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THE RIVULET OF MAGIC

Hello Dear Readers and Listeners, ready to experience some magic! Well, this story certainly has a lot of magic! Before you read, listen or immersion-read THE RIVULET OF MAGIC, I urge you to become a member of this site and join my mailing list. Please do leave your comments. Praises and criticisms - all are welcome. Your feedback helps me improve as a writer and podcaster. Enjoy.



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INTRO 00:00:00

Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.

HOST TALK 00:00:47

Hello and welcome to OBSCURUS. My name is Biswajit Banerjee, and I am your host for this show. In today’s story, our protagonist goes to a strange stream in a hilly terrain called the Rivulet of Magic. Why is it called the Rivulet of Magic? Well, we will know soon.

Before I start the story, I urge my dear readers and listeners to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com. You will get all the information about my creative endeavors on this site. Please do become a member of the site and join my mailing list.

I have another website obscurus.buzzsprout.com which is dedicated to this podcast alone. All OBSCURUS episodes, their transcripts, and chapter markers are available on this site.

Please do also subscribe to my YouTube channels. There are two channels – one that presents OBSCURUS episodes in the form of audiograms; and the other that features my interviews, audio and video trailers of OBSCURUS episodes, behind the scene footage of OBSCURUS episodes, behind the scene footage of my writing process, guest interviews, story and book reviews, tutorials on writing, podcasting, and screenwriting, my travel adventures, documentary films, and lots of other fun stuff. I shall be glad to have you on board. The links are in the show notes.

And now, let’s plunge into the story. Things are not good between Mihai and his father. Although he is on a fun trip, the estranged relationship with his father troubles him. Destiny takes him to a stream called the Rivulet of Magic. Why does it have that name? Will the rivulet be of support to Mihai, or will it compound his problems? Come, let’s find out.

THE RIVULET OF MAGIC 00:03:53

Written and Performed by Biswajit Banerjee

Magical Waters?

00:03:53

Thoughts of his father crossed Mihai's mind. "Was it really the old man's fault? He did what he could, didn't he?" Mihai whispered to himself.

"Hey, are you talking to yourself?" Andrei asked as he opened the lid of his sipper.

"No, not really," Mihai said, "so, how long are we going to walk in this direction?"

"Do you see those trees?"

"Those look like spruces," Mihai said.

"Yes, we will take a ten-minute break after reaching the spruces before walking back to the hotel."

"Oh, come on, Andrei, those trees are not less than three kilometers from here."

"So what?"

"We have already trekked for three kilometers. Going up to those trees would mean six kilometers in one direction, and then another six kilometers back to the hotel."

"Indeed, that will make it twelve kilometers altogether."

"Twelve kilometers on this hilly tract will be too much, Andrei. Let's go back to the hotel now."

"Twelve kilometers aren't too many, Mihai; I know many trekkers who do not settle for anything less than twenty-four kilometers."

"Such long distances fall in the category of ultra-long day hikes; we never had plans for such long hikes."

"But we have nothing else to do today. The visits to scenic places will start from tomorrow."

"Yes, I know that Andrei; I read the agency's travel plan."

"So, we have time for a good deal of rest after returning to the hotel."

"Twelve kilometers don't sound like a good idea to me. Right now, you might not feel the fatigue. The tiredness may grip us later. What if the entire travel plan goes awry because of one of us or both falling sick?"

"Huh, I never thought you would act so pessimistic."

"Not pessimistic, I am rather realistic, Andrei."

"If we go back now, it will just be a petty six-kilometer walk."

"On a difficult hilly terrain such as this one, six kilometers aren't bad."

"This is not such difficult terrain, Mihai. It is rather a simple place to walk. That's why the agency does not even deploy guides for tourists trekking over here."

"Can't tell if that's the reason why they don't deploy trekking guides or they are simply saving money. All I can tell you is walking for twelve kilometers may not be good. Don't forget what the hotel receptionist said. Didn't he say we mustn't go too far?"

"But those spruces wouldn't be too far."

"Well, Andrei, I will go there if you say, but I won't be happy doing so."

After a minute of silence, Andrei said, "Now, you have put me in a dilemma. I don't know what to do."

00:07:46

"Life is full of dilemmas," a voice came from behind.

They turned around to find a white-haired man.

"Hello there, you two," the man said.

They greeted him back.

"Tourists are often confused with situations such as yours," the man said as he stepped closer.

"Who says we're confused?" Andrei asked.

"Well, you guys aren't sure if you should walk up to the spruces or go back to the hotel. Isn't that called confusion?"

"Oh, so you have heard our talks," Mihai said.

"Well, I didn’t eavesdrop on you, young friends. You were speaking too loudly; I was a short distance behind you. So, your words fell into my ears. But I can help you ... I am a local and know what will make your trip meaningful."

"We don't know you," Andrei said.

"I am Joe, and I live in this township. Trust me, all I want is to help you."

"What do you want to help us with?"

"I can advise you on what you should do now."

"Well, Joe, whoever you are, we don't need your advice," Mihai said.

"I don't blame you two for not trusting me. Tourists are often exploited and harmed by anti-social elements. So, your doubting my intentions is understandable. Anyway, young friends, I wish you a good stay."

The old man smiled and walked away from them towards the edge of the valley.

"What do you think, Andrei? Did he really wish to help us?"

"No idea, but he sure is an odd fellow. I have not come across someone like him."

"Maybe his intentions are good."

"You cannot tell what’s playing up in his mind, Mihai."

"Indeed, but then …"

"What?"

"Maybe we can ask him what will make our trip meaningful," Mihai said.

"Seems like you are feeling bad about hurting Joe."

"It’s not good to hurt an old man, for sure."

"Should we talk to him then?"

"Not even sure if that would be the right thing to do. What if he turns out to be a cheat?"

"Well, let's take a chance, Mihai."

Andrei turned towards the man. "Joe, could we talk?"

00:10:55

The old man turned around. "Did you say something to me?"

"Yes, could we have a word?"

"Sure."

Joe strode back to them.

"What is going to make our trip meaningful?" Andrei asked.

"You want to know?"

"Yes, Joe," Mihai replied.

"What makes you trust my intentions suddenly? Or maybe you still don't trust my intentions; you are taking a chance with me."

The two boys exchanged glances. Did he again hear their talks while he was walking towards the valley's edge? Mihai had no answer. And from Andrei's expressions, it was evident he didn't have an answer either.

"Maybe we should come to the point, Joe," Andrei said.

"Well, okay, regardless of why you called me back, I must thank you for allowing me to talk to you. A few minutes back, the two of you had an argument, if you allow me to call that an 'argument,' that is, about whether you should go up to the spruces or not. There's a golden occidental principle - whenever there's a doubt, always decide not to do the thing. After your little debate, none of you were sure if you should trek up to those trees. While Mihai said he would continue walking in the direction of the spruces with reluctance, Andrei said he was now in a dilemma about whether you should continue walking forward in the trek or go back. Clearly, none of you was sure if you should continue the trek in the forward direction. So, if you go by the occidental principle I just mentioned, you must decide in the negative - that is, you must not go forward."

"How do you know our names?" Mihai asked.

"Oh, that shouldn't be a secret to you. When I heard the two of you speaking, I also heard you addressing each other by your names."

"You have still not told us what will make the trip meaningful," Andrei remarked.

"Well, yes, I am coming to that. While these hills, valleys, and forests are beautiful, the most beautiful place in this area is practically hidden from the human eye. The travel and tourism agencies are unaware of it. A few locals know such a beautiful place exists, but they will never tell you."

"Why not?"

"Because it is believed to be magical in nature."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Mihai asked.

"Well, to understand what that means, you will have to come with me."

"Where do you want to take us?"

"The magical place. It's a beautiful rivulet at the base of the highest peak of these hill ranges. The rivulet is around two kilometers from here and almost completely covered by the forests - I guess that's why it is largely undiscovered."

"What magical properties does it have?" Andrei's eyes sparkled.

"That question I have already answered, Andrei - you got to see and experience it to understand what is magical about the rivulet."

"Does it have a name," Mihai said.

"The ones who know it exists call it the Rivulet of Magic."

"Rivulet of Magic! Why?"

"You are wasting time asking questions like these - either join me or go around watching what the traveling agency guide shows you."

Andrei got close to Mihai and whispered, "Do you think he is up to some trick?"

"Perhaps yes; he might take us to an obscure part of the forest and kill us."

"My young friends, I don't have any intent of harming you." The old man smiled - he had, it was clear, read their minds.

"Joe, we are not coming with you. Thanks for your offer."

"Very well, Mihai, no problems. Again, I do not blame you for not trusting me. Some tourists have had terrible experiences by trusting locals. But, I would still like to tell you that I am a true Catholic, and I swear by my sweet Lord Jesus Christ that I didn't tell you any lies or have any intention of harming you."

The old man moved his shirt collar to show a cross that glinted in the sun and continued to speak, "My young friends, the two of you reminded me of my sons who are both working in London. My wife died years ago. So, I lead a lonely life in this township. Sometimes, Victor comes to see me, but otherwise, all I do is spend time alone. By the way, Victor is my elder son's friend. And his father, at one point in time, was my colleague in the office of the sheriff. We both retired as inspectors. Coming back to my loneliness, I tell you, my young friends - there's no malady as horrible as loneliness. It gnaws on your soul. So, I have made friends with the gifts of nature - the trees, the hills, the streams, the landscapes, and the animals and birds, of course. But the Rivulet of Magic is my best friend. Since I felt affection in my heart for the two of you, I thought I should take you to my best friend."

Mihai and Andrei exchanged glances. For sure, the old man was telling the truth. Everything and everyone in the world but those teary old eyes could tell lies.

"Sorry to have hurt you, Joe," Mihai said, "we are willing to go with you to the Rivulet of Magic."

***

00:19:22

Not much sunlight reached the forest floor through the dense canopies overhead. But the old man showed the way. It grew darker as they walked deeper into the forest. There would have been total silence except for the occasional squawk of a bird or the flutter of a butterfly. Even their footsteps didn't make much noise, for the forest floor was carpeted with a thick layer of grass and other vegetation.

Soon their shadows disappeared into the twilight of interior darkness that grew denser every second. After they covered a stretch of around two kilometers, the old man stopped and pushed aside some branches to reveal a tiny stream.

"My friends," he said joyfully, "Not many mortal eyes can see this magical rivulet." And with these words, he moved through the branches gesturing them to follow.

00:20:41

They too walked through the branches and stepped into a glade bathed in a blue gleam. A little away from them flowed a rivulet, its gurgling waters a gentle whisper, a murmur akin to a lover's lullabies.

Despite no sunlight, the place was bright - the luminous blue waters of the Rivulet of Magic illuminated the surroundings.

"Bioluminescence," Mihai observed.

"What is bioluminescence?"

"It is the biochemical radiation of light by living creatures in the water."

"No, Mihai, this is not bioluminescence. One usually gets to see such phenomena in seas, not in rivers or rivulets. The luminescence of this stream is because of other reasons - maybe the chemical compounds and ions in its waters are causing the glow. Locals would rather believe this light to be a part of the magic of the stream.

"An interesting place, indeed, Joe. Thanks for bringing us here," Mihai said.

"My young friends, you have just seen a small part of the magic. The experience has just begun."

Joe smiled and took off his shirt and shoes. Then he walked towards the rivulet with open arms as though in a bid to greet a dear friend. Once in the stream, he took a deep breath and dove into the waters.

Mihai and Andrei waited for him to surface. But he didn't. A minute passed by … two minutes … three minutes … four minutes … five minutes … there was no sign of Joe.

"Joe!" Andrei shouted.

The old man didn't respond.

"Drowned, is he," Mihai said.

"Come," Andrei said and ran towards the water.

"Hey, Andrei, be careful." Mihai followed his friend.

Their eyes swept the rivulet right and left and center. No sign of Joe!

"Can you check the waters?" Mihai asked.

"By walking into the stream, you mean?"

"Yes."

"But I don't know how to swim, Mihai."

"Gosh, even I can't swim."

More time ticked by, but the old man didn't surface.

"Should we go back, Mihai?"

"Oh, there's no way we can find our way through the dense forest."

Then exactly where Joe had immersed himself, ripples appeared on the waters. The boys went closer to the stream. With extreme suddenness, a young and handsome man emerged from the rivulet.

00:24:14

They looked at him in awe, their mouths open.

"Welcome to the Rivulet of the Magic, Mihai, and Andrei," the young man said with a gentle smile on his lips and walked out of the waters.

"I can't believe this is happening! Are we dreaming or something?" Mihai said.

"No, this can't be real," Andrei remarked.

"This is real - every bit of this experience is real, my friends."

"Joe, you are a young man now," Mihai said.

"When you moved into the water, you must have been around seventy, were you not? And now you are not more than thirty, in looks that is," Andrei said.

The young man standing before them had a hearty laugh.

"Are you euphoric about being young again?" Mihai asked.

And he had another laugh.

"You find this a joke."

"Yes, the mistake you are making is quite like a joke, Mihai."

"Mistake!"

"Umm-hmm, mistake - I am not Joe. My name is Victor; I am Joe's son's friend.

"Victor, Joe mentioned you."

"Yes, I know he mentioned me."

"How do you know that," Andrei said, "you were not with us when he spoke about you."

"Joe told me."

"Where? Under the water?" Mihai asked.

"Yes."

"But how's that possible?"

"The rivulet makes many things possible, Mihai."

"I am not sure I understand you."

"Well, I hope you understand soon."

"Is Joe still in the waters?"

"Yes, he is, and he will be up any time now, Mihai." Victor grinned again.

Within a minute, Joe emerged from the waters and smiled at the boys. As he walked out of the rivulet, he said, "It seems you thought I had gotten younger."

00:27:00

"Yes, Joe, we made that mistake." Andrei smiled back at him.

"What we witnessed shook our sense of rationality for a while - now, we know the Rivulet of Magic is in reality not doing any magic." Mihai, too passed a smile.

"But why is it called the Rivulet of Magic? Only because the elements and ions it contains cause luminescence? Wouldn't Rivulet of Light be a more appropriate name for the stream?" Andrei asked.

"Move into the waters; perhaps you will understand why it is called the Rivulet of Magic," Joe replied.

"Are you trying to tell us the stream can really reduce one's age?" Mihai asked.

"Well, Mihai, I am making no suggestions; move into the waters, and you may know the answers."

"But we don't know how to swim," Mihai said.

"Even I don't know how to swim, my young friends," Joe spoke, wiping his body with a little towel he pulled out from Victor’s bag kept on a rock close to the rivulet. The bag was large and seemed to contain lots of clothes and towels.

"Then how could you stay inside the waters for such a long time?"

"Nobody gets drowned in the Rivulet of Magic, Mihai. If you can trust me, just move in - I promise it will be a life-transforming experience."

"Joe is right. Give it a try, move into the waters," Victor said, "rest assured, you won't drown. Like the three of you, even I can't swim. But I had been inside the stream waters for more than an hour, I believe. And look, nothing happened to me. If you are wondering how Joe and I breathed inside the water, let me clear your doubts - you will not feel the need to breathe. Breaths stop on their own without causing any damage to your body or its organs. The locals say the waters of the Rivulet of Magic push you into a state of transcendental meditation. In this state, one does not need to breathe to stay alive."

For whatever reasons, material or ethereal, Mihai had no doubts Joe and Victor were telling the truth and that no trickery was involved. When Andrei looked at him, Mihai nodded.

***

00:30:16

Soon enough, they were in the waters. They walked towards some rocks that jutted out of the rivulet. Before they could reach the rocks, the waters turned from blue to bright green. As Mihai wondered what caused the color change, the waters drew them inside.

The darkness of the first few moments was dispelled by bright light. This light was in the nature of projected rays. Mihai watched images of his life - his days of infancy, early childhood, schooling, college, and professional life. The visuals moved across the screen of his mind. Every experience - big or small - of his life played before him. But he did not relive the events as himself. The perspective of the events was that of those around him - the recipients of his actions. What his parents felt as he grew up went past his mind. The sorrows and joys Mihai gave them were all there to be felt. Likewise, Mihai lived through the sorrows and joys his relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers felt because of his actions. The delight of those he treated well and the sadness of those to whom he was unjust and bad - Mihai experienced them all. The chain of visuals ended with the image of his entering the Rivulet of Magic.

Both Mihai and Andrei emerged out of the stream. They exchanged a glance - each knew what the other experienced. As they walked out of the rivulet, the warm smiles of Joe and Victor greeted them.

***

00:32:52

Later as they sat close to the bank of the magical stream eating snacks and drinking tea, Victor explained, "According to ancient wisdom, when a person dies, his or her entire life flashes on the mind's screen. However, the person does not experience the events of his life from his own perspective. The perspective gets reversed - the dying person experiences the events as the others around him or her found them to be. If the person made others happy, he or she feels those joys. And if one hurt others, then the hurt is what one lives through in the dying moments. It is believed that the passing of the life in a flash allows the spirit within to decide as to what its next life should be like. The movie of one's life helps one realize what experiences one needs to live through to fill his bag of earthly experiences. Every life on earth is for experiential learning. After a sequence of thousands of lifetimes, when one's bag of earthly experiences is full, one is ready to become one with the Divinity. That’s what the Hindus call Moksha, and we occidentals refer to as salvation."

"The rivulet simulates a situation as to what would happen if the one inside its waters were to die at that moment. You must have seen a sequence of visuals on your mind's screen and experienced the perspectives of the ones whose lives, in direct or indirect ways, were influenced by your actions. This movie, if you choose to call it that, gives one the opportunity to make one's remaining life more meaningful. Now, you might know what you should do to make your life more purposeful."

"Mihai, you asked me how did Joe and I communicate inside the water. Well, we often bathe in the rivulet. And quite often Joe and I are together in the stream. That, I guess, is the reason why the two of us sometimes get in touch telepathically. It doesn't happen always ... but sometimes, we do get connected through telepathy."

"Yes, indeed, Victor is right - sometimes, we can talk through a telepathic connect. Please believe us."

"After what we experienced, we are willing to believe everything you tell us," Mihai responded.

Andrei wiped his tears and said, "The movie of my life has been a big lesson to me. I will apologize to all those to whom I have been unjust."

Mihai nodded. "Indeed, I will do the same. The first person I will apologize to would be my father. Oh, I have been so unkind to him. For the last several years, I have not been talking to him. Do you know why? Years back, I was selected for a post-graduation program at the University of Oxford. However, I couldn't join since my father, despite his best efforts, couldn't collect the money required to fund my studies at Oxford. Such a bad son I have been! I didn't see how hard he tried to send me to England; all I saw was his failure to fund the program. Imagine the amount of hurt I caused to my old man."

"Repentance can rid you of all sins - goes a maxim. You can still undo what you have done wrong, Mihai," Joe said.

"How can we thank you for bringing us here, Joe?"

"Don't thank me, Mihai. I have already explained the two of you are like my sons. I am glad I have been of some help to you."

***

00:38:14

Ten days later, Mihai was back in the little apartment at Bucharest. With 'Collection of Sherlock Holmes Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his father's favorite author, in his hands, he walked the narrow hallway towards his father's room.

"Where are you going, Mihai?" His mother called him from behind.

"Mom, I have a gift for Dad." Mihai smiled.

"What! Are you serious?"

"Absolutely, Mom, I have been so foolish to stay away from Dad ... he is a gem of a person. Sadly, I have not been a good son. So, I wish to undo the wrongs I did to him."

For a minute, Mihai's mother was silent. Then she said with tears glistening in her eyes, "I am so proud of you, my son; I am so proud of you."

***

00:39:31

After knocking, Mihai pushed open the door of his father's study. The old man was reading a book at the large Mahogany table under a table lamp. When he saw his son moving in, he couldn't hide his surprise.

"Dad, how are you?"

"I ... I ... am okay. How was ... your trip?" Mihai's father said, standing up.

"The trip was wonderful."

"Great ... your Mom told me your return flight got delayed by an hour or so."

"Yes, Dad, they delayed the take-off for some technical reasons."

"Good to see you back, son. Maybe you should take some rest now."

"Dad, I have a gift for you."

"Oh really! What is it?"

Mihai walked to the table and placed the book in his father's hands.

"Wow! 'Collection of Sherlock Holmes Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - nothing could have been a better gift, Mihai."

"Dad ..." Mihai couldn't hold his tears.

"What is it, son? Why are you crying?"

"Forgive me for being such a worthless son. I have been so unkind and unjust to you - you are the best father, and I am the worst son. Sorry, Dad, so sorry for the way I have treated you all these years."

They embraced.

"No, my son, don't shed tears like this. You are God's greatest gift to your mother and me."

And Mihai felt lighter as though he just moved from the dark forest into the realm of the Rivulet of Magic!

OUTRO 00:42:46

Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!

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