It was four months ago that our village astrologer foretold my last day on earth as a human. He read the lines on my palm, peered into his crystal ball, and consulted the moon and stars before coming to this conclusion. I was scared out of my mind when he first broke the news to me, but after giving me patient insights into the intelligent workings of the universe and everyone’s eventual reincarnation into another form, which touched upon the spiritual beliefs instilled in me since childhood, my faith in his prophecy was reinforced. That is why I don’t mind my demise within the next hour to become a snake.

This morning I visited all the men in the village to whom I am indebted. Small sums that I could easily afford were settled. To the men whom I owe anything more than a hundred notes, I said they should forgo my dues, out of the generosity of their heart, for a dying man. In response to this, they scoffed and sneered at me. One man even spat at my feet. I countered with a threat: for the sake of their families, they had better call things even and not harass my wife after I am dead. Or else, who knows? Maybe one night their homes might be visited by a venomous serpent that likes to bite.

My neighbors were next on the list, and as I asked them to provide regular support to my family in whichever form they might need it, be it food, love, or comfort, whatever the shortage at the time may be. But, the woman just laughed in my face, while the man, making an obvious effort not to sound rude, said that they would surely do what they could, I could rely on them, but I am a fool wasting my time if I believe in a silly fortune-teller’s silly predictions. I thanked them both and left after that. But before I walked out the door, and because he has always been a generous neighbor and dear friend to me, I also asked him to be one of the four pallbearers. He would need to help carry my corpse from my home to the funeral pyre at the time of cremation. He agreed to do it. God bless him.

Nearing the end of the day, I spent the rest of the evening going over the various facets of the family business one final time with my only son. Now that the village will lose its only electrician come tomorrow, he must step up and be the man the house. He is almost fifteen, not old enough to shave yet, but he is resilient and resourceful and he loves his mother and sister too deeply to let them go hungry to bed. My daughter, only six years old, was too young to understand why I talked about never seeing her again after today, but I held her close, kissed her forehead, skimmed her hair, and reassured her over and over again that from now on her brother is her rock and he will see to her needs in life. She is very precious. He will protect her. He will protect them all. I don’t doubt it.

An hour ago I tried to have my last conversation with my wife, but she had refused to understand from that start. She called me deluded, just like my neighbours did, and said when I wake up next morning to find myself in the same body as today, with the same two arms and two legs and same head, I’ll be as ashamed of myself as she is of me. She said I have been going around the entire village making a mockery of our family; we have lost everyone’s respect, fallen from grace. She has not come to see things as I do, and she resented me so much that as I tried to get close to her and take her in my arms, she flinched and recoiled away. She swatted me with her hands, the newspaper, her slipper even. I backed off for a while. Later though, when I saw the opportunity, I caught her off guard and grabbed her, planting a hard kiss on her lips. It was a bit forceful, but I don’t think I hurt her. As she pulled away she rubbed her lips, rubbing away the kiss, but it didn’t hurt me to see her do that. I love her too much. She understood that according me it was our last kiss, so, with a look on her face that can only be described as pure disgust, she cursed me and stormed out of the room. I haven’t disturbed her since.

And with that, I sensed it all drifting away. Even right now, I can already feel all the earthly connections of my organism keeping me tethered to this reality begin to slacken. Any bonds that tie me to this existence snap and break as the rift between one life and the next approaches rapidly. It feels so close and real, my new start, almost tangible, very palpable. I can feel the future beckoning to me. I can feel it in my fingertips. This is a new dawn.

When everyone is fast asleep, I fill a bowl with warm milk–my new avatar may need to replenish itself after an arduous reincarnation–and I change into a pair of clean white clothes and walk out into the middle of the fields. I set the bowl beside me as I sit down on the soft grass. I cross my legs, straighten my back, let my wrists dangle over my knees, and wait.

Eyes closed. Breathing evenly. Expecting my heart to stop beating.

From far away, I hear the village bell chime midnight. A warm mid-summer breeze, which wasn’t there a moment ago, starts to swirl around me, wrapping me in an airy cocoon.

I start to let go.

———

© Amaan Khan, April 5, 2018.