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Fantasy Science Fiction East Asian

Turn the page. Don’t ask me what happens next. I can only tell you what happened the last time. The last time I died.

My Life as Fish, as recalled by a silverfish, 2 April 2000

Last time, I stepped off the curb, and a delivery guy, Orhan, Turkish, 23, recent immigrant through green card lottery, racing on his  bike, speeding the wrong way on Morton street, to deliver an order of shish kebabs and zucchini fritters to Number 52, Apartment 3B, slammed into me. The first me, the me that was reading while walking and not looking, little boy Macchlu, also known as Fish, I was finished. On the way to the library, the end. 

They don’t call it terminal velocity for nothing. 

I had always wanted to be in the New York Times, and now I was. I should have been more specific in my birthday wish. I should have said, alive. Details. Too late. In the picture, my mother is weeping. She’s wearing the red sari I always loved, with the medallions on it. The palloo is askew. Sartorial perfection is not always achieved during times of extreme grief. I heard her scream my name, Macchlu, a word of warning, just as I was stepping down. She was right behind me. Hear the anguish of a mom who can’t save her kid who’s right there with her. A blogger caught the whole thing on his phone and now it’s doing the rounds on twitter: Mrs. Rana’s heartbreak.

The Turkish couple in 3B called Seamless to complain their order never arrived.

The delivery guy started a campaign for safe cycling in Manhattan.

My backpack, the library book, my glasses with thick lenses, now broken, lay all over the street. For a moment, roadside bugs peered through the cracked glass and saw their world differently.  

Now the book is overdue.

* * *

My life as a silverfish, as recalled by a housefly, 3 March 2006 

Last time, I was an exhibitionist, and suffered a devastating body blow, a fatal wound that left me flattened like a chappati, life fluids oozing out. 

Listen, okay, I asked for it, I know I did. I'd spent six merry years chomping on classics,then I thought I'd try to get the book returned. I was dancing on the book, slithering this way and that, letting the light catch my little scales, hoping Mrs. Rana would see me. Not so she might murder me, like she did, but so she'd realize the book needed to go back to the library.

Little did she know I was more than a random household pest. I was no ordinary silverfish. I carried within me the soul of her darling, Macchlu. 

Mom, I forgive you, I know you couldn’t see me for who I really was.

You wonder why Macchlu was inside me. Where’s a lad's soul to go at the moment of death? There's only a split second to make that decision; it’s a seller's market. There’s a frantic look around, what’s available for immediate occupancy, and when it was Macchlu’s time, the best spot was the egg that had just formed inside his pet silverfish, Silver. Who, by the way, was a girl, not a boy. Silver, my mom, who was snoring in his pocket at that moment, lost in REM sleep, maybe dreaming of entwined antennae in a book about the Scottish Highlands. The bicycle tires missed her by a centimeter. So she lived to tell the tale. 

She sure nibbled on some fine books in her time, parchment, rice paper, even carbon paper, a female with many appetites. But the very overdue Book of Yes, that was her favorite. In fact, that’s where the seeds of my conception were sown.

She told me all about it, that was the talk she gave me on the birds and the bees. The time that Fish spent a night in the library, and she snuck away in the books to have an adventure of her own. The time Dad approached her in the library, right in the fantasy section. What better spot for a seductive mating ritual? How she quivered when they touched their antennae together for a brief second. And how she then fled. As is their custom. Then how they came back together and he gave her a little gift, he put it right in her ovipositor, safekeeping for future use. That’s how I came to be. All that action on a library book. 

And the irony of it, that's the book that killed me. Birth and death, all in one spot. This is the stuff of opera.

Which reminds me. That book is still overdue. Bzzz.

* * *

My life as a housefly, as recalled by Katya, 14 March 2006

Last time, I died in a glass coffin. I’m not going to pretend otherwise, the end was horrible. 

But if I look back on the life I had, it was a glorious few minutes. So if you have to do a soul-jump and you’re in a tough spot, I totally recommend finding a fly. You’ve guessed the best part already: you can pretty much go anywhere, and eat anything. For free. There’s nothing quite like having a good pair of wings, it's like your own private jet, only better. 

The only downside is the end can come very quickly and unexpectedly. From natural or unnatural causes. Jumper beware. 

When Silverfish Jr. went splat against the table, the nearest vacancy was in the patch of fly eggs in some muck in the corner of the garbage can. He did a quick soul-jump to a soul-free egg. Then that became me. 

I found myself in housefly land, a completely different territory. Immediately I had 149 brothers and sisters in eggs, and then my fly mom laid another batch, another 150 eggs. I quickly lost count. Sibling rivalry took on a whole new meaning. It took us 10 days to grow up and then everyone buzzed the hell out of there. Especially when we saw Mrs. Rana come towards us with a spray can of some vile stuff, channeling her inner Mussolini. A few of my sibs didn’t survive the chemical warfare. But I hung back under the garbage can when the assault was underway. I’d already been felled by my ex-mom once in the past. Not again, I vowed.

But navigating the humans was tricky. I had a lot to accomplish in 30 days. I wanted to get her and Mr. Rana to return the library book, so some other kid could enjoy that fantastic tale. God knows why they wouldn’t do it. I wanted to fly around, eat and drink, and have fun. Maybe touch down on some fermenting alcohol. And I wanted to find another sexy fly to mate with. This was my bucket list.

When the fumes subsided, I ventured out through a crack and buzzed out to the kitchen. Chicken tikka, mattar-paneer, biryani, ghee: a smorgasbord was laid out on the kitchen counter. I stopped quickly at each station for a quick snack. Yum! Mrs. Rana’s cooking was as delicious as ever. 

Mom!

But duty called. I buzzed to the bookshelf. There was The Book of Yes, on the top shelf. The Ranas sat in the living room, sipping a cup of coffee.

“I still miss him so much,” said Mrs. Rana, dabbing her eyes with her palloo.

“Oh, Rannoo,” said Mr. Rana sadly.

They were talking about me, the me who was once their son. I shed a little fly-tear.

“Everytime I see that book, it breaks my heart,” said Mrs. Rana. “It made him so happy, and yet, it was the cause of his death,” she said sadly.

“Oh Rannoo, it was not the fault of the book, nor you. It was written in his fate,” said Mr. Rana. Then he added, “We should really give it back to the Library.” I knew that my once-Dad was deeply uncomfortable that they still had the book. He hated being overdue.

“Never!” she said, banging her cup down on the coffee table with force, spilling a few drops. “Never! It was the last thing he was holding. How could I ever give it back?”

When I heard this, my wings drooped. My plan had been to buzz around the book till I caught their attention, but I realized there was no point. All that would happen would be another untimely death. Mine. When Mrs. Rana might hit me with a fly-swatter. Or a newspaper. Or a chemical cocktail.

At this point I decided to enjoy the rest of my life. All I had was another 29.5 days. I flew off the bookcase and alighted on the screen door, ready to dash out at the first opportunity. 

At this moment, Meena walked in. She was Fish’s sister, the Ranas’ daughter. In a sort of reverse migration, she had been living in India. I hadn’t seen her in years. Hello, Sis. She sat down next to my once-parents. 

“I have to tell you something,” she said. “Rahul and I have separated. I’m going to have a baby on my own.”

I watched the scene with a mild irritation, the tears, the questions, etc. I was sad for her, but with all the things that had happened, I’d gained some perspective. Time flies. One of my thirty days was getting frittered away. I rubbed my legs together impatiently.

I must have fallen into a little reverie. The next thing I knew was Mr. Rana was sliding the glass doors closed. Suddenly, I was trapped in a no-fly zone. I beat my wings in a panic. Caught between a screen and a glass door, with no chance of escape, I began to throw myself against the glass so they might notice and let me out.  

But my once-father, that kindly man who would find little spiders, centipedes and beetle bugs, and deliver them all to safety, he didn’t notice me at all. Sadly, the common fly is a second class citizen in the insect world, often going completely unseen by the kindest of souls. 

All they did was ask Meena about the baby that would be coming, while I battered my body against the glass, over and over again. And thus, this time, my once-dad killed me.

* * *  

My life as Katya, as recalled by Katya II, 5 March 2106

Last time, I got myself put into a medically induced coma, then shipped cross-country and housed in the Stanford Cryopreservation Unit. They’ve figured out the technology for a second life, and that’s where I’ll be relaunching again soon. But more on that later. I’m in the inbetween, and I thought I’d fill in a few important blanks. Close the chapter on that errant library book, and the first life of Katya.

I was Katya, daughter of Meena, with the soul of Fish aka Macchlu, Uncle that I’ll never know and yet know better than anyone ever will. Fish is me, and I am Fish. My granny-naniji Rannoo says she can see him when she peers into my eyes, and I tell her, she’s right. And then I hug her, the kind of hug that lasts forever and spans a million lives. Boy lives, silverfish lives, fly lives, girl lives, all lives. 

I am one and I am all.

When the housefly that was Fish was breathing his last breath in a prison of wire and glass, he was casting about for housing. Then he spied a tryst about to occur in Meena’s fallopian tube. That's the place I need to be, he thought. Nothing like being a human being again. 

Nothing like coming home.

Then when I grew up to be three, and grandpa-daduji carried me around the house on his shoulders, I unfurled my pudgy arms, stretched my wobbly fingers and pulled the book, right out of the bookshelf. 

“Libwawy,” I shouted.

“Oh my god,” said naniji. “I do believe she wants to go to that library.”

“Oh my god,” said daduji. “I do believe she wants to return this book.”

“Oh, be done with it,” said Mrs. Rana. “I have my Fish back with me. He lives in Katya,” she said.

And so the family made a trip to the library on Leroy street. I clutched the book in both hands, and walked between naniji and daduji, my steps small and uncertain but my path clear, and my mom, Meena, walked behind me. They made sure I did not step off the curb. When we got there, daduji lifted me up and I handed over the book to the librarian. He was a man called Madhav.

He examined the book briefly and said, "Hmm, never checked out." 

My father looked at his toes. 

"It's been gone from our shelves almost ten years. You know what we call that? The point of no return." He laughed.

“Young lady,” he said to me, making a mock stern face. “Do you know this book is very overdue?”

“I do,” I said. “I twy to weturn for years and years. Now it's home.”

“Children,” said Madhav, smiling. “They say the damnedest things.”

November 06, 2021 02:00

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2 comments

Master Jack
02:03 Nov 15, 2021

***let's talk and share our thoughts about it ---___💢🌍👉 https://discord.gg/XmgFyk6 👈🌍💢 ---___

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Master Jack
02:00 Nov 15, 2021

///let's talk and share our thoughts about it ---___💢🌍👉 https://discord.gg/XmgFyk6 👈🌍💢 ---___

Reply

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