Seven to Nine
I don’t know who you are, you could be a distant cousin of mine roaming in Australian wilds, you could be an offspring who survived to tell this tale, you could be a screenwriter trying to make a buck or two out of our misery, you could be a reality talk show host talking about higher meanings (you, don’t destroy our souls please, fuck your TRP rating), or you could be one of those living on the edge, lacking an identity. I don’t really care who you are, this letter might be lost forever, I don’t care of that either. But I had to write this. I might not get a chance to write another one.
Last night, we won a decisive battle. We trampled on those sons of bitches, we tore their fence, we tore their tents. We caught them with pants down, even before they could realise what was happening to them, we tore their guts and knocked off their heads.
While we were marching back to mainland this morning, I witnessed our brothers lay rotten on roadsides. Burning carcasses everywhere. All our fallen brothers gathered in a bundle and burnt as if they were an epidemic. We stood and fought like soldiers, we are dying like the infected. We deserved our honourable deaths, we should have gone down as soldiers. We are cheated by authorities again. They poisoned all water sources. They already started spreading a lie that last night was an accident, an accident caused by a few elephants trumpeting. History might be written by those who stayed alive, but you can’t hide the truth forever, maybe you could, whatever...
David B. Mathews - 19th Battalion, Infantry
P.S: I used to write beautifully, I could pen down every character like a well formed egg, too much killing has deformed my bill now.
-But, why a blanket worm?
-It was chosen for you.
-I didn’t choose that.
-You can’t. I didn’t choose that either. It was a choice made by those up there.
-But, why a blanket worm? I never liked them.
-That is precisely the point. Those up there decide everything based on facts. Numbers.
-You killed seventeen of them in one season.
-I had my reasons. Wait, I have killed more ants, way more mosquitos. Maybe.
-You have killed seventeen out of twenty blanket worms you encountered, that is 85%. Eighty five percent of voluntary life-slaughter.
-Life-slaughter. You know. Like manslaughter.
-On the contrary, you have killed 238 mosquitos out of 1500 you ever encountered, 188 of them were accidental deaths that happened when you rolled over while you were sleeping. That leaves only 3.33% of voluntary-lifeslaughter. You fare even better with ants, I can give you breakups based on species, but they were nowhere close to your history with blanket worms.
-But, I have my reasons.
-Well, reasons can’t help you anyway in this, the choice has already been made. But I could listen to your reasons. After all, we are going to spend a considerable amount of time together.
-Say, how long?
-Till you get out of this alienation phase.
-You know, this ‘modernist’ thing. You feel disconnected from everyone, your family, work, society, apartment association meetings. Everything.
-Yes, that’s how I am right now.
-So, we are gonna work together till you get your salvation, till you understand the meaning of your existence.
-You need to figure that out. The answer is inside you, you need to bring it out. Only you can do that.
-Why are you here then?
-I will help you, when there is a need. Say, you find your path but you are afraid to venture further, I can be your light.
-Like a lantern?
-Yes, I get that.
-You said you had your reasons?
-Yes, we will talk about that later. We are going to spend lot of time together, right?
-You sound irritated.
-I am cool. In fact, I am so cool that if you land on me now, I won’t voluntarily life-slaughter you.
-If I were you, I wouldn’t think about killing me. For practical purposes, you can’t destroy me. I have an in-built resurrection mechanism. And whether that works or not, my standby will come here to do my job.
-Are you like a robot?
-No, you don’t understand. You can’t understand how things work in seventh dimension. So, I tried explaining it in a way you will.
-If you kill me, instead of one, you will have two Subalterns to guide you. And that is no fun.
-Instant Evolution is the motto of the seventh dimension. So, all our inactive Subalterns will be continuously evolving.
-Yes. However, Subalterns on mission-earth won’t be auto upgraded. So, there is a chance, though it doesn’t happen always, that my resurrected self and standby will have conflicting behaviours. In your terms, itching in both your arms.
-Wow, very helpful.
-You are still mad!
-No. I am not.
-Then tell me why you had problems with blanket worms.
-No, not yet, we will talk about that later.
Of late, I’ve had this hunch that as an ethnic race, we try to overcome the anxiety of vertically-challenged-pony-posture with macho SUVs. It is not very uncommon to see an average 5”3 hauling a three ton monster all alone in a busy market street. Maybe it is a totally irrelevant statement, but then how can one make sense of that infamous Emu boom?
Here are the boring facts. An emu can grow as tall as six feet and two inches. You pay Rs.1.5 lakhs deposit and get three pairs of ugly chicks, and a sorry looking shed on your own property. You get paid Rs.6000 a month for two years, and a yearly bonus of Rs.20,000. At the end of two years, you make Rs.1.84 lakhs. Doesn’t sound much like a profit, right? Here’s the candy. You could return the emus and get back your deposit. Now, 3.34 returns on 1.5 is too good to let go.
There’s another option. An emu egg fetches you 1200 rupees, and a pair of emus can lay anywhere between 20 to 50 eggs every year. You can fetch a minimum of 72,000 per year from your three pairs of emus. Feathers have medicinal properties, nails have their own share of worth. So, you could make Rs.1.6 lakhs at the end of two years, if calculated pessimistically for 20 eggs a pair. It is not sexy, when compared to 1.84 returns from company regular payment scheme. Add headache of buying insurance, food, medicine and stuff like that.
At the end of two years, you would realise that all the pairs consistently laid fifty eggs a season, and all the dudes stayed up. Your mind redoes the math. Based on your risk-taking spirit and your family’s nagging, you will seriously contemplate and choose either one.
Oh yes, that is Mr.Charles Ponzi walking there, opening emu restaurants with film stars as special guests. More signs that emu farming is one hell of a scam.
-Where are you going?
-You should have known from your collected facts that I go for a walk at this time, every day.
-Yes, I know. But I can’t go out in this heat.
-You don’t have to, stay here till I come back.
-You have to carry me.
-I can’t stand a blanket worm on me, you know me better than that. And my shirt doesn’t have a pocket. Tell me, do you have to evaluate me every second?
-Not exactly, I am the one who is being evaluated every second by those up there.
-Yes. They award points based on how I perform.
-What do you get with all those points? Promotions? Perks?
-Yes. Those up there say additional points help us in promotions indirectly, although direct impact is, I get more work.
-With more work, I get more opportunities to get a shot at a promotion.
-What exactly gets you a promotion then?
-I have no idea. Those up there decide based on my work, but I have no idea about the potential factors.
-I don’t think I understand your situation much, but that’s OK.
-You have to carry me now.
-No, I won’t. Listen, you have to stay back or walk along. Choice is yours.
-I am allowed to perform miracles.
-Can you wave the sun away, throw in a few clouds and maybe attach yourself a mini locomotive scooter?
-I can attach a pocket to your shirt.
-How about some exotic miracles?
-No, I am not allowed to.
-Will you ever be?
-Nope. Those miracles are allowed only at the Junior level.
-How about those up there?
-They are smooth talkers, they don’t need miracles.
-What if they encounter a situation where a miracle is inevitable?
-They will declare that the clientele is too trivial for their time and delegate it to us, Subalterns.
-Why can’t you delegate my case to Junior level?
-I will be accused of neglecting my responsibility, and I will get a black mark and negative points.
-It is not fair, mate, not fair to either of us.
-Yes, it is not.
-Why did you come out of Junior level then?
-I was promoted. In fact, I was promoted after I made a blunder.
-Really? What blunder?
-I will tell you what I did if you explain your questionable attitude towards blanket worms.
-Dude, you are like a four year old.
-When I was a kid, I used to be very thin, like a skeleton. I grew up in a farmhouse, with cow-dung-covered-floor, mud-plastered-walls painted with lime, thatched roof and stuff like that. The whole house would be damp for six months every year and it was very common to see three or four types of worms, centipedes, millipedes and scorpions crawling here and there, right up to the wooden frames on the ceiling. I am allergic to blanket worms. So, I would itch and swell whenever I came in contact with them. The more I scratched, the worse it got, no one was helping me then.Whenever I showed my swollen hands, my half blind granny would say that I should eat well if I don’t want my bones protruding all over the body. I became very cautious and moved around carefully. Things got better but it didn’t last for very long. One day after drinking my lukewarm black coffee, I noticed a blanket worm stuck at the bottom of the mug, marinated with coffee. I was scared that my throat was going to swell and burst. I had a retching sensation for hours. I lost it, I totally lost it. You said eighty five percent, right? I can’t believe that three of those sonuvabitches escaped. I just can’t believe that.
-I can understand why you did what you did. Still..
-Explain this to me. If those up there have a problem with my attitude towards blanket worms and want me to pay back, they could have turned me into a blanket worm. Why send you?
-Being a worm and being with a worm are not the same. Also, you are not fond of human beings either, and you suffer from alienation. So, those up there don’t want you go itching the society.
-No, the itching is literal.
-Very funny. Anyway, I went to a hostel the very next year, got allotted a second floor room in a concrete building, never encountered those creatures again. Say, I get out of this alienation by finding salvation or whatever, what happens next?
-You will make a better society.
-Bollocks, I meant you.
-Dude, mind your language. I will not remind you again.
-Apologies, tell me what happens next?
-I will be given the next case.
-No. Vacation is only for weaklings.
-And, you think you are not?
-It doesn’t matter. Being in that illusion helps.
-LOL. Makes sense in a way. Do you get to meet folks up there often?
-Not very often. They live in the ninth dimension. Once a year, they come down to our world to appraise us, I am allowed to ask a question during those meetings, only one question.
-You could ask any question?
-Yes, but until now I have got the same answer every time. “You are not asking the right question!”
-What was the right question?
-That’s what I asked last time.
-And, you ended up with the same answer.
-I pity you, man, I really do.
-I am not a man, I am a blanket worm now.
-Middle East was being wiped clean with the Iraq War, there was a civil war going on in the nearest island for more than twenty years and communal riots were happening in the northern states. People were desperate, desperate for supreme beings’ ears in those places. But from our territory, we barely got any leads. People were peaceful and busy with their rituals, worshipping local deities with mindless arguments about the said wars and riots. They were not in need of us. We were just calling up our old leads, cold leads, not a lot of progress. Our Territory Head was worried about the impending annual meeting, none of us were close to reaching our annual targets.
Velusamy was lying down face first in front of his house after his visit to the illegal toddy shop. A pariah dog, crossbred German Shepherd for last four generations, almost made off after breaking an egg. An angry female, chasing down the dog, stomped on Veluswamy accidently. Veluswamy screamed, “God!”.
-And I jumped on that fresh lead, it was a hot lead indeed. Veluswamy was in a severe financial crisis. He had pawned his farm lands and drunk up everything. He had pledged and invested ten savaran of his wife’s gold, their whole gold, in emu farming. He was so broke that he couldn’t afford the next day’s feed for his emus. So, he got drunk. I was at Junior level then, and I was allowed a wide range of miracles. I was allowed to manipulate all the four dimensions.
-You made his land fertile, and arranged for three rains a month, eh?
-That would have been pointless. Remember his whole farmland was pawned! All I had to do was to make his emus lay 50 eggs everyday, instead of 50 a year.
-He became rich in a month, and my Subaltern manager was happy with my performance. I got carried away. Since I was capable of manipulating the fourth dimension, I decided to work with more than one emu farming family at a time. At Junior level, we had access to advanced technologies as well, we could even program in Fortran. I wrote a software to pick all the leads whose names started with ‘A’, and assign them to me to perform miracle on their emus. Instead of selecting names starting with ‘A’, a regex mix up ended up picking names containing ‘A’ anywhere. That’s pretty much everybody. Everyone was on their way to wealth. Emu boom was supposed to last for five years, I brought the whole industry down in three weeks. Mayhem ensued.
On the first day, employees at company-owned-company-operated (COCO) egg collection centres were excited about the basketful of eggs waiting to be collected. They hadn’t seen that many eggs before. Towards the end of that week, they started complaining about the workload. On payday, they made a couple of calls to higher folks at the company, visited the bank more than once, and paid all the farmers.
During the second week, people had to stand in line for hours before depositing eggs. They were informed on payday that there was some trouble with cheque clearance, and the amount would be paid along with the forthcoming week’s settlement.
On the third day of the third week, a few collection centres ran out of storage space for the eggs. There was a rumour circling around that a couple of centres had been temporarily closed. All the centres were closed on that week’s payday.
Emu farmers came to the streets to protest. Media people responded immediately, and the government reacted in three weeks. The Minister of Agriculture promised on Television that District Officials would collect all emus and eggs, and distribute the money received in tenders to all the affected farmers. Meanwhile, all emus were busy with laying 50 eggs a pair every day.
A few smart folks started butchering their emus and selling the meat. That meat was dry, hard and tasteless. No one bought it second day. Unsold meat started rotting as did all those eggs.
A week or two after the Minister’s promise, lethargic corporation workers started loading all the emus to fence them. However, they refused to clear the eggs. Farmers were not too happy.
Thousands of emus were put together in half-a-dozen goat fences. It was Diwali vacation time. Corporation folks ignored the emus for a whole week. Hungry emus broke the fences and ran wild among the fields. Field owners thought emus as just overgrown chicken and started hunting them with spears. On an average, each one of their forefathers stood ten Australian machine gun shots. What could a few spears do? All those shallow cuts made them run more wild and ferocious. As if existing ones were not enough, all the ignored eggs started hatching.
Crop damage, road accidents and bad publicity forced the government to act fast. A portion of the special force, which was on a wild-goose chase for a sandalwood smuggler, was directed towards the emus.
Emus ran faster than their automobiles. After a week of trial and failure, they forced a group of emus to the Western Ghats. They thought that they figured out a way. They were hoping to chase rest of the emus inside the forest. Then, a gang of disturbed elephants started trumpeting, and the scared emus ran back over the soldiers’ camp, trampling it to shreds.
-Things were getting out of control. Folks up there lost their confidence in human beings and decided to help them. After all, they are supposedly evolutionarily advanced. So, we had to resign to bio war. Folks up there infected emus with a mysterious virus.
-And, they promoted you?
-Yes, they thought I was too good for a Junior.
-And they deprived you of all your miracles and manipulations.
-What you did was, not just a blunder, it was genocide. Doesn’t it affect your conscience?
-As the saying goes, memories are good if you don’t have to deal with the past.
-But one can’t escape the past.
-Maybe we can’t, but we have to occupy ourselves with things. Look at me, I go to different places, I see different people. Each case is an opportunity to experience something new.
-Does it really make you excited?
-Life is not a ninety minutes movie. Time has to pass.
-You know, I have a feeling that you are going to get promoted soon.
-I was promoted a minute back, I can already feel the ninth dimension. There was a formality that I should get a good customer satisfaction review, I was waiting for it. You gave a ‘Customer WOW Champion’ rating with your last remark. Thank you!
-Technically, you can’t. We experience sensual pleasure in the sixth dimension. A humanoid can’t handle that intensity. Goodbye!