“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” – Pablo Picasso
Table of Contents
Chapter 3: HRM Skiris, The First
“Hey, you there. You human child,” yelled Mrs. Suricat. “Wake up, wake up now!”
She gave the sleeping girl one rough push “Wake up right now! You must go. Run. Go, hide somewhere. Please, hurry!”
Skiris rubbed her eyes and sat up, squinting in the bright sunlight flooding through the open doors of the storeroom, where she had been fast asleep till now, not a single worry in sight.
Once Mrs. Suricat was sure that the girl was awake enough to have heard her message, loud and clear, she sprinted away as fast as her scrawny legs would carry her.
“Heyyyy!” said Skiris, looking in the direction in which Mrs. Suricat had run away on all fours.
“What the he…no way! Was that a giant ‘Timon’? I must be dreaming! What are those called again? Some kind of cat?…um..err…Wait! But where am I? H..how did I get here? Who put me in that storeroom? Mom! Dad!” Skiris started to panic as she began recollecting the moments just before this fantastic dream of hers, or as she thought it to be, began.
“Oh, I should’ve listened to mom. I should’ve put on my helmet.” thought Skiris, welling up. “I must have hurt my head or something.”
She instinctively touched her forehead with both hands to check for cuts or bumps. There were none. She pressed her hands all over her head. Nothing. There was definitely no pain. So she decided to get up.
“A meerkat! Timon from The Lion King is a Meerkat,” said Skiris to herself as she stood up. For a moment, she was proud of herself to have remembered it. Her brain was working just fine. But then how could she explain this?
“How did I get here? I remember my hands slipping off the handle…my bouncy ball!…yes, I flew through the air…Oh, I was so scared I’d break a bone or something when I landed…buh…buh…I don’t remember crashing…no…I…I think I landed on something soft, like…like a soft pillow or something….” thought Skiris.
“…I must have passed out because I sure can’t remember the rest….oh, what now? How will I ever get back home?” she thought, welling up once again.
But Skiris knew tears were not going to solve her problem. So she wiped them away. She had always been such a brave little girl.
“After all,” she thought “what sense would it make to just sit there and cry? I must investigate.” Skiris liked throwing big words into her sentences. It made her feel important and so very grown up. So like grown-ups, she cautiously began observing her surroundings.
“What is this place? Looks like some kind of a ginormous hall or something…” she thought.
“…but why are the animals in the paintings wearing clothes? Doesn’t make much sense now, does it?…. Unless…maybe it’s a museum! Yes, a museum…fantasy art like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or ‘Narnia’ or something. I am sure!” said Skiris, answering her own questions in the best possible way she could.
For an eight-and-a-half-year-old girl – she insisted on the half – Skiris was quite well-read and smart. She had as many answers as she had questions. And when her questions became a far too many, she had her books and Google to dig out the right answers.
But as luck would have it, today she could neither peruse her vast home library nor the internet. So she decided to figure out the answers the old fashioned way – by finding a “responsible-looking” adult who could give her a satisfactory explanation and possibly let her use their phone to call home. In fact, she had memorized the phone numbers of all her emergency contacts – mom, dad, nana, even her annoying big brother. She was so glad she did not rely on technology to do this job for her. Now, if only she could find a good Samaritan with a phone.
* * *
The village square was in chaos. A mad dash to find cover was the top agenda on everyone’s mind.
For a moment, Skiris stood there frozen, wondering if some terrorist or mass murderer was out on the streets. It took but only a second for her to realize that there were no people in sight amidst the flurry of runners, only well-dressed animals scurrying about for dear lives. Had it not been for the terror on their faces, the sight would have been comical, something straight out of a fairytale or an Aesop’s fable perhaps. She was even more surprised to realize that all the creatures seemed to be of similar height. The bugs, the mice, the birds, the cats, the elephants, all were about six feet tall, no more, no less.
“Strange!” she said aloud. But there was no time to think or wonder about the peculiarities of this place as the mayhem seemed to have peaked in the meantime.
The Subterraneans burrowed through the main street faster than any drilling machine ever built and began disappearing into their freshly dug tunnels one after another. The Camouflagers braced against tree trunks, windows, doors, whatever they could stick to, and one by one merged with their surroundings. The Flight Crew pushed the slugs, the snails, the sloths and other slowpokes into their carriages till there was no more space left to fill. Then they took to the skies in a regal, airforce like formation and vanished into the horizon. The Possums, of course, just fainted right there in the middle of the street and played dead with their tongues sticking out and a foul smell erupting from their wide-open mouths. Within five minutes, the village square fell silent.
“What should I do? What should I do?” Skiris kept repeating to herself.
Right at that moment, she heard the pitter-patter of footsteps, as the skunk army marched into the village square and unleashed their signature spray.
“Ew, disgusting!” said Skiris, gagging at the sudden onslaught to her sense of smell. She covered her nose and mouth with both hands. Not that it helped one bit. The entire atmosphere reeked of the pungency the skunk army left behind. Once the deed was done, they left almost as suddenly as they had appeared.
Skiris was, once again, left standing all alone, wondering what her next move should be. Should she run away and hide, as the Meercat lady had suggested? But where? Or should she stay put and find out what the ruckus was all about?
She did not have long to wait.
“Come with me if you want to be safe,” said a voice from behind her. She turned around, but there was no one to be seen.
“What’s going on?” said Skiris, scratching her head. “Who are you, where are you?” she asked.
“Oh, how very foolish of me!” said the voice. “You can’t see me, I am invisible…well, technically, atomized, so unless you have a high-resolution microscope, you can’t see me. I wish we had the time for lengthy introductions – I am Horace, by the way – but right now, just follow the leaf,” continued the voice, Horace.
Just then, a green, heart-shaped leaf began dancing in front of Skiris’ eyes.
“Why?” said Skiris.
“Why! Why! You want to know why now, or you want to survive? Your choice!” said Horace, the exasperation evident in his voice. The leaf began to dance frantically in front of her eyes.
“Okay, okay,” said Skiris “I’m going to follow the silly leaf!” Nothing was making any sense to Skiris anymore. But she was tired, she was hungry, and she wanted to get back home. So she decided to follow the path of least resistance.
She trudged behind the leaf, which began moving in a straight line at eye level, pointing the way ahead.
“Hurry, will you?” said Horace impatiently.
“Well, at least tell me why is everyone panicking? Why did they lock me up in the storeroom?” said Skiris, picking up the pace.
“Oh, my, my! Did they explain nothing?” Horace sounded petrified at Skiris’ ignorance.
“I heard some shrill yelling, sure…buh…buh…”
“It’s Baron Von Chomp!” said Horace, cutting her off. “He is almost here…to catch you…t..to…um…gobble you up, of course!” he said in a hoarse whisper.
“Who? Guh…guh…gobble me? Wah…why? What have I done?” said Skiris, feeling rather stupid at her lack of familiarity with someone capable of inducing such mass panic and more importantly, someone who seemed to have some sort of personal vendetta against her.
“No time! Later!” said Horace decisively.
By then, the leaf had stopped flying and hovered in front of a rickety booth. The booth looked like the phone booths Skiris had seen pictures of in her children’s encyclopedia, the ones people used for phone calls before everyone owned a cell phone.
“Here, go in and follow the instructions,” said Horace.
Skiris went into the booth without asking another question and began reading the front panel.
“Atomizer.” It read.
“Instructions for atomization. Step 1: Press start button.” It said. So she did. A circular glass pipe appeared from the top of the booth and extended to her head.
“Step 2: Press atomize button.” It said. Skiris stood there, hovering her index finger over the “Atomize” and “Cancel” buttons for a moment, wondering whether she was making a big mistake.
Her head had begun hurting by now from all the madness she had encountered ever since waking up in that storeroom. The path of least resistance from now on, she would have said to herself if she knew what it meant. She did not. But that is exactly what she chose anyway.
“Oh well,” she said and pressed the “Atomize” button, almost afraid that if she thought too long she might change her mind.
The Atomizer began to whir and chirr and shake all over. Skiris started feeling funny, the way one feels when an airplane hits a patch of turbulence. Within seconds, her hands, fingers, arms, and legs began disintegrating and floating around her. It was the weirdest feeling ever. She felt zero pain. She was still in control of all her body parts, but she was not whole anymore. “Like a school of fish!” she thought “when they group together to form a giant fish to scare away predators.” Yes, she felt exactly like that. She could no longer see any of her body parts. She was not even sure she had eyes anymore but yes, she still could see and sense everything around her through the trillions of cells she disintegrated into, inside that booth.
At long last, the atomizer stopped with a beep and a message. “Process Complete.” It read. Then another loud buzz and she found herself – all of her trillion gazillion microscopic pieces – suctioned out of the booth through the glass pipe into the open.
“I…I am h..here,” said Skiris, seeing the leaf floating about.
“My voice sure feels funny!” she thought to herself.
“About time!” said Horace. “Follow me.” and the leaf started floating away.
Skiris wasn’t sure how she was going to follow the leaf without her legs or how she was going to make sure she did not leave bits and pieces of herself behind.
“Don’t think too hard,” said Horace, sensing that it might be the little girl’s first time in the atomizer ever.
“Just look at the leaf and think about walking towards it and you should be fine,” he said.
“O..okay,” said Skiris.
And sure enough, she felt herself rising with the leaf past the clouds.
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