His tiny hands are empty when Trix recovers from the excruciating blows of the blizzard. He looks around frantically and calls for Snowey; once, twice, thrice… so many times that his throat hurts.
The slaps of snow-laced wind are still harsh, if not brutal like earlier. However, the snowdrifts around Trix have ceased growing. He tries to retract his path. But what does a tiny pair of feet leave behind? Not deep pits like a bigfoot’s imprints nor barbegazi’s footprints—much bigger than his own body. Nothing.
After hours of search, he sprinkles a handful of dust on a tree as a landmark to come back later.
Why didn’t he hold Snowey’s hand tightly? What if… what if someone finds him and encages? Now, the white milieu has devoured his white friend on their last day when they were finally going home.
The Snowmageddon has swallowed Snowey.
Three hundred and seven.
Three hundred and eight.
Three hundred and nine.
Three hundred and…
Each droplet from the bathroom’s tap makes Yash Vardhan cringe. “Argh! Counting never helps.” Every drop’s plink tears apart the cold dark silence with renewed and compounded vigour. He has lost his night to insomnia again.
Slipping his feet into his slippers and wrapping himself in a shawl, he sits on a windowsill. The blanket of the tiny twinkling dots looks the most beautiful tonight. Ethereal as if God himself has tucked the crystals in the indigo tapestry to cover Yash Vardhan’s primitive hilly town with barely five hundred dwellers.
He sits there, tireless, sleepless, just absorbing the beauty of the sky and the slumbering town beneath it. Ashoka and Deodar trees sway slowly as if being lulled to an elusive sleep.
A faint giggle shatters his silent exchange with nature’s solitude. Yash Vardhan strolls to the next room. The bed is empty. The clink of her muffled laughter emanates again. He now knows where to find his munchkin, his five-year-old daughter.
Aarna is sitting beside the cold fireplace, right in front of a kennel. A small bulb gleams above her head, slivering the darkness.
“Hey, little Peaches, why aren’t you sleeping? Come here, come here.” He stretches his arms after sitting cross-legged on the carpet near Aarna. “It’s so cold. Why aren’t you wearing your sweater?”
“Dadda, Pixur was shiverin and ask me my sweeter.” She cosies herself in her father’s lap and rubs her palms against each other.
Yash Vardhan smiles at her broken language and envelopes her inside his shawl. They both rock back and forth, waiting for Pixur to come out of his kennel. Sometimes, once Pixur gets inside, he won’t return for hours and lies low in silence. A pin-drop silence that often worries the father.
He can hear the cooing of the puppy now, but it appears to be coming from afar. It diminishes slowly, bit by bit. And as if Pixur has vanished into another world, his voice is imperceptible.
“He sure is a funny pup. Knows his way to trick us,” Yash Vardhan tells Aarna.
His daughter yawns and curls up in his lap. The panting and cooing of Pixur still linger like a hum of an unnoticeable honeybee. When the cold cuts his skin, Yash Vardhan lights the fireplace, and Aarna sleeps in his lap. It takes her a little more than a minute to drift to her dreamland.
Every morning he eagerly waits for Aarna to recite her dreams over breakfast before leaving for her elementary school. Most of them are about fairies, magic, and mesmerising fantasies that belong to enchanted lands. Sometimes, she talks about characters from the animated movies she has recently watched. At times about creatures that don’t exist.
“Call me Peaches, no Aarna. I love this name, and my cheek is also round.” She has said this many months before after watching the ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’. The baby elephant remains her favourite character so far in the series. Indeed, Aarna’s rosy cheeks are as plump as Peaches, though the colours don’t match.
When the dawn cracks and roosters crow in a nearby farm, Yash Vardhan wakes up, his muscles tight and cracking after sleeping on the carpet. Thankfully he had pulled a blanket in his sleep. Otherwise, Aarna might have caught a cold.
The little girl stirs in her sleep and goes back to her dreams.
He feels thankful that the fire is still dancing in its full glory. Did I feed so much wood that it’s still alive? And did I really pull the blanket from the bedroom? When did I get up from here? He doesn’t pay more attention to his hazy recollections from the short sleep. Sporadic insomnia can do that—sleepwalking and doing things that leave no memories for later.
The white furball with crystal black eyes, sitting at the entry of his kennel, blinks at him. Aarna’s sweater hangs loose on him in a funny way. Pixur’s forelimbs are out from the pooled up sleeves near his claws. The rest of its body has drowned inside it. The woollen is too big for the poor pup.
“Hey, come here, ma boy. This must be troubling, no?” Yash Vardhan picks the cute little Pomeranian in his arms and tries to pull the sweater out. “It’s a holiday. You can take a bath today, what say?”
The dog jumps from his grip and goes back to his kennel. Yash Vardhan stretches his right hand and fossicks the surface beneath Pixur’s hut only to find it empty. He peeks inside the kennel but sees nothing. He can still hear the waning coos of Pixur, which dies into the faintest inkling. And then a silence lingers between Yash Vardhan and the kennel.
“Dadda, why you pokin you face inside Pixur house?” Aarna asks, blinking her sleepy eyes.
“Just looking for Pixur. He’s a trickster, Peaches. Once inside, you can hear him but can’t find him.” When his own voice ricochets off the walls of the kennel, he pulls his head out.
“Because Pixur goes to a magical world, Dadda.” Aarna’s fingers dance in the air as if doing abracadabra. She crawls and sprawls beside her father. “Yo, boy, come. I want play to you.”
Yash Vardhan pulls himself up in a sitting position and combs his fingers through Aarna’s messy locks. He feels content, thinking of the improvement in Aarna’s condition in the last one month. She had stopped talking after her mother’s demise several months before. Her replies were monosyllabic, punctuated with gestures of her hands, eyes, and head. His wife took away her will to talk, and it returned the moment she saw Pixur behind the glass door a month back.
Despite broken sentences and wrong grammar, she’s talking well now.
“Hey, come here, ma boy,” Aarna says—copying her father—and pats Pixur’s back as he strolls out of the kennel.
Yash Vardhan fluffs Pixur’s fur. It’s cold. That’s when a firefly distracts him while hovering around the kennel. It flutters from back to the front of the kennel and then goes inside and comes back. Its twinkle is intermittent that lights up frequently.
Pixur jumps out of Aarna’s lap and runs after the firefly.
“Dadda, see, fairy.” Aarna also runs after them.
“Fairy? No, Peaches, it’s a firefly. An insect that glows in the night.”
“But it’s not night. She is fairy.”
The trio stalls near the kennel in the order of their size. The firefly sits at the hand-made paper awning at the kennel’s entrance, Pixur stares at it, and then Aarna talks to the firefly with her grand knowledge of the magical world.
What if it’s a wasp or a poisonous insect? Yash Vardhan asks Aarna to step back with Pixur. When she continues her gibberish chatter with the firefly, he approaches closer and pulls his daughter and Pixur a few steps back.
The hum of the firefly grows, and it glows immensely with golden sparks.
“Dadda, don’t feel scare. She is fairy!” Aarna flinches and gets herself loose from Yash Vardhan’s grasp. “Pixur, she know you? What is with her hand, gold powder?”
A small spurt of golden glow spreads around the awning, leaving the paper decoration covered in sparkly dust. Pixur wiggles itself, the powdery specks flying away. It jumps up; its paw strikes the awning, bringing it down.
“Poof!” Aarna looks at her father. “Fairy fly away, Dadda.”
Just as her lips curl down and her eyes are about to water up, Pixur dashes into his den. Aarna runs after him. With her small frame, she gets inside Pixur’s house. The bow-wow of Pixur starts shrinking, accompanied with huffing and puffing as if he’s running up a hill. Aarna’s giggles stop.
Yash Vardhan flinches. He stretches his hand inside the kennel and feels Aarna sitting there.
“Come out, Peaches.” He cajoles her with a soft, pleading voice. “You will have trouble sitting there.” The father is more worried about the congestion she might feel inside in the thin air.
Slowly Aarna crawls out, and her hands tap on the golden powder on the floor. She looks at her palms and then at the broken awning. Twisting her hands and then smelling them, she says, “She is no fairy, Dadda.”
“Right, Peaches. They belong to movies and stories. They aren’t real.”
“They are. But she is pixie.”
“A pixie?” Yash Vardhan examines Aarna’s hands. “What is a pixie?”
“You don’t know pixie? You forget Tinker Bell movie we see that day?” Her pink lips curl down.
Yash Vardhan picks the cue and nods. “Of course, of course, Peaches. I do remember Twinkle Bell.” He rummages through his mind loaded with a jumbled salad of dozens of cartoons shows and scores of animated movies. Nothing surfaces that can resemble a pixie or a fairy. Or a wasp that excretes glittering powder.
It could be a dangerous wasp.
“Not Twinkle… Tinker Bell, Dadda.” Aarna pats her palm on her forehead, utterly irked with Yash Vardhan’s poor knowledge. “Pixie. Fairy-like cea-cea ceature. They carries pixie dust like fairies in pocket. Pointed ears and eyes, and they wear hats.”
“Let me guess; the pixie dust is magical!”
Aarna claps at his right guess and rewards him with a hug. “I think that pixie come to take my Pixur,” she whispers, leaning near his head.
“I won’t ever let that happen, Peaches. Pixur is yours.”
“Pixur is gone, Dadda.” Thick drops of tears roll down her cheeks, turning them pinker. “He is also poof.”
“What? No! He must be in his kennel. I didn’t see him coming out.”
“No! You don’t know. His kenna is magical. He is also magical. He go from the wall of kenna.” Aarna’s emotions change, and her teary eyes grow round and big in bewilderment and then back to sad. “And pixie take ma boy.”
Just then, the bow-wow sound vibrates the carpeted hall of their old house, full of artefacts from yesteryears and decorations from eras bygone. Pixur comes out, crashing into the antique wooden table and pants heavily.
“Pixur!” Aarna puts her arms around the furball and caresses her rosy cheeks to his pink-hued face.
Yash Vardhan stands amazed at Pixur’s panting and heavy breath. “Hey buddy, you are behaving weirdly. Are you all right? Looks like you climbed a mountain.” He tucks at Pixur’s collar and feels his skin for any fever. On the contrary, the pet’s body feels icy cold, and Yash Vardhan notices snowflakes dispersed lightly on the fur.
So, Yash Vardhan crawls to the other side but doesn’t notice any peculiarity other than the snowflakes. His hand retreats itself, sceptical about touching the pet anymore. He slowly drags Aarna back.
Can fantasy be real? More than amazed, he now feels worried. Or is it some occult trick to set me wrong against right policies? Goons often warn him when things don’t go their way. Threats are a bonus in his job.
Yash Vardhan has never believed in magic or black magic; his life revolves around numbers and people as the town council’s chief officer. A practical person who is supposed to live in the present, think of people’s welfare, and his town’s progress.
“Dadda, what happen? Pixur is cold. He can fall sick. You remove sweeter?”
“No, Peaches, I wouldn’t dare do so.” He wonders how the pullover is gone now. Pixur wasn’t ready to remove it earlier. He frisks his hand inside the kennel. His fingers touch a warm thing. The sweater. “Didn’t you remove it, Peaches?”
“No, Dadda. Pixie do it?”
“Pixies aren’t real, baby.”
“Uh, they are, Dadda.” She stomps her feet and shows him her hands, still glittering golden.
“Of course, Peaches.” Yash Vardhan’s faith shimmies from fairies to occult and then to reality. “They are real.”
He decides to drop the topic and go on with Sunday, his only holiday. A respite from the buzz of people, incessant ringing of mobile, increscent complaints, and intrusive hooligans.
By noon, Pixur looks calmer, not panting, not running around, and not crashing anywhere. His skin warms up with the heater running inside the house. Aarna goes about finishing her school activities with Yash Vardhan. But the constant nudge of snowflakes, golden dust, and the insect keeps him restless.
“Hey, Peaches, do you like to go to the city and have some pizza?”
Aarna jumps in excitement and waits till her father starts his car. “Ma boy likes pizza, too.” She looks happily surprised upon finding Pixur in the back seat.
Yash Vardhan halts at the junction of a dingy lane and the main road of the city he comes every month to. They stroll down the narrow sloppy path. When he stops at the end of the alley, a shock hits him.
He turns and looks around, searching for the pet shop frantically. Aarna looks at him, surprised but not understanding his problem. He enquires about the missing pet shop by dropping into an antique toys shop that has replaced it.
“I had been asked the same question earlier, many years back.” The old shop owner looks at Aarna from the top of his half-moon glasses. “But there ain’t a pet shop around for ages. I know because I’m as antique as my toys,” he says with a slow but curious and amused cadence.
“Dadda, he is Dumbadore?” Aarna whispers while stepping out, taking a second look at the fascinating toys she has never seen.
Yash Vardhan smiles and takes out the month-old torn receipt from his wallet. The address only reads, ‘egress to lost things’. When he asks Aarna if she remembers the shop, she denies. But, of course, she’s just a child.
After grabbing a pizza, they return.
How can a shop vanish? Poof! He couldn’t have mistaken because that’s an alley he knows well; his wife used to shop authentic spices at an old shop there.
“Dadda, look, Pixur is poof again.” Aarna comes out of the kennel with snowflakes on her fingertips and tears in her eyes. “Pixie take him.”
Yash Vardhan mollifies the child and picks up the kennel in the air. Pixur’s house leaves a faint white shape of its edges on the dark wooden floor but without the pup. He settles the kennel down and ponders over the magical episodes happening around Pixur.
When Aarna refuses to move to her bedroom, they settle in the hall like the previous night. Just when he tries to pat Aarna to sleep, she jumps from his lap.
“Pixie… You bring ma boy, Pixur?”
Yash Vardhan’s gaze focuses on where Aarna is looking. The wasp is back. He leans in closer and realises it isn’t an insect. It is bigger, nearly half his palmspan, colourful, and winged.
“A fairy!” He blinks his eyes twice but can’t blink away the miracle.
The creature in a green tunic and matching pointed conical hat has pointed ears. His eyes are sharp at the outer corners and nearly touch his brows.
“Why don’t you tell him, Aarna, I’m a pixie, not a fairy.” The magical creature somersaults from the kennel and lands on Aarna’s hand. “And my name is Trix.” He sprinkles blue dust this time and flutters his wings.
Pixur comes running out. When the dust lands on him, Pixur turns into a white bat with pink hues around his mouth, earlobes, and wings. Aarna gapes at the tiny, pristine beauty.
“He’s my pet, Snowey,” Trix says.
“It’s a bat.” Yash Vardhan looks bewildered. “Bring Pixur back.”
“Grr… I had to steal the blue dust to turn him into the bat.” Trix blows the dust again in a drudge, and Pixur comes to life back.
Yash Vardhan growls at him to elucidate what is happening.
“My fairyland punished me because I’m notorious. That’s why they call me Trix—short of Trickster. Tired of my pranks, seven months back, the Fairy Queen banished both of us for six months. Pixur was always my partner in crime.”
“So, you’re a real mythical creature?”
“Mythical? No, magical!” He flips on Aarna’s palm, flutters his wings, and bows to Aarna. “I’m as real as… you’re,” he yaps at Yash Vardhan. “After six months of exile, when I was returning home, Snowey and I ran into a Snowmageddon. The road to the fairyland is tough terrain, and my land is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.”
That explains the snowflakes on Pixur, thinks Yash Vardhan.
Trix narrates about the blizzard. “My exile ended but not his.”
“But how did your bat turn into a-a Pomeranian? How did it turn up in that pet shop that doesn’t exist anymore?”
“Ahh, the Fairy Queen has unfathomable powers. She sent her mystical dust cloud that found the bat and turned into something with semblance to the human world. I can’t imagine a human finding a mystical, beautiful white bat.” He backflips and lands near Pixur’s paws and rests his cheek against the fur. “A lost and found shop magically appears for the lost magical things. This time it was a pet shop.”
“And why didn’t I find it today?” Yash Vardhan asks.
“Because it has served its purpose.”
What Trix tells the next crushes Aarna’s heart. Pixur has been trying to run into the fairyland through the kennel. The wall opposite the kennel’s entrance is a portal to the fairyland—the Fairy Queen’s magic.
“Portal?” Little Aarna says, imagining a magical land just behind the kennel.
“Yes, Aarna. Like a window. And he has been trying to enter through that egress, but some invisible chain keeps him tugged to this place.” Trix’s lips twist, and Pixur makes guttural sounds. “He tried to escape but comes crashing back here.”
They ponder the problem of the portal. But nothing strikes the three confused minds. When Yash Vardhan suggests him to ask the Queen, Trix smirks.
“She had already created the portal. I should prove my worth now by doing one thing right.” Losing Pixur was his mistake, and taking him back safely is his onus.
Trix nods farewell to come back later.
After the dawn cracks, the tangerine beams seep through the azure clerestory high on the ceiling and wake up Yash Vardhan. He feels relaxed and fresh. That he had not counted stars in the night surprises him. Neither a dripping tap troubled him nor did the swaying trees call him. He has slept well in months.
Aarna wakes up and goes next to Pixur without losing a moment, who has been blinking at her.
“Dadda, why Pixur has collar?” Aarna points at Pixur’s neck and tries to unbuckle the collar, but her tiny fingers err on the belt.
“You are smart, Aarna!” Trix startles both of them. “Oops, sorry. I couldn’t go back without Snowey now that I have found him.” Trix sprinkles his dust on Pixur, and the belt falls down.
Is the collar stopping Pixur? Yash Vardhan thinks.
“Not really. It’s Aarna’s love. She has now accepted that Pixur belongs elsewhere as Snowey.” Trix winks at Aarna but doesn’t tell Yash Vardhan about Aarna’s dream of Snowey.
While Aarna doesn’t doubt, Yash Vardhan wonders if pixies can read thoughts. Trix shrugs at him as if saying, who knows.
“Grow well, Aarna, and don’t be a prankster like me.” He sprinkles a fistful of blue dust.
Aarna touches her cold nose and giggles. When the dust settles down, there is no trace of Trix and Pixur. They have vanished. Poof! Two tiny pointed shoes have marked their way inside the kennel, paws trailing them. Aarna breaks into sobs.
The doorbell rings, and Yash Vardhan brings in a small basket. Aarna cuddles a rabbit in her arms. Its pink ears flop, and whiskers around the pink mouth wiggle. A note sits in the basket, little pranks don’t harm, though.
“Ma boy, Pixur!”
Aarna and the rabbit vanish out of the door under the sunny sky. Poof!
Barbegazi: are mythical creatures, a variety of dwarf or gnome that resembles a small white-furred man with a long beard and enormous feet.
Snowmageddon: The blizzard over the Northeastern United States that occurred on February 5–6, 2010, commonly referred to as Snowmageddon, had major and widespread impact in the Northeastern United States.
Bat: Purely fictitious, inspired from a viral photo (https://hoaxeye.com/2020/07/03/white-bat/)
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