A walk in the moonless night
In the valley of desperation, lived a man neck deep in debt Tomorrow was the day he was going to lose everything
In the valley of desperation, lived a man neck deep in debt. Tomorrow was the day he was going to lose everything. The night was long and arduous with sleep coming only in drips. Covered in the thick blanket of darkness, alone in his room, his material possessions that would soon no longer be his, ceased to exist in the absence of light.
His heart was heavy and his bed was struggling to cope with the added weight of helplessness. The man moved ever so slightly, taking a deep struggled breath each time. The bed creaked with agony.
He put aside his now-dark quilt, stood up slowly and moved towards the window. Time clung to him. Every movement, every moment was draining him. As he stood by the window, he reached for the breast pocket of his jacket, took out a crumpled stick of cheap beedi (cigarette), straightened it, put it between his thumb and the index finger, and put it between his dry lips. With the beedi barely hanging, he started looking for the moon. Darkness, however, had engulfed even the moon. Lost in thoughts, he forgot to light the cigarette.
The sounds of dogs crying came from a distance. As a child, he had heard that dogs howling was an omen—that death was looming. Yet, he found solace in it for it was the only stretch of sympathy he could get. With the unlit beedi between his lips, he involuntarily started moving towards the sound of death.
He walked down the stairs, pulled open the front door and paced along the chilly winter night. In the pitch black of the night, once out of the house, he became one with the night. He blended into the nothingness. The faint beating of the heart and the odour of the cheap beedi was the only hint of his existence. Moving ever so slightly, he went towards the harbingers of death. The dogs kept howling in the distance.
He reached for his pocket. His fingers lethargically mapped the insides of it before he pulled out an aged box of matchsticks. All the while, he kept on moving towards the death-bringing dogs. Carefully he took out a stick of match, rubbed it against the side of the box and lit the beedi.
He took a deep breath of the cold air and then inhaled the beedi’s harsh tar. Its warmth went gently down his tired throat. He walked and walked and walked but the dogs always seemed to be further ahead. Distance seemed to be one with the darkness. They were in a league against him. He took another drag—this time longer and more vigorous and more passionate. He let it get to his lungs. Time remained still for a brief moment. The dogs, the pitch black darkness and the distance ceased to exist at that instant. Another drag, and then one more.
He threw the beedi, stamped it off and walked on. As he was walking, he stepped and tripped on a tiny pebble and fell down face first. By the time he realised what had happened, the soil was already damp with blood. The darkness gulped the redness but the stench of the blood could be felt in the chilly night air.
The man then screamed in pain as he felt the warmth of his own blood. Tears rolled down his eyes like a stream and left behind distinct marks like that of the narrow valley between two hills. His face kept kissing the damp soil. He couldn’t muster the strength to carry himself up. As he sobbed quietly, the dogs kept crying in the distance.
Something changed as he lay on the floor sobbing. The sound of the dogs came closer and closer, moment by moment. With every passing moment, the howl became a tiny bit louder. If time passed any differently, the change would have been impossible to detect.
When the man had finally stopped sobbing, he felt a sensation of warmth on his left cheek. Suddenly, the eerie howling was nowhere to be heard. A dog as black as night gently started licking him, wiping out the remnants of the tears. The man called for all of what was left of his strength and stood up halfway. He put his hands around the black dog. He pulled up the upper half of his body, pulled the dog closer to him. As he embraced it, the two became one and vanished into the night.