Glasshouse

A house of mirrors inside the madhouse

I stand there quietly,

but not quite calm as I see her.

 

Draped in a costume, a chain on her neck, padlocks on her soul

Standing with candy.  

Sticky, sloshy gel for them to suck from a glittery wrapper

Her soul and brain smoking it up

Smuggled stuff inside a cold cellar, where her heart used to be.

 

She was smiling long ago in a green field, with the crops tickling her legs

Her dress fluttering, a little too fast, a little too high.

Blinking, eyes full of light and the warmth of love.

As air rushed in and out on its’ own whim, probing her mind.  

Minds don’t heal in flurries of snow, I don’t think yours has.

Mine rolled up like an armadillo, hiding the parts you probed for.

 

Now, she is black, shrouded in mystery.

Not a glamorous dress, but a veil of deception.

Sudden tremors from her spine travel up as she counts, adds and multiplies.

Lucifer whispers into her ear, a little too close for comfort. The world has hidden itself.

It always does, many spines together often add up to no spine at all.

 

Inside her, the child was sitting in a corner, under the bed

A slight coughy tremble and tear-stained eyes round with wonder and joy

As the world underwent metamorphosis. Broomsticks, elves and strange lands tickling her mind.

And she looked outside, my only flame. Then she saw me, and broke into a smile.

A smile I answered with a laugh, as Mother bent under with coaxing eyes

And my blurry, crazy world, for a few moments, couldn’t twist my mind

 

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Unbroken Rule and Broken Desire

— Skylark, the entangled soul

I thought you to be the most precious unbroken rule

Surrounded by walls outside the exclamation

Most carefully designed, beyond imagination

Imagination that lies in the silent shout

Trying to push me so hard to come out of the desires

Screaming desire to see you inside out

Desire to find a loop hole in the sophisticated architecture of the wall;

All the things, all the missing wills I want to know at all the times.

desire of dying to make your portrait in the canvas

hidden in the very core of my mind.

I can see your conscious intelligence

But I am in love with the curiosity of knowing

all your qualities, your attributes and your evilism

in a coherent manner;

before going into a failed love

willing to spend some time with you

to have The Last Supper

Or just like The Last Ride Together

So as to maintain a sustained imagination with harmony there after ever!

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Yamlokic Intervention

Death as an experience is totally over-hyped.

My expectations from ‘snuffing out’ are rather too abstract to be conveyed in their entirety, but they involve something of an ethereal separation of body and soul, the latter finally unfettered of its earthly bonds. I likened it to the sensation one has on a roller coaster that is about to descend from the global maxima in its curved track. High hopes, basically.

So I can safely say that dying was a sheer disappointment. First came excruciating pain. And then some more. And some more, until I thought that I’d rather die than die. Then I felt a great constriction, like I was being forced out of a garden hose with its end pinched. Later I came to know it was my soul escaping my body out of some really small orifice.

Then darkness engulfed me, making me one of its own.

There was no dramatic exit, no rising up like a puff of smoke for a last skyward journey, no final nostalgic glance. But what was more disappointing was that there was no sudden burst of understanding. No closure. I was left confused over how and why I’d died while working on my laptop, and if I’d died why I had not dissolved into oblivion but was floating in that white room.

I say room for want of a better word, but it was more like a white expanse extending indefinitely in all directions. And I say that ‘I’ was floating but it wasn’t my physical self. In fact I couldn’t even have been two eyeballs hanging in space, because I didn’t see the whiteness of the room. I felt it. It seemed like whatever mode of sense I had was getting accustomed to the new fabric around me.

Fabric which was beginning to contort madly.

A lot of things happened at once. Things began to take shape and colour around me, forming what was an actual room this time. And in the centre of that room, beaming at me stood Dhinchak Pooja.

“I can’t believe you’re actually here!” she said.

If things are escalating quickly for you, you can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for The room was a sort of an ancient dungeon, with walls of grey stone. Fire burned in four caskets that hung on the wall, granting only dim light to the surroundings. But Dhinchak Pooja stood right in front of me, clearly visible. In high definition too; 720p, full brightness, high contrast, very high volume.

“Well not really. That is just an expression. Of course you would be here, I called for you myself. I am your BIGGEST fan!”

I thought I’d misheard her when she said fan. I could think of no reason why Dhinchak Pooja would look up to me, except that I sang rather poorly.

“You died too?” I asked.

“Oh no no no. I’m not the earthling that you take me for. I’m just donning her appearance. You see I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh appearances, have to keep up with the times, yo. Can’t be stuck with the horned helmet forever, right.”

I noticed something on her left forearm. A tattoo.

22752583_679315542268294_1885206213_n

“So you’re…?”

“Yes. Servant to the Lord of Death. Recaller of disembodied spirits. And also, your #1 fan. You’re THE most deliciously evil human I’ve seen!”

………………………………………………….

While she was talking what sounded like utter gibberish, the room was really coming into its own around us. Having evolved from the barely furnished dungeon it now revealed several trinkets. Horrific pictures of Dhinchak Pooja adorned the walls, which I recalled were thumbnails from her previous videos. Some of her misfit outfits hung on the walls.

Interspersed were a few typical Yamdoot pictures, depicting a large hairy dude chauffeuring hordes of spirits into his chariot. But they were slowly transforming into pictures of the cap-donning singer doing the same. The room seemed to be metamorphosing as we spoke.

“Yes, you totally define Evil Goals for me. I’ve been following you for the past two years, and yours is a level of subtle yet pure evil that I simply admire. The best thing about you is that you don’t even do it purposefully; it’s totally ingrained in you, which makes you a natural. You’ve clocked the Pro level in each of the seven sins in record time!”

Okay. A baby seal I wasn’t. But being an idol for an evil-loving carrier of spirits was surely overdoing it a tad.

“Are you sure you have the right soul?”

“Oh, this is vintage you! So polite, so modest. I’ve made no mistake. You’re the one who just cleared that godforsaken entrance exam right?”

I didn’t know Yamdoots had an interest in JEE. Or bad YouTube singers for that matter.

“Yes I’d fit that description.”

“For that exam itself I don’t care much for. But boy, has it produced some real evil minds for us! In fact you were hardly an interesting specimen before you started preparing for it… competition really brings out the evil best in you guys.”

“Please cut to it or else I’m actually going to lose interest.” I said, somewhat irritated by the prolonged ambiguity.

“Well, don’t you realize the heights you’ve scaled in evilness? You humans look for evil in acts of massive destruction. But for true connoisseurs, it’s the little things that count. Small vile traits that you adopt in your lives that are the real seeds of evil.”

“I honestly don’t recall when I’ve been really evil. Care to jog my memory?”

“Oh, sure. Which of the Sins do you want to start with…?”

…………………………………………………

I noticed something weird about the walls of the room. They kept changing in some way or the other while I was talking to Pooja. While the changes were slight initially, the room had a total makeover after she was done explaining. The walls were now a solid dull grey. Iron staples were fixed in the wall with rusty chains dangling from them. While there was nobody else in the room I could almost see rugged prisoners bound there with their bodies and heads hanging in defeat.

Pooja filed her nails some distance away while I ruminated over what she’d just said.

“What has made you strive for the last two years? The driving force? The picture of the gates of IIT that you had in your phone? What was it if not greed? And how did you feel when your mate fared way better than you in your whatchamacallit practice tests? Remind you of envy?

Two years you strived for just one goal…preparing as if that was all there is to life. Exempted from all other responsibilities. Yet you weren’t exactly a happy presence in your house, were you? Irate, anxious, nervous – you blew off the handle on several occasions. There’s anger for you. Gave up all vital physical activities. Zero calories spent. But that didn’t stop you from eating compulsively. All the packets of Sev Bhujia… smacks of gluttony to me. And… lust.” she smirked.

“Having followed me so intensely you’ll know I’ve had zero female interaction these two years” I stated.

“Oh I know that is true. But are you to say your eyes have been in your sockets the whole time? Puh-lease, don’t make me say it”

I was totally okay with that.

“Pride. Have you not been hovering two inches above the ground ever since the results got out? Shining all your trophies with utmost care?”

“Sloth wasn’t really your strong point. I feared you’d never get there. But you’re such a star… didn’t do yoga in the morning a single day after the first two.” She sounded almost orgasmic, which didn’t go too well with her voice.

“Would that be enough? I thought you’re supposed to be smart, with all these credentials. No questions? Good. Now we talk business. Things are going somewhat slowly at hell. The inmates are earnest in their evilness, the ogres doing their bit to torture and provoke fights. Skewers, vats of hot oil are all in place. But they could use some fresh inspiration – you. I’ve chosen you to be the new custodian of evil at hell!”

She went on to elaborate about what my costume would look like and how I’ll have to learn to use the new torture equipment that was in place. But I was hardly listening. She had managed to cut open the doubts I always had about how I’d changed as a person during these years. My family and friends had been saying that for a while. I’d shrugged them off, but deep down I was worried that I wasn’t as human as I was earlier. I’d not yet come out of the zone where achieving targets and coming out on top was everything there was to life.

The old carefree me seemed like an entity of the past. And I was scared as hell that all this was part of my genome now. These doubts had just had a rather damning validation.

While I had these thoughts, the walls of the room changed around me to the dead, enclosing grey I mentioned.

………………………………………………..

“How do you feel about being the first among your friends to get placed? This is a good job you’ve landed, albeit non-core…” she chuckled.

“Why me? Were my classmates not equally hungry and selfish as I?” I wasn’t willing to accept my fate just yet.

“Indeed, each of you had their set of vices. There were options….but you were top of the class at the end, weren’t you?”

“Why do you sound so anxious”, she continued. “You’ll love it down there. All the petty evil souls will look up to you, and you’ll still get to swat them like flies! I’ve had you called up especially, arranged for you to have all your memory and consciousness intact unlike the other souls. Besides, you coming would mean that I can get rid of the troll. I hate trolls” she said darkly.

I paused and looked around again. Being a floating presence, I wondered what looking around meant for me since I’d presumed that souls had spherical symmetry. In any case, my vision shifted away from my captor and she somehow noticed it.

“Interesting décor, right? What colour is it right now? Grey? Black?”

“Grey. Can’t you see for yourself though?”

“That’s the beauty of it! There is no real wall. Each one sees what they expect their surroundings to look like, and Is also a reflection of how you’re feeling. We found it tiring to find out what each inmate hates or fears the most and get their rooms done like that. So we just let them decide for themselves! Some time here and each inmate has THE most gruesome wallpapers ever.”

I was hardly listening. I had my means of escape.

I gave in to the fact that I was the sinner she idolised. That I’d been selfish and short-sighted. I’d been foregoing my responsibilities to my family without guilt. Nothing was left but to accept.

Acceptance was the only thing that could free me, both literally and figuratively.

I imagined my body as I’d left it and willed it to materialize around me. My body solidified around me and I felt the sensation of my digits brushing against each other. Slowly but surely, I was looking out of my own eye sockets. I was back.

I took a deep breath and clenched my fists. My head bent towards my body and my shoulders expanded as I let the pain of guilt cut through me like a hot knife. I willed my soul to open up and let out all the self-doubt.

My eyes were shut but I received the audio inputs soon after.

First the iron chains snapped. While I’d counted four of them initially, the continued ‘clunk’s suggested more of them. The iron rungs groaned as the wall cracked around them, finally falling down with a dull thud of old metal on stone. I heard fires guttering out.

I opened my eyes and the walls and floor had taken on just the colour that I’d willed them to – transparent. That was probably when Pooja realized what I was up to. She made a bewildered face and gave me chase, but I was already off. I willed one of the iron chains to leap at my pursuer and a loud ‘ouch!’ told me it had met its mark. I rushed towards the edge where grey stone met the white sky, as more and more of the room disappeared around me.

My plan had succeeded. I was falling down into hell.

…………………………………………..

I remember falling a lot. White skies soon gave way to those filled with noxious red and green fumes. I could hear some noise in the distance which was already jarring my ears. The only assurance I had was that I was already dead.

Soon I was engulfed in an endless expanse of white (which I was sure was my senses readjusting) which broke into a typical hellish setting.

I was prepared for it, but it didn’t make it any less grotesque. Huge fifty-feet ogres towered upon masses of shrivelled, bleeding bodies. The ogres didn’t seem to be wearing any clothes, which probably marred the exotic view of the red-green sky for the inmates. The noise I’d heard was several of Dhinchak Pooja’s songs playing at once in huge speakers.

I tried to use my will to change the setting again, but my preoccupations of hell overruled. Meanwhile the ogres’ potato like heads started appearing larger. I could make out the terrible lyrics of a few songs. A few other creatures of doom came into sight. But what caught my attention was the man right below me, wearing the most pained expression on his face. His eyes revealed that all life had been sucked out of him.

I shut my eyes and braced for the impact which never came.

……………………………………………….

Pleased as I was to not have crash-landed into the man, I didn’t like the new place I found myself in either. It was a decadent setting, with a thick brown carpet and purple coloured walls. Intricately carved lamps stood at the corners of the room, and glowed with what looked like an orb of golden light inside them. The part I didn’t like was the variety of skulls that rested in hollows in the wall.

Just then a fairly large man started to materialize before me. He was dressed in a formal grey three-piece, with shiny black Burberry shoes. He had thick-set features, shaggy eyebrows, jet-back eyes and a sharp jawline. He would’ve looked fairly dapper had it not been for the golden helmet with black horns which rested on his mat of wild curly hair. Such an attire could only belong to…

“You were lucky to escape the way you did, kid. My yamdoots are never irresponsible with incoming souls, it’s just that Pooja got too certain that you’d love working with her and gave you too much power to alter your surroundings. As you can see. I have given you no such liberty and this room looks just what a guest room in hell should look like.

My ears twitched on hearing ‘guest’.

“Apparently it wasn’t the only mistake she did today.”

“She’d mentioned you as a special vessel of evil more than once, but I’d hardly paid attention. I hadn’t an inkling that she would call you out of time. She really does hate those trolls I guess.”

“But I do fit the job requirements, don’t I?” I blurted.

“Do you really think you are evil? Gone irreparably bad?”

I couldn’t speak.

“Pooja had some sound points, I’d give her that. You are guilty of all the sins. But you seem to have one quality which all other sinners don’t.”

“A good JEE rank?” I ventured.

“Oh, no! You’d be surprised how many sinners hail from those hallowed walls. There’s something with that exam, I know, it can mess with your wiring. But the quality I was referring to is remorse. You are capable of feeling guilt. And potentially capable of mending yourself. I know you’ve fostered a lot of self-hate for the things you’ve done and more particularly those you haven’t in the last two years. Not pursued writing, lost touch with all the cool goings-on, bungled your health and cut-off friends and family. But you’ll never get on with life if you can’t let go. Nothing is so bad that it can’t be fixed and it’s never too late to try.”

His words resonated with some hidden corner of my mind that I’d forgotten existed. Suddenly a huge feeling of regret welled up inside me when I realised that I’d died.

As if having read my mind, Yamraj raised his hand and shut his eyes.

“Grab this chance or you’ll hear from me again. And you don’t want that.”

I felt myself getting lighter on my feet, as if on a springboard coiled to release.

Believe me, the journey back was just as dramatic as I could have imagined. No body ever imagines a journey back from hell, do they?

This was the winning entry for the online fresher’s creative writing competition, on the following prompt:

Satanic Intervention
You die and go to hell for committing one of the seven deadly sins – pride, greed, lust, envy,
gluttony, wrath and sloth. However, you are not greeted with fire and brimstone, but a
demon/demoness that smuggled you away and is apparently… your biggest fan.

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Solipsism

– Dead Poet

Emptiness is all there is;
That and my consciousness.
So I fill the void with all of you,
And hope and love and loneliness.

I am the centre to everything,
The master of all creation.
And all I see and write and do,
Is but my imagination.

How do you know, what’s red for me?
For the same could be green to you.
Everything will be what I want it to be,
And never know if it’s at all true.

 

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Demented Dictator

– Resplendent Rogue

A piece of paper from Versailles,
Powerless monarchy, a clueless Reichstag,
And the foolish world saw his sun rise,
Casting shadow on the German flag.

A guarded secret then, Not any more –
Grey bearded men passed the folklore,
That the ardent advocate of pure race,
Was once a nomad in the outer space.

Somewhere in Andromeda, a planet solitary,
Was his home, modest and consolatory,
During one of his ventures, unknown,
He had encountered the funnel zone.

A barrier – of space and time,
Where Everything was true,
And Every one was right,
A new dimension in the galactic paradigm.
His existence  transmuted to a waveform,
Jewish gods warn, “here cometh the storm”.

Remarkable it was, his newfound puissance,
Could see the future and the bygone,
Ubiquitous and omnipotent
He could dominate a planet alone.

Earth was an easy target, Germany a cakewalk,
His malicious mind formulated a plan,
‘All hail for the cocky Monarch’,
Enters ‘Messiah’ , the miracle man.

The propaganda was fraudulent,
His ideology was hollow,
But his speeches moved the Alps,
The mesmerized crowd had to follow.

The Wicked always get assistance in our world,
The friend Italian, and the German battalion,
He waged wars, massacred the Jews,
Merchants to tramps, then concentration camps.

But a single error and he would be exposed,
And the Humans would never spare,
He slipped into his own bog,
And was deep in the bloody affair.

The mess muddled further when he fell
into love,
Cute German blonde, the endearment of his life,
He Hurriedly arranged a modest marriage,
Last seconds on earth with his beloved wife.

Post the dreamy wedding night,
His ‘bloody’ hands shaking with fright,
Feeding his lovely wife the cyanide,
His lifeless clone by her side.

Bunker into ashes, so the reign of terror,
And the world fell for the forgery,
“Fuhrer commits sucide”, the bulletin read,
Humble humans and their tomfoolery.

Went back home and lost his wit,
Rapacity for dominion, the culprit,
The guilt and regret won’t leave him alone,
And he kept cursing the funnel zone.

He strolled on streets and boulevards,
And fellow men called him insane,
“Blood, blood, the Jews, my wife”
He still screams staring at the water fountain.

This was the runner-up entry to the online fresher’s creative writing competition, on the following prompt:

From Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 book, “The Sirens of Titan”, the Chronosynclastic Infundibulum is a dimension where all the different kinds of truths fit together, and where there are many different ways to be absolutely right about everything. A Mathematical singularity where infinity ends, two parallel lines meet in Euclidean space, the last several digits of Pi can be seen and the entire number forms a perfect palindrome etc. Those caught in it could exist at all points in time in one place and also appear at another point for say, five minutes.

In a world that has long forgotten what Vonnegut knew, you and a handful others are the only ones who remember. So when a devious demagogue who charms with doublespeak comes along, you know exactly where he’s come from.

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Zen and the fidget spinner

– Loquacious Llama

i
like
my
fidget spinner.
i really do.
it’s not a
perverse
atavistic fascination
with childhood,
at least that’s what
i tell myself.
i just like it.

if you asked me
what it looked like,
i would not say
distant and dark,
like the tenderest of nights,
and there’s flashes of silver,
like the moon on the waves
lapping at the shore”
i’d just blurt out, in the most
vulgar, apathetic tones,
it’s black, really,
but that’s not important.”

if you tried still to probe
further into this fertile ground,
if you asked me, say,
what it felt like,
i would not say
supple and light,
feline almost, like the
goddess bastet herself had
slunk into your hands
when you weren’t looking.”
i would simply remark, in an
offhand way,
it was smooth and like really slick, you know,
when i first got it, but now it’s all
loose and jiggling around,
falling apart, really.”

and if you chose to
pursue your line
of incessant questioning
further still,
if you asked me, reasonably enough,
how fast it went,
i would not say
faster than
a thousand thirsty horses
galloping through the desert
in search of a well”
i would say,
and you would hear
the longing in my voice,
it’s nice and all, i mean,
does the job well and everything,
but i wish i’d gotten the next
model up, just the one
slightly better than this one,
that one, that one would have
been nice. but this one’s fine too,
really, i like this one just fine
the way it is.”

and yet, if you pressed on
with your uncomfortably familiar
queries further still,
if you asked me
if it made too much noise,
i would not say
just a little soft sound,
like the chirping of the tiniest
of sparrows, you have to
almost strain to hear it sometimes.”
i would say,
lightly pressing my temples,
it’s crazy, it’s like there’s
a whirring sound in the air
everywhere i go, even when
it’s nowhere near me
at the time.”

yes, i find it peaceful,
cheering
and,
generally speaking,
healthy.
and no, that is not
the probable autism that
dwells beneath the waves
surfacing,
i would not say to you, for instance,
some say it is salvation,
some call it nirvana,
others shangri-la, maybe
it’s just your very own personal paradise,
just yours and no one else’s,
endlessly.”
i would say,
exasperated at how difficult it is
to get a simple concept through
to you,
i just like my fidget spinner.
and that’s all there is to say about that.

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Another Brick in the Wall

-Baleful Basilisk

Flashes of white, where the light had streamed in. Little inexplicable squares of light, set side by side neatly, almost intentionally. They disappeared before I had the instinct to estimate how many. Strangely enough, they would appear whenever the shutters closed quickly. A biological punishment.

Then, blank. Not completely blank, though. Textured black. Sharp, tingling pain.

Something inside dropped. Only on one side. The other felt fine and light. A step function of sorts. In and out. Though the shutters weren’t opening anymore, the entire sequence of events repeated itself till it felt like a steady refrain. Except that was all there was in this song. A steady, ebbing repetition accompanied by rising and falling lightness.

Then it dulled. A sound. It was a whiny, weak sound. Hatred might have intensified it, but pure hatred required a careless energy that this parasite didn’t have. Yet, there was trembling and there wasn’t, at the same time, eyes down and fingers moving. Thought war, edging on the physical. They could all smell it, but no one changed the gears. That only happens when a part makes noise. The competence had to drag this one into the cesspool, while they quietly distanced themselves.

The black was now stained with a reddish hue. A sharp twitch interrupted the process at play. Unsurprisingly, the rhythm moved at its own pace, regardless of the flashes, the twitches, and the sound.

Strange, how easy it is to destroy thoughtfully made things with a puny, malign stroke which needs neither skill nor force. They are, by their very nature, unlike anything else, already fragile with the contradictions they must fit into to survive this matrix.

It didn’t know how far this seemingly rigid and motionless wire could manage to streṭch and bounce back though. And the thing is when skilless hands try to fiddle with sharp edged wires, they get cut. Sooner or later, not intentionally, just by consequence.
The shutters opened when the artist dropped in. Never had the wires been so played. The artist knew. He started on a series of notes which somehow did blend in seamlessly with the rhythm. She tried to normalise it with all her imagination, but she failed. The sprite had no sense of beginning and end, only continuation which was refusing to blend in with the surroundings. She thrived on drops alone. The twisted fatalism mixed in the artist’s veins would make drops build in the drops, as the sprite watched peacefully, unafraid for the first time. It knew these patterns weren’t meant to be imbued with meaning. It was unbound and meaningless, and yet perhaps even more beautiful than it could have been any other way.

So, the artist dropped visibly, and the sprite constructed imaginary rises of the drops until no modicum of sanity remained with either. Sometimes, all of the time, the shutters would close without the sprite’s permission. Then, it flowed one day. Suddenly discrete colours and shapes started mixing in. The floor tiles slowly mixed within themselves and the swivel rose in a sparkly logic defying splash to the roof, hitting the lights. The shimmers fell down on the keys and the keys rose up and down in no pattern at all. Sparkling keys banging on wires, a vision of nothing and everything.
The sprite disintegrated into tiny pieces that vanished as the song ended abruptly.

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