Somewhere in Xihoudu, modern-day Shanxi province, China – 4,00,000 years ago
The man kept looking at the steely unambiguous surface. How he longed to talk to the one on the other side! But he dared not break the silence of the waters. This has been his daily ritual since childhood. His herdsmen were afraid even to look at the water lest the others came out of the other side and threw them out of their caves. But he was not afraid. He was afraid of nothing. It was only hunger that made him break into cold sweat.
None of his herdsmen were up so early except him. It was that damn old hunger. He was silently crouching on the bank of the lake looking out for fish. The school will be up any time now. What a way to start the day, he thought. He couldn’t afford to wait for the women to light a fire and roast the fish. The man didn’t quite like that hot yellow thing anyway. It was like playing with the sun. He liked his food fresh, bloody and slimy. He was getting impatient. May be the poor creatures had a late night yesterday.
Every day he whiles away this plethora of stalking interacting with the man on the other side. No words, no smiles exchanged. It is if an unending competition of no-winking is played between the two. Surprisingly, every day both of them winked almost at the same time. He didn’t care. All he cared about was his early morning catch. But today the other one’s face was clouded. The lines on his face seemed to draw a picture of some fatality to come. Just then a tail ripped apart the still surface. A big one, he smiled at himself. Amidst his excitement he didn’t notice the other’s face breaking into a crooked grin too. As he went to grab the tail of the catfish, something caught of his hand and dragged him into the deep waters. Moments later, the surface turned all crimson and the other was nowhere to be seen…
Judea, Samaria – 46 BCE
The fakir ended his story, folded the sheaf of parchments and began tying it with a horse-tail string. What a waste, Zachariah thought. Wastage of time, energy and good-sense. By now the effect of the aphrodisiac must have ended. By David’s Star he’d have beheaded the man, had he not been a reputed hermit. He exhausted the evening listening to an antique tale about some ancient fool, when he could’ve had a gala time at King Herod’s harem.
Zachariah was one of the few men who were allowed inside the harem. He considered himself lucky. Not because he was considered close to the king but because he was one of the select few who knew the lecherous bas*ard’s dirty secret. In actuality, he thought of Herod as no more than that primeval bugger in the story. And he hated Herod’s latest foolery. Find the messiah of the Jews and kill him! What the hell, he thought!
Let me go to the palace at once. There’s a new cache of Abyssinian girls that Herod has imported. What a bliss his life was! He took another swig of the potion and ran for the palace. The harem was darkly-lit and misty with opium smoke. The sleek Abyssinian damsels were already at their scandalous best. In the far corner he could see that filthy transvestite who calls himself a king. Zachariah always took things a little slow in the beginning, but today the dosage of the potion must have been a bit stiff.
He plunged at the nearest female figure. The Abyssinian teenager shrieked in horror as the serpent slowly but steadily ensnared Zacharias’s helpless body in its sturdy coils. Poor Zachariah didn’t have a clue that exotic women had unusual pets that were not always as charming towards noblemen as their mistresses. Zachariah’s lifeless body fell on the floor with a thud as outside a bright star came up on the sky and three wizened old men started their journey towards an unknown destination…
Pataliputra, India – 311 BCE
Finally Sankarshan finished the book. So this is what it was like in the far west of the unknown! King Chandragupta is a far better emperor, he thought. They were lucky. Sankarshan had stolen this voluminous book from Ambassador Megasthenes’s library. He had a thing going with the librarian’s daughter, Athena. His eyes lit up at her thought. It’s she who had taught him bits and pieces of Greek. That was enough to read the volume.
Although Sankarshan was now the squadron leader of the 3rd battalion, he retained his habit of reading. And he had wished to know more about the great western kings ever since he set his eyes on the great Sikander. What a great conqueror he was. But this Herod seems to have been an abomination. It was his day off and Sankarshan was sitting on the Ghats of the Ganges, reading by the moonlight. Pataliputra looks like heaven on full-moon days. He smiled.
Suddenly, it started again. Another nugget had hit him. The urchins were such a curse to the great city. They won’t even allow a peaceful tete-a-tete with history. Sankarshan could feel the rage snowballing inside him. Sankarshan had a reputation of being quick-tempered. He couldn’t control himself when the beast awoke inside him. It didn’t come around too often but now he could feel its peace getting breached. Then, another!
This was the limit. Sankarshan threw the book at the imps and made for the nearest of the bas*ards. The Ghats were polished smooth as ever. He slipped and his body landed on the tip of his unsheathed sword kept a few steps down. The famed Mauryan blade did the rest. The children ran after seeing this ghastly turnout of events. Sankarshan’s shuddering body rolled down the steps into the holy river even as a huge hue and cry was heard the royal palace. Prince Bindusara has had another son. King Maurya named his grandson Asoka…
Fenwick, Yorkshire, England – 1536
Oliver’s dream was broken. He didn’t regret though. It was a bloody dream alright. About some unusual land in the east called Indica or Indus. He couldn’t quite remember. But he felt sorry for the poor warrior. It was already six in the morning. He remembered his clergy father had asked him last night to go to London on an errand early in the morning. But as always, Oliver was feeling too lazy even to get out of bed.
Father was serving his daily sermons in the church next door. He wasn’t happy with his father. He had tried to convince him to move to London so many times. What’s the use of guarding this Old Catholic church in this border town which merely had about a hundred souls? And what souls they were! All misers till the last penny. Not one would miss the free bread and wine on Sundays but ask them for a little retainer and off they go out of sight.
Oliver was sick of this life. He contemplated going to the capital and doing something big. But he was too indolent even to drive the cart till York. Suddenly the noise from the church next door seemed to escalate. The people were never so ecstatic with theology ever before, Oliver thought. But he felt too sluggish even to go check out. He pulled down his ear-patches and tried to sleep some more. By then the church had been set on fire with all the people trapped inside and the rogues now turned towards their house. The hay-roof was already on fire. Oliver could neither hear the crackling flames nor could he smell the burning flesh. He was busy visiting some other foreign land. The next day, the King’s men could only recover some charred bones from the parish’s house. Miles away in the Vatican, the Pope Clement VII opened the letter from Henry VIII’s minister Signor Cromwell. The content of the letter made the god man’s face ashen…
Paris, France – 1789
Lucian just finished the folio given to him by some street-smart lawyer who called himself Georges Danton. Lucian was not only the royal jester but also a believer in the new philosophies. But he read about them secretly, in the confines of his chateau. Talking about the new thoughts was heresy and Lucian valued his place in the Louis XVI’s court.
Today the courtroom was empty. One of those not-so-rare days when the king and the queen thought it better than to engage in mundane court affairs. It was a tale from England. Oh how he hated that country of heretics. In fact, all true Frenchmen did. And he was content to learn that divine intervention had punished the English folk so. He threw the paper into the fireplace. He didn’t feel even a bit of remorse for the son of the English clergyman.
Moreover, he was not in a state to feel anything. The political condition of Paris was tumultuous and there were dark rumors doing the rounds in the streets of Bois de Vincennes. The so-called middle-class was going to overthrow the royalty very soon. Most of the courtesans chose to retire to the safer countryside but Lucian couldn’t resist those daily guineas which the King so generously bestowed upon his courtesans.
Suddenly there was a huge uproar and sounds of swords. Some rustic-looking men came into the courtroom and started ransacking the chamber. By then a flabbergasted Lucian had hid himself behind the royal throne. What was that? Isn’t it a ruby? It must have cut loose of the throne. Lucian couldn’t resist. He silently reached for the red stone. But he couldn’t escape the eyes of the looters. A dagger found his heart. Lucian’s white silk robe turned all ruddy. The Bastille has fallen, kill everyone in the palace, shouted some man in the distance…
College Square, Calcutta – 1930
Subhash finished his tale. The coffees were over. Subhash summoned the ardali and ordered another round for all. This was the attitude of Subhash that Mohan didn’t like. Rather he hated it. Why does he always have to be the story-teller, the one to place the orders? And everyone expected Subhash to lead them. As if naturally. Why can’t he be the leader?
He also completed MA from Presidency with equally high marks as Subhash if not more. His knowledge about French Revolution and Voltaire was as astute as that of Subhash. And no one can say that he was a laggard in the extra-curricular activities, Mohan thought sadly, as the ardali placed cups of piping hot brew before them. Mohan looked at his pocket-watch. He was getting impatient.
The inspector-general had promised that the raid will be at 12. It was quarter to 12. Mohan finished his coffee and bade goodbye to his comrades. Yes, he was the one who betrayed his friends. But who will know that after that boastful Subhash and his proteases are dead, Mohan smiled at himself. He had to leave the place real quick. The police nowadays shoot first and then ask questions.
Just as he was coming down the steps, he heard a distant gunshot and felt a searing pain in his stomach. The khaki-clad devils stepped on his inert body and went about shooting indiscriminately at the Indian crowd. Mohan’s pocket-watch found a police boot and stopped ticking. A radio crackled in the pan-shop downstairs: “Three youths today found their way into Writers’ Buildings and attempted to kill the inspector-general of prisons, Col NS Simpson…”
Somewhere – Sometime
He closed the file. Sometimes before going for his weekly rest, he liked to visit the archive room and ponder over his creations and past deeds. Work well done, he thought contentedly. May be tragic sometimes, but all so necessary. It was up to him to punish the guilty and chastise the sinners. There are times when he wished he hadn’t commissioned Pandora’s box to be opened.
But then he thought, all he does is for a greater purpose- a grand design. A design only he is able to formulate. He felt proud of his accomplishments. He quite enjoyed these moments when he looked at his mastery and felt a burning satisfaction that he was the master of them all. Boy, he was tired. He had worked like hell for the last six days. Today was his rest day. It was Sunday of course.
But before he goes to repose for a day, there was one more task at hand. The situation at earth was going out of his hands. He had to do something today. They were all his creations. How dare they defy him and fight over such petty issues! The whites and the non-whites have divided the earth into two rival blocs and the situation had almost reached the climax.
Sometimes he wonders had he had a form, what his own colour would have been. He didn’t have a clue. The men have invented something called the nuclear bomb, which they unabashedly claim is even more powerful than god. Powerful than him, a smile came into his smug face as he considered the foolishness of the humans. The humans have always been like this. He wanted to carve them in his own shadow but they can never be as perfect as he is. His face brightened with pride as he flicked his sceptre. The game’s over. Down below, the two blocs fired their weapons at the same time. There was a second Big Bang. Everything in the universe vanished, as did the archive room and he…