The Cherry Blossoms - A Short Story

Cherry Blossom
Cherry Blossom

It's been a year since I came to Shillong! I have never felt more at home at any other place in my life. Choosing a job in this far away place has been a blessing. Having lived all my life in abuse from my alcoholic dad, my step mom and her kids, in a very confined small house, in a cacophonous, hot, dirty city and then coming here living all by myself, in this blissful place, has been a heavenly experience. The heavy rains are long gone by and days are getting colder everyday, in this October. The best part is that the cherry trees have started blooming!

I remember when I first arrived here, on a house hunt. This house, containing just one room, didn't look that great, but then I saw this bunch of pink-white shades by the window. For a moment, I racked my brain to place the image I just saw - was that from anime or from my own drawings? My eyes located back the cherry tree, with a cluster of dark pink, soft pink and white flowers. It was ethereal. Back then my mind has associated cherry blossoms only with Japan and I had no idea that they existed in Shillong. I was bewitched and the house suddenly became  enchanting. Since then, it has become my home - the first of my own.


From the day I started living in here, I have always felt the presence of the cherry tree. It was always there silently watching me through the window, like a guardian angel. Sitting on the window sill with a coffee and a book, by the window side, while the tree happily sways are the most "Hygge" moments of my life. I felt safe. Sometimes, I imagined the tree kind of giggling or cheerful at times, sometimes it would be lost in it's own trance. When I am singing in the house, the tree seemed to be singing too, joining in the echo of the house. I have come to love it more than anything in my life. I am told that the tree is more than one hundred years old, but it has got that mischief of a trouble-making kid. I can imagine it grinning wickedly.

There's been a tension in the city because of citizenship protests. There have been some murders of the non-local people, couple of them at the end of my own street. Many are leaving the city to their own safe havens else where. But this is my only safe abode and I can't leave.

I woke up in the middle of the night to hear loud noises around. I immediately understood that it's the goons who are here to avenge through the the innocents. I peered through the corners of the window curtain. There were more than ten people. They were banging the doors of the opposite house. The young couple of that house didn't budge. The men were strong and angry, they broke down the door, few of them marching into the house. I saw some men turn around and walk towards my house. My heart jumped. I dragged the bed and desk quickly, to block the door.

Three men were on my front yard. They stopped for a smoke. I held my breath and stood as silent as I could. As I stood there frozen and still looking out from behind the curtain, one of the guys looked at me. I recoiled quickly and closed my mouth with both my hands to not cry out of horror. I got hold of my cooking pan all the while keeping my eyes on the door and windows. It seemed like hours passed by, but no one was banging on my own door. I could hear their voices from outside, serious in a discussion. I heard footsteps - but receding.

Did they assume that no one was home?

I saw many wreaking havoc - destroying the neighborhood properties, the goons kept walking in front of my house as if I'm invisible. Just when I realized that the curtains of the window, where by the cherry tree lives, was open, I saw a man looking at the tree. I froze, he then looked right at me. But he didn't flinch, didn't make a move, didn't cry for his gang to attack me.  He seemed like the boss of the gang, watching over their progress. With a cigarette in one hand, he plucked a whole bunch of the cherry blossoms with his other hand, just to maul them and throw them on ground. He let the cigarette ashes fall on the pastel flowers and when he was done, he snubbed the cigar on the bark of tree. I heard cries. He looked at me again. It is then I realized that he was actually looking right through me. He then walked away as if he didn't see me.

I looked at the glowing cherry blossoms in the moonlit night. There was a silver glow to it. It seemed to be shaking off the ashes out of it. It was angry, I could tell. I walked towards the window. I could hear a whimpering sound. As I stood by the window, around the silver glow of the tree, at the roots of it, were three silver-white transparent - "..spirits?"

I knew Kodamas, the tree spirits, from Japanese folklore. I must be dreaming all this. But seeing them sad, broke my heart. They were real, I knew it. They have been protecting me and this house. Just when the men left, I jumped off the window sill and cleaned up the tree from ashes. The Kodamas just looked on, observing me. I didn't know how to console them. I tried to reach for them, but my hands just went straight through them. I tried to tell them that I will clean up, water and nurse back the tree. I thanked them for protecting me. They said nothing, but I knew that they understood me, like they always did.

Next morning, as I was having my morning coffee by the tree, the Kodamas were fast asleep by the tree. They seemed to be at peace. I was glad about that. I got my newspaper on to the window sill and then I saw it. I shuddered at the headline and at the image. It wasn't about the ruckus made by the goons last night, rather it was about the man who smoked by the cherry tree. He was apparently a popular union leader. Now he was dead, mangled up in the worst way in his car. The car has apparently hit a cherry blossom tree and it was ruled out as an accident.


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