Which is real?

Subramanian K.S.

Retired journalist and author

Footsteps heard on a dark, country lane.

It was 10.30 pm and the sky looked a bizarre dark grey in peak summer with hint of monsoon waking up from deep slumber.  There was yet no sign of patter of rain which would have been a delayed gift to a parched city dweller like me.  A busy road it was during the day but now appeared to have covered itself in a sheet of night.  Not a soul was in sight giving it a surreal touch.

I took a deep breath knowing my home was just a furlong and half away.   The hair on my neck rose as the footsteps came closer and a whisper in my ear – “If you watch every step, you can test even the fate’s patience.”  I whizzed around and found none, the long stretch of road empty and dizzyingly gloomy till the arterial road where little traffic could be seen.

I was struck by the element of unreality about the whole scene, pinched my arm to confirm whether I was real and alive.  How come the road was unusually quiet and ominously deserted?  Again, the footsteps sounded closer and the breath of whisper was felt.  “Who is this?  What do you want? What are you trying to say?” I fired these queries wondering whether I was being stupid, naïve or both.  I have grown with a sardonic lack of faith in unreal experiences arguing that the world was far too real, tangible and explicable as the phenomena breathing in it.  So how could I ever experience or face the unreal?

“So you don’t believe in it, right?” the resonant timbre of the voice was clear now. “Many don’t priding themselves on their cerebral superiority and even look down on others as mentally frail or vulnerable.  They prance around in vigor of youth, enjoy a cushy job and generally feel that the law is for the unread or spineless.”

I paused and stood in silence stunned that the voice trailed somehow the flow of thought in me.  I was not hallucinating.

“Boss! Don’t worry.  I am not here to harm you.  But just see a few steps ahead to your right near the zebra crossing.  Do you see a patch of dried blood?”   I did and muttered foolishly, “Yeah… but what happened?”  There was a lull for some time as if the voice had suddenly lost its tone.  I quickened the pace thinking either I was losing my head so near my home or the world was losing its.

“Friend!”  the voice returned to my annoyance.  “I was just 28, in the prime of life and feeling on top.  I felt the law was only for the commoner and I was a cut above him. I loved speed on a road of sparse traffic and in the dark couldn’t shirk a guy who came from the wrong end.  I was tossed on the road, bleeding from the head.  All was still.”

I reached home, locked myself in.  Next morning, I flicked open the city page to read the news about the youth.  Which is real - the news or the voice?

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