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Tunnel January 1, 2008

Posted by K in Fiction.

The light at the end of the tunnel was glowing. Arjun couldn’t sleep; the red glow on his eyelids entered his dreams, turning them into nightmares. Strange how the same red in daylight reminded him of lips and strawberries. Luscious strips of fruit, the juice running down his chin when he bit into them. He suddenly craved a strawberry. Remember the days, he thought to himself, remember those days when we would climb into orchards, and steal fruit. We would be chased, but only half-heartedly because it is the job of every child to illegally acquire fruit. You’re brain is a fruit, his grandmother would tell him. Why do you need to tear your ganji, and scratch your knee when the object of your pursuit is arranged in two neat fruit bowls by the table? Your mother buys four types of fruits everyday, why don’t you eat them?

His grandmother now danced on the curtains of his eyes. Red,red,red, red sari, red bindi; more red than she had ever worn, and certainly more red than she had worn since she was widowed. Widowww-when you say it your lips pull back like you’re about to smile, then pucker up into a tiny ‘o’. Window… he jumped out of a window, which is why she is a widowww. Arjun had never seen his grandmother dance. She rolled her head, moved her arms and twisted her feet. The dance of the dead. This is how she would look if you put her together from the ashes. Arjun remembered how the ashes had remained in a jug because nobody was sure if the river was holy enough for them. Dance of the unholy dead.

Palat! Suddenly she was a nautch girl. The tunnel was intent on waking him up, because he couldn’t obviously sleep through such a dream. Nightmare. Night-mare. Nigh-tmare. Galloping streams of unconscious.

What would grandmother say if she saw him waking up, filthy and covered in patches of stink? Nothing, probably. She had never much cared for him. Look at your sister, she would always say. No mis-behaviour, so pretty, hardworking, pleasant, always smiling, good heart, respectingelderstallsimplechildreligious…. And you…dirty,grubby,confused,rude…

Grandmother flitted across his open eyes, like a movie screen. He rubbed his eyes against the tunnel and gifted his grandmother to the flat stony walls. When he turned around he could see the patch of wall where his grandmother had stuck. He giggled. Any minute he expected to see her pull a cigarette out of the folds of her pallu and smoke it.

The tunnel swallowed grandmother. Arjun sighed. The red light came back every day. The light at the end of the tunnel. Light at the distant end. From darkness to light. Moving along, steady,steady, because there is light at the end of the tunnel. What they don’t know is that grandmother is at the end of the tunnel. Dancing, a two dimensional television.

Arjun knew that the truth lay in the darkness. He turned his back to the light and grandmother, and drew in a breath. He picked his spectacles off his nose and laid them beside him. He needed to concentrate all he could. Blankness, darkness, quietness; when the three unite, you hear a boom. Arjun opened his eyes, slowly, slowly, until the black of the tunnel matched the black of his boom. There, the tunnel was a tunnel again, and the red light, still to come,a part of the future.



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