January 22, 2018

Darkness in Day

short story

Darkness in Day

by Shahinur Islam

When she wakes up in the morning, Ria has a feeling that life is God’s sane madness or mere whimsicality; however much we try to settle and smoothen, it’ll but remain incongruous anyway.  A sad tune fused with such a thought, she makes Jisan, her husband, listen to. Makes him listen to in an altered form that she’s going to fail in today’s driving test.

On hearing, he comes to a dead stop. As dead as a statue. He looks startled. As startled as a stone-age man will be, if he somehow appears thanks to some divine mantra and sees the activities of our modern age. Jisan’s look reveals not the surety of her failure, but the impossible thought itself that she just expressed.

 “I can guarantee you’ll pass,” he thunders, throwing her fear into air like dusting.

“Who can guarantee what’ll happen when?” She says.

“You’re not wrong, though. But man can foretell about some stuff.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“I can bet you a thousand bucks.”

She doesn’t answer. Her silence cannot hide her discomfort, either. She just throws a glance at him. A glance that seems to wish he were true. She rubs circularly the tip of her thumb with that of her forefinger. She seems not to believe him, yet she doesn’t agree on the bet, either.

“I’ve been driving for about fifteen years, and teaching for ten years. When someone holds the steering, I can say half of them,” he says to cheer her, looking at her face.

She knows, too, she drives well enough to pass the test. Still the apprehension has been swirling in her mind since last night. Swirling like car wheels on the road. It has no shore, no reach, no destination, no size, no volume; it has nor length, nor width, nor depth—nothing. Only what it has is a dimensionless weight. A weight that’s burdened her so much so that anything else of life feels like weightless to her now. As if even her body were merely weightless to it.

She is usually logical-minded, so such an illogical thought dumbfounds her. It’s appeared in her mind just like a cancer, which attacks the body so silently that even its owner doesn’t know since when it nested. This is a mature morning of that apprehension, which only made her feel restless and didn’t let her sleep well, either, last night. She even saw in a nightmare that the examiner had failed her because of her going through the red light.

At one o’clock, she’s to take the G test. You may burn with such questions as, “He who teaches people how to drive almost every day, why is his wife taking the test for a driving license after so many days? “Why didn’t she take it at the time when they struggled a lot at the start of their immigrant life? The license could make their lifestyle easy and time-saving.”

She didn’t take it perhaps for the reason cows don’t graze on lush grass grown on a farmer’s backyard; perhaps for the reason a teacher’s kids don’t want to learn lessons from the parent; perhaps for the reason we love to be invited to a dinner party by people, while we already have our own food.

The couple immigrated when they were thirty or so. If they spent the time in their home country, they could live comfortable lives. But unaccustomedly, they had to exert themselves like the young. When it was their golden and brightest period to be in mutual company and get great delight, they had to work for survival only and give the rest of their time to their kids. They didn’t have the time to refresh their minds by traveling for some time to somewhere.

None of them longed to prolong this fifteen-year-long stifling state. Now they’re fairly well off. Well off to not work all the days, so they decided six months ago that they’d work less and enjoy more; they’d tour together; they’d be fresh and lively by wiping the heaped up weariness, fret, and rust left by their lived life.

Today makes the day.  A day that completes the silver jubilee of their married life, too. They want to add a different taste, a different colour, a different fragrance, and a different touch to their celebration this time by driving together to some distant places.

By ten o’clock, she expresses the apprehension again. He just tells her to come downstairs. After quite a few minutes, she comes down. He takes her directly to the parking lot and opens the car door and settles her into the driver’s seat.

“Keep driving,” he says agilely.

She begins to follow him like a pet. Drives as he instructs. She deals with all types of driving complexities successfully and satisfactorily.

“Stop,” he says after half an hour of her driving, “Did you regain your self-confidence now? You drove as if I’d pressed the computer keyboard and got the expected result.”


“All right. If it’s not enough, go ahead again.”

“I don’t know why I still have the same feeling.”

“OK. Got it. Drive a bit more.”

After she drives for ten minutes more, he asks again if she’s confident now. She answers the same. He puckers up his face and eyes annoyingly. A while later, he reminds her of the bet to cheer her up. And raises the bet amount from two thousand to three thousand. But again, she doesn’t agree to it.

The apprehension braces itself against her mind like a leech. She can’t get rid of it anyway. He thinks of sprinkling salt on it.  Decides to engage her into some other thought. That may be a good medicine.

If the day was clear, the fall sun would glare over their head. But the day is quite muggy, damp, and dismal. Since the morning, the sunshine’s been elusive in the land of clouds. And the sky’s been casting a blank look, its face ash-coloured. Although yellow, orange, red, and brown colours abound in the surroundings, everything looks sad and sullen.

One hour and a half left for the test. They see no point in returning home now, so she drives one hour more to the test centre.

“From now on, you can’t whimper to my ears I don’t take you on a tour. Don’t give you enough time. Now you can take me on a tour,” he says, while the car is moving, and throws a sidelong glance at her and chuckles.

“Whimper? Well, can you tell me how many whole days you gave me in last fifteen years? How many times you took me on a tour?” she counters as the word ‘whimper’ whips her.

“That’s why I dedicated all the rest days of my life only to you. Before, I gave you time in midst of work. Now I’ll work in midst of giving you time,” he sniggers.

“You said the same back home. But you couldn’t.”

“Wishes are not horses, you know. The environment should be at your favour or at your control.”

“You’ll never have control. And I’ve seen it all these years.”

“Everything will be alright.”

“You’re all mouth!”

The dream will come true. She feels the possibility, which makes her face and eyes beam with a smile behind her utterance. But as soon as they reach the centre, she stops smiling and gets turned off again, he notices. It seems to him something horrifying like a crocodile has suddenly jumped out of the apparently smile-puckered river water. The leech couldn’t be got rid of anyway, he thinks.

“What though you fail this time. Take it again. And if you don’t feel OK, let’s go back,” he says, inspiring her and finding no other way.

“No, it’s alright. Since we came, let me take the test.”

They move to the office fifteen minutes earlier and present their necessary papers to the officer, who instructs her to be seated in her car. Jisan stands outside the car. After ten minutes, the officer shows up, gets in her car, and starts to instruct her to drive. The car disappears slowly from Jisan’s view.

The car comes back to the premises about twenty minutes later. Anxious, afraid, yet hopeful, Jisan rushes to the car. As soon as he looks at her eyes, he finds joy and ebullience storming there. He perceives the reason behind.

And it doubles his joy, proves the pillar of his prediction power to be strong. The leech has dropped then, he thinks.

“If you failed, you’d do for your blind belief, not for unskilled driving. O belief!” He says.

She doesn’t counter.

“What did I predict? You’re not counting me since morning. Now see Jisan doesn’t say for nothing. Got it? I think it was your fuss about nothing,” he continues.

“Fuss about nothing? What does it mean?” she asks.

“Still fumbling for meaning? You just proved it.”

“How can I make you realize it was not a fuss? I just had a feeling of it.”

“Oops! Why oh why didn’t you agree on the bet? I could’ve won two to three thousand bucks by now. You knew you’d pass. That’s why, you didn’t bet on me.”

“I’m lucky I didn’t. If I did, I’d lose so many bucks right now,” she smiles as she finds that being not a victim of loss is also a benefit.

“Hmm, I got it. I’ve been with you so many days!”

“Well, I truly passed. But why did it occur to me so?” she says, raising the issue of apprehension again.

“Nothing but illusions. It happens to the weak mind. It mistakes a rope for a snake and screams. It mistakes its own shadow for a ghost and gets senseless. Anyway, drop it now. Let’s get home. You’re a tested driver now. So you’d rather drive.”

“OK. Let’s. Are we going somewhere today?”

“If you’re in high spirits, we can go. And it’s better. Because each day from now on will bring more chill. The roads will be flooded with snow almost every day. And we gotta go through many more troubles than fun.”

“OK. Let’s go then.”

As soon as they are ready to turn home, they find the fuggy mood of the sky has become fuggier, turning the surrounding fall colours into pallor. The clouds have darkened more than before. But they never saw a ravaging storm here. If it ever rains, it’s usually light but enduring. Although snow storms are common, it’s not the time, and so the upcoming rain can’t scare them.

Soon it begins to rain. They set out for home. Although the rain is blocking the vision nearly like fog, the windshield wiper is dancing from side to side to clear it.

“I don’t think we can drive far today,” she says.

“Maybe it won’t linger. Let’s go home first. If the weather continues like this, we’ll go another day,” he says.

Their car touches the nearest stop from their home. The stop borders on an intersection, which is not prone to accidents at all. A very easy and simple intersection. Nobody heard any news of an accident in last fifteen years. Their home is one hundred metre away to the left. They stop here. Stop as the red light signals. And whenever the green light signals, she crawls into the intersection to turn off.

The rain persists. She moves as she thinks it’s clear ahead. But as soon as she moves, the rain seems to turn into an unimaginable storm. It squashes, smashes, and squeezes everything. An ugly darkness descends around. In a blink of an eye, the thunder breaks down from the sky in an uproar.

Before they sense anything, another car coming through the red signal rams their car. The unusual, eerie noise drags people from the surroundings. Drags police and paramedics after a few minutes. But nothing can drag them back to life.

copyright © 2017 by the author

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