I strolled around the Brown Deer Mall. One particular store grabbed my attention as it was crammed. Curiosity took me to that store, but the serpentine queue didn’t give me a cue. Wondering about the hullabaloo, I stood in the queue and read the murky store’s name ‘Dryad: The Get Yourself Inked, If You Wanna Change Your Fate!’
“What rubbish! How on earth can a tattoo change someone’s fate?” I mumbled but the next person in line standing behind me overheard and seethed, “if you don’t believe our tattoo master then please get lost from here. You b****, dare not to challenge our powerful master.” Hearing him, another woman lashed out at me and soon more folks followed the suit. The commotion abruptly halted and I saw that the self-proclaimed ‘tattoo master’ came out.
His whole body was green-inked with random absurd drawings filling up his skin. Something was different with his skin, it had shades of green and brown. His eyes were green eyes and hair golden-brown coloured; he looked like an absolute maniac.
I started walking away when a disembodied voice called out, it was HIM, the tattoo master. “Why are you leaving? Get yourself inked and change your destiny, young lady!”
He smiled showing off his crooked dark brown teeth. PHOOEY YUCK…did he ever brush his teeth or did he get it painted?
“No, Thanks. I am not into such stuff.”
“Don’t be silly, you aren’t too old! You standing in this line was your destiny and so, you can’t leave without getting inked. How can I allow you to leave when you are destined to get inked? Come inside, let us see your divine decree.”
“I do not want this. I do not want to know my destiny or change my fate.” I was furious and terrified. How dare he force this upon me?
“Are you scared?” He mocked me showing his irritating toothy smile.
“No, not at all.”
“Then, I challenge you.”
No one dares to challenge me. I raised a brow at him and agreed to get inked.
AH-CHOO. I sniffed the fragrance of rich cactus blossom. I sat on a cozy chair. The insides of the parlour were all painted in red and green. He led me to another room which had eerie-reddish interiors displaying weird tattoo designs. It was scary.
“Which design do you like?”
“I thought your tattoo would be brand-new as it will show my fate.” It was my turn to mock him.
He chuckled, “Of course, yeah but you only get to choose. The designs that get inked depend on your destiny.”
“Whatever! I challenge you to create a design exclusively for me.”
He spurted on to his work. First, he started cleaning my left arm with some solution which was cold and fizzy. He then applied some cream and started basic drawing first followed by sketching with a tattoo machine that roared to life Brrr…Rizz…Grrr…Bzzz bringing out the pusillanimous girl within me.
“OWIE.” I shut my eyes tight as he worked on my arm and cursed myself to have landed in this rabbit hole. After some time, he uttered, “All done.”
I glared at the white bandage that wrapped up my arm. “Hey, what’ve you done to my arm?
He guffawed, “you can remove it once you reach home.”
I paid him and started to leave, “Remember, this tattoo will show your future path. You must follow it, else be ready to face the music. Open the bandage exactly when the clock strikes 12.”
I scowled at him and stormed out of the creepy place.
It was 11.35 PM and I couldn’t sleep. I was restless. My arm troubled me and the maniac’s face haunted me; I tossed around my bed about 100 times but all in vain.
“I will erase this tattoo tomorrow. Arghh…it is so painful and my skin seems to be on fire.”
In a flash, the sky turned cellar dark. A clunking sound erupted from the sky along with a bolt of branched lightning that electrified the black sky. Lightning and thunder raged with fury. That maniac’s voice echoed and I felt his face plastered across the horizon.
The dark clouds grew ominous, thunder roared and the clock struck 12! I removed the bandage to get some relief, not for his stupid augury. However, I felt strange as lightning seemed to recharge my soul and thunder resonated deep in my bones. I was horrified when a string of lightning flashed across the window, and took cover under the bed. Heavy winds blew smashing all of my things in the room.
Amidst the chaos, I forgot all about the tattoo. I didn’t feel any more pain and it was stellar. I didn’t understand what it was or what it meant but it was magical like in fantasy movies. The golden and glittery tattoo enclosed a golden tree, a golden fruit and all of it were real, live!
I gawked at my phantasmagorical tattoo, “I am not going to erase this goldie, this is cool and other-worldly. I will show it to my friends tomorrow.”
An ethereal voice prophesied, “Follow the signs. Come back, it’s time!”
I froze, “what signs? Who…who is waiting for me?” I asked but there was no response.
I was lost in my thoughts when a familiar voice spoke, “Do not waste a minute! Pick the book ‘The Enchantment’ and you will arrive at your destination.”
I know whom the voice belonged to. It was the maniac, the tattoo master but strangely, he was polite and caring. I fidgeted for a while.
Huh…I went to my study, my little library. As I looked through the shelves, the book appeared in a trice and hovered in front of me. “Gotcha!”
As soon as I opened the book, a bright neon green light flashed at me and unable to take the glare, I closed my eyes. I felt being pulled inside but couldn’t open my eyes.
“Eh…Oh no…nooo…Thud thud…What is happening? Help! Somebody help me! Oh God, I left my phone on the bedside table.” My blood went cold as I felt darkness engulfing me.
“Hey, tattoo master, where the hell are you? Look, I am not a Wonder Woman; JUST LET ME GO!”
“This tattoo was a b**** mistake.” As soon as I said this, I was topsy-turned and swam at a light speed. Little did I know, the last line could lead me this way.
“Can somebody stop it?” I shrieked as I felt I was thrown into a vault. Everything seemed cabalistic.
“Where am I? What kind of a place is this?”
It looked like a hollow path but I felt as if I was beneath the earth’s crust. “Aha…is it a cave or a secret tunnel?”
Ecstasy took over fear and I strutted along the gravel path. I saw a golden light at the end of the path. “I found the way out! Yahoo… Darn this tattoo! I am done with this tattoo quest and now back to my home.”
My eyes went wide as I looked at the tattoo, it underwent metamorphosis. Now, it looked like a live map with a blinking spot that pointed me. There was a flag near a tree and I was not even close to half the distance. With no other choice, I followed the miniscule map.
“Wow. Finally, I see light.” As I kept walking, I saw a glowing brobdingnagian creature and I knew I’m toast.
“Gosh, I have never seen a bird with a majestic plumage and that looked like fire and emitted light. I have read about this bird somewhere. What was it?” I scratched my head. “Um…fire something…FIREBIRD, yes!” I didn’t realize I was aloud and I awakened the sleeping beauty.
The fiery bird’s eyes glowed; beautiful yet dangerous. I felt like a nincompoop. “Kiss my luck!” The firebird got up and ruffled its body, I tiptoed and ran as fast as my legs could, but the firebird leaped over me in an instant. To my surprise, the firebird didn’t attack me but swiftly, glissaded ahead of me.
As I sprinted, I enjoyed the misty wind blowing on my face. In no time, the firebird was beside me. And then it struck me; I was running at in-humane speed. I wheezed and stopped to get some rest.
“Oh gosh, where have I reached? It looks like a forest. How far am I in this soup? I was nervous. Where the hell am I? All because of this occult tattoo and that psycho tattoo master.”
The ancient forest reeked of age and the woody incense seemed to come from centuries of snapping branches crashing to the forest’s floor. Huge roots spread-eagled the ground, twisting like the great backs of dinosaurs.
I paced here and there with my heart racing trying to decipher a way out. “Hey tattoo master, can you hear me? Where are you? What do you want from me? Please let me go!”
Out of the blue, the firebird crouched in front of me, sharply spreading its wings, flashing its prominent golden eyes; that slightly turned fiery red. It fluffed its feathers aggressively and was contemplating attacking me. “Hey, easy firebird!” I tried calming the firebird.
“Looks like you … Wait, you do know the tattoo master, don’t you?” That was it,
WHACK! The angry bird attacked the piggie. I slumped on the cracky ground and was knocked off. “Ahh…my head.”
I gained consciousness after I don’t know how long. I rubbed my eyes to get a clear vision. I glanced around, something here assuaged me. “Why do I feel like I have been here before?” The simpering wind carried a sweet fragrance with it. I took the leaf-carpeted path as the tattoo pointed while secretly hoping for some fairy to help. Thankfully, the firebird was now civil.
As I gaped at the starry, moonlit sky; I heard some babbling and burbling. I knew it was the gushing waters and strode around to find its source. I hiked a bit and gasped in astonishment at the turquoise blue shimmery waterfalls. The waters spurted over the rocks, spilling eel-like over the ledges, and toppled into the ecstasy pool. Fronds of forest-green plants waved gently in the depths of the clear rocky bottom of the pool.
I stood under the waterfall to rejuvenate but the icy-cold waters instantly gave me goosebumps. The nectar sweet smell of the forest flowers perked up my soul. As I sat beside the ecstasy pool, I saw a gorgeous reflection and peeked back, “Is anyone here?”
“Looks like I am hallucinating!” I saw again and it was my reflection. I looked different. My eyes were hazel. I adorned a golden sparkle gown with golden embellishments, golden teardrop-shaped dangling on my ears, and cute arm cuffs on my hands with a golden body chain. All these made me look like a golden queen of some country, stunning and elegant.
A pleasant voice said, “Welcome home, bestie! Boo…hoo…hoo…I am seeing you after many many many years.” I turned around to see who it was!
Hiding in the bracken with her face cast milky by the moonlight, was a pixie! From under a sage reddish-green cap tumbled auburn curls and her slanted green eyes were shining with moist pearls.
I looked perplexed. She understood and in no time, she hurled some dust into the air; which, unlike confetti or glitter, gravity had no way to make it fall. The pixie dust swirled above like a glorious cloud, showing august images of my glorious past. As the pixie twirled, a golden dust cloud whorled, changing its vibrant colours dynamically with the rhythm of a thumping heart.
“We are the descendant of Hesperides and the protector of this realm, Ava. You have always proved to be a great one with your abilities and intelligence. You shall be the protector of the ‘Sacred Golden Apple Tree’. Take the oath now.” My father offered his hand and I took the oath. The oath is a promise that is sealed with our blood and flesh.
“I, the Nymph of the Dusk from the Golden Lights of Sunset, and a disciple of the Holy Tree Lord, will always protect and keep the ‘Sacred Golden Apple Tree’ enclave safe till the last ounce of dusk. I shall always abide by the rules laid by our Holy Tree Lord.” I recited the holy quatrain.
“Ava, my child, I bestow you with my special powers. These are omnipotent and should be used only for the protection of our kith and kin from incubi. Only you can defeat them as per the Holy Tree Lord’s prophecy. I hope Y.O.U. W.I..L.”
“Father!” I wailed as my father departed for the Sacred Nymph abode.
One fine evening, I and my besties – Maxie and Fiona were gazing at the pinkish-orange hues spread all over the sky. The birds were singing cheerfully, amidst the still forest.
Maxie and Fiona wanted to visit the ecstasy pool and urged me to join. I was a bit skeptical leaving the premises as the incubi were on the loose and keen on grabbing the sacred golden apple that was about to blossom anytime. Incubi were devils in human male forms who were always greedy for power and they were famous for assaulting females at night stealthily. The golden apple was unique, for it made the possessor invincible and immortal. I couldn’t forget my father’s last words and his sacrifice. He was killed by an incubus while protecting the sacred golden apple.
I agreed with my besties as I wanted to check on the border security too. After the border patrol, we sat near the pool, that fateful time when I met ‘HIM’.
The man seemed to be nice. He approached me for help as he had lost his way. Soon, we started chatting as I led him out of the forest. Something in him warmed the cockles of my heart. I found him to be kind-hearted and affable. However, he befriended me for his ulterior motives. I was happy with his warm fellowship. Sadly, all of it turned out to be his conspiracy laid by the incubi leader to wipe off our clan and possess the Sacred Golden Apple Tree.
I was foolish to fall into that bloody love trap and ruin everything that our ancestors achieved. However, I could control things partly. I realized my folly promptly and safeguarded our clan’s honour.
I received the curse, the inevitable! I justly deserve the gallows for getting into a relationship with an incubus.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I recalled everything and especially, the curse. Fiona’s lashes fluttered while Pixie was fighting back her tears. The curse made me forget my true self and I had to go through all the trials and tribulations and live a normal human life for 100 years. Now, I knew who the tattoo master was. I plummeted and cried my heart out. I had failed my father. I whimpered thinking about my promise, his trust.
I felt a soothing aura around me and heard a familiar voice again, “it is okay, I am here.” I was stunned to see the tattoo master but in his true form. It was Dio. He snapped his fingers and we all landed near the Sacred Golden Apple Tree shrine, the abode of tattoo master aka Holy Tree God. We lovingly called him Dio.
Maxie said, “Dio disguised himself to bring you back Ava. The curse has been uplifted. You are where you truly belong.”
“I shall take your leave now, Dio, to check for the arrangements.” Maxie and Fiona left us alone.
I hugged Dio and wept profusely, “Please forgive me for all my mistakes in the past.”
After a long pause, Dio spoke, “you did your best. It wasn’t your fault. Some things happen for a reason and you don’t have an answer. Sometimes the bad things that happen in life directly put us on a path to good things that happen to us.”
I was puzzled and lost in thoughts. I reminisced how the incubus mocked me after the betrayal. I slew him at once before he could get successful in his motive of impregnating me. A fresh pool of tears flooded my eyes.
“The past is in your head; the future lies in your hands.”
“I didn’t let lose my virginity. Then, why was I cursed? I lived away from my home for 100 years.”
He snapped his fingers and showed me some visuals, “look at them carefully, my dear Ava.”
I was shocked to see the odds and ends of the incubi spilled all around, striving for life.
“He was not successful in impregnating you but he did achieve half of his goals through the bond that you both shared, without your knowledge. He was not just any other incubi; he was the most powerful one who had attained supernatural powers after sacrificing the good witch Cassandra Willow.
These were potent for 100 years. If they sensed your presence, they would have survived and we would have dealt with 100 incubi who may possess some of your powers. And in that case, they would have become invincible.”
I was speechless listening to this new piece.
A shiver ran down my spine as I reminisced how I killed every male demon who tried to abuse me in these last 100 lives.
Dio smiled at me knowingly. “You did whatever you could on that fateful day. And your sacrifice did not go in vain.”
I still was in the process of absorbing everything.
“I am glad that you are back. We need YOU.” Dio asserted.
After a few days…
“Maxie, stop it. Why are you dressing me up like a bride?”
“Shhh…let me do my job, you shall get to know soon.”
After she was satisfied with my pristine look, we rushed to the Sacred Golden Apple Tree shrine. I offered my salutations and did the recitals, which was a ritual on every full moon day.
Several leaders had gathered today. I was curious. It was twilight and Dio appeared. Everybody bowed with respect and he sat on his throne.
He smiled at me and asked me to come, stand next to him. This was the first time I had been so close to the throne. As I was mesmerized by the throne’s beauty, Dio stood up, “today, we all have gathered here to welcome Ava.”
“Hereafter, she will take charge as the ‘Protector of Sacred Golden Apple Tree Realm’ and will also rule our kingdom. And I pronounce her ‘Hesperia’- the First Nymph Queen. Let’s begin with the crowning ceremony.”
I froze on the title ‘Hesperia’. Dio gave me one of our powerful ancestor’s name. My heartbeat accelerated and eyes went wide but his eyes glistened, “you deserve this title. I know you will live up to it.” He brought the golden crown embellished with natural stones.
The crowd cheered for me. Maxie swirled throwing off pixie dust and Fiona brightening the arena with beautiful hues of golden yellow, orange, and red.
“Don’t think about making the women fit the world. Think about making the world fit women.” – Ava, a feminist activist who has enriched lives of thousands of women.
I read an article about my work in ‘the NewYork Times’. As I lived in the human world for a long time, I developed a soft corner for the women and continued protecting and fighting for women’s rights.
A decade flew by; my tattoo is still as ice and the mini crown in it still glitters.
I loved my tattoo, for I was the chosen one – the First Nymph Queen.
Hesperia ruled peacefully, protecting the celestial fruit and the realm across different hemispheres.
Hesperides – In Greek mythology, Hesperides are the nymphs of evening, who guard a sacred tree of golden apples.
Nymph – In ancient Greek folklore, a nymph is a minor female nature deity. Tree nymph (tree spirit) is another term for Dryad. Here, in my story the tree nymph has lived as a human due to the curse.
Incubus – As per mythological traditions, an incubus is a demon or evil spirit in male form that seeks to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women.
Firebird – In Russian mythology, it is a magical bird with feathers that glow in the night.
Hesperia – One of the famous guardians of the golden apples which was given to goddess Hera at her marriage with Zeus by Gaia (the Earth).
The quote “Don’t think about making the women fit the world. Think about making the world fit women” was originally written by Gloria Steinem who is an American feminist journalist and social political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
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