Monday, March 12, 2007

GREy Matter - Hallowed Be Thy Name!

The following is an entry to the "GREy Matter" post writing contest held to shortlist and publish the best entry in the college magazine 'Samanvay'. The contest basically involved a lexicon of 26 words listed here and an essay/short-story had to be written using any 20 of the 26 words from the word-lexicon.

Word-Lexicon: Aficionado(n.), Blasphemy(n.), Crescendo(n.), Disheveled(adj.), Exodus(n.), Fuzzy(n.), Glasnost(n.), Harbinger(n.), Incipient(adj.), Juxtapose(v.), Killhoy(n.), Lachrymose(adj.), Masquerade(n.), Neophyte(n.), Ostentatious(adj.), Plagiarize(v.), Queer(n.), Rhapsody(n.), Surreal(n.), Torpid(adj.), Unequivocal(adj.), Virtuoso(n.), Winsome(adj.), Xenophobia(n.), Yuppie(n.), Zealot(n.)

GREy Matter –

Hallowed Be Thy Name!

The way is shut! It was made by those who are dead.
And the dead keep it! The way is shut!

A voice murmured from a corner of the spacious room. The figure spread-eagled on the huge master-bed who had just managed to attain uninterrupted sleep stirred slowly - he cringed and turned and finally woke up. All this while, the chant was murmured again and again - quite like a rhapsody - its amplitude rising slowly with each repetition until it reached a deafening crescendo. In the darkness, the now wide-awake man could make out the fuzzy silhouette of a figure that was not human. It was the source of the chant which had now reached a feverish pitch. Surreal as it seemed, the figure seemed to be floating, unsupported and suspended. The next instant, it was advancing towards the bed, its entire frame now in the direct path of the moonlight coming through the window, its horrific features now entirely visible. And as it did, the disheveled man let out a shriek of absolute terror – the way a man tends to do when he is resigned to the horrific finality of his fate.

The figure was clothed in long robes covering the entire of its body. The hood covered the head, only revealing the face - pale white with red blood-shot eyes. As it advanced, its demeanour changed from menacing to aggressive. It slid over to where the man was now crouching timidly against the wall and whispered a few unpleasant nothings into his ear. Having done with its blasphemous speech, it then proceeded to treat the scared man as a laboratory animal, performing on it all those experiments, which when performed by a human on another would be deemed torture. For the floating figure, it was a source of sadistic pleasure. As the man writhed in pain, kicking & fighting & wailing, the floating demonic figure seemed more and more contended. With one last blow, the man’s skull was squashed, splintering into a thousand fragments and all movement that emanated from him finally stopped …

Doug Cornwall was a wealthy man – as wealthy as they come in this part of the world. He was an ambitious yuppie, with his palatial retreat in the centre of Monte Carlo’s most prized real estate – which offered a fantastic view of both the bay and the annual Formula 1 action – and no-one doubted the influence and power he wielded. It was another matter, that no-one quite knew what this man did for a living and how he made such vast fortunes. As it happened, Mr. Cornwall was a masquerader – I say ‘was’ because now, he no longer requires putting on an act, courtesy of his indigenously acquired wealth. In the incipient stages of his business, Mr. Cornwall appeared in many parts of Europe as “Mr. Cornwall – the wealthy tycoon” and secured deals whose general details were not known. One thing was certain – that he made a lot of money in these deals and now he resides in that palace in Monaco. Even back then, from the very beginning, it was clear that this man wasn’t a neophyte – he was firm and ruthless when dealing with his competitors, yet being winsome when among his allies and well-wishers. He was certainly no xenophobic! In his business, he had to deal with anonymous people and strangers all the time.

His wealth (whether initially fictitious or later on for real) also served as a source of funding for his passion – as an aficionado of all things ancient, his house was decorated with antiques and ornaments. Little did the outside world know that this aspect of his life was also a lie and it was this lie that was feeding his business. He was an artifact smuggler – an ingenious one - and these antiques were a result of his plunders across the world. There were exquisite ornaments from the world’s most prized jewel-sets, carefully carved sculptures cast of ivory and stone from some of the world’s rarest sites.

The world knew of Mr. Cornwall & his wealth & even some sketchy details on how he acquired it, but was unaware of the existence of a chap called Vladimir Zapav. They say behind every successful man, there is a hidden gem. Vladimir Zapav was one such gem - a Russian by birth, he was brought up in Britain & now calls the whole of Europe as home. There isn’t a place in Europe he has not visited or a businessman he hasn’t heard of or dealt with. Unlike Gorbachev’s “Glasnost”, Mr. Zapav followed the policy of utmost discreetness. He was a virtuoso in the field of anonymous clients and unusual package deliveries. It was this quality that brought him in contact with Cornwall and so an association began.

It was ironic that when they first met, Cornwall was neither rich nor famous but masquerading to be both! Through Zapav, Cornwall attained all his wealth. Zapav was the feather in the cap – the invisible force that rocked Cornwall’s smuggling cradle. Each heist brought them newfound wealth of increasing magnitudes. However, as the years passed, Cornwall became increasingly famous amongst Europe’s elite and found it increasingly difficult to come up with a plausible cover-up story of his wealth and how he acquired it.

So, finally & very reluctantly, he had to abandon his smuggling trade and he turned legitimate. And in a style typical to him, he ensured that his partner of many years - Zapav - was also not permitted to carry on the business. Zapav was alarmed at this change of events & by his partner’s disloyalty and lack of faith & so in a fit of rage, he threatened to reveal everything to the world. Cornwall had already made up his mind by then – his partner would not live to see another day. And in a dinner he arranged with Zapav for reproachment, he committed the planned sin by squeezing a small capsule of potassium cyanide into Zapav’s drink. Within seconds of consuming the drink, the cyanide used up all the Haemoglobin in his blood for a chemical reaction, thus leaving no oxygen carrying capacity and Zapav thrashed and writhed to death. That was exactly 5 years ago …

That night completed five years after that dinner and in the company of all his wealth and the ostentatious surroundings, he felt a little queer having his dinner. He had the feeling that one usually has when the occurrences of the day were unpleasant & killjoy – that his queer feelings were a harbinger of something worse to come. With dinner eaten in silence and in solitude, he went to the bedroom to call it a day. He tossed and turned and slept fitfully – all the time his anxiety gnawing at him, waking him up from his just attained slumber. Finally, his mind let go and he slipped from torpidity to a state of stupor, for what seemed like ages. Until … a voice murmured from a corner of the spacious room … As you can now infer, it was Zapav’s voice – a deathly scrawny voice, whose owner had now come to claim its revenge.