Rally of Mouths
- Waning Moonlight
The long queue of ants is hungrily savoring the honey rimming off the plates, the delighting bakery above them already been infiltrated and devoured the day passed by the same brigade; the sweet and salty pleasantries, the day before. The ants seem to have contracted the humane affliction of Long-tongue,; moving on from one dish to another every attack; as if wanting to taste every dish in their tiny flickering lifetimes.
The sweets had gone sour over the days they'd been sitting there, with legs wide open, waiting to be savored. All it has seen, though, is a lot of sighing from the bundle of life sprawled on the cot beside the table and the gang of the ants, pinching on it and tearing away every ounce of flesh it once used to have. The milk in which some of it used to float once, has hardened into a sour resin, petrified of the spine chilling wind howling around. The leftovers, yellowed, now stick to the surface, mouths open like newborn cocoons waiting to live their last before dying.
I've lived for millenniums now, seen so long and queer that the old man crippling in the cot seems no different than the joyous cry of an infant, but as much as I've come to know him, I feel his crippling pain and I feel the darkness that surrounds him. I've seen it shroud him when he was born at his mother's home, 90 years ago, I've seen him snore on the ground beside when his parents conceived his brother on this very cot; I've seen it break and stand up again. Around it, I've seen him grow, I've seen him boast of his brother, I've seen him weep on the same sibling's death and I've felt the guilty relief he felt when he finally let go of the longing.
I've seen him in his younger days, newly married, a small time scrounger and also, when he got his own job. I've seen him work harder than any man on the face of Earth, I've seen his resolve, I've seen it breaking. I've seen him jump on food seconds after he returned home but till this day, I'd never seen turn away his nourishing dollop this way.
The neighbors have just had their fourth offspring, a girl, judging by the amount of celebration I could see. The husband, being his colleague, and thus being aware of his inefficiency to walk down to their home 10 meters away to have his meal, had it delivered by his eldest: again a girl.
17, she was dark and small, quite fond of the old man, from what I saw, came to set the meal on his table. Due to the pressing engagements back home, she could not stop for a moment to conduct an exchange. Still, that was the last time any living thing was in the vicinity of the cot; that is, deducting the creatures from the ramified entrails of god's gut seeking roof over their heads, a wall around.
The old man remembered when he had his only child, name him something you like, his son, and how proud he'd been. He'd thrown a feast for everyone exactly where he laid right now, curled up in a piteous coil of uselessness. Everyone had gathered around congratulating the mother and the father, so happy in the moment that they'd almost forgotten they could never have another child ever again. Something wrong with her child bearing bag, that's how much his illiterate brain had understood when the doctor told them. At first it'd hurt, but then at that moment, they were too happy to think about it and from what I recall, it was never brought up again.
Somewhere along the lines of then, he'd decided to educate his son. A bizarre idea to begin with; the wife even suspected for a moment if her husband had finally gone mad for good, but he had resolved, and he stood against all odds to educate his son.
He'd take breaks from work to come home and check on the lad, would then tell his wife to align her routine according to him and then to leave her job, of a house-maid, if it were of some help for the student. By some miracle, the lad excelled, getting the first division in high school and then 5 years later, Gold medalist in his bachelor-graduation. He was instantly hired by some multinational corporation salaried at, think of a shiny number, way too much for the time, way too much for the lot.
On a different side of the globe, the couple had had their child studying - a totally ludicrous and stupid thing to begin with, she'd reinstated - on their sweat and blood. The old man had started to suffer from blood flow irregularities and somehow his lungs hadn't done their work all too well recently. The future is pleasant; that's what they'd told themselves and not once, they'd complained. They were sinking in a pool of debt and by the time they were fortunate enough to see their son actually earn, they were neck deep in the quicksand, with goons coming twice a day to threaten.
It was when the lad offered to pay half of his earning every month, for a year and as luck had it in it's tenaciously fickle mind, the year changed everything. The cloud of expectations back home were just too much for the lad now, to handle and when, a month later his father crossed him with the permission to marry a girl he loved from, think of a lovely place, and tried to force other impudence on him, his patience burst. Cursing them at the top of his voice, when he shot out of that cottage, that was the last he was seen by them. Seemingly an overreaction, a mistake; as seen by the parents who were assured he'd come back waited for the lad who decided, somewhere on his way out, to never look back. He'd seen enough of pushing. At the start, apart from the loan installments came their monthly allowance; but as time flew, neither the son came, nor the money.
Some five, ten years later, the wife started having fever all the time, a strange shape swelling in her belly accompanied with intolerable bellows. Even then, when they wanted a doctor, they couldn't afford him. The next year saw the pain grow and the air stabbing shrieks of the woman grow along with the helplessness of the man. He couldn't see his beloved scream in pain and one day, unconsciously, he heard himself pray, 'Oh gods! Kill her.'
At first he couldn't loathe himself more for even thinking so but a month later, when the wails became her language, he went to a reverent saint one morning and told the priest to do arrange a big scale worship of the Lord of Death. He prayed for her well being and asked the gods to give her a long life ahead. He didn't ask anything for himself and asked gods to take care of their son's family. He, then carried one of the grapes offered to the Lord with him for her and fed it.
Next morning, she died. The lad never returned.
And now, looking at the stars shining in the sky through the window he'd been constantly looking through for hours for the simple reason that he couldn't move his neck, his thoughts steer towards his end, his own impending death. He thinks, would it have hurt her to die, to feel the life going out of the lungs, to feel the heart finally stop beating, to feel the soul soar out of body, never looking back?
He thinks about the lad and where he could have improvised, so as to have been a better father now. Would he be thinking the same right now, the lad, to have been a better son? He wondered how the girl must look now, besides his son, and what she thought of him. He wondered if he had any grandchildren.
He thinks about the neighbor's eldest, and now that she'd be the only one missing him, thanks her for being there. He takes relief in the knowledge that after his death, when her family would take over his paraphernalia, she'd at least get more space on the floor to sleep. He lets himself be happy about it before drifting off to sleep.
Next I hear, the damp sunlight tells me he died; and the last he thought, he sought forgiveness, from no one in particular, for he'd poisoned the grape.