Tag Archives: Fantasy

F is for Fear Economy

FIn my previous storython last May, I created a fantasy world called Feardom. (See story 1 and story 2 that I wrote then). This is another Feardom tale for the A to Z Challenge. In my first draft, I was told that the universe wasn’t clear enough. I’ve revised it since then, but just in case, here’s some context: Feardom is a world of ghouls, monsters-under-the-bed, aliens and otherworld creatures. They manage freshly dead souls’ passage into Feardom or wherever else they may be bound, with all the expected errors, goof-ups and emergencies. They also run a fear economy, collecting, creating, processing and distributing fear across the living world. Feardom functions at night.

Now read on!

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

F is for Fear Economy

Koriko was lavender with irritation. The colour made it even more cold and bothered. Feardom was tepid on a good night. But this was not a good night. What night was, when your work was bothersome?

It twisted away from the desk, deciding it was time for some exercise. As it rolled about on the floor, its circumference returning to a perfect circle, order was restored to its fevered mind as well. Koriko had picked up the art of rolling yoga from a cult worshipper who had an out-of-body experience by mistake. The under-bed monster fraternity had decided against the practice since the practitioners got too wholesome to fit under children’s beds. Koriko hoped against hope its own Department wouldn’t find some stupid reason to outlaw it among its employees too. Roga was wonderful for its shape and mind.

As Koriko bobbed up to the glass window, it noted in satisfaction, that the sickening lavender had receded. It was not yet its sunny yellow hue but it would probably not be that way till this matter had been laid to rest. Rich clients were always difficult but dealing with Amutty was extra purpleful.

Koriko’s Department Stomach didn’t understand. His job was to process all manner of requests to the Loss & Relocation department and juice out maximum spirit. Spirit is all he cared about. Koriko chose to stay in this job because he was one of the few Feardom citizens who didn’t have the foul taint of guilt on him. Guilt doesn’t stick to ghouls; that’s what makes them such great Department Stomachs.

Koriko slowed in its rolling down the corridor, to check its reflection again. Almost beige now, it noted and decided it would roll all the way tonight, instead of taking its whizzer.

Inspector ‘Jiggs’ Jigaboo was hanging outside his precinct when Koriko rolled his way. Koriko brightened immediately at the sight of its old friend.

“On a Fitness roll, are we, Officer Koriko?”

he growled.

“Yes. I’m losing shape and I’ll go blue if I don’t do something soon.”

“Let’s take a glide. It’s a slow night.”

“Can we go in the direction of the graveyard?”

“Are you sure? You never want to go there.”

“Well…yes. But I’ve got an errand to run. And I could use some company, especially at the Bone Market. Roll me out if I get too faint.”

Jiggs growled and began gliding. Koriko pulled out of its slow spin and bobbed up next to him.

“I thought you might be busy tonight. Passed a fresh crop of new-dead coming in.”

Jiggs jerked in his glide.

“They’ll be stuck at the Netherworld pass for at least two nights. And more than a quarter of them will get rejected and sent back as near-death. Some of them may even come your way, Koriko, like that kid I rescued last moon.”

Koriko grimaced a perfect arc across its round face. That had been a nightmare, even for a seasoned Feardom citizen. 3 hours in Feardom when a guy is not dead was a gruesome problem for the authorities to clean up. The Bureau of Bureaucratic Nightmares didn’t like the living nosing it on its turf.

“There’s more and more of those happening these days. I think the Fear Factory needs to be called to account. Raw fear is proving too potent for the living. We need to go easy on them. Can’t have so many of them tumbling into Feardom in sheer fright, before their time’s up.”

“Try telling that to the authorities. All they’re interested in, is all that free fear that rolls off them, the instant they materialize here. Do you know Bone Collectors are sunlighting as fear scavengers now? Ixtra help us all.”

Jiggs growled, a wry sound.

“I’m telling you, those crooks will be the last ones in Feardom, after the rest of us have been vaporized or gone transparent. They can turn every trick in the book!”

“Some of them may even become grishoomy Department Stomachs!”

said Koriko, bobbing lemon with the gruesome conversation. It always felt good around Jiggs.

“We’re almost here. And you’re quite pale, Koriko. Are you sure you want to go in?”

said Jiggs.

“Oh, I don’t think I can go in. I’ll be so transparent, you won’t even be able to see me to roll me out. I’m waiting to see if I can catch a Bone Collector on its way in.”

“What do you want? Can I get it for you?”

Koriko turned a greenish hue. Jiggs felt its discomfort. He knew the Loss & Replacement department was notoriously secretive and Koriko didn’t want any trouble with its bosses. It was terribly mysterious that they were here in the first place. The entire department looked down upon the skullduggery of the Bone business and hated the Fear Factory passionately, as their biggest competitors. They weren’t very profitable but they got by. There was a call for that kind of thing, in a fear economy.

The Department of Loss & Replacement orchestrated displacements of objects, places and people to distill unease and panic. It was guilt-free fear since forgetting allowed people to absolve responsibility. As far as Jiggs could see, that was the only draw for Koriko, who was allergic to guilt.

Koriko had gone an alarming pink-tinged magenta now.

“I need a bone, preferably one with a streak of blood or maybe an attached tissue. It’s for a case.”

Jiggs bobbed. Since when did Koriko’s Department deal with such base things? Koriko’s pink splashes solidified into stripes now as it made up its mind.

“You know how we were talking about the death explosion? The authorities are trying to curb it. This is a test assignment. We’re experimenting with a guy who is too bored to live anymore.”

“Bored??!”

Jiggs coughed. He would never understand the sentient beings of this planet.

“Yes. So we’re going to introduce disruptions to keep him uneasy and interested.”

“You’re using fear as entertainment!”

Jiggs roared.

“What else do you think it is, on this planet?” Koriko countered, its face yellowish again. “Anyway, it’s not fear. Not yet at least. Just unease and mild panic. He probably won’t even feel that much, given how far he’s gone into ennui.”

“Your fancy Replacement orchestrations too good for him?”

Koriko rolled about unhappily. It didn’t like it any more than Jiggs but its friend didn’t understand. How could it explain that it had tried three different orchestrations but the man had just shrugged them off. Koriko was fed up with the Stomach’s grumbling but it wouldn’t be relieved till this case was closed. Their machinations with higher state thinking had failed; it was time to go back to the basics. Skullduggery was cheap and quick.

“Just get me the bone, will you? Foot bone, not one of the toes. Remember, with a little muscle attached.” Koriko grizzled.

Jiggs blobbed away to haggle at the Bone Market. Koriko spun in place, saying a thank you prayer to Ixtra. There would be much spirit in this assignment and it was thinking of taking a long vacation afterwards to recuperate. The sea might be a nice place to visit. There was no guilt underwater. Maybe it would ask Jiggs to come along.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

F is for Fear Economy

 

*Image via njaj on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tiny Tales: I Am Jill's Spare Tyre

The long journey from nursery to rhymes was fraught with heartless atrocities inflicted on those that built the heart in the first place. It was an old story but then, they all were, weren’t they?

The Pharaoh had ordered the fingers chopped off every workman’s hand, that had chiseled and pulleyed and caressed the stones that would pay homage several centuries past to the important dead royals. So also, the petty workers, the small masons of imagination were destined to fall and be crushed under the feet of grander ideas that flew on the wings of classroom marks.

The writer, he sat, in deep comtemplation of the worthiness of his works. He was writing a prologue, a worthy diatribe on how he hoped to make the ugly world a little better, with his ideas. All at once, an image intruded into his mind and made the words, thus far marching in perfect order, run into one another. He growled in annoyance and then looked about furtively. Loss of control was not permitted in his world and what was he, master of imagination, if he could not control his own mind?

He took a deep breath and exhaled softly. Balance, balance, balance, he chanted to himself. Extreme actions led to disarray. That had been the subject of his book. Moderate politics, the need for the middle ground. But just as he got to that part, the image flared up again.

With a howl of frustration, he realized a little man was standing in front of him.

“Who are you?!” he thundered.

“Don’t you know me? You remember us.”

He wrung his hands, trying to say something that would not unleash the panic working its way up his throat. He wanted to yell that he had no idea. But how would that look, admitting that a total stranger had materialized right before his eyes, inside his own house? His reputation for cool rationale, for objective viewpoint would be completely ruined if he admitted to such things.

“We are not strangers, Jack.”

“Who…who are you?”

“I’m Jack, too. Come on, you do know us. Don’t be so strange. Don’t be a stranger!”

Jack gulped, looking at the other Jack. Yes, he did know the man. It was impossible but he did remember. A flash of nostalgia, not entirely pleasant swept over him. It had been years, many, many years.

“We used to be your favorite poem, Jack. Till you decided that you only wanted to read the big people.”

The little Jack stared back accusingly at the big Jack, his words forlorn. The plump matron behind him waddled forward and took his hand. She had been there all along but they’d been standing so close it was like they were one person. With a shock, Jack (the bigger one), realized that she was at least thrice the size of Jack (the smaller one).

“How did you get here? I mean, what are you doing here? I had forgotten about you.”

“It was a difficult journey. First the sea of words that came and washed us all away. And then troops of rote-learning. But the real monster was the scourge of routine when you left the walls of learning.”

A loud harrumph sounded next to the little man. Jack patted the lady’s arm and continued.

“Walls of learning, indeed. Barbaric marauders, all of them. Such a peaceful, fertile land we all lived in, until you let those horrors in. We lost most of our numbers in the first ten years.”

Jack could barely believe what he was hearing but he sat transfixed, rooted to his chair and a hapless victim to the visions that the other Jack was running before his eyes. Yes, yes, he could see the atrocity of cramming in all those new ideas, dislodging the previous tenants. At that time it had felt exhilarating and he hadn’t spared a thought for what was being scattered. His mind, after all, was not a container but a bottomless sea that could house many different beings.

“Yes, maybe. There was enough space at least initially” said the other Jack, clearly seeing the big Jack’s thoughts swim through the visions he was conjuring up.

“But,” he continued, “They didn’t seem content with that. They had to vanquish every one of us, obliviate us from your memory in order to exist. An idea that eats up another idea isn’t an idea at all, it’s a parasite! And you let a horde of them take us over!”

“The right idea won out at the end. It’s the way of the world. Survival of the fittest.” said the Big Jack.

“Ah, that one. That’s one of the Darwin guy’s pets, isn’t it? And what did he know of imagination? What did he do except live with his head in the past and explain how things were then? What good did that do to your kind?”

“He was right. The better idea won, after all. If it couldn’t stand the test of reason, it didn’t deserve to exist.”

A loud gasp escaped the fat lady and the little Jack quivered in his miniscule shoes. When he spoke again, it was in the gruff voice of his grandfather.

“Bite your tongue, boy! A warrior will kill better than a poet. But a treasurer will pull a kingdom through famine in a way the warrior never will. Have you forgotten even that one? The golden edict?”

Jack’s puzzled expression grated on Jack’s nerves but he patiently, if not petulantly enunciated,

“There is a place for everyone in this universe.”

It was simple, it was profound and it was true, Jack knew that. In fact, wasn’t that the very premise of his new book? An acceptance of differences, embracing the variations rather than trying to do away with them…that’s what he prescribed as the way to govern the new integrated world.

“Finally. HMMMMMMPP. He used to be-HMMMPH-such a bright boy. Took him this long to get here. HARRRUMMMPHH”

The woman’s harrumping seemed a tad more sensible now as they were more words than sounds.

“Okay, yes, you are right.”

“And??”

“I’m sorry. Very sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Hmph. That. Hmmph. Much. Harrum. Is. Hmph. Obvious.”

“Give him a chance, m’love. He’s coming around.” The other Jack patted his wife’s meaty arm with his bony fingers.

“But how did you get here? How did you survive?”

“Like, I said, it wasn’t easy. The soldiers threw us into jail first. But I passed through the bars easy-peasy and got us out of there.”

As he spoke he turned and the big Jack could now see that in profile, the little Jack was lean to the point of flatness. He was no more than a card, a paper cutout of a man.

“And then?”

“We hid inside your sleep and only one of us would get out at a time, to forage for food or a way forward. You see, we’re only visible when we’re together. All those times, you woke up and your guard-thoughts passed us off as stray dreams.”

“But how did you get out of my mind?”

“That was the nub, it was. We almost got caught. We nearly ran headlonjg into a mountain of rational thinking. But that’s where my lady showed her true worth.”

It was rather difficult to think of the matron as a superheroine. As Jack had that thought, a vision of her in spandex tights flashed and she directed a look of extreme hostility at him. In irritation, he swatted it away, aided by the guardian host of tidy thinking.

“None of that. I’m telling you the story.”

“So what happened then?”

“I wrapped myself around her waist and she dropped her apron over me. And then we rolled down the mountain. As you can see, she’s well suited to rolling evenly.”

The grin he gave his wife, was one of pure devotion and the lady, brimming with rage only a second ago, was all smiles again.

“But what about the last vestige of control?” said Jack, picturing the foot soldiers at the base of the mountain, the impenetrable (or so he had thought) fortress that no beings such as Jack should have been able to penetrate.

“Gave her a full search, didn’t they?” chuckled the other Jack. The lady was laughing too now, trumpeting in bursts.

“When they felt around her waist, she jiggled so much that it alarmed a few of the guards. Then she said that she had always been chubby and the last few meals that you had been having, especially the lobster, were causing extra tyres and other strange eruptions. Which is why she had to get out of your consciousness before she burst.”

Jack was stumped. He had had a splitting headache when he woke up that morning which he had put down to too much of rich food for dinner and lunch the previous day. Obviously that was the very time, the renegade Jack and his wife had been outwitting his carefully erected barricades. He sighed.

“What now?”

“You are asking us?”

The lady Jill trumpeted at him but her look was triumphant.

“Okay, okay, I know.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, it’s about the book, isn’t it? That’s what has been missing. Opposites can be complementary.”

“Yes, look at the two of us, Jack. Weren’t we meant for each other?” said the other Jack, a blissful look on his face as he kissed Jill on her meaty jowl. The other Jack nodded and turned.

It took him a fair bit of searching but when he finally found what he was looking for, in the back of his son’s cupboard, he knew exactly which page to turn to.

Jack Spratt could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean

When he returned to his desk, the couple had gone. Back into his imagination, ensconced in their rightful home with all correct formalities. He turned to his work. That prologue would not be needed now. He scrolled to the top of the document and deleted the bold line right at the top. He had a new title. He typed it in and read it. Then he backspaced and interchanged two words. The lady had saved the day so it was only proper she be mentioned first.

A Meal For Jill & Jack Spratt hit the stands two months later.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Epilogue: I’m picking up a series I begun a good while ago called ‘I Am Jill’. Those of you who didn’t recognize the reference, it’s inspired by the line “I am Jack’s cold sweat” from the movie Fight Club.

Rockstar

I’ve just discovered a kink in my sexual make-up. I have a thing for gender role switching. That’s not men dressing in lingerie (eww, gross!). It’s a woman who’s sexy because she’s wearing a guy’s long tee-shirt that comes down to mid-thigh. It’s the breath-catching oomph of a rolled-up cuff revealing a slender arm. Or ooh…a chunky, sporty man’s watch on a delicate female wrist.

How about the reverse? Hrithik Roshan gliding across an airport, pink tee-shirt, coloured sunglasses glory, the cool criminal in Dhoom 2. Oh he kills me, he kills me.

But the true master, the one that transcends gender, who takes sexuality beyond female or male has to be Sting. A voice that feels like a caress…of a man’s tongue. When he lifts one foot to step forward and a field of golden corn springs up within him, it makes me think…that’s the kind of sex that makes life, it makes you come alive.

How come all the lead guitarists, the famous ones, the images you have of a rockstar…are all male? There’s obviously something vaguely sexy about a guitar. The curvaceous soundbox, the long phallic arm and what about the strumming? I’ve played the guitar and I know it doesn’t have to be held at crotch-level. And yet, why not? It goes from song-making to love-making.

I’d love to be straddling a guitar with my torso, strumming in tune to the master, letting his melody caress my song.

Ooh….

Oh, it’s my phone. That buzz in my pocket feels so good.

Down with flu. Can’t make it to practice today.

AHEMMM.

My mother’s grim throat-clearing conveys that she is very, very angry about my checking my phone in church.

It’s about choir practice.

Her thin-line mouth is a pointed reminder that we are still in church and I’m talking. I drop my gaze and shut up.

Twenty minutes later, I am settled in as comfortably as is possible in the confessional. Why do they make these seats so uncomfortable? Probably to punish the confessors for the sins they confess to.

Yes, my child.

Father, I have sinned.

Tell me about this thing you have done.

It’s not something I did. I’ve been having…wrong thoughts.

Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep brooding silence. Presumably to make me ponder on my wrongdoing. Shame me into confessing all and purging my sins.

The silence is music. The silence is sexy in its own way.

About what, child?

About three notes too low. But low is good. It takes me higher. Go down, down further, go down on me.

I’ve been thinking of quitting the choir.

The silence is different now. Taut tension knife-edge sharp like the orchestra falling away to leave just that one high-pitched note behind.

I want to be in a rock band instead.

CRRRRRASSSSSHHHHHH.

I take a bow.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Epilogue: This piece was the result of a writing exercise in a fiction-writing workshop conducted by Manisha Lakhe and Annie Zaidi.

The participants were asked to write down one secret, drop it into a box. These were shuffled and everyone was given an anonymous secret and asked to write something about it.

The secret I received was,

Always dreamed of being a lead guitarist and performing with Sting.

The exercise made me think about the kinds of secrets we keep, the smaller ones that may become life-changing decisions some day…or just stay as that random debris in our minds, occasionally seeping over like the stench of sewage into our dreams.

An Idle Mind

A re-telling of this 55-word tale as a writing exercise. Give me your thoughts.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Luke walked out of the door and stretched. It had been awhile since he had gone outside. What next? he wondered. His eyes darted over to Guy lounging about, nearby.

Luke walked over and prodded his sibling with his toe to shake him out of his stupor. He said,

This place really deserves a name, you know?

Guy yawned, his flowing tresses draped over his face in sleepy disdain.

How about ‘Luke’s workshop’?

Luke snorted,

Assuming, as always, that I’m doing all the work? How about ‘The Workshop’?

You’ll never get me in there..! It’s too dark and boring for me. That place gives me the creeps!

shrugged his twin.

You’ll be amazed at some of the the things that turn out of ‘that place’.

Guy didn’t bat an eyelid and drawled,

Whatever….I’m bored.

Luke smirked, a sudden twinkle in his eye and snapped his fingers.

LET THERE BE LIGHT!

The sudden flash jolted Guy out of his reverie and he yelped..

What…the…hey…L!!!!!

All he got for his efforts was a smile. Tossing the smouldering ball over to his twin, Luke observed,

You’re a good kid, if a tad lazy. Besides you’ve given me an idea for a name. This should keep you amused for awhile. Go play!!

And Lucifer went to paint a signboard.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I know this will make some of you think of Mike Carey’s Lucifer. But I actually wrote the 55-word-story a long time before I had even heard of graphic novels or The Sandman and Lucifer series.

I Must Be Dreaming

What a strange dream that was.

Do you ever wonder what your dreams mean? Of course you do, everyone does. There’s a whole genre of study devoted to understanding the interpretation of dreams – from the scientific, medical point of view as well as the esoteric, mystical side. One of the most succint opinions I’ve ever heard on this subject comes from my father,

Dreams are the brain flushing out the waste that it accumulates during the day.

Not to say that I believe that. Well, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Belief is always a convenience thing with me.

I have loads of flying dreams, which Freud claims are about sex. Heh. Whatever.

I occasionally dream of thatha (who by the way, passed away 9 years back). I never dream of him dead or even as a ghost…in that, inside my dream I don’t seem to remember that he’s no more. I open the door and he’s dropped into Mumbai for a surprise visit; I’m arguing with him about something; I’ve received a birthday card from my folks in Delhi with (as was usual that time) a folded piece of paper inside it which is a letter from him. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling to be able to say that my grandfather is alive and well in my dreams.

Then there are the dreams of people long past. An ex-boyfriend, a former best friend and occasionally even people I’ve loathed (like the bullies from school…yuurrrggh). Funnily enough in my dreams, I’m getting along like a house on fire with them. We’re usually laughing, talking, partying and having very intelligent, fun, fulfilling times together. Ah, so that’s what the originator of the phrase ‘only in your dreams!’ was thinking. 🙂

Once in a rare bit there’s a dream of something that really did happen in the past, only things turn out slightly differently. Like we’re walking down a road which on wakefulness, I remember having done. But instead of taking a left like we actually did, we take a right in my dream. Of course that’s metaphorical but hey, you don’t really need to know the exact details of my dreams! Come to think of it, it’s not like even I remember them.

I dream the most when I’m going through some intensely difficult times in my life. A family emergency, a troubled relationship, a stressful time at work – these have been my optimal dreamtimes.

Of course I would have dreamt deeply last night. My mother has been hospitalized this week, after all and discharged only to relapse later. All of this while I am alone, facing the maid-from-hell and water problems. But of course. I will talk about this particular dream though.

Last night, my first online time in about 3 days, I looked into Facebook. I was shunning chat requests from friends online because I just didn’t feel like talking. I could probably have spent some mindless time playing Mafia Wars. But instead I chose to go picking on old scabs. I looked up people from the past (yes, yes, I do that. Everyone does.) whom I’d probably not consider adding to my Friends List for various reasons. No ex-es though, that’s been done to death way enough. But old classmates, friends-of-friends, people I met at a party 2 months back who don’t remember me this week (but I remember them because they’re journos and their pic appears next to their column)…that kind of people.

And in this random melee, I found her. She was the stuff of my nightmares. She partly inspired this post (though I also had a more current, more tangible version to contend with at the time of writing). I’ve never met her, spoken to her or seen her in real life. It’s all in the photographs and memories of his memories. At least what he told me about her. I was intrigued by her, then jealous, then resentful and finally just in pain. I have no idea whether there was any truth in what he said, which means I might be pinning all these emotions on a fictitious character. All I know is her name. That’s good enough to locate a person in this Facebooked age. We’ve got a couple of common FFs (Facebook friends). I haven’t looked her up in ages. On a whim I shot off a message to her, introducing myself. No friendship request though. And then I logged out.

In my dream, she said that contrary to what I thought, she knew of me as well. Then we ceased to talk about how we came to be talking in the first place. She made me laugh though I don’t remember what at. All I know is that she was fun. I believe we were having some sort of picnic somewhere and then had to run away or something. Okay, that sounds even sillier in writing than it does in my thoughts.

I told Astra the other day that sometimes a dream was just a simulation of a real world situation, something that needed to be faced anyway. And we could do it in a dream, play around, take a few risks with our imagination too, just to experience what we may not dare to, in real life. How about that? I never considered having fun with someone I might have such an awkward connection with. Whether I do in real life or not, is immaterial. I just know that in my dreams, I did. And in the end, how does it matter whether we played it out in the conscious universe or the subconscious one?

I have to end this on a cliche, I’m the queen of cliches after all.

You may say I’m a dreamer.

You really may, I won’t take offense.

Love And Longing In Mumbai

Meet me in my dreams
Because that’s the only place I’ll let you exist
Tell me anything you like, your silliest moments, your heartfelt desires
I’ll do my best to make them true
And we’ll live through fantasy

The next morning, when I wake up in my world
And you in yours
Don’t try to hold on to me
Or even feign recognition when you see me
Because I won’t reciprocate

I can be anything you want me to be
All but the one you meet behind closed eyes
Wings are reserved for private flights of fantasy only
Goodnight, stranger.
Hello, fantasy.

An Idle Mind

At the doorway, Luke was saying “This place deserves a name”

The big guy yawned, “I’m bored”

“I’ll cure that” smirked Luke

“Big brothers are such wise guys!”

“Observe, lazy boy”Luke clapped his hands

“LET THERE BE LIGHT”

“Hey….L!” Big Guy squeaked.
“That’s a name…hell! Here…amuse yourself”

And Lucifer went to paint a signboard.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When I got tagged in the 55-word story thing, I thought “Oh, help”. Having managed a couple though, I’m hooked….it is tremendously satisfying…just the sort of creative challenge I was looking for. Since I’ve already tagged people, I’ll leave this open to whoever wants to pick it up. You know the rules..have fun!

What are you afraid of?

Darna Mana Hai…..getting scared is strictly prohibited. Of course I would love to be able to claim that this dictum isn’t valid, because there is nothing that could scare me. “Want to bet?” The movie seems to challenge me as it unfolds into 7 different routes into that murky zone of fear.

A couple of years back the horror movie mania gripped Bollywood in its knarly-knuckled, knobby-fingered, long-clawed hands.So chills became the latest thrills, and we were treated to a feast of scream-riots.

We’ve come a long way haven’t we, from the Ramsay brothers offerings with such gristly titles as “Veerana”, “Dak Bangla” and “Khooni Murda”. The last was my personal favorite, since, unlike the stereotype lonely haunted house ghouls, it featured a group of youngsters sending an over-ardent admirer to his end and then in turns being stalked and murdered by his ‘spirit’…a la “I know what you did last summer” (The ‘inspired’ trend reverses!!!!) For some reason the idea of a spurned lover stalking his lady love and her friends, even after his death was terrifying…not so much for the idea of ‘indestructibility’ that it assumed, but because it was horrible trying to imagine what such a being (?) would do once it got its hands on you…kill you? Torture you? Continue to profess undying (already-dead and still going strong!!!!) love?

Probably the scariest place in the world is right inside your own head. Imagining what could happen is infinitely more terrifying than any possible consequence that could happen. The movie ‘Omen’ hugely successful and an epic in the chilling flicks business did not show a single ghost, one drop of blood or even any threatening dialogues.

George Orwell put his finger on the spot when he wrote about “Room 101” as the ultimate punishment for an offender of the law. “You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. The worst thing in the world, varies from individual to individual.”

How many horrible things are there in the world? What does your favorite can of screams taste of? What are the different ways to scare a person? Lets count..

Classic horror. A honeymooning couple stops on a dark highway for what may be their last stop together….as two human beings. A trembling and slightly comforted wife drives away with her husband, whom she hasn’t noticed, doesn’t reflect in the mirror. Scream, yell, ooooh..

The madness of discipline, the chaos of order. A dusty, restless traveler stops at a wayside motel for a rest and a smoke…and decides to stay on for a longer time than he wants. Apparantly the “Welcome Resthouse” and its fanatically health-conscious proprieter give all their guests a choice – echo the propreiter’s sentiments or join the rest of the guests….in the basement in body bags. Cut to a close-up of two squeaky clean figures watching cartoons – the proprieter and the newly-reformed recent guest.

Are there such things as ghosts seeking revenge? Or is guilt another name for a ghost from the past? Either way, punishment is inevitable, finds the unhappy schoolmaster who can’t cope with the dunce of the class suddenly turning model student. By the way can ghosts lurk behind large soulful eyes, standing 3 feet tall? Teacher, is ‘Om’ short for ominous?

All of us enjoy horrible jokes played on others and watching them getting scared when there isn’t any reason to be…perhaps we’re all sadistic at heart. So of course its even funnier when the joke turns on the tormentor. Of course, he who dresseth as a ghost and maketh a bakra of others too often, may one day be made a bakra himself by a real ghost. Nice to know ghosts have a sense of humour too, even if it is rather deadly.

Time and tide wait for no man. What if they did, just for you? If I could just snap my fingers and the world would stop when I said stop and go only when I asked it to, I would be the most powerful person in the world and no one could stop me….but myself.

My favorite yell-saga was the apple story. An apple a day keeps the doctor away…and it may as well keep your existence away too. For some reason no one I met found this particular story scary. What is so frightening about a harmless, little guy selling apples at rock bottom prices? An apple, so innocuous, so ordinary and plentiful….scary? And yet, what can be more terrifying than the thought that you could be erased, metamorphosed into an apple…by an apple? Or how about the thought that you were the only human being left in a world of…apples? No one to talk to except apples, nothing to eat…but apples. And who was that not so harmless guy who said “Yeh aakri apple…aapko free mein” Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr………..

Yet a lot of people thought this yarn was more funny than scary. Could it be that most people hide behind laughter so they don’t have to confront their deeper fears? Maybe I am just scared of the ordinary. I guess the things that scare you, say a lot about who you are.

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