Friday, 27 February 2015


Two children sat on a log, talking.

They were young children, ten or eleven years old, and they were talking about toys.

“I had a doll,” the girl said. “She was so big.” She held out her hand, at almost waist height. “And she looked – just like a baby. A real one. If you saw her when it wasn’t too bright you’d think she was real.”

“So you played with her?” the boy asked idly. He bounced a green rubber ball idly between the tattered sneakers on his feet. The ball was torn and did not bounce very well. “Did you like it?”

“Of course I liked it,” the girl said. “I loved her. The doll, I mean. Her name was...” She hesitated, and looked quickly at the boy out of the corner of her eye, to see how he would take it. He merely continued bouncing the ball. “...Jill,” she said.

“Jill?” The boy glanced at her. “Why Jill?”

“From Jack and Jill,” the girl replied. “You know.”

“Oh.” The boy went back to bouncing his ball. It made a flat cracking noise each time it hit the ground. “Yes. What games did you play with her? Tea and cakes stuff?”

The girl shrugged. “I never liked playing at those things. No, she was a friend. I used to love talking to her, all the day, telling her everything I thought, all my secrets.”

“You had secrets?”

“Of course. Didn’t you? Doesn’t everybody?”

“Well, I don’t know. I never had any secrets that I can recall. So you loved her very much?”

“Yes,” the girl said firmly. “We loved each other very much. We pledged to give our lives for each other.” She glared at him, daring him to laugh.

He did not laugh. “Yes, well.” He gave up bouncing the ball and tossed it from hand to hand. “I’ll bet I can hit that tree with this from here,” he said.

The girl cocked her head and judged the distance to the tree. “I don’t think you can,” she said.

“Watch.” The boy stood up and threw the ball. It wavered through the air, the torn rubber making it wobble, but it made it most of the way to the tree before falling to the ground. It rolled to the fot of the tree and stopped against a root.

“Stupid ball,” the boy said. “If only it hadn’t been burst I’d have been able to hit the tree.”

“Never mind,” the girl told him. “You almost hit it anyway. You throw really well.”

“I got good practice,” the boy said. “They were training me to throw grenades.”

“You were in one of the armies?’ the girl asked.

“No,” the boy said, and sat down on the log again. “They were still training me when they let me go to the agency. And then I came to this place.” He picked up a pebble and tossed it after the ball. “I wish they’d let me join,” he said.

“Well, never mind,” the girl repeated. “Maybe when you’re older you can join and throw grenades.”

“No, the war will be all over by then.” The boy shook his head irritably. “My neighbour’s still in the fighting. He has a machine gun. He fires it.” He held up his arms. “Tatatatatatata.”

“Don’t do that,” the girl flinched. “I don’t like it.” Her lips trembled. “Please stop it.”

“What’s wrong?” But the boy put his arms down anyway. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s all right,” the girl said. “But don’t do it again. Please?”

“All right,” the boy promised. “I won’t.” He put his hands around a knee and leaned back as far as he could on the log. “So tell me about the doll...Jill.”

“What about her?” The girl broke a twig off the log and scraped designs in the dust. “I told you I loved her a lot,” she said defensively. “She was all I had for a friend.”

“Isn’t she still your friend?”

The girl looked at him. “Oh, she was. She was the best friend anyone could be.” She paused a moment and scrawled more designs in the dust. “She saved my life,” she said without looking up. “You can’t be a better friend than that.”

“She saved your life? How’s that?”

The girl twisted the twig in her hands. “One night,” she said at last, “one of the armies came to the village. They began going round from house to house, killing people. Their machine guns were going off...” she glanced quickly at the boy and away. “Like that.”

“Go on,” said the boy, after her silence had stretched out like a rubber band.

“My parents were at home,” she said. “My father was sick. He’d been ill for days, too ill to run. And my mother wasn’t going to leave him and escape. So it was only me.

“There was someone with the army, someone from the village. I knew him, he was a neighbour from down the street. We all used to call him Uncle. But he was taking the soldiers from house to house and telling them who lived where, so they knew whom to kill. He knew about how many people lived in which house. I saw him too, from the front window, standing outside houses when the soldiers went in to kill people. But he, himself, he never went in.

“My mother came to me as I was looking at the street through the window, too scared to move. ‘You’ve got to go,’ she said. ‘Run out through the back door, and keep running as far and as long as you can. Go!’ She said that and pushed me towards the back door."

The boy stared at her with fascination. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t want to go, of course, but Mother pushed me as hard as she could. ‘You can get away,’ she said. ‘Someone has to.’ “ Then she looked at me as though she had forgotten something, and snatched Jill from my arms, because of course I was holding on to her. ‘Now go,’ she said. ‘Jill will take your place.’ “

“And you went?”

“Of course. What else could I do? She pushed me out of the back door and locked it. Before I could even cry I heard the soldiers. They were banging on the front door and shouting my father’s name, telling him to come out. And then they broke the door down, and I heard them...shooting.”

“They didn’t come looking for you.”

“No, because Uncle must have told them my parents had one daughter, and they shot Jill. They must have thought she was me. And then they set fire to the house.”

“What did you do?” the boy asked.

The girl shrugged and threw away the twig. “I ran, of course. I didn’t even know which way I was going. I ran until I couldn’t run, and then I walked until I couldn’t walk, and then I waited till I could run again. Then some people found me and I came here.” She looked at the boy. “Well, now you know about Jill. And why you shouldn’t make that awful noise.”

“I said I won’t do it again,” the boy said. “When I’m in the army I’ll find and punish those who did that to you.”

“I don’t even know who they were,” the girl said. “So how will you know?”

“I’ll find a way,” the boy said. “I’ll find out who did it, somehow.”

“Why? It’s not as though you have to. You aren’t my friend.”

“I’ll be your friend,” the boy said. “If you want.”

The girl considered his offer seriously.

“Yes,” she said. “I think I’d like that. I have no friends, you see.”

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Saint Vladimir and the Vampire Vavavoom

And so the King Bennet, heavy with the ennui of his days, said to the sage Alassad, “Tell me, I charge you, a tale so wondrous and uplifting that it raises my soul away from the slough of despond in which it lies. I tell you most solemnly, that I can only find pleasure in the stories and fables of yore, of which you have such a marvellous stock.”

The sage Alassad nodded and stroked his white beard. “Great King,” he said, “I have a tale for you so engrossing that if it were written even with grains of sand on a beach, it would still serve as instruction for those who might wish to read."

"What is that tale?" asked the King Bennet.

"Great King, I refer to the saga of the Blessed Saint Vladimir, to whom the world owes so much, and of his confrontation with the Vampire Vavavoom.”

The King Bennet peered at the sage with a bleary eye. “I have never heard of this tale,” he said. “If it be as good as you say, I will reward you handsomely.”

“The pleasure of instructing you in it, O King,” the sage responded, “is its own reward. Very well –“


One day, long ago, the Blessed Saint Vladimir was riding out into the country on his trusty steed, Armata, and carrying in one hand his mighty lance, Topol M. It was a freezing winter day, and the snow lay in drifts on the ground and weighed down the bare branches of the trees, so that most people may have preferred to stay at home. But not Vladimir, who spent his days on the lookout for wrongs to right and maidens to succour.

Now, as everyone knows, those were the days when the world was much troubled by monsters of all kinds, which crawled out of the mists of the past, where they were imagined to have been consigned to history, to plague the people once more. So the Blessed Saint had much to do, and many enemies to vanquish. It was, as you might say, a full-time job.

So it was nothing out of the ordinary when, on this day, the Saint Vladimir saw, running through the forest in fright, a young lady. She had a dress of blue, blood and mud spattered her dainty yellow boots, and she called out piteously as she ran.

The Saint Vladimir turned his trusty mount towards her, and drew up by her side. “Gentle maiden,” he said, “what is it  that sends you screaming with fear through the forest, with your dress of blue as the sky, and your boots that are yellow as the ripening grain?”

 “Oh Blessed One,” the girl faltered, “I am pursued by a monster with a face of iron, in whose heart burns a crooked cross shaped like a hook. Save me!”

A crooked cross? The Saint Vladimir’s thoughts immediately flew back several decades, when such a monster had come roaring out of the West, and laid wastes of the lands all around. For a time it looked like nothing could stop the creature. For a time it looked as though it would take over the entire world, until nothing was left that it had not burnt to ashes in its passing.

But then – and the Saint Vladimir’s blood thrilled at the memory – the monster had come to a place, a holy place on the bank of a river, where the earth and sky and land had joined forces against it with blood and ice and tempered steel. And step by step it had been forced back, beaten back to the west until it had been cornered in its very lair and destroyed by fire. Until now it had seemed that that monster, at least, had been vanquished.

Now, from out of the western wastes, where it had cowered for lo these many years, it had come again.

“Show me where the monster is, Lady,” Saint Vladimir said, gently, lifting her into the saddle behind him. “I will fight it and defeat it, as it was defeated before.” But even the Saint had a qualm in his breast, for he knew the destruction that had to be visited on the world to beat the monster last time, and how much the suffering might be this time round.

Still, it had to be done, and the Saint turned his trusty steed in the direction which the terrified maiden indicated. Gripping his great lance, he urged the mount on.

Soon there was no doubt that they were approaching the monster. There was the smell of burning in the air, and a roaring as of a million throats shrieking in hate. And then, in a rush of flame and smoke, the monster itself appeared, with its iron face and the hooked symbol of evil that burned in its breast.

“Give up the woman,” the creature roared when it saw the Blessed Vladimir. “Give her up to me, vile Vladimir, and flee to your craven hovel, to whimper there in fear until I come to devour you. For the woman, with her dress blue as the sky and her boots like the ripening grain, is mine and mine alone.”

And when he heard this, a great rage rose in the Blessed Saint Vladimir’s indomitable heart. “I will not give over the girl to you,” he said, “for she is innocent and defenceless, and it is for me to save the innocent and defenceless from harm. Furthermore, she has asked for my protection.”

“Then I will destroy her,” the monster of iron and fire roared. It pulled up immense rocks from the ground, and began flinging it at the maiden, attempting to crush the life out of her with one blow.

Then the Saint Vladimir whispered in the ear of his trusty steed, and the mighty mount broke into a gallop. Across the snow and mud thundered the beast Armata, his immense tread smashing the frozen soil. Across the open ground came mighty Armata, inexorable as death itself. Across the land came terrifying Armata, and on his back, Vladimir the Blessed, his lance Topol M held high.

Nothing could stand before that tremendous charge. With a crash that shook the world, Armata smashed into the monster with the face of iron, and his mighty hooves smashed it back on to the ground. Rearing up, Armata raised his hooves, prepared to bring them down in a blow which would destroy the creature once and for all.

The blow did not fall. Shrieking with terror, the monster with the face of iron and the crooked cross of fire on its breast turned and ran.  

It did not run far. Something dropped out of the sky, landed behind the fleeing monster, and stood challenging the Saint Vladimir. It was something in the shape of a woman; something that might once have been a woman, perhaps not altogether displeasing to look upon, but now aged beyond her years, with fangs dripping blood and a cape stained with the gore of those she had devoured.

“Stop, foul Vladimir,” this creature cawed, with a voice that cracked icicles off the roofs and scraped furrows in the earth that bled oil. “Stop, man of evil, and unhand the fair maiden, whom you have so cruelly abducted.”

Saint Vladimir reined in mighty Armata and eyed the fanged woman, who stood with her arms spread wide, her cloak shielding the cowering iron-beast. “Who are you?” he enquired. “And why do you claim that I have abducted this woman, who came by her own accord to me, and begged my protection?”

“I did come to him,” the woman with the dress of blue and boots of yellow said, “and I did ask for his protection from the iron-faced monster there. It’s not true that he abducted me.”

But the fanged woman with the blood-soaked cloak ignored her. “I am Vavavoom,” she said, “who breaks the chains that hold helpless women captive, and sets them free. I. Vavavoom, have liberated women all over the world, and this girl in blue and yellow will be free of you, too. I sent my minion here to free her, but you seem to have defeated him. Not for long though, for I am here to avenge his defeat and set the woman free.”

“Is that so?” Saint Vladimir asked.  “Where then are the maidens you have, as you said, freed? I can only see, in the distance, a row of women shackled by the hands and feet, cowering in cages while inhuman beasts with the eyes of fiends torment them. Surely they cannot be the women whom you claim you set free?” He paused a moment. “And whose blood is it that soaks your cloak, and is dried stiff on it?”       

The fanged vampire called Vavavoom ignored his questions. “You are a force of evil,” she said, “and I am a force for good. Therefore my victory is inevitable. Give up this girl to me, and you may go – for now. Otherwise I shall destroy you.”

Now, as the world knows, Saint Vladimir was not a large man, but was immensely strong and brave as a tiger. He looked at the vampire and thought a moment. “Very well,” he said. “I shall come down from my mount, and meet you in single combat. If you win, and if you can take the woman, she goes with you. If I win, the women in cages behind you, whom you seem not to notice, shall be freed.” Swinging himself out of the saddle, he dropped to the ground, but motioned the maiden to stay where she was.

Seeing her plan thwarted, the vampire ground her fangs in rage. “So we must fight,” she said. “And when I defeat and destroy you, I shall take it all.”

“You will have to defeat and destroy me first,” said Saint Vladimir. Raising Topol M, he rushed at the vampire.

But the vampire was no longer there. She had jumped backwards, and was standing by the cages with the weeping women, her claws extended.

“Come no closer,” she hissed. “Or I will have my imps here tear these women to pieces, one at a time.”

Vladimir looked at the imps, and they leered back at him; creatures with severed heads hanging from their belts, their faces smeared with the blood of those whose hearts they had eaten after killing them. They leered at him and struck at the caged women, causing them to whimper in their agony and distress.

“Watch the women die, Vladimir,” they mocked him, in their voices repellent as the mud below a swamp. “Watch them die, and then we will watch you die, with great pleasure.”

“We shall see about that,” he replied. Leaping past the vampire, he raised his lance and drove it home, smashing one imp after another into the mud. The creatures wailed and screamed, and the demented shrieking of the vampire rose above them in cacophony.

Then, suddenly, all the imps were gone, and the Blessed Vladimir stood facing the vampire Vavavoom.

“You may have destroyed the imps,” Vavavoom whispered, her words like the wind from the north. “But I still have the women captive, and after I kill you I will bathe in their blood.”

“You will have to kill me first,” Vladimir said. “Even if you do succeed, you realise that the combat between us will cause so much damage that the women, and the rest of the world, may be ravaged so badly that there can be no victor?”

But the vampire did not respond to his question; with a fearsome scream, she leaped into the air and threw herself on the Saint Vladimir, her claws reaching out to destroy him.

Now, as always, Vladimir, who scorned armour, was clad down to his hips in the sky, in other words, he had nothing on above the waist at all. The vampire therefore might have imagined that her claws would tear him to pieces; but the Saint moved so quickly that all she did was claw at the empty air.

And then began a combat the likes of which the world has not seen. Vladimir kept moving, quickly and deftly, while the foul vampire threw herself at him, repeatedly, each time almost coming to grips with him and then missing at the last moment. Until there came a time when the evil being was finally totally exhausted, since she had had no opportunity to suck the blood of her captives to sustain herself. Then Vladimir saw that she was helpless, and raised his mighty Topol M to smash it into her breast and end her evil existence, once and for all.

But at the last moment he hesitated. As we all know, the Blessed Saint was as perspicacious as he was bold, as wise as formidable in the fight. And he realised that were he to strike the vampire with his lance, the spasms of the creature’s dying might destroy the caged maidens, who were watching the battle with desperate and piteous hope in their eyes.

“Go,” he said harshly. “Go, and never return to plague the world. Or I shall drive the tip of this lance through your heart, without regard of the consequences.”

“Very well,” snarled the vampire. “I go, but I shall return. Someday, when I have battened on fresh blood from my lair across the seas, I shall come back. And then I shall kill you all.” With a howl, she rose up into the air and flapped away.

“Come, ladies,” Vladimir said. “Cease wailing, for I have come to set you free. I know you have paid a terrible price, but rejoice, for you will never be chained again.” And he broke the cages, and struck the fetters from their hands and feet. Then, taking up Topol M, he strode back to where he had left Armata and the woman with the dress of blue and boots of grain yellow. And when he saw them, he stopped in surprise.

While the Saint Vladimir had been fighting the foul vampire Vavavoom, the monster with the face of iron and the crooked cross burning on its breast had not been idle. Seeing its chance, it had thrown itself on the maiden, thinking to steal her away and tear her to pieces while the blessed man was fighting elsewhere.

It had reckoned without the woman herself, and with Armata.

So when the Saint Vladimir returned, the shattered, mangled corpse of the monster lay under the feet of the mighty mount, Armata, and the girl with the dress of blue and boots of yellow sat triumphant on his back. And when she saw Vladimir, it was difficult to say who smiled with more glory on whom.


The sage Alassad came to the end of his tale. “The maiden and the saint lived side by side after that,” he said. “And the other women, who were saved from their cages, healed little by little. But it was a terrible time, and it took long, long for the world to recover.”

The King Bennet looked at the saint, and his face was like stone. “What about the vampire Vavavoom?” he asked. “What about that foul creature?”

The saint shook his hoary head. “No doubt the harridan still sucks the blood of the hapless people of her own land,” he said. “Someday, perhaps, if the blood she has sucked gives her back the strength, she shall return to wage war on the world again. But, hopefully, that day is still far.”

“Be it ever so far,” the king said, “we must prepare, as of this day. We must ensure that the victory the Saint Vladimir won is not thrown away due to our own carelessness.” And he rose to give the orders.

And, meanwhile, a blood-coloured cloud began to gather over a distant land across the western seas.

Times of trouble were coming.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

On Google's New Anti-Adult Material Policy

Those of us who have Blogger accounts will know by now that Google – the owner of the Blogspot platform – has “changed its policy” on a certain burning topic of the day.

So as of the 23rd March of 2015, people who have Blogspot accounts won’t be able to display photos and videos of this very, very divisive and controversial topic, not even if behind a warning page, in public.

I’m sure we’re all very thankful to Google for this action on our collective behalf, of course; but what exactly is it that they’re protecting us from?

Is it, let’s say, gun-worship and proponents of unrestricted firearms ownership? No? Well, is it at least against racism and Islamophobia? Has Google banned cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb for a turban or naked with his posterior in the air? No, too? Has then Google banned, say, photographs and videos cheerleading imperial wars of aggression on the far side of the planet? What do you mean, also no?

So what is this topic which is so divisive, so controversial, so abhorrent that Google has decided to wipe it off the face of that part of the earth it controls?

 I’ll just let the website state it in its own words:

Starting March 23, 2015, you won't be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger. [1]

Which is, actually, a 180 degree reversal of its previous stand, which was:

"Censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression." [2]

But there you have it. It’s sex and nudity that Google has suddenly decided it doesn’t like. Of course that’s totally understandable. I mean to say, sex, the tender and beautiful activity without which none of us – including the people who run Google – would be in this world. How can one not ban it? And nudity, the state in which we enter said world and in which state we all are, under our clothes.

How could Google not ban these two terrible things, I say?!??

Meanwhile, of course, Google is perfectly happy to let, for instance, people set up multiple and anonymous accounts on its social network, Google Plus. Now on the topic of allowing net anonymity, I am a bit of a fanatic – I am totally, absolutely and without reservation against it. My stance is clear; allowing people to be anonymous online merely opens the door to trolling, lying, cheating, bullying, and spreading propaganda. If people aren’t willing to use their real names online, they should stay away from the net. If that inconveniences them, well, that’s just too bad.

Let me make this point: anyone’s “right” to online privacy ends at the very point where everybody else’s right not to be bullied or lied to begins. There is more than enough evidence that online anonymity strongly reinforces and promotes bullying and trolling [3]  [4].  Also, as the respective levels of trolling on Facebook – which has adopted an uncompromising anti-anonymity policy – and Google Plus, which explicitly uses its policy of allowing fake accounts as part of its USP – show, anonymity breeds trolling, lying, and spreading propaganda. But Google is fine with that. Just as it is with the fact that Google Plus, for example, has a page run by ISIS (yes, that ISIS) which repeated reports asking for action has done nothing to remove.

Yes, as you might have noticed, I am feeling a mite miffed about Google.

Not that Google is completely against nudity, of course. It does realise that there are situations in which nudity just might have to be shown. Therefore:

We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts. [1]

So, assuming we aren’t discussing vaginal anatomy, we can still get away with nudity as long as it offers “substantial public benefit”. What the hell is “substantial public benefit”? Who decides what it is? Google?

Let me say right now that this doesn’t particularly affect me, because the sum total of sexuality and/or nudity on my blog is restricted to a couple of paintings, one of which is by me, and a few photographs of the Venus of Willendorf. At least I think it doesn’t affect me, since nobody has ever suggested that the Venus of Willendorf is obscene, unless it’s ISIS and Google is obviously fine with ISIS. Also, Google has not contacted me like it apparently has done with other people.

However, the fact that I have not yet been directly contacted does not mean that my blog won’t suddenly be made private and restricted to members only on 23rd March. I mean, I’ve used the word “sex” many, many times, and

Currently, Blogger blogs marked as "adult" include LGBT and "outsider sexuality" diaries, erotic writers, transgender activists, romance book editors and reviewers, sex toy reviewers, art nude photographers, film-makers, artists such as painters and comic illustrators, text-only fiction writers, sex news and porn gossip writers, LGBT sex activism, sex education and information outlets, fetish fashion, feminist porn blogs, and much, much more [2]

Besides, censorship is a slippery slope. Once Google has begun censoring one thing, how long till it censors another? How long before those of us who have anything to say that Google doesn’t like are banned? That Google doesn’t care much about our concerns is clear, About a year ago, I lost a huge number of photographs and cartoons on my site, and repeated complaints to Google did nothing to even elicit a response, let alone resolve the issue.

Even though Google will be kind enough not to delete existing blogs which have nudity and/or sex, this is virtually a death sentence, since

Restricting blogs which contain explicit content to ‘private only’ effectively kills them off. This is like offering a library where all the books in it are invisible to the readers unless an author is standing there and personally hands each reader a copy of their book [5]

I have to say, of course, that Google has a right to change its policies if it wants. It can turn round and say this, or that, is displeasing to it, and therefore is banned henceforth. It can do all that, and those of us who use its services have no choice but to grin and bear it.

Or we can leave. Vote with our virtual feet.

So here is the problem. I have already moved my online home twice in my life, from Orkut to Multiply in 2006, which was relatively easy because I had little content online back then, and from Multiply to Blogger in 2012, which was a much more difficult and painstaking procedure. Each time I started off new and had to slowly build up a readership, which in the case of Blogger is still very poor. On Multiply, any one of my articles would elicit perhaps twenty to a hundred or more comments. On Blogger, I’m lucky to get two, and amazed if I achieve five.

However, I am seriously beginning to consider moving again. If I do, I will not, ever again, trust my online creations to a third party host. I’d rather have my own website where I, and nobody else, set the terms of service. I had considered that in the past and the only reason I had not done so was the fact that it would be too expensive (I priced how much it would cost, both as a first time expense and as a recurring yearly rental, which, of course, I don’t have to pay on Google). The time is coming, though, where there might no longer be a choice about that.

So if on 23rd March you find this blog inaccessible, that means Google has attacked it, even though there’s nothing in it to attack. Too bad, but there’s going to be nothing I can do about it.

Until then, aux barricades, mes amis.


Meanwhile, here’s a photo that should be totally acceptable to Google, just for you.

Oh, wait, her feet are showing, So sorry about that.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

City At The End Of Time

The lone individual in the unfamiliar city has been an object of fascination to me for a long time, and this fascination reflected in my stories. I wrote this story specifically for this painting.


In the City in evening, the lights shine brightly and the air is filled with excitement at the close of the day.

He walks slowly out of the hotel, into the cold night air, the city once familiar now grown alien and strange. The last time he had been here, these buildings had been ruins, the air filled with smoke, and the only sounds had been the explosion of shells not so far away. The walls had trembled from the shells and broken glass glittered in the light of the fires. That was the last day of the war, the day when the peace treaty had been signed.

Tonight he walks through the streets and he looks at the faces of the people, and he does not know what to feel. But tonight is an important night. Tonight, he will meet the enemy again, face to face.

Someone pushes past him, a thin young man who is in too much of a hurry, yet who finds time enough to throw a scowl over a shoulder as he goes. There are far too many people on the pavement, and in the streets the traffic is far too heavy, and the lights are far too bright.

He sees an alley off to one side and turns into it. He knows this alley, or at least he knew it once. It had been one of their strongpoints, back then, on the last day of the war. Back then they had fortified it with sandbags and concrete slabs, and covered it with machine guns.

Now it’s lined with dustbins and the smell of decomposing garbage.

A group of teenagers is in the shadows, beside the hulking shape of a parked truck, passing around a cigarette between them, turn when they hear him coming, and glare at him balefully. One or two of them step forward, belligerent, looking for trouble. Then they see something in his face, perhaps,  and quietly fall back. He is not the kind of trouble they want tonight. He can feel their eyes on his back as he walks on.

Here, at this corner, had been the place where he had helped a woman give birth. The woman had been caught in the shelling, and hidden in a building instead of being able to flee to the other side, where she would not be the enemy. But she had been over eight months pregnant, and the stress had brought on her labour. He had heard her muffled cries of agony, and knelt between her spread thighs as she had pushed a new life into the world. Mortar bombs had arced overhead as he, with absolutely no idea if he were doing the right thing, had held the little girl and handed her to the new mother. Afterwards he had helped her back into the shelter of the broken building, where she was at least safe from anything but a direct hit.

After the ceasefire he’d helped her to cross the line. He had never seen her again.

Here the alley gives on to a main street, and there are people, but not so many as before – less rush, less noise. Here a woman – a girl, really, surely not more than sixteen or seventeen, and underdressed for the weather – looks at him and turns away. He’s too old, or something else maybe. He wonders what is wrong with him that even the thuggish teen gangs and the hookers avoid him.

The girl he had helped be born would be just about as old as the half-dressed young woman just now. He turns to look, as though he might recognise any resemblance, but she’s already gone.

Not too far away is the restaurant where the enemy is waiting. He recognises the man instantly, though they’ve never met in real life; the internet makes sharing photographs and stories easy.  They had been on opposite sides of the lines back then, and might easily have shot at each other.

The man would have had a good reason to shoot at him. He was an intruder, and the man was from the city itself. But that was then.

Now they are on the same side. They’re still enemies, but enemies united, enemies of the same things. And they have a lot to talk about.

His family hadn’t wanted him to come, to confront a man who had shot, maybe, at him in person.

The restaurant fills and empties, and fills again. The manager comes, a professional smile struggling with a scowl.

“If you have nothing else to order, gentlemen...”

He leaves the enemy at the restaurant door. They smile and shake hands, and then hug, awkwardly, two elderly men wrapping arms around each other.

“I wish we’d died in the war,” the enemy says.

“Do you?”

“Yes. Do you really want to see...all this? Was all of it worth this?”

He looks at the enemy and glances around. A car goes roaring past, too quickly, and he hears music blasting from speakers.

Then he sees a child running down the pavement, a child who trips and begins to fall, and the enemy moves fast, his hands scooping the kid up before she could fall face-first into the pavement, and returning her to her parents, all in one smooth movement. The child’s face scrunches, ready to cry.

He looks at the enemy and the enemy looks back at him.

“You know,” he says, “it might have been worth living on for this time, after all.”

Then he walks back to the hotel, and on the way he gives all the money he has on him to a beggar with one leg.

Title: City At The End of Time
Material: Acrylic on Stone
Copyright B Purkayastha 2015 

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Absolute Necessity of a New Crusade against the Evil ISIS Plan

Brothers and sisters, I have terrible and shocking news.

Everyone knows that the Muslim terrorist organisation called the Islamic State is a terrible threat to the civilised world. It chops off people’s heads, burns them alive, crucifies people, and makes videos celebrating all that. And it is, as everyone knows, dedicated to the extermination of civilised Christianity from the planet.

All this is so well known that it’s amazing that anyone would even deny it, but there are a huge number of liberals on the internet and in governments who turn a blind eye to it. And some of them are undoubtedly secret Muslims who support ISIS’ anti-civilisation agenda. They, like ISIS itself, would be happy to see the world plunged back into the Dark Ages and Sharia Law.

All this time, those of us who could see the truth could at least take comfort in the knowledge that God Almighty will not be mocked, and that He will take action at the appropriate time to plunge these evildoers into the lake of fire they so richly deserve, where they will burn for all eternity. It was something we hugged to ourselves as the bitter winds of evil blew through the world from the centre of savagery in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, this can no longer be taken for granted.

ISIS, we must realise, has not been sitting idle either. It, too, knows that in order for its false god Allah to rule the world, it must destroy all faith in God Almighty. Despite the best efforts of liberals, atheists, and Muslims both overt and secret, as long as people like us held firm in our belief, they could never win. After all, we are stronger in the truth we hold in our hearts than all the false believers who believe liberal lies and are willing to overlook the fact that all the ISIS Muslim terrorist savages want to do is destroy us. Is that not correct?

And, little by little, they realised this too.

And, brothers and sisters, that is when they launched their own diabolical plan to defeat our faith in the one and only way they assassinating God Almighty Himself!

I am not going to lie to you when I say that I did not at first believe this myself when I first heard of it; but the more I found out, the more I realised, with horror, that it was not only possible, but that the plan has not only already been hatched but is in progress even as you read this!

The information I will impart to you has been passed on to me in strict confidence by a brother in the Lord who is an analyst with a prominent anti-terrorist organisation – I am not at liberty to state the name, in order to protect him – but which is filled to the brim with liberals and Muslim-sympathisers. My contact personally, in the course of a wiretap, intercepted some communication between ISIS terrorist savages which he passed on to me because the liberals in the organisation refused to believe him.

In brief, what he said was this: that a major ISIS terrorist commander, Abu Qatil al Khoonkharabi, and one of his lieutenants, Abu Sharaab al Murdabadi, have hatched the plan between themselves. They realised, as I said, that God Almighty has to be assassinated. Plainly, this is impossible for a living person to accomplish. Only one who has passed into the grace of His Heavenly presence can attempt such a thing.

But, of course, being Muslims, and followers of a false god, they have no hope of ever standing before the Lord. It is not possible for them. Only a Christian can hope for that grace. But they realised this too.

So they came up with this diabolical solution: they have had one of their number convert to Christianity. He – whoever he is – has been ordered to live an exceptionally pure and moral Christian life, obeying every Biblical injunction, and follow the Lord in everything, in word and deed.

Can you imagine the truly Satanic cunning of this plan? The terrorist, whoever he is, is even at this very moment living such a blameless and pure Christian life that he will inevitably, when the time comes, pass into Heaven like all True Believers; yes, even as you and I will. And once he ascends to Heaven, according to the plans made by the terrorists Khoonkharabi and Murdabadi, he will take a knife he will have secreted on his person and cut off God Almighty’s head!

And once the Lord God has been so foully murdered, the false god Allah will rule the world, with his imps of the ISIS and his atheist demons in attendance.

There is, obviously, absolutely nothing we can do to stop this man once he has actually entered through the Pearly Gates. Somehow or other, he is to be stopped before he can ascend to Heaven.

The question is, how? We don’t know his identity, for the intercepted communication did not give us that. We don’t even know his race – the liberals and atheists who have allowed the cancer of Islam to spawn around the world, have also allowed ISIS to grow in its wake. For all we know, he could even be in one of our own cities. He could be sitting in the same room with you as you read this.

There is absolutely no way of telling.

But there is only one thing about him; he will be a very devout, very believing Christian in the true mould, with absolutely no liberal contamination, no doubts whatsoever. He will be no false Catholic or other liberalism-contaminated pretender. He will not tolerate such anti-God nonsense as evolution or a world older than 6000 years. He will not abide the loathsome evils of abortion, homosexuality, or heresy. He will not, even for an instant, permit the name of the Lord to be taken in vain.

In other words, he will be just like us.

And the longer he follows the One True Path, the more certain he is to be received into the benediction of Heaven.

There is only one way to stop him; he must be killed before, by his own devout Christianity, he succeeds in becoming so pure as to become worthy of the pastures of the Lord. He must be destroyed at once.

And since we do not know who he is, or where he is, there is only one way of assuring that this is achieved –

Brothers and sisters, I call on you for a new and most Holy Crusade. In this you must show no pity. You must gird on your weapons, and go out and destroy every devout True Believer you can find. Massacre them without mercy, for they will all go to Heaven anyway, except for the foul ISIS terrorist whom we must destroy while he is still meriting of the horrors of hell. And when you are done killing all you can find, turn your weapons on each other. Because, never forget this – one of you may be the one who is the terrorist. Yes, he may even be hiding among us!

I do not expect you to be understood by the common herd, but that does not matter. They have been brainwashed by liberals, atheists, and Muslim savages. Nothing but perdition awaits them.

But we are not atheists, liberals, or Muslims, and we know what to do.

And we must do all this quickly, for every moment counts. 

God Almighty’s life is at stake!

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

They did their duty. Will you?

Raghead's Academi Awards

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Sunday, 22 February 2015

In A Real Jam

One day two boys caught a thief.

Of course this wasn’t an ordinary thief. Ordinary thieves don’t get caught by schoolboys, and ordinary thieves steal things more valuable than...but the story is getting ahead of itself.

The two boys’ nicknames – for their names don’t matter – were Peevan and Scamper. Peevan was the elder and larger, and had untidy hair which fell over his eyes. Scamper was sleek and brown, and moved quickly, like oil over water. They were friends – such close friends, in fact, that most people assumed they were brothers.

Now this was the summer vacation, and Peevan and Scamper were back from roaming the countryside on their bicycles, and had come to Peevan’s grandmother’s house. And Peevan’s grandma had a problem.

“Something keeps stealing the jam from my jam cupboard,” she said. “Whenever I open the cupboard, there’s more jam missing, and the lid of one of the jars is loose.”

“It must be a rat,” Peevan said, demonstrating that he wasn’t always that quick in his thought processes.

“It can’t possibly be a rat,” his grandma snapped. She was a great lady, and loved them both very much, but at times had little patience with idiocy. “A rat couldn’t open the jar top.”

This was a serious thing, of course, since both Peevan and Scamper loved Grandma’s jam. One of the reasons they kept going to her house was the lovely jam. And if someone was stealing the jam that was theirs by rights, it was war.

Peevan said it first. “This is war,” he said.

Grandma wasn’t listening. “It’s beyond bearing,” she said. “Each day, the jam gets stolen. I’ll be out of the larder room for literally five minutes, and when I’m back, the jar’s opened and half the jam’s gone.”

“How long since this has been going on?” Peevan asked.

“About, oh, a week now.” Grandma looked at the calendar on the wall. “It began the day after the earthquake last week. Six days.”

“Did you try locking the door of the jam cupboard?” Scamper asked.

“I’m not a fool, boy,” Grandma informed him. “Of course I locked the door. And,” she added, “before you ask, the door was still locked when I came back.”

Peevan and Scamper looked at each other. “So that means,” the former said, “that whatever’s stealing the jam is inside the cupboard.”

“Or is entering it from somewhere,” Scamper said. “Nothing gets stolen except the jam, I take it?”

“No. And who would want my jam?”

“Anyone who’s ever tasted it.”

“Don’t flatter me, boy. Flattery won’t get you anywhere.”

“Since the larder doesn’t have any windows,” Peevan said, “the thief must come in through the door to the kitchen. Right?”

“Right,” Sacmper agreed Of course they both knew the cupboard, tall and made of dark wood, which stood against one wall of the dark little larder. “So we should be able to catch the thief.”

Grandma looked at them. “What will you two do that I haven’t already?”

“Well, you see, Grandma,” Peevan explained, “we might just see something you could have missed. I mean, you’re used to seeing the same things every day, so it might be easy to miss something new.” Which proves that he could be diplomatic when he had to be.

Grandma peered at him suspiciously, but decided eventually to take him at his word. “Once or twice I heard a noise from inside,” she said. “At least,” she amended, “I think I heard a noise. But it was always gone when I opened the door – and so was the jam.”

 “Umm.” Peevan and Scamper exchanged glances. “Is there any jam in the cupboard now?”

“No,” Grandma said. “There hasn’t been since the night before last. And there isn’t going to be. I’ve had enough of my jam being stolen.”

“Oh please, Gran. We need some jam in there to act as bait. Otherwise how could we know what’s stealing it?”

Grandma sighed. “I have one jar left,” she said plaintively. “One single, solitary, tiny jar of peach jam. You want me to give it to the thief?”

“Relax, Gran,” Scamper assured her, “if – when – we catch the thief you won’t lose the jam.”

“And your jam cupboard will be safe,” Peevan pointed out. “You can fill it with jam again.”

“All right,” Grandma gave in. “I’d have given you two the jam anyway, so I suppose it’s yours to do with as you see fit.” She opened the low cupboard below the sink and fetched out a small glass jar filled with the brown jam. “What do you want to do with it?”

“You’d better go and put it in the cupboard,” Peevan said, “in case the thief’s watching for you to do it. And I suppose you’d better lock it, too, if you’ve been doing it regularly. We’ll wait outside the larder door.”

“And then come right out and go away,” Scamper said. “We don’t want whoever it is thinking you’re lying in wait.”

“Oh, and you’d better give us the key on the way out,” Peevan added. “And a torch – the larder is dark enough already, let alone inside the cupboard.”

“Yes, sir!” Grandma snapped off a salute and went off to the larder with the jar.

When Grandma had come out and wandered off, Peevan and Scamper crouched just outside the door, waiting to rush in. Peevan held the key in his hand like a lance. Scamper held the torch like another lance.

For a long time nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen for so long that Peevan and Scamper glanced uneasily at each other. “Do you think we should just go in and see?” the latter murmured.

“No,” Peevan whispered back. “Whoever the thief is might be scared off if he knows we’re out here. I mean, we’re young and fast, and Grandma’s old.”

“Maybe there isn’t really a thief,” Scamper bit his lip. “Grandma’s old like you said, and old people sometimes forget, and...”

“Wait!” Peevan held up a hand. “Did you hear that?”

“What...” Then Scamper heard it too, a stealthy scuffling sound, something like shoe leather on concrete, but much softer. “It’s coming from inside,” he said.

“Come on!” Very slowly, Peevan eased open the larder door and peered in cautiously. The dark little room was empty to all appearances of any living thing. The sound was clearer now, though, and it was clearly coming from the jam cupboard. Silently, moving on their toes, the two boys entered the larder and moved towards the cupboard. The noise was still coming, and they heard a muffled clunk, exactly as of a jar filled with peach jam being knocked over. Peevan raised the key, stabbed it into the keyhole, and threw the door open, just as Scamper hit the torch button.

Everything froze.

In the light of the torch they saw it clearly – a little brown thing, all leathery flaps, long thin limbs, and tiny needle teeth, squatting over the jam jar, which lay on its side, the lid open. It squeaked, tiny black eyes rolling frantically in the glare of the light, and then made a frantic dart for the back of the shelf.

Too late. Peevan’s hand came down hard, trapping one of the leathery brown flaps against the wooden shelf.

 “Got you,” he said, superfluously.

“Watch out!” Scamper exclaimed. “It’ll bite.”

The thing, however, made no attempt to bite. It made a couple of frantic attempts to pull away from Peevan’s grasp before collapsing in a huddled mass on the shelf. And then it began sobbing.

Peevan and Scamper exchanged astonished glances. “It’s crying,” Peevan said.

“Like a baby,” Scamper replied. They gaped at the sobbing little creature, still trapped by Peevan’s hand. And then, shockingly, it began to speak.

“Let me go,” it squeaked between sobs. “You let me go right now!”

“You talk?” Peevan asked, superfluously.

“Why were you stealing Gran’s jam?” Scamper asked, more constructively. “You’ve been tormenting the poor old lady, stealing it every day.”

“If you’d wanted it,” Peevan said, censoriously, “you only had to ask. She’s never said no to anyone who asked...not yet, anyway.”

“She wouldn’t have given it some everyday,” Scamper pointed out. “Why did you want so much for, anyway?”

The creature was still struggling to escape, squeaking and sobbing pathetically, but Peevan’s grip was firm. He gave it a little shake. “Well?” he asked. “Who are you, and what do you want with Grandma’s jam?”

 “Don’t hurt me,” the thing squeaked. “I only needed it to get the Princess home.”

Peevan and Scamper glanced at each other. “What Princess?”

“She has to get back,” the creature squeaked, tugging ineffectually. “Our vehicle is out of fuel, and that’s why I was taking the stuff, I swear.”

“Your vehicle?” Peevan poked the creature’s knobby head with the tip of the index finger of his free hand. “You’d better start from the beginning and tell us what this is about.”

“We won’t hurt you if you do,” Scamper added, reassuringly.

The creature’s sobs subsided a little. “We your world,” it said, “like we always do, like we always have done, these thousands of years.”

“Up to our world?” Scamper asked.

“Let it tell its story,” Peevan said.

“Yes,” the creature continued, “as I was saying, we’ve always come up, for thousands of years now. Nothing ever went wrong before. But this time...” It paused, apparently overwhelmed by emotion. “This time,” it continued eventually, “a horrible monster attacked our vehicle.”

“A horrible monster?”

“Yes, it was huge with long teeth and covered with long, thin black tentacles all over.”

Peevan and Scamper exchanged glances. They’d recognised the description of the neighbour’s dog, Maggie. “Go on,” the former said. “What did this, um, monster, do?”

“It ripped at our machine with its teeth,” the creature said, “and tore off the fuel section – which it then,” it’s voice broke into sobs again, “...ate. We managed to get away, but now we have no fuel to get home.”

It sounded authentic. Maggie had always loved jam. “And Grandma’s jam is your fuel?” Peevan asked.

“Yes, of course,” the creature informed him. “We smelt it at once when we managed to hide the machine. But we need an awful lot, and taking little by little this way it took far too long.”

“You said you’d come up to our world,” Peevan said. “So where are you from?”

The little brown creature shook with agitation. “I’m not supposed to say.” Peevan gave it a shake and it gave in. “We came from under there,” it said, tapping the wooden shelf with a claw. “Below your houses and streets, under the ground.”

“Under the ground?” Scamper exclaimed. “Isn’t it always, uh, dark and damp down there?”

“Of course it is,” the creature sighed. “Always damp and dark, and not too comfortable either, when an earthquake comes. That’s why we came up the other day, because it was so uncomfortable after the last earthquake – all the sanitation lines damaged and all – that the Princess wanted some light and fresh air.”

Scamper and Peevan exchanged another glance. They’d just remembered Grandma mentioning the earthquake.

“This would never have happened,” the creature moaned, “if only the monster hadn’t caught us. The Princess was so cross!”

“Has anyone been in this jam...I mean, has anyone had this problem before?”

“I don’t know, but there are more and more of us coming up. Everyone has machines now, you see. In the olden days, of course, they’d have to dig their way up.”

“Of course,” Peevan agreed. “So how much more of you need?”

“This jar would have been the last,” the thing said, giving another couple of experimental tugs. “It would have been enough to get us home.”

“And where is this machine of yours?” Scamper asked.

“And the Princess?” Peevan added, showing that he didn’t lose sight of the big picture.

The thing paused in its struggling and its sobbing. “I can’t tell you that,” it said.

“Fine,” Scamper informed it, taking the jar and screwing the lid shut. “We were going to give this to you, but since you aren’t interested in telling us...”

“We’ll just tell Grandma instead,” Peevan finished. He raised his voice. “Gran!”

“Yes?” the old lady’s voice came from somewhere in the house.

“Don’t call her,” the thing said urgently. “I’ll take you to the machine. Don’t call her, please!”

“We’re still waiting, Gran,” Peevan said. “We’ll let you know as soon as something happens.”

“Now take us to where the machine is,” Scamper said sternly. “Otherwise you’ll never get any jam again. And you’ll be stuck here for good.”

“How did you get into this cupboard anyway?” Peevan asked.

“I’ll show you.” The thing reached out with a claw and poked at the back of the shelf. A large piece of wood slid aside. “I made the panel myself,” the thing said with pride.

“That’s nice,” Peevan said dubiously, “but how do we go down there? It’s far too small for a human.”

“It just goes down to the back of the house,” the creature said. “Let me go and I’ll meet you there.”

“Nothing doing,” Peevan said. He lifted up the thing and stuffed it into his pocket, where it fit awkwardly, a squeaking, wriggling, lumpy mass. “We’ll take you to the back of the house and show us.”

“I’ll take the jam along,” Scamper said.

They peered into the kitchen. Grandma, fortunately, wasn’t there, so they could sneak outside without being asked questions. Peevan took out the creature and put it down on the ground by the back wall, still keeping a firm grip. “Now,” he said, “where is the vehicle?”

“Right there,” the thing said, pointing at a largish stone next to the wall. It was a stone neither Peeven nor Scamper remembered having seen before, but they weren’t observant boys as far as back gardens went. “We disguised it, of course.”

“Of course,” Peevan agreed. “And where is this Princess?”

“She’s inside,” the creature squeaked.

“Call her.”

“I can’t,” the thing gasped in horror. “She’s the princess!”

“Call her,” Peevan said, shaking the little body. “Or...”

“All right,” the little thing said. “Don’t hurt me.” It raised its voice into a shriller squeak. “Princess!”

The top of the rock opened and a head stuck out. It was a bulbous head, with large round eyes, and was covered in colours that shifted from white to red and green and purple to white again. “Why are you calling?” it asked. “How dare you call...” Its voice trailed off as it noticed Peewan and Scamper.

“You’re the Princess?” Scamper asked in astonishment.

“Of course she’s the Princess,” Peevan’s captive said indignantly, fear forgotten. “She’s the greatest princess ever to rule the land. She...”

“All right, all right,” Peevan said hastily. “Your, er, Majesty, this, um, subject of yours claims that you’re from down there and need fuel to get back.”

“And this is the fuel,” Scamper said, holding up the jam jar.

“This is true,” the Princess said. “Roggy is perfectly correct. We were just visiting this land...for a brief visit...when a monster attacked us.”

“Roggy?” Peevan looked at the little brown thing. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Peevan and this is Scamper.”

“You can let him go now,” the Princess said. “He won’t try to run away.”

“We have this, um, fuel for you.” Scamper held up the jar. “I take it this is the last bit you need?”

The Princess eyed the jar. “That’s right,” she said. “Give it to us, and we’ll go away and never come back again. At least,” she amended, “we’ll never come back here again. We don’t want the monster to catch us again, you see.”

“All right,” Peevan nodded, and let Roggy go. The little creature stretched on his spindly limbs and shook his leathery flaps. Scamper handed him the jar.

“Thank you,” the Princess said. “Thanks ever so much.” She beckoned with a stubby hand. “Come, Roggy.”

“Wait,” Peevan exclaimed. “Aren’t you even going to beg us not to tell people about you?”

“Tell them all you want,” the Princess said cheerily. “Who’s ever going to believe you?”

The lid over the stone slid back into place. There was a brief shimmer, and it disappeared. For an instance, Peevan and Scamper saw a hole in the ground, which swiftly closed again. And there was only a shimmer in the air, which faded, too.

“What are you boys doing out there?” Grandma asked from the kitchen door.


Deep underneath the ground, the vehicle sped downwards.

“You did well,” the Princess said. “You say they didn’t even ask for three wishes as per the standard contract?”

“I don’t think they even heard of the three wishes.” Roggy shook his head and turned levers expertly, guiding the craft. “I’m told the youth of today don’t read.”

“Still, you did superbly. I’ll be glad to get home.”

“In that case, Princess, I suggest you increase speed,” Roggy said. “The faster we go, the sooner we’ll get there, you know.”

“I’m doing the best I can,” the Princess complained. “You know something, Rog? I’m glad we got stuck for a week up there.”

“Princess?” Roggy glanced back from the lever-studded control panel. “Really?”

“Yes.” The Princess spooned another dollop of the jam into her mouth and kicked at the pedals with all her feet.

“This is the best fuel I’ve ever tasted,” she said happily.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015