Sunday, December 11, 2011

“Started on a short story after ages I guess and attempting the noir for the first time. I guess I am a little rusty here. Let’s see if I can hold someone’s interest till the end.” 

There was something sinister about that knife. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. Sitting naked in its majestic glory in the show window of that antique store. It enticed me the moment I saw it. The cold smile of that piece of steel made me stop in my track and take notice almost immediately.

For a long time, I just stood there on the road looking through the glass veil that separated us. I could not help marveling at its sheen and smooth contours. If you can describe in words the glory of a violet sky accentuated by a slowly dipping orange sun into the horizon over sea, you would be able to explain the way that shining edge dipped into its handcrafted handle. Unlike any other blade I had ever seen before, this one wasn’t flat but thick and rounded in the middle, more like a well fed voluptuous harlot.

It was fascinating and mesmerizing. I could have never imagined myself driven to a trance like that by any magnificence of the world let alone by some piece of metal crafted to draw blood. I looked at the price tag attached and I couldn’t suppress my smile. It was well within my reach and I could just draw my wallet out and buy it. I moved towards the door of the shop and stopped again. It was almost as if the blade had posed me a question. Was I worthy of holding it? Did I have heart enough to wield it and hold it to my chest?

What was I thinking? It was a crazy thought. Me talking to a lifeless article sitting in a store’s display window – perhaps I was going insane. I looked at it again from the corner, right before I stepped inside the shop. There was a reflection off it, a sharp sparkle as if it winked at me seducing me towards it. “Come, own me”, it said. “Hold me in your hands and play with me. Rest me like a child on your chest. Show me around like a fresh catch and kiss me with the passion of your first love”. The knife would not stop talking.

The next few minutes were a blur. I stepped inside the store and pointed towards the dagger. The shopkeeper looked at me and let out a little scoff, as if jeering my effete existence and holding it impuissant to even lay fingers on the torso of what I wanted to buy. Nonetheless, money was exchanged and before I knew it, I was back at my place holding the silver blade in my hand.

There was something about it I could not describe in words. It was both enchanting and beguiling. For some strange reason I did not leave it at the showcase of my sitting room but carried it to my bed for the night after the dinner. It almost felt like I was sneaking in a woman inside the house for fulfilling a dark desire. As I switched off the lights and put it next to me on the bed, I felt that my pulse was rising and my heart was beating faster. It was a cold dark night in December and I could still feel the beads of sweat break over my brow. I realized the reason for my uneasiness in next few seconds.

The dagger for some reason seemed to be glowing in dark. It was emitting a pale ember fluorescent light off its handle. I moved my hand to touch it and felt a stinging pain where my hand touched it. The knife seemed to be hotter than magma, yet it seemed to sit easy on the bed without burning it or anything. And then it happened again only this time I heard it loud and clear. For all I knew the whispering of the knife was real. I could hear it talk to me. “Touch me” it said. “Feel my girth, run your fingers over me, claim me. You are the chosen one,” it continued.

A talking knife? Was it real or had I lost it already? I felt stupid mustering up all my courage to ask it back “Chosen for what”?

The blade shot back “Chosen to quench my thirst, you fool! Why do you think I called you out of the window? You have the mark. The mark of the raven and this is your destiny. Quench my thirst and seek the glory that has eluded you forever. Ignore it and remain ignoble till eternity”

“How”? It was all I could say.

“What do you think how?” it snarled. “My tongue craves human blood. Feed me what I need or I shall consume every one of your kin and clan.”

“Who are you?” I was petrified.

The knife seemed to gleam and the soft whisper it began talking with, was raised to a gruff baritone now.

“I am the vice that shall never fall. I am the thirst for human blood. I am what moves power, kingdoms and moral fabric of the society. I am the burning fuel in a spiteful brother, the vengeance in an ungrateful son. I am the greed of a gambling husband and the unsatisfied soul of a philandering wife. I am what drives sisters to spit on their families and daughters to shed their shame. I am what will exist even when nothing else would. I have and will survive all apocalypses, for I was born to drink the elixir of life itself. I have waited centuries, waged wars, wiped off races and drained valleys and wombs alike. I have travelled around the Earth several times, watched civilizations take birth and turn to ashes. I have withstood the hunger, the greed, the lust and the gluttony and I shall prevail long after your soul is lost”.

It waited a second before adding “I am your nemesis and you better pay heed.”

“No” I cried and tried to get up, but my feet wouldn’t move. The bed seemed to have sunk in and the harder I fought it, the deeper I sank. It was as if I was lying on quicksand with my limbs paralyzed. I looked at it again and the saber now seemed to inch towards me and growing in size every second. I couldn’t take it anymore. My body quivered and I lost sense of all reality around me. It was as if I was sitting in the middle of a whirlpool and my orientation and sense of direction was all lost.

It was some time before I regained some vision. I could see the walls of my room opening up and before I could realize it, I was standing at the corner of the street I lived at. It was dark and a thick fog was beginning to build up.

I was barefoot and standing in my night suit and though it must be around the freezing point, I did not feel any cold. I found the strength of my limbs returning. In fact, I felt rejuvenated. I could see my arms and thighs swell up. I had never experienced such strength. My body felt invincible as steel and yet fluid as water. My left hand seemed to be as strong as a hammer and in my right hand I was tightly clasping ‘the knife’.

My thoughts were not my own any more. I felt walking under a spell now and stopped by the wall of a house and huddled there in dark. It could have been a few minutes or a few hours, I can’t recollect how long I sat there in the same position like a rock, before I saw someone walking hurriedly by the road. The shadow passed by through the light of a lamp post and I could faintly see the face of the person who was walking towards where I sat, waiting. He was an old watchman perhaps in his mid fifties. I could not for say anything about his origin though. He was perhaps someone you would find herding sheep on a dingy hill station in the east but he walked straight and brisk.

I didn’t give him much time to think. I sprang up the moment he got within an arm’s reach and in one swift stroke of a painter, slashed his throat. He gasped and gagged and his blood gushed out. I let my face and chest soak in the warm red spray for a while. As he fell down I let the knife bite into his chest once again and let it inside his body soaking itself in into the mushy pulp he was reduced to. I wiped my face and eyes with the back of my hand and with the other pulled my weapon out of the dead watchman’s heart and kissed its wet point in reverence. The blade seemed to smile. I had fulfilled its desire and assuaged its anger.

“You did well”, It hissed. “Do as I say and I shall let you rule this world as long as you live”, it continued.

I woke up the next day with fuzzy thoughts and found myself sprawled over my bed. The night hurt badly in my veins. My limbs were cramping up and I doubled up in pain the moment I tried to get out of the bed. I looked around and did not see the knife anywhere.

Was it real that happened? Or did I just dream it all? I wasn’t drinking last night so it could not be a hangover of something. There was no sign of a struggle anywhere. I looked at my feet. They were clean. I couldn’t be running barefoot on the road, if that was the case. This gave me some hope and I felt better. With another struggle I managed to get up and move out of the bed. The bathroom was clean as well. I undressed and got into the shower. My body had no trace of any blood on me. I guess I was dreaming after all. Maybe my headache was a symptom of some other potential ailment. I could not zero it on. My thoughts were still unclear but at least the walls on my room were not moving anymore.

I moved out of the shower, made me some coffee to clear my head and came back into the room. I looked around on the bed and all around it but I could not see the knife I had bought a day before. Where did it go? I thought I had kept it next to me on the bed, yet I looked everywhere and could not trace it. I called out the servant in the house and enquired if anyone had been in the room while I was asleep.

“No sir, none”, he replied meekly.

“Did you pick anything from here? Did you clean up? Did you see a knife on the bed? Did it fall under it”? I shot out.

“No sir, nothing” he was scared now.

I dismissed him and went about searching frantically for my nocturnal tormenter all about the house for hours. Not a whisker seemed to have moved from its place and yet my prized possession was nowhere to be seen. Was it all a dream? I couldn’t have dreamt it all. I clearly had bought it. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure of anything. I had to make sure. It was almost past noon before I decided to step out of the house. I nearly ran all the way to the store and looked through the glass window as soon as I was near it.

The knife I thought I had bought a day before was sitting easy in the same show case like I had seen it. However, it had lost its sheen and the magnificence that had drawn me towards it. I kept staring at it like a hungry dog waiting for it to speak to me again. It didn’t.

I was stumped. I did not know what to believe any more. Maybe the headache in the morning was a symptom of my impending craziness, some sort of schizophrenia maybe. I didn’t know. I stood before the window and it must have been long because next I knew, the door of the shop opened and the shop keeper who I thought had sold me that knife less than 24 hours ago stepped out and tapped me on the shoulder.

I was expecting him to ask me if I needed anything or worse to shoo me away. Instead to my horror, he just smiled and said, “Thanks for the drink last night.” “Master Zode,” he said and pointed to the knife in the window, “Master Zode, was happy with you for your service. He has something for you.”

He thrust a small packet in my hand.

“This is what you need to make a down payment on the house you have been planning to buy. Keep up the good work and there would be rewards galore and don’t worry about anything. He shall guide you and protect you till the time you are honest and dutiful”. He smiled and stepped back inside before I could even say anything.

My head was in a swirl. I kept looking at the packet in my hand and back at the knife in the window. It was beginning to sink in. I dragged myself off the road and into a by-lane and walked back to my house.

As soon as I entered in I found my servant waiting for me.

“Sir, be careful when you step out for your evening walk” he said. “Someone killed the old watchman last night.”

I looked at him suspiciously waiting for him to add anything else.

He stood in silence waiting for me to acknowledge his news.

“How, how did it happen?” I stuttered.

“No idea sir. The police found the body in the morning. The throat was cut open with some weapon and his heart was ripped out. The word on the street is that perhaps someone wanted to rob that jewelry store at the end of the road and the watchman caught the gang in time. He must have fought the robbers who, while trying to escape killed the old man. Poor fellow sir, he has a school going son as well” he replied.

“Hmm...Go home and take an off tomorrow. I am unwell and would rest now” I said and let him go.

patch knife As soon as he left, I opened the closet to keep the packet I had received from the shopkeeper earlier in the day and went back to my room. It was near dark but there was a faint light on my bed. I turned the sheet over and there it was. The knife had returned.

“Brace up, we are going out tonight” it hissed. “I am just about as hungry”.

“Yes, Master Zode” I replied and flopped on the bed.


Roopa said...

Super interesting... very nice... a captivating plot... Waiting for more...

Himanshu Tandon said...

Thanks to you for proof reading the same. Powered by Blogger.