Zombie | #AtoZChallenge

You are recounting more tales of your philandering. I stop listening after story number three. You are oblivious to the fact that I am hurting. That I still think of you and me as us, in spite of what I did, and in spite of all the evidence to the contrary you’re serving, story by story. Are you being deliberately hurtful, or just painfully insensitive?

*

It was our first official date. We were still tiptoeing around each other, like it was a dance, anticipating the other’s move, responding accordingly. At one point, you turned away. I leaned back, slightly tipsy, and I touched your elbow. And just like I knew you would, you kissed me. That was our first kiss.

*

After our first fight, we couldn’t stay angry at each other.  We kept apologizing, the argument then turning to how it was not the other person’s fault. Then we laughed with relief and fell silent. Until, we were both conscious of how heavy it was. It doesn’t matter if it was you who leaned in first or I. But I think of that too as a first kiss – a second first kiss.

*

It is different now. I’ve stopped listening, but I’m searching. Searching for a sign of that love in your eyes. I find a graveyard there – dead love, dead dreams. The words were yours; the crown of glory you were placing on your head with these shallow tales was yours. But the life, the joy you pretended to have was not.

We decide to take a walk. Through the old lanes, where each corner held something of us, the place I refused to return to after what happened. You point out familiar landmarks, as the fallen leaves get crushed under my shoes. We reach the spot where you park your car and I look in; there’s a flask on the dashboard. You’ve changed the brand of car freshener you use. I don’t know what your car smells like now. The passenger seat will always be filled by someone who isn’t me.

You ask if I have to leave in a tone that suggests you want me to stay.

I look up, taken aback, gauging the amount of sincerity in your question, and finding none. You misread my silence, and lean in before I can stop you. I realize even in that moment how forced it felt from your part, like you were fulfilling something. But I don’t realize it until you move away that I didn’t return your kiss. I don’t realize it until then that only half of me is present, the rest is numb.

Maybe we did this to each other. And maybe there won’t be any more first kisses for us. Because this feels like the last one.

 


 

Hi everyone! This is the last installment of the minimalist fiction project I’ve been working on all this month during the #AtoZChallenge. The story was shared in snippets, and the events occurred non-sequentially. I’m grateful to you for staying with me from A to Z. If you’ve missed any posts, you can find them all here

Z

Moth to a Flame

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There’s no silence to be had
Between us, or so my instincts claim.
You rarely let me in even so,
Should I then try again?

Your glass is full of stories
Of your friends and your fame.
I’ve tried to wade in twice or more,
Gone against the grain.

Standoffish are you, or merely quiet?
Indifference, or am I a reminder of an old pain?
A puzzle, a mystery, so enticing.
So tell me, do I dare try again?

Linking to dVerse Poets OLN

This poem earned me the title of Blogstar on BlogChatter!

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Decisions at a (Metaphorical) Gun Point

I had life all figured out as a six year old. There was nothing to it – you grew up, became an adult, and then everything would be at your fingertips. Quite simple.

It was as I grew older that I felt I was losing fragments of my grand plan, and that things weren’t as transparent as they seemed. This led to maturity giving way to immaturity. Like I’m Benjamin Button, but on the inside. Frankly, I was at the peak of my maturity and ambition at age six.

How did I get here?

There’s a reason why we are told to make decisions with a cool head. The reason being, the decisions we make at a metaphorical gun point are often terrible.

Depression does not allow you to have a cool head. It is a permanent gun pointed at you when you have it. Your actions seem mechanical and you feel you’re just going through the motions. At the same time, there’s an incessant restlessness in you, a tingling in your feet that tells you to run away, do something reckless just so that something happens and you feel something. Anything to forget what’s hurting you; anything to feel anything else.

In December, I made some poor choices out of the desperation that comes from being there – I got back in touch with a group of people I had broken ties with because I intensely dislike their hypocritical and negative outlook towards life [it drains your energy right out], just so I could have someone to talk to. I was so terrified of the fact that if someone did not tie me up, I might harm myself, and my future looked so blank and bleak (mostly blank) that I just wanted someone from the future to come and tell me everything was going to be OK. Reassurance. I wanted to take a trip, just to get away from everything. I wanted to relocate to a different city, because I felt claustrophobic over here all of a sudden.

I held myself back.  For once I let lessons learnt in the past rule me. While I did reconnect with the people I mentioned above, and also may have said/done some borderline imbecilic things, I did not let myself make any decisions that would in the long run have severe repercussions. I decided to give myself a month to “calm down” so to speak.

A month later, the immediate restlessness had subsided and I collected my follies from the previous month. Whatever hurt me then was still hurting, but not in a slice-your-heart-open way. I was definitely calmer, could sleep better, and while I still desperately wanted to see a therapist and get help, I was stopped by the doubts I have on the competencies of Indian therapists, given some less than satisfactory experiences I had had in the past [If anyone reading this has a recommendation, I would surely welcome it]. I considered a career change, and when nothing came to light, and I began to feel restless and directionless again. I did the only thing that I could think of then – call up my oldest friend in the middle of the night and cry (this is not alarming – she’s used to it by now, I think).

My friend and I look alike; everyone tells us so. When my son was a year old, he met her and was confused as hell. It is because of this that when I look at her, I think of her as me in a parallel universe – a universe where I have not made the mistakes I’ve made. I always looked up to her for her independence and her levelheadedness. She never bowed down to parental pressure (yet another gun point of sorts) and has so far made a good path for herself. So imagine my shock when I was crying that night about how lost I was feeling and she replied with, “Dude, we’re all lost.” Of course, I insisted I was more lost, and that at least she had a plan. Turns out she also did not have a plan. No one has a plan.

In any case, having a plan negates everything I believe in. But I had assumed as a six year old that by now, I would be thirty and thriving. Instead I’m thirty and confused. Which is frightening, because a decade ago, I was twenty and confused. I have said it before that nearly every mistake I’ve made in the past twelve years can be traced back to one great mistake. So while I still do not have a plan, contrary to what I had hoped for at the end of my previous post, and may never have one, what I do have is an idea: to retrace my steps to that one great mistake, and start over.

Let’s see where this goes.

Artists on the Boulevard

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Reclusive I had been so long

Forgotten the ways of the world

Forgotten the art of speech known

The misty window said outside was cold.

 

My old, worn, brown jacket

That had seen better days

Now with ink splotches it’s dotted

Signs of my moods and rage.

 

I took a stroll on the boulevard

Where lost artists set up their easels

The colours of their palette clashed

Against the grey painted by the winter.

 

Shocked was I to find my songs

Printed on sheets yellowed

Fingerprints and wasted brushstrokes

Accompanied verses of our love now gone.

 

And such paintings our songs inspired!

Breathtaking; they would leave you speechless

Such talent, yet in the cold they’ve to perspire,

I merely watched as our words took form on canvas.

 

I continued to stroll when one artist

Cried aloud in despair, and in anger

Rushed to destroy what he had just painted

One of two lovers; he smeared on black and red.

 

The result seemed beautiful even then

Two bodies writhing in ecstasy or turmoil

I noticed the verse he used; it was my favourite

Reminded me of so much; I paid a sum royal.

 

Now it adorns the wall above my typewriter

Reminds me of why I’m a recluse in a world of colour

Had I not been a poet, with my whims and swings of anger

Would we be like those paintings, still together?

The Valley Of Cloves

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The tapping of the soles of my brown shoes

Dies a dull death as the ground meets them

Charred, charred the ground beneath moves

Pushing me ahead, promising me salvation ahead.

 

All through the valley, scattered wide

The stench assaults my nostrils, of burning flesh

From the bodies of a once-haughty tribe,

They were trapped, the tribe clasped, it engulfed.

 

Brought along the burning on its back

A smell so cloying, like an incubus’ call

Almost, I turned around, to fall into its trap

Determination against addictions, almost unheard of.

 

The cloves beckoned me, for the bodies still

Carried them burning in their fried mouths,

Fried lungs that stopped breathing

Much before their time was out.

 

And yet I walked on, paying no attention

To skin that peeled off like burnt paper

Or is it paper that flakes off like burnt skin?

Would He even recognize us, the Maker?

 

Walked on till the mouth of the valley

There was no promised salvation, only an emptiness

All I knew had given in to the cloves’ delicious fury

With the world gone, I was left to be taken by loneliness.

 

And I heard the cloying beckoning me again

Come back to the valley

We have cloves here

We have what you want here.

 

What Went Wrong…

Oh, hello! Don’t mind me, I am just sitting here with my hypothetical pipe in my mouth, musing about things. Again. Trying to make sense of a few things.

Again.

You know, I wrote a short story when I was 12 – it was a murder mystery, and the main theme was jealousy. About two years later, I wrote a story about how mankind was the worst thing to have happened to the universe since the big bang – told from the POV of a cockroach that survived a nuclear holocaust. There were a bunch of stories in between with a lot of blood and gore; mostly fluff pieces written to shock the reader. My English teacher enjoyed the stories tremendously – the cockroach one was a favourite of hers, I remember. The point of this little narrative is that – I was always enticed by the darker side of human emotion. Happy endings never appealed to me, joy never appealed to me – someone was always dead in my stories.

Why then have I stopped exploring it now?

You see, stories of that genre come naturally to me. My rationale is simple – every writer glorifies their protagonists – flawless and irreproachable heroes and heroines. Would any writer, through the characters, or otherwise, admit to their own faults? After all, most heroes and heroines are a superior alter ego of their creators. Through my characters, am I pushing my own flaws on to paper? Not exactly – jealousy isn’t an emotion I feel, nor have I ever murdered anyone. But I can tell you about a flaw that I do have – I am easily influenced. I have my own opinions (of course) but you tell me something quite a few times, I will start thinking like you. And that’s a horrible, horrible trait in a human being.

In retrospect, I have come to realize when and how I stopped writing fiction, where the darkness has gone. I don’t want this to be a name-and-blame sort of post, mainly because whoever it was who said whatever it was that they said to me, ultimately, the fault is my own – my head is bloody easy to get into!

I have made excuses for it – I thought I had writer’s block (I don’t), I thought I was distracted (not really), I thought I was reading too many books and that was killing my imagination (I partially do still believe  this, but there’s more to it). How did I realize that I have killed my own darkness? In the past, the stories I have written deal with some kinda deep rooted fear we all have within us – or so I’d like to think. It is not just about the ghosts – I have written about a man who derives joy from seeing a child die, I have written about depression and suicide caused by the world’s opinion of you, I have written about a criminally insane father – the darkest corners. I don’t claim to be Palahniuk or someone like that, but my exploratory path has been on those lines. Then why is it that, when a few months ago, I was about to write a story about a handicapped man’s death, I was horrified by my own thoughts? I could not believe that my mind could conceive such a ruthless, tragic thing, and I reprimanded myself for being a bad human being. But why? Isn’t that what I had always been writing about?

Because I had been led to believe that my stories would be my destruction.

A sensible writer would hear something as dramatic as this and wave a smug “tah-tah” and send those words upon the breeze, never to be bothered by them again. I, however, am not as sensible as I wanna be – it is way too easy “perform inception” on my mind. Suddenly, I grew afraid. The thought had been sown – the darker my stories, the unhappier my life would be. However much I wanted to believe it hadn’t, it had. And little by little, it was corroding my brain, eating up my imagination, forcing me to not ever write a piece of fiction where there was any kind of darkness whatsoever.

Holy fuck.

Fear is the one enemy of the writer. And I am terribly afraid. I have my own self to blame for having such a pliable, thought-plantable, stupid head. Sure, I wrote two stories even after the incident, but both are not as “dark” as my stories usually are. Not half as disturbing. Not “me”.

All I’ve done until now is not let myself admit to this. But I have to. If I want to go back to who I was, I need to admit that this is a problem.

Now to find the solution – uproot that thought and throw it off.

 

Of The Empaths – Final Part

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

I push through the crowd inside the tent and search for Q. I had dropped my Rod at the entrance – it has not yet been burned. I find her in conversation with V in a corner. She is laughing. This angers me even more. I march towards her. V has noticed me approaching and rises to greet me. Q beams as she sees me, but does not rise.

“My dear, you’re back! What took you so long?” she says pleasantly

“Why! Why did you do it?” I scream without preamble.

“What are you talking about,” she asks, a frown forming on her forehead.

“You know what I’m -”

“No, she doesn’t,” V cut in.

For a moment, I am confused. But the smug expression on V’s face turns my anger into a boiling rage.

“‘Why?’ Of course you want to know why. With your little journal and the tiny scribbles,” he says with a high pitched mocking voice, gesturing with his hands.

I feel close to tears, the rage mounting each second. I say nothing.

“You’re wasting away your talents!” V bellows, “Pining over an ordinary human. Do you not know who you are!”

“V, quiet. We don’t want the family to be upset.” Q whispers to him under her breath.

“They’re drunk out of their skulls!” V dismisses them with a wave. “This one! This one was supposed to be the best. But look at her. Crying! Crying over ‘love’! There is no place for love here, my dear. Only family. And duty. And murder of the ones that didn’t die when they were supposed to.” V spits the words at me.

*

Spv senses my dilemma.

“Oh. I see.” he says quietly. Distraught, I turn my eyes at him, just as he stands up and begins to walk.

“No!” I call out. He does not turn. His gait is steady, and I see he has already been caught in their line of sight – the rabid, sickly green eyes turn towards him, sensing him rather than seeing him. They pounce, their many fangs tearing into him. Blood gushes out, as one tears his calf off, while other bites a chunk out of his shoulder.

Time seems to be moving slowly, as I rise to my feet and cry out as my Rod hits the first one right between its left hind leg and abdomen. The Rod goes through, like passing through air, and air is what is left where a moment below a killer lurked. With a swift motion, I get the other two.

I stand exhausted, paralyzed almost from that sudden rush of adrenaline. It seems far away and unreal – Spv’s strangled cry. He’s still alive. I’ve lost him once, I can’t lose him again. This thought brings me back to reality and I finally look at him.

I fall to my knees – his shoulder looks terrible, what is left of it is mashed to a pulp. His leg looks worse, with the calf torn off. I rush back to our earlier hiding spot where I had left my bag. There are some bandages in it.

When I return, Spv’s eyes are closed. I slap his face a few times and call out his name. I lift him and cradle his head in my lap.

“Wake up, they’re gone. The spirits are gone,” I cry, “Wake up, Spv! They can’t hurt you anymore. Wake up, wake up, wake up…”

He does not.

*

V’s sneer is the last thing I see before turning my heel and walking away. Celebrations are on in full swing in the tent. Which means weapons have been stowed away. I reach the entrance, pick up my Rod and enter the tent again.

I release the undead dogs on to my family.