Saturday, September 8, 2012

FIRST: Prometheus


Ajay B. Patri
Ajay B. Patri
National Law School of
India University
I was watching the whole time. I saw everything. Nothing escaped my attention. If I may say so myself, nothing could have escaped my attention. Pride, my dear, is a folly I have long suffered from. Pride was the cause of this entire affair. Surely you will not begrudge me the right to be a little proud of myself now, even though I may not deserve it in your eyes. I am old and I think I might need that solace, however meagre it may be. It will make telling this sad, miserable tale much easier to me. And I know, in spite of our differences, you do not hate me so much as to cause hurt. You were always much too sensible to let your emotions get the better of you. I wish I was too. But forgive me, I digress. You deserve the story in its entirety and I will try my best to give it to you. Please bear with me.
I saw him as clear as day, just like I see you now. I always kept an eye on what he did. Sure, he helped me in the war. But remember, he was not one of us. My intentions were honest; I didn’t want to lose anymore. I wanted to sustain our new realm. I am sure you will understand this; I know I can get your sympathy here. I also know that sympathy will not exonerate me. I am guilty. I always have been, one way or another. But I want you to know everything and then decide. Maybe being guilty in a completely different way will change how you think of me. And that, my dear, makes a lot of difference to me. I am asking a favour here, I know. I am not sure I deserve it but I hope you will grant me this last wish.
That is how I knew what he was doing. By spying on him. By not trusting him. Another of my character flaws. I know I am not perfect. I never was and it shames me at times that people worship me. Or used to anyway. Guilt, my dear, is a poison that kills you slowly. It has stayed with me all this while. You must know that I never had it easy. At the end of this story, I hope you will understand my position.
` So, yes, I knew all about his creation. And what a creation it was! I must admit that I was envious of him. Yes, me, the all powerful one, envious of someone else. You must be surprised to know I am even capable of such an emotion. But I was more than capable of it. I was consumed by it. It affected whatever ensued and in so far as it did, I am completely guilty. I have no defence. But then I want you to know that I was not motivated entirely out of spite. That I suffered from all this too.
His creation would have been useless if he hadn’t resorted to thievery. They would have turned on themselves, the blackness in their hearts knowing no reason and no enterprise. They would have been driven extinct at their own hands. I saw it and I knew it. And he knew it too. I do not know when he realised it. Maybe he knew it all along; the steps he would have
to take to bring his plan to fruition. Maybe he realised it quite late and his act of thievery was just a desperate attempt to prevent his work from getting spoilt. It does not matter; not to the telling of this story anyway. This story is about me. There, my dear, my pride still lurks beneath the surface. There is no way I can tear it out of myself; and believe me, I have tried.
It was important that his creation sustained. It was too precious, too precocious an attempt to be discarded. There was absolutely no need to create them but once they were formed, destroying them would have been cruel. Yes, I say cruel. I daresay you can threaten me with being the same. I wouldn’t have a reply to that; yes, I have been cruel at times, unreasonably so at times. But please listen.
So there was only one way his creation could have been rendered useful. I could have done it myself. You will ask me that; I have no doubt you will. I could saved us all that trouble and that theft could just as easily have been a gift. But I didn’t.
I couldn’t. My pride played an important part in it all. I couldn’t openly sanction his work; it would have led to chaos. I was the king and a king needs to set boundaries. A king needs to be harsh at times. I had to assert my authority then. And the only way I could was by showing that I was displeased. I could have stopped him right after he created them but I waited. I admit I wasn’t exactly sure of all my options then. I quite simply didn’t know what the future would hold. The fates kept that hidden from me.
So, yes. I let him do it. I let him take the fire right from underneath my nose. This must be quite beside the point but you must realise this also made me look bad. I was portrayed as weak, as someone who could not control his own possessions, let alone the world. But I let it happen because it was crucial that it reached them. Crucial that they learnt the knowledge that has held them in good stead over the millennia. They have made mistakes too, I will not deny that. They are by no means perfect. But the knowledge they got also gives them the sense to realise they are wrong. That is the knowledge that pierced my being, my self, that day. And it has been a constant reminder ever since that I have erred. Time does not soften the pain that knowledge causes.
If I was arrogant enough, and I fear that I am, I could then claim some credit for their existence even though I did not create them. I am sure you will not approve of it. I agree with you there, my dear. The credit should belong entirely to the person who has suffered ever since. And yes, he has suffered because of me.
Once his actions were complete, I couldn’t just stand back and marvel at his creation like everyone else. I would have liked to do so; I had done that even as he had moulded them. But after it was all over, I had to be angry. I had to be the arrogant bastard that myths say I am. There was no other way that I could have maintained the peace of the realm, my own prestige and position as well as the continued survival of the humans. People forget that I did not destroy his creation. History always focuses on the more gruesome aspects of the incident, not the ones that were good. Such is their nature. I daresay they get it from us.
So, there I was, the one who had been made a fool of. The villain who overreacted to the actions of the person who had supposedly made a fool of him. Were my subsequent actions harsh? They most certainly were. But his punishment had to be a reminder to everyone that I was supreme. It had to be severe enough to act as a deterrent.
You might accuse me of double standards now and with just cause. I took those steps that ensured I did not get hurt too much. He became the fall guy. All these eons, I have tried to justify it all. Telling myself that he should not have defied me like that. He should not have gone ahead and created them without approaching me first. Maybe I should have stopped him before he created them. There are a lot of maybes and ifs and buts involved here and I am guilty of each one of them.
But I genuinely believed in what he was doing. My involvement at that stage could have changed everything. It is ironical, I believe, that I lacked the courage and the belief that I could create a better person than he could. My pride deserted me then. And my curiosity prevented me from interfering and completely stopping the process. These reasons are all I can offer you. I know they are not enough but I hope you can see my side of the story a little better now.
He got the worst deal out of it, I must admit. He will suffer eternally, physical pain, pain of the flesh that he created.
But I want you to understand that I suffered too. I lost face; I lost a lot of love from a lot of people for my actions. People will forever worship him as the one responsible for their existence. I am resigned to the sidelines as a person who unfairly punished their creator. I will never gain their respect for whatever good I have done, which furthered their existence or otherwise. I will forever be scarred in their memories by this one incident which they hold dear. I will be the eternal villain; a vain god they worship out of fear and not love.
But there is something even worse that torments me. It is the truth and the guilt it brings with it. I wish every day that I can forget it. Or change it into something else. But even I am not capable of altering the course of time. I will forever live in knowledge of what I have done and all the hurt I have caused. You must know that nobody else knows about this. I owe it to him to keep the truth to myself. And even more importantly, from him. He should never know that I knew. Let that ignorance grant him any happiness it possibly can. I see no other way of alleviating his pain.
A king is not infallible. But being a king lets him tide over this hurdle. That is the way it is. You, in your infinite wisdom and reason, know this already. We have seen this with the humans too. We are no different. We can be no different.
And that is what I wanted to tell you. It is not much of a story. There is nothing fascinating about it because we have seen it happen around us all this while and have grown used to the thought that we are impervious.
In the end, we are but puppets made of clay too.

SECOND: Endoftheworldman


By Bedavyasa Mohanty

Bedavyasa Mohanty
Bedavyasa Mohanty
(National University
of Juridical Sciences)
The year is 2033. In many ways the world that you used to know has descended into irredeemable chaos. Beneath me lies a broken city; rusted and rotting, not unlike an Orwellian dystopia or a post-apocalyptic video game. I see the sun hurrying across the sky with practiced bravado and twilight beginning to creep across the dark crimson clouds. Tall skeletal hunks of twisted metal that once represented the pinnacle of our civilisation cast long shadows across dark asphalt roads that are littered with rusted automobiles lying abandoned, forgotten. The world wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always like this. But my past is a shattered mirror and more than once I have cut myself trying to piece it together. I have stared at the shifting image inside the glass for so long that I no longer remember what being whole feels like and the scarred abomination staring back at me is the only picture that I have of myself. When I was younger, the world was a far simpler place. Most things that people did and the reasons that motivated them made sense. But religion changed everything. The belief in the will of an invisible deity and the imposition of senseless commandments on the naïve masses had plagued mankind for almost as long as it had existed but it was only at the turn of the 21st century that mankind developed the capacity and appetite for the systematic extermination of its own species. We should’ve seen it coming; someone should’ve seen it coming. But it’s too late for conjectures and what ifs now, the past like all great tragedies of life is a gaping hole. The more you run from it the bigger and deeper it grows, its fringe gnawing at your heels. Your only chance is to turn around and face it. But that encounter with long suppressed demons could destroy you or make you invincible. It could drive you mad or set you free. I decided to turn around and now I stand on the brink, staring down into a bloody hell, watching my beliefs burn and smoulder in an infernal fire and I grimace at my practiced absence of regret or remorse. I have spilled blood this night and the night has only just begun. My name is David Lake and my eyes are open for the first time.

From a purely objectivist perspective of existence, there are only two great miseries in life: not getting what you want and getting what you don’t want. Personally, I believe that the latter is the more dangerous of the two because not only does it herald disappointment and dejection but it also extinguishes hope. A hope that someday, not very far away, things will change, that life will revert to normal. This thought surprises me; I had never been one to dwell on things. It was against my nature and my profession. A profession where the only choice you had was a binary one: either you pull the trigger or you don’t. I nestle the AMT Hardballer in my hand feeling the weight of the gun as the familiar grooves of its grip cut into my palm. It feels like an old friend. I see the man tied to the chair stirring as he slowly regains consciousness. He looks up at me with kind eyes and smiles. “Is this what we’ve come to David?” The man’s name is Frank Shelly. He is my employer and my oldest friend; my only friend. He is also my wife’s murderer.

When the world had been ravaged with Jihad and all of the western Governments had collapsed, Shelly had sought me out. He had claimed that for a new world order to be established, the old order had to be cleansed and only then could mankind’s newest age rise from the ashes of the old one. I had never believed in the old order and had little faith in the new one. You see, in Hell you'd be foolish to count on people displaying high standards of honesty and morality. The same goes for earth. But I had cleansed his world for him and he had made me rich. Now Frank Shelly was the God of what remained of the civilised world and I was his dextera domini.

“Think of all that we have accomplished David. After decades of bloodshed and destruction, the world is finally quiet. Are you willing to throw all that away for the sake of a single woman? You are about to make the same mistake that she did David; this is bigger than any of us. Peace always comes at a cost and without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing. Endure it David, endure it as you always have.” I pull the hammer back and his smile disappears. Everyone smiles with an invisible gun to their head. “You’ve thought this through haven’t you?” he says. “But tell me why. You’ve always known the price of this revolution. You brought it about David. Can you live with the burden of knowing that you sent the world back into the state of chaos that you helped save it from? Is she worth that much to you?” I breathe in, and think about what he has just said. I try looking into the depths of my mind searching for the small voice that would tell me that my revenge is justifiable on some conceivable moral scale. I hear nothing. For a moment, though, I can see her eyes, blue as the clear sky on the most beautiful day of your life and what I have to do becomes so much clearer. Shelly’s voice breaks the silence, “It’s over David, let this one go. The stakes are too high. Killing me will not bring her back. Forgive me David. For the sake of the thousands that depend on us, for the sake of the Crusade, forgive me.” But I am no crusader, I’m no hero, I’m no believer. What I am is an organic being of pure, unadulterated, seething rage. I feel like putting a bullet between the eyes of God, I feel like tearing down the Venus de Milo and setting fire to the Starry Night. My wife was dead and her killer was still breathing. This wasn’t over. I level the gun and slowly pull the trigger. The hammer snaps back down and time slows down to a crawl. I imagine life turning into a series of comic book panels as the bullet throws itself out of the business end and the head of the man tied to the chair snaps back. The bloodstain on the white marble floor of Shelly’s penthouse slowly flows out, taking shape like a violent new continent. I let the weapon slip out of my hand and it falls to the floor with a loud clang! I breathe out and let my thoughts wander over everything that had led me to this point. There is sadness in my past but there is little about it that surprises me. Choices in life are a thing of the future, things that always lie ahead. The past is nothing but a straight line. There are never any two ways about it. If you had made any different choices in life it would have been a different person standing at a different place asking a different set of questions. I had no regrets in life save the death of a woman. That had been my cartoon moment, when the coyote steps over the edge and gravity gives him a moment to realise his folly before the plunge. I had imagined that killing her murderer would bring me peace. It hadn’t. But then again I didn’t deserve a happy ending, never had. I had led a monochromatic existence with my senses cut off from all feelings except a sense of what needed to be done. Now that I had done what needed to be done all the other greater feelings of grief, despair and regret come crashing down in the same moment and I realise that my way of living life is the smartest option.

I had never meant to change the world but I had ended up doing it any way. People like Shelly had believed that if you took disintegration far enough you could bring about a new form of integration. And so, little by little we had taken the world apart and now with Shelly gone we had no idea what to do with the pieces. But maybe this was how it was always meant to be. Maybe what makes the earth feel so much like hell is our expectation that it should be like heaven. But the truth is, everything is flawed and everything changes, even the things that we considered constants in our civilisation like Jesus and Capitalism gradually disappeared and will soon fade from memory. If people choose to believe in a power higher than themselves then it falls onto the non-believers to ensure that that higher power is flawless and beyond reproach. That is what my wife had believed in and maybe even more than vengeance, my actions tonight of putting an end to the crusade that celebrated the sound of fire alarms and gunshots was my way of paying homage to her memory. My world is a strange place. In it we are the playwright and the bit players but what drives the world is an idea because ideas are the only things that have endurance on this ever changing planet. You may call me an inglorious mercenary or write me off as villain in the grand scheme of things and you won’t be too far off the mark; but the truth is while the world needs dreamers to give it a soul, it also needs realists to keep it alive.

Friday, September 7, 2012

THIRD: The Many Ways to Flap Your Wings

By Madhav Khosla

madhav khosla
Madhav Khosla
National University of Juridical Sciences
You’re looking at Christiania. A place with a name far prettier than it deserves. It’s not a very large place, Christiania, but it’s plenty big enough for people to want to chop it down the middle, 50-50, 60-40, 70-30 and even fuck off it’s mine. If we look a little closer, zoom in just a bit, there’s a young man at a political rally although he doesn’t look particularly happy to be there. He’s tall, medium build, two day stubble and recently cropped hair. Standing there, he turns a large coin over between his fingers. If you look closer it’s an off-white dealer button from a not inexpensive poker set. He doesn’t quite understand what the event is meant to be. It’s not really clear to anyone. He’s putting a great deal of effort into looking effortless. Everything about him screams that he doesn’t care about you or anything really. Or at least it’s been carefully put together to make you surmise as much.

Our young man is standing in the midst of a park, with a stage set up a couple of hundred yards ahead of where he’s standing. He sees the men on the stage, in expensive navy blue suits and sober ties, the women in brighter coloured shirts and lighter gray suits. All of them with fake smiles on their faces. Every last one. Ignoring everything that was around them, all the evidence of their every failure, they sat there blowing their own horns. You know exactly who the head honcho is and you know it immediately. The big cahuna, the apex predator, the chief, or rather the commander in chief. El Presidente. He’s just a little more smug, his smile just that little bit wider and little bit faker and he’s just that little bit more responsible for everything gone wrong. But what really sets him apart is the swagger. Amongst this distinguished and celebrated bunch of self-promoters and egotists, this man is a narcissist of rare distinction.

Our young man doesn’t like this. Not a bit. He focuses back on the dealer button. Feels it’s weight in his hand and turns it over again, feeling it almost slip out of his hand as it slips on the smooth edge of his pull over instead of gripping on his not-quite calloused palms. He takes a few steps forward, meandering just enough to the left, the right and back to the middle to make himself appear aimless. He takes another few steps and starts thinking about last night’s poker game. Dealing the cards across the table, practiced motions of his hand, first the dealer button slides from one person to another, then the cards to that chaps left, and then to everyone else. Most people think of dealing as a chore, Charlie loved it. It gives him a sense of control, not direct control, nothing as devious or dramatic as rigging a game of poker with his friends was going on. Even with his mind on all the fucked up shit around him Charlie still wouldn’t regard sharking his friends out of a few bucks as the lesser of as many evils as you’d care to name. No, he had indirect control, and that was enough for him, a say in the process. Whether he knew how that would pan out or not, Charlie always wanted his say and however small it was, to Charlie, it was always a Tornado.

He focused on the staggering progress of his thumb over the rough bottom of the button, every hitch significant for some reason. He looked up at the sky to see an almost cloudless autumn afternoon. Rain wasn’t going to end this farce. Charlie’s thoughts turn to his walk over to the park that day. There was a wall of TVs on display at a high end electronics store flashing phosphorous images of protests, police brutality, and scandal after fucking scandal. Tax-gate, back-gate, Front-gate and who could forget the infamous slamming of the door in the President’s face by his own wife, the appropriately titled, Gate-Gate. He just couldn’t reconcile all that imagery with the fact that they were still standing up there, with their smiles far more constant than their morality and a damn sight more fixed than the buildings they put up.

Charlie’s mind goes back to the walk over, walking with his thin black earbuds pushed firmly into place, the volume as high as he can take it, disaffected slouch affected to perfection, jeans unfashionably ripped at the ankles, not the knees and a blue shirt plenty nice enough to appear out of place on him. He was walking a couple of paces ahead of his sister and her friend, uninterested in their talk of music he despised and people he didn’t know. Charlie stops in his tracks in front of a store and looks through the window display, straining to see past it and into the store itself. He couldn’t walk in, that would mean he cared about it. And that wasn’t Charlie’s style. But still, he kept looking, somehow managing wide eyed wonder and an obsessive compulsive’s attention to detail in the same, focused gaze. Damn right Charlie cared, and damn right he wanted. Not that he was allowed to, nor did he allow himself to. Albeit for completely different reasons.

His sister’s friend stops and says “ Did you see him stop at the boutique? I told you he had good taste!” She says the last bit triumphantly, only to hear sister dear reply, with a not at all faint sense of pride, “Well, we have to share some genes though don’t we? But he’s never let any one know of course.” Her friend looks puzzled, you can tell because her face does exactly what TV tells you confused people do and she asks, in a manner TV tells you confused people ask, “But didn’t Charlie want to be a butterfly?” “Yes but only because his father wouldn’t let him” said a man’s voice. They both turned forward to see Charlie facing them, with his infrequent, but pleasant grin, making these two girls turn red, Charlie turned back around satisfied and for the moment, vaguely distracted.

Snap back to the present. His hands are running over the flattened dome top of the button, running through the engraved letters, thinking about the hand that fate has dealt Christiania. On one hand there’s the government, buggering its own people for shits and giggles. On the other there’s the opposition baying for blood and a chance to do the same. They’re at each other’s throats and for longer than he’d care to admit, Charlie’s been feeling both sets of icy fingers around his neck. Back to the dealer button, it feels heavy in his hand, a comfortable, significant weight, like it has a purpose beyond Charlie’s itchy fingers.

He’s a well read young man, our Charlie in an off-beat, hipster sort of way, lots of Pahlaniuk, Nabokov and Hemingway, smatterings of older and newer depending on what caught his fancy, how he got there and when. So he’s a chap who’s aware of the benefits of anarchy and has a sense of right and wrong, it may not be his sense, but at least he has one. He’s dealing with it though, as best he can. Charlie’s a big boy. He’s also an unhappy one. Not just with the self satisfaction of the four and more horsemen of the apocalypse on stage, but with what they’ve created. A state in decay, the land of opportunity, now the land of opportunism.
Charlie’s glaring at them, they’re not even fifty yards away now, taking in what’s around him Charlie completely lost track of where his feet were carrying him, he dwells on that for a second, but not even the minutiae of his own existence can pull him off point for more than a moment. He’s had enough, his rage is effervescent, he aches, yearns, needs to retake control, to be a force of nature more powerful than the reset button on an old Nintendo. Despite his better judgement he looks back towards the stage and he doesn’t blame the crazy hobo on the corner with the “end is nigh” sign. Except it isn’t nigh, it’s here.

He looks up again, realizes that his rage as much as his feet has carried him to this point, he’s felt powerless. That’s what this is about. Yeah, things are bad, but plenty of people have it worse. He’s sat at home been told how to dress, how to cut his hair and how to be a better Charlie. He’s gone out into the world and wished that he’d been just a little more Charlie. He can deal with his paymaster’s ignoring his needs. He’s willing to forgive the women who ignore his existence, He’s even willing to accept that the world may one day strip away what’s left of his relevance. One of the few things that has always comforted him is that he’s part of a mass that’s in control of its destiny. If not direct control, then at least like the dealer in a poker game, there’s a relevance to their actions. He will not tolerate the discourtesy of those actions. He’s been hearing rumour of elections being rigged since he was a child, outrage and investigations and it’s always come to naught. Well now he’s been listening, and he sees that he’s spitting distance from the stage, the podium, the pantheon. Whatever they want to call it.

Rage consumes our Charlie, in a way it’s never done before. People turn to look at him. He’s white hot and all consuming, he’s quite a sight. He’s never been and he doubts any one has ever been this confident. He’s never had too many doubts, but this is an absurd feeling of control. It’s almost mythical, and so exhilarating it feels a little evil. But all the same, he knows he’s no force of nature. He’s known men who are islands, men who are idle and even the occasional ones that would rock you like a hurricane, but never one that was in and of themselves a tornado.

He smiles to himself, not like before, there’s nothing pleasant there. This is malevolent, glinting and satisfied. He thinks to himself, well maybe I’m not the butterfly you thought girls, but I’m flapping. Charlie winds his arm back, the dealer button, heavy and perfectly rounded in the crook formed between the index and ring finger on his right hand. His arm swing forward in perfect trajectory, the button spinning sidelong, and turning end over end. It’s not exactly a majestic arc, but then it’s a functional weapon, mean to create the image, not be the image. And he smiles as he looks around and realizes only a few people around him have cottoned on to what just happened. People both sides of the isle, some extreme and agitated, others moderate and trying to make a break before chaos breaks out. And then he looks forward and upward, at the stage, admiring his handiwork. It went and hit bug Cahuna smack dab in the nose. He couldn’t have hoped for a better result. He saw blood gush down, red, crimson, somehow metallic and unquestionably menacing. Charlie sees people from the lot that’re in power rush down in a rage at the other lot laughing, he sees violence break out and he sees it falling into complete, beautiful chaos as he’s being pushed from all sides, surrounded, engulfed and overwhelmed.

He’s happy, people are terrified and scrambling, different people are going native. Most are just going completely mental, but Charlie’s happy. This isn’t what people do in a civilized state, but then it’s been a long time since this was a civilized state. He’s being pummelled, beaten, bashed. He wonders for a moment if his assailants know he started this party. Doubtful, but possible. He doesn’t care. Blood, flows down, but it’s not menacing, it’s redemptive. His head’s going fuzzy but Charlie’s enjoying it, he’s fading out to black and he thinks to himself, if you can’t be the tornado, you might as well be the god damned butterfly that starts it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

First: Preludes

(Being the untold back story of Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent)
By Apoorva Sharma

The star system of Betelgeuse was an important industrial hub prior to the great collapsing Hrung disaster. Specifically it housed the legal wing of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation (or SiriCorp for short) had, largely through inspired advertising campaigns, murderous litigation and the occasional murder, managed to corner the market for the robotics industry in the galaxy. As a result of this, the legal wing of SiriCorp occupied the entire landmass of all the planets of the stellar system.
The SiriCorp legal wing had gained a reputation among aspiring lawyers. It was where a lawyer went to sell his/her/other soul to whatever deity his/her/other particular religion defined as a “devil”. But the pay was good and Siricorp ended up employing a staggering forty percent of all practising lawyers of the galaxy. (Another thirty percent were the permanent counsel for the Hitchhiker‟s Guide to the Galaxy).
This influx of legal scholars and efflux of morals had a strong impact on the residents of Betelgeuse, not least on the teenager who would eventually come to be known as Ford Prefect (Ford for short) and the teenaged Zaphod Beeblebrox. To say that these two fine specimens of „the lawyered generation‟ dreamt of growing up to become lawyers would be akin to saying that a multiplanetary corporation was more concerned with the safety of its products over the safety of its profits.
“Zaphod, have you ever wondered about the future? I mean, beyond just the basic where am I going to get my next drink?” asked Ford, passing by yet another seedy looking attorney‟s office. They had just finished another day at school and had just spent a solid four hours pretending to listen to a basic astrophysics lesson. Alcohol, always in plentiful supply in areas with a high density of lawyers, was the traditional social lubricant for schoolchildren. It had become the norm for even gestating foetuses to marinate what little existed of their brains in alcohol. Age minimums had become defunct with the advent of time travel. Since it was entirely possible to exert a time field on the body until any prescribed minimum age limit was reached, the underaged simply became of age for long enough to buy alcohol. 2
“I don‟t know” replied Zaphod “but it sure as hell won‟t involve offices. I‟m more of a rule the whole universe kind of person.”
“Yeah? You going to do that all at once or are you going for a more individual approach? Hey Mr. So and So, can I rule over you with an unrelenting iron fist, forcing you to comply with my every whim? No? Then how about you Mrs. Such and Such?” asked Ford.
“Go ahead and laugh now. You‟ll regret it later. I was going to offer you a position as Secretary of Defence but you just blew it.” said Zaphod.
“Yeah, sure, whatever.” said Ford “I just think that you should set your sights a bit lower and a little less crazy if that‟s possible. Anyway, you‟re buying today.”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy notes that many Beeblebroxologists have subsequently considered the importance of this exchange, it being the sort of thing an academic grant can be wrestled out of. In fact, academic opinion became polarised, with one faction stating that this was the first glimmer of ambition which would ultimately lead to him successfully running for President of the Galaxy and his ultimately aborted attempt to take over the universe. The other faction said that this sort of thing was incredibly common among adolescents of all races and species and that the members of the first faction were just overreacting idiots. The first faction responded by saying something unprintably rude about the second faction’s grandmothers. The second faction therefore had no choice but to go ahead and kill the grandmothers of the first faction which lead to a bloody galactic war involving the armies of several planetary systems and hundreds of raving bloodthirsty academics leaving four billion dead.
When asked about this, the third interplanetary war he had started, Zaphod Beeblebrox is reported to have stated “I’m worth it baby.”
A few pan galactic gargle blasters and several million destroyed liver cells later; Zaphod and Ford stumbled out into the street and stumbled into the spaceport. They asked the arthropod at the counter to give them tickets to the first spaceship out of their lawyer infested home planet. A few hours later that same night, the great collapsing Hrung ... collapsed. Some of 3
the galaxy‟s greatest legal minds were lost in the disaster. This was said to have set back the legal world by hundreds of milliseconds. 4
Several decades later, Zaphod Beeblebrox began his campaign for the presidency. The galaxy had just gone through an incredibly boring period of peace and prosperity. Peace and prosperity have the effect of inducing an inexplicable tendency for the election of the most hideously incompetent candidates to office who were almost guaranteed to start a war, create an economic recession or just generally foster unliveable havoc and thus create space for the next great leader and give the leader the chance to become great by righting the problems created by his/her/other hideously incompetent predecessors. Recognising that this was a golden opportunity, Zaphod leaped at his chance.
Zaphod‟s campaign slogan was “change is only for the poor”. He qualified this statement by saying “after all, they‟re the only ones who ask for spare change”. He promised with his characteristic charisma and ebullience, that if elected, he would make no decisions and do absolutely nothing while in office. He said that this would finally bring stability to the office. This novel approach to politics completely blew away his opponents who were attempting to explain to every sentient race in the galaxy as to why their particular brand of bigotry should be more acceptable without any real success. It helped that Zaphod was generally better looking and far more interesting a person than the increasingly depressing (and depressed) other candidates.
The election eventually boiled down to two candidates. Zaphod‟s opponent was the incumbent president, reputed as the most intelligent and efficient administrators ever to hold office. It was testament to his sheer will, dedication and political guile that he was elected despite these grave handicaps. Realising he didn‟t have the charisma to take on Zaphod in terms of speech making and media coverage he launched into an elaborate smear campaign. His insinuations were varied, completely unscrupulous and all of the aspersions cast on Zaphod‟s character were of an intensely personal nature. Zaphod responded to this by holding a press conference in order to put to rest all the scandalous rumours.
“I did it all.” he said at the conference “Some of it twice.”
Zaphod won the elections by a landslide. 5
The post election celebrations organised by Zaphod became the stuff of legend. Organised on five separate star systems at once, the sound waves released by an impromptu concert featuring Disaster Area (the loudest rock band ever to grace the galaxy) caused the breakup of tectonic plates on several planets. Every critic and pundit in the galaxy, in a dramatic and coordinated display of lack of creativity, described the show as “literally world shattering”.
The cost of the show and the party combined exhausted the Presidential entertainment budget for the duration of the tenure and Zaphod announced that the main purpose of his Presidential tenure had already been achieved. He then moved on to his secondary goal of having the improbability drive built. To this end, he put forward his idea for robots to have “genuine people personalities”. In fact during one particularly agonising and disorienting hangover, he even put forward the idea of the ship having a maniacally depressed robot and an overly cheerful shipboard in the hopes that they would fight it out and end up providing limitless entertainment for the passengers of the ship. 6
Meanwhile ... at the same time ... simultaneously...
It has been noted that the invention of time travel has already had some serious effects on language. Terms like meanwhile and simultaneously have quickly lost all meaning since time has regularly been shifted around in such a way that simultaneously can now mean during the same time frame or a hundred years in the future or both. It is therefore necessary to consider time with reference to the amount of time lived by other people who have not been travelling in time. This can be catastrophic to the flow of any narrative.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has succinctly described the falling standards in grammar and the loss of narrative flow as follows:
Grammar is 4 weenies. LOL.
For as long as Zaphod was campaigning for President of the Galaxy, Ford was living his dream. His dream was to become the galaxy‟s most accomplished slacker. He had managed to get his feet under the table of the of Hitchhiker‟s Guide Corporation. Before landing the job, he had spent years gathering the skills necessary for the job. These skills included basic telepathy, surviving immense sleep deprivation, advanced towel proficiency and an internship with the mystic masters to learn accounting fraud for his expense accounts. Slacking does not come without some serious initial preparation.
Ford‟s first assignment was to research the ice planet Thoth, which had recently gained prominence for its ski resorts and other snow related activities. Ford immediately began abusing his newfound power. He immediately flashed his card proving that he was a certified for the Hitchhiker‟s Guide to the Galaxy to all and sundry thus making him the most important customer the planet had ever had. Buoyed by pan galactic gargle blasters eagerly pressed into his hand by the owners of various retreats, he immediately produced a scathing review of the planet in order to protect himself from any insinuations of impropriety. This did not come to the attention of his hopeful patrons as none of his work was passed by the editing staff of the guide who despite his protests insisted that any entries made to the Guide must 7
have both consonants and vowels and he was not free to omit either one of them. They also insisted that all entries must have at least a trace of verisimilitude.
However this did not deter Ford. He realised that since his expenses had been footed by the Guide, he had effectively been paid for nothing. This came to mark a trend where Ford would continue to produce hastily written, shoddy, unprintable material at the expense of both his employers and the increasingly distraught owners of various hotels, bars, casinos and resorts around the galaxy in the hope of their establishment being mentioned in the Guide.
Ford‟s malpractices were worrisome to the owners of the Guide who, after another change of management had become far more money conscious and businesslike. The board of directors realised that they could not afford to overturn the long established tradition that employees of the Guide could not be fired merely for their incompetence as this would leave the Guide without any employees whatsoever. Any attempt to send Ford to dangerous places was thwarted by his annoying tendency to escape death and end up billing more to the Corporation. After much deliberation and several hundred corporate retreats organised solely to solve the Ford problem the directors had a brainwave and set an ingenious trap.
Ford was sent an urgent message. The message stated that he was to be sent on a completely secret assignment in which he would scope out a planet in the unfashionable western spiral arm of the galaxy known as Earth which had not made interstellar contact and whose carbon based ape descended bipedal inhabitants still thought that digital watches were a neat idea. He was to do this in order to help out other stranded passengers who do not have survival training and cannot otherwise survive in this clearly inhospitable environment. His mission, he was told, would have vital significance to all hitchhikers in the galaxy. 8
During this time period while Ford and Zaphod were in the ascendency, the carbon based ape descended bipedal inhabitant of Earth known as Arthur Dent was taking shape. The early life of Arthur Dent was as uneventful as his life up to the destruction of the Earth would be. As an only child, Arthur was a shy and introverted child who had few friends and even fewer achievements. His classmates (when they could be bothered to remember his name) considered him the sort of person who could be pulled off the face of the Earth without anyone really noticing or even caring. The universe has a certain fondness for irony.
Arthur spent much of his adult life shaping his life into his idea of perfect but which only managed to be perfectly mundane. He was an average performer in an unfulfilling job as a data entry clerk in mediocre talk radio. He lived in a perfectly ordinary and unremarkable middle class house which stood slightly way from a typical middle class suburb which he inherited from his grandmother who was a stereotypical little old lady until she stopped being one. He had a friend circle which consisted of the usual set of uninspiring layabouts whose idea of fun was spending an insipid night in a pub.
The suburb of Islington where Arthur Dent had lived all his life was a very drab place. It consisted of the sort of people who were obsessed with land values and the uniquely British concept of decency which could simply be described as the shunning of any individual identity in favour of complete homogeneity. Living in Islington effectively euthanized all hopes of having a social life of any sort. Having decided that he should at least make an effort to meet the neighbours, he decided that the best course of action would be to attend whatever attempt at entertainment that the locality offered. This was in the form of his attending the annual costume party held every year by the suburb in the hope of setting up a tradition and therefore having something akin to a culture.
In one such party Arthur spotted the girl who he knew would be the love of his life. The woman was Tricia McMillan. She was everything he dreamed about but knew he could never attain. She was attractive, well educated and extremely intelligent. Unfortunately she was also completely bored by his presence and his incredibly futile attempts at an engaging conversation. In his own head of course, Arthur was definitely getting somewhere with her. 9
That is until Zaphod, calling himself Phil and dressed as a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder, showed up. He asked “Is this guy bothering you baby? Come with me. I‟m from another planet.” With one fell swoop he had managed to sweep Tricia off her feet and off the planet entirely.
After this, Arthur went into a spiral of depression and self pity. He even went as far as to become fast friends with his newest neighbour, the dangerously unstable Ford Prefect. Ford was considered a deviant by most of the suburb of Islington due to his insistence of going out and having fun every night. Having fun, according to the residents of Islington, is a strictly un-British activity which should only be attempted in the strictest moderation and that too only under the strict guidance of properly licensed professionals. An excess of fun could end up causing all sorts of immoral behaviour.
Ford Prefect had by this time gotten used to exile on Earth and the humdrum existence it offered. He was coming to terms with the fact that he was probably not going to be able to escape in the foreseeable future. He decided that as long as he was stuck on Earth he might as well make the best of the situation. He had become a leading authority on all forms of liquor available on Earth, knowledge which he duly passed on to Arthur.
Under the tutelage of Ford, Arthur blossomed into an increasingly angry and isolated person whose only wish was to be left alone and whose bitter knowledge it was that there was utterly no chance of this happening. He stopped leaving his house unless absolutely necessary and refused to talk to family members or friends (other than Ford). Eventually, almost everyone forgot that he even existed.
All was quiet until one fateful Thursday morning, the Vogons arrived.

Second: Strafanstalt Isle

Strafanstalt Isle
By Bhoomika Tiwari
12 April, 2200
I am sitting in the spaceship and we have long moved beyond Earth’s gravitational pull. And now as we move away I am awed by my planet. It looks nothing short of magnificent from up here. And I can now believe it. That I’m finally going on this trip. To Paradis. I’d always dreamt of this. Maybe not all, but some dreams do come true! I’m told we’ll also catch a glimpse of Strafanstalt Isle on the way. I shudder at the very thought of that place...Anyway I won’t think of it. This is a strictly fun trip!
Chapter 1
Robin was ecstatic to be finally going to Paradis. She’d slaved at the Government embassy as a diplomat for ages. She’d enjoyed her work, had done good work and was proud of that work. But lately she had been feeling suffocated. By her work, by the system. By the way things were being run and the people around her. All of them so complacent. So pleased and satisfied, feeling as if they had achieved all there was to achieve, had done all there was to be done in life. Robin had made great achievements too. Her position at the embassy was one to be envious of. But it was now time to move on she felt. To set her sights on something different. Something that would challenge her, bring out the creativity that had been lying dormant for a while now. But before that she would go on a vacation. She deserved one. She’d earned one. Plus it would give her the time to think and ponder over what she wanted to do now. And she had saved enough funds over the last few years to go to the one place that she’d always wanted to go to. Paradis. Paradis was a small but beautiful planet that had been one of the two accidental discoveries more than a century ago. With atmospheric conditions much like Earth and the availability of water, it was perfect for human habitation. Over the last three decades or so some people had moved to this planet but it was still largely untouched by habitation and technology. And with lush green trees and plants, the exotic flowers and fauna it had developed into the perfect vacation spot. Robin had seen a documentary of the planet as a kid and since then she had been very keen on going to Paradis. And now she was going she thought again with a smile. She felt like hugging herself but didn’t for fear of appearing a little off to the people around her. So instead she turned to the window and looked out and was again struck by the view. Millions and millions of stars all around...Her expression must have conveyed her amazement for the lady next to her asked.
“Quite something isn’t it? I was awestricken too the first time. Still am in fact.”
Robin turned to her and smiled, “Yes it is. I never thought it could be this unbelievably beautiful. Have you space travelled before?”
“Oh yes,” the lady answered, “This is my second trip to Paradis. We are thinking of building a small vacation home there. I just can’t get enough of that place.”
“Oh that’s great!” Robin said with another smile. They got talking and exchanged many tit bits of information. Jenna turned out to be a most interesting and engaging person and told the most outrageous tales. She kept Robin entertained till dinner was served at which point they both realised they had been engaged in their tête-à-tête for over three hours. They laughed at themselves and dug into their meal. With their appetite sated, they soon drifted into sleep.
Robin woke up with a start. The whole ship was shuddering and making odd sounds. She looked at Jenna who had a panicked expression on her face and seemed to want to say something. People around her had similar expressions. There were loud inquisitions as to what was happening, and those who had given in to hysterics were crying and screaming. Terror gripped Robin’s heart. She looked down at her trembling hands and gripped the armrests of the seat with all her strength. The Captain’s voice filled the chamber.
“Please keep calm. We are caught in a planet’s gravitational field but should be able to-“
His voiced was drowned by the shrieks and screams of the passengers as suddenly the ship pummelled into a free fall. Robin must have screamed too. But she couldn’t be sure. A large empty barren looking land came into her view before zipping out again and as they hurtled towards the ground the only thought in her mind was I’m going to die. And then her world went black.
Chapter 2
Robin came to with a groan. It seemed as if her entire body had been hit by a large vehicle and then flung off a tower. Her left arm seemed to burn and her ribs ached. And it seemed she was strapped to something. She opened her eyes with great difficulty. They felt gritty and her vision was a little blurred. She looked down at herself and realised that she was still strapped to her seat. The wrecked ship was at some distance. Smoke rose above it in a vicious black cloud and tiny flames still licked parts of it. The ship was completely trashed, she thought in dismay. Her seat must have gotten dislodged and flung out of the craft. With great difficulty she somehow managed to unstrap herself and crawl out. She got up on shaky legs and moved towards the pile of metal that barely resembled the ship. She went round it and was greeted by the sight of charred bodies and the smell of burning flesh. She turned around, fell to her knees and emptied the contents of her stomach. Oh God. Oh God! They were all dead. All of them. Burnt. Except her...She moved away from the horrifying sight. A sob rose in her throat but she quelled it. This was no time for hysterics. She couldn’t give in to this. Wouldn’t. But what was she going to do she thought with despair. Her arm hurt like a bitch and was still bleeding, every breath she took was pure agony, and not to mention the multitude of bruises that surely marred her aching body. She was dirty, her clothes torn, the disgusting taste of vomit in her mouth made her feel like throwing up again. And she had no idea where she was, she thought with a sinking feeling.
She looked around her. “Caught in a planet’s gravitational field” was what the Captain had said she recalled. Which planet? Paradis? No. No this barren, hellish looking place couldn’t be Paradis. Then what? Where was she? An unknown planet? Stranded on an unknown planet, she thought with a harsh laugh. Stranded. The tears fell and this time she couldn’t stop them. How had her dream turned into this nightmare?
When the last of her tears were spent, she felt drained. She wanted to just lie down somewhere and never wake up. But she couldn’t do that. She’d survived the crash. Heavens knew how but she’d survived. And she would survive this too, she thought determinedly. But first she’d have to look around and see if she could find something, someone, preferably not an animal or alien she thought with a shudder. And best way to start was by moving forward.
And so she trudged on, limping and stumbling, her limbs aching. Her arm which had stopped bleeding still throbbed with pain and her ribs still ached. The sun which thankfully had not been strong was now going out and she seemed to have reached nowhere, the endless land continuing without any change in topography. She looked up again towards the horizon, and for a moment her heart lifted. She could see smoke rising up in languid swirls as if from a chimney. And then her heart sank again as she was filled with trepidation. What kind of people would be there? Did they even fall within the category of ‘people’? Well only one way to find out, she thought with false gumption and started walking again before her imagination got ahead of herself.
Soon she reached the border of what looked like a ghost town. Shabbily built structures lined a dusty road, if at all it could be called a road, on both sides. But it wasn’t deserted, she noticed. People who appeared like humans were going around. No one had noticed her though as she was now standing in the dark next to a house. Some sort of dwelling then, Robin thought. But what sort of people were they. Dirty, drunken looking men loitered on the street. They made loud obnoxious noises. The women too were in a similar state. She could hear them grunting and swearing and also caught sight of a couple indulging in sexual activity against a wall that looked like it was just about ready to collapse. What is this place, Robin thought. Her eyes scoured the area and she caught sight of a board. It read...It read Strafanstalt Bar. Written crudely with spelling errors but that’s what it said.
She felt chilled to her very being. Strafanstalt. She was on Strafanstalt Isle. It would have been better had she died. Who knew what would become of her on this godforsaken planet! She was ceased by terror. Strafanstalt was the prison planet. The other planet discovered with Paradis but with none of its beauty. The conditions here were harsh, most of the land fallow, and few sources of water. This was where the convicts from Earth were exiled to. Rapists, felons, and all sorts of criminals were deported to this place. It was the worst kind of place known to humans. A hell created by mankind itself for society’s rejects. It was even rumoured that some of the criminals here had turned to cannibalism. Bile rose up and she forced it down. She moved deeper into the shadows to avoid detection, her mind searching for possibilities, for something to hold on to, some idea to get out of this situation. Then she felt someone’s breath on her shoulder and for the first time in her life knew what fear tasted like. Her breath stopped and she turned slowly to face a drunken looking brute of a man. His hair and beard so long and matted with dirt and God only knew what else. The stench coming from him would have made anyone gag.
“‘Ello lovey,” he said in an undistinguishable accent and bared his teeth in a smile.
Robin would never truly understand why but the sight of his yellow and brown broken teeth with stuff stuck in between propelled her into action. She pushed him with all her might and took off into the night. He followed. She knew he was behind her and she ran, ran with all she had in her. The land rose above in front of and then sloped down. She slipped; she screamed and then went rolling down. She got up, waited only for a moment to catch her breath and then ran again as if the wolves of hell were at her heels. A shack came into view. She looked back to see if the man was still behind her. Not seeing him, she wrenched open the door of the shack, dove in and bolted herself inside. The man must have given up the chase because she hadn’t seen him. But that didn’t slow her thumping heart. Her breath came short, her ribs flared up with pain, and her wounded arm was bleeding again. She moved to the corner of the room, slid down the wall in exhaustion and lost consciousness.
Chapter 3
Robin sat huddled in her corner hidden by firewood piled up there. She’d been up for a while and had been about to move out of the corner when she’d heard someone trying to open the door. And so she’d curled up in the corner and prayed whoever it was would just go away. The person on the other side was now rattling the door but it still stood sturdily in the frame. Was it the same man, thought Robin or was it someone else. The owner of this shack perhaps? Her body was trembling now, both with fatigue and fear. She looked around the room for a way out but there was none. And just then there was a loud bang and the door swung open. The silhouette of a tall, burly looking man filled the door frame. Oh dear Lord. If this man tried to attack her there was no way she would be able to defend herself. No, No she mustn’t think this way. She would do all that she could and more to fend off an assault. The man appeared to be carrying something. Firewood, Robin thought with growing alarm as he moved towards her to dump it on the pile behind which she was hidden. He kept glancing around in a suspicious manner. Of course he was suspicious. His house had been bolted on the inside. The man would be a fool to not smell something fishy. He was close, so close. If he but glanced down, he would see her. Robin prayed he wouldn’t. Please, please let him not see me. He dropped the wood and turned and Robin exhaled the breath she’d been holding. A little too loudly she realized belatedly when she found herself looking into the man’s glittering eyes, who’d turned the moment she’d made the noise. He lunged towards her and swept away the pile of wood that stood between then. Robin stood up, her legs shaking and stumbled backwards only to find herself trapped by the wall. He caught hold of her injured arm and pulled her forward. Robin cried out and tried to pull out of his tight grip but couldn’t. She looked up at him.
“Please, please, let go. I’m hurt. Please...” she pleaded.
He didn’t seem to hear her. He pulled her further towards the window, perhaps to get a better look at her in the dimming light. Robin looked around but found nothing that she could use against him as a weapon. He was still glaring down at her. Helpless now she whispered another “please.”
“Who are you?” the man asked in a gruff tone, shaking her a little and Robin cried out again in pain.
“R-Robin...Please. It hurts.” And it must have shown on her face too. Her pain, her terror, for he let go off her. Robin immediately cradled her injured arm to chest. She took a deep rugged breath and pulled herself together, and started with her explanation. She told him how she’d been going to Paradis, how they’d been ship-wrecked and how she was the only survivor. And how she came to be in his shack. He gave no outward sign of understanding what she was saying, just kept looking at her, and it made her wonder if he did understand or was just contemplating his next meal. When she finished he turned from her and went to seat himself one of the tree stumps in the shack which must serve as stools of sorts and gestured for her to take the other. She did. While they sat there Robin took the time to observe him properly. His hair and beard were unkempt, his clothes shabby and torn and places. But overall he seemed to be much cleaner than the other men she’d seen. And he didn’t stink. In fact he seemed...not bad. And he could be a psycho who was just waiting to kill, or eat or rape her. He finally spoke.
“There is no way out of Strafanstalt,” Robin’s heart sank. “Except one.” And hope soared. She listened intently as he continued. “A ship comes every six months to deport new convicts. If you get to them and tell them about yourself and the wreck maybe they’ll take you back.”
“But...?” she asked. “But,” he carried on. “The next one is due in three days. To get there in time you’ll have to pass a dwelling of a particularly...unpleasant band of men and women.”
“H-how do you know all this?” Robin asked.
“I may be a convict but I’m no simpleton. I’ve kept a record.” No. He didn’t seem like a simpleton. Seemed like an intelligent man in fact.
“How will I get there?” Robin asked now.
“I’ll help.”
And he did.
They set out after getting some sleep. They walked, and walked for an age. When they were in the vicinity of the area about which he’d warned her, they stopped and waited till they were sure no one was around. They’d almost managed to get through the maze of shacks and cottages when they’d been apprehended by two men. Her companion had killed them. Efficiently. With the minimum of scuffle. It had shaken her badly. It had finally driven home the fact that he must be a dangerous man indeed to be here. After that they’d moved ahead with no difficulties.
And he’d been right. When she explained to the authorities what had happened, and they’d checked her thoroughly to make sure she didn’t wear the brand of a Strafanstalt convict, they’d agreed to take her back.
Before leaving she’d asked him his name. Fred Lamen, he’d told her.
Now she was back home. Safely back home. She’d not had her vacation after all. Instead the traumatic experience had given her nightmares for days. But she had one thing. A purpose. She knew what she wanted to do now. In principle she had always been against Strafanstalt. Now she was going to openly protest. She’d seen first-hand what it did to people and she would fight against it. She was going to make sure Strafanstalt ‘closed’ down.

Third: Escapade


Present 2nd September 1886, 1:00 AM
The only thing he wanted that moment was to hide the truth. What if someone had seen? ‘No one must know’, he assured himself. He paced around the room. He was dizzy. Someone had killed his beloved.
15 hours ago
The summer of 1886 was going to be the most stirring of all. ‘Dr. Jekyll was in love.’ he murmured to himself. Yes he was in love. She was good-natured. But he did not find the idea of loving her so gratifying as he had always imagined it to be. They strolled for an hour in St. James Park. He had said goodbye to her and sat down under the tree. He went into deep slumber when there was a sudden awakening by horrid screams. He rushed. He saw blood splattered all over the woman. He wished she was some stranger. But this was the woman he was going to marry.
Death is not an episode; it is an experience which divides the truth into two. The Living and the Dead. All our lives we seek to find answers of innumerable questions. But everything comes to a standstill at the juncture of loss. There the only question is why and the only answer is pain. That pain is unknown and ruthless.
It seemed like a serpent‘s teeth biting into him. The poison filled his veins.
Present 2nd September 1886
He was calm now. He comfortably placed himself in the padded chair. It was classic wood. The wind was blowing hard mimicking the very racing of his heart. He was in his laboratory, working out his new formula for the treatment of chronic fever. He was unenthusiastic about the discovery of his. He needed to concentrate. He bent down to add the contents of the flask into the boiling mixture. It was then, when everything around him became numb. Something was wrong. He had to stop this. He tried hard to keep his eyes open. His head was hurting. He could no longer control what was happening.
‘No, not yet…I have to complete this.’ The flask hit the ground and so did his head.
He woke up in the arms of a beautiful woman. He could now understand what people meant when they said that the very glory in dying is when you reach heaven.
I have never believed in ‘love at first sight’ but at this very moment he could not demarcate or name the feelings he was going through.
He was twenty-seven years old. He had experienced a subtle variation in love. The only women he knew, who spoke of true love and its power, were the whores while women who were married spoke of things other than love. During those days, when he wanted to explore the intricacy of love and be bound by it yet liberated in his senses, he found no human female to have rendered salvation to that thought.
The chain of contemplation of his fervent heart came to an end when the lips of the woman parted in speech.
‘You have slept quite long my lord!’
The words somehow did not enter his head.
‘My Lord, you look pale.’ She looked concerned. He was attentive now. His eyes searched for answers. He was no longer wearing the white robe. He was unclothed while his legs were enclosed in a sheet.
‘Call me by my name’ he said.
‘Forgive me I cannot.’
‘I ask you to’
Her nervousness was evident.
‘Edward Hyde…’
‘My name is Jekyll not Hyde. Where am I?’ he inquired.
‘You swooned, my lord.’ She told what she witnessed.
He was desperate now.
‘Stop calling me my lord. That was in 16th and 17th century. Not anymore. ‘His voice was harsh.
‘It is 2nd September 1666. The day is Sunday’. She replied.
‘Stop all this. You might as well tell me that I failed in the research. It would not hurt. I have come to terms with reality. I will work hard…’she stopped him in between and continued to speak.
‘My lord, I will get something for you. You seem feeble. Fragments of supplies would keep your spirits alive.’ She went away
He looked around. The feelings of his beloved were still in their prime stage. Her death only made him miserable. He wanted to escape from there and he did. The question was how. He must be suffering from a disease, unknown disease.
She entered the room.
‘My lord, I find it difficult to put forth this proposition. But I seek your permission if I could visit my father.’ She waited for him to answer.
He did not know what to say. Instead he asked.
‘Why are you asking me?’
‘You are my husband. She paused and said ‘I shall return tomorrow. My lord.’
‘Where are you going?’
‘To the bakery on the Pudding Lane. My father lives there.’
He wanted to hold her in his arms. It was an impulse. He felt protective for the feeble creature who addressed him as ‘my lord’. He brushed aside the twisted locks of hair from her face. He touched her lips with his finger, visualizing them being explored by his mouth.
‘Do you love me?’ he asked. He wanted to be loved.
He kissed her. He held her for a very long time. He did not want to go back. He did not want answers. He had his love in his arms. He kept dreaming of all the things he would do now. God gave him a chance.
The intimacy was broken by the sound of chariot wheels.
She spoke. ‘My father has come. I must leave. I will be back before sunrise.’
He did not want to let her go. He had lost once. But she walked away. He was left only with the memories of her smiling face. Yes he was tired. He retired to eat.
He calculated the events and tried understanding what had just happened. It was 1666. How did this happen. It can’t be a dream.
Suddenly the truth dawned on him. He was going to lose his love yet again. The Great Fire of London happened in 1666. Oh yes, the same place where his wife had gone.
How could he miss such a detail? He remembered the timelines of every event that took place in London. He had to do something.
By the time he reached the bakery it was already burning. The wind had fanned the fire. The houses nearby were burning too. He did not know where she lived. He kept searching. It was impossible to go near the area. He remembered why they called it ‘The Great Fire of London’; it killed nearly everyone in London. He would die. Suddenly he felt the same numbness he experienced hours ago.

He was back in 1886. It was September 2nd. The clock showed 1 am in the morning. Just in less than 24 hours he had lost his love twice. He felt betrayed by Him, whom most of us call God. He wanted to scream till everyone on this earth felt the coldness of his being. He lay motionless.
He heard a knock on the door. It was his lawyer friend, Gabriel John Utterson. He was of the view to narrate the events that took place but then thought otherwise. He had to find answers.
Gabriel entered the room. He said ‘Jekyll my friend. Where have you been?’ he continued. ‘I know it is a difficult time but you must not be defeated. Dear friend I know you are distressed but you must not shut yourself or else you will lose touch with reality.’
He moved closer to me and said in a tone which I could not miss. ‘You are my brother. I shall not leave you here to stay alone. Come with me, brother, please.’
He could not. He had questions in his mind. Not before he unraveled this puzzle.
He spoke, “I am fine. I wish to be alone. I acknowledge your concern but I request you to leave me alone at this moment. I will be fine in no time. Life goes on. Yes, I only want to find a way to bury these memories and find something worth to live for. I do not want to breathe, Gabriel, I wish to live. Give me some time. That is my only request.”
Gabriel bid his brother goodbye. He asked for time he shall give it. But he will not leave Jekyll alone.
Present: 3rd September 1886
The morning light was like a curse. He had closed his eyes but his mind was still sprinting in the thoughts. What was happening to him? He got up. He felt dizzy. He knew what this was about. Just like before a tempest, the silence in the atmosphere gives an indication of the approaching storm, so was the numbness in his head giving an indication of the impending disaster.
He woke up in a bedroom. It was magnificent and very beautiful. But there was an eerie silence. He reached up to the window and looked outside. He was in some other world probably. There were houses which were like boxes but beautiful boxes. None of the houses were more than 2 storeys. They were designed in amazing style with bright and sophisticated colors. The air was warm unlike in 1886. He knew he had moved forward in timeline or more so his dream. The city was clean and very organized. The roads cut in right angles and he was alarmed when he saw vehicles. They were marvelous. Extraordinary. They were like nothing he had ever seen before. They were fast but they did not emit smokes. He looked closely and recalled that hydrogen produced a lot of energy same like sun. Was it being run on solar power or hydro-power? He will figure it out. His eyes shone in excitement. He would go back in 1886 and work out the formula. He will be able to invent and discover things before the time.
There was just one big building which looked like a tower and that was the tallest building. All the other houses were by some convention small and box shaped.
He heard footsteps. He saw a beautiful woman. The third beautiful woman and not sure if he would lose her also.
She said. ‘Oh Hyde! Morning love, how are you?’
She shouted then. ‘Winker, get some toast and a glass of fresh juice for master.’
She asked, ‘what happened? You do not seem well.’
He asked and waited for the unexpected answer. ‘Where am I? Which year is it?’
She said, ‘Darling why are you asking this?’
She saw he was serious. she continued. ‘Okay, if you insist. This is 3rd September 2086 and you are in the city of Raulasia. Now don’t say there is no city like Raulasia. Okay I understand sometimes you forget it all. After 2012 when there was a third world war when everything turned into ashes there were many reforms. Cities were rebuilt and named after philosophers there are cities like Hobbesin after Thomas Hobbes, then Raulasia after John Rauls , Rousseau metropolis after Jean-Jacques Rousseau and so on.’
It seemed absurd. He still hung on those words. ‘After third world war…’
So there was going to be something disastrous. He will have to stop it. Once he goes back in time to 1886 he will write every detail and undo things. Amidst those thoughts he suddenly saw a figure which was neither human nor anything he could imagine. He was carrying a tray that had juice and toast. He was made up of steel. What was he, he did not know. He was wearing clothes. But he was not human. No human flesh. He did not even have eyes.
He shrieked, ‘Good lord! What are you?’
Her wife answered. ‘This is Winker. The RoboGuy. After the third world war, I told you about the transformation. There was a complete change. My great grandfather’s e-mails and videos showed how more than half the world’s population died. After which there were leaders who wanted peace and then with the environment depleting, lot of care had to be taken. The remaining human beings joined hands and worked for peace. The earlier demarcations of continents have changed. It is different now. You can see these videos I am sure you will find your answers. So the scientists were the new leaders they made Robots to assist us making a new world. There were very less humans. They designed robots and machines who worked tirelessly around the clock. Now every household is to have a RoboGuy. They assist us in everything. This is done so that there can be no more wars. RoboGuys are like police force. They keep a check on everyone. If once your robot is turned off, official comes to your house immediately. They need to be charged and taken for maintenance. But all this is compulsory. I am sure now your memory has come back.’
It was more than just his memories. It was great. This new world was challenging and impressive. He accepted the tray from Winker.
His wife turned to go into the kitchen. She asked Winker to make the bed and left. Suddenly he heard a sound from kitchen. It was loud. He entered and it was like déjà-vu. The body of the woman was on floor. Blood splattered all over. The strange equipment had burst. He felt the numbness again.
Present 3rd September 1886
Gabriel entered and found Jekyll on the floor. After few minutes Jekyll was fully awake.
He was in 1886 again. He was highly disturbed by the plethora of events. But he wanted to confide in Gabriel about everything that had happened, specially his visit to 2086. He said, ‘Gabriel, I am unable to put the words but I was in the year 2086 and before that 1666. There is going to be a Third World War. We have to stop it. Believe me Gabriel, It is quite absurd. You know every time I was in these two periods I was called Hyde. Maybe I am not Jekyll. I have to see who Edward Hyde is’
Gabriel was not listening anymore. There was no scientific reason for the way his friend was acting. It was the emotional distress that was finding a way out through his weird imaginations. Absurdity was followed by illogicality of his words. He was suffering. He was trying to find an escape route from the bitter truth. Reality was skewed with perception. As some say reality is an illusion. He created another reality or so to say a set of illusions which comforted him. We all seek happiness. In some way he wanted a break from the sudden misery that was bestowed upon him. The burden he carried in his heart was like a thread weaving dreams for him.
Jekyll was still explaining. He did not miss any detail. He was eagerly waiting for Gabriel to react. Gabriel said, ‘Are you serious? This is just amazing. You went to future.’
‘You believe me?’ asked Jekyll.
‘Yes brother I do.’ Gabriel lied.
The first thing Gabriel did was tell Poole, who is Jekyll’s butler, to keep an eye on him. By noon, everyone in London had come to know of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the escapade to the future and past. Gabriel consulted with fellow doctor Lanyon and somehow from the servant to butler everyone had come to know about it.
Outside Jekyll’s house people gathered to have him out of the city. Some said he was possessed by the evil spirit. Some said he was going mad and that there was no cure. Some even identified these characteristics of him being god or also Satan. But majority of London considered him a threat. He was a threat to morality and stability in the society. It is utterly ironical how people are so excellent in judging. The same man who saved their lives, who cured them of diseases was now a monster. The sole reason was he spoke of things other than what were discussed in the ordinary course of life. It can be so said that people have always been afraid of ‘eccentric’ ideas. Majority of them do not like revolution or the galloping of imaginations. They stop their mind from generating and understanding the ‘beyond’ of everything they see, hear or even the people they meet. Only some who are unconventional are original. They create history. But then again this originality comes with a lot of sacrifice and sometimes at the cost of their lives.

Present 5th September 1886
Nothing had changed. People were still blaming him. His butler had left. His house was like a lost bird in the sky. He did not answer phone calls nor did he open the door to anyone. He spoke only to Gabriel who was bringing with him a doctor to understand what was wrong with him.
Before Jekyll could act he turned into Hyde. This time he knew very well where he was. His mind was made. He was in future. He will not go back. He had found a solution to stop his escapades. He could peacefully live as Hyde now.
He was in 2012. The world was ending right in front of his eyes. But his decision was made. He had to put an end to his suffering. Back in 1886 everyone would know he was not lying. He had left a note which read:
I am in future and I shall never come back.
I am called Edward Hyde. Meet me Gabriel some day.
I will miss you, my friend.
He was ready to be killed. A bullet pierced his skin. The world was dying and so was he. The difference was he came from past to die in future. He recalled memories. One of his patients saying
‘Dr. Jekyll is mad.’
People shouting, ‘He should be buried under the ground. He is evil.’
Gabriel’s voice, ‘you need help Henry Jekyll.’
At last he heard the voice of Salvation.
‘You have slept quite long my lord!’

** End**