INT. RESTAURANT - NIGHT
An old lamp flickers, bursting faint streaks of yellow light. JOAN, 22, dark skinned, strong built, stares at CHLOE, 20, fair, freckled, her blonde hair propped by a polka dotted red band, as she stirs her cocktail. Chloe flips the pages of an old copy of The Double. Her fingers fidget and she is persistent on keeping her head down, trying to avoid contact.
So… how did it go?
Ah, to be honest, the book is pretty boring, I guess I'll have to return it back to the library. Have you read it before?
No, no, chum, I mean yesterday. What happened?
Oh yes, I reached home quite late, so I… just headed straight to bed.
Chloe shuts the book and places it on the table.
Chloe, I am talking about your date. How did it go?
Oh! Umm that… worse.
A hesitant look flies past her eyes and she bites her lip. Joan chuckles and brings the straw towards her mouth.
First dates can be worse, trust me. So what did you do?
Ahem, never mind.
Come on, chum, did you guys talk?
Joan sips her drink taking large gulps.
Well, then what did you do?
Chloe looks into her eyes for the first time.
He peed his pants.
Joan spits the cocktail in laughter as the drink squirts its way out of her nose. She coughs and laughs again.
What on, (she coughs) you're not jokin', are you? (grabs a tissue and wipes her nose) What on earth made him do that? (still coughing)
(Clears throat) The bill.
(All her animation comes to an end and in her face a fixed stare) Oh.
I see… But he could have just slipped by the toilet and escaped, you know.
Oh umm, Joan, I did that trick before he could perceive the mare's nest, so…
The flickering lamp goes out.
Fade to black.
Dressed To Die
Ground shakes. Bombs detonate. Fresh blood spurts squirt on the red earth. Screams rise up from the bowels and die sharp with the click of a trigger. Severed arms and heads lay on the naked ground blanched with a ghastly shade of white. A Russian soldier brushes his face on his sin-imbrued sleeve, and sits on a big basalt boulder. Behind the rock she hides, wrapping her torn maroon sweater around the little boy's shoulders, pressing her hand against his mouth. Her mother had died, her father and sister had disappeared. Hot tears roll down her flushed cheeks as she cowers her body, for what could she do but put her head down and pray for Batman to jump out of her pulp fiction and come save her country. Death is coming, of that she was sure, but that part of her mind still questions, “What have I done my Lord to die?”
So his body was found shot in the head, covered in a pool of blood, but the gore wasn't his?
The Lord God Made Them All
A faint earthy smell of fresh petrichor lingered through the air like a magical serenade. Coal black clouds boogied across the sky, opening up so gently to pour beads of mellow raindrops which soon beat and bickered on the clean sunshade. Chelsea rested her elbows on the window-stool and cupped her chin in her hands, staring out into the night. Drawing a heart over the condensed droplets of the glass window, she pulled up the casement, allowing the rain to caress her delicate cerise palms. She then folded her hands, and brushed her elbows, strapping her satin robe a bit tighter as her soft flaxen hair horripilated like a million needles from her silken skin. Colourful bright umbrellas started blooming quickly down the street like azaleas at the crack of dawn.
“Kwarh,” her little boy mumbled in his sleep. She turned and sat on his bed, stroking his flushed pink cheeks. Pulling the edge of the bedsheet a bit up, she kissed his warm forehead and smiled as she switched off the lights and sneaked out of the room, not making the slightest noise. She walked through a series of white rooms with little furniture and went downstairs, her hand running smoothly on the varnished wooden railing. A big television screen welcomed her as she went into the main hall, moving her hands around her neck to keep warmth. Winston sat slouching on the dove couch, dressed in checked blue pyjamas which smelled of new fabric. A dark woman in her late forties, her hair arranged in an old-fashioned style on top of her head stared out of the 40 inch television. She had a perfect looking face with big brown eyes and natural black hair that was just beginning to grey. Chelsea brought her arms forward and looped them around his shoulders, allowing his head to nestle under her chin.
“My dear comrades, we were all born equally…” the Congresswoman’s strong voice said from the speakers. Her fringe of hair, cut straight across the forehead danced as she talked suiting her intelligent and sensitive face.
“That woman’s definitely winning the elections. Just too good at canvassing,” Winston tilted his head up, his blue eyes staring at the upside-down face of his wife. Her sandy blonde lines of thick eyebrows which arched down at the ends, twitched into a frown.
“Come on, what’s wrong with her? She’s a great leader!” Chelsea said, pinching his hand slightly. He chuckled, switching off the television set and turned towards his wife, taking her cheeks in his hands.
“I know you’re going to vote for her,” he said with a little rise in the corner of his mouth, a stocky sweet smirk. She scratched her head a little and rolled her eyes, turning towards the direction of the glass window where spurts of rainwater flowed down like the cascades of Niagara. Winston breathed in a little and stroked her anomalously youthful cheeks.
“Nice weather, huh?” he said, pushing a chunk of hair behind her ear. She smiled, revealing her fine, pointy teeth.
“I hope this never ends,” she said to her husband.
“Me too,” he whispered with a strange light in his bright blue eyes. He kissed her forehead and pulled her close to snuggle against his chest.
The rain’s white noise sounded like a heavenly timpani. Leaves and branches of elm trees brushed in discreet whisperings. Baby birds ensconced close to their mother’s breast. And from a distance a nocturnal observer watched them all in tranquil silence.
Strong, puissant winds swept the city. Angry obsidian clouds spat out gouts of rain. Gummed up rheumy eyes shut tight with every single cry of hers. He brushed back with his calloused hands the dark coily hair which curled around on her little forehead. Drenched all over and shivering every second, the rainwater stripped his shrivelled body to the bone. Jeremiah wrapped her in a piece of rag and held her close within his tattered coat trying his best to keep her warm. He shook her body slowly, sending her to a gentle slumber when bold colossal electric streaks of a bright forked lightning tore the sky into four parts, vaunting its mighty prowess, paving way for a violent thunder which rumbled and roared conjuring a new batch of battering blood curdling rains.
The little girl fulminated again into a series of unceasing cries as the tent roof toppled and fell to one side. Ada crawled slowly beside him, taking the child from his arms.
“Tis alright, sweetie, tis alright. Look a’ Mama! Look a’ Mama!” She tried comforting the adamant kid. Her eyes fluttered as she put one hand under her belly, feeling the boy who kicked from inside. She tore a strip of cloth from her gown and wrapped it around her baby. Rocking the child in her arms, she sang a rhymeless lullaby kissing her back to sleep.
“Will this ever end?” Jeremiah growled as the downpour increased, dropping down gallons of water-bombs. He put one hand around his wife and held her tight. The tent collapsed a bit more and hit his head. He pushed the polythene sheets a little and stared out at the street. A television set nestled inside a local retail store which sat opposite to their crumpled tent.
“We were all born equally…” The Congresswoman’s voice travelled through the sounds of devilish drums from above and into his ears. Jeremiah chuckled and tilted his head down, shaking it wildly.
“Sweedart,” he said to the little figure on the television. “We ain't born equally. No, we ain't.”
The nocturnal bird hooted from a distant cottonwood tree. It flexed its talons and pressed the bough of its perch and lowered its body a bit down. It then held forth its ankles, pushing the whole body forward and opened its umber wings, hopping into an astute flight with one swift leap. It set off into the buffeting rains and flew through the deep dark ebony skies. Under her lay a bizarre city, festooned with pleasure and pain, life and death.
Two lovers walked under one red parasol on their first date, the girl collecting raindrops in her hand and splattering them onto the boy’s face. A peasant sat smiling inside his little hut, its thatched roof crumbling down over him, thanking the rain, for now his crops would grow well. A basenji stood sniffing at the body of a refugee, struck dead by a lightning; died without a proof, died without a birth or death certificate and no one to care if he was dead or alive. A rich couple fondled each other, enjoying the natural air-conditioner, whilst in the next street a doomed family sat on the asphalt pavement, trying to keep each other warm and alive. An old lady grumbled about her garbs left to hang in the clothesline being doused in the rain. A Congresswoman pushed back the reporters and paparazzi who blocked her way and got into her matt grey Mercedes, smiling to herself that her speech would make the headlines. A weatherman stood on a busy street wearing a raincoat and was reporting into the camera in front of him that the rains were expected to last not more than an hour, whilst in the background a wealthy merchant cavilled over his business losses, not realising how lucky and blessed he was.
The bird went on soaring upwards and jiggled its body altogether, whirring its wings, shaking off the water droplets from its feathers. Funny, is it not? How many dimensions this world can behold.
Decades Wrapped In The Dark
Perhaps it was summer. Perhaps it was spring. But the same miasma of stinking sewage stench sauntered in here. The Suakin Island Reformatory, ah the irony of it, was neither jail nor prison. It was a place where sanity was purloined. It was the netherworld of eternal damnation. A building designed especially for those who got no bail and received no parole.
A thousand men, young, old, pickpockets, peddlers, poisoners, assassins, all incarcerated for life in solitary confinement, caged in separate boxes placed one above the other like a mucky beehive. Each cell was a hollow cube, barely four feet high; can't sit straight, can't sleep right. 115 concrete blocks, I had counted and counted and counted over again, ran around me, only to be broken by the thick metal door which had a little square with evenly placed iron bars, shut over by a wooden roll down through which they supplied two loaves of dry bread and stale water twice a day. And that too was cut off every time there was a mourning in the constabulary. A lavatory pan sat by the end of every cell, with no water supply. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t come here as a criminal, but if you go out, you sure will be one.
How many years I have been here, I did not know. How many men had died in this cell, I did not know. Standing on my knees, I clasped my hands together, praying to God, beseeching him to take my life. Sometimes I wished for these taciturn walls varnished with schadenfreude, to eat me up. Sometimes I would hold my breath and tighten the grasp on my throat, trying in vain to escape from this agony. Alone. Famished. Alive.
I lay there scratching the ground, with nothing left but my twisted spine and crooked body. Footfalls of cap-toe shoes approached. I put my hands over my ears, wringing them and hit my head on the floor. Someone had died. I pulled my hair and screamed as the sounds came closer. One day they'll come for me too, I thought, but why not today, oh why not now? The footsteps came to a momentary halt as they stopped by my cell.
I gasped, walking on my knees, inching forward to the tiny square. Jangling keys danced through the other side of the door. They only opened your door twice—once you're dead, or worse, for physical torture. The key made its way in, sliding through the door, making a total of five audible clicks. A final note of heavy clunk like a Timneh parrot rolling its tongue and mimicking the sound of a trigger on an empty gun resounded and the door was pushed open.
"Please," I cried, "I beg of you, please don't hurt me." Having lived in the darkness for many long years I couldn't open my eyes. I put my arms over my eyes, trying to block the rays of light that stampeded on me.
"Stand up, old chap," he said, hitting the ground with his truncheon. I moved my arms slightly, my palms still stretching forward in an attempt to obstruct the light. I could fathom he was a young cop, buzz cut, clean shaved, clothed in a perfectly pressed dark blue uniform. When I first came in they were in khakis. God knows when they changed it. I thrust my hands on the floor, standing on my knees and slowly placing my shins forward. As I stood up, my head hit straight on the roof and I fell on my knees again.
"Come on old chap, wake up. You’re being released! Your boy has come to pick you up," he said in a directive tone and walked into the cell, tapping my shoulder with his truncheon. This wasn’t real, I was very sure about it, but the pain in my knees argued the obverse.
"I have no son," I said, staring into his silhouette face. "I have no kids."
"Oh really?" he bent down, removing my handcuffs. “Then consider yourself lucky!”
"Water," I gasped, falling on the ground. My eyelids fluttered pushing me again into the pitch black void. He slapped my face thrice, grabbed me by the collar and shook me altogether. Muffled voices and fast-moving footsteps tried to wake me up, but in vain. The darkness could not be shaken off. And there was the pain, the pain in my bones. When they lifted me up, it ran through my whole body. My feet failed. I couldn't rear up. I couldn't move, speak, or open my eyes.
It could have been a few hours, or maybe more. When I tried to open my eyes I saw flashes of images. I could make out a burly man in his mid-forties standing in a distance talking to the young cop I first confronted.
"He was telling me he had no kids," he said to him, his eyes focused on mine.
"Ah, he's been here for a whole twenty three years. What do you expect him to remember? Did you try asking him his name? He would have probably told you he was never born!"
Chuckles followed as I turned my head, trying to decipher the place I was in. A car. A classic Chevy Kingswood.
"You ready for home, sir?" a voice asked, almost scaring the wits out of me. A friendly young man with short blonde hair, neatly gelled to give it a smooth look asked me, his head turned towards my direction, hands steady on the steering wheel. I did not know what to say. I did not know who he was. But for some reason, his face seemed vaguely familiar. I shut my eyes tight, trying to escape from this phantasmagoria. This will end soon. And I'll wake up in my hollow cube again. Scratching the metal door, counting the concrete bricks, casting about for bread crumbs, I'll be there again. Alone. Famished. And perhaps, alive.
Chapter 6 : Survival
They sat on their seats, all five of them, waiting for the ferry to take them home. A thousand hands scratched their spaceship, fresh blood splattering every second on the glass windows. Clint’s eyes widened as he saw little objects flying in the skies. Five jets were approaching them. Their saviour had finally arrived.
Clint clapped his hands “All set?” His fellow troopers lifted their thumbs up, two of them nodding their heads. He gesticulated something to Jules and he winked back. Clint could see clear nervousness in Dale’s eyes, but he would make it; that was sure. Their spaceship’s roof opened slowly as the sun’s scorching rays poured in. A little ladder extended to the ground as Dale climbed on it, his body working agile. Before the zombie beings could process what was happening, he had raced to his jet.
Margo went up next, fast and sure footed as the next jet opened its door for her. A few got hold of her arms, trying to devour it, but the thick fabric that covered her gave no purchase. Jules climbed right behind her, rubbing the sweat on his forehead with a wet handkerchief as a hundred bodies started climbing over the rooftop. Jules gasped, stamping on their fingers with his thick shoes and caught hold of the sliding door. Climbing in, he pulled the trigger of his laser gun as fifty creatures curled back like a tortoise into its shell. But that lasted no longer than three seconds. When the next jet dropped to pick Brad up, a thousand living corpses had climbed on the rooftop like an army of deadly tarantulas. Normally when there was a loud sound or huge explosion, mortal souls stayed away from it. But this was just the obverse.
Brad hurried, galloping over their heads when an orange haired man with bloodshot eyes got hold of his back-pack and pulled him down.
“Shit!” He muttered under his breath, thrusting his hands on the corpses undead when another woman with long bloody nails choke-slammed him down. These are the soldiers and athletes America wants, Brad’s thoughts surrounded him, only to be woken up by the sound of gunshot that came from underneath. Clint was shooting bullets from inside, clearing the way and getting on top of the spaceship. He hauled Brad back up to his feet, his fingers never restraining to press the button of the habile laser gun.
The old man stumbled as he walked his way into the jet when a little boy of barely twelve pulled his left foot. His fingers clenched tightly around his white boots and in seconds his teeth had prodded in. Brad’s face went red as he jerked away, reaching for the jet’s door, pulling the boy along, who was getting ready to take his next bite. With the little knife he held in his pocket, Brad cut his foot altogether, right above his ankle as his ragged breath started to sound moribund and waning.
“What the hell, Brad!” Clint shouted, only to be answered by the tight shut of the sliding door. The jet took off, carrying a single footed Brad Marconi as the final vehicle of hope came to pick up the last one alive. A thousand hungry beasts had gathered all around him, ready to tear him in shreds. Many had started climbing on the jet, banging on to its inky metal surface.
“A perfect checkmate,” Clint mumbled, rotating himself around, shooting with his gun as he moved, only to see a hundred zombies curl back and somersault into thousands. He slid his hand in his pocket, the other hand busy playing the game of life or death when something collided with his fingernails. It was Margo’s micro bluetooth speaker she had left back in StarShip. She always listened to senseless twaddles where people spat out fifteen words per second and claimed them to be beautiful songs of mumble-rap.
His eyebrows twitched in irritation and he tossed it towards the real banshees, still shooting with his gun. The switch had somehow flicked on and the voice of some man who probably had some problems with constipation started blurting out words fast and loud enough to make one go mad and damage one’s eardrums. At that very moment, all those nasty creatures left Clint in the corner and had started towards the speaker like menacing mad monkeys fighting for the last mango. Before their hands could take hold of the speaker and accidentally press the “off” button, Clint had raced into his jet and the door had shut automatically behind him.
He put on his seat-belt, breathing through his mouth gasping for breath. Closing his eyes shut he leaned his head on the glass window which the zombies were scratching with their jagged crooked nails. He could hear the pilot passing a radio message that Captain Raymond was safe and on his way. Glitching images of Carla and the little girl he never knew flew past his mind, breaking to dust and all he could perceive was her laughter calling on to him.
Élysée Palace, France
Flakes of grey ashes lay cold in stacks on the porcelain ashtray. He opened a new flip-flop box and picked out a fresh cigarette, placing it carefully between his dark dry lips. A frail old man dressed in a pristine white coat sewn with perfect golden buttons stood near him, his thumb pressing the lighter. He inhaled deeply as the sparks of fire hit the paper roll, hoping the nicotine would calm his rattling nerves. His dark eyes gazed from behind the frameless glasses at the grey smoke that grew taller, twirling into a fine line and drowning the room once again in the nauseating smell of carcinogenic stench.
A nimble young man with long grown hair entered the room, his cleft chin nestled in his thorax, fingers busy fiddling with a bunch of papers and a portfolio. His soles had barely stopped making noise when a gruff voice coughed as if trying to show some signs of its existence.
“Bonjour, Mr. President,” he said, his stare fixed on the silver brooch pinned to his pocket, making sure their eyes never met. He mouthed back the long dead greeting of acknowledgement, taking another deep drag and channelising the smoke to escape from his nostrils in two different directions.
“We got to know that the number of casualties in the United States have increased rapidly to almost seven million, leaving only a quarter of their total popul—” André’s words were cut sharp by the president’s gruff voice who interrupted, casually puffing his cigarette.
“Why, are we talking about the United States, Doctor Laurent?” His crooked black eyes stared discreetly into those auburn ones.
“They have it,” his sockets jerked as he tried to stare back. “Fighter jets.”
On the spur of the moment, those dark eyes widened in genuine surprise as his lips moved to utter words of “how many” and his fingers spread out, making impulsive gestures.
“Hundreds of them,” André said, almost whispering, his face beaming slightly.
Following a violent cough, his voice steadied again. “Why didn’t anybody tell me that our feud with the United States had died?” He wore back his usual expression, placing the half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray and pushed it with his fingers as it rolled to join its kin.
André detested himself for being so under a person’s thumb. He knew very well that someday, he was going to burst out, but he never anticipated it to be that day. “Mr. President, our only foe right now is this virus and its prisoners. This, you know, will mark the end of our race if humankind does not unite. We are never going to win if we gouge out old problems and make new enemies. Mr. President, this is no war of man-against-man. You can’t just sit there with your dead eyes, watching the world die and waiting for death to jab its fangs at you. Do something!” He exploded, not realising how loud he was and that he was slamming his fist on the antique glass table, shaking the ashtray and the little golden tumbler near it.
But Quessmann was calm as always, observing his lead scientist closely, admiring his speaking skills. These young men, he thought, they talk like they have brains all over their body and that everyone else is a dumb doornail. The old servant pulled the chair back as he raised from his seat. He turned left, walking slowly, heading for his chamber.
“Any lead on the Russian case?” he asked, not turning back.
“We’re still working on it,”André sighed, adjusting his glasses, followed by a pause, “Mr. President.”
The leather boots stopped moving, making way for Charles’ voice. “Perhaps you should send a message to the United States,” he said, his hands around the doorknob.
“That we need their help?” André asked, his voice suddenly transforming from angry to rude to excited.
“That we are ready to help them.”
Picture credits : https://wallpapercave.com/fighter-jet-desktop-wallpaper
Chasing The Birds We Made
She stared at me through her wide red rimmed eyes, unblinked, adorned by dark black circles stretched in perfect curves underneath. Her hair was unkempt, her dress torn, her skin all wrinkled and tattered. Those stationary irises looked at me as if engrossed by something inches behind my skull. I forced a smile and clutched her hand, my thumb rubbing her phalanges. Her cracked lips slightly opened to reveal her yellowish brown decaying teeth that crammed inside like émigrés in the last train. Her expression displayed no emotion at all, trying to convey the buried truth of pain untold. Her pale cheeks navigated in to divulge her classic dimples that talked of those days when none of us would have imagined her to become a sick seed growing in the dark.
"Seriously, you don't want me to walk you home?” I asked, standing on my knees, pushing the wisps of ebony hair behind her ears.
“Ah, darling, I’ve been in this shit for three years. I can manage,” she said, brushing my hand aside, her eyes glassy with morphine.
“See ya then,” she said, one hand, working on the wheelchair, the other waving to me. I hesitated, then finally raised my hand. This wasn't the girl I grew up with. This was not the June I knew. She inched down the sidewalk, using her hands to turn the wheel and propel the wheelchair that encased her twisted torso and a pair of bell bottoms covering what remained of her crippled legs. A few people on the street collided with her vehicle, but she never seemed to care at all. She heard, saw, felt nothing. It was as if the whole planet moved in turbo speed whilst the world of her own was put on a pause.
A few feet before her way, she could see a beauteous little girl, walking on the pavement, holding her mother’s hand. A red ribbon, matching her tiny boots, was tied around her flaxen hair in a cute hippie style. June smiled, her dimple smile as she moved past her.
“Mama, is dat a helicotter o’er there?” she asked, her forefinger pointing to the skies where a mini chopper came flying through a clump of white cotton clouds. June’s heart skipped a beat and she stopped moving for a while.
“Jessica?” she called out my name just to check if I was still there. She opened her mouth again, trying to call a bit louder, but before she could finish the first syllable, I dashed across the sidewalk, almost tripping, and pushed the wheelchair in supersonic speed.
“It’s going this way!” I shouted into her ears, turning the wheelchair right in the bend which led to the next street.
“Jesus, Jess! What on earth are you doing?” she panicked, her bony fingers curling around the handlebars, holding them firmly. “The people, they're looking at us!”
She spat out words in the air, her brain unable to process the current situation. You could count all my thirty two teeth in that cheshire smile that was plastered on my face.
“Do you mind?” I yelled, speeding up my pace, my head rolling up and down, fighting in this quandary on whether to follow the helicopter or to focus on the road.
“Well, not really,” she mumbled, slowly loosening her grip and tilted her head up to get a good look of the flying chopper we were following. We were close; in fact, we were ahead of them. “But seriously, how old are you? Five?”
I shook my head, letting out ripples of laughter blend in the air and replied, my lungs expanding, my legs moving like pistons as I roared up and down the sidewalk. “Darling, I don’t care if I am five or forty five. Aeroplanes and helicopters, they're my thing.”
She closed her eyes and spread her arms in the air, allowing the hasty wind to entangle her thick black hair. She then opened her eyes which now saw nothing but the endless skies of clear blue to realise that it was the helicopter that was now following us.
“Jess,” she cried as fresh pails of tears rolled down her cheeks. “I am flying! I am flying!” This was exactly what I wanted. This was the June I wanted to see.
I came to a halt at the junction where humongous vehicles usually moved on the main roads on a typical Sunday morning.
“I am Jessica and this is my friend June!” I shouted at the skies, looking at the direction of the chopper, my hands cupped around my mouth.
“Don’t forget us!” June shouted too, playing her part as the word ‘us’ came reverberating back. The chopper flew past us as we watched it go in silence with a childish gleam of achieving something big surfaced on our faces. We waved to the skies maniacally as if burning fires were crawling over our calves. We then looked at each other and moved our hands in rapid circular motions like a spinning top, making sounds of toco-toco-toco, trying to imitate the helicopter.
I sat on the road of tarmac, my hands stretched back for support, laughing out heartily. Pearls of sweat surfaced on June’s forehead as she brought forward her shoulder to rub them away with her sleeve.
“It was flying so low!” I cried, bending my knees up and wrapping my arms around them.
“I know!” she squeaked back, running her tongue over her lips. The pale cheeks had turned ripe red and the queasy expression had long disappeared.
“You know what?” I said, looking into her eyes. “Perhaps, I should do this.”
“Ah Jess, it’s alright. You don’t have to walk me home,” she said as her glabella sunk in to create tiny little lines that grew out to be furrows in her forehead.
“Oh yes, of course, I am not going to walk you home,” I said, standing on my feet, stretching my knees and dusting off my harems. I rubbed my palms together and clicked my tongue, winking my left eye. This was definitely going to my diary.
I was actually turning on my laptop when I heard this helicopter and jumped out of my room to watch it. That was when this idea crossed my mind. I have my Economics exam the day after, but I know very well that if I don’t write this down now, I am never going to write this in the near future. We can deal with the exam later, this is what matters right now. So here we are! Hope you all like it ^-^ And I better get back to studying!
I guess that defines everything.
Hi, hi, hi! This is Sanjana Sunilkumar, an almost 16 year old from India and I detest math.
A Rainy Day In The Clement Fields Of Glasgow
It was a tent made by the most chary hands. Curtains of blessed teal were spun around, hanging like flower garlands propped up by wooden sticks. Through the cotton mesh, he could see two figures outlined black, looming out from the radiant lights and towards his home. His knees refused to bend. Old age gnawed at his bones and solitude digested them. Thrusting a hand on his chair, he stood up with some struggle and inched towards what he called a doorway, his right foot limping. A dark-haired man clothed in a white-coat with a clip-board resting on one of his hands looked into the old man’s opaque eyes.
“Nicholas Scott?” the dark-haired man asked. A name tag that read “LENNY” rested above his pocket. He wore a bag on his shoulders, a red cross printed on it with fine strands of polyester. Dark eyes peeped through the thick glasses that sat neatly upon his cheekbones. A lanky young boy, probably in his early twenties stood near him, his skin covered in ephelides.
“I guess I am,” Nick said as his voice broke into a violent cough, leaving him breathless. His cough had hardly subsided when he inhaled deeply, collapsing again into a volcanic hack. The city winds did strange things to him.
“Come in, please,” he said, walking back towards his wooden chair. Milo, the young boy, pulled back the curtains as the both sauntered towards the old man. Sitting on a chair next to him, Lenny zipped open his bag, pulling out a surgical box. Two ampoules of thick purple fluid slumbered in it as he yanked open the metal container. He transferred the contents of one vial into a transparent rubber ring, watching the bubbles sink to the surface.
“Mr. Scott, so you’ll be wearing this in your forefinger. As you can see, there’s a tiny needle attached to its inner surface. Once it hits your skin and the chemical enters your body, you can go to that one place you’ve always wanted to for ten minutes. An alarm will warn you if your time’s about to end. By then, you can remove the ring and get back to the real world,” Lenny said, adjusting the rustic golden rim of his glasses.
“What if I didn’t remove it in ten minutes?” the old man asked, crouching on his chair, looking at him straight in the eye.
“You’ll be dead,” he said, placing the ring on Nick’s hand. His fingers curled around it as he pulled a deep breath.
“So where do you want to go Mr. Scott?” Lenny asked, his chin resting on one hand. The old man closed his eyes and smiled. A warm pallor spread on his face as he whispered those words. “A rainy day in the clement fields of Glasgow.”
Lenny smiled, his fingers tracing his jawline.
“Great memories, eh?”
He looked at Milo, gesticulating him with his fingers. Two markers, red and blue, were hiding under his knuckles, their heads waiting to jump away from his grip. Milo extended the blue one, turning its cap open.
“You can’t be sure—”
He pushed the ring into Nick’s gaunt finger as it sat comfortably around it. “Ready?” he asked, rolling his eyes watching him closely through his glasses. “Already.”
Dark clouds of gunmetal grey scudded across the livid skies. Nick watched them mesmerised by their constantly changing shapes. They grew dark and thick, saturated with water in its purest form. His wrinkles distended, opening his pores as the warm summer rain kissed his skin. Untrimmed maize fields grown wild, danced with the natural orchestra, their tips brushing like ghostly fangs. The pitter-patter perpetuated into rhythmic pounding as he tilted his head up, and opened his eyes, allowing his tears to sluice away in the rain.
He ran. His legs swooshing in the flooded fields. This time they didn’t hurt, or at least, he couldn’t feel them. He opened his arms wide as if he could pull the air close and hug it. A loud vehement scream absconded from his vocal cords as he spun himself around, his hands stroking the grass. Those halcyon days were resurrected. He felt like an eighteen year old boy in love again. After a fifty years of what seemed like an eternity, he could see the sun, shining like a golden medallion pinned to a sheet of tar-black. The world was no longer a shadowy groove. It was all alight; it was all alive; it was bewitching. If only, if only she was with him… If only, if only this was real…
The timer beeped, counting his last minute. It called on to him, loud enough for his ears to catch. But his body had sunken deep in the feigned trance. His thirst wasn’t fully quenched. He collapsed to the ground, his head spinning in the trippy haze, but clear as ever. A tenuous smile surfaced on his lips as he stared at the timer. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. What is better—to live a dolorous life or to die a happy death?
“Eleven minutes gone,” Milo said, looking at his watch. “You think he is dead?”
“Obviously,” Lenny said as he crossed out his name from the clip-pad with his red marker. “Seventy applicants, sixty nine gone.”
Milo’s eyes widened in genuine panic. “This is crazy!” he erupted, shaking Lenny by his collar. “Clever,” Lenny said, apparently calm, his body relaxed as usual. “Revenue and jettison. Hold these for me, will you?” he asked, as Milo took the clip-board and marker in his hands. Lenny packed all his things back in his bag, leaving a message for the capital.
“So who’s next?” The question came like something that was normal. As if it was his habit to unleash hungry souls into the gates of death. Milo rummaged through the clipped papers of crossed names.
“Applicant 70, Sylvia Waterman, 52 years, two blocks from here.” He read out as Lenny outstretched his hand, signalling for the pad. Milo gave it back, his eyes looking down, his lips folded into a thin line, remembering that everything he speaks is being recorded. This time, without hesitation he held it out. The red marker.
The Midnight Child
“I’m headed for a land that’s far away
Beside the crystal fountains
So come with me, we’ll go and see
The Big Rock Candy Mountains”
He sang along with the beats of the cold wind that blew towards the direction of the high clockwork towers. Loose and tattered threads made movements of oriental dance as he swung the bag like the giant swaying pendulum that now stood motionless near him. Sharp minute crystals of frost grew on its raised glass coverings, projecting upwards into the air.
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
There’s a land that’s fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night”
He peeled off his fake beard and slid it inside the old bag. The orange wig that rested on his head with the support of the beard rolled down eventually into the bag as he cocked his head to remove the plastic canines. He really was a different man without those cheek pads and the red ball of a nose.
“It’s Jolly, the joker!” they would run to him. He was never the clown children could be afraid of. He could make the most serious man laugh. He could do the trick no warlock could. Yet behind all those pranks and spoofs were innocent eyes that mirrored the shades of bright laughter and summery smiles. He was the real joker.
Twelve notes sounded from the city gong resonating the circus, each beat ending with a prolonged ritardando. The most beautiful phase of time. The very hour of typical Australian midnight. Jolly spun his bag around, making sharp, flat sounds with his thick boots and danced zigzagging towards the faucet that stood near the giant ferris wheel. Water flowed on his face, as he rubbed his cheeks with the back of his knuckles, washing away the flakes of his commanding make-up. He whistled as he filled his empty bottle, a whistle that went continuous and endless, sounding so unique as if the whole of midnight stopped to listen to him. The moon was magnolious that day, barring the clouds, sending her lustre take the form of a halo around her head. She didn’t shine. She didn’t glow. She was dazzling.
His whistle was cut sharp by the loud cries of a little child. His eyebrows raised, following the call that came from the skies. Surely, it can’t be the stars. He shadowed the cries closely, scanning through the graphite clouds. An eerie feeling creeped down his spine as he heard minor sounds of clinking metal. He read the skies, his eyes widening, letting out a knee-jerk gasp. The sound came from the ferris wheel.
The top carriage shook from left to right, going mad like a deranged elephant. He ran to pull the lever that spun the wheel but it was forced and tied with thick iron chains, all connected with a single intricate lockwork. He spread his fingers around a thick block of heavy granite that slept on a wooden pedestal near him, trying to break open the lock. But the moment it hit the metal surface, it crumbled to powder.
The cries grew louder pounding his eardrums, as he stopped for a moment to check if he was hallucinating. He rolled his shoulders, pushed the sleeves up, put his gloves back on, and climbed into a carriage. He stretched his arms outward and upward and with his supple fingers and climbed into the next carriage. His acrobatic skills gave him a hand as he mounted up and up and up until he reached the top carriage. His palms burned red underneath his gloves as he cracked his knuckles, all ten of them in rapid succession. He searched inside the carriage to find the source of the cries, till his boots bumped onto something.
He bent down and sat on his knees as he came in contact with two teary eyes that shone like freshly polished pebbles, washed from the sea. Jolly smiled, his usual joker smile and stretched his right hand into the blackness as a little hand reached out and touched his dirty blue gloves. A little boy, barely a year old, crept from the dark, struggling to stand on his knees. Jolly took him into his arms and with one giant leap, he vaulted towards the ground, rolling himself like a ball, making sure the boy was safe. The boy screamed, a loud ear-piercing scream which collapsed into a cough as Jolly put a finger to his lips.
He fumbled to find his water bottle and slowly glugged little sips of water into his throat. The boy ran his tongue over his chapped lips, gesturing for more. His face was red and pale with dry tears that rolled behind his ears, wetting his sideburns. Jolly loved watching his neck move in and out with every swig. He turned the bottle-cap and slipped it back in his bag. He let the boy rest on his back, carrying him, his arms looped around his neck.
“Ready for home, boy?” Jolly asked, closely watching his grey eyes spread wide open. “Aye? Okie then.”
He looked at the boy who sat there, deadpan, his eyelids fluttering from time to time. He wore a wide-collar, perfectly tailored pea coat with buckled leather shoes and tight socks that stretched up to his knees.
“A vest, a shirt, a coat, ain’t that a lot, boy?” Jolly chuckled. “Was yer name?” His mouth stretched wide, trying to weave words he knew but couldn’t produce. Finally he said something, hardly louder than a breath, but Jolly heard it.
“Yova,” the boy had said. Certainly, that can’t be a name. Jolly wrinkled his brows, replaying the movement of the boy’s lips.
“Did yer say, Noah?” he asked, with the newly found curiosity. But the boy shook his head and repeated his utterance.
“Guess yer got the sound wrong, boy,” Jolly said, scratching his jawline. “Les start from scratch.” It all began with Arthur and Elijah and trailed on to Luca, Joshua, Ezra, Tyler and all those circus boy names Jolly could think of.
“Edward?” he asked, one hand clenching his forehead in vexation, the other resting on his hip. The boy let out a slow whistling breath and his face lit up with a tint of rouge as if a chemical fluid had been injected into his cheeks. He smiled, revealing his baby teeth, and nodded his head in affirmation.
“Edward! Yer Edward!” Jolly shouted in delight, throwing his arm in the air. He joined his hands together, his fingers interlocking each other, holding the back of his head like a pillow.
“Yova!” the boy repeated, joining with Jolly who floated in the realm of happiness of cracking the cryptic name. He advanced towards the boy, taking him by his armpits and swung him around like on a flying carousel. The boy chuckled, enjoying the free ride, his face scintillating with eternal jubilation. “Glad yer din scream this time.”
“Grab yer papers, people!” he shouted at the top of his voice, pedalling down the placid roads of the sleeping city. Edward slept inside the bicycle-basket, letting out bonny little snores as a fine line of saliva dribbled down his coffee-coloured coat. Jolly picked up a newspaper balancing the cycle with one hand, rolled it like a barrel and threw it inside a house’s open window. His eyes were screwed on the little boy, never bothering to take a look at the headlines.
The sun wasn’t up. The azaleas hadn’t opened. The wrens were asleep. But Jolly was wide awake, his legs busy propelling the bicycle. “Prince Edward goes missing! Windsor castle in a frenzy!” The words were printed in bold letters in the darkest of inks, only to blind Jolly’s eyes.
“Grab yer papers, people!” he shouted, not knowing who he is carrying, not knowing he is being watched, not knowing that this is all planned.