Senior 1st Prize Winning Story
“Sweet Lies” by Basundhara Paul, Bhavan's Gangabux Kanoria Vidyamandir, India, is the First Prize winning story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
“Sister, where does the rain come from?” asked little Tessie, wide-eyed. The person, to whom the question had been addressed to, was none other than Annie, her elder sister. Unfortunately Annie barely was two years older than Tessie, and was completely in dark. She knew not a thing about the water cycle. She could’ve just admitted that she did not know, but that would have tarnished her superior, all knowing image, the one that Tessie had in her mind. Thus, with a knowing tone, and eyes shut tight (to hide the lack of knowledge in them), she said.”Why? From above.”
Annie’s casual reply already had stifled Tessie, but Tessie was determined to know it all, each minuscule bit.
“What is above the sky, sister?”
“Why? God’s sky,” lied Annie. She emphasized on the word, and moved her hands in an attractive way, that captured Tessie’s imagination. GOD’S SKY! The name itself was so majestic, and added with Annie’s delightful way of portraying that, made little Tessie’s fascination know no bounds.
“Does it rain there all the time, sister?”
“Yes, dear Tessie, it does!” said Annie, having got a good excuse to lead on her lie.
“But, then God must need an umbrella, right?” half asserted Tessie.
Annie hadn’t thought about that yet. It seems so, that Annie had underestimated Tessie’s reasoning. Nevertheless determined, Annie pulled the lever of her mind; and the ‘Imagination’ factory came to life. The gears and machines sprung into action, making a monstrous racket. The product manufactured was,
“Our sky! Our sky is the God’s umbrella!”
Tessie’s jaw dropped at this startling revelation. This appealed to Tessie as something otherworldly, as she had never heard of things such as God’s umbrella.
“Tell me more, sister! If the sky is God’s umbrella, what are the sun, the clouds? Oh! I want to hear more of it, I really do.”
It was then, that, Annie was cast off into a bottomless sea of troubles. Dear, how much more will it require satisfying Tessie’s appetite?
“T…th….the God’s umbrella! Yes it is so…..um….God holds it above his head, it’s a blue umbrella….” Annie kept repeating to keep Tessie busy while thinking of something new.
“Umm…..sister, what’s after that?”Tessie asked with a little angst in her lilt. The topic was intensifying, and at that crucial moment her sister was stammering! A protest-worthy act, to Tessie.
Annie’s mind was blank so far, this wee act of outrage gave her an idea to buy some more time to think. “If you are so impatient, you better hear it from someone else,” mock-retorted Annie.
“No! Please Annie, don’t get annoyed!”
Annie remained taciturn, her mind furiously working away for new lies.
“Annie! I was just being mean, oh dear sister, tell me please!” begged Tessie.
Melted by Tessie’s tender pleas and the sudden influx of ideas, Annie set the ball rolling.
“Yes, our sky is the umbrella of the Almighty. It is always raining in the uniworld or unispace, whatever you call it. Have you seen how dark is the uniworld? God must need lights, no?”
“What is the uniworld?” Tessie asked.
“Oh It is that black place where millions of stars can be seen along with planets, and, and shooting stars too!”
“Isn’t that called ‘space’?” asked Tessie.
“Yes, that is the commoner’s word for it. Remember, Tessie, we are receiving formal education; our language must be sophisticated enough,” said Annie; although quite unsure about the ‘world’ part. She only remembered that the word had something to do with ‘uni’.
“So, like I was saying, the uniworld is very dark. To keep an eye on all of us, God needs light. The solution can be nothing better than –a light bulb! The bulb hangs from the umbrella, and that is what we call ‘our sun’.”
“What!” screamed Tessie, bubbling with euphoria, “Wow, our Sun is God’s light! Oh God! How can that even be true! Sister, do continue!”
But poor Annie had been flung away by such a sudden, loud explosion of excitement.
“Sister! Sister, are you okay?” Tessie asked.
“I …..am…..oh my dear! Tessie…. Please have some mercy, or try to have some, because next time your joy finds out such a destructive outlet, I would turn deaf,” moaned Annie. “I love music, you can’t spoil my life that way!” complained she.
“I am sorry, sister dear. Everything was so overwhelming!”
Accepting Tessie’s apology, Annie continued.
“That bright bulb hangs from the roof of the umbrella. That’s all with the ‘light bulb’ part. Now the clouds.”
“What’s with the clouds?” inquired Tessie.
“The clouds. Nothing, my dear! Pure cotton!”
“I knew it!” exclaimed Tessie. “It could be guessed very well that clouds are actually cotton!”
Though terribly irritated by the fact that her tale-twist was predictable, Annie continued. Each moment new thoughts were popping up in her mind, and even the silos were full. There was so stopping her.
“You see, our earth is pretty old. The umbrella has been there since the beginning, so the sky is old too, with age, tiny pores had developed on its bright blue surface. God found these wee upstarts to be real trouble. Hence he sealed those pores with absorbing cotton.”
“Why can’t he just get them repaired?”
“Repair? You know how much time does it take for an umbrella to get repaired? During that time, all the rain will be falling on our planet, and we would be drowning, especially you, because you cannot swim. How could ‘you’ even talk of repair?”
Annie’s words almost freaked Tessie out. Tessie crumpled and inched closer to Annie.
“Then what, sister”, she meekly asked.
“When there is too much water for even heavenly cotton to soak, the water starts dripping again. That’s when it rains on earth. And as the pores are small and localized, like we see often, it rains locally. It doesn’t rain all over the world all at once.”
“Wait, sister! I’ve seen white cotton get damp, but never turn black. Rain clouds are black. How come?”
“Tessie. Isn’t damp cotton slightly translucent?”
“So above these damp, translucent cotton is the very black uniworld. The translucent cotton reveals the color of the uniworld, partly. Thus it seems smoky.”
“Hmm...” mumbled Tessie.
“Yeah, the cotton drips. It rains. God then replaces those with new, dry cotton. Don’t you see Tessie that, after a rain, the clouds vanish for a while, before they reappear, fluffy and white as ever?”
“Now I see. Is that all?”
“Yes it is all, Tessie.”
“Annie, Tessie, Lunch is served,” called their mother.
“Yes Mom.” Annie scampered away.
Meanwhile, Tessie climbed on the sofa and peered over the window frame, observing the sunny outdoors.
“It’s still raining out there, above this dry sky, isn’t it?” she addressed her doubt to no one.