Fiction

Four-tenths

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A man was closing his eyes. He was almost tearing up. His hands were clasped together, pointing at the picture of Lord Vishnu hung right below the fan, in the dingy corner. It wasn’t very often you saw a man praying amidst all the cigarette smoke in the tea shops. This man didn’t care. I was inspired.

My boss being a very religious man, let me take a break from wiping all the muck off the tables. I told him that I was motivated and that I needed to pray. He offered to join me but, I convinced him that his job was the mightiest of all gods. It was surprising that he didn’t notice even a modicum of hypocrisy in my doing. Anyway, I was off to the Guruvayur temple. It was about five minutes from the tea shop.

On the way, I saw a communist parade. They swung red flags up in the air. They walked on the road in the valley and I was atop the hill beside their path. They looked like an army of ants, diligent and hardworking. Some of the men in the parade were carrying daggers, some of which had already tasted blood, bottles filled with petrol, and ancient pistols. These were the men that stained the good intention of the communists. I watched these men slyly disperse out of the parade and invade houses of atheists. I began walking faster.

On the other side of the hilltop, there were trees swaying in the breeze and deer running, hopping and skipping about. Oh, how joyous they seemed. I smiled and kept walking.

At the entrance of the temple, beggars begged, vendors sold, nannari-sharbhat-kaarargal spat into the drinks of the customers they found annoying, and dogs scratched their ears and back. All of them (except some of the dogs), wore a naamam. I wasn’t wearing one.

“Can I borrow some Vibuthi and Kungumam?” I said to the plump beggar. He smiled at me for an awkwardly long while and then offered me both. I drew three stripes, a red one in the middle and two white ones on either side, vertically, on my forehead. I bowed to him and then proceeded to take my shirt off.

I was surprised with the amount of chest-hair I had managed to grow since the last time I visited the temple. TWO INCHES! That was a lot for a boy my age.

I made my way to the sanctum sanctorum, and during my short journey I bowed down with clasped hands. God knows how I navigated through the uneven floor, the people and the glaring sunlight.

Inside the dark room, lit up by fluttering babes of flame, the dark idol of Lord Vishnu grinned at me. A sparkle in his eye shone through all his devotees stung me. It penetrated like the sharp horns of cattle. I couldn’t move. I forgot how to pray. I forgot what to wish for. All I knew was I was safe and that this universe was a miracle. All of it was a creation in his mind – a dream – and I was a part of it!

As the temple bells tolled, I snapped out of my trance. I walked away bowing down to the other gods, still a little awestruck and immobile from the Lord’s stare. A smile was plastered across my face without my knowledge.

I walked out to the pond through the back of the temple to take a dip. The water level was low and there was no moss. Perhaps, it was the sun. I waded in through the slippering steps and into the water. It was lukewarm but it was cool compared to land. Tiny fish swam around in shoals. They caressed my skin like soft rain. “I will save the world.” They seemed to whisper. All of a sudden, like a bomb blast, the fish exploded in different directions and disappeared. All of a sudden, I felt a surface touch my feet. It was a lump. Like an old rock. I submerged my head and squinched to seek out the thing that touched my sole. There were a couple of turtles staring back at me with dead eyes. They were still. As still as old rocks. After I was about to lose my breath, they got bored and began to swim away. Their butts swayed underneath the water.

I will save the world.

I got out and began walking back home. The parade was gone and it left behind a trail of garbage – red pamphlets, chips packets, cloths, pieces of glass, boards with Malayalam like squiggly jalebi. A cloud of dust meandered and hung above the trail. I sat on the hilltop for a while and watched the path the communists had made. So distinct and conspicuous. I thought about the men who would have murdered many devotees today and that made me upset. I didn’t like the communists anymore. I turned around to watch the deer. The trees were still swaying but the deer had left.

I suddenly heard a rustle from the bushes. I squinched to see if it was a tiger. It was as large as a rhino and it had fur. Tigers were not that big. It had to be something else. I saw shimmering black eyes behind the leaves of the Mahua. And then the beast showed itself to me. It was a wild boar. The animal stood there still and large watching me. I was going to be hunted, I thought. And then I realized they were herbivores. But they could still do me harm with the horns and the tusks. “I mean no harm,” I whispered. The beast left after a short while.

I will save the world.

There were people fleeing from the tea shop like flies from a man flailing an electric bat. I bent down and entered the shop because the shutter was half shut. It was very dark on the inside. I hadn’t known that much of the light came from the sun.

“Please clean the table as soon as possible, lock the shop and run.” The owner said in a low voice. “I have information. I reckon that some of the communists are coming to this shop. Look, I don’t care if the shop is ruined. I just don’t want anyone dead. Alright, you be safe. I got to go now.”

Before I could open my mouth he was out of the shop. He looked like an egg. The egg grew smaller as it gained distance.

I wiped the tables. There were cigarette buds, half-full tea glasses, newspaper pieces with oil stains, four-tenths of a bajji and a packet of condoms in the corner. After wiping the tables, I swept the floor and then mopped it. A huge filthy wave flowed across the floor towards the door. It left a sparkling floor behind. Just as the wave fell out of the door, I saw a foot step into the shop. It was hairy and wore a black-leather chappal.

“Are you a communist?” The man said. He wore a veshti and a glittery shirt. His beard was in between stubble and sanyasi.

“No.” I said.

“I am. I don’t like people who aren’t.”

“I like God and I don’t like people who don’t like Him.”

A leg flew at my chest, like a bullet, kicking the scene backwards, with a chappal-sole intricately decorated with dung. I fell to the ground. I was gasping for breath. My lungs seemed to have been flattened by the kick. My head was throbbing and a pulsating ached ran threw all my veins. I began to cry. I shuddered in fright as though walking out wet at four in the morning. There was almost no light all of a sudden and I could only see outlines and silhouettes.

“THERE IS NO GOD!” The man screamed.

“Ther-Ther-There is…” I said.

“Oh yeah, fuck you.” He said. “If there were any god I’d be dead by now.”

I was too weak to explain. God wasn’t about being there when you’re dying. It was about having the hope that you will live. WHAT THE FUCK HOPE WILL THIS COMMUNIST-CUNT HAVE WHEN HE DIES?!

“You’ll see…” I said. Because that’s all I had the strength to say.

“Whether, I see or not, you won’t.” The man said. “OY, mone Lenin, get the fucking dagger, we’re about to make an eyeless corpse.”

I closed my eyes. I was still shivering. I watched Lord Vishnu. I looked at his picture and the glint in his eyes. The dagger came close to me.

A crackling sound was heard.

“Oy, mone Lenin, check the shutter, will you?” The man said.

“There’s nobody there.” Lenin said.

“We don’t wan to be caught by the cops.”

“But I’m telling the truth. There just isn’t anybody there.”

The man proceeded. I heard another crackle. To my right, the wall was cracking open. I knew what it was. I smiled. They all looked to their left and found a huge crack in the wall. A set of fiery eyes peered from the inside. A low growl pervaded into the silence like a radio’s volume slowly being turned up. A furry hand, the size of my stomach, slided out of the crack. Another came out the exact same way. The crack was being split open from the inside. A massive creature stepped out – half-lion, half-man – and flung the man keeping watch, at the wall, where he died on the spot. To the other man, he placed him on his lap and dug into his rib-cage. He wore his intestines as a garland and roared with pride.

I will save the world.

I didn’t remember anything after that. Perhaps, I would have fainted.

Now, yesterday, I told this story to the local police who accused me of committing murder. They didn’t believe me. Maybe they were communists. Either ways, lawfully speaking, they didn’t have enough evidence. How could they! It wasn’t me who did it. They let me go. I visited the temple to thank Lord Vishnu, later that day.

Whether or not Lord Vishnu had come to my rescue in the form of Narasimhan, God still exists. This is because it’s a wonderful universe and there’s always a way out. If the Lord hadn’t turned up I would have killed the men. The cops would have never caught me for they’ll never know the truth. The only truth is that God is out there to give you the hope that there are miracles; to encounter them is up to you.

Vikram Mervyn

Vikram Mervyn was born on April 16, 2000 in Chennai, India. He is the founder of the blog: Forlorn Fiction. He is an alumnus of the School KFI and has written more than thirty short stories and poems including His Mother's Words; Naked Noose; Two; Purple and Canine friends; and Miracles.

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