The Twilight Beyond Darkness
The Twilight Beyond Darkness
A loud buzzing noise jolted me awake and I sat up with a jerk. My heart pounded at a fast pace and I could hear it beat aloud with my ears. My shoulders heaved as I panted. My mouth parched and dried. Eyes dilated with fear. It took a moment for me to become aware of my surroundings, and eventually, I realized it was the same dreadful dream, the one I have every night since that incident three months ago. Wiping away sweat from my face, I scanned the area. The alarm was still blaring. I bore it for a moment before smashing the snooze button. To any person of twenty-five in this world, it can be the most annoying of all noises and I can bet on that. But, for me, it was kind of a lifesaver. It never failed to drag me out of my nightmare.
It was past eight now. I had an hour to reach my office. Tossing aside the comforter, I got out of the bed and shuffled toward the bathroom.
“Hey, Karan!” A voice called me from behind.
I reached for the cup of hot green tea that I had just prepared for myself and turned. It was Amit, my office colleague. I managed a smile.
“What’s up, man?” He slapped on my shoulder. “I heard the boss scolded you today.”
I took a sip of my tea and settled down on a chair nearby and muttered: “I couldn’t complete the work he had assigned me last week missing a critical deadline.”
Amit took a seat in front of me. “Dude, what's wrong with you?” His eyes widened as he said that. “You had a whole week’s time, SEVEN! days and you couldn't finish it?”
I didn’t respond and took another sip.
“Karan.” He glanced sideways before speaking. “Listen, you’re new here. You shouldn’t be messing around with the boss’s temper. You’ll have—”
“I’ll leave this job.”
I banged my fist on the table and stood up hurriedly. “I said I’ll leave this shit job.” My voice was loud enough to gather around people’s attention. There was silence and at once all eyes were on me. Sighing, I facepalmed and sat down again. What was happening to me? Sniffing, I removed my hand and blinked back the sudden scalding tears. “I’m messed up.”
“Hey, hey, easy man.” Amit pressed my hand. “If there is anything you want to share I’m all ears. You know you can trust me. Whether it’s money or a piece of advice, I can help you with that.”
I shifted my gaze from his face to the empty cup. What he said comforted me a bit, and I decided it’s time I shall open up to him regarding my recent nightmares.
The coming weekend, I took Amit to the biggest amusement park in the city. The place was a cacophony of screams and laughter, crowded with people of all ages, and the surrounding air loaded with a blend of aromas. The strongest of all was the smell of spices flowing out of the food stalls nearby. We passed the metal benches, a few ornamental trees and hedges to reach the centre of the park. Children and adults thronged the area, some waiting in queue for their turn on the ride, some watching others enjoying the ride and some loitering around. The line in front of the giant spinning Ferris wheel was longer than the one outside the haunted house. I wondered why would anyone even pay someone to scare the shit out of them. A swinging ship crammed with screaming folks swayed on my right. It was difficult to differentiate if it was the haunted house or the swinging ship that emanated the loudest shrieks. Amit placed a hand on my shoulder. I shot him a look and then my gaze traversed toward the spot that still had the broken pendulum ride.
“Why have you brought me here, Karan?”
I didn’t answer, instead, with hands in my pockets, I sauntered toward the nearby wooden benches. As I neared it, all of a sudden a light breeze rustled the leaves of the trees beside. Suddenly the temperature seemed to drop sending shivers up my spine. I scanned around the other trees in the area, but they stood still as if they were frozen for ages. Weird. Again I glanced the Rumba of the leaves above as I settled down on one of the benches. Amit followed and sat beside me.
“Isn't it the same pendulum ride that met with an accident a few months ago.” He asked noticing my gaze fixed on it.
“Three months ago, on the third of February,” I said.
“You remembered the date?”
I forced a smile.
“What is it, Karan? You wanted to tell me something.”
I sighed and composed myself to begin narrating the fateful incident. “Neha. An epitome of beauty. A paragon of virtue. I had met her last year at my previous company. She had joined my team as a fresher. In a few months' time, she impressed me with her intelligence and hard work. As the days passed by, we became friends and then best buddies. Eventually, the feeling of love sprouted in our young hearts. But, we never disclosed how we felt for each other until that day.” The memories of her happy face flooded my mind’s eye, and I paused.
Amit’s voice broke my minuscule reverie. I smiled and then continued. “Being an introvert, I knew I could never muster the courage to propose to her and thus had decided to wait until she confesses her love for me.”
“And she did?”
I managed a nod. “The day arrived. It was a Sunday, and we had agreed to spend the evening here in this park. For some reason, she was very happy that day. When I asked, initially, she shrugged it off. But, later she professed her love for me.” Sighing, I closed my eyes and rested my head against the back of the bench. The wood pressed into the back of my skull.
“What happened next?”
I opened my eyes and witnessed the stillness of the leaves above. “I was on cloud nine. I didn’t know how to react. It had finally happened. She had done her part and now it was my turn.”
“You answered her?”
I sat straight and shook my head. “Instead, I decided to tease her a little.”
“What did you do?”
“I said I didn’t believe her and she needs to prove that she isn’t faking.”
“And you regret it now?” Amit placed a hand on my shoulder.
Tears welled in my eyes.
“Hey. What happened?”
“In spite of knowing that she was scared of heights, I demanded her to take the pendulum ride.”
“And she did?”
I sniffed and nodded. “Minutes into the ride and it got snapped midair. Four people died on the spot and… and—” My voice choked and I broke into tears.
Amit hugged me and patted my back.
“And she was… was… one of them.”
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“I couldn’t even tell her how much I loved her. It was all my fault. I forced her into it. I can never forgive myself.” I cried with great shuddering sighs.
“Easy man, no one could have thought of it.”
I sniffed and wiped my nose with my hand. “But, now I guess she’s accusing me of her death.”
“What? Why would you say that?”
“Because since the day she died till today, every night she had haunted me in my dreams.”
“What’s the dream?”
With folded arms, I stood and walked away from the bench. Staring at the pendulum ride, I began. “I’m standing on a cliff and she is levitating at the edge of it. Her head is tilted to one side and a gentle breeze is billowing her long dark hair. I couldn’t see her face as it’s shadowed by the twilight. I don’t know whether she is smiling at me or not, but her stillness suggests that she is inviting me to jump off the cliff.”
I turned. Amit’s mouth was agape and there was horror in his eyes. “Aren’t you doing anything about it? I mean, you should go and see some psychic.”
“I can’t say about the psychic thing, but I guess I know what I must do.”
“And which is what?”
It’s obvious I wasn’t going to share my plans with Amit. I dropped him near his house and then headed toward the suicide point—the infamous cliff of our city. I had hoped the place to be empty at this hour of the day and I wasn’t wrong. It was twilight, and a cold light breeze was blowing, the setup was just like my dream. I pulled up a few yards away from the edge and rested my throbbing head on the rim of the car’s steering wheel. Her memories knocked on my psyche and I burst into tears. Stumbling out of the car, I knelt beside the door and screamed her name. “Nehaaaa!”
As the name echoed, I wept aloud, rocking back and forth. “I know what you want from me. I’m coming to you, my love.” I said between sobs. With that, I rose to my feet and staggered towards the edge, continuing brisk walking until my feet felt no ground. I was in the air, alight, and a loud whoosh of wind overflowed my ears. My clothes flapped just like the multicoloured prayer flags flutter swiftly in the strong gusty mountain wind. My eyes were closed and all I could portray in my mind was her pretty face. I continued falling until pitch-black darkness embraced me and then it was all end.
“Karan! Karan, wake up, it’s me.”
A soft buttery voice echoed in my ears. I forced my eyes to open and scanned around with an effort. There she was at a distance, Neha, hovering midair. I found my feet and sprinted towards her. She touched down on the ground, her face beaming with eternal bliss. We hugged each other. Then she pulled away.
“Come with me.” She held my hand and dragged me along with her.
Amidst the directionless faint indigo mist, everything here, be it the trees or the birds, had a hazy golden highlight glow of its own. Neha had one too. We stopped near a glistening bench, and she gestured me to sit beside her. I sat and touched the glittering armrest. “What is this place?” I turned to face her.
She gave a smile that sent my pulses racing. Pulses? Wait. What? Am I not dead yet?
“No, you aren’t.” She replied.
“You can hear my thoughts?”.
She nodded and flashed a grin. “You’re with me in the after-life world, Karan.” Every time she spoke, a subtle echo trailed her voice.
“But, you said I’m not dead?”
“You’re in a coma.”
“Coma? But, why? You wanted me to be with you, isn’t it?”
“Never. Why would I want you to die?”
“Then all these months since your unfortunate death why did you haunt me in my dreams?”
“It wasn’t me, Karan. It was you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You were not letting me go. Day and night, you just kept on thinking about me, and hold yourself responsible for my death.” She held my hands in hers. It was cold but smooth like silk. “You were haunting yourself with my thoughts.”
“But, it’s true, I’m the cause behind your—”
“Shh!” She placed a finger on my lips. “It was my destiny. Nothing else.”
“I could’ve died anyway.” She gazed away from me.
“But, now what? How am I supposed to spend my life without you?”
“I love you, Neha. I wish I hadn’t forced you—”
She interrupted me with a kiss on my lips. “I love you too, but you have to understand that we weren’t destined to be with each other.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Here, in the after-life, there’s no barrier. Spirits know everything, be it the past, present, or the future. And, I know about you.”
“And, that is?”
“You’ll have to leave now.”
“But, I will not go without you.”
“I’m gone. There is someone waiting for you. You’ll fall in love with her, and spend the rest of your life with her.” As she said, she started dissipating into the air.
“Who?” Anxious and confused, I asked.
“She is a good soul and a doctor by profession, just made for you.” She winked and smiled before melting completely into thin air. “Goodbye, Karan.” Her voice echoed for the last time.
All of a sudden, a black mist surrounded me and—”
Beep! Beep! My brain responded to a consistent sound, and I opened my eyes still blurry with sleep. Everything here was white, white walls, white door, except the curtains. They were forest green. I was in a hospital bed, put on oxygen, and a heart monitor was latched onto me. A drip-feed inserted to my left hand. An empty blood bag hung on a steel stand beside the bed. The door opened, and in came a doctor. A doctor?”
“Hello, Mr. Karan. How are you feeling now?” She didn’t wait for me to respond and checked my pulse.
I removed my oxygen mask. “What happened to me, doctor?” My voice was low.
She walked towards the heart monitor and adjusted something. “We found alcohol in your blood, an alarming amount of it. You met with an accident and lost a lot of blood. For past seventy-two hours, you were in a coma.”
“Coma?” That’s what Neha had said.
She turned to me and nodded. “You have broken a lot of bones, and you aren’t going anywhere for a month. I’m your doctor, you’ll have to listen to me, and fair as per my instructions if you want to heal quicker.” She said and smiled.
Her smile resembled that of Neha and everything flashed in a moment what she had said to me. I smiled back with disbelief.