The old temple priest stooped and slowly filled the metal lily-pad dishes with milk. As he did, sacred rats came scurrying from the shadows to drink. They were, he believed, reborn people. He chuckled as they ran over his feet, and he dropped a handful of sweetmeats on the floor. He nodded to the statue of the many-armed god before him, touched the purple mark on his forehead, then crouched down on his crooked heels.
He thought how pretty the big, flat dishes looked -- each was a white moon with twenty dark gray rats around it, sipping at the milk. The rats looked like furry petals, their pink tails flitting about like fronds in the wind.
He glanced through the temple's pillars to the sunny street outside. Three pony dealers were quarreling over some money and, nearby, children were chattering noisily as they watched some piglets snuffling in the gutter. Women in saris stood gossiping as they drew water from a stone well, and nearby a camel groaned as it was loaded. A beggar sat cross-legged playing a flute through his nose. A holy cow whisked flies with its tail and surveyed the scene.
Behind the cow was a rickety wooden paan stall. Here, a man with a pinched rat-like face, a big mustache, and a purple turban dismounted his horse.Straightening his silk coat, he stood impatiently, tapping the dusty road with a moccasined foot. The paan seller sprinkled some brown betel-nut powder onto a green betel leaf. He added grated coconut andaniseed, and squeezed some red sticky syrup on top. Then he rolled it all up and finally offered the breath freshener up to his customer. Without acknowledging him, the smart man took it and put it in his mouth. He dropped a few coins at the stallholder's feet and, chewing, mounted his horse again.
As the paan seller turned, an incredible thing happened. There was a BOOM, and the horse and its rider vanished into thin air.
The man fell on his knees in fear.
In the temple, the priest waggled his head from side to side. Then he bowed to the rats before him, put his hands together, and said a prayer.
Excerpted from Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure by Georgia Byng Copyright © 2005 by Georgia Byng. Excerpted by permission.
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