Higher and higher the plane flew, blazing trails across the sky, now visible and now disappeared, ghost-like or God-like, depending on who was looking. It’s pilot, the infamous Jermiaani Sisccita, felt the world pass him by, felt fear pass him by, felt death pass him by as the plane cracked bolts of lightning across the towering purple sky, dusk approaching. His eyes were visibly stoic and focused, but behind the impassive exterior lay tumult, darkness, and as much as he would hate to admit it – fear.
He closed his eyes and let his senses guide him as he raced across nothingness. At his speed anyway, there was hardly anything the eye could see. Everything was just a blur, visions of future and past blended together, painted across the purple canvas of the sky, mocking him. Besides, the plane was equipped enough to fly by itself; it could detect collisions miles ahead of time, correct trajectories accordingly; indeed, it had saved Jermiaani’s life many times before. Wrongly so, he thought to himself.
He didn’t explicitly feel a death-wish, he told himself as stories around him changed, now clouds, now recollections, now visions. And then out of nowhere, his feelings morphed and turned tangible and he saw the abyss he was spiraling into, even as the plane shot further and further above. He questioned the presence of the abyss, as he often did, probing it as he fell, trying to muster all the light he could find, as the enveloping blackness increased.
The answers came in fragments, in dreams, in words – Faithless… Traitor… Murderer… He pleaded to the omniscient abyss – No… It’s not true; but the abyss knew better, it had known him all his life. Furthermore, the abyss could hear the desperation in his thoughts, his feeble attempts to overcome his true self. There is no escape, it told him. Jermiaani nodded, knowing that it was true, the abyss always knew better. His eyes still closed, his hand reached out for the dashboard in front of him. He found the correct sequence he was looking for, and laid his fingers on it.
The plane was in free fall. Atonement, said Jermiaani to the abyss. Grant it… Take away the shackles. I’ve suffered enough… The abyss gazed at him unflinchingly. The shackles shall remain. You may very well choose the course that you want, but there is no escape. The plane was racing to the ground, burning up as it reached closer and closer to the surface… Another few minutes, thought Jermiaani.
The abyss wasn’t done with him however. It took him back in time, back to the streaming moonlight that had settled in a very dark room. Jermiaani had opened the door, not knowing what lay beyond. The red had glistened against the half-white, half-blue corpse. However, Jermiaani had found himself not looking at the corpse but at the kid, who had stood by a tree in broad daylight, tearing away bits and pieces of the wood, crafting his very own tiny boat. I am going to sail away in this, the kid had promised himself. Sail far, far away… Where I know none and none know me…
And then suddenly the abyss changed. The daylight disappeared, the crafted boat lay in the sand and the tide was coming in. And Jermiaani he could see a dim light… That of a single bulb that cast ominous shadows across a tiny room. There was a battered desk in front of him. And opposite to him, the God sat unflinchingly, almost judging him. “Why are you here?” the Sovereign had asked him. Jermiaani thought about it. “You said you had work for me”. The Sovereign didn’t respond. Jermiaani understood why. He continued – “You saved me. I was lost” He waited for a reply but the God still waited for the right answer. “I am still lost”, Jermiaani continued. “But I owe it you for breaking my shackles”
The plane was spinning now. Down and down, as fast as one could fathom. But Jermiaani saw not what was in front of him. He was still in the room, the battered desk in front of him. The Sovereign had taken his time to respond, impassive as he had said it. “What you were is immaterial” he had said. “But the work carved out for you going forward…” He had weighed his next words carefully. “You will need to steel your mind”
The room disappeared into the wisps of clouds and despite the speed and darkness, Jermiaani could see the approaching surface. As calm as a surgeon, his fingers found the right sequence. The plane thundered back to life and shot back up into the firmament with seconds to impact. He sensed the abyss shrink, until he couldn’t feel it anymore. He found a smile coming through. “I am indebted to you, My Sovereign” he spoke, partly to himself, partly to his surroundings. “You have my loyalty… and my life…”
The plane, steady now, raced towards its destination. Tomorrow would be another long day, Jermiaani thought to himself. Lots of people to supply food with, the end of the war being nowhere in sight…
Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre.