FICTION/ SHORT STORY
When I got into the college few years back I’ve never wanted to join this so called revolutionary movement, as ‘they’ are still claiming it day in day out over the speakers at the college campus.
But as the numbers grew, more of them started becoming overtly aware of the general system of education. They wanted everything more efficient and well organized. But, everything comes at a cost, and there wasn’t much change of scenario here either.
So as a result, the environment and the people around me started changing. More often than not, slogans would tear through the educational air followed by the claps of the ‘revolutionaries.’
They were the kind of people who belonged to the system and don’t at the same time. We can see them attending classes at the same time protesting against it. They wanted others to boycott classes but themselves were far away from boycotting it.
As I have said earlier, I never fancied them but, was compelled to join ‘their’ movement, as it was necessary for surviving in the worst days.
I can still remember that day very well.
Frequent showers from the morning had kept the summer temperature in check and there was a lot of humidity in air. It was one of those lazy summer afternoons, when people would generally prefer to have a nap than dragging their body on the streets chanting the slogans repeatedly in their high pitch voices.
But, being a part of this, I was no exception. As a result, I ended up doing the same covered in sweat and getting drenched in the light showers. My throat was dry and the weariness was visible on my visage.
“Boycott the whole system!” Came the voice through the speakers.
“What have we got from our government?”
“They have always tried to supress our voice. But they don’t know that, we are united!”
I kept dabbing my handkerchief over my sweaty forehead soaking in the moisture and was looking at the hundreds of weary faces, waiting for this to end.
“You don’t seem interested in all this.” someone called from behind.
This was more of a statement than actually a legit question. Lazily, I turned around to see a girl slightly shorter than me, smiling.
“Are you interested in all this?” I asked.
“Yes and No.” she replied rolling her eyes. Surprisingly the smile never left her face, as if someone has fixed it permanently.
“I have no fancy in them. By the way what are your reasons?”
“Yes, because the system has really turned terrible, wherever we look we can see poverty, corruption and a lot of other terrible things I can’t explain.” She sighed and took a brief pause.
Then her face lit up once again. The smile returned as if it had never left her face.
“And no, because the people standing there should move their ass out from here and go and study and change the system. Violence can never be a solution.”
“It’s your turn now!” She said, nudging me.
“I don’t know, if there is a way not to support them.”
“The same goes for me.”
This was the first time in the whole day, I did not regret being here. We walked, side by side through the crowd of people, who still stood their listening to the revolutionaries.
Her hair was tied in a bun, and there was a small tattoo peeking from under her sleeve. It felt, as if I have known her forever. Yet the dissimilarities were more frequent than those topics we could mutually settle on.
While crossing an intersection, moving farther away from the crowd, she asked me,
“Do you dream of something?”
“Yes nightmares.” I replied honestly.
She laughed for some time, before recovering and then abruptly stopped in the midway. Her eyes fixed on the No-Parking sign on the other end of the road. She seemed lost.
“I dream of living a life, like everyone else.” She closed her eyes momentarily and her voice trailed off.
I decided not to ask her anything about that, as it might be intimidating for her. Silently, we walked towards the police picket, where we saw hundred odd policemen, in full armoured suit standing in position, waiting to break in any moment.
“Afraid of dying, are you?” I asked her looking at them.
“If I was you, that thing would have been justified. But misery has always been by my side, so life has not given me the choice to be afraid of death.”
We were about to turn and head back to the place from where we have come, when all of a sudden, the screeching of the megaphone being turned on, was heard from the police van.
“If you have any arms, drop it immediately and surrender!” The voice screamed through the megaphone.
“We will show no mercy to all the people standing here if you all don’t follow what we say!”
I looked at her briefly for a moment and saw her standing there absolutely still smiling with pressed lips. I felt as if she was curved out of stone. I could only see her breasts rising and falling as she was inhaling and exhaling, except that, everything was still.
Strands of hair her was scattered all over her face, and there was a scar on her shoulder which was peeking out from under the neck of her tee. I looked at it for a long time, before she abruptly turned away from me. Afraid that I have done something wrong, I looked at the greenery and towards the sky, only to notice it wasn’t dark anymore.
The cry of the students in unison was becoming louder, as they marched towards the barricade. The megaphones from both the sides were blaring out random comments, opinions and instructions.
“Demolish the government!”
“Demolish the system!”
The slogans tore through the summer air, as the police, took position before the attack.
“Steel knife.” Came the voice from beside me.
I looked at her, and this time, she was not making any attempts to hide her scar.
“Do you know how much I hate, being this vulnerable to any human?” her eyes were impenetrable, as she spoke.
I gave her a ‘I don’t know’ look, and she sighed on successfully deciphering my expression of puzzlement. Her two small eyes darted from my face to the faraway marching protesters to the vast stretch of the greyish blue sky.
“Maybe if I die, someday the secrets of my miserable life will be buried with me and certainly, I never want that to happen. Never was enough courageous, perhaps to speak up, for there was the fear of being judged, and being condemned by this conservative society.”
There was anguish in her eyes, and the corners have swollen up unnaturally as she was on the verge of crying. For a brief moment I thought of pulling her into an embrace, but having met a few hours ago, that didn’t seem the right thing to do. I kept silent looking at her face.
She rubbed the corners of her eyes, with her bare hands and cleared her throat before speaking again.
“There is always a fear in me, that the person standing or talking with me, may inflict harm at any moment. Whenever I have closed my eyes, I can see the images of my past so vividly, that is when I stumble and feel the stiffening down my throat.”
Our hands, brushed against each other. Every cell of my skin, immediately became aware of her presence, and I wonder, when is the last time I’ve seen a human so vulnerable.
Giving her a slight nudge, I assured her,
“If you think I’m okay-ish enough, then you can tell me. I can promise you I will forget everything as soon as you end.”
She looked at me a bit too long, then all of a sudden snapped her eyes off, as If suddenly losing interest in me. I found her laughing, covering her mouth with her hands, and head bowed down.
“Thanks.” she said softly.
“I guess you are okay-ish enough to tell my tales.
So, theses marks are from the knife wounds they, inflicted upon me when I was sixteen. They were ruthless and wild. Just like an untamed animal they can prey upon anything and everything. There was that smell of dirt and piss that still lingers beneath my nose, from that dark room, four years back.”
“Who are they?” We continued walking back to the crowd of students, who had come forward and were almost prepared enough to fight against the police.
“I repeat” Blared the speakers from the police side,
“Stand down and surrender, or else we won’t show mercy. Things and issues can be settled over talks, we are ready to negotiate from the government side, now all you have to do is to drop your arms and surrender. Then we can progress!”
The screams of the students once again filled the air, and the police pushed the barricades further.
“I’m an orphan from birth. Maybe it was my fate, who had decided to play games with me, or maybe I am a faulty human who can never fit into this society, but was eventually introduced to this world in a cruel way. The people at the shelter house, never liked me much and always did ‘things’ with me like, I was an object of experimentation.”
Her voice broke off, and she was caught halfway in between her tears. I put my arm round her shoulder, for support.
She quivered for a while, before calming down again. I let my hands rest there as she didn’t protest. We kept on walking towards the crowd who seem to run towards us. There was a huge uproar tearing through the air. My mind was panicking and my heart raced, as I knew what would be following after that. She stood there firm and unmoved.
I was surprised and was a bit taken aback. Somewhere I got this feeling running through my body, that she wasn’t like anyone else. She would stare at the sky at times infinitely before speaking up again. All this while her eyelids would freeze just like ice. Her cold stare had a subtle peacefulness which was so unreadable, but every time I looked at them, the peacefulness would captivate me, if only for a while.
The protesters passed by us, so much possessed by this game of changing powers, that no one bothered to give a glance. We kept walking, my hands resting on her shoulders and chest was moving up and down.
“So, one day I woke up in the morning, and everything felt different. I was afraid yet the happiness was lingering from my mouth to my eyes. I told all my friend that the tomorrow will be different for me. The warden, who was a stern man heard me during one of these conversations, and pushed me to the edge you know. He held the knife close to my lips and dug the sharp edge with a little pressure.”
She stopped one again. And traced her fingers on her lips. It looked as if she was rubbing off the blood from a fresh invisible wound. But somewhere I think, the bleeding never stopped truly.
“Everyone dreaded of the red room. I was no exception. The girls who have once visited there, like a psychopath would change all of a sudden and they would fear even the simplest of the noise. I once tried to ask one of them, but as it happened I ended up being beaten up badly. So, I was compelled to tell the warden the secret behind my happiness. He calmly gave me a creepy smile and walk off. His eyebrows furrowed and the smile was flat like a table top. That night, they held my hair and dragged me to the Red Room.”
There was a pause all of a sudden. Her eyes were still closed and I felt that she was struggling to make the sentences to deliver. I looked back, and noticed that we have come far away from the crowd, and the hydraulic jets were spraying water all over the crowd. Tear gas shell would explode at certain moment and there was noise of people shouting and barricades being dropped.
“I can’t explain what happened there. But I was stripped and there were three or four people, who did things.” She sighed heavily and for the first time remained clung to my shirt gripping it tightly as if her legs were giving up.
“The next morning, I fled from there. I don’t remember how, but there was this nurse who was very kind to me. She would always nurse my wounds and would always sing me to sleep whenever I felt afraid. She would whisper into my ears, ‘Don’t give up kiddo, the world is waiting to embrace you in their arms.’ She helped me to slip into her uniform and come out of the compound. That’s it. I ran very hard that day, never caring about the way my legs were taking me. In this world no one is mine, and there for there is no place I belong to.”
I found my voice after a long time. The protest has calm down as majority of the crowd was transported by the police vehicle to somewhere else. No one cared about us, as we were slithering through the crowd of spectators disappearing among the millions once again.
“That must have been terrible. And look at me, always thinking about how terrible my life was.” She loosened her grip on my shirt and pulled away.
“I am making your life terrible now.” And her lips curled slightly as her eyes lit up once again.
“Less terrible than my life was before. And well did you feel good?” I looked at her my gaze fixed on her face.
“Yes somewhat. But better things are poison to me. I can inhale them, and part of me dies in extreme agony.”
“What happened after that?” I asked looking at the crimson sky.
The birds were returning home after a heavy work day, and were calling each other frantically to ensure everyone is safe. Throngs of people were already crossing the roads and were heading towards their safe heaven where they know the probability of seeing tomorrow is maximum. And the shops have already lit up and was gearing up for the late evening business, the last hope of making money for the day. We stood there like two kids in despair nursing each other’s salted wounds.
©Jumbled Letters 2018.