Highly Commended Story - Foliage of Unpredictableness
“Foliage of Unpredictableness” by Aritro Chatterjee, Hartland International School, UAE, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Aritro Chatterjee has been keenly involved with humanitarian issues of less-privileged children and global nature-degradation problems. His local and international voluntary services - including volunteering to teach math to Buddhist children in Monasteries of Himalayan foothills - was recognized by being the recipient of UK’s BSME Ed Goodwin Award in 2018. He has been a junior member and supporter of the global movements of Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue and David Attenborough’s World Land Trust. Aritro is also a KenKen puzzle enthusiast – winning at the KenKen International Championships in 2017 and 2018, in New York, US. He’s also a keen musician and envisions fusing music and math into a future beneficial role.
Foliage of Unpredictableness
The journey to the centre of the earth is not for the faint-hearted as one would imagine. The ‘out-of-this-world’ hidden landscape, leafage and mysterious streams seemed bewildering and fascinating. Even the sounds of the water echoing in the unwinding caves and atriums seemed to play an eerie note. Something was not most comforting, my sixth sense was telling me. Apart from stepping ahead with full alertness, I had little other choices. The surroundings seemed to eerily heed warnings at me, luring me like a fly to a pitcher plant.
Little was I expecting it to be terrifying even for the bravest of men, that I considered myself as. Having parted the leaves of the thick forest undergrowth I froze in terror, suddenly faced with the piercing, bloodshot gaze of the legendary, mythological basilisk. It lay coiled in a heap of three tons of merciless deadliness. Its fangs seemed to point in my direction with its intention seeming likewise. Every droplet of my blood froze in its path confining my courage. Every heartbeat seeped through my thoughts like loud drums. Would this be the end! Was this the way it was meant to be!
This moment of my otherwise intrepid journey to this isolated part of our planet brought to question my puny existence. Returning to my senses, hoping this was all a dream, I involuntarily locked eyes with the beast. Its eyes glimmered and twinkled with merciless intent - not the friendly-pranks mischievous looks, but the one that mocked and whispered loudly ‘Hello, mortal! Let’s play ball!
This had a surprisingly wrong effect on me at the wrong time – my eternal courageous instinct disappeared – giving way to a block of immobile ice that was me. I needed to thaw - and attack. Or run. Either way, the question wasn’t whether I’d survive, but how long...
Outfighting the mammoth reptile was impossible and outrunning, improbable – especially in its territory where it knew every tree, every turn, every stone. Not my turf, this. Not my size of opponent, this, either!
I suppose it was sizing me up relative to its mouth. I was sizing it up relative to my speed. Myriad thoughts and options rushed through my mind – until the clichéd ‘light bulb’ lit up. I saw a tree at an arm’s length and without a logical thought, started climbing, vaguely hoping lofty trunks would prove out-of-bounds for this monstrous king of the ‘under-world’ terrain.
As if the last ray of hope blew out, the red-eyed monster coiled itself around the feeble trunk and started shaking the tree violently, expecting the food to drop to its salivating molars. Perched at the near top, I swerved from side to side avoiding the ‘Jaws of death’ as I knew that was the ‘point of no return’. The next moment, something gave way and I flew with eyes like golf balls. Only then I realized I was air-bound from an awkwardly positioned cliff-side tree. And the only direction was down – down the cliff into the more unknown and expectedly more perilous. And here I was flying towards another darker layer of foliage … and who knows, a gateway to another world!