Apocalypse and the Asylum

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Emil’s lease on the apartment was up and he was moving three-blocks due east to a new apartment with a better, unimpeded view. Of an abandoned construction-site.

After a thorough inspection of his present apartment, the building superintendent had concluded that the walls looked duller than they used to be, and Emil’s security deposit was forfeited. “Where are you moving, huh?” he asked Emil, “Where else will you find a better, cheaper apartment than what we gave you here?”

Emil did not tell him that he had already found a cheaper apartment. He said, I am only interested in finding a better apartment, and marched the superintendent out the door. But the truth is that his decision to not renew the lease was a decision borne out of necessity.

Proverbial Advertising had failed to weather the financial crisis, lost too many clients, held too many meetings that meandered on for too long and yielded nothing productive, and finally gone bust four months ago. Unemployment suited Emil well.

Every day was a weekend.

He kept his alarm ringing at 7:00 AM every day because he enjoyed emerging out of his blankets, turning the alarm off instead of pressing snooze, and going back to sleep. But very soon, he had lost all track of what day of the week it was. Then the date of the month. AM and PM lost all relevance and Emil knew that he had to find a job soon.

He dipped his toes into the job-search pool it and did not like the experience one bit. But he went on ahead with it. When nothing materialized, Emil put job-hunting on the back-burner and focused on apartment-hunting, which turned out to be much easier.

It had something to do with the direction of the movement of money, Emil concluded.

Masum bhai was the only person from Proverbial he had been in contact with recently, probably also the only person from Proverbial to have found employment again. “Do you have a new job already, Emil? Would you like to work with me again?” he had asked over the phone a week ago.

“I don’t know, are there any vacancies in your new work?” he asked, “Look into it and let me know.” Emil knew there were vacancies. That was why he had called Masum bhai. Big organizations such as that always had vacancies or room for one more employee. And now that Emil and Sania were no longer dating, Emil found he had no qualms with working for Sania’s father.

But it was better, he had concluded, to go through Masum bhai than Sania. She had not yet forgiven Inora and Emil for walking in on her that Thursday instead of knocking. Neither had she forgiven him for taking that picture of her contorted in that position. There was a flash after all. She knew immediately someone had taken a picture. She had snatched Emil’s phone away from him as he was trying to show her that he had taken no pictures, and smashed it on the floor, the way they had smashed his bed as well.

And then, she had proceeded to scamper around the room, searching for her discarded clothes that did not materialized again. Did they decay out of existence since time moves so quickly on Earth? Did they wear-out from friction burn? Or was it Blankie again, looking out for Emil?

These things are difficult to say with certainty.

And the Earth healed itself.

It healed itself in the most peculiarly Earthly manner.

Granted, the people were assailed on two-fronts. The heavens were torn asunder as fireballs and meteorites rained down from the sky. And commerce was also torn asunder as bar-charts and trend-lines crashed down from their lofty heights down to the ground. People in shabby clothes and funny hats made apocalyptic prophecies about the future of life and existence itself, while people in tailored-suits and nice hair made apocalyptic forecasts about the future of world economy.

Multitude of people, later dubbed as the ‘doomies’, headed out of the cities and gathered in large numbers in empty fields, meadows, and the countryside, waiting for the end to take them over. They stayed overnight, and nothing happened. So they sent a guy to get them coffee and donuts for breakfast and stayed another day. They stayed a week and soon realized that without proper planning and organization, this wait was going to become a logistical nightmare.

They erected tents and other temporary constructions to see them through the waiting period for the end. It rained and then it was winter, and tents gave away to log-cabins and as of last reporting, they were constructing brick and mortar buildings for the adherents. They were building sanctuaries where they gathered once a week to discuss just how long the wait was going to last and what would be the best use of their time in the meantime.

They were accepting new people into their ranks every day. They were already sending people out into the world, winning over new converts, preaching and proselytizing. They were already accepting donations and paying no taxes. It would not be long now, they all knew. Their watch was almost over.

The economy too would recover soon enough and reach the dizzying pre-crisis heights. That, after all, is the indomitable spirit of commerce.

The only bone of contention between these two groups of people is that they both believe that they will be the first ones to get what they want. To this hope, they are slavishly devoted.

As far as the Earth was concerned, it was business as usual.

Emil rang the bell and Inora opened the door and invited him in. “Thanks for picking him up.” She said, “Come, sit.”

Inora and Emil sat down on a sofa. Marco was in his carrier, trying to paw Inora through the bars. “I had a pleasant walk.” Emil replied, “Plus, you’re busy and I’m unemployed.”

“All packed?”

“Yeah. I have the van coming tomorrow, picking up everything and delivering to the new house. Is this going to be a long trip for you?”

“It seems that way. At least a week.”


“First international assignment in over a year. I am very excited.”

“I’m glad things have finally turned around for Whimsy.”

“The AI helped. Our circulations have tripled. How is your job-hunting going?”

“I’ll be working for Sania’s father.” Emil said.

“Masum bhai?”

“Masum bhai.”

“And does Sania know her fiancé and ex-boyfriend are conspiring behind her back?”

Emil chuckled, “I don’t have to deal with that anymore. Let Masum bhai deal with her.”

“You don’t deal with your girlfriend, Emil. It should not be such an imposition. Are you at least treating Arifa better?”

“She hasn’t complained yet.”

“When do I get to meet her?” Inora asked.

“Soon. As soon as you come back. She can’t wait. A regular reader of Whimsy.” Emil said.

Inora laughed, “She already sound weird. I’ll get her a free subscription.”

Emil picked up Marco’s carrier. They hugged at the door and Marco did not like that. He mewed loudly and Inora had to calm him down, “Mew mew, Marco. Mew.”

“Be careful.” Emil said, heading down the stairs, “Come back healthy.”

“You too. Take care.” Inora said before closing the door.

Later than night, well past 2 AM, Emil was still struggling to fall asleep. Marco was sleeping peacefully on the couch. Emil scratched his head. He did not stir. “Hi, Rehana.” Emil raised his voice and said. The curtains were drawn, and he could not see, but he knew she was there. “Hi.” She said, “Do you want chicken?”

“No Rehana, thank you. I have a question for you.”


“You have watched me for a long time, right?”

“I have watched you for long time.”

“Can you tell me what happens to my pajama-bottoms?” he asked, “Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I find them missing…actually, no. I don’t find them at all. Missing or otherwise. They are just gone. You know?” Emil got off the bed, went to the window and drew the curtains away. “Rehana, do you know what happens to my pajama-bottoms as I sleep? Have you noticed anything?”

There was a moment when no one said anything and Emil and Rehana stared at each other. Then Rehana quietly adjusted her saree, then she turned around, and gently walked out of the kitchen. And if she knew anything about Blankie, or Emil’s pajama-bottoms, she never told Emil anything about them because that was the last-time they saw each other.

In the morning, she was not there. The movers packed the meagre belongings of Emil’s three-room apartment and delivered them to the new house.

Emil decided to walk the three-blocks with Marco. It was the weekends, after all. He could take it easy.

And he moved three-blocks away, never to return again.

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