The sounds from outside creeped him out. He jumped up and gingerly peeped out the closed window.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. “Not again Karthik,” she sighed.
“Someday, a green monster will attack us and you will no longer be exasperated with me and I will finally be able to say – I told you so,” he snarled.
She laughed it off by throwing a pillow at him. “Someday.”
That night, he was unbelievably restless. “Sarla,” he patted her. “Go to sleep Karthik,” she muttered.
Karthik was 9 and she was 12. They shared a room ever since Karthik stopped rooming with his parents. Every night it was the same routine; Karthik’s fright and Sarla’s mockery. It was remarkable their ability to be friends despite their contrasting personalities. Sarla was calm, collected and endearing whereas Karthik was introverted and timid with a wild imagination.
The grasshoppers talked once in a while and the green monsters attacked other times. It wasn’t even the cartoons or the graphic novels. His imagination was just active.
“But I am positive someone is knocking on our glass,” he insisted. “Then open it and talk to them. Maybe they will kidnap you,” she snapped.
He stopped bothering his sister and inched towards the window. And there it was. A stone faced stick doll using it’s stick hands to knock. “Shoo. Go away,” Karthik muttered. But the doll’s face broke into a grimace. Shocked yet intrigued, Karthik opened the window a little bit. The stick using it’s magical powers, zapped Karthik out of the room into the garden.
Karthik, no longer scared, extended his hand in friendship when a steel cold voice spoke, “We don’t make friends. We don’t want peace.”
“Who are you?” he asked. “Do you see that tree?” the stick pointed, “Stickmen like me are born every time a tree is cut. We then haunt the world to avenge the tree’s death.”
“But why have you chosen to present yourself to me?” Karthik questioned.
“Because, humans aren’t smart enough to understand supernatural forces around them,” the stickman replied.
The face was a shiny grey stone that formed eyes and mouth every time the stickman spoke. It was tied together with sea weed and the hands and legs were from tree branches. The stickman spoke, “I am Pete. Will you join me in my mission?”
“But I am just a boy. How can I help?” he replied meekly.
“All you have to do is plant this side in your backyard,” the stickman said as he placed seeds in Karthik’s palm. “First, for a week, store the seeds away from sunlight under your pillow. Sleep on it everyday and finally plant it after. Water it each day and soon you will know why we chose you. Never tell anyone about this or how you got the seed.”
Saying this, the stickman zapped Karthik back into his room and disappeared.
Perplexed, Karthik followed the orders exactly. Everyday for a year he secretly watered his plant.
One day, Sarla saw him watering this dry patch. “What you doing Karthik?” she nudged.
“Just throwing water around,” he muttered, excusing himself. Sarla didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary so she let it slide. That is till the day, a tree sprouted in that very spot overnight. No amount of questioning Karthik gave her any answers.
The tree was supernatural. It bore green fruits and blue flowers at the same time. The sight of the ground beneath it was breathtaking. Birds were drawn to it. Butterflies floated in and refused to leave. A delicious smell even wafted from it.
The bountiful tree continued to blossom. The colours changed daily. Green, blue, pink, purple, red, yellow, orange. The combinations alone could brighten up lives. Eventually, the tree radiated an effervescence that drew people from near and far. Nobody could know what drew them there. The tree also had another special quality. Anyone in its presence was overwhelmed with positivity. They evaporated into happier spaces and times; their minds relaxed and lives turned better.
Sarla would often find Karthik seated under the tree with a book, munching on one of the fruits. She sat down next to him on one such occasion, “Magical? Isn’t it?”
“I told you so,” he replied, smiling.