The last flicker diesThe sun poured out onto the streets. The wind, crisp and dry, howled like a fire storm. And if you blundered to venture out in the sun, you could feel the fiery fingers of heat slip towards your throat to strangle you.
The sun poured out onto the streets. The wind, crisp and dry, howled like a fire storm. And if you blundered to venture out in the sun, you could feel the fiery fingers of heat slip towards your throat to strangle you. At dusk, however, when deep shadows began to dance, life in Janakpur roared back to life. It was at this time that Gudiya emerged from the front door of her house.
“Go directly to your sister, don’t lose yourself to the lights of the city,” her mother reminded, as she slipped out into the street.
“Don’t worry, mother,” the girl assured.
Gudiya, however, had no intention to listen to her mother’s words. Nor was she someone who was easily swayed by the traditional attractions of the city. She loved to ramble through the woods, alone. Therefore, taking the narrow path, which meandered through the nearby countryside, she avoided the noisy streets. Gudiya hated noise but unlike others, she considered it as a necessity. Noise, for her, symbolised life. It represented excitement. Whenever she got tired of her obsession for peace, she sought solace in the chaos of the city. Nevertheless, today was something different. Today, she particularly wished to be alone, and not for a brief moment but for a long, long time. She was entranced by an incomprehensible craving to explore life.
Old folks, suffocated elderly people, meandered in the greenery to pump cool, fresh oxygen into their lungs. Although the silent wood came alive with the footsteps of these evening walkers, Gudiya cherished the opportunity to stroll through the woods all by herself. So, she stole herself away from woods and submitted herself to the musical gurgling of a drying river. The merciless sun is feeding on everything, Gudiya muttered as she sat, gazing at the thin ribbon of water that snaked by.
“Because I couldn’t stop for death, death kindly stopped for me.” Gudiya hummed these lines and started to hurl pebbles at the river. I wish I could live forever, she thought. And I wish for so many things that, I know, will never happen.
Gudiya was a prodigy. At the age of eight she could pen poems that inspired comparison with Dickinson, and by the time she was ten she had already glued to herself the title: “Young Shakespeare”. However, all these accolades became meaningless when she came to realise that like all humans she, too, was mortal. She became so obsessed with death that she even tried several methods to kill herself. She loved life but the uncertainty of death hung over her head like a sceptre.
“Everything ends,” her mother had said. “Rose, beautiful and delicate, withers and then finally dies. Everything beautiful ends. As you are beautiful, more beautiful than anyone, you must die too. But, it shouldn’t stop you from making this world a better place for as long as you live, the way roses do.”
These philosophical words made her forgo future attempts to commit suicide but it also intensified her discontent with her own mortality. And then she devoted herself to find links between life and death. And the dying ribbon of water, the wrinkled old folks and the brown leaves falling, all, like deep buried memories made her alive, set her creative mind to comprehend the mystery of life and death.
Evening, she said to herself. How lively the sun appears before death? Orange clashing with the hues of grey. A painting, a masterpiece better than those ever put to canvas by great painters. Look, a giant eagle sweeps through the colours. Well, then, what use is this all? This beautiful evening will end. What is eternal? Nothing. This feeble sun, so mighty during day, now quivers like a startled rat. Why is it that everything ends?
“Why is it that everything ends?” she heard a greasy voice from behind.
She turned her head to the sight of an extremely old woman. She was so old that it seemed death had forgotten about her very existence. Her face seemed rotten, wrinkles were thick like bitter gourd and her eyes appeared to have lost the glitter of life long ago.
“But clearly it seems you don’t come under everything,” Gudiya said, annoyed.
The un-dead, that smelled of withered rose, sat by her. “You don’t want me here, do you? But then, sweetheart, you don’t want to die too, yet you will die. Life is like that, things happen and you can’t do anything. What are we but marionettes of our own life! Now these all seems so hateful, so disgusting. But it all happens for our own good.”
“Why don’t you just leave me alone!” Gudiya retorted.
“Life, my dear, is a great gift and to be born as human is a miracle,” the greasy voice went on. “You desire things at first, then as time passes, you come to realise you don’t need to desire at all—that things just tend to happen. Passionate folks like you initially get tormented by this, yet, slowly, steadily they fall in love with it, with life.”
Gudiya saw the sun crumble into the distant horizon, and amid the shivering rays she felt she saw this wrinkled old lady. She startled, and found herself asking: “Who are you?”
“Who am I, does that even matter? Well, I am nobody and nobody you can call me. But mortals love to call me death.”
There was something about this old lady that Gudiya couldn’t see but just feel in her heart. There are certain bizarre things which no science can reason but just, just your heart can feel. If she truly was death, she knew, it would be her last day.
The sun was gone, darkness hung thick like syrup. The fire of day was dead, and Gudiya saw the feeble flicker of her own life in the distant stars. So, this is how people die, she thought. An old lady comes to you, says good things about life, makes you crave to live longer, and takes you away. This is unfair. “So, you have come to take me away?” she asked.
“Your time has come,” the old lady replied.
“But. I want to live more…”
Gudiya never reached her sister’s home.
Pjr is an A-level graduate from Budhanilkantha School