The beetle moves slowly, then quickly, going across the floor. At once I stretch out a hand, a snapping finger at the ready. A devil’s…or killer’s hand, do you say? What Neera conceives, I figure.
“You!” she lets out.
“It has a soul!”
“Does it?” A sceptic’s question, only.
Her questioning gaze, eyes alert. Then, “Don’t kill it!” Her special plea, believe me. And I look at her, with a strange awe, then fascination. Her face with a halo it seems, and determined. The beetle moves on, then stops, almost looking back. Human-like eyes, I swear.
Not looking at her, and asking:
Who is she?
A distance to travel, as I think about where Neera actually belongs.
Oh, tolerable places… islands, like Trinidad with its trinity-peaked mountain range. But I keep looking at the beetle, asking: Does it have a soul? A quiver…somewhere. And faith in things, Neera’s, from long ago because of ancestry: from India; her grandparents, her forebears, in manner and style. She dithers.
I look at the lady bug. Neera’s also keeping an eye on things, you see. Never a fanatic, is she? Longer I look at the beetle, indeed.
Now time for Neera’s confession, I presume to know: with India being more than a sanctuary of sorts. An ashram, where she’s in her moment of prayer. Real prayer, do you know? More islands, an archipelago, coming closer. See, the Indian subcontinent, also.
The lady bug makes her take a sudden halting step, as it
But Neera wants it to linger, to remain right here: as if to say, Show him. Insects being in their definite, or determined place; and her belief that nothing ever dies. Do I really know? She shakes her head, dolefully, Neera does. Then it’s a voice from another place that’s more compelling, beyond Trinidad or Mumbai, like the lady bug’s own place.
Believe me. Really believe you?
And she might have been a Jain in a real-time subcontinent, or a member of a five-hundred year-old Bishnois sect or tribe in a desert area of the Rajasthan: people who harmed nothing, who revered the life of every plant, animal, and who devoted themselves to keeping the earth pristine, and who live according to the belief that if you harm the environment you’re harming yourself!
The beetle now seems to be somewhere else, in a shadowy desert with worshippers, real people of faith as the Ganges River moves along. In Varanasi no less, the river surges… where the lady bug started from in its evolutionary course. Somewhere a timeless reincarnation keeps occurring, the Indian deities willing it!
Neera in an ashram, and an ancient guru she does a pranam to, in Gandhi’s manner no less. What she will not deny. And in the special ashram she pays homage, as I remain a bystander, but not an outsider.
Gandhi nods, and she nods back.
Eyes closed in prayerful silence, then she starts chanting a mantra from the Rig Veda. We are. And the lady bug is decipherable with wings, a mandible, legs, and carrying an outer shell, a carapace.
A life-form that experienced transubstantiation which began since the time of the ancient Greeks in the Indus Valley. What else is to come?
Neera is a steadfast believer, though not yet a determined worshipper.
Unconsciously I hold up my hand, finger still ready to snap. And the expression on Neera’s face…her radiance, I detect. What else will occur contrary to my wayward thinking or imagining?
Suddenly the lady bug takes off…flies away!
Neera looks at me with a questioning gaze, and takes note of the beetle’s disappearance. Asking: What’s real, in one life-time only?
*Flash fiction or micro-fiction, also called postcard fiction and threshold fiction, and sometimes known as liminality, falls into the grey area between short stories and poetry. The form challenges the reader to experience a yearning in the character towards reaching an epiphany. It has the “flash of fireflies”–a reference to Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. Its length does not exceed a thousand words. (Cyril Dabydeen)
A former Poet Laureate of Ottawa, Cyril Dabydeen was born in Guyana, South America. He teaches Writing at the University of Ottawa. He has written a number of books including novels and poetry. He is included in the Heinemann, Oxford and Penguin Books of Caribbean Verse. His novel, Drums of My Flesh won the top Guyana Prize and was nominated for the 2007 IMPAC/Dublin Literary Prize. Contact– firstname.lastname@example.org