|This remarkable picture was taken by Steven McCurry.|
I do not own any rights to it and will remove it promptly if I need to.
Here is the link to his blog..
Anup could say that it was not a bad day. The weather was cool and the ground under his bare feet was also cool and damp. He gripped the back of his basket of wood and walked along the tracks.
"One more mile, Roknir. It will be a short day but we will get paid for a full day." Anup stepped on a wide tie with one foot and stony gravel laced with weeds with the other. One foot in front of the other in an even rhythm. He did not hear his friend behind him. With an impatient sigh, he turned back to see his friend staring at the woods beside him.
"What are you doing? Let's go." Anup stood and so did Roknir. With a curse under his breath, he dropped the basket to the ground and walked beside his friend. Friend might not be the right word. Co-worker? Companion? Comrade? Perhaps, comrade was a better description.
His friend stared into the trees. Anup looked at his eyes and then tried to see what he saw. He saw nothing. The sounds of the insects and the birds and monkeys and other creatures were still noisy around them. He listened for a snap of a twig or a scrap of brush in the windless distance. He looked behind him and saw more forest, only the trees were a little closer to the tracks. He saw no trains in the distance and heard no whistle or bell from either way.
Roknir reached out his hand. Anup stood close to him to see if he could hear the boy say anything. All he could hear was his friend's shallow breathing and mumbling.
"Roknir. Roknir, wake up." Anup shook his arm a little hard. Only one mile to go and they would have the rest of the day free. Rocknir turned to Anup with a confused face.
"The house. Do you not see it? So beautiful. Out of a story book. Like in the old library. English books. The house has a thatched roof. There is a path lined with pink and blue--no, it is lavender. The English use lavender. I think the flowers near the window are roses. Anup, do you not see it?" Roknir looked back. "It's so beautiful."
"Roknir, we must leave. I want to play soccer. With the extra money we can treat ourselves to an RC Lemon at the market. They have them cold. Maybe you are thirsty. There is no house. I see no house, Roknir. Please, let us go."
"She is coming out the front door. She's so beautiful, Anup. Long, blonde hair--"
"Roknir, we are leaving now." Anup felt the blood rush from his hands and feet. Fear beaded up under his woolen cap. He pulled earnestly at Roknir, who would not budge.
"She calls me, Anup. I want to go. It's so beautiful. She is so kind." Roknir smiled and held out his arm. The white sleeve on his sweater pulled up his thin arm. "She wants me to take the lavender. It smells so good. Anup."
Roknir's eyes filled with tears. Anup strained to see something, anything but all he could see longan trees and their corpses replaced with vampire banyans. He looked up and saw the sky, but no birds. And no sounds except their own shallow breathing.
"Her mouth. She is smiling. No. We must run. But the flowers, so beautiful, like a fairy tale." Roknir reached farther and leaned to take a step. Anup grabbed him and pulled him back. The boy gasped and looked on the ground.
Just beyond them, on the edge of a rail tie, a purple flower lay on the ground neatly cut. A moment later, a black oily drop fell on its thin, green stem.
Anup slapped his friend in the face. Roknir touched his face where he had been hit, as if he were wakened from a dream.
"Let us go, Anup. I am thirsty." A tear dropped from Roknir's eye and splashed on his cheek as he walked up the track. He stumbled a little but soon found the rhythm of walking a rail.
Anup ran to his basket and hoisted it on his back. It was a burden of wood and kindling but on the mile home, he walked hard and quick as if carried by the wind.
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