[After Pralaya there will be small numbers of humans on the earth. and among this small number, not all will be humans. Though they will look like humans they will be animals, the animals without tails. But the eyes of the Avatar will find out their true nature and know who is good and who is evil.]
That night I had no concept of time as I slept.
The first dream is about the temple or the tower whatever it is.
It isn’t like a dream but as an old memory. So after that dream, I have a name for them: MEMORY DREAMS.
The temple is dark and cold. I’m there but I’m different. My age is almost thirty but my face is the same, just the difference is I’ve beard and a mustache.
In the first dream, I just saw the temple. It’s like a tower, taller and taller, disappearing in the mist.
I float in the darkness of that dark temple, in the void of black. I see nothing. I hear nothing. I smell nothing. And still, I feel the place is creepy. It’s creepier than a nightmare.
I can’t feel anything else as if all my senses have been stolen by the darkness around me.
Time is immobile there. The only thing there is fear.
Finally, after the immeasurable wait, things begin to change.
The temple starts to rotate around me or maybe I’m rotating around it. The tower’s top, which is invisible in mist starts to appear as if I’m going up near it.
Then my eyes are open.
I wake to sweaty palms and ache in my entire body. I am lying in the bed in the same room, but now the lights aren’t on. I am not feeling pain in my eyes. When I tilt my head back, I see my father behind me, holding two cups in his hand, waiting for me to wake up.
“Feeling dizzy?” my father gives me a questioning look.
I prop myself up on one elbow, “a bit.”
“Then wash your face.”
I hop out of bed out of an old habit. Most teenage Sunyas do that. They hope while leaving their cots and for that their parents show them angry eyes.
I wash my face with something like water for looks but not for taste. I see myself in the mirror. It’s on the wall at the left corner of the room. A mirror with a wooden frame, the design of strange flowers curved on the frame. I see myself in the mirror for the first time. My hair is undone and falling tangled over my shoulder. I finger combed them. I’m not beautiful. I’m not pale. I’m strong and looking as fierce as the Nirbhayas.
I’m wheat skin, standing tall. I’ve broad shoulders and strong arms, a broad torso and defined muscles. My physical strength is due to the exercise forced by my father and the narrow waist is due to Asana taught by my teacher. Something strange in my body is my face. I’m not like my other people. They have long faces. Contrary, I have a round face with a softly shaped jaw where the beard is about to grow. Like my mustache, it’s also faintly visible.
“Drink some water,” my father’s voice drags me out of the mirror. Though the water isn’t tasty, I drink a glass, thinking my throat is still swollen.
“I am still dizzy,” I put the glass back near the water pot and look at my father, “and tired too.”
“Drink this and it will be gone.” He handed me a cup, it looked earthen but polished and shining as if made of metal, but it’s not.
“What’s in it?” I take the cup; its surface is hot, not enough to burn my hand still hot.
“Tea,” he answers, taking a sip from his cup, “it’s to drink?”
“Milk?” I ask, unknown what it is.
“It’s something to drink.”
“Nothing.” He says, “Animals like cows, buffaloes and goats give it.”
Why haven't I read about them? I think. Maybe its details would be in another book. I have just some not all books.
“Cows, buffaloes, and goats,”
In the wall we have no animals like these; we have just dogs, wolves and snakes who give you nothing but injury if you don’t care while dealing with them.
“They are tame animals,” he says, “now drink it.”
I take a sip. It’s tasty, more than I had imagined.
“How they look?”
“All different, cows and buffaloes are big while goats are small.”
“How big are they?”
“They’re bigger than the horses of the traders.”
“And how small are the goats?”
“Hmmm,” he thinks for a while, “Smaller than a horse and bigger than a dog, something between them.”
“All are different, some black, some white some black and white but buffaloes are black, mostly.”
“Where have you seen them?”
“In the farms of the folk.”
“How they give milk.”
“I don’t know.” he says, “now drink without questioning.”
“Okay.” I nod and drink the warm coffee.
“Now be ready for the test?
“Yes. Healers will come and test your body.”
“To know if you have any disease.”
“And if someone has?”
“They will kill him.”
My eyes widen, everything inside me churn and hurt; the tears burn my eyes.
“Kill?” I am unable to speak more.
“Yes,” he says, “but that’s not horrible.”
I fume, wanting to punch somebody. But I simply say, “Then?”
“Test of Devatas,” he whispers, not really meaning for anyone to hear him.
“What do they do?”
“They test your mind,” he says, his forehead creasing in concern.
“How can they test our minds?”
“By magic,” his eyes wander as if he isn’t sure what to say, he says, “and if your mind is thinking what a Sunya shouldn’t think they take you to the guardhouse.”
Would things ever stop getting worse? I think and ask, “And kill…”
“Wait,” he interrupts me, “let me finish.”
“Something horrible than it,” his lips trembling, “they make an experiment to know how the divergent thoughts came.”
I folded my arms, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, “and?”
“And the person remains alive for rest of his life but in the guardhouse captured in tubes and wires and never returns,”
Emptiness eats away at my insides and quickly replaced by sadness that hurts my heart. It’s all too much.
A sob rises in my chest and the tears shine in my eyes, among my hundreds of tries to stop them.
My father claps me on the shoulder. “Samrat, what you’re feeling, we have all felt it. We have all had First Day, come out of fear. Things are bad, they are, and they will get much worse for you soon, that’s the truth.” He pauses, “I think you should read more books to get courage.”
I am only getting more and more confused. Devatas. Tests. Guardhouse. The words are so odd, I haven’t heard them before still, I feel a heavyweight while hearing them, and I am not sure I want to know what my father is talking about.
“You know I read books?” I say, to change the topic.
“Yes, I and your mother know.”
“Because your mother is also like you,” he says, “you know I was a Sunya before meeting her, I couldn’t feel anything but then she taught me how to see the world around us and how to interpret it.”
“Does my mother read books?”
“Yes, she is a daughter of a teacher and you inherited it.”
“I am a heritage conversant.”
“yes, and divergent thinking too,” he clutches my shoulder till I feel pain, “now get ready for what’s coming when Devatas come to test your brain, don't think anything, pretend to be a Sunya.”
“How can I?”
“You should, as many of our people do for years to be alive, to go back to their families, their sons, their daughters, their wives, their neighbours, their peoples, and their world in the wall.”
Nothing makes sense. I think and my head hurts.
“Make sure you’re ready,” he says, but both he and I know that no one can.
I slid down the smooth surface of the wall in my room until I sat on the floor; I closed my eyes, wishing I could wake up from this terrible, terrible dream but unfortunately it isn’t a dream – it’s real, all real, unbelievable but real.
I remember my teacher. I remember his words: once we were brave people. If we ever were it can be again.
The tests begin in the hall. The hall isn’t empty now. It’s filled with so many chairs, all made of metal, shining and the same size, uncountable chairs.
We sit at these chairs, wondering what will happen now.
When the test administrators call five names at a time, I know they know us by our name. They have a book on the stage in which names of all newbie Sunyas have been registered. I wonder how they know our names.
Next to me is sitting a pale girl, her feet tapping the floor impatiently and she playing with her fingers. She is short but strong with dark skin. Her hair is curly and pulled back in a tail.
I am sure she is nervous. I am nervous. All are nervous.
All the administrators are Nirbhayas. I wonder who will be the healers.
Will they be Nirbhayas, Devatas or folk?
“Aditya.” The man holding a voice amplifier torch starts to read names, “Manish, Avinash, Sailesh, Darshan.”
He doesn’t need to speak last names – we have none.
I gaze at all the chairs, scanning every face. All are restless, feared, worried and pale.
Five boys go to the stage. Each is led to a separate room by the administrator. The first two boys I’m not familiar with but I know Avinash and Darshan. They live several huts away from my hut. Darshan is more familiar to me – he was a messenger and we were with each other for a year when I’ve completed my one year’s compulsory job of the massager. In the wall, we have no means of communication like they have in beyond the wall. They have postmen who deliver written letters but we have messengers. Each of our boys has to work as a messenger for a year, voluntarily. That’s how we gather people at gatherings and festivals. The messengers are good runners. They run in the area, go to each hut and deliver messages – orally. We have no written messages.
Beyond the wall, Devatas do work of justice. They call that court and their Devatas solve every issue of the folk. In the wall, we have no such system. We call a gathering (Panch) if there is an issue or a conflict among the people. In gathering the oldest people (Panch Persons) in the wall take a decision and do justice. We solve conflict and issues but not with the punishment of death like beyond the wall. We’ve our own way. The place where we have the Gathering is a big round area, we call it PANCHAYAT.
And we don’t need hard punishment because no one commits such crimes that bring them death punishment. Everyone fears Devatas and Nirbhaya. My people think if we break any rule Pralaya would come again. Still, we have some bad people in control of the gathering. They never dare to go against the decision of the gathering. NEVER.
After ten minutes they return with the same nervousness.
I wonder what would happen inside the test rooms.
Then another five are called.
And in the next round, the girl sitting next to me is called – she looks at me before leaving her seat. I whispered in a low voice – good luck. But she hasn’t heard. Perhaps the fear has blocked her ears.
What will happen when my turn comes? I think and my stomach wrenches. I close my eyes and when my name is spoken I open them.
It is my turn.
I get up, feeling unsteady and letting go of my thoughts. If it were my wish, I would never leave the seat. I feel like my legs are becoming water and they are unable to endure my weight. I feel I will fall to the ground the next moment but I don’t.
I feel my heart pounding and I am tempted to twist my hands the way some boys did in nervousness when their names were called, but I hold perfectly still with my chin up and my eyes on the stage.
No one wants to go on the stage if there is punishment for any mistake is death.
I reach the stage, my legs trembling or maybe my whole body. I look back at the hall, all filled with my people, the names are announced in no order but according to the reader’s wish. I feel slightly sorry for the boys and girls, who have no idea when their names will be called when they must stand and walk to the test room.
“Come with me,” the administrator says, “to this room.”
I hear mildness in the voice of Nirbhaya. It’s strange. Why?
Perhaps they don’t behave rudely in the presence of a Devata. My eyes scan the stage and find a man looking different than all.
He has no hair on his head, his eyes round and shining brightly like a predator, his skin rough, and crisscrossed with red veins. His face is white as if he is sick and so many veins on his face are all green. His face reminds me of the wall of the water channel on which there are many green creepers. His face has one resemblance with me, it is round in shape like me not long like my people or not an odd shaped like Nirbhayas.
The strange thing is he has no eyebrows. No mustache or no beard. It looks like he is made of wax. Is he a Devata?
If he is a Devata then if I have green veins over my face, red veins in my eyes, I’m thinner than I ’m, and I’ve no hairs over my body I would look like him. I think. Why am I not like my people? I don’t know and I don’t want to know.
I followed that strange man to a room.
to be continue...