Midnight Guests

Certain voices don’t require words

A Short Story by Mushtaque B Barq

The fourteenth moon was up in the calm sky with numerous guests celebrating the heavenly milieu, luring the lovers to do away with the curtains. The moonlight was bathing every nook and corner, even the graveyard in the backyard. The epitaphs were opening their folded eyes slowly. The silence and the fragrance of the daffodils were in conversation. A few owls from the tree tops were spectators along with few dogs in the grave yard where mysteriously few epitaphs had magnified their wounds. These wounds were bottomless and unsullied.  Those massive headstones were moving as if looking for some dear ones who had not paid a visit for months together. The dead ones were looking for living ones, may be to recall them that they once were part of their families.

Suddenly the owls started to hoot deafeningly, the dogs added their high-pitched mourning as well. The movement of the headstones suddenly ceased. The epitaphs closed their eyes and the engraved words once again looked monotonous under the canopy of moonlight. Owls stopped hooting, so did the dogs. Once again the deadly silence was hand in hand with the scent of the daffodils. The grave yard in the backyard from my balcony was once again engulfed by the desolate agony. The moon was beaming its glow on the headstones, making them to understand that they have lived their lives and now they are dead and dull. The owls from the tree tops flew to the court where King Kite had coiled his head in its nest.

The King Kite unfastened its mighty wings stirred its head and opened its eyes as wide as the entire locality. It seemed as if it was in a mood to clutch the houses and wreck them, as if to pass a message:

‘Pay a visit to all those who are now sleeping under the friendless soil with out audience’

The King Kite summoned the rest of the birds including Swifts, Doves, Pigeons, Sparrows and Vultures but exempted the crows.

‘Why to leave The Crows’ the owl asked.

‘Silence has to be honoured’ The King Kite responded.

All the birds perched on the tree tops were about to invade the locality when suddenly a woman opened the door of the graveyard. The activity ceased; all the eyes were watching those feeble steps, trying hard to make a track on the grass that was almost touching her hips to a grave in the far end of the deserted grave yard.

The dog stopped its barking.

‘Be quiet and watch the visitor’ The King Kite announced.

The noise of the beating grass under those naked soles broke the sleep of the crow. It flew across by breaking the silence of the night and the King Kite ordered the Vulture to terminate the crow. The woman finally knelt down near a grave that seemed fresh. She sat down silently, looked around and opened her arms and held that headstone close to her breast. The Dove sighed; the Swift buried its head under its wings and the Pigeon pointed out to King Kite.

‘Something, a shadowlike creature is approaching  us’.

The vulture perched hurriedly beside the Dove with blood stained beak that had perhaps punctured the bony cage of the crow and quietened him forever. The woman rested her head on the headstone of the newly buried loved one. Her sobs cemented the birds on the branches.

‘I have killed the crow; the feathers are strewn all over the hill tops’ the Vulture narrated.

The Swift raised its head, saw the woman weeping and sobbing, and escaped from the court of the Kite, sat on the shoulder of a weeping woman, tried to soothe her with her song, but the moans of woman did not cease. The Swift tried many tunes but failed to pacify the woman and returned to the court.

‘I cannot see a weeping mother at the grave yard to recall her dead son,’ the Swift recited its woe.

The sobs raised the voice of silence and all of a sudden all the epitaphs magnified their engraved wounds. Those wounds appear fresh and sharper than merciless chisel of the artist that runs deep into the very toughest crystals of the rock to mark the stroke of the artist to its perfection.

Saddened by the weeping mother’s plight, the Pigeon perched on the shoulder of the woman at the grave. It tried its songs; its voice was touching  but the woman’s groaning continued. She  could not be calmed, so intense was her grief.

‘No voice can lure her’. The Pigeon declared.

‘Dove, it is your turn to appease a weeping mother, you are gifted with a mysterious voice’ The King Kite ordered.

The Dove perched on the headstone and started to sing, her voice was sweet as it raised the head of the woman. She looked at the Dove and said, ‘My son is sleeping here and he is not responding to my sobs’. The Dove continued to sing and soon its voice was drowned in the sobs of a woman at the grave of her son.  And the Dove returned without success.

Seeing all this, The King Kite stood helpless with its courtiers failing to pacify a sobbing woman. The Pigeon suggested that Sparrow must render its services.

The King Kite denied saying, ‘a Sparrow is too little for such a massive job’

The Sparrow felt humiliated and heaved a sigh. The King Kite was moved by the severity of the pain of Sparrow.

‘Go my little courtier, do whatever you can do to please a forlorn mother,’ the King Kite announced

The Vulture raised a strong objection. A sparrow’s heart is too small to understand the pain of human heart; it needs a mysterious bird’s heart to calm a human heart.

‘Your Majesty, You must go yourself,’ the Vulture put forth its suggestion

‘Although I am massive, with mighty wings and strong eye aided with powerful beak, but God has not given me a touching voice, I am not fit for the job Ah!’ the King Kite declared.

The epitaphs stirred, every wound added to her lament. She stood there with a crown of pain over her bald head for all her hair had gone when her son was put into the  coffin.  The moon up above the grave yard was openly sharing the grief with a mother down there by showing the well marked blacks spots embedded into her bosom. Her sighs were too feeble to be cared for; she was too far, yet close to the heavens, but a weeping mother down the earth was alone like a lonely goddess in the remotest desert wandering in search of peace.

The Sparrow obeyed the orders and sat on the shoulder of the woman at the grave. The woman turned her head and sighed.

‘O little bird what can you do?’ the woman asked.

‘I have lost my son, recently martyred and recently buried’ she continued.

‘All those who are martyred are enjoying in the Heavens,’ the Sparrow countered.

Listening to this, the woman stood up and raised her hands high up towards the sky with a smile on her cheeks.

The King Kite along with other courtiers felt content to see the woman happy.

The Sparrow returned

‘How you made it my little courtier’ The King Kite asked

‘There is a voice that doesn’t use words,’ the Pigeon unfolded the mystery.

‘For a massive grief it does not need an enormous heart, but a word of God to be administrated into the ears of a mourner,’ the Sparrow declared.

The King Kite was impressed by the Sparrow and made it the Chief Advisor.

The Vulture dropped its head in shame and the Dog barked.

The twilight engulfed the last night’s moon and over the hill tops feathers started to scatter down the hill to mark the end of the crow. All the birds attended the funeral and the dog returned to the street.

Mushtaque Barq is a writer and teaches English at Green Valley Educational Institute in Srinagar

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