Old Shadow

I’ve been chewing on the words “twenty twenty one” a whole lot these last few weeks and they just don’t go down right. There’s an uncanny sense the earth’s been spinning a little too fast and the world’s been hoodwinked into counting store brand days.

I met an old friend recently- well I say friend because I can’t bring myself say the actual words because they might ring out like a foul incantation.
I find it difficult to imagine a family member with whom I might feel a kind of solidarity. In a rather embarrassing fact of life, I was a bit too young to actually register the kindness and support we found in each other. It must have been a rather bleak home to have six year old me as the only source of good conversation.

However incomprehensible I find our camaraderie with only a self centered void where they recount old tales, I find it strange how they became a persistent phantom in my life. The empty figure becoming an archetype I see in my friends and the ones who aren’t. I have been looking for the same person over and over again. The way I talk to people, the same pantomime playing out again and again. Yet after casting a shadow that’s followed me my entire life I’ve nothing left to say to the progenitor. We’re not the same people anymore and you can’t search for old ghosts when nothing is the same. Like me, my old companion has forgotten who they were and unlike me have no reasons to look back, with so much in the present.

Previously I only had fragments. Fragments of other scandalous fragments, angsty, adolescence oriented Japanese TV programming that hinted at transgression. I could never find these shows a second time which gave the memories an esoteric quality always maddeningly out of reach of my hands that only grasp the bleakest realisms that forced themselves on me. I have drifted, constantly, relentlessly in the dull tyranny of my circumstance.

I’ve always had the notion that relations are panopticons. I can’t bear the foolish mouth sucking guards uniformed in familiarity saying isn’t it nice? Are we all getting along? Aren’t you glad we’re here? I don’t know what to say; I’m fighting the urge to do what comes naturally, hoping I’ll float away. One day I’ll leave them all behind.

Bird calls

In the morning trills and calls of birds perched out of sight
And in the branches clouding out the dark and rainy sky
I remember the sound and din of village life, dragonflies in flight
By the brook-bank snails, moss, tadpoles and fish, all in my minds eye
Mossy rocks and slimy pebbles from the riverbed
The voices of frogs rining over the damp soil
The snakeskin shed but never touched, it’s poison they said

Flying down

I was sitting by the stairs on the corner, giving my cat company as he sat mournfully watching the street through the balcony grill. His white coat was interrupted by scars and dirt spots from his valient struggle against the neighborhood tom cat, at least thrice his size.

On my balcony, by the stairs, I can see right out to my neighbors. Today two young girls, natural friends given how close they lived to each other, started folding up fliers the supermarket had left on letter boxes all over the street. They made themselves a fleet of paper airplanes and labouring up two flights of stairs, started a bombardment that lasted at least 3 minutes. They ran back down and ran back up in seconds, paper airplanes all dutifully recollected.

This time one child’s grandmother covered under a pile of bedsheets she was folding and wearing a saree that looked suspiciously like a bedsheet gave them tips. The other child’s father back from work with a backpack, t-shirt and shorts and shortness that made it look like the two were only a few years apart also threw down airplanes. He did considerable worse than both the children. The children were encouraging between looks they exchanged with every failed launch.

The children flew back down and collect all the planes and ran back up disappearing completely. This was probably marks the only time someone gave those flyers a second look.

Send help

While lazily writing and trying quickly to describe my character without thought I wrote him as indescribable. Seeing it worked so well I went on a rampage, his voice indiscernible, his features indescribable, his visage unobservable. This was an BIG mistake. You must understand, most of these words mean “unable to be described by words”. But since ineffable and all the rest are descriptions in word form a vortex opened up from every full stop I’d added scattering me across a indescribable, featureless void.

Thankfully this grammatic void has free wifi and my feelings on it unformed. Yet I’m not getting any writing done here, so send help ASAP!

Glacier

Frozen in place, held icy by your sight

immured in water, white light cutting right through

I shudder heavy in the cold and murky depth

I awake my skin tingling, the shivers and shuddering

scars and warm blood rushing, feeling the cutting edge

in every breath in, burning rushes of thought and lively delight

my mind quiet, I smile back.

Running away

Snakeskin on the mossy rocks
Left behind after a long winter rain
Her tears allowing, beetles in fight
Followed by cat ears, seated on the ledge
By the old kitchen fireplace
Tracing the smoke stone walls

Light of an old bulb hanging by a wire
The old magazines stiff, wooden cupboards and rafters
Kerosene lamps made of bottles
Red Mangalore tiles and red oxide floors
Just a day visiting, escaping
To old village life

Chariot of morning

I sat at the edge of my room, on that early night. I was by the French window not ready to go out into the cold and hostile air. Inside more habitual minds were asleep.

I too began to doze at my post, snoozing at the doorway, phasing in and out of the sunset. In a few winks I was deep into the night, the sounds of stillness all about me. I looked inside and out for answers still too drowsy to ask any questions. The ringing fury of a motorcycle came to my attention. That was with me as I woke up, maybe it was what woke me up.

My eyes drifted out towards it but I could see nothing on the street. Who was here in this outskirt hamlet? Why did the noise grow louder with any step I took? I looked back inside with hesitation. With the time taken to turn back, awake and explain the sound might be gone.

I took a few steps down past my compound and into the empty road ignoring the cutting chill of the night. Suddenly the Banyan on the corner shock with force and I noticed it had lost all leaves on it’s left side. Every breath felt like an icy cut and only then did I realise that not a light was on. Ever house closed and shuttered with not a single sound of life.

Suddenly from my right I head a roaring crescendo like a train barreling down on me. I turned back in horror but saw that my house was far, so far away and I was without any knowing step in the middle of the street. I turned expecting steel carnage but saw nothing under the moonless night sky.

Then with a shudder I felt it, first from the warm stream brushing past me, then hearing it from the creaking gears slowing through the rumbling machine. It was a chariot, steel and silver with no horses but instead four chrome plated Enfields. No riders sat upon them. Only a charioteer spoke to me, commanding me onto the carriage.

“Ascend”

I wanted to beg, plead and bargain. But I could not turn away. What of all that I was promised? The warmth and familiar home?

I looked at the un-reality before me. No dream I had was ever this clear, this long and discomforting. I held myself and realised my skin had never felt so cold in any dream, no I hardly noticed at all. It seemed like the steel and chrome were the very edges of being – like the linings of clouds ready to break and dissipate at any moment but instead of clouds there was only emptiness. I strode up onto the carriage and saw the reigns in my hands.

With horror, I realised I must not dare look back to where I came. With these reigns I could do no good and knew I could do no evil for I knew not what it was. It was from the beginning, my voice that the charioteer spoke with. I had turned back and in turning the reigns were already afloat. The engines driving the chariot burned and in red fury I left that shuttered home, the cold no longer something I could feel. Now at last the deepest night was silent.

Astronomer’s map

Two detectives looked carefully out of the apartments’ only window wondering if any clues we outside. Newspapers had reported that an astronomer was found dead this morning.

The astronomer was found dead in a room locked from the inside and oddly enough from the outside too. No one had expect her back in town. Her neighbours didn’t care for her and her telescope pointed rudely at their daily lives. They said she spent as much time star gazing as she did snooping.

Next to her was a sapphire and a serene Golem. The Golem was a mannequin coated in the rich clay from the northern rivers. How could she afford a sapphire? How did she find the clay this far south? The detectives walked all over her star charts as they returned from their tea break.

They knew exactly what needed to be done. Both sapphire and astronomer were gone. The Golem trashed and the rest were forgotten, never in the papers again. The detectives would return to the front-pages, wallets fatter with another case.

Arnulf’s dragon

Deep under the fortresses that Arnulf the crusader was patroling an egg began to hatch. The strong brown stones of the fortress were ancient rock seated on a cliff.

The cliff face was assailed by wind and rumours of war parties constantly but night after night only the moon came to visit. No villagers remained by the walls and the huts had been torn down long before. The palm trees swayed gently as dust drifted past. The ramparts oversaw steep drops and dangerous paths, nothing else was left. The guards were a nervous lot. They were sick and plauged by fever dreams.

They were the ones slowing down the forced marches. All alone behind the stone walls they were terrified of both being discovered by another war party and of being forgotten by their own. They would survive neither. Their armours’ cold metal was harsh against their gaunt, pale skin and many slouching figures could be seen periodically shuddering.

After the scorching day came the unbearably night with a cold vengeance. The rocks used to build the castle, to build back it’s battlements and towers were old. Long before a spring ran through here and it had a different name. Pilgrims came for a different God, one that lived in the deepest valley, and built shrines and monuments in his name. Those structures were pulled down, those idols turned away and the carvings worn down to faceless figures piled up to make a rampart.

With old myths forgotten what hatched under the castle, deep in the well serving the sick had no name, no cause and no reason. In the moonless night an old Norman crossbow man was the first to scream when he saw what was in the bucket of water he was drawing. He slipped and fell right inside.

The castle was overrun with panic as everyone rushed to remove the sickly Norman from the water. Lamps were turned about in haste and something was seen in the water. Nothing came of this, except from curses directed at the Norman. He would not last long, not even in the minds of the party that set off abandoning the fortress after they saw it had taken away more than it was ever worth.

Arnulf’s lean figure grew in power as the crusader’s ranks and bodies thinned. He was sent to bury the dead in proper graves far away from those who did not want to be reminded of what awaited them. The castle grew quieter, the food went by faster despite the hungerless troops frozen in unease and the water, the water was worst of all metallic and bloody in colour.

A year had passed before the main host returned to the fortress covered in sand. No one remained but overturned graves and signs of battle. That night they met Arnulf’s dragon. Crocodilian in shape with a short snout, a scaly limless body that twisted and turned in the nature and speed of a snake. It had defended him as the guards turned on themselves, he nurtured it and it grew fast, the length of three men with the strength of ten.

It came on a moonless night when the troops were sick from the water and already dreaming of marching to Cairo. It came with all the uproar of a small skirmish, skattering troops, knocking over lamps and sending entire battalions lurching out into the valley looking for the ambush that had caused the chaos. While the troops tried to gather their skittish horses their lying eyes saw Arnulf’s dragon slither right out of the gate, he called for it from the valley, cursing and screaming in Norman, only worsening the uproar.

Brave knights charged in lamplight and were thrown by their horses. Their axes and swords were not made to hunt reptiles, their lances stabbed dangerously into the darkness where their comrades squinted. Quickly they cleared a path and the next morning at least 5 companies had slain the beast, then 10 and many more as the weeks past. The worm under the castle grew with every passing month as the crusaders marched further and faster from the path to Cairo.

For a few hundred years or more as crusader kings were annointed and dethroned, brave knights returned to the valley. Arnulf was never seen again but his dragon slew Knight after Knight till one had their vengeance. Again and the crusaders would return to be slain till they implailed the dragon with their steely lances. Yet with every crusade the dragon came again. Arnulf’s valley always took it’s toll.