Coal Sack is a dark nebula which comes up the path of the Milky Way galaxy, obstructs it, much like the evening before Elemelo’s day of hope. The scales of balance are heavily tilted against this minor entity, left stranded between a life of too much happiness and none. Yet he thinks Dockley will take it if he manages five grands before the wedding, two every month after that, and let his daughter live with him. Live? Then, Elemelo must rent a room, no more shacking with the boys from the café. That will be another one, plus their expenses. He can feel a meteor shower pound his chest. The embers are floating around the charcoal oven, gulping the air he’s blowing through a bamboo pipe. He can hear someone overstepping on the accelerator. The café boys are yelling, the cashier quibbling with a customer. His drawstring pouch with all his twenty months’ earnings, is swinging against his thigh, and the excitement of the day off tomorrow, travelling to the hamlet up in the hills to ask for Setu’s hand, her face lit up in gratitude for a promise well-kept, begins to color the western sky in a riot. His bright day waits.
Until then, gusts of wind slap the tea-stall abutting the highway. A huge grunt announces the oven is ready to warm the slightly-dented aluminum vessel for tea that the laborers have asked for.
Four hundred years after the spyglass was improvised to reveal an intricate pattern on the moon, the turtles nest on the dark patches where light is drawing a moon-mosaic on the island floor floating on Southeastern Indian Ocean. White sands and round smooth pebbles span the narrow strip between turquoise waters and tropical forest, centuries count time with interlocking braided roots of Padauk and Mahua, but can’t save the speck of earth from waves that gnaw at it and nibble away tiny bits with each tide. Leaves dance in the air and fall; the turtles wobble between the firmness of land and miles and miles of brine, hatch nestlings and look to return to their rocking life in the depths. These days, however, the sunrays also etch a precariously-inclined oil-ship on the horizon. Ripples glisten with the spill. The trees know the turtles are stranded. Soon, turtles’ remains will leave minute freckles of organically produced carbon, crystallized into graphite.
Until then, a gentle breeze sways the island like a baby’s cradle.
Five billion years since a cloud of gas and dust collapsed to form the star that scorches an empty runway, a stranded traveler observes a vulture as it swoops and lands with geometrical precision. Through the floor to ceiling glass of the terminal building, on a precise canvas of space and time, his life is hyphenated from before his week-long-visa expired and after flights were suspended. Immobilized. The orb breathes in and out, doesn’t mind the traveler frozen at the same spot gazing into the black holes of his past, distances that’ll never be breached. Forty-fifth day. The solitaire that pricks his chest through the breast pocket still smells of Heena’s itr. At the end of the corridor is the man who mops the already shiny floor every day at this hour. That’ll be two hours before someone from the Charity will be here — food-packets for souls entrapped by this massive aerodrome. Every meal he hopes will be his last in Heena’s country, so spiteful is he of her. Every moment spent reliving the final fight they’d had, that ended with her flying eighteen-hours-around-half-the-globe to be back at her parents’. Laws of attraction made him follow her. She made sure it was cosmic-dramatic. Flung the wedding ring to an elliptical orbit, it came rolling across the room to him.
Now here he was. Alone. Fallen into a deep crevice without anyone’s notice.
Until his meal arrives, he’ll watch the mop-strokes paint an abstract landscape on the floor.