When I slipped my bag down outside and entered the dimly lit room, I knew, this time, today, it’s not like the other days. It was different. It was all in her face. The one which was always brimming with childlike confidence and happiness is now mature and brave. Because she knew what was going to happen and she made her peace with it.
When the creaking door announced my arrival, she put on her happiest face possible at that time and welcomed me. I sat beside her on a small steel stool.
It was uncomfortable but that’s the last thing my mind focused at that time. It wandered through every evening we shared together, sitting on our backyard, feeding the chickens. With every wave of grain she tossed on to the ground, she would say something wise. It’s not really rare for an old woman to be wise, they had a long life full of experience. But she was different, as my grandfather used to say, she was wise as a hag since the day he first met her.
Eventhough their love story was beautiful and interesting, mine with her was the best story of love I would ever hear. Since the day I born She was the one who took care of me, not by necessity but by choice. She would always say that I was her second true love. She was my first and I’m about to lose her.
“It’s not bad as it looks. I’ll be out of here in a week.” We both knew that was a lie, but sometimes pretending helps.
“Of course! you have to. Summer starts next week and I have planned so many fun things for us.” I barely held my tears inside.
“I know,” She took a deep breath and her eyes went distant. She came back with an another deep breath, “You know life is-” She suddenly stopped and held my hands tighter, “You are a smart girl, you probably already know it.”
I couldn’t pretend anymore, pretend that it’s not my last moment with her, that I’m going to see her again, that I can feel her wrinkled hands around my shoulder again. I began to broke down crying on her chest.
Maybe I’m hurting her even in her last moments, not giving her a chance to leave without any ugly display of emotions. I saw dad move behind me through the corner of my eye, but he never reached me. Her hands held my shoulders tight.
“Remember the stories I used to tell you? In front of that old barn on Saturday nights?” She always had a way with the words and if it was going to be her last story, I didn’t want to miss anything. So I sprung back to the stool and nodded my head, wiping the tears away.
“Your favorite one was the creatures of the grey!” her smiling eyes went distant again for a minute before arcing back to me, “Today might not be a Saturday, but I’m going to tell you a story, a special one at that.”
I know I can’t speak without crying so I did neither.
“Everyone on this earth leave something behind when they leave it. Something for everyone to remember them by. The Culmination of our life in a single thing.”
I patiently sat there as she took some struggled breaths.
“The world we know is not the one we live but the one we choose to see. We refuse to see the world as it is, so as not to let it overwhelm us. We keep it simple and realistic so we can keep it under our control. But the truth of it is far from it can get. Today I’m going to give you a glimpse of that real world, the one we perfectly hide from ourselves.
“The barn in our farm, where we spend our every weekend on, is the oldest structure in our family’s possession. As old as our first ancestor who came here to settle all those years ago,” She took a glance at my dad and in her eyes I saw a rebellious spirit and excitement.
“Have you noticed that the lower half of the barn is made of stones rather than wood?”
I Silently nodded again.
It’s because it was a stone structure in the first place and a pretty spoiled one at that. We constructed a barn over it with wood. We did, even though we never owned an animal. We did because we have been instructed to do so.” She always had a thing for suspense, maybe a lost dream of showmanship.
“The world I’m about to show you has the beauty and gentleness our world has forgotten.
“When our great great grandfather came here to settle from from far away. He found a nice field near the edge of the forest and decided to make it his home.
“He was trying to turn that weed ridden land to a fertile land so he can farm on it. The task was tough as it was, but with his new family, he struggled more. His wife and three year old daughter helped him as much as they could.
“As the days went by, he started to notice a few things. The field was cleaner than he left at night. Plants bearing vegetable and fruits growing nearby, around the edges of forest. Pleasant surprises popped up from time to time.
“Soon he forgot to notice these things as different but a natural phenomenon. One day, he was having his wife and daughter out on the plot, enjoying the full moon with their first meal made only from the crops grown on their land. Then happened something that shook him to the core, waking him up!”
” Ah! Yes, to the core!” dad mocked from the corner, he did that a lot when grandma drifted from the truth. It’s supposed to keep my head free of air.
” Always the cynic! Even the brain skips a generation I guess!” matching wits is like breathing for her. For a second the laughter transformed the hospital room to our living room. It won’t ever be the same without her.
“So what happened?” I asked her.
“Lost in the beauty of the moon, he slipped into sleep for sometime. Soon he woke up to her wife screaming and crying. He instantly recognized the reason.
“Next to his young daughter, lay a black krait. Yellow rings shimmering on it’s shiny black skin. Luckily the girl wasn’t bitten. The mystery was that-” she was interrupted by some violent Coughs.
Dad was quick to comfort her and give her some water,”I’ll continue, mom!”
she gave a skeptic look.
“I won’t make any cynical comments,” he crossed his heart.
“You know this story?” I asked in surprise.
“Yes, it’s supposed to be something that should be passed on from generation to generation like a family legacy. Anyway,” he continued with a serious look, “the mystery was that snake was already dead before they took notice. It’s neck was strangled. That’s when he noticed something.
“Something that’s been in front of him for a long time. Tiny transparent wings around the neck of the snake. He have seen those wings before, whenever he found a plant conveniently near the field or when the plot was plowed beyond his work. He witnessed them in abundance and out of character when there was rain. He never realized how important those wings were until then.
“Next day he searched the forest, every nook and corner until he found a banyan tree deep inside the forest. A dead banyan tree and around it were a million wings, small fragile looking thing, in near perfect shape.
“Soon he found out the reason and solved the mystery and started working on the barn. The original foundation of what we have now. You see, the banyan is a house to hundreds of organisms we are not even aware exist around us and this one’s dying body wasn’t able to do what it was supposed to do. Hence, the barn! Since that day until now, there was always a barn and fewer wings on the ground everyday!
“That’s the story. Our family’s legacy and responsibility,” he finished monotonously.
I was confused and irritated, but mostly confused. What it means? Why did granny wanted to tell this story right now? My heart crushed under my weight when I was about to ask her that.
With one of the content smile I have ever seen her on her face, she laid there. My hands trembling too much to check her breath. I screamed! I Screamed louder and louder! Hoping that the world would disappear with my cry.
On the day of her funeral, it was drizzling. Long time after everyone left, my mom came and tried to get me home, but returned in vain.
It finally stopped drizzling and I went over her words and that story again and again. I did everyday since that evening. Dad refused to talk more about it. Nobody did.
‘Everyone leave something behind’ She told.
All she did leave was a scar on my heart. Why did she do that? Why?
When I was pulling myself up, I saw. A sight that shocked me to the core.
A pair of wings right there, before me, on the ground. Two perfectly intact wings, desolate from their body, whatever it was. I had to go to the barn.
I did and it was locked from inside like how it always is. I used my hair pin to turn the latch from outside and opened the door.
It was empty. Clean and empty like a new house. Tears started flowing from my eyes and I fell to my knees clutching my heart. My friends would probably laugh if they knew I’m crying over the death of an old lady. They laughed and took leave from school when their grandparents died. I don’t care what anyone thinks though. She was my world and I can’t find my world anymore.
I rolled on the mud floor and cried until I couldn’t anymore. I stood up and decided to leave. I swung the big door shut and tried to turn the latch.
I was sure that I couldn’t do it, but the latch turned and door was locked. There and then, I saw, a bit of glow beyond the door through the small opening between the two doors.
I know! I understand! It’s all so simple! The world we hid from ourselves! I know what granny has left for me, a whole new world!