The Dead Speak
In the land of the dying, dog crematoriums have now been pressed in for the once human bodies. At any given time there is only one priest for forty, fifty COVID dead. Twenty pyres are lit while the rest of the dead wait in queue—of putrefying body-bags—in the stinking heat.
The kaal-baisakh howls and moans, lifting embers from pyre to pyre. Ashen trees conduct lonely funerals, showering scorched leaves on the pyres that rise up as ash again in an endless cycle. The more the fires burn; the longer, sleeker and whiter the King’s beard grows, stretching like a luxurious snow-white-velvet curtain over all the uncounted dead.
The survivors—each locked down in grieving dread and hopeless guilt— are haunted by nightmares of hell fires tonguing the flesh off their bones for having abandoned their loved one’s in their squalid deaths. The bearded King and his courtiers increase the steady supply of intubated lies in-lieu of oxygen.
Behind the flowing snow-white beard an eerie silence reigns.
But the dead, they speak.
A week back, they did not show on the concrete façade of her flat. But she had felt the grit. The acrid taste. Must be black-dust from the dug-up site across the road, lifted by the hot loo winds. She would just have to wet-mop the balcony every day instead of every other day.
But now the days have gone still, heat has shot up to 42 degrees and the specks are all over. Slick curls of ash stick to clothes set out to dry, fine soot stains mark the pale yellow wall-paint. A ceaseless smog obscures Delhi skies, stretching from crematorium to crematorium in one Black Cloud.
Varsha Tiwary‘s short stories, memoirs and essays appear in DNA-Out Of Print short fiction shortlist,2017; Kitaab; Basil O’Flaherty; Muse India, Jaggerylit, Manifest-station and Spark, Usawa, Café Dissensus, Gargoyle magazine, Outlook magazine blogs, and Shenandoah lit mag and her piece is forthcoming in Months to Years Covid Flash.