Thursday, August 30, 2012

Javed Baloch (Leviathan)

PERDITION

Colton stands among the leaves in the quiet motion of their own, and looks deep into the bleak woods, in silent understanding of the invitation at hand, his only means for escape. With three days of running in the wild, somewhere by the river he has left behind hordes of huntsmen hard at work; ambitious, wild and with eyes gone crazy, ravenous for all the stray souls of this world.
With their badges shining from a distance, God’s hunters and lawmen proliferate like rabid beasts in this neck of the woods.
They have managed to overcome three uniformed enemies confronted in the course of the last three days, the murder of three local police officials leading to a raised bounty on their heads and an intensified search. They are wanted: dead or alive. Now, going back, all Colton can recall is a blind state of panic and the dance of the trigger back and forth.
“Rain is comin’,” says the old man next to him, the fear in his voice pressing down on Colton, to convince him to take the way to the woods. “And it will be hard, it always is in the wild, and we will be nothin’ but a couple of wasted rags with all that downpour.”
“We go down them woods.” Colt mutters. “We might survive.” Pauses. “Or we might not”.
“But it ain’t the same if we stay. Ain’t the same back where we runnin’ from”. Old Man replies.“Stayin’ will do us no good, if you ask me”.
“But there ain’t no comin’ back once we are in that primate zone. If you get the hang of what I am sayin’ to you, Old Man. No God will whisper through those trees, no fallin’ to your knees, souls ravin’ and cryin’ out loud to Heaven.” He pauses. Then, adds, “You up for that?”
The old man was a preacher of some sort in the days before the chain and the sentence that came with it; the heavy laden metal on your conscience for that one moment of criminal intent punishable by life or noose.
The old man nods and says, “You askin’ too many questions then I can see to, Colton. I am done bein’ a preacher. I am done killin,’ and am sure as hell done savin’ souls.”
Colton nods, without words, understanding the significance of every word that he has uttered, knowing that in the end, given enough time, we all go down that lonely corner, to embrace the darkness, wishing to be cured of our sentiments.

          ****************

He looked deep into those fading eyes of the victims and wondered. Admitting little guilt to himself, or trying hard not to.
“So what happens now?” He asked the old man.
“When?”
“After you're dead.” Colton said. “Now that these proud men have bitten the bullet.” Not knowing where the question within him came from. Not caring to. Colton just felt that he needed to talk, if only to keep his hold on sanity.
“Don’t nothin’ happen.” Old Man said, giving him a deep thoughtful stare. “You're just dead I reckon.”
“You ain’t a believer no more, are you Old Man?” Colton asked, feeling the strength within his voice slowly leaving him.
“Maybe.” The old man shrugged. “Maybe I am, or maybe I ain’t. I just can’t put any part of myself together. Not anymore. And I just don’t believe I have an answer.” Paused. “Sorry to disappoint you, but that is the plain truth. I got no answer for nobody”.
“Any regrets?”
“Say again.” Old Man said.
“You got any regrets in your life.” Colton said. “You regret savin’ them souls.” Paused, his voice now a whisper. “Regret takin’ any of these men here.”
“None I can remember”. Old Man replied. “And I saved nothin’ worth takin’, or ever took nothin’ worth savin”. Paused. “Folks are either droppin’ down in graves or cradles these days. The times we live in, and I ain’t makin’ it any worse then it already is”.
“Is that so?”
“I’d like to believe that, yes.” Old Man said. “Just puttin’ in my two pence, that is all”.
“Do you now regret not killin’ that little nigga’ as I told you”. Colt squinted at him. “You old fool, what were you thinkin’ back there? Fuckin’ redemption?”
They ought to have killed that boy. Colton thought and felt miserable. Would have saved lives in the long run. And bullets too.
Back there, they left a shadow behind. The old man had made a mistake, letting that black kid go living the way he did.
Though Colton didn’t think that he himself would have done any better than the old fool when the moment arrived. Pulling a trigger didn’t come naturally to them, and least of all when it came down to blowing the brains of a twelve year old son of a whore, a bastard who was born special. A deaf and mute.
One act of righteousness. Colton thought bitterly to himself. Is all it takes. And their world was no longer defined by mere black and white.
All around them, God’s hunters and lawmen lay sprawled with their dust smacked boots against the horizon, the drowning sun, and the dying light of life’s fire prematurely fading in their eyes. Bodies slowly growing motionless and their minds perhaps drawing the last mental images of how different their lives could have been. Useless analogues of dying men’s hope.
In despair Colton and the old man had reached out for the only object of faith at their disposal, their .32 Winchesters. Turning ruthless against the shadowy lawmen chasing them down, shooting and killing men, men just like them and yet so different.
Neither of them ever had to kill before. Never was death so close, so personal in their lives. Till now, they were just couple of angry inmates wanting to escape the yard, and hopefully never look back.
The old man spoke, as if reading Colton’s mind. “I was afraid I was goin’ to die.” The smoke whirling off the gun hung in his hand, facing down. “I reckon I was… just ain't easy to be so sure". Paused. "I guess I was just afraid.”
Colton nodded gravely, trying to catch his breath, his finger pressed firmly still against the trigger. Realizing that if you keep the finger pressed for long, it doesn’t feel so cold anymore.

          ****************

“Them braggin’ fools who follow the law”. Colton whispered, shaking his head slowly, as they walked away from the scene. “To stink in servitude and smell coiffeur and wormwood on their death. There ain’t no sense in that, if you ask me”.
The old man looked at him, in quiet before replying. “There ain’t no answers. Colton, like I said. We all expect to be told some mystery. And there ain’t none to speak of.”
“I don’t care, Old Man.” Colton replied. “Men like me can’t afford mystery. I ain’t justifying nothin’ because there ain’t nothin’ to justify.” Paused. “Them folks back there had it comin’.”
The Old Man remained quiet.
Colton continued. “And I ain’t goin’ down that easy. Nay, not me Old Man. Ain’t nobody to decide what happens to a man except the man himself. Let them call it the Law all they want, its tyranny pure and simple. I ain’t lettin’ myself be chained up for the next ten years of my life because some expensive lookin’ God in a high chair says so. I say let no man be the judge of another. How can they judge a man like me, from so high up there? There is a context missin’. How can they accuse me of any wrong doin,’ wearin those shiny glasses and a fancy cloak, and then call it justice? Show me the justice in that, and then you dare take me down that hole.”
“I killed them folks to stay alive, Colton”. Old Man replied. “Don’t be fooled by the white hairs on an old head. I ain’t ready for anythin’ else except to go on livin’ yet.” Paused. “And you are too much of a fool tryin’ to justify killin’ and all. It needs none of your reasonin’. It never did”.
The old man and Colton had quietly walked into the woods sometime back, having finally divested themselves of that little thing called hope; the loneliest thing that a man can do, to no longer believe in the supernatural for help.
Deep in the woods they sensed a mystery, a humming of the universe, a private habitation filtered with dancing gray lights and surrounded by the absolute truth of the woods. The inner darkness impeachable for thousands of years of the earthly womb, and the blind trees masquerading the great god sun, paving way for a black vacuum, a miniature universe preserving life older than Colton, than the old man in constant fear of death, or the crazy huntsmen with shiny badges and dead eyes.
With each step they gave up the world they had learned to live in and understand, and entered the plain--not constrained by any human conception, with slowly dawning knowledge deep in their hearts that something within the woods knew of their existence. Something that could neither be escaped nor destroyed.

© Javed Baloch 2012

Though a software engineer by profession, Javed tries to spend most of his free time reading and writing down whatever comes to mind. He enjoys brooding over and seek inspiration from the works of Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, John Steinbeck and Stephen King.

13 comments:

  1. Heavens, Javed this is a BIG piece of writing and I can certainly sense the influence of Cormac McCarthy - whose writing I get high on - and you have adroitly steered them through this bleak conversation so that I feel the weight of hopelessness heavy upon me too. Well done indeed.

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    1. Thanks Sandra, encouraging as always :)

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  2. Hello, stranger! Great job. I see several influences at work here, including Master King's. "One moment of criminal intent punishable by life or noose," if you meant LIVING or DYING with it, was perhaps my favorite line. That one belongs on the dust jacket. Other than a required tiny bit of editing, the only stumbling block was the language (I'm still trying to decide if it even is a stumbling block). It's a combination of backwoods AND street savviness. I've never seen that. So it's either uniquely wonderful and clever, or not.

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    1. Hello Mike, long time. Thanks again for all the encouragement, and for taking the time out to read :)

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  3. I hate word press. This happens every time I try to comment on here -- my long post evaporates on the first try and I have to start all over again. *sigh*
    Javed. This has wonderful dark energy and excellent tension. I love it where the Old Man says "I just can’t put any part of myself together." That has so much more power than merely saying "I'm tired." I agree with Mike that the dialect isn't entirely accurate. One word correction: Coiffeur means hairdo where I come from, so "coiffeur and wormwood" confused me. This has ambitious plotting and I think you are onto a good thing. Best of luck.

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    1. Hi, thanks a lot :)

      Regarding Coiffeur, actually it was meant to be coffer, just a very bad typo.

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  4. Dude this is like..totally mind boggling. I was expecting something great from your side but this is just more then that. The dialogues kept me hooked 'Ain’t nobody to decide what happens to a man except the man himself. Let them call it the Law all they want, its tyranny pure and simple" Nothing complicated or disturbing for me..i think of it as a very convincing story as it actually led me to believe all that is been written. For me it had that King's touch to it but you made it your own.

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    1. Oh wow. Thank you Kiran, you just made my day. Appreciate it :)

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  5. I may lay down my pen. This was stunning.

    "One act of righteousness ... Is all it takes". I think this single statement has shifted my personal philosophy of life.

    Profound.

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    1. Hello Angela, long time. Thank you for a wonderful comment, and for taking time out to read. Means a lot :)

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  6. This was... A completely wonderful and brand new piece... Of art, if I may call it so, although the word barely justifies it.


    I was elevated high above to another world as I read it. To another time frame. Its beautiful, and not many can paint a picture,so vivid, with mere words.

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  7. Sorry I didn't catch what some have considered typos before posting this for Javed. He's a personal favorite of mine, and I was so drawn in by the story, I just assumed words like "coiffeur" had more meanings than those of which I was aware.
    No biggie (I hope). It's a terrific achievement.
    And I love having it here on the site.

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  8. beautifully written, as expected :) Has the dark subliminal tint inherent most of your writings...!

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