Kitchen Sink by Karna Vaghela
The oldest tombstone set in that field belongs to Humbull’s great-grandfather, a man who was born blind and whose dying words were nothing but an obscure prophecy.
‘They who do not seek riddance from their own wounds sooner or later shall rid themselves of their own blood.’
Who knew that the blind man’s prophecy would strike down like thunder upon his own children?
Strange sounds could be heard coming from the house last night. Its cracked ceiling watched from above and the stained walls listened from all sides. The earth under the house quaked with the devil’s laughter, echoes running down the hollow channels behind the kitchen sink, mixed with blood, spit, and his vomit.
Humbull was away most days, doing what he does and nobody knows what. Old Mother dared not ask, and the neighbours dared not imagine. He only ever returned home, if he cared to at all, at the brink of twilight — when it’s hard to tell if the sky is, in fact, black or blue.
Upon Humbull’s return, the ungodly hours of the night would usually echo slaps and kicks at Old Mother’s front door. At the sound of Humbull’s assault, her old feet would, at once, fall to the floor and, in rapid sequence, move towards the porch. On her way, Old Mother never forgot to stop by the kitchen sink and turn on the incandescent light bulb hanging above it. The dull glow of which never surpassed the sink or, indeed, its purpose.
Yesterday, Humbull had finally come home after three whole days. Old Mother opened the door and, without a sound, her swollen heels followed him back into the house. Humbull rarely ever went without a dose of horse-tranquillisers bolting and fizzing through his veins; he swayed like a ghost before her. When Old Mother asked ‘where have you been three nights?’, Humbull stood still. His eyes were dry and his jaw looked as if it had unhinged itself from his skull. Every inch of his body trembled like a lamb at the alter, and, before Old Mother could hold him still, Humbull’s fingers curled into a fist as he punched the wall on his side.
The blow left a slight dent on the wall and a smiling cut on his knuckles. He screamed with all the strength he could manage: ‘If you ever ask me that again, I’ll spear my head into the wall and my blood will be yours to mop from the floor!’ Humbull knew what made Old Mother cry. Wailing like a lost child, she ran and found a cloth to wrap her precious son’s hand in before everything curtailed to settle in a quiet hum — a storm that had run out of its wind.
Eventually, Old Mother laid their vessels on the dinner table, filled them, and put the wooden chairs in their rightful places. Humbull liked to smoke on the front porch after his meals and yesterday was no different. While he puffed, clouds of raw tobacco formed and Old Mother sniffed in dry air quietly weeping as she cleaned the dishes.
About six months ago, and much like yesterday, Humbull had not come home for seven whole nights. Old Mother had sat by the telephone waiting for his call, her dinner, waiting too, turned cold. By the third day, Old Mother’s nervous cries had distinguished themselves as clear, unavoidable sobs and, on the eve of the fifth day, a loud shrill voice escaped abruptly from her throat, evening itself to the tune of the deafening silence. She wept until the next morning, until her weeping began to lose her the sound of her own voice.
The following morning, at dawn, Old Mother, led by her dull, swollen eyes, opened her front door and walked out onto the porch. For the first time in years, she was witnessing the beauty of clear daylight. Her mouth gaped as her skin fell soft around her face like the earth melting in summer’s sticky heat. The loose white hair on her head stood, suffocating. Her old eyes began to search for Humbull far and wide, but she couldn’t see further than the beginning of the forbidden village.
Standing, a little bent to her side, and crooked like the trees that marked the boundary between them, she held a gun in the palm of her hand. As she took a breath, deep, into the muzzle, the cold black metal burned her hands and her fingers hugged the trigger, tightly. Watching, the birds above snapped their eyes shut to avoid witnessing what might come next. At that moment, the telephone rang. Old Mother turned around, clearing her throat of the seven days before when she’d been dicing with death.
The television in the house had retired some twenty-five years ago when Humbull was still a boy. Occasionally, though, chance and fate would come together to resuscitate the blank screen and offer them the weather channel or comedy as a result. Old Mother would sit and watch it all in silence until, one day, Humbull took the black box and sold it to a local scrap dealer for only a handful of coins. The girls in the forbidden village would not let him have it back without paying up first, so Old Mother had tried to repair the old radio instead. In yet another fit of rage about not having enough money to clear his debts at the village brothel, Humbull soon thrashed that too. So, Old Mother had moved to the practice of reading a worn-out page from a decade-old issue of The Daily Chronicle. In it was a horrifying tale about a Czechoslovakian man that Old Mother kept hidden from Humbull’s deep-seeking eyes.
The only man Humbull ever feared in the neighbourhood was Mr. Landlord. The man known for his odd ability to buy and sell omens both here and in the forbidden village. Mr. Landlord once asked Humbull, since the beast was under the lord’s debt, to keep his cat safe for him. Mr. Landlord’s gold-toothed astrologer jumped in and raised an addendum immediately. A word of advice for Humbull or a warning as it were: ‘Beware for this cat is cursed, and it may spread like the plague wherever it takes shelter.’
Old Mother couldn’t help but scream at the sight of it when Humbull brought it home with a black polythene wrapped around its head so that it couldn’t spit poison on its beholder. Humbull passed on the warnings: ‘it is cursed’ he said, causing Old Mother to immediately take the cat from Humbull’s hands and feed it with her own. Deep down, they both knew that the astrologer was right about the cursed cat. It had a strange bark and could hiss like a snake. It could even change colours in the blink of an eye. This cat knew how to steal things, and it could see into people’s souls. God bless Old Mother. Not long after the cat had arrived had she been forced to bury it with her own hands. The feline had devoured its own poisonous tongue and, just like that, Humbull had left for seven whole nights out of the fear of his own death at the hands of Mr. Landlord.
Yesterday, after casually injecting his veins with his own form of poision, Humball stood low and weak. The blood-stained cloth wrapped around his knuckles had dried up and he called out for Old Mother at the top of his voice with a feeble cry. Old Mother twitched violently at the sound. Once again, her feet fell to the floor and she moved towards her son. As she did, Humbull stepped forward into the dark towards the kitchen sink. He stumbled, falling onto his chest, and began to breathe desperately. As he reached the sink, he pulled the switch for the bulb above it with all the strength left in him. The dim glow struck his face like a newly-risen sun in the morning before his head fell into the sink. A copious amount of blood spilled from his mouth as the acid from his guts tore his lips apart; a flood of fire drawn-up from the depths of his insides stained his tongue black.
From beyond the soft sound of his breath came the noise of deep laughter — bestial, corrupt, insane. Humbull looked up to face the ceiling and, giving air to his own evil relief, he felt a sudden volcano explode in his heart.
Turning his eyes downward, he watched as a rich stream of blood dripped from his chest into his navel. Old Mother dropped the gun and stared, once again, deep into the kitchen sink.
Of himself, Karna writes: ‘After completing school at 17, I applied for a BA Economics degree with a minor in English Literature. I failed the interview when the Professor of Economics asked me if I would bribe a ticket-collector on a train to travel without a ticket. I answered: ‘Yes. I would bribe a ticket-collector, but only if I desperately needed to travel.’ She bent forward and, very unsympathetically, wrote a big ‘F’ on the side of my sheet. Sad, but, nonetheless, in this moment I realised that it is hard to sympathise with a character who is too rational to meet his own end.’