I lay on the bed. I could smell the aromatic candles of sandalwood and lemon grass which were kept at every corner of the room. The rose petals were spread all around the bed. The gentle shimmering of the chimes, the gentle breeze blowing in through the open window calmed me…
The light yellow drapes covered all around my bed. So I could sense only the soothsayer on the other side. She was calling the spirit of my dead husband.
The Latin words floating from her lips interrupted the rhythm of the wind chimes. A huge wind blew, announcing my husband’s arrival. I could not believe that he might actually be here. But the thought of him being in the same room as me again comforted me.
The soothsayer told me nothing about his arrival but I could feel his presence so strongly that I needed no other proof.
She turned backed to me and told me to follow her voice. Gently and slowly I relaxed my body and my mind. I took a deep breath and lost myself into the world of dreams…
The smell of sandal wood, roses and lemongrass, all mixed into nothingness, and slowly turned into petrichor. I opened my eyes. I was no longer in my bedroom with my husband on the other side of the drape…instead I was lying in the ruins of nowhere.
Just ruins. Moss and climbers covered the half broken walls, giving it a grand velvety look. I decided to walk straight. I could hear my own footsteps in the dead silence. I kept on walking in that labyrinth. I was tired but could not find my way out. Suddenly, I heard a pair of footsteps…I froze.
Beads of perspiration trickled down my forehead; my heart was thumping so fast that it was hard to concentrate. My legs started shivering. However, I had no choice. I turned around and followed the sound. I could not see the person making the footsteps but only hear it. It led me to a staircase. Its cases were covered with slime and moss. The railing was dangling halfway…
I was reluctant to go there. But then again, I had no choice. Somehow I had to see my husband…I reached at the end of the stairs to find a dark room filled with books.
I realized that I was here before…with my husband. It was the library of his ancestor’s house. At the center, there was a huge table. The windows were draped heavily. The whole room was dark except the table where the ray of sunlight fell through the north casement.
An old book was lying at the table where the ray was falling…nothing was visible except the book. I am drawn with curiosity and take a step forward. I wanted to see the book’s content, feel its rugged leather spine, touch each and every leaf and smell the old pages…
I saw ‘Lytton family’ in golden letters…that’s my late husband’s name… Mark Lytton.
To my horror, a pale hand came into the light and flipped the page. Now that my eyes got adjusted to the dim light, I realized that someone was sitting there. I could see a huge figure of a man. But I couldn’t see his face.
I asked “ Dear sir, could you tell me where am I??”
He said nothing.
I skipped the introduction. “What are you reading?? I believe it is Lytton’s family book?”
He remained still as an alabaster…
I stepped forward and put my hand on his left shoulder, thinking that this will get his attention. I was proved wrong. As always.
The man turned into dark smoke and vanished. I was horrified. Not sure whether his disappearance was a good sign or not, I touched the book. I was the page had the year 1999. It was the year we got married. And then I blinked.
I am walking down the grand spiral staircase. It is covered with a red carpet. My dirty off white night gown turned into my silk blue gown. My slippers turned into my glass heels. Now it all came back to me… it was the day when Mark proposed me…
People were laughing, talking. There was clinking of the wine glasses, richly accented French song floated through the merriment. The hustle bustle became more vivid as I took more steps down the case.
My glass heels were so high that I almost slipped through the last stair. But there he was. Mark grabbed my hand. I balanced. Everyone was looking at us. Mark was dressed in black. His tuxedo looked so elegant, his hair perfectly set.
No words were needed today. He just locked his eyes into mine, knelt down his knees and opened that box. I knew what was in the box. A ring. Two swans came from the back and where they clasped into each other, jutted out the diamond… it was a beautiful ring.
Even though I knew what was in the box, I felt my heart throbbing, my cheeks glowing red. I felt adrenaline gushing through. I felt young again. Everyone applauded. And I saw Mark smile the warmest smile I ever saw. I inhaled deeply and blinked.
I was again at the library. The old man was there too. The book was at its place. He flipped a page again. The date was 2004. The year when mark died.
I gasped with horror. This was the last thing on earth that I wanted to relive again.
“No…please don’t take him away from me…no please god no!!”
I tried to flip the page. I shouted at that man helplessly, while he vanished into thin air right before my eyes. But it was too late. I blinked.
I am standing on a familiar staircase. Unlike the other two, I didn’t fear to climb up this one. I knew what is in store for me. These stairs led to my attic.
As I stepped on it, it creaked. I pushed the door. I saw my husband cleaning the attic. I looked outside the window.
The sun was shining brightly. Mr. Menon was washing his car. The birds were chirping, white clouds floating in the sky, mist was still there in the grass blades of my lawn… To a complete stranger, the world seemed at peace. But I was shocked. It was summer 2015 and Mark was still alive. He died in the New Year eve in a car accident…
I could not believe my eyes. I wasn’t living a memory anymore. Even if it was a dream, he was in front of me…he was cleaning the attic that he never actually cleaned. He never lifted those cartons. He never wiped his sweat off his face like he was doing right now… he is blabbering that the lemonade I made him was bland.
“Honey. Bring me some ice tea please…”
But I didn’t move. I just stared at him… my eyes filled with tears, made his face blur.
He stopped and looked at me.“Tuhina, what’s wrong?”
I stepped forward and reached out to touch his arm. But then I blinked.
I was quite furious. I was furious at myself, at Mark, at that dark man at the library flipping the pages so fast that I could not even make sense of what is happening around me.
I was at the library again. Its dead stillness robbed life out of me. It drenched all the energy I had. All of a sudden, I was exhausted. Life without mark seemed fake, like a deceptive mirage. Like Walking in a desert in search of an ocean. An aimless. Hopeless life.
Helplessly, I saw the man flipping another page of the book. Year 2048.
I see a ramp. A nurse in white is pushing my wheelchair. There are nurses everywhere. Old women and men like me are walking with sticks…this must be a hospital or an old age home.
Mark and I never had kids. In the second year of our marriage, we found out that we could not have children. But we never thought of adopting either. We were okay the way we were. We completed each other…
A very nice vibe seemed to come off that nurse. She had her nameplate which said ‘Sarah’. She knew my name and was gently giving me some medicines. I took them and said her, “Thanks dear. But where am I? Where is my husband? Mark?”
On Hearing my words, she looked like I said something disturbing. Her pretty smile vanished. A forced one took its place. Maybe to calm me down and take hold of the situation as the doctor may have advised her. Or maybe just to calm herself.
“Err…Mrs. Lytton I think you should see Dr. Hill for your check up.”
But I insisted.My hands started to shake. Unlike the other dreams it felt real…the pain of losing Mark again was real.
“Please Sarah. Tell me” I could not say more. Tears fell like the clouds were waiting to rain for a very long time.
“Mrs. Lytton, I can understand what you are going through.” She knelt down to put a reassuring hand on my knee. Her soft voice was sympathetic towards the old lady who forgot that her husband has died. “But you see, you have to let go of him. He is not with us anymore.”
“So …So in this life, Mark died when he was 69.”I wiped my tears. “He lived a satisfied full life.”
I said this more to myself than Sarah.
“I think I should drop you to Dr. Hill. He can help with your stress.” She looked genuinely concerned.
Mark lived a normal life. He did everything that he dreamt of doing. He had his chance to live and enjoy life…
This was a comforting thought. I smiled and I blinked.
I was at the library. Nothing here ever changed. The table, the book, the man all stayed the same. I waited for the man to flip another page of the book. To show me my nightmare. To show me a life without mark.
But he didn’t. For some time, there was complete silence. And then he moved…I could hear his footsteps approaching me but I still couldn’t see him. He touched my hand. I was dumbstruck. It was Mark.
“Tuhina, you look beautiful.”
Tears again. Stupid tears.
“Sh..shut up, Mark” I choked.
“Look what you have done to yourself. You can’t do this to me.”
“Why are you here? Why did you send the soothsayer to me??”
“Because I wanted to say something”
I waited. He took both of my hands and firmly held it. His voice seemed sincere.
“Tuhina, these glimpses that I showed you are real. As real as you and me…”
Mark wasn’t real. I knew he wasn’t.
“These are the glimpses of our alternative life.”
“Mark you are dead .None of this is real.”
“Even if it isn’t, we could be together. Even if it isn’t an illusion, we will be happy.” He gently wiped my tears off my cheek.
“Please come with me. We can have all we wished for. You just have to leave your body. Let go of those earthly bonds. Come with me.”
“Mark I love you.”
I smiled. I didn’t say it for two years…it felt so great to be near him. But I said no more. I just held him close to me. My decision was final. And so I blinked.