He was sinking down, down, down. The bottomless abyss was devouring him. The dark, intense feeling churned his intestine, wanting him to shout out for one last time before the dense blanket of greyish fog could make him disappear, but he failed to utter a single word. Staccato groans came out of his mouth and, he jolted upright on his bed, startling out of his nightmare.
With parched lips, numerous beads of sweat on his forehead, and an insatiable thirst, he fumbled for his spectacles. He expected to find it on the bedside table, but it was not there. A faint light was oozing through the curtains indicating the end of the nightmare and the beginning of a new day. He took deep breaths, emptied the bottle of water kept on the table and, thought about the dream he just saw; for the umpteenth time.
He was feeling tired. As if, he had not been woken up after a night’s sleep, but had been through some strenuous job. Each time he had this dream, it squashed the last drop of energy and life-force from within. He wanted to have some sleep again, but a strange trepidation was there; he was afraid to close his eyes. He got up and braced himself for the day. A new one with the same tedious routine, mundane monotony.
On his way to the office, he managed to get a seat by the window. He took it as a good sign. Maybe the boss would not be harsh with him today, maybe the smart-aleck new engineer who had joined a few months back would not make him the butt of a joke, maybe the prissy receptionist would greet him with a big smile…. he closed his eyes, unconsciously.
He proved himself wrong as he entered the office. The receptionist gave him a grumpy look as he signed the register, he was five-minute late. The rest of the day followed the same tedious recital. The only exception being his thoughts about the dream, coming and going as the flickering of an erratic bulb.
It was quite late when he got up. He worked all day with the pending files as per the boss’s order and, as he stepped out of the almost desolated office building, a light drizzle greeted him.
“As expected”, he thought,”for I’m not carrying the umbrella today”.
The rain was gaining its strength and, before he could take refuge under the shade at the bus-stop, he was drenched. A group of four young men stretched themselves lavishly on the bench. They showed no sign to make space for him neither did he bother. A strong, off-putting smell made him cringe, “they are surely having weeds or something! Bunch of recalcitrant rogues”, he mumbled. But he knew he could never have gained that strength to protest.
Now, the rain was pouring itself down violently, covering everything up in a translucent veil.
He was praying for the quick arrival of his bus.
A lean figure suddenly appeared from among the thick veil of rain and took shelter under the shade. He looked at her. A woman in her 20s, drops of water were falling from her tresses making the face beautiful. The rain had made the fabric of her dress diaphanous; the décolleté neckline was revealing a lot than it was meant to. He averted his eyes. He didn’t want to make her feel uneasy.
A sharp whistle from the bench startled him. One of the young men was gazing at the woman; a devouring look in his eyes, a ghastly smile on his lips. The woman took a step back, but there was nowhere to go.
“Come on guys, we can have some fun in the rain,” said the man to his companions. With half-closed eyes, two of them showed reluctance, but the other one stood up taking his position intimidatingly behind the lady.
He could see sheer terror written on her face. But, he didn’t want to get himself involved in a ruckus with those drugged scamps. The very idea enervated him. Never in his life, he had himself stuck in any sort of quarrel. A commoner, like him, with no wealthy parents, no political clout, no degree from a world-class institute, should live an insignificant life and never deserved the right to protest against the powerful- that’s what he had learnt in his life.
He was praying harder now, for his bus.
One man said something to the lady, making the filthiest gesture with his hand.
The terrified woman, perhaps, tried to shout, but nothing came out of her mouth except some wild groans.
He looked at her, startled. Her groans were his own! He had experienced the horror, the panic, behind those staccato sounds! He knew the exact feeling which could bring them out. The only difference being, his was a dream, hers was a reality.
He lurched his body towards the man standing behind the lady making him topple down. Standing up, he shoved another with the heavy bag in his hand.
The sudden aggression surprised the group. It took them less than a minute to get back, then all four of them started hitting him blindly. Blood from his nose made a red puddle near his feet. A hard fist hit him in his right eye making him half-blind.
He could sense the headlight of the approaching bus. The woman was now shouting at the top of her voice; she saw the bus, too.
He could feel the vicissitude changing around him. The rain stopped, the bus arrived, a number of people gathered around him as he was lying on the ground saying a lot of things together…. he tried, but could not decipher.
He was losing consciousness. He closed his unhurt left eye. He wanted to sleep. He knew that the dream would not haunt him anymore. He had shown his strength. He had challenged life. He had raised his voice.
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