Slithering away

There were a lot of snakes in the house and in the nearby woods. They were everywhere- in the backyard, on the porch, on the ceiling, in the trees, coiled around the old tyre swing- the snakes were everywhere.

Black, brown, green, grey, yellow, red, so many different colours, they looked like a tapestry hanging from the clothesline.

At night, they would crawl around the house, in our rooms, over our furniture, on our wooden roof...

Sometimes they fell on the floor from the roof, sometimes on the mosquito net.

They were always everywhere.

Snake charmers, witch doctors, pest control, animal welfare, the neighbours, everyone tried to help my parents get rid of them, but they kept coming back. My parents left them alone. They never hurt anyone anyway.

They were there when my mother went into labour, they were there when I was born. After my birth, they crawled over my crib and over my tiny body.

They marked me as one of their own.

Then they disappeared. No one knew where they went. They just left and were never seen again.

Sometimes, when I lie awake at night, I can feel them, slithering away.

-------- X --------

One fine morning

I walked up the long, winding trail that led up to the mountain shrine. Below, the waves roared and crashed against the rocks, one Titan against another.

The road was a scarlet ribbon of fallen flowers and leaves from the late autumn trees. The wind howled across the mountain, blowing the leaves in my face and parting the early morning fog. My boots crushed the dead leaves and my breath left little vapour trails behind me.

After a short walk, I reached lookout point one. Here was an old wooden bench- standing precariously at the edge overlooking the sea. From here, one could afford a splendid view of the horizon far out at sea, and if one was particularly fortunate, he could see the white whales out on their daily swim. I lingered near the edge for a moment and promptly returned to the ritual of painting the bench; I took out my paint cans and smeared fresh red paint on the old bench with my finger- a gesture akin to offering a sacrifice to the Gods. Years of such offerings had made the bench look like a Jackson Pollock painting, standing as a chaotic display of art in the midst of tranquil natural scenery. It was said that the bench was constructed by an artist who painted it in fresh Aquamarine, an artist who fell in love with the sea and was consequently claimed by her depths.

I left my paint cans near the bench, along with countless others left behind by believers desperate for their muse. I did not bother staying too long at this paint garden and proceeded to vantage point two.

The remnants of an old Romani camp lay decaying at lookout point two. Their old lamp post, used to signal ships out at sea, stood over the treacherous rocks of the mountain. The lamp was no longer in service. Numerous dreamcatchers and pine cones hung from this lamp post, and the dew drops lingering in the spider webs shone like diamonds. I hung my pine cone and dreamcatcher from the lamp and tied a red thread around the pole. I paused for a moment to observe the fragile beauty of the place, and then walked up the path leading to the shrine.

At the shrine, the prayer flags fluttered in the wind; in the distance, a large bell, hanging from the sturdy branches of a tree, shone a bright golden in the early morning sun. I stepped forward and observed a young monk standing at the edge of the cliff, looking out towards the sea. The wind waged a war against the mountain and the boy held on to the rocks. I moved forward with slow, deliberate steps. The boy, unaware of my presence, gazed at the sea with fervent attention and with complete disregard to the wind hitting his body.

I shouted, trying to draw his attention, but the wind drowned my voice. A mighty gust of wind hit the bell and the mountain shivered. The boy looked back. I smiled and waved my hands. The wind struck the bell again and blew with such malevolent strength that I could barely stand. When the sound died, I called him again. He looked at me, smiled, looked at the sea and jumped.

I ran towards the edge, getting down on all fours and clutching the rocks at the edge. The wind died and I peered down. The sea lashed against the lonely rocks. As I stood up, a flash of blinding white light shut my eyes and then everything turned to darkness.

I slowly opened my eyes and looked around. A shadow jumped from my bed, disappearing into the night.
-------- X --------

Knock. Knock.

Working late in to the night, Ashi decided to sleep in the conference room. Again.

Like all nights, she laid herself on two carefully placed chairs, stretched her legs and fell asleep in minutes.

'Tap.' A sound woke her up. She opened her eyes and tried to identify where the sound was coming from.

Tap. Tap. Tap. She heard it again. She sat upright and waited in anticipation for the sound to strike.

Tap. Tap. Tap. She heard it clear enough. Sharp, distinct, short taps on the door of the conference room.

The office was lying in darkness. She couldn't see anyone outside. Was that a man's silhouette she perceived? As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she felt her mind playing tricks on her.

Tap. Tap. Tap. The conference room's door was closed and someone was knocking on it.

But how? She clearly remembered locking the outer office door. Could it be Sid? He had keys to the office. But why would he come at such an hour? And why would he knock?

She searched for her cellphone and spotted it at the far end of the conference table, well out of her reach.

She tried to get up. The door creaked. She sunk back in to her chair. The door fell silent.

The phone was too far away.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Someone unseen kept knocking on the door.

Ashi froze in her seat. The door creaked again.

In one mad dash, Ashi's trembling fingers reached for the switch.

In the light, she saw the door closing again.

-------- X --------

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