A Requiem


A Requiem
Meghna ‘Phoenix’ Ghatak


I was frequently troubled by my sensitive sinus and asthmatic asphyxiation this entire year, when I suddenly developed a case of pneumonia. My university had organized a feisty firework show as a part of the Diwali celebration after a few rounds of burning sparklers, the color of the university's logo. I had watched the sky being illuminated temporarily and reflected on every glassy surface, the colorful fairy lights going dim for the duration. Every person partaking in the celebration glittered like their surroundings but there was an animalistic absence and an organic silence, punctured only by the cacophony of blaring loudspeakers over the chattering crowd. I exchanged empty pleasantries and plastic smiles with people as we crossed their path on the way to the obnoxiously oily food piled on counters that proclaimed their false names. 

I had started showing signs of illness during the celebration itself and someone was instructed to drive me home. On the picturesque way through a concrete road running through a wooded area, following a rapidly withdrawing stream, the sky was illuminated by an immense firework. The darkness seemed to turn into dawn and the driver slowed down behind a queue of cars as someone had exclaimed 'python'. I excitedly peeped into the woods through the window and supposedly spotted a bison disappearing into the darkness. I rubbed my aching eyes to confirm my vision, for bisons didn't walk on the warm, hilly terrain of Madhya Pradesh. But there was no way to confirm. 

Coughing and blinking at the smoke emitted from burning crackers, trying to dodge the ones about to blast like a video game challenge, I reached home. In my room, I peered into the dressing room mirror to look at my puffy red eyes. I had a sudden feeling of being slapped on the back of my head and the impact pushed me through the looking glass. My illness had made my legs wobbly and I promptly fell down, in a space seemingly floating at the other side of the mirror. Through a newfound haze, I saw a large brown owl staring meanly at me from the other side of the mirror before disturbing the calm haze and flying away. I tried to get up and out of the mirror but the moment I was trying to be steady on my feet, a passing cow tilted her head to perhaps lick herself and knocked me down with her horns. This time I couldn't find my ground and fell through space, down through a scenic abyss and saw slideshow freeze frames of realms pass by. 

I fell through the cotton candy of clouds over enchanting mountains with sun kissed snow caps to find coniferous forests dripping frost. I chased down rivers cascading from these mountain tops to their mighty size gushing noisily on the plains. I seemed to swallow the sands where branches of these rivers lost their way into deserts and then reached the melting pot of it all in the vast oceans, till at one point I couldn't breathe. My lungs protested the temperature differences from my fleeting fall through clandestine climates sans humans, happily inhabited by animals in all their glory.

I saw a troop of woolly mammoths trudging in tranquility through a snow blizzard on high altitudes and a Saiga antelope's stealthy silhouette reflected on a clear icy lake. An Ibex was precariously perched on a rocky mountain and mud loosened by its hoof filtered on a few golden toads in the forest underneath. I witnessed white rhinoceros grunt as they munched their way through tall grass over which a delightfully blue band of spix macaws communicated something to one another. A colony of passenger pigeons formed geometric patterns as they migrated from forest to forest and over a little Zanzibar leopard running freely on a wooded island. A Tasmanian tiger shifted nervously through scanty desert grass, sniffing out a prey when a bonytail chub fish swam too close to the surface of a desert river. A dodo was racing through its group with raised wings to pick up a pebble on a sea beach when just a little further away, a Steller’s sea cow raised its small head from amidst a growth of underwater kelp to perhaps breathe over the commotion. 

I saw more extinct animal kingdoms before I began wheezing in the cold wind that tossed me around like a rag doll and I could neither orient myself nor find something to stand on. The wind was so cold that my eyes became swollen shut and I was forced to navigate my floating body with no sight or sense of smell. All I could hear was the wind bellowing over any other possible sound. Then miraculously, I was able to stabilize my adrift body and the moment I was able to find my bearings, I forcefully opened my eyes to be able to bleakly peak at the world around me. I blinked away the confusion of my cognition as well as confrontation and found a thick fog enveloping me so much so that when I straightened out my arms, my fingers tended to disappear. I was engrossed in giggling at the appearance and disappearance of my digits when I heard a doleful squeal, apparently of an animal. 

I propelled myself forward, fluttering through the fog, towards the sound and found a stag whose head was bent sideways with the weight of what appeared to be a ball net on his antlers. He was heaving each breath through dry nostrils and looked so weak that I dared to cautiously approach him to free him. I slowly placed my palms on his nose to assure him of my noble intentions and he let me touch him with an initial flutter of his watering eyes. With a little effort, I managed to entangle the net from his antlers and tugged at each fold carefully, till the entire thing lay beside him. The stag, upon realizing its freedom, wobbled heavily on his legs, looked at me in the eye and just like that, turned tail and ran.  I stared at his tightly tilted tail growing smaller by the second and all of a sudden, he began to ascend, galloping his way, to the horizon and above. I was astonished by this unnatural development and started swim-floating towards the horizon about to be hidden by the falling curtain of fog. 

I was following the fleeting stag when my feet had a sudden sensation of being near the surface, so I pushed through the wind current to land in a mix of oil and muddy water splashing over a shallow wasteland. Mangled remains of plastic bottles bobbed their nasty heads after an assumed shipwreck, blanketing the entire water body like a weird audacity of sequin work. I could see fish writhing in the sebaceous spill, a duck flapped its feeble wings to free itself of the murky mix, and a big turtle silently screamed an attempt to cut through a plastic cord stuck in its midriff. I rushed to the turtle and found that the cord had already sawed and bucked its way through his tough exoskeleton. With tears welling up, I searched for a sharp stone to snip the seemingly innocent culprit away and after only a few fervent efforts, the turtle took his first swim towards freedom. The turtle too, swam through the horizon and as it stroked the waves, a few droplets sprinkled down on me. I looked up to survey the source and found the extinct animal haven above me, separated by a translucent film, allowing me a view of both above as well as below.

Soon I could hear a twisted symphony of pain reverberating all around me in the limbo, filled with animals struck by human negligence. Then came the vicious view. A whimpering dog with its head stuck in a jar was staggering around sightlessly, a clucking peahen was limping with a bottle cap disrupting the normal structure of one of her foot, a screeching stork with a straw sealing shut its beak was taping on something, a cow with an extremely swollen abdomen was chewing on a plastic cover laced with bread crumbs, a washed up seal was gasping for breath through a polythene bag wrapped over its facade…

I rushed to save as many I could but there were too many of them around renting the air thick with their desperate pleas for help. I ran, I floated, I flew, I jumped towards them and yanked, sliced, tore through the plastic that had like set traps, latched themselves on these innocuous roommates of humans on their abode on earth. As I waged a war with the waste, blood from the fauna and my fingers oozed to trickle together on the wasteland, while some droplets rose to the haphazardly held heaven over the horizon. 

The more I was becoming one with the tormented animals, my screams for assistance ascending and assembling with their traumatic ones; the more I was losing hope. I drifted through the limbo humanly, helplessly, holding one still-trapped dead body after another, rushing to the next and the next till I was tangled in the trapeze of plastic and left to dangle without any sense of direction. But there were still more to be rescued from the devilish clutches of discarded plastic products piercing through their flesh and I struggled to slay the strange beast holding me captive. As exhaustion took me in its steely grasp, I was left with one parting thought ricocheting in my mind - is this what my legacy is and will be?

I woke up in a hospital bed with a few familiar faces, fretfully hovering over mine, mouthing something serious. When I had completely regained my senses, I recalled being in the limbo and was shocked to see my attendance in the hospital but not the dying animals. I began to fidget frantically and freaked out over the fact that I was the one who was rescued and not the other way round. A crowd clamored around me, to calm me down; questions and their disoriented answers were tossed around and I was repeatedly fed with a placebo - that everything was fine. I was told that there were no animals; that there was no limbo; that there is no plastic discord and that all was well with the world.

I clenched myself into littleness under the chattering crowd towering over me, telling me how delusional I was, that I had been unconscious in the hospital bed all the while. They denied any dystopia existing, especially my expedition there since I was brought to the hospital the moment they had measured my fever and heard my labored wheezing breath. I had seemingly slipped into a state of sleep that was subconscious as I had tossed and turned tremendously the entire night. Hence the limbo was a nightmare, they concluded and tore a prescription for someone to supply. 

I unclenched myself slowly, letting the reassurance of the placebo slip in, using it as a shield against the confusion raining questions on me.  As my body relaxed reluctantly, my mind manifesting the math, I happened to glance at my fingers and there they were. All the gashes and slashes, the cuts and bruises that the plastic grip had inflicted upon me, were present there like alibis. But they were not proof enough. A collective cry from the limbo reverberated across my eardrums and I screamed through their pain possessing over me. As the doctor strapped me to my bed, ignoring the blood oozing from my fresh wounds, ignoring my epiphany, benumbing me with another placebo medicine, I was left with a haunting question - are the animals revising Christ’s redemption for our sake?









Comments

  1. Good English...…. I was reading it with DICTIONARY.COM on the other tab.I liked it.Wont tell you my name but Himanshu if this is you then Bro you know I have always admired your writing but if its your partner then Meghna You are amazing,

    ReplyDelete
  2. Woow ma'am its the perfect depiction of reality... Could feel every word😍

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  3. Amazing article. Good work. Keep it up dear.

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