Prelude

Months after it began, I felt I’d already died. Like one day I had opened my eyes and woken up to blood smeared all over my body and a few dead people lying around me. For a moment I could not understand why was I here; fighting for a cause I did not believe in and for a master I did not know. But a queer, distant force had thrown me into this belligerent commotion and there was no escape but to pick up arms and fight.

When I got on my knees to have a bird’s eye view of the parched, dust laden field I was standing on, there was nothing but a rough land stretching far down every direction. And darkness blanketed the sky where, somewhere in the faded strands of my memory, once glinted the sun. The imminent threat of what was about to pass for a seemingly long time made my heart heavy with grief and even in the coming years, amongst all the steely clinks of swords and the bashing of shields, I’d often pause and look around for a kind exchange – but all in vain.

For years I got so accustomed to the torrid heat, unremitting anguish, dark and threatening crevices with no end, desolate, cold nights with no repose that now when I stand staring at a waning sun, I do not know how to behave. I haven’t experienced tranquility in a very long time, and uneasiness seems to have settled in the narrowest slits of my mind.

Somewhere I once heard, assurance cures uneasiness; assurance from whom, I wonder. 

I’ll tell you how it was; hold on for a little longer. A queer game this is and by the time you learn how to play by its rules you’re already on the brink of incorrigible collapse. You learn the art of carrying the burden of helplessness and masking it with pride. You learn how to sit still and hear the world around you softly mewling for help. You learn to appreciate recluse corners.

You begin to look up to the sky often, like a pair of bright, celestial hands would pick you up someday and take you far away-far from all the bedlam.

You start nursing hopes of divine help. Any help. You excel at constructing impressive facades- after all, they’ve protected you all this time. Initially, you try to talk about it, to the ones fighting alongside. But slowly you feel derided and just .. not understood enough, so you shut down, turn inwards and find a listener within.

This is how I fought and waded through years of noise and unrest.

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But now, I’m entranced, reader.  It’s almost like an ending of a long nightmare. I gaze with longing and gratitude at the freckles of grey clouds dotting the bruised evening sun. A warm rain might wash away some of this angst. A gush of fresh rain sweeps the field and I realise I’m still clinging tightly to my armour, so I let go and take a long whiff of the petrichor rising from the moist earth.

Dismally gazing at the distance I think of who I used to be before the war. I make a silent promise to scour her in the deepest of corners and pull her back. But the question is,

Has anybody who has ever been through war, returned unchanged?

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Note- I’ve noticed many of you have been sharing my posts on Facebook. The numbers have been increasing ever since! I’m grateful for the kindness and I thank you so much for this.  

But somehow, WordPress doesn’t give me the liberty to know who all share my posts on other platforms. So if you do share it, please let me know in the comments section. I’d love to thank you in person.

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Love always,

Your blogger.

Wayward

Only 15 minutes before, I was screaming. 

Now I’m making patterns in the moist, fragrant sand. Some of it is sandwiched between my fingers, slowly oozing out of the gaps as I tighten my grip. Occasionally, I take a quick glance of the ginormous turquoise body of water in front of me.

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It rises sporadically, antagonized by the frantic wind, it rises and rises until all I see is a huge film of translucent water, racing violently towards me. Until, with a defeated cry, it crashes down, sending cold splashes my way.

I cower a little, to save my shirt from drenching, but all in vain. Drops of salt water drip from my lips. Don’t worry, the sun is warm enough today. In one great leap the wave gulped my pattern and washed it away; leaving trails of sodden sand behind. I scrunch my face. Not fair.

My eyes light up instantly. I remember why I was here in the first place. I remember why I was screaming. Hesitating, I turn around to take a glance.

They’re still fighting.

I shake my head and turn to the waters, ‘Will this ever stop?’ 

Zoning out the sound of the ocean, I hear them having a war of words. They’re yelling and cursing each other. Their voice is rough and beaten. One of them has welled up, the voice has become heavy.

I smile. I know exactly who that is. 

The other, however, won’t be subdued. Like always, it is powerful. It stands tall and condescending. It wants to win. It wants to be right. It is bleeding, it is in pain and somewhere inside, a voice asks it to stop, yet it won’t be appeased. Never will it surrender. It keeps on screaming, until it leaps forward and throttles the other. They stagger, fidget and grapple.

One is going to win today.

The brawl continues and I’m about to scream again when I hear the snap of a neck. I turn around instantly only to witness a scene that sends waves of felicity through me. In a war between my heart and ego, heart stood there, bruised, but victorious.

Solemnly, I take out my cell phone, and I dial the abandoned number.

Carnival of Dust

I narrow my eyes and try to make sense of the tortuous blue-black lines, snaking their way through the map of this strange city. The sun begins to dip in the west, emanating pale gleams of warm light, like dying embers of a small fire.

rub my hands and breathe out some hot air, making me feel like a dragon, only this one exhales air. These dark, silent pine trees make it difficult to comprehend the map; I raise it slightly to catch some light before it finally gets dark.

At last, I make out where I am. I’m almost at the edge of these woods, where my odyssey would end. Longfully I look toward the roughly trodden path, at its end lies my elysium.

I trek and trodd, jump and wade and at last I hear the music. Faint, distant hum of a melody playing from some old instrument. Like a drunk jazz musician, it goes on playing. I’m close.

I make it through the final shrub, and in front of me lies the carnival. Abandoned, unkempt, uncared and nested beyond the pines, this is the place I saw in my dream.

The roller coaster still works as it climbs atop steadily, until it plummets to the ground, in one great leap. The roller coaster is empty.

The bulbs above the desolate trivia game still glow- on and off, on and off. 

The screen above the horoscope machine still blinks red- ‘Insert Coin Here.’ 

The rider less Carousel Horse goes up and down. Round and round the brightly lit centrepiece.

All you hear is solitary music from dying carnival swings. Nobody has been here for a very long time.

I make my way to the place I wanted to go. The moment where maybe I’d find my answer.

I head towards the ominously rotating giant wheel. The wheel pauses and ignoring my fear of heights, I shiver as I lock myself on a seat. The swing immediately powers up and takes me slowly to the top. I see the carnival receding below and the night sky coming closer and closer.

The moment is near.  

And just as I reach the top, the swing creaks and halts, leaving me hanging in the air, above the desolate and hollow carnival. I hold my breath and blink. Waiting.

A soft wind blows and sends a shiver down my spine as I finally breathe.

No answer comes.
Nothing but silence.

More silence.

At some distance in the star studded sky, I see the sparkles of a firework. Someone somewhere fired it up for me? Another one races to the top with its burning tail, finally exploding into the night, sending vapors of fire everywhere.

This moment on this brightly lit, rusted giant wheel is where I thought I’d find you. Waiting for me. On this buckled seat. And maybe, we’d share this together. The distance, the height, the dark, this cold, the spark.

But maybe, this is how it ends and this is why the dream brought me here. Wistfully, I smile. For here it is, that I’ve found my closure.

To the Woods

I hadn’t expected it to be this cold or I would’ve brought the sweatshirt mama bought me last Christmas. For now, I hope my flannels will keep me warm. It is funny how in your last moments, you’re supposed to think about the ones you love, or all of those rare moments when life seemed extraordinary. You’re supposed to be having flashbacks of your favorite birthday parties, or the day you got your first kiss or the day you went to your very first carnival.

I smile, trying desperately hard to light a fire in this dark. I rub two stones together, little sparks lighting up with every strike, ultimately giving birth to a young, warm fire. My eyes reflect the yellow glow they receive and somehow, I don’t feel cold anymore. Rubbing my hands, I take a glimpse of the valley far below. Dark, quiet; like the trees were asleep, unburdening themselves.

Dry leaves crunch and break beneath my worn out shoe. They’re going to be one year old tomorrow. He gave me these when I turned 21. A quiet wind blew through the woods, fanning my young flames. The trees sighed and looked down upon my little figure. A young guy huddled by a tiny fire, smiling on the adventure that lay ahead.

I wonder if I’ll be missed. The son who had it all, but somehow didn’t? The obliging one who went astray? The exchange of a present on his 21st birthday, that changed everything. In one year, I was no more their obliging son. I was, according to them, ‘confused.’

What would’ve happened if they had said yes and we hadn’t run away? Would we be happier? Would our Sunday dinners include him too? Would we be free? Would we be allowed to stand on the altar? The smile on my face fades away, as I watch the dying embers of my fire. What will they think when I’m gone?

Slowly I stand up and wade my way to the forest’s end where lay the bare ground. The part where I could directly face the valley down below; almost hearing the sound of all the lives that slept in it. Do those birds ever have to run away?

I lie down and gaze at the star studded night and catch a glimpse of a falling star. I hear footsteps approaching and somehow my smile comes back.
‘I thought you said you needed dry wood for our fire,’ he says as he lies down next to me.
Holding hands we gaze at the night, thinking of what would happen next.

Somewhere in the distance, a star twinkled a little more brightly.

Highway

The wind is frantic tonight and the stars are unusually luminescent. I wish I had packed sincerely. But it’s not my fault, I didn’t plan for this to happen.
I stand amidst gushing noise of cars speeding past me, my hair flowing in their direction as I stare at their red tail-lights, until they drive off down the road.

I scramble through my bag and I only find a sweatshirt, my notebook and some useless currency. I wish I’d kept my iPod. At least I’d have a musical companion on my way.
I sigh as I glare at the night again, ‘What do I do?’ I ask the silver stars.

Disappointed I look down, half expecting a twinkle.

I feel oddly cool. My chest isn’t burning with uninvited anxiety, nobody’s around to question me, I’m not trying to find peace any more, probably because I’ve found it.
Right here.

On this highway.

Humanity has retired to slumber, but the magic has awoken. And I can feel it in the midnight mist.

I have tried and tried to understand all that is wrong in our massively sinister and decadent society. I even resorted to finding answers, answers to questions that trouble us till our deathbed and I have failed. I hinged on the universe to give me answers, but all I ever received were instructions to stop trying to fix things.

I guess not everything can be healed. The roots are too deep to exhume, understand, obliterate or mend. I tried to seek answers from pages of books. For pages are far too patient than anything I’ve known. But they hesitated, giving a sad smile as I stared at them blankly. They too, didn’t have the answers.

The past evening, I rummaged through my drawers in search of everything I could take with me. Sadly, nothing was important enough.

So I ran. I ran as fast as I could. My lips trembling, my heart beating through my chest and cold air piercing through my lungs. But it felt good. Dear God it felt good. The wind blew through every strand of my hair, untangling it, playing with it. Warm tears rolled down my cool cheeks, for the wind was too fierce to run against.
The city was sinking out of view and when I came to a halt, I could only see distant, yellow lights scintillating below the city’s skyline.

And now I stand alone on this endless road. With nothing but the low hum of cars rushing past me.

I wish I could say more and confide in you about my journey ahead. But I’m afraid you will come looking for me. And as much as I love you for it, I don’t want to be found.

For now, this highway is my home.

I turn around and take a wistful glance at the city that raised me. I  tighten my grip around my notebook. After all, it is the one who will tell my story.

One Last Effort

There is so much going on right now. I tip-toe silently trying to slide pass through all the energy inside. A moment ago I too was standing amidst all the chatter and hysterics. But very soon like I forbode, it started to consume me.
The song, the laugh, the drink, the people and their heated words uttered so fast I can barely make any sense of it. I can hear everything around me but I cannot understand a thing. I glance around in that crowd, where could I possibly go? What do I do?

I’m overwhelmed. I don’t do well in crowds and meaningless conversations. I’ve always loved the quiet, always preferred it. Always been fascinated with things I shouldn’t be fascinated with. I look around again, anxious.  A group erupts in laughter, a stout robust man quaffs down his entire drink and quizzically inquires for more.
A woman subtly adjusts the straps of her dress.
A man nervously strokes his tie, this is a deal he cannot miss.
The waiter stands patiently, waiting for them to finish their drinks, so that he may be done for the day.
The singer sings in all her melody, while no one is listening and she’s too drunk to notice.
I gulp in anticipation though I do not know of what.

I see a door straight down the hallway, festooned with ribbons and glitter. I open the door quietly, just enough for me to slip through; and I run. I run as fast as I can storming past the hallway, making conversations pause and a couple of heads follow my trail.

I reach a garden and my toes are bruised but I don’t feel any pain. The quiet is comforting and the cold seems like a friend. I lean against a wall and slam on the ground, breathing heavily and staring into the night. My hair is a travesty and sweat seeps through my make-up.

By now I only hear soft music playing somewhere far. Far enough to not be intelligible and I sit there barefoot, my head resting against the wall and every deep breath pushing hot air through the fog.
I see small yellow fairy-lights carefully hung over the bushes. I’ve always loved lights, you know. But not the superfluous, exaggerated, colorful ones. But the quiet, yellow and warm ones.

I pick myself up and make my way to the pool. The calm, unperturbed surface speaks to me. Glaring at the water I find peace. I’m enticed by how deep it might be. So deep that they cannot ever find me. So deep that the world fails to follow my trail and all that consumes me washes away inside it.
So I jump.

I jump in the water and let go. Bubbles of air escape my body as I close my eyes and allow myself to sink. As low as I can. As deep as the waters may allow me.
I think of everything that overwhelmes me, everything that makes me anxious and I feel it leave my body.
Everything that makes me hold on to things, everything that makes me think, it’s slowly going away as the water fills my body and it swells and crashes the bottom.

And in my final moments I see those lights. Though they don’t appear little anymore. The water makes them glow like blazing balls of fire, spreading their warm glow over me, maybe trying one last time to bring me comfort. In one last effort, I smile and bid them farewell.

Until I start floating on the surface.