The Old Man and the Leaf

I saw a dream last night.

I was waiting for the train at the subway station. I had been waiting there for quite some time now. The digital board had faltered, which only added to my impatience. It had been a weary day, and all my body wanted was the comfort of a warm bed, where weariness is greeted with open arms . All it desired was to doze off and sleep.

Is the urge of wanting to doze off in your sleep a bit too weird?

The sudden flickering of the lights to my right brought me out of my thoughts. I saw an old man sitting on a chair underneath those flickering lights. His eyes were set on a dry leaf that he was holding in his hands. It quite intrigued me. I noticed him for a while and then proceeded towards him, wanting to strike a conversation. I went ahead and sat on the chair beside him.

"Hello, young man! Hope you're having a good day" he said.

"Not quite! I'm running late because of this stupid delay in services." I replied.

He laughed for a while and then shifted his attention towards the leaf again.

"Umm, I have a question, mister." I hesitantly said.

" Don't we all, young man? I'm very much interested to know how this old man can possibly help you satisfy your curiosity. " The old man replied in a jovial tone.

" What in this dry leaf is making you spend your precious time analysing it?" I asked curiously.

He didn't answer. His face became somewhat distraught.

Perhaps I had asked him the wrong question at the wrong time. Perhaps you should avoid talking to old men in subways.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you." I said.

"It's okay, young man. Not your fault. It's just that I'm a sentimental old man." He said.

" Have you ever contemplated about the grief of a fallen leaf? " He added.

" I'm afraid I'm not so philosophical about life. "

He laughed at this. Then he added.

" See, young man. Leaves epitomise melancholy . Some stick to a branch even in the harshest of seasons. But, when they turn old, the branch shrugs them off. They fall down on the merciless ground, futilely waiting for the branch to pick them up. But the branch is a cruel being, young man. It grows new leaves, replacing the fallen ones. And the fallen leaves lie there, until they become dust."

" But isn't that the law of nature? New replacing the old. " I contradicted him.

"The law of nature." He laughed hysterically.

" You see, young man. The nature is flawed and so are its laws. The nature is deceptive, it’s a confidence trickster."

" Who are we to say that, sir. We are mere mortal, insignificant beings."

" That's how you perceive it. Everything depends on your perception. "

" But why would you say so?"

" Listen, the nature is made up of tiny fabrics of hopelessness intertwined with each other. Our beings, our lives, everything is a fallacy, a blatant lie."

I kept quiet.

He continued, " At one moment, you feel like the happiest person on the earth and at the very next moment, your world comes crashing down right before your eyes. You feel shattered, miserable and helpless. And guess what? It doesn't end there. The wheel of hopelessness spins ceaselessly, until it has sucked every inch of your mortal being, and the only thing you are left with is a dark void. That dark void is your best friend, young man."

" What's the point in saying all this to me? "

" You'll soon realise, young man. Time is a flat circle." He replied.

I heard the sound of the approaching train and was pretty overjoyed. The pessimistic old man was bugging me with all his rants.

" It's time, mister. I must leave now. It was nice meeting you." I said.

He kept quiet. It seemed that he wanted to warn me about something dreadful, but I gladly ignored him.

I stood up and walked towards the train.

" All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream." He said from behind.

" Edgar Allan Poe " I said, turning my head towards him.

He smiled at me as I boarded the train.

The dream ended there. It was already 9 in the morning and I was supposed to reach my workplace by 10.

I recalled whatever I had seen and came to the conclusion that I had been thinking too much lately. My subconscious had been playing games with me.

I dressed up as soon as I could.

I took a cab and asked the driver to rush. The roads were surprisingly pretty empty. I reached the place at 9:58 a.m and breathed a sigh of relief.

I was amazed upon seeing the office door being locked. I called the security and asked him what the matter was. He told me it was a Sunday.

" Shit! What's wrong with me. Perhaps it's the migraine medicines that the doctor had prescribed. " I thought to myself.

I asked him to open the door so that I could finish some of my pending work.

I felt sleepy and sluggish all day long.

By the time I finished, it was already 7 in the evening.

I stepped out of the office only to be greeted by an eerie desolation in the surroundings. There were no cars, no pavement dwellers, no buses, nothing. 
I started to walk towards the subway station. It was 15 minutes away from my workplace.

I had hardly walked for a minute or so that I heard some footsteps following me. I turned back and saw no one. It creeped me out. I continued my journey. It felt as though I was being watched by a million eyes, my movement was under heavy surveillance, and there was no escaping it.

Suddenly, I heard some whispers, terrible, unfathomable whispers, becoming louder with every step I took.

Is it real or Is it a dream or had I become insane? I could only wonder.

I ran frantically towards the street beside the abandoned building. I wanted the whispers to go away. I wanted to get lost in unknown abandoned avenues.

Alas! The street had no openings on the other side. I had hit the dead end. I looked around for an alternative but suddenly something else caught my attention.

There was a huge graffiti on the facade of the building to my right.

I took a step backwards and stumbled on the ground.

The words read-
" All that you see or seem, is but a dream within a dream."

I picked myself up and started to walk away from that avenue.

My eyes fell on the window on my right. On it, I saw the image of an old man who looked somewhat familiar, his skin time-worn and wrinkled, his eyes basked in deep melancholy . The fact that it was my own reflection took some time to sink in. It was as though time had just fast forwarded itself. I was absolutely shattered.

A strong breeze hit me and I fell on the ground again. It brought a plethora of dry leaves along with it.

I picked up one leaf and stood up.
 It was time for me to go home. I started to walk towards the nearest subway station and within a few minutes I was there.

I was waiting for the train, but quite some time had passed by now and there was no sign of an approaching train.

The digital board had also faltered, which meant all I could do was wait patiently.

I decided to spend my time contemplating at the leaf I had brought along with me.

After some time, I saw a young man coming towards me. He went ahead and sat down on the chair beside me.

"Hello, young man! Hope you're having a good day" I said.

The End

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