“Everyone tighten their shoe laces and get ready for the best adventure of your lives!”
The nauseating stench of liquor hit her hard as she neared the rocky terrain to the toddy shop. If her husband had been with her, he would have picked up the smell from half a mile away and would have swooned right then and there.The memory of her husband brought with it harrowing details of her past. Neither she nor her five-year-old son would remember having slept peacefully in the presence of her husband. An inevitable stub of fear would erupt at the back of their minds every day without fail when the pall of night fell upon them. The chaos that ensued at the arrival of her husband home would echo far and wide, slashing through the sublime silence of the night. Her laments and pleas would be drowned in the incoherent, lewd remarks of his hammered alter-ego.
Nevertheless, when he turned sober the next morning, they would spend few minutes in their dingy backyard, arguing about his drinking habits, while she scrubbed clean the utensils. “Leave the job. Go to the company. You will drink less. Also, you will kill less,” she would say, indirectly hinting at the many lives that had shrivelled before their eyes – all regular customers at his toddy shop. “One more month and I will start looking for some other job,” he would agree, sitting down next to her, smiling, laughing and sharing small talks, all the while eyeing her, warmth exuding from his insides.
It had been a month now since he died of liver failure. Adversity had struck her at the prime of her life. She had been vacillating between right and wrong for the past two weeks. And the array of dilemmas had finally brought her to the toddy shop today. This place had killed her husband, but poverty had left her no choice but to replace him at the job. During the ten minute walk from her house to the shop, her mind drifted to the many lives that would die a bit the moment she served them. She thought of the many wives who would drag their night in fear, crouching in a corner of their house. She thought of the many children who would end up despising their father as their flesh ached from the beatings. At the brink of guilt, a drop of tear rolled down her sweaty face. She wiped it away and mulled deep. Not far into the thought field, the agonising pleas of her son flashed across her eyes, hindering further thoughts about the lives she would harm, but reminding her of the one life for she was responsible the most.
‘One month and I will start looking for some other job,’ she put an end to the surge of guilt and walked towards the toddy shop, grateful for yet another day of survival.
It was a quarter to six in the morning. The crimson-tinted rays of the dawn leached in through the thick foliage to rest on his skin. He rubbed his nose onto the hairy dorsum of his palm and let out an unrestrained yawn. Last night had been uneventful. Not that there were many ways for him to keep himself engaged during the night, but usually he managed to immerse in one activity or the other so that he didn’t feel bogged down by the lullabies of boredom. But last night was unbearable. He had been hungry for most parts of the night. At one point of time, the hunger turned so grave that he had to let go off his sleep and set out into the wretched coldness of the night in search of food. One would expect him to be akin to a night owl, what with the innate traits of the beings of his like who felt utter bliss in breathing in the serene, placid wisps of the midnight air as they embarked on their soulful journey into the heart of their passions – be it feeding nutrients to the wanderlust, setting the streaks of adventure ablaze or even rolling themselves into a bundle on the ice-cold floor so that they would finally have their much needed moments of introspection. But last night was simply about satiating the glum pleas of his weary body, which he had not been able to achieve quite the way he had expected. And so also, as he had been doing for most part of the night, he was still trying his best to shut tight his eyes and roll up into a ball on the smooth, pale, marbled floor when the house- maid arrived at the strike of six. If he wished she would be kind enough to lend him something from the kitchen he was wrong, and he knew that more than those irrational nerves of hope that sprang up inside him intermittently. Perhaps, she was scared of losing her job by doing so. Perhaps, she simply despised him for what he was. How could he know what was going through her mind?
He went back to his nap as the maid closed the door behind her. He had to suppress his yearning to eat something for at least half an hour more. The boy who resided in the house was the only person who treated him with love and he always woke up at 6.30. He knew it for he always approached him in the morning with his hair unkempt and his eyes puffy, just as someone would be right after long hours of sleep. A short yelp from him was enough for the boy to carry a tray of biscuits from the inside cupboard to the backyard. How the boy’s eyes shone while he kneeled down beside him, watching him lick away the delicious crumps from the ground. Those were the moments when he wished he too was a human. How could he be sure if with his soft moans and the deliberate nudges with his head, he was being successful in letting the boy know that he was grateful? However, the boy seemed happy every time he did that, for he always patted his head or scratched his neck all the while whispering something in his ears. Maybe he understood nevertheless.
As the motes of sun pressed hard against his back signalling the relentless motion of time, his heart fluttered with relief. The boy would be awake in no time. His stomach made somersaults inside him and abandoning his sleep, he sat erect facing the house. His quivering eyes were glued onto the closed door and his ears pricked up for the slightest movement from inside the house. The wait was about to end and the joy of being rewarded for being patient was always worthwhile.
Sometimes he wondered how he knew the exact moment when the boy would stride out and that too on every morning without fail, but he always knew. Somehow, he always knew.
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P.S : This post doesn’t put forth a view that animals are dependent on humans for their survival. This post is a work of fiction, though the inspiration heavily leans towards the cats who wait for me to wake up and feed them. Infact , this story is dedicated to them who with their presence simply brighten up my day.
The room was garnished with the most luscious of elements. Bright, velvety flowers lay strewn across the neatly made bed, from which emanated the fragrance of splendour and a resident whiff of the exhilarating mystery that lay ahead at the fall of midnight-darkness. A silver tray, filled up to the brim with carefully selected array of fruits, lay perched on the table near the adorned door.
Rhea ran her deeply painted eyes over the embellishments, done studiously with the sole intention of celebrating the uniqueness of the night. Plaintive motes reflected from the murky corners of the room blinded her vision, as a lone drop of tear rolled down her rosy, made-up cheek. As on a cue, a southern summer breeze that sailed through the partly open window settled down on her damp face and stroked it in its vain attempt to erase the redundant streaks of melancholy.
The impatient thud of the door being closed startled her. She rose from the bed and stood against him with her head hung low. The wax and wane of her heart gripped her, gluing her frail body to the floor.
The longing that reverberated in her husband’s voice failed to pierce the thick, stoic veil of her heart. She felt an unprecedented gurgle emanate from the deep recess of her throat, nevertheless.
“Hi,” she uttered, forcing a smile on her face.
She realised then that she had a lifetime ahead to try and forget her past.
But, if only she could.
I gaze longingly at the effervescent girl who looked back at me from the photograph enclosed in the safe, glittering walls of the exquisite photo frame. I know what she was thinking while she smiled her heart out, her dainty arms perched delicately on the welcoming, supportive hands of her sweetheart.The jet black strands of hair that fluttered in the warm summer breeze heightened the twinkle that sparkled in the summit of the valley that was her eyes. I know what her eyes chanted as she posed for the photograph, trying hard to make her naive attempt at a pout succeed, after the many rehearsals in front of the mirror during those secure, inconspicuous moments of her solitude. I know what her heart yearned to scream out till her lungs gasped for breath. I know, for her smile, as infectious as it was, managed to hide little. I know, at that very moment she was wishing upon the stars for that stage of her life – those deeply satiating, resplendent years that formed it – to last forever. She was hoping for her youth to be arrested; her evocative bond with her loved ones to be preserved in virginity. Under her breath, she was unassumingly whispering a prayer for her thoughts forever to be just as vibrant as the present. A fleeting seed of fear that hinted towards the inevitability of change failed to bother her. She lived in the moment, sans doubts or dilemma, and believed it the right way to face life. Continue reading “Peep Into The Past – Short Fiction”