“Old people disappear all
the time here.”
This made me uneasy. The first person I try to make an acquaintance with has already been successful in making me apprehensive of this new town.
New town. New people. A new life.
Same old dread.
All I ever wanted was some peace of mind. So I left my hectic, high-profile job for a quieter life. A nice, small place where I wouldn’t be bothered and would live my life happily forever. And now this.
Talk about irony.
Trying to comfort myself of being still in my mid-20s, I joked, “Well what about young people?”
The man opened one of his eyes and leered. He spat and looked at me again. Then he spoke in a low, grave voice. “Young people? What young people?”
I looked around. Most of the people either had a walking stick or trudged with great difficulty. Wrinkles, bald heads and saggy skin. This was definitely weird. No young people around. Not one. Except me.
I had moved into a small house with a kitchen and a room. Nothing fancy. Nothing that could remind me of the past. I had left it all behind—the expensive studio, the Vividus bed, the Rolex watch, the Lamborghini Aventador, the pregnant wife, the dying mum, the dead dog. I had deleted all my online accounts, thrown my cellphone into the river on the way here. I took out all the cash I had. I just wanted to disappear. I got up, undressed and went into the bathroom. I looked into the mirror and smiled at myself. Handsome face, decent jawline, a muscular Adonis in the prime of his youth. I looked closely at myself. A white hair! Shit. I snatched at it like it was some weed and sent it whirling down, slowly into the dustbin.
That night I couldn’t sleep. Each time I tried
to close my eyes, something or the other woke me up. The slight scratching on
the window, the probable knock on the door, the howling wind, the rustle of
leaves. Hours passed. Somewhere around morning, silence ensued, and I fell
asleep. I started dreaming.
I was relaxing myself on the beach. A sunny day. Boys playing volleyball. Women sunbathing in their skimpy outfits. Children building sand castles. Peace of mind, finally. The very next moment, it all turned dark. I stood up and looked around. There was nobody. The waves that seemed pleasant earlier had now started billowing. They seemed to get larger with every passing minute and then, they started chasing me as if they wanted to devour me.
I ran. I looked back. The vicious waves chased me like a beast pursuing its prey. I turned and ran for my life. I could see something far away. Some light, something. “A door!” I shouted, “The door!!”
I woke up in a frenzy. Unconsciously, I ran for the door but my knees began to buckle. My back was hurting. I felt impotent as I reached the door with great difficulty. I looked at my hands. Thin and weak and wrinkly. As I opened the door, I found the same man I’d met earlier leering at me. “It’s time,” he said and spat.He was wearing an old hoodie and had a rusty scythe in his hand. He kept looking at his watch. I tried to make out the time but couldn’t. I tried to speak but found my tongue lolling freely in a maw with no teeth. My head began to spin and I desperately clasped it with both hands. I was bald.
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