The Spider’s Web

petrichor-and-clouds

The alarm goes off, piercing through the cold December morning. It is still dark – all the stars seem to have died. A tangible darkness, like a shroud. Like my shroud. I’d felt at peace while asleep; the alarm changed that, allowing the darkness to sit on my chest like an incubus paralyzing me.

It sings a pleasant tune – more a lullaby than an alarm. In its pleasantness, I sense an evil. A smile that holds knives at the ready. A smile that will slit your throat even as you smile back. Yet it won’t stop ringing.

I grope at the darkness and find a drawer whose steel handle is like ice. I’m about to shove the alarm in, when I find the things I’d lost. Things I thought I’d lost. A long time ago. And among them, a mirror with a golden frame shimmers through the darkness, inviting me to look.

I do and I see again the ugliness I’d forgotten, a resignation, a despair, all woven in. I throw the mirror in after the alarm, and a brief flash shows it to me – shows me the spider’s web in the corner.

I collect my resignation, I collect my despair, and I walk towards the web. I bite my thumb to draw blood. I spit out chunks of skin, erasing off the prints of my fingers. My swollen eyelids burst in pain. And I get the spider’s attention.

My knees tremble for I know it’s the end. Yet I keep walking, one foot after another, on a single silken thread. I see it rise from slumber, its drool spilling, my ugliness mirrored in its ugly eyes. It smiles and reminds me of my alarm clock, the clock that started this mess. I feel no desire to turn back. I walk, I surrender, I’m consumed whole. Then there is nothing but darkness. All the stars seem to have died.


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The World Is Turning Upside Down

I thought I heard clocks resetting

Turning time back by the hands

Turning it to a long time ago

I thought I heard it start and stop

Start and stop

But I could not have been more wrong

Because the world is turning upside down

And I fail to understand

How no one else is hurt

Because only my feet are off the ground

As the world turns upside down

The clocks weren’t resetting

Time is garbled, going mad.

Because the world is turning upside down

Why don’t the others understand?


 

Reality is unkind. We face it, over and over, and it jolts us awake, making us realize how fickle and futile life and our attempts to live it are. Sometimes it’s death that sets us thinking about life. Death – another face of reality, the coldest one.
There was more I wanted to write on this subject. I’m deeply saddened today. But I cannot find the words. Not the right ones. I’ll leave you with this.

“When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me, and when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest.”

You will be in our memory, and you will be missed.

The Tribute

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There are places you do not belong to. Places that are physical. Places that are moments in time. Yet you find yourself in them, wondering what your purpose is, and where you’d find this purpose.

I feel like that right now, that I do not belong here, but I must not turn around. There are throngs of people around me, each in black, carrying flowers, weeping. Some sing tributes. I know the lyrics as well as any of them, but I do not join in. I hear ocean waves crashing on boulders in my ears – which is strange as we are far away from the ocean. The headstone lies right in front of me and I read each letter, left to right, observing the font, the color, the texture, each curve of each C, each line that makes the I and the Ls. But I refuse to believe it – this is someone else, a namesake, a doppelganger, an impostor.

Just last month, I’d sung one of his songs to entertain my friends; at the time I did not know that today it would turn into a song of mourning.

There’s a tap on my right shoulder. I turn around to see a man, dry-eyed like me, my dazed expression mirrored on his face. He says nothing, but I nod, and let him stand by my side, and we both turn to look at the headstone. I trace the letters with my eyes again.

“Isn’t it strange,” the man says, “when they say ‘loved one’ they only mean family or friends? Sometimes, strangers are loved ones too.”

“Except he wasn’t a stranger, was he? I know what you mean though. We all lost a loved one.”

“His wife and children…” he began, but trailed off.

“I caught a glimpse of them before they opened the service to the public. The wife refuses to believe it was a suicide, I hear.”

“He seemed so happy…”

Yes. Yes, he did. Maybe he felt like he was in one of those places – a gap in space and time where he felt he didn’t belong. When you’re going through the worst, you decide to put up the most cheerful front.

“The last song he sang the night it happened was a song about death,” I said to the man. He nodded, pursing his lips, a vein twitching in his neck, as though he too was on the verge of breaking down, like the rest of the crowd.

A long time ago, I had attended one of his concerts with a friend. I wanted to tell that friend how much those songs meant to me. But he had stopped me, saying he couldn’t hear me above the music. The subject was left for another day, a day that never came around, and I never got to gather my answer.

“You know what I hate about this?” the man said,”They’re going to romanticize this. Romanticize his death.”

He’s right. The press and the public love a tortured rockstar. It’s one of those tropes, sadly.

“It isn’t fair. Not to him, not to his memory. Not to people who admire him,” I said in response.

I think again about the song I’d sang last month, a song I’d spent a lot of my younger days singing. That too is a song about death. There is undercurrent of death in all his songs. Was it in front of us all along? Could someone have helped? Was the warmth, the friendliness, all a facade and nothing more?

The hours pass by, and soon, just a handful of people, the man who’d been talking to me, and I stay back. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts, collect all the ways in which his songs affected me, affected my life. It’s haunting, how certain things permeate our being, how the sudden departure of those we did not really know drains us so emotionally. But in the end, my reasons can be summed up in one line.

I take out an old notebook from my coat pocket. I’d written the lyrics of one of his songs in it over a decade ago, and pressed a wildflower between those pages. I take the now-withered flower and place it near the headstone, a lonely ghost of a flower among all the other bright ones.

“Thank you for showing me how to live. And goodbye.” I cannot bring myself to say his name, but no tears of mine wet the headstone.


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XIX | #AtoZChallenge

It was impossible to ignore the grace with which she danced. Later that evening, we sat together and compared our music playlists, and talked about the songs we both loved, which were many. But the dance or the music isn’t why she had caught my attention.

She had three scars on her arm, just below her wrist. Possibly from a history of being a cutter. You know who else had marks exactly like that? Of course you do.

*

Did you know that you laughed in two different ways – one, short, harsh, rough, like a bark, if you were tolerating someone, if they weren’t particularly funny but you wanted to indulge them nevertheless; and another – intimate, soft, a laugh that embraced the person it was directed at. 

Having been on the receiving end of both, I had an inkling of what she meant to you when the tone you used with her was the tone you once used with me, and you laughed with her in that gentle way. It wasn’t that she called you at eight in the morning that ticked me off. It wasn’t even the tone or laughter. It wasn’t the number of minutes you spoke. It wasn’t that one kiss you gave her over the phone, that you tried to brush aside as a joke because you knew I was listening. It wasn’t the three completely random facts about her you told me to avoid answering my one question about who she was to you. 

It was the one question that she asked you, and while I only heard your end of the conversation, I knew right at that moment that there was more to the story than you wanted me to know. 

I thought of all the friends I’d had over the years. None of them ever cared about whether or not I had breakfast, and if yes, what I had. The right to ask that question is a privilege we give to few. When she asked you, I realized the lies had probably begun a long time before I even noticed.

*

The dancer I met had scars that reminded me of her. When I looked closely, she even looked quite a bit like her – the same jet black hair, the same height. And each time a song came on that made the two of us squeal in joy, I wondered if she had been with you on the night you died.


Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

X

PS: The numbers in bold add up to 19 (XIX). Also, the first line of the song is: This song is not for the living | This song is for the dead.

Valentine’s Day | #AtoZChallenge

The driver sucks in his breath. Next to me, Sara gasps out loud.

At this late hour, the lights aren’t as bright, the street is awash in dim gold. We were heading home after one of those black-themed parties on St. Valentine’s Day.

“What is it?” I ask.

“A car,” she says, “Upturned. It’s in terrible shape.”

I turn around, almost perfunctorily. I don’t see the car. Perhaps the darkness rose around it like a shroud to shield it from my view. But I know. I know which car it is, the model, the make, the color. I know what the number plate reads.

With you, it’s like instinct. A kind of telepathy.
With you I always knew. With you, there were no unexpected surprises, no news out of the blue.

When you told me you had fallen for me, I knew.
Whenever you told me you loved me, I said I knew.
When I left, you came back as I knew you would.
When you lied to me the first time, I knew. And the subsequent times as well.

Even when you ignored me the first time we met, I knew. 

With you, I always knew. And I know tonight as well. The darkness needn’t have bothered.


 

Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

V

 

Sedated | #AtoZChallenge

When the numbness takes over, I find myself sitting in room after room with only clocks for company.

I never think about it, but I never let myself forget.

We died. We are no more. We went up in flames.

Never you. We.

It hurts less that way.

It tears me up from within and turns me inside out.

But it hurts less that way.

 


 

Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

S

Alternative titles: Anesthetize. I also considered Stay High, but it’s a different genre and doesn’t fit in with the theme.

Make This Go On Forever | #AtoZChallenge

It’s on nights like these. When dinner’s accompanied by laughter and wine. When I’m the one laughing the loudest, and sharing the most number of stories. When they tell me all eyes are on me. When I know all eyes are on me.

It’s on nights like these that I force myself to remember. To hold on with the last broken string. To never let go of what’s already gone.

Self-destruction comes on so many wings. It enters through that brief moment of silence.

In little ways I remind myself you’re gone.
In little ways I keep you alive in me.

 


Hi everyone! I’m working on a minimalist fiction project for this year’s #AtoZChallenge. The story will be shared in snippets, and the events occur non-sequentially. It is for the reader to interpret and form the “whole”. You can read all the posts here. Join me, and do share links to your AtoZ posts as well!

M

This post was originally titled My Immortal but I heard this song yesterday and knew no other song could be more apt for this series than this one. The lyrics gave me goosebumps!