Darkness had fallen upon the graveyard of thousand lives, along with a cold breeze which swept away the rotten stench of dead flesh. There was not a single star in the sky. The moon was watching over the night as a sleepless night guard. A boy of 17 stood before a new grave. The epitaph indicated it to be of his father. The boy had been standing here since the pale yellow dusk. Maybe he was waiting for his father to rise from the grave, maybe he was waiting to hear his father's heavy, damp voice. His hair was swaying with the slow breeze. His father's grave was covered by his own shadow, formed by the well-lit moon.
Suddenly, he heard the heavy, damp voice that he longed to hear, “Go home.”
He knew it was an illusion, still he answered, “I don't want to.”
The imaginary voice replied, “You are still that insolent brat you were.”
The boy said, “And you are still as dead as you were.”
There was a long pause, as if time itself has stopped. Wind didn't blow, leaves didn't fall. The dead remained dead.
After what felt like a million years, the boy spoke, “Why didn't we talk?”
The dead man was silent. The boy asked again, “What came between us all of a sudden?”
The corpse again proved his existence by being as silent as a corpse. The boy also stopped talking. He thought his hallucination had stopped. But at that moment the voice echoed again, “Have you ever wondered what it's like to be dead?”
“It's nothing like what everyone thinks. After one dies all hypotheses of people being elsewhere turn out to be wrong.”
“So what is it like to be dead?”
“It's like losing your consciousness for eternity.”
The imperious silence started again to echo through the grave yard. An owl hooted quietly nearby and took flight into the darkness of endless twilight. Now, he was completely alone. But he didn't recognize this loneliness to be of his own.
After a while the boy spoke, “How is it that I am able to talk to you?”
“Because you are drunk,” his father answered. “Drunken in sadness.”
“What should I do?”
“You should go home; otherwise, you'll catch a cold.”
The boy waited for a moment, then turned around to walk past the footprints of million lives. Dry leaves crunched beneath his feet, and he was gone before the moon was hidden by the floating bundle of dense clouds. It was night, a dark windy night.
Abdullah Rayhan is an occasional contributor to The Daily Star Literature Pages.