Monochrome Series: Friends In High Places

I have friends in high places

Like the bear in the photo 

Climber he is of dense trunks and riotous branches

Trees are blotters of the sky

In Darkest Peru

He pads by night quietly over leaf litter

Seeking odd jars of marmalade

And sometimes his sensitive snout draws him to other places

Like England, Pret Cafe, our table

The acne-faced teenagers in the puffer jackets roll their eyes,

And they snigger, whisper

But he rolls his sleeves up nevertheless

And climbs and climbs and climbs some more

My bear doesn’t care

He knows that he is rising towards us

Like dawn and waves and the beginning of time

Did I tell you that I had friends in high places? 

Words & Pictures: © Mazzy Khatun | UK 2018



Bookish Magic

She read the book attentively, and so at peace was her heart that it surely must have stilled the unseen forces that made the wooden bench what it was, breathing a sweet smiling silence all around, making listeners out of ivy and holly and the dew orbs that to the red berry was its wide ocean. 

Words and Pictures by © Mazzy Khatun | 2017 


Bookish Magic

Bookish Magic

My Dream Diary

A Your Echoes In Space Presentation: My Dream Diary

Words and Pictures by © Mazzy Khatun 2017


An idea for a story can behave like the moon. It appears bright, swollen with revelation. You twirl in excitement. You shout it out. You breathe it.

Then, just like that, it wanes. It vanishes.

Without your consent.

Without waiting to hear what you have to say.

Without warning.

You eventually console yourself, reasoning that the idea has departed for good. No longer do you feel its unmistakable tug. It has left your world and joined the dark darkness of oblivion. No one will ever know about it. It was never meant to be.

The end.

Not quite.

Your Echoes In Space was born last autumn. I chose a photograph out of a constellation of possibilities to use as a writing prompt. It was a dated picture of an intimidating teacher looking down at a boy. He had his arms behind his back, his head slightly lowered. She was waiting for him to pick up the chalk and write on the blackboard. There was no clock in the scene yet I could hear the ticking of the hand, the loud ominous dragging of time.

I took that photograph home with me. By evening, Edward had pushed through into existence. A brilliant-minded and exceptionally articulate pupil, he was also something else. A self-isolating racist bully. I saw him take particular joy in picking on the new ‘coloured’ kid, Alok.

In those embryonic moments I also saw astronomy. A discipline about distant things. The study of stars – the study of fantastic and mysterious entities of faraway places, that spun and pulsated light years above our heads, below our feet.  I wanted astronomy to be the adhesive, the study of the distant bridging the gap between two boys from two different worlds.


In the autumn term of my MA writing course and through into the festive season, for reasons unknown to me, my passion for Your Echoes In Space began to wane. Somehow, something had pulled the plug. I was devoid of conviction.

My two boys had fled.

Determined to not let myself be swallowed up by the disappearance of my protagonists, I straightened up my back and returned to the drawing table. I scribbled new ideas, thoughts and musings. I must carry on, I told myself. I must.

In semester two my tutor introduced me to something that would change everything. It felt absolutely right. It was as if a missing piece had been salvaged and returned to my mantle; awareness once flaked and lost in the dense foliage of self-doubt now restored.

Welcome to the dream diary.

I have vivid dreams. They are always liberating and surreal and insightful. Till now it had never clicked that I could tap into this vast resource for fuelling my creative energy. I began to keep a diary. And I dreamt a lot, every night.

And, the dream was not just a dream. It was a bridge.

Between two worlds.

Between my boys and I.

They had not waned, withered, wasted.

They were growing, gestating, gleaming.

Like the furled sails of a new moon.

Alok and Edward.

In so many of my dreams.

They had not gone away. They had gone deeper. Deeper into me, into the parts of my brain for which no map could chart. Parts still wet from my primal days. Parts moist with soul.

I remembered. I remembered how to believe in my story again.

The dream diary. That is how they came back to my world, our world.

One world.

"They had not waned, withered, wasted. They were growing, gestating, gleaming. Like the furled sails of a new moon."

“They had not waned, withered, wasted. They were growing, gestating, gleaming. Like the furled sails of a new moon.”

"They had not gone away. They had gone deeper. Deeper into me, into the parts of my brain for which no map could chart. Parts moist with soul. "

“They had not gone away. They had gone deeper. Deeper into me, into the parts of my brain for which no map could chart. Parts still wet from my primal days. Parts moist with soul. “

Snow, A Christmas Tale



Christmas morning whispered into my ear.

I wriggled and turned on my back, and though my eyes were still kissed down tight with delicious sleep, I let myself rise. Sat on my bed, I stretched and grinned, a grin made of home and comfort and Amma’s old hands. I must have been smiling like that for a long time, because soon I felt the edges of my room wanting to come apart, releasing me and everything in it into the air.

My eyes flickered open.

Something had changed.

I glanced around the room. Even in the grey dimness I saw that an immense stillness had entered the heart of objects. My copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the brass figurine of Horus, the bells from Nepal, each and all, now gazed at me in perfect pause. When I picked up the bedside clock and pressed it against my ear its ticks came out muffled, as though it had lived its previous life somewhere on a deep seabed.

With a sharp turn I eyed the chink between the curtains.

And there I saw what my heart had desired all year long. I knew of that rareness that glittered between the drapes.

Overnight, the world had grown a skin forged of starlight.

Leaping up from my bed I rushed to the curtains and opened them wide.

Snow! It was snow!

As far as the eye can see.

It was so thick and fresh and crisp, that I was certain that the whole world was covered in it.

I must have jumped a few times in excitement, then darted out of my bedroom door, and ran down the stairs, missing three steps at a time, before dunking my feet into my Wellington boots and pulling on my duffel coat.

‘Moni, where do you think you are going?’ Amma had one hand on her chubby hip whilst in the other she held an open box of cornflakes.

‘Amma, please –‘

‘You can’t go like that!’ She waddled over to the wooden chair and from under her shawl she grabbed her red woolly scarf and flung it at me. ‘We don’t want you catching a cold now.’

I caught the scarf and swiftly wrapped it round my neck. ‘Thank you, Amma!’ I beamed a smile at her.

She shook her head, chuckled and swung back to prepare breakfast.

Sliding the latch off, which seemed to take forever, I finally pulled the door open.

The air was clarity itself, laced in ice and quiet, as if history had not found it yet. Chimney tops and the tips of the highest branch, and even the sky itself, all sparkled pristine white.

I drew a long breath in and stepped foot onto the garden path, the sharp crunch under my boot the loudest sound for miles. I took another step and this time I dug my boots down further. I was curious to know if my other world still existed, whether it remained in slumber underneath the white.

As I was about to walk on I discovered that I was not alone. A robin redbreast dipped and dived overhead. It finally perched its tubby little body on the snow-cloaked needle of the spruce tree at the bottom of the garden. He looked in my direction and started to chirp, and with each note a few flakes, like chippings of stars, scattered down below.

I giggled and hopped over to the tree, my woolly red scarf bouncing along, and only once did I glance over my shoulder, just so to admire my trail of deep-set footprints.

The robin sang its sweet song.

And the scarf and I twirled underneath him.

Two red voices in a new world.


Words & Image by Masufa (‘Mazzy’) Khatun | Winchester | UK 2016

The Dreaming Chapter 13: I, River

Mr Penton sat back in his leatherback black chair. His calm, scrutinising eyes were trained on his team of agents who were all busily punching away at their complicated keyboards, their faces lit up by the twitching graffiti of ghostly lights emanating from their screens in front. Mr Penton was present, and yet was not present in the room, for his mind, a vast cave-like realm as secret as the museum itself, toiled and twisted in thoughts that he had not spoken of to anyone. So lost was he in a wisp of memories that it took him away from the room, to somewhere else, a place peacefully absent from the raging kaleidoscope of blinking lights and clattering twirls of recording reels of tape.

A part of him must have somehow latched back onto the present, and he realised again where he was. Closing his eyes shut so that he may open them again and renew his focus on the task that lay before him, Mr Penton slowly, but deeply, rubbed his neck down with his hand, a discreet effort to keep haunting worries buried beneath him where no one would find them. Then he opened his eyes again with a sigh that sounded as if it were a breeze that had escaped from the centre of the earth. He tried to conceal his surprise at finding that he was not alone in his space. The assistant was stood facing him, expressionless, his hands behind his back. Mr Penton sat himself up straighter.

I am deeply sorry to disturb you, Sir.

Mr Penton found it highly amusing that his assistant should say that. “And what do you think you had disturbed?

The assistant did not bargain on having such an awkward question thrown at him and he stammered for an answer. “Erm, well, I th-thought, erm, you were, you….. 

Mr Penton shook his head in feigned exhaustion and smiled. “At ease, for goodness sake, man!” To that the assistant jolted his back straight and he became as straight as a ruler. “At ease does not mean tensing yourself up more than you were before.” Mr Penton gave up and leaned back on his chair again. The assistant loosened up, but only slightly. “So, what of the mission so far?

Agent King Kong –

Ah, yes, always was a fan of his work!” Suddenly Mr Penton remembered the time he trained the little monkey how to securely operate headset technology whilst swinging through trees of extraordinary height.

Yes, well, erm, Agent King Kong has been successful in diverting The Froggies away from the girl, however, based on the latest satellite imagery it appears that the enemy quartet has not only encountered a violent fall down a vertical terrain of significant gradient, but that they are now closer to two branches of the Krishna Gandaki River. This does not look good, Sir.

Mr Penton did not seem to be irritated or unnerved by the news. Instead, a slight curl rose at the end of his lips, an embryonic smile tinged with joy that was as elusive and untouchable as the floating mesh of fresh dawn fog. “At least the girl is safe”.

But, Sir – and I do beg your pardon if I seem to be talking out of turns here – but our priority is The Shaligram Ammonite!” Although the assistant had plenty more to add to his bubbling protest, he was stopped short by Mr Penton’s immediate change of expression, the old man’s eyes now chiselled into a piercing and questioning stare. The assistant frowned and briskly backed off. He was not sure what he had said and something told him that he would not be receiving a straightforward answer either. “I am, erm, I am sor-sorry, Sir.

Remembering where he was again, Mr Penton relaxed his eyes and face, and flexing his hands and fingers before interlocking them, the two index fingers like pillars pointing into his chin, he spoke with a measured authority that was spectacularly effective. “Let me be the one to worry about our priorities. You may return to your workstation, and keep me informed.

The assistant could not tell whether the old man was cross with him, or was he being reassuring. Either way, no words would come to him and he simply nodded before turning around and quietly gliding back to his seat.

For the next few minutes Mr Penton watched his crew attentively. He had to get up from his seat and wished not to distract anyone or arouse unhelpful interest in his movements. Relieved that all eyes were glued to the screens, Mr Penton carefully slid away from his seat and stood up. Once again he scanned around. No one was onto him. He crept towards the back of the room where the towering columns of mainframe computers whirred away, the huge rotating wheels gaped at him as if they were the eyes of mechanical spies, and a faint quiver shuddered across his shoulders. Undeterred, he remained to walk over to the back corner of the room. A mundane intersection of two walls, the heat of the machines had accumulated here to form an eerie micro-climate, an ignored and muggy and shadowy spot haired by thick, snaky wires trailing around, keen to trip anyone over. Peering out from behind the mainframe tower, taking care not to topple the ominous structure, he checked to see if everyone was working. All was well. He turned away and stepped backwards until his back was against the wall. He sighed, and then put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small, white envelope. He turned it in his fingers, over and over again. He debated with himself whether he should open it here or not. At last his indecisiveness came to a stop, not out of will, but out of the tiredness from overthinking. The envelope hung expectantly in the charged air, its sides firmly clipped between the fingers of each hand, and in his head he read the typed words on the front, his silent voice as crisp as when walking on thick snow. It read “The Shaligram Ammonite”. Mr Penton flipped the envelope over, opened the unsealed flap and gently pulled out a glossy, monochrome photograph. The cool surface reminded him of hopeful mornings. He could not tell how many times he had looked at her, and of how many times she had smiled back at him.

Under the photograph was a caption strung in tiny, neat typewritten letters.

Her name in full read, ‘Arundhati Mehta Penton’.

As if she were hidden in between the letters, Mr Penton smiled down tenderly. A grandfather’s smile.


Leaving the dense, forested worlds of the hills behind her, Arundhati trudged down the slope towards the village. The roar of the great rivers growing louder with her every step it was, however, when she was about half-way down the slope that she realised that the sound of the waters churning and lapping and breaking against the banks rang out not from the world outside. Power beyond power, more earthly than earth itself, the watery drum was beating against her own flesh, it came from inside her, from deep within the spiral canals of her ears. ♥♥♥  

The Dreaming Chapter 13

“… Mr Penton flipped the envelope over, opened the unsealed flap and gently pulled out a glossy, monochrome photograph. The cool surface reminded him of hopeful mornings. He could not tell how many times he had looked at her, and of how many times she had smiled back at him…”

Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016


The Dreaming Chapter 12: When A Picture Spoke & Smelled Louder Than Words!

Arundhati spun her head round to face the monkey. She had figured she had no other way out, and therefore rested all her hopes of a swift and safe escape on the little creature, hoping that he would help her out in some way unknown to her. Her raised spirits were, unfortunately, quickly dashed as she saw before her was an empty spot, a dreary nothingness that made her gulp hard, and she suddenly became aware that she was horribly alone, a solitary seeker of a profound treasure limply canvassed against the whispering and watchful green leaves of the sal tree. Meanwhile, a sinister gathering assembled directly beneath her now unsteady feet. Arundhati bent down a little to hear better of their feverish banter.

I am so, so sure that I saw that weakling walk this way, she has to be here, somewhere! I’ll be damned if she gets her wormy fingers on what is rightfully ours!” grunted Tall Froggy.

I second to that!” cheered maliciously the youngest of the devilish clan, Baby Froggy.

She can’t outsmart us, four against one, c’,mon!” Papa Froggy spoke and yet he was far more concerned about the structural stability of his newly oiled quiff, smoothing it upwards as if he were negotiating with the terms of gravity itself.

Mama Froggy let out a disciplinary cough to hush everyone up and then stepped in front and locked eyes with her accomplices with a stern and steely stare before pacing up and down, her hands authoritatively locked behind her, which signalled that all ears were to come up on deck. She made it perfectly known that if anyone were to so as much fidget she would gladly release a whack to the nape of the neck of the culprit. A strict regime of silence descended and everyone, Arundhati included, waited with bated breath. She was sure the birds in the sky had frozen up there, too, wings half way between opening and closing.

Mama Froggy had hardly opened her mouth to speak when, by one of the bushes, a monkey jumped out in front at awesome ninja speed! It wore a headset around his head.

WHAT THE – ?!” cried out Mama Froggy and she stumbled and staggered backwards, falling hard on her massive, padded bottom. Dust flew out from all sides of the crash, causing the remaining Froggies to choke and their eyes immediately began to sting.

Aaarghhhh!!! My eyes, I can’t see a bloody thing!” screamed Baby Froggy.

My hair, my hair, how will I live now?!” Papa Froggy was frantically running on the spot, scrubbing his hair up repeatedly to save it from a premature collapse, although it would have been wise to sort his eyes out first, they were completely enveloped in sandy dust.

Arundhati’s heart leapt to her mouth and she smiled and giggled and even brought her hands out to clap, but thought the better of it, she did not wish to give away her location.

Tall Froggy was tall enough to have been spared the dust attack. She was the first one to notice that things were about to get worse for them. “Hey guys, it’s doing something and I don’t like it…

Though it was painful to see anything with their faces and eyes smothered to the rafters in grime of irritating dust, it was obvious to even the dullest of minds that what the monkey had up his sleeves next would be a formidable challenge to any nose of standard biology. The monkey bent his knees and assumed the position of one who was about to sit on the toilet. There was no doubt about it, his face was gleaming in the most marvellous mischievous grin ever observed in the animal kingdom. Very quickly, without The Froggies ever noticing it, the monkey shot a conspiratorial wink at Arundhati to which she flinched, and then it dawned on her of what he had deviously concocted in his tiny little genius brain. She carefully raised her right hand and pinched her nose and confirmed her understanding with a gentle nod.

Stand back…”, said Mama Froggy, her hands shaking. The others obeyed and took a step back.

It was nothing less than a monumental explosion of pure smelliness! The universe was introduced to the second Big Bang, and it came in the form of an ejective bubble of gas comprising of 1% Sulphur, straight out from a monkey’s hairless bottom! A superior module of farting glory! The monkey let out a yawn followed by a smirk of satisfaction, relieved that he had at last disengaged from his system this most annoying baggage of deadweight.

AAAARGGGGHHHHHH!!!!” screamed all four Froggies and they all fell to making the most contorted and screwed-up faces they had ever been forced to express as the odious odour unleashed its terror deep inside the delicate olfactory centres of their brain. Arundhati, on the other hand, was nearly knocked off from her perch, saved only by her fast reflexes.

The Dreaming Chapter 12

“… Arundhati, on the other hand, was nearly knocked off from her perch, saved only by her fast reflexes...”

The monkey knew this was the golden mean of moments, it had to be archived for posterity, so from his side pouch he whipped out his 19th Century foldout camera and, like a gunslinger from the Wild West, he pointed it with precision at the four wobbling figures before him. Pressing down the shutter button was second nature to him, he did it before anyone had realised what had just happened. Arundhati could not resist, she drew her hands together, and quietly clapped from above the branches of the tree. She did get a quick whiff of the smell in that brief moment and knew instantly that she would never be able to articulate to anyone the magnitude of its toxic scent. She speedily clasped onto her nose again.

The Dreaming Chapter 12

“… he whipped out his 19th Century foldout camera and, like a gunslinger from the Wild West, he pointed it with precision at the four wobbling figures before him. Pressing down the shutter button was second nature to him...”

Frogmarched out of the way by the worst sort of bad luck ever befallen on them, The Froggies ran down the hill, or so they tried, for the sting in their eyes had only just settled that their faces now itched terribly, and huge sore lumps began to bulge out like burnt cheese on pizza. Papa Froggy began to sob when he discovered that he had lost a patch of hair from the back of his head. In all this pain they could no longer see where they were going and they tumbled against each other before all four violently rolled down the hill, collecting dust and grass along the way, so that by the time they reached the base each one resembled a Chinese spring roll made out of messy tufts of hairy seaweed!

As if the camera was a juggling ball, the monkey casually threw up his box of light magic into the air, its lens joyfully caught the warm beam of afternoon sunshine, and then it fell down and he caught it in one hand. He turned to face Arundhati and she, in turn, took away her fingers from her nose. The air was clear again. The monkey slipped the foldout camera back into its inconspicuous pouch and stood up to its full height. He was ready to leave. She did not wish to forget his face, never, and without thinking, brought her binoculars up to her eyes to see his face properly. It showed her nothing, only the monotony of black discs. A little saddened, she slowly slid the camera away from her face and as she did so, she raised her right hand to her forehead and sent her little hero the proudest salute she had ever done to anyone. The monkey bowed down, with grace and humility and saluted back at her. It made her feel like a hero for something that she had yet to do. A boat-shaped dimple stretched and shone out from inside the trees to which a white cloud of whiskers fanned outwards from below ground. He skipped backwards and made a short wave before he vanished behind the bushes. Arundhati caught herself wishing that she saw him again, perhaps in another story.

If an ancient scribe of Nepal were to cross oceans of time and had sat and watched the spectacle that had just passed, he or she would have taken note that today was the day that saw four beastly frogs be blown way off course, and all thanks to the joining of two forces, two unlikeliest of friends, Hanuman and Saraswathi…  ♥♥♥     


Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016
Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre |Great Missenden | Buckinghamshire | UK 2016

In 400 Words: When I Went To The Toy Maker

A literary response to the unresolved hostage crisis taking place right now in my Motherland’s capital, Dhaka:

There was terrible, terrible gunfire that night. The bullets, angry droplets of metal, shrieked through the air like offending fireworks worked by the clawed hands of Voldemort himself. Outside the building where the hostages were kept, people scrambled for safety, rushing back and forth, gripped by the demon of hurried madness, tripping over trivial objects of the day, like scrapped newspapers, now orphaned on the streets along with the dirt and rotting peels of fruit and vegetables. I saw one man losing a sandal in the panic, he did not return for it, and in another, a woman’s hand was momentarily ripped apart from her child to which she screamed as if it were the end of the world, until an officer dashed in and reunited the child to its mother.

I had no shoes on my feet. Dhaka was stifling hot in July, and it was perfectly acceptable in these parts to walk without putting anything on one’s feet. Now I wished that I had worn something, because where my unacquainted soles touched the ground there it was callously pricked and spiked by sharp splinters of glass. When doused in mortal flesh, as I was that night, the pain became an excruciating torment.

A very still body of an officer was dragged from the frontlines of the firing. I knew he was no more, and another hole punched into my heart, this time it went all the way through to my spine and out the other end. It hurt being disguised as a human. I did not stay long enough to see what happened next, my time was up. The voice of my Creator ordained me to return to Him and tell Him of what I saw.

The main stem of my wings, a blend of lotus and moonlight, shoved out from beneath the skin of my shoulder blades and I rose off from the level of the street. When the country had shrunk as minuscule in size as an ant, my nose stroked against the first watery webs of clouds and everything vanished. An oceanic blackness was my only reality.

Then Light was returned to me. I was stood outside a shop that bore no name. The Great Old Artisan, a Toy Maker, was inside, chiselling away to bring forth a brand new planet.

I had so many questions to ask Him of his great and terrible Creations…   ♥♥♥    

Click on this link to open the door to the Toy Maker’s shop:

Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016  

Turn To Chapter: 5 Diagon Alley in ‘Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone’

It is said in the Magic world that the wielder does not choose the wand, the wand chooses You. Mr Ollivander, an elderly maker of fine wands and whose prosperous and reputed little shop in Diagon Alley has served the wizarding community in Britain for hundreds and hundreds of years, has one day a most intriguing customer pay a visit.

Harry Potter is new to these parts, a world breathtakingly different from the one that he has always known, and yet felt never quite at home in. Donned with round spectacles whose fractured middle is held together by sellotape and a scar streaked across his forehead in the shape of a lightning bolt, Harry is in search of a wand – his wand – so that he may be properly equipped and prepared for his first term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. No two wands are made out of the same ingredients, Mr Ollivander importantly insists. After a tedious number of failed attempts, Harry finally discovers that one particular wand, when he holds it, makes his fingers tingle with fizzing warmth, and after swishing it down through the dusty air of the little shop – though he does not know how – he causes an effusion of brilliant red and gold sparks to shoot out from the tip of the wand. Both Mr Ollivander and Harry are relieved and pleased, however, the old artisan thinks it is exceptionally curious that the scarlet phoenix who gave away one of its highly potent feathers for the forging of the wand’s internal core had, in fact, given one other feather to another wand. This wand belongs to Voldemort, the arch nemesis of Harry Potter and the cruel murderer of his parents.

Mazzy Tea-Char’s Q: Why do You think the author attempts to establish a connection between Harry and Voldermort in this unconventional way? Answers to be strictly directed to my home address by Owl Post only, and by no later than whatever date You think is wise! Giggle! ♥♥♥

Supplementary Quote:

Words: © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Winchester | UK 2016        

The Dreaming: Chapter 11 An Unexpected Trunk Call!

Hello, Arundhati, do you know who I am?

An entire cluster of pink lantern flowers stirred, sifted by a breeze spun out of memories too faded for her to catch the face to whom the voice belonged. Arundhati held her breath and quietly moved the phone away from her ear, only slightly, for she did not want the person on the other side to listen in on her mind frantically working things out.

And do you know who I am?

There was a second person on the other side! It was odd enough to deal with the very confusing prospect of taking a phone call in the middle of nowhere. Arundhati had honestly believed things could not turn any more mystifying than they were already. She was, of course, extremely wrong about that! Now, the resolve in her buckled in. A gnawing vulnerability seethed in its place, because to have two voices poke out at her from the unknown, she reasoned, did a pretty good job at creating the impression that a nasty conspiracy was at foot and that she was alone in her corner. Everyone else, it seemed, had the pleasure of working side-by-side, in pairs or teams, conferring and confiding in each other as they pleased, apart from her, she was the exception.

She could not delay answering any longer, although that did not mean that she was ready to speak either. An incomprehensible mumble escaped her mouth and dribbled into the receiver with flimsiness that resembled lukewarm water. “Erm…

Come on, we haven’t all day! Chop, chop!” The first voice reminded her of the smile of farmers at autumn. The time when they wheel-barrowed into the store house their first golden crop of the harvest. It was a voice that leapt out of the phone and embraced her with unconditional affection and love. Arundhati flicked through her mind as fast as she could. The owner of the voice remained elusive.

Oh my, you do sound familiar! I can’t picture you, though…” Arundhati bit her lower lip and squeezed her eyes down, whilst her thumb and index finger clipped themselves onto the top part of her nose, for she was in deep thought. Not realising it, the toes of both her feet were also tapping against the ground. Every part of her physical being was doing something besides standing still in the hope that it would hurry along the right memory.

It will come to you. Think…Arundhati…” When the second voice, a considered and soft and gently-spoken voice, addressed her by name, Arundhati felt a hundred-fold more unsettled and ashamed. She was sure that these two were most probably exchanging incredulous eye-rolls between them, a perfectly acceptable way to behave, she argued, especially since her tedious dithering was causing her to dislike her own self!

Erm, I’m not having much luck here…”, and then, out of the blue, she was struck by the thought that it had to be at school that she had met these two, for, if there was any place after home that she spent much of her time in, it was there, at school. “Do you know me from school?

What followed was an eerie silence that threatened to fill up eternity. No one spoke.

Erm, hello? Hello? Anyone there?” Once again Arundhati took the phone away from her ear and looked into its screen to see if it was still working. There was no time or date displayed on it, as one would expect on a normal phone. What she saw instead was a counter going up. To her, though, that was a tremendous relief as it meant most likely that the phone was still operational, however, on a more important note, it also suggested that the device was not a ticking bomb! She had seen plenty of movies to be wary of what they looked like. Cautiously nearing the phone to her ear again, she tried one last time and spoke into it. The distinct tremble in her voice made it apparent that she was shaken up. “Hello….?

Oh Pooja, cut it out! Can’t you see our poor friend is miserably stuck?! I can’t do this anymore!

Deflated and a tad bitter, the first voice playfully chided her partner in crime. “Well, now you’ve gone and done it, Pushpa! I was really enjoying the suspense! Duh!

Arundhati suddenly realised that the situation could not be as sinister as she had feared. There was genuine humour in the air between the two callers, a clear signal that from now on in she could carry on more comfortably and lightly. On the other hand, it did little to calm her tempers to learn that she had been made, literally, the butt of their jokes. Her courage restored, she demanded, “Ok, what is this all about?! I am busy with something and you two are holding me back!

You still can’t remember us?! I can’t believe this!” Pooja huffed.

You are right about school, that is where we used to hang out, many years ago…” Pushpa, it seemed, was always more than ready to give away the lion’s share of hints to help out Arundhati.

Arundhati sighed in half-defeat and half-boredom by the dreariness of what was fast becoming the longest guessing game she had ever played. She strained and uttered repeatedly the two new names under her breath. “Pooja… Pushpa… Pooja… Pushpa… Pooja…. Pushpa…”.

You’re thinking about secondary school. Go back to your primary years – Mr Patel’s class…” Pushpa was firmly decided that she would get Arundhati to remember.

Pooja… Pushpa… Mr Patel’s class…”, and suddenly the lightning of the memory flooded back and it shot through Arundhati as though a bullet had pierced her awake from a hundred year slumber, “POOJA, PUSHPA!! Yes, yes, I remember, only barely, that is! Oh my goodness, that was so long ago, many years ago, no wonder I was having all this trouble!” Inside she felt immensely buoyed by the fact that it was perfectly forgivable to forget people from the distant past. She no longer felt like an idiot, after all, it was understandable to have jaded memories of one’s kindergarten years.

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… A roar of laughter and giggles stormed through the phone from the other side and blared out so loud that a few lantern flowers wobbled mid-air...”

A roar of laughter and giggles stormed through the phone from the other side and blared out so loud that a few lantern flowers wobbled mid-air. Arundhati smiled as she brushed her hand down her face, relieved that she had entered a circle of old friends. What plagued her now was the outbreak of questions bubbling on the tip of her tongue. “How is this possible? Why are you calling me and how did you get this phone number and who was the chap who handed me the phone and does this mean that you are working for The – “ Breathless, Arundhati was cut off. In her head she was still asking them a million more questions.

Ariundhati, Arundhati, stop, stop. Let us explain”. Pooja cleared her throat.

Alright. I’m listening... ”

We’re happy for you, Arundhati. Honestly, we are. We couldn’t think of anyone better to carry out this important mission”. Pooja’s each word seemed as though it had a cut-out hole in it from which she was able to peer through and check up on how Arundhati was taking it all in.

Pushpa seconded her sentiment. “Agreed!” As if she would burst into flames if she kept the next part to herself, Pushpa gleefully added, “And by the way, the ‘Street Vendor’ idea was mine!

Arundhati was at a loss for words. It was like as if she were a little dot floating in an ocean of overwhelming secrets, and the ocean was growing, exponentially, as the clock ticked past the division of each second, piling mystery upon mystery from which she thought at any moment she would be inescapably lost within its depths forever.

After a while, miraculously, Arundhati found her voice. “Your idea?!

We don’t have much time, not on these airwaves”, Pooja spoke hurriedly now, “… and Pushpa, dearie, can you stop gloating about your ideas, there is a time and place for showing off!

You are right, sorry!” Pushpa’s apology was tinged with a smile which beamed out of the excitable skip that could be heard in her voice.

I feel so left out, everybody seems to be two paces ahead of me, having knowledge of things that I don’t.” Arundhati did not mean to come across as a moaner, and soon afterwards was eager to apologise for her impulsive outburst. She tried to say this, but was halted before she could begin. Pooja spoke authoritatively.

It’s important it stays that way, Arundhati. No one in the organisation knows everything. That would be too risky. We are all like you, in that respect, each holding a piece of the answer. But, you have a special relationship with this land, that makes you the binder, gluing all the pieces together, which will eventually lead us to The Shaligram Ammonite.” Pooja purposefully paused, she was well aware that her words were solemn and heavy, and that Arundhati would need a moment or so to pull them in and accept them for what they were.

And right now, we are here to protect you. Danger lurks four paces behind you.” Pushpa could not have said it any more bluntly.

Stop scaring her like that!” Pooja sliced in.

Arundhati snapped round and deliberately scanned the pathway and the trees. She did not want to admit it to her two old friends that her heart was secretly hammering against her chest, that she was scared of what could materialise from the overlapping greenery. What if another shadowy figure were to step out from the whispering leaves? What if this time behind the mask of silence lay a creature of hideous intentions, one who truly wished to bring harm to her?

The phone made a strange cackling sound and Arundhati brought her attention back to her two friends. Her instincts told her that whatever it was that made it possible to make this call was about to be used up. Time was running out, yet she knew exactly what to ask them. “Is someone following me? Please tell me the truth.

The line grew scratchy and the voice faint, and Arundhati could not tell who spoke, but one of them managed to tell her just in the nick of time, “We will help you… now…”, and then the line went dead.

Hello?! Hello?” Pooja? Pushpa? Hello?!

There was no reply.

Arundhati’s heart sank deep down into her stomach and she flung another glance behind her. As far as she could see or hear there was not another person about. Silence descended down, ruthlessly hard and unsparing, onto her nimble shoulders. All at once she could have sworn that she was the only living person on the planet. It was too quiet. Her lips ravaged and parched by the slow-burning panic building up in her belly, Arundhati was about to slide the phone away from her ear and tear down the hill when out of the leafy mass of the sal tree next to her a long furry arm shot down like a brown lightning bolt and rudely scooped the phone out of her hand! She staggered back and nearly fell, yet she somehow managed to catch sight of the five wrinkled digits of a hairy hand, balled into a fist, and the phone glistening from inside its clutches. Before she could make heads or tails of who or what the thief was, it had vanished into the covert thicket of the sal tree.

She sprang back up on her feet and edged closer, on tip-toes, towards the tree, all the while her eyes were wide alert. Something had uncivilly filched her phone and one way or another she was going to find out what it was. She cast a sideways glance at the lantern flowers who were now, it appeared, had taken to a dance of little wriggles from the fixtures of their stems. It was a daft thought, however, one that she could not shake off, and that was, that these flowers, absorbers of secrets, did look much fatter than when she had inspected them previously. Had they already feasted on the knowledge about the culprit responsible for the disappearance of her phone?

A clump of leaves and branches in the centre of the tree shuffled, as if whatever was inside was telling the tree in as explicit a way as possible that there was not enough room for it. A sharp screeching sound came next and then there was nothing, only the now all too familiar silence.

Arundhati was stood under the tree. She choked down her fear and as quietly as possible raised both her arms up and grasped the nearest two branches that were thick and sturdy enough to take up her weight. She pulled herself up and as soon as her feet came off the ground she made sure that they were quick to lift with her and then pressed them against the bark of the tree for support. Resembling a koala on its way up for a nap, Arundhati hovered this way for a few seconds, for she was painfully at two minds about what to do next. She could simply jump down and leg it. The next village was not far. Yet, it was undeniable, she was actually liking all of this. Somewhere along the line she had started to grow attracted to the uncertainty and adventure, and at whatever cost it was, she had now decided that she would expose the identity of the uncouth rascal who was toying with her phone. She pulled herself up further and this time her head scraped through the thick foliage, the odd crooked twig jabbing into her cheeks and a leaf or two tickling the crescent of her ears, until finally she was waist-high inside the green, luminous heart of the tree. It was a cool and dappled world, where everything was tuned to speak in whispers so that even the few patches of sunlight, which had struggled to reach this far, appeared more like shadows of a lighter pigmentation.

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… She choked down her fear and as quietly as possible raised both her arms up and grasped the nearest two branches that were thick and sturdy enough to take up her weight…”

At first, Arundhati saw no one. Bemused, she held firmly on the branch and swivelled her torso around to look the other way, causing the tree to judder and a few leaves to fall, and that is when she received the shock of her life.

Staring back at her was a small monkey!

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… Staring back at her was a small monkey...”

An aged chap, his two round eyes shone like fresh amber sap that had been mixed in with copious swirls of honey, and pencilled within their centres a perfect black dot, and all this was set within a greyish-pink pointy face. His lipless mouth was a fine rug of white hairs only just visible, but the rest of his body was a different matter altogether, it was abundantly layered in brown, pink and white hairs, even the tips of his ears, whose overall shape reminded Arundhati of the betel leaves that her Amma could never live a day without. Monkeys trooped everywhere in this part of the world. Arundhati was no stranger to them and to their interrupting and opportunistic ways. What threw her off completely was that this particular monkey had one thing about it that set it apart from every other monkey on the planet, or so she believed so.

Not only was the monkey jerking the phone in its nimble fingers while beaming a proud smile at her, exposing all its pristine white teeth, as if to say that he was far more intelligent than her and that he would always be one step ahead in the game, but that this cheeky imposter was equipped with backup. He wore a headset! A black, plastic headband arced around his tiny head like a rainbow and a padded speaker, a cup dotted with many holes, cushioned against the monkey’s left ear, all of it perfectly adjusted for his comfort. From the base of the speaker a thin black tube extended out so that it curved in line with the jaw, and on its tip was a microphone that looked like a bumblebee without wings.

Oh my goodness! What are you!?” She wondered out loud.

Immediately the monkey brought its index finger to its lipless mouth. “Sssshhhh!

Arundhati’s mouth dropped.

The monkey nodded its head towards something behind her. She rubbed her eyes hard and made them sore, and then looked up again. The monkey and his impressive headset was still watching her intently. He was real! The monkey repeated his nod in the direction behind her and this time she obeyed. She quietly turned around and searched below. What was it that this strange monkey was telling her?

A few seconds later it became clear to her that he was not telling her anything. He was warning her.

Directly beneath the bulbous sal tree in which she and the monkey now hid were stood four people all of different heights. Three words she heard over and over again. The Shaligram Ammonite. For the first time ever Arundhati saw what she, alone, was up against. ♥♥♥

The Dreaming Chapter 11

“… Directly beneath the bulbous sal tree in which she and the monkey now hid were four people all of different heights…”


Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016
Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Herefordshire Adventures | Herefordshire | UK 2016
Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre |Great Missenden | Buckinghamshire | UK 2016

The Dreaming: Chapter 10 The Return Of The King – Sorry – Ring, Ring!

Day blazed into brighter day, and Arundhati came to the Lantern Tree Grove, where the sharp luminosity of the noon sun overhead was proudly companioned and lit up by the presence of numerous and magnificent pendants of delicate pink drops. Lantern flowers. Each flower slanted its head towards the ground, as if addressing something that lay directly below it. It was why the people of these parts agreed that their shape resembled the papery canopy of a night-time lantern, the ones held up by the watchman as he went about making his rounds along the border of his village whilst people slept.

Unsure still of what bridge these lantern flowers served in her finding The Shaligram Ammonite, Arundhati could not escape from her delight in being surrounded by these fine specimens of Mother Nature. She was convinced that she had been born loving flowers from the moment she took her first breath, that she had the power to partition her inhalations so that half of it fed her lungs and the other was shielded from that duty so that it may be kept like a carpet of breeze reserved for carrying the scents of roses and jasmine to her nose. Of course the elders in the village, and her own Amma, on occasion, had laughed out hysterically upon hearing these strange ideas, for, they argued, how could anyone ever possibly remember if they shared a close bond with the floral world from the time of their birth? For Arundhati, these taunts never dealt her any serious blow, and she quite easily dismissed the scoffing ways of the world. As plucky as a bumblebee was to a rose, she, too, stuck to her beliefs in all weathers.

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… She was convinced that she had been born loving flowers from the moment she took her first breath…”

She crept up slowly to the long wall of leafy shrub before coming to a standstill just inches away from the tinkling audience of lantern flowers. A strange and precautionary urge came over her to be weary and to look all about her. As far as she could tell, she was alone. But it was still hard for her to shake off that unsettling impression that she had been led here, and she soon imagined – which did little to ease her discomfort – that someone was out there, nearby, watching, spying and ticking her name off from their appointment’s diary with a sliver of smugness elasticated across their face. Just to be sure, she peered back up the path from which she had trudged down from. The tea house was firmly out of view now, and turning to face below, she saw the familiar dirt track leading a raggedy course down to the neighbouring village whose edge brushed against a mighty serpent of gushing water. Except it was not one singular vein of water. A short way along the bank and the river divided into two, the larger one running its course straight and out of view as it became engulfed under the over-arching branches of giant bristly conifers, whilst the smaller one, like an arm splintering off in rebellious defiance, wound its way north towards villages that Arundhati had never ventured into. The enormity of the task ahead of her suddenly turning to leaden weight and her feet seeming to grow heavy, Arundhati distracted herself and hurriedly turned round to face the lantern flowers again.

She came in closer to examine their form and realised that they were not enslaved by the whims of the winds. They moved as they pleased. Some of the lantern flowers nodded up and down, others shook their heads, and a few, let their heads touch the one next to it, as if they were talking about a pact or enthralling themselves in the latest schoolyard gossip. A flash of a fond memory trickled into Arundhati’s mind, the time of when she and a few friends of hers had met here after school, and how they had giggled and chuckled as they rushed to share out multi-coloured threads from an old pouch so that each would have the colours they wanted to string out their friendship bracelets. Arundhati’s shoulders jiggled as she smiled to herself, reaching out with the gentlest of touch, stroking the tips of the lantern flowers, half-hoping that they would chime as her fingers tapped and drifted through them, they telling her in unison that they had all indeed watched silently that day when she and her friends had gathered her for the marvellous swapping of threads. “You flowers soak in other people’s secrets, don’t you?” she whispered to one lantern flower. “Look how plump your pretty belly is, fattened up just like the yummy pickle jars in Amma’s cabinet!” She sighed and stepped back and scoured her eyes at all of them, daring to hold onto the chance that perhaps one of the lantern flowers would relent and prise open its fleshy petal body and shed light that would show her the way to the river that she saw in her vision back at the tea house, that vein of black water shown to flow close to the location of The Shaligram Ammonite.

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… She came in closer to examine their form and realised that they were not enslaved by the whims of the winds…”

She was lost in thought when it dawned on her that she was not alone. The dried leaves on the ground behind her sent out a muffled sound, a rustling of laborious footsteps accompanied by the creaking of mechanical parts. She shot round, just catching her breath in time, to find that a street vendor was stood in front of her. He was not a particularly old man, his face was angular, blackened by the unforgiving sun, his black hair was stuck to his skin by sweat, and he wore a holed vest mucked by dirt and splotches of grease and food, while his blue and white sarong was tied above his navel in a tight bun so that his extraordinarily dark, bony legs and protruding ankles helplessly peered from below, his feet finished off with a pair of stringy flip-flops. His hands were fastened to a cart draped in green cloth and arranged neatly on it, row by row, glittered a handsome crop of antique-tinged wood apple, spiky jackfruit, pomegranates whose cracked ends reminded her of lips prepared to kiss, and yellow persimmons secreted forth by the frothy laughter of the summer sunshine. The cart was held up by four large rubbery wheels positioned on each corner. Patches of brownish-red rust had attacked the axis and spokes, presumably accounting for the screeching sound earlier.

Oh, I am so sorry. I will move out your way, Uncle.” It was a very narrow point on the slope, and she felt terribly oafish that she was obstructing his right of way. Arundhati leaned as far back as she could against the lantern flowers, taking care not to squash any of them in the process, and then gestured the street vendor that he could now pass.

But, he did not.

A fly buzzed down and took the opportunity to forage on one of the jackfruits whose tough outer skin had somehow received a gash, exposing a glimmer of its sticky and sickly sweet interior flesh. Arundhati swore she could hear the fly siphoning the juicy blood of the fruit into its thorax and down into it abdomen. “Excuse me, Uncle, but there is a fly on your jackfruit. Look, over there, can you see it?” The man did not move, yet he had heard her, she knew that. Arundhati felt the hundred scrawling legs of cold fear shuffle up her arms and slither across the sides of her neck. She reached up for her binoculars, slowly and tactfully, all the while slanting her eyes to her right to better understand her escape route. Her feet were already trembling, obeying the desire to flee, and she prayed to herself that he had not caught her in the act of thinking through these thoughts.

Whatever it was that prompted him to snap out of his statue was anyone’s guess, for he abruptly let go of the cart handle and lazily walked round it so that he now was only a few paces in front of her. His eyes were as black and viscous as bat wings, she could not see their pupils. She shuddered. “Is anything the matter, Uncle?” A whip of anger scorched down her throat and into her stomach. She had not meant to speak to him, she was meant to have dashed for it.

A deathly silence, a staunch standoff of crackling electricity, ensued between the two of them. If only his face could break out with a recognisable expression then at least she would derive some relief that whatever it was that she faced now could be bargained with. Alas, the man’s face remained agonisingly wooden, indeed as wooden as the table of his cart. She forced her body now to loosen, the final preparation in its readiness for scrambling down the hill. She was going to run, run away from this phantom figure, this sinister man who seemed to not belong to anywhere.

But he took one step forward.

She had planned to run, instead she maintained her sight on the man and heard herself whisper with concentration, “Help me, Mr Roald Dahl…”.

The street vendor must have heard her whisper, and not only that, he knew exactly what those anomalous words meant, for he nodded decisively towards her binoculars. Quick as a flash, Arundhati tipped her head down and managed to just catch the last of the three red flashes. She gulped and when she looked back up at the man he was wearing a smile that was fantastically camouflaged. Fine flecks of crinkled skin had collected at the edge of his eyes. He was smiling with his eyes. He approved. Arundhati lifted the binoculars and expectantly brought them to rest against her own eyes.

A brief message had been sent to her. It was about the art of disguise, and as a way of example, Mr Roald Dahl was more than happy to oblige and share his own instance of rustling up a pukka disguise from his youthful days, one that prevented him from being caught red-handed by those who wanted nothing more than to see him in the principal’s office!

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… A brief message had been sent to her. It was about the art of disguise…”

The message disappeared after a short while, and Arundhati taking the binoculars away from her face, crinkled her eyebrows into a knot and searched the ground below, as if the significance of the message would miraculously appear from the undergrowth and dissolve all her confusions and take them away far from here. Slowly her voice found her again and she croaked out the best she could, “Uncle, do you happen to work for The –

Before she could finish anymore of her sentence the man shoved his hand under the row of lighter fruits at the top of the cart and pulled out a block neatly wrapped in shiny paper with bold words lavishly penned across it. He offered it to Arundhati. Her mother had strictly forbidden her to accept goods from strangers, she had warned that it could land her in very serious trouble, the consequences fatal, even. Arundhati momentarily closed her eyes and asked for her mother’s forgiveness as she reluctantly opened her palms for the man to place the block in it. It was light and cool to the touch. It certainly was not fruit. When Arundhati drew her hand away from the man and peered at the item she was hit by more puzzlement than she could possibly take in one day!

Wonka Chocolate Bar?! But, how will this help me find The –

The Dreaming Chapter 10

Wonka Chocolate Bar?! But, how will this help me find The –

Once again her sentences, her questions, were left mid-way, unfinished, drifting on the air. The man was retracing his steps back round the cart. He took hold of the handle, issued a subtle bow of the head, before trundling past her and then vanishing down below, the voiceless man and the screech of his mechanical accomplice both gone.

She had never heard of this brand of chocolate and had no desire to test it out on her palate, who knows what peculiar things were contained within it. She turned on her heels to face the watchful curtain of lantern flowers. “There, one more secret you are going to have to keep which I’m sure will fatten you all nicely!” She examined the bar and concluded that the neatness of its packaging and the sophistication of its printing could only mean that this came from another country, but her speculation only drilled more questions into her brain. Her ears picked up the distinct murmur and rumble of the two rivers down below. “Chocolate bars and rivers, what is the link?” A chiming rang out, sweet and high-pitched, like the twitter of a bird mixed in with the tinkle of a metal xylophone. She dismissively muttered, “Ah, so you lantern flowers do know how to make music!” The chime rang again. She raised her head and awkwardly poked at the lantern flowers, as expected they made no sound of such sort. When the chime rang again she realised that it vibrated her palm. The noise was coming from the chocolate bar!

Whether it was the right thing to do or not did not even cross her mind, and so her fingers scurried across to where the paper was joined together and proceeded to rip apart the layers, and there was so much of that to get through that she imagined that the final article buried deep inside it was most likely a fraction of the overall size of the package itself!

She could not believe her eyes when the last shred of wrapping swayed and fell like a feather down to the ground.

In her hand was a wafer-thin device. It was a phone.

It had a pretty cover depicting pinkish vines of flowers and for a second she thought she felt all the lantern flowers around her crane their necks in for a closer view.

The phone chimed again.

Arundhati licked her lips in anticipation and held her breath, before bringing the device to her ear and answering it.

It was the voice of a long-lost friend and the pink lantern flowers knew that before she did. ♥♥♥

The Dreaming Chapter 10

“… It was the voice of a long-lost friend and the lantern flowers knew that before she did…”


Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Hampshire | UK 2016
Photography & Words:  © Masufa Khatun | Mazzy Khatun Photo Stories | Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre |Great Missenden | Buckinghamshire | UK 2016