Amazing Kids! Magazine

Everything Starts from a Small Flame

By Ayat Shaukatullah, age 12, India

 

Karma would’ve considered herself the happiest girl in the forest. It was the most beautiful, the greenest, and the most fun place. She loved the air, the smell of the forest, and every animal that ever lived there. She loved to explore the unexplored places, give the squirrels some nuts, and pick the berries (the sweetest of them all, though some were poisonous). She collected berries and nuts for food, she herded the goats, and it was like she always had something to do. Her mother made the best of food, with nuts, spices, berries, anything you could find in the forest! And her father had the most beautiful goats – black, brown, and grey. You name the color, and he had it! She especially loved the forest-ish smell of the forest, the damp yet welcoming grass, the way the petals curved in flowers, the ways butterflies shifted from one flower to another, the way birds grew up and abandoned their nests, the way plants grew from tiny saplings to huge trees, the way different animals just smelled places, to know if it was a good shelter, the way animals cleared their surroundings.

Though, as much as she loved the forest, it got a little lonely. She was one of the only children among the tribe… she did have friends, of course! The healer was really nice, the hunters, the gatherers, they were all wonderful! But, there was always a certain loneliness, as if it was stabbing her, with nobody to race with, no one to herd the goats with, it all felt very lonely. But, she dealt with that too! She made friends with the trees!

The mango tree was really, really, old. The guava tree loved to share his fruits. The apple tree told more than the sound of water falling. Wild flowers were really fun to pick, too. Her mother loved those bouquets she made for her. And the goats, they were the most fun part! She loved playing with them, especially racing! Though, they ended up getting distracted by a fresh lump of grass. She once hugged a goat too! (Though she learnt that those horns really hurt when you’re smashed by them in the stomach.)

The goats used to chase her, their coat was the fluffiest thing she’d ever, ever touched. She even saw some bunnies now and then; their coat was fluffier than the goats, though they bit her really hard once…  There were some bears too. The foxes freaked her out. They ate the goats, and their growls were really scary… and then there was the touch-me-not plant. He got scared of everyone. But, Karma used to act nicely to him so he was starting to warm up towards her! Roses always acted full of themselves, but Karma knew that inside, they were just looking for a friend (or maybe a beauty pageant). Then there were the sunflowers, they were the most optimistic flowers she’d ever met!  They were always looking towards the positive side.

Oh, she was so lost describing the forest, she completely forgot about the village, they had mud houses. Karma, whose father was the tribe leader, had the biggest one! It had two whole rooms! It was thatched by the most beautiful, soft and light looking straw, the door was decorated by pumpkin leaves, and a small doormat was made from sunflowers.

One day, Karma went out to collect some flowers. “Roses, sunflowers, ooh! Mother loves those lilies!” Hmm, maybe another orchid will complete it… wait, can’t forget the tulips!” She hummed a small tune her mother taught her. The forest was the best. She felt fantastic as the sunlight trickled through the leaves of the trees, filling her with warmth. The forest was wonderful.

It was so perfect. Maybe Karma didn’t deserve anything so perfect. Maybe she was just a bad person who deserved suffering. “Suffering” seems so simple to say, does it not? Yet, one cannot understand its true meaning, unless they felt it. Karma knew nothing like “Suffering” until that day, when the oracle spoke of a prophecy, one that would destroy the tribe and its peace. Karma always thought of prophecies as being a silly. Nothing he said was true, never. But, his last prophecy came to be, the only one she witnessed. It was a sunny day, one of the warm ones; Karma went out to graze the sheep. Leaning against a tree, observing the different shapes of the clouds. She took a deep breath to take in the forest air. Yet, what she smelled was nothing she expected. It was smoke coming from the direction of the tribe.

Karma would’ve been calm, they lit fires all the time, but never so huge, never in the middle of the day. Was something wrong? She rushed the sheep back. What she saw there, was something she never wanted to see. The tribe was up in blazes. Orange and red fighting, destroying everything she knew; everything she loved. But they were fine, right? They had to be. She dashed into her house. Ashes were the only things left to welcome her. No, no, NO! Why? Why did they have to leave her? Why? WHY COULDN’T SHE HAVE GONE WITH THEM!? Her eyes started to water. Maybe it was the smoke. Maybe it was the suffering. Suddenly, Karma heard a noise. She saw a monster-like creature rushing over to the forest. It was red in color, like the roses. It came on… round things. Like the shape of an orange.

The monster started to spit water. What was it doing? Was it trying to help her? Why? Karma didn’t have time to think about the monster. She ran to the sheep. They were there, meekly hoping for someone to come. At least someone didn’t leave her. She took them over to a safe place. Near the monster; it was still spitting water. Two people in weird clothes came out of the mouth of the monster. Had it eaten them? They came over, asking her what happened; trying to console her. Nothing could make Karma feel better now, not even the apple trees, or the roses, or the positive thoughts from the sunflowers. How could they make her feel better, anyway? They were probably ashes.

Some moments later, the people made Karma jump in the Monster’s mouth with them. They called it “fire truck”. They told her that there were many like them. More Monsters? Why? They then took her to someone called a “doctor”. He was similar to the healer of the tribe. She hoped he wouldn’t have the same fate as him. They gave her new clothes. They were very different. After riding in and out of the monster many times, they took her to a place called an “orphanage”. They said that the people there took care of those who didn’t have anyone to take care of them.

They told her it was going to be alright. She hoped so, too. She made new friends in the “orphanage”. They were kind; but nothing made her feel better than trees. The orphanage had trees, but not as much as back in the forest. Whenever she went out, she saw more of the Mons- that is, cars. Not all children felt very happy there though. One child said that he wanted to be adopted. Karma asked, “What is adopted?” He replied, “Adopted is when they take you away from this place and give you parents.” “But our parents are gone, are they not?” “Yeah, but they adopt us, they sign these huge papers and then take us away to our homes.” “Is it nice?” “I guess.”

From that day, Karma started wondering if the people would like her. Many children got adopted, but Karma didn’t get adopted for a long time. So, till then, Karma started spending time with the very less trees. It was fun, either way. The trees never felt strange when she told them that she came from the forest. The trees never told her to come back down when she climbed up them.

But, the trees never told her stories. They never comforted her when she felt lonely. All they gave, was fruits. Some children at the orphanage gave her strange looks whenever she climbed trees, or did anything done at the tribe. Some of them even teased her. She didn’t find it nice. She didn’t understand why they teased her because she wasn’t like them. Did they have to be identical copies of each other to be liked? Some children called her “possessed” when she climbed up trees and talked to them. They asked her if she saw “ghosts” in the trees. Karma didn’t understand this. She used to talk to trees all the time back at the forest. No one objected or asked her if she saw “ghosts”. Mrs. Holly, the owner of the “orphanage” was very kind. She couldn’t make the teasing stop, though. Nobody could, and Karma accepted that. Some days, the teasing got bad… really, really bad. They would pluck flowers and make fun of Karma. At those days, Karma cried to herself at night, hoping someone would come comfort her. But nobody came.

Karma sneaked out one night. She sneaked out to the faraway woods. Or, they looked like woods. There were strange slopes on which Karma could sit. There were ponds that spit water. It was nothing like the forest. Maybe, the forest hated her now. Maybe the forest was angry at Karma because she couldn’t save it. Maybe, even the sunflowers couldn’t find any good in her. She wept the whole night. She knew no one would comfort her. She knew she was hated. She knew “suffering”.

And then, when Karma thought the teasing would go on forever, it stopped. Two people came to “adopt” her. They called her “lucky”. Why? What was so lucky about having your home destroyed and then being forced to go somewhere else? She didn’t understand it. They took her away. To the so called “home”. They let her wear nice clothes. They didn’t tease her. They liked her. They loved her. But, she felt strange. Strange among all the monsters. Strange among people who spoke of “trends” and “movies”. Karma couldn’t understand why all girls put that weird powder thing on their faces. Were they followers of roses?

There always seemed to be a strange burning smell coming from the monsters, that reminded her of the… the… fire. She didn’t like to talk about it. But, her “parents” took her to a “therapist” who made her speak of it. She didn’t like him one bit. Sure, it made her feel lighter, but the memories enveloped her whenever she thought about it, strangling her, burning her. She hated it. The new house didn’t even have plants. Sure, it had a garden, and sure, it had plants. But they were strange, too small.

Small-looking plants that had fruits that only a huge tree could bear. They called it “bonsai”. Karma didn’t understand the plant. It never talked to her. Maybe because it was scared, scared she would cut its roots like they did. It seemed painful. Karma didn’t understand why they did it. Why wouldn’t they let a mango tree become what it was supposed to be? Why restrict it? Karma felt the plant’s pain every time it got cut. It felt like it would shriek if it could. Karma felt sympathy for it. She tried to talk to it, it answered, sometimes. It always seemed scared. Karma didn’t know why she couldn’t fix it.

Karma didn’t know why anymore, but she hated them. She hated those people who planted the bonsai. She hated those people who wouldn’t let a plant reach what it’s supposed to. She hated people who wouldn’t let the plant be, what it’s supposed to be.

Karma couldn’t always focus on the bonsai, though. There were other things her ‘parents’ made her do. For example, going to school. They told her she’s supposed to go there to learn.

“Like the things I learnt back at the forest?”

“What did you learn there?”

“Ways to herd a sheep, keeping count of cattle, running away from wild animals, herbal plants…”

“It’ll… be similar. But, you’ll be learning a lot of other stuff, too!”

“Oh, I like learning new things, what’ll I learn?”

‘Things like English…”

“But I already know it, don’t I?”

“Yes, well, but you’ll read stories, and maybe even write some!”

“Oh, I’d like that! What else would I learn?”

“Let’s see… History- That’s the study of the past.”

“Why learn about those who are no longer alive?”

“Err; you’ll need to know more about the past, to understand the present!”

“Oh, what else?”

“Oh, you’ll learn math- counting and all y’know.”

“Oh! Mother taught me how to-”

Her ‘mother’ then patted her on the back, saying, “I know, its hard kid. But, we’re in this together, if you need anything, just tell me. I promise, I’ll always be there.” Karma nodded a wet feeling in her eyes. She tried hard not to cry, but she couldn’t help it. Pitter. Patter. The drops glistened, even when falling onto the ground. Just like the rain, just like at back at the-… She tried hard, to not remember. To not… cry.

Karma liked school. Though, there were some people who didn’t like her… because she was from the forest. At first, she didn’t understand why. But then, a girl- a girl named Victory, explained to her, that they’re just bullies. They just take advantage of people. She didn’t understand that, either. Why would someone want to be mean to someone for no reason? She didn’t ask all the questions, though. It would probably feel odd asking so much of things.

Karma especially like Science. And, when they taught about forests, Karma loved every second of it. Life wasn’t perfect, though. Math was a hard subject… she’d just learnt how to add and subtract, all the other types of problems overwhelmed her, but she still wanted to learn all of them. Adjusting to the place was hard too. She had to ride a mons- bus. A bus to school every day. It was awfully stuffy in there. And hot. But, talking to other people was fun. Some wanted to know about the forest, some about the animals. All those people… they… they made her miss the forest a little less. Every day, every week, every month, every year. Karma started feeling better.

10 years later…

Hmm. She picked up the little lion cub. “Guys, he’s hurt! Get some first aid, and then we’ll let him out!”

“Comin’!”

The small cub stared into her eyes, as if saying, ‘Thank you.’

“You’re welcome…” she whispered. Slowly applying the bandage on the cub’s wounds, she let him go. “See ya! Maybe not… but, remember me, will you?” She said, the last part almost as a whisper. Nodding, the cub ran away into the endless depths of the forest.

“Hey, Karma!” a reporter’s voice spoke.

“Yes?”

“What made you become a wildlife supporter, and build up this foundation to help save forests and all?”

She smiled, feeling tears welling up in her eyes.

“Let’s just say… everything starts from a small flame.” And walked away.

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