Once a great storm gathered over the sea. It grew and grew until it collected into a vast battalion of the blackest clouds ever seen, until all the sky was frowning menacingly. It threatened and groaned and then like an army advancing, it slowly began to cross over the water into the land. But it did not empty its clouds and rain.
As it marched forward, a terrible howling wind, deafening thunder and blinding flashes of lightning accompanied it. All the trees, even the mightiest banyans which had stood for centuries, bowed before it, and some were uprooted. But still it did not rain.
Presently it came upon a quiet valley, protected from the wind. There were huts, a stream, and sounds of work and laughter. People tilled land, sold vegetables and fowl, washed clothes, laughed and talked; children skipped rope and squabbled; flowers bloomed everywhere, gulab and sadabahar, and bees droned in the sun.
When Dark Storm saw this happy sight it could not keep its terrible temper. All its fury gathered upon its brow, and in a rage it swept like the hand of death upon the sunny valley below. It rained in torrents, the raindrops like knives and the wind like a scythe. A grim bank of black clouds hid the destruction below. When Dark Storm passed there was nothing left in the valley.
When people in the other village heard of this tragedy they were frightened, but no one had the courage to help the destroyed village. “The storm didn’t hit us; why should we care'” they said. Hearing this Dark Storm felt secretly happy. “No one will come to their aid,” it thought, “And when I strike the other villages, no one will come to theirs. I may devastate the world as I please. These humans care nothing at all for each other.” It then sang its terrible song of victory, roaring, thundering:
What is good, what is bad'
None knows, none dares.
Who is happy, who is sad'
None shows, none cares.
It then swept forward on its way, laying waste the countryside. In the day the clouds hid the sun; in the night their shadows obscured the stars. One by one each village that had thought itself safe was destroyed.
Continues next week
Mala Marwah’s short story, Dark Storm and Bright Pearl, first appeared in the children’s magazine Target edited by Rosalind Wilson. It was later published in the short story
collection, The Carpenter’s Apprentice, by Katha, a Delhi-based non-profit organisation and publishing house.
Illustrations: Uday Deb