The Prisoner – II

This story is in continuation of The Prisoner. Reading it would help understand and appreciate the finer aspects of this part better.

Imagine a home full of light. Laughter and happiness making the beams and pillars, love putting in the solid foundation and affection keeping it warm and cozy. Light colored drapes on the windows, lime to be precise, keeping the hot sun out and filling the air inside with a brilliant glow. The floors made of white polished marble, shining as they reflect the filtered sunlight. The walls painted light yellow and green, doodles of crayons spotting them in the lower halves. The house ringing with laughter and clamor of children, and an unceasing squeak.

Imagine children running through the house. Two of them – a little girl, dainty and delicate, and a little boy, healthy and determined, running around his sister. Both of them two years of age. The girl laughing as she runs ahead of her brother, her light pink frock with flowers of blue and marigold yellow, swaying as she goes round and round the dining hall like a merry-go-round. The boy, in short pants and a light blue tee and shoes which squeak with his every step, running gingerly on the marbled floor, his legs wobbly, never gripping the polished surface with confidence. Their mother watching them with light in her eyes as the two run towards her and fall in her lap, and then kissing them both on their similar foreheads. Twins.

Imagine the twins. Same of age but different in looks, bi-zygotic. They have the same hair though, jet black. Their nose is the same too, sharp and pointing. The eyes are different, the girl has blue gems set in white pearls while the boy has black lenses. The girl is fair of skin with a chiseled face-cut identical to her mother while the boy is chubby with more baby-fat and thicker arms and legs. Both of them, though, have another resemblance – a never-ending smile revealing their polished incisors and filling their mother’s heart with a warm emotion.

Imagine yourself – looking at the kids with a gleam in your eyes. Your eyes sparkling when they laugh, your heart beating faster when they run around. A need to hold them tight in your arms and play with them gripping you when you see them dancing with their mother.

The kids are beautiful, they go after their mother. You look up at her, their mother. She looks lively, and happy. You keep looking at her. A smile draws across your face as she notices you standing in the corridor. As she shows the children their father and they run towards you, you silently mouth that you love her. She responds in kind and comes towards you. The children reach you and you bend down to scoop them up, leaving your bags on the floor. Your wife reaches the trio of you. The girl kisses on your cheek and the boy on his mother’s. The four hug.

Imagine a happy family.
Imagine having a happy family.
Imagine having a happy family as your last memory.
Imagine having a happy family, and losing it, as your last memory.

A scream fills your ears as you wake up from the dream. You open your eyes and calmly beat them against the blackness of your prison. They are wet. You lie still on your stone bed, not moving at all. You think about the dream. It has been the same since time unknown. You remember every sequence, every detail about it. You know exactly the amount of light that fills the house and the pitch of the laughter that rings through it. You remember the number of rounds the children went, and the exact number of steps your wife took. You remember everything, like its etched in your memory.

The dream used to haunt you. You would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and cursing, your heart on a flight and your body drenched in sweat, bruises on your hands and feet from rubbing against the stone bed. It would make you shiver, and cry in agony and pain. The bile would rise in your throat and you would often vomit, the smell of which remained in the cell. Then you would lie down again and try to go back to sleep, and the dream would continue.

It wasn’t a dream anymore, it was a stalking nightmare you had no escape from.

You let the warm water descend the corners of your eyes, never attempting to wipe them. You take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Soon sleep engulfs you. The nightmare continues after the interval.

Imagine coming home late after work. The door is ajar, the sound of your footsteps reverberates in the hall inside. An uneasy silence pervades through the air. You don’t see the children in the house and you don’t see your wife. You go to the kitchen and find a huge knife kept on the rack. A meat-cleaver. It is clean, freshly washed, water drops clinging to its shiny blade. You pick it up. You can see your face in the steel.

You drink a glass of water, and resume your search for your wife and kids. The door to the kids’ room is unbolted but there is no one there. You go to your bedroom. You find your wife in your bed covered under a dark blanket, the kids sleeping snugly on either side of her, their faces just over the edge of the blanket. You touch the blanket and it feels wet. Startled, you remove the blanket to uncover the cleaved bodies of your family.

A scream is all you can manage. It rings through your ears and runs through your body, making it numb. Your arms go heavy and your legs can’t carry your weight. You fall limply onto the floor, your eyes wet and wide, your throat cracking and still making no sound, your lungs choking with the want of air. After some time you stop crying and sit silently, your eyes stone-cold and your lips dry and parched. White salt-lines mark your cheeks. You hold the body of your son, in halves, hold him with utmost care, and press his head against your chest.

The rest of the dream is always in fast forward. Tit-bits of instances appear and disappear, like a meaningless reel of film made by cutting and pasting pictures at random. The police. A meat-cleaver. Murder charges. A death-sentence. A dark, black cell.

It was always the same dream. As the bullets hit and you embrace the sleep in the arms of darkness, the dream surfaces again. You recall the name of the creatures – humans. Yes, they were humans. You were a human. Your family were humans. Everyone was human. Even the ones who were firing at you. And even the ones who killed your family. The realization makes you smile as it always did, for realization means knowledge, and having knowledge is being content. You smile, and whisper slowly for the last time the realization you have just had, “humans”.

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