Saturday, September 26, 2020
Home Claws Club When the end comes

When the end comes

              I have been making plans. A few.  Nothing much really. A trip to Switzerland.  I have always wanted to go there. I think I have saved up enough for that. A few mails to some long lost friends. Catching up on a few books that I always thought I would read but never did. Music. Oh yes! Plenty of it. That’s how I will be spending the evenings, now that I don’t have to be at the office.  I need to make a contribution to the orphanage too. I have kept aside money for that. Nilima, the lady who runs the orphanage, will be coming along to pick up the cheque. Oh, I forgot to mention the trees. I have already had thirty saplings planted. Seventy more to be done. That’s something I have promised myself that I will do. This planet will not survive much longer if we don’t do something about it. 

             Sigh! I feel good. I feel light. It’s been a long time since I have felt like this. I never knew that living life can feel so good. You know what I mean, right? I am feeling drowsy. Pleasantly so. Let me sleep. I can hear Sahib moving about quietly. He is doing something. Let me sleep.

                  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

           Why me? What did I ever do to deserve this?  I am uncomfortable. My head is aching. Sahib had brought me a cup of tea, some time back. I haven’t touched it.  He had brought in the newspaper too. I haven’t read it either. Who cares what’s happening in the world? The world hasn’t cared about me, has it? If it had, I wouldn’t be in this state. 

           “Now don’t be a grouch,” I can imagine  Shireen’s gentle voice admonishing me. I am not being a grouch. I am just hurt, depressed and angry. I have told her this many a time. She never replies. She merely takes my hand in hers and squeezes it tightly.  And then I put my head on her lap and sob like a child. Sometimes, she too cries. Most of the time, she appears strong. 

           It’s funny, the way my mind oscillates.  Last evening, I was on a high. It was perhaps because, I had spent the day, listening to motivational talks by spiritual leaders. The small peg of alcohol that I had treated myself to, had also played its part. Now, I am back in the doldrums again. I just don’t seem to be able to manage my mind anymore.

             I pick up my phone and browse through the messages.  Ali’s daughter is leaving for the US next month.  Everyone in the group is congratulating him. Raj says he won’t be able to attend the party tomorrow because he is suffering from a cold. I give a smile wryly. As if a common cold is reason enough to miss a party. People are yet to understand what suffering is all about.

            Ask me. I know all about it. I have been enduring it for the last six months.  The pain is excruciating at times. If only someone was there with me to share it. I know that sounds terrible, but you do understand, don’t you? The pain. The loneliness. The fear. 

           I can feel a wave of nausea rising within me. I need to think about something else. I turn on the television.  I have been following the news channels pretty closely of late. It makes me feel good to know that the world isn’t a lovely place.  It somehow eases the pain of having to let go of it.   

                            …………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

           I have made at least a dozen calls, first to Rishi, who reports for The Daily Tribune and then to several other guys. The news that I just heard on television isn’t a sensational piece of journalistic fiction. It’s true  – a truth that has been officially confirmed. I suddenly feel at a loss. I surf through the news channels to pick up leads regarding the story. I am not sure how to react. There have been volatile reactions from several quarters though. There is agitation, anger, fear, tears. There have been large scale protests in several places, demanding an explanation for the situation. How could the authorities have allowed this to happen.? Why was nothing said about this earlier? Could it not have been averted? Science has advanced by leaps and bounds, right?  Can’t something be done. 

          I can understand their feelings. The news has come like a bolt from the blue. It will take them a while to get used to it. I had reacted in much the same way when the doctors had told me that I had no more than a year to live.  It has taken me over six months to reconcile myself to the ugly truth. The Prime Minister is addressing a Press Conference. He is asking the people not to panic. I smile cynically. How does one not panic under such circumstances? He is fumbling over his words and his voice is wavering.  

          Sahib is sitting on the footstool beside my bed, fear writ large on his face. He has forgotten to give me my tablets. Should I ask him? He has been calling his family members to give them the news. There have been mixed reactions among them though. Some of them have laughed it off.  Such nerds. The village priest has assured them that no such thing is likely to happen. The whole idea, according to him is bizarre. Sounds sensible, but then, science too is pretty much rooted in sense, right? I hobble across to the dining area to fetch some water. I was supposed to have my medicines an hour ago. 

                             ……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

          The world has been told that it is going to die.  It is a strange feeling. Dying alone is different. It is scary and horrifying. You can see death with its ugly claws inching slowly towards you, stealing one breath at a time till you are left with none. Loved ones watch you slip away, each day. They cling to you, like the tubes that hold onto you to keep you alive.  Candles are lit and bells are rung. But you are always on the other side. Alone. And then one day, you leave. Just like that. You leave a trail of memories, to be encased within a frame. There are people left behind, to mourn for you. But this is different. The entire planet is staring blankly into a vast abyss of nothingness. 1645YL14Ranjit is no mere number. It is a diabolic mass of silicon and metal, half a mile –wide, possessing some 20 kilotons of energy, hurtling towards the earth at a speed of some 40,000 miles per hour. They have said that the earth is never going to see another sunrise, after the 12th of  June, this year. The asteroid will be striking the earth, in the wee hours of that day.

                         ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

                 The world leaders are meeting in New York at 5.30 this evening, IST. As if it’s going to matter – this IST business. Time will cease to exist soon, anyway.  Scientists from NASA and ESA too will be present at the meeting. Incidentally all space research organisations, the world over have come in for a lot of flak. How could they not have foreseen this catastrophe? Well, there is an inside story. Apparently several governments, who were in the know, chose to keep it under wraps. The asteroid had been detected three years ago but those in power didn’t want to create a panic. They had urged the space agencies to quietly work out a solution. They were sure something would be done.                                          

                  ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

                     Prayer meetings are being held every day in our city. It is interesting to note how religious organizations, even the warring ones, are coming together. I have been too unwell to attend these meetings though. I spend my time reading and watching television. Sahib spends a lot of time weeping.  He lives in the city and has had a greater exposure to the current state of affairs than his relatives in the village. He knows the asteroid is real. Poor chap. He is torn between his desire to go home and the need to be with me – his employer, friend, philosopher and guide for the last ten years. 

                  I did think of asking him to go but Shireen screamed at me when I put forth the idea. Shireen, by the way is the girl I never married. I have always had a commitment phobia. So we remained good friends.  Now that there are greater things to fear, I feel inclined to propose to her. It would be nice, right? A wedding just before Doomsday. I laugh. A lot of couples are getting married. They want to seal their love before they die. In fact, a lot of families are spending lavishly on these weddings. The more I think of it, the more I want to get married. Nothing elaborate. Just a private ceremony.

                     Shireen has become quiet. The idea of the world coming to an end is scaring her. Her mother, on the other hand, is far more pragmatic. According to her, this was bound to happen, keeping in mind, the mounting evil in the world. Should I propose to Shireen? Her mother will balk at the idea. She never liked me. 

                              …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

                     I have come to the balcony after a very long time.  A pall of gloom hangs over the city streets and the roads are wearing a deserted look. People in the office have told me that the attendance level has fallen drastically. The employees are preferring to stay at home with their families.  A few are determined to fight. Fight an asteroid, I hear you ask. No, no. They are protesting against the failure of the government machinery to avert the catastrophe. Occasionally, we have frenzied groups of people taking out rallies, candlelight marches and so on. They are trying to fight the situation, in whatever way they can. 

                        Meanwhile, we have been told that space research organizations, are working on ways to counter it. A massive space shuttle will be launched exactly forty-three days before the actual day. It is meant to deflect the asteroid.  It seems they have been working on it since some time. There, however has been no assurance that the mission will succeed.   We just need to brace ourselves. I mean, the world needs to brace itself. It’s oddly comforting to know that I am not going to die alone. 

                    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

                     Arun and his family have committed suicide. They couldn’t bear the torture of waiting for death. They lived in the flat below mine. Interestingly, the media has been conspicuous by its absence.  The police had hung around the apartment for a day or two and then left. No point, the constable said. I agree.

                     I finally picked up the courage last evening,  to propose to Shireen over the phone. I don’t think she quite understood what I was saying.  My voice sounded feeble, even to my ears. She asked me to go to sleep. I shall propose to her again this evening when she comes over.

                  ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

                    Shireen is looking beautiful today.  She is dressed in a blue chiffon saree, with big danglers hanging from her earlobes.  It’s hard to take my gaze off her. I teasingly ask her if she is planning to seduce me. She shrugs. She says with a serious face, that since we do not have much time left,  she has decided to wear all her designer clothes and jewelry. She holds my gaze with an intensity that was never there before. I look away, clear my throat and then tell her what I have been rehearsing in my mind since a week .

                  There is  a flicker of emotion on her face. I would love to gather her in my arms, but I can barely get up from the couch. Suddenly, she moves over to my side and lays her head on my chest. I hold her tightly and let my tears blend with hers. 

                …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

                                                  Death be not proud, though some have called thee

                                                 Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ……………………..  ( John Donne )

                       The Countdown has begun.  Exactly ninety hours ago, the space shuttle was launched to counter the monstrous rock that has been steadily hurtling towards Planet Earth. The next three hours will determine the destiny of around 7.7 billion people. They will either survive or be wiped off the face of the earth.  People across the globe are glued to their television sets. One World One Family. The words suddenly flash across my mind .  I can hear the rising crescendo of prayers being chanted. 

                       I am in the balcony. Shireen is beside me, her head resting on my shoulder, our fingers entwined. The street below is dark and the air is heavy. I plant a gentle kiss on her forehead and continue to gaze at the sky.  She snuggles closer to me. Death couldn’t be sweeter. In the distance. I can hear the news channels giving updates. The space shuttle is expected to deflect the asteroid in another couple of hours. If things go well, the asteroid will be deflected.  Or else ….  

                      It makes no difference to me, though.  But somehow, I want the world to live. I want people to wake up tomorrow and see the sunrise.  I don’t mind making my onward journey alone. I have seen people weep in the last few weeks. It’s been painful. I, at least have reasons to go. They don’t. Lord, I hope they don’t die. 

                    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

           Three minutes to go ……………………

                         They have lost contact with the space shuttle. At exactly 2. 14 AM, IST, the screens had blanked out. There is an eerie silence all around. I am still holding  Shireen’s hand. The air around is getting heavier. So is my breathing. I am feeling claustrophobic. I look around. She seems to have fallen asleep.  A wave of panic is rising within me. The stars are fading away. So are the sounds. A strange inexplicable force seems to be pulling me away and I find myself swirling in the air. I can’t speak anymore. My voice is getting choked and I think I am falling. A haze has gathered all around and somewhere in the midst of it all, I see tongues of flames shooting up to lick the skies. Has the end come? I am not sure. All I know is that I am sinking into an endless abysm.

Photo By: Casey Horner

***

This is an entry for #Countdown, a Beaks and Claws Club exclusive event. Check out the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/room8/countdown/

Room8 appreciates your rating the story out of 10 in the comments.

Previous articleThe Chosen One
Next articleTHE SALVATION ASSESSMENT
Jayashree Pillai
Jayashree Pillai
Jayashree spends half her day tearing her hair in frustration, wondering why kids these days just don't get their tenses and prepositions right. Once she calms down and the horns disappear, she is genial, warm, friendly and smiling. She hates to sit idle and enjoys a whole lot of things which include cooking and gardening but her knowledge is pretty limited in those areas. So she is actually an amateur in the purest sense.
- Advertisment -

Don't Miss

Games At Twilight

Adare, County Limerick  2020 “Something 'bout this photograph takes me back in time,” said the retiring Inspector. He was looking down at the contents of his...

To Be Or Not To Be!

In the days of yore, there lived King Chaucer who hailed from the House of Fame and ruled over the kingdom of Canterbury. He...

Seven Happy Kids

How often is it that you see some kids playing and feel nostalgic? Blissful, Isn’t it? Well, this is a simple and sweet story...

At stake

Seven girls were chosen from the village.  The requirements were exacting and the priest wouldn’t settle for anything less. Chaste virgins with no impure thoughts...