|He sat there, watching the judge for what seemed like an eternity. He could feel the minutes slipping away, minutes that would never come back again. The defender sat beside him on her haunches, perfectly still, eyes closed; serene. All around the court were beings that he had and had not met. Too many animals and spirits to count: furry little hedge hogs, a buck and his doe, birds of various plumes were at home, both in the branches, and on the ground alike. The guardians of the wood were there also.
A beautiful nymph leaned against a broad-leafed tree, smiling at him, triumphant. Her skin was the color of bark, the same browns, tans and greens as on that tree she was familiar with, her hair the green of spring leaves, her eyes like rain clouds. The smile she wore frightened him.
All of this because I stopped beside a white flower, thought it lovely, and picked it for my home. If I had known now that picking that chrysanthemum would have ended here, I would have kept walking, he thought looking into the sky.
“Do you defend this human?” asked the judge from his bench.
She opened her black eyes, licked her tiny hands once again and said a quiet, “I do.” With that the proceedings began in earnest.
The previous day had begun well for Jyoti: the sun came up on time and the morning dew glistened like precious jewels upon the grass and flowers. Insects buzzed from here to there while birds swooped down to nab them mid-flight. He had woke with the dawn and set out to the stream to collect breakfast.
His first thought that morning had been of the blackberries growing along the shore. Where the smooth rocks gave way to the moss and black loamy earth there were clumps of giant berry bushes. If one was thoughtful and slow, you could get your fill on the berries without even a single prick from the thorns.
By the time Jyoti had walked from his home to the streams, the sun had burned off the dew and the berries were dry. Washed in the dew and now ready for breakfast he sat beside a low bush and began the collections.
“What is your name?” asked a voice from the bush.
Jyoti looked into the bush, for the mouth that spoke the words, through the shadows, leaves and berries, only to find a small jade green snake coiled in the thorns.
“My name… I am Jyoti.” He bowed his head, put his hands into prayer position and introduced himself.
“Are you a guardian?” asked the snake. “I have seen you before in the woods, but never so close as now.”
He placed another berry into my mouth, giving a moment more to think about the answer, am I a guardian?
“I don’t know what I am,” was the only answer that made sense.
The little snake moved like solid water, muscles coiling and uncoiling as it climbed out of the thicket to the sunlight with the top layer of ripe berries. As it perched on a well supported bough Jyoti could see the colors now more clearly. The green was like deepest jade, as if you examined a wonderfully cut gem by firelight, all shades of green seemed to glow and shimmer on the glimmering scales. It was beautiful.
“Who are you?” He asked the snake.
“I am called Chalak. Jyoti, I have asked the others and none can remember you before the rains came.”
Jyoti looked around, wondering at the others the snake had mentioned. “Where are these others?”
The snake seemed to inhale greatly, puffing up and then with a great hissing voice it answered, “The others. I asked the others here in the woods. Can you not ask others like you with thought?”
Jyoti looked at this jade green snake for a moment longer, then finally in a hushed voice answered, “I am alone.”
“He does not know what was, he does not know what is to come, and what is now, that is lost in the shadows of his consciousness.” The defender walked towards the judge on all four legs as she spoke these words to the gallery.
With breakfast over and his hands stained from the blackberries, he sat off again. Walking away from the stream and berry bushes he wondered how his friend Chalak could talk to the others, and why he could not. Are there others like me? Coming out of the shadowed woods Jyoti saw a single white flower in a sun-filled clearing. It was many-petaled and the fragrance was like summer fruit; sweet and heavy. He decided it would be a lovely thing to see beside his little bed of leaves and straw, so he bent down close and carefully plucked it from the soil.
A warm wind blew beside Jyoti and then a voice spoke from behind. “You have caused death before the time that was given this life.”
Jyoti was startled by the voice and suddenly felt guilty, for the flower he held softly in his hands. Jyoti turned to see who spoke these words , flower behind his back, and was surprised to see the woman that stood there with the eyes like rain clouds.
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