The Little Prince

"Higher, pitaji, higher!" the sound of a young boy’s voice, as clear as a bell, rings through the citadel. Perched on a horse in front of his father, he squeals with joy as the horse makes rounds around the exercise ring, and begs of his father to make the horse jump higher. The father looks down, his face softened with a rare smile, reserved just for this child, and urges the horse to a faster trot. They came to an obstacle – a slight squeeze of knees – and the spirited horse flies high over it, causing a fresh barrage of laughter from the boy. The father ruffles his hair, proud of his boy, his brave Aditya.

* * * * *

The sun is high in an endless sky, and hurts his eyes as he scans the horizon. Shading them with his hand, he still gazes intently, hoping that he will be the one – among all the others in his father’s fine hunting party – to spot the falcon. The mighty bird was released some time ago and now the whole group is looking upwards, searching for it. Aditya scans the skies again, and there it is, a shadow over the plantains. "There! I see it!" he shrieks, pointing, before he could check himself. Then, remembering, he assumes demeanor of an older boy, and says evenly – "I believe I see the falcon on the eastern sky", which brings smiles to the seasoned faces of his father’s companions. The King acknowledges with a dignified nod, and – when everyone is looking at the falcon – winks at his son.

* * * * *

In the quiet of the night, a boy is fast asleep in the royal tent. Incense burning braziers cast elongated shadows on the carved screens. The gauze curtains sway gently in the breeze, as if dancing to the crickets’ song. All is peaceful…until a whisper of a shadow slithers by. A hand, sneaking under the screen, a brazier, grabbed, tumbles on the floor over silk cushions, which smolder for a short time, then catch ablaze, a curtain of smoke quickly filling up the room. Aditya stirs, coughs, then sits up – it’s hot, and he can’t see, he calls for his father, afraid – he can’t breathe; the boy falls back on his bed, rolls on the floor, out, out – but the way is blocked, and his throat is burning and –

All of the sudden a cool breeze reaches Aditya. A calm sensation settles over him, and he’s not afraid any more. He looks up and sees a face of a young man. "Everything will be all right," says a man. Behind him Aditya sees expanse of a beautiful temple. Thinking how it would be fun to play in the shade of the marble halls, the boy smiles, and steps into the temple.

The End

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