Every one in the group was enjoying the trip as they were getting this kind of relaxation after a long time. Joe looked at the trail of clouds that was following them. He felt light at heart. He was so happy to see the little kids jumping from seat to seat and yelling at the top of their voices. Slowly the vehicle started to climb up the steep path of the hill. Joe felt the fresh cool air against his face. It brought to him the smell of the mountains. Joe relaxed himself on the seat and closed his eyes. Joe then dreamt a wonderful dream.
"Joe" Someone whispered his name.
Though he wanted to open his eyes and see who was calling him, he could not to do so.
"Joe" Once again the voice called him.
He opened his eyes and was pleasantly surprised to see a pretty elf. She was looking down upon him. "Joe" Her voice sounded musical.
"What do you want?" she asked him.
"Hmm", nothing came into his mind. He could not think of even a single thing. Though Joe wished for so many things in his life, at that moment, his mind was blank.
"Why are you silent?" the pretty elf asked him once again.
"Joe?" -- still he stood dumb.
The pretty elf with her musical laugh started to melt into the thin air and moved away with the perfume of the blossoming flowers.
The vehicle screeched and came to a halt. Jerked by the sudden jolt, Joe woke up. The driver had applied the brakes to avoid hitting a deer that crossed the path. Everyone looked out of the window. They could watch a herd of deer grazing on the slopes. Some of the picnickers got down and took photographs of the grazing deer. The trees on either side of the path on the slopes were abloom with colorful flowers.
With a cheer, the children climbed out of the vehicle, and started to run along the stretch of space. Every one brought out their picnic baskets and started to look for a clearing where they can sit and eat. After eating and relaxing for a while, they decided to continue their trip.
Suddenly they heard a shattering sound that echoed and re-echoed from all around. Joe saw tongues of flame leap with the air, and smoke billowing up in the air. Joe took out his pair of binoculars and looked ahead. He saw a plane had crashed. He heard the cries for help.
The young boys and girls on their trip decided to go down and help, but they did not know how to climb down the slope and reach them. Joe volunteered to go first, as he had gone trekking during his annual holidays for more than three years and knew how to go about it. The driver of the vehicle gave him a long rope. He tied one end of the rope to the trunk of a nearby tree and then tied the other end to his waist. Slowly he started to climb down. It was eleven in the morning.
Joe climbed down far enough for a clear view of the crash. He called to his friend, who was up with the group, and asked him to immediately call the local police and for an ambulance. After giving more instructions he climb down further. When the rescue team arrived, Joe was inside the smoking debris of the skeleton of the broken air-craft. Though, the air-craft was severely damaged the passengers had crawled out of the seven-seater through the broken rear window. The pilot was unconscious and Joe pulled him out of the air-craft. The passengers escaped with burns and minor bruises, but were all in profound shock. Joe gave them water and helped them to regain their calm.
While the passengers were resting, Joe decided to explore the forest. A path from the cracked air-craft led into a thick group of trees and hedges. Joe walked, only the rustling sound of dry leaves keeping him company.
Joe's disturbing their privacy agitated the birds and squirrels. Little squirrels that were busy eating their hard found nuts scurried and scampered up the trees. Birds, singing their love songs, paused and looked with suspicion. Joe did not want to disturb them. Yet, curious to explore the place, he walked ahead.
After a few minutes, he came to a place where the bushes were in full. Their fragrance filled the air. Joe felt thrilled and a sense of ecstasy ran through his nerves. Joe suddenly remembered his dream about the pretty elf. He thought how it would be if he happened to meet a pretty elf. Joe had heard stories about elves from the people who lived in the forest. They used to tell him that they never disturb anyone and they are harmless.
One of his friends who was doing his research work in a forest told him stories about the elves and the fairies that roam around in the forest. One day Joe's friend had to go into the forest alone. Though he came to know the forest well, someone from the tribal town always accompanied him. It happened on that day. Joe's friend heard the leaves rustle. He suspected someone was following him. So he stopped and waited. Whenever he stopped, the rustling stopped. When he walked again, he heard the steps following him.
Remembering this, Joe chuckled to himself. "How would it be, if I happen to meet with such an elf? A pretty elf!"
Joe heard his named called loudly. The rescue team must have arrived. He rushed back and showed them the site of the crash. When the driver turned over his engine, Joe decided to go back into the woods. He wanted to look for an elf. He asked the driver to arrange for a taxi to pick him up there at six o'clock that evening. Satisfied with his arrangements, Joe started his expedition to discover a pretty elf and find out how a meeting with an elf would be.
In the forest, Joe stopped where he had stopped before. He reached for his digital camera and Pocket PC which he carried to record his experiences.
The rescue team had cleared the way down clear, so it was easier to climb down. His legs took him where he wanted to go. When he again stepped into the territory of birds and squirrels, they gave him a friendly glance. This encouraged him to walk into the deep woods. All the while his listened in anticipation for the rustling sound of foot steps following him. Much to his disappointment he could not hear anything. Disappointed, he went back, climbed up the slope and waited for the taxi.
The wait seemed interminable, though he had not waited even ten minutes. Bored with the wait and tired from the day's exertion, he nodded to sleep, his hand resting in the palm of both his propped hands. A bright ball of light rose before him and grew until the whole space was filled with the light. A colorful dot flew towards him from the distance. What was a speck grew into a mist and then became a shape. He rubbed his eyes, in his dream of course, and saw a resplendent elf, complete with star and wand, suspended in the air with little, fluttering!
"You made me wait," chided Joe.
"No, you didn't know how to look for me. I was with you all along, but you were blind to my presence. Only when you desperately want to see me and have nothing else on your mind you can see me. You saw me with your eyes closed, but do not with your eyes open. A paradox? Yes. All life is a paradox"
"You are talking above my head"
"Thank God, you didn't say through my hat"
"That's what my friends are going to tell me when I narrate this experience to them".
"A Dream is no dream for the dreamer"
"Again, one of those paradoxes?"
"Sorry, Joe. But, why did you so earnestly wish to see me?"
"I just wanted to ask what you were doing when the air-craft crashed. You could have prevented the crash" said Joe, rather accusingly.
"No, you didn't. The air-craft is in a shambles"
"But the humans are safe"
"---When you raise your hands in prayer, the Lord God sends me down to help you. And when you pray for others, the prayers are efficacious."
The honking of a taxi pierced Joe's ears and he woke up. Keats reverberated in his mind: