She kept running, trying to blend into the dark corner of the alley. It was getting increasingly difficult for me to keep pace with her. I was running short of air and desperately wanted to pause this chase for a breath. I feared my pounding and racing heart might jump out of its bony cage and betray me the way the woman running ahead of me once did. I wasn’t a stalker nor someone whom she detested. Why then was she running away from me as if I was her nemesis? I wanted to replay the events that unfolded in the cafe today evening, leading me to this dark corner of the city. I was distracted by the sight of stray cats scavenging the trash cans, trying to find something to munch on among the rubbish of the city. It was like entire city waste was disposed into this part of the city. A cat, divided from its clowder, was meowing and chasing away few rats, as big as kittens, who were clearly interlopers for the scavenge.
I was already drenched in my own sweat and maybe that is why I was feeling a winter-like chill in this hot month of April. I was experiencing a very strange mix of emotions -of fear, love, and anger. She could never be the one who would run away from me, the guy with whom she promised to be together till death do us apart.
Oh, yes! Death it was.
Years ago when we had just started living our dreams together, she was taken; and so was taken from me the purpose of my existence. We had spent years making promises of being there with each other in thick and thin of life. How stupid were we! None of us gave penny’s shit to the fact that we were mere mortals and there was a power, beyond our control, that could make all our promises fade away in time as some gibberish-utterance-of-nonsensical-words. With passing time I had accepted her absence in my life. She was long gone, leaving behind this colorless world for me, and enslaving me with her memories. But here today she was, back into my life! She, however, was very different from the woman I recalled from my memories. Or, was she really someone else? Maybe I’ve lost my sense of reality and have merged it with dreams. God! My mind is playing tricks on me.
I am sure it was less than an hour ago when I was having some lone time with myself at this cafe we used to frequent together when we were dating each other. (On her deathbed she had made me promise that I will never visit the places where we used to spend time together. Well! She knew I was very bad at keeping promises; just like her.) I was reminiscing our memories of the place. The time we were drenched in sudden pouring from the sky during monsoons, and the time I proposed her. I was delving deep into the ocean of our memories when when I saw, from the corner of my eyes, someone staring at me. I squinted but couldn’t see anyone except other patrons at the cafe. I ignored this feeling of ‘being watched’ until I couldn’t shake it out of my head.
There was something eerie about today’s evening. It wasn’t cold nor it was humid. I could feel the erratic beating of my heart. There was a creepy chill running down my spine. Sweat beads had already appeared behind my ears. It was an evening that was about to turn itself into a canvas, on which an unnatural picture of events would be painted. It was then I saw her. It was my love, draped in dark-black-shredded gown, the one she loved the most. I froze. My heart skipped a beat. She was seated next to a guy who didn’t appear to be cognizant of the presence of a shadow next to him. She was still staring at me with bright-white eyes that were not hers; I remembered them to be brown, glazed with innocence and grace, before she had closed them permanently. Even the touch of my loves’ skin used to make me think of how much effort the creator must have put in carving and breathing life into her. This woman in front of me, however, had skin as white as fresh-snow, and hair as black as mid-night. I was perplexed. Was I supposed to jump in excitement on seeing her after these many years – alive? Or, was I supposed to waive the figure in front of me as a figment of my imagination? Clearly it couldn’t be the latter. She was there. She had that smile right now; though not the one she wore when she was happy. She appeared to have come to visit me on some purpose. Whilst these thoughts were clouding my senses and stifling my urge to stand up and approach her, she was already on her feet and was moving out of the cafe from the back door.
I wanted to call out her name and ask her to stop, but I couldn’t utter a single word. It was as if a big apple was thrust down my throat. Loosing any further time, I gave into the urge of following her. In next few moments I found myself running through this dark alley leading nowhere. Everything around me blurred out. I only wanted to focus on the dark shadow running ahead of me. If it were not the stench of rubbish and decaying building walls I would have easily thought this all to be just a dream. It definitely wasn’t; nor was the woman shrouded in shredded black gown.
She was now almost levitating and it was becoming harder for me to keep pace with her. After dodging every nook and turns she was blocked by dead-end. She stood right in front of the wall, this time facing towards me, surrounded by walls on her either side, with me standing at the only open end. I had lost track of time and couldn’t really tell if it was midnight already. Tonight was one of the darkest I had ever seen in my life. The only thing lit up were the set of eyes looking right at me across the alley. Panting and sweating profusely I didn’t have energy left to call out to her. For a moment I thought she was trying to approach me and speak to me but something was holding her from doing so. Though dead she seemed to be afraid of something. It was clear on her face. Could dead fear anything? Maybe yes. Maybe they feared seeing their loved ones suffering alone without them in the mortal world. Who knows?
Suddenly the black shredded gown that was clad around her loosened itself from her body and fell at her feet. She stood at the same place facing me. Her body was still as perfect as it was the first time I saw her this way. It was now unmistakably clear that it was her; my love. I knew her body like the back of my hand. The dark shadows white eyes too donned the color I was longing to see since many years. Her brown eyes were now glistening with tears. Soon tears started rolling over her cheeks.
Her eyes conveyed that she wanted to be with me but they were also hinting me to back off and go back to the place from where I had started following her. But, why would she want me to go back? Has she stopped loving me after crossing to the other side of the river of life, which mortals aren’t allowed to crossover? She could never stop loving me. I still could see love for me in her eyes. So then what was she afraid of? Of course, I was mad at her for leaving me in this world alone but that should not make her afraid of me. She was long gone and I had accepted the world as it was. I was merely counting my days before I would rejoin her.
She was looking at the fallen shredded-torn-black-gown lying at her feet and then at me with some unknown fear. Ignoring her fears, I took a step in her direction making sure she does not run again as I was still panting from the last chase. Gaining confidence, I lifted my feet for taking next step towards her when I saw her tears fall on the black gown kissing dust of the alley. It was then what happened passed a shiver to my inner core. The shredded pieces of torn black clothing suddenly vitalized itself into a hooded figure with a demonic disfigured face. There were no eyes in its socket and it had a permanent grin on its face. Its’ fingers were long and as brittle as glass, like that of an old dying woman. It, however, had a demeanor of someone who had a purpose behind its existence, and reason behind materializing in front of me tonight. I could my see my love, past over the hooded figures shoulders hiding behind it and concern for me in her eyes. It was Death and it had decided to finally pay me a visit.
It raised its hand and pointed long rickety forefinger towards me, suggesting me to approach further. I was sure this hooded figure was the one that was keeping my love away from me. I simply wanted to see her again so I took few cautious steps in its direction, enough to stand right in front of it. I then felt something crawling beneath my feet that was trying to lift me up. I was stupefied in horror when I saw black shredded robes covering me up from legs to torso. I could feel my soul leaving my body. I was unable to breath when the robe had covered everything except my eyes. I was petrified and the only thing I remember seeing last before I blacked out was a satiated look in the eye-less hooded figure. I knew this was the end.
Hastily breathing I opened my eyes to find myself in a completely different surrounding. I was back in my bed and found my love sleeping next to me. She had her eyes closed. I was having this feeling of falling inside of a whirlpool with no idea of what was real. There was an feeling of deep inner satisfaction and peace. Worldly matters didn’t affect me anymore. I found solace in my bed with my love. She was still asleep when I planted a kiss on her cheeks. She definitely was real, smelling the way she used to before her death.