Submitted an entry to the Flash Fiction contest over at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. So their short list came out today, and my name isn't on it. The story of my life. Anyway, here's my rejected effort. The only reason I entered the contest is to force myself to write something, anything. Guess I succeeded in that.
A sudden chill in the air awakens me. The sound of the train continues unabated, the passengers remain asleep; the flickering green night-light in the next compartment is the only illumination. I am still wrapped up in my blanket, still in my middle-berth, still sleepy. Groggily I look around. There is an undercurrent of hush in the air, a sense of some invisible timelessness. It is as if this journey is eternal, spanning worlds. We are travelling to some nether land, I whisper to myself, carried along by my fancy, and I look over the edge of my bunk at my co-passengers, afraid that I’m traveling alone. They’re asleep. Someone far off in the distance mumbles a few words, in a language I don’t understand. In my dreamlike state, it doesn’t sound even human. The sound of the train has taken on an echoing, organic quality, like horse’s hooves. Something about the atmosphere brings to mind the ghastly, gothic, form of Death, skeletal, dark-robed, scythe-in-hand. Death, I think to myself, Death, on his black horse, is following us.
No, I correct myself. We are entering his domain. Death has been here, or will be soon, or is surveying the results of his handiwork here. The hoofbeats slow down. I pull myself out of the reverie, note the yellow squares of light marching along the floor of the compartment. From my position it is hard to make out which station we are pulling into. I twist myself out of the blankets, get my head as far down as possible, look out the window, looking for the rhomboid squares that will tell me where I am. Finally one comes into view, remains in view as the train comes to a halt. In English and Hindi and Gujarati the sign reads: Godhra.