• virtually_real 19w

    In the back of my head memories and dreams play hide and seek. From the sky rains down a plethora of blueberries which taste like honey. In the broad daylight a shepherd walks the streets of Devli to pick up what's left of the fallen blessings. It rains blueberries in autumn and cinnamon in summers. This part of the sky is broken and when one may look above there's something odd about the clouds. They say a hundred years ago one man fell down from there and he was nothing short of an Indian Michael Jackson. He danced in the rains and sang in the winters wearing a black cap and a fit coat. He talked to people in gestures and his steps were too simple yet his style too profound. No one could see the upper half of his face. Those who looked him into eye instantly died. His name was Flam and nobody had seen him correctly in past sixty years yet almost everyone had saw a figure of him in their backyards from time to time. Devli was a strange place but the one where the sky was open for things to fall down. Where from? Only the shepherd knows.

    The shepherd was my brother. His name was Harsh and the most memorable thing about him was his stoned left eye. It wasn't a thing someone put in there, just the fact that he saw something and his left eye turned rock hard like a stone. He could still see with that eye but only when there was something unusual to see. Like the fallen blueberries. Not everyone could see them but Harsh could. He brought them home and blended the invisible berries with milk and gave me a drink. I drank it thinking my brother was being kind to me but the forbidden fruit often makes one sick. It didn't make me throw up but for a moment the colors in front of me just merged into one another. The pink of bedsheets and the white of the marble floor just went deep into one another while the red of the ceiling overshadowed all colours I could see. In distance rang the bell of thunder and I woke up to the sound of his hysterical laugh. He smiled at me as I averted my gaze from his stoned eye. He said, "My brother, you'll see what I see from now on. This town is such is a beautiful town, isn't it? Haha!" He scoffed and in tints of sarcasm I could see through him a different world.

    I saw a silver bell dangling down a chain of thoughts in which every link shines with radiance of a memory long dead. It's of interest, passion, passing and pleasure. I see through him as he laughs. The wall behind him shows a vacuum tunnel. I extend my hand towards him and putting it on his shoulder I feel nothing. As if my sense of touch no longer exists. I try to shake him because in my mind I've held him. But he doesn't move one bit. The tunnel grows darker and colder as I keep staring into it. He takes out a moment from laughing and repeats, "Oh my brother, my beloved friend, why don't you want to see what I can see?" Goosebumps on my arms and feverish dilemma takes a toll on me. I make a bad choice. I crawl towards the wall. The vaccum tunnel sucks me in.

    It's cold as ice and I was sure I'd get frostbite from the moment I entered it. Darkness in that tunnel smelled like cardamom and air tasted sweet. Yes there was air in the vacuum tunnel just like all laws failed in the town we lived in. Falling straight ahead I got snowfall covering my hair and specks of it sticking to my face. Taking out my handkerchief I put it on my mouth. Still up in air with nothing to hold on to I was helpless. But snowflakes turned into petals and trees replaced the clouds above. Now petals, thorny and fragrant scratched my face and soothed my wounds. The tunnel ended as the handkerchief blew away with the wind. I was standing in a place where cherry blossoms held intact every stone to the ground beneath. The red of blossoms was maybe blood but I didn't know it right then.

    A loud thud before my descent into the tunnel finally stopped. It hurt really bad. My lower back must've snapped a little or maybe I wished it had. Receding into oblivion all my senses left me astray. For next few moments colours merged into one another. Then the music came on. The loud Beatles and Led Zeppelin played alongwith local folk. Opening my eyes I saw the winds blowing fallen leaves off the ground until the music slowed down. As it did, Flam appeared in distance, dancing with a stick in his hand. His cap drawn forward to hide the upper half of his face and his legs twisted from dancing from all those years in rain and heat. The Jazz halted in background and the blowing leaves disappeared in the wind.

    Flam stood tall in front of me with his round hat casting an illusionary shadow onto his face. He gestured me to get up from the ground and I did as he said. Then holding his stick in both of his hands he broke the stick in two. Where the stick broke I could see sharp edges. Just as shocked I was to see him I was also baffled thinking what to do next. Before my thoughts could breed actions, Flam threw the broken pieces of the stick from the opposite of the pointy end at me. I dodged one piece but the second hit my arm and pierced through it. There was no pain. My sense of pain had long left me. There was only weakness.

    Flam started dancing as soon I became delirious again. But this time, not to the music but to a voice. The voice I knew deep in my heart as Flam's own. The voice echoed, "If a place in my heart could keep secrets safe then I don't think I'd know myself any better than others. Yes I've lost my way back home but the home I've lost was never mine. I dance to the tune of happiness that's eternal and endless. Yet everything without ending can never be a happy thing. There are only happy endings, not beginnings. This eternity makes me sick. Can you end it for me? I need one more eye to go back. Just one more eye and I'll be home."

    I blurted out, "B...Buut..but, out of so many people why only me? And why only Harsh? Why do you need eyes only for us?" Flam stopped moving. He said, "Because I found the most trustworthy of eyes in your family. Your father was my friend. He died right here. And if you don't listen to me, so will you. Your brother traded your eyes for his life. And now I'll have your eyes or either you'll die."

    "I won't lose to you. You're just an illusion. You're not real. You're just a story."

    As I said it the stick pierced deeper into my arm and this time blood started dripping down my bicep. It was agonising after a while. In between all this, Flam kept dancing. As if no agony could deter his passion, he kept dancing wildly. In the pain of all that I said, "Listen to me, will you?" He stopped.

    "I'll look into your eyes and give my eye to you. But there's something you must do for me before I come near."

    "And what's that?"

    "You should remove this out of my arm. Only then I'll do as you say."

    He nodded and took the stick out of my arm. It felt better to have that thing taken out. He took off his hat and I prepared myself to look him into eye. As soon I looked up I was pushed aside. It was Harsh. He was back with me. He had his hands on Flam's neck. He shouted, "Get out of here, get out! Take that hat and get out of here. He doesn't need eyes to go home but he needs them to stay here!! Go away, go right now and he'll die." I watched helplessly as Harsh held him down. I had heard Flam couldn't think without his hat on. I took the hat and saw my brother hold down the great mystical monster. I held the other end of the cap in front of the tunnel's opening and the vacuum sucked me in. This time there was nothing in there. No snow, no leaves, not even air. I was suffocating before I was thrown out of the wall into my room. The hat was intact but something was not. I had lost him. The shepherd gave his life for the most undeserving of all his loved ones. I lost him.

    - Zaid Khan

    @afira_albab @sumiinked

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    If a place in my heart could keep secrets safe then I don't think I'd know myself any better than others.

    ©virtually_real