Imprint - A Short Story
“… he runs behind them … he runs … he runs as fast as them … then he jumps into a truck … a big truck … he kicks out the driver and then goes behind them with the truck … “
Ilisa stood engrossed listening to the tale being told to him. He tried hard to visualize the events that were being hastily told. He was already dazed about the arm-converting-to-machete-to kill-and-then-back-to-arm thing.
The wonders of film special effects! Having never seen such a film before, not that he had seen many a film before. Ilisa was but a boy studying 4th grade and not more than 9 years of age. They didn’t have a Television back home; then again these were the days when the cable TV had not raised its hood yet. So there was not many an opportunity for a young one to have a boost to his imagination.
Truck! A big truck! How big? It was hard to imagine, Ilisa also heard his friend mention of it hurtling away cars that came its way. Now, he had quite some things to formulate, a boy, a savior, a bike, a gun, a chase, a big truck, a liquid-man-who-never-wants-to-die. He was pressed for references.
"Truck! A big truck! Hmm …!"
They had just returned from school. They were chatting away right from when they had left their class room, walked the length of the playground, crossed the road to catch the bus back home, took the bus, took the seat and then when they were finally dropped to the stop in the vicinity of their homes.
Being a Saturday, they could go home by 12:30 pm, it’s half day. So they stood chatting away. Ilisa’s friend had seen this film ‘Terminator’ and was since kindling Ilisa’s imagination with the story and the effects to match. The enthusiastic way, in which his friend was drilling away, Ilisa was hard paced to catch up with an imagination that had been limited with references.
How much could a small boy have seen?
Then Ilisa saw it come, there far away. The truck had just entered into view, in the distance where the road curved away. In the far it was like one of those trucks Ilisa had seen with his cousin when he had last visited their place. How Ilisa fancied loading the truck with sand and tugging it away by the towline that was attached to the miniature front bumper of the model truck. Ilisa had made brave efforts of requesting to take possession of one of them but was sternly denied.
Yes, now the truck was coming in closer and closer and closer. Now it was taking up size, it was growing and growing and growing. A truck! Would that truck in the movie have looked like any of these? Ilisa was looking at the Tata truck that was fast approaching. The headlights caught Ilisa’s attention. How round they were? The curves, the yellow color, the chain hanging below the bumper, the tires, they were big anyway. The truck was also fast. It was coming in fast.
Now Ilisa could see the driver, then there were two more of them beside him. The driver was in the far right and chatting away with the other two, wheel in hand. The man in the middle was laughing away. The man sitting in the extreme right was leaned on the left door and was turned towards the other two and was also howling away in laughter, perhaps the cleaner Ilisa thought. A whiff of beedi-smoke took to the air.
As Ilisa saw the men in the lorry, he also heard giggles and turned his attention from the approaching truck to two little girls some distance away from him. They have to be sisters Ilisa thought. Both of them were shabbily dressed and gave an impression of rag pickers though their sack they usually carried along was missing. The eldest of them was almost as tall as Ilisa; the younger was a tiny one perhaps five years old. The young one held to her sister’s arm. Their attention too was on the approaching truck.
Not both of their attention was on the truck. The eldest stood contemplating crossing the road. The younger stood chirping.
She then glanced to the opposite side of the road, as she turned, her eyes met Ilisa’s momentarily and then she ran …
As fast as she had took off she immediately turned around the instant she hit the safer side. Did she turn around to take another glance at her lover as they do in the movies? No! She had left behind someone who had come along with her, who was till a moment ago tugging on to her arm. She turned to see. She saw her. She asked her to run, she asked her to in a very hasty manner, as if life was at stake.
Her hastiness suddenly showed itself on the little ones eyes and face. Her giggle had faded and there was some kind of urgency expressed, as if she had been left behind. As if she was not safe anymore, as if she had to run the very instant for her life. Some protective cover had just left her. She was exposed. She had to run, run as fast as she can. Well her sister demanded her so. Her face was a contortion of these mixed emotions.
Amidst the noises of the activities around Ilisa not to forget the non-stop rendering by his friend and the honking and then the barking and the talking, the scream of the elder sister to run brought Ilisa to full alert.
“Run … fast … run … fast,” she was now screaming on top of her voice.
Ilisa was now staring at the little one and the expressions she made. She was in a state of total panic and confusion and alarm.
Her intuitiveness would have alerted her of some mortal danger. Was it some premonition that prevented her momentarily from breaking into a wild run?
Then she ran!
She ran head-on into the front wheel of the truck, bumped her head hard into the rubber and was thrown away in rebound. She instantly hit the ground, arms and limbs sprawled over. She had to only hit the ground when she was instantly snatched away by her limb by the fast moving rubber and metal combination.
There was a sudden screech. The sound was similar to the braking of tires on a road strewn with sand. There was a scream too; only that it was drowned in the noise of that frightful scene.
The truck seemed like some provoked wild creature out to settle scores with the provoker. It made all kinds of terrible sounds. The engine made a loud sound as when with full throttle and the brakes on.
It was a roll, a death roll! A roll to resemble the one used by crocodiles on its prey to curtail any further futile attempts put forth by the prey to fight in an attempt to flee.
As she rolled, confusion loomed large. Confusion was in Ilisa’s eyes, confusion was in the eyes of the driver, confusion ruled the eyes of the guy who sat by puffing away his beedi and embroiled in conversation, till the roll took shape. The guy in the middle sat open mouthed at the sudden change of events!
The cleaner in the truck was seen hovering over the door trying to figure out what went wrong. Was it a puncture? The roll continued.
It all came to a sudden end. The end came so fast that through the roll Ilisa could see just the spin of the girl’s hair as if she was in the midst of some dance routine. She was spinning away. Everything came to an abrupt halt!
The scream filled the air. She was howling away for her mother and sister. There was pain in the air. Shock was frozen on the sister’s face. Tears were streaming down her face.
Idiot! Anger seeped into Ilisa when he caught the elder sister’s face momentarily.
The truck had come to a final halt just a few feet away from Ilisa where he stood by the footpath. The girl was now left lying on her back. Pain showed in all its fury on her small face. She had her mouth outstretched in a howl. She lied there calling for her mother and sister. Were they the only ones she trusted, believed and looked forward to?
Her screams were sending him waves of horror. Beads of perspiration formed on Ilisa’s forehead. The entire scene had unveiled right in front of him. Ilisa had been witness to it as if watching a movie. No movie would have left Ilisa with such an impact.
The cleaner had jumped down the truck door and now stood staring beside her.
As Ilisa’s attention moved from the cleaner to the girl, Ilisa could see just a stump of bone of what used to be her limb. Were there two stumps or one Ilisa didn’t know and never wanted to know? The last frame that registered in Ilisa’s mind was of her lying there with the stump-of-a-bone, her disheveled skirt which was now thrown over to her chest. He saw her undergarment. He saw her stomach. He saw her chest. He saw her hands. He saw her face. He saw her hair. He saw her thighs. He saw her stump. Droplets of blood were now forming on the revealed flesh around the stump.
Ilisa’s friend ran towards her calling Ilisa along. On-lookers were fast approaching the scene. On-lookers are what on-lookers always are! The howling continued. A crowd had soon formed. Ilisa saw his friend disappear into the crowd. Her sister had also entered the crowd.
Ilisa took a step forward towards the crowd, turned and took to his heels. Ilisa ran! He ran as fast as he physically could. He ran away from her. He had seen more than required and need not have any more views. Any more views would have knocked the daylight out of him.
The stump! The stump kept showing in Ilisa every other time. The horror of the scene replayed over and over and over. Tiny droplets kept forming across a pink area. The approaching truck, the chirping, the run, the bump, the roll, the screech, the confusion, the scream, the crowd, the stump …
Silence! The scene had silenced Ilisa. Not a word did he mention to anyone, not his mother, never to his father. Not a word did he mention of it to his buddies. Not a word of it did he mention of it to anyone at school.
Silence! Overwhelming silence took over Ilisa. The scene kept playing in him while he maintained silence. Ilisa felt as if he was to blame. He felt as if he would soon be questioned over the episode. He became more silent than ever, while the scene played itself in all its strength. The tonal quality of the scene that was now playing in Ilisa’s mind was becoming more brighter, sounds were becoming more distinct, the wails were even more painful, the guilty sister, the anger, the helplessness, the screech, the big truck, the laugh.
It was unbearable as the days went by.
“What is wrong with the boy, he neither eats well, nor sleeps well”, Ilisa heard his mother mention to his father.
“Motorcycle accidents are on the rise. Whether all the cases reported are drag racing incidents, it is not known …”
“Young men with fast motorcycles are often seen showing off their antics on the road and having them recorded too with intentions of posting them on the Web. They zoom in and out of traffic and at times riding dangerously popping wheelies at break-neck speeds. Let alone them injuring themselves, they are a nuisance and danger to everybody on the road and could lead to their death or personal injury. Worst still is that the speeds they attain at a wink of an eye with their bikes leaves any possibility of the police catching them far behind!” the report read.
“Do you always ride this fast?” Ilisa’s friend enquired. “You trained on a bullock-cart or what? Drop me here, I can walk faster!”
They had been riding for an eternity or so it seemed to Ilisa’s friend. Cautiousness has gone into his head or so thought Ilisa’s friend.
ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM … A bike zoomed by and was fast disappearing ahead of them.
The ruckus almost shook Ilisa’s friend, who was riding pillion with him, off his seat. “He rides like the wind,” Ilisa’s friend gasped. “Would you ever ride like that? Crows would fly topsy-turvy if you did that. Good for the crows that you didn’t!”
“It’s more than easy to finish that guy off,” Ilisa’s friend heard Ilisa mutter.
“What did you just say? Did you say finish him?” Ilisa’s friend wondered.
“You mean … kill him …?”
“Yeah, yeah … if that dude sees you ride … he would kill himself … for sure”
Ilisa just sat grinning. A horrid grin!
… the engines were roaring … both the riders were focused on the road, neither of them had the nerve to take their eyes off the road. Ilisa was charging at the biker and was preparing himself to overtake the rider. He was clearly aware of the bright lights piercing into his eyes from the opposite direction. He instantly knew he was head on into the incoming SUV and maneuvered to the left the very next instant. Ilisa swallowed hard! He felt the rush of adrenaline through him. That was a near miss, he knew it, but, he knew why he had attempted that. He refocused his attention on the biker ahead of him. The biker had gained a considerable gap between himself and Ilisa.
Ilisa prepared for the charge. Changing gears to accelerate himself, he charged ahead full throttle. The rider ahead too had increased his pace.
Ilisa frequented the road very often and knew every length and breadth of the road. He knew of the approaching ‘road hump’ and prepared himself. The hump he knew had no white markings to reveal its presence during pitch black nights! The hump caught the rider ahead of him unawares; Ilisa was pleased to see the rider struggling hard to regain balance and control. The rider had almost regained control and pace when the next hump caught him unawares. The dance to regain balance was on display a second time. Absence of onward traffic averted a major accident.
The rider was undeterred, he picked on the pace and was regaining on his lost time or so. He was like a man possessed! Ilisa was fast catching up. Ilisa never gave the rider a chance to relax nor reduce his pace. He was pushing the rider to the edge.
The road was curving ahead and Ilisa in his usual wariness, which he had gained from frequent usage of the road, was on the lookout for signs of vehicles crossing across the road into a side road just ahead where the curve ended. That was the only side road that existed on this stretch, whether the rider ahead was aware of this was not known to him.
Ilisa instinctively applied the brakes when he caught a glint of light reflected off a painted glossy surface. A truck was taking a turn and sat right across the road!
The night came alive with the screeching noise of brakes followed by a loud thud!
“… and that’s it … once you provoke them … they all become racers …” Ilisa asserted.
Ilisa’s friend sat staring at him.
“… ensure that you do not overtake him … dramatize that you’re trying hard … but … you lack the … something … to overtake …,” Ilisa preached. “… and that’s it … they will enact an accident for you … they’ll show you the right way to kiss the ground and perform a shake the limbs dance …”
“… are you a sadist … phew … you are one horrible guy,” Ilisa’s friend exclaimed.
“Worms … they are all but … just worms … I could demonstrate it to you some day … they are better gone … else … why should some small girl die …”
It was a dark night and Ilisa rode along. A bike whizzed by. Ilisa raised the throttle!
© R. Suresh Babu, 2009
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