Mayank was lost in thought when Avni slid a plate of honey glazed pancakes in front of him. Last night was the goriest of them all. He saw her walking around the house with knives. She even stabbed herself in the leg a few times. What scared him the most was her nonchalance to the pain that must have followed! It was almost like her body wasn’t feeling anything anymore. 

He took the plate and bit into one of the cherries with no courage to glance over his shoulder. He just peeped through the edges of his eyes to know that she was, indeed, smiling one of her brightest smiles. 

In a way, that was a relief. Had long since he last saw her happy. 

He grinned to himself and took a bite of the pancake and then turned to her. 

But… she… her smile was painfully wide… eerie… She looked annoyed. Her eyes seemed bigger and darker… like she was having one of those fits right in the morning. 

Before Mayank could have done something, he felt a strange fire building up in his throat; choking him down to his guts. He wasn’t breathing easy, just about enough to stay alive! It felt like someone wanted him to go through the labors of death, without ever falling into its arms. 

Mayank rushed to the kitchen for a glass of water. Nothing helped.

Water. Honey. Nothing. 

He had no options left but just to let the fire eat him up. He turned around to find Avni standing there, right behind him; her pupils had now grown large enough to eat up all the whites in her eyes and make them look like a black hole. A strange, creepy black hole which will seduce you enough to yearn for a trip down to its edge, yet will scare you enough to wish doom upon yourself just to escape its sorcery. 

“Don’t you love me, Mayank?”

Mayank tried to speak, but his words died in his mouth. His tongue had been a grave to his emotions lately… that day was no exception.

She repeated, 

“Don’t you love me?”

Another attempt to speak; succumbed to the fire! 

She placed a hand on his cheek, brushing some tears away, looking right into his eyes. 

Her voice cracked as if she was at the edge of tears. 

“You know, Mayank! I know you don’t love me. But I love you…”

She leaned forward, diving deeper into his eyes, “… And I always will.”

Her palm started to grow hotter… and hotter… and hotter… and soon, his cheek started burning just as bad as his throat. 

She dug her nails into his cheek… deeper… deeper… until she reached the bone. 

There was blood all over the floor. 

Alas! He couldn’t even weep to that!

“I wake up to nightmares these days!”

“Nightmares?”

“Yeah! Random flashes of pinching white light come charging at me until I fall out of breath and wake up gasping!”

“Hmm… Screwed!”

“Is it?”

“Yeah!” Mayank shrugged. 

“How much?”

“You are acting so weird, Avni!”

She was… Indeed, acting weird. Mayank felt like he was waking up to a stranger every day. Her eyes had a strange fire in them. The flames were cold… cold enough to turn your existence into ashes. 

In the middle of some odd nights, Avni would wake up to frightening fits of rage, throw stuff around the room, break lamps, pull the curtains down… only to fall to the ground and cry for hours. 

When this first happened, a month ago, it scared the wits out of Mayank. A conversation with Avni, and he immediately knew that she had no idea about the entire event. He searched online, read texts only to draw and settle for vague conclusions at the end.

Soon, the horror faded away, and everything got back to normal. Avni didn’t have any of those attacks for weeks until she gave into another one of those last night.

Screaming. Wailing. Tearing up. She fumbled around the room; all of this, while Mayank pretended to be in the deepest of his sleep, his hand pressed against his lips to keep him from yelling out her name. If that man would ever be asked about the terror of oblivion, he will talk about that night. Nothing kills people more than love anyway!

Unlike last time, Avni never got up from the floor. Everything went quiet… so quiet that he could hear her wheeze under her breath. His heartbeat was high, too high for comfort! Silence rang in his ears. 

Another night of stinging torment. Another night of hushed tears. He was exhausted!

You were that lazy sip of wine under the beaming silver of falling stars. You would swirl on my skin, tingle my tongue and tease my throat till my lips would break into a dimming smile and my eyes would spill love.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
My fingers traced… they traced the chiseled edges of your jaw just like they run over the cracked hem of my wine glass.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
You were special…⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
You… you were the rare cassette. One that’s worthy of honoring every vintage collection. Kept in a case of shimmering gold; draped in velvet.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
You would sing the songs of pinching nostalgia, paint the walls with colors of retro sepia and calm my nerves like forbidden magic.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
You were rare…⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
But then… every writer has a fancy oil lamp in her room, and I am no exception!⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Every night, I feed some oil to its fire. It burns with somber brilliance and dies by midnight.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Every night, I stare at its dying flame like a doomed lunatic. I stare long enough for its soul to haunt my eyes every time I blink.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Every night, I witness fate! I listen to its hushed lessons as it howls back at me!⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Flames die, you see!⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Now… sitting beside those dying flames, sipping on wine out of my crooked wine glass and listening to a stuck cassette tape… I know what made you leave…⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Flames died sooner than I wanted them to!⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

 

These days, I find myself swooning over lazy afternoon naps. I may have found a strange solace in the cruel lucidity of my dreams. Well, it’s strange how sleep is my refuge in ‘our’ memories, away from the worn relics.

So, this afternoon, after I was done meandering in my beautiful dreams, I woke up…

I woke up to the taste of honey, dancing at the tip of my tongue.

An hour later, I stood there, with hot pancakes piled over my plate and the memoirs of my peaceful sleep hanging down my lashes. Warm soul hugging-fragrance of pancakes bathed in the gleaming yellows of honey… and that is how I paint winter on a white plate of bone china.

The glass jar sat in a lonely corner of the mahogany table, basking under hushed shadows of the evening twilight. Sliding into a chair, I grabbed a spoon and unscrewed the lid.

First spoon…

Second spoon…

And the third one to waltz on its way, from the tip of my tongue to the cusp at its end.

And… Ahhh! It stung! I gagged at the bitterness, stomped the plate against the table and then leaned back in my chair, frowning at the sugary scam that just stabbed me in my throat.

Right in front of my house, there is an old Sheesham tree. It has been there for years now and I wonder if it has ever heard me cry in the silence of lonely midnights… for, when I wake up to the dawns of such nights, I find some wilted leaves mourning at the ground underneath and the tree feels a little naked without them.

Four years ago, I walked up to it and drew a heart against your name, with the tip of my finger. Oh! Don’t worry, no one came to know… but, now when I walk past that well-kept secret…

The wind blows;

Leaves rustle;

And I look at the tree and sigh back… We have a language of our own.

I mean… of course, it has seen it all! From that dreamy smile, when you walked past that door for the first time… to that sly spark in my eyes, when our lips touched; from those quiet questions that yearned to leave my lips, when you left the door frowning… to that lonely sigh when you didn’t choose to return.

I am afraid… it knows way too much for comfort! I might have failed to hide the piercing hatred my eyes spat in the last four years.

I am afraid that the tree breathed in the poison of my rage, flowers wilted in the ruthless fire of my pain and some lost bees took that nectar away…

I am afraid… that those broken pieces of my heart burnt in my throat today… I am afraid that you left our story behind… and it lives here with me… I am afraid!

We live in a lost world.
We are wanderers, miserable vagabonds!
We feed on anger and breathe out fires, then cry at the sight of burnt cities and homeless hearts.
We gulp tears and our eyes bleed, then we frown at the sight of spilled gore.
We smoke ashes, bathe in swamps, wear mere shreds of envy and then flaunt our prides.
Such is our foolery.
And, in a world as lost as ours, we dream of love and preach its beauty.
Sing it to glory.
I believe; hiding behind our quest for bliss, we are at strife for a ‘home’.
Enraged by our solitude and grieving our nostalgia…we are demons!
We are demons, hiding behind a charming bouquet of scented paper roses.
We hawk those flowers and break inside the deserted hearts of our patrons, vowing to fill their void with nectar and honey.
But….
We are hungry bandits!
We rob them off their peace and leave them to suffer in the torment of heartbreak.
Dear ‘home’,
I know; I know that you are lost in this pack of howling misers and you fear the day when you will have to wake up… to the nightmare of a shattered heart and an empty soul.
I know; I know that you want to find your ‘home’, as much as I want to find you.
But… what assures you, that our greed won’t take over and we won’t abandon each other, as soon as we catch our breathes and the sores on our feet stop oozing blood?
What assures you, that our ‘forever’ won’t be just another voice in the piercing cacophony of lies and that our ‘happy ending’ will not abide to the taunting title of ‘crippled rainbows and fantasies’?
Dear ‘home’,
Don’t you fret the horror… It may be lying at the end of our quests?
Isn’t ‘homelessness’ a bliss, when the walls of your abode chase the daylight out of your life?
With love,
From the ‘home’ that you may never find.

Have you ever stared down the demonic depths of a dingy abyss?

Or

Have you ever felt that sudden urge to resign…when those dark eyes of lucid heights call you?

If not… then allow my words,
To take you,
Through the tranquilizing horror,
And the anxiety-ridden silence,
Of that moment.

That moment when life knocks you down,
You hit your head on the cold and rough floor;
The world goes dead;
Your feet go numb;
Your eyes meet the dark;
And your ears…
Your ears embody those maniacs,
Who talk to the hushed nights
And claim to have learnt the secrets of life.
Those maniacs might be poets!!

Anyhow…

That moment, my friend…
Can be the death of your soul.
That moment, my friend…
Can bequeath you with scars…so deep;

So deep…
That an artist won’t shy away before carving them onto a stone and shouting out loud,

“Has the world ever seen a carve so abstract?”

You… my friend,
Will be standing in that crowd of mute spectators,
About to raise your hand to claim that,

“This is the relic to my crippling agony!”

But…
Those words will never leave your lips;
Your teeth will bite your tongue before it sins to let them out!

Why?

Because…
When you take your pain and pour it onto those words;
When those words escape your mouth and reach some ears;
Then… your pain comes to life;

It becomes your “Forever”!

The night smothered you,
With the smoke that rose above,
The burnt remains
Of your tender heart.

Now…
Now, your lungs ache,
Your guts lie,
Tied in knots,
Churning,
Wringing your life out of you.

Coiled like a foetus,
Drenched in tears,
Is that you?
Who carved these scars
Deep… in the tenders of your skin.
Is that a memoir
To your unworthy sin?

Pulling your hair,
Clenching your jaw,
Is that you?
Who strangled that beauty,
Over the rotting remains,
Of the fantasy of a paradise?

I know…
I know my friend,
You’ve waited for the dawn…
Like the staunch nightingale,
Waits for the last of the amber,
To fade away.

Don’t you fall prey,
To your bouts of fear!
Don’t you dare concede,
To the taunts,
Blurted by the deadly demons,
Of your crippling anxiety…!

For…
The dawn mustn’t shine
On your grave….

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

Yeah…

They live in my closet,

And yours too,

Don’t they?

 

There are nights, when I wake up,

Lying in this pool of sweat,

Or… is that blood?

I never chose to know…

 

Those eerie nights, I hear then growl,

Or… is that, their kind of a scream?

I never chose to know..

 

They must stare at me, from the creek and crevice,

Of the worn wood,

To know that, I am trembling with fear,

To know that, they need to howl,

Sing those tears.

 

There are days when I hear them knock,

Knock on my mind,

Knock me, off my ground,

In a ditch of worms,

Eating me up.

 

Perhaps… they’ve been dead since the dawn of the last summer,

But they are waiting for me,

To bury them,

… And, what am I waiting for?

The night of the next winter?

 

They are dead, yet alive enough,

To have an appetite,

To fantasise a feast,

the want… to feed on my soul.

 

They are dead, yet alive enough,

To be ridiculed for their deeds,

To be cursed for the gore,

Yet… to be called a part of my heart,

The corpse of a dead Ghoul.

Deep…

Deep down in my heart;

Buried in my soul;

Are the truths to my lies…

 

Lies…

Those lies which I hurl;

Hurl at the world,

When folks try to sneak in,

Through my lamenting eyes;

Seeking the way to my vulnerable

heart…

 

Vulnerabilities…

They are an enigma, aren’t they?

 

In this world, we conspire…

Force people to bare their fragility;

But strive to armour ours…

 

We…

We are fools…

And the pursuit of power and strength;

That’s our folly…

 

The bait in the rat race,

Is nothing…

But, the most splendid of all the lies,

That ever escaped the mouths of the “Wise”…

 

For… the forts;

They were never our strength,

But a futile attempt, an illusion…

Played at the invader,

An attack on his frailty…

 

For… Not even a single ounce of blood,

Was shed for victory…

But… we bled our way to the doomed oblivion,

Just to run away from defeat…

Studded with gems, crafted with gold.

A lustre so bright… the moon held an intent to conspire the world against it.

A smile so kind… the ink stopped bleeding praises for a mother’s heart.

Eyes so deep… no man could quieten his curiosity to explore the mystic realm behind.

No sculptor’s hands would have dreamt of carving a nose so sharp.

The brow screamed the wisdom that the charming silhouette promised to behold.

It was a mask… Oh! So fine!

It must have taken the nobility of a prince.
It must have taken a heart, as pure as ash… to be honoured with such an adornment.

Or, so the world believed… until a harsh blow of wind claimed rebellion and knocked the mask off.

The crime was “Contempt of the royal visor”…

The wind wasn’t guilty…

But, the appalling sight that followed, it poisoned the air.

It was a corpse for a face.

Deep dark ditches for those beautiful eyes.

A long sharp thorn for the finest of the noses.

A rotten scab for that skin of gold.

Folks yelled curses, hissed at the ghoul.

Babies wailed with fear as they hugged their mothers.

“To boycott and shun the guest of dishonour”, was the court’s way to bring justice.

The trial would have been the ghastliest of them all…

Only if, another masked man wouldn’t have stepped into the arena.

Only if, another gleaming piece of gold wouldn’t have inebriated the eyes of the rank and file.

‘cause, who frowns at the evil when they get to gasp for the artistry.

The world has a way to forget justice for glory.

That rugged and withered wooden door…it stood in front of me as it greeted my somber mask… A mask, my soul wore with pride.

My hand reached out for the door knob and rested at it for a while.

I stared at my hand….with eyes hollow enough to engulf the world around me.

Paying my due respects to the time I wasted for this inane ritual, I tightened my grip and opened the door…. closing my eyes, for…I expected to meet a sharp and piercing glare.

But… Rather…I was welcomed by ostracizing darkness.

I stepped inside the room, unknown to the world that lay ahead.

My fear would have paid the merchants well… The room lit up, as bright as a jovial day… as soon as I stepped in.

I was in the middle of a sea of books… both, bulky and thin.

Yes… It was a library… except, this one wasn’t preaching me some modern science. They called it, “The library of life”.

A book called me out. It was the frailest of them all… Its cover was as dark as nothing.

I pulled it out. The cover refused to share an essence to the wisdom ahead, hence… tempting me to dive into the book.

I followed suit, out of grave curiosity.

A cruel flash of light fell on my eyes, forcing me to turn my face away.

The mystic gleam, soon, faded away… and, I… I dared to look at the only page.

It was, but, a mirror.

Engraved at the top, was a sentence that must always echo in my head…

“For once, you may challenge the facts, but the wise don’t question ordeal.”

That was the greatest book of them all.

It compelled me to read myself.