Where are you taking me Jumbo?" Charu was sitting atop an elephant that had a bright and glistening silvery grey skin. His ears were large and he used them as fins to swim under the blue waters.

Keep searching, you achieve nothing by staying put, even if you don’t find what you wanted, you would have at least had a journey.

“Orangi, the mad monkey? He knows everything. Once he advised, ‘Keep searching, you achieve nothing by staying put, even if you don’t find what you wanted, you would have at least had a journey’," he answered in a measured booming voice.

Charu was dressed in a free flowing laced maroon coloured garment that covered her body mischievously, slithering and revealing her pale white skin, moving about as if it had a mind of its own. To help her adjust to a bumbling and clumsy elephant, the garment gave ample freedom to her long shapely legs and didn’t get in her way when she kicked and caressed him to keep up his mission. She wore a tiara made with pearly pink hibiscus flowers and her thick lustrous hair bounced on her shoulders gently moving to the rhythms of the ocean.

A small school of blue striped snappers moved rhythmically around Charu. Their chromish yellow bodies contrasted with the horizontal electric blue stripes, which glittered as they schooled in perfect choreographed motions. Charu wondered how these fish remained together. How do they inform each other about where to turn next? Is there a leader who makes the first move while others followed or are they naturally programmed? Maybe there are many leaders who pass down directions mysteriously in unspoken words. Perhaps a mother snapper takes classes for her babies before they are released into the wilderness of the deep seas. What if she forgets or abandons one without teaching her how to swim in a school? Wouldn’t she be singled out and live a lonely life?

“Achooo," the silvery elephant sneezed out loud, which created greenish yellow bubbles that scared the school, which in a fraction of a second came tightly together and jetted out in the opposite direction.

“Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to harm them, but they tickled my nostrils and I lost control. I need to learn how to control a sneeze. But my nose is so far from my brain that it takes decisions all by itself without asking me," he was apologetic.

Charu smiled and brushed his forehead affectionately.

“So what is your problem again?" he asked and tried looking back.

“I have lost my heart," she sounded worried.

“Oh sweety! Where did you lose it? Why do you sound so discouraged?" he slowed down.

“I have felt it beating loud and hard when my little one goes out of sight under the coral caves. But what does a heart do anyways?" he asked.

“I really don’t know Jumbo. Can you help me find one?" she requested.

He shook his head sideways in excitement. Her trust motivated him to push forward. Using his Brobdingnagian ears he pushed the deep blue waters behind while his legs cycled to aid his forward movement. Charu’s eyes were drawn downwards to a techni-coloured mushroom coral. The coral cleverly waited for innocent jellyfish to run into it, then snared them with its stinging tentacles and sucked them into its menacing mouths.

A llama with bright yellow fur swam past them happily whistling and shaking his head and legs synchronously.

“Hey there," Jumbo called out for him.

The yellow llama stopped in his tracks and turned his head a quick 180 degrees and stared at them but continued to whistle softly.

“Do you know where we could find lost hearts?" Charu inquired.

The llama stopped whistling and looked confused. He spoke in a squeaky voice quite in contrast to his stately demeanour.

“A heart? Oh! I have only heard him when I sing, he sings along with me. I sing when I am happy. So maybe he was happy too. But sometimes he does not join me. He stays quiet most of the times. Maybe he sleeps then. What would he be doing when I sleep? But who wakes him up? I don’t, then who? What if he gets hungry during sleep and there was no one to wake him up?"

Charu and Jumbo looked at each other exasperated. Both of them waved at the yellow being, who was still talking and swam past him.

The floor of the sea glowed green with thin columns of light projected from below. Charu jumped from the elephant, and fell backwards with her arms wide open. She was sucked into the light, on to a satin bed in mesmerizing kaleidoscopic green colours. Her maroon garment slithered below her waist and flared from her knees into multiple pleats that resembled a bell shaped ballet tutu costume. Jumbo was surprised at her quick action but his eyes widened in joy and admiration looking at her floating like an angelic mermaid. She fell softly on a carpet of green weeds gently dancing to the water’s rhythm. Her face glowed pearly white reflecting the soft light from below. She closed her eyes and smiled meditatively.

There was absolute silence for a while.

Charu felt her cheeks being stroked by soft buttery hands, like a white feather brushed against soft skin. It was soft, soothing and the balmy heat from the light made it more pleasurable.

“Ouch!" Charu was rudely awakened to a quick slap by a giggling baby with radiant dark skin.

The baby slapped her again and this time laughed uncontrollably.

Charu though surprised at his sudden appearance, held his tender hands gently and smiled at him. As soon as she held his hands he became silent, bent his slender body on the carpet of green weeds, placed his face next to hers and gazed at her eyes. He ran his index finger around the contours of her face in a measured pace; starting from the edges of her forehead, gliding on the outlines of her ear, and then caressing her flawless skin.

Charu closed her eyes in total surrender to the events that were unfolding, completely throwing her fears far away into the abyss. The excitement of submitting to the unknown overpowered her sense of caution and reason. The warmth of the light from below was receding in a fast pace and Charu felt the water becoming cold and icy. She felt her head becoming fuzzy and heavy. Her feet felt wooden and she couldn’t move. She wanted to shout aloud for help but could not open her mouth; for it looked like the ocean had completely engulfed her body and slowly her senses.

I will carry your heart everywhere I go my sweetheart and you will carry mine. You will be in my happiness and pain. You are my fate.

Her mind screen flickered with psychedelic images saturated with anxiety and fear.

Suddenly she felt a rush around her body, something warm, something strong, something secure. Charu felt that she was being lifted and carried. She did not protest; the feeling was comforting and warm.

“What is happening to me? Am I swimming? Am I flying? Is someone carrying me?" she wondered.

The temperature around her became increasingly less cold and bearable.

It was not very difficult to move her eyelids, “I should try and open my eyes. It should be possible now. Light is not blinding my vision anymore."

“Are you feeling better my love?"

Charu opened her eyes slowly with considerable strain.

“You are safe here my beloved."

Charu was confused at what she heard. Her vision was still hazy.

“Is that a man? Handsome he is. Broad muscular shoulders. His hands are much longer and reach beyond his knees. Yes he is handsome, very masculine."

“Who are you? Where am I?" she asked.

“You are safe. Weren’t you searching for your heart?" he came closer.

She nodded her head.

He kissed her on the forehead, “I had stolen it from you."

Charu opened her eyes wide and confused. The maroon lacy garment had moved below and only covered from waist below leaving her shapely bosom bare and exposed. She stared at him feverishly.

“What is happening to me? Why is he saying that he has my heart?"

“His wide chest looks all muscle marked with all good lines. An intricately engraved sword is tied to his waist. A very long one and looks heavy, could be made of granite?"

“His lips are large and sensuous," she kept staring.

“Why are you staring at me like that? Please relax. You are safe with me. I am here to protect you, not just now, but for your entire life. I stole your heart the moment I saw you trotting along with the funny elephant. It was love at first sight. I lost my heart in a second," he said looking directly in her eyes.

“I have your heart, do you have mine?"

She did not reply but lowered her head with a coy smile.

“I was mesmerized by your figure, your skin, your breasts, your face and your black eyes. I was hypnotized. I am sorry for being direct and frank. But all that I say is true," he pleaded.

“I am mesmerized too, you are really handsome and yes your heart is with me," she concurred.

“Wow" “Wow, really?" he was surprised. He jumped in joy.

Her maroon garment knotted itself to his pearly white skirt that mischievously hid his assets and the hibiscus flowers in her tiara bloomed in full.

“Will you take care of me my love?" she said and looked at him with yearning and held his broad hands.

“I will carry your heart everywhere I go my sweetheart and you will carry mine. You will be in my happiness and pain. You are my fate, you are my destiny, you are my soul, you are my desire to live. My life would be empty without your kiss. You complete me."

“Your heart has revealed a part that was concealed deep inside, it will make me believe that I am valuable, that I am alive and I can destroy darkness for us to dance with the Sun and stars."

“Can I ask you for a promise?" he pleaded.

“Yes sweetheart"

“That you will love me even if this body becomes dirt and filth and I become old, dark and sick?" he looked at her eyes for her reply.

“Of course my dear, till death do us part," and kissed him.

They lay in each other’s arms silently looking at the schools of fish in blues, greens and bright yellows that curiously swam above them. She was surprised at her own behaviour and smiled silently many times. Both of them quietly slipped into slumber and rested for some time.

Charu’s sleep was disturbed by a foul smell from somewhere nearby. She woke up and surveyed her side without disturbing him.

“Aiyoooo," Charu screamed, “Oooohh!"

The handsome man that she was mesmerised with had turned into a foul smelling, filthy and disgusting monster. Slimy lizards and roaches squirmed all over his torso. His sword had turned into a menacing black viper.

“Help!!"

“Aiyooooooo,"

“Somebodyyy helpppp," Charu screamed.

“Enraged by her surprise and rejection, his eyes burned bright red, in a swift motion he took his dagger and plunged it into her chest hard. Blood oozed from her mouth the next time he stabbed her. He roared and mercilessly bit a large portion of her left breast and spat out on her face."

“Ammaa," Charu screamed and jumped out of her bed. Her nightmares continued to haunt her.