THE OLD MAN

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CHAPTER 10: THE ILLFATED TRAUMA CENTRE

As the doctor examines Prem, Pritam briefs him about what actually transpired. Looking at Pritam’s jittering and animated explanation, the doctor lets out a chuckle.

Pritam (befuddled): He is lying there unconscious… and is that funny for you?

Doctor (smiling): His sugar level has dropped because of the unanticipated fear… Don’t worry; one bottle of glucose will bring him back to consciousness…

Pritam (with animated and comical gestures): I am also scared to the core… and see… I am shivering as a result. Please administer a bottle of glucose on me too…

Doctor (chuckles): No, you won’t need that... I will give you some anti-depressants. That will cool you off… (Looking towards the nurse and pointing at Prem) Please arrange to administer glucose on him.

The nurse does as instructed and leaves. The doctor returns and checks Prem’s pulse.

Doctor (handing over a tablet to Pritam): Take this and rest for some time… I will be back in a few minutes... (As he reaches the door, he points towards a corner table) A jug of water and glass is over there.

After the doctor leaves, Pritam takes the pill and lies down on the adjacent bed.

Not far from them, the old man is very dejected at the loss of his prey. He screams very loudly in desperation. The scream drones the amplitude of the highway.

Jagadeep wakes up Pritam, who had drowned into a shallow slumber. Pritam wakes up in a jiffy to find Jagadeep curiously staring at him.

Jagadeep (in an animated manner): What happened dear? Aren’t you healthy and sane?

Pritam (shaking his head): You are still finding it funny, you … … f##ing A##%%le, (He sits up) Where are the others?

Jagadeep: Pradeep is having a word with the Doctor... And the rest are drunk and asleep at home…

Jagadeep (starts giggling and pointing towards Prem): Unconscious fellow, when are you gonna wake up? (Then he goes towards Prem.)

Jagadeep (shaking Prem): Yo! Prem… Wake up buddy… (Prem mumbles something) Hey, he is mumbling something. (Shaking him with more force) Wake up, bro... Look, who’s here to meet you…,

Prem opens his eyes very slowly, feebly and asks: WHO?

Jagadeep (very seriously): CONSCIOUSNESS…!!!

And then, unable to control his own amusement, Jagadeep laughs his heart out. Pritam also starts laughing.

Prem (smirks a bit and in a feeble voice): Stop joking…That oldie vanished for real…

At this, Pradeep enters the scenario laughing out loud.

Prem (confused): WHY ARE YOU GUYS LAUGHING LIKE THIS??

Pradeep (laughing): Hahahaha… I am really growing curious… Because, Pritam didn’t faint… But YOU, A RATIONAL BEING, fainted…Hahahaha… How is that possible? I can’t believe it… Hahahaha…

Prem (with a daft smile): Pritam always lives in fear and apprehension... So it was just another day for him… He wasn’t startled at all.

Pradeep (interrupting): And you were electrocuted with fear, right? (Prem nods in affirmation.) Hahahaha…

Jagadeep (controlling his laughter): Anyway, you both take rest… I will go and ask the doctor when you guys will be discharged, so that we can take you home.

Jagadeep again starts laughing and goes out. Pradeep strokes Pritam’s and Prem’s hair and looks at them amusingly before laughing his way out.

Prem (amused): Why are they both laughing like this?

Pritam (sarcastically): Coz they now know who the real chicken heart is… Hahahaha…

Prem: Actually, everybody is a coward…You know that only when your time comes…

Pritam (smiles): So now that it has happened to you… you know how it is: to be scared out of your shit… (He jokingly adds) You, a shirking arse.

Prem (turning sideways): Let me rest for some more time... Then poke me as much as you want...

Pritam: Alright … Let me too…

After a few moments…,

Pritam: Why are they not back yet?

Prem: Yeah… I was thinking the same. (And he slowly sits up and looks through the translucent glass partition.)

Prem (clueless): There is no sign of any activity…Can you please go and check…

Pritam (getting up): Hmmm.

He goes out of the room and walks up the corridor, shouting and searching: Jagadeep… Pradeep… doctor… nurse… Where the hell are you all?

He searches the length and breadth of the Trauma Center, and then walks towards the main entrance door. He is dumbstruck and speechless at what he beholds at the door: the very same old man, with a bandaged left ankle, is staring at him with intense hatred. Terror struck, he gasps and remains motionless for a very few moments before gawkily and clumsily attempting to get away. Vanquished by fear, he runs back to the room, slipping and balancing here and there on the smooth polished floor, like a giraffe performing ballet and dementedly screaming: fucking demon…! Get off me, please, get off me… In the name God, GO AWAY...

Just before reaching the room, Pritam slips… and unable to maintain his balance, comes thrashing to the ground. Instead of standing up, fright coerces him to quickly crawl back to the safety of their room without wasting another moment.

Seeing Pritam in such a dire condition, Prem manages to stand up and asks: What happened…? Where are the others?

Pritam (looking at Prem and pointing towards the door, mumbles): There… He is there… There… The demon... The very same oldie…

Under the influence of the newly induced fear, Prem removes the glucose needle and impromptu walks towards Pritam and helps him to stand up.

Prem (looking here and there): Where is that damned thing?

Pritam (still gasping for breath): He is just around the corner… (Moving aside) Quickly close the door…

Prem (in a frightened jittery motion): Yeah… yeah…

As Prem is about to close the door, Jagadeep and Pradeep enter the corridor, laughing madly. Prem comes out of the room, followed by Pritam. The doctor and the nurse also join them in laughing, like maniacs. Pritam and Prem are flabbergasted and shocked. Confused at the turn of events, they look at each other.

Prem (suspiciously looks at every one and stutters): Whh... Wh...Why are you all laughing?

To which they laugh even more vigorously. Prem gets even more suspicious and frightened; he steps back.

Suddenly the old man enters.

Pritam (swiftly stepping back): The damned demon is right behind you. Why the hell are you laughing?

Jagadeep (still laughing): Demon? Where?

The old man firmly advances towards Pritam with an angry look. Scared, Pritam staggers back and grabbing Prem tries to shield himself. But Prem, in turn, maneuvers himself out of Pritam’s clutches and projecting Pritam ahead, exasperatedly bursts out: There, he is… right behind you…!

Old man (angry): RASCALS… I am no Demon!

Prem and Pritam are still frightened and out of their wits. Still keeping Pritam as his shield, Prem stutters: Th…TH…Then wh…who are you…aa…aa…and... h.h…How did you vanish?

Old man (very angry): Frightened by the stray dogs, you drove like a maniac on the pothole-ridden road… And you bloody mother fuckers were so stoned by fear that you didn’t even notice that I fell off the motorbike… And now how dare you accuse me of vanishing into thin air???

Prem let go of Pritam. And realizing their folly, they look at each other with embarrassment.

Everybody is still laughing…

Old man (angry): You filthy dogs, answer me… Why did you leave me there at destiny’s mercy?

(Pointing at Pradeep and Jagadeep) If it wasn’t for them, I would be still helplessly lying there.

(Coming to terms with reality, Prem and Pritam give a daft smile.)

Old man (shouts very loudly): What is so funny about this?

Everybody is stunned by the old man’s abnormally loud sound. Strong winds gush through the Trauma Centre, coaxing an impenetrable silence. In oblivion, all stare at the old man, but the old man is staring at Prem and Pritam with unsinkable anger. Prem and Pritam are shocked into a limbo. The surroundings palpitate; and in a split second, the old man starts laughing his head off…

Old man: Hahahahaha… How foolish of you… Me, a demon… Hahahaha…

The old man guffaws out, and the rest blend in with him. Prem and Pritam shed their embarrassment and join the euphoria. They all heehaw till they dry up their energies. After some moments of delight, everybody composes. But the old man’s laughter refuses to die down.

Jagadeep (beaming): Sir, it seems your laughter is refusing to die down anytime soon.

Pritam (beaming, pointing at Prem and Pritam): He appears to be enjoying their daft faces.

Old man (still laughing madly): Now, I will enjoy the fruits of my night long labor…

Prem (confused): What do you mean?

Old man (stops laughing and with a questioning smile): Do you know, who I am?

Pradeep (beaming): No! Tell us, we are all ears…

Old man (with a pity smile): What will you gain by knowing my reality?

Then, he again starts laughing.

Pradeep (a bit apprehensive): We didn’t get you…

The old man’s laughter spurts out even louder and he gestures to have patience.

Old man (controlling his laughter): Behold! The real ME!

Then he becomes grim and looks down. He stands there without making another sound. The rest, look at him with bated breath and anticipation.

After a few moments, with a dreaded smile, he starts lifting his face. And as he slowly lifts his face, it starts morphing into something ferociously devilish. His eyes becomes bloody red and large… ears turns to that of a goblin… his protruded nose flattens out giving way to his mouth to extrude out…

Everybody is scared out of their day lights. His head becomes huge and then he opens his monstrous mouth with numerous filthy teeth, placed absurdly. Life energy oozes out of the Trauma Center and its inmates.

Revealing his cannibalistic streak he pounces on them and without a drop of mercy, barbarically devours them all.

Everything blacks out and there is a loud belching sound.

A bunch of wild dogs are gratefully ripping on human bones, very lovingly and caringly fed by the old man. Then, the distant sound of an oncoming two wheeler tickles the Old Man’s attention. Turning his head he looks towards the empty road with a cruel sneer.

On the lonely highway, the old man is again on his prowl.

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