Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Knack - 1

I was eleven years old when my dad worried that his first-born son had the acumen for art. My art was on public display on every reachable part of the wall until they were white-washed when I was ten. I assure you, I had given up drawing on the walls a long time back, but my kid sister continued the tradition until she was six; sibling after all. Early on, I realized that I could cut stuff artistically as well. My parents were not very pleased with this psychotic perspective.

It was very disappointing to see my dad come home one day with the toy set, ‘Mechano’. Given my history of beheading tiny soldier figures, stuffed toys, and some dolls, I was already looked up on as a poster child for juvenile psychiatric analysis. The idea of buying Mechano was my dad’s brainchild with the view to divert his first-born’s attention towards not meting out capital punishment to innocent, lifeless figurines. I think, the sole purpose behind procreating my sister was their last hope to continue the legacy of our family sanity. But what good would that do, if the parents were parsimonious about buying new toys or clothes for my new-born sister. Even before they knew it, there was no hope for my sister. What good could come out of a kid who played with headless toys!

Coming back to the culprit in question, not my parents but the ‘Mechano’ set, I was hoping to see some drawing accessories or may be a potential toy candidate to perform head surgery on, but alas, no such luck. Of course, my disappointment didn’t creep in, until I figured out that I couldn’t do much with metal strips and Lego blocks and wheels. My dad rubbed his hand in glee seeing me glum. My sister who was seven had been brainwashed into believing that ‘throwing things’ is not a game.

It is in my nature to see if I could utilize any equipment towards my constructive interests. The Mechano set just seemed very lame, and didn’t seem to have any destructive potential. Of course, I could cut and poke stuff using those metallic strips, but it wouldn’t work as well as the knife that was beyond my reach in the kitchen. I had to think of something real quick, before my dad converted me into this Frankenstein creature that he had in mind. I shuddered.

I remember, as a school going kid I had a toy gun. My dad was not always an evil man; his goodness glittered when he presented me with that toy gun some days before the Mechano day. Apparently, the toy shop guys forgot to mention that it was not exactly a toy! It had a nice barrel with a mechanism that mocks cocking a real air gun, and then pulling the trigger releases the mechanism which hit a flat panel and that made a lot of noise. Brilliant!

For the first few days, the hearing of my joint-family members was seriously affected, but it was just a temporary phase. There was a random shooting incident in my neighborhood, much to the horror of our guests, my dad quipped nonchalantly, ‘Oh, don’t worry, that’s just our son.’ As their jaws attempted to drop to their floor, my dad helped them by adding, ‘He’ll be here in a minute. Just you wait.’

No, I have not digressed. The tiny nuts and bolts from the Mechano set made for perfect projectiles. My sister jumped for joy when I informed her about the prospects of ‘throwing’ stuff but at a higher speed than she could ever imagine.

The next day morning, the abolished gun was procured from the attic and we decided to experiment when the house would be relatively quiet in the afternoon after school. The hecatomb that was executed that day continues to remain vivid in my mom’s memory. People have not dared to peek through the peephole ever after, for fear of a ‘bullet’ coming through. The brighter side of the whole exercise was totally lost on my bird-brained family members. One of the kids could have gone ahead to win the Gold at the Olympics at target shooting.

I do not remember being gifted any gifts after 12. Neither does my sister.

I am good at sketching with pencils, primarily because watercolors were banned in my house. They said it was against our religious beliefs. That left me with no option but to sketch using a pencil. At thirteen, when all grandmothers ask stupid questions to every kid playing hide-and-seek, ‘Sonny, what do you want to become when you grow big?’ As much as I don’t believe it, but they said, one of them had a cardiac arrest when I said, I would like to become a painter. I was advised to mutter ‘pilot’ to such idiotic queries after that incident.

That was the beginning of the innocent conversion of a born artist into a code-wrenching, illogical, technophobic technocrat.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

BRNAD Solution Manager

The Godson

Friday, October 27, 2006

Twilight Zone - The Prisoner in the Last Cell

The prisoner sat upright on his cot and looked around his surroundings. It was cold and musty. The acute stink of urine and human excreta stung his nostrils. The hazy stream of light that seeped in from the tiny window indicated that it was nearing dusk but there was no way to tell. He felt light and fresh, in spite of the odd surroundings. He could see a solitary guard patrolling along the opposite corridor. There were books strewn on the floor, some of the pages were yellowed and the bindings were worn out. He wondered where he was.

There must have been some kind of a misunderstanding. He couldn’t recollect how he got there. He couldn’t recollect what he had for dinner the last night. His mind was drawing a blank. It was dawning on him that he couldn’t recollect anything beyond the time that he got up from his bed.

The prisoner was amazed at himself for analyzing the situation so calmly. His self-composure discomfited him.

‘How can I not panic, given the situation that I am in, right now?’, he thought to himself.

He sat quietly on the cot for what seemed like an hour before he decided to question the guard. Nonchalantly, he slipped his feet into the prison slippers that lay beside the cot and walked towards the cell door.

“Excuse me, Sir!”, he addressed the guard who was facing the other direction. The guard stood alarmed and petrified in his promenade, his thoughts disturbed. The cells were not lit; the corridor lights weren’t very helpful either. The guard walked toward the direction of the voice, slinging his gun off the shoulder. He had been positioned on Island Kiev’s 2nd quarters for the past 17 months and he had never heard that particular voice before.

Slowly approaching the last cell, he observed the prisoner who was motionless. The guard was nervous. He had never heard any voice from this particular cell before; nobody had. There was a mysterious force emanating from the cell that made him want to sound the alarm. But there was no act of aggression, au contraire the prisoner seemed calm, composed and still. A tinge of confusion scrawled on the guard’s face.

The guard had not uttered a word. The prisoner observed that he was being looked at as if he were a ghost.

“Who am I? And what am I doing inside a prison, Sir?”, the prisoner questioned matter-of-factly, “I don’t seem to remember much, actually anything.”

The guard continued to maintain his silence. With a keener eye, the prisoner observed that the guard was looking at the bed on which he lay sometime back.

He turned around to find himself in a corn field; a till lay at his feet. Dusk had made it’s way through, and the sky twinkled with the stars. The sudden change of scenario would have been creepy to any normal mortal, but the prisoner seemed to be amazingly composed. He looked back but the prison and the guard seemed to have vanished.

He couldn’t figure out what was happening to him, but the fact that he was not panicking was gnawing at him.

Memories flitted back to him. He remembered the field; this is where he had fallen in love with the mute damsel. There seemed to be a faint murmur in the air.

The entire episode of him granting her the death-wish fell upon his mind’s eye. The memory of that twilight hour seemed to get vivid by the moment. He was still nonplussed about his identity, and what had happened to him in the past, and what in the world was happening to him now. He looked around for the tree where he had first spotted her, sitting quietly, motionless.

The sky had progressively darkened, but he spotted the solitary tree camouflaged with a mountain in the background. With a desultory mind, he ran towards the tree, not knowing what to expect.

And there she was, sitting just as before, with a tear that seemed to have frozen in it’s place. She didn’t look up this time.

He approached her carefully. She didn’t seem to notice. She wasn’t talking to him through his thoughts as before. In fact, she didn’t seem to realize that he was standing by her.

His thoughts were disturbed by the noise of approaching footsteps. They both looked in the direction of the beholder.

For the first time, in the past one hour of his existence, the confounding transition from the prison to the field, his eyes widened in shock.

The prisoner found himself staring at a person clad in cotton robes, who seemed to be him, now uttering, “Are you hurt in anyway, my dear lady?”.

He turned around to look at the damsel, and almost took a step back to find the damsel looking straight at him. He wasn’t sure whether the damsel was looking at him, or his memory-figure who was standing right behind him.

He took a step aside, and her eyes followed him. “I can see you, Brad.”, she spoke gently. The name struck him like thunder, giving rise to a multitude of memories, none of which he could place a finger on. It was confusing and contradicting.

“You are … Cleo?”, Brad stuttered. That was the only other name he could think of at that moment. He had romanced her in 2 worlds, and this one was one of them.

“And you thought we would never meet?”, she mocked him like she used to. Slices of memories came back to him in bits and pieces.

“What exactly is happening to me now? What happened in our past? I can’t seemed to remember anything. I don’t feel good about myself anymore”, his frustration writ large on his face.

She smiled coyly, picked up her veil, and walked to his memory-figure. “Meet me yonder.”, she beckoned. He knew how it was going to end already.

He turned around to stop her, only to find himself staring at the guard at the prison again. He almost took a step back in shock. His mind was slowly churning into frenzy. He still didn’t understand what was happening to him. The guard was opening the door, still looking at the bed.

He turned his head in the direction of his bed. For the first time, he felt fear. His body was lying on the bed. Lifeless.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ten - Four. Never Nine - Five.

The radio crackled, before the voice came along. Brad winced in his sleep, as he lifted a lazy eyelid to check the time. The digital clock blinked 3.43am.

"Base to Lover. Base to Lover.", Leonard's voice boomed through the night eradicating options of any further sleep. Leonard was the ranking officer in charge that night, and he wouldn't call if the situation didn't really demand it. If he answered the call, he knew he probably wouldn't be goin' to bed anytime soon.

"Yeah. Lover to Base. This better be important, Leonard.", Brad said as he started to get up from bed.

He kept the radio by the sink, as he splashed water onto his face.

"We have a situation, Brad." When was there never a situation, Brad thought to himself. He resigned to the fact that he would be sitting in front of his much hated computer real soon. "Brad, you there?"

"Yeah. What seems to be the problem?", Brad dabbed a bit of the cologne around his temples, as he put on his dark blue cardigan.

"There seems to be a problem with the communication radios. I have lost contact with all my men." Aaah, drats. "Al's waiting outside your front door, the engine's running."

To a quiet neighbor, it would have looked fishy, but the Lincoln Signature series didn't make any noise at all. You wouldn't know whether you were driving or parked. It was that quiet.

"How's it goin', Al?", Brad hopped into the front seat, as he always did. Getting into the back-seat was not his style of getting chauffered around. Al gave his customary nod, as he always did.

Al pulled the Lincoln into the reserved parking lot, as Brad ran into the base station. The catastrophe seemed evident as he walked into the room. Not many lights were blinking on the blue screen.

"They have just disappeared. Poof!", Leonard was right behind him. It's been like that for the last one hour. "Any luck, Matt?"

"Dispatch to One-Forty-Six. 146, Do you copy?", Matt hurled the communication piece towards the trash can.

"I take that as a 'no'", Brad rolled his eyes, moving forward to sit in front of the associated computer.

"AVA must have shut down or something", Brad thought aloud, as he typed in his password to log into the communication server. "I am goin' in, fellas"

You think, the satellites must have moved out of their orbits?", Brad hated it when he heard such illogical comments, but that possibility would have been his last guess. The satellites could have a mind of their own, and move out of their orbits, he smiled in his head. If that happened, they might as well shutdown everything and go back to sleep.

AVA greeted him with her usual, 'Hello Lover!' That was something he had programmed her to greet him with. His thoughts rolled back the day when the guys at the base station asked him to pick up a nickname for himself. He was clued in to pick up something nasty, something when said makes the hair stand. He remembered his colleagues picking up 'Vulture', the cliched 'Killer', 'C6' etc. He still thought he had come up with the scariest name ever, 'Lover'. Think about it, what's not scary about love, he remembered telling the others.

He smiled at AVA's terminal administration services, the GPS server was up and running. So, that's one possibility down. He would positively hate to wake up TinTin if the problem was with main server. Brad didn't touch that one.

"Somebody call the Wireless carriers, see if there is a problem with their links!"

"On it, Sire!", somebody barked in the background, just as more lights began to disappear from the screens.

"We might have a serious situation over here, Sir. We have lost communications with all our ships. We will have to face hell morrow.", Leonard chipped his unwanted panicky 2 cents in.

"Shut the fuck up, Leo", Matt voiced Brad's thoughts.

""Chill fellas, I think, I see what the glitch is.", Brad had logged into the main server, checking the plug points of all the supporting servers. AVA seemed to be misconnected. "AVA should respond suitably now.", He hoped, as he stared at the screen.

Nothing happened.

"Oh bummer!", Brad yelled as he logged back into AVA, the actual GPS Server got auto-disconnected the moment the main server was reconfigured. TinTin had put that feature in. He punched in the satellite password, just as TinTin walked in, still in his boxers and T-shirt.

"Dispatch to Two-Ten.", Matt yelled,"What's your Twenty, Sir?" Matt was asking for 210's GPS co-ordinates. "210 to Dispatch. I copy you, Base."

Matt replied, "10-4", acknowledging 210's position.

"Oh Great. Fuckers!", TinTin exclaimed as the lights started to reappear on the screen and heard 210's crisp reply.

Leonard looked guilty, "I am sorry, I just thought maybe we could need an extra hand. So, I woke up TinTin."

"Denny's anybody for coffee.", TinTin looked around, still rubbing his eyes, "Thanks so fuck, Leo."

Al got ready to drive the guys to Denny's, just as Huckle walked in, "What seems to be the problem, fellas?"

Everybody laughed out aloud, as Huckle flicked his middle finger to Leonard. Leonard just shrugged a 'sorry-need-extra-hand' his way.

"Thanks for everything, guys!", Leonard mumbled sheepishly as everybody got back to their stations, just as somebody chimed in from the corridor, "Leo, The President's here for some reason."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Waiting for Purple

The sweat on her arm that clasped Brad's athletic back glistened in the moon. He kissed her softly on her temple, before moving to her artistic ear. He nibbled on her ear softly, tracing soft circles on her breasts, as she reciprocated by making invisible scratch marks on his back.

Reaching out to the nearby night lamp, she turned the dim-lights on. Snuggling back into her comfort spot, beneath him, she gave him a very satisfied naughty look. Brad felt her heartbeat, which was racing a while ago, was beginning to return to normal. Their bodies had a magical connection, something that he had never had with any other girl. He hoped the night to go on forever.

She felt very happy that she had decided to be with him that night. As she looked at the moonlight seeping through her window, romantically she wished the night never to end. She leaned ahead from the resting pillow and planted a kiss, square on his lips, "I am so happy tonight." She moved her arms up his back, locking them around his neck, and pulled him closer to her.

Brad combed her hair using his fingers, kissing her forehead softly. He wondered whether her neighbors were disturbed by the wild love-making sounds. She sounded so sexy, he thought. Her moans were still echoing in his head.

She could feel him regaining his strength again, and she smiled, and raised a mischievious eyebrow. An hour back, they were passionately kissing outside her front door. If it hadn't been for him, she would have had him right there on the stairs. She thought about this as she smiled, ruffling his hair. "Smoke? Coffee?", she offered, tracing her tongue over his lips.

Brad mocked a tongue fight with her as he agreed to the coffee, and rolled over. She wrapped her torso in bedsheet covers, and rolled on to his back, lying on him, arousing him by her touch, and before he could grab her, she laughed and got off the bed.

It was in the cab he had made the snap decision to kiss her on the nape, as she was fumbling to fetch something out of her purse. The kissing stopped only when he regained his senses to tell her that they should probably go inside her house. The girl had kicked off her shoes onto the porch, all set to get it going right there.

He smiled, as he slipped on his boxers to join her in the kitchen.

"Am I glad or what I met you?", he nudged into her, hugging her from behind. She could feel him attempting to get the bedsheet covers off her body, but they were firmly tied into a knot. "Sugar?", she inquired, twitching her head as he kissed her between the nape and the shoulder. She decided to undo the knot herself.

As they stood besides each other by the window, trying to catch their breath again, she quipped,"That was good caffeine, I must say." Exhaling a stream of smoke, he smiled as he accepted the compliment. She chuckled as she noticed a slight blush.

The friends were the last to bid adieu to everybody at the wedding. The bride had cried inconsolably, but then she had to leave, the wedding was over. Brad had offered to drop his dance partner home; this was one terrific girl he had to meet up with again.

"So what real plans for tomorrow?", he asked her, putting an arm around her waist.

She had looked at him as he was supporting the bride, she also thought she had seen a glimmer of a silent tear in his eyes, as he hugged the bride good-bye. She had hoped he would ask her out again; she would have definitely not wanted to lose out on her dance partner!

"Well, it depends on what your plans are?", she blew her smoke his way.

The acrid smoke hurt his eyes, as they waited on the sidewalk, hailing a cab. She had lit a cigarette up, without even offering one. He had quit sometime back, but the urge to smoke one now was considerable. "I gather, you don't smoke, right?", she had asked. "Sometimes...", he lied, lighting up his first cigarette in several weeks.

"The last one week was fun, wasn't it?", the bride's best friend had said as they walked to the nearest coffee store to kill time until a cabbie stopped by. There were none in sight. She had to agree with him. It sure was fun. She had gotten introduced to him, hadn't she?

"Well, if you can survive without food, we could stay in this room up until tomorrow evening!", he said as he tightened his hug around her. She could go without food, she thought.

"So what plans for the weekend now that the wedding is over?", he had inquired. He could still feel her body against his as they danced a while ago. The waltz became jive, and then became something that only they defined. It was like making wild, passionate love, without sleeping with each other; celestial dancing, he had mused.

"Probably go out with a friend, go shopping or something", she had replied, stubbing out her cigarette. She didn't want any cabbie to come by now. She wanted to kiss him passionately, but she didn't want to come across as aggressive. She was partly convinced that he would attempt to make a move in the car; atleast she hoped he would.

"If somebody had said, that the week before the wedding was the most busiest of all weeks, they couldn't have been more right.", she thought as she sat in the spacious dressing room, as the bride tried out her gown for some final adjustments. The bride had mentioned that some best friend of hers was in town, and was coming to the dress trial for some reason.

Brad had arrived 15 minutes before he had said he would arrive. The bride had introduced them from inside the trial room.

He slipped off his boxers as he climbed into her bed besides her. She slipped her hand onto his chest, and then climbed atop him, nibbling away at random places; she had extended her hand then, "Hi, I am Purple, nice to meet ya."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Paris Unlimited - Chapter 2

The flight began it’s descent at about 6 in the morning. Brad did not get any butterflies in his stomach as most normal people would experience. He was so used to flying, that a flight take-off or a landing was as normal as drinking a good cup of freshly brewed coffee. The air outside the airplane was all foggy obstructing his vision of the terminal. He couldn’t wait to see if his decision of moving to a different country was a good one or not. He had admitted to himself that it was an impulsive decision, one taken in the heat of the moment; one that spread over 6 months.

As the flight captain took his time to bring the plane to a stop, Brad’s mind wandered over to New York. The clubs, coffee shops, the subway tunnels, the parks, the rivers, every place that he saw reminded him of Elixa. He knew that there was no escape if he continued to live in New York. He had to banish her thoughts in order to be happy. His optimism reassured him that ‘happiness’ was still an option; a choice that he could make. He decided to move to Paris for sometime. He knew he was running away from the place, he wished he could run away from reality. A break-up always brought out the escapist in him. He had done it before with Kim, and now he was doing it again.

Inhaling the fresh morning Parisian air for the first time, he felt alive after a very long time. The morning sun had burnt up the fog by then. With not much money in his pockets, or a very strong bank balance anywhere, he smiled at the adventure that awaited him in Paris. Bonjour Paris.

The first challenge came by way of placing a phone call to M. Hubert, (Monsieur gets shorted to M. unlike Mister that gets shortened to Mr.) his would-be landlord. M. Hubert had assured him over email that all what he had to do was to buy a pre-paid phone card at the terminal and place a call at a particular number. As he looked around for a shop at the terminal that could possibly sell a phone card, he thought of dear Ms. Cathy.

Brad felt guilty that he hadn’t got the opportunity to thank Ms. Cathy for all her help before he boarded his flight. Ms. Cathy spoke French and whilst in the United States, had acted as his interpreter in his search for apartments in Paris. Brad searched the internet daily for apartments to rent. He was open to being a roommate or a paying guest or just about anything that would put a roof over his head for a pittance. Every evening, Brad would sit with Ms. Cathy and the English to French dictionary, and talk to potential roommates who always wanted to meet him before they could decide on anything. Brad was beginning to resign to the fact that he would have to spend some money on cheap hotel rooms in Paris before moving in somewhere. And then, one fine morning, somebody had left a message on his voice mail in a thick French accent, stating that he would be willing to accommodate him in Paris. That was kind-hearted M. Hubert who took the trouble to place an overseas call to him, a month back.

The entire luggage weighed a total of 170 pounds, and Brad had done an excellent act of balancing them over one and other over the trolley cart. He trudged along, pushing the cart through the talkative crowd. Since he didn’t know the language, the chatter in the air, the music, and the announcements, all seemed like one solid ball of noise. He didn’t seem to catch any French word. Brad looked at the thin book that he was reading throughout the flight and a whole month before that, memorizing helpful phrases and words, but no word was getting registered in his head at that time. Clutching onto the trolley, he looked around for a friendly face.

A airport attendant walked by. Brad stopped her with a “Excusez moi!”.

“Oui?”, the female inquired with a concerned look. Like every other air terminal attendant, she probably got stopped a lot by tourists who didn’t speak French.

Without realizing that he had just uttered his first French words, he asked the woman whether she spoke English, in his own version of broken French, “Parlez vous Anglais?”. The niceties of attaching a ‘madame’ or a ‘madamoiselle’ were yet to be learnt.

Her ‘Yes’, seemed like the sweetest words to his ears. Enthusiastically, he asked where he could buy a phone card. In halted English and a very cute accent, she directed him to a shop at the terminal. Thanking her profusely, Brad started pushing his cart back to where he had started from. It had been exactly 30 minutes after he had claimed his baggage.

He stood in front of the pink phone where all the instructions were written in French, which did not make any sense to him. M. Hubert was informed of his flight timings, and had requested him to come to Opera using the shuttle bus, and that he would pick Brad up from there. Brad had been instructed to call M. Hubert from a blue phone and accordingly M. Hubert would wait in front of Opera in his car.

After about 10 minutes, Brad was beginning to doubt his visual capabilities, as a blue phone was not in sight at all. Continuing with his search dragging the heavy luggage, he was beginning to get frustrated that he hadn’t learned the language in the past 6 months. Right then, the blue phone peeked at him.

Brad stared at ‘Décrocher’ that appeared on the LCD screen of the blue phone. What could the phone possibly want him to do other than pick up the receiver, he thought to himself. Better safe than sorry, he fumbled through the dictionary to learn the meaning of the word. He struck his head, when the dictionary translated the unknown word to ‘Pick up (the receiver)’. Brad realized that he was beginning to fathom the depth of the iceberg that language difficulties would pose for him. It was going to be a grueling experience, but it was going to be fun, he hoped.

The phone card had instructions in English thankfully. Brad dialed the 4-digit number after picking up the receiver as directed in the 2nd instruction, the first being ‘to pick up the receiver’.

The next instruction was to dial the number that he wanted to reach, but he was interrupted by an automated female voice at the other end. She spoke in a robotic tone, but it was difficult for him to understand. Brad repeated the entire procedure of picking up the receiver and dialing the 4 digit number a couple of times until the female voice began to make sense, ‘Composez votre numero, sil vous plait’. Brad struck the receiver against his forehead this time.

He reached M. Hubert’s voice mail which presumably was asking him to leave a message. He realized that he would have to rely on assumptions, presumptions, and instincts to survive from here on. Brad didn’t realize that he would have to rely on a lot many more things as the future unfurled slowly and surely. He meekly left a message saying that he was at the airport, and would be at Opera in sometime.

M. Hubert had politely declined to receive Brad at the airport, as parking was extremely troublesome at Charles de Gaulle airport. Instead, he volunteered to wait at Opera as that would be easier. Without giving it a thought, Brad agreed to meet M. Hubert at Opera. Brad assumed that Opera was a place close to the airport and as per the instructions provided by M. Hubert, he was to catch a shuttle bus and he would be at Opera in no time.

It had taken a little less than an hour to make a phone call, Brad wondered, how much time would it take to find the shuttle bus that would take him to Opera. After traveling the entire length of the airport twice, he had discovered that ‘naivette’ stood for ‘bus’, and that he was one step closer to reaching Opera. All what he had to do was to look for a ‘naivette’ that would take him to Opera now. He looked at all the numbered bus terminals wondering which one would take him to M. Hubert.

Brad listened to the person who was helping a good-looking lady load bags into the bus, and then almost suddenly held her hand and started ostensibly flirting with her. He couldn’t understand the words, but the body language was loud and clear. The lady coyly shirked away, but the helper wouldn’t give up. Clearly, the non-French lady didn’t understand much of what her admirer was saying, but politely declined to reciprocate. Cautiously, Brad approached him for directions for the bus to Opera.

As if the words were bulleted for him on an imaginary blackboard, Brad stammered a ‘bonjour’ and waited for a customary ‘bonjour’ response, the norm in France.

“Je voudrais naivette Opera.” That sentence, if directly translated in to English would be, ‘I would like bus Opera’.

The amorous guy refused to comprehend the grammatically incorrect sentence forcing Brad to make himself more clear. Undeterred, Brad persisted with more grammatically incorrect sentences and incorrect spellings in his head, ‘Naivette Opera? Vous Connais’. Adding the extra, supposedly, ‘you know?’ The man just looked away. Brad scanned the area for somebody who would probably be more helpful than the helper standing in front of him.

(To be continued...)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Twilight Zone - The Entity

Cleo stared at the AIM window that said 'Hey there!' from some id that read 'bradmcn'. She couldn't place that name anywhere. With a finger running along her eyebrow, she thought of the possibility of 'bradmcn' being the commentator who had been commenting on her blog for sometime now. Her 'IN' box on her desk didn't have any files, so she was relatively free until the next file came in. She toyed with the idea of ignoring the IM entity, but the sun was shining bright, and the breeze was cool, "Oh...what the hell!", she thought to herself as she punched in, "Hey you!". Before she could hit the enter button, another message popped up, "Anybody home!?". She clicked enter.

That was the last depressing week of December, and the unknown AIM entity had grown to be a regular feature every morning at work. She knew he was on the other side of the world because he said so, but she hadn't delineated anything more than that about him. She hoped she was right about him being a 'him', but she wasn't sure. It was the internet, and nobody could be sure of anything. She didn't think of him as a friend as yet, she probably never would.

Every morning, it was entertaining to interact with 'bradmcn'; she found it easier to say things that she normally wouldn't talk about to somebody in person. For some reason, Brad, as he referred to himself, was quite receptive about whatever she said. He seemed to be online all the time. She didn't give it a second thought, but wondered at times, how can a person be online all the time. Must be some kind of an online geek, she mused.

And then, one day, Brad offered to place a call to her. Unperturbed, she waited hesitantly for the overseas call. A minute passed by. Her eyes darted impatiently towards the receptionist desk who was keeping the phone busy. She conveyed the message to Brad, and gave him an alternate number. She looked at the receptionist again, who was keeping the other line busy as well. She was getting increasingly irritated. She was about to get the opportunity to attach a voice to the entity that she had been chatting with, for over a month now. She wondered how he would sound like.

The phone call got transferred to her desk, and she whispered a reluctant 'Hello' into the mouth piece. His booming voice transcended her imagination, he sounded almost like the way she wanted him to sound. After a bad connection, and a short exchange of nothing, he hung up. She pondered about the unknown entity whom she had just spoken to. In their chats, he seemed to echo her thoughts. He seemed to say exactly what she wanted to hear, and she felt related to him in a strange way. She didn't know who he was, but she seemed to connect with him on a spiritual level. She toyed with a disturbing thought, but rejected it on her way out of the office.

On one ocassion, she found herself thinking about him, even when she should have been doin' other things. She looked out of the window of her car, as her driver drove her homeward. The breeze played with her hair softly, and she let herself breathe the evening air. She didn't mind the pollution then. She felt his hands play with her curls, and his breath on her slender neck. She didn't know what to make of her thoughts, but she didn't want to open her eyes, lest he drift away. Her fantasy was broken when the driver announced that she had arrived.

Cleo looked back at the empty backseat of the car, where she was a moment ago. Was she dreaming, or fantasizing. The thoughts that she had rejected some weeks back, kept coming back to her. Was this unknown entity a spiritual reality, or just a figment of her imagination!? The breath did seem very real. Uncomfortably, she wiped her neck and climbed the stairs to her room. She called up her friend who was getting married and completely forgot about her previous thoughts.

The next morning, on her way to work, the thoughts returned, when she felt somebody hold her waist. She looked around alarmed, wary of a male hand on her waist. There was nobody. Shakingly, she put her hand on the invisible hand, but it landed on her waist, and for a split moment she felt her hand being one with another spirit. And all of a sudden, in a jiffy, everything seemed back to normal. She was surprised that she was pretty calm, anybody else would have been paranoid.

She switched her monitor on, and her messenger showed the mysterious entity online as usual. She decided to ignore him for a while, but she knew, a 'hey' would pop up any moment. It never did. Annoyed, she pinged a 'hey' to Brad. There was no reply coming today. She realized that he could be away. She didn't think about him until lunchtime when he pinged her back. She smiled coyly, and the day seemed normal. Their chats had progressed from normal flirtatious to playful romancing. She didn't see any harm in this. After all, she wasn't at the losing end anyway. She would be happily married in a year's time, and she wasn't doin' anything wrong. She tilted her neck backwards to remove the rising crick, and felt a familiar breath down her neck. She didn't bother to turn back, as she knew who it was.

Days passed by, she was interacting with the paranormal on a daily basis. She was beginning to have her doubts whether somebody by the identity 'Brad' really existed. That night, when she was alone at home, she decided to place a call at the number that was given to her. A sleepy voice answered her call, 'Morning, Hey, This is Brad.' She heaved a sigh of relief, atleast he was real. The rest of the stuff that was happening throughout the day was just her figment of imagination.

The more she interacted with him, the more involved she thought she got. She couldn't believe this was happening. Brad seemed to be on her mind for more time than she had allotted. But she convinced herself that it wasn't her, but him. He was expecting more than what they had. She wondered what did they have, but no answer came to her.

The next day at work, Cleo opened her email, and as usual, Brad had commented on her post. The email in her inbox said so. She had gotten used to that email. She ran through his comment, and it wasn't anything special, but as per her habit she replied non-chalantly. And when she signed onto her IM, her partially unknown entity was online. She was beginning to lose her interest in him gradually. How much can one chat with somebody you just don't know. And she hated the fact that somebody whom she hadn't met occupied some of her thoughts.

That evening, Cleo called up her friend, she wanted to clear a disturbing thought. Was Brad for real? He sounded real, but did he really exist. Could he just be a form of thought, her thought! It left her with an uneasy feeling. The butterflies were stuttering in her stomach, as she knew she was in a for a long wait, until she heard from her friend in Vegas.

The next week, she stared at the unopened email from her friend. For the first time, she was scared, she didn't know why, but she knew she was. With a shaky finger, she clicked open the email. Cleo read what she didn't want to see, and couldn't believe what she was reading. Brad didn't exist, the number was unlisted, and was not associated with any service provider. The house address where he was supposed to be staying didn't match with any Brad. The company that he worked for didn't exist. She didn't know what to say or think. And yet, she could see him online. It was supposedly well past midnight, his time. She shuddered, as she felt a finger move up her spine. She closed her eyes in anticipation, as the touch moved up her neck and traced lines below her face. She grabbed her bag, and rushed out of office.

At night, Cleo stared at the ceiling with the nightlamp on. She knew he lay besides her, and it wouldn't be long before her thoughts would start playing games with her mind. She didn't want to resign, not as yet. She decided, she couldn't possibly have any feelings for an entity that existed as an intangible form, a thought that couldn't be expressed, but very much real as far as she was concerned. She decided to put an end to the story that night. She got up quietly from her bed, and tiptoed herself out of the house to her terrace.

The cool night breeze tinged her body, she felt the chill of the night as she stood at the edge of the railing. He didn't make a move tonight. She waited a while longer, she knew he would arrive. The town clock struck 2o'clock in the morning, and she didn't feel the usual finger or the hand on her waist. Out of sheer desperation, she screamed his name, and took a confident step to plummet.

Right then, he held Cleo close to him. For the first time, she could feel his entire body against her back. She could feel him parting her hair softly. She cringed as he kissed her on her nape. Her neck arched, and a 'No' escaped her lips. The touch behind her seemed to dissolve, as she continued, "You don't exist, and you have to go. NOW." There was no resistance as she expected. She felt the last touch of his fingertips on her back, as if somebody was pulling him away from her. Cleo knew it was none other than herself who was pulling the entity away.

She checked her email the next day, and there was no email. Brad wasn't online on IM as well. His phone responded with a 'Non-existent phone number'. All through the day, she thought whether the last few months had been for real or not. Cleo wondered whether she had dreamed the whole thing. She pinched herself, she yearned for the touch of the finger, a 'hey' on the screen, and she wanted to be away from it all.

To etch the final line on the epitaph, she decided to place a call one more time. Her heart sank, as she heard the mandatory female voice say, 'This number is temporarily out of service, or you have reached a non-existent number...', her thoughts seemed to follow an unlikely straight line, happy and relieved, yet hoping for a ray of reality. The female voice droned on monotonously; Cleo widened her eyes in shock as she heard the final familiar tone, 'Have a good life, Cleo'. Click. The phone went dead.