One Soul That Is Still On Earth

Stage 1

We all believe that after death no one should be trouble. All beings should have someone to hold them as they die. Someone to assure them that everything will be okay, even as the senses fade—sight succumbs to darkness, and the fingers lose their ability to feel, and finally, hearing dims to silence.


It was Dipty whom I hold. Dipty face was the last I saw, her voice the last I heard… thought Kartik.


A senseless tragedy, Dipty death would later be described. It was simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet if Dipty hadn’t been in that wrong place at just the wrong time, the bullet Dipty body took may well have struck its intended target, or some other unfortunate bystander. It might have hit Kartik.


Stage 2

It was an early Friday evening at the beginning of spring. Dipty left her office and walked to a nearby park, watching the sun slip lower on the horizon. Cherry trees shed blossom petals delicate as crepe paper. Daffodils nodded their cheerful yellow heads in the breeze. There was a nice garden nearby. Dipty decided to visit the garden.


It was crowded. Couples walked hand in hand, and parents pushed toddlers in strollers. Everyone wanted to enjoy this respite from a long, hot summer. Evening time garden are much cooler to hang around. The temperature was balmy, and Dipty sank down on a wooden bench, smoothing my dress over my knees and removing my modest heels.


Kartik sat in the grass near the sidewalk about twenty feet away, Singing songs. There didn’t appear to be a song you didn’t know. A prodigy, Dipty thought, and envied your skill, along with your lighthearted manner. Kartik happiness was almost infectious. Surely Kartik didn’t confine himself to an office desk every day. Kartik might have lived hand-to-mouth, but you looked free. Passersby dropped change into a glass jar for Katik.


Kartik wore old jeans and had bare feet. Dipty absently wondered where Kartik’d left his shoes. Kartik shirt—a white button-down in need of a good bleaching—was incongruous with the rest of your outfit. The sleeves were rolled up your forearms.


Both eyes met once, and Kartik nodded and smiled at Dipty as Kartik sang. Kartik had dark hair with a bit of gray at the temples, though his face revealed him to be younger than Dipty. His five o’clock shadow was visible along the line of his jaw.


Dipty leaned back against the bench and closed her eyes, letting the breeze ruffle her hair. she knew she would need to head home soon before it grew dark, but for now, she was content to inhale the scent of some flower blossoming nearby and listen to Kartik melodious songs. She didn’t think of her home. Her cooking to be done at home or the rent to be paid this month. She was just enjoying the movement.


Stage 3


The popping sound made Dipty start, and raised her head to look around. Her brow furrowed as people broke into a run. Men shielded their wives and children; families huddled in awkward masses as they sought cover. It was the mess to the lovely environment all of the sudden.


A teenage girl screamed. Her panic spread to others, and Dipty finally jumped to her feet, her shoes forgotten.


Kartik stood now, too, leaving his song but completing the chorus. Their eyes locked, and even across the distance that separated them, Dipty could make out the word you shouted at her: Run. It was a bullet shot, Dipty realized.


Dipty never saw the shooter. Too many people surrounded her. She wasn’t his intended victim. No, he was aiming at his ex-girlfriend, a woman who had also decided to spend the last hour of daylight in the park.


She had caught sight of him and sprinted in the opposite direction, lost among others. But the gunman took one last desperate shot.


A bloom of pain in Dipty chest, and too late, the instinct to run grabbed her. Her legs could no longer carry her away from the threat. She took a few steps and then stumbled. People ran past her, sobbing, wailing, covering their children’s eyes, trying to spare them the trauma of seeing her collapse in a heap.


Kartik alone stayed with her. Instead of running away from the shooter, Kartik darted over to her and knelt at her side. Dipty lay on her back, struggling to breathe. Her face appeared before Kartik, and Kartik soft brown eyes held the panic and terror of an animal being chased, but Kartik crouched next to her as if to protect her from further harm.


Kartik tried to apply pressure to his wound with his hands, but there was too much blood. Blood gushing out of Dipty, blood filling her throat and mouth. Dipty coughed, and blood spattered from her lips and stained Kartik shirt. The bullet had nicked a lung and pierced DIpty heart during its haphazard trajectory through her body.


“Somebody help us!” Kartik screamed. “For god shake …. Help” Kartik stare fixed on her face once more, and Kartik must have seen something there—a fading, an ebbing, for Dipty gave up on stanching the flow of blood and simply gripped Kartik hand. Kartik forced Himself to be calm.


“It’s going to be okay,” Kartik told Dipty, and Kartik smiled though Dipty were crying. “You’re going to be fine. Hang in there. You’re going to be fine.” Kartik said it over and over until the words lost their meaning and were a mere soothing hum in Dipty ears. Even when Dipty could no longer feel Kartik fingers clasping her, but she can still heard his voice. “Everything’s going to be okay. Stay with me. Help is coming. Stay with me…”


When the first responders arrived, they found Kartik covered in her blood, enough of it to make them think even kartik would have been injured, too. By that point, the electrical impulses in Dipty brain were slowing. Dipty body was growing cold.


She felt the pull of that other realm beckoning to her. she had no idea what waited for her: some form of heaven or hell, or mere oblivion? Is it any wonder that so many of us resist? It’s human nature to take comfort in the known, to fear what is beyond our comprehension.


Kartik stayed with Dipty. He lingered around Dipty as he sat on a bench, Dipty face a white sheet of shock while he answered a detective’s questions. Kartik shoulders weakened with relief when the police told you that the gunman was found soon after he fled the park.


The shooter cried when he learned that Dipty was dead, and then he drew in a breath and cursed the woman he meant to kill, railed against the fact that she was still alive.


Kartik witnessed all this. The dead are privy to many things.


Kartik witnessed her grief in the following days. The comforting words of his friends, of his girl friend, did nothing to soothe him.


Stage 4

Kartik attended Her funeral. Dipty mother grabbed Kartik hand and stopped sobbing long enough to thank Kartik for being with Dipty during her last moments alive. Surrounded by strangers, Kartik broke down and wept with her as she embraced him.


The sorrow of her loved ones was almost too much for him to bear. It made him want to flee, even if it was to the end of her existence.


But Dipty couldn’t leave him. Those last few minutes of her life bound her to him, and her wished—oh, how she wished—she could ease his pain. She wished she could make the nightmares fade. she wished he didn’t see her lying before him, bleeding and dying, as every time he closed his eyes.


Kartik girlfriend was at a loss as to how to comfort him. For years, she had stayed by his side. She encouraged his dreams and allowed him to remain unsettled, moving from place to place. She tolerated his countless performances on stage, in parks and on street corners. She didn’t complain when his odd jobs brought in just enough money to keep a roof over their head.


She loved him, and yet she couldn’t reach him through his anguish. She didn’t understand when he tried to explain, “I was with Dipty when she died.”


“She was a stranger!” she finally shouted at him. “It was a horrible thing to experience, but you didn’t even know her, and now it’s like you’re obsessed with her!”


After that argument, the relationship was doomed. she hardened himself toward her. One summer morning as he dozed, exhausted from so many sleepless nights, she rummaged through his wallet, looking for money to buy vegetables, and she found the photo of Dipty carried with Kartik. Dipty mother had given it to Kartik at her funeral.


Swearing and crying, she left the studio apartment they two had shared and wouldn’t return.


Kartik grew gaunt and pale. Kartik no longer sang or played the song. The life was leaving Kartik as surely as it had left Dipty.


Stage 5


Dipty realized that some part of Kartik could sense her. As long as Dipty stayed near him, the memory of dipty would fester under his skin like a wound.


One late summer night, Kartik slept, and Dipty moved closer to him in his bed. The energy field now containing Dipty settled over his body, and Kartik jolted but didn’t wake when they touched.


Dipty wanted him then, sliding herself against his flesh. She felt kartik warmth, heard his steady heartbeat. She tried to tell herself that in another time, on some other plain of existence; She and kartik would have found each other. They would have loved.


But she knew that wasn’t true. They were far too different. Kartik was a heavy anchor, rooted in one place, while Dipty drifted, scattering like sunlight.


Their body responded to each other. she watched kartik grow hard beneath the thin sheet covering him. His eyes moved behind his lids, and Dipty hoped he dreamed of her, of them together, when their eyes met and they shared a smile that Friday spring evening months ago.


It was time, Dipty knew now. Time for Dipty to face that mystery awaiting us all. she left kartik with one last caress, and then, in death, she became what you had always been—free…

About Abhilasha Bakshi

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