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Shatadru Sen

Abstract Thriller


Shatadru Sen

Abstract Thriller

Dreams And Presence

Dreams And Presence

11 mins 250 11 mins 250

I wake up abruptly as my eyes flicker open to blotches, which clear away in a moment. A beam of sunlight found its way through a small gap between the curtains, straight to my right eye. The alarm is still an hour away. The clock’s constant ticking sound which I am accustomed to, suddenly provokes me. Maybe it is the irritation of being woken up an hour early. At my bedside is The Deranged, one of the finest novels I have ever read. I hold it up, but the cover seems too blurred. I decide to wash my face first.

The water seems dry against my skin. As I touch my face, my palms feel strange. I had a long and busy week and could not get more than five hours sleep a day. It was only yesterday that my college assignments were finally complete, and I could get the sleep I needed. Yet the universe was against me and I woke up earlier than usual. In celebration of being relieved from my studies and work, I had a few drinks last night which only made my morning worse. Not used to waking up early and not rushing to college right away, I can’t decide what to do. I return to my room, half tired and gloomy. I decide to start reading the book again, not remembering how many times I had read it before. Each time it said a new story, a different aspect of human psychology, something I admire greatly about the book. But my head starts aching before I even pick it up. Reconsidering, I think sleeping would be the best way to go. The ticking of the clock continues in the most monotonous rhythm, the unpleasant sensation wears me out and puts me to sleep. 

The nap was short-lived, and I wake up irritable. The alarm is still more than twenty minutes away and I madly want its sound to disrupt the constant ticking. I find my unease with the clock quite unusual, it never happened before. The smooth white walls of my room reflect the few rays of sun entering through the translucence of the curtains, too bright to my liking. It was the usual sunny day, which I would on other days find pleasant, but something about the deafening silence of the still air along with the damned noise of my clock is testing my sanity. I sit up, motionless, and try to embrace the silence, which unfortunately I fail to. The deranged is still lying at my side, as lifeless as everything around it.

I shake my head for some clarity. Finding none, I let myself to the bathroom. Washing the eyes repeatedly only makes it redder and I am unwilling to take a proper shower. Running out of patience, I give up, have a last wash, set my hair and get ready for college. I don’t even notice what I wear for I have a set pair of clothes for each day of the week. All I do seems to be unvaried and boring. My small apartment doesn’t help in any way. The walls were whitewashed when I first moved in, which was only a few weeks ago. They are still in a similar state. And with only a few furniture, the house is as good as untouched. Being the lone soul in such a small yet empty place arouses queasiness in my guts and a hollow feeling in the throat. Such a strange start I am having to a day as common as any other.

With frustration, gloom and a thousand other unpleasant emotions, I sit on the chair closest to me. I drink some water to calm my stomach as well as my unusual state of mind but it’s ineffective for both. I keep drinking but the water seems to fall through my body; instead of filling me up, lightens me. Maybe I went a little too hard on drinks last night. An awkward weightlessness takes over my body and the chair beneath feels non-existent. Paying little attention to it, I give a moment to myself, thinking how my day would go. I only end up on one thought ‘Just another day…’ 

The faint sound of a delicate drop of water hitting the metallic sink pervades my mind. It’s the faintest rhythmic sound, yet very explicit. I don’t remember leaving the tap open, but with the unnatural things going on, I can’t even make out whether it’s just in my head or it is real. Sluggishly I walk towards the bathroom and as I inch closer the sound magnifies. Each drop leaves an elongated echo in my head, only overcome by the next one. The drops somehow match the rhythm of my heart which is now throbbing loudly against my chest. I stagger to the sink and clasp it, panting. It is completely dry, and the tap tightly closed. 

Without a second thought I step out of my apartment before succumbing to the madness. The other homes are still asleep and at peace. It is the sixth floor, where I live, with four apartments in total. There’s an elevator on my left, fully functional, but in the morning, I prefer the stairs as a small exercise to wake up completely. With the tumult in my head, I believe I could not be more awake. However, I use the stairs just as I would any other day.

As I walk down, I am suddenly aware of the weakness of my legs. I realize I haven’t had any breakfast. Quickly considering and then rejecting the idea of returning to the wretched house to have some food, I continue to walk downstairs. Maybe I will pick up something in the canteen. After all I have plenty of time for the first class. With each step, I recollect the unappetizing items in our menu. A cold sandwich from yesterday’s leftovers, some salad with questionable “fresh” vegetables, eggs boiled stone-hard and some juice which always seemed to be plain water with very little flavor. Someone somewhere wants my day to be as bad as it is going. My unwillingness to do anything only grows stronger with every step.

All the apartments I pass each floor seem desolate and completely aloof from the outside world. There is no humming of the usually busy elevator like on other days. The air is as still as it is at my place. With all the floors seeming to be the replication of each other, leaving a floor appears to be revisiting the same. By now I am childishly walking down the stairs, skipping two steps with the right leg and one with the left, as if limping. In this own world of mine, I pay no attention to the floors I pass and keep hopping down till I am bored. 

By now I should have reached the ground floor, but it seems there’s still a floor to go. Lazily I walk and it’s the same scenario as before. Two adjacent brown doors facing the remaining two, with the metal doors of the elevator facing me. The creamy ochre yellow of the stairs, walls and ceiling are consistent and unchanged as well. Maybe I had miscounted. I go down another flight of stairs and exact situation recurs like time is rewinding itself. As if the day wasn’t strange enough. I shake my head and keep walking only to be surprised again. Had I been imagining before or am I hallucinating right now, I don’t have a clue. 

I keep going down, increasing my pace slightly every time I cross a floor. It has now been seven floors since the one from where my doubt had begun. I start panicking now, my walk turning to a trot then a run. The floors keep repeating with no sign of human life anywhere, only a flowerpot at every landing. I stop keeping count of the floors I pass; my hope of reaching the ground dwindling every second. My heart is racing as fast as I am; as if trying to escape my chest just as I am trying to escape this seemingly endless loop, but in vain. I don’t notice my excessive perspiration until I touch the railings. Every inch of my body is covered with nervous anxious sweat. I feel the adrenaline pumping through me as my legs aren’t weak anymore, but all this energy only proves to be useless in this very unusual and bleak situation. 

I start pounding on one of the doors but a part of me knows it will be left unanswered. I scream, cry at the top of my lungs for help but no one responds. And how could it be possible in a building of infinite floors! Maybe if I could break into one of these apartments. I take a few steps back and with all my might lunge towards the door, making a loud sound but no impact. I pick up one of the pots and hurl it at the doorknob. Yet again, with no effect. In despair I sit down, my head in my hands. So many unreal events make me wonder if I am hallucinating, but that can’t be. Then it suddenly hits me. I realize that I’m in a dream and in that case a lucid one. A dream which appeared so real as to make me question reality itself. I am sleeping yet am very much conscious. 

An eerie thought enters my mind; what if it’s a dream which I can’t wake from. Although I am aware of myself dreaming, its driving me to oblivion. I close my eyes and open them forcefully, so much so that they bulge out, as an attempt to force myself to wake up. Like anything I had been attempting to do today, this too fails. In despair and panic, I punch the wall as hard as I can. I feel the excruciating pain surging through my clenched but trembling fist. I punch it again and again until my knuckles go white. I bang my head against the wall, with triple the pain to be felt. However, this pain is confined only to my dream-self, only in my mind. How much ever I thrash and throw myself around, whatever I do, feel, hear or see is in my dream. I was hoping pain or shock might shake me awake but the dream is as persistent as I am in trying to wake up.

Just as hope is ebbing away completely, I realize sitting there won’t do me any good. My own consciousness in my dream would be enough to drive me stark mad, if I am not already. My head spinning, I get up, wandering up the stairs this time. Surprisingly my apartment is right there, in the floor I just reached. The door is wide open, and I notice the bright light still as bright as when I left. I stagger towards it and fall right in front of the door. Blood starts streaming down my face, just touching the edges of my lips and dropping on my right palm. I hear a faint noise which suddenly turns into a blare. It’s coming from my room, from the alarm clock. 

It’s at my bedside, beside the book, vibrating violently and making the fastest rattling sound. I feel as if my senses start to come back but its only my emotions; rage, panic, despair, frustration and a certain confusion. It’s too much for me to take. I feel a chilly wind blowing against me and as I look to the window, the curtains too are wide open as is the window. I see nothing but a strong white light and feel nothing but the bitterness of the wind. A sudden impulsiveness overwhelms me, and I run to the window and leap outside to embrace wherever it takes me. 

I fall and fall and keep falling, my eyes closed. It’s my final attempt to wake up from this long sleep. I hope that the sudden sensation of falling would do the trick. However, being aware of it, renders it useless. The thought of hitting the ground doesn’t frighten me as I now know it’s in a dream but the thought that I still wouldn’t wake up does. I wonder how death in a dream would feel like for the brain cannot experience death. But there seems to be limitless possibilities in this dream… 

If there is a god, he is playing the biggest joke on me as this time too I don’t reach the ground. I keep falling to the point where I can’t comprehend if I’m falling anymore. Had I even been falling? I can’t say as it seems as real as floating. I move around and feel something soft and feathery underneath me. It’s the most comfortable feeling I had in a long time and as my eyes open, I see my room again. But this time it’s the real one. 

Very soon the memory of the dream starts to fade and that’s how I know I am finally awake. However, the ominous feeling of it persists and it takes time to gain confidence in the reality of things. The startling buzz of my smartphone helps me believe in the animate world once again and I am relieved for a moment. But the reason of my joy and relief starts to slip out of my mind as the figment of a dream seems to diffuse with other thoughts and emotions in my brain and all that remains are the feelings during the awful experience; of being trapped, helpless and desperate. I still shudder at the thought of it. 

I remember vividly the black cover of the book ‘The Deranged’ written in red fiery fonts. The image itself burns in my mind but I can’t understand why. I had never read it nor known it, much less believe it even exists. It must have had some major part in the dream for it will probably be the only thing I remember apart from running down the stairs for reasons unknown. Everything seems to be well for now except a part of me still wonders if I would abruptly wake up again.

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