The Walled Garden
The Singapore Stone- A Novel
This chapter was inspired from a visit to Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens in Pattaya, and the Erawin Monument with its fascinating gardens in Bangkok. A visit to the Phimai Khmer temple, with an image at the top of this chapter, also helped formulate a reality for the episode.
Nick attends the Lotus Ponds as invited by the Thai/Chinese woman
On the far side of the village a lane winds through …
He entered the room and stood in silence. The paper sang as she scratched her tune upon it.
She raised her head.
He recognised her. It was Inthurat Kasamsun, the woman from the Lotus encircled garden.
* * * *
‘Caution,’ she said, …
‘The dragons are known in Sanskrit as Naga.’ she tells Nick, ‘The five clawed dragon represents the emperor, the son of heaven. It is taboo in Chinese custom to deface a dragon. We share this respect. The penultimate one is the five clawed Imperial Dragon.’
‘Julian claims to have fossilized dragon bones in urns lining the approach to the facility he insists as being created Imperial.’ said Nick. ‘I’ve read of dinosaur fossils interpreted as dragons. Surely this is his farce.’
‘I would still continue with caution,’ she said, her fingers deftly knotting the scarf. ‘If you are entering by the water intake then beware a flood. His dragons that you encounter may find offense with your presence and raise the water to flood levels. It would be not the first time. Julian’s dragon’s delight with foul intent. The dragon can take on many forms both large and small. The shapes you saw that merged into the clouds? More that you saw –a vision. An advance warning. When it appears again it is time to quickly move your forces. He will be most vulnerable at that time.’
‘If my forces arrive in time,’ replied Nick.
‘Do not be concerned. All will be well. The dragon to befriend is the Naga. Respect it and your mission will succeed.’
She tells Nick of the mythical Naga who lifted The Buddha high above the rapidly rising river within and on its many coils.
Inthuraat continued. ‘Antiquity tells us of a time when parched and barren earth was widespread across the world. The god “Phra In” hurled a thunderbolt at the Naga the dragon to incite Naga to release the waters it had swallowed and held inside its belly. The waters flowed out forming the multitudes of rivers and waters all over the world.
She passed the Nick the silk scarf with an imprint of a dragon. ‘This dragon is another kind.’
The scarf was knotted at the neck of the dragon. The beast looked decidedly uncomfortable. ‘This is the dragon your countryman has befriended, the one of which to be wary.
‘It has the brains of a monkey,’ she said. ‘It will claw at an opponent trying to tear it apart until finally exhausted it suffocates, rather than retreat and simply use its sharp claws to hook into and disentangle the constriction —and come back and snap your head apart. Just keep out of reach of the slashing talons until it has tired and fallen. Then simply walk over its brittle spine and claim the pearl.’
She passed him seven scarves, each knotted in one corner. ‘The eighth is Julian. Only you can bind him. Untie this scarf lastly. It has within the knot a disc. The disc that will disempower Julian.’
‘In what way?’
‘It will strike at his heart. By the time you use it you will understand.’
‘Afterwards,’ she concluded, ‘as custom has it, before you leave, raise its dead skull and point it upward. This will give it access to the heavens and its spirit can return from whence it came. Failing in this final act will bring sevenfold of its brethren that will pursue you and your descendants for eternity.
‘Conceal all fear and you will succeed.’
Momentum commencing at last he felt the prickle of danger –and a glimmer of success
‘I feel I can confide in you with further information…’
She tells him that they are her seven husbands that in each she found less than perfect character traits. She implored a sorcerer to eliminate serious and unique flaws that each possessed. The spell went amiss and they were turned into dragons and subsequently confined to the urns.
‘Why did you have seven husbands?’ asked Nick.
‘For personal reasons. I would like them returned again.’
‘Even if they still have flaws?
‘So be it then.’
Nick reflected on this for a moment. ‘Are they still alive in the jars?’
I believe so and growing agitated in the confined space. They will be extremely obnoxious when released. The sorcerer tells me that he now realizes his error and will go with you. You must smash the urns each one in turn and on their release he will correct his mistake.’
‘I will think further on what you have told me.’ Nick was becoming concerned that this was more hazardous than he was prepared for. He needed some time to think if there was an easier way that didn’t involve doing battle with dragons–be they real or imagined.
‘Come now, I will ensure that you are equipped well for your encounter.’
They descend to a walled garden and enter a pagoda.
‘This is a miniature replica that you see in front of you. I will walk you through the complexity of the layout. Owing to the fact that time does not permit total scrutiny it is currently static until activated by certain attainment.’
‘I can accept anything that is required.’
She turned and looked at Nick. ‘Many have asserted that, but many have died in the midst of the testing pressures.’
Nick searched her eyes for assurance.
‘First let us enter and I will explain the points of greatest peril.’
A tall ancient granite wall appeared as they reached the entrance. A line of oddly featured statues lined the left side of the path, and stretched far into the structure. The mysterious woman then clapped her hands and a large round spherical stone rose from the water.
It split apart horizontally at the circumference and the top portion raised up leaving a circular base onto which she stepped.
‘Come,’ she beckoned to Nick.
He stepped onto the stone beside her.
She pointed upward. ‘Read the words above you and do not forget it.’
On the smooth face of the stone above them was written a similar script as on the stone fragment at the museum.
‘It’s quite important. We must continue now.’
Nick was somewhat puzzled, but rather than interrupt, merely nodded. He would follow up on that later.
They stepped from the unusual stone and turned right along a red sandy path. Passing at last a large circular fountain and pool, they then ascended a steep upward path of stone steps until they reached a landing. While on this landing Nick felt a strange clarity, but a giddiness caused him to reach for the rocky wall.
‘We must not linger her for more than a moment.’ She led him out and onto a formed smooth walkway.
They walked first eastward, until they reached an area with curious carved inscriptions and sensations that were both disorienting and uplifting. Conversing, they continued on then, north, west and south. Each corner had the same effect.
Leading from each path halfway along on the outer side of the square there was access to elaborately designed buildings. Each in turn they they entered and once inside delighted with the intricate adornments.
Finally they returned to the starting point. Once out from the square that they had traversed, Nick inquired of his guide, ‘What is above us within the walled area around which we walk?’
He wondered why he was starting to speak in an archaic fashion. Maybe, he thought, one spoke thus in times of intense reverence. ‘My god!’ he said aloud. ‘I’m even thinking such.’
‘I beg your pardon,’ inquired his patient and all-knowing companion. ‘What did you say?’
‘Nothing, just thinking aloud.’
‘Do you use a capital or lower case when you refer to your god?’
‘I never thought of it like that.’
‘Possibly there could be reason to reflect on that. Getting back to your question now.’
‘About the centre. What is inside?’
‘Aah,’ she replied, ‘There is no entry into that place from here. In fact I have never been there myself.’
‘I am indeed curious,’ continued Nick in his affected speech.
‘What is the barrier you saw built from of which you speak?’
‘Something seriously impervious, to my way of thinking.’
They at last leave the walled garden.
The shadows were lengthening and a gloom started settling about him. ‘It is getting late now. I have to return to the hotel.’
‘The road is perilous by dark, and you may be set upon by souls in need of your cloak. You must stay with me for the night. I have a comfortable bed that you will find agreeable and refreshing.
‘You must wake now. It is time.’
Nick had slept well.
The mysterious lady from the lotus encircled gardens was opening the blinds.
She sat, coiled her hair and fastened it atop her head and leaned back. ‘Are you ready to continue your journey now?’
It was warm in the room and the atmosphere was heavy with incense.
He drew a deep breath. The heady aroma was intoxicating.
A draught of chilled of air rushed in the open window, one that nobody could reason with–or make sense of in any way.
* * * *