The man opened his eyes. It was eternal darkness. His memories didn’t come to his aid and no matter how much he squinted his eyes , he could not make out anything. He could feel himself bound to a chair by tapes and ropes. There was a faint smell in the air. He couldn’t recognize it. He breathed evenly , composing himself and thinking. That was the best thing he could do. A door creaked open which was followed by a couple of minutes of silent. Another breath sound came from the other side of the room.
‘Where am I ?’ Grey shouted into the darkness.
A smooth albeit gruffy tone replied , ‘ Aren’t the usual investigative aspects of sound , smell helping you to just recognize where you are. But then , the room is soundproof and the smell well it is a mixture of a lot of things.’ A silence followed , after which the voice said , ‘ In betwixt the curling smokes of desolation , lies my lair of chaotic silence.’
A light bulb hanging over his head lit up , catching Grey off guard. Momentarily , he could not open his eyes to see.
‘ Oh Mr. Grey. Did I startle you ?’ , said the gruffy voice, slowly coming forward. ‘Heavens , we don’t want that , do we now ? But then you are the Grey , so how are you today ?’ By then the light has adjusted and Grey could look at that grotesque mask.
‘Oh my face, did that startle you , yet again ?’, the figure coolly said.
‘ A disguise is only as good as the mind that crafts it ’, Grey replied , slowly regaining his composure.
‘ Was that a compliment ? woo- Mr. Grey , flattering me already ?’
‘ The art of flattery is a deception and deceptions are tools that are meant for petty people. The devil in the dark does not flatter people like you , Lazarus. ‘
‘ Finally , ha-! I was starting to wonder if they brought somebody else in place of you. I mean , you are not that good that you could have comprehended your kidnapping. You see , you are right , there are people like me and we don’t like to be flattered. But the difference between them and me , is I know to act.’
Grey’s jaw hardened. He really did not see that coming. A ride in a cab did not steer his suspicions.
‘ Ta-da , ta-da. You know – you know I really am happy to meet you. You have been bugging me for a month now. Prying in my works with your grayish nose , forgetting your manners , showing up at obscene hours at different places , asking questions of all kind.’ He pauses and looks away at the other end of the room for a moment. ‘ And you are intelligent. Oh , I will give you that. My first enquiries led me onto a goose chase. I couldn’t really find you.’
Grey interrupted ,’ In chess , the pawns go first , then there are rooks and bishops and finally the queen and king.’
‘So , Mr. Grey –‘
‘Oh , please , call me just Grey.’
‘So , Grey you imply that you are that king ?’
‘ No’-Grey smiled-‘ I’m the hand that is controlling the pieces.’
‘You know what , that is nice. You got brains and you soon would have figured something out. And then the dogs are going to be after me.’
‘Hey !,’ Grey chuckled. ‘ So if you are going to kill me , be done with it already.’
‘ooooh-ooooh, I’m scared , I’m scared,’ the figure said in a funny voice , waving his hands rapidly. Suddenly he stopped ,’ Kill you ? No no-nonononono.. I brought you here today to see a show.’ The figure stood up ,elegantly moving about the room. ‘ There will be rapture , shouts, blade works. You will be awed , you will learn something new, your knowledge,’ tapping Grey’s head, ’might just expand. Although , I can’t promise fireworks , that’s a probability. I never go for them until the very end.’
Grey looked up inquisitively. ‘ What show?’
‘ My show , a little something I put together for this special afternoon. I haven’t rehearsed particularly for today so you would have to bear with me. Oh , look a little cheerful Mr. Grey ,’ he widened Grey’s lips into a smile with his fingers ,’ I am giving you the floor tickets to the Lazarus Show, but don’t expect the holy book events of it, here it is going to be opposite.’ He went up to the door and switched on the electric lights in the room to reveal that there were four more persons lying in the room , tied and gagged. There was a table upon which there was a tray having couple of surgical blades , tapes , bunch of papers, a pen and a gun. Lazarus was wearing a black suit and matching trousers. Not an inch of his skin was visible. The mask covered his hairs too.
He cocked his head to the right looking at Grey. ‘ So , let us begin.’ His voice seemed immensely pleased.
‘ Human emotions are one of the trickiest thing that science has yet to rationalize. They have spoken about the chemical reactions and their actions and subsequent mixings result in different emotions but why those chemical , what leads to those , why the points are different for different people , science has failed to answer. There are theories , sets of emotions that any normal person will go through under a given set of circumstances. Today , I am going to present in front of you my theories and deep philosophies on people’s threshold , on killing and on conscience. Before I proceed , I am going to’-coming forward and taping Grey’s mouth,-‘ do that. As a performer , we only wish and hope for applaud from the audience and I hardly think you are going abide by that.’ Lazarus walked over to the first body lying on his right. He turned the body and looked at the paper posted on the forehead. ‘Father’, he shouted. And one by one , he went over to each of them , read their foreheads and acquainted them with Grey as ‘Mother, Daughter , Uncle.’ ‘ A happy little family , if there ever was one.’ , he went on , mimicking tears in his eyes. Finishing with the introductions , he came back to his place in front of Grey. He dragged Father and Mother near the tray.
As he tore the shirt of the man’s body , ‘ I never really liked these shackles of love or marriage. It is like having a weak link , a point on which , even if a morsel of pressure is applied , the results come out swiftly.’ He took the gun and taped the barrel facing the man’s chest , leaving the trigger and the handle facing awkwardly outwards. Father had maintained a calm demeanor till now , when his wife and daughter were crying and wailing hysterically against the ropes and the tape upon their mouths. Grey could not see the uncle as he laid behind him , so his emotions were oblivious to Grey. But this final act even made terror appear in Father’s eyes. Lazarus pulled Mother close and took her bounded hands and placed them on the trigger and taped them there, finally switching off the safety.
‘ Do me the honor and shoot him , Mo-ther’ , the words befitting the evil grin on that mask.
Mother struggled , crying in a muffled tone , hysteric. She tied and tugged on to the taped gun , but in vain. Lazarus knelt down, paused and considered for a moment , before removing the tape from her mouth.
‘ You filthy swine. What have we ever done to you ? Let us go !’,she shrieked. Her face wet with both tears and sweat.
‘Watch your tongue , Mother. There is a child in the room. Sssh—‘, he put a gloved finger on her lips , Father let out an angry groan,’ here’s my proposition. You pull this trigger. Listen first, you pull this trigger and I won’t hurt your husband.’
Mother looked at him , for a moment , before spitting on his face.
‘ Women are so impulsive. Should think the long term effects for a bit. But then what can one do in face of emotions , eh Grey ? Anyways , she needs a little bit of incentive , let’s give her that.’ He put the tape back on the mother’s face and went up to the tray. He took a scalpel. He began humming a song and moving about towards Father as if he was dancing. The swift movements of his hands complimented his dance , the metal glistening in his hand. And with a supreme motion , he knelt and stabbed the man in between his shoulder blade , twisted and left the scalpel there. Father’s face contorted with pain as Mother and Daughter both shouted and shrieked. Grey struggled against his bonds , vigorously shaking the chair. Lazarus stared at Mother’s face intently , but she still refused.
‘Urgh! Adamant’, he took the scalpel out and kept on slashing at the man. ‘I have always preferred these small knifes or blades or scalpels. Enough sharp to make you bleed , but not enough to cause you death at that very moment. Whenever I have one of these in my hands and a canvas, as such , in front of me , I feel like a painter , and with a few strokes of my brushes I paint different shades of red that elicit screams of begging from the canvas and horrors from the audience , if any. What can I say ? I creator always wants his works to be appreciated.’ By then , red streaks of blood ran down over the bare skin of Father as if he sweated blood. Blood was spurting out from the wounds , some even stained the taped hands of Mother. His face could no more show any pain. The eyes were already closed. Lazarus went and squatted down on the floor beside Mother. ‘ All the pain that he is going through are in a way caused by you. You have had the option of giving him his salvation but you are clinging on to a false hope of being save from this nightmare. The cuts I caused will not kill him , he will bleed , slowly , painfully. I will hurt him , break his bones but not kill him. You will not hear his screams of pain nor him begging for mercy , but you will feel it and you will know , in front of your daughter you will know , that you could have given him a peaceful end , but owing to the fact that you are a coward , you failed him. But then again , I might be wrong , and you are going to pull that trigger in a minute. Are you ?’ Mother still looked away , but her determination waivered. ‘Well ,’ – he shakes his head in denial , held Father’s hand and was about to break it , when a loud sound resounded , followed by a blood curdling scream from Daughter. Father fell back , the recoil had severed the tapes from his chest. Mother sat with a stone face , tears streaming down her cheeks , as faint smoke came out of the barrel of the gun taped to her hand , making the windowless room more suffocating. Grey hung his head down.
‘ I really like you , Mother. You epitomized that quote , “If you want to shoot , shoot don’t talk.” I was a teensy bit afraid that I would have to disappoint you , Grey , but as you see , we are off to a splendid start. ’
He untapped the gun from Mother’s trembling hands. She still had her eyes fixed on the dead body , before falling sideways onto the floor , unconscious.
‘Let’s leave her to mourn a bit. She is in a bit of shock and we have a lot more to see.’ He walked across the room to the other side , ruffling Grey’s hair on the way. Daughter sat transfixed on the floor. From her face , she was at least thirteen years old. Her doe eyed face was covered with smudged makeup. Her hair disheveled behind her head , taped at the bottom into a bundle. Lazarus sat down beside her , with the gun in one hand and tape in another. ‘Hiya.’ He nudged Daughter on her shoulder with his. She sat there , unmoved. He took her hands and untapped them and then taking her right hand started taping the gun , leaving the barrel free.
‘ You seem so nice , and I’m taking this entire liberty of telling that you are beautiful too ,’ he paused , looking at Mother , ‘She is beau-ti-ful , I dare say she got your genes.’ He finished taping her hands to the gun and suddenly , ‘Oh my gosh , are you blushing ? Did I make you blush ? Or – Oh , those are just bruises and your tears. Honest mistake.’ He chuckled. ‘Anyways , enough frivolous talking. You love your mother , don’t you ?’ He again sat beside her. ‘You love her with all your life , of course. She taught you all you know , along with your father. But your mother is all the more special. She taught you to walk , to talk , to run. Her voice calms you to sleep , she is the pillow on whom you rest whenever you are sad. She cooked and fed you by her own hands when you are too tired to sleep. She is everything for you , you see her and imagine what you want to become. I might guess she even taught you about how to be with boys. So there she is , lying , right there , a bit tired and maybe a lot torn. You of course saw what I did to Daddy-O. So here’s the deal , ‘he paused taking her taped hand up to her temple , ‘ you just loosen up your hand , yeah like that,’ , he taped the barrel to her temple. ‘So if you want to dear dear Mommy to not go through what Daddy did , you just have to pull the trigger.’ Daughter sat there stone faced , tears just spilling out of her eyes. Lazarus looked at Grey ,’ Am I reaching out to her ?’ , he flung out his hand in displeasure. Grey sat there , anger welling up inside him. Lazarus vigorously shook her chin for an answer , but she yet was unresponsive. ‘Damn , now I have to wake up that poor woman just to convince this young woman.’ He stood up and turned to walk. Before he could reach the ray , there was a gunshot , the second of the evening. Without turning , Lazarus spoke, ‘ I do am great , ain’t I?’
Daughter’s gunshot had sprayed the wall with blood and brain matter. Her eyes were still open , as she laid there, a hole gaping out of her head. Lazarus pranced to her , bended and untapped the gun from her hands. Mother was still unconscious , the sound could not cause any ripple in her sleep and neither could the stench smell of gunpowder that was slowly filling that unventilated room. Lazarus stood in front of Grey.
‘They are tricky , these emotions. There aren’t any guidelines to follow to find the path that might lead to the unlocking of the secrets of emotions. But if you watch a person , real close , you will with a little pressure , you can make them do what you like. Lie , if you need to. And see what I have achieved halfway through my show , mayhem of relations and there is still one more half to go.’
Grey stared at the psychopath , hit back with disgust and awe. The man was narcissistic and evil , but he did have innate thoughts about the human mind. He tried yet again to free himself. Lazarus shook his head , ‘Oh Grey , not so easily. We are just reaching the climax. Life always sucks. I’m just jerking around a bit. It just matters how strong and long a mind can hold , till one lets it all out the under the immense sucking.’ He paused, looking about him for a moment. ‘These double meanings will kill me one day.’ He broke out laughing hysterically. He stopped abruptly , and went up to Mother. She was still knocked cold. He bent and went close to her , looking intently at her.
‘ Well , we have to take a li’l break now. She is still not coming around , and for the next part she is much much important.’ There was a faint murmur and muffled shouts from behind Grey. ‘ Oh now he wakes up.’ Lazarus sighed. He sprinted behind the chair to Uncle and a moment later sharp intakes of breath and kicks with words coming in between kicks , ‘ Shut. Up. Now. Your. Part. Is. Still. Not. Useful.’ He came to the tray , picking up a paper and the pen. ‘ I hate it when people deliberately use their cowardice to sabotage my performance. Anyways , let’s wait for her to come about.’ Grey watched him with steely eyes , following him around the room. Lazarus went and sat in between Father and Mother , slightly leaning on Father’s shoulders. ‘He won’t mind , I know.’ , Lazarus clarified. For the next dozens of minutes , he scribbled on the paper. Grey’s body ached and was stiff from being tied down for countless hours. The ordeal was taking a toll but his iron will was just about pulling him through , keeping the cinder of his consciousness just burning. There was a fine crash of the table and its contents. Lazarus had leaned too heavily on the dead body and as Father fell sidewards , Lazarus grasped at the table to maintain his balance. Lazarus stood up promptly , looked at the dead body for a moment before raining frenzied kicks on it.
‘I don’t understand this world you know , people just don’t know how to respect their savior, even in death. Anyways , on a lighter note I had utilized my time and wrote a little story. I think it is an excellent piece of literary work , one of the best I have ever done. It has theme , thought and style. As obliged as you are Grey , I think it will be a delight to read it you. Here it goes – Once there was a happy family of bears. There was a Pappa bear , a Mamma bear and a baby bear. And then there came a big bad wolf , with claws and fangs.’ Grey had started giggling by then. Lazarus looked at him sharply , but continued , ‘ The Mamma bear shot the Pappa bear to save him , don’t get hung up on the idea of hypocrisy surrounding it.’ Grey was laughing hard now. ‘The baby lassy bear did herself to save Mamma bear. And – urgh’ Lazarus threw the paper in the air , ‘ You keep on mocking my excellent literary piece. You laugh insolently as if you are in a park watching a clown and this woman , this very woman whom I need to be , well not to be limp , is limp , lying upon the floor.’ He held up Mother by her shoulders , and shook her vigorously like a madman , which evidently he was. ‘Wake up , senorita, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up.’ He held her face and banged it against the wall behind her , which resulted in her shrieking in pain and slowly opening her eyes.
‘Finally , break’s over.’ Lazarus went behind and dragged Uncle in front of Grey and Mother.
‘Mother , Mother you see him , you recognize him of course ?’ Lazarus had brought Uncle’s face up.
Mother faintly nodded her head.
‘ Yeah , he is your brother-in-law. Now , comes the curtain raiser of today’s show. You see Mother , I am the apostle of death who edicts epistles of necrosis. People who can find me , wishes me to ponder over their little problems and make them go away , and that is always certainty meaning in death of somebody. So last fine Monday morning , I find this gentleman ,Uncle, in front of me , squealing in his boxers that he want money. But he got a big brother and his family who stands in his way. Normally I charge a fee and personally have some fun but in your case, I took a keen interest and had a little something in mind. So here we are , your husband , dead , killed by you. And your daughter – oh by the way your daughter shot herself under dubious circumstances.’ Mother had not seen the disfigured body lying opposite to her , but even on seeing she elicited no response. The mechanism of being sad or crying had died within her. ‘ Now , all of these are actually due to him , your brother-in-law. He wanted you gone for money. Your family is nothing but a couple of rotting corpses in a not-so-well ventilated room because of him. So now ,’ Lazarus paused and looked around the room. He went hastily to the body of Daughter and untapped the gun. He checked its magazine and put it in Mother’s hand.
‘You have got two options and believe me when I say you can’t shoot yourself , your hands won’t bend. You get to decide who is in reality the culprit behind the death of your family , you get to choose me , who is a harmless mediator who just did his job , albeit , he had fun doing it or you can shoot him , who was the one who paid.’ Uncle had started to struggle against his ropes and tapes. Lazarus punched him across his face. ‘Shut up man , we all have to pay for our sins. Take it like a man.’ The blow was strong enough to knock him out. Mother sat , silently looking from one to the another. From the sitting Lazarus in is dark cloths to the lying brother in law , in every sense of the word.
‘ We are at the climax of this evening. All the events have culminated to this point. Does not it feel empowering to have the option of life and death in one’s own hand ? It feels like you are a king or queen in the medieval times delivering the verdict , so O my Queen what shall be thou verdict ?’ Mother mechanically pointed the gun at Lazarus , who just cocked his head to a side. She kept it hanging there a moment before turning it towards the lying man and pulled the trigger. There was no gun shot. Lazarus , laughing , ‘ I was a little scared that you might, in some misplaced sense of anger which has clouded your judgment , shoot me , so I did not give you a bullet. But now since you have made your choice,’ he reloaded the gun and cocked it, ‘let’s be done with.’ He kicked Uncle in the groin , waking him up. Uncle stared right up the barrel of the gun , muffled shouting and screaming evident.
‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of Lazarus, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in death, whom Lazarus put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Forgive him , O Holy somebody , for he has sinned. Amen,’ he made a cross sign with the gun before emptying the clip in Uncle’s forehead.
‘ And I hear no applause.’
Lazarus intently gazed at the slowly reclining figure of Mother. She was drifting off to the land of unconsciousness. Lazarus played with her hair before putting it behind her ears , before standing up. He dropped the gun on the table and removed the tape off Grey’s mouth.
‘ What are going to do to her ? ‘ , Grey asked.
‘ Her ? That’s what you want to talk about after regaining your freedom to speech ? After this elaborate show of intricate and exquisite brilliance , you just care about that ? Baah – Anyway , to satisfy your curiosity , I was paid in advance by the now dead Uncle and I have need of it. So this woman, Mother, will get all te money of her family and the money I was paid and I will let her live to ever after happiness.’
‘ Ever after happiness ? You just killed her family , you made her kill her husband. You made her pull the bloody trigger , and then you coaxed her daughter to die , putting that too on her head. You just destroyed her whole life and now you want to let her live ? KILL HER ! ’ Grey shouted. Lazarus pranced forward , and placed his index finger on Grey’s lips.
‘Ssshhh , Momma’s sleeping.’ Lazarus leaned forward , taking his lips up to Grey’s ears and whispered , ‘ I did kill her.’ He took out Grey’s cell from his inner coat pocket. ‘ Excuse me , gotta make a call ,’ – as he browsed through his phone – ‘ What’s your friend , the chief’s name ? , Oh yes , Dexter.’ He dialed and held the phone to his ears ,cocking his head to a side.
‘ Aah hellow. No , Grey is for the moment unavailable pertaining to the fact of him being bounded to a chair. Do not shout please , there are four dead bodies present here with one of them still breathing. Ignore the hypocrisy of the previous statement and do track this number to find the building and oh I do know how incompetent you all are so I am keeping the call on until you do pinpoint.’ Lazarus placed the phone on the table , with indistinct muttering and shouts coming out of the phone.
Lazarus came up to Grey and placed his hand on Grey’s right shoulder and pressed on a certain point causing Grey to flinch , ‘Remember this ? This was your first warning. Today’s revelation your second. The game is elaborate , with players whose existence you are unaware of. Do not overdo it because this world that you live in , is indeed a mockery , superficial to the one ulterior.’ Lazarus switched the electronic lights off , leaving Grey under the swaying bulb. He opened the door. There was a sea of darkness on the other side.
‘ I will hunt you down , even if it takes every last piece of me , of what I can sacrifice. ’ , Grey spoke out.
Lazarus turned. ‘ Ahhh- That’s what I am looking forward to.’ , gave a majestic bow to Grey before the sea of darkness engulfed him. The door closed.
The bulb was still mildly swaying. The stench of blood , sweat and gun powder seemed overwhelming. There were still some sounds coming from the open cell. And in the middle of the room , Grey sat with his head down , bound to the wooden chair. The body heaved up and down with each breath , when suddenly Grey let out a roar of disappointment and desperation , tugging at the ropes with all his might. The ropes dug into his skin , making him bleed. The chair lost its balance and Grey fell along with it. He let out a groan, squinting his eyes in pain. When he opened them ,he found himself staring at the face of the Daughter , who was lying in front of him, the stony eyes as if transfixed on his face. Her blood on the floor had already smeared half his face.