Monthly Archives: March 2015

Sonnets of Spring Entry #11

[Note: Link to Sonnets of Spring. Entry is on topic #3]

Farrago

Meenakshi Khosla

I was twisting and twirling in delight amidst the clouds when the unfortunate thing happened. I had been summoned by Mr Boogedy. A convulsive shiver trickled down my spine (only, I didn’t have any!). Oh wait, l guess an introduction is in order. I’m Phantom. But don’t raise your hopes up too high my friend! I’m not the Guardian of the Eastern Dark. I’m an ordinary ghost but with an extraordinary life. If you’re thinking of tossing away my story anticipating it to be yet another surreal horror tale, stick around. I’m friendly and though I’m not very fond of you eggheads, I have a knack for putting up with the most impudent of species.

So that unfortunate evening it was, Boogedy who is the President of the Human Welfare Association in the Ghost World, had sent for me. I had been dreading this for quite some time. Often, I’d wondered what I would do when the guards came looking for me and almost always, I had thought I’d make a run for my life. But when the plight finally hit me head-on, any attempt to abscond seemed futile.

As we entered the big palace of the President, I tried to recall the rules that I had read in the Ghost Manual in my pre-nursery which talked about ‘How to stay calm when your ass is on fire?’ but my memory failed me. These are the few rare times in life you wish you had paid attention in the class. But then again, had I been a good student in class, it would have been a different story altogether. Maybe, I could’ve gotten a degree to work in this association itself rather than having to bother with the eggheads at all. But another look at this gloomy place changed my mind.

Everywhere inside the palace, there were surly, clerical type ghosts wearing black collared uniforms with an insignia of Casper (Yes, it’s the same Casper you’re thinking about!). Because we ghosts are not endowed with an innate creativity, I think they might’ve decided to copy the egghead created graphics. But if you’re already thinking of trying us for plagiarism, think again! ‘Cause we can sue you too for the gross misrepresentation and attempt to disrepute our ghost community in the popular media through the libellous horror movies, which by the way scare the hell out of us!

I was greeted by the receptionist, Ms Hania, with a smile as if sneering at me. I didn’t smile back. She asked me to wait for some time as the President was having a foot massage by the pixies (And in case you’re wondering-No, they don’t have big ears nor do they always dress in green- They have a fashion sense too you know.). The wall outside the President’s room was adorned with posters, one of which said, ‘Egghead world Triskaidekaphobics anticipating horror show: Volunteers needed for the upcoming Friday the 13th’. There was another one saying ‘Recruitment for the Sallie Haunted House in Board Room: Interview Guide’. How could spooking the eggheads be a welfare scheme for them, I wondered. ‘We can’t always be the good guys right, we have to live up to the human projections too sometimes’, said a ghost in uniform beside me, which made me realize I’d said it out loud.

A few moments later, I was called in. Contrary to my expectations, President Boogedy was a scrawny fellow who was a little too meek for the post of President of one of the highest levels of organization of ghosts in the world. He commanded just a little authority, if not none at all. He glanced at me with a mix of scorn and exasperation, trying to instil pangs of fear in me. I almost felt a little sorry for the fellow who was clearly trying so hard. I prepared to defend myself but before I could utter a word, he burst out, ‘So Phantom, I hear you’ve been travelling and having a gala time while your host is becoming a soulless halfwit. We here, Mister, have a reputation to maintain and we’re not going to pamper all your whims and fancies. While you’ve been enjoying your vacation without any leave of absence, that lowbrow seems to have squandered off the 3 pound egg sitting on top of him. May I ask if you have any explanation for this callousness?’ I began with my explanation that I had rehearsed probably a hundred times before, ‘I’m sorry Mr President but I have had a hard time inside the body of my pig-headed host. He is suffering from the BOCCT (Brain too obstinate to change the course of thought) syndrome! He always seems to..’ But Mr Boogedy interrupted me and complained, ‘You all always come up with the same excuses. I know that brain is a queer thing and these eggheads are queer fellas. And this is precisely why we’ve been entrusted upon this task of saving humanity. Too much of brains on the planet and soon it’s going to see its doom! No matter how much these eggheads might ridicule us, we have a heart, you know—Oh, not literally of course. ‘

I realized this was going to be a futile argument and partly to stop the President from accomplishing the near impossible task of causing a ghost to doze off to sleep (you see, we suffer from perpetual insomnia), I acquiesced to my fate. ‘Rise and Shine, my boy!’ he exclaimed. And the next moment I remember, I regained my ‘consciousness’ inside a short, pot-bellied young teenager sitting in a classroom, who happened to be called Christopher Walker. Almost instinctively, I tried to recollect the golden rules of possession.

Rule #1: Conceal yourself inside the host.

Rule #2: The host shouldn’t have any qualms about your existence. In simple words, desist from ghostly pleasures like hanging out with other ghosts, satiric philosophizing on the inadequacies of egghead race, posing for the digital cameras etc. Luxuriate in humanly pleasures like money, fame, material possessions, passive entertainment etc. as far as possible but at the same time, always remember the ghost motto-‘Defy gravity! Save humanity!’

Rule #3: When it comes to matters of love, remember you take the call.

Rule #4: The above 3 rules are self-contained (In case of any discrepancy, refer to the above three).

I felt a sense of pride at having remembered all the rules so vividly. Soon enough, the silent communion was overtaken by a stream of thoughts from my host. Then I realized what I’d really settled for. Christopher was thinking about neurons and axons and spinal cords but it wasn’t until I’d glanced at the blackboard that I realized he was taking the biology exam. The brain is pretty good at all this stuff, I thought. So I decided to give myself a little break. I dreamt about all the good old times that seemed so long ago now when I was basking in the beauty of the afternoon sun, wishing ghosts could get sun-tanned, far far away from the egghead world. Suddenly, I was baffled by that charlatan’s thoughts. This is what he had written on his exam sheet:

‘The emotional reactions of humans are controlled by groups of nuclei within the brain, called amygdala. Further, the hippocampus decides which memories are important and worth remembering for the brain. A multi-dimensional analysis of the brain can further reveal the source of all human emotions.’

And for the first time in what seemed like a long long time, I was outraged. Usually, I am a convivial, patient guy but this insult was more than I could take. I was being dismissed as a nonentity by this smug nobody. I exploded with anger, ‘We, ghosts, have a job too and it is much tougher than that of the cranky organ inside your skull. If you are a machine, then I’m the remote control for it. All the passé terms that are a part of your everyday vocabulary like ‘kindness’, ‘love’, generosity’ would have been non-existent had it not been for benevolent ghosts like me. Yes, you got it right-that’s me! It is the same thing which helps male eggheads to accommodate and live (if not necessarily happily!) with the females. Yeah, that’s all me again! If not for me, the arteries of your head would have burst out due to relationship troubles. What you call the theory of evolution and the subsequent ‘moral’ edification and one-upmanship of humans over other living creatures, is actually the possession of humans by noble -and if I may add, bountiful and totally awe-inspiring- ghosts like us.’

But I realized that I had forgotten to unscrew the cerebral cortex of his brain in a frenzy of rage. What a waste! But it did manage to cool me off a little, else I might have had to face the consequences of violation of Rule #1. So I knocked on the cerebral cortex and when it didn’t respond, I unscrewed the cortex myself and got in.

I began, this time with remarkable forbearance,

‘Hey there, This is your conscience (Just euphemising!). You seem to have oversimplified the things a bit (A bit?). Don’t you think I deserve some credit here too? Do you really believe that your central nervous system alone has the capacity to love? ‘I’ am the cupid of your life. Yes, Me! For all the science you’ve studied, complex human relationships surely couldn’t have been managed in just those few terabytes of storage capacity! ’

Ah! It had been immensely liberating. I would have continued with my mini-soliloquy but I restrained myself (Rule #1 of possession, you see).

I seemed to have left quite an impression on him. Soon, Christopher scribbled on his answer script,

‘All that said and done, what we are forgetting here is the impact of the inner voice in guiding us in our actions. Surely, the brain isn’t entirely capable of doing all this on its own. What assists it is the soul or conscience.’

As if this wasn’t enough, he further scribbled off whatever he had written in the previous paragraph. I was elated. Could it have gotten any better?! He wasn’t as unyielding as I had perceived him to be, I thought.

I hadn’t realized the consequences of what seemed like an innocuous influence until the answer scripts were returned the next day. A blank face over of a hundred was all that was written on top of it (Oh, and with a note of appreciation from the teacher too-‘Forgive me Christopher. But it was my ‘inner voice’ which compelled me to give you a zero!’).

It seemed to have gotten on the nerves of him. As we treaded along the road back home, the almost deranged fella kicked and tossed anything that came in hos way. I was beginning to feel the pangs of anger myself. So you see, the influence of the host can also creep in sometimes, through the cerebral cortex of course, inside the ghost. It was this part that now that I didn’t like. It wasn’t such a great start after all!

But my despair didn’t last long. When we reached near the front of the house, I saw her–the love of my life– for the first time. That beautiful sight still lingers in my mind like an unfading memory. Her arms moved so delicately, like the wings of a butterfly. I looked and looked and looked, as if trying to absorb all the magnificence she radiated at once. I could almost hear the slow music of violins. This must be love, I thought. And when I realized what I had just thought, it was even more exhilarating. I kept repeating it again and again till I was overwhelmed with ecstasy. I was in love. With the delicate ghostly spirit inside that heavy-built not-so-delicate egghead body. But as if my nemesis sensed my happiness, he immediately turned away and began to move towards his door. I pleaded him to stay and walk back towards her, but all in vain.

I felt a certain rush of consternation, of parting even, although our love story had not yet even seen the light of the day.

But I wasn’t going to let my first love slip away so easily (How could I? It’s not often that our soul-mate stands right in front of us but we shamelessly turn a blind eye and carry on with our lacklustre daily routine, right?). All throughout the night, I kept pouring in all kinds of thoughts about the girl into the cerebrospinal fluid. Sometimes, he tried to shun me away by responding with impertinent comments like “Why ARE you thinking so much about that fatty? She must be the new neighbour. Go to sleep! She isn’t worth a dime!” I snapped back, “She is the reason you are not sleeping. It must be something. C’mon, she’s swept you off your feet! Go speak to her tomorrow else you won’t be able to sleep again.” It convinced him, and the next morning, the first thing he did was walk out the door and wait for her to show up.

I was so nervous that some of it might have crept into Christopher and his hands started trembling. He began adjusting his round spectacles and considered changing his Polo T-Shirt. I considered telling him that that wasn’t going to matter anyway but I thought it would be fun to watch his pointless endeavour. Soon, she stepped out of her house, her beautiful self. But to my utter surprise, Christopher responded with intense disapprobation. He kept repeating, ‘How could you think she was the one for you. Surely, you couldn’t fall for this blimp!’ And before I could even begin to say anything, he rushed back into the house and the screw of his cortex tightened. And without a screw driver, it was next to impossible for me to penetrate through. “Please, please listen”, I winced, aghast. But it was as though he had built a dyke that prevented anything I said from spilling inside. I was helpless.

So I went out straight from this hostile egghead body to the Office of the Human Welfare Association in the Ghost World and filed for a sick leave on account of H2D2H virus. In case you are unfamiliar with our ghost terminology, it is the Host too difficult to handle virus. Ms. Hania granted me leave for an evening on one condition- that I spend it with her. It shouldn’t be so hard, I thought. I am a charming young fellow after all and when a young girl asks me on a date, I simply can’t refuse. Out of sheer decency, of course. So off we went to her house, not far away from the Presidential Palace itself, which was like a reservoir of all the books in the world.

“You must be an avid reader”, I said, dully.

“Well, of course. How else can a lonely, single young ghost while away her time?” she said with a special emphasis on ‘single’, looking at me anxiously for a response. But I wasn’t really feeling at the top of my spirits so I thought it best to remain silent.

“So you tell me, what it is that brings you on a leave?” she asked, mainly to fill the awkward silence.

“I’m having love troubles.” I confided. Then blushingly, I added, “Um..well, Not exactly love troubles. I haven’t even started the romantic course of my life yet, thanks to my ever so congenial host. Tell me Hania, is this fair?” I instantly sensed a breeze of despondency. She might’ve fallen for me. But she did manage to keep a stiff upper lip about it. But what could one do if one was as prepossessing as prepossessing could ever be?

After moments of silence she finally spoke,

“Are you sure you haven’t tried enough? You could try your host in the court for violation of treaty, no?”

“What treaty?” I asked, a little perplexed.

“Oh well, you sure have signed the Treaty of Farrago with your host, haven’t you?”

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard the name.”

She looked astounded and almost as if to herself, she said,

“This is the reason I keep telling Boogedy for a screening test before the possessions but he always seems to disagree. He thinks all ghosts are far too smart for that. What a pity! You have secured a certificate for passing the ‘Possession eligibility Test’, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have”, I said, wondering if I should feel embarrassed about my ‘achievement’.

“Then you can’t possibly say that you don’t know the fundamentals!”

“But I do remember the golden rules of possession!” I said. They are the only fundamentals we were ever taught, I thought to myself.

“Even people who fail the test know that! “, she retorted.

This tirade of insults, that too by a young girl definitely not more than a few years older than I was, was beginning to unnerve me but now I really wanted to know about this treaty.

“Now that you’ve disparaged me enough, can you care to explain what exactly this treaty is all about?” I asked finally.

She took out an elementary book from her shelf and threw it over the table in front of me. As I opened the book, I was overcome by feelings of indignity and a certain solace at the same time. The first page of the book read,

—————————————————————————————————————————-

The Treaty of Farrago

It is the treaty that you must sign with the host right after possessing the body. It lays down the jurisdictions of both the host and the ghost.

Under this treaty, the host would have power over the following:

All decisions pertaining to education, career, health and the like which require intelligence, complex levels of analysis and creativity.

While the ghost can wield power over all of the following:

All decisions pertaining to love, friendship and other strong emotions incapable of being handled well by the host alone.

————————————————————————————————————————–

How could I not know all this? True, I often carried crib notes during exams and more often so, couldn’t resist the temptation of looking at my peers’ answer sheets during the finals, but I would’ve remembered something about the Treaty if it were ever asked in the exams, no?

As I began absorbing all the clauses of the Treaty, a doubt crept into my mind, and I wittingly asked,

“What about things that fall in the no man’s land or in both their lands for that matter? Like for example, what if the host decides to pursue a career abroad while the ghost wants to stay close to the love of his life? Who gets to decide then?”

She replied, this time a little patiently,

“Well, that’s a good question you ask. Lately, there has been a debate going on inside the House of Commons over adding a clause about this. But, as of now, different host-ghost combinations come up with different arrangements for it. Like when I possessed a human body long ago, we had decided upon a statistical distribution for resolving this dispute. Based on that, we would determine who gets to decide in which situations. But, I’m afraid this might be too complicated for you”, she said and I could sense a sort of smugness in her remark.

“Don’t worry, everyone figures out something on their own over time”, she added in an apologetic tone.

Now, that sounds like a brilliant treaty for living together peacefully. Doesn’t it?

I dreamt about all the things I could finally do inside my host, if he signed the treaty. Probably, he will not remain my nemesis after that. Perhaps, he could come to heel and I could get to talk to her, my true soul-mate. As I considered these wonderful possibilities, I was reminded by Hania that my leave of absence was coming to an end. I prepared to get back to the human world and this time round, the thought of returning didn’t trouble me as much.

What happened after I returned? Well, that would be another story, don’t you think?

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Sonnets of Spring Entry #10

[Note: Link to Sonnets of Spring. Entry is on topic #3]

Spooky Doodles

Nihilist Numbat

There is no such thing as peaceful silence. Whenever somebody demands for it, it is actually an expression of his will to concentrate harder on the ambience of a place. I was doing just that in my room one night, with a notebook and a pen staring blankly at me, while I put all of my mind together on conjuring out some poetry.

I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes, before leaping into the dull waves of my thoughts. The instigation of my dive should have excited me, but perhaps it was the sight of the nonchalance of the sea, seeing which this dip in the liquid of my intellect had started out so bleakly.

‘All I want is a good poem’, I think to myself. ‘Something that rhymes. Okay, perhaps that’s not important. Something that has good words. No wait, the reader needs the “visceral ethereal” touch of emotions more! Or should I ask for bigger words? Honestly, anything that has words might do.’

But all of that talking to myself had distracted me from my quest. What is a swim in the mind worth of if the mind itself is not there? My own buoyancy started to pull me back out to the surface. The harder I tried to stay, the faster I rose. After being completely pulled out, I opened my eyes to see the boring setting of my room again.

I hope the reader, at some point in life, has tried to grab water gushing out of a tap. It is an interesting sensation. The hand-bearer may get convinced by the touch of the water that it is a material and is made of something that can be held, but that’s the evil ironic deception of water. When an attempt to grab the water is executed, it will seep away through even the tiniest spaces between the fingers. Trying to write poetry, in this sense, is similar to grabbing water.

‘I must try harder.’ Inhaling deeply again, I pushed myself deeper this time. Some ideas came but being ambitious, I propelled myself deeper. Clearer pictures started to form and I was now seeing definite concrete words. I think around this time, my pulse-rate had started to rise in excitement. Being overly hopeful, I began some sort of mental dance in the ocean of my own intelligence.

One shouldn’t dance while diving, and I am certain that this applies to real divers as well. I felt the upward thrust trying to pull me out again. Hastily, I grabbed whatever it was whose presence had pleased me so much. I resurfaced, opened my eyes and immediately jotted down whatever I had.

Been barned mouth buddy’s ballet Elliot,

Socrates adjourning muppetment.

Loo-loo low-low were-were may-may…

Voyeur buckle underwear armament.

‘Great! Ask for words and this is what you get! Gone are my days when I used to write poetry legible to human beings.’, I said while I shook my head grimly. The taunt seemed appropriate. This poetry was the kind of vomit a downhearted writer would spill out as a result of being drunk on nihilism.
A much bigger wave of grief hit me and I sent my pen flying away from me in disbelief. But instead of departing away dramatically from my possession and its own existence, it hit the wall and came back at me rowdily. Unprepared of vengeful pens, I take a hit of Karma on my nose and respond to the gesture of being assaulted by a pen by shedding out a tear. But the teardrop, possessed perhaps by Serendipity, did something too exciting for tears. It brought my attention to where it should have been,

The tear after tickling my nose and leaving a slimy wet trail behind, fell on the first line of the recently written garbage that adorned my notebook. My eyes fell on the “Been barned mouth” phrase. Looking at the ugly face of that combination of words prepared more tears to line up to spew out. Those traumatic words echoed in my skull mining out deeply settled despair through my meninges.
But then a thought, a thought that had brought a Tsunami in the ocean that had spewed it out, hit me! The poetry made perfect sense!
On a fresh page I wrote:

Beneath my behemoth

This was it! This was what I was trying to find! What an exciting set of words, this was! This phrase looked like a neatly dressed magician ready to pull out something out of his hat! It could be followed by so many interesting words!

Beneath my behemoth pencil? Beneath my behemoth body? Beneath my behemoth banana?

But I knew where to find the cue. I looked at the first line and I immediately acquired the missing detail. I completed the line.

Beneath my behemoth bundles of billet litter,

It looked almost complete, but there was something missing. It felt like being well-dressed for a dinner party but having an itch at an imprudent spot. After pondering over this matter, I took a deep breath and made a correction.

Beneath my behemoth bundles of billet litter,Belles Lettres,

A surmounting sensation of pleasure inflated within me. “Belles Lettres” it was and my heart rejoiced happily! It looked like the confession some sort of sneaky french linguist would make about where he keeps his word-thinking potion.
What was this mysterious bump in the night that I had encountered? What was the root of this magic materialization of such artistic expressions? Was I being blessed? Was I possessed by an unearthly outer-worldly entity? Was it God and his nitty gritty integrity in the Grand scheme of the universe which in an infinitesimal implementation took a manifestation within this alliteration?

My next problem was to figure out what “Socrates adjourns muppetment” could be. I looked at those words again and again until they decomposed in front of me.

Socrates? Cigarette trees? So create teas? Shove secret tees? Store secrets?

‘Store secrets! This is what it could mean? Why not? Our narrator is a shady guy. I knew it. But could he be shadier than me?’

I quickly jotted down another line:

I store secretly

But what was this “muppetment adjourning” business next to it? Whatever it was putting these ideas in me must have been a good parliamentarian, especially the type that is obsessed with adjourning things not in any dictionary. I had to think more.
‘What would Socrates, the Great Muppetment Adjourner have to do with me? What am I hiding? Is it something I value? … Oh yes! Why did I not see it?!’

I store secretly a jewel in my apartment.

The next few lines indeed looked the trickiest. I knew infants which could strike a more expressive conversation than how much this line could. But heavily clad and armed with determination, I struck a mighty blow and slayed the “Loo-loo low-low” down.

Look, O love, look

Something strange had started to bother me now. Uncovering a poem, piece by piece, now seemed uncanny. With every few words, the poem gave me a stranger resemblance to something that I am. It felt like I was looking at a mangled piece of myself in retrospection. As if it was a ghost of my past possessing my own self and in turn, getting myself spooked!

But putting my worries away, I focused on uncovering the remaining pieces. And the next piece was an obvious one

Look, O love, look wherever you may,

And then all of the remaining pieces flooded my notebook at the same time. At this point, I started crying loudly! Everything had made sense now. I stood up and pulled out a large trunk from under my bed. I unclicked the locks, and dug to the bottom while removing all the dried up yellowing letters. Under it, I found her “secret jewel”.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. My notebook read.

Beneath my behemoth bundles of billet litter,Belles Lettres,

I store secretly a jewel in my apartment.
Look, O love, look wherever you may,

Won’t give you back your undergarment.

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Sonnets of Spring Entry #9

[Note: Link to Sonnets of Spring. Entry is on topic #3]

Possessed

-Iffat Siddiqui

I stood gazing at the waves, contemplating on when my next Assignment would beckon me towards the realm of the mortals when I inexplicably started thinking of Taylor Swift’s new video “Style”. That made me think of Harry Styles and Haylor and whether they would be a thing again.

“Well that’s a weird thought,” I told myself, “I don’t even like Taylor Swift.”

And that too on this private island, unwinding from the hassles of my last Assignment with Rocko and Sissy, a human should have been the last thing on my mind. In fact, I was still carrying the scars of the last assignment, a body that I couldn’t get rid of. Curse that wizard Solomon, curse his magic.

If it wasn’t for his bloody magic, I wouldn’t still be trapped in this stinking human body and Rocko and Sissy wouldn’t be parading around in a make-believe human body, either. We can take any form we want. Dog, cat, mouse, human. You name it, we can be it. Some of us like sashaying around in human bodies though, it gives them a feeling of power (sham though it might be) to be able to play their masters. Not being great fans of playing human, Rocko and Sissy stuck to the charade, thinking it would diminish my distress, adorned in the same species as I was. I hadn’t told them much – nothing except the dismal fact that I was stuck in this odious body of Appu, the apprentice, and that they needed to keep me away from prying eyes.

“The waves are not the answer,” came Rocko’s crisp, assured baritone from behind.

I did not turn back, continuing to stare at the unending sea instead.

“You need to tell us, Jim. You have to let us in”, said Sissy intensely.

What was I supposed to tell them? That I felt trapped, suffocated, claustrophobic? They must already know that. They have never been Sealed inside a human before but they had possessed countless of them and that itself isn’t a very pleasant experience. It’s easy to extrapolate what getting Sealed in must feel like. Then what? That I feel impotent, incapacitated to land myself in this pickle. I, who had never botched an Assignment before, not only managed to fail at one but also managed to get himself Sealed inside his human host. Well, I could tell them that. They’ve been hitherto aware of every detail in my life, every embarrassing detail especially. They would assure me and instill some of my former confidence back into me.

“I was thinking about my impeccable record so far. Haven’t screwed up a single Assignment. Impressive, eh?” I said, turning back.

Wait, what? Where did that come from? I wasn’t planning on saying that. I was seeking assurance, where did this boastful gibberish come from?

“Impressive? What’s more impressive is how you managed to get yourself trapped like that”, quipped Rocko, pointing to my body.

“What would you know about impressive? You have failed more times than one can count. You are averaging a success rate of something around 30%, if I’m not wrong,” I retorted. Okaaaay. I did not mean that. I wasn’t even thinking along this line. Where is this sudden burst of bitter ego coming from?

“James Walter Richardson! Do not for one minute think that this rude chatter will distance us from you. We are in this together, whether you like it or not,” Sissy said heatedly. She goes all formal when she is agitated.

That evoked a tiny smile on my lips. She took it as encouragement.

“Please, Jim”, she said, grabbing me by the shoulders, “Tell us what happened.”

It was the earnestness in her eyes that finally got to me.

“Alright,” I sighed. “For my last Assignment I was hired by an anonymous human to spy on Solomon the Shrewd, that renowned wizard. The explicit instructions were to possess his apprentice, Appu, and extract information about the whereabouts of his silver sword, the one with an emerald inlay, which he had bought off from a bankrupt wizard at an exorbitant price. It’s supposed to have some formidable magical property, I’m not sure what.

“Anyway, I managed to find where the sword lay concealed – within a secret cabinet underneath his kitchen counter. But I thought that I could do the client a favour, since he was paying me and humans are not obligated to pay us for our services. A complete lie. Yes, my client was paying me. But I wanted to take the sword for the glory of it – for fooling Solomon the Shrewd himself.

“I managed to disable the protective charms on the cabinet and pull out the sword. As I stood admiring the sword in Solomon’s kitchen, he walks in. As soon as I noticed him, I attacked with the sword. But I was no match for a wizard. I ran from his house, bleeding profusely, ran till I reached Rocko’s human residence and he nursed me to health.”

I omitted the part where I lay in a ditch, semi-conscious for a week, eating dead rats and drinking sewage water due to the weak state of the body I was possessing and my inability to de-possess it. Was lying by omission lying? I guess so.

“And the next thing you know, you cannot de-possess the body,” completed Rocko.

“Yes, Solomon had successfully Sealed me in.”

“We need to take you to a Healer – one of the Elder ones,” said Sissy. I turned my head to look at her. She looked pleadingly into my eyes. Her nose was twitching slightly – another sign of her nervous, agitated state. The familiar tic somehow made me forget my newfound stubborn, egotistic stand and agree to seek help.

Rocko and Sissy arranged everything between themselves.They would take me to Peeves – a retired Healer now but famous for his research in the concept of self-possession. His research had led to a lot of interest in this concept or ‘monstrosity’, as Peeves had called it. We were to meet Peeves at his human address.

“His knowledge of Sealing is unparalleled and he keeps to himself. Some of these young new Healers like to gossip,” justified Rocko at Peeves doorstep.

I said nothing, and simply rang the doorbell. I wanted to scream, to shout, to tell them that I was scared out of my wits. But somehow, keeping a calm facade seemed more precious at that moment.

A short, stunted attendant opened the door and took us to Peeves’ bedroom when he was requested. I told Sissy and Rocko to wait outside. Peeves had the gift of Sight. I wouldn’t be able to lie to him, and I didn’t want them to know that I was lying. They nodded silently and I walked in.

“Hello Jim,” said Peeves, “tell me everything.”

The ‘man’ sure did know how to get straight to the point. Well, I had no intention of beating around the bush either – I told him everything.

“How weak was the body when you lay in that ditch?”

“Very weak. Moving a single muscle seemed like a Herculean task”

“How many days did you stay in that condition?”

“About a week, Master Healer.”

“And do you feel any changes in your self, child? Apart from the obvious, of course.”

“Well, um…” – I hesitated, but only for a moment – “Master Healer, I feel as if there’s this gap between what I think and what I do. You know when you possess a human and try to influence him you can only exaggerate an emotion, you cannot create one. If the person is happy and has no essence of sadness for you to pull on to, you cannot make him sad. But I feel as if I’m creating emotions.”

I stopped for a moment, frightened. ”What is wrong with me?”

Peeves looked at me with his penetrating eyes. Technically, not his eyes since he was only creating a camouflage of a human body he once possessed around his Essence.

“I don’t know, child. I can hazard a guess,” Peeves said.

“By all means, Master Healer, please make a guess.”

“When one inhabits an individual, the resulting cocktail is that of one body and two souls. However, the body’s original soul remains the primary soul. This soul is capable of creating emotions. When we possess an individual, we become the secondary soul. I don’t know what happens when the secondary soul is Sealed inside the body and the primary soul is extinguished but I would assume that the secondary soul would become the primary in this case.”

I stared at him nonplussed, reluctant to believe.

“This is your body now,” he continued, “because in that one week you spent in the ditch, your primary soul was extinguished. You are possessing your own body, my child. You are self-possessed.”

“Self-possession? The concept you termed as ‘monstrosity’ once?”

“Yes, the very same.”

“So I am going to be stuck in this body for eternity?”

“Humans don’t live forever, my child, genies do.”

“So I am a human now? But you said self-possession resulted in a monstrosity.”

Peeves looked at me for an interminable moment, his eyes grim and pitying and then said, “That’s right, child.”

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Sonnets of Spring Entry #8

[Note: Link to Sonnets of Spring. Entry is on topic #3]

Mirror

-Infernal Knight

‘There is someone else in the mirror, doc!’

‘What’s more to understand here? I have already narrated this story, like, a million times now.’

‘I told you already. I do not remember what made me come home early that day. I guess it is one of those things you just do not recall, like what you had after dinner two nights ago; or the colour of some shirt you happen to wear on a regular day.’

‘Yes. I did meet her on the way back.’

‘Yes, sometimes I do wake up to eat. How is that relevant anyway? How is anything before the incident relevant?’

‘Damn right I realize you are fucking supposed to know me entirely to judge me, you asshole- but I have repeated this enough times already.

I am sorry for that. I was… not hearing what I said. I* ** fu***** scr****.’

‘Yes, I guess I am okay with repeating it again. I paid a visit at her apartment. I think she had called me while I was working, asking me to meet her at her house. She had some husband issues- you know- the regular kind. It is like there are men in this world who behave as dicks- I mean- jerks- and we are judged for what they do. The bastard hit her… right on her high cheekbones. That meant quite some days of wearing sunglasses for her. In any case, it was a pathetic thing to do, and I was relieved when I heard she was finally divorcing the d-jerk.’

‘Yeah. I do. I love my wife a lot. I work hard for her. You know, the regular kind of work everyone does.’

‘No, that is where most people go wrong. You tend to think that because I wear a suit to work, I just pretend to work and do nothing? I work my ass off twenty-four hours a day. Yes sir, no breaks for me! I do not take time-off for random shit other guys engage in. I have to work to earn money. And I need lots of money. Then perhaps, I’ll buy a place for me on the hills. No more work then. I’ll probably own a farm then.’

‘Yes, my wife wants a farm too. All I’m doing is for her. The Lord knows that I have done everything for her. Even though, you know, she is- how do you put it- barren and all- the regular thing. No children! None, never, not even slightly possible! I have given up hope now, you know. But I guess I cannot help it sometimes- just hoping, like when she called me at work today, asking me to come over for a discussion we needed to have. It was quite regular, I must say. She often does that, calling me up at work and asking me to come over.’

‘Funny thing, yes. I know, she has done it so many times now, I can almost tell you what she’ll do next when she does it. She would begin by saying that she has had enough. Then she would walk over to the window sill and curve her long, slender fingers around the handle of the large, black bag- her nails covered in fading red nail-paint she had probably applied on her a few days ago. And then she would add that to a carefully rehearsed line about our disintegrating marriage and then some other issue and how I need to get my life back on track. It is as I told you earlier doc. She likes joking with me sometimes, but it is crazy how she uses the same scene over and over again.’

‘That’s the most interesting part, yes. I fall for it each time. It may be because I love her so much you know. I told her once I would buy a house for her on the hills. That was before the incident happened.’

‘So then, it was a regular thing, you know. I woke up one day and felt hungry. I have been feeling hungry a lot lately. It is as if I just have to eat and eat and eat all day long. There seems to be a voice inside that says eat, and eat, and keep eating. So I helped myself to a small sandwich. I love sandwiches you see. Whoever invented peanut butter did a service to humanity. Then my wife came up to me and she asked me back to bed lovingly. I love her a lot. Pity though, she can never be a mom. Did I tell you she cannot have children?’

‘Oh yes! My wife is beautiful. Particularly that day, when she called me to bed. She is a passionate woman. Earlier that day, she put on a red nail-paint, you know, regular nail-paint women are so fond of. She was crying though, and all I could think of was to reach out to her and comfort her for whatever was bothering her.’

‘I told you this before, doc, I love her. Why are you leading me in Circles?’

‘Well, then Screw you for trying to understand me. Do not even try to. You will not. You are just like the others… disapproving and discouraging. You guys pull people like me down. You are just like her you know, the childless Bitch. Always trying my patience! She deserved it.’

‘Oh I broke her jaw, I guess, or her high cheekbones. I really do not care. This whore tells me ‘I’ can’t handle peanut butter due to my allergies. As if I do not know what is good for me. Sometimes I feel like beating the shit out of her and dumping her somewhere in these hills. There is not a fucking soul around that would care enough for her rotting corpse. No one understands actually, what it is like to feel strangely trapped. It is as if you can’t break out of yourself even though you want to.’

‘Yes, I have felt so more than once. When I look at the mirror, for instance, it seems as if I am looking at someone else. I do not recognise him… It is… Sometimes you know… Scary to find out that you do not recognise yourself anymore.’

‘Yeah, sometimes I wonder whether there might be someone else in the mirror.’

‘I do not understand. Can you tell me once more about it?’

‘One day, you know, you just decide to come home early. It just feels weird. There happens to be nothing that may trigger this, but I guess there is.’

‘And then you just happen to meet her.’

‘Hey, have you ever felt an inexplicable urge to wake up at the middle of the night and just eat, and eat, and keep eating forever?’

‘Just asking you, you know, to know you better.’

‘I couldn’t get the last statement entirely. Could you repeat yourself?’

‘I agree. I really think a man needs to love his wife.’

‘Your work, doc, is easy. You don’t have to do much, I guess.’

‘Someday, you just want to get up and own a farm. Probably ask your wife if she wants it too and go ahead with that. I really believe a man needs to love his wife.’

‘It is strange when you find your wife pulling the same scene over and over again. But the funny thing is I fall for it each time.’

‘I guess if you love someone so much, you tend to fall for the same stuff each time.’

‘I guess we wandered far away from the actual incident here. We are going in circles. Let us just discuss the incident.’

‘It feels bad if you realise you can never be a father. I think I never told you this before, but my wife is barren, or as they put it, childless. But I guess you can live just with beauty.’

‘I guess you need to live for the person you love. Why else do you leave a life in the city to come to the hills?’

‘I am just trying to understand this for once.’

‘I hit my wife too. I swear I did not want to. I really didn’t, you know. But then something came over me. This thing that is controlling me… Ever find yourself lost in the mirror, doc? Like someone telling you what to do, every moment of your life? And for those intermittent intervals when you break out of it, you just ask yourself the same question- what did you do?

‘Have you ever felt this way, doc?’

‘Sometimes I am just scared. Sometimes you just seem to wonder whether you are looking at yourself in the mirror.’

‘There is someone else in the mirror, doc!’

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Sonnets of Spring Entry #7

[Note: Link to Sonnets of Spring. Entry is on topic #3]

Life Cycle

-Nature’s Natural

” ‘I should ask her… Or I shouldn’t.’ I kept staring at her while my mind tried to look through the haze. It was too late. She strutted past me again and left no solace for my longing heart.” It continued, “Even Shakespeare would be in dearth of adjectives to define her divine beauty. This red glowing Sun would shy away at her luscious lips. The deafening silence of the space would scream upon seeing the tranquility on her face.”

“…you will have to repeat your Maths course,” said a stern voice. I stood up and with weary eyes looked at its source. Suddenly, an unfamiliar bell rang and I ran out to escape the embarrassment of failures.

That sad day was not supposed to end on a sad note. As I rushed outdoors, I crashed into her. It was an accident that I had planned innumerable times in my dreams. It actually happened. Her silky, curly hairs brushed my face. I whirled around and fell right into her embrace. Oh! What a heavenly touch that was! But strange as I am, I turned without acknowledging her and kept running.

Bang!

“It’s getting colder as I am getting nearer. However, I entered the examination hall with a troubled heart and wrote the paper with a hustled mind. She was sitting right across me in that hall. Should I have approached her? Perhaps, I should have. But I could not gather courage then. It is one of those moments which you might have planned and rehearsed a hundred times but your body gives up at the final moment. It seems that the body and the mind are two independent entities. Yet, one tries to control the other. I tried to force my limbs and walk up to her.But to no avail. Well, the next day was the last day, my last chance to pour my heart out.”

“I am sorry! Are you alright. Why were you running on the street? Why don’t you speak? Hey! He is bleeding. Help! Help! Lift him in the car. Let’s rush him to the hospital.” said he in his known stern voice. I heard some people uttering in grief, “This kid will not survive. May God bless his soul. May his soul rest in peace.” These were the only words that my conscious mind could hear and remember.

“It was a very long day. Every second seemed an hour. I was too anxious. I won’t get another chance. I hardly slept that night. Racing the first light of morning Sun, I reached my school. I kept waiting for her, outside the school and inside the campus. She didn’t come. The gatekeeper of Hell had given me only two days. And this was the last one.”

“I laid my head down on the desk and went in deep slumber. Although I had a few hours left, I had lost hope. Death kills your body but your soul clings onto hope and thrives. But this time I felt like losing my soul too. I was drifting towards eternal sleep when your Maths teacher woke me up. I was back to your world.”

As it was telling me this, I found myself rising from the white hospital bed. I could not feel my limbs. I felt no pain. I rose inch by inch. I saw the red glow of the Sun before entering the silent space. But I didn’t want to go. How could I depart without telling her? Didn’t God hear that man’s prayers? Was there no God? Where was I going? I tried very hard to descend but all in vain. The only thing I could do was think and ponder upon my wasteful life. Before falling into oblivion, I looked down. Down to the place I rose from. It seemed that the time had stopped at that moment. I was still standing at the gates. And there she was. Everything was still. So, I decided to focus on the voice which I heard it for the last time.The voice was fading but I could distinctly make out what it was trying to say.

“All was not over yet. As I was running out of the campus gate, I crashed into her. Would you believe? She was right in front of me. What a better show of fortune one wants? I won’t miss it this time. I rushed onto the street to lift the rose that I brought for this special occasion. Then were we hit by a car. Your body became too weak to bear me, so, here I stand at Hell’s gate. Again.”

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Sonnets of Spring Entry #6

[Note: Link to Sonnets of Spring. Entry is on topic #3]

-Nishit Asnani

“Hi, my ghost.

I had to talk to you since a long while. This is probably my best opportunity to have a clear and organized conversation with you. Read carefully and make a prompt decision about what you want to do after you’ve read this.

You came into my life three months back, when I had accidentally fallen off the Ganges Barrage. Water had engulfed me from all sides and I had lost consciousness. It was flowing ferociously and rupturing my insides, like many hands twisting and turning my internal organs. It took some time before I was pulled out, and brought back to consciousness, but those few minutes changed my life forever.

It was then that you were born.

I was restored to normalcy in a couple of days, or so I thought. Two days after the incident, I was cooking for me and my wife in my kitchen. When I clasped the kitchen knife for slicing cucumber, strange thoughts crossed my mind. You know what, I felt like stabbing myself with the piece of sharp metal that I had clutched tightly in my right hand. I controlled the urge and tried to forget the incident.

But it turned out that that was not an isolated incidence. Weird thoughts have occurred to me ever since, and have grown in intensity and frequency in the last one month. I was once gripped so strongly by the idea of crashing my car into an overloaded truck, that I nearly did it. I have often felt like jumping off the terrace of my house, or my office building, whenever I’ve had the opportunity. But I have resisted.

I had started to guess that there was a shadow lingering inside my mind. There had to be someone, or something, that was forcing my internal environment to turn violently against me. But I had to be sure.

Then an incident happened that left no shadow of doubt in my mind.

About ten days back, when I was standing at a bus station with my bag, a thought was slowly taking shape. I wanted to stand in the middle of the road. As the idea developed further, I left my bag and wandered towards the street. Even before I knew it, I was standing right at the centre of it, and a car was approaching me at a speed that could have been fatal, had I not stepped out of the way in the nick of time. I was sure then, that there is someone else residing inside my head.

So I did the most logical thing. I went to the best psychiatrist of the city, Miss Terry. I told her about my problem and what I thought about it. She listened patiently, and then told me what the whole affair was. The day when I had almost drowned, a part of my brain had died due to water logging in my veins. The death of those cells led to your birth, a half-formed ghost.

You had since tried to possess me, by influencing my thoughts, planting ideas in my brain and trying to kill me, so that you’d be freed from the boundaries of my body and would roam around, ready to take charge of a foreign soul. Since you had not formed properly, you didn’t have enough strength to leave my body yourself, and so you were trapped. But over time, your influence has grown, which shows that you have grown too. All you need is a single event to free you. You want me to die. But I will dominate you. I’ve written it down and keep looking at it to remind myself of the fact.

But this is where you are mistaken. Miss Terry has told me that my death would not free you. It would rather kill you, since you are midway between a ghost and a real soul. My soul may still survive, and if it does, I will live in peace ever after.

She told me to write a letter, to convince you to leave my soul before you finish reading it. Since you are a half soul, and can influence my thoughts, I, as a full formed soul, can also influence you. I just have to talk to you in a clear language and tell you systematically and in an organized manner what I want from you. What better way to do it than a letter? The mind understands better if it has to read a well written text, rather than when it has to interpret half formed thoughts. I have tried my best to let you know what I know about you and what I am going to do.

I see that you haven’t changed your mind. I will have to destroy you now.

You’ve irked me for far too long. Have a sad journey to hell.

Take care,

Your Ghost.”

————————————————

A report was found in the office of Mr. Dilip Chaturvedi, a day later. It was apparently about the cause of his death, written by a psychiatrist:

Dilip’s death is a big blow to his family, and to the society at large. He died under mysterious circumstances whose true nature can only be guessed, and not established by the present means.

He had escaped death three months back, when he had fallen off the Barrage, but he could not escape a ghost. The death of a part of his mind gave rise to a half formed ghost who has inhabited his body since then, and can be accounted for his death.

The police handed me a letter for examining the mentality of the deceased, and this is what it had to convey. Dilip had a ghost living inside him, alongside his own soul. This ghost was bound by the physical barrier of its host’s body, because it was in fact its own body. It was desperate for an escape. Although it tried to plant ideas into Dilip’s own soul to kill himself, the latter resisted and lived, despite its best efforts.

I saw a few bits of paper lying in the dustbin of Dilip’s living room. One of them read, “I will dominate you.” It was apparently written by his soul to remind himself that he will eventually dominate the ghost. But when I read the letter again, I was convinced that I was going in the wrong direction. Dilip could not have remembered what he had felt once he was unconscious under water.

The ghost came up with the idea to convince Dilip’s soul to commit suicide, and leave an escape route for it. It had grown in influence over the months, and was strong enough to motivate Dilip’s body to write a letter, addressing the ghost itself, presumably from the real soul.

The ghost knew that nothing could have influenced a soul better than a well organized letter that it reads to itself.

The ghost told the events as if it was the real soul, and convinced the latter that trying to kill itself was the only way to kill the ghost. It invented a psychiatrist, whose name sounds like a mystery, and used her fictional advice to add authority to its words.

Finally, the ghost won and Dilip’s soul was convinced that it was the ghost inside his body, and not the other way round. So he jumped off the window of his office room and set the ghost free.

I convey my condolences to the family of the deceased. May his soul rest in peace.

Ghosts don’t leave unsolvable mysteries.

(Miss Terry) Chaturvedi

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Sonnets of Spring: Adjudicator’s Voice and Results

Here is what our adjudicator, Samit Basu, had to say about the ELS LitFest’15 creative writing competition, Sonnets of Spring:

1. Possessed by Pallav Goyal – Engaging writing, interesting voice. A lot of the other stories were conceptually much larger and more full of potential, but this one showed the most control over its material. A good call, given that the piece is short. Also, good storytelling.

2. Webcomics by Llama – I’d have given this first place if it had covered a bit more ground, good writing. The images don’t really contribute to the story, though they are effective illustrations – even though they are from other sources. So treating this as a prose piece. But I like the writing. Next time, use the images as narrative devices as well if you’re aiming at comics, or be confident and stick to only text.

3. Stella and the Cake by Shashwat Chandra – Very interesting premise, and fun writing as well. But this is a good beginning to a book, not a story in itself. I’d love to know more about the world and what happens in it, but this felt too constrained by the rules of the contest.

Overall, the quality of storytelling I saw in this set of submissions was higher than that seen in several of India’s mostly wildly bestselling novels. So keep writing, people. If there’s one bit of constructive criticism I have overall, it’s to remember to calibrate the depth of the concept you want to tackle with the length of the piece. Several writers picked up large, book-level ideas and then struggled to tell a clear story over a small wordcount. You have to be a really powerful writer to accomplish that, but it never hurts to try of course.

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