When I was a child, mum used to wake me at five o’clock in the morning, every morning, tugging at my blanket and whispering, “When you sleep, your luck sleeps with you.”
Mornings were much the same in our apartment. The banshee screams of neighbouring families would greet us as we sleepily navigated the concrete steps up to the communal terrace to welcome the rising sun. We had our routine. Dad would hold up a small copper pot of water to the deep orange part of the sky and whisper a prayer. Then he’d tilt it forward slowly until a thin braid of water splattered on the terrace floor. Mum and I, a few steps behind, would hold our palms together as first light appeared over the Kolkata skyline.
The following day, the sun shone just as bright above London as the train, crammed with dozing commuters, crawled into London Victoria Station.
From the concourse, most of the commuters spilled into the vast London Underground network. I could’ve followed them and taken the stuffy tube to Piccadilly Circus, but I decided to take the scenic route past Buckingham Palace.
London was a proud city and that was evident in its traditions. The palace towered on the left with an unending throng of tourists plastered to the gates outside, eager to catch a glimpse of the ancient guard-changing ceremony.
All the while, my mind was replaying the moments from the day before. Why was it so necessary to be invisible? What kind of work were they doing? I’d imagined all sorts of fancy things from controversial self-sustaining fusion experiments to gesture-controlled drones for the government.
In St. James’s Park, the lake under the bridge that seemed to connect the palace to Horse Guard’s Parade on to the right was ablaze with the light of the sun. I crossed the thick red road leading away from the palace and climbed a set of steps on to Waterloo Place. The tree-lined road seemed to jump out at me as if to grab my attention, to stop me from going any further. But I couldn’t see beyond the salary I’d be receiving. For that and the recognition that came with working in the capital of England, I’d sell my soul.
Sample from a science fiction novel that I’m currently working on. More to reveal in the coming months.