I was sitting alone on my balcony, sipping my sixth beer, and almost at the verge of falling into a drunken sleep. It had been a particularly bad day. The glare of the moon hurt my eyes and the crickets sounded like a marching band; I felt myself slipping into a pit of despair and I couldn’t resist. I started dreaming of strange things.
Soon, I was awakened by music — the soft sound of a piano — drifting out of an open window and being carried down to me by the summer breeze. Debussy’s Clair de Lune. It wasn’t a recording, for the hands that played it often faltered, and yet managed to maintain a perfect emotion. Each note struck my brain like a hammer; soon I was fully conscious and in tears.
Who lived there? I had never bothered to find out. The piano kept on ringing in the moonlight, its volume rising and falling with the wind while I stood transfixed under its spell. For a moment, I reached out at the ever distant utopia and touched it with a fingertip.
There used to be thousands of fireflies in the woods surrounding APC Roy Boys’ hostel. The area was mostly devoid of artificial light (the streetlights seldom worked), and all you could see on a warm summer night were the stars and the little glowing bugs.
Fireflies are fascinating creatures. The male flies about, flashing his light. The female sits in the nearby trees and signals back to the male of their choice. She is extremely picky. Once a male is chosen, they mate throughout the night.
Every species of fireflies has a different signaling pattern, like Morse code. But some species eat others. They copy the female signalling pattern of the other species — a male comes looking for sex but gets eaten instead. These predator species are aptly called “femme fatale”.
We can deceive the males too, with a torch, if we know the exact pattern of response of a female of that particular species.
I had come across the topic of fireflies while studying non-linear dynamics. Several species in South-East Asia display a special property of synchronization, where huge populations turn their lights on and off at the same time, resulting in a very pretty display — entire forests light up and go dark following a steady rhythm. How do so many individual fireflies manage to agree on a single rhythm? The answer is very simple, yet it is not completely understood from a mathematical perspective. (Watch this wonderful video for more.)
Fireflies also die together. They disappear overnight, only to be seen again an year later.
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.”
“You wrote that?”
She smiled at his desperation. He laughed at her innocence. For a moment, both were happy.
The light in his eyes was not a mere reflection of the surroundings. His pupils burned with unwavering hope, insatiable desire, and infinite curiosity — an everlasting flame that originated deep within, from the very fabric of his soul. In the darkest and coldest of nights, I’d often find myself conversing with this remarkable boy and basking in his warmth.
I had never seen anything like it. I found myself in the middle of a grassy meadow which stretched out till the horizon in all directions; the sky was an unearthly blue and a light breeze fanned my hair, carrying with it the sweet smell of honey-roasted bread. At some distance, a little girl was crouching near a patch of flowers and poking at something with a stick.
She looked up as I walked nearer. There was no mistaking those bright green eyes and the flowing red hair.
“You can see me?” I asked.
She didn’t answer, but continued staring with slightly parted lips. After a while I realized she wasn’t looking at me, but through me. It was only natural.
I stepped aside and followed her gaze. She was watching a boy with black hair. He wore a black overcoat and waved around a twig as if it were a wand. Recognition flooded through me, and I felt a sudden surge of heat as I pulled my face out of the Pensieve.
“What did you see?” Lily asked me.
“One of your dreams from long ago.”
“Ah, it’s rare to find dreams in there,” she said, “They are so tricky to catch!”
Why Severus? — I wanted to ask. For a while, I watched her nursing little Harry, peaceful and happy, and decided against it.
It was inevitable. All three of us realized it as soon as we found the documents. We hastened through the packed streets, sweating underneath our overalls in anticipation of what was about to happen.
Timmy was undoing the apartment locks when Sid pulled out his gun and promptly shot him in the head. He then turned towards me.
“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead,” he said.
His brains spilled out before he could pull the trigger. Timmy had somehow managed a clean shot with his dying strength. I carefully gathered the briefcase and walked away from the unfolding pools of blood.
In murder, you do not stop for quotes.
I found her sitting alone in the gentle snowfall, facing away. She wore a white woolen cap below which her black hair hung carelessly, speckled with tiny particles of snow. I could hear her muffled sobs in the silence.
Unable to find my words, I sat down beside her. She wiped a tear and held out a mittened hand. A snowflake landed softly on the wool and I watched it melt into the warmth.
Why is everything beautiful so fragile?
Note: This is my first post for the 7 Days Writing Challenge by our college’s Literary Club. It is similar to the 30 Days Writing Challenge which I started in 2013 but left midway.