Posted by: Mojo Jojo | October 31, 2008

A Midsummer Night’s Nightmare


It was my room, alright. The cane furniture, the green bedspread, the Samsung television set – they were all there. The afternoon sun shone dully through the window overlooking me, just as it usually does. But something was amiss, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

That was when the strawberry red landline phone rang. Loud. Impatient.

Now, I don’t happen to have a landline phone – and certainly not a strawberry red one. But the thought didn’t even register when I reached out and answered it.

“Hello,” I said.

I recognized the voice on the other end immediately. It belonged to Shweta Mehta, a classmate from my kindergarten days in Khamgaon, Maharashtra.

Well, this may sound odd, but she still sounded like the toddler I knew twenty-five years ago. Still screaming after all these years…

Run! Get out!

The sound seemed to pierce through my brain, but all I could do was respond drowsily: “What? How? How did you get my number?”

Her next shriek did not really answer my question, but it did give me the basic idea why she was sounding so panicky. “There’s toxic gas leaking from the factory! Everybody is dying… run for your life! Graahr garble garble…

Then I heard a crash, and the line went dead…

Silently praying that the gibberish I heard in the end had something to do with the faulty telephone line, I jumped to my feet and raced for the door.

Well, the outsides didn’t belong to Bangalore anymore. Stretching out from the door of my quaint little New Thippasandra apartment was the vast expanse of Gadchandur, the little industrial town I was raised in. In the distance, I could see the silhouette of Manikgarh Cement Factory – spewing inky dark smoke, the likes of which you may see emanating only from the fires of hell.

And under the blood red sky overhead lay thousands of bodies, rotting rapidly from whatever infested the hot summer air that fateful day.

I did not stop to think where the red telephone had come from in the first place, or how I had been magically transported to Gadchandur, when just a few hours back I was sitting in a Malleshpalya restaurant, munching on a fat zinger burger. Because I was scared for my life… and I certainly didn’t want to become one of the corpses littering the streets of Gadchandur.

I ran down the stairs (don’t ask me how; I hadn’t noticed them a moment ago) without bothering to even lock the door. Halfway down, I found an acquaintance from my college in Tambaram curled up in a pool of blood. I couldn’t remember his name.

So I called him Tenzin, I called him Somu and when nothing seemed to work, I begged the gods to forgive me and resumed running again.

I passed the barber shop behind my Gadchandur house. Its Tonytone soundboxes were still playing Tum To Tehre Pardesi, but Tukaram – the barber – was on the floor, his hand still clutching his shaving razor tight. On the barber’s chair lay a corpse, about half a beard decorating its face. I ran faster.

I was nearing the MCC canteen now, and on one of the stone benches beside it sat a college mate of mine, Mike Dio (Name altered slightly to avoid a defamation suit). His nose was buried in a book that claimed to be the ‘History of English Literature’ and I couldn’t make out if he was still alive.

“Dio!” I yelled, “Are you okay?”

Dio looked up, his little round glasses balancing precariously on the tip of his nose. “Of course,” he said, “I am studying for the geography examination. It starts in half an hour.”

“Forget the exams! Everybody is dead! There’s some sort of a toxic gas going around the place. We are all going to die!”

“Die? Die?” asked Dio, before letting out a low snigger… and the world around me seemed to fall silent. The snigger grew louder to form a guffaw and suddenly, he was laughing like a complete madman. Pointing a finger at me and laughing – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – until my skull felt as if the sound may make it pop like an over-ripened pumpkin. His mouth now looked like a boa constrictor’s… stretching from the joints in his jaw to form something so monstrously big, it made me whimper like a little child. I could see all his teeth, canines and molars.

“Stop it, please!” I begged, but the laughter only escalated. And in his crazed eyes, I could see that he wanted to hurt me. In the worst possible way.

Scared out of my wits, I ran like I had never run before – my lungs thumping anxiously against the rib cage they were imprisoned in. But no matter how far I got from him, the sound of Dio’s laughter kept ringing in my head.

I did not stop running until I reached Amalnala dam, the neighbourhood water reservoir. It was quite dark now, and the stars seemed to shimmer mournfully over my head. Miles away, I could see the factory – still spewing toxic fumes into a black-red sky.

Peace at last. There were birds winging across the sky, and somewhere in the distance I could hear a wolf howling. I was alone in my misery.

Or so I thought.

Looking up at me from the limestone-lined bank of the dam were thousands of zombies, all looking at me through lifeless eyes that said, “Yessss… here’s food! Fresh meat!

And slowly, they started stumbling towards me … their heads hanging limply by their necks, their hands outstretched. Men zombies, women zombies, little girl zombies, zombies who had once been my friends – their blood-splattered faces dressed in a uniform expression of hunger.

I wanted to start running again, but – for some reason – my feet just refused to move. Perhaps it was fatigue, perhaps I was turning into a zombie myself.

If that’s the case, I thought frantically, I don’t have to worry. They say zombies don’t eat each other. But what if I am wrong?! What if they don’t mind their food a little stale? What if the next moment finds them picking and gnawing on my bones with their yellowing fangs, enveloping me in the stink of putrid flesh?

I tried to move my feet. It just wouldn’t. And the living dead were getting closer with every moment.

Tried to move my feet again, wiggle my toes… anything! But no, they just wouldn’t listen to anything my brain was trying to say. I tried again.

The nearest zombie was now just a few feet away, and when I looked at him I realized that he was someone I was once quite familiar with.

Years ago, I knew him as Yogi, a clerk from the school I used to study in Manikgarh. Today, with an eyeball hanging from his left eye socket and the skin from his jaw hanging from his face like a grotesque orange peel, he was my worst nightmare come true.

FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!” I let out a high-pitched shriek, trying to make my feet move again. And this time, something gave – and my left foot hit the zombie with great force. I never got to see what happened to him.

The awakening

Because it was then that I felt real pain shooting up my body. The pain that comes from kicking a hard cold wall.

Which was exactly what I had kicked. When I opened my eyes, I was back in my room and the television was still running. There was no strawberry red telephone beside me; just the Nokia 5300 I had bought a couple of months ago. And my heart was thumping like crazy. The time was 9:30 pm and there were no zombies in sight.

Something for my parched throat, I decided, is what I need. Besides the need to stop watching movies like Bhopal Express and Dawn of the Dead for a while, that is.

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Responses

  1. even if you stop watching the movies, you have me to reckon with 🙂

  2. Ha ha! Yeah, you can give me nightmares alright 😀

  3. I saw that! Hope you have a lawyer, buster…

  4. Good description of a nightmare,… I am myself beleaguered by the same nightmares again and again for nights on end.. always invovling trains, a railway bridge across a river and .. my work 😉

  5. Did you overdose on Old monk or HRD before you crashed and had this dream?

    And are sure it was a hard cold wall, that you kicked? And not your house mate’s back?

  6. @ Mattiz: Ha ha! I get nightmares about my job too. But those I get while I am awake 🙂

    @ Nishant: Yeah, HRD brings out the best in me…
    And I am sure it was not my housemate’s back, because – thankfully – he sleeps in the other bed. Otherwise, I would have been getting nightmares about that!

  7. Hi,
    I used to get a bad dream while sleep close to a wall in an grandma’s house in Varkala. That was a wall in a particular room.
    This must be because of too many movies you watch every week.

    great post jimmy. I like the colour of the telephone.

  8. I liked it too – maybe I should have stayed in the dream… then I could have still had the strawberry red phone.

  9. This sounds hauntingly similar to a nightmare I had… I was the barber though… 😀

  10. Hey bud..truly enjoyed this one..esp the guest appearance by Mike (???) Dio (??????!!!!)

    And are u sure there wasn’t a vampire who didnt say: “No sweat”??

  11. always enjoy reading….

    nice nightmare kid. glad it was not me.

  12. @ Nikhil: That must have been really bad, man. Am glad I was only running from the zombies, not shaving them 🙂

    @ Shain: Oh, you know Michael-Anjana Dio. The guy who made his home in the Heber pond. But no, there was no vampire who said “No Sweat.” But if there was, he had to be from Gadchandur, na?

    @ Murr: Thanks, Cats. Glad it was me, though. Gave me something to blog about 🙂

  13. An early winter’s nightmare, lovely 😛 It reminds me somewhat of a favourite book of mine called Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Btw, a “strawberry red landline phone”? Hmmm wonder what Freudian connotations can be derived out of that. Kidding. I’m linking your blog to mine ok?

  14. Wow! I did a Google search on Oryx and Crake and was pleasantly surprised to find that the protagonist shares his first name with me. Nice connect, I thought 🙂
    But no, I don’t think there are any Freudian connotations to my strawberry red landline. My dream could be categorised PG-13 for blood and gore content, but naah – there was nothing sexual in it. Hee!

    P.S.: Linking my blog? Tis an honour, Calliopia 🙂

  15. When you had narrated it to me, it had sounded very disturbing. Now that i read it, it is so much more….am struggling for a word here. But i really loved it! reminds me of a pueblo fantasmas!!

  16. Thanks, Mousumee…
    It was quite disturbing, believe me. For once, I could understand what Nidhi must be going through after watching those horror movies i force on her 🙂


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