>> Wednesday, March 16, 2011
“Water..” He barely unclosed his eyes, pursed his lips, blinked and stared at her with an uncertainty which broke into a painful smile. He met her eyes for few seconds, a feeble but tranquil look that sunk deep into her soul which spilled a salve into every wound that destiny had inflicted there.
She got up gently to comply and then pulled aside the blind from the windows to peer outside. There lay an opalescent moonlight, the soft lucent affect on the trees and sky amalgamated together in one expectant silent mystery.
And the moon, pouring in from every opening within the staggering buildings and trees, turned the wide-open alley underneath into an anchorage, shimmering, undulating like another lagoon, the tangible one, which stretched out yonder where she had found him.
In one such breathless night under the full moon he had waited outside her palatial bungalow. He called himself Aladdin and she was the Princess Badroulbadour, full moon of full moons. Could the scene appear more brilliant if it wasn’t enacted under the moonlight? No. The wilderness in his eyes, pensive and solemn, the lonesome clumps in his throat, the ennobled hollow near his chest, and her misty distance from where he stood beneath the wintry illusory light completed the intensity of an adventure.
She needed love and only his love could manacle and contain her reckless will. She yielded to a penetrating rush of desire that was still pulsating, now, laboriously through her veins. His lips with the mark of hers upon them; sturdy nerves stung by illness, his form tense by fatigue, and the limbs paralyzed from running held her eyes, terror-stricken, between anguish and dread.
Through the extravagance of that miasma which clouded over her senses due to his nearness, she could perceive him again, and herself, more distinctly than when she’d left her life of comfort for him. Her memory had retained a shade of his erstwhile beauty, his profound smile of color and outline, their unhampered freedom, opportunities as vast as their dreams of forests brooding in the sun and rain. She exploded into a convulsion of crying and laughing at the same time as she walked toward his supine form on the cot.
She observed him sinking deeper each minute into the quicksand of time. Everything within her was merged into one singeing, clasping horror; Death. Thirteen months lay behind them, stormy scroll of time, with an unbroken stretch of labor, stress, and struggle. And now it seemed almost over, when she could be at liberty. An indescribable invigoration surrounded her and through all her withered self ran an animated fire that shaped one thought in her brain – “I should flee”, and four words on her lips – “I can save him!”
He clung to life because instincts were stronger than reason, harder than any of the dismaying realities they had met together and knew they must go on confronting. They had to live, with a past which had a distant comfort, tumbling to the future which they attempted not to see, because when they did envision it they were afflicted with a similar terror as now immersed her.
There were families hoping and waiting, longing and starving, in every street she knew. She wondered listlessly if she’d ever get remunerated for the toil of keeping him alive, whether she should live to get out of the frozen recess of cosmos, where he could no longer protect her, or whether she should die and decompose alongside him, in that open grave, where her living love was buried.
Multitudinous tiny specks entered through the open window, twirling and whirling like the pillar of dust in a desert simoom. She strained a tip-toeing outside which emanated from the staircase. She wondered who was there. She had ordered everyone out. He was dying. She wished to be the only living soul beside him when he slipped into the comfort of death, free from running, free from disease, free from her. And yet.. and yet.. there was someone.
In the omnipresent gloom that floated over them, under the drapery of dusk, deprivation and starvation, fright and malady haggled clamorously, while Death strolled silently and persistently about their darkened streets. Had death also arrived at their doors? Can she recognize death if they were standing face to face? Can she wrangle and defeat that faceless, formless enemy? Or was He a friend? He’d come to rescue her from uncertainty? Better death. If he couldn’t live he should die. That settled it. Or did it?
She pressed her ear against his chest, caressing the livid patches and the ghastly hollows where once his cheeks had been, smooth and polished. His heart was beating in response to the cleaving, checkering sound outside which affronted the silence within, like a lacework of agony. what music could ever compare with that great duet from two varied sources? A capital concert of the inanimate things that sing within soul? It became a terrific combat, between life and death, in which the defeat of one was to be recognized in a sublimated form, beautiful in different, monstrous way.
She rushed to her trunks and rummaged through the contents, feeling for the loaded pistol, their sole treasure. She’d practiced shooting in the same moonlit alley in broad daylight. They lived enveloped in danger. About the present, it was better to be stolid, about the future, a future as theirs, to be dead. And in stupor of a dead trance, she meditatively held the agility of her nature. In the havoc of new crisis she knew that the actual moment of dissolution had arrived.
As she looked at him again a sense of appalling loneliness lacerated her heart, and then suddenly she knew that in the chill of that moonlight she was alone with Death. He had come for him at last. The flaming figure in the cot began to grow dim and pale, gradually his feverish luster diminished, till at last his face vanished altogether, leaving no trace of its former suffering but a small crystal flame which slowly took the shape of another man who sparkled through the murk like a suspended ruby. For an instant the room was completely dark, filled with the fragrance of jasmine and she could scarcely discern anything else as a haunting impression of the supernatural diffused the inscrutable hush and abysmal shadow.
She pointed her gun and fixed her smoldering eyes on that grotesque new figure, looking straight into his wicked eyes, as if to mark the altering contours, the heightening lines, the droop of the lineaments, which communicated the mild advance of death. The moon, icicled and ashen, through the unveiled window, tossed a turquoise ray, like the extended arm of a specter, against the opposite wall, a ghostly effect which was deepened by the contradicting garish glitter of the rubicund face. Though she moved her lips in an attempt to break the spell, she could find no language worthy to the moment.
Like a repulsive and grim chariot of death the eyes of the unknown puffed and expanded until they were right above her, enormous, terrible, and she felt his gelid moist breath of automated congruity against her face, encompassing her in a noisome fog. She reckoned that the wraith reeked of tombs as it made a moaning sound. She was numb with horror as she held his gaze. He was unarmed and she was assured by the power of the pistol.
Next moment the drama ceased; the wind roared outside, flinging gusty dashes of moonmist against the one window of the room. The footsteps on the staircase were retreating and the pale form on cot was breathing rhythmically. She could still hear the intermittent rumbling of the terrific movements on stairs, the faint tremors under her feet from the shock of the nabbed avalanche.
In that moment of victory she ran to him and held him tighter while he groaned..
She showered hot kisses on his sentient lips and he fell into a musical slumber, smiling. She rose and leaned towards the window, giving herself up to the dolcefar niente of imaginations, blinded by a flood of sapphire moonlight. It poured in through great skies, peaceful and diaphanous, like a cerulean mist turning the huge alley into a submarine grotto, surfaced with moonbeams, full of glimmers. The sky was aglow like a brilliant aurora but the light was cold, blue, vaporous, funereal.
Some dark points rapidly emerged from the prismatic mist resembling the figure which had appeared few moments ago near the cot. There was uncertainty in his features as if he was pondering his next course, as she watched. If she had been smashed in body and mind, her vitality drained like the man she loved she could stand passively and let him go by, and she would have been at peace.
The figure in the alley vibrated and quivered like the stars that are scattered in the profundity of heaven. The voices in her head wound and unwound in distant, ebbing phrases, fretted with scales, halting now and then and swaying as if panting in languorous agony. Something was subjugating her into gradual paralysis. She felt dead outwardly. Only if she could reclaim her consciousness, they were safe. Could she fight that madness of silence, the thickening darkness, and creeping numbness? She felt as if her body was dissolving, that she too was turning fluid and vaporous to unify with that figure yonder as the moonbeams merge with the dew.
She lifted the pistol and pressed it against her throbbing head as if under some necromantic spell. She had lost it, killed within by a great sorrow. Tired. The vitality, the resilience of her arms, her beaming eyes was physical, in the heart and soul there was a chill and dismal bitterness, the drab stretches of deserted age.
The phantom in the moonlight beckoned her and she descried a sinister smile on his face. The smog of her thoughts cleared, she fought that indifferent unsighted stupor. She combated that agony until at last she was sure she was going to die. Drifting into that last delicious sleep of receding sensibility she was zapped again. A flash of lightning danced vividly before her eyes, accompanied by a crashing peal of thunder, she saw to what end of a wild journey she had reached! She had to overcome that phantasm or she would lose. She had to keep that lonesome vigil and subdue the enemy. So she aimed.
The sleepers outside the room were roused by the noise of a fired shot. When they broke inside they found a woman standing beside the window, expressionless, holding a gun, and staring the man who was shot dead on the cot.