The Most Frightening Thing In The World
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
This contribution is part of a series:-
1. The Most Frightening Thing In The World (15-Dec-2010)
2. Fun And Games (10-Jan-2011)
| ||Given the right circumstances, love can be the most frightening thing of all.|
3. Malaka (13-Feb-2011)
| ||Why are children the best soldiers one can imagine? This is Part Two of the Bisaria Quartet, and follows 'The Most Frightening Thing In The World.'|
4. The General (15-May-2011)
| ||A girl wanders alone through a land ravaged by civil war.|
| ||The General made a mistake when he spared the woman, and a worse mistake when he let her bear his child. This is the concluding part of the Bisaria Quartet.|
Note to reader: This is the first part of a four-part series set in
the fictional African state of Bisaria. None of the stories, be warned, has any
ghosts, ghouls, zombies or other creatures of the night in them. Whether I
submit the others in the series to HPotD depends entirely on the feedback I get
from you. It’s your call.
been talking about fear all evening," said the journalist, suddenly and loudly.
"You don’t know what it is. You don’t know the most frightening thing of in the
had reached a point in conversation when silence had fallen, as silences do
when someone has just finished a tale and the rest of the company were
digesting what they had just heard, so his words made us all startle.
mean," he said a little more softly, "you keep talking about fanciful things –
the ghosts you heard of, or yourselves imagined, or the close shaves you might
have had if things had gone just a little wrong. But, really, you don’t know anything
about them, do you? You haven’t actually experienced any of what you’ve been
said someone. To this day, when I remember the conversation, I don’t remember
who said this. I’m not even sure it was not I. The journalist had never spoken
out before in our little gathering, though he had been a regular. We knew he
must have seen many things in his career as a war correspondent, but he never
had chosen to speak of any of it. We had not pressed him. It was not a good
idea to force someone to speak. Everyone reached, in his own way, the point
where he opened his mouth.
when he decided to begin talking, no one interrupted. "No," the person who had
spoken repeated. "You’re right about that. I suppose you have something to talk
about which you’ve seen for yourself?"
the journalist looked as if he was beginning to regret opening his mouth. He
was one of the old style print journalists, more at ease with a pad and
ballpoint pen – or computer keyboard – before him than a camera, and he was no
talker. He was somewhere between forty and fifty, balding, but fit and
muscular. His constant trips into the field kept him fit.
it something to do with your job?" asked someone else.
job, yes." The journalist glanced round at everyone. "It’s something that
happened during the time I was covering the civil war in Bisaria. You know the
war I am talking about." Some heads nodded. The civil war in Bisaria had faded
now from the headlines because the networks had decided that it was no longer
newsworthy. An actress’ acrimonious divorce from a rock star imprisoned for
drug smuggling was now the most prominent story. Most of the journalists had
been withdrawn, from Bisaria. The civil war was now dangerous for everyone, in
any case, including journalists. But it still went on, though the cameras had
been turned away.
continued the journalist. "The most frightening thing I ever saw was love…"
A squeak from the youngest, and the only female, member of our gathering. "You
can’t mean…love? Frightening?"
mean what I say." The journalist bent a severe glance on her. "If you want me
to talk about it you have to let me do it my own way…"
I don’t know (said the journalist) how well you remember the civil war in
Bisaria. Mostly it’s faded from the news. But I was there when it started and I
was among the last journalists to leave. And I saw many things while I was
there that were far more frightening than anything that you lot said tonight,
but they all became rather commonplace as time went on. There’s a limit to how
much horror a human mind can stand without dealing with it by getting inured to
it, after all. Some things do stick in the mid, though.
think I had better begin by explaining how I started in the whole business in
the first place. I was flying back from Johannesburg when I was told by my news
bureau to break my journey at Keke, the capital of Bisaria. There were already
rumours of a military coup, and I knew the rebel forces were approaching the
capital. It had not been much of a war then, though, just another of Africa’s countless little bush conflicts. No one was seriously interested. If the army used
the rebel advance as a pretext to seize power, though, then it would be news,
but we had no one in Keke. This is why the bureau told me to break my journey
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