Suraj and the Fever Fiend

a short story by Surajit Basu

This story is inspired by Surajit Rajagopal (Suraj) and Avirat Agarwal (Avi).


It was night in Moonbay. The full moon was shining in the cloudless sky. The waves crashed on the seashore. The city slept. Amma and Achchan were fast asleep. But Suraj could not sleep at all. He was feeling hot, and he was worried. Near him, his little sister Divya was sleeping. He kept looking at her. He closed his eyes, but he just couldn't fall asleep. In desperation, he even tried counting 1-2-3, right up to 100, but it didn’t work. It wasn’t working at all.

The little plane flew out of the toy cupboard and came close to Suraj. “Why are you looking so worried?” the little plane asked.

“You know my little sister Divya?” Suraj said. The little plane nodded.

“She is not well; she has got fever. Amma has given her some medicine, but I think she is not feeling any better. That's why I'm worried.” Suraj explained.

“Oh! My goodness!” exclaimed the little plane. “The Fever Fiend must be attacking her. Poor little girl! How can she fight him? She is so small.”

“Who’s this Fever Fiend who's attacking her? I'll fight him. Where is he?” Suraj jumped up on the bed and was ready to box, his fingers packed into fists.

The little plane told him about the Fever Fiend. This evil monster lives in the island of Disease, and there are three other evil islands nearby. All these islands are in the Sea of Death, which is very far way, on the other side of the living world. From this distant land, the Fever Fiend sends his germs to fight people.

“And now, he has sent his germs to fight your little sister”, the little plane explained.

“What an evil horrible fellow! I will fight him.” Suraj boxed the enemy in the air. “How can I go there?”

“It isn't easy” said the little plane. “You need to cross the Seven Seas, and the Thirteen Rivers. And beyond it, you need to cross the Sea of Death. And I've heard that there are seven frightful Demons that guard the seven doors to the palace of the Fever Fiend. It isn’t easy at all.”

“Hmmm. Can you take me there?” Suraj asked the little plane.

“Me?” said the little plane, looking shocked at Suraj. “It's very very far, even beyond Toyland. I have never flown that far. Never ever.”

“You have to. You just have to.” Suraj insisted. “I have to fight the Fever Fiend. He's attacking my little sister. See how little she is; how can she fight this monster all alone?”

The little plane looked at Divya, and said sadly, “Yes, she is very small. The evil monster should not attack her.”

So the little plane agreed reluctantly. Suraj said a big “THANK YOU” before he clambered on to the plane. The little plane checked its batteries, revved its engines and was ready to fly off!

“Wait!” Suraj cried out, “I almost forgot! I need to take my taveez.”

From under his pillow, he took out his twelve taveez. These were his special charms. To the ordinary eye, they looked like little cardboard pieces with pictures of animals drawn on them. But those who knew Magic knew how powerful they were, and all the things the taveez could do. The tiger taveez could make you very brave, the fish taveez could make you clever, the ox taveez could make you very strong, and the cat taveez could give you many lives.

Ooof! Suraj thought, I almost went off to fight the Fever Fiend without the taveez! Imagine that! Suraj put his taveez in his pockets and climbed onto the little plane.

The little plane and the little boy flew out of the window, over the sea, and into the darkness of the night. They flew and flew, over many lands and seas, over islands and tall trees. They flew over volcanoes and deserts, over forests and mountains. Suraj knew the lands he was flying over; he had seen these in his school, in the big map book called Earth. He has seen these pictures with the names, but he had forgotten all the names. Suraj had never thought he could be flying over them in his plane. Next time I see the maps, he thought, I will remember all the names; you never know when you might see them.

Over land and over sea, they flew. Past the oceans, past the skies. Beyond the living world. They flew over the Sea of Death, and Suraj noticed the colour of the water and shivered. He looked away. At last, they reached the island of Disease.

“Oh! There you are” said the little plane, landing. “How tired I am! I need to recharge myself.”

Suraj got off the little plane and stood on the ground. And before anyone could remind him, he turned to the plane and said, "Thank you for carrying me so far."

In front of them, was a huge door, on which were carved the words:

If you dare to enter this door,
Turn the numbers to the right score.
It should match 7 x 7 x 7,
If you are wrong, you’ll go to heaven!

Below the words lay a large number lock, just like Achchan had on the briefcase he carried to office every morning. Each number was almost the size of his hand, and there were four numbers. Right now, they were all set to 0. So, the lock read “0 0 0 0”. Next to the lock was a big button that said “Click here to open”.

Suraj realised he had to calculate 7 x 7 x 7 and set the number lock to that. But what was 7 x 7 x 7? He knew 7 x 7 was 49; it was in his 7 times table! But he did not have any 7 x 7 times tables. And there was no one here he could ask. He turned round and saw the little plane.

“Hey, little plane! Can you tell me what is 7 x 7 x 7?”, Suraj asked.

“Oh! Maths!” said the little plane, sounding scared. “I was never very good at it. When I was at school, I always sat near the window, and when the teacher Mr. Boeing was not looking at me, I would just fly away! I really don’t know what 7 x 7 x 7 is. Sorry!”

Suraj thought hard. He could remember his teacher telling him something about these multiplications, but he just couldn’t remember. Numbers flew around in his head, but he could not figure it out at all. What was he to do? To help Divya, had to solve this problem. He just had to. He put his hands in his pockets to see if he had a pencil and paper, and felt some pieces of paper. He took them out, and saw the taveez he had carried!

“Ah! The taveez!” he said, relieved. “Now I can become clever by using the fish taveez.”

He threw the fish taveez into the air, and murmured the magic words: “Pon Chiki Non Non!” The taveez vanished in mid-air. The next instant, he felt a little spark in his brain, and the numbers and words came so fast to him that his tongue struggled to keep up.

The words tumbled out of his mouth: “7 x 7 is 49. So 7 x 7 x 7 is 49 x 7. How much is that? Well, 9 x 7 is 63, carry-over the 6. 4 x 7 is 28. Plus 6 which is the carry-over and you get 34. So, the answer is 343.”

“Wow!” exclaimed the little plane. “You are brilliant.”

Suraj mumbled “Thank you”, and set to turning the locks to the right number. He left the first number at 0, and changed the rest to 3,4 and 3. Then, hoping that the answer was right, he clicked on the button.

The door opened slowly, groaning as if it had not been opened in years. Suraj jumped through the half-open door, yelling “Let’s go! Let’s go!”

He hadn’t run very far when he reached a second door. On it was written:

So you think you are clever?
Will it help you here? Never!
This door has no trick.
It is just a single brick.

Suraj was stuck. The door seemed to a huge single brick. What could he do? The door was many many times larger than him; he could not see the top. How could he go through a single brick? He wished he could break through the door, but he wasn’t that strong. Or was he?

He found in his pocket the ox taveez, which could make him strong. He threw the ox taveez into the air, and murmured the magic words: “Pon Chiki Non Non!”. The taveez vanished in mid-air. Suraj felt his muscles growing! He could see the muscles in his forearms bulging. His leg muscles too had grown enormously!

Suraj ran back a few yards. “Eeeeeee-ah!” he screamed as he charged forward towards the brick-door, and threw himself at the brick. Everything around him seemed to crash and break. Before he knew where he was, he had made a small hole in the brick door and come out of the other side!

“Great!” Suraj thought, picking himself up. His arm ached badly, there was a cut in his upper arm, but there was no time to do anything. He needed to rush now; he would get the Band-Aid later. Amma would not mind too much. After all, it was to help Divya.

He could see in the distance the third door. He ran towards the third door. When he reached there, he found the door was open! But, on the other side of the door was a deep hole. It seemed to have no end. A notice was stuck near the door. It said:

It’s time to say good-bye.
Jump in, and you die.

Hmmm! A big problem. There seemed to be no way around this one, Suraj said to himself. Which taveez should I try? I think I really need to try the cat taveez; that will give me a few more lives. But I have never tried it before; I am not sure what will happen. Well, I guess there is no choice.

Suraj threw the cat taveez into the air, and murmured the magic words: “Pon Chiki Non Non!”. The taveez vanished and Suraj felt himself full of a magic spirit. Bravely, he jumped into the hole. Down and down he fell through the endless dark hole until suddenly … Splat! He hit the bottom of the hole and died.

Was that the end of brave young Suraj? The end of this story? No, not at all. You see, he wasn’t dead! The cat taveez gave him a new life.

Suraj awoke and slowly opened his eyes, a little shaken. He realised he was lying on his back. It was very dark; he couldn’t see anything. He felt himself all over, he seemed fine. He stood up on his feet, wondering where to go.

“Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell a human! Who is this here who has come through the doors?” said a loud voice. It echoed around him. “Let me see.”

Suraj could see two huge feet near him. Each foot had four toes; each toe was bigger than his hands. The long and curving toe-nails had clearly never been cut. Suraj could see only as far as the knees, which towered over him. This monster must be bigger than all the tall buildings in Moonbay, Suraj thought.

“A little boy, from the land of the Humans! All alive!” said the monster, surprised “What are you doing here?”

So Suraj told him how he had come looking for the Fever Fiend, who was troubling his little sister. He had come to beat the frightful Demons and the Fever Fiend.

“Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed the evil monster. “I am the Fever Fiend. There aren’t any Demons any more. They were bored just standing there waiting for someone to kill, and nobody would come. So I replaced them with Compu-daemons. I see you have beaten some of my Compu-daemons. But you can’t stop me, boy. I am the Fever Fiend. You little fellow, what can you do?”

“I will fight you”, said Suraj, rolling his wrists, knowing it would be very difficult. He dug in his pockets for the magic taveez. He needed the tiger taveez. But there were no taveez in his pockets.

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Your taveez is full of Magic. I have a powerful anti-magic spell that stops all Magic things. I will kill you.”

Now Suraj did not know what to do. Without his powerful magic taveez, how could he fight? He began to feel afraid.

“Ha! Ha! I will kill you. And then I will send more germs to your little sister. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

At this, Suraj got very angry. How could this evil monster do this to his little sister? Attack her? How dare he attack Divya? He forgot all his fears and with all his strength, he pulled the toe-nail of the Fever Fiend’s big toe.

“Oooh! Ooooh! Oooooh!” screamed the Fever Fiend in agony. “Ooooooh! Let go, you naughty little boy.”

“No! Never!” said Suraj, pulling the toe-nail harder and harder until his muscles ached.

“Ooooooh! Let me catch you, you evil boy” said the Fever Fiend, and bent down to catch Suraj. But Suraj was so small, that the Fever Fiend could barely see him, and as the large monster bent forward, he fell with a resounding noise: Crrrrrrash! The Fever Fiend toppled and Suraj was knocked out.

Suraj awoke and slowly opened his eyes, a little shaken. He realised he was lying on his back.

He looked up and saw Amma smiling at him.

Amma smoothed his hair and said, “Suraj, you are very strong again. You almost pulled the pillow off the bed. You made such a big noise I came to check.”

Suraj asked, “I am fine! How is Divya?”. He was worried about her even now.

Amma smiled at him, “She is sleeping. She is fine now. Her fever is cured. So is yours.”

Suraj replied, “Good. You know, Amma, I beat the Fever Fiend. He was such a horrible monster. I got a cut on my arm, but it’s ok now.”

“Yes, the doctor gave you a shot there. When he came this morning to give Divya an injection, I told him to check you too. He thought it would be best to give you one too before your fever got worse. Now you are both fine.”

Suraj said excitedly, “You know, Amma, I gave the Fever Fiend a big blow, and I pulled his toe-nail off and he fell and died.”

Amma gave him a big hug. “Rest now, my little hero. You tell me the story later. OK?” she said softly.

Over her shoulder, Suraj saw the little plane in the toy cupboard looking at him, dusty with all the flying he had done last night. The little plane was smiling at him and it whispered, “You did it, Suraj! You beat the Fever Fiend! Well done!”

 

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