– By Yogesh Chellappa (CSE, 3rd Year)
I sank beneath the surface, my scream of terror choked off by the frothing, gushing water. Twisting and turning about in panic, I could sense other indistinct beings in my vicinity but the murky gloom clouded my vision. The rage of the water muffled my yells and I quickly shut my mouth, lest I be forced to expel what little breath I had. I tried lunging back towards the light fast fading above and only succeeded in flipping about on my back.
Now why did I do that, I thought glumly as I watched the darkness slowly engulf everything I could perceive. The light twinkled above, almost playfully, enticing me with promises of freedom and relief.
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I continued to sink slowly, as I noticed something odd. The water seemed to have a strange consistency to it. Feels almost oily. Now ain’t that weird. So much for dying in pristine water at the very least. Call me insane for agonizing about the water I was about to perish in, but the mind in its last, coherent moments does shoot away on crazy tangents, trust me.
My pleasant reminiscences of the good ol’ days was stopped abruptly as I collided with something. Funny, I thought. That almost feels like a boot digging into my backside. Smelt akin to one, too. I wrinkled my nose and tried turning about again, to no avail. My mass was sufficiently large enough that I still continued to sink with my new neighbour, dragging both of us down, albeit more slowly.
The word came unbidden to my mind and I let a wry grin escape my lips. See what I mean about crazy mental tangents?
We finally hit rock bottom and I wondered what was about to happen. One part of my mind whispered that I had already cast away my mortal shell and these were simply pleasant hallucinations. I tried to peer about the flat landscape and could vaguely make out my peers. Apparently none of us had escaped that monstrous being which had tossed us into the water, ceaselessly.
All motion stilled.
I closed my eyes.
Without warning, the entire world began to violently quake. The water churned about wildly, forcing up sediments off the bed. I was almost immediately tossed up and pulled towards what looked like a swirling pillar of thrashing water.
I never got there.
I slammed into something. My body shrieked with pain and I involuntarily gasped, releasing my last precious pocket of air. An almost muddy brown, or that’s what it looked like, tarry like substance was leaking away from me. No points for guessing what it was.
The pain was too great. I collapsed into a semi-conscious state and vaguely remembered spinning in wide circles, colliding with the sides of the cavern often, around the raging vortex at the centre. I must have blacked out after that.
Awareness returned in phases. What finally brought me back to my senses was the heat.
Was I being boiled alive now?
I forced my eyes open, wincing in pain. I was spread-eagled on the cavern bed. The swirling pillar at the center was gone.
So was the water.
What? I scrambled awake, climbing to my feet. There seemed to be … hot air?.. blowing about the cavern now. There was no mistaking it. Even as I struggled to comprehend what was going on, an edifying current of hot, dry air whipped past me. I coughed, my lungs grumbling their protest.
Then abruptly, it stopped.
And the floor of the cavern began vibrating. A deep rumble seemed to occur right beneath my feet. The noise grew louder and louder and the trembling more frenzied. I fell to my knees.
What the hell is going on?
Probably reached hell, said a snide voice from the back of my head, All those times you let your true colours influence others, imbibing them with your traits. Serves you right.
So this is how it ends, I thought, looking up towards the heavens. A sinner, terrified in the looming shadow of his god.
There was a sudden bang and I was thrown up violently. Night turned to day. Brilliantly white light blasted all around me. I squinted in the blinding radiance, unable to see.
Humming tunelessly, the dry cleaner caught me out of thin air and threw me down into a basket at his feet. I joined my fellow T shirts, fresh from the washing machine.