I knew he'd say that. I knew what would follow.
'I've only got under a year left in here. Breaking out isn't that tough. Hiding, after breaking out. That's the toughest part. Now, I don't want to get caught, and be put back in here for breaking out. But, if you want to break out, as always, I'm with you. I won't break out.'
I knew that he wouldn't. I thought of breaking out myself, but I decided against it. Apart from Alan, I didn't have anyone so close, that I'd discuss a breakout, let alone breaking out.
Alan spent the rest of the time planning what he'd do. He said he'd go to that neighbor's place and have a lil’ conversation. He said he hadn't been to New York and England. He said he'll go there, find someone special who would understand him, and be ready to ‘go down’ when he'd want her to. That was his definition, of life.
I'd missed mine too. My thoughts had never left my wife. No matter how much I'd be involved in what I do, be it good or bad, my wife is always in my mind. Tutka’s men had her under their eyes. It was scary. I was away from her this long, and I had no clue as to what she was going through. Saddest part- I didn't even know if she was alive or not. If she was alive, was she safe?
Alan had exactly ten months left for release. He was happy. I knew I wanted to meet him, I didn't quite know why. He was, after all, a fuckin’ rapist. Why was I his friend? Why was I even talking to him?
To be honest, I was jealous of Alan. Yes, I had tasted the outside world after coming here, and he hadn't (Hey, I had been here before my Peru errand). After all, he was free forever. He had the choice, whether to continue with his life, the criminal way, or just as another man from Boston. He made it sound like that- like he would never choose option two over one. We both knew, though, that he'd choose option two. Come what may.
These months passed by quick. Alan was busy, in a way. There were more hearings, more visits from his family, and more happy tears. His family brought tears to my eyes as well. An old lady, would walk to the jail, bent over her stick. I thought she was too old to be his mother, and too young to be his grandmother. It was his grandmother, though. She came here every single day. Every since Alan had called home about seven months from freedom, she'd come here, look at him, wipe a tear from her right eye (yes always the right one), and walk back. In Alan's free time, he'd tell me, she would only see him from the warden's office window, wave a goodbye.
She was the only home he had. She was the only family he had. He told me after I asked him. His mother died during childbirth, his father, a drunkard, ran away with a prostitute, leaving him when he was fifteen, with no money, and a paralysed grandfather, who was being taken care of by his seventy year old grandma.
‘Grandpa died only months after that. And grandma… She's ninety one now.’ He said it with a tear choked voice. ‘When I was arrested, for rape, the first thing that crossed my mind was that…. What if I.. What if I was given death ..? I can't imagine….I don't want to imagine what would've gone through her…’
He broke down. I couldn't control my tears too when he said that. It touched my heart. That was why he didn't want to stay any longer in jail. He'd told me, but he never showed a single sign of this sadness when others were around. Or rather, he had become so well in hiding who he really was, that I myself couldn't notice.
Freedom day. The fifteenth of this month, and Alan was readying himself for freedom. Of course, he was given regular clothing. I was in that cell he stayed in for five years. Looking out, there he was, signing a document. He turned around. His face was filled with tears. He looked at me. He waved goodbye. He looked around the prison.
He seemed like he was crying when he said it. I looked around. Many inmates did have tears in their eyes too. Alan was a friendly guy. A guy people couldn't help but like. He turned around, his back towards us. His grandmother was there. She was sobbing. Ninety one, and only a stick to support her.
‘No wheelchair, no support except that one stick. That's how fit she is. I love her.’ He'd said that once.
He hugged her. Both of them were surely sobbing now. They walked away, and that was it. Either I'd see Alan after ten more years, or never again.
Nine years to go. I'd grown a beard, the kind Leo diCaprio wore in Django Unchained. I wasn't alone anymore. James McErron was the other man in my cell. He looked surprisingly similar about him. I felt I'd seen him before. He, too, was a cocaine smuggler-only that he'd been caught at JFK. Honestly, I thought, you thought you'd smuggle cocaine, flying from JFK?! I mean, I don't know, but I wouldn't have tried.
I'd started going to the gym more often. James would follow. Wherever I went, he went. He never talked to anyone, and people seemed to be repelled by him. Nobody looked at him, and he didn't either. I was the only one in this whole god damned prison, for him.
‘Right? That's how it is, huh?’
I finally decided to tell it to his fuckin’ face.
‘Calm down. Jordan, you need to listen to me now. You haven't done that lately. You've been doing what you want to do. Listen to me as well. Sometimes, if not always.’
‘The fuck are you talking about. I didn't even know you, till, what, a week ago? Why should-’
Right then, the whole surroundings changed. Right before my eyes, the jail was gone, the walls were gone, everything disappeared. Black. Pitch black where I was. Where we were, rather. James was the only piece here, which belonged to that fucking jail. He was walking like he was sleepwalking.
I didn't reply, he didn't move. The whole place was black. It didn't look like a room, but I was surely standing on something. I looked up, nothing. Just black. I looked ahead, there was something at the distance, something hazy. I looked down-black. It felt like glass. It hopefully wouldn't break, because I wasn't sure if there was anything to save me if it did.
‘Look behind you, too. Quite a visual.’ He said. He was following my activity. I had, indeed, not looked behind me.
When I did, I was shocked. A spontaneous ‘Whoa!’ left my mouth. It was indeed, just wow. It was a series of images, and moving ones at that. One image overlapped another, which overlapped another, and so on. It was confusing. I could still see the images clearly. It seemed like-
‘A haze. It seems like something hazy doesn't it?’
James began to scare me. He knew what I was about to say. He knew what I'd done and what I was about to do.
‘What is this place?’ I asked.
‘This whole place, is me. Those visuals, those are a part of the Sphere…’
He said it with the same hiss that man (old woman hair, remember?) had said it with. James was seriously scaring me now.
‘You should see your face. I made it blank.’
‘Wait. What do you mean by ‘’I made it blank “ and “this place is me “?’
‘I don't lie. You decide to go against me by lying. Otherwise, I know that I don't lie. You don't. We're different. We're different entities.’
The memory of that old man (woman) came back to my mind. What did he say..?
‘That isn't the answer to my question James.’
‘Doesn't matter. You done seeing this place? I have a lot to show you.’
I turned to this Sphere again. It was all me. Every image had something or the other related to what I'd done. Since the Fernandez murder, the Peru errand, the bomb blast, the talks with Alan, everything.
‘Hey James. This place-’
‘Yes. It has everything you did in these months. It also has the time you fought with Wayne.’
He, again, knew what I was thinking. This place was scaring me, this Sphere was scaring me, and James was scaring me. I had to get out.
‘Yeah I'll need to get out of here pretty soon too. Don't worry, we'll get out.’
He walked now, and I followed him. If he was the only one here with me, it was better we stuck with each other and found a way out.
‘James… Where are we?’
‘In me. In you.’
‘The fuck are you saying?’
He was one asshole, an asshole I needed dearly to get out of here (don't hear that often, do ya?).
‘So Jordan. I'll tell you more about this place. So that you won't feel scared.’
‘I'd love that.’
Honestly, I really would.
‘What you sound before is the Sphere.’ No hiss this time. ‘The Sphere is the most important place in this place. As you rightly noticed, the Sphere has the ‘images’ of the person looking into it. Where we are right now, is the Delete and Divert zone. This place is important too. Here, whatever you saw in the Sphere, will be erased in your memory.’
‘I still remember what I saw.’
‘No not yet. When you forget about the Sphere, you, obviously, won't even know you'd ever been here. Now, this DnD zone, is black for a reason. It's a void. Apparently, black denotes void. After this Zone, is the Haze. Literally, it is a haze. You see, the diversion usually happens, but the more you visit the Sphere, the lesser the diversion. Well surely, you've been Sphere-ing quite often. You're just walking straight towards the Sphere.’
‘When did I start, I don't know, Sphere-ing?’
‘You were twelve.’
‘How are you so sure about everything about me?’
‘You don't want to know.’
‘Trust me, you wouldn't believe me.’
‘Shh… Listen to me. I'm the one who got you in and will get you out.’
I was angry on the inside, but I gulped my anger down.
‘Alright. Visualize now. I guess it'll take a minute or more to reach the Haze. So visualize. You've gone Zorbing any time?’
‘Good.’ Before I even said anything, he'd replied. ‘So the ball. Visualize you're in that ball again. On flat land. So, you start walking. Let the point you started off be some point X. So you start walking from X, forward. X happens to be your present. You're walking forward. Where do you reach if you go forward from the present?’
‘Bingo. So you're walking, in this ball, into the future. But this ball- it's different. For anyone outside this ball, your aren't moving. At one point, they see you upside-down in that ball. But you think you're moving on that land and inside the call. You're only just moving further into the future, without actually moving.’
Pyeoon. Everything was just flying over my head.
‘Obviously, you know that in a ball, if you manage to walk the way I just described, you'll end up where you started. So right before, like an inch before your starting point, you go back to your past. To what you did, before your entered the Sphere.’
‘And… When do I enter the Sphere?’
‘Every twenty four hours. More or less. Hey look! We're at the Haze!’
We probably were. It was indeed hazy. I was clueless. I didn't know where it came from, I didn't know who I was with and to top it off, I didn't even know where I was. Brilliant, I thought.
‘Look down. Not here. Watch your step, move forward. It's a bit of a cliff. The Haze is down there.’
I did as he said. The haziness up here, was nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to what was down there. It was so hazy, I didn't know what was down there. I felt absolutely stupid. I didn't know anything. Nothing at all.
The same hiss. James wasn't there anymore. It was that man with the hiss.
‘Have a nice Haze. It's your wife. She'll end this for you.’
He spoke in James’ voice.
'You want to know who I am, Jordan? I'm your mind. That's why I knew what you knew. This place. It's a manifestation of your mind. Every night. Which is why everything since Simon's murder had been so vague.'
He laughed once he finished his speech. He ran towards me, and before I knew it, he pushed me off the cliff.
‘This is it. This is how I'm going to die.’ A voice inside my head said that, in James’ voice, without the hiss this time.
I didn't hit any ground, but I stopped falling. I wasn't falling. I was on some ground, but I didn't feel my body hit it.
I stood up. I looked up, only to see nothing. It was way too hazy. I looked around. Among the white ‘mist’ all around me, there was this blue hue in the mist, about a hundred meters from where I was standing. I was surprised I could see it. IT WAS MEANT FOR YOU TO SEE IT, JORDAN. Nobody was around me, but that voice came from somewhere next to me. It wasn't the voice of my head- it was external, surely. The blue mist began to move even faster towards me.
GET READY JORDAN. ONLY YOUR WIFE CAN END THIS. ONLY YOUR WIFE CAN GET YOU OUT OF HERE.
Before I knew it, the blue mist engulfed me, and I wasn't there anymore. I was back in that jail. James was there again. He was standing in front of me, the very same way he was standing before the Haze Adventure.
IT'S NOT YET OVER, JORDAN.
‘Hey, cocksucker. What's the matter with you? Where the fuck did you take me?’ I told that to James with the most heartfelt hatred.
‘I didn't take you anywhere, the cell is locked. I couldn't have.’
I looked at the cell door, it was indeed locked. What caught my eye, however was the little wisp of smoke in front of the door. It grew as I looked at it. It became as big as me in a jiffy. It engulfed me yet again. I was in another place now. I was in the car. The car Tutka and I were in. The car in which I was sandwiched. The car in which I went to the airport. The last thing I'd ever done in the States-go to an airport, with a guy who had promised me fifty grand. I felt dazed.
‘... And here's your ticket. You listening?’
‘Yes. Yeah I am. Sorry. Ummm.I just feel like uh...I'm a bit nervous.’
‘That's okay kid. But never ever show signs that rest the needle of suspicion on you. There's always suspicion in an airport. Never bring that needle to rest above your fuckin’ head. Being nervous is alright. Being scared isn't.’
I knew this talk. I'd been here before. I didn't want to tell Tutka that though.
Hey Jordan. It was James’ voice (hiss included). Guess what? None of this ever happened before. You're making it up. I'm making it up. That means your mind is making it up. All this is in your fuckin’ head. You think this has happened. It will, but it hasn't.
I didn't quite understand what he was trying to tell me.
The blue wisp was back. Tutka wasn't looking, and neither the shoe-dropper. It engulfed me once again.
YOU'RE NEARING THE END, JORDAN. KNOW THIS, JORDAN. NONE OF THIS EVER HAPPENED. IT ALL WILL, SOMEDAY. VERY SOON. BUT IT HASN'T HAPPENED YET. YOU'RE LEAVING THIS HAZE, THE SPHERE, AND YOUR DREAM.
I was back in my house. I walked in a sleep like trance. Behind me was my bed, in front of me was my washroom. Simon Fernandez had been murdered. Where was my wife? I called out. After a while, I walked downstairs. My wife was a few steps from me, and she was preparing coffee for me.