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Piyush Tainguriya
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Mar 3, 2009

Lonesome Valley; Chapter 1

The Emancipator

He sat there at the top of the cliff dangling his legs. He had the familiar sense of being out of his body that people generally have after a heavy dose of ketamine. His schedule rarely allowed him to be in contact with his higher self. Being a philosophy professor isn't as fool proof a way of avoiding useless labour as he had thought. He loved being high on ketamine. He liked to ruminate about the imminent, indelible truth of human life - as he half dangled from the cliff, not caring if he fell or not - Death. He had some more of it in his pocket and today he planned to have a near death experience with it. Body paralysed he lay there thinking. With a mind like his (an IQ of 200) and effects of ketamine he was getting riddled with umpteen revelations and insights every minute.

He remembered the house in the prairies, he sitting with his mama and dad, eating from his special toddler sized crockery and cute plastic cutlery.
Mama saying to dad 'Mrs. Johnson passed away'.
Dad said 'How very lucky of her. She has met her higher destiny at the age of 35. I wish I could die in peace right now.'
"Yes dear but we have little Jeremy to think about, how I would love to sleep in eternal peace forever" mama gave a wistful expression that suggested that dying was way better than getting a personal visit from Santa Claus.
He chirps to his mother "I want to die too mama, will you take me when you die?"
There is a small crowd near the stream that the villagers used to fish for eels. His classmates say his mother is floating on the lake and she is not moving. He goes there and the air of tragedy, excitement, diffidence, apprehension, tells him that mama is done moving. Is this how people look when they die? The expression on her face doesn't look peaceful, in fact its not much of an expression at all. Her face is bitten all over by fish. His dad hoists him from the ground and embraces his little body and tells him that she is at peace now, she just couldn't wait for me though. How very lucky of her. How very like her.

They're walking back home after a short and private funeral service for mama. Dad holds his hands and says 'Jerry, I have to talk to you, I have to tell you something you should know.' He had thought it will be about the thing he had seen the high school boys and girls do behind the trees in the park when it got dark. He found it gross. 'Jerry all of us have to go where mama has gone one day or the other. Everyone goes when life forces them to go but your mama forced life to let her go. People will tell you that your mama was a pusillanimous woman but I think she had the grit to know the value of death." He had no clue what "poozillanimuz"" meant but afterwards he always remembered thinking that he will never grow up to be that.

The day he caught the city bound train to join his college to get a degree in philosophy he peered out of the window into his father's proud face and saw an extremely relieved man. He knew that he will not see him again.

Its time for another dose. He took out the bottle of medical purpose ketamine prescribed by Dr.Chaddha, his reluctant friend at the university.He took a spoonful out of the bottle and heated it on the cigarette lighter's flame. The liquid transmogrified into a crystalline powder which he crushed and scattered on the hard cover "hamlet". The Swiss army knife cut lines into the powder to make it easy to snort small doses, but then he destroyed the drain works and made one small hill of narcotic heaven. He gingerly positioned the cut off straw at the top of the mound and put one of his nostrils on the other end and gave one animal like pull to the air. The narcotic hit him almost instantly and he was paralyzed. His brain went eons ahead of him. Things suddenly startled making sense. The feeling of having figured out his aim of life enveloped him in powerful gushing waves. He saw a light making headway to his eyes. In a few moments that light was a tunnel. Peace reigned. He was happy, no he was ecstatic. Mama came to him, her smile beckoned him. But then dad appeared, he was not smiling. He was saying something. "Go, teach people the value of death, make them meet their higher destiny. You are yet not ready for your higher destiny."

He started crying uncontrollably, but the sound of his voice was muffled as if with ballasts. The tunnel swept away. The light turned itself off. It was clear he was not in the vicinity of the comforting emptiness of eternal sleep but now again in the middle of the living bustle of wakeful tribulations. The ketamine hadn't worn off totally and the plan came to him almost automatically.

After about three quarters of an hour he was ready to to go and test his plan. He had completed his graduation at an early age of 19 years "summa cum laude" and was offered a fellowship at the university as recognition for his superb albeit sometimes against the grain talent. He had come to detest the squalor of the big city. The tenements, the garbage dumps, the unfortunate souls living on them, devoid of any human decency, shame or self respect. He pitied them, but he knew anything he did to help them will surely make matters worse. Some people just drown. He had never understood this insistence upon living. Why do people go on living even when there is nothing to live for? Why do we go on trying to find meaning in a life full of garbage dumps and sewer rats and die a consumptive death trying?

Dr. Chaddha will say because of a "will to live". What does it serve for? Do we really need it? What solutions does it pose in front of us if not more problems? Why shouldn't a terminally ill patient end all the problems with one quick slash of a sharp knife? Will that also be called " A permanent solution for a temporary problem?"
Well its time to test the hypothesis and his will to execute it. A wino was sleeping on the side of the road, curled up under the dubious warmth of the wooden bench and streetlight. Why does this person want to live? Why is he wallowing in the verminous life of this hellhole when he has a chance to end this and find out whether there is a higher destiny or not? Sometimes he even doubted his father's theory about higher destiny. He sometimes thought that all things are equally meaningless in this universe, death included. He suddenly felt guilty. He felt like he has hurt his father somewhere in his nth dimension.

He took out his swiss army knife. Opened up the biggest blade and stood over the sleeping hulk of a human equivalent of a rudderless boat bent on floating on without a direction. Not that any direction was preferable to any other. Was he planning to kill that man? Is that an immoral act? May be but morality is also a set of rules devised for better living of a society that made a taboo out of death. That is why we recognize many levels of sins Venal and mortal, forgivable and unforgivable, okay and grave. Why is stealing more forgivable than killing? Because human race is more afraid of getting killed than getting ripped off. That is why we devise punishments for killing not only at a legal level but also at a psychological level. Morals are just another legal code, only ingrained deeper in the psyche. And he was just freeing this piece of vermin feces from the squalor of his sorry life.

Before anymore question could trouble him as questioning everything was his way he brought the knife down straight toward the heart of the sleeping wino. The wino yawned and shifted his position while sleeping and by the time the knife blade traversed the distance to his body his neck had come in the way. Steel struck flesh. A gash opened and sprinkled hot metal flavoured blood on his face. He briefly remembered a piece of trivia read somewhere among his massive store of books about the iron content of blood . He concentrated on the job at hand. The wino had lost his vocal chords as the only sound he made was a primeval gurgling sound, but the strength of a dying man even though he is a street wino can astonish the strongest of the well fed prairie boys. He thrashed under him. He had to pin him down with both his legs and and it took 5 more slashes on the neck and the stomach when he at last stopped writhing.

He stood up feeling confused.. Has he done it well? Why did he protest so much? No harm was meant. But of course he was feeling pain. He will have to take care of the pain from the next time. The deserted roadside enveloped him in the murky mix of of dirty light and stinking shade. The only ones who had seen him were the sewer rats he so despised. He had taken the first step. There was no turning back. He was the emancipator.