He was angry and irritated.
‘Perhaps dad doesn’t like the thing the woman is wearing around her neck’, Naha thought. It was a black lace tied to a weird sort of crystal, cut along jagged edges. And at the moment, it was changing from the squishy green to a very light pale green.
Naha started to tell the lady about that. But the lady was sleeping. How could someone sleep with all the noise around?! Yet, there she was, beside Naha, breathing deeply, her eyes closed.
“Dad? What’s up with this lady?”
“Don’t worry about her”, dad replied, curt but worried. “She isn’t the kind of person you should mingle with. You just hold the armrests tightly, okay Naha. Don’t pray. No one is coming to help.”
Naha looked at her father. Her child brain wanted to cuddle and squeeze her father and see him bereft of any tiredness like he used to be. “Okay dad”, she mumbled instead. And it was good she obeyed him. She could’ve fallen because of the next shake had she not clutched the armrests.
‘Isn’t she some superwoman of sorts?’, Naha thought looking at the lady next to her after the shock of the shake subsided. The woman was still sleeping! ‘People awake have stumbled out of their seats and this woman didn’t even budge. How strange! She might even be an angel.’
As if on cue, the rock in the woman’s neck now shown with a shimmery white glow. But there were tears in her green eyes. These were slow tears, like the tears Naha shed when she thought of her mother.
An announcement interrupted Nahas reverie: “Emergency! Emergency! Everyone, fasten your seat belts!”
People were throwing tensed and angry WHY?s at the hostesses who were having real trouble, managing the passengers. Naha didn’t fidget so much even in her tests, the way the adults were fidgeting at present.
A hostess came to their place, tying the seatbelt around the strange woman’s waist. She held the woman’s wrist against her fingers and checked her forehead. She must’ve seen Naha observing her activities because the hostess said, “Probably exhaustion. Happens to some people. Don’t you worry, child.”
“Don’t you spoil my child, telling her nonsense about not worrying”, Naha’s dad snapped at the woman who looked uneasy at the unexpected attack. Naha felt bad for the helpful hostess. “This plane is going to crash, isn’t it? Tell me true.”
“For all I know”, the hostess replied, her courtesy forgotten, “it might, sir”.
If the plane crashed, Naha wouldn’t see her dolls again. Her doll Betty would be the most saddened. And her friends? But she couldn’t do anything about it except pray. Then again, why pray? If the plane crashed, the angels would take her to mom. And wouldn’t she like it? She would love it. She missed mum so, so much. But her father…
“Naha, what happened dear?”, her father asked gently. Naha had gone teary.
“Nothing dad”, Naha replied. “Just remembered mum.”
Her father took her into his embrace. “Oh dear, dear”, he murmured. He kept murmuring inaudibly. But his embrace was like a breeze to Naha, beautiful, strong and comforting. She won’t leave him. The situation would have continued like that but…
There was a greater shake. A shake because of which luggage at various places rained down on people. A shake that reverberated within Nahas heart and filled it with fear. A shake that even stirred the lady near her though she remained unconscious.
People went all over the hysteria again, praying, muttering, shouting, wailing and whatnot. The hostesses had given up trying to soothe them. They looked pretty distressed themselves. A hostess went into the cockpit again. When she came back, the others circled around her, fervent and impatient. She murmured something to the rest. One of them clamped her mouth shut.
‘Bad news’, Naha thought.
‘I need a nap’, thinking thus, Naha made to close her eyes. Later, she wondered if it was a dream or if it was real or if it was both or none. Beautiful white angels were coming towards her, looking at her with kindly eyes. And… Naha felt tears run down her eyes as she saw her mother, only her mother was an angel. She wore a white tiara, white earrings and necklace and a white tunic of some sorts. A nimbus of the sparkling white light arose from her figure. She smiled and opened her arms wide for Naha. Naha went into that embrace. It was cosy…
Malan cursed his luck. He hated commuting. And somehow, he had ended up taking the most awfully evil seat in the most awfully evil airplane for himself and his daughter Naha. The plane met a storm not halfway through the distance. The turbulence was too much too quick. He himself had nothing to fear. He was a lonely man. He feared for Naha though.
The girl had to have a damn future. Her mother had wished it. Her mother…
Malan had never been a very sentimental being but his wife and Naha’s mother had been a truly beautiful woman. She had been the alchemist’s stone that changed whatever it touched to gold. ‘Okay, now that’s a little too much. Divya wasn’t that good.’
Divya and Malan had fallen in love and married. Then, Naha was born. His irritable temper had found a salve in family, so to say. But things went wrong and Divya ended up sitting in a train that crashed in about an hour (Naha was but a teeny five-year old then and Malan had stayed home to take care of her). They had one final talk when Divya told Malan of the situation that was prevailing. The tracks had a big gap whence the train could topple over. Everyone had taken safety precautions. Malan had prayed and prayed but to no avail. After the accident, everyone was recovered, alive, except for one. Divya.
Ever since then, his faith in anything even slightly within the radius of God and supernatural stuff had turned into a disbelief intermingled with a burning hatred, a strong loathing, a distrust hardly concealed in public.
All this Malan recalled, sitting on the window seat, looking at the cotton sky because he was too angry to look at the stupid lady sitting near his daughter. She had a little too many rings and bands in her fingers and wrists. And worst of all was her necklace with that green stone.
The small tremors did little to distract him. But the turbulence that came next commanded some urgency and sincerity. Malan made sure that his daughter was safe. He couldn’t fail as a father. Naha’s physical and mental protection from intruding forces (like plane turbulences and bizarre individuals) was his first priority.
He gave one little grunt to express his disapproval as Naha prayed. But he didnt say anything. After all, it was upon her if she wanted to believe in that stuff. Hopefully, she would later understand the stupidity of it all.
There were no more shakes for the next few minutes. ‘Just a lucky coincidence. It’s not the effect of the prayers’, Malan thought. Taking the cue perhaps, a sharp and heavy shake vibrated the whole metal idiocy that people call an airplane. This shake was too much. There was a fair chance that the passengers might get seriously wounded before the end of the journey.
Malan felt an urge to ask for protection of her daughter. But to whom he would address his appeal, he had no idea. Not God. There was nothing as devilish an existence as God.
His daughter eased the complications he was facing. She started praying again, this time her volume rising with each passing word. It was beginning to take shape into words. And these words hurt him. This little girl, she wanted not her own but others’ safety? That was horrible. Had Malan neglected Naha a little too much after Divya’s death and made her want to crave…for death? He hoped not. He gulped at the cruelty of the thought. He tugged at the daughter, hoping to comfort her when that stupid woman enquired about some stupid light. ‘A white light? Seriously?’
And why the heck did Naha have to be so excited about it. It was only justified that Malan cut the woman’s talk and protected her daughter from that stuff.
He didn’t care in the slightest if the lady slept right to her death. Who was she to fill his daughter’s ears with outrageous white light stuff? And later, after that final terrible shake and the announcement of an emergency, Malan’s anger rose at the words of the hostess. Who was she to portray an unpractical and shielded life in front of Naha when life was nothing but cruel?
And tears in his little Naha’s eyes, that was too unbearable. So was their cause. The poor child wanted her mother. Had he been so bad a dad? Perhaps, he thought with a lump in his throat, it would be for Naha’s good if he died today. He embraced her, wanting to give her all the comfort in the world. And she snuggled closer, a gesture that meant the world to Malan.
But would these shakes ever stop?! This one was too, too much. Things went out of control within the plane as people whirled into mad hysterics. Naha had closed her eyes. Somehow, as she did so, things felt silent. They were silent.
Malan looked around. People were dropping to sleep all over. And even when he resisted it, his eyes drooped and not long after, he saw a vision, his own manifestation of what God or Power or any supernatural stuff was, just like every other person on the plane, including the pilots.
In his vision, Malan saw a faceless creature looking down at him, wearing a black mantle. Looking down at him? How dare it?
“Well, how dare anyone do anything against you, Malan?”, the creature croaked.
“WHO ARE YOU?!” Malan demanded.
With an even louder and more authoritative voice, the creature replied. “Him, whom you despise so bad that your manifestation of Me is but a devil in black. You are a man who has experienced personal loss but who forgets that at some point, everyone has witnessed injustice from My side. Everyone… and you, sir, are no different.”
“Then, why do you think I, or anyone else, should continue worshipping you?”, Malan questioned, with all the menace he could harness.
“I force no one. But you will find that faith makes things easier.”
“Then, it’s faith and not You, right?”, Malan smirked at what he thought was his obvious success.
“Well, what am I really, though? Am I different from faith?”
Malan didn’t get a chance to answer (and though he wouldn’t admit it to himself, he didn’t have an answer) because at that moment, his vision burst and he was on firm ground. They had all been saved and Naha was with him, hugging him tightly.
“Thank God, dad”, Naha said.
“Don’t. Don’t thank Him, not on my behalf.”
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