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!

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….

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…

These roads, they have never known peace.

“Quiet and calm”, no poet dares to gift these words to his lover.

Yes…his lover…the fuel to his art… Life.

My feet have sores, I walked barefoot for years…but I won’t dare to caress them…for…my rendezvous with this pilgrimage hasn’t borne any fruit yet.

Every lonely night, I stare at the stars and think. Aren’t we all travelers?… Vagabonds… The delusional vagabonds!!

No place called home has ever been warm enough for cold nights.

No lake could wash away the filth and dirt off our soiled silhouettes.

We, are all misers.

Life is a sorceress, we fall for its magic.

Life is the mistress in this facade of beauty.

A dawn ago… I halted to hear some songs of praise for her highness.

The singer hailed loud and clear,

“Everything “life” is beauty!
Everything “death” is beauty too!!”

My heart smiled and blurted out loud,

“Then why does my soul yearn for peace!?”

Click here to read chapter-1.

Stella stood in front of the door; her hand was resting on the door knob and her eyes were closed…not to hide the gloom that ruled her heart for the past seven years…but to feel the warmth of the sun that had just dawned on the sky of her life.

“Are you sure?” asked Alex as Stella signed the cheque.

“I don’t think that I have any reason to not be sure!”

“But, didn’t you save this money to start your own company?”

“I did! But, when I was saving this money, I was wasting my life like a wreck, ignoring my happiness, my family’s happiness. In the last seven years of my life, I have tried to live a fool’s dream! I was trying to barter smiles for applause; I was trying to give away the beautiful life that I already had to buy a much cheaper and a fabricated world, a world of mirages, it does not even lets you see its voids before you become as hollow as this world! If giving away this money brings back those smiles on my parents’ face, then I don’t think that anything or any reason is valid enough to stop me from repaying this debt!”

A wide smile graced Stella’s lips as she relived that moment! She was proud…proud of her decision…she was proud of the fact that now, she knew what she really wants from her life.

That moment, that serene moment…as she stood in front of the door of her room, was the happiest moment of her life.  Nothing beats the beauty that lies in the strength needed to rebuild the fortress of your life.

She took a deep breath to feel the happiness that surrounded her and pushed the door open. She, then, slowly opened her eyes as she stepped inside her room. She witnessed every memory coming back to life, greeting her on her arrival. The woody scent that filled the air soothed Stella’s senses. She wanted to freeze that moment, then and there.

She felt like a traveler, who just returned from a long journey; she just came back to a home that she left behind in her endeavors; a home, that she once despised for its comfort and beauty, for the fact that it lacked adventure! That adventure, which was offered by the rugged roads that waited for her, outside the four walls! She left this home for them…but today, she could fight the world to call this home her own!

“Help me!”

Stella turned around to find John struggling with the luggage.

“Oh! I am sorry! I forgot that you were getting the luggage out of the car!”

Stella helped John and kept the bags on the table beside the bed. Tired from carrying the suitcases all by him, john threw himself onto the sofa. Meanwhile Stella got busy in unpacking her suitcase. To make some place for the clothes, Stella decided to examine the closet. A huge blow of dust came on her face as she opened the closet door. She started coughing.

“Oh God! This place has to be cleaned!” she managed to utter those words while she still coughed badly.

“No need! The lawyer has completed all the paperwork. Just sign on the dotted and we will be free!” John played with his fingers as he said that, trying to avoid making an eye contact with Stella. He suspected that after meeting her parents, meeting Alex and listening to their story, she might have changed her mind. His fear found a very firm ground in his head when he got to know about her decision to repay the debt using her life savings.

Stella gave out a deep sigh. “I am not selling the house!”

From her tone, she sounded uninterested to voice any further arguments in this regard. She expected her boyfriend of five years, and now his fiancé, to take that affirmation as obvious. She wanted his heart to answer that question before his mind would have even decided to give birth to it!

The fact that it was still unanswered, felt like a sword through Stella’s soul. The fact that john still expected her to sell the house was a red-flag for her, and definitely not the first one! She came across a similar red-flag when she saw a change in John’s expressions on hearing her decision to pay back the debt!

She knew that John was not on the same page as her…but this time, she was determined to not move even a single page to please him!

“I knew it!” John’s lips twisted in anger, his brow frowned in frustration. “I knew that you were an emotional fool! Oh God! How stupid am I? How did I even expect practicality from a person like you?” John was blazing with anger. He jumped up from the couch and started pacing back and forth as he attacked Stella with those words.

But Stella…her armor was strong; it was made with her deep emotions. An armor made of reasoning can be broken with an arrow of a strong argument, but an armor made of emotions is unparalleled!

“You can call me whatever you wish to! I am not selling this house!” Stella’ eyes oozed out the firmness of her decision.

John felt helpless! He kicked the side-table as he exited the room. The vase on the top of it fell down and broke into a thousand pieces. This time, those pieces were not a metaphor of her broken heart… but they represented the fall of that hollow and vulnerable Stella, whose part she played for the last seven years.

A tear left her eye to pay the due condolences to that Stella, and then she resumed her work as she gulped the rest of her feelings!

“Pass me that blue color!”

”Yes Sir!” Stella exclaimed as she passed the tube of color to her dad; she went, stood beside his canvas and started looking at his face!

“What are you looking at?”

“The face that I yearned to see for so many years!”

“Well! My face has wrinkled a lot since then!’

“Makes you look cuter!” Stella pulled her father’s cheek as she said that.

David took some blue paint and stroked it on Stella’s nose.

“Dad!’ He smiled and giggled.

“Don’t you trouble my daughter!” Emma entered the room with four glasses of juice. She kept them on the table and handed over a glass to Alex.

Stella noticed his plaster, “Hey! How is that so white? Why haven’t I drawn on it already?”

Stella picked up a marker and started drawing on the plaster in his hand. Emma took Stella’s place and started watching David paint with keen interest, her hand resting on his shoulder. They both looked at each other and smiled every now and then.

Looking at these smiles filled Stella’s heart with joy!
“They look so happy!”

“Yes! I can die for those smiles!”

“What about you? Are you happy Stella?”

“Yeah! Of-course! I am very happy! I am still pursuing my dream job and helping my father with his art gallery at the same time! I can’t even explain how much joy that brings to my heart! I won’t lie! Travelling every weekend is a little exhausting, but it is totally worth it!” Stella said that with the widest smile on her face!

“Do you have any idea about how beautiful you look when you smile? Start smiling more often, Stupid!” Alex said that as he pinched her nose.

Stella giggled and continued her drawing.

The wounds of her past were still red. She was still not over John…but her heart was not dead and barren now . Her heart was waiting for love to blossom!

She knew that Alex liked her…she liked him too!

But…she was not ready, her heart was not ready to risk a beautiful relationship, to exhaust its purity, force it to fill the wounds of her heart. She knew that she had to heal herself first, fall in love with herself again…and then allow love to cover her scars!

She smiled as she told that to herself!

THE END!

Left in the storm…

When I walked through….

I have been running along these withering walls for what seems like an eternity. The walls are old; their paint falling off at places, baring the tired bricks which must have held this structure for years. Rugged and faded portraits grace them like a fatigued smile, hiding the melancholy of a broken heart. The lights on the ceiling flicker as I pace through this abandoned alley; my lungs ache from all the running as I make my way through the ruins of my present!

The path ahead seems like a far-fetched dream. No withering walls, no saddened paintings; only angelic lights. What lies ahead, seems like an ethereal aisle, a walk down which must lead you to heavens; the epiphany of happiness!

Every now and then, I try to catch a glimpse of what follows me….and I find myself staring down the eyes of darkness, sheer darkness, engulfing the foyer and its carcass. Brisk steps give way to long leaps as I think about the roads of regret which I left behind.

I am running because I have been there before, beyond the dark wall, fallen for the trickery of the past; spent days thinking about “What would have been…” and “What would have not…”!

I have been running along these withering walls for what seems like an eternity but….

I never reached that light, the past never stopped following me and I never escaped the ruins of my present!

 

Click here to read chapter-10.

Alex slowly opened his eyes as he woke up from a long night’s sleep. His head was slightly hurting and he felt a little dizzy because of the influence of all the medicines. It took a while before he completely gained his consciousness. He looked around in hopes of finding Stella in his room, but she wasn’t there.

“Must have gone back to take rest!”

He said to himself as he smiled. Someone knocked on his door.

“Come in!”

A tall man, probably in his late twenties, entered the room.

“Yes?” A sudden fear struck Alex as he saw him.

“Hi! Alex! I am John, Stella’s boyfriend!”

Alex’s frown eased as he heard that and a small, welcoming smile took its place.

“Oh! Hi! Nice to meet you! I am sorry….”

“No! Don’t be sorry! I can totally understand! After that fight, you must have been very scared of every other stranger!”

“Yeah!” Alex smiled and nodded in agreement…then an awkward silence took abode in the room. Alex started playing with his fingers, giving away his restlessness. John sensed that.

To lighten the air and start a conversation, he asked, “Would you mind if I take that chair and sit beside your bed?”

“No! Please make yourself comfortable!”

“Thanks!”

He helped himself with the chair and sat beside Alex. There was an unforeseen change in Alex’s expression. A thought dawned over him, “If John is in the town then Stella might have gone to complete the formalities to sell the house.” Alex panicked for a second but then he took a long deep breath and came back to his senses.

“Hey, John! I am feeling a little uneasy; will you please call the nurse for me?”

“Yeah! Sure!”

John left the room to find the nurse. Meanwhile, Alex got up from his bed and reached for the phone in his room taking support from tables and chairs as they came in his way. Tripping over a few times, Alex finally managed to reach the phone, he picked up the receiver and dialed Stella’s number.

“The number you have dialed is either switched off or not reachable at the moment….”

Alex slammed the receiver on the table. “NO! NO! NO! Alex you can’t let this happen! I need to do something.”

Alex walked towards the door to inspect any signs of John coming back. He was nowhere around. Alex made his way out of the room into the corridor and started to walk towards the exit of the hospital.

“Alex!”

John called from behind. Alex stopped dead at his spot. John ran towards him and put his arm around the shoulder to support him.  “What happened? You should go and take rest!”

With a snap, Alex pulled back his arm. The force knocked Alex off his feet and he fell down.

“Alex!”

John quickly kneeled down to pick him up. “Alex, stop behaving like a kid! Tell me, where do you want to go? I will take you there!”

“John! Take me to Stella! Quick! We don’t have much time!”

“She has gone back to take rest! What’s so urgent?”

“Have you both sold the house already?”

“NO! Some formalities are yet to be completed! Why?”

Alex eased down; he gave out a deep sigh and ran his fingers through his hair. The fact that the house wasn’t sold yet was a big relief! But…But Alex needed to stop Stella before it was too late. “John! Don’t ask questions! Just take me to Stella!”

The urgency in Alex’s voice prompted John to be quick on his feet. He quickly took Alex to the car, helped him in and drove off to the house. Within no time, they were at their destination.

John helped Alex get off the car and took him towards the front door, but before they could have gone any further, Alex held John back.

“Do you hear those voices?”
Alex peeked into the front yard and pulled himself back immediately, his hand covering his mouth to imprison the cry of long-wished joy. He couldn’t believe what he just saw. He couldn’t believe that Stella and her parents were together, sitting in the front yard of their house, looking like a family.

“Is that all related to the….”

“Art gallery!” Stella’s mom intervened and then continued, “When you went away, our life felt empty. Drought doomed over our happiness. Every day, every single moment that we spent breathing felt like a pilgrimage to seek you back….” Emma pushed back her tears, the tears begged for freedom, “The only thing that brightened your father’s day was his art… he spent night and day, working on his paintings. He missed the court proceedings, his client lost their cases, his reputation as a lawyer started fading away and eventually new cases stopped coming in.”

Stella took her mother’s hands in her own as she fought with her own tears, “…eventually, our financial condition started declining, we came under debt, and everything…everything became so difficult. Your father started his own art gallery in hopes of being able to do something about the situation. He used the basement of the house to set up the gallery. By god’s grace, he was even able to secure good deals for his paintings but as soon as the lenders got to know about the hefty price that we were being paid for the paintings, they planned to smuggle them away and started trading on them. All those people who you came across with in the past few days were the landlords and the money lenders. God bless Alex, he has been protecting us against them since years. We decided to not tell you about any of this so that you can be at peace in your world.”

“Then why did you transfer the house in my name? You could have sold it and paid back the debt!”

“A life drowned under debt is much more comfortable than a life spent yearning for the memories of our beloved daughter. We were in debt but selling this house would have rendered us poor.”

Alex and John didn’t even realize when they entered the yard while listening to the conversation.

Stella opened her mouth to say something but she ditched her words when she saw them.

“Alex! John!”

After getting to know about her parents’ feelings for the house, will Stella still be able to sell it? How will her calling affect her relationships? What new turn will her life take now?Find out in the upcoming chapters of “When I walked through…..”Follow the blog to receive an e-mail every time we release a new chapter.