Issue 44 (Nov 2014)
“Better hurry up, or the tide will go out without you.”
So I said it bitterly. I’ve never been shy about saying what I mean, and Lia brought that out worse in me. Sweet—sweet, ha—Lia, a rising tide I had no chance in hell or the deep, deep ocean of surviving.
Nang Moray, the best-known albularia in half a dozen villages, woke up one day to find the spirits gone. She summoned them through her usual chants and rituals, but she did not receive any response. The spirits did not manifest to her in any way, not even in the form of a soft whisper in the wind or a faint shadow darting past the corner of her eye. They had left her without any warning, without leaving any trace for her to follow, as though they had not been her companions for nearly half a century, as though they had never existed. After several days of calling in vain for them, she set out to look for her friends.
The mali came in the morning to talk about their plans for the garden. “Flowers, madam,” he said, firmly. “We must have flowers.”
“Flowers?” Mrs Mukhopadhyaya said, amused at his determination, and he faltered for a moment, as though remembering whom he was speaking to. “Tell me,” she added, gently, looking at the sweat gathering on his forehead, the firm grip of his knuckles on the spade.
The desert came to her house in the night. It filled the cracks in the paintwork, and shored itself up in doorways. It formed dunes in the corners of rooms, and peaks over the armchairs. The standing lamp was a marker in the sand, and the kitchen table was a raft on static, silent waves. She climbed aboard and sat, cross-legged, the blue glass bowl of fruit on her lap.