by Sarthak Parajulee
My fingers fumbled around the inside of my coat pockets and found the last cigarette. I pressed it tight between my lips. I didn’t need the smoke, really. Just the touch and faint aroma calmed my senses on many different levels than one realized.
Kahl lit it for me. Ironic, that. The doctor who never smoked carried the lighter for some reason. I didn’t bother asking about it. The next thing I know, his answer would be that few aliens planted it on him. Such bizarre were the turn of events that day—anything seemed abso-bloody-lutely possible!
I waited for the doctor to say something. Anything.
“Telekinesis,” he finally said, voice rasp and weary…yet unnaturally calm. Doctor Kahl.
“Telekinesis.” His words echoed through my tight lips and I immediately felt like a complete retard.
“You seem surprised,” the Doctor said in that oh-so-casual way of his.
My eyes twitched. “That is your conclusion?”
“A speculation.” He rested his elbow against the table as he leaned closer to me. “For now.”
“Outrageous, doctor,” I barked. “Even for you.”
“Human mind, my friend,” Kahl said, standing from his chair. “It is an outrageous instrument. Capable of outrageous feats.”
I decided to go with it for the time being. It was still a better concept than an alien implantation. One that was slightly backed by science and years of research—even though on a completely controversial level.
I let out a ring of smoke toward the roof. “Say, it’s true. Say, I did it.” I shook my head, sighing. “Where does that leave me now?”
He smacked his lips. “That, Professor, leaves you in a rather difficult situation.”
I rolled my eye at the gash in my left hand. Still fresh and open. “I can see that.” I gulped. “What do you suggest further? Should I just…paralyze my mind?”
He chuckled. “If one could paralyze his mind just by simple will and on a whim, the world would have got three or four Buddha by now.” He waved his palm dismissively. “No, my friend. That sort of mental power is difficult to achieve—only possible, even if it were ever possible, through extensive meditation, focus, and will.”
“So, basically, I need to achieve Nirvana.”
The doctor eyed me from above his specs and gave a half-hearted shrug. “Basically…”
I stood up. “Yeah. So, thanks for your time, doctor. You’ve been as helpful as ever.” I managed a smile and turned to leave.
“Szel,” he said. One of the rare instances, even after years of knowing each other, when he called me by my first name. “I suggest you stay under my observation.”
“In your facility?”
His brows furrowed deep. “In my home.”
I scoffed. “Home?” I shook my head. “You mean asylum.”
“Home to some.” The doctor pursed his lips. “Asylum to others.”
I narrowed my eyes. “And what would it be for me?”
He watched me with cold eyes, bearing into mine as if he intended to see my very soul. I expected a quick come back, like he usually does. But he stood in silence. For once.
“No, thank you, doctor…” I said, gulping. “Kahl.” One of the rare instances when I called him by his first name. I offered him my hand and he shook it heartily.
I left the doctor’s hospice with nothing but an abominating theory and the bitter taste of medicine at the back of my mouth. A useless pill, that one. I frowned to myself. Useless pill from a useless doctor.
The guard at the elevator to my apartment shot me a salute.
Ugh. “Don’t do that, Mic,” I said. “You embarrass me.”
He only smiled at that. He always smiles, Mic.
I waited for the elevator. My mind wandered off in idleness and began counting the number of loose seats in the lobby.
One of the seats flew and came toward me, as if there was a giant magnet on me.
Shit! I looked away, forcing my mind to think about something else. I never turned to find if it did the trick. Didn’t even wait for the elevator anymore. I shot straight for the stairs and climbed up–two steps at a time.
Reaching the fourth floor was tiresome. Getting old, Szel. At thirty at that! In our profession, that was no age to get old. One of my colleagues…former colleagues…took twenty classes a day at sixty-five.
Reaching inside my coat for the apartment keys, I trudged toward it. I was almost thankful for the door to not fly open on my thought. Unlike earlier that day in my office. I could do with a few less glares for the day.
I turned the lock only to find my keys defunct. Not now. I pressed harder, twisted this way and that, even frowned at it a little. Nothing.
“I’m throwing you out, Szel,” a voice came, hard and cold. Cruel. My landlord, no doubt.
“You gotta’ be kiddin’ me, Redge.”
“Not this time, no.” His voice was firm.
I wiped my forehead. “Look, man. I’ve had a long day.”
“I don’t care. You don’t pay. You don’t stay.”
I really hoped that he’d disappear at the moment. Where’s the damned telekinesis when you need it? “A’ight. Lemme’ stay for the night. I’ll find my way out on the first light tomorrow.”
“Jessi’s Den. Only two blocks way. I hear their service is good.”
I sighed. “And my furnitures? My stuffs? Clothes?”
“Tomorrow. I’ll open it for an hour. Get your things out.”
He turned to leave. “Be grateful, Szel. I’m letting you have all your stuffs. I could’ve used that to recollect your debts.”
I smacked my lips. I’d been tight on my bills since…the weakness. Earnings were hard as it were, the weakness left me famished on all my resources. Of course, I couldn’t borrow from my colleagues, or Kahl even. What’d be of the dignity of the great Szel! Way to go, Professor.
As if everything that day hadn’t been worse enough, the God decided to play some sort of practical joke. It rained.
I walked, holding my jacket as far up the head as possible, utterly missing my umbrella tucked somewhere safely inside my apartment. I’d walked for more than two blocks, for sure. But I didn’t care if I ever passed the Jesse’s Den—getting the roof for the night were the least of my problems. I’d just lost everything I had.
My job. My apartment. My life.
Everything but the wretched weakness.
Ever since the first attack, I’d been weak. Even fainted on several different occasions. Once, shamefully, in the middle of my class. One of the students recall me ‘crying like a baby’ before I fell. One even dared confront me and ask if I…erm, sniffed.
“Psst.” A voice from the dark.
I started. ‘Shocked’ would’ve been a more natural instinct. Dark corners, only shadows in my wake, and all that—odds were good that I was about to be robbed. Except, I’d no cash on me. The perks of being broke. Finally.
“You’re the Professor, aren’t ye’?” The voice was thick with accent. For some reason, that made it a bit less scary. That and probably the pitch of it. That was no voice to have if you’re a mugger.
“Who’s asking?” I said, squinting my eyes to read his face. It always pays to recognize your mugger’s face.
I heard a hint of a scoff. Anyway, a sharp-nosed boy in a dark hoodie walked out of the shadows. Still twenty-two, maybe. “You’re in trouble, Prof?”
“Chase?” I wiped some water off my face. “That you?”
He smiled. “You’re in trouble, Prof.”
I looked at the sky. The rain showed no sign of settling. “As a matter of fact, I am.”
“Come, then,” he said. “I can get you a place.”
“Heh?” I said. His demeanor surprised me. You want to help me? Something didn’t add up.
He shrugged. “Let me help you. Don’t be too Professor Szel about it now. All human need one another, remember? Sociology 101.”
He didn’t wait for me to respond and walked away along the street.
I frowned to myself for a second or two. He used my name for an adjective.
Chase Marcoe. I was one of the nine-membered panel that sanctioned his expulsion not two years ago—basically on the accusation of…well, sniffing. The chances were real good that I’d be found dead the next morn if I followed the boy. Young boys taking to violence much quicker these days and all that.
“I won’t kill you, Prof,” he said, perhaps, sensing my hesitation and fear. His voice came distant, somewhat muted over the tattering rain, and only the silhouette of him visible under the dim light of a faraway lamp-post. “You’ve only saved my life by expelling me. Come, now.”
Maybe it was the hopelessness of my situation, but I decided to take a leap of faith. Dying didn’t seem any worse at the moment. Did I say I was stupid?
“So…” I said, walking beside him in the narrow pavement. “What have you been up to these days?”
“Really, Prof?” he raised an eyebrow. “We’re doing small talks now?” He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Let’s not try and kill the silence, ’kay?”
I frowned. I could do with silence. “Sure.”
He stopped before a huge building—a concrete tower that reached for the skies. My neck craned to see the top of it. I swear I heard it click. “This looks like an expensive apart–”
“Not my home, Prof.” He reached inside his jacket and retrieved a credit-card thing.
I turned to him sharply, clicking my neck for the second time. “Whose, then?” You’re parents? Some mob leader you get your ‘stuff’ from? The contract killers you’ve set for me?
He stared into my eyes for a split second. “Ours.”
My eyes widened. “Ours…” Wait a second, son. Is this boy high even now?
He walked up the porch and stood before the front door. His fingers searched for something at the wall just beside the door. They stopped at a slit—so slim and almost invisible to the eye. He swiped his card in that slit. Forgot where it’d been the last time around?
The door became radiant at the hinges. There was a swirling sound and the door parted from the center, sliding inside the wall.
We stepped into an enormous hall. A single sofa sat at the far end of the room. A desk to it’s side. A lady behind the desk. And a rather ornate elevator behind the lady. Organized.
“You seem a little short on the furnitures lately,” I said casually, my gaze darting around the hall.
He didn’t react, obviously, but it was odd that the hall of that size would be made for a single sofa and a desk. To top it off, no paintings on the wall, no windows, and no real paint—an extreme white color dominated everything around us in the room—save for the sofa, the desk, and, of course, the lady.
Let me correct myself on that one. The gorgeous lady. Her beauty only elucidated with each step we took toward her.
“One-one-one,” Chase said at the desk, slamming the card on the table.
The lady looked up to meet his eyes. She frowned. “One-one-one?”
Chase half-heartedly pointed at me with his thumb.
She watched me for about five seconds. Top to as bottom as was visible. Then she rolled her eyes for no apparent reason. She, however, accepted the card and pressed a few buttons behind her desk.
“Listen,” I hissed into Chase’s ear. “If I could afford a hotel like this, I’d…”
“Not even a hotel, Prof,” Chase said. He didn’t wait for me and walked toward the elevator.
I held him at the shoulder and forced him to face me. “I’m not taking a step further. Tell me where you’re taking me or I’m taking the door.”
Chase smiled. A genuine smile. “I’m afraid, Prof. That door closed the moment we entered.”
I spun wildly at the door from where we entered. Shut as expected.
Chase grinned. A bit pretentious this time around. “And there was just one card that could open it.”
“Was?” I repeated after him absently.
I turned to look at the lady at the desk.
Gone. Even the furnitures.
The room was vacant, a sea of endless white.
I felt Chase’s breath on my ear. “I’d take that elevator.”
END of Part 1