The drops of rain were hitting the ground heavily raising slashes of mud from the earth. All the sounds of the world were lost in the cacophony created by the heavy downpour, except the voice from his within constantly questioning him.
He was standing there unmoved by the heavy downpour and constantly looking through the window in that huge wall. Outside the wall, the people were scampering around on the streets running for shelters to escape themselves by the sudden afternoon pelt.
Insides of the wall some of the guys were playing soccer with a could-not-care-less attitude about the torrent and about the world outside. Most of them had been here inside so long that they no more missed the world outside this wall.
Suddenly a wave of sadness tinged in his heart by the thought that he is now one amongst them. He had been there inside now for thirty days.
The most peculiar thing of the Terrano state prison is that it might be an only prison in the world which has a small window in its huge outer compound wall which abuts the prison from the streets and a local market neighboring it. Before being converted to a county prison a century back, this huge edifice housed the servants and kinsmen of the King serving under the rule of the English .During the transition of the building from the dwelling to a prison the Chief Architect decided to let the window remain because he felt it would serve to pinch the hearts of the insiders to repent every time they saw the outside world and also serve as a warning to the outsiders lest they take their freedom for granted.
The young girl was supposed to present a story as part of her internship before she graduated from the university with a degree in Journalism. Staying in the neighborhood of Terrano in her growing years, she used to have a glimpse through the window whenever she passed by and wonder what could be the story behind those every person she saw inside through that window. She had no second thoughts about the subject of her internship. She had decided to make a story with one of those folks inside this wall as the subject.
Now for the first time, she was walking inside the premises of the prison. She had to go through a series of approvals from various authorities before she could get a chance to enter the prison to meet up the chief jailer. The authorities being always perturbed by the rights activists were largely skeptical about a journo entering the prison until she was explained to many that she was interested to present a story of an inmate and not a bit interested in reporting about the wrongs of the prison if any. She was ushered in by the officers through the small door leading to a huge field in the centre of which the entire building of the prison was located.
As she waited for the chief jailor, the superintendent who in charge of the operations provided a tour of the place and she went on to explain him that she was in search for an interesting subject for her internship. She added that she needs consent from the Chief Jailor to access records of few cases and also permission to speak a few of inmates privately.
This prison was a dwelling for the servants and kinsmen of the royal family and the various rooms of this dwelling were converted to cells .It was a not a very huge place as it appeared from outside and the tour lasted only a good twenty minutes.
After waiting for more than an hour, she was informed that the Chief Jailor was not available for the day and she will not be able to proceed with her plans for the day and soon she was led back to the exit. She slowly started walking out of the building towards the compound wall and her eyes suddenly fell upon the window on that huge wall
She smiled inside thinking that for the first time she was looking at this window from the other side of this wall.
She could not help notice him staring continuously through the window without caring about the rain. He was there like a statue rooted to the ground with his eyes lost in thought and staring at particularly nothing. The accompanying officer smirked saying the story of this person would be the most interesting subject for her interest rather than any other inmate of the jail. Her instincts too had made a decision that he would be the one that she would make the story upon even before the officer mentioned.
He added that he stood there all day and did not speak to anyone and neither responded to anyone trying to strike a conversation A few people around had tried to shake him up a bit in the initial days when he always stood in front of that window but now after four weeks no one bothered to wonder.
She immediately knew that this was her story. The next day as she stood in front of him, she noticed a mystery lurking to be explored in his eyes. His face was unshaven for days and his hairs could help with a wash. He could not show lesser care for his body and smelt like a rotten fish even from a distance and could be the strongest reason for the people not to venture to talk. Yet there was a stroke of elegance in his looks that made her feel a rush to know his story and pen it down.
She interrupted his silence and introduced herself and asked the first question of her career.
“Could I please know your name?”
“Could I please know your name?” she again asked for the twentieth time.
It took him more than thirty minutes to change his gaze from the window and look at her. She offered him a cup of tea and a slice of bread and the swiftness it was gulped was a clear indication of his famish. She fired a series of them now.
“Could you please let know why you stand here all day long?”
“What are you staring into all day long through that window? Is there anyone on the other side whom you long for?”
“Could you please let me know the reason you are here for from your own words? Could you please tell your story?”
As she asked these questions she managed to sound as pleasing as possible with a tone of offering to help and it was not very tough to manage it as she was not totally faking it up.
He had been asked this same question at least a thousand times since the past 30 days by different people. But never had he seen such a deep curiosity in any of those voices And But none had bothered to carry on for 30 minutes and above all he could feel a deep sense of empathy from her side. He felt obliged to answer; the tea was not bad after all.
The Story: His Voice
It was the first rainy day of the season and as I gazed out from his office from the 10th floor, I could see the umbrellas moving around swiftly hiding the people beneath. I looked around to see that the office was emptier than usual and it took me some time to realize it was the start of the long weekend and the folks had left early to avoid the evening rush.
I was usually the last person to leave the office as I felt that an empty office was better place to stay than an empty house.
I did have a girlfriend but We had considered maintaining a distance relation forced by her career aspiration to become an architect.I t did bring about a feeling of soreness but it was our decision after lots of discussions, I had decided to pursue our individual career goals even if it meant to stay away from each other for more than a year. I knew that her feeling towards me was so deep that she would throw everything up and stay back if I asked her to but I also knew deep inside that she aspired to design buildings.
As the torrent began to increase its might, I trotted along the street with some haste to avoid the rain spoil my dress. I stood next to the bar lounge, ‘Trance’ along the street.
I had visited this place couple of times in the past with my Girl and we were pulled in towards the place more because of the waitress, Cherry who was especially friendly to us.
As it began to downpour mercilessly, I barged into the bar, a move which I regret every minute this day. It was an ordinary looking lounge bar with a spread of beverages to quench the thirsty souls. It was the nearest watering hole to my place and lied exactly in between my home and office.
As I occupied a table, I saw Cherry coming to me with her usual gusto. She had looks which were better than the average and could awe any person who saw her first time. She made a statement very clear that she was not easily attainable by the way she handled the pesky approaches by some of the drunk customers. She was just in her early twenties and working here to bear her expenses while she pursuing a course of pharmacy in the university.
“Would you like to go for your usual” She asked
“Yes, on the rocks and some nuggets to much on” I added.
She was gone and was back with my drink within a minute. With not many customers around she stood there chatting away casually about the day and the weather while also peeking at the soccer game live on the screen.
The rain made me stay put for more than an hour though I was pretty more drunk than usual. I did not decide to move till Cherry reminded me that it was time for their closure.
Two minutes later I stood at the pavement waiting for the taxi.I could see Cherry not very far from me waiting for a taxi too.
As I was boarding the taxi, I waved at her and screamed to ask where she stayed.
I asked her to join when she told she stayed in my neighborhood .Within few minutes we reached our house and the rain had subsided and she started walking down to her place.
As she walked away, I could not help notice that her beauty as a drenched damsel was more enchanting than ever. Though I had half a mind to invite her for a tea, the other moral half was not allowing it. As I bid her bye, there was something in her smile that was void of her usual standoffishness which gave me a feel that she would not totally deny the invite.
As I waved a good bye and walked towards home, the fight between the black and the white dog in my mind still raged in my mind.
When I felt the demon of loneliness inviting me as soon as I stepped into the home; I went down the stairs and walked across the street to stop Cherry. I had fed the black dog.
“For a change, Could I serve you today? May be a hot tea to fight this biting cold?”
“Has your girl left you for good?” She asked without a blink.
“Yes, she has.” I lied.
I made some tea and could see her relish every sip of it as we stood there in an awkward silence.
As she stood there I noticed her dress dripping drops of water on to the ground from her
“Would you like to change? There are some of my Girls dresses which she has left here”.
As an answer, she walked into the closet which was parted from the room by a hard glass partition.
My eyes followed her as she walked for a change. She was aware that I continued to glance at her outline through the obscure glass and she made no attempt to block. Suddenly as she was about to pick the other dress, I slowly moved towards the closet and to my surprise, the door was opened ajar by Cherry.
We could see each others’ eyes that both were equally desirous.
I woke up very early morning and the first thing I could see was the frame of my Girl smiling away as if mocking at me.
Cherry had not left a note and did not care to wake me up. I noticed my mobile had 20 missed calls from my Girl and first message read.” Miss you. Could we Skype this weekend?”
There was rush of guilt and unexplainable remorse. Not only I had broken the trust of my Girl but I also gave a reason to hate the relations more for another young girl.
I spent the next day lying around at home pointless going through the same series of events in mind over and over. By the time evening came over, I decided to apologize to both the women more than ever.
First I called up my Girl and explained her everything. She did not utter a word while I spoke. She just stayed put, I did not get a chance to explain as I was not asked anything, I was not shouted at, and I was not questioned. As they say silence is more powerfully violent than any speech.
She hung up without a single word but I could almost hear her rage. I tried to call back but her phone was quickly switched off.
I did not have it in me to handle another situation. I skipped going to ‘Trance’ that day.
I returned home with a bottle of scotch and spend the next two days wasted all the while trying to reach my Girl in every possible way.
The morning I woke up sober, it took me few minutes to realize it was Monday and I was already late to work. I rushed to office and spent the entire day in bits. I lumbered back home and as I passed by Trance, I tried to see through the door half opened by a customer. I stood there for the people to pass through so that I can steal a look inside. I waited for some time and with effort gone vain to spot her, I returned home.
I could not spot her from outside even for the next two evenings and on the third barged inside and waited at the table. I could spot all the familiar faces of the staff from the restaurant but for Cherry. I ordered a beer with another waitress and as she began to pour the drink, I could not stop myself from asking
“I was just wondering about the tall blonde Lady”.
“Guess you are asking for Cherry. She has not turned up for work since last 4 days. She has been out of contact on phone too since then”
I did not give much of a thought about it until next day I was at the same table and conversing with the same waitress.
“We contacted her home in the other town and learnt that she spoke to them last in the start of the long weekend”.
“They were a bit worried that she had not been reachable on phone but it doubled up when they learnt that she was not here too”
“Her parents have already met the police and a sheriff had visited the restaurant too”
“They have officially declared her missing and have already started working on leads”
“Any luck?” I asked not facing her trying not to display my fret.
“The only thing they know is that she was last seen boarding a taxi near the restaurant along with another male passenger”. She said while leaving to attend another table.
My heart missed a beat. I finished the drink with a gulp, threw a few bills and started pacing towards home. I was sweating profusely. She was last seen with me and gone missing after that.
This would be enough to mess up my life.
I fell asleep drinking the whole night and worrying about the probability of next events. I was woken up my constant knocks at my door. I could see two men in uniform through the glasshole.I opened the door with heart pacing as never before.
The officer introduced himself and went to explain his presence at my door early morning.
“The cameras at the restaurant had captured me having long chat with Cherry and the cashier had seen you boarding the taxi along with Cherry. Could you brief us about that evening?”
I told them everything true by every word till the point we both got off the taxi. With my Girl in my mind, I tweaked the story from that point. I mentioned we parted ways and had never seen after that.
The officer left adding he would be back if he found it necessary. I called up my office and called in sick.
Within the next few hours, all the channels were abuzz with the reports of a lady gone missing. Every channel had its own version to say.
“We have a report directly from the office of the police commissioner that a girl aged 22 has been missing since a week. The police department has to be blamed for its apathy in collecting no clue till now even after knowing the person she was last seen with”
“A girl in her early twenties has been abducted during the start of the long Holidays last week”
One channel walked an extra mile to directly accuse me.
“A graduate student at the university has been taken by a Marketing professional. The police are on the hunt for the man”.
The next call was from my boss notifying me about the termination from my company until I am proven otherwise. Within the next few minutes I was stormed by a bunch of reporters at my door. I was in a storm of events which were controlling my life. I had a feeling that I was in a surreal world of chaos. I never wished so much that the ground below to suck me in.
Before I could even respond to any of my questions, I was arrested by the same officers who met me in the morning. The police asked a few hundred questions and this time I had talked the entire truth though they failed to accept anything now.
I was taken from office to office and it did not sink in my mind that my legal status had changed from being a respectable unknown citizen minding his own business in this small town had been deemed into a criminal by the media and an under trial by the Police.
At the courtroom, the inspector was the first one called by the prosecutor for the questioning. There were arguments and counters and I stood there going through hell as if I had no business.
Evidence: There were lots of empty beer bottles preset at my place.
Their say: I was an addict drinking all times of the day and hence had lost control on my actions.
My say: I was always too lazy to go down 10 floors to throw out the stuff and made the disposal of empty bottles a monthly affair .
Evidence: Unshaven face and unkept hairs.
Their say:I had partly lost my mind and was more involved in catering to my inner demons rather than being presentable.
My say: I was part of a group in Facebook which said “No-Comb November” and being the lazy bug I am, I bought the idea.
Evidence: Dresses of women lying around all over the house though I live alone and parted ways with my girlfriend long back.
Their say: Psychopath having a fetish for collecting women’s dress and the dresses strewn hinted I was wearing it too
My say: Being so used to staying in the mess, I did not even notice clothes strewn around. I never bothered to tidy up the room until I could not spot the sofa.
Evidence: All fish dead and out of the fish bowl.
My say: Missed closing the window and the neighbor’s cat had a good meal
Their say: Psychopath trying to feed his killer instincts
The court ordered the police to collect more concrete evidence.
Nevertheless, spite of a very tough fight by my lawyer, I was not granted a bail lest I harm myself or others or worse I destroy other evidences.
A few weeks later, owing to the growing media pressure and frenzy online community with tons of hatred towards me, the court announced a final day of verdict for the Thursday of next week. Till then I was in all terms imprisoned as an under trial with strong evidences against me. My lawyer gave up and broke my ally as he considered this a lost battle.
I spend the whole day behind this window with the same set of questions running over my mind over and over
“Why did I go to the bar?”
“Why did I not avoid inviting her for tea”
”Where did she go?”
The young journo could not move an inch during the whole three hours during his narration.
She never thought that the first story she took up would make her wonder so much about the irony of the life. There are lots of people we know of who totally skip the chastisement for a crimes much larger than this and here was a man who is being punished for a crime he has not committed.
The first person she wanted to speak to after listening to his story was his girl. She waited for one whole day before she could get hold of her details from the mobile service. His girl was a little surprised to have a university journalist student at her door on a Sunday morning. She was more surprised to know the state of things in which her ex-boyfriend was in.
It did not take her long to understood the journo’s need to interrupt her Sunday plans and finally,
She began the story:
The Story: His Girls’ voice
He was a totally a boyfriend any girl could have longed for. He never forgot anniversaries, birthdays and was loaded with warmth and love and would never shy away from displaying it.
The relation went on a high to take a decision to move in and they stayed together for more than three years. The low set in when I got an offer of her dream job which I was reluctant to let go easily. There were discussions at days and nights before we could conclude. We finally agreed to separate by distance not by hearts.
I was more shocked than surprised when he called me last time explaining about his slip of the moment and a night stand with a bar hostess. I agree that there were much lesser calls than before due to my involvement at work but there was not a day I spent without having a thought of him.
My broken heart was filled with a mix of anger with a tone of regret that this situation was avoidable one.
I switched off my phone entirely for the next two days and made an attempt to divert all my energies spending extra hours at my work. I suddenly had a level of loathe that I did not make an attempt to contact him and made sure that I cut of all means for him to contact me.
Two weeks later of that incident, I was trying hard to wipe off my memories when this young reporter appeared at my doorstep. She started with the narration of the incidents which I did not have a clue of and occurred in his life after I received the call of.
After half an hour she concluded her unfolding of the events”..And now he remains rooted to the ground looking away from the window the whole day”.
I was bitter about him, unpardonably angry on him and I loathed him but none of my feelings so to an extent to see him in this current situation.
I could swear by the sun that though he had strayed, but definitely not erred to an extent to equal the sufferings. This young reporter was here not just to complete her story but also to inform me that I could help him to strike back from the dark days of his life.
I understood if there was anyone who could bring home out of this stink was me. I made the decision to correct the wrong. I went along with the journo to make the trip which I had thought will never do. I started back to his city. My heart started beating faster as I approached the Terrano jail premises and it almost sank when I saw him .His state was much worse than the journo had described of and much horrifying than I could imagine.
He was in most shabby clothes in which, during the better times, he would not even think of finding him dead. His hair was totally unkept and face tanned sitting under the burning sun for days. I could not reason out why he was constantly looking through the window sitting on the street outside the wall of the prison looking into the inside of the prison continuously.
He was sitting there not caring about the burning sun at the night and brutal monsoon rains at the mid day and biting cold winds at the nights. On the street outside the prison!!!
When the young Journo visited the prison for the first time looking for a story and she was turned away for the day due the absence of the Chief Jailor.
As she slowly started walking towards the exit, her eyes suddenly fell upon the window on that huge compound and she was amused that for the first time she was looking from the other side of this window.
She looked through the window to see a pair of eyes looking deeply from the outside, from the other side of this wall and totally lost in cluster of thoughts.
That was the moment she realized that the subject of her story was not inside the walls but outside it.
She had considered him the subject for his story even before the officer spoke,” He could make a story for you, more interesting than the usual chronicles of crimes and the heists”.
Before we actually reached the Terrano jail premises, we stopped at the ‘Trance.’
From the other end of the road I stressed my vision to see inside the bar and the first person I could spot was Cherry.
We approached Cherry and she was surprised to find me there at that hour. I could almost feel her nervousness. My body spoke the language of anger but my face displayed an unexplainable coldness. Without going into much details she explained that she had left from his place just at dawn that night as she received that her mother was ill she rushed to the hometown without mindful of informing anyone.
The other hostess mentioned that he had visited that place a couple of days later repeated the exact conversation she had that day with him
“I was just wondering about the tall blonde Lady”. He murmured as if thinking aloud.
“Guess you are asking for Cherry. She has not turned up for work since last 4 days. She has been out of contact on her phone too since then”
She continued with a pale face about his visit next day. He himself was totally in a different person when he visited the next day. His clothes were shabby and appeared that he had been sleeping on those. He sat at the same table where he sat the previous day but even before I could attend him, he gave a searching look around, spoke something to himself and hurriedly left from there.
It did not take us much time to realize and understand the happenings. We had figured it out almost all even before I went to meet him.
When he visited the bar for the first time after the fateful night, the voices had not started at all. He had spoken to the other waitress and inquired about Cherry. He had spent the next two days at home wasted and his mind carked by feelings of extreme guilt and regret. That was when the little voices had started talking to him.
It forced his mind to fret about the after effects of that night event pushing him to the edge of his sanity and beyond.
By the time he had made his second visit, the little voices had taken over his mind completely. He could see the same hostess narrating about missing Cherry and the police intervention. In real the hostess never even reached his table that day. He was being driven by those little voices which narrated a story, a figment of imagination of his own mind
She went and stood before him along with the chief jailor and he was handed over a document in a packet with a government seal. Inside the document, it stated that after a detailed investigation, the charges were pressed lacking any strong evidence and he is acquitted and immediately free from any legal bounds.
She had stopped by the stationery to make a document of this kind and had to request the jailor to present it to him. She had understood that she too had to play by his story for a while before dragging him back to the real world.
Tears rolled out from his eyes as he read the letter and we stood there hugging each other for a long time.
Without mentioning anything, I had spoken to him that I had forgiven him; I had given him a chance. Exactly at that moment, the little voices stopped. His mind was back to him and not under the clutches of those little voices, the voices controlled by the clutches of guilt and regret.
Though the story telling stopped, it took a few counseling sessions for him to start disbelieving the stories told by those voices and realize the true from the false.
We had almost forgotten about this entire episode but had to recollect it to narrate this to my daughter today. She came home after a date with her long time beau and soon she got a call from another cute guy from her class who had been persuading her since some time.
She had not made it clear to him that she was already involved and was replying to his call and was agreeing for a date next day. Though it was mean of me to involve, When I question her, She replied” Its just a date and My beau would not know”
Then I had to tell her about the little voices within!!!