A death bed vision
a smelly sweat sock,
a neuro physicist
a red rain boot
A New Journey
Fetishism is weird. That is what I would have said years ago.
Flash forward, and I have spent a major part of my adult life living with a foot fetishist. Smelly sweat socks lying around for months and the shoe rack becoming a holy place – love makes everything acceptable.
The day Rob told me about his fetishism, I felt compelled to share something about myself.
“Rob, there’s something I need to tell you too.” I said after a pause, “You see, I wrote a book,” and before he could presume, I went on, “but the thing is, it… it was probably the most hated book of human history…”
I was silent.
“Later,” I mumbled.
Later came sooner than I expected. That night, I told him my story.
“My father had been in a coma for three months. That day, I had gone to the hospital for a regular visit. I was in the parking lot when my phone rang and I was told that my father had gasped.
I hurried to his room. His eyes were closed and he hadn’t moved since that one gasp.
After a few minutes, he spoke up, “Mom!” and I was taken aback. Grandma had died years ago. I thought he was hallucinating. All of a sudden, he started talking of the afterlife. “Is it that good, Mom? I can’t wait to be there!”
At this point, I was so scared. Was he hallucinating, or was he really seeing things? Was he improving, or was this the end of his journey?
“Clara? You too?” he said, and horror filled me.
Mom had been in the crash with Dad. She had lost her life only a few days later – a fact not known to Dad, who was in coma at that time. If he was hallucinating afterlife, why was he seeing Mom there?
Later, my father began giggling in his trademark way. And then, he talked about Grandma finally having changed her shoes. Changed her shoes? Grandma always wore red rain boots and after her death, my father used to laugh that she would be wearing them wherever she was. How could he hallucinate something so contrary to his expectations?
Dad passed away soon afterward. But he left me questions. What they led to was a lot of research on deathbed visions. I was so excited I wanted to tell the whole world about it. And I ended up writing that horrible book, the book that was ‘so completely unscientific and a compilation of rubbish’,” I put my hands on my face.
“It’s so horrible, Rob. I mean all those things they said and wrote! And the worst part? My Dad’s story was personal to me! And they commented upon it as if…,” I waved my hands angrily in the air.
Thirty years later, the anger is gone. As the flashback scenes stop swirling before my eyes, I see Mom and Dad coming towards me. And I see colors – colors that I had never seen before. This is not the end of a journey, but the beginning of a new one.
I looked at my father in morbid fascination. No better study subject than he who I knew all my life. He was restless, confused – it was going fast. The previous night he seemed to improve, a lucid interval, after taking a plunge from the stairs. A man deep into his seventies shouldn’t be trying to paint walls over a staircase, I told him that, asked him to wait till the weekend so I could help. He was never one to wait or give in.
“Daphne is here.” He said, it broke my heart. Neurons in his brains firing like crazy, their death throbs, soon ceasing to function – a death bed vision. “She’s not here, dad.” I said, pressing away my tears, “Daphne is gone, remember?” “No, she’s here.” He pointed across the room. “For me.”
To be certain I glanced over my shoulder. Nothing. I smiled, as a neurophysicist I ought to know better. My little sister and mother died in a car accident twenty-five years ago. Dad raised me but never got over it.
“Daphne died when she was nine, dad. But I’m here.” I said and squeezed his hand. “She’s wearing her favorites.” He said and made eye contact shortly, “Remember her boots?” “Of course.” I said. “You kept one in the living room. Even the smelly, sweat sock she wore.” “So I could smell her.” He said and closed his eyes. “I know, dad. I know.” I lay my head across his chest – a grown man aged thirty-eight holding onto his father like a toddler. The nurses could see me from the nursing unit, I didn’t care.
If I only had my little sister, this was hard all alone. I never bothered to marry, start a family, this was easier. If I didn’t have anybody, I couldn’t lose anybody. But I had him and now he was going away too. Burning tears down my cheeks. My dad’s hand on my head. Even dying he was trying to look after me.
“Mr. Newell?” The nurse said, “Would you like to get a coffee? We’ll keep an eye on your father from the nursing unit. Have a few minutes rest.” “Oh, yeah. Sure.” I said wiping away my tears, “I’ll be back in five, dad.”
The nurse smiled and nodded, she understood. Down the hall I got a cup, sipping as I stared outside from the large window overlooking the city.
“Mr. Newell! Mr. Newell!” The nurse, hurrying over, I froze – I knew. “I’m so sorry! He just slipped away. It was very peaceful.” “Oh, dad.” I sighed and closed my eyes. “I’m so sorry about your little girl, she must’ve been so sc-” “-My little girl?” “Oh? She’s not your daughter? A little blond girl who was in the room with him? His grandchild? She ran out as soon I noticed something was wrong. She forgot something-” “-What?! What did she forget?!” “One of her red rain boots?”
Saloni Singla, Vance Rowe, Bello Oluwadamilare, Mamie Pound
A cracked china water pitcher
A star shaped opening
Sent back in time to teach a caveman to create a wheel or to start fire because (fill in the blank).
Despite Jerome’s qualms owing to the caveman theme, his twin children’s tenth birthday party had been a success. Clara and Ralph, gossiping of their friends’ costumes, were refusing to go to bed. His wife fiddled with a stone arrowhead that had come loose from its stick.
To Jerome’s horror, Ralph asked, “Dad, can we have a caveman-themed story today?”
Jerome had forgotten that it was his turn for Story Saturday. Sarah created stories out of her head, but not he.
Sarah looked up, her expression torn in sympathy and amusement. She would have gladly taken over, but the children insisted on their parents’ following turns.
Setting down the arrowhead, she said, “Well, let me help daddy with the beginning. Once upon a time, there lived a caveman who invented the first language but didn’t share it with anyone…” She hoped that it would serve as a good prompt.
“Is that true?” Ralph blurted.
Clara frowned. “No silly. We can’t know what happened in past.”
Sarah interjected, “We can, because the caveman wrote on cave’s walls.”
“So what did he write?” asked Ralph.
Sarah began to answer, but Clara intervened, “Daddy will tell.”
“Oh! Umm,” Jerome fumbled, and then in a sudden burst of inspiration exclaimed, “You see, he was surrounded by hungry beasts, and he didn’t know how to light a fire, so he wrote his dying note.”
“But then, did he die?” Clara’s inquiry erased the smug look on Jerome’s face.
After a moment, Sarah came to the rescue, “Meanwhile, in the future, the time machine was invented, and the cave inscriptions being read, the authorities decided to send one of their men to save the caveman.”
Clara protested, muttering how it was dad’s story, not mom’s. She stood and began jumping up and down, flailing her arms.
The hem of her dress hit the china water pitcher on the table behind her. It fell and broke into pieces. The fact that it had already been cracked was a small consolation to Sarah. Clara apologized sheepishly.
Before Sarah said something, Jerome forced a smile, “So the agent from future sat in his time machine and pushed some buttons.” He scrunched up his face and made bleating and yelping sounds in a pathetic attempt. Everyone erupted in laughter.
Gaining confidence, Jerome continued, “He entered a tunnel of blinding white light.”
“There was a round opening at its end,” Jerome said.
“I hate round,” Ralph shouted.
“Which shape do you like then?”
“I like diamonds and stars.”
“A star shaped opening then,” Jerome sighed. “He taught the caveman how to light a fire which would scare away the beasts.” He made cackling sounds in the midst of laughter. “In return, the agent asked the caveman to share his language with the world, and that’s how, the first language came to be.”
After a polite applause, the children were taken upstairs by Sarah to put them to bed.
Newton’s theory of relativity, Jerome thought to himself, the future exists, the past is not gone.
“Is the story true, mamma?” Ralph’s voice floated down.
“It could be,” was the reply.
The sparse leaves bristle under a spell of echoes. It is raining hard; yet the greenness fades, receding gradually to the edges, leaving a sea of deep brown and you to trudge through the engulfing oblivion.
Everyone had gathered like a roughly drawn arc in the hot afternoon air, debating how best to save the dying fire. You listened absent-mindedly as beaks tweeted how an elf had tied the clan’s fate to a fire whose glow wanes with each passing of time. An hush fell on the group, a massive silhouette darkened the arc’s exterior as Initshe emerged from a dark skyline flustering at first, then with a hunched gait strode to its bull’s eye. Without words, he pointed at you with an enormous totem, covering half the arc with its shadow. Wings fluttered in protests, but the powers-that-be have weighed-in and chose you. You are to travel the continuum and defy time, but pay heed to the sprite that deceives for only him could cause your failure. He handed over to you the totems, a stone arrow head, a pitcher and another heed against weariness. Posterity records:
The little Ingonyi, its wings and quiver
against some fury,
to save the flames in bravery
or folly, only to suffer a fate both weary
Your steps betray your doubts as you traipse through the void and its vastness which swirls like a whirlpool of emptiness. Why should an entire clan be tied to the fate of flames and fumes? You question as the rhythm of uncertainty gives fatigue to your wings.
With fate of many on his shoulders,
Idada forges on in this quest
weary and wobbling like the boulder,
which lie unrest
in torment of him and his brothers.
You seek for respite, momentarily forgetting the heed, you had to reach him at all cost and pay the price: present him the spring of Styx in a pitcher. He alone could rekindle the fire of the land. You lie for a while with the totems by your side. The world can wait.
It caught his eyes, a trunk
adorned but fallen,
from which emerges a unicorn,
through a most celestial form,
a star shaped opening.
You leap up as it glides towards you; a hand relaxes on the arrow with a fastened stone head and the other a bow. You marvel at it, lost in its admiration you do not see it turn a Leprechaun till its wand hits you in the face. The arrow head and the pitcher drop. You drop too, into a strange emptiness.
Someone rudely nudges you. You find yourself standing in a bar with an empty tray.
“You’ve been at it again, Uche!This Insomnia is really a buzz kill”. She moves away and mutters before disappearing:
“This is the fourth water pitcher you have dropped this month and you know how much Austen hates cracked China wares. He would surely fire you this time”.
I Dream of Grog
John, an anthropology student, was on his way to the university when something hit him on top of his head quite hard and knocked him out. When he came to, he saw what seemed to be a beautifully decorated antique water pitcher made of china. It was cracked. He rubbed his head and felt a knot growing where he was hit. John looked up at the tall building but had no idea where the pitcher was dropped from and was very surprised that it wasn’t broken in shards. John slowly got up to his feet and carried the pitcher with him to have it checked out at the university.
As he walked on, he heard a strange noise in the street and wondered what the heck he was looking at. Vehicles had rubber triangle shaped wheels and made thumping noises as they turned. He wondered what was going on and also wondered if he was hit on the head harder than he thought. John still thought about the tires in disbelief as he continued walking. He then heard something move in the pitcher and saw an object when he looked inside. John dumped it out into his hand and was amazed at what he saw. It was a stone arrow head of sorts and it was oddly star shaped.
John was excited by this find, more so than the pitcher find. It is something that he has never seen before. When he got to the Anthropology building, John saw words burned into the wall.
YOU HAVE TO HELP US! GO BACK AND SEE GROG!
“Grog? What’s a grog? Go back where?” John asked aloud.
Then a star shaped hole opened in the granite wall. He looked in his hand and saw the arrow head. It was the same shape. Slowly, he placed it in the hole and the earth shook slightly as the wall opened up and a portal of light appeared. A beam of light pulled him in. He seemed to be in a strange land. He walked around and saw a caveman pulling a cart with stone wheels but the wheels were triangle shaped. Then it began to make sense to him. He had to go back in time to help a caveman make the wheel because he did it wrong. John saw that he was struggling with the cart so he stopped him.
Grog was startled by the strange man and the strange clothes. John looked in his cart and saw more triangle shaped wheels and his tools. He pulled a wheel out of the cart and set it down next to a large rock. He then grabbed the tools and used them to shape the wheel from triangle to round. When he finished, he rolled it and Grog was amazed. He smiled and grunted then did the same thing John did. Suddenly, the portal appeared and John was taken back to the present.
He woke up to the sound of people asking him if he was all right. He looked around and saw a shattered water pitcher on the ground and round tires on the vehicles.
He pushed the thumb lock on the bathroom door, turned off the light and peeled back the shag rug.
A beam of star-shaped light shot to the ceiling. He lay his glasses on the sink and pressed an eye to the cold tile floor.
Through this hole he looked back 7,000 years.
They sat cross-legged, as always. A hollowed stone arrowhead pipe passed between them.
Raucous laughter and pungent smoke filled the cave. A skinny man in an animal hide held a small fire to the pipe, while a rotund, unibrowed caveman held it to his lips. He then removed it and examined its end. No flame. The pipe was passed again. One after the other tried the pipe, with no luck.
The boy peering across the space-time continuum, pushed himself up to his knees. He pulled open the drawer to his left, then the one above it, digging past Benadryl and Pepto Bismal, Q-tips and cotton balls, until he felt the baby blue Bic lighter. With a flick, a spear of orange flame shot up, casting odd shadows from the toothpaste, squeezed in its middle, lying on its side.
He drew back the shower curtain and set the lighter in the soap dish, kicked off his shoes, dropped his pants, shirt and underwear on the bathroom floor and jumped into the portal, sending an antique china pitcher to the floor.
“JImmy, what was that?” His mother’s voice was muffled through the door.
“The uh, flower thingy, but it’s okay,” he called back, held his breath.
“Supper’s almost ready.” Her footsteps continued down the hall.
“Ok, Mom,” he yelled, and turned the time-travel dial into the “on” position.
He braced himself. Ages of humanity washed over him as he sailed backward in time. Eyes closed, he felt the soap dish for the lighter. And before the water ran cold, he was there.
He grabbed an animal skin from the tree and wrapped it around himself.
The cavemen were grumbling, scratching their head. One guy was grinding a stick into another stick between his palms.
“Guys,” he called. One by one they turned toward him, smiled.“I thought we talked about this, last time.”
They looked at each other, then at him.
“You need all-weather matches, or a lighter, a cave can be damp.” He walked to the center of the men and held up the tiny blue implement, sent up an enormous flame. A collective gasp echoed in the stone chambers.
“Here you go,” he tossed the Bic to the big sooty guy, wearing a bone in his ear.
They all jibber-jabbered but he upheld his hands.
“Can’t stay this time. Meatloaf and Mac n’cheese,” he said. They nodded in understanding and he waved goodbye.
“…been in there for-ever, Jimmy!” His mom knocked again.
Lights on, rug back in place, he wiped steam from the bathroom mirror. Only a slight smell of smoke…and an imperceptible rumble beneath his feet. ”She’ll never suspect a thing,” he mumbled.
And a scarcely audible cheer sounded in the distance.