This short story became SPIXer (Most popular story) on 25 Jan 2014 and won INR 500
Aren’t memories the true ghost of our lives?
In the eyes of world, I am a culprit. But deep down I know that I am a victim, caught by the venomous fangs of an unseen enemy.
I had life once, now I have life sentence.
I vaguely remember my first day at Retribution prison. Darkness was looming all around me, air was heavy with remorse. In my chamber of darkness, I had a cellmate waiting for me. She did not even turn around as I approached, but seemed in self surrender of devotion to have neither eyes nor ears for the outer world. For quite a while we communicated with silent words. Then finally she mumbled something to break the deafening silence,
“Things are never what they seem to be.”
As she turned around and looked at me, I could not help myself asking her,
“Pardon me, but do I know you?”
“Do you not know?” She asked me sarcastically. “I was there…in one of your bad dreams.”
From that day to this, Sally has been my only ally in prison. Sally never spoke much, but we have understanding I guess. There were many occasions when I would have liked to have asked her why she was in prison, but I really feared to do so, for I knew she would ask me the same. And I know not how to answer it, for I am innocent; falsely accused of crime I didn’t commit.
Supposedly broken music box starts to move, and a nostalgic tune fills the air. I was drinking red wine, while my husband was gazing at me with smile. Life never tasted that good. It was like watching a dream that I have never awakened from. I can never return to reality, such a nightmare is this. Just as I was about to sink in my fantasy, I heard heavy footsteps approaching. Before me stood a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache. In a receding hairline the part in his hair was exact. His incipient beer belly was still oscillating. Warden had a thing for surprise visits. But he was not alone this time; he had a small child with him.
Warden asked me in his cunning voice, “Is it a wrong time inmate?”
Wrong time? Time seems a peculiar word to me now. I know not why, but that kid seemed little frightened. He glanced at me and hid himself behind prodigious physique of warden.
Without waiting for me to respond, warden continued to shower his ill remarks on me,
“Do you know why I often visit you? Because many times I feel like I am a bad guy, so I look at people like you and feel much better. “
“I thank you, Sir, for all too flattering words, but yet I assure you that I have learnt my lesson; even though I know not any bungle committed by me.” I said in the humblest manner.
Warden came forward and for a moment looked at Sally, who was my silent guardian at that moment; then quickly shifted his eyes to me. Then he mumbled in his old grumpy voice,
“You know, one thing about humans is that they quickly forget the lesson they just learned. But then, you do not count in human, you are the disciple of darkness, one in whom Satan has every possible confidence!”
I could not unheard those insolent words. Out of anger, I asked him,
“But you have not said a thing to her (Pointing at Sally). Why only I have to hear your bitter words…Sir?”
“Be careful lady, I shall not be mocked…” said the warden disgustingly and left the cell with that small child.
Prison is not just a place; it is a different world all together, the world which is reflection of your sins. Every sinful soul that dwells here is trying to seek redemption, and all get the divine retribution somewhere along the way, so did I.
In this painful time, it was comforting that someone is vouching for me, still waiting for me out there. My man used to visit me in prison for time to time. But my most recent encounter with him illuminated things differently. He was holding my cold hands, and we just looked at each other for a while.
I for moment, let my emotions flow through words,
“I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.
I would lie awake at night, thinking I am going to die in here.
I was not scared of dying, but knowing that I will not die in your arms makes me feel sad. Now I am scared.”
I could see his eyes were wet then, but he didn’t shed a single tear. He consoled me in his preachy voice,
“There is reason that all things are as they are.
You are afraid of time that stands still. But it will not take too long, for time is flowing along.
I firmly believe that we have future together, if you can live through this present.”
He then secretly handed me a small bottle and instructed me to drink as fast as possible to avoid attention of guards. It was red wine; I drank all of it in a single sip. My starving stomach felt content after a long time.
During our conversation, I once mentioned Sally, and there was sudden change in his expressions, as if he knew that name. Somehow his words and his look did not seem to accord. The situation became ominous. I might be exaggerating scene, but could it be possible that Sally was mistress of my husband? I knew there was something fishy going on lately. I felt doubts and fear crowding upon me.
There is something so strange about this place and all in it, that I cannot but feel uneasy. I have no one but Sally to talk to. Once I told her bluntly,
“My husband seems to recognize you.”
To which she said,
“Oh, does he? Emilie, it would be better if you recognize yourself.”
I was getting sick of Sally’s leaden conversations, so I asked her a more direct question,
“Sometimes I wonder, are you an ally or a foe?”
“I am both, but I am neither.” She replied.
“Mrs. Griffin?” a guard came from nowhere and interrupted our conversation.
“Yes, that would be me.” I said; unknown of what awaited me. There was someone who wanted to visit me, apart from my spouse.
He was an old gentleman, probably in last days of his life. His pale eyes were reflecting his pain. I know not why, but he was literary shivering. I doubted if he could speak a word in that condition. As I sat down in front of him he asked me in harsh voice,
“Why did you kill my daughter?”
“But I did not kill…” My words were interrupted.
“Why did you kill Sally? My poor girl…” his voice broke as he was panting heavily.
I was feeling nauseous, so I ran away to my cell, there was no one to be found. I felt many things simultaneously, but helplessness overpowered all others. I sat down quietly, as quietly as I have ever done anything in my life, and began to think over what was happening, and yet have come to no definite conclusion. One thing was for sure that I have come to realize lately, Sally has never been around me. She is no more, and somehow I am the reason behind it.
Aren’t memories the true ghost of our lives?
The supposedly broken music box started to move, and played a symphony of shivers that sent me into the deepest trench of terror. Now I remember who I am. I am the creature of darkness; I fear bright voluptuousness of much sunshine; I seek no gaiety, nor mirth. Blood is life for me.
Radiant sunshine was melting my cold body; I could feel my eyes blazing with demonic charm. And for the first time in my wretched life, I shed a tear. But it was not an ordinary tear; it was the tear of blood, blood of Sally, blood of that small kid and many others, on which I have been living till this very day. As tears (of blood) were rolling down my cheeks, I tried to hold them on my tongue. Life never tasted that good.
Sally reappeared before me and with her all the others who had become my preys, whose memories were haunting me all the time.
Though it was meaningless, I tried to make my last apology,
“It is good to see you one last time Sally. I despised you all this time, but…
I know my words are no resurrection charms, but at least I can get rid of this life that I owe you.”
I am a pitiful soul that can never meet Great Spirit. But I am not afraid of dying anymore, for Death is always on my side. The blood of dead in my veins was boiling. I had turned into living flame. Then I just closed my eyes and let my body become one with air.
Next day, warden would say that my death was natural or supernatural, but now you know that it was an execution; execution by enlightenment.
Emilie was a vampire that lived off blood of many innocents. But every magnet has two poles. Part of her was a human, unaware of evil inside her. Being vampire was her sole crime.