We are the mashup of all the things we let into our life.

We are the mashup of all the things we let into our life.
The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more ---William Wordsworth

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Serenade for Winds

I awakened to a distant, pulsating sound that soon dwindled into silence. I listened rigid and heard nothing but the creep of blood in my ears and the occasional sigh of the wind around me. Gray and shadowy was the world. The weather and scene without seemed to mimic those of my feelings within - everything was draped in unrelieved shades of gray. Shrubs of Juniper and Cranberry, and pine varieties, were grayish black; those of the broad leaved sort, were grayish green; the crags and the eternal hills were grayish brown; the sky, dropping behind all, gray of the purest melancholy, curdled and the clouds arranged themselves into little clumps like strewn cotton wool.
And I drifted  solitary through its vast mysteries.

Raucous and throaty cries, like those belonging to larks or linnets or finches, sounded harsh in my ears as I thus wandered like a zephyr; as if I was an intruder in their midst. A remote, palpable question of where I might be drifted and hovered in my mind. I found myself standing astonished on the edge of a precipice : a steep, dark and dreadful abyss whence great pulsing clouds of white steam rolled upwards.
I felt giddy yet excited; my emotions penetrated by something inexplicable and pregnant with uncertainty. I felt naked. I felt as though perhaps a wounded bird may feel into clear air knowing that a hawk wings above and that it will swoop and be gobbled up. As though perhaps Dante Alighieri might have felt when he found himself one day at a fateful doorway which he hesitated to enter.  

What is this spirit in man that urges him to forever depart from happiness? This restlessness and indefatigable desire to toil and to place himself in danger?
It is merely because there is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him, who shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge. To indulge for a moment, at any attempt at thought, is to be inevitably lost. 
We perpetrate them merely because we feel that we should not. 

It was this restlessness, this insecurity perhaps, that drove me further and further afield in my explorations. 
It was maybe a while or so since I stopped hearing the various sounds accompanying me as I thus wandered, pensive and engrossed in my own whirl of thoughts. There were no warning cries from birds, no rustling of the leaves and no whistling of the wind; just the crunch of gravel under my shoes.
The silence was deafening.
It was then, that I began to feel the need of fellowship. I wanted to question, wanted to feel; wanted to relate my experience. 
As the hush of the evening crept over the world, the sun touched the mountains and swiftly became a blazing hemisphere of liquid flame and sank.
Then, slowly and softly the myriad colors of the evening sky mingled into each other and enwrapping the world fold after fold into deepening blue, came the night. The icy chill of the night pierced my bones and entranced by the splendor of the sight, I sat down and mused. 
In the sky, one bright star shone kindly and steadily like the face of an old friend.

At last, I realized the full temerity of my voyage as I began to feel the pull of the earth upon my being, drawing me back to my life. 
I reclined upon the ground and gazed at the multitude of stars twinkling in the sky above, wondering at how many people like me would  be out there searching for solace.
A cool breeze had started blowing from the west and the leaves resumed their rustling.
A smile danced on my lips and I whistled a half remembered tune, in the hope that this musical note would remain suspended in the air for someone else to be a companion for.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Fugue of restlessness


Deafening silence, yet somewhat relaxing. The city replete with yawns and sore eyes. Transient skies grimace at a scowling block of nimbus, heralding light rain and soon, tiny, little droplets of rain fall in boundless abandon from the skies. Startled birds flutter in their dark recesses; crows fidget in the trees and caw their alarms and then, as if calmed by a foraging conspirator, dwindle into silence.

Recursive, recoiling, redemptive thoughts tug at your synapses and when these mad, kaleidoscopic scramble of thoughts lapse into your disenchanted state of mind, you count the next sheep. Tossing and turning in your sleep you give out a sigh of resignation, and sit upright. Still rubbing the sleep from your eyes, you are bound to the window panes, watching the tiny little drops of innocence leave a trail as they roll down the glass pane. A slight chill of monsoon creeps under your skin and wrapping yourself in a blanket, you lean closer to the window, engrossed deep in thought. Outside, an inexplicable heaviness weighs on the atmosphere; save for the rain relentlessly beating a solemn tattoo on the roof. Lull before the storm. Soon, a blur of black and blue umbrellas could be seen wading through the silence : the early risers. It is still quite dark now but the slowly rising sun sends brilliant streaks of light through the wisps of clouds to illuminate the pockets of early morning mist that had blanketed the streets.

Its majestic. You have a sudden urge to open the windows and you do : letting in an icy blast of cold wind that treads softly into your hair, whispering to you, invigorating your soul. And you feel a change. Not that aggressive slamming, whistling, hurtling of wind into your ears that assails you as you bow your head and torpedo through the gale. No. Just that calm, quiet, solemn wind that carries woes with it as it wanders; and you can hear them if you listen closely.
The wind that carries a tear streaked, unfinished letter from the lips of a sailor to his wife; or that which carries a stifled, unuttered cry from a woman as she stares hard into the distance, waiting for her husband to show up any moment.

Your face is wreathed in smiles and your eyes are closed, feeling the wind caressing your face and the rain pecking it. Its beautiful. Leaning close to the open window you take a deep breath of fresh air; taking it all in. The faint growling of the clouds; the cacophony of bird songs ; the rain tapping on the leaves; drumming on the roof; the shuffling of feet as people walk to work and the intoxicating smell of wet earth. All of these transport you to another dimension. Another world. Another time. Its fantastic. 
You find yourself floating over wide expanse of green fields; over jagged mountains blanketed in snow; as a shepherd on the moors and craggy highlands; over streams and pristine lakes. Its marvelous, this feeling.

And yet...there is an inexplicable, stifling feeling that verges on reality; a parasite that lurks and lingers in the darkest corner of your heart. A marionette that holds the fibers of your heart as it beats. 
And you call it Love.
The expression of calm repose that you had a moment ago is now changing into a troubled frown as the heart beats frantically in its cage. Its ghastly, this feeling.

Suddenly, your reverie is shattered into a million pieces and you are jolted back to reality by the clickety-clack and trot-trot of horses on the cobblestones as they pull the carriages; street hawkers and newspaper sellers as they yell their lungs out and the ruckus created by the morning life.
The rain had stopped long ago and its hot and humid now. The air is windless and tensed; mixed with the smell of human sweat and refuse and the cacophony of noises in the shape of an exclamation mark.
Exasperated, you slam the windows shut and sit back.
There is a sharp pang that touches the source of tears and soon, rivulets of tears roll down your cheeks and splash onto your hand which unclenches as a reflex; revealing a letter that had been crumpled a lot. It slides from the hand and falls on the floor with a loud thud. A thud that resounded within the four walls for a while.
Silence reigned supreme once again, save for the hiccups of sobs that erupted now and then.
Its horrid, this feeling.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Of scarred faces and cheap Hotels

Watch your step, dear reader. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city which you are about to enter is vast and intricate, and you probably have not been here before. The air is bitterly cold, and you find yourself led along in complete darkness, stumbling; recognizing nothing. 

Here, hold my hand; for you are likely to lose your way.

Its an ashen hour of night, blackish grey and you blunder forward into the haze of your own spent breath. You hear muffled, drunken voices from nearby that tingle your spine and your heart skips a beat. Now you hesitate, still holding on, but tempting to let me go; and find yourself hoping to God that the voices come no closer. 
I assure you, you will enjoy your stay here; but let me add that the dwellers in this city spend the day hanging by a thread called happenstance. Oh, not 'hanged'! By God. That is terrible. You seem pale, dear reader, have you eaten yet? My colleagues tell me the food here is, well frankly speaking, to die for.
Here, we are in the clear now. This lamp post should provide you refuge till morning or you can go to this place called 'Odin's bar' at the end of the street.

Something smells funny, thought Eric. What sort of devilish city is this? 
Odin's bar? Sounds like something straight out of Norse mythology.
Something was definitely eerie about this place. His mind was filled with innumerable bearings, all pointing at different directions; and a terrible headache seemed to paralyze him, as if a large, metal spider was slowly clicking away at the walls of his skull. His face distorted with pain and he dropped down on his knees, shaking his head with both hands in the hope of returning back
to reality.
But it was too late to turn back now.
Finally mustering enough resolve, he stood up and trudged forward but sickness and pain caused him stagger back to the lamp post. 
'Was i hurt?', Eric racked his brains for an answer but found none. Suddenly, a violent spasm in his diaphragm caused him to vomit profusely; a rising nausea that tasted like rust in the mouth. He stood up and sighing explosively, wiped his face with his shirt sleeves and almost fainted at the sight of blood among the pool of his own vomit.

All of a sudden, it all came back to him. 

There was a bullet in his stomach and a bad gash in one of his legs which accounted for his limping.
Sleet stinged his cheeks, sharp little spits of it so cold they felt hot, like fiery cinders in the wind. His ears began to hurt; and then he heard amid all the confusion : the wail of sirens reaching a crescendo and echoing in the stillness of the night, the city howling after him.
'I'm a fugitive', realized Eric, and trudged forward toward the flickering, neon sign of the Odin's Bar.

The first light of dawn crept up onto the horizon and slowly streaked among the clouds like fine strokes of brush on a pallid sky that was the canvas.

The sleet was now reduced to a low moan of the wind, as if warning him not to enter. On reaching the Bar, which looked more like a hotel, Eric raised his hands to knock when the sharp rustling of the leaves made him turn round in fear, darting his eyes in either direction. A rush of adrenaline flowed through his veins and his heart beat accelerated. Slowly, painstakingly, he slid a hand into the waistcoat of his jacket and divulged a Beretta. As if mechanically, he took out the magazine, checked the bullets and rammed it home; all done while scanning his surroundings.
He'd done it a million times before.
'It is fear that gives men wings', he had heard someone say once. A gentle push opened the door and he entered, closing it softly behind him.

It was dank and cold inside, and a sickly, sweet smell of incense pervaded the atmosphere. A sad, old thing indeed. Old broken chairs and tables strewn around the room, shards of broken glass everywhere. It was a mess. A den of cheap mobster punks and tired-eyed prostitutes. Eric cocked his gun and walked straight in, playing it Bogart, like he'd done a hundred times before.

The reception area was a terrible sight; three dead bodies piled upon each other in their own pool of blood, their faces scarred with knife marks and '666' painted on the walls with their blood. Madness had begun.

There was an old telephone switchboard in the back room of the reception area. It wasn't hard to picture a fat pimp sweating with headphones on, listening to his hookers talk dirty and fake orgasms over the web of party lines; Right now, the speaker was on and there was a different kind of moans and groans going on...guttural, to be honest. 
Eric strained his ears to hear a faint sound echoing in the back somewhere, gripped his Beretta tightly and moved into the corridors but stopped midway to hear another sound mingling with it. The cops had arrived a few blocks from here, Eric concluded, sirens singing in the off-key harmony of a manic-depressive choir. 
Fear was rusty needles poking at his brain. Cold and scaly, it slithered down his chest. He could run, but with a bullet in his stomach, he was quickly running out of time.

A beaten up phone was ringing in the empty corridor and sounds of crying and screaming from the bathroom joined it in broken harmony. It was  now perfectly clear to Eric of what waited inside; drug addicts and junkies ready to explode in random acts of senseless violence. There was a scarred faced junkie lying in front of the the ringing telephone, wringing his hands in fear and agitation as he screamed and mumbled :

 "Oh no, oh no. I think I died. I Think I'm dead.                                                      

 I'm gonna die. I'm gonna hurt ya. I'm gonna hurt ya!  
 I'm gonna die. It- It's coming... It's coming. The flesh. 
 The flesh is coming. It's coming. You're gonna die. Shutup! Shutup! 
 All messy inside. The end... The end..."

Time is of the essence, Eric reminded himself, as he avoided the corridor and searched for the door that led to the basement. The setting of the hotel was quite melancholy; sinister to the say the most. Flickering lamps, faded color paint peeling off plaster ceiling and walls filled with ominous, Gothic graffiti.
A baleful cult was growing in this hotel, and someone had to stop them before they got out of hand. Staying away from this doomed place would have been the smart thing to do. 
'I guess i wasn't that smart', thought Eric. 

Suddenly, a tremor shook the building; followed by an ominous sound reverberating across the hotel. 
'Madness was afoot', thought Eric and cursed under his breath as the gash in his stomach worsened. Finding a door at the end of a dimly lit corridor, he opened it and descended the stairs to the basement below.
His Beretta stirred nervously in his hands as the looming darkness enveloped him in it's gloominess. As his eyes grew accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he could faintly see candles and glowing embers from the burning twigs lying around. The smell of scorched wood now intermingled into the heavy odor laden air. 
Eric inched his way to the walls, and looked around, in bewilderment, accessing his situation. 

The hot air inside was like an invisible wall, thick with incense and something else, a sickly sweet something that made him gag. The murderous, twisted mobsters with shark smiles lurked somewhere ahead, like a spider at the center of it's web waiting. 
Startlingly, Eric discerned in the dimly lit basement : a table, scattered with notes of demented arcane nonsense written in rusty blood, a mishmash list of demons, devils and dark gods evoked.
He might have laughed, if he had remembered how.
He turned round and found, to his amazement, that the room was stacked with light reading such as "Necronomicon", "Witchcraft", and "Paradise Lost". Old
exotic titles like "Malleus Maleficarum" and "Deumbrarum Regninoyem Portis"... Books with pentagrams on thier covers. All dealing with the Occult and the infernal lying between stacks of horror videos and a couple of Ouija boards. 

The vapors in the air started to make his head swim, and he crouched in front of the table, gun in hand; waiting to shoot whoever came through the door. 
It seemed like a cold day in hell. Searing pain shot through his temples, and he flinched in pain, dropping the gun in the process. 
Suddenly, an ominous, head-splitting sound reverberated across the whole basement, piercing the silence. The sound was followed by a loud, eerie chant which was joined by the clickity clack of boots as if marching in unison. The clickity clack seemed to come closer to where he was, so he frantically groped for the gun in the darkness and having found it, stood up and tip toed to the door, listening intently. 

Slowly and stealthily, he opened the door and slid out. The basement seemed to be a set, built into an old theater. Wooden stairs led to the backstage of the theater, lit by a sinister red and black light. Eric gulped down hard and ascended the stairs. He was stopped short midway by a menacing, thundering voice that chanted thus :

"The Blood of Fallen Immortals! Come to me all! Asteroth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Bapholada, Lucifer, Loki, Satan, Cthulhu, Lilith, Della! Blood, to you all! Shh..Secrets... living under the skin of reality. I've seen it, the corruption of flesh. I'm the wolf, yeah! I am the wolf! It's close, it's coming. You have come. The witness to the end, of time. It's now!"

The words played with his head; pulling at it's roots, touching the chords, and before he could comprehend the situation, a cold, blunt instrument hit his head and he fell down the stairs, lying unconscious. 

The Litany of Fear

When Eric opened his eyes, he could faintly discern two or three people surrounding him; their faces scarred, eyes bloodshot, and wearing a black hood similar to those worn by the Ku Klux Klan . They were chanting something under their breath and revolving around him, like moths attracted to light. Except this time, he was the prey and they were the spider.
This was indeed some sort of an occult congregation. A most sinister one, at that.
A giant fire burning in the center of the stage added a paranormal aura to the red and white surrounding. 
Eric tried to move but his hands and feet were tied to a giant red cross. He was naked. His skin and flesh exposed to the scalding fire.
From out out of the frying pan and into the fire.  Beads of sweat accumulated on his forehead and rolled down his cheeks. Tears glistened in his eyes, blurring his vision. He thought he was going blind. 

The black hooded people now sat in a circle, in the center of which was standing a tall, emaciated man clad in a dark red robe; his hood pulled down to reveal a terribly scarred face and eyes sunk deep into the sockets. The glare from the fire illuminated his face to show that he was rapidly mumbling something, a prayer of some sort.
Black magic, maybe?
In his extended right hand was a glowing orange orb, which he slowly raised to his head; his blood shot eyes riveted on Eric, a menacing smirk dangling from his lips. 
The chanting resumed and gradually grew from whispers to a tumultuous roar and then suddenly fell silent. The mysterious tall man lowered the orb and closed his eyes, a smirk still dangling from his lips. 

What happened next was all a blur.
A staccato of gunfire ensued, followed by a rapid shuffling of feet and cries of pain as the bodies fell. Ear-splitting screams, maniacal laughter, and curses by the dying men completed the picture of a blood bath. 
The gun had done the talking this time, not the cops.
Had this been the Colosseum, people would have cheered or booed for a lack of spectacle. 
It was sort of ironical in a way. 
It is fitting to have been killed on the theater stage, they say. All the world's a stage, after all.

Outside, the wind groaned with cold. It was nearing daylight and had resumed snowing. The snow fell like ash from post-apocalyptic skies. 
All was silent.

The last thing Eric remembered before he was dragged into the crushing abyss of darkness was the face of the tall, emaciated man clad in a red robe, jelled into an expression of horror and ambiguity as a bullet sliced through his brain.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Fall of Icarus

In the troubled twilight of a March evening, an old man, whose equipment and bearing suggested that he was fresh from travel, walked slowly across Brampton Road; and by the graveyard of St. Joseph's Church stood for a moment looking about him. His age could not be far from seventy, but, despite the stoop of his shoulders, he gave little sign of falling under the burden of years; his sober, light step indicated character rather than bodily feebleness and his grasp of a stout stick was not such as which calls for need of support. 

His attire was neither that of a man of leisure, nor of a kind usually worn by mechanics, he wore a garment which was something like a fisherman's guernsey. His trousers were old, shabby and flapping in the harsh wind that blew; his boots reached almost to his knees; for head covering he had a small cloth which he tied around like a bandanna. 

 To say that his aspect was venerable wouldn't serve to be wholly accurate, for there was too much of the past struggle and present anxiety in his countenance to permit full expression. It was a fine face and might have been distinctly noble, but circumstances were marred by Nature. Providence was equally to be blamed. He had long, thin white hair; his beard was short and grizzled. In his left hand he carried a bundle, which probably contained clothing. 

The burial ground by which he paused seemed eerie at this time, but circumstances had made him too strong to  be deterred by such trivialities. 
The small trees that grew about it shivered in their leaflessness; most of the stones leaned this way or that, emblems of neglect,  and certain cats and dogs were prowling or sporting among the graves. At this corner the east wind blew with malice such as it never holds itself where ever poorly clad people are to be pierced; it swept before it clouds of dust, mingled with light refuse from the streets. Above the shapeless, crooked houses, night was signalling a murky approach; a threat of sleet or maybe snow. 

The old man had fixed his eyes absently on the inscription of a gravestone near him; a lean cat springing out between the iron railings seemed to recall his attention, and with a slight sigh he went forward along a narrow street. And on every side was the voice full evidence of toil and poverty; a pang of disgust and sorrow gripped his heart as he looked about him. Already he had seen a severed dog's head rotting in the gutter, its protruding tongue swollen with lice; half-naked infants throwing cobble stones at each other, their haggard faces distorted by rage and glee; he saw a host of spectres staring out of broken windows, their eyes hollow; their sex indeterminate, their flesh scarcely less grey than the rags that clothe them. 
A disturbing number of them seemed to be housed underground, in basements accessible only by obscure stairwells or, in some cases, rickety ladders. Wet washing hung from window to window, speckled with soot; here and there a tattered bed sheet flaps in the breeze, like a flag whose distinguishing marks are marks of faded bloodstain brown. 

Something more than pain came to the old man's face as he looked and pondered ; his lips trembled like those of one in anger, and his eyes had a stern resentful gleaming. He walked on a few paces, then suddenly stopped where a woman was standing at an open door. 

'I ask your pardon', he addressed her courteously, ' but do you by any chance know of an old woman by the name of Greta here about?'
The woman replied with a brief negative; she smiled at the appearance of the questioner, and with a vulgar instinct, looked about for someone to share her amusement. With no one in her sight she turned round to face the man but he had already left, leaving her standing bemused and indignant.

The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night. As the night grew deeper, his resolve grew weaker; and with an explosive sigh he threw the bundle on an old cart, laid on it and within minutes was fast asleep. The icy blasts of cold wind pierced his bones and prevented him from walking any further. 
It began to snow, slowly at first; and then the flakes fell fast and thick, soon covering the ground some inches deep and spreading abroad a solemn stillness. The silence was broken at intervals by the chattering of the old man's teeth while snoring. All else was quiet, save for the creaking of crickets which resumed as soon the the snoring died away.

Suddenly, a light appeared in one of the windows of the house in front of where he was sleeping. A clamor was heard, followed by the breaking of glass and a faint shriek  of a woman. 

The old man woke up with a start and sat bolt-upright, straining his ears to hear the source of the sound. 
"Greta", cried the old man, and as if filled with a sudden burst of energy, stood up from the cart, picked up his bundle and walked toward the house.
The only light, in which his feeble,old eyes allowed him to observe the decrepit dwelling in which he was about to enter, emanated from inside the house; and the old man found comfort in the sound of a fire burning inside the hearth.
The dilapidated little wooden house itself looked as if it might have been carted here from the ruins of some burnt district, and as the swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort of creak to it, it brought the old man to the conclusion that this must have been some sort of a tavern at some point in time. 

He knocked on the door which was instantly replied by something hitting the door, which broke on impact, probably a glass. The bang which resulted from it made him recoil in horror; but he straightened up and advanced once more.
Upon nearing the door, he peered closely to realize that the door was partially open; so he pushed open the door which creaked loudly and immediately swerved to the right to avoid the jar that was hurled at him. 

"Who goes there?" bellowed an old, feeble voice of a woman. ''Filthy rats!" she exclaimed, and dropping the block she was holding in her hands, sunk in her armchair and started singing in a hoarse voice :

"When the sun refuses to shine, 
when the sun refuses to shine, 
O Lord, i want to be in that number, 
When the Sain...wh..you filthy mongrel! Come back here!"

With surprising alacrity, she picked the poker from the hearth and pointed it at him, who had maintained his position this whole time.
"You can't hurt me. You..y..you can't." she whispered and broke into sobs.

The light from the fire was sufficient for him to study her face. 
It was a masterpiece, as if crafted by the very hands of Michelangelo. There were a row of innumerable creases on her forehead, an intricate pattern of wrinkles on her face which blended when she spoke. 
Oh, if only she smiled; what a delight that would be. The blue eyes, of all, set her apart. Like two sapphires on a beach.
The emaciated hands that held the poker trembled as she sobbed until they were clasped by his hands, which caused her to look up. 
He beamed at her, expecting her to scream in delight, smile at him, give some indication that he had returned, but alas, all he got was a blank tear-strained face, lost in the abyss of waiting.

Those three seconds felt like eternity. Silence reigned supreme in the room, save for the fire crackling in the hearth. If only it was him, instead of the log, burning in the hearth, then maybe there would have been far more embers to provide warmth for this poor soul. 

He couldn't take it , and rivulets of tears rolled down his cheeks and fell on her hands when she suddenly raised them and placed them on his face, studying every crease, every border, every ridge on it till a smile started to dance on her lips as she wiped the tears from his eyes. 

A smile is enough to rejuvenate a dying heart, they say.
But alas, that too disappeared from her face as quickly as it had come,  and the heart turned cold.
The same passive, dejected expression wore on her face as she sat down in her armchair and stared abstractedly at the fire.
The old man's face was contorted with emotions he himself could not perceive.
Agony, confusion, fear, despair.
Those sockets are empty, what could she be staring into? 
If only I could pull out my eyes and give them to her so that she could see me!
All sorts of thoughts swirled in his mind as he racked his brain for solutions.

He shook his head in shame and looked at her and found to his surprise that her head was lying limp on one side and her face was white as snow. 

The old man recoiled in horror with his heart in his throat. He wanted to shout for help but his lungs ached and heart pounded until his legs gave way and he fell to the floor, lying unconscious. 

Silence reigned in the room once more.
It was only pierced by the crackling of the fire in the hearth and the sighing of the wind outside.  A perfect harmony.
What serenity must Death enjoy, being the king of the immortals.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Into the Fray


A blizzard, at the peak of its power. Visibility zero, Manhattan reduced to the hulking shapes of buildings on the banks.

Nikolai Petryovitch  thrashes in the water, a long way from shore.

Somehow, somewhere, like a distant sound of a train approaching; he hears a familiar voice say,

''There's an army of bodies under this river. Criminals, people who ran out of time, out of friends ".

A rumble starts to build, low but growing louder and eventually becoming a howling wind. Chunks of ice float in the dirty water around him. Nikolai's body freezing, skin turning blue. Heavy winter clothes saturating, like an anchor dragging him down. The rain was coming down like all the angels in heaven decided to take a piss at the same time. When you're in a situation like mine, you can only think in metaphors. 

''When you pray for the rain, you gotta deal with the mud. Everything is fair in this world, Nico,  it's our choices that make 'em unfair ".

Unable to control the kaleidoscopic whirl of thoughts swirling in his brain, Nikolai's face sinks below the surface...

A woman sleeps on the bead, curled up around a bundled baby. In front of her stands a black shape. A sturdy, well built man with his hand raised, clutching a Beretta. A smirk dances on his lips that soon turns into an ear to ear smile as the gun coughs twice. 
Is this the final, peaceful memory of a drowning man? 

''Mistakes are easy to make''.

The figures disappear, like landscapes on a moving train.
Nikolai breaks the surface, gasping and struggling against the undertow. Not simply trying to breath...but trying to swim. His bones are numb with pain from the cold, icy water constantly piercing him; but he struggles.
Upon finally reaching the shore, he musters all his strength to crawl further away from the dreadfully cold river and then slumps down, unconscious. 


Abruptly, the snow is gone. Just a bitter wind left in its place, whipping through desolate streets long after midnight. Drenched in that searing pain that felt like constant hammering in his head, Nikolai trudged on, leaving a trail of blood in his path. With one hand supporting the walls along which he walked and one hand covering the wounds in his chest from which the blood gushed out profusely, he looked for a place to spend the night. 

It was getting unbearably cold and the constant hissing and sighing of the wind was further deranging him. He was losing lots of blood, and desperately needed some sleep. He stopped for a moment in a dark alley; trying to regain his consciousness  and energy, that was draining by the second. Nikolai sighed explosively and slumped down against the wall, completely losing his will to move on. 
Slowly, painstakingly, he reached for the Beretta in his waistcoat when suddenly he was jolted back to reality. As if the rusted cogs in his brain started moving, he was gripped with a thought. 

Nikolai had been here before. 
Echoes from a not too distant past came to him, like a bad replay. His pupils become dilated and wiping the beads of sweat accumulated on his forehead, he rose from the ground. As if oblivious to the searing pain in his body, he straightened himself and walked swiftly through the dark alley and into another neighborhood. He stepped into the street with a foot in two worlds : the buildings are old and crumbling, but the shops inside are sleek and expensive. A jarring combination.

Nikolai walks up the street, brushing past homeless people and fashionistas jostling for the same space on the sidewalk. He stops in front of an old apartment building  and frowns at it, trying to recall the apartment, and then climbs the stairs. The hallway is ancient brick, but the doors are pristine steel. Pausing at one with a dozen locks, Nikolai knocks.

The door cracks. An eye appears. Squinting, evaluating. 

"You can't come here anymore", says a squeaky voice, probably drunk.
"Eric Dalton is dead", mutters Nikolai in a hoarse voice.

The door cracks enough to reveal the speaker : Travis, a skinny-fat in a sharp suit and sunglasses, shirt open a little far. 

"You can't come here, i said. I'm done helping you.  I've already...
     (lowering his voice) 
paid my debt to society,  ya know? 
I've cooperated enough".

"We need to talk. Won't take long".

Nikolai follows Travis inside. Once they're inside, he slams the door behind him and with surprising alacrity, divulges a Beretta from his waistband and levels it at Travis. Pale faced and completely caught off- guard, Travis slowly stands up with his hands in the air and takes off his sunglasses, revealing a bruised left eye covered with a scar that ran from his brow to his nose and an eye patch covering the right eye.  

"Remember me?" Shouts Travis, a smirk spreading on his face and letting the sunglasses fall to the ground.

He cocks the gun.

In that moment, Nikolai examines the room they are in. 
Deafening silence reigned in the room. A ring of candles in the center of the room provided the only light. A hint of warmth and a sickly sweet smell, like burning incense, drifted from it. 

Its not enough to really see the PEOPLE inside. 
He hears them CHANTING, low voices MURMURING in unison..

Quick glimpses in the candle light, bare flesh writhing. 
Cast on the walls, corresponding shadows twist and shift..

A black feather billows across the floor between the candles.
Spreading up the wall, a new shadow rises above the rest..

'Why had he not seen them first?' Nikolai rummages in his mind, squinting in the darkness.

Travis smiles, noticing the water droplets trickling down the muzzle. 
He looks at Nikolai, his gaze penetrating the feeble, bloodshot eyes of the opponent; approaches him and lowering his gun, whispers in his ears, 

"No need for a drama, Paul. Come back to us. You were our finest. 'Nikolai' was only created as a collateral for our deal with Vlad. Come now, join us."

'Paul? What the heck is going on!' He racked his brains to search for answers but none came.

The sickly sweet smell of burning incense, along with the diabolical whispering made him dizzy. Paul staggered and was about to fall when the big, strong hand of Travis gripped his throat and rammed him against the wall. 

It all came back to him. 

Paul was strong, and he resisted the grip by shoving his knee in Travis'  groin that made him fall on one knee and then broke his neck with a snap. 

"ENOUGH!" A soft but loud voice emanated from somewhere in the darkness. 
Breathing heavily, Paul strains to see detail in the dark room, a face materializes in the haze : a finely chiseled face with silky hair covering the brow,  pink cheeks laced with tattoos, green eyes twinkling flames sunk in deep shadow. NATASHA FILLIPOVNA.

The words came to him blindly, like an animal instinct.
"MURDERER!" Shouted Paul, as he took a few steps towards her in the darkness.

"Patience, Paul. You're interfering our communion.''

''Damn your communion! Tell me WHY!'' His eyes were  bloodshot with hatred.

The silence was not broken by the other people sitting there. Such blind devotion! 
She stood up and walked nimbly towards him. Under the light she looked completely different. She looked pure. She looked beautiful. 
But menacing nonetheless. 
She was clad in a big maroon robe that completely covered her except for her big, firm breasts that bounced as she walked. 
His legs felt weak and his heart beat accelerated like a wild beast in a cage.

When she was within arms length of him, she smiled, undid her robe and let it fall to the floor; and with a swift motion of her hand, pressed  a 9mm Desert Eagle deep into his stomach and said in a soft, musical but sly voice, 

"Collateral damage, Paul. Our line of work is filthy. You knew that, right?"

The gun coughed four times, piercing the deafening silence.

His face was a mixture of emotions : joy, fear, ambiguity, sadness...
His head slumped on her bare shoulders, arms lying limply on her sides.
She shrugged in disgust, letting the body fall down ; and ordered the people to throw him out of the window. 
She put her robes back on. 
The sickly, sweet smell of death still hangs in the air, and sitting down cross-legged in front of the candles again, resumes her chanting. 

The windows are opened, and the body is flung out into the blinding snow. The windows are closed again.

Nikolai Petryovitch thrashes in the water, a long way from the shore.

"I don't believe in heaven, but i have this idea about it. Something i heard in a song." 

Monday, 20 April 2015


A train on the Warsaw and Peters-burg railway was heard approaching the latter city at full speed. The morning was so damp and misty that it was only with great difficulty that the day succeeded in breaking; and it was impossible to distinguish anything from the carriage windows. Deafening silence reigned in the cabin and i sat propped against my suitcase, keeping a watchful eye on the passengers sitting opposite my seat. All of them seemed weary, and most of them had sleepy eyes and a shivering expression, while their complexions generally appeared to have taken on the color of the fog outside. 

They feigned sleep, just like me. I know that for a fact, i know that look. They were watching my every move, as i was watching theirs. A second felt like a decade but no one moved, and with a swift motion i slid a hand into my jacket and lifting my arm, slowly brandished a knife and boldly stepped forward. Lifting that knife over my head i was about to bring it down with full force when a terrible stench reached my nostrils and i recoiled in horror, dropping the knife and falling on my suitcase. 

My shirt was drenched with blood, so were my hands and face.
I had butchered them. I stood in that pool of blood with a smirk dangling on my face and turned my head to look across the window only to see that the train wasn't moving.
But the time was, really really fast. The day passed on rather quickly then usual, and the continuous tick-tick on my wrist watch increased in sound till it reached a crescendo and i had to cup my blood stained hands around the ears. 

Everything went black then.

Its crazy living in that foggy, jumbled blur. Which is a whole lot like the ragged edge of sleep, that grey zone between light and dark, or between sleeping and waking, or living and dying, when you know you're not unconscious anymore but don't know yet what day it is or who you are or whats the use of coming back at all. If you don't have reason to wake up, you can loaf around in that grey zone for a long, fuzzy time.

 The darkness was overwhelming, and i groped around to find something to sit on. I felt like drowning, but i wasn't dead, and that made me smile.
Suddenly, somewhere in that crushing, dark abyss i heard a shrill, metallic ringing of a telephone followed by a loud wailing of a child and i jolted back to reality.

Somehow, somewhere, a light penetrated my feeble eyes and i half opened them, squinting at it till i was forced to concentrate on the constant whirring of the fan revolving above me. It moved at a snail's pace and it sickened me, just like the fans in the rooms of strip clubs and cheap hotels with springy beds and sweet smell pervading it. I felt hot, bruised and battered, was i junkie out of drugs? Nah, i couldn't be. 
Or maybe i was. 
I had completely lost my bearing and with an explosive sigh i sat up and surveyed the room i was in. Pink and grey walls with their plaster falling off; cold,white, glossy tiles; a broken exhaust fan on the top right corner of the wall above a door which was roughened and squeaky from the constant slamming and greasy from the innumerable hands that touched it. Torn pornography posters which were losing their stickiness covered a pink wall and a blinking, neon light above the bed post.

The room disgusted me, and putting aside the covers i stood up, putting on my pants and shirt and proceeded toward the door when a stifled breathing caught my ears and craning my neck i saw a woman lying on the bed, drenched in blood. A rush of adrenaline flowed through my veins and i quailed in terror. My face grew convulsed with fear, the eyeballs started out white and vivid and i fell to my knees. It was as if i had a seizure but i controlled myself and slowly, painstakingly crawled towards her.
Her face was convulsed, her eyes glassy. They darkened like indigo pools against her pale skin as she watched me kneel at her feet. Splinters here. Scratches. All things i could fix.
  But i couldn't right now. My hands were still shaking. I'd almost lost her.
The rage in my gut poured out through the veins. I barely held it in check behind the tightly clenched teeth.

 "Did he hurt you?"

She murmured something but i couldn't hear her. I climbed on the bed and before i knew it my hands were on her waist, at her hips, up and down her arms and to her neck, holding it firmly. I stooped down to her face, tunneled my finger into the tangled fall of her on her temple, snugged it behind her ear and swore at the blood staining her lobe. My own pulse thundered in her ears.

"Where are you hurt?"

And then her hands were on me. Those strong, beautiful - bloodstained - hands were on my face. My heart skipped a beat, and everything stopped still in that fraction of a second save for her stifled breathing right at my face. 
I shook my head in anger, clenched my teeth,  and my face distorted into an evil expression and before she could reply i twisted her neck and broke it with a 'snap'.

I released my grip on her neck and stood up, wiping the beads of sweat on my forehead with those blood stained hands. 
The room didn't smell sweet anymore.
I felt triumphant, and all of a sudden started shaking convulsively as if with mirth, but my face remained perfectly sober. I winked at the figure lying in bed in a quiet repose, opened the door and walked out, slamming it shut behind me.

It seemed that i had entered a long, white corridor with white, glossy tiles. The longest i had ever seen. There were iron doors on each side of me with iron grills in them through which i could feel dark eyes staring it me, nay, piercing me with them.

But i felt happy. 

I felt at home, and picking up a broom waltzed to a half remembered old tune, with my eyes closed and a smile dancing on my lips.
Hysterical, shrieking laughter with multiple hoots resounded all around me and i felt big. Bigger than i had ever felt since my Momma died. 

Opening my eyes, i saw four or five shadows flying towards me.
Maybe they were running, i couldn't tell. They were coming after me brandishing swords and spikes, and throwing the broom aside i ran as fast as i could. 

But i wasn't scared, though. Not at all.
I felt big, bigger than i had ever been since my Momma died. 

I was clapping my hands as  i ran and seeing a light shimmer at the end of the corridor i dived at it.
Maybe i had escaped.

Ash, sulphur, white tiles, Aluminum.
I been away a long time.

Monday, 3 November 2014

A tempest in a human skull

Paris, 1830

The charred and blackened remains of what was left after the French Revolution constituted Paris. Dark, squalid, dilapidated and a smokey smell pervading the atmosphere. Paris during this time mainly consisted of overpopulated slums crammed with each other with a labyrinth of narrow streets creating a mesh. Beggars, thieves, vagabonds, escaped convicts and other parasites that infect the society were the chief inhabitants of this city. In short, nothing had changed after the Revolution. No vehicles were to be seen either in the morning or at night, as they were either robbed or were set on fire to provide for heat and warmth from the harsh winter. Happiness wasn't a choice, nor were there any means to acquire it from. Those people who were seen to be smiling or laughing were either deemed crazy or were killed, simply because there was no place for doubt : God had forsaken them, why then should anyone feel different? Gendarmes roamed the streets of Paris day and night, scanning for any unlawful activity and having caught the person, took him or her straight to the Gaol. It was true that they resembled hounds, nay, ferocious animals with their piercing gaze, waiting to catch the scent of their preys,who recoiled at their sight and cowered in the shadows, trembling from head to foot. Altogether, Paris was a boiling cauldron. The fiery tentacles of hell and the enveloping darkness never ceased to abate. 

All of this came into being as a result of Charles X, then the Count of Artois, succeeding the throne after the death of Louis XVIII. This was followed by bad harvests and hard winters, due to which the people in France were burdened with high food prices. Thereafter, there were clashes between the people in the streets of Paris and agents of authority. Business in Paris was at a complete standstill. Crowds were rushing through the streets with various instruments screaming : ''Down with the King!'' and ''to the Guillotine!''
A sad sight indeed to behold.

It was during this time that Pierre Tholomeys, a blacksmith working for the Gendarmerie, was faced with an opportunity : to take this distraction of the Gendarmes caused by the furor in the streets to his advantage, steal a horse and ride away from this wretched place as fast as he could. Since there was commotion everywhere, he faced no difficulty in stealthily slipping into their room and procuring what he thought would last him throughout his journey. The evening was slowly creeping over the land, and making use of the darkness, he untied a horse from the stable and rode off East in the direction of Montreuil. 

By daybreak he was in the open country with Paris a good distance behind him. He was wearied beyond endurance, having rode throughout the night. Feebly, with half opened eyes, he watched the skyline grow light, and was aware, without observing, of the chilly aspect of a winter's dawn. Morning, like evening, has it's ghosts. He did not see them but was still conscious, as though by their physical presence, of the dark shapes of trees and hills making their mournful contribution to his violently agitated state of mind. Passing an occasional isolated house at the side of the road, he thought to himself that there are people still sleeping!  The clop of the horse's hoofs, the jingle of harness and the clatter of his sac containing various instruments over the cobbles were a monotonous accompaniment to his thoughts - delightful sounds when we are in good spirits, but most dismal when we are melancholy. It was evident from the sac being dragged over the cobbles that he was almost asleep and stooped low over the horse. The horse having completely wearied itself from  trotting continuously without a stop had now stopped to catch its breath, causing Pierre to slide and fall on the  ground. 

The fall caused Pierre to start and open his eyes but had difficulty in doing so since the sun having now fully risen, shone its bright light which penetrated his feeble eyes and forced him to shade it with the back of his hand. He had lost all bearing and his mind was a kaleidoscopic whirl of thoughts. He slowly became feverish and a sharp pain in his leg caused him to scream in agony. Dark clouds had now blotted the sun as if they understood his plight, and grumbled as if to call for help. In a few moments, a heavy downpour lashed the earth accompanied by icy blasts of cold wind, and Pierre being already numb with pain made one last effort and crawled to his sac only to find it empty. This discovery further deranged him and made him question his reality until a heavy blunt instrument hit his head and he fell unconscious. 

Nothing is more terrifying than to peer into the depths of a human conscience and that too we can't do without trembling. There is nothing more obscure, complex, mysterious and infinite than the human soul. To make a poem of the human conscience is to merge all epics into a single epic transcending all.  It is the labyrinth of illusion, the furnace of dreams,and the battlefield of passions. To peer at certain moments into the the face of a human being in an act of reflection is to see something beyond their silence, is to discern struggle and conflicts of dragons and hydras, of the anger of Hades and the power of Zeus, of thunder claps and hailstorms. The infinite space that each man carries within himself, in which all the seasons are mingled with each other, and contrasts it with his spirit is altogether and overpowering thing. 

Dante Alighieri found himself one day at a fateful doorway which he hesitated to enter. We too are confronted by such a doorway, and we too must hesitate but enter nonetheless. 

Pierre Tholomeys was now confronted by such a doorway and he too hesitated to enter but was about to enter when a sharp blunt instrument hit his head and shattered his reverie. 

Alas! Pierre Tholomeys was never a blacksmith, nor had he stolen a horse, he was but a servant to King Charles X and was on his way to the guillotine, the fateful mistress no one could deny. His face was haggard and covered with bruises from the blows he received from the butts of  innumerable rifles, his eyes swollen and bloodshot from the lack of sleep; his hair was unkempt and covered his forehead from where some blood flowed from a gash, and was clothed in rags and tatters like the rest of the people around him that were either shouting, laughing, crying, throwing various things at him or dancing in ecstasy. The contorted and convulsed faces of men, woman, children with pitchforks, axes, and other instruments screaming their lungs out was a frightful scene to behold. The whole place was a pandemonium filled with the roar of thousands of people which rose to a shattering crescendo.

But Pierre Tholomeys meeting the frightening gaze of the people merely managed to give a weak smile as he ascended the stairs of the stage, which further piqued them and made them raise their pitchforks at him. It was still raining heavily when he neared the 'mistress' and a sharp nudge from the rifle in his back caused him to kneel in agony, his hands being tied, and with the serenity of a man resting on his own bed he placed his head on the guillotine and closed his eyes. A radiant smile had now spread on his haggard face and anyone who pitied him then would have guessed that he was thinking of his home in Montreuil, of him being there with his wife and singing a lullaby to his daughter that slept in his lap.

The clouds grumbled furiously which was followed by a thunderclap and finally the guillotine began to swish downward, gathering speed with a horrible, metallic whistle, towards Pierre's neck and cut it with precision, his head rolling down the stage toward the spectators who clapped and applauded the fateful event. 

Darkness had now completely enveloped Pierre and he slept that peaceful eternal sleep.

To die, to sleep, 
to sleep, perchance to dream,
Aye, there's the rub,
For in this sleep of death, what dreams may come.

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