New World

“It’s time for dinner, sweetie,” said Bobby. When there was no response, he said loudly, “It’s time for dinner Naomi. Your mom is coming in half an hour and I’ll get into trouble for not feeding you.” There was still no response. “Naomi, can you please come into the kitchen?”

Bobby found her sitting on the floor of the lounge, still drawing. They’d been drawing together all day – starting with a jungle, which they’d erased to make a village, which grew into a city that was in danger of destruction by strange black spots, which seemed to be bombs. Naomi had averted war by entering the drawing and somehow defusing, and not diffusing, the bombs. But she needed to stop drawing now to avert another war between him and his sister, who would say that he was an irresponsible uncle for not feeding his niece.

“Naomi!” he said sharply. “I’ve been calling you for ages. Why haven’t you come for dinner?” He softened his tone. “It’s your favourite – rainbow roast.”

She was rushing to finish the drawing; to colour the world that she had just saved; to make it cheerful. The botanical gardens at the edge of the City were lovely already, filled with exotic, strong-smelling blooms, but a large bed of flowers still required shading. She was blitzing those blooms in red, blue, purple, tangerine, and gold.

“Naomi!” he called again.

His niece’s hand jolted and knocked a glass of water that she’d been using to dip her pencils, whose colour acquired a special consistency when wet; their shades became softer and richer, and according to Naomi, “lovelilicious.” These were special fat pencils, natural wood coloured, with only their leads indicating their colours. They had been given to her by an old man called Dada who she met in the park, walking his black and white wolves who he said were “the best pets possible”.

Some water spilled from the glass onto the drawing. Nothing too serious, but when Naomi tried to wipe it off, she knocked and spilled the whole glassful. The drawing didn’t smudge but its colours faded and disappeared. The bright botanical gardens suddenly became a black and white world.

Naomi called out, “Uncle Bobby! What shall I do? The colours are disappearing!”

Bobby rushed towards the drawing and helped her brush off the water, but it was too late. What had been a beautifully drawn and shaded city, filled with golden marble temples, red brick houses, verdant parks, with a turquoise river snaking through its middle, was now composed of hard lines, like a gothic graphic novel, with no shading at all.

Bobby’s attention returned to the room. He realized that Naomi was missing, and wondered if she’d slipped into the drawing again, like she’d done when it was jungle, and periodically during its development. She had been easy to find in the rainforest, which, despite its dense vegetation, was still and quiet; it was easy to spot leaves wobbling. It had also been easy to find her in the village, for it had only one main square and one main road, and she was generally somewhere along it. But she was impossible to find in the city, a vast anonymous place, even more so without colour. In a sense the essence of the city was now revealed – soulless monochrome.

He’d better go and find her. Her mother was due in half an hour. Boy, he’d be in trouble if she wasn’t washed and brushed and fed – and most importantly – here!

Bobby pushed aside some lines in the drawing. They had a consistency like heavy pasta and moved easily enough. In places they were tangled, and needed to be pulled apart. Thin lines could be hauled in and reused, and made into pathways, and climbing ropes, to reach tricky vantage points from where to look out for his niece. Then he remembered that he had a pen in his pocket, and could draw his own lines too.

He wrote her name to attract her – first as graffiti, and then in a speech bubble. Where was that girl! He had a bright idea – why didn’t he call her using his smartphone? Signals would travel as lines along every possible pathway until they found her phone.

This was a big mistake. The phone’s electrical signal transformed the drawing’s analogue world into a digital world. It moved from a spectrum of possibilities to duality. One and zero. Binary code. Bobby and Naomi were just numbers now. In the distance Bobby heard black and white wolves howling.

Naomi’s mom knocked on the door but no one answered. “Naomi?” she called out. “Bobby?” But there was no one there. Where had they gone? she wondered. She’d told Bobby she would be back at eight to pick up her daughter. She saw a notebook sitting on the table. What great drawings, she thought. The wet paper on top would ruin the other pages though. She tore it out, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into the garbage.

Naomi and Bobby felt a sudden wrench. They were now trapped in their monochrome world. “Let’s built a shelter,” said Bobby. “I think we’ll need it.”

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2 Responses to “New World”

  1. Superb! This one really has “to be continued”. Not fair to leave us on the hook.

    • javedbabar Says:

      Glad you like the drawing series of stories. Further etchings coming soon… ideas for sequels are welcome!

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