CHAPTER 1 – CROSSING THE PATH
Hamude didn’t know what to do. He and his brother had gone to school together that morning but when Suzy came to pick them, Tamer was not there. When he asked Suzy, she had just smiled and told him to stop with his imaginary friends tales. Hamude thought it was normal grownup behavior. But now he was starting to realize it was more than that.
Nobody remembered Tamer!
Even his mom. When Suzy and Hamude got home, mom had just asked how was school and when Hamude asked of Tamer, she looked puzzled and asked who is Tamer? That was when Hamude got scared. He ran inside and brought out the family album to show her, but Tamer’s pictures had disappeared. He was not even in the ones they took together. It was only Hamude and his mom in all the pictures.
Something terrible had happened to Tamer!
Now Hamude was sitting outside and thinking. How can his brother disappear and nobody remember him? He was so deep in thought, he didn’t see the large owl looking down on him from the tree beside him.
That night, as mom tucked Hamude in bed, he looked up at her and asked quietly, “Mom, do you truly not remember Tamer?”
His mother looked at him and said gently, “Tell me about him”
So Hamude told his mother about his brother. He told of how they used to fight and makeup. How they play together and read together. How they go to school together and eat together. Even though Tamer was younger than Hamude, they were the best of friends. They did everything together. Hamude talked for a long time about his brother, even remembering almost every detail of Tamer’s seventh birthday. He recounted all he could remember.
When he was through, his mother looked at him with admiring amazement “Wow! You have such a great imagination. You should be a writer”, then bending down and kissing his forehead, told him to sleep tight and walked out of the room still shaking her head.
This was too much for Hamude. He pulled his pillow on top of his head and burst into tears. Where is Tamer? Why couldn’t anyone remember him? What was happening? Poor Hamude cried himself to sleep.
And as he slept in the night, he had a strange dream. A large brown owl flew over his bed and was singing in owl language but Hamude could understand it.
Tooo Hooo. Tooo Hooo.
First they were two
Now he is one
Tooo Hooo. Tooo Hooo.
Over the mountain
The second has gone
Tooo Hooo. Tooo Hooo.
And gone he will be
If he’s not brought back
Tooo Hooo. Tooo Hooo.
The owl sang it over and over again all through the night. And the following morning when Hamude woke up, he somehow knew where his brother was and he knew he had to go and rescue him.
As Suzy made his food, Hamude requested for a whole lot of food and carried an extra bottle of water. He wanted to be prepared for the journey ahead. Soon he was on the way to school but this time when he got there, he didn’t go to his classroom. He went to the back of the school and emptied his school bag. He put the food flask and water bottles inside, strapped the bag to his back and climbed a big tree, using it to jump over the fence to the other side.
Once he was on the street, Hamude started running. He was going to the big mountains across town. And so he ran on till he came to the thick forest surrounding the mountains. But he still did not stop running. Sometimes he walked and sometimes he had to climb hills and tree undergrowths but he never stopped to rest. So focused was he on reaching the mountain that he never noticed the big brown owl that kept pace with him, flying from one tree top to another.
Finally, he got to the bottom of the mountain and stopped. He stood and looked up, up, up. He was eager to get climbing but he knew he would need a lot of energy, so he sat down, opened his back pack and brought out his food. It was club sandwich. He ate one big one, carefully rewrapped the other two, drank a small bottle of lemonade and some water then packed everything back up and put them in his bag. He then stood up and strapped the bag back on his back and looked at the mountain again. He felt strong and ready to climb. Which was a good thing because Hamude climbed the mountain for a whole day and half!
The wind came and the rain fell, he climbed. The sun set and the moon and stars came out, still he climbed. Dawn came and the moon went back to hiding as the sun rose again, on he climbed.
Back at home, everybody was frantic and looking for him. They had called the police and a search party was looking everywhere for him. His mom was crying and friends were gathered round trying to comfort her but she was inconsolable. She thought Hamude had been kidnapped. Nobody knew Hamude was right then climbing the big mountains in search of his brother, Tamer.
Finally, just as the sun reached its peak and the day was boiling hot. Just as Hamude’s arms were aching so bad from dragging himself up rough stones. Just as he thought he would collapse from hunger, he got to the top of the mountain. And saw a great big ball of smoke.
The smoke was perfectly round and hung about an inch off the ground. It was rotating slowly and seemed to move in a spiral. Hunger, aches and pains forgotten, Hamude moved closer to the smoke. He stared at it then slowly walked all round it. It was the same from every side. Coming back to the front, he noticed a sign hanging in the air beside the smoky ball. The sign read –
THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE TWO WORLDS MEET. CLOSED FOR TEN THOUSAND YEARS, THIS GATE WAS RECENTLY REOPENED BY THE MARCH OF THREE BLACK CATS. ONLY THE PURE AT HEART MAY CROSS THE PATH. TAKE HEED AND KNOW THAT IN ENTERING ONE WORLD, YOU ARE LOST TO THE OTHER. AND WHAT IS AN ENTRANCE MIGHT NOT BE AN EXIT.
Hamude read the sign over and over again. He was afraid of what might be at the other side and hesitated. But in his heart, he knew if he wanted to find Tamer, he had no choice but to go ahead into the other world.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped into the smoke and immediately found himself in another forest. He was so surprised at how easy the crossing had been that he stood and looked behind him and saw – NOTHING! Well, not exactly nothing but he saw just forest. The ball of smoke was gone. He now understood what the words ‘WHAT IS AN ENTRANCE MIGHT NOT BE AN EXIT’ meant. There was no way out!
He was so dismayed and scared that he never saw the big brown owl that had flown over the smoky ball and followed him into the forest in this other world.
Hamude didn’t know it then but the moment he crossed the path, everybody at home forgot about him. Just as they had forgotten Tamer. The policemen searching for him stopped and wondered what they were doing. His mom suddenly stopped crying and could not remember why she was crying. All her friends looked at each other and wondered why they were comforting her. Everybody laughed nervously and went back home. And all pictures of Hamude faded off and ceased to exist. Hamude was no more known in his own world.
But standing in a strange forest, Hamude had no idea what had just happened. He was busy fighting tears at the thought of not being able to go home again. He felt very sorry for himself and wanted his mommy. He realized though, that he would gain nothing by standing there crying so he squared his shoulders and looked around, trying to decide what to do. After a while, he started walking. He didn’t know where he was headed but knew he would come across something sooner or later. He was right. He came to an open garden between a hill on the left side and a river on the right. There were people in the garden.
But what strange looking people. They were about as tall as Hamude but their hands were so short. It reached only to their waist and their legs started from their chest. They were all dressed the same in tight white trousers and small red jackets with big black buttons and black sailor like hats on top of their heads. Hamude was so amazed at the sight of these funny looking people; it took him a moment to realize they were walking backwards!!!
He was so surprised he stood quite still and gaped at them. Still in a daze he walked up to them and saw they were planting in the garden. One man seemed to be directing them so Hamude walked up to the man. He had so many questions buzzing in his head that he didn’t know which to ask first so he just blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. “Why are you walking backwards?”
The strange man stood up straight and it made his short arms seem even shorter and his long legs seem even longer, opened his mouth wide and shouted so loudly, Hamude almost fell over from shock.
“DON’T YOU KNOW BACKWARDS IS REALLY FORWARD? BUT IF IT IS FORWARD, DOESN’T THAT MEAN IT IS BACKWARDS?”
Then he gripped his head and moaned softly, “Oh my head! My poor head. This is too much for me to understand” and promptly fell over.
Hamude stared in amazement at the prone figure on the ground then remembering his manners, bent over him and asked, “Are you alright?”
The man immediately sprang up and yelled even louder,
“DON’T YOU KNOW ALL-RIGHT IS REALLY NONE-WRONG? BUT IF IT IS NONE-WRONG, DOESN’T THAT MEAN IT IS ALL-RIGHT?”
He gripped his head again, “Oh my head! My poor head. This is too much for me to understand” and toppled over.
Hamude stared at him for the longest time then looked up at the road going into the hill then down at the road leading to the river and decided he should be on his way. But which way?
He crossed his fingers for luck and asked another of the strange people, a girl-like one this time around, though dressed the same way, he/she looked like a girl with long curly hair, “which way leads out? Up or down?”
The girl/boy person stood straight and screamed even louder than the man,
“DON’T YOU KNOW UP OR DOWN IS REALLY DOWN OR UP? BUT IF IT IS DOWN OR UP, DOESN’T THAT MEAN IT IS UP OR DOWN?”
He/she gripped his/her head in the now familiar gesture and, “Oh my head! My poor head. This is too much for me to understand” then fell over.
Hamude decided there and then that it was no use talking to these strange people. They were not very smart.
He looked at the two roads again and thought to himself, ‘Up or down? Down or up?’ Then he remembered something he had read in a book. About how if you are on a high place you can see farther than if you are on a low surface. He would be able to see this other world better if he was on top of the hill. That helped him decide and he started walking to the hill path.
Soon he got to the foot of the hill and put his foot to climb up. But the strangest thing happened. He felt as if he was walking downhill instead of uphill! The feeling so startled him that he slipped and fell and instead of rolling down, he started rolling up the hill.
Hamude was so surprised. There he was bumping and falling up. He rolled and rolled till he came to the top of the hill. He waited a moment to catch his breath. Then he searched and touched his whole body for bruises but discovered he was quite unhurt. Next he checked his back pack and though the sandwiches were squished, they were still okay and the lemonade and water remained unspilled. He got slowly to his feet, already sure he would not see far. After all, if he fell up then its only logical that he would see up instead of down. But this world was never as it seemed.
Hamude looked. And saw down! He could see hills and rivers and gardens all around. It was so beautiful! He kept on turning round and staring at everything. He could hardly believe the beauty he was seeing. Then the hill he was standing on started shaking. He quickly laid flat on his tummy and looked over the edge. Some people were removing the hill!
And what strange people! Even stranger than the other ones he had seen earlier. They were tall, taller than him. And skinny. So skinny. Their hands were long, reaching down to their knees and their legs were short. Their legs started from where their hands ended down on their bodies. He stared and stared, quite forgetting they were about to carry the hill away.
Then he noticed one of the people was different from the others. He looked, normal! Hamude studied him. He seemed quite familiar. He looked harder and, YES! It was Tamer! Hamude was so excited he jumped up and started shouting, “Tamer! Tamer!”
Everybody stopped working and looked up. Tamer saw his brother and shouted back, “Hamude! Hamude!” and started running up, no, down the hill up to Hamude.
Hamude too started running and they met halfway and threw their arms round each other. Hugging tight, tight, tight. The people had abandoned the hill and were now gathered round the brothers watching them. They wondered who these odd looking brothers were and why they were holding each other like that.
Suddenly, a voice shouted harshly, “what is going on here?”
All the strange people scattered and immediately gathered round the hill, bent down and lifted it right up. Hamude and Tamer lost their footing and came tumbling down. When they came to a stop, they stood up and found themselves standing in front of a man, taller and skinnier than the rest. He was wearing a skinny black jacket, skinny black pants, long skinny black shoes and a carried a long skinny stick in his long skinny hands. His hair was standing straight two inches on top of his head and had a fierce scowl on his face. He would have looked quite fearsome if not that he looked so funny. Hamude had a hard time trying not to laugh. But Tamer who had been here longer and knew the man did not laugh.
“You are the ones who stopped the hill-work?” he demanded.
“No. It was . . . . . . . .” Hamude tried to explain.
“SILENCE!” the stick man yelled and everywhere seemed to shake.
“You dare to stop Lord Gargo’s work?” he demanded. “How dare you?
How dare you?” he asked and his whole body quivered with indignation.
“No, Sir . . . . . . .” Hamude started again only to be cut short by the man again.
“You dare to talk back to me? You dare to talk back to me?!” the man screamed and started jumping up and down, pulling at his hair. “Seize them! Seize them!” he screamed even louder.
Hands immediately grabbed the brothers and before they knew what was happening, they were being dragged on the ground into a hole near another hill. They were pushed into the hole and the hill was placed over the mouth of the hole.
And so, Hamude crossed the path, found his brother and got locked in a hole. All on his first day in the Other World. But at least the brothers were back together.
(And before you ask, No, i am not posting more! Lol. Sorry about that)