Contest #185 shortlist ⭐️

Back to the Stars

Submitted into Contest #185 in response to: Write a story about someone who doesn’t know how to let go.... view prompt

41 comments

Desi Speculative Indigenous

I land in the new pod like a feather. Softly. After gathering stardust, air bubbles, and dirt on my way. At my core, yet tightening like a coil, are memories of me; gathering, entering and ejecting from the pod, a million times before this.

I know it is only a matter of weeks before my mind begins to form and the memories from before get pressed against its wall. Deep into the subconscious. The way to which will be heavily guarded afterwards. With that, I will forever lose access to the lifetimes I roamed on this mud ball.

My new mind will not mind it though. The first gush of affection by the person whose womb I am in now will wash over it thoroughly. Forming new pathways to let the tentacles of this lifetime take root.

And add to the baggage I carry at my core.

Within months, a pattern will form, not very different from the previous ones. It will make me choose my tendencies, biases, pleasures and fears. A tiny bit of it is modified by the memories of my ancestors my new blood carries. By the time I finish tunnelling my way out and cry lustily in a brightly lit room, my life energy is a freshly squeezed sponge.

Eager to soak and store more.

The first roll, the first crawl, the first waddle into the arms of my rapt parent; nothing comes to me as easily as I make it look. But I have the exuberance of a new life. And I bob through the hurdles set by well-meaning adults. Joyously.

With every touch, smell, sight, taste and sound, my pattern collects more pieces to tighten itself. With every pat, knock, hug, hurt, hunger or feast, it grows stronger, adding more weight to my core.


Then comes the hurricane; intoxicating and scary at once. My limbs grow all gangly and begin to fill out awkwardly. To add to the already unbearable condition, the hormones are liberally sprinkled into my system. A slow poison, blurring the lines, heightening the sensations. There is no way I can get a handle on what is happening with my outer shell, inner core be damned!


My senses inform me I have my needs, and my mind guides me into ways in which they can be fulfilled. My parents have knocked some good sense into me before the hormones knock half of them right out. So, I, who have gathered accessories of ego, personality and status manage to forge allegiances to family, government and nation and make socially respectable choices when under observation. And am proud of them. I experience moments of weightless flight when I take my little ones out on a hike, give them a hug or watch them chase the butterflies in the park. But feel pulled down at other times. I wonder why, but don’t dwell too much on it. Who has the time?


My midriff has more mass than my shoulders. And I drag myself through my routine. My little ones have moved away and have their own little ones now. My partner and I are in an amicable cohabitation. But the sparks are long gone. Truth be told, I can feel the poison in our bloodstreams that brought us together slowly leaving us. I have more time on my hands and less energy in my legs.

So, I look inwards. I don’t know where to look. And when I do, all I see is a dark, scary blob.

After years of seeking answers, I can vaguely see the baggage at my core. Like hot tar metalled into crushed stones. How do I get rid of it? The more I think about it, the bigger it grows. I am horrified.

Even my midriff has shrivelled. I know my present outing on this mud ball is limited, and drawing close to an end. I am yet to figure out how to leave my baggage behind, with my ashes. I don’t want to keep coming back and go through the same loop a million more times.

I don’t want to go up and gather the stardust to come back, again. I want to be the stardust.

I wander in the wilderness, go on pilgrimages, give back to the world, and cry my heart out to my God. But the tar is still stuck to me.

One fine morning my partner doesn’t wake up. They have gone to the stars. My heart is heavy for years. Then I choose to forgive them. I feel lighter than before.

I no longer go out seeking nirvana. That doesn’t mean I have given up. I am just preparing myself from within. Turning me into a vessel open to grace- one conscious breath at a time.

My joints are getting weaker by the day. When I sit still, shutting up all the noises, I can see the baggage at the core clearly now, not as tightly bound as before, but still holding on to the centre. Will I be able to pull the pin out from the centre and make the entire structure collapse before I draw my last breath?

A visit to the doctor confirms I needn’t suffer these questions for too long. So, it is either now or not in this lifetime.

I decide to drop the first shiny robe I gathered here, my personality. This time, for good.

I float a little. Just enough to see me from a distance.

The next thing I do is pick a thing I really dislike and do it joyfully. It is easier now since I don’t have me standing in my way. But it still takes effort.

I begin to see the creator in all his creations. Well, most of them.

I float a little higher. But I am still without a jet pack. Nothing to jettison me to the space where I can become stardust.

Months drag by. On one full moon night, I feel the pull. I know it is only a matter of days now, if not hours or minutes.

This is the moment. My last moment of wakefulness. When I must surrender unquestioningly, wholly and irrevocably; if my baggage has to fall by the wayside as I become one with the cosmos.

I grow buoyant and weave my way out of the maze of memories. I nearly make it. I am almost not me. But a block in the loosened pattern latches on tightly to the core and refuses to let go. And I have no energy or time left to work on it.

This lifetime went by too fast.


February 16, 2023 05:50

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41 comments

Dan Coglianese
20:59 Mar 01, 2023

This is absolutely amazing! I'm truly blown away. What a journey through a lifetime. I love when someone comes up with such a unique way of describing something familiar to everyone. This is really a special story, Suma. I could easily see this winning the week's contest.

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Suma Jayachandar
08:27 Mar 02, 2023

Thank you Dan. I appreciate your thoughtful and kind comment.

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Story Time
17:33 Feb 28, 2023

There is a special kind of skill in being able to infuse a single line with so much meaning and you're able to do that with such ease. I love reading your work. So well-deserved.

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Suma Jayachandar
05:21 Mar 01, 2023

Kevin, Your feedback is always inspirational. And I'm grateful for that. Thanks for reading!

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Philip Ebuluofor
19:23 Feb 26, 2023

Suma, you have what it takes. Congrats.

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Suma Jayachandar
06:00 Feb 27, 2023

Thank you for your kind words.

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Philip Ebuluofor
18:38 Feb 27, 2023

Welcome.

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Marty B
00:29 Feb 25, 2023

I read this almost as a poem, very well chosen descriptions. I like the analogy of the growing then shrinking midriff. I hope mine shrivels too

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Suma Jayachandar
14:03 Feb 25, 2023

Thank you for the read and comment, Marty. I like your sense of humour. Don't we all want shrivelled midriff 😂 We just have to patiently wait, I guess.

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Susan Catucci
15:32 Feb 23, 2023

Suma! You have left me with a chill running down my spine - it's still there! From the first line, the feather landing softly in the pod - I so hoped someone would be inspired and capable of writing about life from the inside - physical, spirit - and capture the essence of existence, and it's you! Of course, it's you. Every word was another brush stroke on another one of your exquisite creations. Beautiful job. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

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Suma Jayachandar
06:17 Feb 24, 2023

Susan! It is always a great pleasure and blessing to receive your kind comments. I’m humbled and grateful for the same. Thank you so much!

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Susan Catucci
17:13 Feb 24, 2023

YES! I would have lost all faith in this enterprise if they'd let this one go without SOME recognition! I am so very happy for you, Suma. You deserve it (and I even said so before the fact, so there's some credibility there!) I just knew how good this was/is. Congratutions!

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Suma Jayachandar
17:17 Feb 24, 2023

Susan, it's so heartwarming to hear you support my work with such passion. Thank you so much!!

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Susan Catucci
17:21 Feb 24, 2023

It's special, Suma, and I love your style and artistry. That's all. :)

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Delbert Griffith
12:45 Feb 23, 2023

I envy the lyrical quality of all of your pieces, and this is no exception. You have the ability to make every word gleam with a soft, comforting light, and every sentence glisten with poignant beauty. Your description of a life cycle contained within millions of life cycles was entrancing. It had a dreamlike quality that made me feel the ache and splendor of life. A beautiful piece, Suma. Just beautiful.

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Suma Jayachandar
05:51 Feb 24, 2023

Delbert, you are so so kind. I’m glad you found the piece dreamlike and poignant. Thank you so much for reading it and leaving such a lovely comment.

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Zack Powell
05:29 Feb 23, 2023

Suma! Forgive me for being so late to this - I've been ill, but reading your work always makes me feel a little better. This was no exception. I really enjoy the poeticism of this piece. Halfway through I had to remind myself that English is your second language, because sometimes I forget when I'm reading your stories. The language and the prose is top-notch here. It's abstract, sure, but that matches the concept that you're talking about. The space motif is lovely, the imagery poignant, and the theming excellent. I especially love the las...

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Suma Jayachandar
08:07 Feb 23, 2023

Oh Zack! Please take care of your health. And please don't ever apologize for reading late. I know you always have the best things to say about my work and are a big source of encouragement for me. I myself am so behind in catching up with reading- a busy week at home :-(. And thank you for such high praise. If I have made an improvement in my craft, it is because of the company I keep and the support I get here on Reedsy. Ever grateful for that, Zack.

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Zack Powell
16:53 Feb 24, 2023

Big congratulations to you for hitting the shortlist again, Suma! Well-earned, I must say.

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Suma Jayachandar
17:14 Feb 24, 2023

Thank you so much, Zack!

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Rebecca Miles
06:44 Feb 22, 2023

A both beautiful and fascinating look at the concept. I especially liked the last third tackling the bid to be transcendental and of course the twist! The last line was a clever and new take on a line we often hear parroted, no mean feat at all. Well done.

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Suma Jayachandar
08:50 Feb 22, 2023

Thank you for such a wonderfully uplifting comment, Rebecca.

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Joe Sweeney
14:53 Feb 21, 2023

A very insightful work! Thank you.

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Suma Jayachandar
08:47 Feb 22, 2023

Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment.

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Laurel Hanson
15:08 Feb 17, 2023

A poetic examination of a soul in the cycle of reincarnation seeking enlightenment. It's an interesting approach and then the elemental problem: releasing the baggage in order to be truly free. My read here is that the baggage didn't quite let go and true enlightenment was not achieved, which leaves regret. I know I might be wrong. The spiritual/philosophical underpinnings of this make it a thoughtful journey for the reader to go on. Nicely done.

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Suma Jayachandar
15:28 Feb 17, 2023

You are absolutely correct in picking up the core of the story, Laurel! I am glad to know it makes the reader a bit thoughtful. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

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Aeris Walker
13:36 Feb 17, 2023

This story was so beautifully written. I love how you bookend it with this almost “cosmic” entrance and exit, with the body of your story feeling like we are truly reading from the perspective of a “soul” rather than a character. If I could make one small suggestion: the story moves fast, but that’s exactly what it’s about—how quickly life flies by. So the structure totally complements the subject. But I think this one section here just moved slightly faster than everywhere else, and might benefit even just from one short line kind of intro...

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Suma Jayachandar
15:25 Feb 17, 2023

Aeris, Thanks a ton for your wonderful, encouraging comment. And your suggestion-priceless! I have made a few changes accordingly. Hope it comes across as more cohesive now. I truly value your keen observations and support. Thanks again!

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Michał Przywara
22:00 Feb 16, 2023

That's a thought provoking dive into reincarnation. Initially, I assumed we were looking from the POV of a single atom, which was part of one person, then scattered to the wind, then part of another, and so on as the cycle continues. I like the two layers here: the current life, and the dark baggage underneath. There's a lot of distractions in life that keep us from introspecting, and sometimes during a quiet moment we catch sight of that darkness - an uncomfortable shadow at the edge of our vision. The narrator only really has time for ac...

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Suma Jayachandar
06:37 Feb 17, 2023

Glad to know you found it thought provoking, Michal. In my culture, there is a belief that a soul carries around karmic baggage (Sanchita karma) through lifetimes. And only through grace-filled conscious action it can ever hope to shed this baggage and become liberated from the cycle of rebirth. I was a bit apprehensive to write this piece. But this was the first ‘baggage’ that came to my mind the moment I saw the prompt. And I had to do it. Thanks for the read and comment!

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Michał Przywara
00:19 Feb 25, 2023

Woo, congrats on the shortlist! Looks like it was a good call, following that first instinct :)

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Suma Jayachandar
01:37 Feb 25, 2023

Looks like it 😊 Thanks!

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Wendy Kaminski
14:23 Feb 16, 2023

This was so beautiful, Suma. It gives me an entirely new perspective on reincarnation, and what it takes to achieve nirvana. Thank you so much for weaving this tale - the result is amazing!

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Suma Jayachandar
06:28 Feb 17, 2023

Wendy, You are always so generous with your appreciation. I truly feel blessed to receive such feedback. Thank you!

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Wendy Kaminski
12:23 Feb 17, 2023

Absolutely my pleasure! :)

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Wendy Kaminski
17:06 Feb 24, 2023

Congratulations on the well-deserved shortlisting, Suma! :)

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Suma Jayachandar
17:15 Feb 24, 2023

Thank you!

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Lily Finch
13:32 Feb 16, 2023

Suma, The cycle of life, death and rebirth is in a looped series and the reality of being tired of that cycle. I enjoyed hearing the POV of the MC from his perspective. It was very well done. As the MC slows down, he realizes his best and worst experiences, only to conclude that his life went too fast. Don't we all say that at different times throughout our lives? Thank you for the good read. LF6.

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Suma Jayachandar
06:26 Feb 17, 2023

Lily, Thank you so much for reading it early and letting me know you enjoyed it. I’m truly grateful for such support.

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Kathy Trevelyan
08:31 Feb 16, 2023

I really enjoyed reading this. It’s a different look at reincarnation, from the perspective of one person who just wants to get off the wheel of life. Fascinating.

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Suma Jayachandar
06:24 Feb 17, 2023

Thank you so much for the read and letting me know you enjoyed it. I appreciate it!

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