Wednesday, 11 May 2016


It was towards the end of March that R moved to Karkid. A friend had discovered and booked a small apartment near his office.
He was first startled by how close to work it was - there was his office, a church right next to it, a lane going in along the church boundary, and then a row of houses. If you walked a hundred meters into the lane and turned left, you would be standing in front of a building that had shoddily grown over the years into a four-storied troll.
On the terrace of this building, amidst dense foliage of neem and gulmohar trees through which you could make out the glowing blue cross of the church, was his apartment. A plain door led into a small room, which led into a small corridor that then opened into a small kitchen and another door that guarded a small bathroom.
Outside, the terrace was cool and breezy. He put his luggage in one corner, extracted a sleeping bag and a pint of cheap wine from his rucksack, and locked the door. He then made himself comfortable under celestial giants as they winked and teased from far away and before. He sat there, under a waning red gibbous moon, chugging at the wine.
He woke up only when the birds grew restless in the morning. He blinked, letting his filters kick in, and saw a jagged black line on the floor stretching from under the door to where he lay, and meandering around the bottle of wine that lay nearby.
The line squirmed and twisted in his blurred vision until his senses came to enough to perceive it as a regiment of determined ants that the wine had succeeded in seducing. He got up, unlocked, packed the sleeping bag, and sealed and kept the wine bottle in a corner of the terrace. He then got ready for work, and went out in search of breakfast.
He stopped at a small cafe in the lane where a group of men were having tea and buttered toast, and ordered the same for himself. While waiting at the wobbly table, he felt a sharp pang of pain a little above his right elbow. He yelled and jerked, and the waiter who had just arrived spilled tea onto his shirt. The group of men stopped chatting and looked around to see what the fuss was about.
He cursed under his breath, wiping his shirt with a wet handkerchief. He paid the waiter and rushed back to his apartment. His right hand was turning red and stinging in an unnatural manner. He left his shirt to soak in soap water and changed into another one before locking the place.
While passing the church on his way to work, he saw a weathered man of indiscernible age with a wild beard and covered in tattered old rags cowering by the footpath. Their eyes met for a moment before the man looked down, as if ashamed of the state he was in. R looked away and increased his pace.
He stopped only when he reached the office gates, and stole a quick peek around. The man had disappeared. He stopped, turned around, and searched the landscape. A cobbled footpath along a busy highway outside a solemn grey church - no broken man. Something compelled him to go back to the spot where the creature had been.
Strangely, all that seemed to be left of him was a pair of crumbling brown slippers, one of which was lying upside down. Not far away was a rather ominous looking anthill that induced nightmarish visions of a cave deep in the earth crawling with ants - sturdy hairy scissors determined to crush anything and everything regardless of proportion - in magenta and black and all shades in between - boiling with incomprehensible anxious rage that could fissure the crust in a fit of fiery hunger and infiltrate every higher organism in its path to devour only the mind, leaving flesh intact.
All creatures from rats and snakes down below to crows and sparrows in the trees - depleted of souls and left to be consumed by the earth in an attempt to regain some of the nourishment life had sucked out of her. The trees would sway on a perfectly still afternoon, for this nourishment would surely benefit those snobby patronizing immortals - and sunflowers. Of course sunflowers would attack fresh ground to aid in their eternal surveillance of the sun as it creeps across the sky. They would strike and grow when and where the gods least expected them to.
“He’s dead.”
With a turn of his head with such great rotational velocity that his senses had to struggle to catch up, R broke out of his trance.
“Wh- what did you say?”
“Are you alright? I said that man’s dead. That body’s been lying there since last night. Someone will inform the municipal corporation and they’ll take it away by tomorrow morning. What’s wrong?”
The man was wearing a black jacket with a yellow sign on a breast pocket that seemed eerily familiar - from a life he possibly couldn’t have had - from an age that could never be grasped by frail senses and instruments of perception. He backed up and turned around. Outside the church, on a white billboard in red letters, were the words HAVE YOU SEEN THE SIGN?.
R flinched visibly, his right hand collapsed into a tight fist, elbows swung, knuckles flew towards the man’s face, which exploded on impact and sent eyeballs and brain matter hurtling through the air.
“Aaaaaah!” yelled R.
The group of men turned to look what the fuss was about. The waiter had apparently spilled tea on a young bloke’s shirt who was wiping away frantically with a handkerchief.