The Dead Man’s Chest

The Cell

The cellar was dark. So was everything else. He spread his grey blanket, the brightest thing in there and tried to lie down on the floor. He couldn’t find a comfortable posture. He kept shuffling his body hoping to find one. But nothing in his body had remained straight. It had become slightly bent forward. His hands and legs appeared frail. His unshaven face was incapable of rendering any expression. It seemed as if lines have frozen on it. His eyes had a still look as well. They seemed the same all the time. Nothing surprised them and nothing made them feel awake. He said his prayer as he finally settled in his bed. His eyelids closed to cover his still eyes. They kept the same look even as his body rested. The darkness pervaded both, the cellar and his inner world.
He got up early and like every other day, finished his daily routines even before any other prisoner got up. He sat next to the bars and waited. Soon the silence had begun to be encroached. He sat in silence as the noise grew. Soon, the sentry was there and was shouting.
He kept sitting and looked at the wall ahead with his still eyes. Someone was approaching his cell. He got up and stood against the door of the cell as it was being opened by the sentry. He came out and joined the line of prisoners to be taken for daily-work.
He began to move as the gate was opened and prisoners began to stream out. He stepped out and moved towards the place where tools were kept. He began picking them up as his hands were held by someone. His hands froze. He didn’t react. He did not know how to. It was the first aberration in his routine in last five years.
Someone was saying something. But it was not making any sense to him. Worlds had long ceased to have any affect to him. They were just bits of sound to him. They happened in the same manner each day. They just meant that he should do what he was anyway going to do.
But this sound was not supposed to be here. It had not been there in past five years.
The sound kept on getting louder. He remained frozen as his hands had begun to shake. Something was stirring within him. He had met something unfamiliar and had to come up with a new response. Finally, he dropped the tools and looked in the direction of the sound. The frozen lines were trying to move on his face. He felt his face will break into pieces. His mind had begun to work overtime to understand the pictures being captured through his eyes. The still eyes were being forced to come out of their slumber. He saw a few bodies in uniform standing at a little distance from him. The sound was still coming from their direction though it still didn’t mean anything to him. The lines on the face of one of the body in uniform moved. It seemed to be smiling. He was horrified and quickly turned back to pick up his tools.

The Exit

I am very happy for you Abdullah, said the Jailor.
We all are very happy for you Abdullah, said Rahim the Sub-Inspector as he touched his shoulder.
He stood blank trying to hold everything being thrown at him. Sound had begun to be formed out of worlds. Though they still didn’t mean much.
You are a free man now. I know seven years are a lot of life. But many such years are still left. I hope you can start your life again, said the jailor as he extended his hand towards Abdullah.
He kept looking at the jailor’s face for long. The frozen lines on his face had begun to straighten up. His mind was trying to store all the words so that he can understand them later. Abdullah looked at jailor’s extended hand and looked back at the jailor. He instinctively grabbed his hand with both of his and shook vigorously as his face cringed to express gratitude.

Abdullah crossed the prison door leaving the jailor and his deputy behind it. The door was slowly closed on him. He heard the sound of it being locked from behind as his gaze was fixed on the road ahead. His body was still bent forward and he was feeling very uncomfortable in his new clothes. He tried to adjust his body in them to get the familiar feel. The clothes were loose for him. Years had made him thin. Irritated, he took out the clothes and held them in his hand and began to walk.
He was walking slowly. The road was empty and deserted. He didn’t know where it leads to. Not that it mattered. It was a new world to him and he was not liking it.
His pace increased as he kept on walking. Every now and then he will notice something pass by him but before he could respond, it would be gone. He was not used to so much activity. But he kept on walking. There was no reason why he should, but there was no reason why he shouldn’t either.
It had been hours since he had been walking. Things around him had begun to change more quickly. More people were passing him by now. He was able to make eye contact with them. But before he could see their face, they would pass him by. Some of them seemed to say something to him. But he was unable to both look at them and hear what they were saying. But he kept on walking.
The street was getting busier, and noisier. There were vehicles on it. He felt naked. He got into his trousers and held his shirt over his shoulders. He was trying to cross the road. As he reached in the middle of it he could hear loud sounds of horns. Someone of shouting at him. He stood there, motionless. Soon there were many more, shouting at him.
Who is this idiot, someone was saying.
Are, take him off the road, said someone else.
A policeman approached and stood in front of Abdullah. He was the first familiar thing he had seen since he stepped out of the prison. Abdullah looked at the policeman hoping to hear the words they always said, this way.
Who are YOU?, he said instead.

The Dog

The police van left him near the sea.
God knows where do they come from, said the policeman before pushing him down the van.
Abdullah stood on the sea shore. The sun was beginning to set. He began walking again.
The water touched his feet and he shivered. The shirt dropped from his shoulders. He kept on walking. He was waist deep into the water now. His trouser had become too heavy. He took it off and kept on walking. His eyes were fixed into the horizon. All sounds were beginning to cede.
He was now chest deep into the water. A wave was approaching him. He stood waiting for it. As the wave approached him, he held the ground with his toes. The wave hit him hard and threw him back. He began to flounder and moved abruptly to stand up again. He had been shaken. He was beginning to enjoy the game with the sea. The two played together for some time. The waves will throw him off his feet and he will fight back on his feet, ready to face it again.
The sea was getting serious now. It was no more just a game to it. It was time to get it over with, it thought. It fell silent for a moment. Abdullah, stood up and planted his feet firmly on the ground this time. He could see a big mighty wave approaching him from a distance. He clinched his faced as deep lines on his face resurfaced but this time had a slightly altered position. He closed his eyes and began to wait for the sea.
With his eyes closed and body tense, he began to hear some voices. Images were emerging in his head. A man was sitting in a big office. It had well cushioned chairs. There were paintings on the wall. His phone kept on ringing. The place spoke of riches. He always appeared to have this irritating expression. He kept on smiling. Now the same man was driving a car. It was a big car, a huge car, riches’ car. This man kept on appearing in his head. He was in the middle of a meeting now, talking boldly and he would be among a gathering of thousands receiving something from someone else on stage, the next moment. This man seemed to have it all. Abdullah didn’t like this man. He tried to shirk him out of his mind. A new face appeared this time. It was of a woman. He hadn’t seen any in years. She had a very smooth face. There were no marks on her face. But she didn’t seem to be wearing anything. Her face was bearing an expression he didn’t know. She seemed in pain. She seemed in pleasure. But he couldn’t see anything other than her face. There was something covering it but it was not a piece of cloth. It was someone’s body. There was someone on top of her. He could see his back clearly. Who are they?, he wondered as the first man reappeared, this time on the door of the woman’s room. His eyes were flaring.
The scenes were changing very fast now. There was absolute mess. He could see the first man standing in the court. He could see the woman, the second man shouting at him. He is impotent, she was saying. Abdullah felt as if she is saying this to him. You have cheated our firm, the second man screamed at him. He saw many more men. A doctor, a lawyer, man on the street, anyone who read newspaper, everyone who liked to hear gossip, the whole world. They all had gathered around him and screaming hoarse with their finger raised. Y..o…u……a..r..e……t..h..a..t…….m..a..n.., they were saying.
He wanted to escape. He wanted his peace back. He wanted these images to go away. He opened his eyes and saw the wave standing right ahead of him waiting to submerge him. He was undeterred by it. A tense calm was spread on his face as he realized many a things. The man was him, the woman his wife. The second man his friend and the business partner. He had lost seven years behind prison and everything he had outside it.
The wave hit him and swept him off his feet. He didn’t resist this time and was drowned under it.
He sank to the bottom of the sea. His chest was choking. He had begun to gulp water but he sat still. The tension was evaporating from his face with only calmness remaining on it. His lungs were bursting with water. He began to feel a gentle scratch on his chest from outside. He didn’t feel the bursting of his lungs but could feel the scratch. Finally, I am dead for real, he thought. He serenely opened his eyes. He saw a dog in front of him. It was struggling hard to swim against the wave. Abdullah watched the dog dispassionately and told him, just a few seconds more and we both would be absolved of it. The dog seemed to have read Abdullah’s mind. He pulled himself closer to Abdullah. Dog’s eyes were filled with fear and they were pleading Abdullah for help. Abdullah looked at the Dog with scorn and pushed it back. He closed his eyes again and waited for his lungs to burst completely. The Dog, furious at Abdullah pulled himself with all his might. He came closer to Abdullah and struck hard on his chest with his paw. Abdullah, opened his eyes, they were red with fury. The water around him filled with his blood as it dripped from his chest. Their eyes met and he saw Dog’s meek eyes smoldering. The dog was still trying to hit upon Abdullah but was getting carried away by the mighty wave. The fury dissipated from Abdullah’s face and he broke into a loud laughter. He held the dog with his both hands and stood up out of the water and wave. The wave went up once again as Abdullah stood with open eyes on firm ground. It began to recede after that leaving the two and didn’t come back.
Abdullah put the dog on the ground. You are my friend, my only friend said Abdullah as it began to rub its ears against his legs in gratitude. The two began to walk with the dog leading the way.


One Comment to “The Dead Man’s Chest”

  1. So, I began with the skull. I have taken your hand, lead you to to Sumer; to the Royal Tombs of Ur, and bought you a drink. You have watched me drink my drink, place the glass back to the table; where it rested, for a while, before I drank from it again.
    Yet, you seem confused by the mention of Japan. There is no remedy, I just wanted to show off my new watch. It talks, in Japanese. A language which I don’t understand, yet, if you listened to me for long enough, you may believe I had travelled there once, perhaps sometime in my youth.

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