A new story, “Where it Ends”, by Indian writer Swapna Kishore, this time at Strange Horizons:
I left California on Friday, not sure I would return. I was worried because Amma had summoned me home without giving any reason. Her phone call, her first contact after years of mutual silence, had yanked me out of my comfortable routine; it reminded me that people had started exchanging puzzled whispers about me, and that I needed to renew myself. I could do that when I went home. Then, after I’d finished whatever Amma wanted from me, I could decide the direction of my life. By the time I sank into my economy-class seat, three decades of my San José life wrapped up, I felt drained emotionally and mentally.
The man in the adjacent seat glared at me. An Indian like me—late fifties, bald. A wrinkled face, very familiar. Extremely familiar. Too old to be one of us. Damn. I toyed with the idea of a complete denial. Or perhaps I could be my own younger sister. Or daughter.
“Chikki,” he said.
Bhaiyya? His voice sank inside me, throwing up ripples of memories I did not want to face. I peered at him; God, he looked so old. What had gone wrong?
What could I do now? I couldn’t fool my own brother, no way. I was stuck now, in a seat next to him, for the duration of an intercontinental flight. Over the hours our rift would widen, dark with the shadow of Ronjona.
“How are you? How’s Ronjona?” I managed to squeak.
“Ronjona died.” His face was stiff.
“I . . . sorry.” Such a trite condolence, but I could think of nothing else.
“You married a Tamilian, no?” He flung it like an accusation, as if saying, See, you married an outsider yourself.
“It’s over.” Jagdeesh and I had been married for twenty years. We had lived together for two years before our incompatibility became obvious, but we continued intermittent contact over the next several years—divorce was a dirty word in his community. Our last-ditch trial to make it work, seven years ago, failed in just a couple of months. Though mutual consent had finally freed us, I found the memory of all that wasted emotion hurtful.
Silence weighed on the air between Bhaiyya and me. I wondered whether his presence was a coincidence, or whether he was heading to India to obey our mother’s summons. – continue reading.