“You think we should get a better camera?”, asked Sakshi, honestly, I was barely managing with the simple one we had. I call it, “the simple one” because I don’t remember what its name is. I am one of those people, who do not know how many letters does the alphabet of photography have, yet I want to click pictures and get famous on the internet. So there I was, with my cousin, ready to click some. She, quite a smart girl, knows of all the technicalities of the gadget, the shutter speed, the ISO-thingy, the light and what not. There might be only one thing that she lacks, my false sense of confidence, going along the street at night, pretending to know what I am doing. She was with me, not pretending, but learning sincerely. I was the show-off, she was the student. Wandering about the street, looking for moments to steal away in our camera, we came to a plant nursery. Now, plant nurseries, are wonderful but mysterious places. I have always found them to be somewhat of an enigma. Every time I visit one, I fancy, fairies hiding under the tiny potted plants, the flowers giving them shade, elves, I am sure, go about their work under the shelter of the leaves and petals, the bugs party in the warmth of the mud, and so many creatures unknown must thrive there.
This particular nursery had a frog at its entrance. A big stone frog. Its legs were broken, time must have been responsible, it looked tired and sad. I looked at it, not with sympathy, but with the potential to provide a good click. “Hey! Sakshi, this could be clicked. Don’t you think?”, I shared my idea. “Yes, it most definitely could!”, confirmed she, and with that, I began blinding the poor old frog with the camera flash. The pictures though turned out quite hideous and left me puzzled with what the problem might be. Sakshi understood what it was and turned the flash off. It helped a lot. When I was done exploiting the frog, we went inside the nursery. It was dark, the gate had been left open. There was a small room build at the center of it, the only source of light was inside it. We called for the owner of the place, there was no reply. “Hello? Anyone there?”, again and again, we called, yet no reply. The place looked spooky, and made me wonder, “Why would anyone leave it like this and walk off? What if someone steals something? Or worse, hides inside after committing a crime or something?”, after such wondering I came to a conclusion, “Oh well, good for us, we can click as many pictures as we want”. Sakshi was silent, and observant, to me she looked apprehensive. I chose to ignore it, and go on with the task at hand.
While I was clicking away, and Sakshi was looking at the cute flowers, we heard a noise behind us. We turned around to see the gates of the nursery closed. There was no one around, we froze, with only our eyes moving frantically to search for the source of the movement.
“Here!”, said a thunderous voice.
We looked towards the left side of the gate, where the voice seemed to come from, it was pitch dark there, crowded with pots. Then we saw it. From the darkness emerged a form, four feet high and round, it was a frog. The stone-frog outside the gate seemed to have come to life. We could barely gulp, I could feel my heart racing, my face was tickling with perspiration, I could hear Sakshi’s breath, it was as fast as mine. The figure now seemed to enlarge, and change form. Before we knew it, in the corner, that borrowed only a little light from the room, stood now a human figure. We could not tell if it was a man or a woman, but it was indeed human.
“Why are you here?”, said the voice. The voice was the strangest that I have ever heard, it had enough base to be called a man’s voice, yet it had a tenor quality which implied that it was a woman’s. Which was it, we did not know.
“What do you want?”, it thundered again. “We-we were leaving”, managed Sakshi, who seemed to be much braver than me. I could think a lot of things, to say, to do, but my body seemed to be in a different state altogether. “Not my question”, it said, giving a little too much emphasis on “not”. “We were just looking for the owner”, she managed to speak again. “I am the owner”, it obliged. “Oh. Well, you have a beautiful place”, now she even managed a smile. I felt ridiculous. I finally moved my head, and gave Sakshi a questioning look, I had no idea how she was doing this. “Well, thank you”, the creature seemed genuinely flattered, “You see, I put a lot of hard work in it, and people, you people, humans, simply do not value it!”. When it said the word “humans”, its voice dripped of hate and rage. “I do! I value these a lot. I have many plants at home if you want I could show you their pictures. I love these”, and then she went on to name a few of the plants that she had seen there. “Hmmm”, it grunted, “I believe you”. “So, who are you?”, my cousin had the courage to ask. All I did was look back and forth the two of them making pleasant conversation. “I am a witch”. “Hello, nice to meet you”, she looked at me while saying it, trying to get me to do the same. I simply nodded. This suddenly focused the witch’s attention on me, “And you? What are you here for? Rendering good folk blind?”, said the witch with a bit of pain in her voice, and for the first time, I saw her move her hands, she rubbed her eyes as she said it. I had to speak now, “Ummm…gulp….no no, I love p-p-plants and f-huh-frogs, so I captured them…gulp..in my camera, to remember for-”, she cut me off, clearly getting bored, “Enough. Stop blabbering”. A moment of silence followed. Then she said, “You two can leave now. Never visit again if you’re not going to buy a plant. I have bills to pay too. And never blind me again, or I will turn you into a cactus!”, with these last words, she shrank down again into the form of the frog and the gates opened again. We stumbled outside and kept walking straight ahead. An irresistible urge to look back just once made me do it, in front of the gate was the frog, sitting alone, the gate open beside it. “Go on!”, the voice of the witch suddenly resonated in my head, startling me, I turned around instantly, and we walked back home, in absolute silence.
Alisha Phillips, the combination of psychology and writing. There are those who are appealing on the outside and then there are those who are appealing on the inside, she happens to be the latter. Don’t let her devil-may-care giggles fool you. She’s a cosmos of thoughts. An ocean of emotions and a novel of intellect.