Sunday, August 29, 2010

And the Prisoners Eat Doves

He pressed his ear to the solid metal door but all he could hear were muffled sounds which he could not make anything out of. He gently tapped on it once…twice…thrice. “Knock knock” he said and chuckled softly. Some of his nails were broken from his previous attempt at displaying his strength, when he has heroically tried to break down that obstinate door. And some strange, funny looking people did things to him which he did not like in particular. He did not like being groped and touched by strangers. Besides, they smelled really horrible. Just like his room. It smelled of antiseptics and old age. It reeked of discomfort and disease. But he felt pretty fine. As good as he had ever been really. So he decided to go back to his happy-place, the bed, and threw down his body on it. It did not really matter to him what time it was or why exactly he was there. All that really mattered was his presence in that cell. Or his absence. He was not really sure anymore. Thinking made him tired.
Suddenly, he broke into a bout of perspiration. He felt very cold and he felt very angry. That same feeling of panic was gripping him again and he was not feeling as self-assured anymore. He was dizzy and he felt lonely. Very, very lonely. He murmured in inaudible whispers as he rocked back and forth. He needed some water. And he needed someone to hold. There were brilliant flashes of purple and red and he closed his eyes and desperately tried to remember snatches of his childhood. He was almost there. The golden autumn sunshine was bathing the wooden floor of the kitchen. And he saw his mother. She was knitting something and probably waiting for his sister to come home. He watched her like he used to watch her every move as a child.
Suddenly, he felt something going up his leg. A nimble, grotesque intruder.
He was lying on the stiff, starched bed, sprawled on his belly and grinning. The cockroach was firmly in his grasp and he was toying around with it. Holding it by one of its legs and wriggling it in the air as it struggled to let loose of his hold. He shook it from time to time and it wriggled more violently. Suddenly, he felt furious at that disgusting little bug. How dare he protest against his authority! Well, his attempts at a tiny little mutiny would fail quite miserably, Michael told himself. He placed the insect on a small piece of stark white cardboard and with a pin, practised his surgical skills. Off went one of it’s tiny, hairy legs. It wriggled violently and squirmed under the pin. Then very carefully, he snipped off the lateral wing on the adjacent part of its body. He tilted his head on one side and paused- He was reasonably satisfied with the operation. He decided to let his patient free and picked up the cockroach with one of it’s legs and set it free on the bed. It tried to scurry as fast as it could, with its mutilated body and Michael never took his eyes off it. It was struggling, he observed, to latch on to life. Desperately trying to evade it’s predator. To cheat destiny. What a brave little idiot! He chuckled to himself, before carelessly inverting the insect on its back as it squirmed in agony and helplessness. He did not like most of his patients. Michael was bored by now, so he threw it down on vinyl floor and quickly stomped on it a couple of times. Euthanasia is a huge comfort, he reflected. Pity most people did not realise that. After brushing the bed off the dirt and invisible germs, he lied down on his side.
He was gingerly rubbing his forearm, where they pricked him. There was still some dry blood that had clotted and clung on to his skin. He rubbed it off and tasted it blankly. Vague thoughts filled his head and he was trying to picture the face of his last victim- the cockroach. He wondered how it would look like had it been a human being. It would look like his father-he concluded with an air of finality. He yawned. Sleep was descending on him like a heavy blanket as he curled his body into a sort of bundle. He shut his eyes.

The kitchen smelled familiar, of freshly baked pies. The brilliant rays of the sun made his face glow as his mother scooped him up and placed him on her lap. She had put down her needlework and her arms were around his neck. He buried his face in her warm softness and tried to hide in her long brown hair. She gently stroked his back and was probably singing a lullaby as he fell asleep in his soft little cocoon.

Debjanee Chakrabarti

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