Slicing wood, one gloomy, Monday morning
For the fire fuel, at home hardly burning
A chilling fright, a voice my stomach churning
Behold with the mist! A ghostly figure yearning
Gliding across snow, he moved as one lifted
Towering tallness, size like a bear, gifted
Intensly white, through the darkness he rifted
And when he spoke, almost soul from body sifted
“Much excuses, kind sir, of this heavenly abode,
To tempt from your lumbering with the axe in your hold,
I search for a house, compared to yours, two-fold,
Creviced by a dark lake and a mountain of old.
A concern of uptmost importance, is this here letter
To bereaved parents, a most regrettable matter
A brave youth, found killed, dead in a fetter
Fought with the enemy, who got the better.
Much fatigue, I have endured in travels, kind sir
Journeying through lands, heard of only in lore
Would you perhaps of cool water have more?
To quench the thrist of a wayman, poor.”
“I certainly know the house of which you speak
Just yonder this forest, is your mountain peak
Forgive my absence as I’ll your refreshment seek”
With fear I turned shaken, humbled and meek.
But retraced to find to utter surprise
Alas! Just a dream! As I rubbed my eyes
The body dissapeared, gone without goodbyes!
Not a whisper or footstep divulging his size!
I embraced relief! What a horrible vision!
Such a fearful man on such a dreadful mission!
With laughter, grasped my axe, ready for fission
Suddenly I screamed, incapable of emission!
My eyes widened, my tool, grasped tighter
My heart thumped loudly, even through my sweater
Turning wildly, to glimpse the vanisher,
For on the stump, where my axe must mark – the letter!
Tempted to almost strike it in half,
But pity saved me, on the parent’s behalf
It must be delivered, no point to ask!
Axe in hand, I proceeded, resigned to my task
Persisting through the forest of which I told
Slicing through branches with the axe in my hold
Till I came to a house, compared to mine, two-fold
Creviced by a dark lake and a mountain of old
A place I had seen on many an occasion
Holding a fearful, an intriguing infatuation
Since a child, to intrude it – a temptation
But rumoured all who did, disappeared into cessation
I stood now shaking, childhood’s fears surfaced
Tentative knocks, knuckles sweaty and nervous
A grown man with an axe reduced to cowardly service
The door creaked open to an aged eye through the crevice.
“Kind sir, I hope you might pardon my intrusion
But I have here a letter especially for your inclusion
News of your son, long lost, I believe it makes mention”
Upon that his eyes widened as if he saw illusion.
And with his eyes, the door also widened
To reveal a small man, time had wizened
He took the letter in amazement heightened
His wife by his side now, curious and frightened
“Young man, you are most certainly a noble saviour
For years we were unaware of our son’s whereabouts or behavior
But never priveleged to learn from a teacher or reader
We ourselves are illiterate, could we ask for one more favour?”
Knowing of the letter’s content, I was hesitant
But their kind, old eyes were so persistant
Suddenly curious, reluctance evanescent,
I opened and began to read the letter at present…
It read – “In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Gracious!
The Breaker of tyrants, The Elevator of peasants
The Expander of hearts, The Constrictor of coffins,
The Shaper of the stupendous, and all things malicious!
I write about your son and unacquainted you are with me
I hope this letter of his fate, comfort to him, might be
So I placed this letter in a bottle and then the bottle into the sea
And prayed only to Allah, that it might somehow find thee
I regret to inform that your son, in the winter just passed,
While guarding the borders of our blessed land, tasked
Captured by the enemy, with torture they asked
He never relented till, in his blood they basked
His bruised corpse was found on the bank of a river
Buried the coming morrow with full military honour
Yes, I lament that your son was a sinner!
I was too and so I write you this letter
You see, the nights on which we were not on duty
Were spent with strong wine and women of beauty
Cards and dice, wages were waged keenly
And disputes were settled with fists obscenely
Until three nights past, after your son’s parting
While I lay heedless in sleep, consciousness departing
He appeared before me in vision, in a coffin confining
Alas! In a bed of fire, in torment frying!
‘O soldier, who so loyally guarded my side,
What evil causes you such anguish?’ I cried!
‘You won’t have long to wait, just a moment here bide
He’ll come very soon, an assumption tried!’, he replied.
Sure enough he came, a most gruesome figure
Black face, black eyes, black nails hither!
With wafting stench to make a mother’s love wither
He drew close, straggling, shouldering a boulder
Right up close to the lump that was my comrade
And moaning with a groan filling me with dread
The fiend lifted the stone, weighty and of lead
And brought it crashing down right upon his head!
Horrified, I ran up next to his body
His face crushed, teeth in eyeballs bloody
With strange insides, his nose ran in flurry.
When suddenly! His face reformed in a hurry!
‘Do not worry over my plight, old friend
This is for the Quran, Allah did send
As youth learning, to it we’d tend
As adults to implement it, we’d end!’
With that he sat up as if on a barber’s chair
For the beast returned with a hook to tear
He placed it in his mouth with heartlessness rare
I turned my face, with gore well, I didn’t fare
Besides, his scream was enough to fright
Unable to bear, I thought to look, I might
I almost died from the ghastly sight
Half his face had been wrenched into the night!
There was only one eye left and half a nose
Half his brain visible from this pose
‘This is for slander we did – of all God knows
Of much more penance this soul owes’
His voice, before sleep, I remember it still
Can you imagine the sound half a tongue would instill?
And his lips, to form the vowels that he willed
Were forced to smile with all the pain that he feeled
Suddenly I wanted all this to end
No matter what becomes the fate of my friend
It was then he emitted a smell, which did offend
Even the putrid beast followed my trend
Marched forth, reeking, dirty and naked
He was into a fiery oven thrown and embedded
Forget its size, it was its heat to be remembered!
Millions like him inside, all being burnt with embers
‘Save yourself! Don’t join me here!
The chastisement here is too intense to bear
Here dwell adulterers and these companions swear
Of their short pleasure they neither remember nor care!’
His skin, known once to be the whitest of white
Charred to a colour, now darker than night
But the flame, you see, is such a terrible fright
For I saw there kneeling, even kings of might!
I wish I could say it did all end there
When into a river he was swiftly thrown bare
A river of blood, aghast I did stare
Smelling of meat rotten and animal hair
He tried keeping aloft but was clearly drowning
Each time, he went down, he was mouthfulls swallowing
He struggled to the shore with all might trying
But there the beast into his mouth was stones casting!
Resigned, he returned back to the depths
Sure to return, when running out of breaths
To me he turned urging me to swear to my death
To never near usury, I’ll suffer similar lest
Suddenly the blood, it started sinking
To the shore he rushed, swiftly swimming
I grasped his hand to keep him from falling
For a giant hole, to unknown depths was appearing
‘Let go,’ he cried, ‘from this you can’t save me
It is for the arrogant, punishment you must let be
Till Judgement’s Day we shall be here falling free
Falling faster and faster, till we’ll recoil our knees
But please I ask you of just one favour
Return with all you’ve seen back to my mother
From our Lord, ask her, to make just one prayer
Forgiveness. A mother’s prayer, to Allah, dearer.’
With that he was bereft from my grip
I awoke stunned, suddenly and in a fit
From that day on, into sin I never slip
As I recall boulders, hooks, flames and whips…”
I concluded the letter not sure what needed to be done
I looked up to see white faces, suddenly older, orphaned of fun
I turned to leave them to be alone with remembrance of their son
Wood needed cutting, before the setting of the Sun…