Wish You Were Here.
There is a distinct and overwhelming sadness in the act of looking back. And when one does, one enters a vortex of time,life as they know it, slows down and stops and some distinct forgotten window is let open.
Atulya knew he was plunged into such a vortex on Monday, November the third. When the forty five year old executive stepped out from the metro on his way home, he found that life as he knew it had begun to slow down. Long dark shadows rippled from the figures in the station and even the air around had paralyzed everything.
If this was any other day of the week or any other time in his life, Atulya would have been astonished and indeed his first instinct would be to check what had gone wrong with reality. But Atulya of the present didn’t care much. He walked on through the blurry paralyzed station and sat himself down on one of the empty seats left unoccupied in the speed of everyday life.
The vortex had not taken into account the schedules of man. As a result a train just entering the station from the other side had been paused midway. There was just a sliver of gap in the frozen crowd. On another day, in another time, Atulya wouldn’t have noticed it. Yet today he knew, the gap in the crowd, the pause in his life, and the vortex will exist for as long as he needed it to.
So he did what was long overdue. He peered into the gap which was of course the window. The murky station wall peeled itself and light from the other side burst into form.
Atulya looked on into the light to a time that held promises of what could have been, what should have been.
“We have been waiting.”, a deep strong voice boomed out of the light.
Atulya did not try to seek out the origin of the voice, he knew there was no pint.
- So, it’s time?
There was silence and then the voice spoke again.
- We are not what you think.
- We are not Death.
Atulya was surprised, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Death wasn’t known for its affinity to play games.
“Our world is falling apart, our structures are crumbling. We need someone to fix it.”
- And you think I am the man for the job?
- You are an engineer are you not?
- I don’t work with bricks and stones.
- Our world is not made of bricks and stones.
Atulya sat up straight.This was not how he had expected the end to be. Yet the vortex was still intact, the light from the crevice waited patiently. Atulya looked around, the sudden pause had rendered people into blurry shapes, shadows twirled and winded like liquid smoke.
“Why do you think I can fix your world?”, there was a touch of irony in his voice now. The silence that followed was an uncomfortable one. If time had existed within the vortex, it must have been a minute or so till a voice spoke from beyond the light. This time it was a child’s voice sweet and shrill like the summers of Atulya’s childhood.
“You don’t remember us?”
Atulya knew the voice, he knew all of the voice beyond the light. He knew their faces and their names, their vast green fields and blue skies and lofty castles.
“Your world is falling apart?”, he asked finally.
“You sound surprised. The elders died first, then some of the younger ones, eventually we all grew weaker and weaker.”, the deep strong voice spoke slowly.
Atulya found himself standing at the edge of the station, aloof from the frozen crowd. Reaching out towards the crevice. He stopped in sudden sadness. The euphoria of seeing them again was wearing off. He retracted his hand, his head hung in shame.
“I can’t. I have children, a life, responsibilities…”
The light grew silent, there was movement on the other side.
“We understand”, the deep voice spoke finally,”and we will be waiting.”
Atulya took a couple of steps back, his eyes swimming with tears. The crevice had started healing itself, the light grew smaller. The frozen station was slowly coming back to life. The vortex relieved its grip. Shadows contracted and took from again. The blurred figures solidified into everyday passengers marching on, unaware.
Atulya looked back once more, with a distinct and overwhelming sadness as he left the station.The crevice in the wall had shut itself, the roaring train had entered the station completely. Life resumed itself, as it always did, yet somewhere behind the train, in a now invisible crack in the murky station wall, a sweet summer voice sang-
“ So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell..”