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By Nehal Khosla, Class 10, Learning Paths School, Mohali

"Aarush could at least have come to India for his brother’s burial!” the woman sobbed on the man’s shoulder who was probably her husband. A deep frown distorted the man’s otherwise handsome face. As their relatives lowered the coffin into the pit, the sobs increased to a loud crying. The girl in her teens, wearing ragged clothes and with a beautiful but exhausted face, who had been watching the mourners all this while, walked away. She could sympathize with the woman. She turned and went into her makeshift hut in the graveyard. She had always loved the graveyard, its ghostly vibrations and its chill. She observed how many people left their loved ones and never even came back to visit their graves. They did not respect the dead or whatever they had done for the world. But then again, if people, especially youngsters could not respect the living, how would they respect the dead?

She engulfed her quilt around her. It came to her in flashbacks: Jupiter banishing her from Mount Olympus, falling down to the Earth in India and losing every luxury she’d ever had. She could also not remember why she had been punished. If she was certain about anything, it was that the penance would end someday. Ten years had passed by, but she was sure it wouldn’t be long before she would return to her throne. Ten years might be too much for a mortal, but if one can live for eons, it’s a fairly short span of time. She wished she had more power, but the number of followers and amount of respect commanded, decided the existence and power of a god or a goddess. And talking about respect, she didn’t have much; neither on Earth nor on Etna.

All she could do throughout the day was to sit and wait for Moksh and be really disappointed when he couldn’t come. He used to bring her food and if possible, some clothes; but most of all she used to look forward to his company as she had no one apart from him but the dead souls to talk to. Not to forget that most souls had the most depressing experiences and incidents to share. The sound of footsteps brought her back from her dreams. It was, as she had hoped, Moksh. "Hey Moksh!” she called. "Hey! I got some apples,” he said moving towards her. They sat inside the hut. "Why didn’t you come yesterday?” the girl asked. "Busy,” he answered. "Three unclaimed dead bodies in hospital; got these apples for helping in the burial.” And there they were, talking about how unfair and cruel the world was for the umpteenth time.They didn’t come to know when the day turned into afternoon and the afternoon turned into evening. "It’s high time I go back, mom must be waiting.” He said. He was lucky to have a family, the girl thought. She lied down, waiting for sleep to come. She stared at the straw roof of the hut and thought how she missed Mantus, her consort. The graveyard was the place she felt closest to him. Every part of her life in the graveyard, even Moksh, reminded her of him. It was the only place she could survive without him.

She drifted off to sleep as the night turned pitch dark. She dreamed of being back to the underworld, being back with Mantus. She dreamed of being the mother of ghosts, the undead, and other spirits of the night once again. She dreamed of their dark black palace and her pet hell hounds until a bright light woke her up. She jumped to her feet and moved out of the hut. The holy shrine of a goddess present in the graveyard was glowing. She shielded her eyes with her hands as she moved closer. It was a signal; it was time to return to Olympus. The glow started to soften and the girl put her hands down. The souls and spirits watched quietly as Mania, the goddess of the dead, disappeared into her holy shrine to return to her real home.

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Nehal Khosla       Learning Paths School      
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