Memoir by Neelab Mahmoud 

 Painting by Ava Sage Wright (January 19th, 2006 – November 29th, 2023) 

 “Call to Mind” Musical Score & Accompanying Photography by Peter James 


As long as there were no accidents, there was time – even before the rush, we zigzagged through traffic. I tried not to pay attention. I was a passenger and had no control of what may or may not happen.

A refugee never forgets the unimaginable is only a second away, but even for the jaded heart, the world can fall off axis. In that moment, there were no words.

Grief manifested; a thousand tears upon my shoulders, arms held me up and told me to stay strong. “She is with the angels now, not even eighteen years old, a child in the eyes of God. He called to her for a reason, and she will be met at the gate,” their hands opened wide, grasping upward –

A flock of ravens in the tree. I dreamt of her under the gingko. Long dark hair, electric life. She wasn’t supposed to go. Not like this. Inching outside youth, she sought a new chapter guided by old-world truths. I let her go so she could find her path. She never got there. Wrapped in white cloth, she slept. Prayers echoed, a sound of faith ushered her, there was no way to understand sense from senselessness. There is only longing. 

To go back in time; I had carried her, a star that shone just for me. Charming, bright, impetuous tempest that she was, she lived as if in a hurry. To love and be loved, to see and be seen, to feel all of the things that needed to be felt before it was too late.

It’s not possible to hold onto a comet. Bound to a distant orbit and on a separate path, we had a moment to ponder her arc before she vanished. It was written in the stars, foretold in the book of fates, we are at the will of both a random universe and a preordained fate, and time does not stand still for anyone –

The illusion of normalcy must prevail. In the land of the living, the living must go on. A brother lost his sister, a son still needs his parents. There is Christmas. A well selected tree, unraveled string lights. Holidays mixed with cards of grief, bouquets march through the door – lilies, peonies, orchids, carnations, and roses – words come back all at once. Spinning circles, ghosts seeking a place to rest. 

How do I tell the story of the day of dreams and visions, borderline eyes, and unworldly sensitivity. She was more than any of us could understand – robbed of the chance to watch her grow, there is refuge in the past. Voice caught in video, year by year, all the photographs. In one, she’s seated by the window. The light caught her hair. I reached for my phone, and she laughed. Five stills, five seconds, an ordinary day on the eighth of July. I see her at the window in front of me, but she’s not there. 

Sleet pelleted our cheeks and rattled dry leaves. Geese bob across the lake, their call lifted with the fog. It wasn’t so long ago the forest was golden. The impermanence of life reassured discontent, and even the rarest flower is given only a moment before it returns to the earth from which it sprung – within the cycle, there are countless versions of the unknown. 

Where she may have gone and what she may still become – a slip through a tear, to another place or time, and in my dreams, she could be anywhere. Except here. She can no longer sit with me. That version of our story has been undone and there are no answers.

Or maybe there never was a point, and she knew what I didn’t want her to see – pain and suffering, the discomfort of being and escalations of not knowing, insignificance and nihilistic refrains, up and down the rabbit hole of truth and logic, I wish I could fix what’s broken. 

Another regret. Another wasted desire, there’s no turning back. An unknown reckoning, every day it changes. Crashing against the rocks, toiling the wasteland until I too slip past the veil –

It’s a hopeless idea that threatens everything I touch, it’s not what she wanted. She didn’t have a choice, but I still have time. To love and be loved. To see and be seen. To feel all the things that need to be felt before it’s too late.





N.I. Mahmoud enjoys exploring conflict; the mundane or the spectacular, in the present, future or past, she believes there’s no limit to how far a story can travel.




Peter James is a musician, producer, & some-time photographer, based near Perth, in Scotland. Peter has been creating music seriously since 2007. He has released 13 albums, most independently, but a couple on small labels. He’s “known” as an ambient artist but it’s not quite as simple as that. His output over the years has been quite diverse, ranging from pure ambient to vocal works to noisy and distorted pieces. Peter took a 6 year hiatus from music between 2012 and 2018, but continued working for the collective “48 Cameras” until he resigned his (second in command) post in 2017. After suffering 3 strokes Peter’s output has become more sporadic, and now most of his work revolves around producing the Edinburgh based singer/songwriter I Am Pluto, as well as mastering and occasionally remixing works by London electronic group, 3 Electro Knights. Peter always thinks his most recent album will be his last, but for now, “I persist” Peter says, (December 2023).