What lies buried

This is a blurry image of a prison cell. I've used it because my piece involves an unreliable narrator addressing his brother who's on death row.

Dear brother,

I read your last letter and it moved and shook my core because the date nears, and the court has dismissed all our appeals. You told me about Sara deciding to move on, having found another man, and about how she has never brought little Ruth to visit you though she’s twelve now. I always believed that Sara wanted to protect Ruth from a scarred childhood impression of seeing her father in chains, given an hour to pour his heart out and weep because that sort of thing leaves an ugly, indelible stain on the consciousness, and it’s usually suppressed before those grotesque colors coat all sense of identity later in life, making the person see things in monochrome. So, in that sense I believed that Sara was justified. But what outraged me was her questioning your innocence. Now, here was the woman who stood by you these last ten years, meeting lawyers and filing appeals. A woman who knew you from childhood, experienced so much with you as your friend, sweetheart, lover and wife, who knew the ins and outs of your labyrinthine personality, who stood by us when we couldn’t bear seeing mother suffer so much, and then eventually be snuffed out by cancer’s gale. I called her but she doesn’t pick my calls. She’s cut ties with both of us, as if we were putrefying sores so gangrenous that there isn’t any other course but amputation. Now, I don’t know what happened on the 27th of August, all those years ago when some homicidal, spree killer got away and you took his place like Christ did for the Church. I use such strong Biblical symbolism because I believe in your innocence, and even if they stripped off my skin, my blood and bones would cry for justice, my dear brother. Forgive me if all this sounds like hyperbole. I assure you it’s not. I saw you the previous evening with your friends in a local bar, enjoying yourself and infusing the place with your honest vivacity, and I can’t believe that the same person resorted to doing something so vicious and heinous to an innocent family who lived a few blocks away the next day. You didn’t even own a gun. But why did you not say a word and remain mute during the trial like someone unsympathetic and unafraid? You refused to answer questions properly, and your monosyllabic replies enraged me. And though a few witnesses saw another man dart from the house, you strangely dismissed that claim. They caught you with the weapon and blood-stained hands, but you stood trial in a place between light and dark; neither defending your innocence or pronouncing your guilt. You, the brother I looked up to, a man of integrity who never conformed to the Janus-faced parade with their gaudy robes masking reptilian skin, suddenly seeming somewhat catatonic. You, who despised the hypocrisy of ‘perfect’ people and embraced fractured finitude suddenly seeming conniving. You knew something that you’re still unwilling to share, didn’t you? And somewhere deep inside I know it too, which is why we can never look each other in the eye for an extended period during visitations. I’ve searched and dug but can only unearth hazy traces of who, why and what. Traces just as blurred as my days of addiction back then. So, tell me. Just throw it at me. Let it rip through me that the lamb sacrificed himself for the degenerate. And if you have the proof, clear your name. I’ve avoided asking you this because our memories are contortions of actuality. But as the day nears, I sense things inching their way to the surface, and I need to know. I don’t want your sacrifice or love, just the truth.

Yours

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Men of Perdition

This is a picture of the beautiful woods with an ominous face in the background. I've used it because it represents the depravity of some men who destroy everything humanity stands for.

The clip found its way to YouTube, and my friends in college showed it to others on their phones as if it was a video of a back-heel nutmeg by Ronaldinho. I was guilty too, simply because I shared in the excitement. Many years later, it haunted me. He knelt, reading out something they’d forced him to. You could see the pain in his eyes, the horror in that look that begged for mercy. He knew that death was nearby like a rabid dog, uncontrollable, and rushing towards him, but he still grappled with fate; wrestled with all his might against an indomitable force, and even though the contest looked like a scrawny one-armed man trying to take down a Herculean Undefeated Olympic champion, he didn’t give up. He wanted to survive. I’m sure he’d wrapped himself with a blanket of delusion, and refused to let actuality pry it free. Perhaps, he sincerely prayed, and asked for both justice and grace; his petition so different from his mechanical chant at the Thanksgiving table. He was, at that moment, in the dusk of his life; reading from that penultimate chapter of his novel, unable to digest the words because what once read like a metaphorical delight with a debonair protagonist, was turning into an unambiguous note, filled with grammatical errors, and written by an unwashed, tired, bedraggled slave robbed of even the right to think. I’m sure he envisioned returning home to her; thought of when he met her, and how that moment became the apogee of his personal life. He’d found true love at last, but it was now enveloped by a miasma of despair, and her laughter which always summoned an ebullience that poets like Neruda have immortalized was now a faint stutter that tried to give him hope but failed; and the world they’d sewn out of Rayon Challis, was now spinning in the laundry machine, looking like a coarse mop cloth. He waited, and then felt the sword, and you could see the agony in his eyes as it slowly tore through the Levator scapulae. They were sawing away as if his neck was the bark of a tree. Soon his neck was partly separated from his body, and the sight resembled a normal distribution curve with the hanging head rising to meet the laceration, and the rest of the neck descending from it. It had an odd symmetry to it, and maybe my description is callous, but what’s really ruthless is men with black scarves around their faces, robbing a child’s innocence, and creating fissures in his heart by brutally murdering his father; men with twisted notions of faith, killing in the name of religion; declaring war on an already fallen race that is struggling to get by, and hoping to find elusive peace. Men butchering men like animals to announce their credo, to create a cause founded on askew notions of truth, thereby constructing an anathema with no real backbone; an abomination that has flayed reason and emotion, with an unmitigated penchant for destruction like an unpredictable tempest. Men who’ve rapidly descended that ladder of depravity, lost all inhibition, and are now like animals, grunting and howling; carnal beasts, who rape, plunder and then castigate immorality; men driven by frightening, twisted scruples, and are willing to die for them. Men who’ve abandoned love, and are already in perdition, hoping to devour many as they walk their journey of corrupt instinct; jog their marathon of hatred, and run their race of devilry.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)