FOREWORD

This short story was written keeping in mind the various mental illnesses like loneliness, consistent agony, traumatic episodes, isolation, perennial longing and every other face of apathy. When left unattended for a long time, these forms of insanity can encourage a human to practice desperate measures, thus revealing an atrocious aftermath. This short story aims at being a beacon of hope and a timeless hand of help to those facing the aforementioned barbarity.
This short story also aims at keeping the society purged, if not in a larger sense, then in some sense that fits. That doesn’t call for a brutal response, but an action that is ethical, right, rational and just.

#1

I sat on the chair with strict comfort and threw a glance at the world that shimmered with gloom at the other side of the lustrous window pane. The trees were bald as the leaves gave way to sheer complacency. The vivid green seemed to dissipate and, oh boy, life wasn’t this distressing ever before. The birds chirped in the language of the languid and the befallen. They were quite the opposite the previous day. Cacophonous, raucous, exuberant, boisterous; the subject of the adjectives to describe these teeny tiny beings stood incorrigible and confirmed. And the vehicles that irritated the tarmac every now and then were unconscious in broad daylight, as if caught in a dead stupor. The roaring of the engines, the bombardment of the exhausts, the clunky and the cranky pedals of the inferior two-legged beasts the kids rode, all of them in a dead halt. The tepid drops of rain stirred me in the most inappropriate way. Dejected, nostalgic, lonely,…

Lay at the very sharp edge of the table was a radio. A dismantled and a harassed one as if a great deal of demand was made on it. The speakers were flung open and the wires peeked through the crevices of the air. The buttons were separated at the behest of my knowledge. This 15 lbs mammoth gazed at me for a quick fix. You see, the antenna begged me to amplify its existence. Not only was the antenna at fault, but the capacitors, the resistors, the pesky diodes, the tuning coil (on whose orders the entire body sings) were faltering in their own ways. All the sine waves that cater the alternating current were lost and desolate. Much as me. And my mind, my body, my conscience…

I was once a journalist. Keeper of secrets, revealer of facts. Key to immodest outlooks and judgments. The light bringer. A solid stance on the filth of society. I had coveted the glorious awards and prizes once but all I received was rancor criticism and debacle. I was the face once and now all I am is a soul. Just a feeble soul lost in the realm of nothingness. I used to slide on the vernaculars, the soft words-dipped papers and behind the camera lens came a great sense of acceptance and satisfaction.

“And here I sit with desecrated radio sets tuning them all day long. Well, a sense of belongingness, I guess.” Words spurted out so loud even the walls of my neighbors could spell out the monologue I just delivered.

I never wanted a peaceful life. An adventure is what I had always strived for. Across the vast seas of the Mediterranean or the deserts of Africa, ask me about the never ending list I had conjured way back…

My sincere concentration on the mammoth was broken when my morning newspaper brushed its tender pages on the hard and unapologetic skin of the main door that eventually created an interstice between me and my new found devotion. To mend radio sets with utmost assiduity and care. And the welcome fees were humble enough to mend this lonely man in return. Even though I didn’t want my lazy legs to maintain a perpendicular stance to the floorboards, I had to force them to be in motion in order to fetch an entity that has perfectly presented a ballad of news and reportings.

“Normal people, in general, read newspapers. I drink newspapers. All of them. Elixir of life.” I smiled the moment I punctuated the sentence with a period.

I put down my eyeglasses making sure they don’t stumble and fall down and give themselves to the vicious mouths of the earth. I have had enough. I admit that I can be irresponsible at times. As I stood up and walked towards the room’s end, I looked back at the sharp edge of the table, at the radio and smiled.

“A sense of belongingness!”

#2

I still remember the dewy mornings vividly when I used to wake up and cherish pancakes on the table Margaret once baked. They were subtle in a sense and delicious in the other. The lips of my heart would taste them beforehand and I couldn’t do much about it anyway.

Margaret was something. Someone I would prefer waking up to and sleeping for. Permanently. Her body shone aplenty and had that innate capability of declaring diamonds a sham. Her love painted all my days turquoise with love and embedded enough stars in my hungry nights. Fed more to the need of love. I still want her, here by me. The rooms beg of her presence and the house furniture, still trying to subdue the ache in their hearts. Her dresses speak no more as there is absent that portal to an outlandish galaxy to carry them.

“Why can’t I get you back? We can dance again the way we used to. Under chastising streetlights, under the pale sorrow of the moon, against the air that chokes and the depressed heart that evokes?” I mumbled while surveying the room only to find myself at the stairs that welcomed me with inactivity.

The stairs were unceasing; just like the way this pain was. They appeared to be stifling me. Pretty much like a Titanoboa, that pernicious 12.8 meters long extinct subfamily of snakes that would crack your neck the same way you would crack a piece of an egg. I was aghast and exhausted. I couldn’t breathe life anymore. Not in me, or in the world around me. But only in stark loneliness.

“The paper!” My mouth spoke while one of my hands, that had tried reaching my cold temple, drew a large C while still airborne. “Better fetch it as soon as possible before it gets wet.”

*

 I sat down on my table, sans pancakes, sans contentment, sans glee but that sense of belongingness provoked me into flipping the pages of the tool of the mighty.

It has been a great month for news actually. News that have had enough privilege to surf on the waves of opulence, snobbery, cultural aestheticism, ranting about interesting spots, locales, cuisines, and what not. Mr. Abercrombie, a quintessential magnate had managed to let the cork loose of a deluge of champagne bottles in order to honor his 50th anniversary with his wife Emma and the behavior has been magnificently reported with perfect pictures, of course. ‘Baron makes it to 50, looks forward to yet another 50 years!’ The only relationship people have with their life is that they are never satisfied. And a headline always bleats about this insatiable thirst. 50 years done, 50 years more? What are you, a god damn soul factory that, being mortal for more than 50 years still wants a married life to surpass another 50? You better be dead, son. Bastards of greed!

My eyes flung down to the newspaper.

“Ah, the smell. The touch. Pristine!” I thought.

As I was about to lift it up to pamper the artistic fonts and their ornamentation, a heavy headline stung my eyes. To be honest, a certain taint of cringe flew right from me. I could see it more than I could feel it.

‘Downe Street weeping! Mr. Abercrombie, the baron, is no more!’

Didn’t he paint the entire town red commemorating his 50-year anniversary? Wasn’t he the happiest? He was in the embrace of sheer happiness yesterday, and now he is dead?

“Guess people don’t always get to tame their expectations.”

#3

I like sunsets, sunrise, chairs, compact tables, cats, books, pages, nature, sparkling wine, scotch whisky and moving pictures. I dislike dishonesty, disloyalty, lies, chattering mouths, deranged hands, torn pages, heavy clouds, tears, and sometimes, the entire mankind. I despise immorality, vice, felony, and the wrong. Even to this date, I remember dismembering the society and squishing its limbs on the bright white marbles of the patio in my house when I was just 16. I remember a tiny girl getting maltreated by her father in front of the nonchalant eyes of the society. I could feel my hands being enveloped by hot air, so was my temperament. And the aftermath of this mind aghast compelled me into hurling a hefty piece of a rock towards the man that resulted in a serious flow of blood under the scorching sun’s watch. Till this day I am quite unsure and baffled as to why my parents shoved me into the pit of a month’s house arrest and constant rebuke when all I did was teach that burly man a lesson.

I haven’t seen that girl ever since. Nor that pungent father.

I heard a loud thunderous harsh rap on the door. Something I wished someone would do the same on my life’s door. Well, surprisingly, no one, in a span of 2 months, has knocked my door; leave alone with such a gigantic aggression.

“What makes a call roar so loud? The need for a calling. Life does stifles us with such yawps and calls, ah, only if we listen to the calling!” I murmured as I stood up to push my body against the lonely whiffs of air that surrounded me and turn into a perfect ballerina, sway my feet, jingle my hands and help my head make love with a corny stiffness. “Just the way they do, just the way…”

As I progressed towards the door, it felt like the door approaching me with a shade of apprehension. I could sense voices. Not your average voices but the ones you hear where the mind is disturbed. How can one keep his sanity in check when he is surrounded by an army of insanity?

“Let me tell you something. This tale is not about the insanity that lingers outside, but it is about the insanity that lurks within.”

I heard the door creak for the first time. What immodesty, what humiliation.

“Hello!” A familiar face with smile plastered on it uncovered as my eyes gazed on the guest.

“Hello Mr. Gavin, how are you doing today?” I replied to the smile and then the human.

Mr. Gavin is one of those run-of-the-mill neighbors you would see slogging for five days a week across pavements to work and the rest of the week skewing barbeques and raising temperatures all across the neighborhood. We didn’t talk much for I had a lazy tongue to initiate an hourly conversation with him. And the fact that his head reflected sun’s radiant lights was something that had convinced me into thinking that this man would go on spurting out amateur talks about office, barbecues and more barbecues.

Please don’t utter that word…

“Barbecues…” He said “I’m cooking barbecues. Maybe come over and taste some? It’s a perfect weather to savor some!”

“No thanks Mr. Gavin.” I replied.

You see, barbecues are out of my tongue’s taste and Mr. Gavin, out of my mind’s. A complete wreckage of taste for a different lifestyle.

“I have got immense work and my work station is craving for an atrocious amount of attention.” That was my honest excuse, which, I think has always put me in lucrative situations. I can’t expose the bereavement and trauma in the form of negativity and free chants.

“Okay. Well, have you read today’s greatest reporting?” Asked Mr. Gavin.

What do you mean when you refer to a reporting to be specifically great? Almost all the reporting that have made their way to the newspaper in a way are stalwart and equally deserving. You don’t catch a fish by the neck, you consider the whole body. You don’t consider a lobster’s stalks or the behemoth armor that hugs the crustacean; you consider the whole body to call it a lobster in the first place. Likewise, you don’t fix your gaze to a single reporting you extol the entire bunch. How foolish and derogatory of you!

“Umm, what piece?” I could feel the dryness on my lips.

“The one that states Mr. Abercrombie is dead. It was a complete shocker! Haven’t you gone through today’s issue?”

Of course I have you dimwit and what difference does it make anyway?

“Yes, of course.” I replied. “Saddening and agonizing. Truly. My heart goes with the family and to the ones chiefly concerned.”

Well, to be honest, almost my entire life has tasted bittersweet relations and I have always witnessed myself being placed on the pedestal of letting go. ‘The plinth of losses’ is what I have branded it. So, it doesn’t make any sense to weep for the sands the esplanade has already consumed. The waves are meant to be surfed not wept.

“Yes, mine too. What are you up to?” Asked Mr. Gavin.

My hand with the index finger stuck out flickered almost in a slow pace that ultimately rested on the direction where the journey ended at a torn down set of a radio, a partially opened newspaper and a piping hot cup of cambric beverage.

“Ah, you’re busy, I see. No problem, carry on with your worship. Drop by our house if you wish to, once you are free.” Mr. Gavin’s parting words were unapologetically warm and kind. Parting steps alike.

#4

What do Frisbee tosses, knock-down games, ping pong activities, fleeting tic-tac toes, candy flosses and writers’ meets have in common? They are holy, rich with ultimate delight, hyperbolic jollification, and an overflow of gaiety and recreation. Apart from these, the only difference that yells is the level of maturity. Mr. Abercrombie was mature enough to drive out the little specks of dust from his ginormous machine that everyday bent at the curb with shiny, lustrous glass panes that had the capability to encapsulate the entire world. He was surrounded by humans that preferred dilly-dallying over a bottle of crass alcohol rather than flying through a seamless cloud of work and diligence.

I hated him for that, “Sure!”

Look at the people that brush shoulders with him. The people who wouldn’t give an actual damn about him and now that he’s dead all the society coruscates regrets and speeches of condolences. But for how long? Maybe a week? Three days? A day, perhaps?

I’m pretty sure the society’s dead too. Dead while basking in the wrongdoings; misogyny, rapes, thievery, deceit, lies, massacres, hate speeches… 

The succeeding moment jolted me awake from the imaginary episode I was found myself lost in when I couldn’t find the antenna piece to the radio set I was working on. A session of peek-a-boo maybe? I looked at the dismantled piece of audio exuberance and thought of paying Mr. Abercrombie’s dead body a visit and whispering in his lifeless ear that the antenna’s gone before the hearse sings a song of morose of its own.

“After all, it was Mr. Abercrombie’s idea to exact the set. It’s his. Not mine. I’m just a mechanic. I repair Marconi’s vision. Not broken and dejected heart if the idea’s stands impossible.”

 Let bygones be bygones.

#5

I approached the steps of Mr. Abercrombie’s apartment that felt caged in all seriousness and inactivity. The window sills appeared pale and motionless.

“Windowpanes of morose.” I said and advanced towards the bell. The bell was cold and the button reminded me of a winter night. All the flowers still and sleeping after encountering the eye of a blizzard, a snowstorm. The roads lying as there is zero guarantee of the cracks and parchments on them coming to life. Monuments and buildings lacking the redundancy of glowing and oozing out a superfluous amount of lights. The bell felt the same.

I was welcomed by the maid. It’s funny how your precious master has died the previous night but you still are working the next day with those same intentions you had the previous night. Silent ones, crooked ones, funny ones, doesn’t matter, intentions are intentions.

I could see that the nook of the room has been consoling the widow. She was found there sitting motionless and pale. Emma was such a cherubic one. Up and running. Seraphic, saintly and active. Her pointy nose was the best amongst all the features she carried. The eyes came next. Timid marbles attached in a beautiful chunk of soft dough. They danced with everything that came across. Playful in this moment, mysterious in the other.

“Sorry for your loss.” I broke the rectilinear vision of Emma’s eyes that were transfixed by the indolence and the idleness of the floor. They had such prepossessing fancy marble floors.   

“Thank you. It’s alright.” Swift came the reply. Her eyes were still transfixed.

“He was so lively yesterday. Buying things, dealing, negotiating. Who and why!?” I pretty much emphasized on the last three words. Couldn’t help, but emphasize.

“Not a clue!” Emma broke out.

I stood there making sure the tears don’t flood the room. Or the house. Or the fancy marble floor. The head has felt the hands’ embrace cusped between the arches of distress and feelings of torment. I wanted to console her the same way I consoled my dear Margaret. You see, when a woman weeps, the whole world seems to be weeping with her. The tears that fall aren’t just tears. They are marks. Scars on this terrestrial’s skin. Never make a woman weep. But Margaret had to go. She had to leave.

I lay one of my hands on her shoulder. The silk velvety dark gown that she was wearing felt tender but it had that feeling of being in flames. My fingers felt the anguish of her garment. What a poor lady!

“I must proclaim my leave now. Leave you here with nothing but my absence, but if you are in need of anything, I’m just down the street. Take care, Emma.” I said.

“Thank you! Much obliged.” She replied. I guess it wasn’t her barren mouth speaking but her drooping eyelids and flooded cornea and the exhausted iris.

As I turned around to leave, I saw something that moved me. I saw a vase. Object of normalcy. But the vase cupped that same mammoth antenna, that same countenance of silver I was looking at for the past week. Oh, why did you leave me? Where have you been? I was so dead without you.

I had to leave.

#6

“I wish I died before my world was even born.” I was having a conversation with the ceiling with a bottle of whisky wide open and a half glass full. I prefer neat. Neatness in everything has always kept me close to the shrine of my senses. Over-accurate and clean. The glass was made to make art in the air. I lifted it up looked at the bottom of the glass and then the brim.

“Probably our best friend lies between the brim and the bottom.” And I took a sip. The more relaxed you are the more the universe within you seems to expand aggressively. The cosmos of innateness are innocuous and sharp. Bolted and free. Bent but straight.

My dreamy eyes felt on the contours of the radio that still expected my attention after the sad demise of his master. It wanted to tell me something, only if I could hear. This world that surrounds me has made me deaf and the deafening comes a lot from this troubled stasis. What has man done to existence? Is it necessary to be eerie in our own existence and reap on others in a really reassuring way?

Loneliness has been with me since everyone has left.

“But has everyone?” I smiled a satisfying a grin and rose. Only of I could make it to the chamber underneath.

*

My footsteps were kept in clandestine. I couldn’t hear them.

I woke up in this room I have no recollection of. Dingy, small and cold. I smell rotten mice bodies. I hear the sound of silence. I see the illuminating darkness peering out at me as it deafens my train of thought. My brain feels numb. I feel numb. A deadpan exhibition. None to pick me up. Lie, lie, and lie under the shallow sky. I can see something. A mirror!

I hate mirrors. I hate the man I have made myself in the process. But I could see one in the chamber. A large one that pontificates in size and applauds all my virtues. The man in the mirror is someone I never knew. Nor do I want to know.

I hear a voice from the mirror. It says,

“Wake up. Smell the number of the beast. Taste the pungent air. Shake a leg with the echoes of an exhausted heart and embrace delirium. Witness the paraffin rendezvous, colorless and flammable as it takes place between two souls. YOU AND DELIRIUM! 

What would you do if I say that you got carried away with this so-called ‘punctured mind’ sometimes? What would you do if I say you get away with insanity sometimes? You see, you are not alone. Never were. Because right now you recline on the shadows of your heart. And these shadows have made you do so many things, validation of what might be strictly ambiguous.”

EPILOGUE

I could hear Mr. Gavin calling out my name with blunt concern. I had heard he had done something to the poor newspaper boy once and didn’t apologize to his family. He didn’t find it purging enough. He deserves a bout of permanent penalty. A befitting penance.

The same way Margaret with the aide of disloyal and her mistrusted bunch poisoned many including our child through her indecent pharmaceuticals company. I had warned her but she was blinded by slivers of money.    

The same way that pungent father maltreated his daughter.

The same way Mr. Abercrombie had dealings and negotiations for child trafficking and a long tenure of drug abuse.    

I picked up the weapon that glimmered. That beseeched for a strike. That called for a redemption. The blade tasted as a precise urge to kill.

I reached up to Mr. Gavin and saw what Mr. Gavin wouldn’t want to see, what no one else could see; woeful lights, the sun’s complaint, the situation’s reprimand, the agony, the battle within…

I smiled.