Necropolis | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 20, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 20, 2019

Necropolis

The empty lane of the cemetery was lit by the ancient stars flickering above. The wind had leaves dancing on their branches. It was a night of deep wind- the breaths of deities long dead were lurking with every movement.

An old owl kept hooting nearby- its howl was that of anguish and fear. Maybe the owl realized it was night but the world was not visible to it yet. Maybe it didn’t realize its eyes had lost their ability and that uncertainty scared it the most. After all, fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all.

Its feathers shivered in the blowing wind, but it didn’t dare to move. For the owl, the world was an infinite dark void, as it was for the bodies in that cemetery, except for one.

Selim was busy digging. He took huge chunks of dirt from the bosom of Mother Earth and no one protested. Everything lay still just like the corpse that lay beside the fresh heap of the dug-up ground. The damp smell of the soil was musty and it is supposed to create a sensation of closeness with nature.

Selim’s face was covered with sweat, his cloths grimy with dirt. He stopped for a moment, sweats dripped from his nose and got lost into the deep dark pit he had dug.

He pushed himself onto the ground and looked at the body again. He just stared at it. He didn’t wipe his face, didn’t clear the dirt from his shirt and kept breathing heavily.

It was the body of a man whom he never saw before, whom he knew nothing about. The body was of a total stranger and yet it was up to Selim to bury him; not his family, not his friends, nor anyone he loved or was loved by. There were of course people that cared for that person and they might have been even there for him when it mattered the most, but none of them was here to bid their farewell.

It was up to Selim to bury him.   

He dragged the body to the edge of the newly dug grave and without hesitation pushed it into the dark pit. The body fell with a thud.

Selim stood straight. His short hair trembled with the breeze. The long trees looking over the cemetery moaned as the wind whispered something to them and their shadows mocked their dread, dancing in abstract moves, shifting position at every instant. 

The next moment, Selim was covering the body with the soil he had dug up. He kept taking big portions of earth from the pile and threw them over the body. He kept doing so in a continuous pace. Every time he pushed the shovel into the pile to take the soil, a sharp sound of metal hitting the earth penetrated the melody of the wind.

Selim thought of the man lying under the earth, hidden from the world, and how he will be hidden forever. No one will ever be certain of his existence. But the truth was that no one actually cared. He was dead and that was the end of it. He might have had dreams, hopes for love, aspiration for giving his life a meaning. He might have had thoughts about a happy conjugal life.

He could have even had dreaded death and visualized that fear whenever he had near death experiences. No matter how irritating it might have been, people do live in a world of uncertainty where they can never be sure of anything. Whenever they feel like knowing something for certain, it is actually nothing but a forged condolence because from time to time they need to tell themselves that they are not lost, their lives won’t go in vain. They need to comfort themselves by driving their mind towards the effulgent path of absurdity. They try with all their might to hide the fact that their dear life is actually absurd, it has no meaning. All of these truths are hidden from humans to maintain a stability, to make one forget that one day they will end up like this man.

Suddenly, the breeze was strong, as if a herd of buffalo was running from a lion and their dread could be felt in the wind.

The owl didn’t hoot anymore but the stars still twinkled above to show Selim the way out from the grave yard. But Selim didn’t move. He stood there, staring at the grave he just gave life to. He didn’t feel anything because he didn’t know what to feel.

Suddenly, a sense of dread ran down his spine. Somewhere in the distance a jackal howled. Two and three more howls followed soon after. His forehead started to sweat even though he stood there in the soothing breeze. His hands were shaking with terror. He was alone in the vast graveyard and if the jackals howling in the distance were to see him alone and unarmed, they would not miss their chance of a feast.

So, with shaking hands and fear in his soul Selim walked very fast through the cemetery. He walked over graves, old and new, of men and women, of aged and infants and he felt dread inside his heart. What would happen if the beasts realize what they can have between their fangs!

After six more minutes of fast paced walking, Selim reached the main gate of the cemetery. He left the shovel beside the front gate where he found it and walked slowly along the path to the outer world, lit by the abundance of stars. He finally stepped out of the necropolis, the city of the dead.

Abdullah Rayhan is a student at the Department of English at Jahangirnagar University.

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