You Live Only Once

A strange heaviness seated itself on my chest. Like a mountain was resting on it and I could hardly breathe. I was struggling inwards, calling out to him. He didn’t answer me. Maybe he was not home. I called again out of sheer despair. The weight was pushing the last breath out of me.

I opened my eyes to pitch darkness. Where was I? I tried to remember the last moments of my day. Nothing what so ever came to me. Blank. Scared to death of the shrill darkness that is engulfing me. Where am I? And where is everybody else?

I am  lying down on a bed, only it is too damp and cold for a bed. It has a rustic scent to it. I tried to lift my hands and feel it with my fingers. But I couldn’t move them. They were too heavy for me to lift. I could hardly move any part of my body. Like every muscle in me was attached to a stone by a string and hung down on the mercy of its weight. Struggling with myself to move an inch, I got tired after all futile attempts.

It must be the smallest room they have, I thought. Or was I in some sort of box in a large hall? What was the last thing I did? I could remember nothing.  The cold, damp air rested itself on my thoughts.

After what seemed like an eternity to me, I heard some noise. Quiet whispers closing in, and a number of slow dragging steps. I just heard the murmurs which did not make any sense. Were they enemies or were they friends? Should I scream out for help, or should I stay still, lifeless? I decided to remain silent for sometime, at least till I could know somehow where their loyalties rested. The noises turned louder. They were all speaking continuously in a quiet manner, familiar yet strange in a way I couldn’t tell. It is when I heard his name. Someone called his name! I shrieked out in sheer joy of hearing it. What a relief. He was there. I cried out in fear and joy.

“Hamad!”

“Hamad!”

“I am here. I am here.”

I was calling out to him, but he was not responding to me. I screamed my lungs out calling him again and again. But to no avail.

“Stop screaming. A firm voice cut through the darkness.”

I stopped, stunned by its abruptness.

Before I could think of what to say next, two beams of light illuminated the dark chamber I was in. My unaccustomed eyes shut to their sudden sharpness till I could see the orange chambers of my eyelids. I could hear them come close to me.

“Sit up.”

I opened my eyes, but was blinded by the sheer sight of them. Two handsome beings sat themselves near my right and left shoulder. Their illuminated faces cast away all the darkness. They smiled at me with soft gentle eyes. I felt my heart opening and pump out peace and calm through my entire body. I gazed from right to the left. While the right one sincerely smiled at me, I noticed a twitch in the smile of the left one. Their hypnotizing beauty rendered me thoughtless. These are how angels must look like, I thought to myself.

Who are you? I wanted to ask. But my words were caught in my throat.

“What are you screaming for?” the left angel asked me.

“I was calling out for Hamad. I want to get out of here.”

“Get out of here,” the left angel smirked at me. “No one gets out of here, once they are in here.”

“Who are you? Why have you kept me here?” I looked away from his slyness to the right angel, who sat watching me quietly.

“He is right. No one gets out of here. You are to stay now. Forever.”

“Forever! Are you kidding me. I can’t stay here forever. I have a life. My family. Hamad will come looking for me. He will get me out of here. You can’t keep me for long.”

Just then, the noise grew louder. I cried out louder.

“Hamad. Help me. Hamad. I am here.”

“Quiet, young lady. You are hurting my ears with your loudness.” The left angel spoke again.

“Hamad”

“Dad”

“Mom”

“Help me.”

“Please, I am here.”

“It is of no use, young lady. They cant hear you. They cant help you.” the right angel spoke this time.

His tone of voice sank me into an unnerving fear.

“Who are you guys? What do you want from me?  Why have you kidnapped me? Tell me. Look if you want money, just ask Hamad. He will give it all to you. Just let me go. Please let me go.”

The left angel looked at the right one with raised eyebrows before turning to me in contempt.

“Your money is of no use. He spent all of it on you but still couldn’t save you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked trying to make sense of his absurd assertion.

The voices grew louder and louder.

“Now lets get to business,” the right angel took out a scroll from his robe and a shimmering silver white quill.

“What is your name?” He asked.

“Ayah.”

“How old are you?”

“I will be thirty tomorrow,” I smiled.

“So you think,” the left one exclaimed but was silenced by the stare from my questioner.

“What is the purpose of your life?”

“To stay happy, work, be successful in everything I do. To enjoy my life. After all you only live once. But… I don’t understand. Why are you asking me this?”

Suddenly, something shook over us. Loud thuds, like someone was beating the ceiling.

“What is that?!”

Before they could answer me, I heard my mothers voice. She was screaming, crying loudly and fumbling over with my name.

“Ayah, my Ayah.”

“Mom! I am here. Mom. Can you hear me? Mom. Take me out of here.”

“She can’t hear you, Ayah.”

“Why? Why can’t she hear me? She seems so close.”

“You can hear them for now. But no one can hear you from now on.”

“What do you mean? What have you done to me?”

“What is the last thing you remember?” he continued.

“I can’t remember anything. I have been trying, but I can’t seem to remember anything.

“Try again,” he said putting his hand on my head.

It slowly came to me, after a stretch. I was in the mall, trying the new dress Hamad had picked for me.

“You look gorgeous, my love.”

“Thank you darling. It is a perfect pick for tomorrow. But it is a little expensive, don’t you think.”

“Not for my queen it is, not for her special day!”

“Thank you Hamad” I kissed him. “You are the best husband ever.”

He smiled. “Get dressed and we have one more stop to house.”

“One more surprise!”

“Many more to come, my love.”

I stood outside the parking place waiting for him to come. A small girl selling flowers across the road caught my eyes.  I picked up a beautiful sunflower pot. I turned around to see him waiting by the gate smiling as our eyes met. ‘My sunflower crazy girl’, thats what he called me. I was a sunflower addict as a matter of fact. I looked at his smiling face as I crossed the road. My sunflower, my happiness, sat smiling in the drivers seat waiting for me. I suddenly coveted to hug him and tell him how much I loved him. I ran a step or two in my excitement. Suddenly his smile changed into fear as he came running out of the car. The sunflower pot shot high in the air, and fell somewhere broken, along with me. As I lay down in a pool of my blood, I saw Hamad running towards me. Then everything went blank.

“No!”

“It can’t be.”

“Is it?, Am I….”

“Yes, it is, you are,” mocked the left one.

“Why can’t it be?” asked the right one ever so calmly.

“Because, tomorrow, I am, no….” I couldn’t get a straight answer from myself.

Above the noises seemed to only increase. Though I couldn’t understand them, the notion of me being separated from them, forever, drove me insane.

“No! It can’t be! My life just began.”

“You are 30,” the left one again sarcastically remarked.

“Yes, but there is so much to do, so much to see, so much to be. I have a whole life ahead of me. It can’t be. It is not fair.”

“Not fair!”

“How so?” the right one asked looking me straight in the eye. He set his scroll and quill down, crossed his hand at his knees and sat earnestly waiting for an answer.

Rationalizing with my inner self. I couldn’t come up with anything that would support my claim. I had a good life, okay it wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t that bad too. In this moment, I could see my life, so many moments all before me. My childhood, my family, school, friends, college, more friends, marriage, love. It was all so beautiful. Somehow, I realized only the good memories showed themselves up. The many griefs I had held close to my heart deemed themselves not so important now. But then I saw his face. His love, his companionship, ignited in me the flare of unfairness again. We had just started our life together. We always talked about how our future would be. What kind of house we would live in, how many children we would have, all our dreams seemed to rise before me. The thought of not living them, with him, not seeing them come true, the thought of leaving him, leaving my loved ones, wrung at my heart and rose a helpless anger in me.

“I am too young to die,” I shouted.

I want to go back. This is my worst nightmare. Mom, wake me up. I started screaming again.

“Hamad.”

“Can anyone please help me? Get me out of here?”

Above the noises grew quieter. I could hear fading footsteps. It scared me. In my heart I whispered a prayer. Don’t leave me. Don’t go yet. Please.

“Do you believe in God?” my right side companion asked.

“Of course I do.”

“How so?”

“Well, He created me in the first place and everything else too. He gave me life and everything I had in it. My family, my success, my love, I owe all to Him. Without Him, I couldn’t be who I was, or have what I have. I have a good life, it wasn’t always the best, but things always ended in a better place for me. It is His love and mercy that I have always had what I wanted. My family, my career, everything that I am, is all from Him. He has always been generous to me. He will surely save me. There is so much left for me to do. I have not done enough yet.”

“Time doesn’t wait for anyone. Neither does death. It came to you like it comes to everyone else, uninvited but not unexpected. Everyone knows thay have a limited time. You just like everybody else does, didn’t really take care of it.”

I let the reality sink in. It was true what he said. We all did come with an expiry date. When it would exactly be, evaded us. Death is inevitable for sure. The only difference is, what we make out of our life. The truth being that we have as little a say into how we come into this life as we have while we return back to the world of souls. I wanted to cry now but there were no tears.

“Ayah, are you ready now?” the right angel gently asked.

“Okay. But not before I see my family one last time. Let me see them.”

“Okay,” he rose up. He put out his hand for me to take.

I still couldn’t lift mine. But I saw me leaving my lifeless body and taking a form between them. My body lay behind on the bare ground. Alone. Just like I had come, I was to return, empty.  Not the beautiful dress that Hamad had picked for me, but a white shroud clothed me. I turned to my companions and saw myself between a crowd of familiar and a few strange faces.

Most were busy in eating from the table. Chatting like nothing had changed in their life. The discussions in these circles ranged from the political situations across the world to the next big gathering of a wedding, or some other get together. Some one was ill and likely the next one whose number was up, I heard one lady cracking up her group.

Next were smaller groups of relatives and friends. A few friends who had made it were silent, stunned, heads down, none uttering a single word at all. One of my closest friends was checking our pictures on her phone that we had recently taken at a shopping spree, and suddenly burst in tears. The relatives were all quietly talking about how unfair life had been to me.

“She was so young and beautiful,” remarked my aunt. “She had so much life to her.”

“So soon after marriage. Life is cruel.”

”A young bird about to freach the skies. Ah, its so hard for the entire family. She was the pampered one.”

“She was a lovely soul,” I heard a beautiful lady say. “May God rest her in peace.”

I looked at her but did not recognize her.

“Truth to be told, she was not exactly an angel either,” came another voice behind me.

Another new face. I didn’t know her either. I watched them for sometime debating over me, whether I was an angel or a devil, while the others joined in with their opinions.

“These are your good deeds and your bad deeds,” my left companion commented.

“My darling!, my sweetheart, why did you leave us so soon.”

It was my mother’s voice. It tore my soul apart. I turned around and saw my mother sitting in one corner, wailing, calling me love names. Near her sat my brothers, silent, sobbing quietly. Hamad sat next to them, crying uncontrollably, unconsoled by friends. My father sat a few steps away, tears rolling down his distraught face. All his life he had kept his princess close, near by, and never let her out of his sight, for the fear of something happening to her. He let her go once, not so long ago, to start a new life. Today she left him, without a word, without a goodbye.

“Time to go, Ayah.”

My world sat right in front of me, agonized, in tears, oblivious to my presence. Grieving. Little do they know that it is me who is now alone, without them, without anyone.

 

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