Short Fiction ~ Damyanti Biswas
(Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition -6)
The dust-colored feathers, the plastic halo, the ragged wings wavering in the night breeze. She wears them as if they grow on her, not jammed up by her mother last minute, pinned together with clips and staples that pinch at the softness of her underarm, the curve of her buttocks. They scratch at her shoulder bones, her collar, from which her neck rises like a turtle’s from its shell.
Sakhi waits at the alley to jump into the halogen-lit stage made of piled-up cardboard, gaudy carpets sent in to the neighborhood dry-cleaners, shiny pieces of stars scavenged from piles of discarded Christmas lights. The air carries the smell of drains mingled with incense from the Shiva temple. The blue-painted, tigerskin-clad Lord made of stone watches the play put up in His honor. Sakhi wrinkles her nose against the sweet reek of cannabis her younger brother has lit up to celebrate the Lord. She holds her legs against the urge to pee. The breeze under her torn beaded skirt is clawing, cold.
Fairy Goddess Sakhi will leap in on reedy legs, pretend to fly, dispense boons. She will be raised on the large, bony shoulders of her brother and his friends, whizzed above the ramshackle stage, till her dizzy feet hit solid ground again. Once free, she would run back to her unsmiling mother, hand over a few limp banknotes, and beg for the wings to be taken off.
For now, Sakhi hovers at the edge of light, half-lulled by the drunken songs that jangle in from the stage. Unable to rise in the dank air, they fall about her, like links on a shackle—heavy, unyielding—wrapping about her as she listens for her cue to launch into air.
Damyanti's short fiction has been published at Litro, Bluestem magazine, Griffith Review Australia, Lunch Ticket magazine, 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. Her debut crime literary novel, You Beneath Your Skin, was published by Simon & Schuster India in autumn 2019.