She kicked at the soft blob washed up on the beach. A jellyfish? A crayfish squeezed out of its shell in a cold sticky mess? The stink of it. No. The body of a seal, a moaning baby lumbered off, lost to its mother, trying to escape snapping jaws, now prey to the largest jaws of them all. Its flipper under her feet now, squishy-wet, washed-up, lonely.
Why call the human body a “body” and all others, “carcasses”? If she washes up on these very shores, why not call her a carcass, too? A bloated, stinking weight, a lot of give, tiny crabs scurrying out of eye sockets, teeth set in a permanent grin. Now in the soaked, sandy grave of this beach, she’s a walker, kicking, softly, without paying heed.
Another kick, breathing through her mouth the minuscule, atomic bits of rotting flesh. Her long, once-beautiful body too will break down in these waters, the body her alcohol-doused brain had forgotten about on a sofa, the body he found, stripped, bit, scratched, parted, made ugly, dirty. She had thought him a friend, the brother of the groom, who took care of guests, plied them with drinks.
She stumbled in the dark, feet sinking, the prick of broken sea-shells, the swish of the surf, the relentless hungry ocean, forever approaching, forever in retreat, like the swell of blood to her heart, pumping unsteady beneath her palm, each beat a cycle.
The waves would keep watch over the rise and fall of days, the curves of her body, the thick hanks of her hair floating like seaweed, over her bones long after she left, long after the flesh, her flesh, this flesh, came apart and became dark sludge, fish-food, bones, stone, sand.
This flesh he had touched, groped, entered, all of it and all of him, his teeth, his penis, his voice, muscles, hands, leg hair, pubic bone, nothing but slivers on the beach. His body now lying asleep in the shadows of the resort not far from this sand, his lips, his balls—all fish-food one day. Home-of-the-crabs. His skull, a hermit-crab-shell.
Both bodies, his and hers, just rotting flesh. Different days, different pieces of earth, but the same end.
So. Why worry about flesh at all? Wading into the cold waters could wait. On the dark horizon, a white ship. No sun for hours yet. She sank down on the sand, within reach of the surf, in the graveyard of seals and jellyfish and beached whales and stranded dolphins, of crabs, shellfish, parrotfish, angels, starfish, of rocks, rivers. The earth itself.
Breathing in and out in time with the waves, she practiced becoming one with the sand; churning, turning slowly, over moments and aeons, into fine granules, moving back, forth, back and forth, cradled by the waves of the sea.
is the author of You Beneath Your Skin (Simon & Schuster India, 2019), her debut literary crime novel which focuses on class and corruption in India. Her short fiction has been published at Litro magazine, Bluestem magazine, Griffith Review (Australia), Lunch Ticket, Atticus Review, and other journals in the USA and UK. Her work is available in various anthologies in Asia, and she serves as one of the editors of The Forge Literary Magazine. Proceeds from the sale of her novel will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.
Author’s blog: www.damyantiwrites.com
⚡ Interview With Damyanti Biswas by Rebecca Moon Ruark in
Parhelion (6 February 2020)