Author’s Apology: Exams –> exams over –> rest –> summer job –> sorry!
Previously – Sidharth spent a whole day avoiding his reflection. He did not want to look into his eyes and hear the voice in his head. He was afraid of the numbers it spoke, numbers which were a countdown to his death. But when his dad comes home, he gets the heavy, disgusting sensation which always precedes someone’s death. Fortunately, his dad’s eyes did not speak the numbers. But now he is forced to face reality.
I was waiting.
Waiting for that heavy sensation, which always preceded someone’s death to come to me. I cannot accurately describe that sensation. Imagine something transparent and tasteless sitting on your tongue. You know it’s there. You can feel it. But you can’t see nor touch it.
Arun, my best friend and one year my junior was sitting beside me. We live in the apartments and were pretty much together since I can remember. It was to convince him that we were sitting now here in the hospital. It was 9.30 p.m.
Approximately, 3 hours back, I told him everything. I told him how someone nearby always dies after I get these sensations. I told him how I could hear a voice in my head, which spoke out numbers when I looked into the soon-to-be-dead people. How those numbers meant the number of seconds the people had to live.
I told him but as expected, he couldn’t believe it. He thought it was prank. Then I told him I heard the numbers when I looked into my eyes. And that I felt the sensation when my dad came home. I gave an explanation for my precious hysteric behaviour. He was more lenient after he heard this but he still had his doubts.
More specifically, he asked me why I didn’t hear the numbers when I looked into my dad’s eyes, or his eyes, when I felt that sensation. I couldn’t answer that. I didn’t know the answer myself. I told him maybe I had a range of feeling. That person who was going to die was in that range but outside my view. He seemed doubtful and this point made me doubt a little again in my belief.
To remove that doubt, we came out onto the streets. We roamed the roads for two straight hours near my house but I couldn’t feel that sensation again. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., we continued searching and all the while, I could sense Arun’s disbelief increasing.
Finally, I hit upon the hospital plan. I thought that the chance of finding dying people will be significantly more in hospitals. And true to that, once we entered the hospital I was hit by that sensation.
But again, the same problem persisted. I had no view of the person who emitted that feeling.
So we waited near the reception area. Waited for somebody to pass by us. Half an hour passed. None came.
‘This isn’t working,’ Arun said, tired.
It was pretty late for us. I was sure our parents would chew us out when we returned home. But still, that scolding seemed small in front of death.
‘I have that feeling. Someone’s going to die in here. But I have to see their eyes to tell the time,’ I repeated what I said before.
‘I get it already,’ Arun replied, a little irritated. ‘But what can we do by sitting here? Everyone’s in some ward or other.’
‘Then let’s go to those wards,’ I said, after resolving myself.
‘As if they’d let anybody in.’
Neither of us knew much about hospital policies. I never visited a hospital before in my life. Small clinics, sure. A number of times. But hospitals, fortunately, I never got the chance.
Nevertheless, I decided to try my luck. I dragged Arun up and we followed the sign boards.
I originally thought I would get an increased feeling of sensation when I neared dying people and that I could use that to navigate through the hospital. But it seems I was wrong. The feeling was uniform where-ever I went.
We reached a ward. It had GERIATRIC WARD written over the door. The door was open.
There were two rows of beds. Every bed had an old man or woman on it. Many of them were sleeping. Some were talking. Two of them were reading a book.
A male nurse, who was tending to an old woman saw us. He said something to the woman and came over to us.
‘Yes? Who are you hear to see?’ he asked.
‘Uhh… my grandfather,’ I said involuntarily.
I thought of a common name and said it.
‘Venkat? Oh, Venkanna? Okay, follow me.’
He started taking us to the farther part of the room. All the while, I was trying to catch the patients’ eyes. I looked into some but the voice did not come.
‘This isn’t right,’ Arun said beside me.
I know. I know. I was trying to look into these old peoples’ eyes and see when they were going to die. But I had no time for such considerations.
I had to confirm once again.
The sensation-but-no-voice strongly affected me and hope was beginning to sprout in me; hope that all of this was in my imagination. I have to confirm once and for all for me to have any peace.
So I ignored Arun and went on.
The male nurse stopped at a old man’s bed. The old man was sleeping. He had thin arms, one of the thinnest I’ve seen. He looked to be in bad health.
Ironically, looking at that, what I felt was hope.
The nurse tried to wake him up.
‘Venkanna, Venkanna!’ he shook the man’s arm. ‘ Wake up! Your grandson is here to see you.’
After a few shakes, the old man started to wake up. He opened his eyes. I looked into them. No voice.
‘Eh?’ the old man started to speak.
‘Wake up,old man!’ The nurse sounded a little excited. ‘Your manavadu is here to visit you!’
‘Eh?’ Hapiness started slowly spreading on the old man’s face. ‘My grandson’s here?’
‘This isn’t right. This is a mistake.’ Arun’s voice quivered. He was looking a little sick.
The old man reached out for a pair of spectacles near him.
‘We need to go!’ I said out loud. And turning my back, started walking away.
Arun followed me.
‘Wait!’ the nurse shouted. ‘Wait! What? Why?’
I did not turn back. I did not want to look at the old man’s face when he finds out that I wasn’t his grandson. I didn’t know his circumstances but based on the behaviour of the nurse and the old man himself, I think they weren’t that good.
‘Wait!’ the nurse shouted again. I could hear his quickened steps behind us.
People were starting to wake up. Old men and women looked at the scene.
We were nearing the door.
‘Wait!’ a different voice shouted this time. It was old. Frail. The old man’s voice. Venkanna‘s voice.
I faltered. I almost looked back.
Arun pushed me from behind. There was no meaning in turning. I continued forward.
We both exited.