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The Parrot's Garden
Short story

January 18, 2005

The balmy mid-spring air in the outskirts of the city of Yazd was gently caressing the young girl's face. Filled with joy she began running faster. On the horizon the rising full moon was visible and provided enough light for her to see the two tall minarets of the shrine not too far away. Between the two minarets was the huge golden dome reflecting the moonlight. Tears of joy gathered and started running down her face. For a moment the entire scenery was blurred as if she was looking through a thick crystal glass. Filled with serenity of love she was getting closer to her savior's shrine.

She felt like she was bouncing off the ground into the sky with each stride. Each jump lasting several seconds and once she touched the earth she took off again effortlessly and went forward. She had not experienced such feelings since she was a child and then only in her dreams, where she and her mother used to play games and chase parrots in a vast garden covered with extraordinary flowers, only to wake up each time and find herself in laughter, and then realizing those were only dreams of a child.

But now she could hear the bells of a caravan far away traveling through the edge of the desert at night, wishing she could be with them traveling along to places far away. But her mission was now different. She was on her way to join the Imam. Her soul was ready to yield her body to her savior.

She arrived at the large courtyard of the shrine and past the oval shaped reflection pool where she could see the shrine's image in the water. There was nothing but pure peace and silence. It was late at night; the custodian had either gone home or was perhaps asleep. She went straight to the entrance where pilgrims take off their shoes and place them inside bins. She took off her shoes and pushed open the huge silver-plated gate. She took a few steps inside and stopped. She looked up at the concave ceilings covered with thousands of small mirrors. The lights had been turned off except for a few inside a very large crystal chandelier in the center of the shrine. Each small mirror reflected the image of the entire chandelier.

The air inside the shrine was relaxing and refreshing. She approached the tomb and kissed the silver lattice structure that enclosed it in a polygon shape. Each side consisting of square small shaped-openings to allow pilgrims to glance at the Imam's tomb inside, or toss gifts and cash donations. She took off her last ornament a silver ring from her finger and dropped it inside the tomb. The only audible sound was the bouncing of the silver ring on the marble tomb.

She tore off a small piece from her long white gown and wrapped it around one of the silver square openings. This was what her mother taught her as a child. The tradition of tying a "Dakheel." For her wish to come true, she must tie a knot on the Imam's shrine and make a wish. She whispered her wish quietly. Then kissed the silver enclosure again. The relaxing aroma of rosewater was everywhere but mostly on the silver partitions of the shrine. Custodians of the shrine sprayed, wiped and polished the entire silver structure with rosewater each night after visitors had gone.

She had her arms wide open and stretched. Her fingers wrapped around the small square silver openings. Her head was down and her long beautiful hair was covering her entire shoulder. She realized this was the first time she had entered a holy place without wearing a scarf and proper attire. She was just wearing a long white gown covering her body from neck to her toes. But then there was no one there to object.

She closed her eyes and started praying quietly. There wasn't a sound inside the shrine and she could hear her heart beat:

"Oh my beloved Imam, take me, take me, I am all yours. You know how much I need your help". She then started reciting some phrases from the holy book. Her ears were getting warm. A slight shiver in the back of her spine gave her goose bumps. She continued:

"Do you remember me blessed Imam? I used to come here with my mother as a child to visit you and I always loved you. You have always been the source of my belief and trust."

Then after a short pause she continued:

"Oh, holy Imam, every time I prayed towards your shrine you came to my dream and answered my prayers. Now I am here for good. Please take me. I am yours. Show me the way."

She felt a small breeze filled with rose scent. The chandelier lights dimmed slightly to a yellowish color. She looked up and through one of the stained glass windows she could see the distorted image of the moon. A sudden sensation took over her body, a murmur, and slight vibration almost like experiencing a mild earthquake. She saw a bright silver dust covering the space inside the tomb. It was coming from the ceiling almost like a fog. Millions of colorful particles started to glow in the air. Each particle was distinguishable from the other, with its own color and intensity and different depth of field like a cosmic firework.

"How beautiful, how out of this world," she whispered. Her heart started to beat faster. She was not frightened, but in awe.

The air was saturated with the fantastic aroma of lavender, rosewater and sandalwood, taking her back to her childhood. She realized how she had forgotten thepleasant scents on Earth, how sweet life is. So much to learn in so little time, yet she felt she was traveling back thousands of miles through childhood memories. The entire interior of the shrine was covered in silver dust . Millions of light particles sparkled all around her and flowed in different directions.

She continued with her prayers. Gradually she started feeling as if the silver lattice partition between her and the tomb of the Imam was disintegrating and fading away. She looked carefully and noticed the large marble tombstone was slowly levitating off the ground. Her pupils opened wide in disbelief. Nothing was tangible anymore. Everything seemed to defy gravity. The huge marble tombstone continued to go up towards the ceiling. Her heart was beating very fast. She saw the figure of a man rising up from the grave. But to her amazement this wasn't a material body. It was an ethereal phenomenon, a spirit. She could however discern the face of a white-bearded man with piercing turquoise-blue eyes that looked like marbles. She could see through the face and the whole body. She looked up and the marble tombstone was way up near the ceiling suspending in the air. She then addressed the Imam:

"My dear Imam, thank you for listening to my prayers. Thank you for allowing me to come in. I am happily ready, please take me away."

A bright light beam with colors of a rainbow was coming out of the grave. Things were happening fast. She felt like a passenger running to catch the last train.

The spirit offered her a hand and she grabbed it. She suddenly looked up and saw her mother, father and young brother standing next to her. Her mother was smiling and her father was standing in the corner of the tomb with his eyes closed and whispering prayers. Her young brother was grabbing on to her white gown and smiling, as if this was nothing but a game. Gradually, the spirit pulled her towards the grave. Her heartbeats started to slow. She felt weightless. She was now on the edge of the grave. She reached and kissed her mother's hand and her brother's face.Then with help from the ethereal body she descended into the grave that looked like a passageway etched with patina ivy that led to a garden.

Inside the garden the air was misty. She saw humming birds with translucent colors hovering over yellow morning glories. All her life she wished if nature could produce a yellow morning glory. Then she saw large colorful parrots sitting on the tree branches, smiling at her, inviting her to come and play with them. The garden's huge copper gate quietly closed.

This was the Parrot's Garden of her childhood dreams where she and her mother used to run around and chase large parrots. She felt at peace. The parrots were laughing and conversing with the flowers in many languages, all of which she could understand. The little ladybugs were sitting on the white jasmine flowers smiling and waving at her and welcoming her in fluent Japanese.

A frog jumped from the center of a lotus flower on top of a tea bush and greeted her in French with an unmistakable Parisian accent. She was now a free spirit no longer attached to her body and felt at home. She walked the gentle slopes of the garden as the parrots followed her around. The air was so fresh she could see the shimmering morning dew on the little forget-me-not flowers. Every corner a new plant, each flower a new scent, each step a new experience, ecstasy at its peak.


The waitress offered more hot tea. I put down my pen and realized I had dozed off. Soft music was playing in the background with the warm voice of Ray Charles. He had Georgia on his mind. Many other thoughts rushed in and I could see the Parrot's Garden fading among them. The windows were fogged up and it was raining outside. There was plenty of time to think.

Farrokh A. Ashtiani is the founder of

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