Run Run Run!

I was on the run again. I don’t know why I used “again” here. You need to stop a particular activity, do something else, and then resume the first one to use the term “again”. It’s clearly wrong here as I don’t remember ever doing anything other than run.

There are corridors. There are always corridors. There are windows all along on the sides. Each window different from the other, but you notice patterns, repeating patterns. You pay attention and they separate, you keep looking ahead or at some point in front of you and they coalesce into one pattern. Like looking at poles on the sides of railway tracks.

The corridors end, there is a door. You get a few seconds to catch your breath. Panting, you open the door, and then start the run again. It’s another corridor, identical windows on each side. They seem different, but as you look back, you don’t find them any different from the previous ones. Soon the corridors also coalesce and become different stations on the path of your train. Different names, different people getting in and getting out. But they all look and feel the same. That same chai shop, that book shop, the one selling samosas.

I feel someone chasing me. He wasn’t there earlier. Just someone who turned up a few corridors back. I don’t know who he is, but I know I don’t want to stop and find out. I know I don’t want to meet him. I run, but not faster, as I can neither increase nor decrease my pace.

Am at the end of a corridor now. A double door exit looms ahead. The doors are bigger, and look thicker. Darker, as if made of rosewood. There are golden carvings, ivy descending from the top, midget Banyan trees on both of them, reflecting off each other as if a mirror is between the two.

I catch hold of the handle-knob, twist it and push open the right door. It’s another corridor. The chaser feels closer now. I know he’ll gain on me, it’s imminent. But for know, I’ll continue to run. I’ll run because that’s all I know, cos that’s all am programmed to do.

Ugh! Another year! Well have a good one while at it!

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The slow killing

“Kill! Kill! Kill” their cries rent the air. I cowered in the corner, cuts bleeding, and hurting. I growled, snarled, snapped and bit. They were too many. There was no escape. I resisted, for what I do not know. It was inevitable. This was going to be the end.

They were people I knew. People I had grown up around. They stood there looking at me, fear and hatred burning in their eyes. With pitchforks, spears, whatever they could lay hands on, anything that had a sharp end. To prod, to pierce. To hurt. To kill.

There was the urge. To give up. To go in peace. Wait for the one spear to pierce the heart. To sleep. But I resisted. I didn’t know any other. I growled, snarled, snapped and bit. They were terrified. None came near. One approached as another retreated, pricking me from one side and then the far other. This was going to be slow. This was going to take forever.

They knew only fear. This was the time they had lain in wait. A mistake, just a small one. To avenge. To kill.

I lay there cowering. Growling, biting and snapping. They waited. With pitchforks and spears. This was going to be the end.

The memorial

The contractor was in a pensive mood that day. He wondered if it was the heat of the Bangalore summer or the noise from the machines whirring nearby and people going around clonking with no attempt at subtlety that was causing it. Probably all. The previous day had been the thithi of his father. He didn’t remember much of his father. He had passed away early from a snake-bite when he was just a child, but had left behind a sizable and profitable estate which took care of his family comfortably. The contractor had done well with the land, but it was never enough. He also had to play second fiddle to his older brother. The city had also beckoned with its riches. So there he was, lording over his men in the Bangalore summer as vehicles went by looking at his work with hope.

He could sense his father lurking around his thoughts that day and was pretty worried about it. It hadn’t happened to him before. After all this wasn’t the first thithi. He was also putting on now, and had just gone into his forties. Maybe it was the age, that he was thinking more in terms of his mortality and all. His uncle had been urging him to go visit his family deity in Nanjangud and pray for a long and healthy life. “This is when you need to start planning for your old age health wise and start giving up worldly pleasures and surrender to Nanjundeshwara” he had said.

He wondered what his father would have advised if he were alive today. He never lived to see his own forties, so it was hard to tell. But he had left behind a good legacy. The estate had been in shambles when his ailing grandfather had given up care of it and let it go to the dogs. His father and uncle had taken it up and turned it around. Eventually that’s what made the difference between being on the streets and living comfortably. And thank God there were no feuds with his uncle, brother or cousins. His family was still close-knit and managed to get under one roof more often than not. He prayed that the next generation would also carry on the same sense of familial bonding.

Suddenly he felt a pang of guilt, at having forsaken his father’s legacy and having come away to the city, lured by its riches and glamour. There had to something he could do for his father, to keep his name around. But naming something in the city after his father would not be such an easy thing. He had to shell out quite a lot to get this contractor position itself. Maybe he could do something in spirit, without the name explicitly and watch the people of the city respect him in some way as they passed by it. And then, he hit upon the idea!!

It pleased him a lot. It was so simple, and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought about it earlier! But he had, and that’s what separated him from his village-folk relatives. He called out to the tired and annoyed looking worker “Oye, come here with that cart of tar you’ve got!”

Narasimha Murthy was having a quiet lunch at home. It was quiet in the sense that his wife wasn’t trying to talk much to him. It was too much effort to make oneself heard over the din from the road-tarring outside. On one hand he felt like tearing out whatever hair was left over, and on the other he was happy his wife wasn’t nagging him about having agreed for a lower rent on the house above. She never seemed to understand his repeated pleas that good tenants are hard to come by.

After a heavy lunch, he stepped out to see how much of the road work was done and if there was any hope of completion and a peaceful nap that afternoon. He took one peep out at the sudden activity in front of his gate, and with a look of shock cried out to the contractor “Gowdre! What is this?! Can’t you see there is another hump just 10 feet away?!” he was scandalised!

“And they are of the same height too. What purpose are you solving here?!” he screamed, agitated and also trying to he heard. The contractor looked at him annoyed. Without answering he turned around to look at the older hump which he had tarred over, careful not to add to its height. He assessed his own hump next. There were a few moments of deep thought before he realised what he had done!

“Oye, where are you going with the cart?” He screamed at the worker. “Add an inch to this hump at the top, don’t bother about its sides, we don’t have so much tar to spare” he instructed before walking away while Mr. Murthy kept screaming away at the top of his lungs, careful not to slip in any expletives.

Gone in 2 minutes…

I sat there watching her wait. The countdown at the South end circle had started. The traffic was tapering off from its peak in the evenings and the flow was fairly unimpeded except by the traffic lights. Being completely colour blind I just went by the position of each light. Wouldn’t make a difference if they changed it to blue from green or violet from red.

It had been raining for a while and the roads were full of the usual monsoon puddles. A slight drizzle started off again sending some people racing home-wards faster. No one wanted to be caught in another monsoon downpour. She seemed at peace, waiting for the lights. The sudden drizzle only prompted a look upwards to the sky and a smile. She seemed at peace with the rains even if she had to ride her two-wheeler against it.

I wondered if I should and would be able to approach from where I was. I checked out the timing. There was still close to 2 minutes on it before she raced along, consigned to yet another of the countless faces in the city.

I would have to cross through one complete road, and then past half the other road before I could get to her in that short time. And the traffic was in full flow all the way across. And time was running out, fast!

I took the plunge and put my first steps in. A couple of bikes honked along as they approached and moved past me, cursing their hearts out! One glance and I knew I had caught her attention. She was looking at me! And was that ‘concern’ I saw on her face? This might just be my day! I kept going. Cars and autos braked all of a sudden, and let loose a volley of curses as they raced past. There was no stepping back now. I reached the median. Just over a minute left now. I hurried along to the other side.

More cars, buses, autos and two-wheelers. Everyone with something or the other foul thing to say. There were some on the other side looking eagerly wondering what the hell I was doing crossing the road like that. Some were even trying to shoo me back. Through all this, one glance and I saw that she was still looking at me, this time undoubtedly full of concern!

I crossed the road, safe and sound, but with all my lineage and ancestry questioned and cursed into death and hell forever. I looked at the time to realise that this one had taken longer and I had only 30 odd seconds to run across. With no time to waste I continued to run along, this time not even slowing down for approaching vehicles. There were some skirmishes with some two-wheelers, and a few autos that whizzed by inches from me. (God! They don’t even bother to slow down!)

I reached her, just as she was starting up the engine. I went up to her and looked her deep in the eyes. She looked at me, a smile forming on her lips. She reached out in the rain, her arms all wet and her clothes drenched to her arms. “Aww you poor thing, you ran across the street for me?” and patted my head. I realised I had a tail which was actually wagging.

The light changed and she drove off. I put my head down and walked back, this time with some enterprising kids getting stone pelting practice at me. (Of course all I had to do was growl at them and they’d run off, but then it’s more dramatic being the smitten wolf with people pelting stones at it, than the menacing one)

The antidotes

It had been long since the time I had turned. Somehow I had gotten used to it. You could say I was also proud of it and I noticed the pride in other wolves around me too. I even had my own territory to defend. Food was the main problem though. It wasn’t ‘food’ and ‘hunger’ as such. It was ‘blood’ and ‘thirst’. This was one thing we had in common with vampires, along with being strange creatures of course. But that’s where we drew our lines. They were dead, or ‘undead’ as they liked to be called and we were alive, very much! Ours was every full moon, once a month, they went about it every night. We grew old and died like normal people, they lived forever. We had no love lost with the Sun; the Sun and any form of light was their nemesis.
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The social one

I had gotten used to them by now – the nights where I transformed. There were others like me, they just looked less like me, but they were there, I just had to seek them out. They looked more like dogs than I did. I had to try sniffing the behinds of other dogs like the dogs do and see which of them were offended how badly. That’s how I found out. It cost me a few scratches and bites though. But they always came around when they realized I was a fellow wolf. We were a club of our own. Only us, no real dogs allowed. Ah, the irony of it!

And then there was the social one. They always went to him. There was always a crowd around him where you hung out and played with the other wolves. Communication was difficult for me initially. All I knew was to growl and howl at the moon, but I figured it out soon enough. All it needed was a sharp sense of smell and sound, and you are good to go. But no, we never revealed who we were in real life.
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Full moon nights

It was my first night. I had been dreading this for the past 30 days, as the moon shrank into oblivion over the first 15 before making its slivery appearance and surging to its full glory over the next 15. The days had been spent nursing the wound on my leg, the nights lying in bed shivering in fear, waiting for this night. The wound was now almost healed, but the scar was something I knew I’ll carry the rest of my life. I didn’t know how this would affect my lifetime. Some said that people like me live longer; I was not sure that was a good thing.

I had heard stories, of strange creatures roaming the streets on some nights. No one had made the connection to the full moon though. They were just ‘some nights’, such an easy term. And then one day it happened. A late night in office and driving back on my bike, I was attacked. I just revved up and tried to get away from the strange creature. It was dark, furry and HUGE! It was drooling at its mouth. But it was the eyes – a fiery red with a hatred, and an anger I had never seen before. It was as if it was attacking me only because it hated me, and for nothing else. I didn’t know why…then. I had almost gotten away but then I felt its head scrape against my leg. I felt a sudden shot of pain shooting all the way to my brain, numbing all senses for a moment. Somehow, I managed to reach home. I could hear the dogs howling on the streets. The moon was in full glory. I knew what had happened.
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The untold story…

It was a dark evening. Well, not exactly an evening, more like later afternoon. It gets pretty dark by that time during early winter. Was a chilly evening too with the ocean breeze from the Atlantic blowing in hard. The partner was still sleeping. She used to get tired a lot caring for the little ones and screaming like hell at me. There were problems. We knew that. Something told me I won’t be seeing her again next spring and she’s going to be laying eggs with someone else.

We were pretty much alone there. The Canadian geese had all gone. No idea where they went each winter. Maybe Canada. The lakes nearby were also empty of the quacking ducks. Good riddance! But have always wondered where they went for winter when the lake froze over? No one seems to know that. Even now. Gets people angry sometimes.

I clucked around a bit. There was news of a fox running around and being spotted by neighbors lately. So kept a low profile, as low as I could. Clucked a bit softer than usual. Food was never a problem there. Always found enough worms and stuff to eat. And by the way, let me set the record straight, the early bird never gets the worm! At least not around here. Worms here wait for the sun to go down before they even think of turning up. Causes us so much trouble. It’s so friggin’ cold and then can’t see the damn things in the dark, and with foxes running around at nights, causes us untold miseries, what with kids and all to take care of!

Oh well, I clucked around a bit. And then I heard some noise and looked up alarmed. Turned out to be some humans collecting for something. Always wondered why they collected in such huge numbers. We never can take much of our own kind! I decided to keep a low profile as always. They never harmed us much, except when they were really struggling for food or when their chicken were struggling with some disease or fox attacks etc. Dumb birds. Always dropping dead at the drop of a hat!

But well, it’s generally a good idea to keep a low profile and stay out of sight when there are humans around. You never know what they need now and what they are short of. I had survived so long and grown so big mainly because of advice like this, and a lot of low profile keeping.

I looked around for a while. No worms or any darn thing that could be called food to be found. Had to return empty mouthed to the family and face the missus! Might even get pecked around badly. (Ever heard of the phrase hen-pecked?) I was about to turn back when I saw something lying in the sand glittering. It was even moving ever so slowly! I focused all my bad eyesight on that thing. Turned out it was sunlight reflecting off a snail’s shell. Now a snail is good food. But then it would also mean going out into the open and risking the humans. I decided to chuck it, keep a low profile and return to the family.

I walked along, dejected at not finding anything and wary of the missus. I saw her from afar, she was looking out for me and wasn’t looking too pleased. No bird is pleased when she’s hungry! I continued warily, ready to take flight if the situation demanded. And then I came into her line of sight. She lit up immediately, but I saw her expression change slowly from radiant hope to dark anger. How she knew from that distance when I had food and when I didn’t, I still have no clue about. I guess its one of those things about women!

I knew this called for the escape option. But then where do I run to? In her fury she would usually not rest until she had given me a piece of her beak! With foxes and humans running around, there weren’t much options open for me. I just knew what I had to do…

I went back to where I was. The snail was still there, not much headway made. Well, its a snail after all for Heaven’s sake! The humans were still there and I knew it would definitely bring me into full sight of them! I looked back, the wife was actually walking over to me and God, did she look menacing?! I knew it was suicidal, but there was not much options left. I made for the snail.

The snail was lying in open ground and I had to leave the comfort and safety of the woods to get to it. I got to half the distance and was well within the open area when I heard some rustling behind me. Thought it must be the missus and knew she’d be pleased on seeing the snail and continued on. The humans where the last on my mind. The snail was easy picking. I picked it up and turned back only to see a massive human standing there!

“Captain, there ain’t no geese this time of the year. Will this Turkey do?” he shouted. Geese, Turkey? How could a Turkey fill for a goose. We don’t even swim in water! How dumb can the humans get! “Well, doesn’t matter I guess. As long as its a bird.” shouted someone from behind me.

They say your life flashes before you at the moment of your death. In my case, there was no such thing. I just ran. I ran hard, in all directions, trying to make to the missus who was standing there near the edge of the woods, happy at having seen the snail in my mouth, but quite a tad worried at what was now a dozen human beings chasing after me with sharp knives. Slowly, foot by foot I moved closer to the woods, zigging and zagging whichever direction I could avoiding all kinds of things being thrown at me!

The woods were finally within diving distance of me and I dived, and dived hard to get to relative safety. I landed hard, and stumbled through overgrown roots and ended up a mass of feathers, the snail still in my mouth. I shook myself up and looked around triumphantly, to see a human standing there looking down at me. On one hand was a knife, the other held the missus by the neck. “Happy Thanksgiving!” and the knife came sweeping down. Oh well…

PS: Started off well I guess, didn’t know how to proceed and completed it by just letting my fingers free to type what they felt like. Not as good as I’d have liked it, but there it is.

Spidey!

He woke up one fine evening. It was winter, the house’s primary occupant hadn’t returned yet which meant the heater wasn’t on yet. He went back to sleep. A while later he sensed the door being opened. And closed. The man was back! Within a few minutes he could sense the heat in the house and decided it was time to start proceedings for the day. He woke himself up laboriously, all 8 legs reluctantly overcoming their passiveness. A long night lay ahead for them.

He had lived there ever since he had been born, which wasn’t too long. All of his family had perished around the time the new occupant had moved in. He had learnt that that was the case with all spider families around that place. They lived and flourished from move in to move out. A move-out usually signaled a cleaning of the house by the owners which finished out most of their populace. Still they survived just enough to ensure there were enough of them to survive the next clean up. Keeping the species going was an important duty.
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My elusive roomie…

I sat there on the couch, nothing much to do, bored of everything. It was almost evening and the Sun had almost set. I was too lazy to turn the lights on and was pretty much sitting in darkness, my mind clouded, hazy, fighting off sleep for no reason. It was a Sunday which made it worse. The prospect of getting up early the next day and heading off to work in the pouring rain and the gloominess it brought along sucked out any ounce of hope or cheer in me. A cup of coffee seemed to be a good idea. And then the thought of going into the kitchen and staring at all the vessels lying in the sink defeated any urge to get up. They had been lying there for close to 48 hours now. All my roommate’s doing. I had grown tired of cleaning up after him. Sometimes I wondered if I should move out. But then what if I felt lonely and bored there?! I’ll just have myself to blame and not the roommate.

We had been staying together for close to a year now. Almost the end of the lease. Another month before I’d have to decide on either declaring freedom or maintaining the status quo for another year. I knew he had no idea of moving out by himself and was looking forward to renewing the lease with me. I was perfect for him – a doormat who never brought himself to stand up for what he believed in or even find the courage to say what he wanted to, putting up with all kinds of shit and cringing and cribbing to himself and writing it all in a blog which he never found the courage to share with anyone else for fear that the roommate might find out.
Read on…