He ran up the steps, two at a time, and into the house, running all the way through the dimly lit hall, into the dining room. The entire family sat around the table, grandpa at the head. Appa removed his glasses and wiped his eyes. He wasn’t crying or anything. Just tired.
Years later, the family get-together would intrude upon his dreams. A big injection, too big to be real, would spill its contents, as the fat nurse pressed the lever. He fully expected the dream to haunt and it did. At first, he woke up sweating. Later, it was a dark, void-like fear. Then he grew lazy in his reaction. He would invite the dream. Come, haunt me, he would whisper. “I am used to you now.”
He looked at all their faces, from one to the other. Then he looked from his grandpa to his father, from the man who thought of this first to the man who had agreed to it finally. The family didn’t talk much after that. Even if they did, he didn’t remember.
He did remember the life going out. He remembered the silent acceptance of that horror. No one shrieked. No one cried or gasped. It was a silent death followed by a silent funeral followed by silence. Sinking deep, it ate into all their souls. They would walk about like puppets and pull each other’s strings. Or may be they were genuine. He could never tell. It would be weeks before anyone would talk.
Amma died peacefully. She had long lost her ability to talk. He never found out whether she liked the death she had. Sometimes, he would experience her death.
One night, the injection pierced the back of his neck. It was a tiny prick, but his mind exploded. He saw red.
Appa would stand in the lawn outside and smoke after dinner. He would take the dog upstairs and play with it. He would sit on the overhead tank and cry.
They would tell the visitors that Amma had been sick for years and that they fully expected her death. The visitors would nod as if they understood. Or may be they were too polite to ask. “How does anyone expect death?”
That night he told Appa not to say that again. He hadn’t expected Amma to die.
Death became him. He didn’t feel sad or depressed. He felt pretentious. Often, he would wonder whether his feelings were real.
They moved after a year, or was it two? Appa told him to leave the dog behind. He tied the dog to a tree nearby. After their car left, a neighbour would free the dog.
Two nights later, Appa woke up in his bed. It was dark outside. He went to the lawn and lit a cigarette. Minutes later, he thought he saw the dog outside. “I saw her,” he told the family. No one believed him.