Guardian of the Terrible Silence

hannover-ruins

Let me tell you a story. A story of the time when God left the house, Devil played the fiddle and the people cried Hallelujah!

 

I am a traveler – a vagabond and a self-proclaimed gypsy.

Little darling of mine, you have wings under your feet. Maybe the gypsies left you on my doorstep.’ My mother used to ruffle my dusty hair.

You are like the wild wind my son, the wild wind which is always restless,’ my father used to shake his head in exasperation.

You are…..you are just different,’ my playmates used to announce.

And I just laughed. My laughter echoed with the joy and bliss of freedom.

 

I loved freedom. I was addicted to it.

I found freedom riding the shoulders of wind, kissing the lofty rooftops of my ancient city.

I found freedom smiling from behind the corn stalks, in the wide open corn fields.

I found freedom dancing on the waves of the stormy sea and playing with the silvery foam.

And I found it glimmering like a precious secret in the wild eyes of the ever-roaming gypsies.

 

I left home at a very tender age. I needed to see the world. I wanted to peek beyond the horizon. I wanted to embrace freedom and make love to it in all the ways possible. I wanted to find unicorns playing where the rainbows kissed the rain-drenched earth. And I wanted to dig up the sand under thunderous skies, in search of the black obsidian.

 

My journeys took me to mysterious lands full of exotic people. I smelt their smells and savored their tastes, collecting memories in the process. I collected memories and cultivated nostalgia. I cultivated enough nostalgia to last me ten life times.

I traveled to the East and found the Land of the Spiced Maidens. The women smelt of cinnamon and their lips tasted of honey, lightly sprinkled with red chilies. Their smiles melted my heart and their charms bewitched my soul.

 

I traveled to the West and reached the Grey City of Duduk. The music dripped with sadness and their songs wept of harsh longing and eternal wait. Their melodies broke my heart and their ballads wounded my soul.

 

I traveled to the North and landed on the shores of the Blessed Land of Eternal Joy. The people were mad with everlasting joy and their laughter reeked of sensuality. Their mirth dulled my senses and their merriment poisoned my ears.

 

I traveled to the South and climbed up the Sacred Mountain of the Proud Hazaras. The women rode the horses and their graceful commands led the clans. Their splendor fascinated my imagination and their elegance earned my respect.

 

I roamed everywhere on God’s earth. I saw everything.

I danced to the songs of the desert gypsies; and I cried with the lonely wolves in the icy mountains.

I smoked with the elders of the vanishing tribes; and I drank with the acrobats and lion tamers of the travelling carnivals.

I walked under the heat of the scorching white sun; and I slept under the star-filled night skies, bluish-purple with desire.

I fell in love, again and then again, cherishing each caress; and I hated with a vengeance, all those who dared come between me and my loves.

 

And one golden-brown evening, I walked into a land devastated by some unimaginable disaster.

The once mighty halls; their pillars crumbled and trembled of unspoken happenings, terrible and catastrophic.

The halls of worship, once majestic in grandeur; their broken domes were empty of both gods and their worshippers.

The streets and the market places, once full of life; their grass-covered expanses whispered silently of the sighs of loving couples and children’s laughter, both lost forever.

The palaces of the rich once glittered with gold and velvet; their burnt remains wept of the times gone by.

It was a strange land – a land of misery, loneliness and solitude.

It was a land empty of all noise.

It was a land ruled by silence.

 

My heart sank and I did not want to stay long. But I had no choice. The sun was going down fast. I looked around and saw a small mound with a few trees on top. I climbed to the top and looked towards the horizon. Lightening streaked across where the dusky sky kissed the earth; and the distant boom of thunder rolled across the steppes. I started looking around to find a place of shelter.

 

Who are you?’ A voice sprang out of the silence. I got startled and looked around.

He was an old man dressed in a black gown of sorts and sitting cross-legged on the wild grass. The gown was embroidered with gold and silver patterns – ancient symbols, dragons and other strange beasts. His head was bare and full of shoulder-length wild silvery hair. There was a long-stemmed carved wooden pipe, firmly clasped between his lips. Deep penetrating eyes were examining me from behind the whirling smoke.

 

I am just a traveler in need of shelter.’ I muttered.

Aren’t we all…..?’ He laughed: ‘Aren’t we all travelers my son!…. in need of shelters?

Yes! perhaps we all are.’ I nodded in agreement and then asked:

Who are you?

 ‘I am Wajdaan – Guardian of the Terrible Silence!

Guardian of what…..?’ I thought I heard him wrong.

Guardian of……..’ he widely gestured with his pipe towards the ruined city: ‘…..this!

What happened to this city?’ I asked the old man.

Why does it lay in ruins?

The old man slowly raised his head. The rays of the dying sun, wove golden threads in his silver hair.

Come sit here beside me.’ He patted and flattened the grass.

Let me tell you a story. A story of the time when God left the house, Devil played the fiddle and the people cried Hallelujah!

 

Once, this was a beautiful city.’ The old man started once I settled besides him. ‘Its lofty halls echoed with laughter of the playing children and its grand temple rang with bells five times a day. Its markets were filled with rich cloth and precious gems from far-away lands. It had wonderful universities and student came from afar to sip from the cup of knowledge. The people were peaceful and lived without any malice in their hearts.’

 

Wajdaan gave a pause. His pipe needed refilling. It was an elaborate and intricate ritual. He took out tobacco from a worn leather pouch and filled the pipe one pinch at a time. He pressed and compacted the tobacco in the pipe-bowl.

Then what happened?’ The ritual was growing too long for my young patience.

He did not bother answering and started lighting the pipe.

Hmm!………..’ He inhaled the fragrant smoke and then blew out dense neat rings.

Then one day, the Head-priest realized something. His treasures were diminishing fast. The people were donating less and less to the temple. This was not good. At that rate, the temple could go bankrupt in no time.’

Why did it matter? A temple is a temple, not a business.’ I was perplexed.

Oh yes! A temple is not supposed to generate profits. But the Head-priest loved his gold and silver.

But why? Wasn’t he a virtuous man?’ I interrupted him again.

Virtue?’ the old man chuckled. ‘Virtue of small men does not stand a chance in front of greed.’

The old man peered at me again and I nodded my head. He looked at the horizon. The dark clouds had crept closer.

 

Sensing a loss in treasure, the Head-priest thought of a cunning plan. But he needed the blessing of the King. That was no big issue as a share from the temple regularly went to the King’s coffers. The King heard the Head-priest’s plan and readily gave his blessing.

So what was the plan?’ I asked impatiently. It was getting late and thunder was approaching fast. I needed to find a shelter soon.

Wajdaan smiled at my impatience.

 

His plan was transforming the people’s perception of a kind and merciful God. He gradually started telling the masses that God was terrible and His grandeur and might, depended on Him being terrible. Initially, it was difficult for the people to accept the idea of a terrible God. But with the passage of time they started getting afraid. The Head-priest cashed in their fear by posing himself as the Ambassador of God  an Ambassador who could arrange a position in heaven and provide seventy hooris.

 

Those were terrible days but who knew, the darkest of days still lay ahead. Gradually, the children lost their laughter and the men lost their carefree smiles. The maidens stopped coming out in the streets and the women started covering themselves head to toe. Who knew what might have caused God’s fury and curse to land on their heads? Nobody wanted to annoy a terrible God. And of course, everybody wanted seventy hooris.

 

Greed came along with fear. First one and then other priests detached themselves from the main temple and opened up their own temples. Too many temples led to too many ideologies, all at war with each other. The rich knew the potential of the temples and they also cashed in by supporting different temples.’

 

The city lost its charm. It became a place of chaos and violence – all fueled by the conflicting ideologies. Judgments of blasphemy were passed on the street and innocent men were hanged. Their naked bodies were dragged through the streets. Dark blood ran in the drains and cries of hallelujah rang off the walls. Everybody became the viceroy of the terrible God. The city stank of death and torture.’

 

I think it will start raining soon. Let me get you to a shelter.’ The old man tried to get up but I held his wrist. I hated unfinished stories.

No! Please finish your story first.’ I pleaded and he sat down again.

 

Gradually there were no more innocents left – only the beasts remained, their mouths drooling with piety and greed. With the death of the innocents, the treasures again faced a threat. So the beasts attacked each other. Even the rich in their mighty halls and the King in his lofty grand palace, were not safe. The crowds dragged them outside, set fire to their houses and burnt them alive along with their wives and children. They begged for mercy but there was only hatred in the eyes of their tormentors. The rich knew they had cultivated the hatred themselves. They had no option but to embrace their fate.’ The old man grew quiet.

 

Then what happened? Did God send a messiah?’ I asked Wajdaan.

A messiah?’ The old man looked at me in surprise.

The messiahs are not sent by God. The people are their own messiahs.’ Wajdaan bent down his head in dejection. ‘People can become either their own messiahs or their own tormentors. And the people of this city chose to be the latter.’

So what happened to the City?’ I had understood what he meant.

Once the rich died, there was nobody else to kill. But the taste for blood was strong and so the beasts started killing each other. And in the end nobody was left to mourn the stupidity.’

 

Where were you when all this was happening?’ I asked him.

I tried to talk sense into the people. I tried to tell them of the merciful God and His endless love. But my appeals fell on deaf ears. Fearing my life, I left the city and came back only when all was silent.’ Wajdaan looked sadly at the ruins.

 

But why are you here? Why do you call yourself the Guardian of the Terrible Silence?’ I failed to understand Wajdaan’s decision to come back and live there alone among the burnt ruins.

Wajdaan looked up and smiled sadly:

I am Wajdaan. I am here because I saw all that happened here and understood why it happened. Now I sit here on the mound and guard this terrible silence. I tell this story to all those who pass by. I tell them this story so that they take heed.’

 

I looked towards the ruins and I could see souls of the innocents and the beasts, roaming the streets in eternal agony. They were howling and they were burning in hell fire. The flames licked the shadows.

 

Why the innocents? They did not do anything.’ I asked Wajdaan.

Hatred is a fire my son. It does not differentiate and burns all. And the innocents carried their own cross. They saw their world coming to pieces, yet they chose to do nothing. They only prayed to the terrible God.’

So why didn’t God see their anguish and hear their prayers?’ I believed in a God who listened to the grieving beings.

He saw all and heard all.’ Wajdaan looked up at me with a sad smile. His eyes glistened with tears of disappointment.

He saw all and heard all, my son. But it is not His way to interfere. When we cultivate hatred, we should be ready to reap its poisonous fruits. Extinction is the price we pay for choosing hatred over tolerance.

 

The first few drops fell on Wajdaan’s face, mixing up with his tears.

I looked up where the dark clouds were alive with thunder:

You do it all in my name,

but I am not to blame

You sow and you reap,

you hate and you weep

Blame your own desires,

your murders

and burning pyres

Blame your own ambitions,

your traditions

and suspicions

You crave heaven,

‘hallelujah’ you yell,

what you really get

is the burning hell

You kill the innocents for my glory,

you will only be a tragedy,

a shameful story

You do it all in my name,

but I am not to blame

You do it all in my name,

but I am not to blame

8 thoughts on “Guardian of the Terrible Silence

  1. Wow, it’s worthy of a Graphic Novel of its own Sir. If someone does not put a decree on your faith first because of not too subtle references to a reality all around us. A great write….Worth continuing in a series of short stories in the same fictional Universe. The start could have equally led to a Lord of The Rings of its owb…IMHO. Happy Writing..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. اسطرح کی تحریریں نہ صرف توجہ اور انہماک سے پڑھے جانے کا تقاضہ کرتی ہیں ہیں بلکہ ایک خاص سوچ اور فکر کا ہونا بھی مانگتی ہیں۔ اوپر سے اسقدر اونچے معیار کی زبان کا بے دریغ استعمال۔۔ یقین جانیں اب آپ کو اپنے معیار کے پڑھنے والے بھی ڈھونڈنے پڑیں گے۔ میں اس تحریر پر فی الحال کوئی کمنٹ نہیں کر سکتی جب تک اس کو وقت نکال کر اطمینان سے پڑھ نہ لوں۔
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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