(Life is stranger than fiction, sometimes you feel like escaping into a fairytale, sometimes you are the fairytale. I am no Pinocchio but one fine morning I was going to feel like him. I would know how letting out a secret could make the earth move in mysterious ways.)
I woke up with a startle, the alarm ringing in full volume. There was a pile of housework to finish and I had just enough time to glance at my sleepy reflection in the mirror.
It was a precious Sunday morning and the year was hovering around the month of August. The sky was an unobstructed expanse of blue, so perfect it reminded me of the warm and sunny picnics I had enjoyed with my family when I was younger.
I had woken up with the intension to finish the weeks pending chores, but my day had other plans.
The library was surprisingly crowded, my days plan had shifted from work to lazing around. Friends had called to ask if I wanted to drive around, but I wanted to spend the beautiful day lazing around in my garden. Most times on such days I would read a couple of pages and fall asleep on the carefully trimmed grass, it was a habit that annoyed my mother, but I would do it anyway.
It was in the new arrivals section, that I saw the two men. There was nothing extraordinary about them, just painfully out of place in the indoors. If you asked me now how they looked or what they wore I cannot recollect, I am sure however that if I saw them, I would recognise them quite easily.
We were standing at the edge of a steep cliff, a sharp fall into the choppy sea; the two young men and me. How we reached there is still a mystery to me. It was as if a part of my memory got erased. I felt like a character in a science fiction novel, except that there was no space ship and no aliens. One by one all three of us dove into the water. No reason why I did it; I knew the water was freezing and that there were rocks jutting out of the seashore. And yet I jumped right in, perhaps wanting to discover a new island, perhaps just to see if I had the courage.
We must have swum a few minutes and already the two young men were a distant memory, I was all alone in the giant sea. I do not remember the waves or how much I swam; I do remember waking up on the beaches of an Island – a fort Island. For miles there were the fort walls and the giant canon ball tanks to see. Not a single soul in sight, the history of the island played fastforward in my head – vivid images of the king’s crooked smile, the women who were seated in covered carriages, the timings of the day when the beach was open to public. I had made my decision; I did not want to see what I had already seen, even if it was from the long lost past.
So I swam, swam with the waves and against them, my mind playing with mirages of palm trees.
I was going to be part of a dream, a dream someone else’s mind had made up, a dream that I was making up too.
There was nothing out of the ordinary on the white sandy beach. I vaguely remember seeing the cottages while swimming aimlessly in the sea. I took the risk and reached the shore. The beach had no trees, just tanned woody weeds that had crawled out of the water onto the beach.
It was amongst those woody weeds that I found my first friend. Thin, pale and wise she was dressed in an orange bathing suit. I remember she had told me her name and I had run it in my mind over and over just so I would not forget. Now I cannot recollect what it was. She told me all about the Island and the huge secret that it was. “You are lucky to have found the place.” she said. We walked on the dry grainy sand and she told me about the island, how it had formed and that it had a twin not too far away.
She told me not to tell anyone of this place, because each time its name is called out it eats a little but of the sea and moves towards its twin.
That’s when she dove into the sea, I was tired and sleepy but instinct told me that I should follow her. I had a crushing feeling that if I don’t I will miss out on something.
Almost every five minutes I would see another human, we were all swimming in one direction- like birds in a formation. My friend in the orange swimsuit would wave at me at times and I would smile. Soon the dolphins were part of the formation. We must have swan for over an hour before we reached a rocky platform of an island, brimming with trees and home to the mermaids.
I swan to the shore and sat at the edge of the rock, looking at the sea, its glorious beauty and the strange world I was in. Although none of this was ordinary, nothing astonished me, not even when the mermaids asked me if I was ready for another swim. We swan in circles in the clear water under the clear sun, the mermaids whispering warnings to keep the secret.
I was not quite sure what they meant, but I promised anyway. We swam and then it was time to go. The formation came in place and we moved; underwater for a while till we reached the parking where the giant motor car was waiting. Now that surprised me. Talking mermaids and singing dolphins I had expected but a motorcar under the sea; THAT was new. I sat inside and as if on cue the vehicle started lifting giant bubbles to the surface as it sped ahead.
I reach the shore, the cottages just as I had last seen them. I knew the journey was over and I would never see any of it again.
It was then that the motorcar driver started shouting “Who wants to get in? Who wants to go to the Island of Bemair?”
That’s when the earth moved. The sea it started eating and I saw the twin closing in.