City of Angels (City of Jinn) / Kashif S. Choudhry

Things that persist cannot be trusted. I do not believe in them. Memories are like the dearest of friends, for whom I wear a mask of trust, for I know they surround me only to rape my mind. Dead weight has a beating heart. Yet, surrounded by these familiar beating hearts, in this foreign place I expect to revile, I experience a golden glimmer of something I must acknowledge.

My attention wanders; I have little patience. But this… this I am immediately drawn to. A thing of austere beauty, of hidden fortitude and powers unapparent. I shield my eyes for a moment, blinded by the brilliance flowing towards me. There may be other pleasures in this place, but this creation suddenly mounts the pinnacle of my desires. I take guilty but preordained steps. A golden wall holding rippled reflections stares back at me. My breaths disappear into this phantom containing muted stories. What is beyond? What is on the other side of the world I know? I reach out, but there is nothing solid, nothing consistent: a smokeless fire.

This is a journey of seven days. At sunrise and sunset I stand before this celluloid ghost. A moment frozen in time, a shared moment, a mocking moment. Posing and posturing. Artifice I distance myself from; artifice I know too well. A presence somehow perceptible with a sense other than the five I am familiar with. But it comes. It makes itself known.

It is in front of me and behind me all at once. Its golden hues are a cold hand around my throat and a warm hand around my waist. It watches me as my mouth wraps around novel textures. Its gaze is heavy upon the occasional glimpse of my naked skin. It is here to stay. I stand in front of metallic waves reaching to the skies, and it is here. I enter places of godliness, seeking sanctuary in symposiums of harmony, but it is here. In a darkened velveteen emporium I am hypnotised by two nymphs with the voices of angels, and I resist, but it is here.

I drive through little countries sitting side by side, mere roads apart. I drive along meandering roads overlooked by luminary towers. I climb hills that tell stories and I sing old songs. I walk in the sand towards an endless ocean as the sun gives way to a sub-lunar realm. The sky is laden with layers of silk, and when my eyes come to rest upon a suicide at dawn, it is here, with me.

The sky turns green and as the sand traps the dampening light, a being tears through its own shell, shedding its masks, fragmenting its reality and existence into the parts for which it will be judged. It wrestles with itself, unsure of its future. There has not been a moment of greater lucidity and I know what the golden contours have released. Those perennial emotions resurface stronger than ever. Maybe it is nothing more than a reflection of myself from the past, or maybe it is what I shall become. I grapple; sand rains down and water flies away. I hold it by the throat and merge. I want to be with it, touch it, hold it, speak to it, and hear it speak to me. I want to lie with it, tame it, confront it. I possess it.

It may be the reason I have come here, or perhaps that could be the people. Those I have come with, or those I have come to see. But I am ultimately blind to them; they have no reason to exist. I learn to search between reflections, to read the peripheries. I converse silently with words of intoxication which float adrift with a new intent. Maybe it is the reason for my very existence. But how can I exist because of this? Has it summoned me to know who I am?

I decide that I will no longer forget things, because to forget something, I will have to remember it first. I will live my life as different people, desired by all, but known to none. Perhaps it is this city. Perhaps it is me. Perhaps it is the first time I have felt this way.

Kashif S. Choudhry is a writer and doctor with a love of surrealism, dancefloors and unhappy endings. He is in desperate search of time and discipline, alongside representation for his first novel. 

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