This is the tale of a girl who lost her shadow three thousand years ago. It was so, it was not so, let us wish it may be so. In Hyrcania, Gorgan, Land of the Wolves, on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, lived seven year-old Princess Nisha with her mother, Queen regnant Opal, in their rustic castle on Mount Khandān. The whip-carrying, horse-back riding Queen had been part of the settling of the nomadic people from the steppes. She was a severe woman with a solemn countenance forever glued to her white face. As she carried out her State functions with all due diligent dedication, she had to share the mothering of her daughter with the girl’s grand, eagle-eyed nanny with a cinnamon-hued mien, Mother Simorq.
Constantly curious as what lay inside closed chests or beyond locked doors, the Queen’s unique daughter with silky auburn hair cropped, comforting voice of a cordial soul, enjoyed the smartness of a future novel-writing computer. Despite her high status, she was very humble thanks to her nanny’s influence. She often wore short embroidered tunics with silver poppers, practical slacks, a cape around the waist and soft leather boots. She held the utmost fascination for unraveling mysteries, plumbing the depths of the unknown, learning about everything under the lights of the sky like drawing in pieces of a great puzzle. In contrast, she did not need to learn how to fly out of her body, to turn objects into living creatures, to personify her own shadow or reflections. She came into the world full-handed and Mother Simorq had been teaching her how to use those peculiar talents of hers for expanding her knowledge of herself.
The large latticed windows of the rustic castle opened to a dark, fruit-scented forest extending to the not so far-off Caspian Sea shores. One morning the Princess walked away from the castle’s rose garden, captivated by the song of an invisible bird. She descended a thousand narrow, low stairs weaving their way downhill to the velvety meadow before the forest. Not long after she entered the dark forest, Nisha found herself wandering along several forking paths, surrounded by branches, tall bushes, chilling sound of wolves’ howling.
There seemed no pattern to where she went off. Each twisted tree trunk appeared in the image of the other. Each track looked the same. Each direction became the same. The eye of the sky caught glimpses of her strutting purple tunic appearing, disappearing, reappearing under canopies of leafy branches spread out above. She passed protruding branches prone to stabbing at her cheeks, leaving skin-deep scratches. Deceiving possibilities made her go astray into large ditches. Frightened, the little Princess wanted out, back to the castle. She just chose a random path, walked on a stroppy ground for a very long while until the path widened. The trees surrounding it began to thin. She slowed her pace to a relaxed walk as she reached a clearing with sunlight pouring down on a rough terrain. Out of breath, Nisha threw back her head, watching the comforting expansion of the open sky. She had the sensation of floating around on the verge of fainting. As a lonely cloud cruised over sky, flitting away in silence like a lost butterfly, she crossed the bumpy clearing to the highest ground near a beautiful lime tree. As soon as she sat on the smooth rock ledge under the tree, she burst into a flood of tears she could not stop.
Slumped, the lost girl tasted the salty teardrops running down her cheeks, burning her cuts, as images of her mother’s empty body and unreachable hands in an empty world appeared in her mind. Lightheaded, she sought a refuge out of that world. The warm, giant hands of Mother Simorq emerged from the Queen’s emptiness to hold her head. Nish’a sobbing turned into sniffles. She didn’t notice the passage of time until she became aware of a fresh presence. Through the curtain of her tears, she saw a blue lake formed by the gathering of her teardrops in the ground below the smooth rock. The little Princess wiped her tears with the back of her hand. She rose to attend to the unexpected event, began to walk around to scan the lake. There were deposited white sheets of salt everywhere around the lake, at its bottom. She scooped up some water and drank from her hand. The water was sweet and fresh. Although she had stopped crying, the sweet water lake continued to expand, to deepen in increments by itself for a while. The thought of the release of her pent-up sorrow resulting in something so beautiful brought smile to Nisha’s face. She sat back cross-legged on the smooth rock, which was now at the same level as the water’s surface. The sun perched at its highest peak, warming her back, rendering the water surface brilliant silver.
No sound came from the trees. The wind had died down, the lake lay still as glass. Even the girl’s reflection in the pure water turned as still as everything else around her. Much resenting the stillness of her reflection and the rest of the world, the Princess swirled circles in the surface of the lake with her little fingers. Her reflection broke into varied parts. Each part took a different form with differing colour. A gust of wind awoke the forest in a sudden move. All the birds began singing their afternoon songs, joined by the insects playing their fiddles. As the wind made tiny waves in the blue lake, the little princess determined her divided reflection, which receded from her without stopping, become the fish, the snails, the frogs, the other creatures of the lake. In no time, all the separate parts of her reflection turned into pieces of flesh of different shapes with divergent colours, before turning into small water creatures who swam away from her. Little by little the scent of fish mingled with algae filled the air.
Delighted by the lake’s coming to life, Nisha looked into the water before her for a last time. To her sudden horror, she saw no sign of her reflection. In an abrupt reversal of mood, she became breathless, experienced a sensation of choking, a pounding reverberated in her temple. As she tried to gain a grip on what had happened, her frustrated voice lashed out at herself. “Of course, why didn’t I think of this before?” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “I have lost something of myself, which I like so much.” Within moments, she made the reverse decision of bringing her reflection back. She needed it for the times she wished to see what remained apparent to others yet a mystery to herself. She needed the light of her experiences to be bent back onto her mind, to make careful considerations about what each of her new experiences signified. Her reflection took frequent forms, showed an endless variety of moods on her face, different body languages. Through her reflection, she learnt from experience, initiated provocative actions, developed new skills. At her age of seven, she could not think or express herself in these terms, yet she intuited the same reasoning. >>> Part 2