He sat in the corner of his room, with his face towards the wall.
“No dinner for you today” his mom had blurted angrily earlier during the evening.
This was his punishment. He was supposed to sit facing the corner in his room. He never questioned his parents, always did what they told. But they still would not listen to him. He was, after all, just a nine year old kid. His parents, his elder brother, no one ever believed what he said. They called it his attention-seeking antics. Only he knew what truth his words beheld.
Bunty sat in the corner on a stool and kept looking at the line of ants that were crawling on the wall. The ants followed a set path. Few were going up and few down. They seemed to be on some mission. Bunty just kept staring at them. He noticed a very peculiar behavior among them. Whenever an ant appeared on the way of another ant, they stopped, struck their heads together and then moved on.
“What are they doing?” said Bunty. There was no one in the room. He knew that. He spoke to no one in particular. He was speaking to himself.
“I think they are speaking something.” said Bunty in a curious tone.
He got down from the stool, crouched nearer to the corner of the wall and thrust his ears closer to the ants, as if trying to listen to them. He stood like that crouching for full 20 seconds. When his knees started hurting, he straightened himself and moved a step backwards.
“What are they speaking?”
He kept staring at the ants, trying to figure out what exactly they were up to.
“What are you talking to each other?” said Bunty addressing those ants.
“Why do you care?” said a tiny but shrill voice. He would have not caught the voice, if he would not have been staring towards the direction of those ants. He was astounded. His eyes went wide with amazement.
“You can speak?” asked Bunty.
“Yes we can.”
“Wow! I should tell Vicky about this.”
He had just uttered these words, when he found himself frozen to the place where he stood. He tried to move but lost his balance and fell down. His hands were stuck to his sides. He lied on the floor stupefied in attention position. He was scared. He opened his mouth to scream, but only muted gasps of air came out.
“Mummmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” his voice echoed back in his head.
“Don’t be scared” said an ant climbing his nose bridge.
“Mummmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” he screamed again, and yet again, his voice instead of coming out of his mouth echoed back in his head.
“See, no one can hear you, so it’s better if you stop screaming.”
“But, you can hear me” mouthed Bunty and once again his own voice echoed in his head and only air came out of his mouth.
“Yes, only we can hear you” said the ant. Bunty saw that the ant on his nose was now standing only on his rear two limbs and it had grown in size.
Bunty tried to shake the ant off himself. He started shaking his head frantically thinking that by doing so the ant would slip off his face. When he stopped shaking his head, to his dismay, Bunty found the ant standing firmly on the same position where it stood before.
“You cannot shake me off. But since you tried, let me not take any more chances.”
Saying so, the ant flicked its free limb towards the other ants that stood watching the show. On his signal the ants scurried in various corners. What Bunty saw next was something that made his heart jump out of his chest. The ants were back within seconds, but this time they were marching forward in army like fashion, and each ant bore a red bead on their backs.
Bunty looked carefully at these beads. They seemed vaguely familiar to him.
“Remember these?” said the leader of the ant that stood on his nose, pointing towards the beads.
“I have seen these beads somewhere” echoed Bunty’s voice in his head.
“Ha ha ha, they belong to the same beaded garland that you broke a week back.”
Bunty saw that another group of ants had now approached with something that looked like a coil of string. Within moments the ants carrying the beads and the ones carrying the string got busied in amongst themselves.
“Didn’t your mother enquire you about her bead-string?”
“Yes she did? But then I had broken it and all the beads were lost and so I had lied to her that I didn’t know where her bead-string was.”
“Why did you break her bead-string?”
“I was annoyed with her. She never believes whatever I tell her. She thinks that I am bluffing. None of my parents believe me. At times they even laugh at me but mostly they scold me and punish me. They think that whatever I tell them is all non-sense.”
“Ah! So you wanted to revenge her” said the leader-ant smirking in a vile way.
He tried to shake again. But it was to no avail. He was in tears.
“No point in crying my boy, this is all your doing. You should not have lied to her.”
“But I never lie.” Exasperation dripped from Bunty’s scared eyes. “I always tell them the truth. They never believe me. That is not my fault.”
“Your truth is not truth for them, dear boy. Things that you see, that you hear are not truth for them. They can neither see nor hear what you can. But you have not realized it yet. You should have realized it, boy, you should have” said the leader-ant drooping its head and nodding it dejectedly.
At that moment, Bunty felt something creeping across his legs. He was now all the more scared.
“What is happening to me?” echoed a frantic voice in Bunty’s head, horror written all over his face.
He saw that the other ants had climbed his body. They had sewn the beads in to the string and were now carrying it with them across his body. In no time his hand, his legs and his entire body waist-down was tied with that string with the red beads glistening.
“Why have you tied me?”
“There are certain things that you should know, and we need your attention for that. But since you were not complying with our need, we had to do this.”
“What is it that I should know?” out came a cry.
The leader-ant climbed down from his nose to his left cheek. He walked towards his eye. The string with which Bunty was tied started tightening around him. The string was stronger than what Bunty had thought it to be, sharp too. It was literally cutting into his skin. Bunty winced.
“See, I am ready to listen to everything that you say, but please loosen these strings first. I’m getting hurt.”
The string kept tightening.
Bunty was now in tears. The leader-ant just stood and watched him wince.
“You should know that, what you see is not illusion. They are not your hallucinations” continued the leader-ant in an ominous tone. “But you should not tell about this to anyone. Even if you do, they would not believe you.”
While the leader-ant continued, Bunty felt something move beside his tied hand. Something moved inside the pocket of the shorts that he wore. Bunty remembered that earlier during the day his brother had mocked at him. In a fit to take revenge, Bunty had sneaked his brother’s dear swiss knife and had kept it in his pocket. It was the same knife that now lay in his palms.
Bunty was completely confused at the things that were happening around him. The knife seemed to have moved by itself and fell into his palms, its blade was already out.
Bunty tried to compose himself. He had to stop his thoughts. He knew that the leader-ant could hear his thoughts. In order to distract the leader-ant, Bunty started crying. The leader-ant seemed to be enjoying his plight. In the meantime Bunty held the knife and started to cut the string near his hand.
“Bunty, what are you doing on the floor?”
Bunty looked at the entrance of his room and saw his mom standing there. He was flooded with relief.
“BUNTY!” screamed his mom.
He rolled over on the floor and brought himself to a sitting position.
“What is happening Bunty?”
“Mom – the ants” said Bunty pointing towards the corner of the wall.
“Bunty! What is this?”
His mom was not looking where he had pointed her to see, but anger raged in her eyes. Bunty was confused.
“Bunty! A week back when I had asked you about my bead-string you had denied knowing anything about it. What are you doing with it now?”
Bunty looked down and saw the bead-string wrapped around his wrist.
“No mom, I didn’t know anything about it” lied Bunty.
He remembered that he had broken the bead-string. Moments back those beads had him tied, boring his skin, and now suddenly there was the bead string wrapped around his wrist, just the way they were before he had broken them. Bunty didn’t know what to say.
“Enough of lying Bunty!I am fed up of you. I have to talk to your dad. Enough of all this non-sense. We are sending you to boarding school” said his mom, taking off her bead-string from his wrist. Bunty opened his mouth to explain her but by that time she had already stomped out of his room, fuming in rage.
Bunty stood there cluelessly, knowing not what to say. The swiss knife still lying in his pocket.