Sub-junior 3rd Prize Winning Story
“The Pearl That Led To More” by Tara Maithili Mishra, Heritage Xperiential Learning School, Gurugram, India, is the Third Prize winning story in the sub-junior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
The Pearl That Led To More
Abdul cast fishing net into the water and tugged. All that came up was a few measly fish. He sighed. His wife Amrita asked, “A good catch?” Abdul shook his head no. Amrita sighed.
She went into the hut and said “Anjali, Kazim, please work extra hard and be grateful for what we have. I will go sell the fish your father has brought.” “Don’t worry Ammi, we know. If Papa doesn’t catch much, then we don’t eat much. I can help you clean at Ramji’s house if you like.” assured Anjali. Ammi smiled. Anjali was so hardworking, yet so delicate. Her son, on the other hand, got seasick so he could not go fishing with Abdul. Kazim asked “Ammi, can I go for a walk?” Amrita responded, “Yes, of course Kazim.”
Kazim got up and ran off. He was in the mountains when he tripped. He yelled “Aii Maa!” Luckily, it wasn’t bad as he could still walk. He saw what he had tripped on. It was a milky white pearl that shimmered in the sand. He picked it up and hobbled home.
“Ammi! Ammi! Look what I found in the mountains!” hollered Kazim. Ammi stared at it in disbelief. “Well done, my son!” Ammi beamed. Kazim asked “Oh! Ammi! Could you help me? I tripped and hurt my leg.” “Of course my son!” said Ammi. Later, Ammi went to the market and sold both the pearl and the fish for a sizable sum. She had enough money to buy Anjali and Kazim their favourite sweets and fruits and two rations per person for dinner. (They usually only had half per person) The pearl seemed to be lucky as Abdul caught two Rohu fish the next day and Ammi sold it for almost more money than she had the pearl. For the next two days the family had plenty to eat but then the food ran out and they were hungry again.
Kazim took another walk, hope to find another pearl. He went to the same spot where he had found the previous one and leaned against the mountain wall with exhaustion. He fell backwards and gasped. He was in a cave, but not just any old cave, a cave full of pearls and gold. Kazim gathered five pearls and an armful of gold coins. He rushed back home and gave them to Ammi. Ammi was ecstatic and sold all of them in the market. She bought heaps and heaps of food. The family was full for two weeks but then, food ran out.
Just as he had done before Kazim ran up the mountain to the cave, but on arrival he screamed. A black spirit was in the cave. “Who dares to enter my cave? You will be punished severely!” “I’m sss-sorry. I didn’t knknknk-know. I’ll be off home now.” stuttered Kazim. “I don’t think so.” boomed the mountain spirit. It sent a blazing light flashing from its finger that pierced his skin. He shrieked once and fell, lifeless. His shriek was so loud; all the birds flew off from the mountaintop.
Anjali was roasting a few fish that her mother had deemed bad for the market. She heard the shriek and ran up the mountain. The entrance to the cave was open and she saw the body of Kazim. She was bereft and shouted “Can I do anything to bring him back? I’ll give my own life for him!” The spirit was amazed by her devotion to her brother and offered “If you truly want to bring him back, then I will give you a wish. You can have plenty to eat, drink and live on or your dear brother’s life. It’s a choice for the whole family, so I suggest ask your parents. Oh, and do decide before sundown.”
Anjali carefully brought her brother’s body down to the hut and cried “Ammi! Kazim was killed by the legendary mountain spirit! The spirit said to decide between plenty of food or Kazim. I pick Kazim.” Ammi cried “Kazim! Of course! I’ll ask Abdul.” Abdul agreed. Anjali found her five annas pocket money and bought Kazim’s favourite sweet.
She brought Kazim up as the sun was about to set and told the spirit “Spirit, please bring my brother back.” The spirit chanted some mysterious words again and again. Kazim jolted back to life. Anjali handed him his sweet and smiled “Let’s go home.”
Mysteriously, from that day on the family lived well and happily never suffering from hunger again.