Roshan sat alone in the corner. Trembling. What was he going to do? The changes were beginning to show themselves. He was sure people had begun to notice; notice the corners of his mouth turning strangely upwards throughout the day. He was doing his best, and yet, he was still losing control. Not just losing control. Now he had lost his Book! Or so he wanted to believe. Deep down though he suspected the worst. Maybe he’d just put it down and walked away. Tired of carrying its heavy burden.
What would his parents say? They already whispered and shot him furtive glances when they thought he wasn’t watching. He always knew though, could always sense their shame and unspoken fear bubbling just below the surface. Their beautiful boy. How could this be happening to their beautiful boy? Not now, not him!
Yes him! There was no use trying to hide it. He was becoming a K’Razie. He should have been fine – he came from two strong lineages of the Book. His father was a GrandyOsity and his mother a DrumAqueen. He should have been able to hold on to his Book but he simply couldn’t any longer. The Book he had lost was, of course, his Book of JujMent. The most prized possession of the HysanLoes, of which his parents each represented a tribe. Every event in a HysanLoe’s life was weighed and pondered and if it held merit was recorded in a person’s Book of JujMent. For the GrandyOsities, merit meant prestige and status, achievements and glory; for the DrumAqueens, sorrow and suffering. Each person’s Book of JujMent was a sacred text, to be revered and admired: the bigger the Book, the greater the accomplishment or suffering, the greater its value. The Books were pored over and discussed at every tribal gathering. The GrandyOsities held weekly competitions to acknowledge and recognise their achievements, the winner being crowned Most High GrandyOse. This award was inevitably won by the HysanLoe with the deepest furrows in his forehead (the auspicious F’Rowns), the tightest pinched brows and the most serious, intent nature.
The DrumAqueens’ tribal meetings were less formal, more intimate, and often held in coffee shops. There were no official awards and yet recognition was highly sought, for the person with the greatest sorrow invariably received the most attention. Each person therefore constantly practiced their suffering in order to draw as much commiseration as possible. The Masters of the DrumAqueens, like the Most High GrandyOse, could be identified by their F’Rowns and deeply downturned mouths. Roshan so wanted to have his own F’Rowns and noble mouth. Instead, the corners of his mouth were turning upwards.
There was no longer any doubt. He was a K’Razie – those most reviled and shunned members of the tribes. The K’Razies were widely believed to suffer from some contagious mental illness leading to widespread outbreaks of laughter. While this had never been confirmed, there was no doubting their hideous deformities. Instead of F’Rowns, these people had smooth foreheads and bright eyes, and if that were not bad enough, they also had upward turning mouths. Hideous! Quite hideous! They also behaved in a deeply disturbing manner, chuckling loudly or humming melodically on a regular basis. Disturbing! Deeply disturbing! Some K’Razies even went as far as to sway their bodies and move their feet in time with the melodies in their minds. These ones were invariably shot on sight. And now he was one of them. He had to get away.
So began his quest and, as with all great quests, Roshan sought a guide and slew a dragon, loved a maiden, lost a maiden and pursued the treasure of his heart. Mostly though, he simply doubted himself. Especially in those vulnerable moments when he compared himself to others or caught a glimpse of his own F’Rownless forehead and mischievous mouth.
Roshan’s quest led him to Saelig, outcast, and wisdom-keeper for the K’Razies. He was also gatekeeper to P’Lesha, a netherworld where people danced, sang and celebrated life. No worse fate could be imagined by a HysanLoe. To dance, no! To sing, abhorrent! And to celebrate – well that was the point at which a HysanLoe’s mind shut down and refused to engage with any further discussion of such a heinous destiny.
Saelig instantly knew the purpose of Roshan’s visit when he saw his arms devoid of a Book.
‘Ah, you have begun to hear the melodies in your mind?’
Roshan, struck silent by the sight of Saelig’s sparkling eyes and unexpected greeting, nodded his head gloomily.
‘And you seek to understand P’Lesha?’
Roshan nodded again.
‘Come with me then.’
Roshan followed Saelig to an ancient stone with a hole carved in it. A hole that was just big enough for a person to slide through. It also gave the strange impression of changing size. As Saelig moved towards it, the hole seemed to enlarge and yet shrank as Roshan approached.
‘This is a portal’ explained Saelig. ‘And yes, you are correct, the hole is just big enough for a person to slide through, the exact size of the exact person wishing to do so. It is the doorway to P’Lesha, the homeland of the K’Razies. You have taken the first step in reaching P’Lesha because you have left your Book of JujMent behind.’
‘Why is that important?’ asked Roshan.
‘Because you can’t reach P’Lesha if you’re carrying around JujMent. Only people, without their Books, can fit through the portal. That is why so few reach P’Lesha. I have seen them come and circle this stone. They have climbed over it and stuck their heads through it. Some have even glimpsed the sands and oceans of P’Lesha but have usually been too afraid to leave their Book of JujMent behind. It defines them. Who would they be without glory? Who would they be without woes? They simply don’t know. So they return home – carrying their JujMent with them – leaving the adventures of P’Lesha behind.’
Roshan’s feet began to twitch. He knew they wanted to run, no dance, towards P’Lesha. He exerted his last bit of control. ‘But what of the others, those I’ve left behind?’ he asked.
‘Ah yes. Those.’ Saelig nodded sadly. ‘The HysanLoes can’t give you what you seek.’
Roshan understood. Suddenly, his feet made their own decision.
Before he knew it, he was through the portal, on his back, lying in the sand. The sun glowed cheerfully above while his ears took in the sound of a thousand joyful voices, two thousand dancing feet.
He lay still, listening intently – then the corners of his mouth leapt gleefully in the air.