Trick r’ treat?

For little Billy this Halloween was just like any other Halloween. Or maybe it wasn’t?

“This time it’s going to be epic!”, thought the 9-year-old boy with dark coffee brown hair, almost in contrast to the eyes. ” Those weeny little kids, dressed like stupid pirates and table cloth wearing ghosts and shit…They think they’re so scary, when in fact they’re all lovely and cute. When these rats go “Trick r’ Treat” in their thin, measly, adorable voices and all the grown ups go “Awwwww…..” as they throw in those cheap candies in their pouches. NO! Absolutely not! No sir, whatsoever!”

“Halloween is not cute or adorable or like a…a… a Harry Potter book! It’s dark and haunting and like those ‘Saw’ movies. YES! It’s bone chilling! And we won’t let these weasels turn it into some fancy doll show. No! Not this time. This time it’s going to be some real scary shit and I’ll make sure people have the real ‘Halloween experience’!”

“Now, to begin with…” said the well fed Billy boy as he lowered his trousers to reveal his blue underwear, “It’s all about the planning” He then took off his t-shirt revealing his bulging belly. “It takes patience and perseverance, yes! ,” He then wore a long white frock that stretched all the way upto his knees stopping a little above his feet. There were thin red outlines along the frills in the neckline and an untied red satin belt along the waist “But, it’s the end result that matters”

He tied the belt into a bow and let the sides hang. He took some white paint from a tin can and applied it to his face with a paint brush. After covering his face white, he painted two red circles on his cheeks. He then took and a thinner brush and dipped in some black paint,  carefully outlined his eyebrows and then grooved them downwards a little towards the edges. He outlined the corners of his eyes and then outlined the corners of his lips.

“Let me introduce you to moi friend”, he reached for something inside his bag. It was hard to tell if the doll looked exactly like him, or if it was the other way around.

“Say hello to Annabelle”, said Billy. Fe then faced the doll.  “We must get going, Annabelle. It’s a long night ahead….”

They moved down the street and took the first left. Three girls, one dressed as a witch, another as a Goblin and the third as what seemed like a rather awkward looking Frankenstein, passed them by, giggling to themselves at Billy’s costume. There were face carved pumpkin lanterns that lined the streets outside the houses, stopping only at what was a  yellow, brick lined house that was similar in architecture to all the other houses in the lane.

“Now there are some site inspections which have to  be kept in mind before we proceed”, said the boy. ” We choose our target very carefully. The house should have like a lawn or a small garden around it so as to have space for hiding. There should be no steps that lead to the door, this would make the switching more easier. The house should be isolated and less visited, a place with a frightful or publicly loathed owner would be more suitable. There should be no carved pumpkin lanterns outside the house, which indicates the owner is in no mood to celebrate”

He then went towards the door and looked around as to check if he was unnoticed, which he was. “So let’s get started!”

He knocked on the door thrice and scurried towards the bushes at the side of the house in the lawn. A middle aged woman wearing a brown coat, smoking a cigarette with one hand while holding a bag of candies and opening the doorknob simultaneously with the other came out and went “All right you nutbags! Here’s your-” She stepped outside and looked around for a while.

“Fucking mongrels!” she said closing the door behind the door. ” Wouldn’t let go off their antics even on a Halloween!”

Billy waited for her faint voice to dissolve in a distance and then placed the doll carefully in front of the door, knocked thrice and then disappeared behind the bushes.

This time the woman had no candy pouch in her hand. “I swear to god, I’ll kill these-“, she mumbled as she opened the door. She stared below at the doll on the floor, picked her up and then looked around for a moment. “Yeah, real funny, you guys!”, she blurted out of sarcasm. “As if we haven’t seen the films! Ooh! Annabelle knocked on the door. I’m petrified!”

She then closed the door behind her as she mumbled the same slurs against the children and Billy again carefully listened to the sound of her footsteps fainting away.

“Now, till this point, it’s all predictable”, he whispers.”It’s what I’d like to call ‘The Foreplay'”

He then stepped in front of the door and whispered “This one is what I’d like to call…” He then knocked thrice “‘The Prestige'”

The woman opened the door mumbling some atrocities.

“Trick r’ treat?”, said the large Annabelle doll in front of her. She froze for a while, all her anatomy shivering at the sight in front of her. She screamed at the top of her voice, a howl that could even scare away the Hyenas, dropped the doll to the ground and ran inside the house, slamming the door close behind her.

“So you see what I mean when I say real Halloween!”, he says picking up the doll. “It’s not about the candy!”

He moved a few blocks ahead and stopped at an old, tattered house, with a creaky, termite-fed front door.

“This house belongs to the grumpy old Mr. Hinzelmann”, he says carefully stepping inside, without making any noise. “He’s this retired war survivor and shit! Nobody’s ever seen him step outta the house. Everybody says he’s gone nuts and thus nobody dares to go ‘Trick or treating’ him”

He looks around and checks for bystanders, “Which makes him the perfect target!”

Again, he knocks thrice, hides behind the bushes and waits for the old man to arrive. There’s this stern looking aged man who steps out with a walking stick after a while.

“Wha-?”, says Hinzelmann. His voice as thick and guttural as that of a bear. He steps outside and looks around for a while, his other arm supporting his slightly hunched back.

“Hmmm”, he exhales as he steps inside the house and closes the door behind him.

As per the next step, Billy again places the doll in front of the door, knock thrice and sprints away into the bushes, waiting.

The old man again steps out of the house. His face a little flushed and a few tinkles of sweat run down as he looks around and then looks below at the doll. He picks it up, steps outside again, introspecting the surrounding and hurries back inside.

Billy steps in front of the door again and whispers, “Now it looks like our old fella is not so much into cinema.”

“Also since he’s old, our target might be a believer into the ancient myths of ghosts and demons and the Armageddon and shit, so this should be eezy-peezy!” He knocks thrice and this time the door opens at a relatively quicker pace.

“Trick r’ treat?”, says the 9 year old boy, with a grin the size of a T-rex. The old man freezes at the door way and stares at him almost as if his eyeballs might jump out of their sockets. He gasps and inhales a deep breath for  what seems to be an eternity.

The little boy smiles and awaits for what was to be his ‘Prestige’.

But not a single ounce of voice comes out from the old man’s mouth.

Hinzelmann exhales out the air, his eyes still staring at the devil in front of him. Inhales again and then pants out of breath, his breathing quicker with each passing second.

He drops his stick and the doll to floor and his hand comes to rest on the part of his chest which concealed his rapidly pacing heart under it. He lurches and staggers and falls to the ground, face first.

His panting stops, his previously trembling body now becomes inert and his flailing arms come to a stand still….

What was first a smile of victory on Billy’s face now changes into bewilderment. All the colour drains from his face as he falls to the ground on his knees.

“HOLY SHIT!”, screams the young boy. “HOLY SHIT!” He tries to press the old man’s chest, something which he saw in the movies.

“Oh man!”, he says constantly pressing his chest with his arms. ” Wake up old man! Wake up!” He looks around and  drags the body outside and the door closes behind him, leaving the doll and the stick inside. Streams of tears drip down his cheeks. He sits against the door and buries his face in his hand. “What have I done!”, says the boy. “Oh man!”

Just then, the old man in front of him chortles out. He sits up and chuckles, his laugh as hoarse as his voice. He holds his stomach, tears of joy trinkling down his cheeks as he laughs out of breath.

“Oh boy!”, says Hinzelmann, gasping for air, still chortling a little. “You should’ve seen your face! Oh man!”

Billy stares at the old man in front of him. A hurricane of emotions from fear to agony to embarrassment revel inside him. He breathes a sigh of relief.

“Trick or treat?’, says the old man, still chuckling at the 9 year old boy, dressed as a doll.

Suddenly, a sound  from the inside, sets the old man silent! He stared at Billy, who looked as terrified as him. The sound continued and a shiver ran down the old man’s spine. His mouth trembles, but not a single sound comes out of it. He’s scared, the old man. So scared……

Our story ends like all stories end, with a question. If the old man lived alone and he and Billy were outside the house, then who is it (or what is it) that knocked on the door?

Thrice!

The tribe in the forest

And yet these buccaneers still kneel   
Trembling at the water’s verge:   
“Cool River-Goddess, sweet ravine,   
Spirit of pool and shade, inspire!”   
So he needs poultice for his flesh.   
So he needs water for his fire.
                                                     -A Muse of Water, Carolyn Kizer. 
Sometimes I wondered if the songs they sung were songs at all? Or were they just prayers, rhythmically transcribed as to create the illusion of it being a song? Which is the most baffling part about being acquainted with a new language, you cannot distinguish the prayers from the songs. You do not know whether to dance and caper about wholeheartedly or slacken your senses in a state of transient devotion to the higher power?
And on these, rather frequent, occasions of either merriment or devotion, I saw them gather outside their tents of red and yellow. Their faces smeared with colours of white and red in intricate patterns, their mascaraed eyes, their bloodstained lips made their individual identity undecipherable.
“It is the whole purpose of it”, explained our translator, who himself had only faint knowledge of their language. According to him, it would take an outsider an approximate of 35 years, depending on his or her grasping ability, to be well-versed with their language. The reason, he said, was because we cannot understand their way of thinking. “They cover their faces with all these colours as to be unrecognizable as an individual when they stand in front of ‘her’. It is a symbol of them being equal in her eyes. Whether they are praying or tripping around in joy, they do it for ‘her’. They believe that humans generally acknowledge ‘her’ only in the times of need or despair. They disagree to it. They believe that it isn’t right to only remember ‘her’ for our self-centered values. They remember ‘her’ both in the times of grief and during the times of merry-making. Whether it is crying over the famines or celebrating over the harvest, they believe that they are constantly surrounded by her. That she is always there, watching them…”
I was particularly amazed for how he used the word humans for the rest of us. Perhaps it was well justified. As they danced around the fire in their whimsical movements, frolicking around in circles, wearing only a headband with the feathers of an Eagle, the skin of a spotted dear to cover their genitals and the colours, I realized that perhaps they were indeed a different breed in general. They cannot be us. We cannot be them. It was having two seperate universes in a single world, and to only think of the consequences when the two of them collide…
Our quest for ‘her’ is what dragged both of us us here in the first place. And as the days went by Fareed’s anticipation had taken its toll.
He was like all others his age, Fareed, zealous and energetic and pompous. All the initial emotions an explorer feels. And I must agree, I saw a large amount of the younger me in Fareed. Charming young man, an enthusiastic protege I must admit. The most vital thing was that we were both two individuals driven by our obsession for one thing in general. Inquisitiveness.
Could be a little adamant and ignoramus at times, yes! Like his obsession with canvas shoes. I had specifically instructed him to wear those heavy toe-capped safety Woodlands, but sometimes instructing him felt like banging my head on a wall. “They are way more cooler!”, he said, playfully showing off his canvas shoes.
‘Cooler!’ Kids these days!
When we first reached here, the people of the tribe were, unexpectedly, quite hospitable. They welcomed us us with garlands made of garlic( a sacred vegetable for them), marked our foreheads with soot and as our translator instructed them of our intentions, they insisted on us staying with them for a few days as to have the adequate amount of information that we needed. They arranged tents for our lodging and served us with bear meat for dinner on the first day. Needless to say, the meals were rather unpleasant.
There were glimpses of their culture that we gathered over the days. They believed in the Heaven and the Underworld just like the Biblical theory suggested it to be, but they did not believe that ‘she’ resides in any of these. There was an old acacia tree that grew in the exact centre of the village. They said it was more than three thousand years old and ‘she’ held her existence within it. They nurtured it like a child, decorated it with garlands of garlic, scented it with sandalwood for sanctity and worshiped it. They believed that the mere existence of their tribe depended upon the existence of the tree and that one day, when the devil shall manifest the Earth and all that is pure shall be crumbled to ashes, a lightning shall strike the tree, devouring with it the existence of the whole community.

On the fifteenth and last day of our visit, was when the preacher arrived….

She was a frail old woman, with arthritic legs and had two apprentices carry her around in a palanquin. A nearly balding scalp, a necklace made of tiny bones, deep mascaraed eyes, all those things that make for a pretentious, pompous voodoo saint in our world, but the people of the tribe believed in her. They respected and worshiped the same as they would worship ‘her’, for they believed that she was the one that could truly unite them with ‘her’.The women gifted their ornaments to her and men the first crops of harvest. They brought their little children with them, as she held them in her palms, playing with them and blessing them, as if they were her own…
We were somewhat rattled with all the show of unexplained generosity towards her and as we stood there in a corner in silence, it as as if she could somehow smell the disbelief within us, and all the more in Fareed, as she sent for us.

As we stood in front of her, an apprentice signaled for us to bow. All of us, all except Fareed, bowed in front of her. The apprentice was infuriated at that. He constantly signaled for Fareed to bow and so did we but he refused to do so.
She observed Fareed, a dry smile perpetuated on her withered lips and she said something to him in their language.

“She says ‘I know what you want..'” the translator explained to Fareed.
She mumbled some more.
“It is answers that your heart looks for…”
Fareed eyed her with an odd sense of inquisitiveness.
“Answers to the existence of ‘her'”, explained the translator. ” Answers to immortality; to life and death, and all that there is in the middle..”
“You wish to learn the truth. ‘Her’ truth, the truth behind the stories of the demons and the witches. You look at her the same way you look at them. You wish to unite with her. You desire to see her, touch her with your bare hands, embrace her, kiss her, make love to her under the moonlight…”
“I can show you the way…”
Fareed raised his eyebrows. “Is it possible?”, he asked.
“Only if your heart in as cleansed as the rivers of Pardisus”, she said. “Tell me? Do you wish to see her? Do you wish to believe?”
Fareed pondered for a moment, then nodded. “Yes!”, he said with the eagerness of a schoolboy.
She clapped twice as an apprentice came before her and bowed. “Arrange for the ritual”, she said.

We reached the tree and gathered around it in a circle. In the centre, below the tree, sat the old woman behind the fire. She sprinkled a white powder into the flames as she sang something in her hoarse, shrill voice. The people had gathered around in a circle, just like they always did. Some of them played held bongos to the beat with a pair of limb bones. She called for Fareed towards the centre, right next to the fire. I was among the few who didn’t join in and just silently stood in a corner, observing the spectacle. Fareed stood in front of her as she sang to the beats of the bongos. The tribesmen danced around in circle, their painted faces, their tripping feet, moved to the rhythm of the beat, devouring in it, consumed by the fire that began to grow in the middle and the flames of the fire seemed to dance to the music as well.
Fareed observed all of this with his eyes full of fetish and questions. Eyes were transfixed to the tree, searching for the answers to the divinity that the tree concealed. He didn’t seem scared, just stunned!
The old preacher kept on singing the song as she sprinkled the white powder into the flames. The flames danced and grew as a choking amount of smoke filled up the atmosphere. Smoke that blinded the vision. Smoke that made the skies grayish. Smoke that filled up my lungs. Choking it. Cleansing it….
I coughed for some time as my vision blurred from the teardrops in my eyes. Fareed coughed too, but the woman didn’t. Nor did the rest of the tribesmen. She kept on singing the song. In that ethereal moment, as my vision hazed and my lungs longed for clean air, I could finally understand what she was singing about.

She sang about ‘her’. ‘Her’ powers. ‘Her’ majesty…..

She sang about the acacia tree, how the starving woman had reached the forest and had begged to the gods for food and shelter. The gods didn’t listen to her, but ‘she’ did. She had been moved by the prayers of a cleansed heart. She appeared before the woman and told him, “Shed the teardrop of a pure heart anywhere you want in this forest, and you shall never starve again…” She cried her drops of purity at the same Earth that now bore the acacia tree. The tree bore with it a fruit, the fruit of immortality, which when consumed once, would never let a man go hungry again ever in his life. And his life shall go on until the annihilation of the universe.

She sang about how a civilization established around that tree. A civilization that were the descendants of the starving woman. How the civilization had never starved once. And how they only had one divinity to thank for all of that.

She sang about sunlight and she sang about storms. She sang about humans and she sang about monsters…

She sang, calling for ‘her’, begging for her to come and answer to a heart that longs for answers, a desert that needs to be rained upon. She chanted a prayer, praising ‘her’ majesty and all she had done for them. She chanted a prayer for unification…
Large amount of smoke now consumed the vicinity and valiant winds had started to storm about. The winds shook the tree, ruffling and shuddering the leaves with it and it somehow it seemed that the tree was dancing to the music as well, waving about ecstatically in sheer rejoice of being acknowledged.

The old woman now grasped a handful of white and forced it down the flames. The pungent smoke had now started to fill up my lungs through the nostrils and as I choked and coughed, I noticed that Fareed wasn’t coughing at all. He stared at the tree as his head waved around in a circle to the music. He was smiling….

At that transient moment of haze it seemed to me that the old woman wasn’t an old woman at all. She was a young, beautiful maiden, who looked pale and dehydrated and starved…

Fareed opened his arms towards the tree as his head continued to wave to the music. The old woman again held a handful of the powder and mumbled and sang as she fed it to the flames.

I remember the fading music slowly dying away. I remember an incandescent white light that blinded my vision. I remember the skies, the colour of murk and I remember the violent winds…

And as the smoke withered away and vision was restored, I remember seeing the tribesmen, all of them, sitting in a circle facing the tree, bowing to it with their hands outstretched. There was no old woman sitting by the fire. There was no Fareed standing in front of the tree, arms wide open, trying to embrace ‘her’.

All that remained, was the little amount of smoke from a dying fire, lumps of burnt firewood and a pair of canvas shoes….

The Weatherman: Chapter 6

The fire torches on both sides of the corridor made way for the Eye and the Foreseer as they proceeded. There were potraits of the Ancestral Makers that hung on both the sides.

There was Randalph the Great- Creator of the both this Universe and the parallel one. He wore a Corduroy red suit and carried a grey wig, the kind Washington wore. His face was stern and even though the Maker looked well fed, the colour of his skin looked pale. Or maybe it was how the lights made it look.

Then there was Marakh the Destroyer- who was as the name may suggest, was the destructer and plunderer of the Universe and all that was vile in it. He wore a Black silk suit and looked, in the least bit, effeminate. His lips were the colour of blood and his eyes looked as black as the mascara that he wore beneath them.

Then came Legolas the Preserver, the pale-bearer and nurturer of the Universe. He wore a white suit and was the only one who had a bowtie on. A blue bowtie to match with the eyes. His hair were so golden blonde and needless to stay he was perhaps the most handsome of all the three. But was he the noblest? Only time will tell.

Gina and Salem took a left at the end of the corridor and opened a small brown door to enter to enter what now seemed an office workplace. The pale blue coloured room, the size of half a football ground was filled with desks and chairs lined up in rows. There wasn’t any ceiling to the room and Gina could notice the skies turning to blacker by the hour. No, not darker, blacker. There on the hundreds of desks in front of them were hundreds of typewriters, with scrolls of parchments lingering out of them, lying all over the room and typing profusely on them were hundreds of dwarfs. All of them wearing small black suits with black shorts, a white shirt and a red bowtie. One needed to have an exceptional eye to distinguish one from the other. Which, needless to say, The Eye did possess. The type writers managed to slide to the next line on their own. Gina and Salem made their way through one of the rows in the room.

One of the dwarfs in the row slammed his fingers upon the keys of typewriter, as if trying to pierce through its very letters.
“Stupid Jiggletots,  Breezebonkers, Ratskunks, Hankyloaves…” He went on typing forcefully and full of rage.

” Mr. Winklehawks, why so grumpy over the poor typewriter?” asked Gina playfully.

“Oh no, madam, no. It isn’t just a typewriter. It is the evilest of all things created by humans. Stupid Bransneekers…..Bloody Rattle….” He slammed a single key multiple times with his middle finger. “Inconvenient to the fingers, parchments lying around here and there, the incessant clitter-clatter of keys all over the room, I assure Madam Miss Eye, it could drive a dwarf groundnuts!”

The very instant, a gigantic, rectangular slab of cement hovered over them to obscurethe night sky. The colour of the base of the slab was similar to that of the room. The same blue, successfully taking over the black. So black. So blue.

It had the same base dimension as that of the room’s rooftop. It soared in the air for a moment and then settled over the rooftop of the room, accurately covering the whole of it.

“Renovating much?” Gina asked the dwarf?

“Ah yes! His majesty thinks we need a new floor for the coming time. Increasing population and all! More hands to feed more brains.” He turned his gaze towards Salem who stood silently behind Gina. “Ah! Greetings Mr. Foreseer. Never saw you there. So what do you ‘foresee’?” He chortled a bit as he said it. “D’you think we need an extra floor in the coming times?”

Salem, who had the same solemn look on his face, cleared his throat a bit as he went. “Well, if you ask me, as far as the future is concerned, then perhaps we may not even need the very desk you’re sitting on.”

The dwarf smirked and stared at him with his dark green eyes. “So it is true what they say. You have gone completely insane!”

Just then, a man with a shaved head and emerald eyes and a goatee beard made his way towards them. He looked exactly like the Guardsman they had met at the gate. He even wore the same black robe that hid the scabbard under it.

“Miss Gina? Mr.Salem? You’re finally here.” The same unison of voices greeted them “Lord Caliph has been waiting for you.”

They followed him to another room, exquisitely larger than the previous one and instead of the blue, it was draped in velvety red. An array of pillars with peculiar carvings on them paved both the sides of the room. A velvet carpet, again red, led to the other end of the room, marked by row of chairs with noble men and women sitting on them on  both the sides. There was Mundungus, the timekeeper, perhaps with the darkest of all complexions; Augustus, the Lord of light, wearing his yellow robe so bright, it pricked the eyes; there was of course the ever so effeminate looking  Sir Jean, the Lovelord; Regina, the Lady of darkness, her black dress and her red lips; and so on and so forth.

At the end of the carpet lay a flight of steps, above which were the thrones of Lord Caliph, the Lord of life and her majesty, Lady Elsa. Lord Caliph looked everything a king would look. A manly beard and mustache, jet black in colour. A well built structure that symbolized a warrior, and a brave one at that. And  beside him resided Lady Elsa, whose beauty and charm were ever so beguiling, even for a king. She had fluffy blonde hair that held the crown so delicately placed. The ruby studded crown, the same gem engraved on that of the king’s. One incomplete without the other.

And on another seat in a distance, over the same flight of steps, lay a man whose mere presence ran shivering chill down the spine of both the mortals as well as the immortals. His dark grey eyes on his freckled face, white as snow, seemed like they hadn’t blinked in ages. Mandarin, the Deathlord, wore a black robe, and observed the whole procession with his serene demeanor. The demeanor of death.

All of them eyed the one man they had been anticipating for so long. And as the man with the black robe and turban made his way through, fearless and solemn as always; with the Mediterranean looking woman beside him, an indistinct murmuring had begun among the crowd. The two of them stood in front of the King and bent to one knee.

“His majesty”, said Gina, ” I summon to you the accused of treachery and of breaking his vow, Salem, the foreseer. Your judgement and justice shall account his fate.” She rose and gradually made her way joining the rest of the crowd.

The king observed the man for some time, sensing the fearlessness in his eyes. There was no trace of guilt to be found.

“Foreseer!”, he commanded. His voice stern and stern and regal at the same time. “You’ve been accused of betraying the whole kingdom. Your actions could’ve served as exposure of the whole clan. All I ask, mere Foreseer, is why?” He lowered his voice a bit. “Why would you do something like this to your own people? What is it that we have done wrong?”

Salem remained silent. Staring at the floor the whole time.

“Speak or forever hold your peace!”, said Caliph.

“His majesty!”, began Salem, “I fear our whole is on the verge of annihilation.”

There were gasps from the crowd and the murmuring continued.

“Silence!” stormed the King. “And on what grounds do you say that?”

“I have had a vision” said Salem. “Of blood! Of countless lives and innocent souls lingering around the dead carcasses of our world. Of raging storms wiping away the entire  civilization! Of women losing their husbands. Of children losing their childhood…”

“Forgive me my lord” interrupted a shrill voice. A voice so low, it almost whispered. The voice of Mandarin. “But I do not think there are any such indulgences that I have. It is, in a way, a direct attack on my fidelity”

“Then what justifications do you have for the recent disturbances, Lord Mandarin”, said Salem. “Storms in the Arabian countries, Volcano in Japan, earthquakes in Pakistan….”

“All of them necessities for the balance”

“All of them? All at once? Or is there another reason behind tilting the needle of the scale more towards death, Lord Deathlord? Another reason that involves a deal signed with someone perhaps?”

“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT, MERE GUARDIAN!”, raged Mandarin. “I’m a guardianhead. I shall behead you this very instance! Do you not fear me? Do you not fear the inevitable?”

“I fear you as much as thundering Griffin fears a tiny elf!”

“ENOUGH!”, interrupted Caliph. “I shall not bear such indiscipline in my court.”

He rose from his throne, followed by every other noble men and women raising from theirs. “Guardsmen! I want you to escort the Foreseer to the Prison of Paradisus. He shall stay there until further trial.”

The guardsmen bowed and escorted Salem out of the room.

“Adjourned!”, commanded the king.

As Salem made his way out of the court, he felt the familiar shiver down his spine. He felt like an old man walking down a distance on snowy, wintry desert. As if the very essence of happiness had vanished from the world.

There were cold, grey eyes observing him from a distance…

Her- A love story

It’s been more than a year since the film hit the Indian theaters and somehow I feel like kicking myself for missing it at that time. It was only recently that I had a chance of catching this film which happens to be recommended by a friend after she read my review of ‘Ruby Sparks’ and found a striking similarity to this film in it. Although both these films are so similar yet so different at the same time, and the feeling after watching both the films was, too some extent, mutual. And all these films made me feel so much, to which my last resort to get rid of this tumultuous wave of emotions is to hamper them down to poor readers( i.e. if I have any). So anyways, better late than never, my thoughts on the film ‘Her’.

‘Her’ is a love story of Theodore and Samantha. No, it’s not a story about a relationship of a man with his computer. She is not his computer. She makes it very clear to him. Its is evident when she playfully makes up a robotic voice when he, a little out of habit, addresses ‘her’ like he addresses ‘them’. It is also not a sci-fi film set in a near yet distant future, with Artificially Intelligent Interactive Operating Systems. It’s a part of the film, but it isn’t mainly what the film is about. Also, the film doesn’t make it evident that the setup is based on the near future. The film could be taking place in our own vicinity. Aren’t we somehow dependant over the operating systems in our phones and computers to such an extent that to somehow imagine a life without them seems inevitable. ‘Siri’, ‘Samantha’, it’s all the same. No wait! It’s not! It’s definitely not. I can’t believe I just said that. Sorry Samantha.

I think a fruitful description would be to state this film as a love story between ‘Theodore’, a loner (which includes nearly 95% of the entire population. The rest of them, well, are Honey Singh fans), somebody who works as a writer of digitized handwritten  letters and who is currently going through a rough seperation period, and ‘Samantha’, an interactive Operating System who has the same tendency of feeling emotions as that of any other human, and perhaps more than any other human. At first glance, the very thought of a man falling in love with an OS seems lonely and disturbing, but the point is that Samantha is all so interactive and understanding an operating system, that falling in love with her(not it) seems justified. I mean think about it, why is it that somehow having a physical body in it’s own all so important. The whole idea of falling in love with an idea of a person rather than a person itself. Isn’t it why we fall in love with realists like Edward Hopper and Da Vinci? And what is it that Samantha couldn’t do that a human in flesh and blood can. For Samantha can interact with him at all times of the day, help him with his daily chores, provide sexual pleasure, and most importantly could do something that most humans of flesh and blood fail to do. Understand.

Another major question that the film raises is how isn’t being poly-amorous not justified? Samantha loves Theodore the same way she loves many different other users. Why is it that our love is somehow confined to only one person in particular? She is talking to Theodore while also talking to several other people at the same time. Aren’t we somehow lost in so many different voices in our head at the same time?

To a major extent, yes, this film is extremely similar to ‘Ruby Sparks’, with the lead actor, again a writer, going through this melancholic seperation phase in life falls in love with a character he wrote and how she somehow comes to life. But what is mainly different is that the lead character in ‘Ruby Sparks’ could manipulate her partner according to his convenience. And she, being a human, feels the repercussions to it. Samantha, on the other hand, isn’t tied down to love Theodore, she willingly does so.

Another similar film would be, also by Spike Jonze, ‘Being John Malkovich’ in which a portal could allow people to be somebody else for some amount of time. To delve inside their minds for some time and to feel what they’re feeling at that precise moment. It reflects how being somebody else, in this case Broadway actor John Malkovich, has this own zen to it. How we fall in love with with the idea of being another person! A person who seems way more interesting than us.

Spike Jonze’s style of film-making is very similar to that of her ex-spouse Sofia Copolla’s. The film-making is very similar to that of ‘Lost in Translation’, how the filmmakers have this ability to use the effect of light and dark and Chiaroscuro to resonate with the mood, their obsession with neon lights from buildings, streetlights, etc., and the music! Ah! The music. How much has it made me fall in love with ‘Arcade Fire’ and with Karen O’s ‘The moon song’. Also I loved how many intricate colours were used in the film. Almost like a Van Gogh.

‘Her’, if looked from a precautionary angle, somehow shows our sad dependancy on artificial form of love, our reliability on our phones straight from waking us up in the morning to lulling us off to sleep. Is it merely sad that we cannot find love and acceptance in the people around us? But the question is why is falling in love with just an idea of a person not justified? Is it only because it isn’t prevalent? That it isn’t the norm of a society to do so? What if we’re in a society where such form of love is accepted? What then? I think the answer to it lies somewhere in a quote from the movie, which might probably stay with me forever “Love is a socially acceptable form of insanity.”

Black Forest Outer-space

The valiant and strong commander Igor Stormbearer of the Samarian clan had fists as large as watermelons and feet as rigid as tree trunks and when his mountainly figure stood lead his fellow soldiers, it dwarfed them. And they followed his shadow as blindly as they’d follow the gods themselves. And when the thrice strong army of the Rohaans’ attacked them in the unaware vicinity of the night, he didn’t shriek or frown or dread or tremble. He banged his wine mug on the table, rose before his fellow men and as he took the sword out of his scabbard, only two words roared from his mouth- “How many?”

The colours faded, the picture dissolved. The humongous commander was now Rudy, the blue jay, with wings that kissed the sunlight and the crest of a king on his head, he soared over the Atlantic, piercing through the clouds, as the chilly breeze almost froze his beak. He rose to the abode of Heaven and lunged into the darkest of abyss only to rise back again, and again and again. With his tiny black eyes he saw clouds of the shape of boots and dogs and sheep and stars…

Only now the clouds weren’t clouds anymore, they were stars; And the sky wasn’t the sky anymore. Or maybe it was. And as Flight Engineer, Max Thrillseeker, of Shuttle no. 177921 Leia, spacewalked in the void of nothingness in the star-studded outer-space, he realized that space is nothing but a huge Black forest pastry spread all around with sugar sprinkled over it. With his spacesuit attached to the spacecraft with a pipe for oxygen, he could see the giant marshmallow they called the moon on one  hand and a piece of blueberry they called the Earth on the other. And he’s floating and floating and floating…

And so is his ship, the Whiteskull. Captain Earl one-eyed Kruger, leader of the Pirates of the Southern Pacific, mean and treacherous yet compassionate and adventurous, decided to hold on to the wheel himself as his beloved tumbled and lunged in the storm. He knew the Oceans at the back of his hand and his one left eye (The right one he lost in a duel with Red Harrington) searched for hidden treasures to recover and enemy ships to plunder. And although the Oceans today were loathsome, he still had the same smirk on his face as he sung- “Fee fie Foe and a bottle of rum”.

And as the little boy woke up on the study table on which he fell asleep last night, he realized that the gigantic Commander had been beaten by the Rohaans. And that the blue jay which soared free as the wind, had fallen into the abyss. And the Astronaut, who had his connecting tube detached from the shuttle while spacewalking, was lost somewhere in space, still floating as there was no Gravity. And even though Captain Earl ‘one-eyed’ Kruger was an excellent sailor, pirate and leader, the Whiteskull that plunged and rose in the furious waters, could not survive the storm…

The little boy’s arm hurt from all the soldiers he’d killed. He suffered from a slight cold because of the freezing Atlantic breeze. He wasn’t still accustomed to the Gravity of the Earth. Perhaps the Earth was a bit too heavy for him to bear. His fingers had shriveled because of all the time he’d spent in the Oceans. He looked out of the window searching for the skies. Searching for the characters. He was all of them. He was none at all…

Just an idea….

This might be one of those randomly insightful midnights full of sleep-deprivation, excess of caffeine, probably a good book (I don’t know, haven’t finished it yet) and the haunt of my existential crisis that lingers (WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH LIFE?). There is a little chilly, palpable breeze and the clatter of raindrops, yes, but all too mundane perhaps, nothing unusual, and all your thoughts are somehow so overwhelming that all you have to do is write about them.

So I came across this artwork called ‘Chiaroscuro’ which basically creates, or should I say enlightens the effect of something through appropriate amount of light and darkness and perhaps there was a chain of intricate thoughts and Wikipedia links as I consequently came across the works of Salvador Dali and Andre Breton and his Manifesto of Surrealism (It is brilliant how the internet has done wonders to our lives) and I was wondering perhaps where do all these surreal, obscured yet beautiful ideas come from? Are people perhaps born this way? Or is it something that is perhaps endowed from our genes? Or has it come from widespread exposure?

For it is but strange and ironical in a contrasting way that we have had the privilege of experiencing both Mozart and Beethoven, one who was a childhood prodigy, had over 20 symphonies by the time he was 19 (Me? Umm.. I’m still trying to figure out) whereas there was Beethoven who had been molded from the excruciating heat of a furnace as his father had made the poor, little kid subject to all sorts of mental and physical pressure to excel from the very beginning thereby creating the illusion of him being a childhood prodigy. Both have made inimitable and significant contributions to music. To perhaps compare one to the other would be sacrilegious. Which again leaves us to the question of how did both of them have the same, delightful and significant ideas despite being grown up under different circumstances?

There was once a very profound, intellectual idea I read from somebody (Somebody who might be reading this. Just might be! :)) about how our ideas are our particular home. Interesting, right? I mean somehow it makes sense as perhaps it is the place that we live in no matter where we are. We always carry our home with us. It maybe sparse, sometimes too filled, sometimes full of filth, there might ba sofa abandoned somewhere, roof that leaks, a window that creaks, but it is our very own home and we love it and accept it the way it is. It further dwells on the fact that sometimes we do let others inside our home and maybe then, for a short period of time, it becomes their home as well, and when they leave, there is something so significant of merely their presence that now our home may never be the same again. How, perhaps a certain idea could affect the very foundations of what we believe in and we may turn out to be skeptical, or maybe even enlightened, after the certain encounter. Interesting thought, stranger. Very insightful *wink, wink*.

Sometimes, or maybe it’s just me, it may happen that a lot of different ideas may never surface you know. That perhaps a certain idea, although it may be brilliant, but we’ve thought about it so much and the whole thought of it has been so repetitive in our minds that somehow have lost their meaning. I mean I read this somewhere that a certain writer said that sometimes when you repeat a certain word over and over and over it starts to lose it’s meaning. I mean think about this, a certain amount of significant words are so repetitive in our heads for example- ‘Exams, exams, exams…’ ‘Career, career, career…’ ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs…’ Nothing. See, nothing! Somehow it starts to lose it’s significance in the whole repetition. He further took the example of his parent’s divorce as the whole idea of separation was so frightening in the beginning but then there were ‘Fights, fights, fights…’, ‘Separation, separation, separation….’ and there was nothing! Same goes with ideas I guess. A certain ideas may be so interesting in our heads and then somehow something happens and we have to abandon it for a while and when we come back, the whole idea has been playing in our heads like a vinyl record on a loop, that somehow the music doesn’t feel the same way. Like for eg, I once came across an idea for a story and in the process of it I couldn’t figure out what do you call a doorknocker. I mean now I know that it is called a doorknocker but then at that particular instant I was devoured by the fact that I couldn’t find the appropriate word to fit that I abandoned the idea for quite some time and thought about it over and over and when I came back (After finding the meaning of the word doorknocker, that is) that the whole idea somehow never felt the same way. Does that mean that there are yet many such ideas which do not surface at all? Holy shit! Or maybe it’s just me. It’s just how delusional and neurotic and lost and dreamy and unfocused I am maybe.

But we still haven’t had the answer to our question? Where do all these ideas come from? Do they drop in from the skies like shooting stars? Or do they perhaps grow from the Earth like Dandelions? Does a stork carry them in it’s beak to deliver to out heads. Or maybe they’re just delivered at our doorstep buy a magical owl whose only job is to post ideas? I mean their might be some smarty-pant suggestions to be thrown ‘They come from the brain, dude! Haven’t you figured that out yet?’ Well, no! I haven’t. Because maybe in the world where we live in everybody has a brain right? We don’t use it somehow, but we do. My question is, from where does these ideas originate in the brain? What consequences, in retrospect, lead to its budding?

There is a very whimsical yet somehow insightful thing that comes to mind. Maybe I shouldn’t, it’s a bit too silly! But anyways, there was this random, mundane (yet interesting) thought in the film ‘Before Sunrise’ (Have you guys seen it? You should stop reading further and go watch it! Spoiler alert!) in which the lead character Jesse is asked ‘What a problem is to him?’ to which he very playfully says that he had this idea of reincarnation. That maybe in the beginning of the human evolution there were like 50,000 people, then there were around a million and now there are almost 5 billion people that live and breathe on this Earth. So where do all these specific souls for all these people come from? To actually come up with all these different souls might be a little hectic for the makers. So maybe what happens is that our souls, just like the souls before us, split into these various other souls when we die and so all we are are tiny bits and pieces of the souls of the people that we have split from. And so in this way, our ideas are what come from the ideas of the different people whose souls we have inside of us. Or maybe it isn’t so? See, this is how delusional and lost and…- well you get the drill right?

But maybe what if it’s true you know? What if our souls are split from the different people who’ve lived before us? If that is true, I wish I’d been split from Kurt Cobain man! I mean that’d be so cool, right?

Movie Review- Finding Fanny : “All that is FANNAtical about out lives….”

Our films over the years have had all these bizarre, contrasting images of Goa. From Goa being a suburban Christian community with music and intimacy and emotions (apropos Kabhi Hann Kabhi Naa), to Goa being the demonic and savage underbelly of Crime and Mafia to a Goa still in its deranged,  delusional state with all the young blood and all the liquid LSD flowing through it, but somehow Homi Adajania’s potrayal of Goa as a whimsical, Marquezian universe with characters that are neurotic and music that is quirky and colours that seem like a world dressed in Instagram filters is all so picturesque and  the whole unreality of it seemed so surreal that I had to had to write about it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about a film, but then each and every other film that there has been, in it’s own genre, could be well perceived of being either good or bad and that could be well distinguished by the audiences that behold. Whereas ‘Finding Fanny’, in it’s own way is all too intricate and layered and has this tinge of unconventionality that somehow manages to knock the wind out of your stomach. Maybe during the end of it it makes you question the fact whether you liked the film or not? Was it an inspiring road-trip film or did it  have any poignant moments of self-introspection by the characters, to which I’d like to disappoint you by saying there’s none of this in the film. Then what is it that makes you like a film like this? To which I’d say are the characters, who are so incomplete in their own being (just like any of us) that they seem to complete you.

What is more questionable is the fact that all of this is being written about an Indian film, but then all of this could only be felt about an Indian film. That even among the cacophony of poorly made films lacking in both luster and substance there perhaps might be a few hidden Easter eggs that fill you up with all this inexpressible zeal of it’s discovery. Which is what I love about our films, that even after all these years, they never fail to surprise us. They did that with the highly unconventional ‘Delhi Belly’ which was all so mad and hysterical yet had so much substance and also with ‘Udaan’ that had substance and artistic integrity filled upto the brim. ‘Finding Fanny’ could be described as a film for me that was a sly reminder of two things, how much I love watching films and how much I miss writing about them. And it filled me up with all these delicate emotions that I almost felt like a Zeppelin on the verge of blowing up to pieces. So here’s my short, personally opinionated review of a film that I found interesting.

Pocolim- a fictional town in the whimsical parts of Goa, with people as whimsical as the location. Quoting a line from the film ” It’s a place where life doesn’t pass you by, but rather  moves along with you” It’s a village where somehow everybody knows everybody and where all that is unproductive and pointless is somehow a part of life. In the backdrop of this village is a young widow whose husband dies just a day after their marriage; a puerile, hopeless romantic postmaster with no mails to deliver and a broken heart to mend; an obnoxious mechanic whose father just died; another old widow with her nose up in the air and has the same bitterness towards the world as does the mechanic;a  fanatical artist with all the extremism for his art and his fetish for ‘big’ women; tightly- tuned guitars; accordions; a dysfunctional vibe in a village which speaks it’s English in tattered ways, with phrases like “What you doing?” “How this possible?” “How you speak!’; a dead cat; a rusty, foreign car; a bizzaro painting; and somehow all this quirky chaos is doing the one thing that it is set out to do- ‘Trying to find happiness.’

Now that pursuit of happiness may be initiated by the postmaster’s sudden revelation of the fact that after 46 years of his life, his love ‘Fanny Fernandes’ had never received the one letter of his confession of love to her and all his life was based on the illusion of rejection. He, along with all the other four nutbags, set out on a journey to find her. What happens next, perhaps, changes their particular lives for the better (and even for the worst). A film like ‘Finding Fanny’ never really lies in the conclusion of it all, but rather in the characters and their journey and Homi Adajania’s characters are all so messed up, that they all seem likeable. There’s the postmaster, naive and oozing in love Naseerudin Shah who is unarguably spot on with all the precise emotions at all the necessary times, but then this is the Naseerudin Shah that has been all so formidable in all his films and all those who’ve been to naive to notice that should perhaps have their eyes melted in a furnace. Then there is the all so egoistic yet pretentious artist played by Pankaj Kapoor and again, these are actors who never fail to deliver. A very appreciative revelation was Deepika Padukone as the widow with all her puritan beliefs and who somehow tries to find happiness for herself by finding happiness for others. Arjun Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia were all too sparse yet likeable in their respective, bitter roles filled with a tinge of sarcasm.

Homi’s style of film-making is a little similar to Wes Anderson (just a little) with the dysfunctional characters being involved in awkward situations, but the imagery of a Wes Anderson film is what our films would perhaps need quite some time to accomplish. There is also this serene yet humorous background music of accordions and violins, so as to create a sense of ethnicity. There are a few staggering situational humour instances, for say, when a Father reveals his intention of getting married the postmaster retorts by saying “Then what are you waiting for? The second coming? You’ve waited for that since the last 2000 years and look where it has got you.”

‘Finding Fanny’ leaves us with the most cliched question there is- ‘How do we find happiness in our lives?’ To which the answer might be that happiness doesn’t lie in the conclusion after it’s chasing, but in the journey there is in it’s pursuit. We may find it in lost love, surreal artforms, one night stands, flattery, sunsets or even in ice-creams. All we have to do is stop searching for the pot of gold and feast our eyes with the rainbow instead.

“Were we any wiser at end of it?” asks the widow. To which the answer is I do not know. Or it might be, as Antoine de  Saint Exupery had said, ‘for what is essential is invisible to the eyes…’

The Weatherman: Chapter 5

Gina had always hated teleporting. “Churns up a nauseating sensation in the belly!” she always said.
It was no different this time. The only difference there was maybe was the fact that nauseation probably wasn’t her greatest concern at this instant As she landed the eerie valley and the first gush of the frosty wind whiplashed across her face, she noticed that the colour of the sky wasn’t as purple as it used to be. A shade of black had started perpetuating and the highly ominous Gina took this as a sign.

She saw the motionless figure of Salem still holding her hand, in his previously endowed state of nothingness, clinging on to her foot. She bent on her knee and caressed his neck as the same shade of blue brought him back to consciousness. Salem’s first reaction to the surroundings wasn’t one of shock or disappointment, but of acceptance.

Gina smiled at him and whispered “We’re here”.

They saw the one thing that stood in the eeriness of the lush green valley. A wooden brown door with the words ‘NO TELEPORTATION ZONE BEYOND THIS POINT’ written on them. Just the door and the valley that lay behind it. Gina banged the gold doorknocker twice and waited. The wooden slit on the door slid and a pair of glittering emerald eyes stared at them.

“PASSWORD?”, came a voice from the slit.

“RATSKUNKS!” said Gina.

The door swung open and a bald, masculine figure with a goatee beard and the same emerald eyes stood in front of them. He wore a black robe with golden tapestry, large enough to conceal the sword scabbard lying behind it.

“Hello Miss Gina”, said the figure with a voice that sounded like a unison of several other voices all synced in a single vocal chord.

“Hello honorable Guardsmen!”, said Gina, “I’ve brought the convict with me.”

“Ah! Yes, yes.”, said the unison of voices. “Hello Foreseer!”

Salem smiled and bowed.

He looked around and said, “Pretty furious are the winds today, aren’t they?”

“Yes, yes” said Gina. “Perhaps the little mistress of the Windbearer hasn’t been all that faithful to him”

“Or perhaps there is something more cautionary to it than that” said the unison of voices. “ Perhaps our little young Foreseer might have an idea about it.” He shifted to the right, bent and waved his arm towards the gate. “Well anyways, welcome to Paradisus!”

The duo walked through the gates as the once lush valley now turned into a pathway surrounded by clouds of all shapes and sizes. There was the ‘Floating bridge Of Hideus’ that mediated the ground from the castle. Oh and yes, ‘The Black Castle’, pride of Pardisus that stood gigantically in front of them, kissing the abode of the skies so that the topmost point was nowhere to be seen.

On either side of the floating bridge lay the stretch of bushes with the exotic Butterbouts that grew on them.

Interesting story about the Butterbouts, these little flowers that seemed like poppies over a saucer. When the Lovelord, Sir Jean (He loved to be entitled as a knight although he wasn’t actually one) first came across his one true beloved, the Songstress Marayah, the Wilderbees were so mesmerized by the awe of the winds of love that flew that time that they accidentally cross pollinated the Butterfelds with the Rosenbouts and thus this new, beautiful creation came into existence.

“Proceed”, said the Guardsmen as the two of them started making their way through the bridge. It wobbled and lolled but the three of them didn’t stutter or bound for support for they had their trust in its firmness. As they stood before ginormous gates of the castle, the Guardsmen stepped forward and flicked the fingers of both his palms towards it as the gates gradually made way for them.

The two of walked in and turned towards the guardsmen.

“We shall see you later”, said the voices and the door swung to a close between them.

O Captain…. My Captain….

My childhood just died in an apartment in California today. He died of reasons called asphyxiation. Word I couldn’t spell when I was a kid. Word I don’t understand even now. And my childhood died of it.

Peculiar little character, my childhood. Delightfully notorious, painstakingly hilarious and insightfully thoughtful. He taught me the meaning of a whole new word. And no, the word wasn’t asphyxiation. It was hope.

I could still hear him whistling his way through as he came into the classroom. In a world full of educators who made me feel like a deposit fund to be broken someday, he came in as a teacher and showed me that I am not a cheque to be cashed in someday. That I exist! “Carpe Diem”, he said and I believed him.

I remember him as a tall, blue giant, with a funny beard and a funnier demeanor. I remember him sweeping in on his carpet, taking me places I couldn’t imagine existed. He taught me that wishes do come true, all you have to do is believe.

I remember him as a lunatic who lived inside a board game. I remember him taking me far away, in a mystical land with creatures that are both haunting and adorable. Does he still live in the board game? Would he come back if I roll the dice?

I also remember him as the psychologist who never charged me for his time. Who listened to me, who understood me. Who showed me that all my miseries and all my demons aren’t something I have to live with for the rest of my life. “It’s not your fault”, he said to me over and over and over and I believed him.

Where has he gone now? Have any of you seen him? Does he not see me rubbing upon a lamp wishing he’d come back? Or does he not see me rolling the dice over and over until I could get the number that might bring him back? Does he not see me wishing upon a star, waiting for him to come back,because he was the one who taught me that wishes do come true?

How could he manage to give the whole world around him hope and happiness and contentment? How could he not find the same from the world around him? Was he a hypocrite all this time? Or was he a skeptic of his own beliefs?

I wish I could’ve saved my childhood, just like he saved me. If you ever come upon him tell him that I thank him. Also tell him that I forgive him.

Will my childhood come back as the tall, blue giant that I always imagined him to be? Will he grant me 3 wishes? Because if he would, I’d wish for him to come back all the three times…..

The Weatherman: Chapter 4- ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’

She wore her favorite red dress that day. That one-piece with a neck strap which stretched up to her knees. It did cost 89$ but to her it was worth every penny. It was a bright, yellow Saturday morning. One of the hottest mornings of the summer, but she wasn’t so warm. She licked on to her butterscotch ice cream cone. Again, her favorite. A kid in the park ran into her chasing his sister. She laughed, bent over her knee and patted him on the head. She was so good with kids. One of the reasons why she loved visiting the park so very often. The park was filled with them.

A little boy swung her sister so hard she fell on the ground, but she didn’t cry. She got up, dusted herself, went back to the boy and slapped him so hard on the cheek, he fell on the ground and started weeping. A father and his son were playing catch with their baseball. The father cheered his son everytime he caught the ball. There was ruckus of noise in the park which was so chaotic, but to her ears it seemed as if it all blended into some sort of music. A music only she could hear. A melody only she could recognize.

A blonde flick of her hair dangled over her face touching her lips, caressing them. It went all the way through the side of her face, touching her apple cheek, obscuring her brown eye and toying with her lips. She placed it at the back of her ear with her finger. She offered her ice cream cone to him. “D’you want it?” she asked. She was standing right next to him but the sound felt so distant. It almost reverberated as it came to him. He raised his arm to grab it but she pulled the cone away. “You have to catch me for it.”, she said and laughed. He started chasing her as she ran towards the park exit. She laughed all the way through. Somehow the laugh echoed through the whole place. Dark grey clouds had started hovering over. They covered the blue and the yellow and the somehow it felt as if the colour had faded from the world.

She exited the park gates and stood still on the pavement. She turned around and looked towards him. Her blonde flick had now found its place on her eyelid. She blinked those brown eyes and again placed the blonde flick at the back of her ear. She smiled.

A red Volkswagen ran into her and drove away. Suddenly the day wasn’t bright anymore. It was as if a solar eclipse had occurred all of a sudden. The chaotic park fell dead silent. There was no girl swinging. The swing swung all by itself.  No boy playing catch. His glove was biting the dust off the ground.  A red rose in the park withered and then fell off. Dead.

The ringing of the phone woke Sam up.

He checked the alarm clock. It was 3:19. He picked up the phone.

“Yeah?”, he said sounding almost deranged.

“Hey it’s me.”, said Eric. His voice had the same heaviness.

“Its 3’o clock”

”3:20 actually”

“What d’you want dumbass?” Sam asked running his palm through his curls.

“Nothing man. I just wanted to know how you’re doing”, said Eric trying to obscure his laugh. “Just kidding man. So listen, d’you remember our guide Iqbal?”

“Yeah”, said Sam. He remembered him quite well. That dark, middle aged man with crooked teeth and chest hair that could knit themselves a sweater. He remembered him ruffling his chest hair once in the street and going ‘It is considered to be a matter of pride and the sign of a true man in our country. Women go crazy over it’. He then smiled as his crooked teeth shone in the sunlight.

“So it turns out that our man Salem wasn’t like a complete stranger. He had come to the village a few days back to visit an old widow named Fatima. Turned out our man had the hots for her. He convinced her to leave the village just a day before the storm and she now probably lives in another small Arab village in Kuwait by the name of Behrami. So I called the boss-”

“You called the boss too? At 3’o clock?”

“I did”, he chuckled. “You should’ve listened to his voice man. It was hilarious.”

“You’re a nutjob”

“So anyways the boss says we have to go to Kuwait tomorrow. Or should I say today. There’s a bus that’ll take us to the village from there. So start packing. Our flight leaves at 5:30.”

“What as in 5:30 in the next two hours?” said Sam as he rose from his bed and looked at the alarm clock.

“No. No. 5:30 in the evening.”

“Oh Thank god!” Sam sat back on the bed scratching his head. “Wait so this couldn’t have waited until I woke up?”

“Oh! Oh yeah, it could’ve.” said Eric chuckling lightly as he hung up the phone.