The Old Man and the Book

Once upon a time, many Moons ago, there lived an old man in a small log-wood hut in the Wailing Forest. He was the Keeper of the Book; a great responsibility, indeed. For it was the Book of the Lost and Forgotten. It contained the names of all things lost and forgotten by Mankind. 

Of forsaken souls and abandoned lands.

Fading virtues like humility and kindness.

Competing for space right next to mundane things like misplaced key-chains and lost coins.                                                                                                                                                             

The cold autumn breeze brushed against her face. She pulled her soft cashmere scarf tighter around her neck. The scarf had belonged to her mother. Its warmth comforted her. From the cold of winter. And of life. She hurried her steps in the golden purple glow of falling dusk. With every forward step, her heart sank. Nevertheless she didn’t want to be late for this particular appointment.

Dr Sharma greeted her curtly at the clinic and with the usual brisk manner of a professional having done the work for the umpteenth time, proceeded to prepare her for the medical termination of her pregnancy.  At eight weeks, she wrote in her document.

Some time later she was wheeled into the Observation Room. An hour ticked by. No one came with flowers. She lay alone for a long time smelling the overpowering smell of Iodoform. Then she propped herself carefully upright onto the hospital bed and listened to the chatter of the nurses down the hall, easily intermingling the details of their personal lives with the standard procedures at work. She strained her ears to hear his footsteps lest he had remembered to come. She had mentioned the time of the appointment to him and heard him say, ‘Sure!’ Right then she had known he would not; oh, the ease with which he had said it. But now as she waited in that cold empty room, she wished he was there. 

Her idle mind took her back to the day they had met. Almost a year ago. A cascade of unremarkable events that led to the proverbial whirlwind workplace romance. But now she loved him. ‘Perhaps even more than my unborn baby?’  ‘It’s out of wedlock!’, he had exclaimed. ‘What a scandal at work and not to mention, my mother…’ 

She had almost felt sorry for him. 

She shook her head to erase the thoughts. As though the act of headshaking would help shake them off her.  

Something inside of her felt empty. ‘But why does my heart feel so.. hollowed?’ A cheerful looking nurse entered her room. ‘Time for your analgesic shot, darling. How do you feel, now?’

Strangely she felt no pain. ‘I feel.. nothing, really’.

The old Man was hunched over the Book that sprawled open before him. He wrote down his next entry in cold ashen-dust lettering. Another unborn half-formed fetus. Then he opened his mouth wide and let out a shrill animal-like cry. The trees of the Forest shook their heads and wailed with him.

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Anne Adarsh

Anne Adarsh is a radiologist by profession but finds herself repeatedly returning to her first love in all things. Poetry. A self-confessed Recluse also blessed (or cursed perhaps!), with an insatiable curiosity to learn new things, writing to her, means a landscape in her mind's eye, to which she can always escape to, whenever life closes in on her.

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