I can see the light. It’s far above me. I’m struggling to reach. But I’m drowning. I’m drowning in a pitch-black hollow..… deeper and deeper. Oxygen is less. To breathe is becoming harder. Extending my hands, I’m trying to grab something but failing. My eyes are closing on their own accord.
Suddenly I flutter open my eyes. I am in my room. It was just a dream rather should I call a nightmare. A nightmare that is haunting me periodically. I can feel sweat drops all over my face. I glanced at my bed-side table. The clock is showing 5.34am now. I still have time to open my book shop. The lamp on my work table is still on, luring my attention to the blank pages of the notebook. An unfinished novel is calling me. My feet found their way towards it. Time to get some work done.
Black puff balls have clouded over the sky. Rain drops are drizzling and dancing with the wind and pricking the face with its cold touch. Puddles of mud can be found here and there. Overall, a gloomy atmosphere has prevailed outside, which contrasts drastically with the inside of my bookstore. It’s cosy. It’s warm and full of books. Basically, during the rainy season, it’s a haven for any book lover. I’ve created a reading corner and stacked some popular books for a rental basis. They can read the book here and I charge them for that length of time. The store is never very busy, neither I require it to be so, as it isn’t my main source of income. I write stories and novels behind a false name. I like the book shop to observe people for building my story characters.
Currently, I am sitting behind my table, scrolling through a random magazine and observing customers. A content smile pressed across my lips. “Ah! My life is perfect!” I sighed dreamily. A man in his late twenties walked up to me with a book tucked in his hand. A Hercule Poirot classic it is.
“It’s a wonderful book.” I can’t help but comment.
“Have you read it?”
“Yes, of course. I’ve read most of the books in this store. You can say the store is almost my hand-picked collection.”
His eyes suddenly lit up. They were shining for a reason; I can’t put my finger on. “Hi, I am Toru Sengupta.” He extended his hand. “I’m an IT professional, recently posted in this town. You know reading books give me such joy I can’t express in words…”. And this way our conversation started. And a beginning of an uncanny friendship was established.
The dark gloomy black colour of the sky has been replaced by a muted hazy grey. Dried leaves are swirling in the cold wind. As I looked through the window, it seemed as if the colours have been drained from nature and got locked up in a box. I sighed.
It has been months since I have met Toru. Every Saturday after his work he comes to my store. We talk about so many topics. Sometimes even after closing the shop, we would go upstairs and continue our conversation even until midnight. It astonishes me how much our views match.
But for some days I’m noticing him to be thoughtful. It seems as if he wants to tell me something but is hesitating. Last day he confessed that he has some things that he would like to discuss with me. Well, he is coming today. I don’t know why I am feeling uneasy like it will not be something good.
I heard a knock at the door. It must be Toru. As soon as I opened the door he entered as if he had to abate a hurricane to come over here. He hung his hat behind the door and then sat on the sofa with a matching murky expression on his face. His eye balls were transfixed at the floor and hands were busy popping the knuckles. Watching his silence, I decided to intervene into his reverie.
“You were saying last day that there is something you would like to tell me.”
He raised his head. He seemed to be reading my face, searching for some kind of notion. Then he uttered slowly. “Well, it is actually something I would like you to see.”
Curiosity gripped me as he handed me a DVD. I frowned.
“I would be glad if you please watch the video tonight. That was all I had to say. Okay bye.” He jumped off, grabbed his hat, and left within a blink of an eye. I stood there bewildered. I looked at the DVD and decided that I would watch it after dinner.
After having dinner, I ducked the DVD in the DVD player and switched the TV on. The video began.
It was showing a two-storeyed house with a small backyard. Have I seen it before? Suddenly a crippling headache crawled into my head. I closed my eyes in pain. Then everything went black.
Ah! It’s too much light. My eyelids are itching. As I slowly opened them, I saw vast blue sky, pouring glaring sunshine on to me. After getting up I realized I am standing in the backyard of the very same house which I saw in the DVD. What is happening? One moment I was watching a DVD, next moment I am in the DVD? Maybe I fell asleep watching the DVD and now I am dreaming about it. Yeah! that must be it.
Suddenly, I saw a boy of 9 or 10 years chasing a butterfly in the yard. It seemed that he wasn’t aware of my presence. When the butterfly sat on a flower, he was observing so keenly. The colours of its wings were reflecting in his eyes and mixing up with his curious glow. He was devouring it, cherishing it. But when I noticed his face ----- hey, he is a smaller version of Toru!
“Toru!” A female voice screeched from the inside of the house. “Don’t waste your time playing in the yard. Start studying now.” A lady in her late 30s came out and forcefully took him inside.
“Hey let him play…” I tried to protest but my voice didn’t reach them. A spell of silence prevailed and I stood there like a statue.
Suddenly the view started to swirl, making me feel like I am going into oblivion. All the colours which were making the scenery earlier, are now inter weaving with each other. Place of the colours and proportions are changing rapidly. Helpless I stood still. The roll of colours finally stopped. Now I am in a school corridor. There is Toru of about 14. His teacher was talking to the same woman from the backyard. I presume her to be his mother.
“Mrs. Sengupta, your son is talented no doubt. Just if he stops daydreaming in the class and instead of reading story books, consult reference books in the library, he can have a great future.”
As his teacher was commenting, a lone tear escaped Toru’s eyes and a torn piece of paper slipped from his fist.
Now I have come to a realization that nobody is aware of my presence here. Everyone is going in their own direction without casting a single glance on me. So I decided to act on my own instincts. I picked the torn paper left by Toru. What is it? Some handwritten scratched note may be? Hell no! it’s some sort of short story. And as far as I can assume it must be original!
The scene is changing again. Now it is a hostel room. The table clock is telling 2am. In front of Toru is piles of books. He is studying diligently. But his eyes which used to be eager to express so much is now hollow. Seeing his almost lifeless demeanour, a bubble of pain lumped in my throat.
The view changed into a multi-storeyed building now. I can see the stretch of the city from this top floor.
“Mr. Sengupta, you’re not understanding. You’ve to be more imaginative. You must bring some creativity to your work. You’ve potential. If you just work according to my words…” An elderly man patted Toru’s back. May be his boss. That curious sparkle of his younger age has been replaced by a serious undertone. I can see his entire day in front of me. Every day he wakes up at 6.30am, eats breakfast, goes to office, work all day long, return to his apartment, takes dinner, goes to bed. And the cycle continues every day.
Now I am standing by a road. Across the road stands Toru sipping coffee. In his hand there is a chunky folder. It has been months after he was kicked out of his job as his company was cutting down the number of employees and he was one of the victims. After that today, it was eleventh time when he was rejected in an interview. The interviewer told him that he can’t see anything fancy or different noteworthy quality in him. His personality is also quite dull. Toru sighed.
Toru is standing in front of his parents in his old house. “How much we may have tried; you’ve brought nothing but shame to us. At the age of starting your own family, taking care of us, you’re now living on your retired father’s money.” His father ranted.
Now he is in his childhood room. He flips through his school books. Suddenly a few loose pages escaped. It’s his handwriting-----stories------ written by him. Seeing those, churns a tingling pain in my chest, but it seems that those pages didn’t affect him much. He picked them up and neatly placed them between the pages and closed the book.
We are at the terrace of his apartment now. The clouds are pouring down. The heavy rainfall had drenched him thoroughly. Toru seems to be in a trance. I can see all the taunts, disappointments he has faced all throughout his life. He is nearing the edge of the terrace. “No-o-o-o…” I shouted and as he was about to fall, I grabbed his hand.
The whole world just stopped. The pieces of the scene were crumbling down and then shattered into darkness.
I opened my eyes slowly. It’s pristine white, it’s blank. Ceiling may be? I looked around the room. It’s a hospital cabin. The last time I was awake I was in my house watching that weird DVD given by Toru. Then how did I land in a hospital?
Well am I still dreaming? I pinched my arm. Ouch! Nope. I am totally in sense indeed. A nurse peeped into the room. Seeing me up her eyes went as round as saucers.
“Doctor! Please come. Mr. Sengupta is awake.” the nurse shouted. A doctor rushes in. “It’s magic. How can this happen?” he mumbled. “Mr. Toru Sengupta you’ve proved miracle happens.”
Toru Sengupta? Why is he calling me Toru?
So many questions. My head is throbbing in pain.
5 years later,
A black car stopped in front of the TV Studio. A man in black t-shirt and jeans got off the car. And a swarm of people with autograph books surrounded him. He signed some of them and went inside after all a reporter and numerous audiences are waiting for him.
Next day in a corner of a sprawling apartment a sleek new LED tv was shouting…
“So, now we are going to present our interview with the young and talented ‘Writer of the Gen-Y’ Mr. Toru Sengupta. His very first novel ‘The Dreamcatcher’, published three years ago, won millions of hearts and turned into a buzzing sensation within a few weeks. The story is about a dying man who imagines the life he wanted to have while in a coma induced dream. And his new novel ‘The Glimpses of The Other World’, published a few days back, is about a boy for whom the line between real and subconscious mind got blurred due to a few days stay in coma. It was rumoured that Mr. Toru himself was in coma for a year after he tried to commit suicide by jumping off his apartment roof. And yesterday in his interview with us, he confessed that it was true indeed. And he also stated that he got locked in his coma world. He loved it so much, he actually didn’t want to come to real world. He didn’t want to lose the comfort zone he created in that world. But there he met his other self who was brave, who wanted to take a chance himself and of course wanted to give him a chance to live. And that part of him resurfaced him again in this world, so the world can get a great new writer like him. Now listen to the whole story in his own words…”