Saturday, 20 October 2012

Part 5

The eyes, two pale orbs hanging in the blackness, sunken and white and glazed sticky with horror, dart quickly all over my body, curious, then fix themselves on mine.
They are sentient things, aching with desire: creatures borne of night and darkness, unholy and ravenous, studying me with a malicious and undeniable intelligence. Behind the milky cataracts I can barely make out the pupils, stained with the bloodthirsty intent of an ancient predator. They stare right back into me, menacing and defiant.
Suddenly, I am struck with a searing blindness, and my limbs become fire and lightning for one agonizing instant before blackness pours into my vision, thick and oily. Slowly, tiny trails of light paint themselves across the horizon. I shake my head violently, and the stars move with it.
The eyes flash again and I jerk forward, unable to control myself. The blackness seeps slowly back into my skull, and this time the crackling and spitting of the dreadful fires and the wailing that binds the dead to earth become nothing more than a hollow drone, rising and falling in pitch, piercing the silence from far away. Dizzy and nauseous, I am pulled inexplicably through the greasy blackness, choking on the mud and sickness of the Ganga, toward the dreadful spheres, which grow larger and more hypnotic by the second. Pins and needles begin to kiss my stinging flesh until my body becomes nothing but a dull, numbing ache.
There is a deafening crack as they flash a third time, and now there is nothing; no oily black, no blinding white, no giddy star trails, no piercing hollow drone, no dull throbbing, no nausea: no feeling. I am sucked out of my body, robbed of form, and set adrift in the smoky vacuum of the dead eyes. Enveloped completely in their gaze, I am starved of life; tainted and corrupted by the finality of absolute oblivion. The cadaver, still frozen in its agonizing final moments, transfixes me in a dark caress, binding and haunting me, and I gaze upon death itself, for one fleeting and eternal moment.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Part 4

I walk slowly towards the river, fighting for footholds at the end of the treacherous, narrow brick street. I’m blind and the air is blackened and bitter, and carries an indescribable fervor. My face is red and stinging and filled with fluid and ash, and my skin is raw and whipped from the heat. The thick, acrid smell of burning bodies conquers my nostrils. Smoke, torrid and furious and filled with ash, spews past me, eager to aid the journey of the deceased into Nirvana.
It regurgitates its grisly burden onto the city streets and into the river, and fills the city with death.
My left leg slips into something warm and wet and heavy, then the air is filled with a large sucking and popping as I pull my foot back up and onto the last dry step. Clumsily, I attempt to wipe it clean of the mud and excrement that is now beginning to harden and cake on it, baking in the intensity of the heat. Smothering the urge to dry wretch, I snatch a small breath, and squint carefully, allowing the fluid gathered on the pupils to insulate against the onslaught for a moment.
In front of me the funeral fires burn bright, hot and constant; a grim and efficient factory, working continuously to process the dead and scatter charred, stubborn remains into the river. A caretaker uses a long stick to crudely stuff a pair of bare legs into the heart of one of the fires. In another, a foot, blackened and bubbling, waits for flames to finish their gruesome job. Someone tosses the smoking remains of a woman’s pelvis into the dark, churning water. Its sinks with a contented sigh into the murky depths, winking secrets in the sun. The ribcage of an unknown man crackles and hisses viciously and then spits a greasy surrender to the flames, filling the air with a smell of seared flesh and rendered fat.
A woman cries out, sobbing and wailing, and moves forward through the ghat to the riverbank to give her husband one final embrace. Her voice carries a raw, human urgency, naked and beautiful and full of grief and faith. The funeral bearers relent and lift layers of thin cloth from the man’s head, coloured garishly at first, then faded, and finally white, until there is no more cloth, and only a wizened face, shrunken and contorted and set into its last throws of pain.
The cries of the widow double in pitch and volume, swelling intensely, then grow shaky and doubtful. Just for a moment they waver and are battered by the terrifying uncertainties of the afterlife before they find renewed strength and start to climb, religious and robust. Above the body they climb, above the river, above the city and the clouds, and then they soar, above the fire and earth and water and sky, above the plants and the animals and the men, above man’s strange stories and customs, above his thoughts and dreams, and into the unknown, the cries soar, where they will remain, lost and innocent, until the end of time.
I choke.
I am back on the ground, and my head is swimming. The heat is becoming unbearable. I’m disorientated and my lungs are screaming, thirsty for clean air. I’m fighting the urge to suck in the foul cocktail around me with every fibre of muscle, every nerve, but it is too much. I collapse to my knees in the filth of the riverbank, gasp deeply, and fill myself with the blood of man.
And then I see them.