The end begins with denial. No one believes in it. And yet everyone knows it exists. Then it hits without a warning. The rage of the Gods unleashed, on the Gods, by mortals. Acceptance comes quietly – like vultures pecking on a carcass contently. It all comes together the day after worlds falls silent - the meeting place of old souls, matter and anti-matter everything settles down.
In one of its many creation theories, the Universe has accorded a theory called ‘The Big Bang’. The theory of creation of death, a lot like life is based on it too. It is the emotion experienced by a new-born, who after seeing the light of the world for the first time lets out a deafening scream of fear. Like life, death too is born similarly – out of the void.
He wakes up to this same void, somewhere in the city. Somewhere far away in his bolthole – a suburban safe house. A place where matter and anti-matter collide. Life moves in a slow unending trance comprising of white noise. It takes twenty minutes from boarding the train at the station somewhere in the middle of nowhere, to reach the stop where they have once walked together. The sun outside, unlike most days, is crisp and bright. Familiar streets are glazed with unfamiliar faces. Familiar skies are painted with unfamiliar colours.
The escape, the previous evening, to the suburban safe house, has not been without reason. Separation has not been his forte and the need to escape to silence comes once in blue moon – when worlds go silent. It is then that the noises of the central provinces are not enough to drown the deafening silence. The suburban safe house is not amongst the ‘known five’ bolt holes known to his people. They know he escapes every time people drain him and he needs to go refill himself. But the suburban safe house is a secret within a secret. Unknown to all. He has a name too for it – the Void. He compares it to aether – which fills up the space in between old souls and in between matter and anti-matter.
Stepping outside the station, with slow unsteady steps he looks around. The world is not silent. His world is. He remembers his appointment. Taking the shorter turns and twists of the roads, that wind up into alley ways and which again open up into broad avenues, he finds himself in front of the photoman’s shop.
In the shop, there are wordless glances and exchange of currency notes. Things that hold great value to the photoman, and little to him. He walks out moments later with a two by four, black and white print of her sitting on the porch of the house. It makes him smile. She is there, wearing Round rimmed sunglasses. A white shirt, leather jacket and pants worn out at the knees and a pair of trainers made by the winged goddess of victory. He traces out the image in the air, looking up at the bright sky.
His phone has been beeping constantly. He has chosen to be oblivious. His people are trying to ascertain his location. All his known safe houses have been raided. They know better than to leave him alone at the mercy of his mind and thoughts. They are not at fault. Neither is he. He needs to refill. And while they mean well with good intentions, they drain him of his life source.
As he is tracings out her image in the air looking at the bright sky he realises that the void needs to be shielded. The collapse of the void would cause the aether to spill out, and both matter and anti-matter would fall out of existence. The resulting blast would obliterate his world permanently. That cannot be allowed. Besides there is a promise made to her that has to be fulfilled.
In his quest to shield the void, he decides to retrace his steps from the previous day when he saw her for the last time. The beginning must come with the end, he argues and decides to walk down the same roads, have the same conversations and photograph the same, familiar skies, even if they feel unaccustomed now. He begins from the tavern near the shop of the photoman. He remembers meeting her outside. She looks pale and thin. It is a result of her giving the life essence flowing through her arterial systems to the healers. This in order to determine its worth. The healers have deemed it worthy. The drained colours of her face are a small trade-off. He remembers seeing her laugh when she shrugs it off outside the tavern.
From there he walks to the food courts. The menu is similar to the one from the previous day. Fish and poultry. Fish for her, poultry for him. There once again amidst swirling cigarette smoke he traces an image in the air looking at the sky. One last time they have spoken of life, work and their existence. They have their own secret conversations spoken in secret tongues and codes.
Having relived the conversations he walks down the familiar roads, into alley ways, that open up into broad avenues. He has gifted her a scroll written in impeccable hand. He remembers this as he passes by the sycamore tree. She has read the scroll and then carefully thrust it deep into her bag. There are tell-tale signs of familiar places. The previous day they had spoken while walking on those roads. He has made careful notes for the mind palace as well as for creating the shields for the void that protects matter and anti-matter. On the roads between the old church and the society of the faithful stands an odd shaped tree. He remembers her growing sad there. She had remembered a photographic imprint taken by her and being cheated out of it. It saddens him too. Old souls are damaged irreparably by the seemingly trivial and things of consequence to the world have no effects whatsoever on them. He waves out to the old lady who works at the society of the faithful, where he goes down once a week to help out. She had been pleasantly surprised when he had told her of it. In a world that survives on the trivial, the only testimony to his confession is the shadow of the odd tree and the waving hand of the old woman.
As the roads dwindle into narrow pathways, he finds himself standing across the house where the two by four, black and white photograph was taken. The white door with the number 89 emblazoned in gold is still the same. It has to be. It has been less than a day since her departure. The outside world is still the same. His has gone silent.
Standing there he remembers the last shred of conversation that they have had just after he had shot the two by four, black and white picture.
‘Take Care. And come back soon.’
‘I see you soon. For sure.’
That is all that is there. A white door with the number 89 emblazoned in gold. A sycamore tree. A two by four, black and white image. An old woman waving. A restaurant with fish and poultry on its menu. A suburban safe house called void that is filled with aether and keeps matter and anti-matter from falling out of existence. All odds and ends. Incomprehensible by the outside world. Understood only in secret tongues and in codes. By him and her. As he stands there across the house with the gold numbers on the white door, he looks up to the skies, remembering his vow. He takes out the camera from the backpack and shoots the first of the many images to come.
Standing there, staring at the skies, realization dawns upon him. There is purpose in life. And till she returns it is these odds and ends that will keep the void shielded. The void that protects matter and anti-matter.