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.

The place I wanted

It was the kind of day that makes a spider’s web flash golden in the sunlight. When I think back I remember the musk and stink around the houses, along with the scampering, dressing and dashing off to college.

A free afternoon is a thing of beauty, with the creaking and reluctant windows gone you could peer right up. They could build around you but not above you. While I praised the logic of the chaotic room, rented while the old house decayed, she assured me I should try living there.

Time went by quick stride the three legged bed ride, the sky open, vast, deep, lavender. We should be afraid, floating in the air. I am. I wish I could hang all night, climb the roofs. Climb up with a blanket.

“You like the house or you like me?”

A year later. I tell them I wish I lived there.

When L laughs her shoulders shake. I’ve invited M & K. She’s in bed with P but I’m the main attraction. They kiss, juicily. She grabs P’s squirming hand.

I’m trying to recognize the song while I rant about something I can’t remember anymore. I can’t do both. I can’t do either. I put a hand to my head and forget both. I open my mouth and I wonder what’s wrong. It was a second. Must have looked like surprise. K sees.

“A penny for your…”

I raise a hand. I’ll take it elsewhere: my problem.

I didn’t want to see the house half empty, dishes packed, mats rolled up. Her house – so unlike mine. I remember it’s dim and the wall a strange damp. I am not facing the window, I look into my shadow and see others around it. One a shepherdess. I’m not like these sheep I tell myself. I have a lot of spite. It’s an easy feeling.

Big windows, bright colours. If I go now, I see the doors gone. Empty and abandoned. None of us could cook or afford to order. Sad snacks we called what we could make. I think I should call them but what’s the point? We’re strangers now but I still wish I had that house.

In the lives of others

The trouble began when he wanted to stop returning. Indeed he would have much rather have taken a long leap away from his world, a swift hop out of reality.

Initially he kept it well hidden. He had thought long and hard on where he would keep it. How had it  found him? By chance you would assume. But he was afraid that it was more than just chance that had held his eyes, firmly attached to an old bit of paper he chanced upon. When he pulled away the words melted, oozed and formed. Every time he’d look at it, there was something else. 

He took home, he took it somewhere where his eyes would’t want to lie to him. He didn’t get it. Some days electric with a curious charge he’d loose himself in the tales it told him about little nameless people who lived hundreds, sometimes thousands of years ago. Faithfully it reported an hour or three of someone’s life. A hermit on a riverbank, a washerwoman remembering colors from her dream. Unflinching in it’s reportage of histories private hours he couldn’t help but read into it.

Eventually it found itself out of his locker and into his coat pocket. Here and then a private moment of quiet reflection he’d picked the habit of. It seemed natural to look back at little history, his little peephole into sometime elsewhere. It seemed to grow more natural to ruminate, chew up the scenery he’d seen from a hundred years ago. The weight of private lives sprung on him. He had to think and wonder on who they were, but faster and faster his list of lost faces grew into a blur. Melting and escaping him in haste. 

Once only slightly disarrayed, it grew crumpled and creased. It yellowed and so did it’s people. He swore it echoed. Had he seen them before, weren’t they doing something he thought of or wondered about before? It drew him in and the impression of his hand would appear before the words. He need more time with his paper, less to do with outside, less time to go back to his world. 

Did he realize he was freezing into his escape? Molded like the private figures, in their private lives, a man lost to stories. 

Stagnant

It was cold like a night under storm clouds, near farmland and distant houses you could hear over crickets. But this was far from home, far from the insect life and green walls.

The bus stations was not a place to find populated at so late an hour. She was not at fault here. It was the hooded figure who had decided to ruin all calculations, to make it’s presence felt. Mist seemed to rise off the signboard at the bus stop. It advertised some trifling vulgarity punctuate with a smile. She offered it no thought but wondered at the figure who leant on it- hoping to slip through into serendipity perhaps.

While the figure consumed the advertising, she wondered at every breeze that rushed past. The breeze carried no zooming swish of wind, no passengers in a hurry. Why would empty breeze carry itself so quickly? Does a city seep into the the air so easily?

Of course no bus would arrive at this hour. Both of them knew that. They were boxed in close- city lights in every direction. Lights that suggested the world wasn’t dead, but showed no signs of life itself. The city grows sinister in its stillness, its emptiness, keeps you on the edge waiting for movement taunting you with none. She found it reassuring at least that there was a waiting companion, heading the same way into nowhere.

Mist rose out of her breath till it blinded her. Enveloped like the figure at the sign board she tried calling out to it. Her words dissolved like mist, she stays still, and her sight and form did obscure into silence.

Treasure hunting

In my cousin’s backyard we dug for buried treasure. We dug till the sunset and till our parents voices called out for us. We lost their voices by digging. We found a rusted bullet from long ago, we found a broken arrow from longer ago. It was too early to stop, who knew what else we could find?

We found campfire set by ancient men, we found tusks and bones. We dug deeper to the terrible feathered monsters, we dug through the time of lizards and found the ocean floor. Further still we went and drowned in the molten earth. We dug and burned till everything turned to dust. We dig through the universe, a knife cutting through god to see what came before.

Who am I?

I awoke and remembered nothing. Not even who I was. Next to me I saw an old man, grinning.

He laughed and asked what my last wish was. I moved away afraid of his cruel and menacing smile; his teeth yellow and sharp. He explained that my second wish was to forget everything I knew about myself.

Unsure of what to do but afraid of missing my chance I made my last wish. I asked to know everything about myself.

His smile growing deeper he said “Funny. That’s exactly what your first wish was.”

Out of light

The smell of burning wax always takes me back. Somehow life isn’t the same without the weekly power cuts we had in Mangalore.

I remember conspiring about aliens with my cousins. We’d star watch but we were usually inside. In the bungalow’s indoor corridors people would walk with candles in hand, the shadows and light like slow cars on a highway. People would gather around the candles but stayed just out of its reach. Outlines and feet were all you could see. I guess every liked staying just out reach.

Everyone would stop what they were doing. I can’t say what because we all stuck to our own rooms and balcony spaces.Maybe it’s instinct when you live in huge joint family. But they were around, now and then they’d venture conversation never really leaving their bits of darkness. They’d smile when they knew their smiles were just out of sight. I’d sneak around them, behind sofas and conversations happy that’d I’d manage to sneak by unnoticed. You hear a lot you weren’t supposed to; I’d follow their lead and smile while I was out of sight, out of light.

For some reason we’d always gravitate towards the candle, no one went outside while the candles were lit. The long windows never figure in my memory; nothing of the city lights that night. A cousin would flick her fingers over the flame and say it never burned her nails.