Of ghost towns and empty hearts

Laura drove her four by four, along a path that could best be described as flattened ground on a bulbous terrain, created by the constant patter of horse hoofs, ages ago. With a buoyant spurt of flora along the path, Laura realized that it was she who had revived it for her journey to Animas Fork, a ghost town in Colorado, after what must have been months or years perhaps. Her freshly aligned jeep tires effortlessly trampled every clueless growth along its path, as it made its way through the winding mountain to reach the top.

Just like its name, the approach route forked into sudden directions in an animated ballet of a mischievous elf. Driving up the path was like chasing Johnny across their massive yard that was almost always strewn with toys. You never know, where the boy might turn, when he might turn or how he might turn.

And finally when Laura would huff and puff and shout in a labored breath that she gave up. Johnny would laugh and say, “See how I tricked you, this is how a Zebra’s stripes create a zigzag illusion, Mummy!”

Laura laughed at the memory just as soon as tears trickled down her smiling face. She did not bother to wipe them away, instead she slowed down and she willed time to slow down as well, willed that lifelike memory of Johnny to stay, wished she could live in that memory a thousand years. Johnny was gone, just one instant, one moment when she had looked away, and he had run down the road chasing a kitten; one flash of a truck with the driver distracted by his buzzing phone. One life lost.

Since then Laura’s life had been all about “what if’s”. What if she hadn’t looked away? What if the kitten had decided to cross Johnny’s path a second later? What if Johnny had been distracted just enough to miss seeing the kitten? What if the driver had kept his phone on silent? What if the call had come a second later?

The “what ifs” had haunted Laura for months and they still did. What if Johnny was still alive; she would not be dead inside.

It had been eleven months and twenty-three days now, and she was finally in a condition to take up a solo assignment. It was to create a photo diary of America’s ghost towns. She had already covered Centralia in Pennsylvania; Bodie in California and now it was Animas Fork, Colorado.

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The sun had hidden itself behind the horizon of an infinite sky. Millions of stars lit up clear Colorado skies, stars that peeked through tall pine trees lining the woods in a zigzag medley, dangerously claiming the path Laura rode on.

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I have had these suicidal thoughts …

“Jesus Christ! I could die”, I thought in that moment, standing on that busy road divider.

“I could get my head split open under a speedy truck and die—and that would be it. That would be the end of all that I ever was or could ever be.”

I have had these thoughts before. You know, the blade on wrist kind of thoughts, the rat poison in pastry, or the classic hang by the fan, or the gun in mouth, kind of thoughts. But I never really attempted any of those. Did not even get close to one. They were just thoughts.

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Living alone for so many years, I had come to terms with the fact that if I died, no one would know that I am dead for days. Until of course, I swelled up and started to smell, or till someone noticed the scattered piles of uncollected newspapers and flyers on my front door or till scavengers left a trail on the front yard telling a probable story of their own of, “what might have happened”. Continue reading

Life after Chintu!

Can a dead person come back as a ghost and a zombie, both?

I wandered listlessly up and down my suburban, two floored home. Mum had been crying constantly since five days now. Occasionally she would, and I believe it was on purpose, bring out discussions on how I farted so loud last Diwali, that my fart could be heard above all the fireworks.  And how I had the most heinous singing voice, especially when I tried singing Yo Yo Honey Singh.

I was sick of people discussing me, and especially sick of seeing mum, dad and , my little brother, cry over and over again. Seriously people, I was right there.

And guess what, for once why couldn’t they discuss good stuff, like when I was the school prefect or the college journal editor? Was it so hard to say nice things about me? Continue reading

Cock – a – doodle – doo by Soniya Kulkarni

The sky was on the verge of turning crimson. It was time for Surya to start his day. Madam had never owned an alarm clock and at it was up to him to wake her up. Surya had diligently fulfilled this responsibility for the last seven years. Rain or shine, and through sickness and in health, even on the days when his majestic midnight blue tail drooped from the symptoms of a pesky ailment, Surya never once missed waking Madam up.

With resounding “cock-a-doodle-doo” that echoed through the trees on the mountain, Surya nudged madam out of her slumber.

The soft, tangerine plumes that covered his stately neck glistened in the early morning light as Surya ducked out of his coop. He strutted across the front yard at a languid pace and hopped onto the front porch. Surya examined his reflection in the glass shutter of the main door. He first checked in legs and then his mouth. Continue reading

I am you

They entered through the door, the woman and her two daughters. With flowing white togas, clinched at their waist, they looked like the ray of sunshine, I did not know, who they were. But I had been waiting for them, for too long.

“Mother, is this where we will live?” The younger one, almost five years of age, with golden locks, and the face of an angel, spoke up.

The woman looked around, her face a mix of sorrow and disdain.

“Yes, agape mou this is our home now.” Continue reading

I can’t believe my eyes or my ears or my hair or my toe nails.

There are voices, but I don’t know what they say. They are either distant whispers or my ears are clogged with water. All I hear is, someone sobbing — often for hours. Sometimes, I think it’s not just one person, they are out there in numbers; because there are different crying patterns.  Some moan with intermittent hiccups, some endlessly curse and howl. The voices that are clearer, also sound familiar, and although it’s someone or the other weeping, I hate to admit, that it’s mildly comforting. But the one’s that come from far-off, are unfamiliar and upsetting.  I wish, they could hear me, and for once, just shut up, the way I hear them, and beg them to shut up — all the time.

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There is also very little or no light here. But that’s okay, I can still see what I want to. Maybe this is how it appears, when you’ve lived in the darkness for a while — your pupils adjust. They adjust to the idea of darkness and then you see a whole new world that you thought, you could only see with your open eyes or in bright light. And although, I can’t see what is out there, I know that I have seen, sometime in the recent past — the vast world, beyond these four walls, where these voices come from. Continue reading