‘The one who comes up with the highest number on the dice,’ the girl said.
The old lady nodded in agreement. ‘Bring the board,’ she said.
The little girl moved towards the corner of the room, dimly lit with spider webs at the edges. The rack was dusty, like no one had visited the place in ages.
‘Ha….shooo,’ the little girl sneezed and rubbed her eyes.
The metal board was heavy and had numbers from one to hundred carved over the surface with tiny little squares. The little girl hadn’t seen it before and wondered how the game is played. She knew a little about the dice which was used in the game.
She walked back to the place where the old lady was seated. The place was bright with the rays of the newly awaken sun entering through the windows.
‘You roll the dice first, Ma,’ the little girl said, grabbing the glass dice from the pocket and handing it to the lady.
‘Do you know the rules of the game, Arki?’ the old lady asked.
‘I know about the dice,’ she said.
The old lady wiped the board and it shone like a fine piece of metal. The little girl’s eyes widened by the sight.
‘Is it true, is it true?’ she asked anxiously.
‘Yes it is,’ the old lady replied. ‘The game is run by magic,’ she added.
Kaya’s heart was beating violently. She thought over and over again. It couldn’t be.
‘It is certainly not possible,’ she tried to remind herself. Aayu had become restless by the moment.
Somewhere at the other edge of the city Mayur laid stunned at the tricks of his memory.
‘Convergent point,’ Kaya exclaimed.
‘The unexpected often happens, that is how we learn things,’ she remembered Master Wei’s words.
The magicians at Middlelands often believed in convergent point of spells, but none of them had witnessed, until now. If identical words were spoken with the same rage or power, the spells would converge, even between two different worlds.
‘But how did they lose their memories?’ Kaya questioned herself preparing for the worst.
‘If Aayu and Mayur have no memory from before the spell, then none at Middlelands would either!’
It was true. Zafar had casted a time spell, one that erased events from the memory a few hours before the spell was casted. Only very powerful magicians could refrain the spell. Three masters but all could not remember anything about Zafar’s attack. They only knew they were now Zafar’s prisoners, but did not know why. Their memories would be back once the spell became irreversible.
Aayu remembered Mayur giving her a doll. She tried to find it, but she couldn’t.
‘But how did I come into the human world?’ Kaya questioned herself.
She was uncovering a mystery only few knew about.
‘Spells sometimes converge with objects, when they are fused together,’ she remembered Lady Rin talk about it once.
‘What did Zafar say?’ she needed answers, quickly.
Kaya tried to focus her memory and energy at the events before. Zafar had arrived at the ball, uninvited, unannounced. Eric had drawn his sword, but Zafar just needed a tiny spell to capture him. All the guests were captive inside his time cave, a prison of formidable waves around them. Then he casted the doomed spell over Kaya.
‘Remember, remember….what did Zafar say,’
Kaya felt uneasy as her little remaining heart began beating more violently than before. She needed to focus on Zafar’s final words, on which her entire world depended on.
‘You’re plastic forever, you’re heart!’
Zafar had screamed.
Mayur had come to bid his final goodbyes to Aayu. He had decided to leave for London the coming week. A lightening hit Aayu. She wasn’t ready to let her friend go. She wished he had prepared her for the final goodbye. Mayur felt equally horrible to break the bitter sweet news before her birthday. But he couldn’t have just vanished either.
He had bought a doll as an advance present for her birthday.
‘You’re telling me now,’ she demanded.
It seemed she wanted to start a fight that she wouldn’t have normally. The dam of emotions broke into pieces. Aayu wouldn’t stop. A guilt stung her, overcame her conscious.
Aayu came back home furious of her deeds. There lay a closed envelope over the table. It was her admission letter to medical school, which was a few hundred kilometers away from home. She was leave too, the fact acting like a catalyst tearing her into pieces. She didn’t want to grow up and walk the path, she wanted to freeze time. But even the most powerful magicians of Middlelands couldn’t do that. They could turn back time, twist it till their spells lasted, but stopping time was something they were not granted the privilege of.
Aayu unpacked the doll. Her name was ‘Kaya’ and she had a plastic heart. Aayu’s heart ached of pain, the pain of making decisions, she felt jealous of the doll, who did not have to endure anything as such through her plastic heart.
She picked up the doll and threw it over the floor.
‘Aayu must have had a doll, when she spoke those words!’ Kaya thought. She was getting closer.
Aayu could remember details from the events.
‘Why was I fighting with Mayur? Where is the doll?’ she questioned herself.
Kaya knew Aayu’s memory was coming back, which meant that the spell was slowly turning permanent. The guests at the ball, though confused were getting faint memories back. Aayu decided she had seen the doll named Kaya before, it was the same doll Mayur had given her earlier. She felt the fang of guilt return back into her body, her senses unable to properly perceive the events.
‘It’s all your fault!’ Aayu said looking at Kaya. ‘You casted a spell over me,’ she said unsure that what she had just uttered would not make sense to a normal human.
Suddenly she picked up the doll and threw it across the room. Kaya did not know what was happening. There was a small part of her heart still beating. Her head hit the floor and a flash of light went pass by. Time slowed down.
Kaya opened her eyes. She could see the palace. She was walking towards the palace in her red dress with her sisters. She walked ahead unsure if it was just a dream, a spell Zafar had meant devised to make her suffer until the end. She entered the palace, walking through the corridors, the halls that she thought she would never see again.
Master Wei was at the main entrance to the ball room.
‘You did well,’ he said.
Kaya remained stunned unable to understand what had just happened.
‘We’ve travelled back in time, everything exactly the same except Zafar,’ he added.
Kaya was still unsure if it was really Master Wei she was seeing. Master Wei sensed her amusement, raised his wand and made gesture in the air. It was the proof, he had to be Master Wei.
‘What happened?’ she questioned.
‘You, my dear just broke one of the most powerful spells ever casted,’ he said as he smiled, the old smile.
‘And Zafar?’ Kaya questioned.
‘We’ve returned back into time, a few hours before the spell was casted. Everything will work accordingly, except Zafar will not be there to interrupt our plans,’ he said as he waved towards the King and Queen.
‘Will it be the same in the other world too?’ she questioned.
Kaya had seen the vision from Aayu and Mayur’s conversation on that day as she traveled back to Middlelands. She did not want them to be sad and broken, they were the ones who kept her safe.
‘Yes, of course. But humans you know, they are changing all the time,’ he said. ‘Oh by the way, Aayu must be one tough lady to break Zafar’s spell.’
‘It was Aayu?’
‘Yes, you and Aayu both. Somehow you forged a bond with her.’
‘Can I help her change her day? It’s her 17th birthday in two days.’
‘Humans I believe have something called free will. They will do as they please. But you may send your wishes. She may not realize them, but there might be chances of her feeling them.’
‘Can you see the future Master Wei?’
‘Of course I cannot, we must reach the future to see it. One might as well change it.’
It was two days before Aayu’s birthday. She walked towards the garden. Mayur was waiting impatiently to break the news. She smiled and moved ahead.
Mayur hurried down and got aboard an overcrowded bus. He squeezed in and got hold of the bar at the top side of the bus and held his bag so as to not get his gift squished in between. A pang of hunger emerged in his belly, making him regret over the idea of skipping breakfast. Petrol fumes mixed with the air to give out a strangling sensation that directly entered his lungs.
It was dark and humid inside the bag. Kaya wondered where they were going. A few more minutes lapsed; she could feel him get down from the strange vehicle. She felt a sharp rise in speed.
Mayur was running. He cursed the large space that expanded from the main entrance to his classroom. Five other students were already outside the classing, sauntering around.
‘He’s not going to let us in, is he?’ he questioned.
‘Unlikely,’ said one of the standing students and left.
‘So the great Mayur will finally miss a lecture,’ exclaimed someone from behind. It was Kusum, the girl on the phone the earlier day.
Mayur gave out an awkward smile.
‘Did you get the gift?’ she asked.
Kusum advised they head towards the canteen and have something. Given the state of his stomach, that was exactly what Mayur needed to hear. They ordered a plate of samosa, bread toast and two cups of tea. Mayur opened his bag and pulled out the box.
Kusum looked at the doll, slightly uninterested. Kaya looked at Kusum. She had curly hair and wore an almost circular pair of glasses.
‘Don’t you find the eyes strange?’ Kusum exclaimed looking at the doll.
‘Not really,’ Mayur replied munching over the crispy toast.
Kusum placed the doll over the table. Kaya was getting impatient.
‘What did Master Wei mean,’ she thought.
Zafar was a powerful magician known far and wide in Middelands for his tricks. But like all magic, his spells were also bound to break.
‘A spell always has a convergent point,’ Kaya remembered the words of Master Wei, he had told her once long before the events of the past days.
‘I might be able to break the spell if I find the weak spot,’ she thought.
Zafar carried infinite amount of hatred towards the Royal family. He couldn’t have bared to see Prince Eric being crowned the heir to the throne. While Zafar hated her, the Royal family adored Kaya, the girl with magical eyes and a golden heart, they often said. She though herself unaware, would have been named to marry the Prince on that ball, if Zafar hadn’t ruined all hopes.
‘Zafar’s magic would be impossible to break, after all he carries the royal blood,’ Kaya said to herself, desperate to get back home.
Carried away by her feelings Kaya blamed herself for being so weak. She could have repelled Zafar’s spell, had she been stronger. But the spell was slowing taking toll. Once a free spirited magician of the Middlelands, she was now trapped inside the mannequin.
Time was ticking.
‘If the spell isn’t broken soon, I’ll be plastic forever. My heart won’t be able to feel happiness or pain,’ she thought as she watched the two friends giggle and laugh while finishing the last piece of toast.
‘Don’t worry Aayu will like the doll,’ Kusum said, breaking Kaya’s illusion of home.
Mayur put the doll back into his bag and they went back into the classrooms.
Mayur ordered a large cheese pizza and two cups of hot chocolate before Aayu arrived.
‘I guess I’m late,’ she said as she sat over the opposite chair.
‘You can’t be mad at me, can you?’ Mayur asked.
Aayu let out a slight laugh and nodded.
‘Nope, my childhood friend, I couldn’t stay mad at you for long,’ she said sipping the hot chocolate.
‘But what was it that kept you away that day?’ she asked.
Mayur hadn’t thought about that earlier. Now that Aayu questioned, he couldn’t quite remember what he had been doing instead of wishing Aayu on her special day.
‘Nevermind,’ he said quickly.
Mayur gave her the doll. Aayu didn’t peek into the paper bag; she would open it later after reaching home.
‘Go ahead and see what I have got,’ Mayur insisted.
‘As long as its not something that is wrapped up in ten layers of newspaper, it should be alright,’ Aayu said as she laughed.
Night had fallen, the stars had come out.
Aayu unpacked the doll, removed the wires that had pinned the doll to the surface of the box.
‘Looks like you’re going to a ball,’ she said before removing the box.
‘I was but now I’ll never get back home,’ Kaya exclaimed, Aayu unaware of the condition of the doll.
Kaya’s heart had begun turning into plastic. When the last piece turned into plastic, there would be no way the spell could be reversed.
Aayu placed her hand inside the box to bring out the doll. She felt a slight sensation of shock pass through her fingers as she pulled out the doll. Kaya felt it too. The shock surprised Kaya.
‘I have seen the doll somewhere before,’ Aayu exclaimed.
Aayu felt a strange feeling run down her spine. She had seen the doll before, the red dress and the black hair. But she couldn’t quite remember where. She looked into Kaya’s eyes with suspicion, it was like should could feel the doll look through her.
‘It’s not possible. The last thing I remember was waking up in the doll and Mayur taking me away,’ Kaya thought.
Aayu tried to remember where she had seen the doll but couldn’t figure out. She couldn’t leave the thought, apparently because of her neurotic behavior. She tried to remember events since her birthday and each detail was locked into her memory. Her heart was palpating, she had to figure this out.
She tried remembering events before her birthday. She could remember everything before the 48th hour, not after that. Her head felt dizzy. She sat over the chair. Aayu had become restless. She picked up the doll, and the shock passed over her again.
Kaya’s almost plastic heart was glowing. Aayu could see images emerging before her. She could see herself mad at Mayur. She was confused.
‘No it couldn’t be!,’ Kaya exclaimed, not sure if it was the end or just the beginning.
Mayur walked back home.
‘Aayu wasn’t mad,’ he thought to himself.
He unlocked the door, entered the living room and fell over the sofa.
‘Did you change your mind already?’ questioned a man, who was his father.
Mayur looked starlted.
‘Didn’t you agree to leave for London next weekend to join the new semester?’
Mayur had no idea what his father was saying. When had he precisely agreed on such a thing?
One of the worse part about growing up is the need to take decision, real weird decision. Mayur didn’t have to worry about buying gifts when he was 5. It was all taken care for. He and Aayu grew up together. They were childhood friends, the kind you get to see on the movies. And thus, it made Mayur’s forgotten birthday crime even more severe.
‘It’s Aayu’s birthday next Wednesday,’ he would tell his mother in his 7 year old voice, almost cracking. And a teddy bear would be waiting, all gift wrapped in pink. It’s always interesting for kids to know what the other got for their birthdays. They are often too curious, and tear the wrappers themselves.
If you’re a boy of 7, you can’t be friends with a girl. She’s an alien. But Aayu was different. She belonged, right there inside his friends circle, even when he was 5.
Mayur would often giftwrap Aayu’s gift with 10 layers of newspaper. It made the gift look heavier and bogus. She was almost always mad at this prank of his. Mayur had to stop it when once Aayu did not open a toy she was gifted for over a year.
Here lay the toy, today, on the table, hearing conversations she would not have heard if Zafar did not have imprisoned her soul into the doll.
Suddenly the sound of an ambulance pierced the quiet morning. Somebody shouted from across the room. The sound continued, now followed by a heavy metal band’s thrashing vocals.
‘Turn off the alarm!’ screamed a girl.
Mayur snoozed it.
5 minutes later, the ambulance paid a visit again and the metal band too.
This time the girl had walked right into the room and screamed, ‘Why can’t you put up something else as your alarm tone?’
She was Mayur’s sister, Avni.
She opened the water bottle and poured half the bottle over his head.
‘Hyaaa!,’ screamed Mayur and woke up.
‘No wonder you forgot Aayu’s birthday,’ she said as she walked out of the room.
Mayur could not have heard her. While her soul was inside the doll, the doll did not have any expression on its own. Nobody could have seen her smiling, laughing or talking. Except for her eyes, if anyone bothered to notice.
She rolled her eyes. Mayur’s pajamas were damp with moisture. Water dripped out of his black hair, frizzy this time of the morning.
‘What’s with you Avni!’ he exclaimed.
The mattress had become damp. It was already late. He swiped his phone and logged into his facebook account. Mayur did have a pretty good looking facebook profile picture. Rumor had it that a couple of girls from his new college had already begun crushing on him. There were 5 notifications on the profile. He clicked it.
‘CLASS HAS BEEN SHIFTED TO 9.30’ it read.
Mayur swiftly looked at the top corner of his phone. He picked up a pair of trousers, a shirt and a jacket and raced into the bathroom. It was 8.37 right then.
Kaya could tell by his action that he was getting late. She had never been to a human house before. The bed, the clothes and the weird stuff pasted on the walls did not make sense to her. Wayne Rooney was smiling at her through the opposite wall. She smiled back, not knowing that it was just a poster. Manchester United it read.
‘How am I ever going to get out of here?’ she uttered to herself.
The clothes hanger, wardrobe, desk and bed were all symmetrically arranged in a pattern, like though Mayur (or someone at Mayur’s) was a fan of the Feng Shui. There was a picture at the corner over the side table. There were five kids in the photograph, with only one girl.
Kaya remembered Mayur saying that he was going to gift the doll to Aayu. The girl in the picture must be her, she thought.
Kaya looked at her red dress. It was meant for the ball, the ball thrown by Prince Eric. She was surrounded by a transparent plastic box and her plastic feet and hands were tied on the board that had a picture of a palace high up in the mountains. How she had dreamt of dancing with the Prince under the big chandelier at High Palace, surrounded with glass windows on all sides.
Over 48 hours had passed since Zafar put her under his spell. Middlelands, her hometown was in a state of chaos. Prince Eric was made captive by the evil magician. If the spell wasn’t broken within the next 48 hours, Kaya would forever be a doll, with a plastic heart.
Mayur zoomed out of the bathroom, picked up his bag, which may be had a book or two at most. He picked up his wallet, and a notebook from the table. He picked up the doll box and put it inside his bag.
Kaya suddenly remembered the last words of Master Wei before she woke up inside her plastic body.