Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Symbiosis

Urban legends portray the surrealist painter Dali as one possessed by inner demons who haunted him with their nightmarish visions. Dali, they say, employed one particular method of capturing his dreamscapes - before a painting session, he apparently used to go to sleep in a particularly uncomfortable position, with a plate in his hand. Soon, he would be dreaming, his muscles would relax, and the plate would clatter down to the floor. Dali would then wake up hearing the noise, and with the dream fresh in his mind, would start painting.
Inspired by this example, I tried setting an alarm clock to wake me up at 3 a.m. in the night, a calculated four hours of sleep guaranteed to give me inspiring visions upon which to base a story. I woke up to a fleeting impression of blinding snow and skeletons. I got up, wrote the story which follows, and then kept myself awake, because I was too scared to fall asleep again.

We sit facing each other, Timmy and I. I stare at Timmy. Timmy stares right back, eyes bright, gleaming, the smell of tobacco and nervousness mingling. I make the first move.
"That was a nice one, Timmy!" He gives a faint smile, stares right into my eyes.
"Thanks", he says. Turns back, looks at the window.

Snow, falling gently, without a care in the world, regardless of sun and shadow, of the change of seasons, of happiness and sorrow.
Regardless of man itself.
Dr. Zhivago, anyone?
I laugh, a hollow sound echoing through our room. Eyes whip back; Timmy stares at me, uneasy, very uneasy.
"Where is Jakobssen?" I ask.
Yes, Jakobssen, the famous explorer, the first to stay alone in an Antarctic cabin for a year and still emerge unscathed, intact.

Timmy laughs, a bitter laugh. Makes my hackles rise, that kind of a laugh. Sick.
"I don't know."
And Timmy walks out of the room.
Something's wrong.

*****

Still no sign of Jakobssen. Could he be in danger? I look out the window.

Snow, whipping the ground outside into a raging sea of white, clouds of crystal forming all along the cabin.

And then Timmy walks in, a food packet in each hand. "Here's your lunch," he says. Perfect day for a hot lunch. I sit down to eat, measuring carefully each word that I am going to say.
"What's wrong with you, Timmy? Are you feeling all right?" I gently touch his shoulder with my left hand.
Up he goes, like a rocket, yes, jumps up and away. Eyes popping out of his sockets, tongue hanging out, panting. "Don't you ever touch me like that!"
I stare at him. Heck. It's his problem. I continue eating my lunch.

Timmy sits down again, far away from me. I feel eyes boring into me, that odd sort of feeling you get when you walk down a deserted corridor at midnight. Eyes, some hostile, some friendly, most cold, very cold, hating the warmth of your soul, yet seeking it like a moth seeks a flame.
I shudder, continue eating.

*****

It's my turn to check the barbwires. Outside.
I walk all around the compound, checking for holes.
Polar bears can be very dangerous, especially when cornered.

Three days have passed by. Still no sign of Jakobssen. Nervousness grips me like a vise. Timmy's still acting strangely. Yesterday, he refused to sleep in the same room with me. He says I scare him to death sometimes. Hah!

The snow storm outside has decreased considerably. I come inside, sit back, take a deep breath, and think. Why has Jakobssen not returned yet? What could have happened to him?
And why is Timmy behaving so strangely?

I stare out of the window at the snow.
Snow, pure as winter's heart, sublime, melts-when-you-touch-it. Tasteless, odourless, harmless. God's infinite mercy tickling our fur-caps.
And everything clicks into place.

Jakobssen must have got into some danger. Something life-threatening.
And Timmy suspects me.

*****

It happens quite suddenly.
Here I am, lying on my bunk, sleeping, dreaming of a land far away where there is no snow, no darkness.
BANG!
I get up with a start. And a shadow passes, right behind my ears. Sweep.
Quo vadis?

I lift myself off the bunk. Quietly put on my socks, tread gently towards the door of my room. Still swinging.
Something just went out of my room.
Or went inside.

I turn quickly, pick up the seal-skin lamp, watch carefully. No one inside.
Strange.

I walk out of the room, into the corridor. Quietly open Timmy's room. It's pitch-dark, not a single sound from anywhere. I hear the soft snore of a tired soul sleeping soundly. I light the lamp.
The snoring stops.
There's no one inside.

*****

Snow, softly getting crunched under my snowboots. Human beings, turning pure snow into puddles of dirty slime. I give a grim chuckle, walk on further.
I finally see it.
A big hole in the barbwire, cut cleanly, about the size of a man. I stumble back.
Stumble back and fall.

A grave. Somebody's grave. Somebody's empty grave.
I climb out, wheezing and panting.
Look at a piece of wood stuck to the ground.
"Armaund Jakobssen, 1878-19__."

The truth dawns upon me.

*****

Rush back into the cabin, panting.
Timmy's sitting on the table. Eyes big as saucers, full of terror.

I give him a big grin.

"Thought you could hide it from me, Timmy?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You killed him, didn't you? You killed Jakobssen, didn't you?"
"Are you feeling all right?"

I see the lie written on his face. So, pull down my snowpack, take out a rope, and look at him.

*****

We sit facing each other, Timmy and I. I stare at Timmy. Timmy stares right back, eyes full of terror. Staring at me, staring at my hand.
Staring at the Peacemaker I'm pointing at him.

"Why did you do it, Timmy?"
Probably the hundredth time I've asked him this question.

And finally he answers, with a smile, sad, mysterious, a smile of death.

"Because I was always jealous of you, Armaund."

Why is the Peacemaker in my hand shaking?

I stare at my right hand. Bits of skin, still clinging on to gleaming white bone, skeletal fingers snaking around the trigger..

I look outside. Snow. Always.
Snow. The pi and iota of my life. The biggest fundamental constant..

I look back at myself. Six months inside the ground can get anyone out of shape. Hmm. But I have a job to do.

A Peacemaker's a very good gun. Very effective. Very silent.

*****

We sit facing each other, Timmy and I. I stare at Timmy. Timmy stares right back, eyeless sockets mirroring mine, lack of nose coupled with mine, earless skull just like mine.

I look out of the window.

Snow, falling, gently, beyond the puny hopes of humanity, colourless, odourless, noiseless, tasteless. Pure. Nature shall win. Eventually.

Dr. Zhivago, anyone?

*****

2 comments:

Pravau Almighty said...

enchantingly macabre!

I am not able to fathom the continual allusion to Dr. Zhivago; enlighten.

Hemanth said...

U've been tagged