Sunday, July 24, 2011

This Game Called Life

The schoolyard was blazing beneath a scorching sun. Before one peer persuaded two it was two-ten in the noon. It wasn’t the best place to be when you were bunking classes. ‘So you wanna go to the cave and hunt or muck about the dock.’ Vinay asked Karim and gazed Krish so that he wouldn’t feel ignored. ‘Cave for sure. I like the sound of it.’ Krish talked just when Vinay thought the answer was hard to come by. ‘Don’t you, Karim.’ They boarded the school bus. ‘NCC, off to city… (!) city hall.’ The mall is just half a mile away from the hall.

‘Tell me this… I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but were you adopted?’ Vinay asked Karim out of curiosity. ‘Not I, it was Krish little after his dad died in a fire accident.’ Karim put it as deftly as he could. The fact goes something like this. Krish’s dad, while Krish was still being gestated, stood on an empty street before a monument with a fidgetily timed bomb in his hand saying his prayers before he was to leave the lap bag in the marketplace.

The CCTV above had a broken neck for months together and would play nothing but static when played. He went up in flames before he finished his prayers and took with him a dule of doves. As soon as he weaned off breastfeeding, his biological mother gave him up for adoption and a little after that she married a cop next street. He wants to become an anticorruption officer when he grows up. Krish hasn’t mustered enough courage to tell Karim this ambition of his because he knows his brother wants to become a professional thief, the ambition he loathes and envies all at once.

‘So does that mean he prays so many times a day and you recite mantras?’ Vinay asked Krish after hearing a briefing of their lives. ‘Yeah, except we don’t like it at all – the religious mumbo jumbo of any kind, that is. We’ve protested countless times. If it goes unheeded we’ve made our mind up soon as one of us turns 15 we’d flee from home.’ Krish spoke for both of them. ‘That’s friggin’ C.’

‘Where’s the cave?’ Karim asked getting quizzical. ‘See the trap door. We’ve got to come a gory-go-round before we get there.’ Vinay spoke to his peers pointing to the floor. Three pairs of feet touched the ground. When as many pairs of eyes adjusted to the pitch-darkness, under a red-to-yellow glow, they saw skeletons dangling and laid about, foxes with fixed gazes, xombies that whisked past. One of them came staggering, stood barricading the way. ‘Piss off fuck what.’ Krish didn’t take too kindly to the idea of elbowing his way through awkward walkers. ‘Mind your language, wet pant. Underneath it all there may well be people.’ Karim had one of those chances to correct his ever-correcting brother.

When they came a half circle, they came upon a seeming dead-end. ‘This is the mouth of the cave.’ Vinay presented himself before the brothers. ‘Now, rule of the game. You leave only after finishing it.’ That isn’t bad because no one leaves a game unfinished. ‘So now the crucial revelation. This is a banned hunting.’ That’s all the more reason why anyone would want to hunt. ‘I was introduced here by two peers of mine and now I introduce you. No one walks in here all by themselves.’ That’s a privilege.

‘You pick a wolf to hunt but know that the cows are swift. You attack a bar-coded cow you get busted. Mind you, the bar code is too tiny to spot from a distance. This is a game for one. When you get good at it we can upgrade to the game for two and three where we get to pick cows if we want.’ They dropped the coin in. The portal turned on, they were ready to go parked on cushion, feet set to pedals, hands to controls. ‘Lemme tell you it’s infinitely better than watching Transformers 12 in 4D.’

‘How many times did you get busted, Karim?’ ‘A whooping ten!’ ‘Not as bad as me then.’ After what seemed like an hour, it was four hours really, when the game was won on all three portals the mouth of the cave sprang open like a door to freedom. ‘So this is what you meant by being able to leave.’ Krish said agape. ‘Hello, thieves and transgressors!’ They heard a voice and turned their heads to find a man standing cuffs jingling in his hands. ‘Run Vinay…run!’ They jumped the door, mingled with the crowd, gasped for breath.

‘Frankly speaking, for all its innovation, I found the game a bit too lame.’ Karim spoke how it came to his mind. ‘I thought five blocks down is a game where you get to hunt ideologies.’ He tossed a tiny something to Krish. ‘Oh, that’s…!’ ‘Oh yeah, that’s a clavicle, right, to be precise.’ ‘Six floors from here is a game that’s twice as much fun.’ Vinay said in a muted tone. ‘It’s called Killing Gods. Lemme tell you it’s load of fun to kill even the seven minor gods.’ ‘That’s exactly what I want to play…right away if we may. Shall we, Krish…it’s not even eight.’

A muffled noise akin to thunder echoed (!) down the floor. When viewed upward through the spiral staircase, there was smoke or dust out of the ninth floor. It turned dark the next second and drops hit the floor. ‘It’s raining in here. Let’s run outside...time for some ice cream.’ They ran as half the crowd, puzzled, stood riveted and the rest ran along. They got to the parlor counter running across a half deserted lane, there was yet another noise behind... with scoops in their hands walked back to the lane, melting ice uncared for stood there and watched something this terrible this close for the very first time. Homing thousands inside it, the ten-storied city mall was burning as it came crumbling down. Aerially viewed below, the city was one dry leaf set ablaze at its heart.


P.S. – People ran amuck. Others buried alive or dead beneath the debris were those with lesser luck (!)


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