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An Ancient Fairy Tale of  Ista and Her

Brother Asar by Thomas Praino

 

 

 

 

                                                         

 

 

     

“The fairy tale could not have its psychological impact on the child were it not first and foremost a work of art.”

 —Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment

 

 

 

 A long, long time ago in a land where possible and impossible were both possible, a young girl named Ista and her little brother, Asar, lived in a wooden hut with their foster parents.

      Ista was singing while she finished her chores, and Asar was devouring all the sweets in the kitchen sweet-box when their foster parents returned home.

      “Good news­ Ista—we just arranged your marriage with a boy from the family across the river,” the foster mother said.

      “I’ve never seen him.”

      “They offered the best bride-price.” The foster mother took off her tunic.

      “But father, I’m too young to marry—”

      “Next year, you’ll be a woman.”  The foster mother interrupted, hanging her tunic on the wall. “Next year, willy-nilly, you’ll marry and live with them.”       

      “I want to marry a boy I love.”

       “They offered a good sum as a bride-price because of our family name,” the foster father said. “Don’t be disobedient.”

      “I want to live here.” Ista started to cry. “Not with strangers.”

      “Please don’t get married,” Asar said. “I don’t want to be left alone.”

      “You fat little puff. I told you not to touch those sweets.”  The foster mother grabbed a sandal and darted over to the table. “You ate them all.”

      WHOP!  Asar ducked. WHOP! He caught the blows on his shoulder. WHOP!

      “Tomorrow you’re going to help your father shear sheep. Get to bed you ungrateful toads.”

      They scampered to their room.

      Ista dove on her bed, her body trembled, and she covered herself with the blanket. “I’ll be good,” she whimpered.

      Asar placed his little hand on her shoulder. “Don’t cry.”

      “I want to live here, not with strangers,” she repeated.

      “Promise me you won’t leave me alone,” Asar said.

      “I have to obey them.”  

      “Ista, let’s run away.”

      “Someone will bring us back.” She pulled her head from under the woolen blanket. “They’ll whip us.”

      “We’ll cross the great desert—to a far away land where they’ll never find us.”

      “We can’t cross the great desert.  We’ll die.”

      “We can. We can. I know we can.”

      “Alright, Asar, alright. We’ll run away together tonight.”

     

      When their foster parents were asleep, Asar sneaked into the kitchen and stuffed their leather satchels with food and water. Ista dressed, put on her headscarf, took the blankets, and they left in the dark to cross the great desert.

      When their foster parents awakened and couldn’t find them, they stood at the door and yelled. “When you brats come back, we’ll beat the life out of you.” 

      “How dare they shame us to those peasants across the river,” said the foster father.

      “I hope a ghoul roasts them on a spit over a yellow flame,” the foster mother said.

      “Yes—let a ghoul eat them—so we won’t be shamed.” The foster father slammed the door closed.

      A ghoul heard the curse and started to trail them, stalking them as a hyena

     

      In the desert chill, the brother and sister followed the stars, the faithful Dog Star and the Giant Sheppard. With the gravel crunching under their sandals, they walked through the dark, starry night. At dawn, they came to a patch of palm trees near the wadi. They drank and ate, but Asar was so hungry he ate all of the food. While exploring the small shaded area, he saw an apricot tree. Asar loved the taste of apricots, so he reached for one.

      “The jinni planted this fruit tree for himself,” warned a friendly snake resting on a branch. “He commanded me to say, whoever eats an apricot from my tree will turn into a mountain lion and live as a beast for seven years.” The snake bit its tail, swallowed itself, and disappeared.

      Asar imagined the sweet taste of those fruits in his mouth, and he reached for an apricot.

            Ista grabbed him. “No. It belongs to the jinni. If you turn into a lion, then we can’t stay together. We’ll find more food, I’m sure. ”

      After gathering palm leaves and branches, Ista sat and weaved a palm parasol. When she finished, they continued their journey across the desert, walking slowly under the shade of her parasol until the sun rose high and the day became too hot.  In the afternoon, they saw something shining in the distance as if someone was reflecting sunlight off a mirror, and they walked towards it.  

      “Look an oasis,” Ista said.

       They stopped to rest there and found fig trees and a pond. They ate figs for lunch and took a nap. When they awoke, they packed their satchel with figs and filled their cask with water. Later, as they were walking out of the other side of the refuge, Asar noticed a pomegranate tree, and he reached to pluck one of the red fruits.

      Suddenly, a friendly snake lying on a branch warned him. “This pomegranate tree belongs to a jinni. If you eat one, you’ll turn into a jackal and live as a beast for seven years.” The snake bit its tail, swallowed itself, and disappeared.

      Asar stopped and looked up at him to say something, but he was gone. The juicy taste of pomegranates was tempting, so he reached for one.

      Ista grabbed his arm and pulled him away. “Leave it alone. It belongs to the jinni.  If you turn into a jackal, then we can’t stay together. Let’s go.”  

      They went on trudging across the desert, and the little brother and the little sister sang happy songs to each other as they walked together. Ista limped because of the blisters on her feet. Towards the evening, they saw a bright light in the distance again. They plodded through the endless sand and came to another oasis where they rested and ate the figs for dinner. Among the many green plants, Asar found almonds too, which they stuffed into their satchel. Ista crushed some almonds and fed a few crows that lived there. She giggled watching the black birds scurry and eat the crumbs. Then they both slept.

      The next morning, Ista noticed the mountain was on the other side of where it was yesterday but farther off. She realized that instead of going in the direction they wanted to, they were going south, deeper into the desert.  While she stood deciding which way to go, Asar noticed a pear tree; he walked toward it and plucked one.

      Suddenly, a friendly snake resting on the branch yelled, “This pear tree belongs to the jinni. If you eat one, you’ll turn into an oryx and live as a beast for seven years.”

      “Everyone one knows snakes lie,” Asar said, stepping away from the tree with the pear.

      The snake bit its tail, swallowed itself, and disappeared.

      Ista heard the warning and ran back, but before she could reach Asar, he ate the pear and turned into an oryx.

      “Oh, what are we going to do now?” She flopped down on the sand, sat and chewed on her thumbnail. “I shouldn’t have listened to you and run away. I should have obeyed them.”

      After Asar gobbled the pear, he looked down and saw his hooves. “Ista,” he bleated, “please don’t leave me here alone.”

      “I won’t leave you alone. I promise,” she said, “We’re lost—but we must go on.”

      The hyena, hiding in the bushes with its tongue hanging out over its sharp teeth, drooled.

      Ista knotted her black headscarf and veil together, wound it as a leash around his neck, and guided Asar into the desert. They walked side by side until they came to the base of the red mountains. The sun was setting behind the peaks, and in the shadows the mountains looked like ruddy giants. She saw a cave. When she stood in the front of the entrance, someone threw stones at them from above.

      “Ouch! We didn’t mean to eat your fruit. Please don’t throw stones. We’re lost.”

      More stones were cast down at them. Ista opened her parasol to protect themselves from the stones, and they hurried away. When she got to a safe distance, she tied Asar to a shrub. He scratched the rusty dirt with his hooves and began to nibble on the roots, and then he peed on the bush.

      “Hey! Why are you digging up my house?” yelled a jerboa that popped out of its burrow.

      “Because I’m hungry, little rodent,” Asar grunted.

      “Not only did you wake me up in the middle of the day, but you’re also peeing on my summer home.”

      Ista replaced the wet sand on the jerboa’s house. “I’m sorry. But the jinni threw rocks at us and wouldn’t let us use the cave.”

      “That’s not the jinni. Those are mountain baboons throwing rocks. Everyone who lives here thinks people are a nuisance. If you’d behave like a civilized jerboa, they wouldn’t bother you. Take that four-legged human with you and go away! ”

      “We promise to behave. See, how I fixed your house.”

      The little jerboa nodded, pleased that his house looked better than before because Ista built a tiny sand castle around it with five walls and a tower. He hopped onto his new sand tower, and sitting on his tail, he shouted proudly to the baboons. “Let them live in the cave. She’s my cousin,” Then he did a back flip off his tail and slipped into his burrow. Now, he lived in a star castle with sand walls and a tiny tower.

      They walked toward the base of the red mountain, undisturbed. Ista sang a happy song to her brother. When they got there, Asar saw a beautiful gazelle nibbling at a bush, and he ran after her, calling for her, but the doe sprinted away.

      The sun was setting, the sky scarlet, and it was getting late, and the mountain lions would be coming out. From the nearby shrubs, Ista collected leaves to weave a bed mat for each of them. When she finished weaving the mats, she put them on the ground in the cave where they would sleep comfortably. She slept on hers. But Asar ate his.

      Their cave was smaller than their hut, snug and comfortable, but at night it was cold and windy. They shivered and slept together to keep warm. Ista dreamed of reaching the far away land that Asar mentioned, but in the morning when she woke up hungry, she wished her real parents were alive.

      Later in the day, while Asar was alone, eating another shrub, the hyena approached him from behind, crouching, inching closer, and closer. Now it was close enough, and it coiled, ready to pounce on him. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, two crows swooped down on the ghoul’s head and plucked out its eyes, and then they flew back to the mountain top The ghoul ran away and had to wait for the following day for its eyes to grow back.

      When the ghoul’s eyes grew back the next day, it prowled near their cave again. The hyena stopped and sniffed the air. The pretty gazelle was coming to see the new visitors because the day before Ista left food for her near a bush, hoping that she would make friends with Asar. The hyena saw her and quickly hid inside the bush. When the gazelle came to nibble on the food, the ghoul jumped out, bit off her head, and ate her, hooves and all.

      The next morning, hoping to see the gazelle, Ista sat on a rock in the shade, repairing her parasol. She was singing a happy song. The hyena crept up directly behind her. With her mind distracted on so many things, she did not notice the oncoming danger. From the distance, Asar saw the hyena and started charging, his head down, and his sharp horns pointed level to the ground. When the ghoul came close to her, it coiled, ready to pounce for the kill. It opened its mouth wide, wide as a big whale’s mouth, its teeth sparkling in the sunlight, its jaws shinning like a hundred swords, ready to tear them both apart. Ista saw Asar running towards her, she turned her head, screamed, stood up, ran, and tripped.

      Whoosh! Again, the crows swooped down from the sky and plucked out the hyena’s eyes. Blind, the ghoul lunged and snapped its jaws shut and bit off Ista’s toes. Then it shot away like a bolt of lighting, and vanished. Asar arrived and licked her wounds clean.

      Ista hobbled away, holding onto Asar. “I shouldn’t have listened to you and run away. I should have obeyed them. Now everyone will make fun of me because I have no toes.”

      After the ghoul’s eyes grew back, and it could see again, it waited for the next night to eat them. Around midnight, it slinked towards their cave. This time, it wanted to trap them while they slept. The crows wouldn’t be inside, and the two couldn’t escape. When the hyena came to the opening of the cave, just to be safe, it closed its eyes and followed their scent, sniffing the air, walking without making a sound, walking on the very air they were breathing, the air which would lead to their tender, sleeping throats.

      Thud. Thud. Thud. The mountain shrieked. Thud. Thud. Thud. Suddenly, the tribe of baboons pelted it with a torrent of rocks. All of the baboons clustered together around the cliffs, even mothers holding their infants; they were screeching, their mouths gaping, their fangs glittering like a thousand swords; there were so many baboons that in the dark they looked like a giant, evil jinni, and they chased it away. After that night, the ghoul always kept a safe distance from the angry, red mountain.

      Undaunted and determined to do evil, the ghoul waited nearby, close to them, spying on them as they survived in the hollow of the red rocks. Every time Ista left to continue her journey, it sent a blinding sandstorm, making them travel in a circle, making them always end up back where they started. Every night the hyena howled its hideous laugh after it ate some poor creature. Every morning Ista, hungry and lost, bit her nails when she saw the animal bones the Ghoul always left from the night before. The Ghoul would not allow them ever to leave the red mountain. One way or the other, it was going to eat them. There they remained, stranded in the great desert. Years passed.

      One dark, cloudy day, almost as if in a dream, they saw a herd of oryx dash by. Asar was excited. Ista heard men yelling and horses neighing, the sounds came from the other side of the ridge. She took Asar by the leash and hurried him into the cave. He said he wanted to run with them, but she warned him not to go out because she was afraid they were coming to take them back and they would both be beaten to death. Peeking out, she saw men armed with swords and bows and arrows. One man, who led the group, wore a white robe; he had long, black hair and a beard like a goat. He rode a black mare. She never saw such a beautiful animal; it had an ebony mane and a high-arched tail, an arched neck and a broad forehead with large eyes and nostrils. His horse whinnied and he turned to look around. Seeing the hyena, he raised his silver sword, and he charged for it. The hyena snarled, showing its sharp teeth, but seeing the silver sword, it sprinted over a dune and vanished. The herd ran to the other side of the foothills. The men turned their horses and gave chase. While she watched them, Asar bolted out the cave.

      “No!” she shouted.

      “They’ll never catch me,” he said. “I run faster than the wind.”

      Ista stayed in their cave, biting her nails. Hours later, Asar returned. He said he never had so much fun in his whole life. No one could run as fast as him. They chased and chased, but couldn’t catch him he said.  

      “You mustn’t do this again. They’re hunters. They’ll eat you.”

      Asar laughed and repeated that he never had so much fun before. He felt that being an oryx was a thousand times better than being a boy. He told her she should have eaten the pear too because now he can find food and water anywhere, and with his four legs, he could run faster than the wind.  He told her she could live here happily if she goes back and eats the pear. He said if she goes back and eats the pear, she wouldn’t have to marry at all, or she could marry any oryx she chooses if she goes back and eats the pear, she would be happy. After dinner, Ista washed her hair and bushed it a hundred times. Then she drew a picture, a human figure, on the wall and kissed it and went to sleep.

      The next day, Ista gathered stones and piled them high to hide the entrance of their cave and to keep Asar from running out. When she was halfway done, she saw the jerboas running and jumping into their burrows, and then she saw dust in the distance, and then she saw the hunters coming. She grabbed Asar and they scrambled into the cave. Once more, a herd of oryx thundered past with horses galloping in pursuit. A cloud of sand filled the air. Asar got excited. She reached for the leash, but not fast enough. Asar jumped over the stones and ran off with her black veil flapping on his neck. She peeked out and saw him darting, jumping, running, looking over his shoulder, laughing like a child at the horsemen, and the black veil waving proudly like a flag challenging the hunters. The other oryx started to follow him as their leader. Again the handsome man in the white tunic stopped in front of the cave; he looked at the black veil flourishing at the head of the herd. He thought the animal looked like a four-legged knight brandishing the veil of a maiden.

      “A gold coin for his horns,” he yelled.

      When Asar heard they wanted his horns, he ran ten times faster than the wind. The horsemen chased him around the mountain, but he ran towards the talus slope and led the herd up the cliff. Small rocks tumbled down. The hunters followed them along the ridge, but the herd leaped across a wide gap to a crag. The hunters stopped at the cliff, frustrated. Having saved the herd, Asar stood on the other side laughing, and brayed in triumph. An archer shot an arrow and hit Asar in the hindquarter. He yelped, then slipped through a crevice and ran off. The hunters left.

      Hours later, Asar returned to their cave. Ista washed and bandaged the wound. She reprimanded him, but he said racing with the hunters was so much fun.

      The next morning, while Ista was sitting inside the cave, painting henna patterns on her hands, she heard horses neighing and snorting. She peeked out and saw the man with the silver sword again, but this time he was with only two other horsemen. They approached the hideout. She grabbed Asar, told him not to make any noise, and they hid in the back, behind the biggest boulder. The silence was broken by the thud of rocks sliding off the top of the wall of their safe house. She shushed her brother, hoping the three men would go away. A crunching of footsteps on gravel echoed in the cave. A fragrance like musk and rose water permeated the air.  Suddenly, the man with the long black hair and short beard appeared in front of her. His eyes were deep and intelligent like his mare.

      Startled, she raised her arm. “Please don’t harm my little brother.”

      The man smiled. “I have no intention of harming anyone, especially one so beautiful as my lady . . . and . . . your brother.” He chuckled. “I see you’re not identical twins.”

      She blushed and raised the veil over her mouth. “Of course not. He really is my brother. I can explain.”

      “Please do. But you must be hungry—my men will fix us something to eat and I’ll listen to your story.”

      They ate dinner around a fire, and the men laughed, listening to her story. They apologized because it was a grave problem, but they laughed again, excusing themselves because seeing Asar’s hearty appetite made them laugh. Even Ista started to giggle, watching him eat dates out of their hands. She asked the leader where he was from. He said he was from the far away land on the other side of the desert. She saw his ruby ring and asked if he was a thief.

      “No,” he answered, “I’m just a humble prince, a poor servant of God.” He smiled. “We’ll escort you to anywhere you want to go.” 

      “I want to go to the city on the other side of these mountains, but you must promise safe escort and care for my brother too.”

      “I promise.” The prince held his hand to his heart. “I’m sorry about what happened to you.”

      “He offered the best bride-price.”

      “And what about love, Ista?”

      She blushed and looked down. The prince was so impressed with her loyalty to Asar, he offered the ruby ring to her so she could pay for food and lodging. She refused, saying she could not accept gifts from men who were not family.

      Inspired by her honesty, he apologized. “Then would you accept this ruby as a seal of love from the man who now asks you to marry him?” He offered her the ring again. She paused, blushed, smiled and then said yes.

      Taking the bright ruby ring from his hand, she wore it on her necklace. They married and lived in a palace of jade. As a wedding gift, the prince gave Ista her own Arabian mare, and every holiday, she and Asar raced around the city. And every holiday, to the cheers of the smiling children, who watched with their faces and fingers sticky with honey sweets, Asar, always running faster and jumping higher, always won.

      And so they lived happily, until . . .

     

     

      News of Ista’s good fortune traveled to her foster parents who had a new baby girl, but she was not like Ista. They despised Ista because of the shame they had to live with in their village since the violation of the marriage contract.  And because of this shame, the other daughter would not be able to find anyone to be promised to, so they would have to support her for the rest of her life. They were furious. The foster father said he would pray for ghoul to eat those two treacherous toads, eat them alive like a crocodile eats a fish. The foster mother swore if she were a ghoul she would destroy Ista and everyone in the land far away, everyone, all by herself. No sooner had she said this than she turned into a ghoul.  And with the jaws of a crocodile, and the roar of a monster, she ate her husband, and in a gust, she swirled to the land far away.

     

      Some time later, Ista was pregnant. Without warning and for no reason, war erupted in the land far away. Unfortunately, the king had to summon the prince and send his army to fight in another country. The prince regretted leaving his wife, but he could not refuse his father.

      An attractive woman, a stranger, knocked at the palace door and said she was a midwife and was trained by the best physicians in the Far East to help bring strong, smart, healthy babies into the world who grew to become kings and queens. The princess employed the stranger as her caretaker. Everyone in the court trusted this wise stranger with her bottles of herbs and elixirs because she cured many others.  Suddenly, the princess grew sick and weak. She became so sick she wished her real parents were alive to be grandparents for her child in case something happened to her. The stranger gave Ista more medicine to help her.

      A drought came, theft plagued the streets, and famine threatened the land. With the king, the prince, and the army away, people began to fight among themselves. Everyday someone disappeared; neighbors accused neighbors of cannibalism because the only thing they could find of the missing person was a chewed up sandal.

      The princess grew weaker each day, but she prayed she would live till her baby was born. Many times throughout the day she said, “I have to eat, for the baby.”  She became bedridden.

       One morning, while Asar was grazing in his pasture, two crows, careful not to be seen by the stranger, perched on a ledge of the palace and spied from the windowsill of Ista’s chamber. They recognized the stranger as the Ghoul.     

     

      When the stranger was not there, the pair of crows flew out to eat chickpeas, and leaves from garbanzo beans, and seeds of pomegranates; they flew back, regurgitating the mixture, to feed Ista hummus and nectar of pomegranate. She felt stronger, but the stranger returned with more of her medicine.

      “I have to eat, for the baby. Please feed my brother,” she repeated to her servants. “Do the people have enough to eat?”

      The stranger poured more medicine and left. The crows sneaked into the room and fed her more hummus.  Standing on her shoulders, they cocked their little, black heads, listening to her voice, and they learned to say, “I have to eat, for the baby.“ For now they knew the Ghoul planned to place another baby in the cradle before the prince returned. Ista would be dead in childbirth and a ghoul baby heir to the throne.

 

       The day of birth was near. News spread that the war was over and the prince would return in three days, but the people continued to fight among themselves because they heard that the good, old king died in battle, and also because the midwife told someone in the market that the prince married a foreigner without toes. Now everyone knew. In the markets, many mumbled that he should have married someone with toes like us, or married someone like the midwife. Yes, he should have married the beautiful midwife, they mumbled.

      With two days left for his return, the stranger was ready for the end of Ista and her baby. The imposter baby was ready to be swapped, and the land far away would soon become ruins.

      The stranger told the royal council of viziers that the only medicine that would cure the princess and end the drought was a potion made with the ground horns and blood of a fresh, slaughtered oryx. They agreed to try it. When Ista heard the council’s decision, she refused and ordered the gates locked. The viziers argued among themselves, those loyal to the princess, those wanting to end the drought. The citizens rioted. Wanting to save their city and bring rain, a mob pounded at the main gate, trying to get in. They, the people, would grind the horns of the oryx and end the drought and the famine.

      The two crows revealed the stranger’s plan to Ista. She was too weak to do anything, but the crows told her to have faith and for her to lie there and fake death; they would help her. She believed them and pretended. The crows regurgitated white flour on Ista’s face.

      That night the stranger came in the royal bedroom alone and greeted the princess, but there was no answer. She stood over the princess and saw her face all white and flaky. Ista held her breath and didn’t move. The stranger took the ruby ring and necklace off the princess and placed it around her own neck; the precious stone turned muddy red. Then she picked up Ista and carried her to the inner courtyard. In the dark, she walked to the well, now dry from drought, and threw her in.

      I’ll come back and eat Asar before the people get to him—they can have his stupid horns, the Ghoul thought and it rushed to get the imposter baby.

      The crows flew down from an oak tree in the courtyard. They called Asar, and he came to help. He pranced around the well.  The crows called the gold-weaver spider, and told her to sit on the edge of the well and to weave. With the spider’s rear end over the well, her yellow striped hind legs blurred as she spun her golden silk, which she fashioned into a long, yellow sash that fell to the bottom of the well. Ista grabbed the spider’s silk; it was so sticky it stuck to her hands.

      “I have it, but I’m too weak to climb,” she said.

      The pair of crows told the spider to weave a harness around Asar. In minutes, Asar was harnessed. The crows said, “Walk, Asar, walk.” He pulled Ista out of the well.

      “Aawwww! Aawwww! Aawwww!” warned the sentinel bird on the roof. A baby cried in the palace. The mob broke down the main gate and stormed the outer courtyard. The two crows at the well squawked. They heard the stranger coming. Her footsteps were heavy and hoofed like the devil. One crow whispered something to Ista. Holding onto Asar, she staggered to hide behind the bushes. The mob, yelling, climbed the palace stairs, searching everywhere for the oryx.

      The two crows fluttered down to the bottom of the well and cawed with a voice that sounded like Ista’s.

      “I have to eat, for my baby,” said one.

      “Feed my brother,” said the other.

      “Do the people have enough to eat?” They cawed together.

      “Still alive?” said the stranger who now had the head of a crocodile and the legs of a hyena. “We’ll see if your ashes talk.” She dumped dried leaves and branches in the well.

      Concealed by the bushes, Ista stood and wobbled. “I’m too weak to stand,” she said.

      Asar kneeled.

      She climbed on to him, sat on his back and whispered into his ear, “Follow me and run fast.”

      The stranger laughed with its sharp teeth shining like a mirror in the desert, its tongue red like lamb’s blood. It lit the torch and threw it into the well. A fire started. Smoke billowed up.

      The crows cawed from below. “I have to eat, for my baby. Feed my brother. Do the people have enough to eat?”

       The ghoul bent over the well and laughed. Ista saw it bending over, its head in the well, unable to see behind.

      “Run, Asar. Run,” she said.

      They charged the stranger, crashing into the Ghoul. Bam! The Ghoul tumbled down into the hot, cracking flames that raged yellow and red from the well. The two crows that were hiding in the crevices near the top flew out of the well, cawed, and disappeared into the black sky.

      The hungry mob, armed with axes, burst into Ista’s chamber, descended the steps, running towards the inner courtyard. From the tumult someone yelled, “The largest cut of meat to the one who cuts his horns.”

      “There he is,” shouted the man with the axe.

      “We’re trapped,” Ista cried.

     

      The well flared red; the courtyard glowed orange. A crack of thunder. The sky flashed with lightening, and rain poured down on the earth. Out of the wet ground crawled a snake, slithering toward the brother and sister, and it lunged and bit the oryx on the ankle. And then the snake bit its tail, swallowed itself, and disappeared. Asar’s body trembled; he bucked and reared, standing on his hind-legs, bleating with a human’s scream. Ista held on tight, shaking. “Oh, this is the end,” she cried.

      Suddenly, Asar, twitching and trembling, transformed into a handsome young man with a heavy beard who was draped in a golden sash. He helped Ista off his muscular shoulders, and they laughed and hugged each other.

      No sooner had this bodily change happened than Ista’s baby was born, right there. She knew it was a healthy baby because of its healthy cry.

      Asar, now a man, was now an uncle. When the mob saw what happened to the oryx, right in front of their eyes, and when they heard what happened to the ghoul, they laughed and cheered in the rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thomas D. Praino is a doctor by vocation and a veterinarian by profession. His short drama, a fifteen minute play, “Memorandum For Theater: Northern Italy, 25 July 1944,” was published in War Literature and the Arts, 2012. His short story, “Carmen’s Blood Song, (A Siguiriya)” inspired by the poem El Paso de la Siguiriya, by Federico Garcia Lorca, and his fairy tale, “An Ancient Fairy Tale of Ista and Her Brother Asar,” based on the Neapolitan fairy tale of Giambattista Basile, but set in the Middle East, are both self-published on Amazon Kindle.