As soon as his anger was appeased, he regretted what he had said. Wasn’t she the source of his happiness? The center of his universe? He went out looking for her, asked other villagers, and ended up going to their favorite spot near the sea. There he saw her from far, walking into the sea. Neither of them knew how to swim and she was already deep into the water as far as her waist. What is she trying to do? He called her aloud.
And she looked back and even smiled. There was a strange terrifying tranquility in her face; yet his mind tried to focus only on the good, her smile and he told himself that she would come back now. But she turned back toward the horizon again and resumed her walk. It was only now that he understood what the expression had meant. This can’t be! She is killing herself. He was now begging her to stop – weeping and asking for forgiveness.
Hearing him cry like that she turned back and yelled a reassurance – telling him “It’s okay. Don’t cry. Here I will come back.” And she had taken the first two steps coming back to him – but slipped on the third step and was carried away by the tide. He screamed helplessly for a while until he saw her dead body floating above the tide – the sea seemed to be trying to make a beautiful gift to His mistress Moon.
No one in the village reproached him for killing the girl. The next day he started making efforts to climb the ladder. His chest already heavy with grief started hurting at the very first step. And scars too seemed to be forming on his body. And he fell to the ground on the third step. He tried again. And again – bruising himself each time and cursing himself at each step. He was filled with self-loathing and that seemed to be the only reason why he was doing it.
The villagers didn’t seem shocked at his behavior. From what some of them had told him, he knew that one could find some loners in the woods whose darlings hadn’t fallen for them or had gone away up the ladder, or had died. He too could live in the woods but he wished to run away from this place – and punish himself too for his crime. There was still plenty of food but he no longer touched it, and all noises of parties, as well as the sound of his own laughter, seemed to him, an insult to her memory.
At times he hated her for dying -at others, for being the one who died.
A few months ago, he successfully climbed the ladder. He knew people could see the sad songs in his face that he had seen in the faces of others. Songs not of physical suffering as he too had once believed them to be for he knew by now that anyone who had returned from the land of fallen won’t exchange the time spent there for anything. Amend a few other actions of course. But could he fall back again? He knew some people fell back again and again. But not him. Not again. He no longer wanted anything, no longer stopped to watch the sunsets. Screamed at stars at nights asking them to stop singing their lullabies. Once again he was trying to finish the journey as quickly as possible, not because he wished to win or was excited about the destination but because every moment he spent in this arena had now become torture.
Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan