They say that when we are about to die, our whole life flashes before our eyes. False. Certainly not for me. For me once again, it is January 1985. The fog of memory has cleared. I am standing there, with him. His hands are behind his head, he is on his knees. Eyes closed. He has already accepted what is to come. I consider briefly, walking away. I remember my promise to him, and I raise my revolver. Then, the shots ring out. Bam! Bam! Bam! He is dead.
I woke with a start, coughing. There are concerned faces looking around at me. This is my large and loving family. Worry lines are writ large on my sons’ faces. “Same dream?” a voice asks me, placing a soft hand on my shoulder. My heart beat calms down. Yet as I acknowledge the presence of my family and reassure them I am going to be alright… I sense his presence. Why is he here? I wonder… Will I ever be free from him? For forty years since that day, I have been haunted by that memory. By his twisted smile. By his calm eyes. His question that I still don’t have the answer to. Did I lose faith in myself, or the system?
As my eyelids begin to droop, I am thankful that I don’t need to look for that answer anymore. I hear gasps around me, and flatlining. It must be me. He holds his arms out wide. As he embraces me, I think that if I could feel… I would have surely broken down. This man, the bane of my existence, the ghost of my past has now become my saviour. He has freed me. As I am walking with him, a sweet fragrance envelops us and I feel a lightness of being… like never before.
Yesterday afternoon, I had a strange dream as I had fallen asleep in the recliner to the soothing ever present whirring of the fan above my head.
I dreamed of a man. Now I know, that is not unusual. But this man, he was unusual. He had straight hair that swept his collarbones slightly. He was bare-chested and wore a necklace of bones. He wore a glinting band around his forehead, indicative of his status in the societal hierarchy of his people. He was attired in a flowy garment made of animal skin. On his chest were painted strange symbols in red dye (or what I am hoping was red dye) and I was there. I stood there behind a tree, not hidden from view. I was looking at him. His eyes were resolutely fixed on the path before him, the one that led to the tree where there lay a sheathed blade. It had an ornate hilt. It was sheathed in a roughly hewn bamboo case. His eyes fixed on mine, and I felt the forest come alive around us. The birds burst into song, the colours at once seemed sharper and I was conscious of a warmth pooling in my extremities. His face showed no change in expression as he continued taking measured steps towards me. I see the burning in his eyes. I see the icy gleam of the blade in the slanting evening sunshine.
Just as we took steps towards each other, my phone rang loudly and jolted me out of this dream that left me feeling very disoriented indeed. For it did not feel like a dream, but rather like memories resurfacing, of a past long tucked away carefully.
“Welcome. Here you are. We have waited for you, a long while. Ever since that night of December 1969, to be precise. You do remember, don’t you?” King Minos spoke softly, his eyes twinkling with malice. The soul before him quivered from fear. In the earthly realm, she was a famous and influential writer. Her claim to fame was writing sub – par romance/horror novels involving underaged protagonists and supernatural creatures. “Please, My Lord… It came to me in a dream. I did not do it consciously.” She pleaded before him, hoping that there might be some compassion lurking in his heart still. “TAKE HER AWAY AT ONCE!” He bellowed. The denizens of the Phlegethon rose steadily, their shrivelled, ghostly fingers grabbing her by the ankle and began dragging her downwards into the circles of Hell. They cackled and chanted in a way that made her hair stand on end, she tried to free herself but she couldn’t seem to.
She woke up sweating and panting hard. She looked at the clock on her bedside table. 4:42 A.M. What a nightmare, that one! She shivered, drawing her sheets closer. There was a movement beside her, and a minute later… she heard her husband ask her groggily “Steph? You alright?” She nodded absently and thought back to the red eyed soulless creatures. She stayed with that image, and a new book began to take shape. She hurriedly slipped on her house slippers and quietly padded down to the study, where she began writing.
Meanwhile, somewhere outside their multi million dollar home, lurked a shadowy figure with his huge, dark powerful wings folded quietly. “You do not heed your guardian angels. Your time too shall come, Stephanie” he sang softly, as a sinister promise to himself and also to Minos.
Yesterday, the sixteenth of July 2017 I attended a writing workshop conducted by Rohini Malur and Queer Arts Movement India (QAMI). I had a great time, meeting new people and an adorable dog that wandered in. So, the workshop began with a free writing exercise, sort of stretching out the mental muscles in order to keep them limber and flexible before embarking on the journey, for the day. The only rule we had was that we had to write without pause. The topic was Movie Character. The timer was set for five minutes, and here is what I wrote:
“She is this amazing, free spirited woman. She gets up to all sorts of shenanigans with the boy next door, who wants to be a writer when he grows up. I like her because she is relatable in that we both want to live our own lives, unshackled by societal expectations. She leaves home at a very young age, to pursue her dreams. And boy, does she have a LOT of them. It is not that she is just confused about what she wants to do professionally, but she wants to do many things. She has one vision of herself, standing before a cheering crowd and receiving all the fame, and adoration as she belts out tune after tune. She has this lovely, scattered energy about her, which is what the aspiring writer falls in love with. Unwittingly, each day the friends grow closer, as they both are in the same city. They are new there, and don’t have anyone but each other to lean on. So the duo help one another with their professional aspirations, she becomes his muse after a fashion. Eventually, the inevitable does happen. The two friends fall in love. But while he is okay with taking their relationship to the next level and obey the diktats of society in doing so, she is not.”
The timer ran out here, and I had to stop at this point else I would have been able to flesh out a great deal about the external conflict, and the internal conflicts that threatened the friendship, the relationship as well as the growth that both characters have to undergo before they can come back into each other’s lives once again. Indeed, the brightest dawn follows the darkest night. But setting all that aside, let’s continue with what happened at the workshop. We had to guess which character each person had written about. Nobody got mine. You know why? She is the every day woman. She is striving to live her life, pursue her dreams while subsequently wanting to break free. She is extraordinarily ordinary. She is you, she is me.
There in lies the beauty of it.
Seasons have gone by
One after the other
Love has ebbed, and Love has soared
Looks like it is fading
Soon, it shall be gone for evermore.
See those smiles turning upside down,
Young faces set in grimace and frown
We see before us, what is to come
Our bright eyes turning hooded and grey
Our joie de vivre lost among Life’s fray
The sins of the father dance gravely upon our heads
Toiling tirelessly, gracelessly as silent tears are shed
We hope for respite and seem to find none
Wherefore are we headed?
Oh Lord, what have we done?
Our silent screams are finally heard,
By the Merciful Overlord
Hope is futile, so is Denial
Hush now! Time’s up!
He’ll lay you gently upon his breast,
He will rock you softly to Eternal Rest.