A short story
Julia walked in a queue along the circular, grass-laden path of the Stonehenge, its majestical Sarsen stones towering over her tiny figure. Her friend Maggie walked alongside her; the air was filled with excited murmurs of her classmates. Kate, the class teacher, kept shouting instructions about adhering to the prescribed walking formation and following her as she made her way towards the inner circle of the prehistoric monument.
Julia and Maggie were residents of Amesbury, England. As part of their yearly educational tour, a visit to the Stonehenge was planned. Though only about 3 kms away from their hometown, neither of the two had visited the monument before, only hearing stories about this famed historical stone structure – some of their elders spoke about the 13-feet high, 7 feet wide stones that made up the circular monument while others spoke about the inner ring of smaller bluestones and the 5 free-standing trilithons (God knows what they were) encompassed within them. So, of course, the excitement was palpable on the face of these two 6-year-olds.
Soon they were standing under a large slab of horizontal lintel stone, held up by the adjacent stones on both sides. “Maggie”, called out Julia with excitement. Maggie jerked her head sideways towards her friend, arching here eyebrows upwards in a quizzical manner as she continued sipping orange juice from the flask around her neck. “This would be a great place to play hide-n-seek”. Maggie gave a thumbs-up as she continued with her fruity hydration.
“Do you know how these stones were placed like this? Mum said that giants used to roam these lands. They were so tall that their heads touched the clouds. These stones were like bricks for them and they made this place as a stove. Once the surrounding area was filled with large trees but they used all the trees as firewood. As such now only this stove remains.” Continued Julia oblivious of her friend’s response who seemed equally fazed by the size of the structure.
“Kids, calm down and listen”, shouted Kate as she stood on the heel stone located at the centre of Stonehenge. “All of you first sit down in a semi-circle around here. I will give you a brief introduction about this place.” At once, everyone began shuffling and sitting down cross-legged on the ground around the heel stone, Katie having to intervene a few of the arguments as to who should sit nearest to their teacher. “So, this historical monument, called the Stonehenge, was built by a group of people who left no written records behind. As to how these stones were placed here still remains a mystery. Most people who have studied this suggested that it was used for conducting astronomical studies i.e., to read the movement of the stars and the planets”. On hearing the last words, a collective gasp of awe spread through the entire class. With a smirk, Kate continued, “These stones that you see behind me which are made up of two large stones joined by a lintel overhead are known as trilithon. That’s T-R-I-L-I-T-H-O-N.” she slowly spelled out the name, repeating it several times as her class started scribbling down the spelling with pencil on their notebooks. “Do you have any questions?”, asked Kate as she swept her glance across the entire class. Almost all the hands shot up to ask a question. “Okay, since we need to be at our homes early, I will only answer a few questions now and rest I will answer tomorrow. Janice, you go first”. “Thank you, Miss. How much do these stone weighs? They are huge”, asked a ginger-haired girl, eyes wide open in amazement. “They weigh around 25000 kgs each. Next, James”, pointing to a black-haired boy sitting towards the end of a row. “Yes, Miss. Is it true that this was built by people from other planets?” Hearing the last words, a ripple of excited murmurs spread across the tiny visitors. “No James, no such claim has been verified so far. In fact, there is no proof that whether “aliens” really exist or not. Kipling, next”. “Miss, how are these held in place? Can the wind not blow it away?”. “Kipling, as I mentioned earlier, each stone weigh around 25000 kg, so wind cannot blow it away. And because of its heavy weight most of these stones have been simply put in place without using any external measures though some of these overhead horizontal stones in the outer circle have been held in place between the two vertical stones using certain joints called “mortise and tenon” joints which I will explain tomorrow. Julia, next”. “Miss, is it true that giants actually built this place as a cooking place?”. “What!? No”. Obviously offended by her teacher’s lack of knowledge about the subject, Julia ignored the next few questions as she thought of all the amazing facts her mother had said about this place.
“Psst” called Maggie from her side. “Aren’t you bored Julia? I want to run about in this field. Else we can play hide-n-seek amongst these stones. It would be so much fun”. “Good idea”, let’s go out for a walk. Anyways Miss seems to not know many things about this place”, said Julia disappointed. “But how…”, before Maggie could finish her sentence, Julia raised her hand. “Yes Julia?”. “Miss, I need to pee.”. “Ok, go ahead. The restrooms are located near the school bus. Dave and Ramsey would be there to guide you. Don’t stray”. “Ok Miss, can I take Maggie with me? I don’t want to go alone”. Kate nodded approvingly as she continued with her lecture “… and these trilithons, arranged in the form of a horseshoe, along with the heel stone I’m standing on and the embanked avenue are all constructed to face the sunset of the winter solstice and the sunrise of the summer solstice… Owing to these reasons, many attributes astronomical significance to this place…”
Their teacher’s voice drowned out in the background as both Julia and Maggie leisurely made their way across the field under the sun, the flask around Maggie’s neck jostling sideways with each of their steps. “Shall we race till the bus?”, Julia asked. “Ok, but I cannot run with the flask around my neck. It will slow me down”. “No one’s here, you can put the flask here. We will pick it up when we return”. “Ok, good idea”. Soon the two tiny princesses were racing with full energy towards the yellow school bus which stood a few metres away from the Stonehenge. The sight of the two yellow dots running furiously towards the bus got Dave, the old school driver, alarmed and he quickly got down the bus, a stout wooden baton on his right hand, ready to protect the children from any impending danger. Ramsey, the young conductor followed suit and got down, shouting “Hey there, slow down. We are here”. But upon seeing the two giant figures getting down from the bus from afar, one with a baton on his hand and the other seemingly shouting at them, both Julia and Maggie slowed down gradually to a stop in front of the school bus. As they arrived near the bus, Dave asked them concerned, “Are you two missies alright?”. They nodded with affirmation, perplexed. “Then why were you two running? Miss told you not to run, right? You could have hurt yourself.” said Dave disapprovingly. “Mr Dave, Maggie here wants to use the restroom as soon as possible. Else she will end up peeing in her uniform”, said Julia innocently. Glancing sideways, she saw her best friend acting accordingly, wiggling and standing uncomfortably all of a sudden. “Oh, right. Go ahead then. Go straight from here and turn a left, you will reach the restroom”.
Upon reaching the restroom area, they looked back to ensure that Dave and Ramsey were out of sight. Then looking around, both of them studied the surrounding area. The restroom was located in the open amidst the green field, mounds of earth acting as a natural cover for privacy. The sun streamed upon their tiny little faces, warming them with joy. Since they were the only two, they decided to utilize the time and place to play some games.
Maggie picked up a twig from nearby and started drawing a rectangle while Julia made a couple of squares lined up along two columns within the rectangle. They drew a number from 1 to 10 randomly within these squares. Julia pulled out a few marble pieces from her skirt’s pocket and placed five pieces at one end of the rectangle, handing over a larger black marble to Maggie. After taking a few steps back, Maggie crouched, placed the black marble against the tip of her left forefinger, outstretched that hand with the palms facing outwards and pulled back the forefinger with her right thumb and forefinger like a bow and aiming towards the leftmost marble, shot the black marble. She missed her target the first time but on the second attempt, was able to displace the marble to the fourth square on the left-it was numbered 2. At once Maggie got up and putting her hands victoriously on her hips, looked towards her best friend whose eyes were focused on the ground in front of her. Julia stood by the end of the rectangle, held the right leg by its ankle towards her back so that she stood on one leg while using her left hand to hold her right shoulder diagonally. Holding her breath, Julia lurched forward with all her might towards the fourth square where the marble landed a few seconds ago. She was able to land without falling but to her dismay, she stood on the boundary of the third and fourth square. 2 points to her friend. Next came Maggie’s turn while Julia shot the marble. Maggie was to land on the third square on the right numbered 4. Maggie landed on the square alright but soon lost her balance and fell on the earthy grass. Julia was elated as she scored 4 points had it not been for her friend falling down.
In the midst of their game, they heard footsteps approaching fast towards them. Immediately Maggie rushed inside the restroom while Julia made a straight face, rubbed the sweat away from her forehead and sat on the ground, feigning boredom out of waiting for her friend. After a few seconds, Kate appeared and seeing Julia who acted surprised, asked, “What is taking you two so long? I thought you were the one coming to pee?”. “Yes Miss, I peed. But Maggie had too much of the orange juice and had to go to the loo-loo”. “Is she doing alright?”. “Yes Miss, she is doing perfectly fine, doing just her business. Once she gets out, we will come to you at once”, smiled Julia innocently. “Ok then Julia, take care of her. And I think this flask belonged to one of you”, said Katie pointing towards Maggie’s flask which hung over her shoulder. “Yes Miss, that is Maggie’s flask. Let me take that for you”. “Ok, don’t be late and come straight to the heel stone where the entire class is there”.
Soon Julia and Maggie leisurely made their way back to the class, all happy with the game they were able to squeeze into their “short” break.
Instead of making their way towards the inner blue circle of the Stonehenge through the front of the structure (which was modelled into sort of an entry gateway with stones placed on both the sides), the two ran with joy towards the left of the outer circle and made their way inside through two adjacent stones. Once inside, they tip-toed silently towards their seats, passing sideway smirks to each other.
After around twenty minutes of lecture, Katie allowed the class to get up and go about exploring the monument without straying away too far. In the meantime, Ramsey had reached the spot to aid Katie in ensuring all the children remained within the monument’s vicinity.
As the children started dispersing towards multiple directions to satisfy their visual curiosity, Julia reached out to a few and quizzed, “Hey, want to play hide-n-seek? It would be awesome here”. Immediately a few of the classmates (including Maggie of course) gave a resounding affirmation. The golden rule of hide-n-seek is to avoid becoming the seeker to have maximum fun. But unfortunately, Julia was selected as the first seeker, a result of a series of “serious” rounds of coin tosses. Irritated, she went towards the heel stone, stood right at the centre, closed her eyes and started the countdown. On reaching zero impatiently, she started towards the other side of the trilithon right in front of her, sounds of the hiders shuffling from stone to stone coming from all sides. A few minutes later, she spotted the back of the uniform of a girl jutting out from the corner of the stone behind which she hid but unfortunately it turned out to be Maggie. Smirking devilishly, Julia ignored her. Maggie silently pointed towards one of the adjacent stones. Taking cue, Julia made her way quickly towards the target stone and looking around, she found Tillie. Julia called out and the first round of search came to an end, Julia and Maggie passing mischievous grin between themselves. But just as everyone was grouping up to start the second round, someone shouted, “Julia cheated!”. Looking around, the voice came from Rodney, a tall red-haired boy who stood at almost twice the height of Julia. “No, I did not”, reverted Julia innocently. “Yes, you did Julia. I saw you. You spotted Maggie first but she directed you to Tillie. I saw it”. “Hey Rodney, I did not do any such thing. Neither was I spotted by Julia”. “You liar, I saw…”, before he could finish his sentence, he found himself laying on the ground, a series of rapid punches blocking his view and breaking his nose. With teary eyes, he could see the furious figure of Julia hitting him with anger, all the while shouting again and again, “Maggie is not a liar! You are! Say sorry to her!”. After a few minutes, he could make out Miss Katie dragging Julia away from Rodney, pulling her by her ear. Maggie trailed just a few steps behind her “protective” bestie. Dave had reached the spot with a first aid kit and laid Rodney’s head on the ground to stop the bleeding.
“Julia! What did you do!?”, asked Katie furiously. “Miss, Rodney called Maggie a liar and accused us of cheating in the game”, replied Julia in an equally furious tone. “Watch your tone lady!”, snapped back Katie. “She is speaking the truth Miss. He called me a liar”, said Maggie from a few steps away, feigning innocence. “Did I ask you Maggie? Go back there while I deal with your friend here”. Noticing the seriousness in Miss Katie’s tone, Maggie took a few steps back and stood the nearest possible to the scene of judgement. “Julia, hold your ears and kneel down”. Julia, without a second’s hesitation knelt down holding her ears. “And remain like this till I tell you to get up. I’m going to see how Rodney is doing”. As their teacher shot out of view, Julia looked towards Maggie, smirking mischievously while her friend smiled back with a little concern, mouthing a silent “Thank you”.
See you tomorrow !!!