Manali Choudhury




The first few hours of the day were blurry for the eyes which had not slept the night. The growing orange tinge on the work desk was only an alarm for the rising panic that was gradually setting in since last evening. She only had the next three hours to sort the paperwork for the new client. He was an important one, whose attention span was limited and investment scope worth millions.

Back home, there was a storm brewing as well. There was paperwork to be cleared there as well. They lay in the bureau, with the pen that would ink the closure. The same bureau also had some pending stories…some emotive, some monetary. Walking into the room, after a two-day absence, did not feel redeeming in the least. The sultry, stuffy air did not help either. She stumbled into the apartment, carefully sliding the shoe off her feet, getting the ceramic plate to chime at the sound of the keys, and heaving the cucumbers, and tomatoes on the not-so-shiny dining table. As she was about to put down her laptop bag, the strap gave way and suddenly the whole pressure came off her shoulders with a jerk and the entire weight came crashing down on the floor. The momentum was such that it disbalanced her, she lurched backward and hit the center-table. The impact left her sore, and she collapsed as if shot. Breathing heavily, she kept lying on the floor staring at the cracked glass of the center-table.

The tentacles lay drying by the beach, not exactly on the sand, but on the little green patch on the mound. She was using them often these days. She had a lot on her plate. She was the provider, and the protector. She had battles to fight and forests to keep. She could not falter. She had to perform. She was the Queen.

Some merchants were arriving by the ocean. The big, silver ocean…silver, her favourite colour.

Here, the ocean and the sky turned into the favourite colour of the ruler. They were their canvas. Paint it as you like. It was the gift that they received right at birth. A process of slowly accumulating the claim on the land. So, by the time the throne was reached, the days and nights were already coloured by the ruling mind.

The merchants arrived with hordes of riches from other islands. The chief of the contingent disembarked and approached the Queen with a small pouch. It was his offering to Her Highness. She smiled as he slowly put it in one of the tentacles. She never raised them to receive any offering. She found it overbearing and rude. She only raised them when she had to shield her people or to plough the golden fields which yielded in a day. She did not have long hours. So, she was able to soak in the silver of the ocean and the lilac of the sky for most of the lighted hours. At night, she lay floating in the creek by the forest, counting the faraway planets, and keeping an eye on the big, dark hole.

When she came to, she did not raise herself immediately. She knew she had not been sleeping. She knew she was awake, somewhere. Her arms stretched out and hair laid out as if blown by sea-wind, she looked as if she was a frozen figurine on an urn.  There was a pink envelope on her right palm. She neither raised her torso nor her arm. She knew it must have slipped out of her bag during her fall. She knew she was not returning to her desk. It was ironic as this was the very day she had received her offer letter, nine years ago. So much for the offering…she slipped yet again.

The Queen came to and swam back to the bank. Her house is neatly covered in ivy. The mirror is shining brightly. Only, it did not reflect her tentacles but a pair of arms, a cluttered room and a dishevelled version of herself. She knew her well. She knew she lived multiple lives, just past that hole in the sky…the beautiful lilac sky. Only the Queen knew it all. She was the Queen on this side of the mirror alone.