Stemming glacial waters, just as old as catacomb earth, the matriarch of the Castonet mountain range tends to its dewy dress. Its winding pathways are gravelly, mine shafts are patched, and at its greying crest rests one final village. Enclosed within its solitary arch lay 50 houses of the last deathless humans. 

Their gateways seem as lustrous as it did in youth. Arched with metal, unrusted, cool to the touch. Like the mildew flowers of the forest and dandelion fluff. A resolution with time, and each with enough time makes promises to journey down to dreads beyond the town name. But there comes a day in every year when the hymns are sung, when the winter solstice reaches its criminal darkness, when the only eagles left are dead, and that promise seems to die.

The danger of crossing, village officials say, is too great. We can’t afford to lose people; we can’t afford to bleed our blood or waste our breath. The rest of the world is dead, they say. The rest of the world is dead, and the only ones left are ourselves. And everyone looks to the archway religiously, in hope every morning to see if anyone walks in. 

No one ever does.

What sounds a thrush must make in spring? What sounds birds must make when they aren’t asleep? Leoline wonders as she sings, her doorstep thatched with dust. What deserts must these particles have traversed on their planetary journey here? The universal scale of it all is too great to wonder, in my small living room floor, and the smaller rocking chair.

Her voice, unlike that of the world outside, felt soft and quieter. While the roof buckled and groaned against its endless weight of more and more snow, her light footsteps danced across the thinly carpeted floor, hurrying this way and that, stoking the flames of her cooktop. The chimney let out a constant exhaust of heat, but there was no one on the rooftop to enjoy it.

Time exists for those who wait for death. But how many times has her cooktop been cleaned? How long has she waited for something to happen? She thinks, with a growing certainty, that this waiting for hope,this hope in waiting for hope, is fruitless. 

She longs for her photographs, and the ache grew only tighter in the darkness. At times, it felt like the only thing left to feel. How impossible it is to change things, how stuck we are to our own ways, in memory and in future? Even if I do cross the gateway, the world will never be the same as it was. The spring flowers will bloom in different shades, in different banks and places, and orchids will have already died fruitless with no human hands tending them. It’s an apocalypse, and yet she couldn’t help wanting to live in it.

How much of the world will I miss?  How many sunsets does this cliff face hide? How many days have I lost, and how much will I lose? How much would I have loved outside? How much love is there left to love?  And what’s so bad with a little bleeding, a little dying, if I die with hope? This is the day. In deathless darkness, in the tepid steaming of stew, in her little cottage on a mountaintop in Castonet, She’s done with the world inside. 

She’s ready to wander outside, beyond the archway. 

Writer – Haran Thirumeni
Editor – Eva McNulty
Artist – Rufina Chan

–April 2024–

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1 Comment

  1. Nice one, Haran.

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