by Ruchira Mandal

Stewart Black via Creative Commons

By the sides of a dead city’s dusty roads, ragged dogs seek shade beneath burnt out memories of trees. They will wake at night, prowling the pathways for lost souls. But for now, they slumber.

The man stumbles, blindly gaping. Skeletal houses breathe in hot, scorching gasps while his aching body dreams of beds and the darkness of sleep. He yearns to sleep into oblivion, but the thought of emptiness keeps him going. Outside, on the road, there is the mirage of a destination, the illusion of reaching somewhere, the still beating hope of meeting someone like him. Someone weary of the walk but clinging to the hope of a future.

At night, when the dogs wake, he will change places with them, both respecting the boundaries. At sunrise he will walk again, and on. And he will walk as far as his heart carries him, and then walk some more. For hope thrashes on, even when all breath is dead.

Then he will cross the lines to the watchful dogs, to their knowing, expectant eyes and open jaws, promising sleep and the end of loneliness at last.

Ruchira MandalRuchira Mandal has a day-job as an Assistant Professor of English Literature and tries to write in between checking millions of answer scripts. She has sporadically published travelogues in newspapers, fiction and poetry in a variety of medium and has also been part of a few indie anthologies. You can follow her @RucchiraM on Twitter.