Happy Hour

SHARMA SEVENTEEN opens his eyes in the middle of fucking nowhere. Tired, bloodshot, squinting under the bright sun. A black butterfly butterflies by. It’s got an intricate gold and purple pattern in its wings flutters over them, and comes to rest on his nose. We see he is an average looking middle aged man. Everything about him is absolutely ordinary. His hair is unkempt and he has a day old stubble. He’s wearing a crumpled white shirt and brown trousers, and a loosened tie is around his neck. He waves his hand, and the butterfly flies off, but continues to flit about around him. He gets up and looks around. He is in a sparse yet beautiful forest with not many trees but a thick carpet of lush, wild grass. He looks around and smiles. We see that his teeth are yellowing and his lips have a dark tinge. The butterfly flies off, and he idly begins to follow it, but he loses sight of it after a while. He continues walking, and in the distance we see a large tree that looks distinct from the others in the forest. There is a childlike giggle, and suddenly a beautiful young woman runs past him and towards the trees. He is unable to see her face. She is wearing a beautiful blue salwaar suit. Intrigued, he follows her. When he reaches the tree, he sees the young woman standing beneath it, looking up at some fruit that is hanging off one of the lower branches. She extends her arm, even jumps, but cannot reach it. She looks towards him with expectant eyes, and a look of surprise and recognition crosses his face,

(developers note: tech to generate exact forest topography and girl’s face from the player’s teenage memories is still in beta. results may vary. six weeks to ship final product approx.)

but he shakes his head and dismisses it. His lips seem to be forming a word, but don’t, and he says nothing. Instead, he walks over to the tree, and picks the fruit off the branches, placing it in a small heap on the ground. Meanwhile clouds have begun to gather, and a strong breeze starts. She sits on the ground, picks a fruit and begins to eats it ravenously. She looks at him still standing, and beckons him to sit next to her. He does, and she hands him a fruit, which he accepts with hesitation. He takes a bite, and his face lights up with delight at the pungent taste. Hungrily, greedily almost, he digs in. They are both like children at this point — eating messily, laughing, and giggling. By now, the storm has picked up, and with a loud thunderclap, it begins to pour, and they are instantly drenched. With a squeal, the young woman gets up, takes him by the hand and both run for shelter under the tree. Under the tree, both fall back down to the ground, panting, and laugh. Silence. They look at each other for a long, tense moment, when suddenly the woman leans in and kisses him squarely on the lips. There is another moment of silence, another glance exchanged. The woman, desire suddenly ignited, pins him to the ground, takes her own dress off, and mounts him in one swift motion. They make love passionately even as the storm rages on. As they are near climax, a large bolt of lightning hits the tree and it catches fire. We see a tight close up of his eyes, frozen open in horror, and then closing as the reflection of a burning branch falling towards him is visible in them.

He blinks. The world melts.

His eyes again, now held wide open by some sort of pincer like device as tiny rivulets of glistening gold and purple liquid make their way across the surface of his eyeball. A small pipe is feeding this liquid to his eyes, and the other end of the pipe leads to a bell jar, within which it separates into finer capillaries drawing this liquid from the abdomen and wings of a black butterfly with a purple and gold pattern in its wings, which is twitching slightly, as if in pain. There are several small, barely noticeable scars next to his eye, indicating where the pipe has punctured his skin on previous occasions. The purple and gold liquid begins to coagulate, leaves his eye in the shape of a glistening, beautiful teardrop, the butterfly twitches violently, and dies. He looks down, and we see a woman zipping up his trousers even as she wipes her mouth. There is a large butterfly tattoo across her back. She gives him a blank stare, gets up, and walks away. He looks around, and we see that he is in some kind of seedy bar, where there are several such booths, all with women on their knees, and having identical black butterfly tattoos on their backs, which seem to be moving as they perform fellatio on their customers. He looks towards the bar counter, where a portly, balding man in a dirty vest is looking directly at him with a twisted grin. He says in a menacing accent — “Happy Hour is over, Sharma Seventeen. Get the fuck out.” The man gets up, trudges to the counter and pays. Collecting his jacket and a briefcase from a rack near the exit, he glimpses his reflection on the glass pane of the door, partially lost in the reflections of the street outside on the same glass. He looks at the reflections intently for a second — his greying hair, his bloodshot eyes. He sighs, and steps out into the street, which is crowded and full of similar bars with lurid and explicit neon signage, all in different languages, stalls selling strange looking food, and people huddled in corners smoking pipes. There are also several people who appear to be police officers, dressed in ominous red and black jackets dotting the street, keeping a watch. A strip of glass acting as a long screen runs all across the walls on both sides of the street, above the shop signages so as to be clearly visible. The words MUMBAI HAS NO PLACE FOR MIGRANTS scroll across it. He looks towards the policemen, and one of them seems to be looking directly at him. He hastily looks away. In the distance is Chatrapati Shivaji Station with an ominous red spotlight on its clock tower that continuously scans the vista in wide sweeps. As he walks, the police officer looking at him earlier, and two others, begin walking towards him. His pace quickens as the policemen draw nearer, and a slow, familiar, terror starts creeping up his spine, but they cross him and walk to another man leaning against the wall, begin beating him violently, and drag him away. Hardly anybody pays attention. Relieved, he trudges through the street and disappears into the crowd, blends into it, drifts with its rhythm, one with the beast. At some point he breaks off and heads into a by lane and emerges in front of the Police Station. His body stiffens, his chest puffs out, and he walks in. The guard on duty gives him a sharp salute. He walks past the holding cells, past the execution chamber, past the liquor room, and straight to his desk.

He takes off his red and black jacket from the coat hanger behind it, dusts it off, almost ceremoniously, wears it, and sits down. Then he barks an order.

“Mishra Four, I heard they rounded up a fresh migrant today. Straight to execution for this rat. No room in the holding cells.”

Sharma Seventeen loves his job.