Short Story 2009 Featured Writers Viplove Sharma

World Stood Still

It was one of those typical Bangalore evenings when one could expect the rains at any blink of the eye. With the cool weather enticing us to slide at every corner of our lawn, the rain most of the times played the spoilsport by turning the lush greens into a pool of mud. That evening we could barely find any hint of green on our pitch and the big raindrops ensured that I would get to play my favorite game – soccer. I loved the sight of Max, gasping for breath, running behind me with absolutely no clue about how he would fetch the ball from me. By the time it was dark the rain had stopped pouring and my goal count had gone beyond Max’s counting capabilities. Now it was time for another downpour – Mom’s cries from the kitchen.

That was the time when I felt so lucky, especially after looking at Max’s sinking face. Homework was something he hated even more than my thundering goals on the field, something which I never had to do. I did not go to school. I wonder why but Mom and Dad never felt necessary, maybe I was smart enough. But I was not spared of the scolding either with the usual words  – “Rocky! Look at you, you’ve gone all wet and stinking. Rob, could you please get this silly boy going?” And Dad, as usual engulfed in the world of TV, unconvincingly tried to pretend that he listened to her. I did not need anyone’s help, I was a grown up, after all I could score more goals than Max.

The twilight turned into a moonlit night and the rain drops gave way to the dew. It was time when everyone slipped into their beds. And it was time when I moved to my lovely home – Rocky’s Home. I wonder how much it would have cost Dad, everybody loved me. My home was right across the lawn which appeared like a swimming pool in the moonlight. I relaxed and pushed my legs into my bed gazing at the moon up in the sky. I always wondered how that sky changed colors and how that fireball became so cool at the night and totally disappeared at times. When everyone slept I remained awake. When everyone went silent I shouted. That was my life, the life that I loved so much living with caring human beings.

My eyes had almost taken me off my duties when Julie broke my sleep with her annoying songs, my usual morning alarm. That was her daily routine when she tried to impress the males in the neighborhood but ultimately turned disappointed with everyone running away from her. So did I, ran towards Dad’s room. It was time for my favorite activity, of course after soccer – morning walk. Dad was just half into his pajama when I dragged the loose leg towards the gate. Every morning was so special for me. So was that one, with the clouds thick enough to prevent the Sun coloring the city, and the cold breeze strong enough to sweep the city. As we stepped out, I could smell the earth that was yet again so fresh.

We jogged all the way to Cubbon Park, Dad’s favorite exercise place, where he did more chatting than exercise. It was time when Dad let me alone to play with my friends. But that day it was not just that time, rather a time I never forgot to remember. It was that sight, the sight that blinded my rest of the world for a moment, just because the sight was my world. I could not hear any voice and my eyes did not move a muscle – all frozen on the flowing hair, all glued to the twinkling eyes. Then the feet moved, and the sound they made was vibrant enough to send ripples down my heart. Was it something real? The state of my mind and my heart suggested it was not. That was the day my world stood bedazzled.

And the very next moment my world came falling down from heavens to earth, and the sight changed to that of a huge man who seemed to have crashed into me and crushed my dream world. Was I daydreaming? Never happened before, but I would say why didn’t it happen before? Before I could complain I saw her again, this time with moving eyes and in the real world. I was not daydreaming, maybe I was living a dream. She was smiling at me, optimistically, but the fact was that she was laughing at me. On any other day it would have been embarrassing but not when I found a reason to catch the attention of the girl every nerve of mine was attending to. A moment later, she was gone. What kind of dream it was?

It was afternoon and the Sun was out bright and beaming when I decided to take a nap in my cooler home. My eyes, that took a while to close, woke up the moment they closed. God, I saw her again, surely in dreams this time. Who was she? Where did she come from? Would I ever see her again? If not in reality I could see her in my dreams and that thought was enough for me to close my eyes hard so that she could not escape from my dreams. That would have turned to be the most romantic nap of my life had I not heard those screams. Not in the dreams but some real ones that I could hear from a striking distance. It was a girl shouting for help. I rushed out, the screams went louder and my feet faster.

The junction of Millers Road and Cunningham Road that was so flooded with walkers in the morning, had a very few humans on that Sunday afternoon, not enough to save the girl. I could sense the situation by looking at seven or eight brats circling her and cracking jokes. Without any doubt in my mind, they were Bozo’s gang. Before I could think of what they could do to her, I was close enough to find out who she was. My other world’s girl, right in front of me in this world of mine! I could not be daydreaming again, I pinched myself. The very next moment erupted a flame of fury in my soul. My dream life, before I could breathe it, was gasping for breath in this life of mine.

Bozo, the head of the gang, made the first move by taking his drooling tongue closer to her. Everyone else found a reason to laugh but I did not. I jumped, which was easily my longest jump ever, right onto Bozo’s face taking both of us tumbling down on the road. That was my best shot, because there was merely a shot from my side after that. As I regained my composure I could see the whole of the gang over me, aiming to match at least what I did a few moments ago. I shouted – “Run girl, run away!” But she was so frightened to hear my words, the words that were barely understandable amidst the thrashing. Every part of my body went numb except my eyes that never moved away from her.

That was the last I could remember, lying on my bed, with my eyes still seeing the fear that cried so nervously down her chubby cheeks. I could not guess which part of my body was not paining but there was a bigger pain that was troubling me – what happened to her? Dad pulled me out of there, I hoped she had someone to save her – what if not? I knew what Bozo’s guys were capable of. No. A bunch of morons could not break my dream. But then what did I do to keep my dream alive? I just tried. But was that enough? The dark of the night was not lending any optimism to me. Then the moon came out, as if trying to console me. I could only thank him. “Thank You” – a meek voice said instead to me. Who was that?

It was definitely not the moon talking. Then was the beating too heavy on my mind, that I was hearing voices? Before I could declare myself sick I saw her, right at the gate. It was her. I could not be wrong even in a cloudy night, even in the state of mind I was in. Although my body was not brave enough to stand up but just the sight of her was enough to break all the barriers of pain and I managed to run towards the gate. “Thank You” – was what I again heard and surely from her that time. I could not say anything as I followed her tears down to her body. She was hurt. What I feared had happened. I decided I’d not keep thinking yet again, and I jumped over the gate. Thanks Max for having taught that.

As she walked towards me to say those two embarrassing words again, I interrupted her with all that I could say – “Sorry!” The weakest of the words was strong enough to break the wall that was holding her tears so far. She cried and I had no word to make her stop, and I did not deserve to have any. After a long period of silence resonating with her sobs the clouds went away with her tears. My friend up in the sky pumped in me some confidence, and I asked her, not so confidently – “Shall we walk?” She did not say anything. She just started walking. We started walking, with our eyes on the black road shining with a tinge of blue. We walked and just walked, no words between us, as there weren’t many.

It was my longest walk ever, strangely, walking the roads that were a matter of a few leaps for me every day. I was blindly following my feet that were somehow following hers. In one of my many efforts to lift my eyes up at her I found out that we were right at the place where we met in the morning. My temptation to speak broke the barriers of silence by blurting out a half-spoken sentence – “Aaa.. Rememberr.. the morning?” I did not expect any miracles from my herculean effort but what I actually got in response was something unexpected – she chuckled! Was it my choice of words or the magic of that place, I could never figure out. Soon the smile turned into a laugh and then the walk got coupled with the talk.

“What’s your name?” Something that I should have asked first, least expected from a nervous starter with girls. “I am Rocky, not as solid as rock though.” I wondered where those words came from and what were they supposed to do. But my words seemed to weave magic that night as she chuckled again. “No you were brave.” The words hit me hard punching failure on my face. “Forget it. What’s your name?” “I don’t have a name, no one gave me a name. In fact there is no one to give one.” How could God leave such beautiful people alone? “You have one now. You are my princess, yes you are Princess from today.” My words again, and a smile that time. “Thanks Rocky. Thanks for everything.”

The chill of the wind and the chirps of the birds woke me up, it was morning, we had slept besides the bench which would soon be occupied. It was time for the morning walk. Dad would be awake. My feet were almost running when my eyes stopped at Princess , stunningly beautiful even with her eyes closed and without a smile. As if she sensed my situation she spoke before I could wake her up – “I think it’s late for you.” I wished it was not. “Let’s go home. I’m sure everyone will love you.” She moved away. “Nobody loves me.” “But I love you. I can’t leave you alone. You are my Princess, remember?” “Thanks Rocky but I can’t come with you.” I pulled her towards me. We banged into each other. We almost kissed. We went home.

I was on top of the world. The wind that refreshed me every morning was something special that day, charging my senses with loads of curiosity and excitement. I knew Dad would be angry but I was ready to take that, anything for Princess, Rocky’s Princess. I expected to meet Dad on the way back or at the least at the gate. The gate wore a barren look and our neighbors were peeping in. As I came nearer I could hear Dad shouting on top of his voice. Was he so angry on me? I never heard him that aloud. I could hear more voices, Mom that time. Something was wrong, was it Max? I flew over the lawn straight into the living room, just to find that everything was pushed to every corner of the room. Our house was robbed.

As I was trying to figure out what used to be in the room and what was missing, Mom walked out of the kitchen. “Rocky! Where were you?” Her subdued words mixed with complaint and concern were loud enough to silence Dad. He looked at me and his face went from pale to furious. And then broke the short-lived silence. “Rocky!! Where the hell were you the whole night? Do you have any clue what has happened because of you?” He kept on shouting at me, and I just listened, that was all I could do. After all I was the watchdog, a fact I had forgotten amidst all the love and care. “Get out of my house! Never dare to step in my house again. Don’t even think of.” That struck me hard. I could barely move but I had to, and I did.

Walking down the steps felt like climbing up a hill and the fresh air of the lawn all of a sudden suffocated me. Rocky’s Home was not smiling at me anymore and my strong urge to kiss it a goodbye got crushed by the strongest of the words I had heard from Dad. The gate that I jumped over last night was wide open and did not come in my way anymore. With tears in my eyes and a last glance at my lost world I stepped on the street to tell Princess that I no more had what I had promised her. My heavy mind received a jolt when I could not find her in the crowd that had gathered on the street. I covered every corner of the street but none of them had her mark. She was gone.

My frozen legs dragging away from the just lost world soon started sprinting looking for the world I did not want to lose. I ran, and I shouted – I gasped for breath and my feet hurt, my eyes were flooded and my throat choked – but I ran, and I shouted. Finally I heard something else apart from my breath. It was Princess, and she was crying. Was it Bozo’s gang again? I was all set to pen the end of Bozo’s story if I saw him. I did not, but I could see Princess in a truck that was parked at a distance. Before I could be anywhere near to the truck it started moving away from me. I put in all that was left in me but unsurprisingly that was no way close to the monster’s speed. Did I lose her?

I lost her. The truck was no longer in sight. I kept running in the same direction as there was no way going back for me. Soon I was in the city. To my delight the truck was parked at a traffic signal. As if some fresh pools of energy had gushed in me I was a rejuvenated soul in a worn out body. That time the truck did not move. “Princess! Where are you going? Come down. I’m dying for you.” She could somehow control her sobs. “They are taking me somewhere. I don’t know where.” A man got down the truck and held me by the neck and checked my strap. I wished he took me as well. But he did not. The truck moved. But I did not. I could have run. But I did not.

That was the day my world stood still. It was a dream world once and the very next moment it was pain. Not so later it was a walk in the heaven, and soon it was a run for life. Moments wavered high and low and brought along smiles and tears, but standing right in the middle of the road, I could sense the flattened world of mine that stood so numbly still. It was all over. No way back home. No home. No place for me in the truck as well. After all I was a pet dog. The strap that used to make me so proud some time back seemed like a noose around my neck that I wished choked me to death. I had lost my home. I just lost my love. Nothing else to lose, but nothing else to want as well. My world had shook, but still it stood still.

It’s been years since I last actually lived. Now I just breathe under the same old bench which has gone a little pale just like my fur. No family for me so that I don’t ditch them. No love for me so that I don’t lose it. But I live on, just to punish myself for what I did not do and what I could not.

 

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