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Let the Darkness Come
( Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

The hard light of noon pours down on the street, down on my blood that trails behind me, glittering rich red in the sun.

This is not the death Id imagined for myself. When Id pictured my demise, Id always thought that it would happen sometime in the evenings or the small hours of the night, in a room shrouded in darkness, with nothing but silence to mark the occasion. I had not thought that I would die in the bright hot sunlight of a summer day, with a crowd gathered round.

They have tied my body with ropes around the ankles, and are dragging it behind a pickup truck. The vehicle is driving slowly, so that everyone gets a good look, and that Im not too badly mutilated by the time theyre done. Each bump and crevice in the road surface jolts my body, throws the trailing arms around, the curled fingers twitching as though they still want to reach out and grasp at the life that has slipped by.

Almost curiously, I watch them drag along my corpse. Now that the moment has passed, the moment everyone dreads, I can afford mild curiosity, a detached near-amusement. When my head bounces in a pothole with a crack hard enough to be heard over the little pickups labouring engine and the voices of the crowd, when one of my eyes, still half open, is covered with a smear of mud, all I do is watch. Not that theres much more I can do anyway.

Momentarily drifting lower, I look at my body, realising that Im bidding it farewell. It was a good body, hadnt given me too much trouble, and lately had borne up extremely well under stresses it had never had to deal with before. I study it almost like a laboratory specimen; the shabby business suit Id worn as a disguise, the hole in the head from which the red blood still bubbled on to the ground.

Here, on my bodys left hand, I can still see the scar that Ive borne since my teens, when I had tried to commit suicide by slashing my wrists. The right hand scar made by my weaker, more unsure left hand had long since faded, but the other one never quite did, and now is an angry weal on the skin. Id survived then, but it seems Id only postponed my death.

Well, dont we all?

Its strange to think that even half an hour ago, Id been not just alive but filled with hope for the future. Id been hunted for weeks, in the towns and from the air, but I was still free, still going, and, after months of "freedom" and "liberty", more and more of the people were beginning to agree that Id been right after all.

I had to travel light, sometimes alone, sometimes with two bodyguards at the most, men who were loyal to me, who had stuck with me since the old days. I, who had once dwelt in rooms with plush carpets on the floor and air conditioning round the clock, had learnt to adapt. I had spent nights in tiny village storehouses, sharing my space with sacks of grain teeming with weevils and learning not to flinch as rats scurried over my face and hands. Id crouched in a dugout under a field with my ear pressed to the wall, listening to the sound of boots through the wall as they walked around above. I, who had dined on gourmet dishes on the finest china at state banquets, had found that a disc of flat bread and sour wine was enough to live on for a day, and counted myself lucky if I could get it. And though once Id had doctors at my beck and call, Id found that illness, as long as I could still move and talk and walk, was an irrelevant distraction from the important things in life.

Yes, Id changed, from the man who had made speeches on the television that everyone had listened to and then analysed and discussed for days, not just here but abroad, in the halls of power in countries on the other side of the world. Id become leaner and harder, and Id realised again what Id forgotten: that honour and loyalty and friendship are more important than palaces and luxury and the trappings of power, but even honour and loyalty and friendship are not the equal of having a tattered blanket to wrap around you in the cold of a desert night.

I had learnt more, too; Id learnt to tell a genuine look of sympathy and friendship from the plastic smile of insincerity, to know when to tarry and when to leave. Id developed a kind of sixth sense which had told me more than once to stay away from a village that was just a little too quiet, or not to cross a road which might be under observation from a hill in the distance. Id learnt, once again, to trust my instincts, and most of the time they had served me well.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:6 / 10
Rated By:8 users
Comments: 1 user
Total Hits:11886

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