Short Story: The Crow by Lopa Ghosh


The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

But I won’t give this up for I have worked tirelessly for months to become a Patangi. Because I have come to believe in their war. Because I need the money.

Night after night I have scrubbed my Jashn with neem laced fireflies, said a prayer over her tiny head and bundled her off into the Sleep Shield which I smuggled in when we moved here—my secret within the whole secret of The Tower where anything with extreme cryogenics is forbidden. Our early days here were overwhelming. We found an empty flat in one extreme corner of the thirty-fourth floor. The windows were broken. I slept on the floor. Jashn slept inside the Shield. I kept her there for as long as possible, sometimes waking her up only for the sparse meals. What else was there to do? Other than wait and survive in this cold, torn up and seemingly hostile place. New refugees came in droves. The stench of homelessness grew. Yet in the thrum of humanity and suffering I kept warm. And there was hope in those early days. That he would come.

And he does appear one night, just before daybreak. Knocks on my door. I am drifting in and out of sleep. Listening to the whirring groan of Fog Kali as it unwraps itself from around The Tower. Momentarily the purple haze would be gone. From windows, holes in walls and skywalks, people of The Tower would gaze with longing at the Outside stretched far below and remember their lives and homes before the exile. You could see the burnt stubs of the Parliament, lights twinkling in houses that used to belong to the people here. A few seconds and no more. The Day Fog would descend wrapping The Tower up in a yellow haze. Trillions of dustbots settle into their stations with a busy murmur.

My joy is so acute that I gasp to be free of it. It weighs me down and I sink like a stone on the cold hard floor. Ved lifts my soiled sweaty body, unbathed for weeks and pulls me close. The wait is over. He is home. Forever. This moment onwards up to Forever. I thank the new world. I marvel at the Singularity. I promise to decry and abandon my staunch Aadim principles. If I had a kitchen I would have made tea but what now, how exactly to welcome him back. Jashn should be woken up—that would be the real celebration. We stand by her bedside. In the blue glow of the sleep shield Ved looks different, now that I am looking at him for the first time. No trace of the ravages that we have been through, he has been through.

“Let me wake her,” I say.

“No,” he says startled, “not yet.”

“How unfeeling of me. Take your time darling. Let it all sink in. Let us reunite first. Plug you back in as it were.”

“An hour … I have an hour. Yes, an hour tops,” Ved says and walks away from Jashn, walks away from his own words which lie at my feet like pieces of burning coal. He is abandoning us—is my first thought. Yet what power does he have any more?

 

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