The Unbeliever

Harness bells chimed melodiously on ponies, announcing the traversing sleighs that left a trail of their existence on snow-covered paths. Light snowflakes drifted soundlessly with a steady stream of gale and settled into the long slits that once promised to mark the jangling snow carriers. Silver sound of Church bells filled the air, allying with the aroma of Christmas Pines, roasted goose and cinnamon spiced drinks. Merry makers strode along the streets, bathed in myriad hues of ornate lights, disregarding the jealous moon.

As the joy of Yuletide spread its warmth through every heart, it disconcertingly frosted the heart of Jester. Reeking in the odour of cheap alcohol, he stood underneath the mistletoe, jesting at the carol-singing children. The more he saw the populace partaking in the syrupy revelry, the more he took pride in being the ‘Unbeliever’. With every sip he took of the pungent liquor, he gave a louder laugh that contributed to a greater need to sip on the foul spirit. He would have continued the cycle were it not for the dry bottle dampening his frisk and his empty pockets that denied him aid.

Jester was about to walk off in search of a ‘donor’ whose pocket he could pick next but he was faced by the repulsively sweet greeting of the Priest.

“Merry Christmas Jester my boy. You must join in the celebration of the birth of ‘the messenger of mercy’”, said the Priest benevolently.

Jester looked into his eyes skeptically and when he found nothing to be suspicious of, he laughed. He said in a flippant way, “I don’t believe in all of this old man. I have no reason to. If ‘He’ is so great, why am I here on the eve of Christmas with nothing but an empty bottle of low-priced rum?”

The Priest smiled kindly, shaking his head as he spoke, “come into his home tonight and he will not let you return empty handed. Try it my boy…And if you are disappointed tonight, you may do as you please…”

The ‘Unbeliever’s’ eyes studied the eyes of the ‘Believer’. He had little to disbelieve so he let himself be led into the Church. At the altar, the Priest instructed Jester to light a candle, close his eyes and say his wish out loud. With a discernable air of ridicule, Jester followed the instructions.

After lighting a candle, Jester closed his eyes and said out loud, “if you are so great…the Saviour…the provider of mercy, send unto me your blessings as ten shining shillings…”. As he sent out his prayer, he tried to resist his laughter that tickled him in the throat like a crumb lodged in the windpipe.

Letting out peals of laughter, Jester opened his eyes and looked at the statue of Infant Jesus. He then looked around the hall but failed to find the Priest. Shaking his head woozily, he got up to leave, when he heard the clanking sound of metal that emanated from the altar in front of him. Surprised, he looked at the altar to see coins lying near the candle that he had lit.

Dumbstruck by what had happened, Jester carefully filled his pockets with the twenty shillings in coins that he had found in the ‘Home of God.’ As he merrily skipped away, the Priest appeared from behind the altar, pleased to have altered an ‘Unbeliever’ into a ‘Believer’ by placing more shillings at the stand than Jester had asked for. Glowing in his deed of virtue, the Priest went along for the mid- night mass.

As the midnight bells chimed and hymns of Yule burst the air, Jester bought himself two bottles of inexpensive rum. As he was leaving the shop, the shopkeeper offered his greetings, “Merry Christmas my friend. God seems to have blessed you tonight…”

Jester took a big gulp of the intoxicating spirit and laughed giddily. Picking up the remaining five shillings in change, he spluttered, “God? Really? All of you are idiots…including the Priest…’Believe in the mercy of the messenger’ he says proudly…little does he know…God does not exist…had he existed, he would have answered my prayer correctly…giving me twenty shillings when I asked for ten? Is that a responsible thing to do?”

The shopkeeper stared at Jester in disgust as he faltered, picked himself up, dropped his money, picked it up and finally sauntered away woozily, jesting at the world.

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Somu’s Monday Rue

Monday morning walked in on Somu like the laughing monster he had heard of from his grandmother’s stories. He would have kicked back, punched and hurled the monster into the well behind their house had it not been for the ghost that lived in there. Somu’s grandmother was a wise woman and she had warned him against going too close to the well, lest the sleeping ghost woke up and climbed his back.

Somu rested his blanket just below his half open eyes, on the bridge of his nose and contemplated his alibi for this Monday.

Past three Mondays had not seen success as far as skipping school was concerned. On one Monday Somu had had a brilliant idea that was inspired by his neighbor, Manu dada’s wife. He had seen how everyone treated her so lovingly despite the fact that she had swallowed a whole baby. They even suggested for her to take more rest. Somu had looked for a potential baby to eat over the weekend but the idea had ceased to appeal towards Sunday night. Next morning, he had shoved his grandmother’s saree under his shirt. He would have succeeded but his grandmother was a wise woman. She had seen a bit of it peek from under his clothes.

On another Monday, he had pretended to see a ghost on the peepal tree near Ranga’s house but his grandmother was a wise woman. She had known that there was a temple nearby.

Then on last Monday, Somu had said that the headmaster was on leave and so the school would be shut. But his grandmother…she had met the headmaster’s wife at the temple early that morning.

Today had to be a more solid excuse so Somu pinched himself till tears flooded his eyes and then he made the announcement that he had a stomachache. It worked…even with his grandmother. But this time his father simply told him to have some bitter tonic and get going.

When Chandu came by to walk to school with Somu, he was instructed to make sure that Somu did not eat anything that day…not even if he said he felt better. With the bitter tonic coating his tongue, Somu walked to school but his determination hadn’t been dampened yet.

Before the class began, Somu took special permission to sleep on the last bench in class because….well even Chandu knew that he had a stomach ache.

Things went fine for Somu until the end of class when Shankar distributed his birthday sweets, quite naturally skipping ‘poor’ Somu. But Somu knew how to look at the brighter side of things. After all he was the only one who would get to rest the entire day while the others studied and presented their homework.

Somu spent a couple of hours jeering at his classmates, until just before lunch the peon came by to make an announcement. A feast had been arranged at school to honour the headmaster’s birthday.

Somu would have sneaked in and helped himself to some food, if it weren’t for his cruel friend Chandu. So he slept on his bench while everyone else ate to their heart’s content.

Not long after lunch, there was a racket in the school courtyard. When Somu got up from his bench and walked out, Chandu told him about the surprise holiday.

As Somu walked home with a slight frown on his face and a growling stomach, thoughts of hot food began to fill his mind. He made up his mind to go home and ask his grandmother to feed him hot dal and rice until his stomach burst.

Finally, when Somu got home, his hunger had almost killed him. He rushed into the kitchen, calling out to his grandmother but he didn’t find her there. He then looked in the backyard, the attic and the bedrooms but there was no one in the house. At last Somu went out to the front porch and to his surprise found his father sipping on tea.

Confused, Somu meekly asked his father where his mother and grandmother were. His father smiled kindly and told him that they had gone out to visit a relative. They were not expected until after dusk. When Somu stood there unmovable, his father gladly proclaimed that he was off to work as well.

As his father began to walk away, a traumatized Somu asked reluctantly if his mother had left any food for him. His father turned around and proudly said, “She fed the remaining food to a cow today. She knew you wouldn’t have any after school because of your stomach ache…”

Somu spent the rest of his afternoon drinking water. When evening came, he was given another spoonful of the bitter tonic, while the rest of the family had puris, jalebis, rice and dal. Somu had tried to explain that his stomachache was gone but his grandmother was a wise woman and somehow, his father had grown wiser…

Filled with disappointment, Somu went to bed that night. But this day had made him the wisest…he had finally learnt that he could not get away with an alibi like this again.

His alibi for next Monday would have to be even cleverer.

Untouchable

Tranquility rested indolently on the surface of the river, watching as the Sun offered its goodbye. The quietness surrounding it was so stark that it would disturb most people. A lone bird swept close to the water, dipping its beak briefly into the river, as if to reaffirm its existence. As it flew over the riverbank towards its home in the peepal tree, it deflected slightly, startled by a presence. Its response was not unjustified, for these parts of the village were not frequented by people- especially the rich and higher caste. If ever, there would be a few children from the segment of the populace that had been deemed ‘untouchable’.

However, this evening was different. The presence that had taken the bird by surprise was no other than a ‘Brahmin’ lady. She was old but had an unmistakable grace and serenity about her that made her existence seamless with the surrounding. But somewhere within the crevice of her heart there was a bubbling memory of a day that had changed her life.

As a soft breeze blew over the water and touched the lady, she closed her eyes and receded into her memories around the time she was just a little girl- no more than ten years of age.

“Chandu…clean the toilets now…” a woman’s scream emanated from behind the walls of the most affluent manor in the village. Within no time, a little boy in tattered clothes was running towards the toilets with a bucket of water that was almost his size. Filth covered him from head to toe, so much so that one would not recognize him if it were to be washed off. There was an undeniable enthusiasm in the little boy’s demeanour and an uncanny innocence in his eyes. As he dashed across the courtyard, a little girl could not hold her giggles. She ran across to stop him in his tracks when she heard the woman scream once more, “Devi…don’t you go close to him…how many times do I tell you he is ‘untouchable’.”

Devi felt a wave of disappointment go through her. She watched Chandu put down the bucket for a second out of sheer exhaustion. He smiled at her but his eyes were melancholy. Devi smiled back innocently and then saw him pick up the bucket again and disappear into the house.

A little later that day, Devi saw her mother chiding Chandu because he had asked for water. She then saw him cup his hands and drink the water that remained in his bucket.

Devi had not realised the gravity of these incidents because they had grown on her slowly in a way that they seemed normal. She had seen her family create borders for Chandu beyond which he could not venture. He was not allowed to pray to the Gods…the same God who made him and her. He was not given the same or enough food. He was not allowed to touch anything in the house that was used by the rest of the family members. He had his own little plate and tumbler that he had to use and take care of. He was younger than Devi but he was not given any time to play.

Devi would often ask her mother why Chandu was treated that way. Her mother would turn to her lovingly and say, “because you are ‘Devi’ and you are born to be treated specially. Chandu chose the wrong house to be born in and he has to bear the consequences.”

Devi had known Chandu and his parents ever since she had begun to recognize faces and yet there was a peculiar wall between them. She had tried to break it a few times to play with Chandu but someone from her house had always warned her against it.

One summer afternoon, on the day when Devi turned ten, she waited for everyone to retire for an afternoon nap and then sneaked out to play with Chandu. She took a scared Chandu by the hand and asked him to show her where his house was.

After a few minutes of walking, running and stumbling, the children reached the exact spot where the older Devi now sat. Chandu pointed at a distance towards his hut and smiled.

As time slipped by, both children played at the riverbank, their laughter stirring the still air. They played until the Sun began to dip. All of a sudden a realization dawned on them that Devi should have returned home. In a hurry, the children got up to leave when Devi saw her father and brother advancing towards her from a distance. In a state of panic, she stepped back only to slip on the murk and fall into the water.

Overwhelmed, Chandu glanced at drowning Devi and then at her father. If Chandu waited for Devi’s father to rescue her, she would drown but he also knew that if he tried to save her, he would be punished.

Chandu let his fears cloud him only for seconds before he reached out to save his friend. A few attempts later, Chandu held Devi’s hand pulling her onto the bank. Just as the wailing Devi stumbled onto the bank, she saw her father and brother approach her. Scared, she absently pushed Chandu away and ran towards her father.

As Chandu tripped on the murky bank and slipped into the river, he heard Devi’s father chide her, “why did you let him touch you, silly girl. Now you will have to bathe in holy water…”

Chandu tried to flap his arms wildly but he did not know how to swim and Devi’s family’s hands were tied by their beliefs.

When Devi jolted back to reality, she looked sullenly at the river and remembered her departed friend…the ‘untouchable’ who saved her soul…

As the Sun disappeared, Devi got up and began to walk towards her school where many children just like Chandu awaited her return.

Mr. Maugham

I sat by the window of my depleting office space. The walls implored to be adorned with a fresh coat of paint, while my pockets pleaded to be filled with a penny or two. It was nearing the end of the month and there was nothing I could do except look sullenly at the tattered calendar that struggled to stand straight on the edge of my table.

At the beginning of every month, I would send out an article or two to the local newspaper and would get enough money to last me a fortnight. Now, I am the kind who prioritizes my wealth well so I would manage to stretch it by just another week. Many things needed my attention but when the stomach growled, there was nothing in the world that pacified it like a hot meal. So in this battle, the stomach always won.

However, I was now in the last week of the month and desperate times called for desperate measures. So I gazed outside the window, trying to find a fresh target.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I was only looking for my next subject to write an article about. I was desperate enough to rob or fleece but not audacious enough.

As I glared outside, I saw a half dying tree, a malnourished dog and a dusty road. I stayed with them for a few minutes and then reprimanded myself for being so cynical about life. This trick always worked. All of a sudden my mind changed its setting. I began to notice the sunshine, the beautiful clouds and then the plush office building across the dilapidated one that I sat in. I watched as a few well-dressed people walked in and out of it.

Minutes passed by and I observed my subjects closely. Some of them pulled out their cigarettes and blew their stress in puffs of smoke. Others stood in groups and engaged in animated conversations. A few of them spoke animatedly, while the others burst into bouts of laughter- soft giggles, carefree chortles, sniggers, poised merriment and restrained smiles.

After a while, I noticed an old man appear from the street corner and wait confidently under a tree. As I observed him, I began to get confused. He appeared slightly odd to me. His face held light stubble and his hair was not very neat. He wore a black shirt that was a size larger for him. His grey trousers were slightly faded. His black shoes were polished but were definitely not brand new. However, the one thing that caught my attention was a navy blue scarf that he wore around his neck. It seemed extremely expensive. Maybe it was silk; maybe it was satin; maybe it was a mixture. Based on that scarf, I could tell that he had good taste. It shone subtly under the afternoon sun, drawing attention but not screaming for it. The more I studied the man, the more I realised that he had was the modest kind. Maybe he knew his style well, keeping the focus on a single prominent item of clothing.

He stood under the tree for a few minutes and then took out his wallet to glance at it. He frowned briefly and then strode across to a group of people who were puffing their cigarettes. There was a short interaction between him and another sharply dressed man. The old man soon returned to his tree with a lit cigarette and a smile on his face.

As I watched him, I joined the dots to comprehend that perhaps he did not have enough change to buy himself a cigarette and so he went across to ask another gentleman for one. Now who would refuse the decent man a trivial thing like that? I wouldn’t, if I had the money.

I spent a couple of hours trying to write an article but wasn’t too pleased. By early evening when I decided to leave for home, I was surprised to see that I had scribbled the name ‘Mr. Maugham’ on my notepad. I frowned trying to understand why I had done so. Upon deliberation I remembered that I had been reading a novel written by the author that went by the name.

I smiled mockingly and left, hoping that I would be able to do better next day.

Throughout the following week, I saw more of the old man in the blue scarf, whom I decided to call Mr. Maugham. He would appear from behind the office building for a couple of hours around teatime and then disappear in the evening when the office shut. He had two sets of clothes that he alternated between, but the scarf remained to enhance his style and personality.

On one day he began to take out his wallet but realised that he had forgotten it; so he went across and got himself a cigarette from a rich office goer. Another day he looked frantically for something until someone came to his help and lent him some money. On one other day, he realised that his wallet was picked and so he stood forlorn on the side of the road until someone came by and offered him some food and a cigarette.

I figured that maybe he lived alone in a big house and had no one to take care of him or remind him to carry his essentials everyday. I did wish sometimes that I could call him into my office but I knew it was too shabby for a classy man like him; so I let the thought go.

Towards the end of the week, I realised that I did not have an article yet, so I stayed back in the office at night. Later that night when I was struggling to keep the lamp alive, I noticed an old man searching for something on the street. He looked extremely anxious as he tried to investigate the road under a dim glow of the street lamps. I peered to get a closer look only to notice that it was Mr. Maugham. He was wearing his regular clothes but he did not carry the same charm about him. Something was missing….Oh my. It was his scarf that was missing. Poor Mr. Maugham. It was certainly an expensive one.

I watched for a while and then began to get drowsy. I tried to fight my sleep but could not keep it at bay for too long. The next morning, I woke up with a neck ache and a spinning head. I stared at the paper underneath my hands only to notice that it was blank. Exasperated with myself, I started to leave for home. Maybe a shower and breakfast would do some good. Just then, I saw Mr. Maugham standing on the street. Although he did not wear his scarf, he was smiling kindly trying to get the attention of the office goers. To my surprise none of them looked at him. A few of the people who had once shared their cigarettes with him refused to recognize him. Some people, who had offered him food at some point, snubbed him. Confused, I studied him. There was definitely something different about him. He looked shabbier, more worn out and definitely not classy. His usual blue scarf was also missing.

I felt bad for Mr. Maugham but I had to leave for home so I did not dwell on it. Maybe he was just having a bad day.

I returned to office only the next day, hoping that a fresh mind would help me conjure up an article. Settling into the chair, I glanced outside the window when all of a sudden I noticed something. In place of Mr. Maugham, a young man stood on the street, smoking a cigarette. He looked slightly shabby and did not wear the best clothes but there was something chic about him. Upon closer examination, I saw that around his neck fluttered an expensive blue scarf. It looked very similar to the one Mr. Maugham used to wear; the one he had lost. Maybe the wind had stolen it or perhaps a thief had.

I sat back in my chair and watched as the regular set of office goers smiled at the young man in his blue scarf. Some even greeted him, while others shared their cigarette with him.

As the world, including I began to get accustomed to a new Mr. Maugham, I smiled and began to write my next article. It was titled, “Mr. Maugham and his expensive blue scarf.”

Window Seat

The train was always chockfull during early hours of the morning. One was lucky if they could get a seat without having to fight for it; and to get a seat by the window. Aah! Now that would be an achievement.

Today’s achiever was Vijay. He held his bag close to his chest and stared out of the window, enjoying this rare occasion. His eyes were barely staying open with cool wind blowing them shut.

Just as Vijay was about to drift into sleep, he felt a nudge. Irritated by his perpetrator, he glanced at him. What annoyed him even more was that the man was smiling. As the man settled in, Vijay tried to ignore him and looked out of the window. But there the man went again. This time adding a ‘psst’ with the nudge.

Vijay thought it was best to address the man once and for all and guarantee a peaceful trip ahead. So he looked at the man.

The man looked back with an annoying smile plastered on his face. He introduced himself as Avinash and then began to speak, refusing to stop. He said he was a regular passenger on the train. He also spoke about his interest in meeting new people and making friends. After he was done with mundane details about himself, he complained about how opening an account with a particular bank was a pain. He said that he had deposited large sums of money in the bank and they had not given him a functional ATM card in time. He chatted on, even as Vijay tried to look for the opportunity to excuse himself. What use was a window seat if one could not look out?

Just then, as if the window Gods had heard Vijay’s plea, a ticket checker appeared out of nowhere. He asked the men to show their tickets. Vijay presented his ticket but his neighbour looked flustered. He said his ticket was probably stolen. As the ticket checker stood there with a frown on his face, Avinash opened his wallet to pay the fine. Now things went downhill when his empty wallet sneered back at him.

Vijay wanted to look away, as the cool wind and the rolling hills outside the window called out to him but he realised that the man sitting next to him was in a deeply sorry state. Vijay’s mind struggled to pick between the distressed man and his beloved window. Oh! what testing times these were. His mind began to flit between the window and the man…between the man and the window. It fluttered speedily, until it suddenly came to a screeching halt with Vijay offering to buy Avinash a ticket.

Once the contented ticket checker had left, Vijay smiled briefly and turned to the window. He was barely left with a quarter of an hour to enjoy himself. However, such a blessing did not come without its share of struggles. Before Vijay could breathe in a whiff of fresh air, Avinash embarked on a thanking spree. It should have stopped there but then he continued complaining about his bank. He went on about how he was so stuck because of the bank that he could not get about completing his day-to-day chores. He said that it hurt his self-respect to ask someone for money to buy him a train ticket and so on and so forth.

Gradually, Vijay advanced from feeling sorry for himself to feeling sorry for Avinash. As Vijay’s heart unreservedly let go of his window, he started to sympathize with his new friend. Nearing the end of their journey, they even exchanged numbers and bid goodbyes.

Over the next couple of days Vijay did not see Avinash while traveling by train. He was curious but did not dwell on the absence.

On the third day, Vijay was awaiting his station at the door of the train compartment, when he felt a slight push. He turned around to see a young, scrawny man. The man immediately apologized and Vijay smiled politely. Vijay almost turned away, when the man asked if he knew how troubled Avinash was. Vijay was taken aback at how the man knew about him knowing Avinash. The man explained that he was a regular on the train and had seen Vijay helping out Avinash the other day. He had thus assumed Vijay and Avinash knew each other. Vijay said he had no idea since they had only spoken once. However, before Vijay got off the train, he gathered that Avinash was in deep distress. His wife was in the hospital and he did not have funds available to pay the bills. The fact was that he had enough funds but they were trapped in the bank.

Feeling sorry for Avinash, Vijay took all necessary steps to get in touch with him. A couple of days later, he had sent out a substantial amount of money to Avinash. A grateful Avinash had insisted that he would return the money within a week.

A week later, Vijay was on the same train, going off to work. He had once again received the privilege of sitting by the window.

After an uneventful journey when the train stopped at a busy station, Vijay noticed in the distance, the same man he had spoken to about Avinash. Incidentally the man was tattered and begging for alms. Surprised, he peered at the man to get a clear look. At first he thought he was mistaken but it did not take long for him to realise that the beggar was indeed the man who had posed as Avinash’s friend.

As the train jerked ahead, Vijay felt a jolt go through him. He remembered the same man also dressed as a ticket checker the day he had met Avinash. One man, who had three identities or rather disguises.

Vijay immediately pulled out his phone to call up Avinash. It came as no surprise that the number had been switched off.

Vijay slipped his phone back into his pocket, resting his head on the window frame. He breathed in some fresh air, soaking in the feeling of achievement at being a window seat passenger.

Walk with me

Walk with me illustrationPsst! Its dark in here isn’t it. Don’t be scared. Just take a corner and stay put while I look for the candles. I won’t be long.

What were you thinking wandering off on a stormy night like this? Had I not noticed you standing by the side of the road, the cold rain and howling winds would have caused the death of you. I dare not mention the other reason that has this town tucked away into the safety of their homes by dusk. Believe me, the floating rumors about this town must not be taken lightly. Especially when you are sitting in this dark corner with rain pounding on the windows. You will never tell if it is mere pounding or a nifty knock.

As you sit on the creaky chair, water drips from your drenched body. You feel the iciness in the house slowly climb up your spine and hammer through your head. You know nothing about this place or me but it seems to be a better bet than the unsheltered streets. Breathing out bits of your own warmth onto your cold palms, you peer outside the moss-covered window. Sheets of rain are gushing down and melting onto the earth. A dull silver glow of the defeated moon is spreading hauntingly through the skies. Every street lamp has been doused after putting up a losing fight. The trees in the distance are fighting the assaults of menacing winds. A shudder goes down your spine as you wonder what would have become of you, had I not taken you under my umbrella and brought you into my home.

You are getting a bit impatient aren’t you? It’s your growling stomach I can tell, but you are scared to move about. You can see nothing around here and the foreboding sound of the wailing winds is seeping in through the rattling windows. A tiny stream of relentless winds is pushing in through the slit beneath the windowpane and crawling onto your damp skin like a slithering snake. The sound of water dripping from your wet clothes comes rhythmically as each drop splashes against the damp wood underneath. You breathe in the smell of this damp wood, trying to get used to it. You might be here for a few hours.

While you wait, exhaustion is burdening your soul. Your eyelids feel heavier than the bag you were lugging around this evening. You are drifting. You fight the onslaught of sleep but it is taking you into a darker place. A much darker place. You are now floating into the depths of comfort, riding its surreptitiousness. All sounds around you have dissolved. Even the faint drip drop. It is a scary place but you have no energy to find your escape yet.

You have now made peace with this point of serene oblivion.

A sudden rapping sound makes your heart travel through your throat. It is about to jump out but you wake up just in time to push it back. You open your eyes but not much has changed. You have traveled back into the musty darkness. You look around scared. The rapping is getting louder. It is unnatural as if a force defying nature’s law were working at it. The wind is wailing desperately. You can feel the goosebumps on you. You decide to open the door.

Stay put I say. Have I not warned you about the rumors in this town? You must be able to tell a pounding from a nifty knock. Now sit back and let it pass. For you might open the door and find no one there but you will have invited it in and it will stay with you for as long as it brings you your end.

You peek outside the window and you find truth in my words. There is no one. Just then a lightening flashes, illuminating the skies for an instant and that instant makes you freeze. You have seen the silhouette of a person just outside the window. It was so close; you almost thought it was a reflection. It was a woman wasn’t it? But now she has left your heart beating and will never return.

Just make effort to calm down. I am trying to find my way here. Oh, now where have I put those wax lights? Can’t see a thing in here.

You are frightened now. You almost regret coming into this town. You are cold and uncomfortable but you have no choice so you lean against the window. When the cold glass touches the nape of your neck, it startles you. It felt like the cold touch of a woman. You gasp and sit straight, warm tears filling your eyes. You close your eyes for a moment and that moment takes you away into a comfortable darkness.

Another rapping sound disturbs you but you keep your eyes tightly shut. It is another nifty knock according to you isn’t it?

Oh when will you learn? This is neither pounding nor a nifty knock. Can you not understand the genuineness in the sound? Get up and open the door. Let the poor man in. I am still looking for the candles.

You hesitate at first but then you feel your way to the door. Now don’t try to look for me. You won’t see me through this darkness. Open it.

You open the door, while your heart is still thumping. You see a fraught man waiting at the door, imploring to come in but you seek my permission. You turn around to ask of me and in that instant a lightening strikes the skies, illuminating this tiny wooden cottage. The whole of it, every corner of it. You are shocked. For there is no sign of me. There is no sign of anyone else.

But before you succumb to your fate, I will advise you to take the man in. He is but one of your kind.

Unfading

Cool breeze caressed the tired Earth as the Sun retired.

Darkness engulfed the orange glow of a dying dusk, bringing with it the dust of silver stars.

Jasmine slipped into slumber, its scent spreading with the zephyr.

She woke up and looked at herself for the last time, knowing that she had bound herself to her most cherished moment for eternity.

When morning came, they would take her body away but she would stay here for eons to come.