the deal - Book 1

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Twenty Four

What is the blue? What is the system? Is it real? Were the stories aunt told us true?

I cannot help but wonder. Doubt everything I thought was true and wasn’t. What if the world is more than I believed it to be?

“There were the heroes. Of the old. Of the new age. And the legends they stood for. History was littered with such fables. And among them was the darkest of all. A person so strong, so powerful, they called him the beast.”

“The beast? Did that mean he was bad?”

“They’re called evil,” Aniya corrected my question, brushing my hair like dad did. She was older by only a few months, but she had taken it upon herself to be the caretaker. I was happy with the arrangement, and so no one was complaining.

Aunt smiled at the two of us. A smile she shared not so secretly with mom who was preparing sandwiches for us in the kitchen. That was how they divided the work between them. Mom prepared the snacks, and aunt enthralled us with the stories.

“You could say that,” aunt answered. “But that is entirely relative.”

Sometimes it seemed like she forgot we were only five. Using all those big words which we didn’t really understand. Nor did we understand what she meant. The worst part of it was that she refused to explain. As if we would get it ourselves, maybe some day when we were older.

“For some, he was the beast, the biggest bad man there was. For some, he was the hero they stood behind, with the hope for victory. Giving him all their faith, pouring him all their strength. They were two sides of the war. And he was the biggest, the meanest on the ground.”

“I like him as the hero,” Aniya declared. No hesitation in her face. As always, no doubt in her decision. Convinced she was right. And she looked to me, waiting for me to agree. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that I would. I always agreed with Aniya.

“Yeah, he’s the hero,” I agreed.

“Yeah, he was the hero,” aunt agreed. “For one half, he was the greatest hero they could want. If we were on the field, fighting with them, guess who we would be with?”

It wasn’t really a question, even we knew that. Yet, we were all smiles. I was sure Aniya would be right next to the beast. And I, right next to her. Maybe aunt and mom too would be with us. Guess it would be something, to be on the field, all of us together.

As fun as the story was, it wasn’t our favourite. The old man was our favourite. And with him, we would both love to go. To his new world.

“What were they fighting over?” I asked.

For the five year old me that seemed a good question. The very next second though, I was feeling foolish. Because Aniya was looking at me like I was being extremely foolish asking the question. I could only return her stare with the same emptiness void of understanding though. I really didn’t understand, even if that made me foolish. It was Aniya’s turn to lose, and explain herself.

“The world of course, is there anything else they could fight for?”

She made it sound like that was obvious. As if there could be no one else in the entire world but me who wouldn’t have known that. And I felt the smile come out from inside in reply. Aniya was so smart. I didn’t have to ever doubt her. And even if I did, aunt nodding vigorously said as much as was required to confirm Aniya was right.

“The world of course,” aunt repeated. Smiling the wide smile of hers. And while aunt and I were mirrors of each other, our smiles indistinguishable, Aniya was looking at the two of us. Lost. She didn’t bother asking though, because she was more interested in the continuation of the story.

“So what happened?” she asked. “In the end? Who won? Who lost? And who were the good guys? The beast right? The beast and his friends?”

And that was Aniya. Always eager to know the end. Always had to have a happy ending. What was the point to the story otherwise, was her argument. Even to me that sounded a little silly, as convincing as it was. Some stories are so beautiful despite the not so happy ending. Because of the not so happy ending. Like the old man. No one knew where he was. If he even was able to create his new world. But we liked believing he did. That was so much better an ending to our favourite story. Aunt had her own reply to the question, which was what she gave right then.

“Sometimes its not the ending, but the story that is important.”

For the five year old us, that was too much to understand. Even for the extremely smart Aniya. And it was one of those times when aunt wouldn’t explain herself, which made it worse. It didn’t matter much though, because aunt continued with the answer. To something we could understand too.

“Who won isn’t important. But what you asked next is,” she said, smiling different at Aniya. Like she did when Aniya did something good. Like the smile she gave when teachers praised Aniya, which they did quite often. Maybe that was pride.

“Who were the good guys,” aunt said, clarifying which the good question was. “How do you define that? By who won? Or by what they stood for? Or is it simply who you like better?”

Aniya was ready, which surprised us all.

“It’s simply who I like best,” she replied without blinking an eye. “And that’s the beast. I just want you to agree too.”

“Well, alright then, I agree. The beast it is. The beast and his friends are the good guys,” Aunt said, while laughing hard.

For a while we were laughing. Aunt because of what Aniya said. Aniya because she finally had the declaration she wanted. And I, because the other two laughing was quite funny in itself. Didn’t make sense for me to not be laughing when they were laughing so hard.

“You know that isn’t what the story is about though, don’t you?” aunt asked, as we neared the end. Again, it was something we were too young to understand. Maybe too young to ever understand. Just then, mom walked in with our snack for the evening, and it didn’t matter.

“Food, food, food,” began our chant.

It was just Aniya and I at first. Aniya loved the evening snacks, and I was always with her in the chant. Then aunt joined us. And it became our song for mom walking in with our snack. Mom never joined in. She was happy smiling in enjoyment at our song. More than that, she loved watching us enjoy our snack. With the coming of the snack, the story went forgotten.

The fluctuations were beautiful. I was surprised at myself for not having seen them before. The changes starting from aunt, and spreading to fill the rest of the room. When she told the stories. The blue changing according to the story.

Light as she spoke of heroes of the old, the legends. Darker as she spoke of the beast. Lighter when speaking in general. Darker as we spoke more specifically. Lighter as we discussed of the battles. Darker as we spoke of the good ones. Greater fluctuation as we discussed of the beast being good or bad. Darker as we spoke of the old man, in his defence.

The blue was like tidal waves washing off from aunt, into the rest of the room. Like we were on the edge of the sea, the waves of blue water raging onto the sand, and washing away, each time with more sand. Only the blue in the room wasn’t washing away the sand, but the gales blasting off of the blue around us. Like it was pulling us in. It was even more so on me. Like it was made of countless hands, all grabbing for me. Trying to pull me in. Desperately reaching for me. I can feel the want in me, growing endlessly, to reach back to the blue. And yet I don’t. I cannot understand what it is that keeps me still. Holds me back.

I know one thing though, for certain. All my memories, everything in my life, is untrue. Everything I have seen and saved to memory is a lie. There was so much more that wasn’t seen. That I hadn’t seen. Looking at it all now, it feels as if that which wasn’t seen was the most important. Making my entire life seem pointless. A wasted life.

Is that what holds me back? Fear of what else I might see? Fear of what I might learn? Is there something that could be so frightening? Something that my mind has already seen and is doing all it can to protect me from? The thought itself frightens me. Especially since that is exactly where I am headed.

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