Andilandi - Vlad's Journey To The Other Realm

excerpt  THE OTHER REALM To those who may wonder who or what Andilandi can be, I will tell that it is not a child. As I will tell them that it is not the name of a cuddling pet or of some computer game (at least not yet). Andilandi is not even the name of a remarkably tasty cake nor of some nice alien who has come to visit. No! It's not a human being, it is not an animal, it is not a game and, undoubtedly, it is not some sweet edible stuff. Nevertheless, it is by no means less important than any of those I have named. On the contrary! It is priceless. And, although most of you may not remember, I'm sure you have already come across it, the moment of your first great challenge.Because, you see, in order to catch a glimpse of it, one doesn't have to be in some particular place or have some extraordinary traits, such as to be able to fly (with or without a Magic Horse), to breathe under water, like snakes used to do before they grew into dragons, or even to take the shape of the surrounding things or beings, like the ladies do. It doesn't matter how old you are, whether your hair is cropped or not, whether you can tie your shoelaces on your own or clean up your plate real fast. It doesn't matter a bit. You just have to pass one great test. To take a decision which would affect the rest of your life, in one way or another. That is all.In order to make sure you fully grasp what I mean, I shall take Vlad Ionescu's case for example. He discovered her, Andilandi, precisely when his family was impatiently expecting a new member. His parents hadn't told him whether it was a little brother or a sister, but, whatever it may have been, I must tell you from the very beginning that Vlad was far from being thrilled. He wasn't thrilled by the fact of being "exiled" from the house he had so comfortably lived in Bucharest all the way to Hoghiz, to stay with the Munteanus, his maternal grandparents. It is a village which, if you look it up carefully on the map, you shall find in Transylvania, near the Forest of Wealth.Nothing special so far, you may consider. And maybe you are not that far from the truth. And that is especially because, at first glance, neither the people in the small hamlet at the outskirts of the forest, nor the forest in itself seem to be outstanding in any way. But these were only the things to be seen through the window of the bus by which Vlad had got there. Because, once he had got off, it didn't take him long to notice that things were different there.And why was that? First of all, because in that village, believe it or not, there is no electricity. Or at least there wasn't the last time I was in the area. That means no TV, no computer, nor any other appliances one cannot stand living without at home. There are no malls there, no amusement parks, no playing corners, no candy stores, not even some out of place cinema. In other words, for reasons one could hardly understand at first, people lived there like at the beginning of the 20th century. And that would have been next to nothing, if the villagers hadn't preserved the old ways of thinking, as well.Vlad had found himself very soon amused by all of their superstitions. One of the funniest things was the fact that the peasants in those parts didn't call the Forest of Wealth like they should have and like it was written on the map, unless they talked to you as they would to a stranger. If you had paid attention to what they whispered to each other, you would have noticed they called it "The Other Realm." According to them, this was no ordinary place, but a magical one, inhabited by plenty of fantastic beings of which I bet you have only heard in fairy tales. It was a place swarming with odd creatures such as the Ladies (The Wicked Fairies), the Soothsayers, the Dragons, the Ogres, the Ghosts or the Wondrous Bird.Vlad also heard them saying to each other that these beings could be seen for real, but only by skilled children. He didn't exactly know what that meant, but he wasn't very interested either, as he was one of those who cannot believe, until they see. In other words, the superstitions about such creatures, whether benevolent or hostile, were not only incomprehensible and unacceptable to him, but they actually made no difference to him whatsoever.But, as days passed by, he had grown quite fond of the stories of these enchanted creatures, as they were told to him by his grandparents or by Uncle Vasile (the authorized storyteller of the village). And that was mostly due to the fact that, except for the traditional gatherings, there was no other way of entertainment in those parts. And these gatherings were as follows: all the children in the village would gather at dusk in a household or, if it was summer, in somebody's garden, to listen to Uncle Vasile who was expected to function as a rural TV set. He would tell to those who would listen a few stories of Ghosts, Elves or Fairies (by request, usually), after which he would send everybody to bed.If, in the very beginning, Vlad would gape about at these gatherings only to tease the storyteller with his naughty questions, that summer evening I first met him he was experiencing a new phase. He kept quiet. That meant the story had started to envelop him and slowly make room into his soul.He had even surprised himself by asking whether the Wondrous Bird, of which the old man was telling them about, really existed. And if so, wouldn't it have been great if he could have come across and used it on the spot. He so needed such a bird…Of course, Vlad did not believe in the existence of the Other Realm or of the strange beings who lived there, but he had started longing after the marvelous benefits their existence would have brought to him. It was just as people wish for dragons to exist, only such that they may ride them. Or for monsters, such that one might deprive them of their castles, make them shrink and hide them into their pockets, on their way home. Or Godmother Fairies, such that they may fulfill a secret wish. One no one else could make true.The evening he had found himself concerned with such thoughts was a regular one. A gathering of this type had just come to its end and the children, among which there was Vlad, were slowly dispersing. Some of them obediently went home, others, like Vlad, would just wander aimlessly over the hills. OK… if you had asked him them where he was going, especially that it was getting late, he would have told you he was going home. Which wasn't at all true, but you couldn't have argued against it, for his grandparents' mansion, in whose care he had been left over the summer, was somewhere in between the village and the forest. So, one might have said he was heading that way.When I spotted him then, sticking to the other peasants' children, who didn't exactly like him, like a leech, I knew next to nothing about him. He was a regular fair haired and black eyed boy, who didn't look older than seven. Judging by the paleness of his face and the garments he was wearing, I instantly reckoned he wasn't local. He looked a lot like children I had seen in cities, when I felt the need of wandering around and haunting the world.And, to be perfectly honest, the fact that he wasn't local made him totally uninteresting to me. To such an extent that I almost turned my back on him, as well as on the others. And maybe I would have done so, if I hadn't noticed a Ghost lazily approaching the "merry lot."The peasants' children quickly fled when they heard the roosters crying out so loud, which doesn't usually happen at night, when the birds, naïve as they are, try to call upon the sun. Why? Because even birds are aware that Ghosts hate sunbathing! But Vlad, who had no idea what was going on, thought that maybe the other children weren't interested in playing with him. Which really wouldn't have been a first. Ever since he had come to the village, they had been calling him a "Bucharest smarty-pants" and they hadn't been too keen on playing with him. So, as he had become sad and bored, he thought of going home, in the end. And, as I could make out no trace of fear on the boy's face, I decided to stay, to see what would happen. After all, things looked like I was in for quite a show. LiterNet,

by Sînziana Popescu (b. 1972)