16 May 2011
Perhaps it did not happen.
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Jenna was pleased with herself. She looked at herself in the glass window of Tiffany’s, small deli that she frequented from time to time. She wore a black suit with a silk shirt and scarf. She adjusted her scarf and blew the loose strand of hair that fell over her face. She felt good. She had just closed a business deal that would make sure that her company got a big guaranteed income for the next two years and her, a nice beefy pay raise.
She was in a mood to celebrate. She looked at the time. It was 9 in the morning; too soon for a drink. ‘What better way to start off than pancakes and maple syrup’, she thought and went into the diner. To her surprise, the deli was nearly full with just a few seats scattered here and there, but no empty table.
Now, Jenna was a very pretty woman, and she knew it. She wasn’t arrogant but knew that she attracted more than a few stares. Naturally, she enjoyed flirting around a bit, and was in a flirtatious mood now.
She looked around the empty seats and her eyes fixed on a table where a man was seated alone and was apparently engrossed in his meal. She sized him up. He wore a pair of faded jeans with a casual checked shirt and a pair of Ray Ban aviator sunglasses. Now, those glasses looked good on most people but on him, they looked awesome. ‘Mmmm’, she thought, naughtily. He had sharp features and though he was seated, she could make out that he was quite tall and well built.
She walked over to the table and asked in a tone that was cool, ‘This seat taken?’ ‘Be my guest’, said the man in a matter-of-fact way, without so much as looking up from his breakfast. Quickly checking to see if he had seen her, and confirming that he indeed hadn’t, she took off her scarf, undid the buttons of her suit and sat down.
He still didn’t appear to take any interest whatsoever in her and she felt a slight pang. Well, she wasn’t used to being ignored, that’s for sure and she decided to restore some status quo. ‘Nice place this’, she said to which the man nodded, still not taking his eyes off his meal. Now, she was incensed and decided to take it up as a challenge. From somewhere, that hidden vanity had indeed raised its head and quietly, she was pretty happy that it had.
She adjusted her suit again and decided to try again. ‘I’ve heard that the pancakes this place serves are the best. I’m Jenna by the way’, she said, her tone cool and measured. ‘Can’t really comment on that. I myself never had anything other than the eggs and bacon’, he said finally looking at her and flashing a hint of a smile. ‘Oh and I’m Jake. Pleased to meet you’, he said and got back to his meal.
Now there was something seriously wrong, thought Jenna. She certainly expected a better reaction, once that he had finally seen her, but apparently he was not in the least bit interested. Now, she was nothing if not a fighter. She decided to pursue her case with a renewed vigor and began to make friendly talk with him, asking him about what he did, where he lived and the usual. He replied to all her questions, in a cool way and even asked her a couple of questions, all the while never giving the impression of being distant, but not showing too much eagerness either. He hardly ever seemed to show her more than a small smile from time to time and seemed to be more engrossed in his meal. After a while Jenna gave up and began to mentally curse this guy. ‘I mean… His loss, if he can’t see what he’s missing. His loss…’, she reassured herself.
He finished his meal and paid for it, leaving a generous tip. She could see that he was indeed well built and tall. She was still cursing him in his mind, when he got up to leave. He pulled on a baseball cap which was on the chair next to him, turned to her, smiled, said, in the nicest possible manner, ‘It was great talking to you’, unfolded his cane, which was kept in the chair beside him, tapped it on the ground in front of him a few times to make sure he got his positioning sense right, and went off, tapping the cane ahead of him, leaving Jenna stunned.
Beauty, it is said, lies in the eye of the beholder.
He woke up; woke up to the same darkness that he woke up to every morning. He looked around and there was the same stillness all around. He tried to find something out of the ordinary but, as always, there was nothing. All around him was, everything was enveloped in the same dark stillness, save for the one fleeting faint ray of light overhead.
He grew more frustrated. At first, it only seemed natural, the darkness and the stillness. Soon though, he began to wonder; wonder beyond the dark, wonder of the one ray of light that kept appearing overhead from time to time, wonder about the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
The walls seemed to be closing in around him by the day. Either his enclosure was becoming smaller, or he was growing larger. He oft heard voices from the outside his walls of confinement, and had tried many a time to literally kick the walls down, but to no avail.
And so, he decided; decided that he had had enough; decided that he had been in shackles long enough; decided to break free.
Thus, he exerted, exerted himself, strained every last nerve and sinew and began to wade his way out of the stillness. Then strangely, as he began his struggle, he could feel the assistance of some invisible external force ‘pushing’ him toward his goal.
Buoyed by this, he soldiered on until he found an opening. At first, he gingerly pushed his feet through the orifice. His feet were free; free from the stillness. He experienced freedom for the first time. He moved his legs. With renewed vigor, he pushed himself until slowly he inched his way out of the confinement and soon, his whole being was free; free from the confines and shackles of the past nine months.
His baby blue eyes opened and he looked at the world for the very first time.
He had arrived.
As the morning sun, in the East, rose ,
In its glory, a great son arose.
From the depths of his mother,
Staring into the long blue yonder.
Footnote : One day, I was just thinking about what a baby would probably feel inside his mother’s womb and there you go … This was actually an idea that came to me quite a while ago but because of my laziness more than anything else, I never did sit down and pen it, or rather type it down. But hey! Better late than never right J
Italy, AD 2079
‘Old man Ves seems to be grumbling an awful lot today,’ said Fabio. ‘He has too much to complain these days, as all the old geesers do,’ replied Franchesco. ‘I can’t really see what he’s upset about though. We have food, water and a living. Sure, crime is on an all time high, but what do you expect? I mean, it IS the land of the mafia,’ he continued in a matter-of-fact way.
Meanwhile, in a shady alley, not too far away, ‘The boss wants an even bigger cut from the cocaine market, Al,’ complained Danielle. ‘I think that the boss is getting too big for his own shoes. Looks like someone is gonna have to do something about it, and soon,’ retorted Alberto. And continued, ‘Say, what is it with old man Ves? What is he groaning and rambling on so much today anyway? You, maybe think that he’s gonna finally erupt?’‘No way man. Haven’t you heard? Barking dogs seldom bite. Old man Ves is one such dog. Nothing more, nothing less,’ dismissed Dani.
‘I see the city for what it is. I see its true face. Steeped in layers of filth and grime. Hidden behind drug lords and criminal gangs. Murder, rape and extortion rampant in the streets. Children being made into slaves and peddlers at ages in which they ought not to even know the existence of any vice,’ scowled old man Ves.
‘It wasn’t always like this though. It was once a beautiful town. The most beautiful in the world and at its pinnacle, I stood. People were people then, and not the beasts they are today. There were flowing rivers and clean streets. Fields stretched in all directions and people lived real lives, not the sorry excuse for a life that they claim to have now. They lived those days. Today, they rat for an existence. It’s pathetic to even watch,’ rued the oldie.
‘Something must be done. No one is willing to stand up and be counted. No one has a spine any more. People are just happy to scavenge a living and let the town rot. After all, all they want is to be. It pains me to see that the world has come to this. Where is the bright sunshine and where are the vast open fields? Where is the laughter and merriment?’
‘All that remains is a sorry excuse for a town that was once glorious. I have given them a long enough rope and they don’t seem to be heeding to my warnings. I did not want it to come down to this, but I am afraid that I must take it upon myself to end this …. this farce,’ mused old man Ves, almost apologetically.
Thus seething in anger, Mount Vesuvius erupted, spewing his rage far, high and wide. He exploded in a blaze of glory, with golden lava flowing over the sides of the mountain and rapidly engulfing the entire town, burying all the filth and dirt and leaving it cleansed of the grime and crime.
Exactly 2000 years after a young Vesuvius has unleashed his fury on the unsuspecting town of Pompeii, he did so again. He then cooled down.
The town was in peace. After a long, long time, it slept, enveloping each and every inhabitant in a mist of slumber.
Footnote: This, I actually wrote for a competition, for publication in a magazine. I don’t think that they are going to publish it, so I though why not I publish it myself JThe last line, “The town was in peace. After a long, long time, it slept, enveloping each and every inhabitant in a mist of slumber” was given and we had to make a story based on that. Well, as soon as I saw that line, I remembered a story that we had in class 4 or 5, in our English text book about the town of Pompeii and what happened when Mt.Vesuvius erupted on that fateful day in AD 79. This was inspired from that. Also, people who read this, told me that there was a certain lack of continuity in the flow. I agree, but then I was working with a word limit of 500 word ( which I ended up exceeding anyway J ). Also, I imagined the setting to be like the city in ‘Sin City’ or Gotham City in ‘Batman begins.’ Well, this footnote has run into a foot paragraph, I see, but I felt that it must be told …