The Random Experiment

He lives in an old-fashioned house that aged accordingly. The spacious, rustic setting inside was saturated with a haze of chrome. Everything had a jaundiced facade, like a pencil drawing from a decaying book. Ever since the experiment began, he had sold most of his amenities.

There was a point in time when he was obsessed with paintings. He was a connoisseur of sorts and he’d amassed an impressive collection during his short lifetime. But sickness put his materialism in perspective, a turn in tide that washed ashore revulsion. The experiment’s ambiguity about his place in the treatment group or the control made him re-evaluate his life choices.

And he was forever transformed after that. He turned calm and mellow, like an austere monk who’s shunned worldly pleasures. The slightest displays of emotion make him putty. Just the other day, he found himself welling up to an old memory of his mother.

She held his sister on one arm and himself on the other. He was five and his sister two. He remembered looking at his mother. She was struggling to keep from falling, but she was laughing heartily. Smiling at her two gems. She was so proud.

His sister was giggling away the whole time. She still dons that smile whenever she sees him. A warmth radiates as her lips curve. It’s a contagious smile. A heart-warming smile. A virgin smile.

The only other woman who could evoke such emotion was his high-school sweetheart. Tall, blonde, and beautiful, he fell for Diane in an instant. Despite knowing she wasn’t single, he had persevered to chase his dream. Diane would be lying if she said she had felt any different. But she had decided to stay put, for she wasn’t a dreamer like him.

Well years later, here she is, barely rebounded from an ugly marriage. She now stays close to help him. And sometimes, she stays over. Her shattered life was beyond repair, a price she paid for choosing the nightmare over the dream. She needed him, as much as he needed her.

Their conversations were succinct. Preoccupied in their emotional traumas, they had hardly anything to say. They’d established a daily routine that left little need for it. Anyone watching their silhouettes on the window, as they sit in his study and ponder over the past, would mistake them for mannequins.

He never told her that he couldn’t love anyone else as much as he had loved her. It’s fascinating how little that feeling remains, despite being so profound once. His departure from the feeling was progressive, although slow.

But lately, his sense of morbidity accelerated its pace. He was growing increasingly distant from his past but not his memories. He’d find himself reminiscing but not longing. A life in technicolor reduced to monochrome.

He was uncertain if he should consider the ensuing years as his last or as the precursor to a new beginning. He missed the magic that once graced his life. He wondered where it went. So he set out to find the spark. The spark to a new flame. Seems like his outlook broadened, as his lifespan narrowed.

She, on the other hand, never told him that she’d seen his test results. That she secretly pitied him for being a ‘control’. That she felt torn apart between hope and truth.

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The Eternal Youth

Mr. Zigar had seen his wife’s cheeks flush only twice. The day of his wedding and the day their son was born. He still remembers how his wife, seated in the back seat of the Buick, held baby Zafran in her arms. Smiling down at the fragile baby wrapped delicately in a pink towel. At first, he thought her blush was from the towel but later saw that her cheeks had a glow of their own.

As if his memories had leaked into his wife, she was also thinking about the same thing. She remembered his muted yawns and blissful laughs. Each of which contorted his entire body, narrowed his eyes to the point of closing and opened his un-teethed mouth but made no sound. She was smiling now, as she realized how talkative he’d soon become.

She recollected all the times she acted dumb when he had asked her about something. She longed for his naive explanations that followed, some of which were hilariously wrong. Like the time when he stressed that the stars were pixie dust and that Uncle Ben’s belly was full of grape jelly. With laughter dammed behind pursed lips, she would try to act surprised, and it was convincing enough for the boy.

The contemporariness of their recollections now showed chronology, as Mr. Zigar remembered Zafran’s first day of school. The little boy’s excitement while leaving the home, had upended into a nostalgic frenzy as they approached the school. Tears had left behind soot-gray streams that ran along his powdered cheeks. An hour of his mother’s efforts to dress him well went down in vain.

Mr. Zigar, amused by his son’s simple-mindedness, decided to relieve the boy of his nightmare and postponed his first-day to another day. Mrs. Zigar decided to powder him at the school next time. A horde of ‘first-time’ memories now flooded their conscious. His first-time on the bike, how he was quick to learn. His first-time on the roller-coaster, how he feigned bravery and wet his pants. His first-date, and how he was charming, or so he told.

All of these memories fought to stay alive in their heads, each leaving behind a pang of longing, as they were moving along the school lane, watching kids of different ages pass them by. Imagining how their own son had been at that age. It was a routine they’d never be tired of and were too afraid to give up. Their thoughts were mercilessly interrupted by the school’s first bell, and then all the kids rushed-in through the gates.

The silvery-grey Buick turned around the corner, leaving the lane at a leisurely pace. It was an old, retiring car that never managed to grab attention. With a rusting metal body that creaked everytime it hit a bump, the car had a sad, dispirited aura that contrasted with the kids’ lively, buoyant spirits.

The gloomy middle-aged couple inside were held responsible for the decrepit state of the car. It’s engine’s roar had mellowed down to a melody and no possible throttle could restore its lost vigor. It was becoming increasingly difficult for Mr. Zigar to drive the old rack. But it was house to plenty an emotion to be disposed of so easily. It was an epitome of their journey.

Although disheartening, there gleamed around the corner, a silver-lining. The kids flocking to school along that lane were never older than 13. Their son who was doomed to remain eternally young in their memories, would never grow beyond that age. Thus enabling this single bitter-sweet routine to suffice them. For the rest of their lives.

The Good Boy

“Come here Dmitri! Come here quick!”

Dmitri responds to his calling and moves sluggishly towards its origin. In the dining room adjacent to the hallway, he sees his mom struggling to hold his dad from falling.

His dad is clutching tightly at his chest. Teeth-gritted and eyes-closed. The white walls seem extra yellow today. Smoke from the barbecue seems to blur vision and induce tears, for his mom seems to be crying. She’s calling for him from behind his dad, asking for some more support.

“I think he’s having a heart-attack Dmitri! Help me hold him.”

“What are you doing you lazy boy? Can’t you hear me?”

Dmitri stood erect. His mouth half-open, with drool wetting it’s corners. The autistic kid’s eyes shuttled between his mom and dad. He had lost feeling in his legs and his upper body felt imbalanced. An expression of worry dawns on his face, as if to say,

“Don’t be mad mommy. I’m being a good boy.”

His mother’s struggles to keep his dad up continue. She teeters under his weight. But heavier was the certainty of her husband’s impending death. As his dad slowly slips away into the realms of the unconscious, his mom’s anxiety escalates. She screams at the top of her lungs now,

“Call 911 Dmitri! Just do this one thing, you dumb boy! What are you looking at me for?”

“Go call Dmitri!”

He still doesn’t budge. His dad is completely unconscious now, with no visible signs of breathing. She feels her own heart skip a beat as her husband, limp and lifeless, slowly sinks to the ground. Like water in a dam, tears freeze in her eyes, ready to flood through the gates. Her mouth flies open with incredulity, the futility of her attempts not yet registering. She shoots a stunned look at her son who still seemed befuddled.

“He could’ve been alive Dmitri. He could’ve been alive!! Oh, how do I explain it to you, you dimwit! How? How?? “, she sobs.

Dmitri plays a silent witness to her trauma. His countenance still imbued with poignance. The pathetic expression on his face, which maternal instincts usually cause her to interpret as stark innocence, infuriated her. Feelings of sadness and pity had been replaced with fear and disgust.

He remained oblivious to her ephemeral change of heart. His unsuspecting, petulant nature forever craving for her affection. He finally mustered the courage to speak to his, so obviously upset, mother.

“But I’ve been a good-boy all week mommy. A good-boy all week!”

He says, sobbing, unintelligible. He runs back into his room, still not getting why his mommy is so mad at him and why his daddy is having difficulty sleeping on the floor.

An Eternal Preparation

She scans every passing stranger, without exception. She frowns as she looks up at them with tired, sorry eyes. Her countenance is an epitome of her struggle for survival.

Lately, she seems absorbed in perpetual angst. Her duties as a mother have been excruciating. With life on the streets and 3 mouths to feed, every last morsel and every sliver of hope counts. She has to find new ways and new places to gather food.

Meanwhile, the kids jump around playfully. Nudging, pushing, shoving. Jovial brawls are commonplace, but they should’ve known better than to piss off their mom with them. They remain oblivious to her struggle and she remains detached from their fun.

It’s way past their bedtime; the streets were crowded today. All the 3 huddle together, tired after their brawls. They push, they nudge, they shove again, in an attempt to get comfortable.

They cuddle during sleep to stay close for warmth and look adorable while doing so. Loads of cuteness cramped into a small space. But only their mother sees, their chest heave to reveal their ribs, announcing the fragility of their bodies.

So she’s watching out for them, hoping that people won’t attack. Safety of her kids supersedes her will to fight. Motherhood has made her more controlled and patient.

It’s an act of eternal preparation. Preparation for a better future. A future that never comes. A preparation that never ends. But it leaves her with no choice. She cannot turn her back on a battle she didn’t pick.

She howls into the night, her sound breaking the silence of the streets. She has to spend yet another sleepless night staying vigilant, as her pups rest assured. Care-free and innocent.

Reminiscing Humanity

In a crowded train in a busy town,
A poor old guy looks around,
But sadly, a seat was not to be found,
And no one could help with heads bowed down.

Only one gentleman, with head held high,
Offers his seat to the poor old guy.
The guy takes it, returns a smile,
A smile that’s really one of a kind.

It wasn’t like a greeting, it was true,
one redolent of a warm thank you,
but sadly, no one else in the train knew.
The gentleman and the guy were the only two.

He caught his breath and took his place,
Grateful for this little space.
But the smile doesn’t last on his shriveled face,
As the look of relief quickly fades.

No matter how hard he tries,
Worry’s apparent in his eyes.
His costly watch was a poor disguise,
for his torn sweater told no lies.

He fumbles with the toothpastes in his bag,
Sales of the day had gone really bad.
He sits worried with fidgeting hands.
Feeling helpless, without plans.

But he calms himself as logic sets in,
Hopes die, reality begins.
Yesterday and today are not akin.
Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win.

The act of humanity rekindles the smile,
A mellow return from a short exile.
The rest of the crowd would’ve witnessed the guy,
Had they looked up from their phones for a while.

The Moral Decadence – 2/2

I killed the rat bastard! I killed him! Years of trust….decades of friendship…he brought it down in flames. The stupid guy never understood. I tried to convince him…Oh! Believe me, I did. But he just wouldn’t listen, that bastard. So I had to shut him up…unfortunately forever. ”

The whole court-room plunged into shock. Questions raced in everyone’s mind. Everyone was anxious. The courtroom decorum would turn frivolous unless the judge had begun talking.

” Why did you murder him Mr.Walters? ”

” Why? Why??! Let me tell you a story judge. I was an ass when I was a teen. Always flunking school and ever notorious. My atrocities went a little too far when I got involved in a gang. But they’d really skyrocketed when I helped them kill a man. I wasn’t directly involved, I only assisted! Yet, I freaked out after. I was devastated.

But then Bob rescued me. He was my Messiah and my first true friend. Now I am grateful for what he did, alright? But he always kept insisting that I come clean. That the people who trusted me had the right to know, especially my girlfriend. ” Moral Liberation “ he called it.

Now that would ruin EVERYTHING! All the image I’ve worked hard to build would crash and burn. The world doesn’t work that way, you know. It’s brutally judgmental, how you do you think I got the image?

He always insisted, his arguments marred with his naive sense of a ” perfect world “. But the last argument…he took it too far. He said it was high time…that he’d rat me out if I didn’t do it myself. I was infuriated. How could he betray me like that? After all these years!

And to think that he’d blackmail me? The guts of that jerk! In a moment, I snapped. I completely lost it. I picked up the knife and in a few minutes…he was gone. ”

Jack, of all people, was dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe it. How could he defend this man? He was confessing! But he wasn’t yet convinced. He needed clarifications.

” Then tell us then Mr. Walters, how did you manage to escape and appear at the airport at the same time? ”

Walters smiled. And that scared Jack.

” I saw Mrs. Margaret notice me. I saw her run towards the house. Now I had a flight to board at 10, which was my original plan for escape, and I didn’t want any inconvenience. So I had to get rid of her, I had to think quick. And then it hit me!

You see, Bob had a vintage chime clock, a huge one. Just before old Mrs. Margaret barged in with her baseball bat, which I don’t know whom she was kidding with, ”

He turned towards her and laughed. She was obviously pissed off.

” I changed the clock’s dial to a little less than 10pm when it was only 8. I locked all doors when I knew she came in and left silently. Now a little later, probably after she realized she was trapped, she must’ve heard loud chimes that reverberated the empty house, right Mrs. Margaret? ”

She nodded from her bench. Bewildered.

” Seeing the clock she obviously thought it was 10pm. She was too much in distress and honestly, once it’s dark outside, you can barely tell the difference. She got rescued the next morning by a casual jogger who overheard her screams, and she reported to the police that it was around 10pm. It was a shot in the dark, and I’m pretty psyched it worked. ”

The courtroom was dead silent. Not a single soul spoke. Not even whispers. Jack was incredulous. You’re pysched? You Animal! His dream was gone, there was no message. He was upset it turned around this way but on the other hand, he was thankful he didn’t defend a criminal.

The Plaintiff Attorney rose triumphantly, to announce,

” Your honor, the case seems to have solved itself. Considering the testimony presented to you by the accused himself, I believe you must find him guilty. ”

” Taking into account the testimony put forth by Mrs. Margaret and the confession of the accused, Mr. Walters, I pronounce him…

Guilty 

The Moral Decadence – 1/2

“Do you promise that the testimony you shall give in the case before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God? “

“I do.”

“Mrs. Margaret thank you for being here with us today. Can you elaborately state what happened on the night of February 28th?”

“Certainly. Ooh it was a horrible night! Horrible…..horrible. It has been six months since, but I still cannot shake off the trauma. It was late at night, around 10pm I suppose when I had heard someone wail. It sounded really familiar and it was coming from next door. I was worried for Bob, I was worried something bad had happened to him. A good man he was really. And I was right to worry.

I peeped through my window and saw hazy silhouettes. They looked like the silhouettes of two men. One was fat and the other slim. I presumed the fat one to be Bob, but I wasn’t sure about the other one. The slim one, with a knife in hand, was repeatedly lunging at the other one. After several swings and misses, he finally struck.

Oh! It was brutal. Utter diabolical. The fat one clutched his heart with one hand and raised the other in a muted forgiveness. But the slim one didn’t stop. Blow after blow. Strike after strike. Blood splattered over the blinds and painted the scene red. He then started to choke the other as he staggered towards the kitchen. And that’s where I saw them.

The fat one revealed itself first and I was right about its identity. And when the slim one slowly came to view, I felt my very foundations shake.

It was Walters. His face was purely cynical. His eyes were possessed. He put all his effort into strangling Bob, like his life depended on it. Bob saw me through the window and his dozy eyes pleaded for help. I cupped my mouth with both my hands and began to sob uncontrollably. I felt sorry for him. I felt helpless.

But all my sobbing suddenly stopped when I saw Walter seeing me. I was horrified. And so was he. A feeling of anger pulsed within me on seeing his pathetic face. I was taken over by a fit of adrenaline and decided to take action. So I ran towards the door. I wanted to scare him off and rescue Bob. I still had hope.

I barged into Bob’s house and it was dark everywhere. I took a baseball bat with me for protection, not that I could use one at this age. Only the kitchen lights were on and I moved cautiously. I peeped in and only Bob was there, lying on the floor. Lying in a pool of blood oozing out of his punctured, mutilated body.

I couldn’t hold my emotions. I was furious. But also scared. I felt like a deer left in a lion’s cage. Waiting to be hunted. But ready to fight. I realized I hadn’t thought this through. Then I heard the door click and I realized I was trapped inside the house. The scoundrel tried to frame me, but blood red footprints outside the house proved my innocence. “

The Bailiff offered her some water. She calmed herself with a deep breath and wiped away her tears.

“Sorry to put you through this again Mrs. Margaret, but I promise to keep this quick. Did you know Mr. Walters very well?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So you’re positive you saw Mr. Walters that night, right?”

The Defense Attorney rose to shout, “Objection your Honor! That’s a leading question.”

“Objection Sustained”

The Plaintiff Attorney smiled. “Let me rephrase it for you, Mrs. Margaret. Considering your age and the low light conditions, are you sure you saw Mr. Walters that night?”

“Yes, I am. I can never forget the look of apprehension when he saw me notice. The dread in his eyes was chilling.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Margaret. You may now go back to your seat.”

Having heard the testimony, the jury was already convinced. But the Defense Attorney Jack Statham had an unflinching countenance. He had earlier talked to his client’s friends and they were all shocked to know this. From what they had told him, Walters seemed like a fine guy.

Moreover, Walters had the perfect alibi. He was at the airport at the time of the murder. His identity was verified by the Customs and these guys don’t mess around. And no, he did not have a secret twin. He checked.

He was fully convinced that his client was being falsely convicted. He’s an honest man who is true to his profession. He helps the weak raise voice against injustice and Walter’s case was an opportunity. He wanted a resounding win. A win that will teach a lesson.

“Does the prosecution have any other witnesses?”

“No, your Honor”

“Does the defense have any questions?”

“No your Honor. We’d like to call upon Mr. Walters to make his case.”

“Permission Granted”

It was going as planned. Walters would present his case, Jack would show security footage from the airport and his verified travel tickets as evidence. Jack wanted this case to serve as an example of how justice will always triumph. He wanted it to be impactful and inspiring.

“What do you have to say for yourself,  Mr. Walters?”, the Judge asked solemnly.

Walters spoke for the first time.

“I confess, your Honor.”

To be continued…