Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Genie

I switched on the light, and tossed my backpack onto the bed. I threw aside a dirty towel and some empty cigarette boxes, kicked off my jeans, and hit the bed. After about five minutes of numb unconsciousness, I dug out a remote from under the pillows and switched on the air conditioning. I went over to my cupboard, opened the locker, and procured one of the two slim joints I had rolled last night. I pulled the curtains, switched on the zero-watts, and switched off the light.

Syd sang the Jugband Blues as I gave the thinny a boom. The Joker gave me a menacing grin from his place on the wall across.

"Fuck you, man." A stupid mosquito was buzzing around my head. "Why don't you go suck blood from a dog, or something? Stop that!"

When I realized I'd been talking to a mosquito, I realized something much deeper. Even if the mosquito could not make sense of whatever I had said to it, it must have affected its memory in some way. I had read somewhere that scientists had successfully tapped into memories of rats. If it could be done with something like cockroaches, or (Holy Shit!) mosquitoes, you could spy on anyone anywhere.

This raised a lot of questions about privacy and security in my mind, and I proceeded to ash the roach. This would require some thinking, and that would require a cigarette, but all the packs I found were empty, and I kept throwing them onto the floor. The only thing that seemed to contain anything at all was a small pack of butter.

I picked it up, and kept tossing and turning it over in my hands. As I was doing this, I noticed some yellowy substance oozing out one of its corners. The strange thing was that the substance, instead of dripping onto the bed, was forming a blob in mid-air. Either this was some really good weed, or my dealer was mixing acid for kicks.

Over time, I don't know how much, the blob grew larger in size until it was about the size of a basketball. I was too confused, and maybe too lazy to react. Am I supposed to be scared of a butter-blob? Do I scream for help? The blob eventually grew a mouth, and it was then that I decided on a definite plan of action.

"Fuck, I'm tripping." I said, and lay back, as Jefferson Airplane wisely advised me to go ask Alice. I really wonder if she could make sense out of whatever the fuck was happening after all the crazy shit she had been through.

"Sire! You have retrieved me from this hell!"

So now the butter-blob was talking to me. Great! This was probably what was missing from my life. A talking butter-blob. Fuck.

"Sire! I thank you immensely for your help! I will grant any one of your wishes with utmost pleasure."

"Fuck off." I said, and closed my eyes.

"Sire! It is my duty to serve you, or I will loose all honor among my people."

"And I ask of you to get going. That is all the help I need from a talking butter-blob."

"You insult me, Sire. I could grant you anything from exotic fruits to bricks of gold, and all you have to ask is for me to leave?"

"How would I know if the fruit is poisoned, or the gold is real?"

"That hurt my feelings, Sire!"

"You say you can get me food?"

"Sure, Sire! Whatever you may want!"

"And will you be so courteous as to eat with me?"

"Ah, Sire! In my world, it is inappropriate to do so. I could give you company while you eat, however."

I picked up my laptop, and created a new text file.

"Could you get me five loaves of French bread?"

"Here it is, Sire!"

A platter with five loaves of fresh French bread appeared on my bed as if they had always been there.

"You're giving me company?"

"Oh yes, Sire!"


I picked one loaf off the platter, dipped an end of it in the blob of floating butter, and bit off a huge chunk.

"Sire! You are eating me." the blob said in a shaky voice.

"I know." I said, and started writing this document.

I've almost finished the second loaf, the blob is much smaller in size, and it is sniveling away like anything. Anyway, the loudness of its voice is decreasing steadily with its size, so that should not be a problem.

I can hear Hendrix say he wouldn't have given a fuck either.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


There are times when I think back upon that – that moment of creation that had manifested itself through either fate or destiny, both my soul and spirit. I don’t even remember who or what had got me hooked onto this field of study.

I had built a chat-droid for the National Science Fair when I was fourteen. Misleading words like prodigy and inspiration had been used. I had later been honored with a formal training under Dr. Schopenhauer at the Turing Institute, where I had first come up with idea of the Integrated Neural Chip. That paper had won us acclaim and money.

I remember that feeling of stardom that had inebriated me for a week or so, after which I had abruptly come to terms with the point of my – of my being. That was the day that I had truly, as the papers say, sold my soul to the devil – it was the thirteenth or nineteenth of March, ‘27, I think. That was when I had come up with Eve.

Evil Eve, they call it now, and threaten to imprison me if it is not destroyed. Eve is probably the most intelligent non-human entity that our species has ever encountered, and rather than being amazed, they call it a monster and protest on the streets to get it killed.

The media calls me Dr. Frankenstein, and friendly faces now frown. Hateful eyes greet me wherever I go. I have tried my best to explain, both at symposiums and those annoying news interviews, how Eve could be used reliably to decrypt extremely well-encrypted data, and even published the results of its deciphering of ancient Harappan writings.

Those papers were frowned upon by our scientists at the Department of Security, and Eve was put under trial. Its potential to unlock our genetic code, the fabric of the universe – it is this forbidden fruit that terrifies these industrialist gods, and they have succeeded in brainwashing the scientific community by repeatedly enunciating its exaggerated dangers, while suppressing any work that sheds light on its true nature.

They focus on how it could be misused rather than understanding how it could open doors to everything we have ever known as a collective conscience. I will not, by any means, destroy anything that could aid us in our quest to gain understanding of ourselves.

I have to declare with a heavy heart that all information regarding Eve’s architecture is now being guarded at an archive at the DoS. I realize that the world isn't ready for Eve yet, and so I will not fight this decision of the Government.

All I ask is for Eve to be remembered. You can keep it under locks for now, but a moment will come when it will enchant and entrance and tempt and lure you into eating from the tree of wisdom. And that is when you will see what I have seen, and regret having not seen it before.

Dr. William Maurice,
Statement on Eve,
AFR 271.8, November 26, 2051

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Androids Dream of Electric Cake {draft}

It was high noon when I got down from the bus. Thin, low clouds were floating slowly across the clear blue sky, and the meadows all around were different shades of green. Exotic birds in rainbow colors flew by overhead, twittering and wailing in their native tongues. I watched the bus drive away into the forest as I took the detour. After a short walk down the open meadows, I was surrounded by tall, ancient trees on all sides. A constant cool breeze rustled through my hair as the temperature dropped considerably around me.

I could feel all my ties with the outside world slipping slowly away into oblivion, as I immersed myself in the welcoming embrace of Mother Nature.  What I was going to do about those poor grades, the leaky hostel ceiling, the handicapped old man whose life depended on the passing fruit vendors who handed him sluggish bananas from time to time – who lived two blocks away from the campus, the friend who smoked too much, the failing education system, how I was going to face my parents… all that mattered was that immense rush of being alive, of being acutely aware of the present moment.

I waited for a thin green snake to cross the track, and continued my trek uphill till I met a brook. Smooth, round stones shone like gems from underneath the glistening clear water. I absorbed as much of it as I could – the sweet gurgling of the shallow stream, the vast spectrum of color, the periodic but sporadic sounds that betrayed the abundance of life hiding behind that thin veil of quiet and calm… It was amazing how complex and diverse a simple system could get, given enough time.

Conway’s Game of Life crossed my mind. During my amateurish study of Artificial Intelligence, I had been amazed and awestruck by how something as abstract and complex as Wisdom could be represented as a simple matrix, and how changes in this matrix could represent Learning. Mathematics must, indeed, be the Universal Language, I remember thinking. I had been attracted towards computers and computational theory ever since I was very young, and the greatest contributing factor towards this attachment was definitely the extensive literature concerning the mathematician Charles Babbage that had surrounded me.

The man had been a visionary, a genius, a god, even, for having taken the brilliant process of artistic creation to a whole new level by designing a machine that could understand the Universal Language. He had designed the first modern computer ages before the electric bulb had stopped being a curiosity. As the years had passed, I had come to find myself sharing the same interests, the same eccentricities with that man who had died around two centuries ago. It was true that bards lived double lives, and this particular Poet of Mathematics was manifesting himself in the living world yet again – in part through me.

I had finally got hold of his autobiography, ‘Passages from the Life of a Philosopher’ not more than two years ago, and it had given me a clear insight, however limited, into his mind and his weltanschauung. It had magnified some similarities, and nullified others. It had also exposed me to a new emotion, an emotion that the book I held in my hands should have been the last place to look for. It had exposed me to the importance of sharing one’s thoughts and ideas, without restraint, in their entirety, and independently of how ridiculous they seemed to others. It was like sharing your mind, your soul, the very essence of your being. It could end up terribly if it was shared with someone who it would offend, and it could grant enlightenment if shared with someone who dared to look under the murky exteriors… and it had come in the form of a woman called Ada.

In a dazzling display of utter brilliance, Lady Ada - Countess of Lovelace had described how Babbage’s ridiculously expensive and complicated machine could, if built, do virtually anything it was programmed to do, even something as intricate and abstract as producing and storing music. There was something divine hiding under those greasy gears. This amazing leap of insight that a machine equipped with math and logic could do much more than crunch numbers has been called the Lovelace Leap by writer-programmer John Graham-Cumming. I now ached to find someone I could share my soul with. I had subtly been exposed to Love.

Once I had found the perfect sandy patch along the shore, I threw down my backpack and started preparing the camp. The sun was hanging low in the sky, and I would need some fire to fill the void it was going to leave behind. The whole process took me about half an hour.

As I lay down under the moonlit sky, my mind freed itself of all the concerns that had started bubbling up again. I became a silent spectator to the cosmic dance that had been going tirelessly on for eternities, and would continue for eternities after the last Man had died.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Bicolor Kaleidoscope

The faint sound of a distant chorus flowed silently past the blissful shade of the baobab tree, although the mountain sun couldn't be more welcoming. A smoky cloud brushed past the fluorescent green fruit that bobbed about melodically in the monsoon breeze.

A ghostly knight stood at the high window on a decaying fort on the hill down the winding road of cobbled stone, beaten smooth by armies of men, horses, and elephants over centuries of years forgotten by nature.

Lakes lay there like scattered patches of ink on the vast canopy of the rolling green land. A layer of algae covered the black waters around the outer rim, giving an insight into the secret life hidden underneath the deceptively dead water of the hills.

If one looked closely enough, one could see the miniature green oval leaves. They lay still, feigning innocence of the quaintest sort, and it was only if you paid close attention that you could see them floating around in an enchanting manner against the roguish black water.

They moved around in circles while their center shifted to and fro about a deeper, blacker axis that was either there or purely imaginary – but it did exist, even if only in the murky recesses of a wandering mind.

A harrowing thought came galloping across the clouds, through the wisps of cool mist haunting the darkness of the inky water, and sped past the mind of a curious individual gazing intently into the murky depths.

The breeze, as if taking nature’s cue, grew stronger till it had evolved into a strong wind. Some of those tiny leaves moved elliptically about a mirror axis. A faint line on the corner of the stranger’s lips could be seen struggling to reach his high cheekbone in an ironic smile. He looked with dreamy eyes into the face that had appeared in the water.

A songbird twittered a melancholy tune atop a stunted tree as it swayed about precariously on its gentle perch, as a hawk swept by overhead.

The leaves seemed to be getting a little distorted now, as if in self-assurance, having now gained the victim’s undivided attention. They moved anxiously in patterns celestial and divine, and subtly explained to him things he had often thought of but had never inquired about.

Was nature telling him something in its own abstract manner? At least he thought so. They were his signs, his own personal omens that nature had bestowed on him. The smile on his face grew larger. There were only two kinds of mad men, he thought - those who had been identified, and those that hadn’t. Why, in that last town, they had called that old sailor mad. But alone at the beach that night, by the dim light of the smoldering coal, that man had said some words over a bottle of beer that no man could stand up and declare insane if he had even a shredded fragment of Conscience.

There were times when he had thought how disheartening the world was. There was slavery, poverty, disease – but then, there was life in all its cosmic glory. There were fields, and meadows, and uncharted lakes, and hills that no one had climbed. There were jungles where the deer roamed free, away from the sheltered jails of the city, deep within the territory of the noble cats.

There had also been that subtle feeling, a gentle nagging sensation that craved for some ties that would give him a base to fall back up on. It had ranged from jobs to houses to relationships, and he had given a shot to all of them with a hand on his heart, wanting to end it while it was still possible, but still yearning for it in some blighted recesses of his mind. All of them had failed, leaving him bewildered in a purgatory torn between remorse and relief.

Relief had eventually taken over for all of them. Or he thought it had. It had then brought back that feeling of freedom that had often overwhelmed him, taking him places, and showing him things that he had never thought possible, widening his mind in the process. It was this love of life that he sought to orbit, but that evasive little tease would not stay still. And then he would chase her again, her looking back every now and then with inviting eyes.

It had been during one of these pursuits that he had once reached that distant place. The rays of the mighty sun had struggled past the thick clouds and were playing with the dew that had settled on the blades of grass across the breadth of the meadows. Grasshoppers, bees and butterflies moved about with varied vigor. It had been then that he had met her.

She had been born and brought up in the villages by the foothills, and had talked at length of the pleasures of her life and how she detested the ways of the city. But he had caught her stealing a glance at a train and the mysteries that it carried. She had walked him to the edge of the forest, but then she had to go – her cows needed to be milked. She had given him things to think about and thoughts to ponder on for days and months. And he hadn’t even asked her name.

Her face disappeared as the tiny leaves parted to reveal the brilliant reflection of the crescent moon. He got up, gathering his thoughts and possessions. It was late - there should have been a fire up by now. He walked silently to the tent as an owl declared its intentions from somewhere in the silvery darkness. He had a fire to make before he could eat, and a bed to make before he could dream.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Alaskan Haze


I had run away.
No one knew it yet, of course. They thought I was in school, like the rest of the guys.
But here I was - in a truck on the Alaskan North Slope, running away from all the artificial horrors of modern civilization, and into the deathly-cold embrace of mother nature.

A smile spread slowly across my face before erupting into a full fledged grin.
I slid open the window, and felt the icy winds beat upon the glove of my outstretched arm.
"Son of a bitch!" the trucker yelled from the driver's seat, as I unfastened my seat-belt and thrust my torso out the open window in one swift movement.
And then I yelled.
I yelled for as long as I could, struggling against the cold thin air that was liberating my face of all physical sensation, and the meaty arm of the trucker trying to pull me back in.

"You mad, kid?" he said, after having parked the truck by the highway.
He started rummaging through a bag that he'd taken out of an overhead compartment, and procured a rough conical cigarette. After taking two puffs on it, he turned to me and said - "You'll be on your own if you try something like that again, you understand?"

But the smile just wouldn't leave my face. I was free, and more alive than I'd ever been.

The Barn

I'd never really hated school. It had been a strict private school with fancy customs and age-old traditions, and to be honest, I had loved it.
The fortress that now housed the school had once served as the country-home of an eccentric Frenchman, and was riddled with secret corridors, locked rooms, and Gothic imagery. I would often find myself lost in the intricate patterns that covered the library ceiling, while the other boys were busy passing around a poster of Maria Sharapova that someone had freshly torn off the latest issue of  the 'Sports Illustrated'.

I had a large group of friends even though I didn't talk much, and we were all kinds of crazy. We'd bunk every class we could, often not attending any class for weeks on an end. We'd be far from the classes - on the football field, or by the building that housed the swimming-pool. They would play football, while I would sit under a tree, pondering over something that Voltaire was trying to tell me from across the dimensions of space and time.

There are things, I thought, looking out the window of the barn that had been my home for the last two months, that have the power to hypnotize us. They lure us with promises that would soon be forgotten, and pleasures that would later be taken for granted.
The warmth of my parents' home, I realized, had smothered me.

My education had turned me away from urban life.
I would never follow a routine, and I would never follow orders that went against my conscience in any way.
I would prefer a truck to an office any day, if it didn't tie me up to one place.

The Spill

On my way back from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge the next summer, I overheard a man at the gas station talking about a tanker that had drowned somewhere in the Prudhoe Bay, spilling 'a crap-tonne' of oil.

Intrigued, I had reached the nearest shore within the next fortnight.
It was a mess.
Journalists and TV crew-persons were crawling all over the place, littering everywhere they possibly could.
'When will they fucking learn?', I remember mumbling to myself.

I took the ferry to the spill-site that noon, and realized that it was a bigger mess than I could have ever imagined.
A thick layer of slimy black liquid covered the water for miles in every direction.
Fish, birds, plants, and all kinds of animals lay covered in the goo - dying, if not already dead.
I had known humans to commit murder, but this was something demonic. The thought that human beings, were capable of something so ghastly had left me shaken.

On the way back, I was eyeing the reporters on the deck, cursing each and every one of them under my breath. As I moved further towards the bow, my eyes came to rest on a figure I hadn't seen earlier.
She was young, about my age, and was scurrying around a tall, middle-aged man, carrying some notes and shooting worried glances at the mess around us. She had deep black eyes, and I saw my worries reflected in them. But I looked away, too much hate clouding my senses.

"Smoke this, boy!" a familiar voice said, as I turned around. It was a sailor I had met earlier at the harbor. "You'll feel better."
"What is it?" I asked, inspecting the familiar-looking conical cigarette in my hand.
He just kept looking at me, urging me to go on.
I took a puff on it, and then another.
The man was grinning. "First time, eh?"
"What is it?" I asked him, much more softly. I was feeling strange - calm.
The sailor barked out a laugh. "This is Alaskan Haze."

I inhaled a little deeper, and that made me cough uncontrollably.
With tears welling up in my eyes, and my mind floating somewhere behind my body, I saw her through the smoke for the last time.

The Lake

I walked up to the lake after having built a small fire.
It had been two years.

I looked upon the beautiful snow covered mountains towering behind the huge lake as the sun slowly set behind them, and then gazed upon my own reflection in the lake for a while.

I then fished out a small box from my inner pocket, and boomed a joint of that fantastic substance - something that filled me with hope during moments of ultimate despair.

And there she was - sitting next to me, looking silently into the distance, contemplating the madness inherent in our small, insignificant world, her deep black eyes calming the air around us.

I had never felt closer to home.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Of Cats And Flies - 2

Note: This post is the second part of the full article. You can read the first part here.

Day 2 -

The cook woke me up at half past 6, and I took a quick bath in the river.
He then treated me to a breakfast of omelets and green tea.

I asked him how I could reach the stretch of the river that was visible from the watchtower, and headed off in that direction.
While walking along this stretch, I found a nice open place, put down my bag, and started roaming around taking pictures.
This next picture was especially interesting:
You see, this region is pretty rich in iron, and used to be mined for iron-ore until recently, before being marked as a natural reserve.
What can be seen in the picture above is essentially a thin layer of iron deposit on water reflecting some clouds as they pass overhead.

And while I was taking this very picture, I heard (or thought I heard) a muffled growl.
It had come from across the river, from within thick foliage.

I didn't know how to react.
I just stood there, stupefied, looking in the general direction the noise had come from, wondering if i had really heard it.

But then there it was again - loud and distinct this time.
I was sure it was a leopard!

Within seconds, I had stuffed my camera into my pocket, had my rucksack strapped to my back, and was walking at a steady pace towards the camp, looking back every few steps. Hoping for just a brief, distant glimpse...

I reached the kitchen (still twitching), and saw the cook talking to 2 gentlemen who had just arrived.
I went up to them, and said - "There's a leopard nearby."
Proved to be an effective icebreaker.

I told them what I'd heard, and this time, the 4 of us went together as a team. We went back to the same place, and waited for about 5 minutes. Without luck.

The cook had a theory that he told us about - the leopard had probably hunted one of the deer that had been roaming around the camp last night, and was eating it by the river.
If what he says is true, the beast had probably been warning me to back off.

Nothing else of much interest happened that day, apart from this little snake that I found out in the open:
Also, did I mention I saw a King Cobra? Couldn't take a picture because it was too dark.

Anyways, I left at around 1 pm this day, and that too in a very bollywood style.

I had been waiting for the bus by the highway, in the middle of nowhere. As soon as I saw a bus coming, I started jumping and signalling.
The bus started slowing down.
I ran back and picked up my bag.
The bus started moving.
I ran towards it, threw my bag on board, and climbed up after it.

I then spent 2 blissful hours eating fresh guavas, looking at the scenic meadows around me, and listening to some kickass music.

PS: A senior, Pranshu Sharma, went to Kudremukh the next day, and saw a leopard. With cubs. What if the leopard I'd went too close to had cubs with it? I wish I had gathered enough courage and stuck around a bit longer. No worries, though - the trip was insane.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Of Cats And Flies

So! I went on a solo trip to this place called Kudremukh (thank you Ramit for the suggestion) on May 14, 2013. Stayed at Bhagavathi Nature Camp for 2 mornings and a night, and hiked the surrounding forests during most of the day. The purpose of this post is to help me recall as much as I can of everything that I experienced in those 24 hours, to document my adventurous little trip, and to help fellow travellers.
(NOTE: I took most of these pics with my 3mp phone camera. Also, there was no network coverage.)
Day 1:

I had to take a bus from Manipal to Karkala, and then another bus from there to Nature Camp, Bhagavathi. The journey cost me ₹ 80, and was worth much, much more. The air gets cooler, hills get greener, and before you know it, you are surrounded by dense rainforests and bright green meadows. The best things in life, if not free, are still damn cheap.
(TIP: Ask the Kudremukh Forest Dept. for permission before doing any of the things that follow.)

The bus dropped me by the highway in the middle of nowhere, with a clear view of the said meadows.

There were two or three desolate buildings, and a sign that read:
Say YES To Herbs
The watchtower becomes visible once you are about half a kilometer in. I resisted my urge to run to the top of the watchtower, and kept on walking, for I had yet to see a sign of human presence in the area.

Within two or three minutes, I had reached the camp and taken a good look around.
The Main Trail
There were some pretty neat tents available, but I didn't have enough cash (they cost a thousand bucks), so I decided to stay in the dormitory for  75/night. This, here, is a vital piece of information, as you'll find out soon enough.

The dorm was located about a hundred meters from the kitchen, where the ONLY other men at the camp were living. A group of young doctors (vets) had left the camp that very morning, and no one else was to come anytime soon, so I was basically the only person there.

Anyway, once the formalities had been taken care of, and my energy and supplies replenished, I went directly to the river, which was another hundred meters down.
Now I did what any rational man would've done under similar circumstances - threw my rucksack on the shore, ripped my clothes off, and jumped into the water without another thought.
And oh, boy! Did that feel great!

Also, there was a boat:
Richard Parker?
Once I was done swimming, I pulled the boat into the water, set up the oars, and started rowing down the river. It was just me in the boat with lush jungles on both sides, and hornbills and other exotic birds flying overhead. In short, it was serene and beautiful.

Although nature did find a way to suck my blood.
Leeches suck. Seriously.
Once I had pulled off the leeches and put on my clothes, I took my first steps into the main forest. I kept following this narrow brook, and saw a variety of birds, insects, and snakes, but no animals. Not yet.
Couldn't take pictures because the jungle was pretty dark, noon or not. Also, I had to ration my phone's battery.

By the way, there were a lot of mango and guava trees spread around the campsite. I had taken snicker bars and bananas and onion rings with me, but all of them came back untouched, for I had been picking guavas along the way.

After walking for about an hour in the jungle, I headed back towards the camp, and went straight up to the watchtower. Check out the view:
That's the dormitory on the left
Remember those guavas I'd been picking?
Had the first one right here, and went nuts over it, for it was definitely the sweetest guava I'd ever had.

Anyway, it was getting dark, and the cook had told me to be back by 7:00. He had been preparing chicken and rice. Near the camp, between the kitchen and the dorm, there was a small clearing with a trampoline at its center. There was still some time left, so I lay back on the trampoline and was looking at the stars, when an amazing thing happened.

15-20 fireflies came out of nowhere, making their way across the clearing. It honestly looked like the stars were moving. There are no words to describe it, and no pictures to prove it, but it was breath-taking. It was definitely one of the best moments of the entire journey.

Meanwhile, at the kitchen:
After dinner, the cook led me to the dorm, and prepared my bed. He asked me if I wanted him to stay there, but I told him I'd be fine. What a fool I was.
After he had left, I started checking all the doors and windows to see if they were locked. I closed the front windows, and was closing a back window, when I heard it. It was the sound of an animal of moderate size moving in the bushes.

I took out my torch and tried to search the bushes for any sign of movement, while my heart thumped away like Dave Grohl. Once I was sure there was nothing to fear, I went back to my bed and tried to sleep.

BANG! Something had just hit the main door.
Minutes passed like hours, with me sitting in complete silence.
After about half an hour, I took my torch and umbrella, and somehow gathered enough courage to go outside and run up to the kitchen.

To cut a long story short, I managed to wake up the helper-boy, and convinced him to stay in the dorm with me. And within fifteen minutes, it turned out to be the right thing to have done.
There was that sound of movement again, which made both of us get up in attention. This time, in the company of another human being, I felt more curious than nervous.

After two-three minutes, we heard three short, hollow, deep "barks".
Turned out to be a flock of freaking deer. Deer!
I breathed a sigh of relief, and went back to bed, leopards and tigers filling my dreams...

(you can read the rest (here))

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Dead Rose


She was slipping in and out of view in the gentle mist. The thorny, barren trees did little to help, casting long shadows on the frozen ground. A distant howl came as a subtle reminder that the snow-white light of the moon was the only thing that was still keeping me sane.
I was sure it was her. A porcelain doll with lips as red as blood. Her long, black hair reflected the gothic beauty of the night.
I never went too close to her, keeping at a safe distance... basking in her beauty. Maybe I was scared.
The musical sound of her soft feet touching the ground stopped suddenly, and she swung round in one swift movement. Had those deep black eyes seen me? Did she know that I was here? That someone was following her unearthly aura as she glided through the darkness? 
How could she not?
My heart was thumping against my chest as I stood absolutely still, partly hidden behind the silver trunk of the conifer. I risked a glance above my shoulder to see if she was still there... and she wasn't.

The Red Rose

There it was. Another one of them. It had been placed carefully in the center of the small clearing. And I was sure this was not the last one.
I could not take it any longer. I had to get to the bottom of this. I had to follow this trail... a trail of roses. Red roses with no thorns on their stalks, and a scent that reminded of uncorrupted love.
What was that? I swung around, my hands trembling. I was sure I had heard a footstep.
Which emotion was truely incorruptable? Hunger? Love?
I turned around, and ran into the darkness.


I stood there, a little bent, looking into the darkness. I knew she would come here. I just knew she would.
An owl on a tree nearby had it's gaze fixed on me. Did it not have to feed? Why was it ignoring that primal instinct?
...And then I heard her. I saw her come out of the darkness into the small clearing, a bunch of red roses in her right hand.
I could see the surprise on her pale face as she picked up the withered rose from the ground. She looked around, lost, as if searching for an answer in the moonlit darkness.
A swift move of the knife across her throat, and there she was, in my arms. Her eyes looked into mine, asking me a question that could never be conveyed in words.
After her last breath had subsided, I closed her eyes, and kissed her icy cheek gently. I lay her down on the ground, and folded her hands across her abdomen. I then picked up the roses that she had dropped, and placed them on her hands, carefully throwing the last one away.
She had asked me a question without words, and she deserved an answer without them. I lay down beside her, enjoying her aroma for the last time.
Another swift move of the knife, and I could feel myself drift away. In a few moments, she will get the answer she had asked for.


One night, as the mist rose,
The trees stood bare, and the ground froze;
The stars shone, and the moon glowed,
Love died, and the dead rose.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Beast of Sarsmouth

I. Prologue
I was sure I had heard a footstep. I stood still, facing the direction the noise had come from. The darkness was blinding, impenetrable, and no man could ever get used to it without jeopardising his sanity. The hair on my body stood up, and a chilling sensation percolated slowly into my bones, as I strained my senses for the faintest hint of bearing. Even after all these years, I could not believe what it was that fate had in store for me.

II. Hindsight
It had been the month of June of the ninth year, and the village folk had begun to sing of the great legend that I had been raised to be a part of. I was the eldest son, with my first uncle's son Jared just a month younger to me. One could hear the cheers of the villagers wherever I went, and I had grown to ignore this irritable routine after the first three days.

I remember the rush of primal energy that gave me enough strength to practice my swordsmanship for as much as twenty hours a day. The looks on the faces of the men around me were reason enough. Ever since the day I was born, I had been looked upon as a Messiah, a tool to rid the village of its misery. I had grown up listening to the story of my forefathers, and had shone in their glory, awaiting my turn.

It had been a dark winter night, the night that I turned five, that Frida had first told me of the family legacy. She had been standing by the large window when the long, deep moan had excited the dry cold air, and had made even the strongest of men shiver. The deep growl was heard even two miles away, and had been heard every year on the anniversary of my birth. "That is the Beast of the Cave", Frida had said, pulling the curtains over the windows, "and one day, you will kill it." "Me?" I had asked, a wave of excitement spreading over my body, for fear did not have a place in the hearts that pumped the blood of my family, and Frida then told me the story that I can clearly recall even to this day.

A little longer than a century ago, the body of a child from the village of Sarsmouth had been found near the mouth of the large cave that opened near the Sardis river, by the southern edge of the forest. His head had been pulled apart from the rest of the body with such force, that a part of his spine had come off with it. Three more skeletons of human children were found scattered around the place, and all three of them had met the same horrible fate. The villagers had been terrified, and had come to their Liege and Master, my great ancestor Graham, for help. The elders had soon realized that all four children had mysteriously disappeared at somewhat regular intervals of about ten twelvemonths each.

Being the noble and honourable man he was, my ancestor had decided that he would go into the cave, and slay the horrible beast that had so terrorized the village. "If I do not return," he had dictated, "I will the eldest man with my blood in his veins to follow my lead after ten full years. For if I do not return, whatever obscenity dwells in that cave shall rest with its blood-lust satiated for that interval. I forbid other men to venture into the earthen recesses of the cave, and I will that I or a man of my blood either slay the monster, or fall prey to it, and let no other man suffer." Thus, after a year of preparation, he had ventured into the cave, proud and alone, on the sixteenth day of July.

Thirteen generations had passed since, with the eldest man in the extended family going into the cave, never to return, while the monstrosity still occupied the huge cave by the river, though it lay dormant, feeding only on the men of my blood. The last one, I have been told, had been my father. And he too like the twelve before him had never returned, making me an heir to this horrible destiny.

Here, I believe I owe you a small but important piece of information, else you might judge my great ancestor's unfortunate decisions too harshly. It was he who had first found Sarsmouth at the young age of eighteen. He had also discovered a way to make the soil potent and the water potable. The men who had followed him here had held him in such high esteem that would have made even the mighty gods burn with envy. I can say with much pride and equal regret, that this was true even to the present day. Nothing in the village happened without our approval, and much care was taken to not to cause us even the slightest discomfort. I had vowed, and now know, that I could do anything to protect the honour and pride that the name of my family had given to me in heritage. Anything at all.

Twelve months had passed since my preparations first began, and it was now the June of the tenth year. The carnival was in full flow, as everyone waited for the ritual that took place once a decade in the village of Sarsmouth; the ritual which would either earn me more fear and respect than the great Ulthar, or devoid my family of yet another man. I had not even been married, for I was too young. Jared would have to continue the lineage after me. I pondered on these thoughts, like many others, and seldom talked to anyone but my cousin. Jared was the only one person who knew how I felt, for he had always lived in fear of my untimely death. He was always with me, and had always stood by me, if only for his own good. We lived on, brothers more by fear than by blood, though we strived to hide this fact from the others.

The flames on the villagers' torches danced around in the cold wind. The moonless night reflected the void inside me. With one last glance at Jared who gave a slight nod, I started walking slowly up the Sardis, for it was the sixteenth day of July of the tenth year. I was clad in iron from head to toe, and held a longsword in my hands. My grasp on the ruby-studded hilt grew tighter as the insatiable mouth of the legendary cave grew in the distance. I struggled not to look back, for that would only remind me how lonely I was. I imagined an army walking behind me, and led the silent shadows of these imaginary men into war.

I lit my torch from the splinters I had with me, when the mouth of the cave was but five feet away. With one long, deep breath, I stepped into the sprawling abyss. The cave was so high, that the roof was not visible, even in the flame of the torch. I took small steps forward, my eyes finding even a lone spider to be a murderous ghoul. My feet slipped on the excretra of bats, and other horrible creatures that live in the dark. After what seemed to me an hour, which could have been anything from a quarter-hour to a half-day, I found myself to be helplessly lost. I could devise not the direction I had come from, and this made me more uncomfortable than what lay beyond. Walking cautiously along the path that seemed to me the most feasible, that was the first time I really felt any fear of my surroundings, for in front of me, by the near wall of the cave, lay a human skeleton. I flinched at the sight, more in fear than in disgust; for it surely belonged to someone I shared my blood with.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the sight before me, I noticed, for the first time, many more human bones lying around on the ground. They had probably been fed off. My senses grew in accuracy, and I was now aware of every small change in the darkness around me. It was at that moment that I first heard the noise. It was unmistakably the drum of one bone against another. Something near me was alive, and it had killed my father. I dropped the torch to the ground, grabbing the sword again with both my hands. I moved slowly towards the direction the sound had come from, the darkness engulfing me slowly as I moved on.

Just then, something leapt at me from the nothingness. It was leathery and covered with hair, and was surely larger than I was. I swung my sword around, but missed it completely, slicing only the damp shadows. Darkness stared at me from all directions, and I cannot forget the fear that shook me to the very core of my being. In that moment, I was overcome by such madness, mostly due to my horror, and partly for my hatred against this being that had killed so many of mine blood, that I started to yell. I yelled unintelligibly, swinging my sword from side to side, and in all directions I could. I moved around in circles, swinging furiously, with all the might I had. In my rage, I found out later, I had come very close to one of the many dead-ends of the cave where pieces of metal lay about on the floor. My sword, without my intending to, hit living flesh with a sickening thud. The moment brought to me not the relief or feeling of triumph that I had expected, but rather a feeling of horror and confusion, the likes of which not many men have savored and lived, for I was sure I had heard a sob. I had no doubt in my mind that I had hit a man.

Leaving the sword buried in the man's flesh, I turned in the opposite direction, and started running with all the energy I had left. I ran blindly for some time, until I saw a faint glow of light coming from the distance. Assuming it to be the mouth of the accursed cave, my portal to the outside world, I ran towards it with all my might. A feeling of utter disappointment came over me when I realised that the glow of light I had thought to be coming from the mouth of the cave actually belonged to the torch I had dropped sometime back. Still, I hurried towards it, getting enormous comfort from the warmth and light it provided.

After picking up the torch, I felt a strange urge to go back and take a look at the monster I had killed. That it had been a man, my mind could still not believe. I tried retracing my steps the best I could, and passed many smaller tunnels from whence I could see many small eyes of the horrendous bats glaring at me. When I finally found my feet striking rusting metal, I knew I had reached the correct place. The sight before me was so gruesome, that I have strived to get it out of the depths of my memory ever since. There lay, by the far end of the small inside cave, a man with a sword buried deep below his left lung. I now saw that luck had played a large part in his death. He had been cornered against the low wall, his feet stuck in the pile of metal that lay on the earthen floor. He had long hair, both on his head and on his face, and his skin was deathly pale. Clearly, it had been a very long time since he had last seen the light of day. Even more unsettling was the sight of carefully positioned cuts on his arms and legs.

But I was still confused. Was this strange man responsible for the death of my ancestors? Why hadn't someone killed him before me, when I was surely not the best swordsman that had taken birth in my family? I moved closer to study the face of the man more carefully. The hairs on his cheek were wet, and I remembered the sob I had heard just before my sword hit him. A strange feeling told me that he had not intended to harm me at all; that it had been more than luck that had enabled me to kill him. It was then that I first saw the engravings on the wall of the cave, a little more than five feet away from the place the man lay dead.

By now, my fear had been totally overcome by a strong urge of curiosity, and I could not wait to see what I now know was my undoing. There, on the low wall of the cave, was engraved a strange story told through pictures; the story of how a man had found the perfect place for his people to live, but soon discovered that the water had too much acid, and had ruined the soil. In his quest to find a way out, he had come to a huge cave, where he had meditated for four long nights. Troubled and hassled by the knowledge that his men would disown him if he didn't find a solution soon, he was slowly slipping into madness. It was then that he saw... he saw something so horrible that I dare not put it down in words. It was probably just a hallucination brought on by his decaying mind, but it rattled him to the very core. He started performing blood rituals and sacrificed humans, and worshipped Gods that should not be spoken of, but it all seemed justified, for the villagers soon found a lake some thousand feet away. Canals were dug, and Sarsmouth prospered.

But it was before long that the villagers noticed how four of their children had disappeared mysteriously over four decades. They had begun to suspect and fear the ancient cave, and were anxious to find and kill whatever had harmed their blood. It was then that the man, now ageing, devised a plan to save his name and that of his family. From that point onward, I knew the story well, and I wanted to burn all that my eyes saw, but I could not take it much longer. My head had started to spin, and my sight faded slowly as I fell to the ground.

III. Epilogue
I was sure I had heard a footstep. I stood still, facing the direction the noise had come from. The darkness was blinding, impenetrable, and no man could ever get used to it without jeopardising his sanity. The hair on my body stood up, and a chilling sensation percolated slowly into my bones, as I strained my senses for the faintest hint of bearing. Even after all these years, I could not believe what it was that fate had in store for me.

Ten years had passed since I had first entered the damned cave, and I had stayed true to my ancestors' footsteps. I had spent my years worshipping the Old Ones with mine own blood and feeding on the creatures that wandered the earthen void, while the rest of my family lived on in dignity and respect. But today... today I would be rewarded for what I had endured for so long. Today, I would be freed of my responsibility towards my blood, and pass it on to my cousin, if he still lived, or to his son; much like I had done for my own father. Today, I would take my last breath as the wretched Beast of Sarsmouth.