Humans of 2:30 pm
I walked about in the empty podium near the gates of the building. I was scared to see them around. They looked like me except that they were a little different. Their heads were bent down at the neck and they hunched forward. Their eyes were glued to the radiant screens in their hands. All of them, male and female, were bent at their necks. Their hands bent at their elbows, and their unmoving eyes were captured by the radiant glow of the screens.
I smelled metal everywhere.
The zombies were here.
I noticed a small child run to a male and tug at his clothes, but the seeming adult zombie remained unmoved. The sprightly child looked human, but I couldn’t quite understand why he was accompanying an adult zombie. The adult’s eyes were stuck to the screen in his hand, and his thumb, a relentless conveyer belt for the screen, moved upwards endlessly, the robotic scroll making his zombie life a success.
All the other zombies around me looked the same, as if they were all cut out of an orchestrated machine. Some of them probably had a higher zombie quotient than the others, but I couldn’t say. They all acted the same way; they never showed any change in the one action that they all did simultaneously - scroll. No matter who happened near them, they were perpetually stuck to their phones. Cars whizzed by, birds chirped, a pet dozed quietly next to a half-chewed ball, the trees swayed in their meditative aura, and the 2:30 pm life moved at its normal pace, unnoticed and resolute in its own way, but the zombies scrolled on for ever.
I recognized the zombies because I was one of them. Not very long ago.
Until a few hours back, I was in my own zombie universe of endless scrolling. Replying to emails, writing tons of them, consuming copious cat videos and demotivating motivational videos, visiting sites and looking at the malleable smiles of my friends on Mt.Titlis would be my job for the day. And whenever I could sneak in a minute. That virtual happiness yardstick was a long one, and the zombie in me tried hard to reach the top. But every time I crawled up, I slid down and further down until I made myself miserable.
I would wonder how some people could travel all year round, how happy they looked standing on the snowy mountains. Why was I not lucky enough to reach Mt.Titlis?
I felt free each time I keyed in the four digits to my robotic existence. Life was there in that screen of mine, locked and unlocked in seconds.
I would often refresh and refresh my socials expecting something new. Something. Anything. If there was nothing to stare at, I’d have withdrawal symptoms. I craved for something volatile and I didn’t know what I wanted.
Sitting now at the circular arena, I checked the time. I was waiting for a bus, a school bus, that would drop my child from school. I looked at the path turning beyond where I couldn’t see anymore. There is always something enigmatic about a turn that gets lost and there is something more enigmatic about a yellow bus coming out of that turn.
I felt my pocket to see if my screen was with me. Yes, it was nicely tucked in and had no chances of being taken out. I had managed to crush that addiction to online meth a few hours back. I felt victorious about myself.
What about these zombies around? How long would it take to exorcise them?
I pondered on ways when suddenly, I felt someone standing next to me.
Looking up, I found a human looking at me. A human! She smiled at me.
‘It’s 2:30 pm, time for me to be a human. Just like you,’ she said to me and walked away.
I didn’t understand.
Before I could focus on her, I noticed the yellow buses arrive and the sounds of cheerful children percolated out of the glass windows.
Almost instantly, the entire place changed. So did the zombies.
‘Where were they?’ I looked around.
There were no zombies. No, they had disappeared. I could see only humans. Humans like me; humans like the woman who smiled at me; humans like the child tugging at the adult’s elbow. Humans were talking to other humans, both big and small, and I felt more human looking at them. The robotic air had melted into an air of warmth and love. The young children coming down from the buses were running to meet their parents, while the older kids got busy with their friends.
‘From this moment onwards, I’ll be what Nature willed me to be: a human,’ someone told me while walking by. I noticed he didn’t have a screen in his hands.
An hour later too, I noticed the same spot full of life. Children played while their parents watched them run around, the tiny tots chased butterflies and watched cars, they rolled with laughter making their parents roll with laughter at their jokes. The entire atmosphere oozed a distantly familiar smell of humanity.
While getting back home with my child, I saw the woman walking back to her own house. There was something odd about her gait, a little robotic, a little lost, a little metallic. It seemed she was graduating to a robot soon.
Happy that the world had got back its life, we went home.
The house was dark.
I took out the screen from my pocket. I keyed in the four digits.
My neck hunched. My hand bent at the elbow.
I smelled of metal.
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