As I lay on the bed, I watched the rays of the sun stream through the windows. As usual the fresh air and the soft twittering of the birds brought cheer to the spirit and for the moment I was happy to laze and spend some more time in bed. The brain of course has a will of its own and the mind that is active rarely stays still. It was taking a journey of its own and strayed in all the directions delving into matters past, present and future. The sky was blue and there were no clouds. The rain had taken a breather and I jumped out of the bed with all my thoughts on the breakfast I was about to make. I was in no hurry to start or think about the jobs to be done that day and went down, the books momentarily forgotten.
I thought I would have the usual English breakfast minus the ham as I am a vegetarian that eats eggs….and set about making it as I was really hungry. The parrots had arrived to eat the beans now hanging from a tropical tree that gave lovely orange flowers and I enjoyed watching them as they chatted away and picked away at the beans.
Soon I was having my first meal of the day and tucking in hungrily when I happened to glance outside the door. The clump of trees that were always a pleasure to watch were lush. This brought last night’s events back in a rush. I tried to concentrate on my plate but too late! The mental picture of the girl shifting positions and standing with a lamp to enter the woods just clung to me. Hastily finishing my breakfast, I ran to retrieve the books. It had just dawned on me that I had actually entered the picture and toured the house therein and that it was no hallucination…I had actually entered another dimension. I was all excitement now and could not wait to see what was going to happen next. It was like a thrilling adventure and I decided to follow the girl who was still patiently waiting for me to accompany her through the woods.
The picture was as I had left it last night, the woods were thick and dark and the girl was standing with the lantern raised high, beckoning me to follow her. Caution took hold and I stopped. Looking back at the house and the river. It was day here too but the sun did not shine so strongly. There was a deadly quiet as this was not a wood with familiar sounds. There was no breeze and the trees stood tall and mighty like soldiers. I felt distinctly small and insignificant and wondered if I should withdraw.
The moment of weakness passed and I looked up at the girls face. It looked serene and said little. By now there were a lot of questions that were piling up in my mind. Perhaps this was not the right moment to strike a conversation and so I desisted.
I decided to follow the girl and took the few steps towards her. Wonder of wonders she smiled and bade me to follow her. By now I was sure that this was some kind of dimensional virtuosity and that my being was elsewhere. Perhaps I was in another dimension. A replica of the earth perhaps in another time. I followed the girl past the many tall trees in the strangely quiet wood. It was all very still and they looked unreal. I touched one as we passed. The texture of the wood wasn’t different from what I knew it to be and wondered at it. Normally nature talked to me. Here that connection was missing. I looked around for wild orchids and flowers but they were missing too. The weather was even with no wind and the sun seemed to be winking through the trees in a placid way as if it was just programmed to do something and just abiding its duty. I hurried along when I realized that I had fallen back and decided to strike up a conversation with the girl.
I touched her shoulder to draw her attention, but she seemed oblivious to the touch and did not respond. “Hello,” I said, “This is all very interesting and really out of my league, but it would be really nice if I could get some kind of an explanation, I mean , this is all very strange and unreal….are we really here and who are you really?” She turned around and looked at me with large blue eyes rather blankly, shook her head and put her finger on her lips. This of course didn’t sit very well with me. I was not about to be chastised like a naughty child, by a child and was about to most vehemently protest when all of a sudden she stopped.
I realized we were on the bank of a rather large lake which I had earlier spied through the woods. The water had ripples on it. With no wind this was most out of character but I held my counsel. The water was clear and blue and has a quieting influence on the mind. Beyond the lake stony mountains, shiny striated rock beds of varied shades of brown, black and red. The terrain had a totally different look from the one behind me and this brought back all the doubts and fears I had felt earlier.
The girl seemed to sense this and she turned right to walk further along the bank. Taking a few steps I stopped. I was reluctant to play ‘Follow the Leader’ and called out to the girl. Caution took the place of curiosity. “I don’t think I am going any further, this has to stop. I need to know what is going on and what all of this really means. So it’s best you talk!” I know that I am not really here and that it’s only a kind of astral travel. Seriously I didn’t know this was possible although there was much speculation about it. At this point I would much rather go ahead with you knowingly rather than just jump in so to speak.”
At this very juncture I was jolted back to so called reality…I was standing next to the books on the table…yes everything seemed normal except the books…something was different…the first one was no longer blank…!!!!!
My brain went into a high speed whirl, I knew I was back in the present, but the book in front of me was fast filling with more pictures, the pages were turning of their own volition and all I could do was stare blankly at what was happening right there and then. Just then it struck me that this was way bigger than I would ever be able to handle and wondered who I could bring in as a support to help me unravel the mystery of the books…..
Right then there was the shrill ring of the bell. It sounded ominous to my ears and I felt my skin crawling….I walked towards the gate wondering what awaited me now.
As I walked ahead I saw a very wholesome lady, a typical house wife, a stranger now standing under the profusely flowering bougainvillea, a splash of bright pink dotted with some white flowers. She was admiring the creeper and turned as I neared her. Wearing an equally flowery dress she seemed a sweet little lady and I presumed that she had come to enquire about the classical music classes for her little ones.
I woke up early to the call of a cuckoo, followed by the call of other birds. It was Saturday and there was no particular agenda so I decided to take it easy although there was always a list of chores o be done. After feeding the birds and the fishes and taking a short walk to refresh myself from the oxygen filled air, I went about making some breakfast. It was a bright day but last night’s rain had left its imprint on the foliage and the there was a general feeling of goodness in the air. I carried my cup of tea to the hall and sat down contemplating on what I had seen last night. I wondered whether I would find any more changes. I opened the book again with some trepidation to look again at the shadow less world.
The picture looked the same generally…but on looking more closely I perceived a lake beyond the trees. It was dark no more and the sun shone in the sky and the water twinkled in the lake as it moved and made ripples in the wind. The picture seemed to be alive and moving with the present. Night had turned to day too and again there were no shadows and no birds or animals in this wood. It was very quiet. I looked out of my window and my garden was rich with many sounds, but the wood in the picture seemed to be living a life of its own. The house continued to be as it was and beyond the river the girl was no longer pointing out, her outstretched arm now lay in her lap and she was looking down at something.
It was getting late and the sun had risen pretty high in the sky. I became aware that it was time to start the day’s chores. There was a long list of things to do. Setting aside the feeling of unease, that is wont to happen when there are unanswered questions, I set about the day’s work which would keep me busy until night. However the question mark hung ominously in the air and it continued to bother me even as I handled different problems that the day threw at me. Seeking solutions to them might have been a temporary distraction but the feeling of unease never seemed to leave me and I was tempted to set aside everything to seek answers for the strange episode.
It was soon night fall and I wondered if I might have another visit. It was a breezy night and the atmosphere was pleasant. The rains had taken a breather and the earth around the house had dried. There was a freshness that brought a certain lightheartedness in the mood and I decided to look at the books again. There was still time for dinner and I wasn’t particularly hungry.
I collected the books from my room and walked down the passage to the hall. The couch seemed more comfortable today for the work in hand. I was about to make myself comfortable when I felt the hairs raise on the back of my head and then the knock on the front door. Three distinct knocks…..my dog went into a barking frenzy …. The next instant I rushed to the door opened it. Nothing! All looked normal and I could feel the refreshing cool breeze on my face….
A thought arose that perhaps the knock was to tell me of the next development in the evet and perhaps there was no need to get perturbed. Deciding that it was probably harmless I sat down to look at the books. Placing them side by side I opened all the books to the page that had the picture in it. The picture in the first book was no longer the same as in the other two. There had been a change. The girl was now pointing in another direction more towards the house in the woods across the river. The floating object was no longer there and the river itself seemed to have changed color slightly and the sky looked cloudy. I turned the page and could now read the faint print on the first page…..there was just one line….it said…… ‘Look Beyond the Trees’
The pictures in the other two books were the same as before and the page after that remained blank. I proceeded to examine the picture which was no different than similar pictures that I had seen… it was difficult to interpret a seemingly simple line that could mean anything. My perception at this late hour on an hungry stomach were not at their best, and so I decided to first refuel my body before I sat down to analyze the message.
One thing was certain. I was caught up in this mystery and was no longer afraid to delve into the unknown in search of the Truth.
Being of a philosophical bent…I was not new to the mysteries of the cosmos and their way of showing the road to travel or the turns to take in the most unorthodox ways. I have always kept an open mind to anything without casting unnecessary speculations or making hasty judgements.
Be that as it may, I proceeded to study the picture and the changes in it. The girl had definitely shifted her position from the earlier relaxing one to that of sitting up straight, her legs earlier extended now bent under her and she was sitting on her heels. Turning my attention to the background I found that the clump of trees behind her had vanished and in its place was a large spreading oak against which she rested her back. I brought my eyes back to the river and it seemed at once still and flowing. I stared hard at it willing it to change under my very eyes but it only resulted in my eyes getting watery. I wiped my eyes, wondered a little at my silliness and looked at the water. Sure enough the water had flowed…the floating object was missing. I compared it with the picture in the other book…and the object was clearly seen though I could not really make out what it was. The water ripples had changed too. So clearly, this was another time in the same place. I decided to study the wood in more detail. The skyline seemed the same, here the trees were thick and there was not much foliage on the leaf covered ground…it looked beautiful, almost real.
Some of the trees were ablaze in orange color indicating that it was the fall season, and one could see to quite a distance at eye level as most of the trees were big and tall …may be more than eight decades old. It was a pretty cool wood, one would like to spend some alone time in, and nothing eerie about it. The moon was full in the sky and its light shone on the trees making it a pretty sight. It was dusk actually more towards night…..suddenly I felt the same chill I had experienced the previous night…..the woods had changed ….the original picture depicted the day albeit sans the sun …more in a light when the sky is overcast but still quite bright…..actually all the trees looked dark…strange how did I see the orange of the trees…was is just the memory of the original picture superimposing on this one…..or was I perceiving!
I moved my attention to the house….it was a typical village house with sloping roof and big enough to house at least eight people. The front door was painted green as was the roof but the windows were white…this looked pretty too. There were some flowering bushes on the side of the path that led to the house. There was a first floor too and a tower on the side not too high with a room on top. The house had a side entrance too …perhaps the kitchen was there…one window on the top floor was open and one could see the light emanating from the window in a yellow glow. It seemed to exude a silence that was speaking volumes ….in fact it may have been a scream. The little light outside the front door cast its appropriate shadows. Then it suddenly occurred to me and I moved my eyes back to the trees in the woods…the moon light was bright …yet the trees cast no shadows…a shadow less world in a world full of shadows!
Yes the message had said to look beyond the trees….it was very late and I had an early morning session to take are of along with the routine work. Further I was now feeling tired and the eyes would stay open no longer. The busy day had taken its toll and the body was demanding its daily rest. I left the books in the hall and went up the stairs. A part of me still wanted to study the picture further….but I left it at that soon slipped into the peaceful world of sleep.
Wide awake now, I felt the crawling sensation return. The rain had turned into a hard downpour and the night sounds had vanished behind the sounds of the harsh rain beating on the roof top and the metal awnings. I could hear the wind whistling through the trees as the clouds moved on their onward journey. A part of my brain went back to the yester years and I wondered if there would be a flood this year. I didn’t know why I was thinking about that now especially when I had this unexplainable situation which was worrying me no end. I suppose the brain has its own way of coping with situations that make the adrenalin flow and the heart beat faster for flight or courage. Either way, there was nowhere to run, or I thought it was best to brave it out whatever the consequences. But there was a sense of trepidation. I thought it would be best to start with the books and with a sense of foreboding I got out of bed and made my way across the bedroom to the corner table where I had placed them.
I looked at them and hesitated. They were very old and I could see that the cover was a little browned and looked the worse for wear. They were three of them, each of the same size but of different thickness. I had not asked for these books yet they had come to me in a strange way and brought by a stranger that seemed unworldly.
It had been a lazy day. I had taken time out from the constant buzz that is called life and the never stopping rollercoaster of work and human intervention. It was raining incessantly with sudden bursts of heavy showers intermittently. The earth was still radiating the heat from the extremely hot summer months and every now and then I would break out in a sweat until there was a cool breeze that flowed in through the arched window at the foot of the bed.
The frogs had started croaking and I was loath to leave the comfort of my bed although my stomach was already rumbling and asking for its daily fill. I resisted and continued reading the book that I had propped up rather awkwardly on my knees as it had taken an interesting turn. No it was not fiction. In fact it was the scriptural text the Mandukya Upanishad and was elucidating the concepts of waker, dreamer and deepsleep. The head was heavy from two hours of contemplation that such reading normally results in.
Not far off, I could hear the faint drum beats of the dhol (a big drum played in religious functions and temples) being practiced upon with great vigor and strength but not loud enough to disturb. In fact the continuous playing could lull you into a dull stupor.