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Superheroes don’t die. Not in real world. It is a curse on their community. They’ll have to live to see the worst – which can always worsen. They’ll have to hear the news of someone dying while they were saving someone else from dying. They’ll have to hear the news of someone dying while they they were trying to save them.They’ll have to hear the news of someone dying while they were having a coffee in the next block where that someone was dying. They’ll have to hear the news of someone dying while they were sleeping. They’ll have to hear the news. And they cannot do much. They survive, somehow.

With great power comes great impersonality.

The bad that tears through this silken world like a seasoned tailor’s scissor, requires a heroism of a higher kind which isn’t available to them. They know that they are walking blunders and would do more harm than good. They know that they are nothing but the embodiment of a super-ego. They know that for most of the world they don’t even exist but in comic books. Naturally they’d want to kill themselves. And naturally, they try.

I know of a superhero who almost killed himself. He could not sleep that day, or the day before that, or before that. He could not continue with his vigils at night. He hadn’t gone out for a month. His lose grey flannels were on the verge of giving away, but he kept wearing them. They were as old as his heroism. In his tiny room, this man of gigantic consciousness and super-strength, withered away like a heartbroken teenager. He last shaved when he was last on a date, and since then it seemed a century had passed, every moment hanging on his beard in black and grey, every year stretching like a trench below his eyes. His forehead was becoming unbearable for his brows to lift. His nose had blackheads as if nailed with a hammer to it. His chin had grown to a point where he could see it with his eyes.

Before he was to try killing himself he looked outside. The night was sitting on his wiindow swinging her legs. The wind came gatecrashing like a stubborn journalist. The stars rubbed their eyes in disbelief. It was same as before. Metaphors took place of reality. The ceremeony began.

He started with the fan-rope-stool combination. The ceiling came off, bringing down with it a bewildered couple who would have eventually made love had their bed not fallen down a storey. He looked at them as if it was their mistake. He went out in search of a pistol, which he found quite easily, in hands of a frail man who was out to kill someone. First he took his pistol away from him and shot him. Then, he put the pistol inside his mouth and pulled the trigger. There was an impressive sound. He mouth was producing curls of smoke. He coughed. He lit a cigarette, and went on. Walking on the road he found an empty Jack. He broke it on his head, and took the pointy part to his wrists. He tried slashing. It was like slashing a rug by a needle. Nothing red appeared, except some unimpressive white – a testament to his extremely dry skin. He was miffed. He climbed on top of one of the longer bulidings, and jumped. His grey coat was torn, and the buckle of his belt came out. He stood up and threw away his coat. He ran for his death. He was crying and screaming. It did not look very superhero like. He stopped on a rail crossing. He decided to die before the most beautiful creation of mankind – a train.

He waited for the piercing sound. He took off his brick patterened red tie. He was standing on the tracks in a paling white shirt, and a greying grey pant. Before the train the white light hit him. “Light travels faster than the speed of train,” he chuckled. He was sure that the light after death would be brighter. Then came the train and he collided head on with it. There was a deafening sound of something big running into another something big. The coaches collided, hitting, mounting on each other like annoyed school kids. The coal in the coaches was crushed to pieces. He was thrown a mile away. His shirt had come off. His pant was somehow burnt. He took it off, along with his underpants. He was lying naked on a mound of coal. A coach was burning next to him. He legs were shaking. It was a step in the right direction. If only he could get hit a number of times by a number of trains. “The driver must have been grilled. Coal is stronger than humans. What if it was filled by them?” He dropped the idea, and left the burning spectacle to burn all night. He knew he was close to river.

A few minutes sprint and he will be on the bridge. He started running, but stopped. He looked back at the burning farm, the flaming wind, the smouldering coach. A thought wandered to his mind, stopped and looked through his eyes. The suicide seemed possible. He decided to take the bigger chunk of the devastated coach with him. He dragged the hot iron leviathan with his bare hands. He was feeling his flesh receding to his bones. He was feeling alive after ages. He reached the bridge clanking his way to the middle. He destroyed the railing to keep the jumping area unclutterd. The broken bogey stood smoking on the bridge. He went inside the coach and carved a hole in its floor. Then, by sheer strength, and an unsurpassable will to die, he put his head in that small hole. It was like a necklace that covered his head and the sky above his head. A burning iron necklace which one has to support on their shoulders. He jumped off the bridge.

The river woke up as a sleeping man hit with water. The superhero went to the bottom of the river. It felt warm. The necklace felt heavy, as he was down on his knees, his body digging deep in the river bed, and his head outstretched inside the bogey. There was finally some blood coming out of his neck, curling in water like smoke. Some of it went back to him along with the green water through his nose and his ears. It seemed he could not breathe, that he could finally end it all.

“Water, water, everywhere,” he thought, “but not enough to die.”

It was a world made of finest quilts, with trees and birds made of exemplary silk and cotton. Beyond the fairly stuffed mound of maroon quilts, the castle of the Queen swayed gloriously. It was built for her, literally – it could only fit her. It had three windows – the middle one, a little wider than the other two. If nothing was wrong and the wind, innocuous, that was the window that shew the royal nose. But a hint of winter in the air and the nose would become all red and wet and the woollen drape was drawn on the curious, yet beautiful, spectacle. The queen’s castle, as it was so brilliantly crafted, required a burly, dismissing guard. A guard it had, and he was burly and dismissing, but old, and on most nights, drunk. His hut was made of a coarse material, probably a blend of jute and rocks. His face, though, was all rocks – it was predominantly lined, bearing broad crevices, all starting from his big mouth. His voice was boisterous and he rather burped out his words than speak them. He would do anything for the Queen, apart from marrying her. There was a rumour – if only a curious boy talking about it and only him believing it can be a rumour – that the burly, ugly man had a beautiful daughter. The boy who started the rumour and convinced himself of its truth, was a well behaved, believing boy, who looked too old to be termed a kid, and too lost to be termed a man. It wasn’t that his story about the guard’s daughter was all rubbish – one could argue that most of it was – as it was rooted in the boy’s vision of having seen the girl once, besides the half river, trying to weave a lily, working the needles all wrong. It wasn’t a rumour he started as far as he was concerned. It was pure truth. Her eyes were green, her nose red – red of a setting sun. Never before had he a keener sense of his own mediocrity. He’d have killed to have those green eyes. He would have killed to be near them. Other than that, he was a protégé to the Master Weaver, who, by the way, was dead.

Act One

In front of the jute house. The castle of the Queen is faintly visible. It is cold, extremely so, as the heavy jute jacket of the Guard and the stifling woollen pullover of the Boy will explain. “There is a cruel wind blowing,” the guard would say, as the fine frills of the unfinished world fly and fall. It is as bright as a dark, nebulous night could afford. The boy stands at the foot of what is a smooth, satin-like mound, on which sits a huge man, drinking what could be his millionth drink.

 BOY: He’s dead!

GUARD: What? Louder, son. There’s a cruel wind blowing.

BOY: The weaver! He’s dead!

GUARD: No! It can’t be!

BOY: He is dead. The master weaver’s gone. The needles are all stunned.

GUARD: God! How?

BOY: I don’t know. Maybe, work – too much of it. He was quiet since the last few days – never thought because he was dying!

GUARD: How much of it is left?

BOY: Of what?

GUARD: Of stitching, you fool! Stitching of our world!

BOY: There’s the garden for the Queen. Rhododendrons are but half done. And so are the roses. And various cactuses, which her Highness saw drawn in some book, and wanted badly to be woven. The river stops flowing midway. The banks are but heftily produced. But the biggest worry is a hole left unpatched. A vicious dump to the other world below, you know, that is. Covering that again would have required nights and nights of work.

GUARD: Again?

BOY: Oh! Don’t you know it was covered before, and was but so until the weaver died?

GUARD: But why weren’t the Queen and I informed before?

BOY: Because it was stitched every time it gaped open. And it was all good as long as he was there.

GUARD: The hole portends an inscrutable calamity. No one returns after falling down.

BOY: What is to be done?

GUARD: The Queen mustn’t know!

BOY: What is to be done!?

GUARD: It’ll create a row!

BOY: What is to be done?

GUARD: In the old dead weaver’s name, shut up! Let me think.

[After thinking – and drinking – for a while.]

GUARD: You say the needles are all stunned, are they?

BOY: As stunned as needles are supposed to be.

GUARD: And you say the river, the rhododendrons, the bloody, man-sucking hole, all lie unwoven?

BOY: Yes. But there’s a little trifle more.

GUARD: How little?

BOY: Er, the hole is not where it was supposed to be.

GUARD: Cloaks! What is that supposed to mean?

BOY: The hole is, well, a hole. It, er, it shows up in places you never want it to show up!

GUARD: Where is it now?

BOY: What?

GUARD: The hole, you nincompoop! The ever shifting, man-gulping hole!

BOY: Master Weaver knew where it was.

GUARD: But the old fool’s dead, and so would you be, if you don’t come up with a reply that’s not a nonsensical certainty.

BOY: I know of a place.

GUARD: I’m listening.

BOY: The old man was all hushy and quiety about it.

GUARD: What kind of place?

BOY: A house, of sorts.

GUARD: Of what sorts?

BOY: A chateau, rivalling those that the Frenchmen built – whenever they built them – of the finest cotton and wool available here, and which was to be used to stitch up the hole again.

GUARD: God of fleece! Where’s the monument of this utter debauchery?

BOY: Where the woollen fish pond was to be.

GUARD: For how long has this Master of yours been putting wool over our eyes?

BOY: Since there has been enough wool.

GUARD: But there was never enough wool!

BOY: There was. Once he decided not to cover the hole, there was.

GUARD: Take me there.

BOY: Alright, mind your steps. It’s too velvety down here.

This is the second part of the short story, "The Wooden Leg." 
For the first part, click here: The Traveler

There was a story she was told of an old man, older than words, living lonesome in woods, who now and then, loved a little smoke to smoke and a little child to eat. No wonder stray excursions to forests were strictly forbidden. But the girl had her own worries and had better things to believe in than the tale. Moreover, it is preposterous to believe in everything that the others say. She knew that well.

But, when an old nose is quite near, and one has not quite gotten hold of one’s fear, old tales sure do pop up in one’s head. Furthermore, jittery jingles inspired by those terrible tales one remembers, as clearly as they were first sung.

We don’t go visit the forest
No one wants to be in a fix
Nor be eaten by the Old Man
Who has till eaten thirty-six.

It was good that her mouth was open. It was good that she was shivering. It was good that she fell, for she knew a thing or two about falling in forests – one doesn’t get hurt. But she was scared too and she knew a thing or two about falling in fear – one does get hurt. She fell, nevertheless. She had a semblance of feeling miserably cold. Her eyes didn’t open, and after a while, when they did, the old nose was there.

It was right there, pretending to see, grimacing like a face. It did not come as a wild surprise to her when the voice of the old man turned out to be unmistakably nasal.

“Who are you?” he inquired, not in the least trying to hide his frustration. The girl remained mum. Though, it wasn’t her fault: she was in a room of curious proportions, and she was awed by the sheer oddity of it. In front of her was the window from which the old man would have watched her. It wasn’t where it traditionally ought to be, the middle of the wall, but was carved out starting from the ceiling downwards. There, below it, was a pile of logs arranged to make a stable platform, almost seven feet high and four feet wide, for the lone task of carrying a rickety wooden chair that could reach to the window – a proper rickety wooden chair, not that substandard iron and plastic rubbish – and a thing which closely resembled a small four-legged table (only difference being, it lacking one leg.) The arrangement was as precarious as one would never want a seating arrangement to be. But one can never be sure of the ways of a lonely old man in frigid winters.

“Who are you, child? You know how to climb respectable people’s houses, you don’t know how to answer them? Who are you?” the respectable old man yelled at the little girl, to which she replied in hesitation: “I am hungry. Do you have something to eat?”

The old man moved away from her. The Old Man was hungry too.

There lived a man with a wooden leg in his small wooden house. Everyday the man would wake up early in the morning, to observe how miserably cold it was, and to fall asleep again. He’d then wake up in the evening, distressed and hungry. He’d then reignite the hearth, drink some water, crush some leaves and indulge himself in a satisfying smoke.

That evening was almost similar. Almost.

The woods were beginning to get darker. The sun became helpless. Animals of ill repute came out of their dungeons. The birds could be heard flying for their life. To a lost traveler, the only sign of civilization would have been the smoke coming out of the small wooden house. To a lost traveler, the resident of the house would have turned out to be a huge disappointment. To a lost traveler the situation would have seemed utterly hopeless.

But she wasn’t lost. She perfectly knew her way.

She knew that a pistol would do for a lion. She had one. She knew a loud roar would scare away lesser beasts. She had one. She knew a bottle filled with gin was a necessity in frigid woods. She had one. She knew she’d need a place for the night. She didn’t have one.

She saw a small wooden house, puffing out substantial amounts of smoke. She went there, destroying on her way the lush overgrowth. She circumscribed the house for an entrance but couldn’t find one. She smelt something apart from burning logs. She knew someone was smoking inside. Smoking something green and good. She looked at the window curiously carved at a slightly higher place. She placed a big, wide log beneath the window and mounted on it. She could now finally see inside the house. She saw a nose, very close to hers.


This is the first chapter of the story “The Wooden Leg.” The next parts I’ll post as soon as they get written!

He saw it too near to his comfort. It looked to him like a winged Lilliputian.  His initial reservation subsided with the literary familiarity. He was amazed. What is it? It wasn’t alone. There were two of them. Fighting it out for a prized belonging. No, he thought, not fighting. Searching. What must be they searching? He perused their motion with torpid reverence.

They were more than two.  They did, with sheer diligence, the most glorious things there are to do. They sought and flew.

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In the cracks where only lizards reigned. In the emptiness of a yellow Sari fluttering in the morning blues, all dry and cold of the morning air – there for three days as her captive fled for ever. In the filth of each day’s ritual. In the schism of a wooden door. Beyond the window. In his eyes. Their search was thorough. They were countless. They filled the sky in front of him with frightening obscurity. 

They spoke too.

And he listened. And he knew what they were saying. He knew it all along. He was one of them, long ago. He sought, and he flew too. He had outgrown them, lately. Grown a tad too big to fly, had lost his wings. Ceased to understand the aery vernacular. But, he understood now. After years of sad oblivion, he understood now what they were up to.

He stood up. He pushed open the better half of the window. He, then, looked up and fixed his eyes on them. They all stood still amidst air. There was a growing murmur of astonishment and pride amongst the flying minnows. There was an appalling fear too, lest he would abstain.

But he wasn’t going to. How could he, after all these weary years of stifling exile? He carefully sat on the window sill. His hands relishing in the wet dirt of the glass pane. He sat with ease. He could hear them singing. A blessed chorus. A blessed song! 

It was the homecoming of their Prince. Their search was done. He jumped.

And flew. 

………..

For the surreal image, visit: 

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Children%27s_Picture_Books_(Bookshelf)#The_Brothers_Grimm