The Narrator

 

 

 

Part I

 

 

 

 

            

Baddy

 

 

 One

 

 

The emanation finally materialized in the evening. Gradually, it assumed shape and form before my eyes. I was stunned into silence, almost stupefied, an open-mouthed and horrified witness to the strange phenomenon. Twilight streamed into my study, casting shadows on the walls. I hadn't switched on the lights. I loved these incandescent autumn sunsets which daubed the sky in brooding oranges, bloody reds, or gentler, roseate shades. I was alone at home. My wife, Neha, had gone to her parents' in Pune. She was expecting our first baby. We had been married for about four years. I can't say that our marriage was a failure, but it wasn't a great success either. She was a very independent person--which I respected. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that there were sides to my character she never could understand. Nor, I must say, did she make any effort to understand them.

 

She worked as a Section Officer at the Reserve Bank of India, located at Saifabad. I worked as a Lecturer in the English Department at Asafia University. We lived in a modest flat off Tilak Road. We were the average, middle class Maharashtrian couple, somewhat diasporic though. I had bits of Madras and Hyderabad in me, but had never lived in Maharashtra; she had lived in Pune before coming to Hyderabad. It was logical for us to settle down in the latter city after our marriage since both of us had jobs there. That evening, I was sitting in my armchair with a magazine in my lap. My study opened onto a large veranda. From the open doors I regarded the world with what I thought was pensive detachment. I sat back, enjoying the slight nip in the air, breathing in the cow-dust hour of dusk. Then, slowly, the air began to thicken. The light became denser, hanging suspended from the terrace, oozing into my room like spilled honey.

 

I began to feel uncomfortable, as if my breath were being squeezed out. My body felt leaden, so heavy that I couldn't lift up my hands. My eyes froze in their sockets; my vision became blurred; my tongue was glued to my mouth; I felt gagged and helpless.

 

The objects in my room became grotesque and distorted. My table sagged and bulged as if it were plasticine. The large, round, Titan quartz wall clock became misshapen, like a clumsily fried egg, its yolk dripping from its punctured skin. Drip, drip, drip, it bled in large pale, waxy drops. My pens, bristling like centipedes, crawled about my desk. Pencils curled at their ends like tender, green shoots. My huge, heavy Websters opened on its own, as if someone were flipping through its pages. Then the books on my shelf began to sing like angry wasps. The novels whined, the poetry screeched, and the criticism droned. My study had become a writer's nightmare.

 

The light streaking into the room changed colour. There was a bluish glow in the room, an aura of supernal light. The air became brittle and dry, crackling with invisible currents. My hair stood on end. My spine and neck tingled. Though transfixed in my chair, I could feel the wild palpitations of my heart. My shirt was drenched with perspiration. I was like a panting animal being devoured alive by a predator. I even wondered if I was having a heart attack.

 

My skin became luminous. There was a greenish-yellow layer all over my body. A small, but very bright streak of white shot out of my mouth and eyes. It whirled about in circles, dancing up and down and from side to side. Slowly, it enlarged, like a glowing balloon, full of tiny shining particles. It became bigger and bigger, solidifying gradually, until it assumed the shape of a man. I could see him clearly. He wore jeans and a cotton shirt. He was about five eleven, my height. His features were also like mine, except his hazel eyes. He looked very secure and composed, as if he had just stepped out of a cacoon or from a spaceship. The funniest thing was that I could see through him completely. He was as thin as mist, as insubstantial as gossamer. Slowly, he assumed a more convincing appearance. The air cleared. My limbs and tongue and eyes unfroze.

 

When I began to see clearly, I noticed it was dark outside. And on the chair facing me, there indeed sat a man. When he saw that I was looking at him, he stirred.

 

 

 

 

 
  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape