I have always wondered… but not anymore. I take a deep breath and gulp down the contents of the cup. One swift gulp, maybe two. No – make that three. It tastes worse than it smells. Metallic, yes. But also rusty. Like the bowl of forgotten nails I found by Nana’s bedside, seeped in Charlie’s urine. Maybe worse.
But I can’t concentrate on that. Not now, not yet! I have to instead focus on holding it together somehow. Before it gets thrown out in one swift wave of revulsion.
But it’s difficult really to stop the consequences of my action playing out in my nervous neocortex. So I don’t. It immediately hits me like a bad hangover – the irony of it all. That I had to use the blood of my forefathers, to find out more about my own father!
But more of that later. There are more pressing matters… for starters, I think it worked! I can sense the change already. It’s growing dim, as if someone is turning down the lights, one at a time. I can almost count them… “Ten, nine, eight, seven...”
I wake up. Or maybe I am still dreaming.
I am in the same room, but obviously. I am on the threshold of dejection when the setting sun streaming through the window catches my eye. It’s only then that I realize that the glass is as clear as, well, glass! Not grimy, but transparent. And brand new!
I look around at the room once more and realize that everything is new, or at least less old. And yes, dust free. I take a deep breath and walk over to the window. The hoarding says it all – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. What helps is the name of a theatre that’s no longer there.
It’s incredible, yet true. I am back in 1999!
I want to do a jig, but don’t. Now that I am back in time, I know I am not getting back any of it. I instead tiptoe down the stairs, and reach the phone just as it starts to ring. “Meet me tonight, at the Park Street Cemetery.”
“What time?” I croak back, in my best imitation of my mother.
He does not seem to notice and continues “7:00 PM… sharp!”
And there, just when I thought I had it under control, it all comes out. In one swift act of defiance, I throw up, and am immediately thrown back into the present.
Time travelling is not everyone’s cup of tea, or in this case, blood. But ever since I stumbled upon the video tape I couldn’t help but try it. I know I sound crazy. Deranged even; which is why I guess it’s time I tell you a bit more about myself.
My name is Jasmin. I was adopted from an orphanage and raised as a Hindu. Or so I thought, till my adopted parents met with a fatal car accident six months back. I found out the truth about myself through a series of ‘gifts’ that I inherited since.
That my real name was Jasmin Fernandez. That I was left at their doorstep with a letter of introduction. My mother was unwed at the time of my birth, and had decided to give me up to this childless couple.
But that was not all. It seemed my adopted parents had managed to actually track her, though presumably, they were a bit too late. My birth mother, Sharon was found hanging from her deceased parents’ home with her wrists slit.
The most disturbing thing about the crime scene, however, wasn’t the mutilated body. It instead was a cup of blood and with it, a message ‘for my daughter, Jasmin – a gift!’ There was also a letter that said, ‘Pass her the VHS Tape when she turns 16.’ It was addressed to my mom and dad.
I have no idea why they kept it all. The gory details, or for that matter the video tape – which I assume they had received later through ‘mysterious’ ways. But since they were dead, it was time for me to piece together the puzzle of my birth.
On the night I turned 16, I finally got a chance to play it. And my life has never been the same since.
I am back to the present. Yet it feels more of a curse. Especially when I have to climb down the stairs, one rickety step at a time. No-one lives here now ever since the lawyers handed me its keys. No one that is, but Charlie, my dog, and me. Not even Jason, my friend and confidante.
I didn’t want him here because of, you know, the distraction. And thankfully, neither did he insist. Not that I am complaining though. After all, ever since I stumbled upon a secret – a cellar in the basement with vials of dried and condensed blood of my forefathers, I knew I was running out of time to solve the mystery.
What doesn’t help is the detailed and often disturbing instructions about what to do with them. But that’s more like a candy shop compared to what I saw in the tape. I still shudder as I remember every single detail…
The woman staring into the camera is beautiful. Angelic even. However, when she starts speaking it all goes away. The voice is raspy, and the tone a mixture of dreary and sinister.
“I hope you play this only after you turn 16. That’s how old I was when I first met him - your father.” She pauses and coughs. Something comes out of her mouth… blood?
“It was he who taught me how to do it.” She continues. “How to travel back in time and meet him, over and over again. How to dope the members of my family and force them to recount incidents from their past. How to draw their blood and create a bank of memories…”
“I realize I shouldn’t have. But it was already too late. I was pregnant!” she pauses and takes a deep breath before sipping from a cup. When she lowers it her lips are covered with a thick layer of blood.
“I had to go back to the moment it all started. When I picked up the telephone that fateful day and decided to meet him at the cemetery. I tried! But being pregnant changed things. I remember it as if it happened just yesterday. I drank the blood and waited, hoping I don’t throw up. And then I was suddenly back where I had met him last. And there he was!”
She suddenly pauses and seems to go into a trance even as I watch with bated breath. Thankfully she continues…
“I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven...”
That’s when the clock began to chime, and I screamed his name. But it was already too late. Before we could meet, I was back in the present. The time travel must have impacted me in more ways than I could have imagined. My pregnancy was severely advanced and I gave birth to you the very next day, months before you were due.”
And then she smiled and slit her left wrist even as I gasped with shock!
What came next was the real shocker. As if all the blood and gore wasn’t enough.
Seemingly unfazed with the blood dripping from her hand and collecting in a cup, she continued. “You must try to go back in time and meet him, my child. Meet him and stop him. Because if you don’t, you will not live to turn seventeen.”
Ominous and maniacal. Why couldn’t she just tell me when she was alive? I did not appreciate the theatrics and would have ignored it altogether if my hair hadn’t started to fall. It took me a week to realize that I was ageing – significantly! Not just hair fall, or a few strands of grey. But also sunken cheeks and the first signs of shrivelled skin.
I did not know what it was, but I knew I had to get to the bottom of it. I am glad I never told Jason any of this. He would have attributed it to the shock of losing both my parents (that’s all he knew of course)! Or maybe the undue stress I was putting myself through by dating an elderly teacher twice my age!
He had never understood the feelings I had for him. Or why I am doing this. It’s probably as much for him, as it’s for me. There was another message in the damned video. Yet another warning I could not ignore. “And when you die, everyone you love would die too…”
I feel slightly dizzy, but know that this is it.
Today is the day I am going to be conceived. I have no idea what I need to do, but the video tape mentions that ‘I will know’. I have ensured that I am at the cemetery just as my mother had planned to be. Well in time before the gates close. It was easy really. No one actually cares about anyone hiding in a 230+ year cemetery. And that too after sundown.
As I wait for the clock to strike seven, I can’t help myself from imagining what my mother must have gone through as she waited for her prince charming. I thankfully don’t get a lot of time to ponder as I hear the door slowly creak open and spot the silhouette that emerges.
And that’s when I finally spot him – my father.
The moon shining on his upturned face does full justice to his sharp cheekbones and aquiline nose. He sniffs the air and immediately turns towards the place I am hiding in.
I almost bite my tongue trying not to scream even as he languidly begins to walk towards me. His lopsided grin reaches up to his right eye. The one that seems to twinkle. His demeanour is like a predator confident about securing its prey.
I pray that I throw up. But too much practice has almost made me perfect. My blood, now mixed with the blood of the memories of my forefathers almost crawls, even as I crouch down, ready to crawl away into the darkness.
“Sharon, my love!” he says and laughs. “You can come out now – its time!”
He raises his hand. I can see it now – the knife he holds – sharp and serrated. I can barely see, for tears are stinging my eyes. But I know I must.
That’s when she emerges from the shadows – my mother – looking almost deathly white in the moonlight. “My love, I am sorry for being late,” she says and smiles – seemingly unaffected by the graves that line the pathway. “You know I could do anything for you, Jason!”
And then the younger Jason and my mom kiss. It’s long and passionate, and I want to throw up.
I realize that I have been in love with my father all this while. Carnal sinful love. There are things I have wanted to do to him that...
My skin crawls as I recall the first and only time we kissed. I can feel the hot tears burning against my skin. But I wait, turning away in shame as the two begin to undress…
What follows is not worth describing. Thankfully it ends after what seems like ages. I am many things at once. Ashamed. Petrified. Hurt.
But there is just one thing I am not – clueless.
I spot the knife he holds in his left hand. The one he slowly traces along her back even as she begins to groan in pleasure and I finally realize what I have to do...
I walk towards him with a renewed vigour in my step. He is just outside the church and looks up to me with a smile of warmth. “How have you been, Jasmin?” he begins but doesn’t get to complete the sentence. I plunge the knife into him. Over and over again.
He falls down on the ground clutching his stomach. His face is a mix of anguish, shock, and pain. It finally freezes to death.
“Goodbye, Father Jason,” I say and laugh. I touch my skin with joy, knowing that that it will not be wrinkled any more.
They don’t believe me. They want to send me to a mental asylum. They know now that Father Jason Pereira was a serial offender. That my mother wasn’t the only victim. They say they realize that I have been abused.
They feel all that I say is simply a figment of my imagination. A fact worsened by the fact that my grandfather Nana has been dead for days in the house with no one knowing. They know I have been drinking blood. His blood. My blood.
They know it all, and yet they don’t believe me.
I am a juvenile and so cannot be tried for murder. But then because of me, many others have dared to come forward and speak about Father Jason. Their favourite teacher. About the crimes that he committed. But then murder is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Neither is time travel.
As I close my eyes I can once again see her – my mother, Sharon. A bright young student hoping to be a nun. Believing in the lies being fed to her by a person she felt she could trust. And then the sin that she knew she had committed.
But nothing, not even her death could change things. From time to time, victims had been sought. They had been used, abused, and silenced through a variety of means.
They had chosen to keep silent! Unlike me.
I drink from the cup that has been given to me. They think it’s water. But I know the truth – that what I hold is the Blood of my forefathers. And then I take the name of the Lord and know that this is the Blood of the son of God. Of Jesus Christ. That he is always there with me when I pray to him.
I close my eyes and try to sleep. Soon I am lost once again, or so the psychiatrist observing me thinks. She thinks I am dreaming. But only I know the real truth - I am travelling in time once again…