She woke up kissing an airbag; her life knocked out of her lungs. The serenity of the night is shattered by the cacophony of car horns, shrill whistles, sirens atop ambulances, pleading porters and taxi drivers. There was chaos. Everything was new and apocalyptic. But above the staccato of traffic noise, beyond the pitch-black street, her silhouette dreams came alive.
Dreams have a tendency of doing that. They always begin at the end of something.
A tiny figure materialized in the distance— her 15-year-old son in his study. Sometimes, she would catch him holding a book to his nose, and inhale the vanilla scented pages. He is a lexical creature, who breathes words. Often, he would hold a book to his ear, imagining the author narrating the story to him. Like a shell, bearing every spellbound secret of the sea.
That night, her young boy called her into his study. He read to her, as he often did. That night it was a Balti poet, Bowa Johar. No human, nor any living thing, survives long under the eternal sky. The most beautiful women, the most learned men, even Mohammad, who heard Allah’s own voice, all did wither and die. The sky outlives everything. Even suffering, he read. The words hung in the abyss between them, like the scent of dead cigarettes.
The room shrunk, engulfed by a feeble twilight. The scenery panned to the night they went stargazing— accompanied by a medley of soft smiles, warm blankets, and the fragrance of summer grass. In the dark pools of her son’s eyes, she could see a reflection of space, dotted by a constellation of stars.
She followed her son’s distant gaze. As infinity unfolded beyond them, the void between mother and son retreated. He began to hum a lullaby. The words are yearning to release themselves— just at the tip of her tongue.
She woke up into a nightmare. Chips of rain started to fall. The rain made the men look like ghosts— not humans, but shapes, moving beneath dark clouds. Whatever remained of the once white sedan was burned to a black crisp. Her lungs were choked with cinders. The smell, above everything else, is what haunted her the most. You can’t quite shake off the unmistakable scent of human flesh, burning. It haunted her briefly, before she descended into oblivion once more.