Shishir (Winter) 2019, Short Stories - Sugandhaa Pandey


Newtonne - The Goat

By Sugandhaa Pandey 


Venturing out on her own on a rescue mission wasn’t as easy as she had thought. Miles of barren land greeted her, and half way through the mountains she had started questioning her decision. Fatigued and parched, she trudged along. The first sight of fresh water since she had left home excited her. She recklessly ran towards it, stepped hard on thin ice, and fell face-first into the lake. ‘Brain-freeze! Brain-freeze!’ her thoughts sounded like an alarm.


Every inch of her body felt the sensation of being pierced simultaneously by a hundred thousand thorns. She tried to hold her breath so that she could swim herself out of this disaster. She was growing numb from the feet up. Troublesome headlines from the newspaper flashed in front of her eyes like a warning about a future where she gives up!


“Death toll on an exponential rise; much feared Ides of March approaches too soon!” - Latest Issue, The Goatland Gazette


She struggled at the thought of her suffering kingdom. She tried to re-gain balance with all the strength she had. Alas! Nothing fruitful came out of her efforts. The icy water enveloped her in a shivering chill like a pale shroud. She watched as the water above her started freezing again. Scared she furiously banged the ice top with her hooves when suddenly she heard a rumbling noise that sent tiny waves in the water around her. Her body resonated along with it.


‘This is what the final sleep feels like. Is death an act of freedom, consciousness finally shaking off the fetters of physical bondage; or selfishness, leaving behind your other half when it needs you the most?’, she thought to herself. Her head had taken quite a hit.


A brilliant light, like the sun, was blinding her eyes. She saw a silhouette lining against it. It was such a warm feel-ing. Like spring had hugged her tight with the promise to never let go. The bright blue sky, a field of red poppies dotted with blue ones, and kids playing hide-and-seek in it was a sight for sore eyes.


“Run along. I will come to pick you up later”, she heard her mother’s voice echoing.


With an ear-to-ear smile, she jumped along her way to play in the field. It was her first day at school. She was excited to make new friends.


“Newtonne, Princess of Goatland”, the roll call was sounded and everyone around her gasped and stared at her. What she thought was a reaction out of amazement for her strong legs, rainbow-tail, and bambi eyes lined with white eyelashes soon turned out to be whispered remarks about the marble black horn poking out of the middle of her head. She was nervous. Nobody at the palace had ever made her feel insecure about her appearance. They admired her resemblance to the revered legend of the Horse, however uncanny.


“How was your day my princess?” her parents enquired back at home.


“Pretty amazing. I showed everyone the trick of making a garland I do with my horn. The teacher patted my back”, she replied.


“Did you make any friends?”


“Meh. It was just the first day. I’m very choosy, you know that”, she said with a forced smile.


Nobody had talked to her at school. Kids made groups and played among themselves. She just watched them from the side. She ran faster than air. Nobody at the palace could catch her. She wanted to show off her skill but no kid wanted to see. Even the teacher maintained the bare minimum interaction with her. While returning home she over-heard a herd sniggering as she passed by them.


“She is so weird. My mother said that we must stay away from her. One touch and we all will have that ugly black blob on our heads too.on our entire body!” one of them remarked.


“Yes. My sister works at the palace and she tells me that one of her nannies accidentally touched her with bare hands and her whole skin went black like her horn. She left the kingdom out of shame”, another one said in consonance.


Rest of them nodded their heads in agreement with their stories. Newtonne had silently sobbed that entire night. Days went by and she kept trying new gimmicks. Hoping something might earn her a friend - curly bob cut hairstyle to hide her horn, or a bold fashion combination of yellow polka dots on red flared pants. She even tried wearing high-hooves called boots. Her limbs were sore for a week. ‘Friend or no-friend, this is not worth the pain’, she told herself looking in the mirror. She wondered how her mother did it all. Aunty was her mother’s best friend since childhood. The stories of them making pillow fortress during their sleepovers was friendship goals to her.


A few years ago Newtonne was staying with Aunty while her parents were away on a royal tour of the kingdom.


“I wish you had a kid Aunty. I could be her or his best friend, like you and my mom.”


Aunty would reply with a hearty laugh, “Until then, make books your best friend. Here take this”, and she handed her a book.


“The Wise Men of Snow”, Newtonne read aloud. “Should I inform mother you are giving me horror stories to read?” she re-marked in jest and ran away before Aunty could pull her ears disapproving her naughtiness.


Her head in dreamland and nose in a book - King and Queen of Goatland could order around everyone but their own daughter. She would often say over family dinners, “I want to be a Philosopher”, and her parents would exchange blank looks. The teenage nightmare that King had to face from his daughter was her help in improving the administration. The tax reforms introduced by her had made the Goatlanders happy. Secretly, they were proud of Newtonne trying to build her individual identity.


They celebrated her official crowning ceremony as prin-cess when she turned eighteen. She wore a gaudy orange dress paired with golden boots. Climbing down the staircase to greet the guests at the after-party, her right limb twisted and she came rolling down. Her head experienced searing pain, and it felt like her horn was about to explode. She could feel the hidden laughter and snide remarks travelling in the air of the hall… “Couldn’t even walk down the stairs seconds later after crowning, how can she manage ruling the land”… “She is a freak. A freak is no princess.”


‘genus Capra aegagrus hircus…’


‘no major internal or external injuries…’


‘blood pressure stabilizing…’


‘Why am I re-living my memories? What is happening? Brain stays alive for six hours after death. Am I alive or dead!?’ she kept rummaging through her thoughts. She was slipping in and out of consciousness due to her severe head concussion, all the while mumbling, “Has it been six hours yet?”


Newtonne slowly opened her eyes. The rumbling noise was still ringing in her ears. She tried to stand up when she first felt the weight of a blanket over her. It was very warm, as if it had an in-built heating system. Nothing of this sort existed in Goatland. She partially recovered her senses after hours of lying in front of the fire. She saw a distinct figure sitting next to her trying to check her heartbeat with strange equipment attached to her left limb.


She slowly bleated, “Who are you good Samaritan?”


“I am Sage of the tribe of the Wise Men of Snow”, he replied.


She had read about the Wise Men of Snow but meeting one of the tribe was like seeing a ghost. They were believed to be more technologically advanced than any other species, and a his-torical fiction! She thought she was dreaming. Later, when she recovered fully, she realized that two days had passed since she had almost drowned, and a week since she had left her herd in search of help. Dark thoughts clouded her mind. She was extremely sad. Seeing her facial contortions Sage, who was now her constant companion, enquired about her troubles.


“My kingdom, Goatland, lies south of these mountains that you call your abode. It is suffering the wrath of nature. The grazing pastures started going dry sometime back. Herds started dying of hunger. We rationed the supplies of the palace to help but this was just a temporary solution. Soon contagious diseases followed. Among the victims of this illness were my parents too, the King and Queen. Our researchers could not identify or solve the problem.


So I set up a temporary camp away from the infected area housing the remaining healthy population, and travelled in search of help”, said Newtonne, giving a vivid account of the plight of Goatland.


“Let us be saviors”, replied Sage.


Newtonne’s face beamed up.




“What?”, asked Newtonne with a confounded expression on her face.


“Our new generation is born with brittle bones. Our abode lacks proper sunlight and our medications for maintaining body calcium levels are proving ineffective. If we do not find a quick solution then our tribe shall soon face extinction. My tribe shall help your herd in eradication of diseases that plague your land and people. In exchange, help us by sharing your milk and land resources. We will develop sunbathing areas until a better treatment for brittle bones is found.”


Newtonne agreed. She knew that this wouldn’t be a popular compromise back at home, but it was necessary to save her herd. She returned to Goatland along with the Wise Men of Snow. After rigorous research, the Wise Men of Snow identified the reason of vanishing grazing pastures to be blight - a soil disease. They immediately started the treatment. In a span of three months the grazing fields of Goatland were full of green grass and blooming poppies.


Goatland kept their end of the promise as well. They provided milk to the tribe at the cost of its availability to their kids. Some did it to thank the tribe, while others did it because they were forced to by the royal decree. They remarked, “It would have been better if we had died. Now we have to keep our kids half-fed.”


In memory of her parents, Newtonne continued the tradi-tion of royal tours in Goatland. She would hold court, meet the dignitaries, and find amicable solutions to the problems faced by the commoners. But, her favorite part was the reforms she made in her schedule. She sneaked out in the evening in a hooded garment to observe her kingdom from the eyes of a traveler.


She went to the poppy fields and ran across it until the goodness of the earthy smell of soil had filled her lungs. At night, she would lie on her back and gaze at the stars. On her way back from one such adventure, she saw a group of kids sitting under the street light with papers and colors in their hands. Concerned, she enquired about what were they doing out so late.


“Miss, we are making our own Unicorn - The Savior. Children of the tribe have toys of Unicorn they bring to the sunbathing area. They told me that Unicorn has super-powers”, said a kid.


“What’s a Unicorn?”, asked Newtonne.


“We love Unicorn. Unicorn has a magic horn on its head and a rainbow-tail. We made one on this paper. Look!”, another kid replied handing her the page with the colored drawing.


“What does the magic horn do?”, asked Newtonne, over-whelmed by the uncanny resemblance of Unicorn with her.


“When Mr. Hopeless troubles young ones with scary dreams, Unicorn weaves garlands of poppies with its magic horn, makes rainbow with its tail, and saves them. Unicorn is a friend of young ones”, said another kid.



Sugandhaa is a postgraduate from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She is an author at Feminism In India. An early professional in the writing industry, she believes that good writing can inspire change in society. She likes to engage with historical fiction - when she isn't reading it, she is daydreaming about it.


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