|The night desk 2|
No, that was me. I wept the day my wife had the abortion. I wept for the unborn baby who would never complete the journey it had set out on. Oh my unborn baby, bud of my life, may your return journey be a happy one, I prayed. You oozed down from the spring of life into the calm lagoon at the end of evolution, only to return, completing neither birth nor death. Who were you? What farewell words did you have for me when you were wrenched from the infinite contentment of your journey and the warm embrace of its tranquillity? O stranger who set out to live with me, how much sorrow, joy, love and wonder did your tender body conceal, that rotted and turned to dust in the hospital waste-bin?
Through the teardrop that rolled down his cheek and the sob that quivered on his lips, the baby who could not complete its journey loved him and pained him once again.
On the windowsill, somewhere in the darkness beyond the candlelight, the canteen cat appeared. She jumped off the sill, walked through scraps of news, clambered onto Mrityunjayan’s table and sat down. Two big, burning eyes looked at him. She said: "Meow." He touched the cool tip of her nose with his index finger and asked, "What did you say? Time’s up?"
Mrityunjayan rose, walked up to the window and looked out. There was nothing outside. Only darkness. Like someone had covered his eyes with black hands. He turned towards the small circle of candlelight. It had shrunk to a mere speck in the darkness. From inside it, two big eyes blazed forth. Mrityunjayan waded through the darkness towards the circle of light on the table. Suddenly, the teleprinter roared, startling him. Mrityunjayan stood watching the teleprinter glow mercilessly, like fire, and take shape in the darkness to confront him.
Mrityunjayan could hear its heartbeat. He looked at it intently, with a quiet awareness. Then, in a magical flurry, words were imprinted on its face, furiously repeating the same phrase over and over again. It roared with the harshness of metal and machine. The world has ended! The world has ended! The world has ended! The world has ended! The world has…
The darkness thickened.
Mrityunjayan walked towards the window through the darkness, as if through a curtain. He groped around, desperate for a last glimpse of his just-ended world. But the darkness had obliterated the window. He turned back.
The shroud of darkness covered everything. The teleprinter and its roar faded into nothingness. The table and the sputtering speck of light on it melted into the darkness.
Mrityunjayan ran towards the two eyes that shone on the fast-receding shores of that light. He held the light of those eyes to his chest. And then, as he looked at his fading, ended time, he laughed. Kissing the cat on the cheek, he said, "Time’s up." Darkness swallowed everything. And a soft, consoling voice rose from far, far away, from beyond millions and millions of aeons, from the very heart of the darkness: "Meow!" He lay pressed close to that compassionate sound.
Mrityunjayan the journalist sprang to his births and deaths, thrilled and amazed, through the grand rhythms of universes in dissolution and rebirth.
Translated from the Malayalam story ‘Paathirayethumpol’ by A.J. Thomas with TLM
p. 1 p. 2
Paul Zacharia is one of the best-known short story writers in Malayalam,
who has preserved his niche through various movements in Malayalam fiction
over more than three decades. He lives in Trivandrum