“You should be doing your homework, not staring at it.” Her father’s stern dictate had Salma come out of her reverie and look around. Her father sat in his plush arm chair holding a newspaper in both his hands.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning outside while Salma was cooped inside the house, forced to finish her homework. She could not blame her parents really. The homework had to be submitted the next day after all.
“I am trying Papa.” She said as she started writing her essay again.
“Do you need help with it?” There was a little softness in her Papa’s voice.
“No Papa. It’s not that.” She said as she put the pencil down. “It’s just…”
“What is it darling?” With the newspaper placed on the coffee table, her father gave her his full attention.
“Honey we’re getting late!” Her mother called from the entryway before Salma could say anything.
“It’s nothing important Papa,” she smiled. “We can always talk once you’re back.”
“That’s my girl.” Her mother said while entering the library. Coming up to Salma, she bent and hugged her little girl. “Are you sure you will be fine alone? Sure you don’t want to come with us?”
“Mama, I am 11. Not a baby anymore.” She huffed and ruined the effect by giggling in the next instance.
Raising both her hands in surrender her mother sighed. “That was the last try. I won’t say a word about it anymore.”
She turned to move out of the room, but turned right back. “You have the mobile phone numbers? A speck of fear and you call us.”
“Yes Mama.” Came Salma’s meek response. There was no meekness in the twinkle in her eyes, however, and that did not escape her father. Coming down on his haunches, he hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. Standing up, he rustled her hair making her giggle again.
“Salma Muhammad Hadeed, you be a good girl.” Her father departed with those words.
At the click of the door being shut, Salma collected all her books and stationery and put them in her schoolbag.
“Now is the time to explore.” She mumbled to herself as she carried the bag to her room.
Entering the living room, Salma switched the lights on and the place was instantly brought out of darkness.
“There you are.” She whispered even though there was no one in the house but her, and started moving towards the far end of the room. Her destination; the ever shining blue door.
The door, she could see, had not a speck of dust on it when the stone fireplace beside the door had a very thin layer coating it.
Bringing her hand forward, Salma fleetingly touched it and then withdrew her hand. She stood staring, transfixed by the charisma of the wooden door.
As she stood there, she felt the wind rustle around her and move towards the door. She gaped at it open mouthed as it began losing existence and soon there was an open space with sprinkles of light brightening the cave-like passage.
“Wow,” there was reverence in her voice as she raised her hand again to touch the almost darkness before her. This time she did not snatch her hand back and instead, started walking into the cave.
As her slipper-ed feet touched the ground – inside the cave – she realised she was walking on dewy grass as wetness touched the sides of her feet and brought another giggle amidst her fascination.
Salma had always believed that there was something special about the door but no one else believed it. For her family it was just a door, albeit a beautiful one. But just a door with no door knob and basically useless except for the aesthetic it brought to the room. Her parents, however, always indulged in her flights of fancy as they saw how excited and creative it made her. Thus, the fascination of the door never dimmed for her.
Salma could hear a loud tap-tap-tap and looked around with her forehead scrunched but at her second twirl she realised it was her heart that was beating loudly. With a sigh to accompany the slight shake of her head, as if she could not believe the stupidity of what just transpired, she started forward again. In the distance she could see high trees that were far apart so that the branches could grow wild and wide. “Woah,” her gasp of astonishment, however, was because of the colour of them; the trunk pitch black with leaves of every colour imaginable.
With slow steps, so that she could savour the beautiful picture it presented, she walked up to one of the tree’s trunk and touched it with the tips of her fingers. The feel was not of the roughness of wood but the softness of silk; so soft, she could put a hole in it with a little effort. With her mischievous self making itself known, she, with her index finger, wrote her name in a flowery, cursive script. Her name engraved on a tree! It brought a huge smile on her face.
Looking down at her finger she saw that there was a black smudge on it and hurried to wipe it on her sky blue coloured T-Shirt, that she had paired with white jeans pants. All of a sudden, lightning struck and she could hear harsh growls. The sound moving towards her at a hurried pace. For the first time in this adventure of hers, she felt tiny feet of fear crawling all over her. With no idea where to turn she hugged the tree trunk to herself; holding tight for dear life. Her eyes shut tight she wished the voice to move away but no such luck. The growling was coming to her with every passing moment.
“This is yours, child,” said the growling voice, from right behind her.
“I meant no harm.” She replied without turning her face and no trace of fear in her voice. But she hugged the tree tighter.
“This is yours, child,” the voice repeated again. “The knowledge is yours.”
Still hugging the tree, Salma twisted her neck to look behind her. There stood a stooped man, supporting his weight with a cane held tight in his left hand. He had sunken eyes and a broken nose. His lips, on his wrinkled face, were chapped and brown. His sunken eyes, however, were the most distinguishable feature of his face. A shade of purple swinging between indigo and violet. And they sparkled with an eerie glow. Salma had a strange feeling that this weird man could not only see her hugging the tree but also see the thoughts swirling in her mind. Swallowing her fear as she narrowed her eyes, she asked the old man, “What do you mean? Who are you?”
“The Keeper of Knowledge.” The man replied in a growl resplendent in pride. Though he still stooped he looked a little taller and more at attention.
“But what’s your name? And what belongs to me?” Salma rephrased her question, her forehead still crinkled in confusion. Her arms, though, loosened their hold on the tree.
“My name? Bilgelik.” His chapped lips stretched in a fleeting smile. “This ağaç you claimed by writing your name on is now yours.”
Leaving the tree be, she turned fully towards this old man who had long grey hear and a long beard of the same colour. “I’m sorry but I still do not understand.” Salma said as she looked down at the black stains on the front of her T-Shirt.
With a knowing light reflected in his eyes, he started moving away from the tree and gestured for Salma to follow him. Knowing not what to do, she followed him with her heart going tap-tap-tap again.
“This is Bilginin Bahçe,” he turned to look at her and his lips twitched in a smile again. “Garden of Knowledge for you,” he faced forward and continued walking to a set of swings that came in Salma’s line of sight. “There’s knowledge in here from all over and now you have claimed a piece of it for yourself.” He finished and nodded his head slightly.
Reaching the swings, both of them sat on the swing, sitting across each other.
“Just a piece?” Salma asked tentatively as the swing started moving. Her not so timid question resulted in Bilgelik laughing out loud. “Alas, Salma, no one can know all but our Lord.” The growly voice was good natured but there was a hidden reprimand in the sentence too.
“What piece of it do I get?” Salma wanted to know.
“That is for you to find out as you make a place for yourself among all who won’t deem your knowledge and wisdom worth acknowledgment.”
“What does that even mean?” Her curiosity was piqued and she sat on the edge of her seat on the swing, holding the chain with all the might in her little hands.
The swing stopped suddenly and Bigelik stood up. He motioned for her to follow.
“Where are you going?” Salma asked. There was so much more that she wanted to ask of this old man.
“Off,” he said, making no sense to her eleven year old mind. “And you must go home too.”
“But…” she let the sentence hang and looked around wide eyed. Bigelik had vanished in front of her eyes. Very much like her favourite door had. “How do I return home?” She mumbled to herself.
Walking endlessly and finding no way out, she got tired and was back to her tree. The one she had engraved her name on. Resting against it, she closed her eyes and promptly went to sleep.
The muffled tap of shoes woke Salma and she blinked her eyes rapidly to get accustomed to the dark. She was lying in her bed. Somehow, she was back home. Getting up, she ran out the room and collided with her mother.
“What happened? Are you OK?” Her mother’s voice was full of concern.
Paying no heed for the time being, she ran to the living room and there it stood. As it always had. The ever shining Blue Door. Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she looked up to see her father staring at her for a moment or two. Coming down on his haunches he said, “So you’ve found out?”
Grinning ear to ear she hugged her father as she replied, “I have.”