Friday, 1 April 2016

The Iron Man (Short Story)

iron man flamethrower tiberium sun command and conquer

It looked like an army had destroyed the area.  A whole cluster of slums burned down, along with the people sleeping inside. Whatever it was, it struck in the dead of the night and swiftly turned homes and lives into ashes.

It was chaos. The fire was blindingly white; most people suffocated to death after their shelters collapsed on them. Those who were lucky enough to escape could only run a few steps into the open before their skin melted off the flesh and they collapsed in a heap.  Man or woman, child or adult, abled or disabled; not a single person survived and there were no witnesses. It was a massacre of the worst kind.

The municipal authorities declared that an electrical short circuit started the fire and closed the matter. The police cited a lack of witnesses as the reason that the case had hit a dead-end. Politicians couldn’t capitalize on it, as there was no one alive to ask for compensation. The incident dominated the local news for about a week, but the coverage fizzled out when a celebrity made a controversial statement about a political issue and ended up hogging all the media attention.

The horror was just beginning to fade in public consciousness when it happened again. Another slum pocket, this time a bigger one, turned to smoke and ash before anyone trapped in the hell could comprehend why their eyelids were melting over their eyes.  It was a repeat of the earlier incident with one little exception- there was a witness. A little boy who had woken up to relieve himself on the nearby railway tracks saw exactly what had happened.

He recounted the events of the night in gory detail to the cops. He talked in short phrases, telling a story of how his mother had accompanied him to the tracks, how they saw a large man in a metal suit carrying a gun that sprayed white fire, how his mother ran back to save his sister and never returned. He kept pausing in-between to ask if his mother is okay. The cops lied that she was recovering in a hospital, when in reality they had found the scorched remains of a woman tightly clutching a child.
Even the boy’s memory of what happened that night only painted an incomplete picture. How could a genocidal madman in a metal suit, whom the media had christened “Iron Man”, move around freely with only the darkness to cover him? The media blamed the cops of being uninterested in the protection of citizens. The cops blamed their lack of manpower, technology and firearms on politicians. The politicians blamed it on terrorists and the opposition. Amidst all the hoopla, there was no solution being formulated to prevent this from ever happening again. It was only the people who lived in nearby slums; those who were at risk of losing their lives and loved ones next, who took up arms and started keeping all-night vigils.

But the next victims weren’t powerless, helpless commonfolk. Now, it was the turn of the big dogs. The same fiery fate befell those at the highest ranks of power. Inspectors, commissioners, ministers and even the head of the state, were all turned into molten heaps of skin and flesh. Next were the big corporate honchos, burned to death, trapped in their ultra-luxury cars. It seemed that there was no one who could stop the Iron Man from destroying his targets.    

The entire city had collectively turned paranoid. No one had any clue about what this mysterious beast was or what it wanted. Some though it was a demon, sent to punish the sinners. Thousands of volunteers came together to conduct patrols throughout the day. Ragardless, the Iron Man struck again. Some slum-dwellers who had seen him coming from a small distance away raised a commotion, but it was practically of no use. Gathering in a mob only made it easier for them to be killed in one random spray of fire. Once again, there were no survivors.

Some volunteers and cops were on patrol rushed to the spot when they heard screams accompanied by rising smoke. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the Iron Man slowly lumbering away from the inferno. They reached for their guns and opened fire. The killer’s suit was bulletproof but it’s bulk limited the wearer’s mobility. One of cops sprinted ahead and positioned himself in front of the metallic beast.  One perfectly-aimed shot at the helmet's weakest point- the eye guard- slayed the devil.  The cops quickly approached the body and took off the helmet. All they saw was an unremarkable-looking man with a bullethole in his right eye. Backup arrived and searched the area thoroughly for accomplices. They found a van which contained only 3 things- a spare flamethrower, few gallons of homemade fuel and a piece of paper containing a message. These were the contents of that note:

Dear World,
If you have found this note, it means I am dead. Who I am is not important. What matters is what I do and why I do it.

I was born a man, but now I am a force of nature.  I was given a form and put in this place for a purpose. I understood that purpose only recently.

This city has turned to shit and it’s my mission to save its people. I have a plan: start from the bottom and move upwards, slowly cleansing this city of the pests and parasites that are sucking the life out of it.

First, go for the lower classes. The sub-humans who drive down the value of human life with their huge numbers. Fools who have no option but to work till their body fails and then be replaced by their own children who have no education, no dignity and no hope of ever escaping the cycle of exploitation.  They are too stupid to see the pointlessness of their own existence, which is why I must wash them away with my cleansing fire. I act not out of hate, but out of respect for human life.

Once I wipe out the cockroaches, it’s time to slaughter the pigs. The businessmen who profit from the stupidity and misery of unsuspecting slaves. Greedy leeches who pay their workers just enough so that they don’t try to start a revolution. And the politicians who work with them to keep the people stupid and hungry. The oligarchs who took the reigns from previous oppressors and now want to pass it to their undeserving children. Corrupt wolves in sheep masks who will let no one except their own tribe rise. And yet they have the balls to ask for votes from those same people whose faces they press their boots on, with promises they never intend to fulfill. They all deserve to burn for their sins.

It’s now or never. If I don’t do it, no one will. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Tripping on Tiger Style (Short Story)

tiger style short story fractal

Tiger Style is fierce and aggressive, with powerful strikes and fast attack combos. There is no waiting, and little defense in this style. Opponents of the Tiger Style are often intimidated and overwhelmed. 

Jay was a garden-variety modern-day hippie. He literally hung out in gardens and other secluded spots where no one would notice the smell of the illegal substances he was inhaling. While his friends had moved on to more productive things like education and careers, Jay was stuck as an aimless deadbeat frequenting the shady spots of his neighbourhood. His parents were rich and Jay himself was comfortable leeching off his inherited wealth, so his habits made no difference to anyone.

Today, Jay was to meet up with Tony and a deal was to go down. This was usually a routine transaction between the two; Tony had a knack for getting his hands on all kids of drugs- psychotropics, psychedelics, prescription, uppers, downers and any other kind that existed – both common and rare, and Jay had a knack for trying new things. Jay trusted Tony to hook him up with the best stuff, and he had never been disappointed. The last time the two met, Tony had waxed eloquent about a psychedelic called Tiger Style. The story went that this drug was extracted from the adrenaline gland of a tiger, but Tony confided in Jay that it was simply a story meant to jack up the price.

“Between you and me, off-the-record, it’s extracted from shrooms, man, like acid”, Tony informed Jay. He did this partly because Jay was a seasoned tripper who knew to be vary about drugs with outlandish backstories and partly because he knew Jay’s vegan lifestyle wouldn’t let him score any drug that came from, or was tested on, an animal.

“All natural yo, totally organic. Hell of a trip too. All your states are altered and you see GOD”, Tony said, flashing a huge smile. Both of them burst out laughing and high-fived, but Jay was now a little anxious. Tony was no less of a tripper and Jay knew that he wouldn’t make a statement like that unless the trip was intense with a capital I.  Intrigued, Jay said he’ll take one.

A couple of nights later, Jay got a stamp of Tiger Style from Tony. It was just a small piece of blotter paper, without any fancy designs. Tony had warned him not to eat the whole thing at once, but Jay had heard the same warning too many times by now to pay any heed. He drove to a nearby hill all alone and trekked up for two hours. It was the day of the Festival of Lights and Jay wanted no part of the firecracker pollution. He found a huge tree to slump down under and started chewing on the blotter. Then, he rolled a joint to pass the time till it kicked in. The only company he had was a stray dog called Kanye which he had befriended during his many visits to the hill.

An hour later, while Jay was tripping on the fireworks, thinking about how each colour is produced by a different chemical, he noticed a bright green light from the corner of his eye. Kanye started barking ferociously and Jay quickly turned to look for the light source. When he saw what looked like a spaceship the size of a bus, his first thought was that the trip was kicking in. He quickly tried taking a picture with his phone, but he couldn’t keep his hands steady enough for a clear shot. He tried calling Tony, but the letters on his contact list were warped and spinning in a spiral pattern. All of a sudden, the spaceship’s door fell open. A blinding white light came from inside.

It took Jay’s eyes a couple of seconds to adjust and when they did, he saw some kind of being standing in the middle of the doorway. At once, a thousand thoughts rushed through his head about what this creature could be.

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck is it a Predator really hope it’s not one of those things from Alien I can’t deal with a fucking headcrab right now what the fuck is this thing should I run?? Fuck there’s nowhere to hide!! Is this God?? Is this what Tony was talking about?? What if it takes me to another planet man fuck I don’t want a probe up my-“

Before he could complete the thought, Jay’s eye adjusted and he could see the creature’s actual form. It was eight-foot tall and looked like a giant, hairless teletubby. Jay didn’t know whether to be relieved or even more scared. Then he noticed the gun it was carrying; so, he went with ‘even more scared’ and pissed himself. Kanye was still barking and took an aggressive stance against this interplanetary intruder.

“What the fuck are you, man?”, Jay whispered in a trembling voice, taking a gamble that the creature might speak English. Kanye leapt up to attack the creature, but with one pull of the trigger, he was turned into a charred carcass.

“Noooooooooooooooooooo! Why? Why? Why?”, Jay screamed out as the smell of burnt flesh crept up his nose, making him almost throw up. He looked up at the alien with an expression of disgust and sadness.

“Relax”, a soothing voice said to Jay, even though he definitely didn’t see the creature’s mouth move. “That thing was about to attack me. Do you realize I’d have had to travel back 25 light years just to get a band-aid if that thing had bit me?”, the creature said and burst out laughing. The sight of an eight-foot tall hairless teletubby laughing its ass off frightened Jay more than the time his dad almost found his porn folder. “Please don’t kill me, man”, Jay pleaded.

“I’m a scientist, for God’s sake! My race is intellectually advanced. We’re not some savage hunters like those invisible things with dreadlocks.”, the alien telepathically told to Jay.
“You believe in God too?”, Jay asked, surprised.
“Of course! We found him dead a while back back. Poor guy. Committed suicide”, the alien replied, shaking its head with pity. It then went on, “You see, he had two pet projects- us and you guys. He had many more of course, but none of them flourished like we did. For the longest time we thought we were alone in this universe, but when we found out about you guys, we had to pay a visit!”
Jay, right now, was trying to figure out how the creature was able to use a condescending tone every time it said “you guys” even while communicating telepathically. But he couldn’t figure it out.
“So we landed here around a hundred thousand of your years back and saw these weird things still trying to understand fire. We laughed and left, but then reports started coming in that you guys have managed to create nuclear explosions.  I gotta tell you, we couldn’t believe it was first. It happened in a snap compared to us. So, I’m just here for a regular survey, cause we’re beginning to think that you guys might kill us if we don’t kill you firs-“
“I think I’ve said too much”, the creature said while slowly raising its gun up to Jay's face.
Jay jumped aside like a startled cat.
“No no no no don’t worry I’m not gonna tell anyone! No one would believe me even if I did!”, Jay tried to reason. “Didn’t you just say you’re intellectually advanced? What about peace, love and unity? Isn’t that the true mark of intelligence?”
“No, doing everything to survive is. Remember what you guys did to the Neanderthals? That was clever. We’re just doing the same to you, or thinking about it anyway”, the creature shrugged, still pointing its gun at Jay.
“No, please don’t. Try this, it’ll help you chill out and see things my way”, Jay said while offering it a joint he had rolled before the spaceship landed.
“How do I know you’re not trying to poison me?”, the creature replied. Jay promptly lit the joint and took a couple of puffs. “Your turn”, he said while passing the joint.

The alien accepted the joint suspiciously and examined it from every angle. It then took a five or six long drags and exhaled almost nothing. A couple of moments passed. “I need to sit”, it said and sat down under the nearby tree. Jay slowly sat beside it, wary that it still had a tight grip on the gun. After a long silence, the alien started speaking again, “Maybe you’re right, man. You guys are so pathetic; you’ll probably kill yourselves before you even find out about us. Why am I wasting my time travelling here when I could be spending these precious moments with my family or doing something more productive?  This whole thing is pointless, man.”

With that, the alien got up and started walking towards its spaceship. Before getting in, it turned to Jay and looked him in the eyes. “Seriously though, don’t tell anyone”, with these parting words, the door closed and the spaceship took off, becoming smaller and smaller till it blended in with the stars. Jay breathed a sigh of relief and lied down clutching his head. “That was some fuckin’ trip”, he thought to himself and quickly fell asleep, exhausted from all the drama.

When he woke up the next morning, Jay found himself trying to recall and comprehend the events of the previous night. He checked the pictures on his phone, but they were all dark and hazy. He looked around and everything seemed peaceful. There were no signs of a spaceship landing and no one had come up to investigate strange occurrences. He checked his pants and they were still a bit moist from having pissed himself. Everything else seemed normal, till Jay noticed Kanye’s burnt remains.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

An Ode To Mumbai Local Trains (Poem)

mumbai local train crowd rush

You never let down those who put their faith
and trust in you; O Great Mumbai Local Train.
Except when it drizzles for an hour straight
and you are impeded by petty rain.
You are defeated when it pours,
even the most faithful have to turn back.
And rely on other modes of transport,
for you're not safe on a wet track.
But it is only in the monsoon that you suffer
and in turn make those suffer, who rely on you.
The rest of the year you are much tougher
to shake. But, oh yes, shake a lot, you do!

You have taught me so much!
You have given me such wonderful gifts!
I had never felt before, the warm and wet touch
of a stranger's armpit.
I could actually feel my insides,
I had never before been so tightly squeezed.
I even felt the insides of the guy behind me,
each time he breathed.
And everyday I am reassured
when Kurla is near,
that humans still have monkey brains,
seeing regressed behaviour.
People stomp on each other's feet,
elbow others in the face.
The search for an elusive seat,
turns humans into apes.

Quadruple is the cost of the pass,
But "first" and "second" are just words.
First class is second class
and second class is third.
But yes, in first class,
there is a big difference
Eunuchs rarely get in it and
armpits have perfumed fragrance.

O Great Mumbai Local Train!
You are the best way to see the city's slums
and soak in the city's pollution.
I got my phone stolen once.
Being paranoid is the only solution.
I thought I didn't fear death,
And I never used to pray.
Now that I have to hang on the edge,
I pray every day.

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