Ashica had the feeling that she was being stalked. But no matter what she did she couldn’t prove it. Whether she raised a mirror to her forehead and pretended to fix her bang while looking for anyone lurking behind or took a quick selfie in the middle of the road to zoom and analyse it later for suspicious faces or turned around suddenly just to catch her stalker off guard – nothing worked. She didn’t find anyone who looked remotely suspicious. What is this feeling? This lingering feeling that I am being watched? My every move observed, scrutinized, judged.
Her condition aggravated, she couldn’t leave her home. She couldn’t confide it in her parents either. Her Mom called one Friday evening knowing Ashica would be relatively free during the weekend.
‘How are you darling? How’s work?’
‘Fine ma. I’m great as usual. Work’s great too. I am finally getting to do what I always wanted to.’
‘That’s wonderful. Take care. You know I’m always there for you. Just a call away. Love you, baby. Bye.’
She sighed deeply.
She couldn’t even tell her boyfriend Ranveer. What if it freaks him out? What if he thinks I am insane?
She was making tea for herself, watching the tea powder brew on the stove, then she froze as she felt eyes on her back. She turned and scanned the kitchen. What…was that? Am I losing it? What’s wrong with me?
She cupped the steaming mug, felt the warmth seep into her palms and curled up on her couch. She needed help. Soon. Work from home was an option allowed to her but if she felt unsafe even at home, how could she ever escape?
Now she felt someone invisible was trying to tell her something. She dropped her mug, it broke and stained the floor. She cupped her ears with her palms. Concentrate Ashica. Is it all in your head or is it really happening?
She carefully manoeuvred around the broken cup on her tip-toes and went to the balcony for some fresh air; she held the parapet as she watched people walking by. They walked so fast, everyone had a purpose, nothing was stalling anyone, then why was it only her?
She turned to go inside and then she noticed her hands, her fingers were missing. She fainted.
* * *
‘The subject has returned to the jar. We are monitoring it for the next 24 hours to check for any inconsistencies, if the subject’s reports are normal then it will be returned to the repository for further procedure’, recorded a lab technician.
Ashica was aware that she was in a bell jar. But what was happening? She wondered where her physical self had gone. She just knew that she existed in some form now.
The lights were turned off after sometime. The next day they carried her bell jar to a separate room and then she was set free.
Suspended into the air, she floated about and wondered what this new existence was all about.
She inquired and another soul in the room said, ‘We are all here so that we can narrate what we felt and experienced in our short lives. We are the souls of aborted babies. The souls of miscarried babies are in the other wing.
‘We get chosen by these people to live an illusion, not a reality, so that we taste life. Not exactly the one we were destined for but the one they create for us. You were aborted when you were almost six months in your Mother’s womb, so they know you were a female. Many who are aborted or miscarried in the first two months are then sent as Eunuchs and mind you the illusions created are worse than the reality that eunuchs face we have heard. These people sure know how to have fun at our cost.
‘There are three levels of illusions. Easy, Medium, Hard. You were one of the lucky ones to be a part of the first one. Some of the souls which are sent without any sexual identity complications, unlike the eunuchs, are put in the last level, there is a risk they might return too soon by committing suicide but they say that there has to be a balance between all the three levels and that they select souls at random for such experiences. But we don’t think so. They might have been prostitutes’ foetuses…And no one has yet been successful in committing suicide, though they have definitely attempted.
‘They have yet to prove that souls can live, even if the physical form they had in the womb dies and all this is being done to prove that very thing. They must at least prove that a million souls have successfully lived in their illusions for at least quarter of the normal human’s life – that is for 25 years…It would be a breakthrough for mankind they say when they achieve their target..
You must have felt odd for a few days before going back into the bell jar. It was us calling you back. We have no choice. We are all ordered to create the souls’ mega force to call you back from the illusion. If we don’t co-operate, then we are sent again on illusions and they make it hell for us. I disobeyed once and they made me live as a whore to my own father. Anyway, so you were resisting our force the most. We almost thought you would manage to live until you were done with having lived a long and satisfying life like these people.
But your time was up. The relationships you had, the laughter, the tears, were created by them. We are nothing but an experiment. The next round will be a battery of tests to find out what you experienced.’
Ashica gathered her emotions and said, ‘We are not alone. Do you think these people are happy? Maybe they don’t sleep at all. For all we know, they are being experimented upon, by someone cleverer and more powerful than themselves and maybe they know it but can’t do anything about it.’
Michelle D’costa has set a National Record for the most poetry and fiction published in magazines in India Book of Records 2015. She laughs loudly and is not apologetic about it. She blogs here pikoomish.wordpress.com