The Absence – Part 1


There was an eerie look around the village. Dusty paths Meadows filled with sand soil. In addition to making them difficult for transit, they gave it a rather rusty feel. Like it had seen the better days. A feeling that once upon a time prosperity had made this a home. Then came a time to move on. Leaving trails of dust and hopelessness. I  was seated alone in the back of the old struggling bus which managed to find extra energy after every few minutes to move ahead. I was aprehensive of everything. The weird quiet soundings which had an occasional hoot of a barn owl. We came upon a dry riverbed where the bus had more than it’s fair deal of the labourous journey. Passengers got out to give it a push, will it to expend any remaining energy and if like Jeremy says it has soul; find within it’s nooks and cranes for that extra will power to get through the sand. I did not disembark because my body was not willing to. Hours of hard bumping and slipping in and out of consciousness had worn me out.
 
We were on the road again in no time and for some reason my eyes were fixed on the left window staring far in to the distant hills. In between I could see huts which had smoke billowing. A notification that it was already lunchtime and I had had few scraps for the last 36 hours. A few of the huts had white flags on the roofs. A common protective feature for a community which had completely refused to move with times and adopt imported religions. Shrines where the gods resided where hallowed ground and it would be an anathema if an outsider like me got to peek in to one.
 
The drone of the bus, occasioned by the constant scuffles as it hit massive potholes was hypnotizing. The drone was a cue to get asleep, bumps woke me up with a start or sometimes they didn’t. The last bump made me bite my tongue, for the umpteenth time. With the trend going on I could be devoid of speech functions in the next few hours.
 
I was running in the beach barefooted. Hazy and dreamy filled with love. A scenario I witness in romantic movies when couples are watching the beautiful orange tropical sun set. I was doing the same thing, only this time the sun was not setting in-font of me. Up in the sky were rockets and space-ships constantly breaking out of earth’s atmosphere and transforming in to fiery fireballs albeit for few seconds. They created a spectacular aurora which was amplified by the dying streaks from the sun. It was a beautiful sight. I realised I had a camera in my hands and I went on a photography rampage. This went on for so long until I realised there was no end to the rockets departing. A thought dawned. None of them was coming back. All around me now was sand, dunes and more sand. Then there were numerous ground space stations where the ships were being launched from. The noise emanating from the anti-matter engines was deafening. I covered my ears but it would not stop. Then there was a whizzing sound for a few seconds, my ear drums burst. I was back on the beach, seated on the cool sand and watching the sky. The lights now were much less than before. I saw one burn and burn, then instead of dissapearing in to the outer space it plummeted back to the surface. It streaked like a shooting star but only growing bigger and brighter. It hit the ocean at some point and fizzled out. My thoughts formed, a sort of eureka moment which was a little too late.Every living soul was vacating earth, vacating the solar system. The sun was dying and with it support for  any life here. Billions of humans left to search for habitable planets far away. In multi generational ships for journeys which would take centuries and if the luck was still a bitch, millenniums.
They ships engineered for the purpose. I had briefly worked on Kano both on the Indian ocean and the low earth orbit. 
I was the only soul left on earth, freezing…I bit my tongue again really hard and woke up.
 
Maybe I will get my teeth clipped when I am back in the city. I did not know how long I had been asleep and dreaming but the landscape had not changed a bit and the bus drone was still disturbing.
‘Tell me about it’. I turned to my right to find an old lady holding a kyondo of apples staring at me apprehensively. Apples which made me salivate and had my stomach rumbling and squeaking in all sorts of funny noises ‘uh?’ I stared back at her blankly. ‘Tell me about your dream young man, in exchange of  some apples’. She said. ‘Was I mumbling in my sleep? I am sorry for that’ I said. ‘Nothing of the sort young human, I can tell you were dreaming, tell me about it’.Her eyes lay deep in their sockets, bright and constantly searching my face. I thought, what the hell. It was just a stupid dream and I would murder for some of those apples so here it comes old lady. I told her about my dream without leaving any detail. What surprised me was that I was able to remember everything about it with vivid clarity whilst I  always have problems recalling my dreams even the ones I really struggle to remember. She listened and nodded and in between she offered me an apple which fuelled the story. If I could really sell my dreams at a price then maybe I wouldn’t be so distraught and broke like I was. When the story was over I guess she was disappointed just as I was. If I could stretch it to several hours maybe I could end up with the whole basket. It was a disappointment. Was I willing myself to fall asleep and dream just for an apple? 
 
This was eerily weired. Who was this old hag anyway? Her complexion was dark and for some reason her face seemed cloudy. Her nose was long and her eyes were the only clearly discernible feature of the wrinkled face. When she spoke her voice was crisp clear, strong and commanding. She had a musky, old smell which should have been disturbing, but it wasn’t. Where had she come from? I couldn’t remember her embarking in to the bus when the journey commenced and sure as hell she did not get on at one of the numerous stops. I could have seen that. 
 
I had set out for this journey as a soul searching mission. A washed up journalist who was in and out jobs making enemies with editors on nearly daily basis. The journey which was now on it’s second month had fleeced my accounts and now I was traveling on a shoestring budget. Food had become a luxury and my stomach was constantly rumbling. The hag couldn’t have been here at a better time.
 
I don’t remember when I fell asleep again but I woke up with a shudder after we hit a rather massive pothole. This was an empty piece of sleep. No dreams at all and no memory of how it was. This did strike me as odd but who was I going to lodge a complain to? The old lady who was staring at me uncomfortably? I said hello once again. ‘Sorry ma, no dreams’ I said with a shy smile. “I know”. The reply. 
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