Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Last local to Lahore

In the beautiful valleys of Kashmir a war was raging. Children were dying, women were being raped and men were being slaughtered. The state of P.O.K was in tatters. The perfect abattoir as the journalists had termed it. The clock struck nine. The last local to Lahore was at heels. His taxi had delayed him. The train started moving denying him his last outburst of freedom. He caught up to it just before it was too late. He was huffing and puffing like the wolf in the pig story. Life was taking its toll on him. He was forty three and growing older every day. He wasn’t really fat but yes he sported a few extra pounds in a display of health and wealth though he had neither. What he did have though, was the unmistakable air of a journalist. A satisfied journalist, one with a coup and rightly so, his hard work had finally paid off. His name was going to be on the first page the day he reached Lahore. The schedule promised him his destiny the next afternoon but in Pakistan you never know. You could be snatched from your doorstep and discarded to the same deadly spot beheaded. You could lie down to sleep and never wake up. You could be a millionaire today and broke tomorrow. This is Pakistan, the refuge to all militants, even those too old to know their own tricks. But he wasn’t afraid. He was old, chubby and Muslim. He was safe all right. His name was Khaled, Khaled Mahmud and within a couple of days the whole world would know his name. It was going to be a long night. The coach was almost empty bar a teenage girl and her husband or maybe boyfriend, most probably the latter; he hadn’t seen a ring on the girl’s finger. The man on the other hand, had rings on every finger except the one that really mattered. Then there were a couple of uniformed adults playing cards. He could think of them as soldiers as well but half the country was in uniforms. He could do with company so he joined them. They talked for a while one of them a self esteemed war hero as he declared, who couldn’t keep his mouth shut and the other a comparatively silent type who put in a couple of words here and there. The war hero drunk as he droned on about the prostitutes they had met.
He got bored pretty soon so called in a night and went under the blankets. In a couple of hours the soldiers were dead to the world snoring like sick horses. Being a proper full-fledged journalist he never slept. Even when his eyes were closed his ears were open and that was what finally ruined him. Poor thing he was going to pay dearly…
At about two his ears cocked up again someone was weeping, not really loudly but in the silent glow of the night the sound was unmistakable the agony undeniable, you just couldn’t miss it.
For a while he ignored it, crying infants and women, even men were not new to him. But then you can’t really restrain a roving eye and a journalist always wants answers.
He left the supple and warm shelter of his bedding heading towards the source of the pain. The teenage girl was the culprit, obviously she had been dumped. The man was no where around. This was his chance to use to girl. But then what if the man was still there? He didn’t want to pick a random fight with that giant of a man. He kept walking and checked the bathrooms and slowly the whole train all the time stealthy without such as a sound. It was a mere three coaches and there were no other occupants bar a filthy old rag tramp. When he finally returned to the girl with growing fantasies she wasn’t there. He checked his own coach. He couldn’t really see anything, it was pitch dark but he could make out their bodies. The snoring was gone though. Where could the girl go?
His lustful interior was giving way and fear enveloped him, anxiety finally revealed its presence and now the true journalist was alive again. If something was going on here, it could be his second coup; he would demand a raise, a Mercedes and of course promotion. He started walking opposite to the side he came from. His journalist mind told him to lie low but the thought of a double coup he lavished, just a little more spoofing, a little more work, just a little. The temptation was too great.
He was on the last coach and had lost hope. She was nowhere to be found. He had almost given up when the sniveling started again. It was very close to him, definitely in the same compartment. He found her hiding beneath a berth. He tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t listen. Whatever he said, she just cried and ignored him as if he just wasn’t there. When she had finally stopped crying, he was stunned at her reaction. Instead of being relieved as he had hoped for, her eyes had nearly popped out of her head. She had been shocked, had stared at him with her eyes wide open and then without a word broken down again. He tried again to console her, tried real hard to get her to give but nothing worked.
He left her to her being and walked away annoyed and irritated. She could cry as much as she wanted, why should he care? He opened one of the doors and tried smoking a cigarette; it was his last so he intended to enjoy it. The dark sceneries trailed across, a hint of solitude and abandonment filling them with different shades of greys rather than the customary yellows that normally haunt a night. He could finally retire, if he wished, he would come back again, but not before he had tasted the colours and contours of the life he thought he deserved. His last cigarette finally ran out as the train was curving over a bridge. Time to get a wink of sleep, he had to be fresh the next morning, he had to write the prologue of his new found happy life. As he turned around, thinking of the beaches he had never been to, the scantily clad women, the beers and the money, he was amazed to find the slut behind her again.
She was smiling.
“Done with your crying?”
“Not yet.”
“Then leave I need to sleep.”
“Kiss me.”
In a matter of seconds she was onto him, her craving erasing his every thought, her warmth sealing his fears, he had wanted this for so long; it had been a long time…as he felt her wet lips on his own he gave way to the rising need in him…
The next day the morning newspaper had a small corner for him on the second page. His newspaper read
“Bloodshed on Lahore Local ….”
Early last morning four bodies were found on the Lahore local in what appeared to be a killing spree. One of the victims was identified as Khaled Mahmud, a famous reporter who was due to be retired this spring. Two other dead were identified as junior army infantry. The reporter had died due to multiple stab wounds in the chest and stomach. Another body with the same pattern of stabs was found hidden in the same compartment. The victim is yet to be identified. The other two had slashed necks and had apparently been killed in their sleep. The police have no clue what so ever regarding the killer. For now militants are being held responsible for the cruel act…