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The restless and relentless pursuit of emptiness

By G S Murthy All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy


There was this guy who could not rest. He absolutely had no rest. And he was not happy.

This is where our story starts. Since it’s a dark and gritty story of human loathing and contempt, or so it seems as life begins that way for some, we could name it, which I think is appropriate for stories like these to have a like name, "The restless and relentless pursuit of emptiness".

The house was empty when he walked in. Tired though he was, he knew the kitchen sink had to be attended to first. The mossy smell of wet cloth draped on something rotting made his eyes smart and he grimaced. He didn’t have time for this. He didn’t have time for anything. There was work to do. The item at the top of the priority list was a session of self-loathing in the tub, the grime of a weary day being rid of and a new layer of grime composed of guilt and a bit more self-loathing replacing it.

The clean vessels gave him a small respite and he thought 'why do I think unwanted things when I am washing?’ He thought a bit more and gave up. Wasn’t this a routine? He fed the elusive cat, which never showed up and which didn’t love him and sauntered off into the bathroom. A week’s stubble had made his nose look smaller. He took a small comfort in that too. Something’s different he thought. Something was always different, like the books he read. Fantasies that took him into a different world. Where he lived a different life. It seemed that the soap in the soap stand was a different color from what it was the previous day and little things like that. It’s the lights he concluded as he surveyed his face again. He looked older and a bit, he didn’t know how to put it exactly, probably small? His stomach rumbled then, a deep rumble of a forgotten meal and an apple half eaten in the bag. He grimaced again at the thought of apples. Apples were not food he thought. And he still couldn’t just stop buying them. It was like everything else in his life. Buying things that he hated. Doing things that he hated and more than anything else, living a life he hated. Succinctly put, he hated living.

He ran the water and sat on the toilet commode waiting for the tub to be half-filled and wishing the water were both warm and cold at the same time. Who thinks like this he chuckled, a little bemused. He had a feeling that he thought more than an average man. An average man didn’t worry so much about things and he wished he was 'average'. It was not his IQ, it was never much to begin with. It was more than average, but not on a super genius level. So it is just my brain that works too much he concluded. An average man probably puts his body to work on a level with his brain, but how could anyone know the trick to it?

As he eased into the tub, the water was oddly soothing. He got up again on a thought. He had not added the Epsom salts. The crackle and little fish like nibbles of the salt would be comforting. He was all about comfort this night. Well, it was a start. A start, he thought before the storm hit again. A slowly and tantalizingly advancing storm of mind numbing stress. The salts would be like a flicker of hope in the back of his mind, never really reaching him or affecting him, but they would be there. Almost within reach. The salts hissed and crackled as it settled at the bottom of the tub. Swirling and moving on its own accord at the bottom of the tub much like an eel or a sea snake slithering along the ocean floor looking for whatever it ate.

He woke up with a start and realized that the shower curtain was obscuring his vision. The dim light of the bathroom appearing in myriad colors and the water cold and bubbly as it sloshed over his face. Why would the water be bubbly? He thought. The Epsom salts don’t make the water frothy. As he pondered over this a couple more minutes, it hit him that he couldn’t move his body. It was like his muscles were paralyzed or what he thought as still being ‘Asleep’.  Not another episode of lucid dreaming he moaned softly, the water gurgling in his mouth. But this felt different. Not his usual lucid dreaming experience. This felt more ‘Real’.  

He felt the tub lurch, then. A feeling of nausea hit him in waves and his head began to swim. It was like being underwater, all sounds muted out and the world moving around him slowly. The shower curtains blew off in a gust of wind and his ears closed up. A feeling of being in a plane when it took off and the altitude making the ears and tonsils cramped up together in a slow and agonizing throb.

Then the world changed. It was bright and it was painful. There were stone walls that appeared to be looming, menacing and closing up on him.  He was looking at a flood of lights which hovered over his head, like in a surgery before the mask of anesthesia is clamped over the nose. He blinked hot tears and closed his eyes. And he slept. If this was death, he thought, it might as well end now before it became a torment. And he smiled an unwilling smile. A blissful smile. Embracing it like a toy long wished for.  

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