The Boy And The Wolf by Ram V

~ 5000 words

“Ashtaad! Tell me a story!” The boy Khoufran, nagged eagerly, with his hands clasped in a pleading gesture.

The man called Ashtaad, sat upon a weather worn rock. one that seemed oddly out of place – half buried, among the roots of an old Banyan tree.

“Mmmm?” Ashtaad responded to the boy, leaning back on the trunk of the tree. He rested his feet on one of the many roots that snaked out from under the tree.He had heard the boy’s request, but his mind wandered, that evening, to cares and worries that a boy would understand little of.

“Tell me a story!” The boy repeated. He sat by Ashtaad and hugged his knees – huddling to keep warm. His cheeks growing a deep red in the evening chill, as he stared at the storyteller with eyes full of expectation.

“Isn’t it getting late? Your baba will come looking. You’d better go home.” Ashtaad patted the boy on his head with a warm smile and continued to stare into the distance.

Every once in a while he’d put his smoking pipe to his mouth and inhale the flavored tobacco. It smelled of warm smells – of cloves, cinnamon and saffron. The tobacco glowed, a deep red in the pipe – the same color as the sun which was now dipping under clear shimmering horizon. Darkness, was slowly casting its veil over the meadows and Khoufran’s sheep would need to be walked home soon.

“I don’t need to get back home for a while yet! Please Ashtaad!” Khoufran’s mouth curved into a pout.

Ashtaad reconsidered and cast a lingering glance at the boy. Khoufran had been kinder to him than most town-folk. Perhaps, he deserved a story after all. The town’s people had a weary view of wanderers and mistrusted them – with good reason. The boy however, had taken a liking to the storyteller. He brought him food and fruits – smuggled from his mother’s kitchen no doubt. And, in defiance of all warnings, Ashtaad supposed.

Ever since Ashtaad had politely expressed a desire to reutn the favor, the boy had been pestering him to tell a story.  Perhaps tonight, Ashtaad considered relenting.

“One story.” Ashtaad spoke, still staring at dark horizon which was devouring the sun. He raised a solitary finger to make his point.

“Yes! I’ll go home after that. I promise!” Khoufran nodded vigorously.

“Very well . . . I will tell you the story of the boy and the wolf.” Ashtaad said, pulling his hood over his head to protect his ears from the wind which blew colder by the minute.

“But firs . . . help me build this fire.” Ashtaad added and the boy immediately set upon the task of neatly stacking the twigs and sticks which Ashtaad had gathered. Once they were stacked, Ashtaad placed a pile of dried grass and bark. Once the tinder was in place, he tapped some of the glowing embers from his pipe on to it and gently blew on it, until the tinder smoked and sputtered, before finally bursting into a fine, warm flame.

“Now! The story of the boy and the wolf!” Khoufran eagerly reminded him, checking the sun, worried that it would not be long before his Baba came looking for him.

Ashtaad cleared his throat and began. As he spoke, with each word, the night grew quieter. Night crawlers did not crick, birds did not call and the wind itself seemed to slow down to listen.

“The story begins thus.”

***

“There was once a town named Mazaan on the border of the northern plains. There where the sun dips below the earth.” Ashtaad pointed to the sunset, with the warped stem of his pipe.

“It was a town of farmers and shepherds, much like your town, little Khoufran.” Ashtaad smiled at the boy, who returned it with a grin.
“It was a happy town. Prosperous, bountiful and with many children.  Of these children, there was a boy of eight named Zifa. And this boy was the son of a shepherd in the town. His father Abouz, had a flock of twenty three sheep and his mother Tira, scoured and scaled their wool into fine yarn.

When Zifa turned eleven, which was right about the time this story occurred, his father began to show him the ways of the shepherd. He taught him to graze the sheep, to lead them to the pastures, to protect them from wolves and to corral them back to the stock. And Zifa, being a clever boy was quick to learn everything his father showed him.

Soon, Zifa had begun to herd the sheep to the pastures by himself, with only his stick and a bag of pebbles for company. He was good at his work. He cared for the sheep well and did not walk them through rocks or tangle grass. He kept the wolves at bay with his stick and a fire, and he corralled the sheep with the deft hand of a kind but stern herder. His sheep were the best in town; plump and with a coat softer than winter’s first snow. Tira’s wool was sought after and soon, Zifa was helping other shepherds with their sheep as well. They were all part of the same family after all.

In fact, Abouz and all the other shepherds were so happy with Zifa’s progress that they often commended him and spoke well of him at shearing days and town gatherings. Such was their love for the boy, that on the first night of winter, at the shepherd’s feast, they decided to give the boy a mighty gift. The gift was meant to be a surprise and thus was a secret.

Each night, the townsfolk would go out into the woods and come back at some early hour. What gift they were making and why they went into the woods, no one could tell.

When the day of the shepherd’s feast came, Zifa’s baba asked him to wear his best clothes and bring his herding stick with him to the feast. Now, despite this being a strange request, Zifa did as he was asked and went to the feast dressed in his cleanest white vest and woolen trousers his mother had specially made for him.

Everyone had come to the feast. All the shepherds and weavers and traders were there with their families and children. Meyha was there too. She had been Zifa’s friend since before he could remember and he liked her, the best of all the friends he played with. At the dinner table, she sat next to him gushing with pride, for she knew what gift was to be given to Zifa.

At the end of the feast, before the dance began, Khalif Shori got up from his seat and addressed the gathering. He thanked the gods for their kindness, for having given them healthy crops and sheep, for days of sun and nights of bearable cold. He congratulated the shepherds and farmers for their work and thanked the weavers and traders for their wares. When all else was spoken and said, he called on Zifa to come to his side.
Zifa who had not been expecting this walked nervously to the Khalif, who he had heard was a stern man, prone easily to anger. When he was by the Khalif’s side, he stood quietly and still, not knowing what to expect.

“The shepherds tell me they have a young herder in their midst, who has this year shown great skill and diligence to his work and is blessed with the god’s touch when it comes to herding!”

The gathering clapped in unison. Zifa smiled and beamed with nervous pride.

“Zifa is his name and for him, the herders wish for me to present a gift worthy of a king!”

Everyone cheered and clapped and all of Zifa’s friends cheered on in delight.

“Zifa, I hear you have earned this gift. Wear it with pride my boy!”

Saying thus, the Khalif wrapped around Zifa’s shoulders, a cloak made of wolf pelt. This was the pelt of no ordinary wolves! The pelt belonged to the winter wolves that frequented the old forests near Mazaan Dhar.

“Sathim Mur” they were called and in the herder’s tongue it meant “Silver skin”. The cloak shone like it was made of strands of silver and it shimmered in the light as Zifa walked with the cloak trailing behind him.

Once again the whole gathering cheered for Zifa and drank to his health. They drank into the late of night and by the time the feast was done, Zifa had been sent home to sleep while the older herders drank and told stories. Stories of the kind, children should not hear.

Zifa hugged his new cloak and slept, with a blanket drawn over him to shield him from the winter air. And in the moments between the time he closed his eyes and the time he fell asleep, he heard the lonely howl of a wolf, somewhere far away in the dark of the woods.

* * *

Winter, was a particularly important time for the herders of Mazaan, for two reasons. The sheep grew the thickest coats made of the finest wool. They needed to be cared for, with greater concern than in other seasons. The second reason was the coming of the wolves. In the days of snow, food was scarce and the wolves would come out of their strongholds in the woods to prey upon the sheep of Mazaan.

In the old days, the village would offer its sheep gladly to the wolves who they worshipped as gods and it is said the perhaps the wolves were called “Sathim Mahr” which meant “Silver God”.

But who knows? It could be just a story that is told, much like this one.

So in the worrying winter nights, the shepherds would take turns to keep watch by the stock; to make sure that the sheep slept in peace and wolves did not stray near. For the first time that winter, Zifa’s Baba decided to take the boy along and set him on his first late watch.

“You will rest here Zifa, by the east of the stock. Sit by the fire and draw your cloak around you for the night air is cold and unforgiving. Rest lightly boy, for wolves tread softly and where there is one there may be many.”

Abouz set on the fire, a worn blackened kettle of warm honey and jasmine tea.

“If you should see a wolf, call for the village and the men will come to guard the stock. Do you understand my boy?” Abouz asked his son as he turned to leave.

Zifa nodded and in his heart he decided not to sleep and stay awake all night for he wanted to be the best shepherd he could be.

But the Dreambringer is a traitorous friend. The cold night air only made the warmth of his wolven cloak that much more comforting. The rustle of the night wind, meandering through dry winter leaves made a soothing sound and the symphony of night insects, was enough to cajole Zifa into a reluctant sleep.

Sleep is like a snake in the night. By the time you realize that it is crawling upon you, it is already too late. In the late hours of that night, Zifa had fallen into a deep sleep. In his sleep he dreamt.

He dreamt he was still awake by his warm fire, by the village’s stock of sheep. They slept in silence making no sound other than the odd involuntary snort or snore. Zifa smiled to himself. He was pleased with his gift and happy that the village loved him for his hard work and he told himself that if he continued this way, perhaps the Khalif would speak of him again next year. He brushed the soft fur of his cloak as he thought of the night past and the cloak pleased him in all its silvery splendor and softness.

“Does it please you then? The soft skin of my children …” A voice whispered in Zifa’s ear as if it were but a few inches away.

Zifa turned in a frightened jolt, only to see that there was nothing by him, but the silence of night. His eyes searched frantically for someone to blame for the haunting whisper but he found no one. When enough time had passed, Zifa told himself that he had probably only imagined the whisper. He wondered if he had dreamt it, which was silly because he was only dreaming all of this you see.

With time, his stolen calm returned and once again he returned to watching his stock and letting his mind wander.
“It takes the pelt of three wolves to make a cloak of such softness. Did you know?”

The whisper sounded again; this time, in his other ear. Zifa let out a soft whimper and turned his head from side to side searching for a credible reason for hearing such whispers. Then, after moments of searching, his eyes found something, walking softly in the distance under the shadowy cover of the woods.

Its eyes glistened with moonlight, caught in their stare. When the creature walked, moonlight bounced off its back revealing a coat that rivaled the moon’s silvery reflection on calm waters. He knew then what the creature was. It was a wolf; a Sathim Mur (or Mahr depending on who you believed).

Now, Zifa did not know this, but this wolf he saw, was no ordinary wolf. It was a wise wolf, an old wolf – perhaps, the wisest and oldest. His name was “Maelan” and he was the brother of the moon.

When Zifa’s eyes met Maelan’s, the wolf paused and stood still. For a few moments they said nothing, simply considering each other. Then, the wolf whispered again.

“I am coming, for I am owed blood. I am owed life.”

Zifa shivered when he heard this whisper and in fear, he cried out.

“WOLF WOLF! WOLF WOLF!”

He cried out in his dream and he cried out in his sleep. By the time Zifa had realized, it was only a dream, the windows in the village were lit and men were beginning to storm out with sticks and spears to guard their flock.

When they reached Zifa, they asked him. “Where? Where is the wolf Zifa?”

Zifa looked around in silence, only beginning to understand that it was a dream and there was no wolf to be seen. He looked up at the crowd, with sheepish eyes and said nothing until his baba finally arrived.

“Well boy? Where are the wolves? How many were there?”

“Just one. But I dreamt of him.” Zifa answered, looking down at the ground in shame.

Some of the men, angry at having been woken in their sleep by a dreaming boy, simply threw their weapons on the ground and began a groggy walk back home, mumbling curses under their breaths.

No one scolded Zifa, for they liked the boy and forgave him. Some even laughed it off and wished him well before returning home. Abouz waited till all others had returned before he spoke to Zifa.

“That was foolish, boy! Waking the village like that for a dream!” He stood with his hands placed on his waist and frowning down at the boy.
“I’m sorry. I did not know that I had fallen asleep.” Zifa poked absentmindedly at the fire in front of him.

“Drink your tea! Zifa. It will keep you from sleeping and dreaming of wolves!” Abouz shook his head and began walking back to his home.
Zifa did not sleep again that night. He drank plenty of tea and the shame of having woken up the village, kept him awake.

Still, when the morning sun came, he wondered if the wolf was real. He wondered what he would do if the wolf did really come for him.
The day passed as others did in winter. He grazed his sheep and did the chores around the house. During the day, the men made jokes about Zifa’s dream and they laughed at him. But they did this in friendly jest and by evening, all was forgiven. As the sun went down, past the horizon that night, he sat on the fence by Meyha’s house and told her of his dream. She laughed at him at first and then stopped when she realized it bothered him greatly.

“It was only a dream wasn’t it? I’m sure it has happened to others too!” She tried to comfort him.

“You think so? It felt so real. The wolf was terrible!” He glanced for a moment into her emerald eyes, and hoped that she didn’t see the fear in his.
Meyha pulled herself up on the fence by Zifa and spoke. “My grandmother says the wolves are not evil.”

Zifa turned to her with interest. Meyha’s grandmother was the oldest person in the village and she knew tales that were half truths and half lies. But her tales were so old that the truth and lies had a way of being the same thing.

“She says, they used to be gods of the woods; born of the moon’s light. They took the shape of wolves so they could hunt the shadows that hid among the trees in the woods and keep them from harming the villagers nearby. The Village used to offer them the meat of a sheep, each night of winter, to give their thanks.”

Zifa raised his eyebrows as if to say “really?”, for he found it hard to believe that the village would willingly give up its sheep to the wolves. “Why don’t we give them the sheep anymore?”

Meyha’s face turned grave at this question. “Grandmother says, one day when all the shadows were hunted and the village did not need the wolves to hunt them anymore, they stopped offering them the sheep. When the wolves saw this, they sent the brother of the moon to speak with the village. The village chased him out with curses and stones. Ever since that day, the wolves hunt the sheep of the village, each winter.”

Zifa looked at her with grave concern. Meyha only laughed and said. “It’s only a story silly! Now don’t go dreaming of wolves again!” She giggled at him and Zifa smiled back, but somewhere in his heart the wolf only seemed more real and grew closer with each moment.

That night, Zifa took his familiar place by the corral, keeping watch for the wolves. His baba had reminded him to drink the tea and had left for home. Zifa still had his cloak with him, but that night it felt less soft and less comforting. He worried, thinking of the wolves that the village had killed, to make this cloak for him. He feared that Meyha’s grandmother’s tales were true. More than anything, he feared he would fall asleep and dream of the wolf again.

When the moon had risen to full view, above the trees of the old wood, and after the village had gone to sleep, Zifa still stayed awake, drinking his tea and shivering, by the light of his fire. He had not worn his cloak, for fear of the wolf, or so that the cold would keep him awake. As the hours passed, the night grew colder and Zifa’s fire dwindled to a tiny flame. He shivered violently, unable even to sip his tea without spilling it. Eventually the cold grew so discomforting, that he reached reluctantly for the cloak and decided to put it on.

“Warm, is the hide of my sons. Soft, was their fur. Put it on little Zifa, put it on. ”

Zifa’s shivering got worse. The Wolf’s chilling whisper, sounded yet again in his ear. He cast the cloak aside and looked around. This time, the wolf was closer than it had been before. The previous night, the wolf Maelan had only wandered amidst the shadows of the wood, this time he sat some distance away from Zifa but close enough for the light of Zifa’s fire to bounce of his silver fur.

“Why do you cast it aside, Zifa? It is a gift; is it not? One that I, have given to you.”

“Stay back!” Zifa picked up his herding stick and pointed it at the wolf. His hand shivered with fear and cold and he could barely keep it still.
“I can smell your fear boy and it makes me hungry.” Saying thus, the wolf began walking to Zifa, with a slow and purposeful gait.
Zifa dropped the stick and it toppled the kettle onto his fire. The tea spilled and the last flame hissed before it went out.

“WOLF WOLF!” Zifa shouted, over and over, as he floundered in the dark, trying to find the herding-stick that lay somewhere on the ground.

He could not see in the dark, but he could hear the wolf. The short breaths of cold air that it breathed, the swish of its silvery fur as it stalked him in the dark.

Suddenly, Zifa felt a weight on his shoulders that shook him violently. There was a flash of light in front of him. It made his eyes ache in the back of his head and he screamed with terror.

“Stop it now boy! Wake up!” His baba’s voice sounded and a firm hand slapped him across his face.His screaming stopped and he put his hand over his cheek, which throbbed with heat and pain. He looked up to see that all the village men were standing around him with sticks in their hand and angry looks on his face. There was no wolf, only angry herders and an utterly disappointed father, looking down on him.

“But . . . the wolf!” Zifa tried to explain.

“There is no wolf! Fool!” Abouz growled at him through gritted teeth. Before Zifa could respond, his baba spoke again. “Any more talk of wolves and I’ll personally cane you right here!”

Zifa stared down at the ground, ashamed.

“Waking the whole village again! Despite my warnings, not to fall asleep!” Abouz’s eyes burned with anger.

“But, baba . . . I didn’t.” Zifa continued to protest.

Abouz stepped forward with his hand raised, only to be stopped by the other men who took pity on the foolish boy.
“Go home now! And sleep . . . I will stay on guard!”

Zifa picked up his stick and set it by the fire, which to his surprise was still burning. The kettle of tea was still filled and not spilt. He tried to look for his cloak, but to his surprise he was wearing it around his shoulders.

“What are you lingering for, boy? Go home!” His baba scowled at him again and Zifa quietly scurried away to his home. On his way back, some of the men who had rushed out also accompanied him. None of them said anything. No one laughed at him or made jokes about his dream. Although Zifa had felt ashamed the previous night, when they laughed at him, he wished now that they would. He wished someone would make a joke, and they’d all laugh and eventually he’d be forgiven. Their silence was painful.

Zifa slept that night, in his own bed, at home. His sleep was disturbed, as was his mind. He woke up the next morning, feeling unwell and asked his father if he could rest that day. Abouz responded only with a grunt and a nod. Zifa went out that morning and spent the day wandering the meadows, in silence. He could not face the other herders, or his friends; especially not Meyha.

That afternoon, he walked by the outskirts of the old woods, gathering the fallen fruit from the trees for his lunch. As he sat under the shadow of an old tree, he heard footsteps behind him. He turned to see who it was, expecting to see one of the other villagers, as they often came by the woods, to pick fruits or gather wood and herbs. He saw an old woman in the distance and as she came closer, he realized it was Meyha’s grandmother, who the entire village called Cha’ama, which meant “old mother”.

“Cha’ama!” he waved to her and offered her a sad smile. She waved back and ambled her way slowly to where he sat.

“Little Zifa!” She brushed his hair softly. “What are you doing here?” She asked.

“I was feeling unwell . . . I came here to rest by the trees.” Zifa answered, in an unconvincing tone of voice.

“Meyha told me you’ve been dreaming of the wolves.” Cha’ama spoke softly – taking care, not to embarrass the boy.

“She knows?” He asked, with a worried look on his face.

“Mmhmm.” Cha’ama smiled and sat herself down by Zifa. She took an old sweet-root that she had picked and began peeling it; pinching the tough skin off, with her fingers.

“It is okay Zifa. Don’t feel bad. That’s how they talk to you.” She said, without looking up from the root in her hands.

“Who does?” Zifa asked with a frown on his face.

“The wolves.” Cha’ama briefly glanced up, at Zifa. “They can only talk to you in your dreams. Did they talk to you?” Cha’ama asked.

“ No . . .” Zifa lied, too embarrassed to tell her the truth; to tell her that the wolf had spoken about his cloak, to tell her that he’d been scared to death of it.

Cha’ama did not press further. “They’re not evil. They’re angry.” she continued.

Zifa only looked up at her in silence.

“Once when Meyha had been a child, she had gotten lost in the woods. You would have been too young to remember.” Cha’ama looked up at the sky as if trying to recollect something. “You would have been only four or five at the time. The whole village looked for her, all day from morning to sun down. We scoured the woods, every inch of it, but couldn’t find her.”

“How did you find her then?” Zifa asked with some measure of awe in his eyes.

“I didn’t.” Cha’ama looked up at him. She’d finished peeling the root. “The wolves did.”

Zifa sat across from her, with his mouth open in amazement. She offered him a piece of the root.

“They came to me in a dream. The brother of the moon, Maelan did. He told me to meet him by the edge of the wood, where the land falls into a pond.” Cha’ama pointed to a part of the woods, where the trees opened up into a steep slope that fell to the mouth of a small pond.

“Sure enough, as I went there looking for her in the early hours, while the moon began to fade, I found her, sitting at the shore of the pond, crying. In the distance, on the other side of the pond, I saw the brother of the moon. He was not a wolf then. He was a boy and his eyes were the color of the moon. He did not speak to me. He turned and walked away into the dark. I’ve seen him several times since. Not as a boy, but as a wolf. His coat is the brightest of them all and when he looks at you, you can see the moonlight still caught, in his eyes.”
Zifa nodded.

“You’ve seen him haven’t you?” Cha’ama asked knowingly, looking at Zifa with kind eyes.

“Yes.” Zifa answered.

“He is kind. But he is angry Zifa. They killed so many wolves, to make you that cloak. I spoke against it! I told them not to. But they wouldn’t listen. We’ve killed gods. We’ve forgotten our ways. I fear they will forsake us and shadows will come back.” Cha’ama looked around the woods feebly. She seemed every bit her age, then. Zifa did not understand, but he could see the concern in her eyes.

“What do I do? Cha’ama” Zifa asked.

Cha’ama said nothing for a while. Then, she spoke with some measure of anxiety. “Pray . . .”

They both spent the rest of the afternoon in silence. Cha’ama brushed his hair and kissed him on the forehead before she left. Zifa stayed there, till the skies darkened and then started on his way back home. He felt sad knowing that they’d ask someone else to sit by the corral that night, to keep watch. He didn’t feel like going back home, knowing his father would be there, disappointed in him.

He wandered along his way home, lingering and loitering, avoiding his destination. Perhaps wishing, that his parents would be asleep, by the time he got back. When he had neared the corral, the moon had risen in the sky and the sun’s last light had dwindled. In the faint glow, of a half moon, he saw, some distance ahead, a boy.

“Hello?” Zifa called out to him.

The boy turned around and looked at Zifa in silence. Zifa, now recognized the boy. The boy’s name was Maelan. He was the brother of the moon and his eyes burned with a silvery fire. Zifa dropped to his knees, shaking and quivering with fear.

Maelan walked to Zifa, who said nothing and wept quiet little sobs. When Maelan had walked close, Zifa finally raised his head to look at the boy. The light in his eyes was blinding and Zifa only caught sight of his face for a moment. Maelan reached out his hand to touch the boy and all Zifa could say was “Sorry.”

Maelan’s touch was kind.

***

That night, again at a dark hour, the cries of “WOLF!” filled the air. This time the sheep bleated in horrible ways and cried out in pain. The men of the Village ran out with their sticks and their spears. When they reached the corral, they found Abouz, who had been on guard, frantically pointing at a wolf in the distance. It stalked and slinked in the distance, shuffling in and out of shadows. It sprinted with a beastly speed and howled in haunting ways.

When the men heard its howl, they called the names of god and looked at each other with fear and doubt. Finally Taher, the village’s oldest hunter walked to the fore and let lose his spear.

The smoothened, oiled wood whistled in the air as it made its way toward the beast. In the dark, it made a silent swish and then the beast cried a terrible whine.

“We hit it!” The men exclaimed. They ran to the place where the beast had fallen. When they reached the spot, they lit their torches and searched the ground. They found remains of sheep, ripped and torn apart. Their bones gnawed and their flesh shredded. They followed the stench of hunted meat and trail of blood and carcasses, until they came upon the beast.

Zahm walked up to the beast and his hand quivered as he pulled the spear out.

The lifeless body moved as the spear slid out of the wound on its back. Blood gushed out of the wound; it was black as night sky. On the creature’s back was the fur the men had seen. It was attached by a string around the neck. When Taher pulled the cloak free, Abouz screamed and fell to the ground. The men stepped back and prayed to their gods for deliverance.

Zifa’s lifeless face stared up at the crowd. The boy’s mouth was bloodied, from the sheep he had eaten. His limbs were twisted into beastly forms. His eyes were burnt and their lids charred on the outside. Inside his eyes, for a few moments, moonlight flickered before it dwindled into darkness.
The men heard in the darkness, a voice, that night. It was heard all around the forest and even in the village, but only Cha’ama recognized it when it spoke.

“Forget not your debts, for we do not forget ours.”

Cha’ama prayed to the gods that night and cried tears for Zifa, who she knew to be dead.

***

Ashtaad tapped his pipe on the rock, to knock lose the ash from the tobacco and took another long puff. He turned to the boy and smiled a slow smile from under his hood. The boy Khoufran, looked at him with tears and fear in his eyes. The wind had turned bitterly cold and no matter how much Khoufran huddled he could not feel warmth.

“Is . . . Is that story true?” Khoufran asked the storyteller, his voice barely escaping his throat.

The storyteller looked up at the sky and stared into the distance. The moon was rising; its faint silver form visible behind the clouds in the distance. He sighed, before he turned to Khoufran and spoke.

“All stories are true, Khoufran.” At that moment, Khoufran saw Ashtaad’s eyes and they seemed to reflect the moonlight which was beginning to shine brighter by the minute.

“Go now . . . Your baba is here.” Ashtaad turned abruptly away.

“Khoufran!!” His baba’s voice sounded from behind them. The boy turned behind and called out. “Coming Baba!”

He turned to Ashtaad, wanting to say goodbye, but Ashtaad had already gotten up and was walking away.

The next day, Khoufran’s Baba came looking for the storyteller. He wanted to have words with Ashtaad, for having told his boy such a troubling tale. But he never found the storyteller.

The storyteller had wandered off, as storytellers often do.


Ram V has been making up stories since he was a kid. It was only recently he decided to put them down on paper and tell other people about them. When he isn’t writing, reading or generally concocting devious ideas, he enjoys being a musician, an engineer and a marketing professional. His area of literary focus is fantasy, horror, sci-fi and similar forms of fiction. He lives in India with his amazing wife.

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