They say when you die, you’ve got to follow the bright white angelic light and *poof*, you’ve made it to heaven. You’re saved. Jesus loves you. Congratulations. Well, they’re not wrong, but they’re certainly not right. There’s no angels beckoning you into the beyond, no fanfare, no bearded skinny white man standing at a gate with open arms, calling me son and telling me my sins have been forgiven. Alternatively, there’s no fiery red horned demon with a pitchfork cackling in glee as I descend into some kind of pit for eternity either. My mum will be so disappointed.
The Forgotten Athlete
Her mother always told her she was stubborn. Since the day she rather ungraciously entered the world, she was doing things her own way. The entire family used to tell us all at every function, “She came when she wanted to come, there was no sticking to anyone else’s schedule. She got far too comfortable in there and it took the Doctor’s intervention to get her out three weeks after she was told! But at least we could choose an auspicious day.”
The wind tugged at the pleats over her knees as she shuffled on the dry earth floor. Readjusting her sari, she tucked the fabric under her legs and brushed the dust out of her lap. Her dark worn hands expertly clearing the specks of sand and dirt off the brightly coloured material of her skirt. Pulling taught the blanket in front of her, she fixed her display, ensuring every last piece of her wares was expertly on view to all passersby, as yet another bus trundled past, kicking the dust she’d just shooed away back into the air and into her eyes. She was used to this by now, she’d grown up in this dust. There was a reason she was perched on this particular corner. The traffic might be heavy and the dust might be a nightmare, but it was this traffic that provided her business with customers, so she endured the toils of the hot Tamil Nadu weather for the pedestrians. Gazing over the already filling streets, she settled herself before beginning her day's work. Picking up the needle and thread with her right hand and the glorious head of a marigold, camanti, in the other, she pushed the sharp silver through the head of the flower, pulling it down the thin white thread to join the rest of the marigolds on the string. She repeated the motion subconsciously, lifting her face into the crowd to attract customers with her smile as she threaded on. f;p
21st Century Breakdown
It all started twenty minutes ago, though each minute has, so far, truly felt like a millennium. I was sitting at home, minding my own business (procrastinating), when I was abruptly, and might I also add, terrifyingly interrupted by the doorbell. It’s not a sound I’m very used to, if at all. Who, in all honesty, uses a doorbell anymore? If friends or family plan to visit, they call. Tradespeople, handy people, even the landlord, they all need an appointment and you always, always meet them outside. Even the postman announces his arrival with an unusually specific delivery slot, between 13:47 and 14:23, so you can be at the door, watching the driveway intently for the arrival of whatever you’ve ordered between the assigned hours, opening the door coincidentally at the exact moment they approach, snatching the post directly from the hands feeding you and avoiding any surprises.
He carefully stacked the plastic trays in front of him and placed them back in the window. The crockery left a dull echo as it clunked together onto the hard metal ledge. Standing back from the door he waited, staring at the rectangular sliding window in anticipation. Wordlessly, the man on the other side took the plates and abruptly slammed the shutter closed once more. He listened to the footsteps retreat away from the large metal door, distant voices echoed in the corridors, though no audible words made their way through the bars to his ears. He put his ear to the wall but it was a good few minutes until he heard the telltale tapping of boots on linoleum approach his door.
In another life, he knew this had to have been a barn. Resisting the urge to open his eyes, he took a deep breath and tried to imagine the old structure’s past. The smell of hay and manure was faint but he was absolutely convinced it was still there. Not that the others would have believed him, or cared. To his right, the stranger next to him coughed, abruptly. It sparked a chain reaction around the barn, echoes of coughs, smothered grunts and loud sighs. He turned his attention away from the men around him and focussed once again on the barn; his daily routine. Now old and decrepit, it still served its purpose; housing livestock and tools. As a city man, he’d never spent time in or around barns, and barely understood the life that accompanied them. It was a life that had been romanticised in literature and history; the glory of the pastures, the honest hard-working farm hands being the backbone of civilisation. Birdsong and nature, the soundtrack to an idyllic life. He longed for it now, but he could never escape his own reality. The man next to him continued to stir, an agitated shudder pulling him back to the present.
The handle of the lamp creaked under her loose grip. She held it in front of her, though no flame emanated through the glass. Supplies were running low. The stale air left an unbearable taste in her mouth. It was a smell she had never been able to get used to, her body rejected every atom of mustiness that entered her lungs. She’d been here for too long, but there was no alternative. She stepped tentatively on the loose coals beneath her boots, careful not to start a small avalanche that would echo down the tunnels for miles. She’d been walking for what felt like weeks, it was the only thing left to do. It was slow progress as she made her way towards the city. Holding tightly to the harsh metal handle of the lamp with her left hand, her right traced the coarse, damp walls for direction. The stone oozed and was cold to the touch but it was her only guide as she shuffled onwards in the dark. The only sound was her measured breathing and the echoing droplets of water, like a metronome counting the moments she had left.