A perfect blend of fact and fantasy….the author takes us to a completely different world where reality merges with imagination and dreams…..and gives us a glimpse of our future world through the story of a little girl Lulu!
By Lipokmenla Ao | Illustration by Sid Ghosh
The dark summer air whistled its way to Lulu’s window, and into her bedroom, as she hurriedly clenched the wavering curtains, and slid closed her windows. It was mid-July, and Dimapur had become the hub of incessant rainfall. It was already the third consecutive day of heavy rain and with every rainy day, followed the glorious proud sun that rose and then drifted away into hiding after three hours of insanity.
The army of dust scattered around the streets would then rise slowly with the maddening winds that fogged the city, and then the thundering clouds would appear from far away the hills, flashing rapidly as though two rocks are being clashed in a desperate fit to attain fire.
Lulu sighed as she sat down on her bed; it was seven twenty-five in the morning and she could hear her mother clanking the pan in an ambiguous manner, that day a little too early. Every seven thirty in Lulu’s house was a ritual of intentional pots and pans clanking in the air, and it was enough to awaken any hibernating animal. That day Lulu could sense her mother stirring the pot of mashed potatoes, dried yam and red chillies that tickled her nose, as her mother sang–
“Far away there’s a place for you and me.
Far away there’s a place yet to be seen.
Far away there’s where you and I shall meet”.
As Lulu listened to this routine song, she noticed in the far corner of her room, a silver coated crow as though dipped in molten silver, perched itself at the top of her cupboard. It had taken shelter in her room from the approaching madness outside, and had nested itself on top of Lulu’s unwashed uniform from last week.
Lulu approached the strange bird in utter curiosity; an uncanny air of interest had blanketed her mind as she slowly walked towards the bird. The clock ticked in frenzy, almost matching Lulu’s own heartbeat, conjoined with her mother’s call, “It’s almost seven thirty. Time for breakfast. ” Her mother’s voice seemed more distant as Lulu’s hands moved nearer to the silver crow. Lulu’s finger tips had touched the curious bird as the clock struck seven thirty, and burst into a rainbow of colours.
Now there existed only darkness and silence, maddening silence. Slowly there was a sound, and as she listened closer, she heard another. It was a drop of something; clinking, splashing, crashing, roaring. Lulu opened her eyes to bright lights, almost blinding her, blinking vigorously as she rubbed her eyes.
She stood on the shore of an unfamiliar beach, and she stood there motionless and awestruck. She couldn’t scream; panic had no room in her mind quite interestingly. She could feel her feet press against the warm sand, and the curious grains peeping in between her toes. She remembered this place; there was an uncanny air of belongingness as she wandered the shore. After a minute of aimless wander, she noticed the same silver crow. But this time in the sunlight, she realized that it was a mechanical bird.
The bird flew off as Lulu ran after it, approaching the end of the shore and unveiling to herself a strange new world. The strange ‘world’ was the most overwhelming sight her eyes had ever seen. She ran as fast as her feet could carry her, approaching this new world. She looked up as she realized that everyone had their own flying saucers. All the buildings looked the same and monotonous, as those came with the same benefits and technology installed. Nobody was starving, no sight of pollution prevailed, no one was in a hurry. She realized that meetings could be held at home through projections, and one could buy anything straight from the television portals, and these were all controlled by the city board officials, who called themselves ‘The Mind.’
“Excuse me Sir, what planet is this?” Lulu asked an old citizen, who was just about to hop into his saucer. “The Moon,”he answered as he walked away, laughing, looking back at Lulu as though to reassure himself. Lulu shrieked to this, making every person on the ground look at her in shock. She then sprinted to a near corner, pressing her hands against the wall, breathing as she mumbled, “I am on the moon!”.
“Excuse me miss…,” a little voice called out as she looked to her left. “Where are your shoes?”a young boy in a blue uniform stood by her side, curious as herself. “I’m on the moon,” she answered back in an intensified fit of sorrow. “No you are not,” assured the boy. “We cannot go to the moon, there’s the monthly curfew. At least until next week you cannot go there.” Lulu now stared at this strange boy who sounded humanly non-human. She had now assured herself that stranger things would follow the other, and there was no joy in panic.
“And you are?” Lulu asked in a perturbed tone. “I am AIM2.0,” he answered. “What is AI…okay I do not really want to know.” She nodded her head as she looked at the boy. “I shall take my leave now…” said the boy, “and you ought to get some shoes, or else you would be arrested for breaking code- 24 of the City Law.”
Lulu watched the strange boy walk away and get lost in between the crowd of uniformed pedestrians who almost looked identical. She then walked down the road, and entered a supposed shoe shop. She walked down the aisle as she watched an advertisement that announced a new model of television that could provide faster portal shopping. She watched the advertisement with an open mouth, as the actor slid her hands into the television to pick out a pair of sunglasses. The end of the advertisement read –“BORED TO SHOP? NO MORE TRANSPORT. STAY HOME AND HOARD!”
She sighed as she looked down at her naked feet, underwhelmed. Just when she had lifted her head, the owner of the store walked towards her, “First walk- in customer in over forty years!” she exclaimed. Lululaughed at the woman’s exceptional sense of marketing humour, as she walked down the store with her.
The shelves filled with LED fitted shoes triggered Lulu’s anxiousness – “Do you have anything that’s trendy?” asked Lulu, as the woman answered, “Everything here is this year’s trend, the best of 2200.” Lulu laughed at this response as she immediately stopped again to realize that it wasn’t as funny to the other person.
She then noticed all the tags, the television dates, the banners outside the streets; everything had enough proof of the year. She rushed out of the store as she yelled, “Sorry I have no cash with me.” “What is cash?” the woman mumbled to herself as she walked back to her table that had a payment machine that read ‘sustainable transfer of chips.’
As she walked down the street raging with annoyance, she noticed the same bird again, this time she ran as she followed the bird, and as she jumped to catch the bird, she found herself at the headquarters of ‘The Mind’ and inside a chamber, strictly operated by the Government. The chamber had cubicles that kept a strict track of records of the number of events that had taken place in history hanging on the wall; there was the World War, the Wright brothers, Tesla, and more.
She picked up a newspaper from 2021 that read “UFO sighted near Dimapur.” As soon as she had read this, she noticed the screens in the cubicles project the flying saucers teleport themselves back to history. The government had been operating time travel, and had been sending their transport systems to the past for quite a while, awaiting the right space and time to reveal the future.
Then in the far corner she noticed a recent project that read “SILVER.” She leaned in to notice that the silver crow was the new model of transport that was under development by the Government. The tablet next to the project read -“Takes one to where their mind feels the need to be. ‘’She then looked at the bird seated on the stand, and with her fingers she gently touched the bird.
Once again she opened her eyes to the light, standing on the same shore where she first arrived. “Hey I wanted to be at my home!” Lulu yelled at the bird, until she realized that she stood on her own address, just 179 years later. She then grabbed the bird again, and found herself finally in her room.
She opened the door to find her grandmother seated in the common room. She gasped in both horror and joy as she walked over to her grandmother. “Granny?” she called out as she sat beside her in melancholy. “Why is that crow following you?” asked grandmother, who suffered from mild Alzheimer’s. “Do you know that we consider crows as symbols of change and adaptation? Its spiritual for me”she added as she got back to watching the television. Lulu slowly walked back into her room as she looked at the bird.
“I have to be really specific with the year right?” she held the bird one last time and opened her eyes. The wind blew heavily as she got up from her bed and shut the window; she sat on her bed and breathed a sigh of relief as she assured herself that it was all a dream. She turned her head to the alarm near her bed that read ‘seven twenty-five’ and as soon as she turned her head, she got a whiff of dried yams being stirred in the pot. Her heart beat faster and the clock ticked with the same rhythm, as she looked at the far corner of her room almost as if expecting something, and her mother yelling, “It’s almost seven thirty. Time for breakfast!”
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Lipokmenla Ao is a student with an MA degree in Literature from NEHU, Shillong. She was consecutively published under the National 'Wingword Poetry Prize' (2018-19) for her poems "Home" and "The Solitary Man." Apart from writing poetry, she has a deep love for story writing. She currently works as a freelance writer for an NGO based in Sri Lanka, "WeForUs."