The room was a mess. The walls were lined with shelves of books, music and knickknacks, all arranged higgledy-piggledy, suggesting a long lost battle with organization or devotion. The table was in a worse state. Random ink blotches peppered the worn brown surface like Rorschach pictures beyond interpretation and a growing pile of crumpled paper balls threatened to do a Vesuvius on the
He shuffled into this room, so slowly that one instinctively knew that he was reminiscing about the past. Cliché it may be, but his memories of that room were happy ones and the knickknacks on the shelves, which, on closer inspection would prove to be rusting or tarnished awards and framed citations, were proof enough. He stopped in the middle of the room, as was his usual practice. Slowly, almost as if his legs were forcing him against his will, he turned toward the door. And he waited.
Would it happen today? He could not say for sure. Under his breath, he began to mutter the same prayer his grandfather had taught him as a child and one which he only chanted in moments of stress. He was one of those people who pretended that the almighty did not exist, until he needed the divine intervention. Then, the bribery and supplications would begin. Depending on the result, his faith or the lack of it was reinforced, rather like the flame of the diya which dances seductively for the breeze. Either way, he was in a win-win situation which was the way he had always liked it. Not for him, the joy of victory or the sorrow of defeat. He had always tried to stay immune. And failed spectacularly.
His rasping breath caught, as he heard the familiar padding sounds that announced the arrival of the creature. Atleast it was punctual, he thought. He had never been able to sweat and had compensated for this failing by chewing on the ruins of what had once been fingernails. He proceeded to do so now. As the creature walked into the room, his heart began thudding, so loudly, he thought, that surely it would notice his presence. But the creature seemed completely lost in its thoughts and failed to acknowledge him. It moved toward the table, sat in the chair with its characteristic, animal-like grace and proceeded to begin scratching at the fresh sheet of paper that lay there. Ever so often, it would sigh and stare out of the window, almost as if it were willing the desolation outside to provide it with any form of inspiration.
Suddenly, as if an unseen bolt of lightning had struck it, the creature jerked and froze. The man in the middle of the room sighed, as if he knew what was coming next. He wanted to reach out and disturb the reverie, but always gave into the allure and inevitability of the next few moments. The creature shook itself and began to feverishly do something as it hunched over the table, its body not allowing him to see. The clock ticked away and he waited. He knew the creature intimately and was aware that the feverish activity would only last a short while longer, which it did. Just a few more dragging minutes. Almost as soon as it had started, the activity stopped and the creature’s drooping shoulders rested themselves against the back rest. That fluid motion made the sheet of paper discernable and the man noticed that the previously empty sheet was now covered with scores of black parallel lines. He marveled at their uniformity and wondered how the creature had made them, so neat and sharp, as if each were a miniature needle.
The same thought passed through the creature’s mind, only it viewed the lines in despair. If this were all it was capable of, it was time to face the inevitable. It glanced at the first lines and it seemed then as if an age passed between the strokes of the needle marking the passage between two seconds. The creature’s throat gave a strangled gasp, almost as if it were laughing and sobbing at the same time and the dual roles were beyond the ken of the vocal cords. One last time, the creature placed its cheek on the warm surface of the table, rose and reached out into the open drawer.
He watched the creature with sympathy as it tiredly rested its head on the table, watched with rising curiosity as it reached into the drawer, watched in stupefied horror as it blew its brains out and watched in helplessness as its hand, slumped to the side and the creature slid to the ground. Slowly and surely.
Deja vu, thought the man.
The lines on the sheet of paper, on the old table in that untidy room burned their way to the top of the song charts, mimicking the flames that rose at the cremation grounds.
He shuffled into this room, so slowly that…
He shuffled into this room, so slowly that…