I felt it. It was so palpable. The rush of peace. Smoothing out every wrinkle in your heart and spreading serenity across your veins. It was only the visuals that were damned. It felt like it was happening somewhere else and to someone else. His screams went beyond my concern; the rattling in the chair felt so trivial. I plucked his hair out by a bunch. Oh, such delight! This was a way to get my closure every now and then. Forgiveness, Sanity and Justice were just words uttered by the helpless. Sometimes, all you need to do is feed the demon inside with enough violence. Afterall, like your heart, the demon is a part of you.
If we can’t ignore love, why should we ignore menace? This pathetic human before me never gave me chance to escape. Why would I offer him relief?
It was around six months ago. I’d booked a cab home from my workplace. Where I worked is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it usually took me an hour to reach home. And that it was the middle of the night, rather half past one. I got in the cab talking to Arjun asking him how Mumbai was, this time of the year. He was staying there on deputation for three months. I had flown to Mumbai the previous month and had spent a long weekend there. It was his turn to come, this time around. I talked about how my projects were overwhelming me and how I was thinking of switching companies. The cab driver started the trip and drove beyond the IT park. Our conversations browsed over topics varying from our parents – his in Vizag and mine in Daman, our Goa trip later this year, our ever postponing marriage, and even real estate for some reason . The cab crossed the lights and took the secluded ring road turn.
In hindsight, it was in that moment that I made a huge error. I told him I felt alone without him and asked him when he’d be returning.
The driver picked this up. He lingered on for a few minutes after I got off the cab at my place – a villa passed on to me by my dad’s friend who wanted someone to stay there and take care of the place. I personally could never have afforded a place like it and therefore couldn’t afford security. And the crime happened two nights later. He let himself in, somehow and destroyed everything in me. His toe nails scratched my thighs, his hands gripped onto one of the bedposts and before I could react, he hit me. A barrage of blows, a series of slaps and I blacked out. Look at the irony then. And now, my culprit lays in front of me; tied up, helpless and unconscious from pain.
Arjun and Freida walked up the stairs turning off the lights on their way. A thin inclined glimmer of light appeared as the door was opened and closed. The captive man spat on the ground Freida stood at. Blood dripped down his jawline, brushed his lips, and formed droplets. He tried moving his left leg, but even the slightest movement surged an uncontrollable pain within. His right leg, however, remained unhurt. It seemed that Freida’s aim had been that perfect. In the darkness, the man rattled even more.
There was one thing his prisoners had forgotten to do. The one simple act of tightening his bounds.
Every week, they would come in, cover his head, untie and retie his bounds tightly enough. This week was an exception and that was the only slim chance of survival, he’d reached at in months.
As soon as they closed the door behind them, Freida grabbed hold of Arjun and pinned him to the wall. She was overpowered by unexplainable desire to have him. She kissed him furiously until his lips answered back. She let her hands run wild, all over him and tore his shirt open. She was both restless and peaceful. She was giving and taking, captivated and capturing, burning and melting at the same time. There wasn’t time – not within him, not within her; they worked out blindly all that was them. His hands unbuttoned her pants, as she stood up on her toes. Thereafter, her t-shirt was swiftly rolled up and thrown away. She wound her legs around him, as he lifted her up. She pulled him within, pressing his face to her chest, as he felt her. Raw and warm. He entered her, taking her weight on his thighs and her burden on his heart.
She was holding universes in her palm. Mine – Now, Then And Ever. And I had, just the dust of my being
The Man In The Basement.
The man pushed harder and swung the chair sideways. The arms of the chair creaked. With all the strength left in him, he moved some more. Finally, the weakness in the rope gave in. The left arm of the chair broke out. Within moments, his desperation to free himself broke away everything that pinned him down. For the first time in a month or two, he stood up. His bones had long given up on any hope; he wobbled and crashed to the floor. His left knee accidentally took his weight. He covered his mouth tightly, before he could scream. He lay there, waiting for the pain to subside. In total darkness, all he knew of his escape was that there were steps that led to a door, twenty odd feet to his left. But what could he do to bring the door down? That was a question he had to answer before the light came in in the morning. He hoped for something to go in his favour. One percent of fortune. Anything. And fatefully, it did.
‘Is this going to end?’, Arjun said turning to face her. They had managed to hit the bed in the process of loving each other. They lay naked, not uttering a word. Until Arjun spoke.
‘I don’t know. I want it to end, you know, I just… I don’t know’,
Freida spoke with a shiver in her voice, as if she had answered him a thousand times already. Maybe she had, within herself, whenever he looked at her.
‘It’s ok Fry, It’s just… I don’t know how long can we keep him like that!’,
Arjun said, somehow knowing that there’d be only one end to the whole chaos. The Man down in the basement was never getting out.
‘We won’t, hon… He won’t keep him for long’,
Freida curled up in her blanket and closed her eyes. Arjun remained still contemplating what he’d done.
Was his life the source of Freida’s nightmares and hallucinations? By tormenting him wasn’t she scarring herself?
And today, the way he had seen her in that trial room was something more. He couldn’t sleep. His love for her wouldn’t let him. The man in the basement, by staying alive, was killing Freida. Arjun hadn’t been able to shake away that idea. The moment he closed his eyes, he saw the extremely vivid image of Freida on the wooden floor. Naked and bruised. And he had enough of it.
Arjun waited for her to slump into the deeper sleep. He picked up Freida’s Broken Watch from the side table and checked the time. The hands of the watch were stuck at two fifteen, for the past six months. A long deep crack on the glass and a minor dent ensured that they, in fact, didn’t move. It was ten minutes to go for two fifteen. Arjun had to do something he never imagined he would do. But then sometimes, he thought –
Love isn’t just about treating her like an angel. Sometimes, it is also about you becoming the devil for her to remain that.
Things For Love.
He unlocked the basement door, slowly turning the knob. He switched on the lights as he stepped down and glanced at the man still in the chair. He remembered placing the hammer on a shelf beside the staircase. He got to the shelf and searched for it. Before he could understand that it was missing and the reason behind it, something hit him hard on his head. He stumbled forward, hitting the wall, and falling down. He turned to look at the man, who was adjusting his grip to the edge of the hammer. Then he took a long swing and hit Arjun on the skull.
There was a soft thud and slowly the blood dripped from his hair down. With one stroke, Arjun was murdered by the man he wanted to end.
The limping man dragged a dead Arjun to the chair and pulled him up to sit on it. He bound him to the pole behind the chair, hands thrown back and legs tied up together. And hit him more with the hammer. Until every bone crackled and skin peeled away at his arms and legs. He limped to the corner of the room and sat down below the tap. Water dripped down his bloodied face, as he shivered and cried clutching his shoulders together.
He had this uncontrollable urge to have her, as soon as he had laid his eyes upon her. Something felt so indispensable to a man who had never touched a woman and probably jerked off a million times by then. Yet this woman he picked up at Hitex made him want to be more. He wanted to have her, as he looked at her pale blue eyes and a pearl-fair skin.
Was it a crime? To sleep with a person, to make love to her, when she was a beautiful like none other.
An irresistible urge consumed him all through the trip. Her every word resounded within his mind a million times.
The way she spoke to her husband, the way she nodded, the way she giggled, everything that he saw of her seemed so heavenly and sensual. His palms on the steering wheel felt cold and sweaty, and his pants bulged. Was it possible to jerk off without touching?
Well wasn’t it, after all, a wet dream. He controlled. But her fragrance, her broken Hindi, her pleasant voice, captured him and bound him to his fate. An inescapable fate. He completed the trip, stayed at her gate for a minute. Trying to record her till the very last moment before she disappeared behind a grill. Then, he drove the cab to a secluded spot, and shifted to the back seat and opened his pants. He tried inhaling all of her and reliving everything about her. He had an erection like never before. But, come what may, he couldn’t put it to rest. He couldn’t imagine her effectively. Then a thought flashed across his mind. She’d be alone until next week, wouldn’t she? Wouldn’t she be worth the effort, worth the crime?
He cancelled all the rides the next day. He waited to see her, to follow her around the city. It was a Saturday. He remembered vividly as she went to have a couple of drinks at a lounge. She appeared again after four hours, accompanied by a group of friends.
The man reversed his car into darkness, lurking in it for the woman vehemently. She had become his religion. One which asked him to prey.
At the stroke of midnight the next day, his urge overcame him. He looked at himself in the mirror inside his car. He could see bloodshot eyes, trembling lips, and a burning face. He parked the cab, right in front of the car, and left the right turn signal on. He honked multiple times and quickly got out of the cab.
He took care of placing the cab in a position conveniently so that only the rear part – from the back door till the tail lamp – appeared visible to someone looking from the door. He waited for a few moments, contemplating what was needed to be done. He jumped over the gate. He could hear footsteps approaching and he hid. He could feel that the woman was looking through the peephole. It was a trap and she’d fall for it. She was expecting her husband, and what looked like a waiting cab was a perfect lure.
He prayed within himself that she wouldn’t notice the lack of movement. And she didn’t.
She opened the door and walked to the gate. The man could see her peeking out of the gate for a moment. She adjusted her t-shirt and closed the gate. And there it was. The man’s window of opportunity.
After the screams muted, after the struggle rescinded, after a life was violated, after he had taken what made screeching sounds in his mind, he punched her twice in her face to get her unconscious. He had to consume her in absolute serenity. And he did. The calmest and the most glorious moments of his existence came in those few minutes of muted silence. Once he was done, he understood what he’d done to her. He sat up and pulled up his pants. Then, he did something that surprised even himself. He got down the bed and sat on the floor cross-legged. Just staring at her. For hours and hours together. He saw her valiantly breathing and helplessly trembling. He sat there for hours and hours together. Watching her move, twitch, turn and tire. He didn’t want to leave.
The night behind him, slowly crackled with daylight, and her husband came home. The woman had noticed her violator just stay there with a pleasant smile on his face.
The husband hit the man hard and he did not protest. And from then till now, he had been a captive. The man presently cried and cried under the tap.
The man washed out whatever he could. He limped to the chair, gripped Arjun’s hair, moved his head up and down. After ensuring that the husband was dead, he limped to the stairs and pulled himself up one step at a time. He turned the knob and got out. He looked to his right and saw the main door, one which he had entered through decades back. And to his left, a two-step platform that led to the bedroom. The choice was obvious to him. He walked left.
He saw her sleeping peacefully on the bed. She looked calmer and more beautiful than she had when she had broken his knee. He slowly limped to the vacant side of the bed and slept beside her. Never touching her or feeling her breath. He just lay straight, face turned towards her.
A small strand of hair, brushed over her face and her nose twitched a bit. He carefully picked the strand and placed it over her ear. The wetness from his earlier wash seeped into the blankets and mattress. He turned himself to face Freida.
She felt something and shook her head. Her eyes opened to see not Arjun but the man. She fully opened her eyes and yet the face didn’t change. She stared right at the person who scarred her. Deep into his eyes. Unflinching and courageous. No one moved, spoke or made any sound. And just as strangely, Freida drowsily closed her eyes and went back to sleep, oblivious to Arjun’s fate downstairs
(To be continued…)