By: Vipul Lunia
Flask to the mouth, eyes closed, you take a sip. Despite the small mouth on the flask, you take a big one. It burns you inside. You shake your head and try to close your already closed eyes. Three seconds later the sensation subsides. It’s the warmth that lingers. You are perspiring. You open your eyes to the golden fields extending till the azure horizon. Your white calico shirt appears shaded, dark where its drenched with your sweat. You don’t care about it. You stretch your arms on your side and shout a hello into the air. You smile because you are happy.
Although you are just a help on the farm, you look at those golden crops like they are your babies. You have worked on them for last two and half months. Seen them grow from nothing. And looking at them standing like that in the sun, makes your chest swell with pride and happiness. Although your skin is almost sunburned, yet the glow of a gratified parent doesn’t leave you. Your sweat glistens in the afternoon sun and when it runs from your temples towards your cheek, it gives an appearance of a diamond rolling out of a mine. All your life you have craved for this peace, for this life. Although you wished for your own land but this was the next best thing available in the dream shop.
You raise your flask towards the Sun and make a toast to a Golden tomorrow. Eyes closed you take a sip. When you open your eyes it’s all dark. You think maybe you passed out earlier and it’s night already. But then suddenly there is a bright light. You are blinded by it, you use your hands to shield your blood shot eyes. When your pupils adjust, you see a unicyclist juggling different articles. Balls, bottles, blades and babies. Babies! No it cannot be. You are appalled at the sight of it but the crowd is cheering him on. They want more babies in the roll. You are afraid he is going to drop one of them, then loose his concentration and drop each and every baby into the ring. You can’t bear to watch it, you shout to stop this sacrilege. People turn to look at you, but the show goes on. You fumble with the cap on your flask, looking down all the time avoiding the juggler, who you feel is staring at you. You are afraid if you meet his eyes, he will throw one of the babies at you. The cap comes off, you close your eyes and take a sip.
When you open your eyes, you are still on your porch perspiring beyond measure. Your eyes reflecting the horror of your vision. You have been having such visions for a long time now. Inexplicable, agonizing, eerie. You feel nauseating, you want everything inside you to come out. One of those things inside you is causing those visions. It needs to stop. You are about to embark upon the retching marathon when you hear your name in a sweet voice. The voice asks if you are okay. It’s your wife. You force a smile and tell her that you feel fine. You get up to expel her fears and plant a kiss on her lips. A smile blossoms on her face as a result. She pulls your tattered pants a little up as an excuse to feel you. Everything that bothered you, all your ghosts, all the visions just fade away with her single act of coyness. The person who encountered those was someone else, not you. You have always been a romantic with loose tattered pants.
You hear an innocent shrill voice behind you, which redirects your blood flow. You don’t immediately turn. Your wife vanishes in the dark of the house. When you turn you see your son running towards you. You catch him mid-air and whirl him around.
Where was you until now? you ask him combing his hair with your fingers.
I was playing daddy. We were kicking ball, he replies.
Did you have fun? you ask drawing him towards it.
Yeah lots of fun, he replies.
You want to go back and play some more? you try your luck.
No daddy, I am hungry now.
You smile and ruffle his hair which you were combing so far. You put him down and ask him to run to mommy.
You look at your hands. There is something wrong with them, not that they don’t look like hands. They do. But something’s amiss. Then it hits you, they are empty. It’s a rare sight, your hands not holding anything. So you frantically look for the flask. As soon as you find it, you close your eyes and take a sip. You are back at the circus. The girl from your earlier vision is still sitting beside you. Do you know her, you think. You turn your gaze to the main arena. Flyers on a trapeze. A woman, a man and a child flying them. No, not again. You don’t have the stomach for it, you can’t watch it. The flying man deliberately loses the woman and the child. They both plummet to the ground in the ring. Their shrieks hybrids with the cheering of the crowd and produces a heinous sound which keeps reverberating in your ears. Then there is this other woman, who starts flying. You open the cap on your flask. The woman catches the man but then let go of him on the trough, just like he did earlier. The man keeps falling and falling, never touching the ground in the ring, never experiencing the end. Nobody can hear his screams, as if he is on mute. You have tears in your eyes. You close your eyes, force the water out and take a sip.
When you open your eyes, you are on your bed. You wonder how did you get here. Outside a flock of parakeets is making its way home. After the echoes of the vision, even their raucous call is like honey on vanilla. You look out the window, in the distance the sun is about to set. Your wife comes in to check on you. You gather her in your arms and whisper that your pants are still loose. She smiles shyly, looks you in the eye and feels you. You tighten your hold on her and kiss her like a trophy. Then your lips blend till you are aware only of her lips and she is aware only of yours. Your son shouts from the porch. You both laugh, still blended. We got to do something about him, you tell her. May be put him in a boarding or something, you suggest. She tells you to get ready, you promised your son circus. At the mention of the word, your stomach gives way. You run to the toilet. Every atom of your body is yelling to abandon the plan, never go circus.
You tell your wife about your visions. She consoles you, tells you that they are just nightmares. You tell her nightmares are when you sleep, when you have them standing on your porch in the broad daylight, it’s a different animal. You tell her about what your father used to say about such visions. They could be pre-monitions or could be glimpses of your past life. You tell her you need to know. She holds your hand and smiles. You kiss her again, this time out fear that you may never again kiss her.
Your son selects you as the mode of transport and chooses the highest possible seat. You seat him on your shoulders and walk towards the circus with your wife at your side. Time and again you look at her, lost in her thoughts. You look at the serenity around you, it touches you in a way you can’t explain. And you know, it could never get more beautiful than this. The musical sound of water flowing into the fields interspersed with the occasional chirp of a cicada accompanies you till you reach the circus.
Your son wants a Candy floss and you want a clairvoyant. You buy your son a candy floss, your wife a soda and excuse yourself. You run towards the most shabby tent. You say you are in a hurry. She looks at you, asks for your hands and tells you things you never wanted to be true. She tells you there is another woman, and you are going to meet her today. She tells you that you have abandoned your wife and kid. You explain that it’s just for few minutes, because you didn’t want to spook them. You have already spooked your wife and it was evident on her face all the way to the circus. She tells you that your future is dark, you tell her about your visions and how you look older in them. She tells you that the woman will suck your soul and leave your body to wither, you tell her that you love your wife. She tells you that because of you, your wife and kid will suffer but not for long. You start crying and tell her that in the vision you saw a juggler with a baby and a trapeze flyer who dropped a kid and a woman. Halfway you breakdown.
She keeps searching your future and may be past too. She screams that you are a demon, you yell back. She screams even louder and tells you that you don’t deserve to live, you keep yelling incoherent sounds at her. She screams louder and louder and you yell to top her till both of you can’t listen to anything but your inner animals. And then suddenly you feel levitating and then flying, like on a trapeze. You land with a thud on the soft mushy ground outside circus. You dare not open your eyes because you don’t want reality. But your ears can still hear. Somebody near you is gossiping about you. Their words are like pinpricks, a thousand of them, tormenting you. People who couldn’t purchase the circus ticket have come for a free show.
“Who is this guy?”
“He is a bum, lives nearby that ditch over there. Don’t know why, but every day he buys a ticket to the circus and creates a ruckus inside. Yelling at the top of his voice. And Every day he is thrown out this way.”
“Poor guy. What’s his story?”
“Don’t know how much of it is true, but the guys around here say that he left his wife and kid for a beautiful exotic acrobat who came with the circus in the town. His wife had to beg and what not just because her husband, who she claimed loved her very much, left her with no money. It is said he ran away with all the money and her jewels. He emptied his kid’s piggy bank too. Cleaned them out, not even a penny for his kid. And then, as he deserved, that acrobat ran away with a joker and all his money. And since then he lives like this.”
You look at them and smile. Your eyes scan them from top to bottom. And they call you a bum, you laugh. You ask them to come and sit near you. You tell them he was a juggler not a joker. You say you will tell them the true story with every detail, sparing nothing. They make faces and leave. Gossip mongers. You knew they didn’t want the truth, just the gossip. These creatures thrive on it.
You know it would have been easier to end all this, in that ditch. But you need to live long enough to understand why you did what you did. You lie there under the stars with your arms outstretched. In one hand you hold your flask and raise the other towards the sky as if drawing something. In the black sky above you can make out their faces, shining bright. They look happy. You smile a sad smile. You don’t need to die to be with them, you are with them every day. All you need is your flask.
Flask to the mouth, eyes closed, you take a sip.
Vipul writes based out of India, where he obtained a degree in Forest management. When he is not writing, he is out watching birds. He aims to see all 1200 plus species of birds in India. His work so far has been published in Story Mirror & Women’s Web.