The Shah Of Blah seemed to go into a trance, and his body rocked gently from side to side. His eyes rolled up in their sockets, and a look of seeming insanity flitted across his face.
There was silence, and then he spoke. His voice seemed to come from the void.
“Where does a story begin?”, he asked almost to himself. “Why, a story begins at the beginning, and ends at the end. It is the story teller who decides when to start the story, and when to end it. This is the freedom that the story teller possesses. He lets the river meander, and does not choose the path. The story chooses it’s own path. All that the story teller does, is that he chooses when to get on the boat, and when and where to get off. And, so shall I.”
“This story begins, at the beginning,” he said, somewhat repeating himself.
“Three wanderers, three lost souls, found themselves at a crossing one day. They took an instant liking to each other, and decided to journey on together. Three people looking for something that was unique to them. ”
“The Gypsy wanted to find the answers to life, and had spent his life wandering the face of the earth, looking for them. Esmerelda The Spider, she of green eyes and known as The Old One, was looking for the deepest secrets to snaring the souls of men an women. And finally, Bismillah, also known as The Cunning One, was always looking for new ways to dupe people, to expose the fallacies of their beliefs for his own profit and merriment.”
“There they were, three unlikely companions, at a crossroad together. The details of their conversation, and how they came to travel together are not relevant to the story at this stage. Oh no, they are not. Hee!Hee!Hee!”
“They wandered together for many years, each plying his own craft, or engaged in his, or her, own quest until finally they came to a river. The sky was blood red, and the sun was setting. There was a boat plying on the waters of the river. They looked at the blood red waters, and up again at the sky.”
“‘This is strange indeed’, said The Gypsy. ‘Does the water reflect the colour of the sky, or does the sky reflect the colour of the water?’
‘Strange indeed’, said Bismillah. ‘I have never seen anything like it, in all my travels. This river seems to consist of blood, the blood of people long dead, and the blood of people yet to come.’
‘Yes indeed’, said Esmerelda. ‘This water is indeed the blood of souls dead, and the blood of souls yet unborn. What strange place have we come to here?’
“The three of them shivered slightly, as they looked down at their feet. The shores looked strange to them, and the wind whistled about their ears. It was a chilly wind, and one that blew a foul odour.”
“I smell flesh, rotting flesh”, said Esmerelda. ‘Yes, this is the place of the dead.’ She looked down again, and reached down with her fingers. Rotting flesh, mixed with bone oozed through her toes. ‘Drat’, she thought with disgust. She wondered why she had taken her shoes off. She hated anything that would ruin the beautiful texture of her feet. Yet, she seemed slightly aroused. She sniffed with an unaccustomed glee, as the wind blew around her.”
“Bismillah stood there giggling with glee, and The Gypsy stood with a question on his face. ‘What manner of place is this?”, he thought to himself.”
“The air seemed still, except for the breeze. The trees were still, and the leaves did not shake in the breeze. There was a feeling of timelessness in the place, and the only thing that seemed to move was the slow current of the River of Blood, and the rotting flesh and bone of the shore on which they stood.”
“The three of them listened carefully for a sound, any sound at all. Slowly, ever so slowly, the sounds started to reach their ears. A wailing, a crying, the yowl of a lost person started to reach their ears. Their was despair in the voices, no hope. This was a place of death, of despair.”
“Where had they reached? This was not what they had bargained for, when they met at the crossroads, and set off for their travels. Each, in their own way, expected to find the answers to their dreams with ease. They had dreamt of being able to conquer the world, each in their own way. Each was driven by pride, by vanity, with a sneer of sorts. They had each believed that they were the chosen one, and that they would rule – individually, or together. ”
“How had they reached this place? As they looked at each other, they each sensed this question in the other’s eyes. This was not a place that they had walked to. There was no map that led to this place, no hidden paths that they had trod. This was not even a place that they had been seeking. How then, had they arrived here together, unbidden and uninvited? Come to think of it, their memory seemed to have become hazy, and each had a different and fuzzy recollection of how they had come to this strange place.”
The Shah of Blah sat silent for a while, and the Gypsy, Esmerelda and Bismillah sat there bemused. How indeed had they come to be in the story? They had not had the courtesy to introduce themselves to The Shah, but had sat there in the front, arrogant in their belief that they had earned the right to the front row.
The Shah of Blah rubbed his hands, and laughed. “Hee!Hee!Hee!”, he chuckled, and his laughter seemed to be strange, hollow, and it seemed as though it had come from a different place. “Shall we continue?”, he asked.
“The three wanders stood there by the banks of that awful river, looking into each others eyes. Each could find no blame in the other, only confusion.”
“‘Welcome’, said a voice. ‘Welcome to my home'” ..