Pursuit Predators And Missing Airplanes

I stumbled as I ran blindly in the dark. The night seemed eerily quiet all around me except for the noise I made as I ran. When I stopped for breath, the pounding in my chest and my rapid deep breaths of panic were all I could hear. I couldn’t perceive anything around me. As I ran ahead, all I could think of was to survive. And I needed to get back to my ship. I had to escape this hell.

I seemed to be in some kind of an overgrown jungle. Wet leaves, branches and fronds slapped me all over as I ran through them. I was thankful for my body suit but I was worried about my air filters. Through the foggy visor of my helmet, I peered down at my chest and saw that the air filter was choked with dirt. I brushed it awkwardly with my gloved finger and immediately felt the the cool rush of breathable air circulate inside my suit. I took a deep, satisfying breath and looked back at the dark jungle through which I had just run.

I could only see the dark silhouettes of the forest and the looming shadows of enormous trees, standing tall as a black shadow of ancient giants against the dark night sky. A few smattering of stars here and there twinkled down at me, as if amused at my plight. I leaned against the trunk of a huge tree and took a few more deep breaths, calming my nerves. My legs trembled less and less with each passing second and I could feel my heart rate slowing down. I didn’t hear the faint whizz of the metal spear but felt the dull thud as it embedded itself with a sickening impact into the tree trunk, barely an inch from my hand. I jumped back, and ran. The creature had been following me and hunting me for over three hours now and it was showing no signs of defeat. Each time I thought I had put sufficient distance between us I was proved wrong. It was always near, lurking around the corners, hiding in the shadows and shooting its high velocity metal spears with a makeshift bow.

I cursed this planet as I ran. We should never have stopped here to explore. It was all Kai’s fault. If only she had half a brain. Well, she was dead now, killed by one of those deadly metal spears that had flown out of nowhere and had lodged itself firmly in her throat. I shook my head and forced myself to stop thinking about Kai. I was alone on an alien planet that was intent on killing me. I had to make my way back to the ship. That was my only hope. I dodged the forest left and right, high and low, retraced my steps to throw the creature off my track, and finally found a tree trunk that I could climb. It  was high enough to hide me from being clearly visible. I thanked the darkness and climbed as high as I dared, hugged the branch and lay still, watching the forest floor beneath me. Every rustle of a leaf and every chirp of an insect seemed to reverberate in my ear. My senses were on hyper alert.

On the horizon, I could see faint snatches of light from various points, glowing over the tops of the trees. Far away in the distance, I thought I heard the whine and growl of machinery, but I couldn’t be sure. We were told this was a primitive planet. We were told that life was almost impossible here due to the heavy, toxic atmosphere and the crushing gravitational pull of the nearest star. We were told to explore without fear and that it would be routine. I’d love to see the faces of those Command Center fucks now.

We were scientists. I was a specialist in alternative energy studies and my sole purpose on this trip was to collect geothermal readings from various planets, analyze them and rate them according to the ease of harvesting. In other words, I was a lab rat. Not a fucking soldier. I didn’t know how to survive in these situations. These creatures were terrifying to say the least.

We first encountered the aliens four hours into our exploration. The landing was routine, without any incidents. Kai and I had strayed far from our ship, collecting samples and making small talk when the clearing in which we stood was doused in bright, harsh light that blinded us. The light seemed to emanate from the forest itself. I could see Kai panicking, screaming and I ran to her to calm her down. We heard the guttural sounds that almost seemed to be a type of vocal communication. We looked up to see three figures walking towards us, gesturing and speaking. All I could make out was the unnaturally long limbs and the row of white, jagged teeth on their heads. I felt Kai shuddering suddenly in my arms and when I looked down, I saw the metal spear sticking out of her. I felt her body go limp. The creatures had killed her without warning. Without provocation. I ran.

I felt an insurmountable anger boil inside me as I lay on the tree branch. Anger at myself, at those short-sighted Command Center nuts and anger at these vile, merciless aliens and their makeshift weapons. I wanted to destroy it all.

I stiffened as I heard the rustle of the leaves somewhere to my left. It was different from the usual rustle of the wind. This was unnatural. I lay very still and saw the leaves part and the creature step forward slowly. It seemed to be looking at the floor, trying to discern my footprints. This type of pursuit predators were the scariest – they never tired, they never gave up and they hunted you down from your footprints and the twigs your feet snapped while you ran. The creature held the makeshift weapon in one hand as it slowly moved on two feet looking this way and that, and passed beneath my tree. I could see the top of it’s head as it passed under me. I was tempted to jump down and fight it, but held myself. I didn’t know how many more of them were out there.

I looked around in the general direction of my intended escape. The ship was somewhere off to the right and from my vantage point here, I could faintly see the outline of the ship’s tail. It was close. Closer than I thought! I felt a renewed surge of hope in me. I made sure that the creature had gone before I descended as quietly as I could and started jogging towards the ship. My heart skipped a beat when I heard the loud guttural shout from behind me. I didn’t look back. I ran as fast as I could. I could hear two, three, four, countless creatures behind me, all shouting and crashing after me. Where did so many of them come from?

I felt a searing pain shoot through my arm and when I looked down, I almost fainted in fright. I saw a thin metallic spear stuck in my arm. It had pierced the palm of my hand clean through! I didn’t dare pull it out. The pain was excruciating. I felt loud bangs from behind and I felt the forest explode all around me. One moment there was a lean tree trunk and the next, a loud bang from behind and the tree trunk exploded in splinters that rained over me as I ran headlong into the forest. I prayed and prayed that I was going in the right direction.The noise behind me was deafening.

I ran through the pain in my hand. I could feel the numbness creeping up my arm from the point where the spear had pierced through. I felt faint but forced myself to keep running. Escape! That was the only thing on my mind.

After what seemed like an eternity and almost when I thought of giving up and surrendering to the aliens, I broke through the tree line and almost collided with my ship. I screamed out in ecstasy and agony and clambered around the hulking machine and into the open bay door at the back. I saw the aliens break through the tree line and stop as they saw the ship. Through the closing bay door, I saw them hesitate. They seemed to be awestruck at the sight of the ship. One of the aliens saw the bay door that was closing and caught sight of my face through the rapidly closing slit. The metal spear it fired  pinged harmlessly off the ship and I heard the satisfying bangs and the thuds of the door closing and the bolts driving home. 

I stumbled my way to the cockpit and hit the big red button on the dashboard. Everything would be automated now. The ship would take me home.

I slumped down on to the floor and looked at my hand. I could see the metal spear sticking out from both sides of my palm, firmly lodged. The ship trembled slightly as the fuel heated up and the ignition kicked in. I almost felt sorry for the alien creatures standing outside the ship. They would all be fried to nothingness in about ten seconds. It was a pity. I could have observed them and studied them, had it been under different circumstances. I thought I heard them scream as the ship fired on all cylinders and cooked them to a crisp and lifted off. I breathed a sigh of relief as it picked up speed. In about fifteen seconds, it would automatically open up the wormhole into our world and shoot into it. I could hardly wait to get home and get someone to pull this fucking spear out of my hand.

I stood up gingerly and saw out of the cockpit window at the fascinating landscape of the vast blue planet beneath me. An entire planet that had evolved to breathe the most corrosive gas in the universe – oxygen. I shuddered at the thought.

I saw the brilliant golden glow of the wormhole opening up in front of me. Just as the ship neared it, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some movement out on the horizon. The last thing I saw before being sucked into the wormhole was a huge metal cylinder hurtling through the air at a ferocious speed – almost like an aircraft – crashing into the ship at what seemed like a million miles per hour and the entirety of the fire and the debris being sucked into the wormhole. Drifting in the void of the wormhole, I saw the remains of the object that had collided with my ship. Hundreds and hundreds of those alien creatures floated away in the zero gravity of the wormhole, all dead. It couldn’t have been an aircraft, I thought to myself. This was supposed to be a primitive planet. Someone is going to have a lovely time trying to find this plane, I thought, smiling to myself as I blacked out, and hoped at the back of my mind that my arm and all my thirty-one fingers would be intact.

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The Funny Guy! :)

I have recently been awarded the dubious distinction of being Mr. Funny Guy by my friends. I should be honored, and to an extent, I am. How this title came about and why I am not really satisfied with it will be apparent after you read this whole post. 🙂

It was a dark and gloomy Wednesday evening, around six, when I decided to wrap things up in the office and go all the way to Yelahanka, where my brother was waiting in the police station after his bike had been towed away. I had to go there and pay the fine of 600 bucks to bail the bike out. When I left, the rain had just about abated and I made quick time in traveling the 30-odd miles to Yelahanka. We both got drenched on the way back, but that seems to be a minor point of little or no interest to the readers, who’re probably well accustomed to my bouts of bad luck. I met a few friends for dinner that night and decided to liven up the night with a joke.

“Okay, people! I am going to tell you a joke!” I announced. Everyone fell silent and listened intently, being aware of my reputation for spinning a lovely yarn. I was actually trying to impress my friend’s cute cousin who’d joined us. She was sitting next to me and seemed to be hanging on my every word. I desperately wanted to impress her and make her smile. So, I dug into my vast database of corny jokes and pulled out the best one!:D

“There was this scientist,” I began, “and he had just invented a biologically-engineered refrigerator. The fridge was so cool (no puns intended!) that it could order groceries online and make instant breakfast. It ran on some pretty cool DNA-computing circuits and was state-of-the-art! It was more intelligent than the most intelligent computers of the day. So, this scientist was selected for the Nobel Prize that year.”

I looked at the cute girl, paused for effect, and smiled. Everyone on the table was gripped. “The Nobel Committee waned him to fly over to Stockholm and demonstrate his bio-engineered refrigerator. So, this scientist rented a single engine Cessna plane and started his journey. Halfway through the flight, the single engine died and the plane began to crash. The pilot screamed, “Hey scientist! We are too heavy and the plane can’t handle it! You have to throw your fridge out!”

“No way!” screamed the scientist. “I have given my whole life for this invention!”

“Look, fella! If we don’t throw it overboard, we’re all going to die. It’s too heavy. You have your research data with you anyway. It’s just a question of assembling it again. Please understand!”

“So, this scientist, after careful deliberation, opened the door with a heavy heart and threw the fridge out.”

I stopped talking and took a sip of water and leaned back with a smile. Everyone on the table were leaning forward, intently waiting. “Then what happened?” asked the cute girl next to me.

“Nothing,” I said. “That’s the end of the story. ”

When they all realized that I had conned them, it was too late. The expression on their faces was a million dollar one. I started laughing out so loud that I drowned their angry retorts and groans and the hotel manager came up, glared at me and said, “Sir, please don’t laugh so loud. You’re disturbing the other guests!”

I continued laughing in a whisper and the other people around the table were ready to drown me in my tomato soup. “Okay guys, I am sorry,” I said. “I’ll make it up to you. I’ll tell you a better joke this time and I swear on the graves of all the men, women and children who died building this hotel that you will not be disappointed.”

My reputation as a funny guy preceded me and they all agreed to give me one more chance. “Last chance,” said the cute girl next to me. “I’ll slap you if you do this again.”

I wanted to tell her that I would do anything to get her to slap me because that would mean she would have to touch me. Oh, she was so cute!! 😀

“Okay, get ready,” I announced and cleared my throat. “There’s this beautiful lake in the middle of nowhere and in the center of the lake is a small islet on which the most beautiful flower is growing. The lake is infested with crocodiles and sharks and piranhas and just about any man-eating critter nature has created. On the banks of the lake, a man and a woman are sitting, cuddled up. They are very much in love with each other. The woman asks the man to swim across and get that flower for her. He protests and says that he’s going to killed trying to cross the lake. “Is this how much you love me?” asks the girl, very depressed. So, the man takes offense and says, “If you want me to prove my love to you, then I will cheat death and get you the flower.” He strips down and starts swimming. He battles all the critters that come in his way and finally reaches the middle of the lake, plucks the flower and swims back, again battling nature’s fury. He reaches the shore and climbs out holding the flower. And then, right in front of the woman’s eyes, he dies!”

I paused for effect. “Why did he die?” I asked, looking around at everyone.

They were all listening to my story so intently that one of them immediately said, “The flower was poisonous”

“No,” I said.

“Something attacked him!”

“No”

“He had a heart attack?”

“No”

The cute girl then said, “Tell me, tell me! Please!”

I couldn’t ignore her cries. Oh, and her voice was so sweet. So, I told them the answer – “The fridge fell on him!”

For two minutes there was complete silence and I inched closer to the cute girl and turned my head at an angle so that she could get a good whack at my cheek. But to my surprise, she burst out laughing and so did the others. They liked the stupid joke! I was so annoyed!

So, that’s how I got the title and that’s why I am not too excited about it! She didn’t slap me! Now, I don’t know when I am going to see her next. Damn! 😦

Virginia Tobacco :)

Note: The following post is protected under strict copyright laws, owned by Nam and her Nandu Mama. Copying this material or using it in any context without the explicit written and/or verbal permission of both the owners is punishable by the just laws of the glorious country of Sheikla Abbu. The following is not a true story, however, any resemblance to any person or animal, living or dead, has been included deliberately after a great deal of procrastination. Thanks to Nam for keeping me awake last night with this fascinating tale of deception, treachery and greed. I would have dozed off if it weren’t for her. 🙂

Once upon a time, in an imagination far, far colorful, lived a Sheik who ruled over the glorious country of Sheikla Abbu. He had a thousand camels and a thousand horses and a thousand elephants and a thousand ten wives. He had an enormous palace, where he used to spend time with his wives and eat the best food in all of Abbu, drink the finest wine, listen to the best music and dance to the best tunes. He was also a bit greedy.

The Sheik was an accomplished warrior, who had conquered his enemies far and wide and wanted to expand his kingdom even more. So, against the wishes of his wives and wise men, he set out, leading his huge army south, to the kingdom of Virginia. This name is not to be confused with its namesake in the USA. He led the army through blistering deserts and freezing nights, and finally reached the doors of the castle in Virginia. They had been traveling for a thousand days and all were tired, including the Sheik.

He knew that if he declared war in his state of fatigue, he would lose terribly. So, he extended a hand of friendship to the ruler of Virginia, who gave the Sheik a pack of Virginia Tobacco, as a gesture of good faith. This is where our story kicks off into a bizarre world of madness. For two years he completely forgot about this packet of cigarettes in his possession, and went about his daily routines. Once, while cleaning out his writing desk, he found the unopened pack of Virginia Tobacco lying there, under a heap of death warrants.

Curious to try it out, the Sheik took out a cigarette from the pack and took a drag from the sweet tobacco, he could hear someone counting – “One, Two, Three, Four, Five…” in his ear, loudly. He looked around him, astonished at seeing no one, and yet, the voice was very clear in his mind. Someone had counted loudly and he had heard them! So, in his confused rage, he ordered the heads of all his guards to be chopped off.

The next day, when he was sitting on the banks of the river, he took out another cigarette and started smoking it. As soon as he took the first drag, he could bear someone counting again – “Five, Six, Seven, Eight…” and this time, the voice seemed to be very near to him. He looked around, and finding no one, ordered all his animals to be beheaded. No one dared to question his madness when he was in one of his rages. He sat back down and took another drag of the cigarette. Again, as before, he heard counting in his head – “Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen…” and he got really really freaked!

He started stripping down his robes, thinking that there could have been some sort of black magic going on. As he removed his shirt, something fell down to the ground. It was the pack of Virginia Tobacco. He picked it up and for the first time, read what was written on the pack.

“Virginia Tobacco: The Tobacco That Counts!” 😀

Second Chances

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”

– Elie Wiesel,
American Author,
Nobel Peace Prize 1986

One of the greatest attributes of life is its ability to deny us what we really want and give us what we really need. His life has been a constant game of badly-played chess, with every move as unplanned and sometimes, as stupid as it can get. Talking about friends and how they helped him reconstruct a broken foundation takes him back three years – a time when he almost convinced himself that he was a burden to everyone around him and decided that there wasn’t anything else that he could offer to the world. His time here was up, and he had to make a quick exit – to end his life and escape to that blissful afterworld where there’re no more complaints, no more angry glances, no more walking into a room filled with people who stop in mid-sentence and look at him as though he’s an unwanted piece of garbage, no more hints and subtle suggestions about him being a loser – and he chose the tried and tested path of a blade to the wrist in a bathroom alone at night.

It was in his second year of undergrad that he found out he was really a loser. The faculty treated him with disdain as if they were teaching him only because they were forced to, and his classmates never even acknowledged his presence, let alone talk to him. What was the point to all this, he thought. Why am I here? I don’t belong here because I am not wanted.

The situation at home wasn’t any different as his parents never really had the time to sit with him and talk about anything. There was a big pile of unopened progress reports on the refrigerator, and every day he looked at them in the hope that at least one of them would be opened. His grades were good but not great, and he just wanted his parents to know about the time he got a 25 on 25 in math or the time when he cleared the physics term paper. He wasn’t asking for a pat on the back and he wasn’t asking for a present in return. All he wanted was for them to smile at him occasionally, or at least look at him. He returned every day to an empty house and an emptier home. His time was up.

The person who helped him get through his hurdles – Aziz – died on May 4th, 2006 in Bangalore, India, after being diagnosed with a malignant type of blood cancer. He held his hand in the hospital on the third and told him that he’s going to live in San Jose, California, and that he owed his life to Aziz, because if it weren’t for him, there would have been no second chances.

This post is in memory of Aziz Muhammed, who celebrates his 2-year death anniversary today – a fact I was reminded of by an email from San Jose this morning, an email that gave me the permission to write these words and make his story known to the world. I had had only one cup of tea with Aziz, three years ago, and at that time, Chuckie, who was with me, said, “Life has so many things to show us and teach us and it will, only if we give it a chance to do so.”  Aziz smiled and made me smell the hot steam rising from the cup of tea. I dismissed him as a junkie at that time.

Now, I always smell my tea before drinking it.