I don’t remember everything, but I will tell you everything I remember. Okay?
So this happened. Don’t know when, don’t know the date or the time. All I remember is that when I woke up, it was dark and cold, and it was raining outside, pouring buckets. It must be somewhere between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. And going by the aggression of the rain, it must be the rainy season, maybe July. Either ways, time’s not important. The events that followed are. So listen.
As I got up from the bed, the cold hit me in the face and clamped my chest. I pranced across the room and closed the windows. I switched on the geyser, came back to my table, ran my hands on the surface, and after what seemed like eternity, got hold of my pack of cigarettes and lighter. I lit one and took a heavy drag. God knows it felt great.
I smoked two cigarettes and went to the bathroom. Took a quick shower, got dressed, and went out. It was still dark and it was still raining. But I went out, anyway. Here’s the thing: I don’t know where I was going. I was about to find out.
The streetlights were gone and it seemed like darkness had stabbed the world in the gut. The rain had stopped by now and I walked on, my slippers making that annoying splitch-splatch sound. I took the flyover and started walking along the way. Now this is the part I don’t remember well. Don’t know how I reached the flyover. It was around five kilometres from my place. I don’t remember walking that far on foot. But I was there, on the flyover – the same flyover I took every day to work.
Before I knew what was happening, I found myself standing at a junction. And the next instant I was in Big Brewsky on Sarjapur road. I have such warm memories of that pub. The sweet times I spent there with my girlfriend! I had a sudden urge to call her and talk to her; wanted to tell her that I was in our favourite spot, on the second floor at the bar counter. I reached into my pocket to take out my mobile phone, but I didn’t have it on me. Talk of forgetting things, huh? I had forgotten to pocket it when I left home.
Some of you must be wondering if I have the habit of sleepwalking. You are wrong. I don’t have such problems. I know what I’m talking about. Although I agree that my memory fails me sometimes, I would never ever forget the things that happened that night. I mean, come on. You can forget what you had for breakfast last week, you can forget the names of your school friends, you can forget the plot of the novel you enjoyed so much last year. But can you really forget the night you murdered someone? No, right? I can’t, either.
I was feeling a bit tipsy now as I stood in the middle of the road near Eco Space Business Park. Did I have a drink at the pub, I’m not sure. Then again, how could the pub be open at such odd hours? And how did I manage to get in? Well, these are the memory lapses I was talking about. It is incredibly annoying.
Ever heard of Raghu Dixit? No, not the singer slash composer Raghu Dixit. The serial killer Raghu Dixit who walked the streets of Bangalore in the night and killed people, mostly with a sledgehammer. It was quite a big deal last year. All the news channels fancied him to up their TRPs. The police never caught him, nobody knows his name. The only survivor told the police that he looked like singer slash composer Raghu Dixit. That’s how the media came to call him Raghu Dixit. The news died down when the news channels took more interest in a crow that sat on the Chief Minister’s car for five hours. These news channels are worse than serial killers, mind you.
Oh, did I give you the impression that I was the serial killer? Stop being so paranoid. Although I killed a guy that night, I’m no serial killer. I had ample reasons to kill him, unlike that Raghu guy who killed people randomly, without any motive. But the reason I told you about him is that I think I saw him that night.
I wasn’t entirely sure it was he, but I’d like to believe it was he. After all, you don’t get to share a cigarette with a famous serial killer every day, right?
So there he was, standing near the bus stop in front of Eco Space Business Park. He was dressed casually in black trousers and powder-blue shirt. Now don’t be over smart and ask me, ‘Hey, you said it was dark. How come you saw everything so clearly?’ It was not dark anymore. The streetlights had come back on. Anyway, there he was, smoking like it was the most important thing in the world. I started walking towards him. He noticed me, his face inscrutable. As I got near him, I noticed a black bag by his side. I wondered if he had his trademark sledgehammer in it.
‘I’m feeling very cold. May I have a cigarette?’ I asked him, rubbing my arms.
He offered one without a word. I lit it, took two puffs, and then looked at him. His eyes were fixed on the road. Maybe he was thinking about something. Maybe he was thinking of killing me. I finished my cigarette in silence, scrounged up some courage, and asked him: ‘What do you do? What are you doing here?’
He flicked the butt of the cigarette away; and without looking at me, he picked up his bag. I stepped aside. Slowly, he turned towards me, and said, ‘Nothing.’
‘You look like Raghu Dixit,’ I blurted out.
‘I know,’ he said, unzipping his bag.
I was sure I was going to die then. I couldn’t run away, for fear had held me incapacitated. I was staring at him in horror. He saw my face, smiled crookedly, reached into his bag, took out his phone, and zipped the bag again. I heaved a sigh of relief.
‘Thanks for the cigarette,’ I said.
Do you know who the most patient people in the world are? Thinking of monks or people who practice meditation, are you? No. You are wrong. Let me tell you. The most patient people in the world are stoners. You know, those who smoke weed. If you don’t believe me, look at them when they are rolling a joint. That’s beauty itself. The amount of patience it requires, my god! You will see them carefully separating the bad stuff, then powdering it, rolling it afterwards. All this requires tremendous amount of patience.
So there I was, enjoying the sight of a man rolling a joint. He was dressed in black jeans, red Deadpool t-shirt, and a pair of white canvas shoes. A few others were waiting for him to finish rolling. I am sure they were equally efficient men when it came to rolling joints, but it was simply Deadpool’s turn now.
Finally, he was done with his artwork. He lit one, closed his eyes, took a long drag, and passed it on to others. Everyone took a drag and then the last one passed it on to me. I took a drag, too, and passed it to the girl standing next to me. She took one puff and passed it on to the girl next to her. We took turns and smoked in silence. It was peaceful.
‘What do you have in there?’ the girl next to me asked, pointing to my bag.
She was dressed in brown salwar. She had tied her black silky smooth hair in a pony. She was wearing a nose ring, had winged her eyeliner, she was smoking weed, she looked mysteriously alluring. I was in love with her.
‘Huh?’ I said.
‘I asked what you have in your bag,’ she said, taking a puff.
It was only then that I realized I had a bag with me. I was equally curious as she was about the contents of the bag. But asking a stranger what he has in his bag is strange, don’t you think? But she was beautiful. So I think she had a right to ask me whatever she wanted.
I put the bag down and unzipped it. She bent down with me as I opened it.
‘What are you a carrying a sledgehammer for?’ she asked with no surprise in her tone. It was just a casual remark.
I shrugged in response.
‘Cool,’ she said.
I zipped up the bag and we got up. I looked around the hall once. It was a large food court. All the shops were closed, the main door was closed, the tables and chairs were nowhere to be seen. It was a food court in a business park. The business park I worked in. Then I looked at the people smoking. I recognized them all. I didn’t know them in person, but I had seen them all. And the girl! I recognized her, too. I saw her every day during lunch break. But what were they doing here? And what was I doing here? How did I get the bag? It was the same bag that Raghu Dixit had. How did I manage to get it from him? He was, after all, Raghu Dixit, wasn’t he? I shared a smoke with a serial killer! How did I get here –
‘Are you new?’ the girl asked me, breaking the flow of my thoughts.
I didn’t respond.
‘Okay, got it,’ she said.
‘What’s happening here?’ I asked her.
‘You don’t know, huh?’
I shook my head.
‘They have trapped us here.’
‘Who?’ I asked. ‘And why?’
‘I don’t know and I don’t know.’
I frowned and stared at her.
‘I really don’t know,’ she said, laughing.
That laugh! I fell in love with her for the second time in two minutes.
I smiled and asked her, ‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a dancer selling my soul to an IT company for money. Basically a whore. Everyone’s a whore here. What about you? What do you do?’
It took a few seconds for her answer to sink in my head. ‘Nothing,’ I said, not wanting to give away too much about myself. ‘I do nothing.’
‘I know what you mean,’ she said, laughing again.
Shut up and take my heart already, I wanted to tell her.
‘I’m Rhythm,’ she said. ‘What do I call you?’
‘Shambhu,’ I said.
She burst out laughing. ‘I’m so sorry to hear that. Your parents should be sent to prison for screwing with your name. Anyway, come on. Let me introduce you to everyone.’
She led me to the rest of the boys and girls and introduced me to everyone.
‘He’s Shambhu and he does nothing,’ is how she introduced me.
Everyone introduced themselves and for some reason I thought I was in the right company. There were about fifty people and everyone was an artist of some kind. They were musicians and dancers and painters and writers and poets and singers and sculptures. They were all working in the same business park, for some IT company or the other.
‘What are you all doing here?’ I asked the same question I had asked Rhythm. ‘Why are the doors locked?’
‘They have trapped us here,’ said a guy in blue pajamas. ‘We are trapped.’
‘Who?’ I asked again. ‘And why?’
‘I don’t know and I don’t know.’
I was about to ask him something when someone in the group started screaming. Everyone turned to the guy who was screaming. He ran towards the door, still screaming: ‘Let me out of here! Let me out of here!’
No one tried to console him, for they all knew that it was futile.
I don’t know for how long I was there, and it doesn’t matter. No one spoke for a long time. They smoked and they smoked and they stayed silent. Then a strange thing happened. They all started whispering among themselves. I thought maybe they were hatching a plan to get out. And when I realized what they were whispering about, my blood ran cold.
‘One of us here is not human,’ Rhythm said when I asked her what it was all about.
It reminded me of a movie I had seen a long time before: five people stuck in a lift, and in the end, one of them turns out be the devil. Even the movie was called Devil, if my memory serves me right.
‘What nonsense,’ I said.
‘I believe it,’ she said.
Maybe it was the marijuana speaking, I thought. It was then I felt the pull for the first time. I felt a pull on my back. I turned round and saw nothing. And when I turned back, everyone was staring at me in disgust. They were all standing together and staring at me.
‘What?’ I asked.
‘You are not a human,’ Rhythm said.
‘What are you talking about? Are you crazy?’
They started whispering among themselves again. A minute later they seemed to have made a decision.
Rhythm spoke: ‘You are not a human. Don’t know what you are. Maybe a monster, maybe not. But we believe that if we kill you, we will be freed.’
They started walking towards me slowly. They looked like zombies themselves and they were telling me that I wasn’t a human?
‘Hey, wait. There must be some mistake. Don’t be crazy. Stop right there.’
I started walking back. Here’s the fun part. I wasn’t walking back. I was being made to. It was involuntary. I was feeling that terrible pull on my back again. Someone was doing that to me.
I didn’t want to run away from there. I wanted to find out what was happening. But I wasn’t in control of my body. Someone was controlling my actions. Someone wanted me dead. I turned round and ran towards the door. Again, it wasn’t I who did that. But somehow I had managed to pick up my bag while I was being made to run.
It was raining heavily again when I got back to my room. I was drenched to the bone. There was no light, my room door was open. Did I leave it like that when I stepped out? I didn’t know. Neither did I know how I reached home, how I escaped from my possible killers in the food court.
I stepped into my room and realized that I wasn’t alone. There was someone on the bed, sleeping. My heart thumped in my chest. I wiped my face with my shirt sleeve and took a step closer. The man on the bed didn’t budge. I took another step forward. Then another and then another. As I walked towards him I started feeling weak in my body. I didn’t have much time, I was sure. I had to do something now. So I did. I unzipped the bag and took out the sledgehammer. I took another step forward and took a glance at the man who was sleeping on my bed.
It was he, the monster, the non-human that the stoners in the food court were talking about. No wonder they thought it was I. I could understand why they misunderstood me. The man sleeping on my bed was my doppelganger. He was the non-human, the monster. Not me. What’s that they said? ‘If we kill you, we will be freed.’ Yes, they were right. Everything that was happening was because of this ‘thing’ that was sleeping on my bed. I had to kill him. End it all.
I raised the sledgehammer and felt weak in my body. I had a strange feeling then. Was I dreaming? Was I sleeping? Was all that had happened till now a dream? I mulled over it for a few seconds. No, it wasn't it. It wasn't a dream at all. Everything that had happened till now was too real to be a dream. I raised the sledgehammer higher. I felt weaker than before. I was losing it, losing my energy. I tried to muster up every ounce of energy left in me and raised the sledgehammer up, up, up. And then another thought struck me: I wasn't dreaming, sure. But was I in a dream? In someone else's dream? My doppelganger's dream? Was I his illusion, his shadow? I didn't know what was happening anymore. The only way to find out was to bring down the sledgehammer on him. I gripped the handle of the sledgehammer. My knees felt weak, my hands felt week, I felt I was about to sag down, die. He was doing this to me. He was sucking out all the energy out of my body. I had to finish him and find out. I stretched my hands up again and brought down the sledgehammer on his head. Hard.
Ever seen a stupid horror film where they show a soul or a spirit or whatever escaping the body – like some smoke seeping out of the body? That’s exactly how I felt when I brought down the sledgehammer on his head. I don’t remember anything after that. I became non-existent after that. I don't know what it was all about? Couldn't find out. But if I thought I had killed him that night, I was wrong.
It’s been weeks or months or maybe years since that night. And now, I’m here again, standing over him, my doppelganger. I have a knife now instead of a sledgehammer. I have to kill him again. Maybe this time I will find out. I'm ready. I’m feeling weak in my knees again. I don’t remember what exactly happened tonight. But I’m here again, with a knife in my hand, with my lookalike on my bed. All I know is that I have to drive this knife into his heart.
I take a step closer. I feel weaker. I grip the knife in my hand. I feel something leaving my body yet again. Everything is repeating. Everything has started to blur. I lift my hand up and bring the knife down to his heart.
Copyright © Karthik 2016