In Context

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“A little context goes a long way.”

_ J. M. Barrie,

The Founder of Secret Literary Society (SLitS).

Written on the pale wall, the slogan greeted her on the first day of her job. She was standing in a dimly lit, narrow reception area. It was desperately in want of a receptionist as there were no visible directions about where she was supposed to go. She gathered her teal patterned muffler and covered her face as a protective response against her nerves, which were threatening to overcome her resolve for a yearning for the signature hustle and bustle of a London evening filled her. But there was only the mild noise filtering from the bar above to keep her company. Previous day’s events ran before her eyes like that of a play she had watched repeatedly.

She was clutching a letter in her hands that congratulated her on securing a position. A position which she had never applied for. But it incited her interest many degrees more than the prospect of engaging with an unknown family and educating their children. A tedious but also the only other means of earning for her. Curiosity coupled with the greed of being called the 1st woman to be selected for the work of such a unique nature motivated her. She looked at the letter again for reassurance. .

The SLitS Headquarters,

October 16th, 18____,

Ms. ______,

As per our previous correspondence, we offer you the said position. Consider this letter your official appointment. Please take note that you, under no circumstances, are to show this to anyone. If you want to decline, then burn the letters and speak no word about them. However, if you were to accept, then we request your presence at The SLitS Headquarter (basement of The 1888 Bar) today at sharp 20:00.

May the Power of Words shine over you!

Director,

Secret Literary Society.

(SLitS).

She ventured forward and after a few minutes located a spiral staircase leading deep into the building.


 

A year later

She was standing in the lavish garden of a grand mansion that she was to enter in due course. The paper in her gloved hands read,

“Story-telling is not mere escapism. It is more real than reality; truer than the truth.”

Chilling air cut through despite her heavy corset, abundantly ruffled bustle skirt, and a copious amount of hosiery. Her ample bosom peeked out of the sensuous V-neck of her bodice, which was tighter than the pursed lips of her mother, when she lost her temper. A Gainsborough hat covered her curls, except for a few strands that were let loose purposefully. While her figure was plump in all the right places, her face — if not flattered with hair — heavily inclined towards corpulence.

She looked about her anxiously. It had taken her more than the standard 3 days to avail the invitation to this ball. She had almost lost hope, except in her line of work, one did not have the luxury of giving up. She sighed and threw back her shoulders before she entered the royal venue with a lady-like gait she had been practicing for a month.

Blood-red carpet covered the floor of the gigantic hall. Draping the 7 feet tall windows, the satin curtains in a shade of deep burgundy shielded the room from the gloomy weather outside. Within a few moments, she had detected her target and was moving towards him but was hindered by her hostess. As guided by her mentor at the SLitS headquarter, she fended off the emergency by cutting her off mid-dialogue without appearing curt or disregarding in the least.

She noticed that the night was advancing fast. Soon the mad chaos of colliding bodies in the jolly ritual called dance will ensue. It would be impossible to get hold of her target then. She decided that it was time to make her move. But —

“A woman of exceptional beauty in a room full of prospective grooms, interested not in even one of them only falls short in terms of suspicion to a handsome bachelor, with a large income and handsome disposition yet who was not pursued by a string of women,” said a velvety, almost intoxicating voice.

She stopped dead in her tracks. Her eyes closed in a gesture of frustration, not unlike someone who was caught in the midst of performing an illegal deed. With great difficulty, she brought herself to face the watchful eyes under the drooping upper lids of this man of extraordinary eminence.

He was towering her 5 ft. 4” figure by a good 8 inches. Devoid of his wide-brimmed hat, sporting a tuft of curled hair neatly separated in a straight middle parting, and dressed in a silk frock coat of indescribable brown hue, he looked a character from the 17th century.

“Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde,” she curtsied and offered him her hand.

His Grecian features transformed utterly as he boomed with laughter and kissed her outstretched hand.

“It is odd you presented your left … ” He lost consciousness mid-sentence. Her backup had caught him and transferred him into another room before he had completed his fall.

By the time, Wilde came to his senses, a crucial piece of information had been exchanged between the 9th Marquees of Queens-berry and a charming lady who was never again seen in the same circle. It was an information that could char the name of a certain Lord Alfred Douglas for debauchery of inconceivable nature.


 

May 25th, 1895

“A few years and his work would have bestowed upon him success and popularity,” she told a mysterious man in black, “Why did we do this to him?”

“I may not have foreseen the level of injustice they perpetrated on him,” said the man but without even a shred of remorse in his voice. “Nonetheless” he added, “Our actions have only made him immortal.”

“Because that is our job,” she retorted, “We kill wordsmiths to immortalize them.”

The man had had enough. “His work is larger than his life and our sins,” he told the girl he had recruited a few years ago, “Besides,” he said adjusting his bowler hat on his head, “He isn’t dead, yet.”


 

A strange woman visited the most controversial prisoner of his time. What a scandal! thought everyone at the prison.

The powers that be had wanted to keep the whole affair a secret; thus, it was on every tongue like the other secrets of the literary world. Why was every great writer afflicted with misfortune? Why was there always a back-story about the best of storytellers? These were more than mere coincidences. Spicing up the lives of great writers was the job for which our protagonist had been hired!

“Why have you come here, dear lady?” questioned a prisoner whose glory and dignity had been drowned in a gong that still echoed “Shame!” “Shame!”

A veil covered the face of the woman in black, but he knew who she was. He looked down at the gloved hand more lethal than the most venomous serpent living in the depths of the African jungles.

“Apologizing will not absolve me or undo my deed,” she said in a sepulchral tone, “I want you to remember who you are irrespective of what happens in this dreadful place.”

She offered him her hand again. This time it was the right one.


 

De Profundis,” wrote the queer prisoner on a sheet of paper that night.

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Originally Published on Medium 

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Fiction and other Realities

‘Fiction is inspired by reality’ That is what they say. Yet, I have observed that a few events happen a lot more in fiction than they do in real life or vice versa.

Take sweating for example. Imaginary characters sweat way more than you or I ever would. I understand being in a story is testing since you are always in one difficult situation or another but that amount of sweating isn’t normal. Not even for the fictitious world. A lot of sweat and you run the risk of making your story stink.

Then there is this fact that everything occurs ‘suddenly’ in fiction. I know there are some realistic books where the story takes forever to fold. There are books-classics actually where nothing happens-no story at all! However, the popular opinion usually classifies them as boring. The fiction that sells real fast is often active with numerous suddenly this and suddenly that. I sincerely appreciate the characters’ reluctance to drop dead with ‘sudden’ heart attacks. Some of them do die that way though.

Beautiful Women/Ugly Men. Another thing, all or at least a majority of women in literature are beautiful or at least pretty… no wonder they are not real. 😂 Don’t even get me started on the impossibly humongous boobs! I wonder if that is why cancer is so common in the fiction city. On the other hand, men are usually ugly… at least if they are to be faithful. Handsome men in fiction, that is if they exist at all, are rarely faithful except in Jane Austen novels and even then they have at least one major character flaw. That is kind of realistic though, men are full of flaws and never faithful… okay maybe a 0.000001%!

Let’s take a look at the young adults now. All of them fall in love, which is alright considering their age. My problem is why the triangle is their favorite shape? I want a love circle, you know the protagonist loves nobody but themselves. That would be realistic for sure.

Weather. It is either a dark stormy night or a pleasant clear morning. Why are there no rains during the day and whats up with the fiction moon? Why does it come out on two occasions only? Either when a werewolf is on the lose or when the lovebirds want to do some outdoor rom-rom stuff.

Writers. There are always so many of them. This one actually makes sense to me. A writer writing about writing has to be genuine.
There are various other instances I’d like to point out too but that would be genre specific so next time, maybe. *Yawns*

However, before I end this, here is the final one; deaths or their lack of in the fiction. The mortality rate in fiction is too damn high. Although sadly, we are catching up with that trend. Yet, there are so many novels where characters needed to die but the writers decided to save their precious. I wish God would be that indulgent too.

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All GIFs from GIPHY

 

 

The Vegetable

“Hahahahahhahahhahahhahahhaahhaha”

His laughter echoed as the sharp ends of his wits ricocheted back from the hollow walls of the building. Wits were all he had at that moment for his form was reduced to an awkwardly arranged construction of weak bones, confined by means of ropes. However, he didn’t know that, for he couldn’t feel a thing. Every inch of his body was throbbing uniformly and had crossed the pain threshold to the point of numbness. His senses were affected. He could not tell if it was a day or a month, since they had captured him. He felt as if he had not looked at his reflection in a long time. However, he knew it could not be more than a few days though because his chin only had a few bristles. Good, he thought, at least my brain is working even if my body is broken.

The dark room had just a single candle in some far corner. Its light was throwing a bleak ray on the protruding spine of his naked, humped back. His face was lying limp between his small trembling knees, while his hands were tightly secured with a rope at the back of the chair on which he was being forced to sit.

“Bloody pathetic”, the big man said, wiping the spit from his mouth that had found its way there as it often did whenever he got too involved in his duty. Mr. Aubergine was a huge man with a narrow face and shoulders that somehow enlarged into a bulging tummy, giving him the look of an eggplant. He had a reputation of being a bully and was hated by those who worked under him. One of them had once bedded the same woman as him. She ended up sharing a few intimate details about Aubergine’s physiology with him and he, in turn, told his comrades. Ever since then, Aubergine was called ‘the eggplant with no eggplant’ behind his back.

‘Aubergine’ was not his real name of course but real names were not needed where he worked. Undercover names sufficed, and their leader had named the men based on their physiques or in some cases, functions. This has resulted in some ridiculous names. Aubergine’s partner, for example, was called Rhubarb being a thin man with a very red face. “What is he?” Rhubarb had exploded in anger when they were named, “A botanist?”

“His world, his rules” was the reply from his friend.

“Bloody Pathetic”, repeated Aubergine, “They always do that to me.” Aubergine found special pleasure in breaking bones of people-criminal or not! What he did not find pleasing at all was when his subjects entered a state, where pain couldn’t reach them and his forceful movements meant nothing but tiring himself uselessly. What enraged him further was the captor’s nerve to mock him by laughing at his helplessness.

“Not a single man had ever done that to me”, boasted Rhubarb, “And you know why? Because I fucking know when to stop.” Rhubarb was a shrewd man. While he loved torturing people just as much as Aubergine, he never lost control when at it. He would hit them hard but ensure their sense of pain was preserved. Then he would hit again when his subject was least expecting him. He knew how to be there. Always.

Aubergine did not reply to his partner’s jibes. Since the man they were paid to torture was far beyond their reach now, they knew it was time for them to leave. Besides, she would be coming any time now and Aubergine hated her. She was the only person in this whole system that wanted to soothe these rascals. Why can’t she just play by the rules?, he thought for the umpteenth time, and will you just look at that crafty stick sniggering and planning on to make a move on her. He was looking at his partner.

“What does that whore even see in you?” he decided to provoke him but that didn’t work.

“Oh I just know how to keep her awake at nights”, he smirked and added gesturing towards the figure tied on the chair, “That heightens his torture in a manner that’d satisfy every muscle in your body.”

“You are a dirty man”, said Aubergine that made Rhubarb laugh. The big man left the room since Lavender’s aroma had arrived.


“This is all very interesting”, said the doctor, “I’d diagnose depression and anxiety.”

“But it hurts me physically”, he was saying.

“Sometimes in severe cases, this could happen”, the psychiatrist elaborated, “However, what I really don’t understand is why would you see depression as some kind of eggplant and anxiety as what did you say it was?”

“Rhubarb”, he reddened.

“And sleep?”

“Fragrant Lavender”

“What are you, man?” asked the doctor mocking him, “A botanist?”

“No, a vegetable”, he mumbled.

“He knows”, the crowd of intern psychiatrists gasped in unison. The subject of their experiment was not brain dead!

Originally Published on Medium

Toothaches > Heartaches

 

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Tobacco, tomato, timber, and toothache.

Smoke it, hot, don’t burn, in pain.

Please don’t bother for my sake

Because I am pretty insane.

 

Human, you humane. Heartache!

Didn’t I tell you to refrain?

 

Nothing to offer, I have, I’m afraid,

Yet my blood, you continue to drain.

When the last few drops fade,

You come and feast on my brain.

 

My brain, my brain, my brain!

Is empty but frowns in disdain.

 

Chew your tobacco.

Clone a tomato.

Use the timber, build a canoe.

Sail and drown, deep in blue!

 

Heartaches, you may sustain

But curing toothaches? In vain!

The Shark’s Den  

Once upon a time, sharks flew across the sky and what a sight it was!

Hue — the painter produced the finest painting of his life while Click — the photographer captured an inspiring shot. Bard — the poet crafted the most memorable couplet of his life.

Finally, Cloe decided that something must be written on the beauty of this view as well and Cryptr was hired to write an awe-inspiring piece on the magnificent scene.

In short, everyone was so busy in imprisoning the moment that they failed to notice the happenings that unfolded next. Had it not been for a small girl standing on the shore, the vanishing act of the sharks would have remained a secret. However, as it so happened, Zaph — a 6-year-old, inquisitive girl witnessed and reported the incident.

“MYSTERIOUS VANISHING ACT OF FLYING SHARKS, REPORTED BY A KID”

The headlines of the newspaper next day were definitely far from routine.

“Mommy, where did they go”, asked the little girl from her visibly shaken mother.

“Now, now dear”, her mother had replied, “Sharks do not simply vanish into thin air. I wish you had not inherited that ghastly imagination from your father’s side. Sometimes you talk exactly your Aunt Muriel and God forbid she is 26 and unmarried. What a disgrace!”

Hogwash, thought the little girl, the sharks had definitely gone to some place fun and mommy just simply do not want me to go there. I will find the place though.


20 YEARS LATER at THE SHARK’S CLUB

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Shuh shuh shuh

A woman with a perfect hourglass figure was swimming in a corridor that was full of water. Suddenly she stopped in front of a room as a tingling sensation engulfed her. She inhaled and an acrid metallic smell welcomed her nostrils.

Blood… raw blood. She realized.

I will probably just throw up, she thought but she could not give up now. She had waited and worked for 1.75×10^5 hours to prove to her mother that all of it had been real and she was not going to let it slip through her hands now, even when what she saw was more disturbing than her mother’s demeanour. The scene was shocking enough to rob anyone of their senses — a group of sharks were playing poker in one corner while the others were tangoing. The dancing made them look even scarier than their usual appearances.What really made her hair stand on end was what they were eating — steaks — human steaks! She knew this was the place the mysterious sharks had come to when they had vanished 20 years ago. She could see a portal in the room and every now and then, sharks were zapping in and out of it..

She fumbled with her shapeless bag for her digital camera and found it after a while. It was waterproof. Holding tightly on to it, she took several shots. Some were vivid enough to serve her purpose and satisfied by her efforts, she decided to call it a day and swim away from the lair of danger. Her oxygen/nitrogen mixture was depleting fast and she knew she must hurry up to reach her crew in time in order to avoid detection by the shark bodyguards protecting this mysterious underwater club.

However, before she could so much as take a step, she saw 50 rows of teeth. She was tempted to swim right inside her.

Is that a smile or…? Her thought just trailed off as she heard the deep manly voice.

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“Henrie I smell a human”, declared the most handsome Shark sitting on the throne, “Catch the prey, bring me some fresh food and do not forget to play with the prey!”

She was caught and tied soon. You cannot out swim a fish, for god’s sake.

“We are about to eat you, Miss”, said one of the sharks.

Now they are stating the obvious, thought Zaph. Finally, they told her to sign a document, which was written in proper English. This was an educated lot. She read the document. It was an undertaking:

Dear future Homo sapiens,
I, a breathing human of my time, confess to have brought the wrath of nature upon you and myself. All your miseries are a direct manifestation of my careless liberties with the Mother Earth. Now all the creatures are raging a war on you because of my atrocities. I pray you lose.
Yours not-so-truly,
A loathsome human.

Zaph blinked in disbelief.

“I’m not like the others, Sir”, she began but had no idea what name to use for addressing the gigantic shark sitting in front of her. He bared his teeth giving her a clear view of his power. Struck by inspiration she said, “Sir Mighty Fangs, you are the owner of the best and the sharpest cutters in the world. May all the fine edges of the strongest swords turn blunt in the face of your fangs. Please, let me go and I promise I will work for your cause.”

There was a pause.

“She is a human and they are naturally shrewd and cunning creatures”, counselled one of the sharks.

“You should not mind planting a spy among my kind.”

“You must return our photographs”, said one of the Keeper sharks and snatched away Zaph’s life work away from her.

Reluctantly, they relented to let her go.

“Look at how your double chins are showing in this picture, boss”, chuckled the Counsellor shark as he commented on one of the photographs captured by Zaph.

That was the last she had heard of the Shark world.

A FEW YEARS LATER

“Zaph dear, eat some. It is just fish you know.” Aunt Muriel was saying.

She replied with a “No, thanks.” It has been a while since she had been declining such invitations. Every time when she even pretended to dig into any form of meat — red, white, or any other, her knife would break. Apparently, the curse was real.

Dissuading her Aunt, however, was not easy, she realized after being tempted to relish the seafood for the third time.

She finally said, “I’m a vegetarian, Aunt Muriel, so no thank you.”

Zelda — a Venus flytrap was growing nearby but Zaph did not notice its presence even when it caught a spider and emulsified it with its digestive juices. The vicious plant communicated something to the cultivar thriving nearby. The news broke fast.

“So she thinks we’re delicious?” said the old Mr. Elm.

“I would love to show her my delectability”, said the Cactus.

 

 

The Story was originally published on Medium