I’m sitting in a room with the Asylum In-charge. It’s an old building; you can see the mould growth on the walls; the chairs and tables bear a century old look, the worse part is the sofa, you can even see the springs protruding from it. The place is desperately asking for renovation or at least a white wash. And it’s actually what I have been looking for. The old-man running this Asylum has this look on his face, that if I withdraw the offer, he will beg me to change my mind. It’s not that I’m taking advantage of his inconvenient position. I’m just as short of options as he is.
‘Subject two-naught-two is the most complicated patient I have ever known. You sure, you want to take this guy?’
What does he mean if I’m sure? It’s like asking a Geologist if he’s sure the earth is round. I’m an acclaimed scientist, people all over the world know who I am and they respect me, or at least they used to, until I disclosed my latest research. Now the media calls me a mad scientist! I really need this one, to prove that I’m not talking science fiction. I won’t go down in the history books with guys like Nikola Tesla!
‘Yes, He’s just perfect.’I tell him.
‘Sure, as you wish. But I have got to warn you professor. Have you heard the rumors about him? People say he is possessed by the spirits! Not that I believe so. But I would suggest you take 102. He will be the best for your experiments…’
‘We know what we are doing. You don’t have to worry.’I try to reassure his skeptics. Futile may be, but no matter what he thinks, he’s going to give him to me anyway.
He takes me to the room, and there he is, ‘my guinea pig’. Chained like a beast, he is staring into blank space, perhaps into his own realm, where he is the king.
How did I get in here? I’m afraid to move. There are vines all around, I have to go over and under them to move even a foot. I see shadows moving in the distance, I hear howls of animals, can’t tell how close or far they are. The sun is setting; soon it will be dark all around. I have got to keep myself together and come up with something!
His mind was totally blank, he remembered nothing. And being in a dark jungle, he was really scared. The air was damp, cruel and the ground moist. It was a place where it won’t be a surprise to find a pair of bright eyes staring at you with glistening teeth just under them. Imran stood by a tree, trying to figure out what was happening right then. And suddenly the strangest thing happened to him. He heard a voice call out, “Imran”. A strange calm swept inside him as he heard his name. He couldn’t make out where the voice came from, but he had a feeling that there was a guarding angel, looking out for him even in this darkness.
A part of him was also questioning the reality. ‘I might as well be dreaming right now’ He thought to himself. This was plausible to him since he couldn’t remember how he arrived at that place, which happens only when you are dreaming. He was still lost in his thoughts when he heard something move behind him. As Imran turned around, he saw a burly black wolf slowly moving towards him. It looked fierce with red eyes and huge paws and its canine teeth glinting with saliva looked ready to rip him apart. Imran frowned as the wolf howled with its pack!
Now Imran was sure it was anything but a dream, he knew the pack of wolves was staring at their dinner. It was time either to move or get killed! Imran got his feet together and with all the strength he could muster, started running! There was a stream of river flowing just a few feet ahead, Imran started pacing towards it followed by the wolves! He was in middle of crossing the river when he realized he couldn’t run anymore. His body had reached its threshold and he had no strength left at all. The next thing he knew, he was being carried by the current, hoping it all turns out to be a dream…
Where Am I now? It’s a warm cozy bed; it feels like I’m waking up from a bad dream. Why am I covered in bandages? May be I had an accident of some kind, or maybe I’m still dreaming the same dream. What’s the last thing remember? I was going downstream, and then something hit my head, on the same place where I have this bandage. This room has large windows, covered by huge picturesque white curtains. I love the way they move when the wind blows. How did I get into this mysterious world? Why can’t I get myself to remember? There is luscious food on the table; I don’t remember the last time I ate…
Imran had just finished eating when he saw the same wolf standing in front of him. Imran finding it all hard to believe was scared stiff.
It’s like waking up from a nightmare and realizing it’s not over yet.
The wolf slowly came to him, and let out a grunt. He thin signaled his hand to follow him. Imran followed him reluctantly. The wolf lead him through exquisitely built large chambers into the throne room, where he saw her for the first time.
Imran had seen beautiful women, a lot of them. But none of them had ever rendered him catching for a breath. She possessed unblemished beauty; her bright blue eyes were so intense that he could feel them looking down into his inner core. She had a crown on her head which was studded with sparkling diamonds, her skin was the color of wheat and the royal red gown she had put on was only adding to her spell bounding aura.
‘Welcome Imran. Don’t be afraid of the beast. He’s my knight.’ the queen spoke in a soft tone, her enchanting voice leaving Imran enthralled. ’I have never had any company here before. And I never expected I would. But here you are, somehow you’ve entered my secret realm’
‘How do you know my name?’ asked Imran hesitatingly.
‘I know everything about you Imran. I can read your mind. Here, let me help you remember…’ The queen touched Imran’s forehead with her hand which felt like velvet and he could feel a soft surge of current passing through him. And then some of the mist blocking his memory cleared right as he remembered Zoya, his one and only true love.
How do you remember someone you loved so passionately and can no longer see? It’s some day-to-day moments; you never thought you would someday long for them so much. She holding you from behind while you were working late at night and kissing you on your neck and whispering softly in your ears that you should probably eat. She lying on your shoulder and carelessly running her fingers through your bare chest. She coming up with a new mischief every day, so that you in your busy schedule find the time to laugh a little, her eyes raining down after tears seeing that frown on your face, her cheeks going red just when you give them a gentle kiss. The warmth of her hot breath on your face, the tranquility of her embrace, the touch of her flesh on yours… It never crossed your mind that someday you would hopelessly yearn for them, and hate the person who took it all away! Who was that person who separated us? Why can’t I remember his face? Oh may be because I haven’t looked in a mirror for days…
My Zoya... I loved you so much that you became my obsession! How could I become so insecure? How could I ever think that I would lose you for someone else? I had caged you from the world so that I could have you for no one else but me, my love had driven me insane. And one day, when you couldn’t bear to be in the shackles anymore, you left me for that one guy I could never see you with. It was all my fault! If only I had tried to understand you, if only I had never thought I owned you, I would still have your love.
His heart had overcome with grief and that old feeling of remorse took over him again. His eyes were filled with fresh tears, ready to cry another river. He wanted to scream out loud, let the whole world know how much he wanted her back! And how much he hated himself for letting her go!
‘I see you have had a tough life like me. I was forsaken by my kind as you were abandoned by your wife. I’m sorry Imran. I know exactly how you feel. I know how it is when the people you love forsake you.’ said the queen while embracing him in her arms, Imran letting his tears fall on her shoulders. ‘I would love you to stay here with me for as long as you like. I’m sure you will forget it all and heal just like I did.’
Imran willingly agreed to stay as this world seemed far beautiful to the one he had left behind.
It’s been week since I woke up in that dark jungle and ended up in this castle. I thought things had turned out right for me, though I didn’t have any explanation for all of that. But now I know, it has all been one big lie, the woman who claimed that she’s queen, is a witch. I have seen what she is for real, her skin is as white as snow with freckles on it, and her gown is red because it’s smeared in blood of the innocent souls she has consumed. She showed me a beautiful picture of herself and this place so that I would agree to stay. Why does she want me here? She triggered all my bad memories, the ones which were maybe once healed by time, but now all the scars of past are fresh again.
I am now a prisoner here, I have a feeling that my every movement is being carefully watched, and every day I feel a part of my soul being consumed by her darkness. Why did I ever agree to my doom? I had eyes, then why couldn’t I see? I have dreams of this old man; he tells me he is the rightful heir to the throne of this realm. That he was betrayed by this evil enchantress and locked in the cellars below. He says he can defeat the evil queen, if I help him get out of there. Some of the nights, I tried sneaking into the basement where the cellars are, but they are always guarded by the knight, which gets stronger and burlier every time I see it. I wonder what multiplies its strength. Is it my fear? It’s got to be my fear for it. I have to overcome it and kill the beast. With the knight gone, she will no longer be able to rule. For all I know now, this place isn’t real, and the only way I can get out is helping the old man get his throne back. Tonight I’m going down to the cellars and getting him out. Why should I fear when I’ve got nothing to lose?
There was a large hall before the cellars, guarded at night by the most trusted knight of the queen. It had candles all around and a huge chandelier hung at the middle. The room was all painted in black. That night, all the knights were present, as if they were expecting him there, letting out grunts, theireyes all fixed at him. He was staring back at them, a brute against the beasts. Suddenly all the wolves took to the corners of the room. They were just going to be the spectators tonight, for the epic battle which was to follow very soon. The hall fell silent as the knight entered.
It was the only one with black fur, the rest were either grey or white, and its eyes were the most menacing red. It had led the other wolves when they had found Imran in jungle, just like the queen said they would. She was never wrong. It had always wanted to dig his teeth into his flesh. “Only if he remembers why he came, in that case he will reach out to the old fool. Then you may kill him with pleasure. Until then, I want to feed on his soul.” The queen had told him. Now was the time!
My father used to quote, “When you are dying, your whole life flashes before you. Make sure it’s worth watching.” It had all started black and white for me, but somewhere down the line, it all got smudged up. I forgot who I was, and how I had started. But now I remember everything, just like it was yesterday. My research was my childhood dream; it’s a pity Zoya, my childhood friend, my one true love, wasn’t there when it came true. I was on my own; no one believed that I had actually achieved it. That I had successfully made the only machine which could let you access the subconscious of a person, so that you could dig deep into someone’s mind, and see what they see. I was branded delusional by the scientists all over the world. When I had started working on it, it was only to help people. But when Zoya left, I was a changed man. I wanted recognition and fame. What had I turned into? This is my chance to be good again. Doesn’t matter if I go down into history books with the likes of Nikola Tesla, it would actually be an honor!
This wolf, this so called knight is the only thing that lies in between me and my redemption! That key tied to a string around its neck unlocks my old, virtuous self. Watching it shift, ready to attack any instant, makes my adrenaline rush. Floor beneath me has turned red from the blood dripping from my hand; drop after drop, the shard in my hands has dug up under my skin.
The wolf pounced at Imran with full force, going for his neck as he expected it to. Imran instead of backing off got aggressive and grabbed the wolf’s neck. ‘If it gets a bite of me, I have no chance of bringing it down.’ The wolf’s claws got into action, while it struggled to get its neck free. They were cutting into his arms, as he tried to choke it with one hand, while the other was struggling to shove the shard into its abdomen. The claws had now dug deep and Imran had no choice but to let go of the wolf. The knight, having its neck free came for Imran with its jaws, its canines taking a bite of Imran’s neck. Imran blacked out.
The knight is lying on top of me. All the other wolves have their faces down. There is a Sharp broken piece of glass struck into its abdomen. I don’t know when and how I shoved it there. The room has now bathed in blood. It’s over, there’s just one more thing left to do.
Imran pushes the wolf aside, realizing he has lost a lot of blood and he’s still losing it. There is a gush of blood flowing from his neck and his arms are all covered in blood. He walks towards the cellar, leaning down on walls, he keeps falling but he keeps picking himself up.
There’s no time to lose. Just one last thing left to do.
He gets to the cellar. He can’t make out what the old man’s saying. It’s all a blur. He just wants to lie down and sleep. He knows when he puts his head down; it will rest on Zoya’s lap. He puts the key into the keyhole and rotates it and falls down just after that.
My work’s all done here. I’m going back to my love.
The old man comes out of the cell, turning into a young guy again, the freckles disappearing from his skin and his hair going grey from white and then black.
Imran closes his eyes, saying “Tell them… Tell them, Dr. Imran has succeeded.’