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Sadeh Festival

Sádeh (Midwinter Festival)

by Mason Balouchian

Sadeh1Sádeh, an ancient Persian festival is celebrated in mid winter about Jan. 29th by lighting fire near water in the evening. It symbolizes defeating the forces of darkness. Sád means one hundred and refers to number of the days past summer. The fire is kept alive all night. According to Zoroastrian tradition the fire is blessed and the following day, people carry a portion of that to their homes. Then they would transfer the remaining fire to the temple to join with the eternal fire. This festival lasts three days. The people prepare food which is distributed among the poor. They also sing and play different games.

Mehregan Festival

Mehregan Festival

By Mason Balouchian

mehregan3
After Noruz, Mehregan is the most important Persian Festival. The word  Mehr refers to the Sun, Love and Friendship. This festival begins about Oct. the 7th and continues for six days. Since at this time of the year farmers start gathering their crops, Mehregan has been attributed to farmer’s festivity and thanksgiving for the harvest when and food they store for the cold season. It is also said that on this day Fereydun, the legendary king of Iran vanquished Dahaka, the mythological devil, and imprisoned him in Mount Damavand. Whatever the origin, Mehregan is celebrated for love, life, thanksgiving and happiness.

Punishment

A cold wind spins and moves the autumn-dried leaves around in the courtyard. The cellar entrance reminds me of the gate to the dark interior of the school cellar hiding many hideous secrets. I go down the stairs, slide my hand on the moist wall and throw the switch. Damn! It’s out. I grope my way for the far end of the cellar and pick up a jar of pickles. My feet are cold and sore. Everything around me is black.
I can hardly see Al, our school janitor. His dark clothes have mixed him well with the surroundings. He is standing a few paces away, lingering. My ear is still sore from the unexpected slap that landed on my face in the absentees’ lineup. I just have to hand him the letter written by my brother. He will read and nod. Then, he will signal with his hand that I could go—and I run free and go to the class.
The coal has been piled up at one corner. What is supposed to happen to me? Most of all, I am afraid of his eyes. They fool you. He stares into the eyes of the student next to me but I know he is looking at me. Before I get a chance to give him the letter, …

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From Flash Fictions to Novels

  1. Flash fiction: Extremely short story less than 1000 words.
  2. Short story: A short story could contain all basic elements of a novel but limited to 3,500-7,500 words.
  3. Novelette: A novelette is longer than short stories. It contains 7,500-17,000 words but basically includes all elements of a short story or a novel.
  4. Novella: A novella is a longer version of a novelette with a word count limited to 17,000-40,000.
  5. Novel: A novel is the most popular kind of fiction that includes all elements of a story such as plot, subplots, character, conflicts. Etc. The word count for a novel is 40,000+.

Misunderstanding

In Persian culture, donkey stands for stupidity. When someone behaves stupidly, people make a sarcastic remark that literally means, as long as you are here, we do not need to import donkeys from Cyprus. For a long time, I thought that this remark referred to people. I thought that way until my son moved to North Cyprus to study in a university in 2006. He stayed there for four years and reunited with us after completion of his studies.
One day I brought up the subject of Cyprian donkey and he said that they really have beautiful donkeys and that is one of their national glories. This information changed my opinion and I realized that the sarcastic remark actually referred to real donkeys and not to people until he told us of his experiences in this small country or state. Here is his story…

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The Bridge of Judgement

Based on Zoroastrian myths dealing with The Chinvat Bridge; the bridge that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead.

The desert stretched in the horizon as far as the eye could see. His toes were burning in the hot sand. Having no awareness of time and space, he walked aimlessly for a short period. In the horizon, the continuous color of the desert broke and was replaced by a cloud of green vegetation.

It could be a mirage, he thought.

He kept walking to reduce the feverish sensation is his feet. The green cloud was gradually emerging with clear outlines—tall trees, grass-covered land, and occasional cascades of water. Thirsty and exhausted, he felt intense desire to reach there soon. Hot sand was still biting into his toes. The thought of cool shade and a spray of water on his face made the heat tolerable.

Turning downhill, disappointment seized him. A deep break in the land isolated the red hot desert from the dream-land—a ravine with unknown depth impossible to bypass…

To read more, buy this short story on kindle for $.99


 

A Traveler’s Deity

 

…He heard the chanting and invocation from the distant prayer hall. The thought of dosing off and repeating the unholy dream filled him with terror. He forced his drowsy eyes open and went out of the chamber. His gaze sought divine inspiration in the limitless starry heaven to help him challenge the alluring dream. Peering through the mist, he saw no soul in the courtyard. He squatted by the pond and washed his face. Drops of water slipped from his beard and fell on his cloak. The breeze cooled his face. He was awake now—refreshed his ablution, returned to the sanctuary and continued murmuring prayers. Overjoyed with spiritual elation, he dosed off into
the realm of dreams.

The scene before his eyes looked unfamiliar. It was a lodge with dark windows and a porch in front. There was a church in the background. The lodge was mysteriously silent. He was resting on a bench near the porch. The main door opened and a woman appeared at the threshold. She stared at him with intoxicating eyes while moving forward. As she approached, the breath of wind lifted her light skirt. Her silvery body displayed a mythical figure whose movements transferred untold desires. He seemed fascinated by a magical spell. She reached him at last and pressed herself against him. His whole body was filled with joy from her touch.

He woke up. The dream experience was still shaking his body with orgasm. He closed his eyes for a few moments trying to deny his awareness. The chanting from the prayer hall brought him back to reality. He raised his head and looked around. Darkness prevailed. He had heard a sinister laughter before waking up. The echo was still vibrating in the air and getting weaker as he regained total awareness. Oh God, deliver me from this temptation, he begged. It was near the break of dawn. The sparrows had just started chirping within the plane tree. Soon, there would be a huge uproar in the courtyard. He picked up the cloak and turban and left the sanctuary. The pleasant breeze touched his face. He was in a hurry to cleanse away the dream sin from his body…

To read more, buy this book on kindle for $2.99

 

Transit

Everything was white—different shades of white. There was a single upright stone a few paces away casting long shadows across the strange land. I looked closer at the carved inscription on the stone. It was addressing me. I sank into the ground beneath my feet and entered an alien enclosure. There were a few men gathering around an object like a table.  I was confused and did not know of my business there. They questioned me for a few minutes. Then, the one who seemed to be the boss said: “this one has come too early. He must return.”

I was delivered to two other persons who led me to a room full of strange looking machines. They had me sit in a chair equipped with many different devices and buttons. It looked like a dentistry chair. A transparent canopy slid from some hidden dark space above my head and covered the front of the chair. I looked at the attendant and asked: “what is the purpose of all these?”

“Just don’t touch anything. This procedure will be over soon,” he said.

He closed the canopy and pushed a few buttons on a control panel at the side of the chair. There was a vibration and the control panel came to life with strange symbols.

“You will be back to where you came from,” he continued. “You need not remember any of this.”

He went to the other side of the room. I reached the control panel from the opening at the side of the chair and, impulsively, pushed one of the buttons.

Everything went blur for a few seconds. I felt dizzy. When I opened my eyes, I was sleeping on a bed. I looked around. I was in a hospital. My head was swelling. I touched it. It had been bandaged. My body was numb. Something like a camera lens hanging in the air  was staring at me. It shifted and hummed with every move I made. I tried to sit. The bed seemed intelligent. It adjusted and I comfortably sat in the bed. I was thirsty and wished to have some pineapple juice.  A glass full of some yellowish liquid appeared on the table beside the bed. It moved within my reach.

At this very moment, the door opened and a totally strange monster stepped inside. I screamed from fear! It did not show any reaction. Its hands were not attached to its shoulders but came out from the front of its body. At the end of each hand it had only two fingers—just like a pair of pliers. Its face was horrible. Eyes were like a semi circular ribbon on its forehead with a few eyeballs that moved randomly along the ribbon. Its head was big with two separated lobes and no hair. There was a pattern resembling watermelon with different shades of green. A single foot was running down its middle like the trunk of a small tree. It ended a few root-like branches with three appendages. Tow of these appendages wore some sort of a shoe  and the other one was bare.

I took out my hands from under the blanket to prevent the monster approaching me. I was shocked. I had only two fingers. Just like a pair of pliers.

The Rug

Romin looked away from the rugs spread before him on the floor. The walls were decorated with new and antique rugs shining with brilliance under the powerful floodlights. The dealer’s mouth was dry.
“Get me a few Bakhtiari rugs,” he mumbled to the stock boy trying not to interrupt the conversation.
“The design and pattern of nomadic rugs form in the weavers’ imagination,” he continued, helping the stock boy unroll a rug.
“They are inspired by legends and miracles recorded in ancient books.”
He stroked the rug’s surface to emphasize its softness.Romin ignored his remark. He stood up and walked to the remote end of the chamber with the Rug Dealer trailing behind. There, among the new silk pieces, hung an old rug.
“What can you tell me about this one?” he inquired, touching the rug.
“That one is an antique piece—I don’t think you can afford it,” said the dealer.
“What is so special about it?” asked Romin.
“You wouldn’t believe if I told you.”
“Try me,” he answered.
“Well, that is a flying rug.”Romin chuckled, “A flying rug, did you say, like Aladdin’s I suppose?”…

Buy this short story on Kindle $.99

Flash Fiction

Technology increases the pace of our lives, and we hardly have enough time to read lengthy novels although we still like to read stories. Therefore, the story must be short and readable in a smaller amount of time. The answer is short story. Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Alen Poe, and other writers write short stories and flash fictions to quench the market demand. This is not, however, the beginning of such a literal constructions. In the tenth century AD, Attar, a Persian poet wrote lyrical flash fictions in The Conference of the Birds. Ferdosi, another Persian writer of the 10th century wrote The Shahnameh (The Book of the Kings). This book contains as many as sixty thousand epic, mythological, and historical couplets loaded with a wealth of philosophical and moral short stories, teachings and guidance. Rumi is another Persian poet who followed the same principles in his book, Masnavi in thirteen century AD.

Hugo and Nebula writing contests categorize short stories below 7500 words. The definition of “Flash Fiction” can be summarized as, a short short story, not more than a thousand words, with a complete structure such as plot, narrative, character, conflict, and resolution that can be read in one siting.

The differences between a short story and flash fiction lies in the development of the two forms and how deeply each element such as character, and plot are explored. Basically, the short story deals with a transient look into the life of a character with brief introduction, conflict, and resolution. Flash fiction, on the other hand, focuses on a single situation for the character such as only the dance scene in the romantic life of a character. Plot in a flash fiction is also less complex and the conflict and resolution are easier to understand.