T R Mist
Continued from last issue 'The Night'
Suddenly my survival instinct kicked in. I bent my right elbow and hit back at the chest of the man behind me. Hmmp came a sound. I knew it had found its mark. The hand yet remained on my mouth. This time I attacked the hand. With both hands I grabbed the huge hand on my mouth, it loosened a bit. I gasped and caught some air and fought harder. I could feel the beads of perspiration forming on my brow and slowing trickling off my temples. I bent a little and then with sharp turn of my feet tried to swing around to throw my attacker off balance. He seemed too big for me he hardly moved, but suddenly I felt free of the cage around my mouth. The first breath I took sounded through the whole stairway. I turned around and stood facing the stairway going down. It was as deserted as it had been. The same dim glow of the light and the creeping mist. As I took in deep breaths of air I felt the chilly air burning through my lungs. The cold was gone and my body burned with fear and yet unseen threat to my life. Something made me look to the darkened corner on my left, where a door existed to an apartment that was occupied long ago by a person who then and went to live in the inner city. Was there a silhouette of a man there. “WHO IS THERE, SHOW YOURSELF. WHO IS IT,” I shouted. The whole building shook with my frenzied shouts borne out of the instinct of self-preservation. Silence. My heart pounded hard. “Ha ha ha,” came a reply.
“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU SHOW YOURSELF”, I shouted back. This time a tall muscular figure in a long black coat walked a pace up towards me from the dark corner.
As it came forward the dim light of the stairway slanted upward across its face. A round balding head and a strongly set jaw. A feeling of relief swept over me.
“How dare you?”, I shouted and grabbed the collar of the coat of my best friend and landed a few punches in the pit of his abdomen. He just laughed. “I am having flab there, won’t really hurt”, he said. “Had you taken a few moments more to remove your hand, you could have in fact started arranging for my funeral,” I said.
“Oh come on I did not hold you for so long. It was just a few moments, yeah but what would have definitely killed you was your fear, ” he retorted.
“Sure, some friends I have. Ok when was the last time you paid a visit?”
“That was pretty recent, hmm some two months ago.”
“Great.” A well-directed kick went straight into his shin.
“Owooo”, he cried.
“Ha ha ha ha.” It was my turn to me merry.
My friend I will call him K, well not because of any Kafkaesque connection, but because his name starts with the letter K. And may be if you wish, there is definitely some Kafkaesque calm about him.
We had known each other since our childhood we had grown up together. Since his childhood K has had a strange kind of gravitas about him. A calmness, all knowing, yet restrained. I had known him long yet, in some strange corner of my heart I knew, I could never fathom the depths at which his mind freely roamed. Seemed as if to be a part of the crowd he made himself look stupid.
He was tall, lean, muscular, with a round face and brown eyes and with a strength which defied his frame and lately a paunch was making its presence felt. His opinions always seemed to be balanced rather being on the extremes and in the dark insane world, he seemed to be one of the few sane people I could share my opinions with. And yes just like me he despised the inner city. We were both together on the fringes.
The door of my apartment creeked open and the musty smell of the room took over. I switched on the lights and opened the large window opposite the main door. Afar we could see the light globs turning bright orange before fading into black, fabricating a sun set.
I turned and looked at K. He smirked.
“Come on don’t get me started on these globs,” he said. “Either the people are dumb or the municipality,” he added.
“Hey don’t say that, after the Sun went out these light globs, no sorry, let me use the word used by the municipality and the inner city people use for them, ‘the suns’. So after the Sun went out these ‘the suns’ have become the light givers, the sustainers, the nourishers of the population,” I laughed.
“And there are fools like you and of course me, who prefer not to be drenched in the electric glory of these beautiful suns, and prefer to remain on the fringes and wait for the real Sun to reappear,” K said and added, “shame on us.” Our laughter shook the entire apartment.
“ I don’t understand what makes the inner city people so happy? I see only misery. I see only darkness, I only see artificiality, all lies and everything fake. How can they not see the same?,” I asked.
K smiled. “Let me tell you a story. Well may not be a story after all, there might be some truth in it. So it goes like this. In some country, a zoologist wanted to study the behavior of a wild gorilla, when confined to an isolated room. So he got a wild gorilla to his laboratory and locked it in a room. Then when he put his eye in the keyhole to see what the gorilla was doing, you know what he saw?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders.
K continued, “he saw the eye of the gorilla. Ha ha ha ha.”
“So?”, I asked.
“Come on use your brains,” K said.
With a start, I understood, what K was trying to explain, with his pretty much off the mark story. He was trying to tell me that the way I felt about the inner city people, they may be feeling the same way about us, the people on the fringes.
“So you mean to say that, they may be thinking us to be completely out of our minds that we are not able to enjoy the life under the light globs?” I asked incredulously.
“Why not? Don’t they have the freedom to think like that?” K asked. “In fact they may say that the Sun has given us so much, how then can we keep expecting more from him. Come to think of it in another way, the electricity which lights up the light globs, and gets us food by running our green houses, comes from fossil fuels for which indirectly the Sun was responsible,” he smiled.
“Yeah sure, then I can definitely say one thing”
“And what is that” K asked.
“That they are definitely gorillas.”
Laughter rumbled across the entire deserted street and we finally had to quieten ourselves down lest some municipality constables down in the street raise an objection. The constables seldom came to this part of the town but, we had seen some of them tucked up in their overalls since the light globs had suddenly failed during ‘mid-day’ a few months ago. I could little decipher the connection between the light globs failing and the constables roaming around in the fringes.
The cold wind was rushing in from the open window and as the musty smell of the room became more bearable, I reached for the window and pulled it shut.
Something on the table next to the window caught K’s attention. He reached out and caught a strip of medicines which, in some reckless moment I had left there without realizing that it could lead me into trouble if K laid his hands on it.
“What is this,” he asked. Taking the strip close to his eyes for a closer inspection and turning towards the light. “Goodness,” he cried. “Anti-depressants? Aren’t they anti-depressants?” There was a deep shock in his voice.
I felt weak at my knees and my throat went dry. “Nah nothing,” I tried to dismiss his shock. “The doctor told me to take it if I had trouble sleeping, and who does not have trouble sleeping in this artificial night. I assure you depression is not the reason I am taking them,” I replied.
K seemed satisfied and his sudden shock of the discovery of an anti-depressant drug in my house seemed mitigated. I sighed an inaudible sigh in relief.
The truth was, however, that I was suffering, what the physician said was a moderate form of depression. I decided never to share it with K so as not to hurt him. We have to hide certain things from our loved ones, lest they feel hurt cause they care for us so much.
K could cook well so it became an off day for me from cooking. But even he could not add any zing to the bland greenhouse vegetables. After a bland dinner of cooked vegetables and some bread, K left for his solitary walk to the other end of the same street where he lived.After K left, I gazed through the window glass which, was gradually frosting and kept thinking about the story of the gorilla he had told me. He was definitely right. The inner city could hardly understand, why we lived like a bunch of non-conformists on the fringes
(T.R Mist is a new entrant to Venugaanam. He is a resident of Puttaparthi and would be contributing a serialized story “The Night”)