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Requiem or a Dream?

by Navneet Anand
(Bettiah, India)

Steven came to his room and threw away his bag pack in a dark corner of the room. He then crumbled into his bed and closed his eyes. Steven has not been able to sleep for a few days. He has had the periodic naps but not the fully contempt sleep. His eyes were weary and his head hurt but he was unable to sleep. He then opened his eyes and was staring at the wall opposite to the bed.

The room was dark besides a faint illumination of the night lamp. There was a painting on the wall. The painting belonged to his grandfather who had inherited it from his father. It was a replica and not the original one. It was a painting of countryside. It was painted by some Van Gogh. Steven didn’t know who he was or why the painting was persevered in the family for generations. His father had put it on his wall. The room was dark and Steven had nothing to do, neither was he sleepy so he stared at the painting. He kept staring it for hours and by then he felt his eyes rolling.

When he woke up, he found himself in a strange place, countryside of some sort. He was sitting by an old tree and the pointed green grass was covered with yellowish green fallen leaves. The crops were swaying on the charm of autumn and spanned as far as it can be seen. The dew on the tip of the grasses seems like millions of prisms decoding the secrets of nature and splitting plain white light into many wonderful colors and manifesting innumerable tiny rainbows. By the east was a thick line of woods. The beams of the lights were filtering through the leaves of the line of trees which were gently moving and fluttering on the clement strokes of winds, and it seems like the leaves are the dancing valleys through which the sun is playing hide and seek.

It was a pleasant morning and the surrounding was breathtaking. For a moment Steven was totally lost in the beauty of the land. But then a faint sound brought him back to his senses. He turned back and saw a smiling old man standing behind him.
“Hello there, what a wonderful morning? Isn’t it?” said the old man.
“Hello, it is indeed,” replied Steven.

Then the old man turned towards the wood and joined Steven in appreciating the beauty of the rising sun. Steven looked towards the man, he looked very elderly and it seemed like his house was nearby.

He then hesitantly asked, “What is this place? Where am I?”

The old man replied with a smile, “Oh, whatever you want it to be dear.”

Steven was very confused and found the response very wired, but he thought it would be best to let it go.

Then again the old man got up looking toward Steven and said, “C’mon now, you are not going to spend the whole day here, are you?”

Steven got up as he thought it would be best to get to know the place and its people and that would definitely help him to know how he got there. The old man and Steven then started off the plains by the side of harvest which was spread till the woods.

“Get those shoes off. You are hurting the grass,” the old man said.

Steven looked awkwardly towards the old man but he thought it would be best to oblige.
“What is your name? Sir” Steven said breaking the ice.
“I really don’t remember. It’s been long since I have used it and I am too old to remember ancient things too.” the old man gave a grin.
“Mine’s Steven by the way”
“I Know”
“How…….? I mean who are…?” Steven was very confused already and the old man was constantly throwing new puzzles his way with each question asked.

Steven was about to ask another question when the old man beckoned him to stay quiet.
“Don’t you like it here?”
“Yes I like it here. But…..”
“….Then why don’t you enjoy your stay?”
“But I need to know……”
“You will know everything when it’s time.”

Steven kept quite after that. He was walking on the soft
green grass bare footed. The dew drenched grass was massaging this feet and the crunching of dry leaves were making the music of some kind. The birds were chirping and it seemed like they were dropping the missing notes in the music to make it perfect. Steven looked up the sky; the clouds were floating around like the raft in open emerald sea. The sound of the birds was audible but he could not see any around. They were probably hiding behind the thick foliage and were too shy to come before the new guest, but were singing anyway out of habit or to welcome the guest. No one knew what their intention was.

Both the souls were walking in silence and were slowly approaching the woods one step at a time. When they were close enough of the wood Steven looked at the old man and asked,
“For how long are we going to walk?”
“Are you tired?”
“Then carry on,” said the old man.

Steven then stopped to put his shoes back on. The old man looked at him and said,
“What’s the matter?”
“We are going into the woods. I should put these on before something comes and bites me.”
“Well as long as you do not harm anything, why will it harm you? Everything here works by the law of nature, no exception,” said the old man very calm and composed.

Steven took his shoes in his hand and started behind the old man to the woods. They walked on a thin path covered with brown and yellow leaves and twigs which provided a good cushion. The trees were very tall and dense and gave little way to the lord of lights which made the surrounding dark and gloomy. But Steven could sense harmony and peace and life in the atmosphere. He felt that his soul is being nurtured by the soul of the forest.

“How many people live here in this country?”
“None, it's me alone” responded the old man.
“Don’t you get lonesome?”
“No absolutely not. Besides I have lots of companions here. The birds all know me and the animals too.”
“What do you do in your leisure?”
“I read and paint some too.”
“What all have you read?”
“Well it’s a big collection, I have a library.”
“I like books too you know. Can you show me your library, and the paintings too.”
“If you stay long enough, I will, for sure,” said the old man.
“You know my grandfather was an art enthusiast. I have a painting of some Van Gogh on my room wall myself,” said Steven proudly.

The old man looked at him and gave a strange smile. Steven was confused but he smiled back.
They then walked through the woods in perfect silence. Down the woods was a small pond. It has variety of flower on its shore and was surrounded by trees of all kinds and sizes.
The old man stopped there and went on to sit beneath an old sturdy tree. Steven promptly joined him.

Then Steven asked, “How far is the next town from here?”
“There is no town. This is it. None that I know of anyways,” replied the old man.
“What do you mean this is it. Who should I ask then? Is there anyone who is more acquainted with this place than you?” Asked Steven worried.
“I reckon there are some. You could ask the birds, or the trees or the soil by you, it has been here in the vicinity for millions of years.”
“Are you mad? What is this place? Where am I?”

Frustration was building up in Steven. He could not take it anymore.
“This is the ultimate destination,” replied the old man.
“Is this a dream or am I dead?” asked Steven again with a pale face.
“It will be what you want it to be,” replied the old man.

Then the old man reached for the pond and splashed some water on Steven.

With a jolt Steven woke up. He hardly had any breath. He looked or his phone, he had been sleeping for the whole night till mid day. He was scared but felt relived somehow. He sat on his bed and looked at the painting on his wall.

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