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Black Screen

Black Screen

9 mins 19.3K 9 mins 19.3K

Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set. So how do we know if we passed or failed?

It was another Monday morning and I rushed towards the company shuttle. Gloomy faces greeted me as usual and I wondered for the hundredth time why I was living a life amongst strangers who I did not even remember the names of. And then I remembered. It was for the money. I plugged in my earphones and began to listen to songs. Songs that explained the feeling of heartbreaks in such a way that it made you wonder if physically having someone crush your heart into pieces would hurt less. I decided to listen to another song. There were loud background noises amidst which the few lines that hoped for a better tomorrow as today obviously was not a good day, was made audible enough for healthy human ears. I kept changing the songs, hoping to find something that improved my mood but found none. Before I could come to the conclusion that my playlist had been changed somehow in a technological miracle that I would not able to comprehend or that I was just another person who loved sorrow when it did not occur in her own life, voila, tall buildings that boosted the egos of the tiny figures who entered them were visible and I spotted the one in which I worked that catered to the needs of my ego!

The walk towards the elevator was a monotonous one and an uneasy feeling crept upon me. I did not know what its source was and I quickly brushed it off as a consequence of the Monday blues. Poor Monday, what did he do to deserve this much of hate? Hate. Something stirred in me when I thought of the word.

I moved towards my cabin after getting off the elevator - where no one ever dared to make a sound. The computer assigned to me greeted me by displaying my identification number in white, against the majestic black screen that I had grown to resent over the years. The computer itself had a number that set it apart from the others and it was very much likely that the difference between machines and humans would get completely eliminated in time. I tried to count the number of years I had been working in the company. When had I begun? Why had I begun? I drew a blank at the questions my tired mind posed and decided instead to concentrate on what was important. Work.

After continuously typing and exerting my fingers for a few hours, like robots, we moved towards the cafeteria to eat. It was the same old menu and the same old ever-grumpy people who served the food. I had a routine diet. Mondays meant salads so I quickly moved to the lonely corner of the giant cafeteria that probably was visited only by me and a few health-conscious employees. After I finished chewing on raw vegetables and mentally patting the backs of the ancient men who discovered which vegetables were good enough to be eaten without them being cooked to convey my appreciation of reduced labor, I moved back towards my cabin. I looked around and found people in the same position as when I had left for lunch. For a brief moment, I panicked thinking I had somehow missed out on an altered schedule for breaks. I checked my emails thoroughly to ensure that there would be no cause for them to fire me. The emotion of dread loomed large on my brain. And once more, I felt something that I could not quite name. Something was definitely amiss!

As the time approached for the tea-break, I rested my eyes by looking away from the computer screen that reminded me of all the pending works that I would not be able to complete even if I worked extra hours. My eyes went over the surroundings. People looked like programmed beings, manically typing away like their lives depended on it. In a way, it did. Lives were mostly about livelihoods these days. You don’t have a job, you lose! You earn less, you lose! You get fired, all hell breaks loose and then you lose, big time! I made my way to the coffee machine and found to my dismay that it was not working. Sadness hit me with such intensity that I thought I would lose my balance and fall. Something was wrong with me. I was not normally like this.

Monotony was the word that described my life. Every day, I woke up in the morning, got ready, skipped breakfast and hurried towards the shuttle, came to the office and worked till the evening. Afterwards, I would bid the bus to move in the traffic that no one could ever get accustomed to but tries to tolerate nevertheless and then would reach home. At home, I would make enough food to last a couple of days and then would go to sleep and just like that, the repeat button would be hit and another dull day would start. In many aspects, the movie ‘Stranger than fiction’ was about my life. Except for the fact that since it was a movie, the protagonist got a change in his routine and eventually had a meaningful life. But in my case, I rarely feel like the main character of the story. I am mostly just the subsidiary character that is unnamed and is forgotten about as soon as something exciting happens to others. Like a zombie apocalypse or a disaster that just a few survive. And when such events occur, I am the character that has a different name but looks pretty much like the previous one and is obviously still unimportant and just present to ensure that there is enough number of people on screen. If it weren’t for my imaginative mind, I would have long forgotten about myself, that, in fact, I existed and had a conscience.

I blinked to find that I was in my office and that I was staring at a white screen instead of a black one. Technical glitch or an organizational change? Everything seemed to work in the normal fashion and I was typing away even without my own knowledge. People seemed to be wearing the same clothes I had seen them in the previous day. I looked at the date on the screen. It had not changed. It was still Monday. I felt like I was losing my mind because I remembered going back home. But I did not remember reaching home! Wait, I was absolutely positive that I had gone back home and had met… Who was I supposed to meet?

I often blanked out during examinations and this seemed like a similar situation. I looked at the screen after blinking a couple of times. It had turned black. Was I ill? I checked my temperature and it seemed normal. Maybe I was drugged somehow and that was why I could not remember anything. How had I reached there? By the company shuttle. How did I reach the bus? I walked towards it. Where did I walk from? Home. Did someone say goodbye to me when I left? There, I lost track. I could not remember anything before that point! I looked at the time and immediately freaked out. I had been in the office for atleast four hours. But the time was the same as when I had begun to type. I looked at my watch and it showed the same time. The clock on the wall at the far end of the room did not even bother to try to fool me, it had no second hand and the time was constant! I looked at the people around me and they were busy typing and I knew that everything around me was constant. I was stuck in a world where nothing happened. Or a place where only mundane things happened. I decided to talk to someone and immediately figured out that everyone around me was unfamiliar. I asked an old man where I was and received the company address in response. He obviously did not understand the bigger question. The bigger question!

How do we know if we passed or failed?

A different voice spoke in my head. It seemed to belong to someone I knew. Someone who was important. Who was that?

I wanted to scream out loud but even before trying anything of the sort, I knew that it was impossible. Because I was back in front of the black screen and my fingers were busy typing. I could not control them. I could not stop. I could not move my head. I was trapped!

A few seconds passed where I felt completely paralyzed. I looked at the clock and the watch and the screen in quick succession. The time had changed but now, it seemed to move faster. Something was definitely wrong and something told me that the answer lay within me to escape the mess I had fallen into. I could get out of there if I could figure out something. What was the solution?

How do you know if you passed or failed in life?

From the quality of memories you possess as well as leave behind.

What was wrong with the world I currently inhabited? It was simple. The absence of happiness had led to the rise of all other negative emotions that could have been easily discarded according to one’s wish under normal conditions. But most importantly, how did I get to know that this was no ordinary day and that it was important for me to wake up unlike the others, my ‘colleagues’ who were looking at the black screens that never chose to turn white and provide them with a signal? Because I was a mother and I was loved by my children, I was a wife with a loving husband, I had doting parents who would do anything to bring me back to life and I had friends who were waiting for me to provide them with the answer to the question I had asked them casually on one of my usual philosophical monologues. I was on the verge of death. I was in a middle-ground where love did not exist. Somehow, I knew I had to walk back. Go towards my home. And instead of saying goodbye, I would say hello to my loved ones and tell them about the boring adventure that I had been on from which I managed to return just because all of them switched on the light that guided me back to them with the power of their sincere and heart-felt prayers.


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