Rust

Lacquered in a comatose white and gray, the auburn thatched mud houses look like the ruins of a terracotta army, battered by time. But they stand hollow, their windows stolen, their doors eaten by nature.
When the vicious jungle wind blows from the dry riverbed and passes through this necropolis, a howl ensues that tears open the naked breast of the rainforest.

Guineafowls peck little mites from the bones scattered across the plateau. Skeletal hands holding rifles, books, bags.

Or other hands.

A century ago, this patch of dense green had leopards, lions, tigers, elephants, wild buffaloes. Trapped between the bullets of sixty years of ferocious monarchy and the peculiarity of human masculine pride, the animals have traveled to become busts, adorned in the living rooms of the richest.

Time has crushed the biggest of kingdoms. The Kings and Queens have died. Revolution had taken place.

Then the rebels became rulers, and the first thing they did was to put every opposing butterfly to the waiting guillotine. Carnivals were named on dead men and women, their blood gushing through the river. That river has dried up into a valley of rust, where souls without salvation wander.

This used to be a good world. But then good worlds barely lasted.


He loved light. Like the flicker of sunlight that fell on his eyes, making their way between her flowy hair and salwar-clad shoulders, while he fiddled with poetry, lying on her lap.

This city of broken bridges ate small-time love like theirs, people said. They didn’t pay heed. Reckless as the monsoon, their love was devoid of any measured steps.

Five years later, the light had returned in his life. As he was slowly watching her body being engulfed in the pyre, he thought why he loved light so much, only to realize that it wasn’t light that he loved.

On that cold November night, two souls had melted into the darkness.

Only the city remained, ravenously waiting for its next victim, throwing poetry in the air as lures.

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The colors never told if they were real

The bright neon signs dipped the city into many colors. Purple and cyan had found their territory around the train stations, running amongst surfaces, mostly glass, and reflecting and refracting and spreading their presence everywhere the perceivable sight could go. Bright screens flashed on and off with advertisements, staged emotions to lure the unwary into the trap – where they would be transformed into mindless consumers. There was a rhythm to it all – the people rushing on and off from the trains, the monstrous yet svelte locomotives sliding down the railway tracks like a millipede on the straws of leaves, the announcer in his booming voice guiding the flow of populace from one platform to another, the advertisements pitching in between, a pastime for many, irritation for others – they all followed a tempo, a monotonous composition. As the city put on her night gown and donned many a roles in the night, one wondered: was this all real or a figment of a dream?

Yet there she was, standing on the station, right beside the looking glass, holding it with her two fragile hands. The hands themselves weren’t frail, but the way she rested them on the enormous glass pane suggested that the intent was fading away; she was giving up.

But why was she there?

Her eyes glued on the hordes and hordes of passengers showed no sign of tiredness. Yet the energy was dimming, ever so slowly, as the trains continued to whoosh past. She was longing for warmth, amongst all those feigned emotions, forgetting that the city herself was her biggest enemy. Survival required pretension here. The city thrived on putting on a mask, a façade of salvation: asking you to give up your innocence, your morality in return.It was a deal nobody could refuse.

Realities were always tricky, he had told her once. They were blowing bubbles that afternoon, sitting on a bench, inside the holographic tech park.

“What do you mean?”, she had asked, curious.

“These bubbles – they are not what you think they are” He had replied.

She loved his voice. It was like the arrival of spring after a long winter. Mellowness could hardly bring such warmth. He had something more churning inside him.

“The world forgetting/by the world forgot” He’d smile while reciting this. She could hardly understand where his mind floundered all day long.

He promised he’d show up here on New Year’s Eve.Her eyes kept on searching through the crowd – trying to locate that messy hair, that nonchalant stubble, that wicked smirk. She found each of them many times, but not once did these qualities come together in the manifestation of a single entity.

“Am I real?” He had asked her once. She had touched his cheek with her cold hands, seeing him cringe ever so little with her touch.”I think so” She had whispered in his ear.

Fireworks splashed their lights on the transparent platform shades – injecting some life in this monotony of purple and cyan. Colors plopped on her face too, yet the changes in emotion were hardly any.She had started to doubt the whole world. Her tired gaze followed an advertisement, the girl in it strikingly similar to her.

“Are you real?” The ad girl asked.

“Maybe not”, she replied. There was a strange gentleness in her eyes.

When the next train arrived, she had long disappeared into the city. Within all those colors, who knows which one she was?

Or if she was a color at all?