Sunday, March 22, 2009

Let's Play

He makes so much noise, at times I feel that I should probably ask his mother to go get his brain examined. There is so much of hyperactivity and energy in that little body, it stuns me. And this time it was a long yell that seemed a little disjointed. It started off from a distance got really loud and then faded into black. But as always, I tried to shut him out mentally. And I did. I usually do. So tonight was like every other night. A little bit of work, a little bit of food, a little bit of continuing with unfinished art, a little bit of music, a little bit of planning for tomorrow, a little bit of dreaming about nice things…and then sleep. Oh… did I forget to mention a little bit of late night ‘sweet nothing croonings’…??? Well … that too.

As the sounds of the silent night lulled me towards the first few laps of sleepfulness, I heard the wail. It was his mother and she was wailing her heart out. A continuous wail like one of those sirens and the scary similarity being that the wail was as dead and as unemotional as the siren’s sound. There was an eerie emptiness in it and it went on and on as though her mind asked her to not think but just WAIL. I could feel a block of ice in the place where my heart once used to be. And the chill started spreading slowly to every nook and cranny of my body. What was happening?

I rushed out of my apartment. Everyone else gave in to the same idea and there were quite a few of us outside, with arms folded tightly around us. Maybe there were blocks of ice in the place where everyone’s heart once used to be. We glanced at each other questioningly not daring to ask the question. Someone came rushing up from the floor below. His face had a greenish white hue, and he looked like he would vomit any second. We saw him fumble with his keys, and he somehow managed to open the door to his apartment and stumble inside. Then we heard loud retching noises and that just did not help us in any manner. Strangely we were still standing there, folded arms and all and still not mustering the courage to question.

Then came stomping angry treads and the looming form of this elderly gentleman who is a retired army general. He came up, back ramrod straight, walrus moustache in a state of quivering agitation and his eyes spewing fire.

“Rot. Sheer rot.”  He growled. “Cable should be banned. Internet should be destroyed. Discipline. That’s what is lacking. In all of you.”

With this outburst he glared at all of us and we hung our heads in shame. Though why on earth were we being blamed and made to feel shameful??? None of us knew the answer to this one. Yet we felt ashamed. I’d had enough of this ridiculousness. So I went downstairs to see what the matter was. If only I hadn’t. Oh well…too late for if onlys. I went towards the direction from which the wails were emanating. Yes they still continued. It scared the soul out of me. The door to the flat was slightly ajar throwing out a bar of golden light on the black floor; light that broke and serrated sharply at points where it was obstructed by obstructions.

I opened the door cautiously and stepped inside. He was lying on the floor. His eyes were staring at the ceiling. He was quite dead. His mouth was open. The damned kid would have his mouth open even in death, wouldn’t he? But no noise would come out of it. Ever again. Why hadn’t they closed his eyes? And that mouth? Suddenly he turned his head and looked at me and his mouth opened wider. A black cavernous yawn which invited me to step inside it and lose myself in the cavity, in the space. My heart stopped. I took a step backwards and heard an agonized “OUCH”. It was the idiot from my next door apartment. He had followed me. Like he always did. Serves him right. I glared at him unapologizingly. And predictably, HE apologized – shouldn’t have come up from behind like that without warning, not a problem, blah blah…

I ignored him and went back up. I was a little worried about what I’d seen. I dreamt about dark cavernous spaces, free falling into bottomless abysses and shouting boys playing football. I had a restless night. And I woke up bleary-eyed, the next morning. Thank God it was Sunday. As the day went by I got bits and pieces of what happened last night. Apparently the boy was playing with the rest of his friends on the terrace and he had fallen off the ledge. It was the result of some juvenile dare. Hmmnn…that explained the disjointed yell. Coming from a distance, increasing in decibels and then fading into black. Seems a simple satisfying enough explanation. Then why was a feeling of doubt nagging me like one of those nails that start growing inward and continuously pierce the flesh till it gets infected and hurts like mad. Ok I admit. I was not satisfied. But there was nothing much I could do. So I forgot about it.

I went out for a walk. As I was coming up the stairs the door to one of the apartments opened and a face peeped out. I knew this lady. Her son was a member of the YELL GANG and apparently he had fallen very ill. She looked worried and asked me to spend some time with her. I went inside her son’s room and saw him lying on the bed. He was very unwell and his eyes were glued to the window. I followed the path of his stare and saw a huge tree with strong sturdy branches standing like a sentinel for what seemed like centuries together. After sometime of superficial chatting I left.

The next day was Manic Monday. Work, rush, crowd, racing against time, skipping lunch, quick little mini chats with  Knight Eternal and my sister…I did all that and came back tired and ready to dive into sleepy oblivion. But it was not meant to be. A crowd had gathered outside the building. Everyone talking at the top of their voices, everyone talking at the same time. The data that I could gather from this cacophony was that all the members of the YELL GANG had strangely fallen sick and had succumbed to their illnesses. To put it crudely – THEY WERE ALL DEAD! SEVEN AT ONE BLOW!

Ok. THIS was certainly not normal. I walked up the stairs. I heard a patter of steps running towards the terrace. I followed the noise hoping to catch up with the running persons. And the noise grew louder, but why couldn’t I see anyone? I reached the terrace. I looked around. The terrace was empty. In fact everything was empty. Even the sky. No moon. No stars even. Just a wide cavernous wet blanket. Suddenly I saw them. They were all standing on the ledge. Every single one of them. Their leader THE SCREAMER turned and looked straight at me. And still looking at me he jumped, opening his mouth wide, cavernously wide and screaming noiselessly. The others followed suit. I stood rooted to the spot. I was paralyzed. After what seemed like a very long time I went back to my apartment.

A hyperactive kid like that would obviously feel bored even on the other side, wouldn’t he? He would then definitely want his friends to be with him. So he took them along. Was that little ill boy gazing at the leader who might probably have been sitting amongst the strong, sturdy branches of the sentinel tree?… 

I still hear them screaming their disjointed yells each time they jump. Mental shut-outs have stopped working.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Alive?

Days have merged into night. I can’t seem to find a difference between the two. I sleep at 12, wake up at 5 and I wonder how the day transformed into night transformed into day. I am smiling at the day transforming into night transforming into day.

This night was no different. I heard Chris Martin croon in that gravelly voice – “bones sinking like stones…” and I looked out into the Thane creek. I didn't see bones sinking and I thank God for small mercies. I saw mist. Like a white wispy billowing curtain rising from the black water. Edging it were tiny golden orbs in the distance. Here and there were crouched blackening bushes like those hunters who hide from their prey. I wonder why the bushes crouched like this. I looked at them and felt that they might rise any second and that thought chilled me. I looked away. A girl was staring at me. She was on the opposite seat in the train. It was one of the last locals and there were very few of us. Seeking solace from the fact that we were there for each other as the day transformed into night. Why is it that at moments of fear the mind thinks only of ghosts and rapists and accidents? Weak beings. That’s what we are. She smiled at me. I smiled back. Maybe she smiled because as usual I might have been jamming to the track that blasted my ear drums into oblivion. Andheri was round the corner. Literally. Literally because the track curved at one point and then straightened out into the station.

Like the whoosh that happens when a baby swims out of the mother’s womb the entire foetus of the train whooshed out into the platform and swam towards the entrance. Some patiently going with the flow. Others pushing and shoving and groping breasts, hips, thighs whatever they could lay their grimy palms on. Tired faces, thinking thoughts which if voiced might have been eerily same (who knows). Tori Amos was screaming now…"made my own pretty hate machine…” and she was so totally inside my brain that if it was not for that tickling nape I might not have seen him.

He stood there. Arms folded. Grey shirt. Black trousers. And those eyes. It bored into me. Into mine. The red and yellow lights in the weighing machine behind him winked at me. I looked at him and I looked away. Then I turned back. To test if he was still looking at me. He was. And all I wanted to do was to run away from him. More than him it was the stare. The eyes. Then imagine my sheer fright when the next night I saw him again. Same place, same clothes, same eyes, same stance, same stare, eerily same. Eerily same?? I felt a sense of déjà vu. This happened night after night.

What does he want from me? Why is he staring at me? Why can’t he leave me alone? Why am I seeing those eyes in my dreams? Who is he?

Something was terribly wrong here. This was not normal. Should I speak to him? I might have debated this at least a million times before I finally mustered enough courage to speak to him. Yes. I did speak. And this is how it happened.

I decided that I would stare right back at him and only I know how the blood in my veins turned into ice when I did this. Humid, sweltering Andheri station metamorphosed into Arctic Pole. Big mistake I thought when I saw him walk towards me. Very big mistake. Well, it was now or never. I had to get rid of this person from my life and now was the only chance.

“Please help me”…

What??? Did he say, “Please help me…?”

Yes he did, because he repeated it.

“Who are you?” I asked warily. “And what do you want from me?”

“You have to help me get myself cremated? You have to set me free.”

He was obviously on some major acid-induced high.

By now fear had turned into anger and exasperation. I said, “Look. If you want to continue like this I am sorry I can’t help you. Tell me properly what you want and if I can I will help you.”

He came close and said with a desperation that I’d never seen in anyone, “I am dead. I want to go back to where I really belong. But I need to be cremated for that. And they are watching me. They are following me.”

As though by reflex I caught hold of a passing girl. “Can you see him?” I asked. She stared at me. Maybe she thought I was crazy. “Of course I can see him,” she said in a tone that was a mixture of hesitation, mockery and … oh… let’s not get diverted. He could be seen by others. That meant he was not a ghost. That also meant that I was not one of those mediums. High five, God! Satan...up yours!

The realization hit me like a Mack truck. I remembered the Serial Pleaser and smiled. Wrong place, wrong time as always. Why do I space out like this? The realization was – HE IS THE LIVING DEAD. They are called zombies. I’d read about them.

I heard myself saying. “I can’t help you. Because I don’t know how to. And there are processes, special people who save someone like you. I’m sorry.”

The sadness that leaked out of his eyes was something that wrenched my heart. Like a black viscosity. I almost saw the thick path that it made on his face. Was he crying? No. He was not. Then what did I see? Did I imagine it? No I did not imagine it. He turned and walked away. Unlike me he didn’t look back. But like him, I was staring at his receding form. What was he feeling? He was dead and he was living amongst us.

Every night after that as I stepped out of the train and walked towards the entrance my eyes would seek him at that spot. I never saw him again.