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Monday, March 14, 2011

Satiating the hunger

    The sudden back and forth swaying startled me away from some nameless dream I was caught in. The sun was just peeking over the horizon and the passing landscape outside the train window was covered in a fine mist and the sun bathed it in an orange light which slowly turned into yellow. Pulling the heavy curtains shut as quickly as possible, I suppressed the painful scream that was rising from my throat. Tilting my hat back and wiping the day old sweat off my brow, I looked down into the valley through the open crack between the window and curtain and saw a dust cloud swirling crazily and throwing debris all over. Looking at the meandering river which flowed next to the tracks, the river looked so cool, refreshing and it seemed to call me out. I wanted to pull the emergency chain, hop off and walk barefoot on the green grass and slip into the river to drive away the coiled up stress. Rivers always had a free and untamed look to it and it always seemed to hold me under a spell whenever I ventured near.

    Wanting to lose myself, I had boarded any train I could find that was just passing thru it seems. Feeling a little sore from falling asleep in the padded chair, I stood up and started to wander down the aisle to break the monotony. I eventually found myself in the kitchen box where the cook and his assistant were doing the dishes and getting ready for a new day. I grumbled about having some coffee and chow before I headed off to the dining area which was empty at this time. Minutes seemed like hours and a coffee jug and a hearty breakfast appeared before me. Grabbing the coffee jar, I pour some into my mug to banish the cobwebs from my mind and to see if I can pick up the threads of the dreams I was having once more.

    I finished of the last remnants of the food and gulped down the coffee before it got warm. It was getting late, the sun was rising higher and higher and it was time to get ready before the next stop appeared. I found my way to the small cubicle which they called the restroom and took a moment which seemed like an eternity to wash off all the dust, grime and sweat off me. The weariness fell off me and I felt refreshed. Looking at the mirror while the water dripped off my head and face made me realize where once stood a young man now I saw a white haired wrinkled man who had the haunted look in his eyes. I sat awhile by the window and smoked the remaining part of my cigar. By the time I ventured back to my seat, countryside replaced the dry dusty lands. The river had disappeared off into some other direction and heavily populated roads were seen running near the tracks. The sounds of long haul trucks were heard humming nearby and a lonesome train horn went off somewhere in the distance reminding me how far from home I was.

    My life seemed like one of those never ending journeys which had been long and hard. The gentle swaying lulled me down the oft travelled memory lanes and all I can see is a dusty winding road broken every so often by an oasis. The hard journey has taken its toll on me as I tried to carry the burden which seems too much for it. Sometimes I felt like I was another one of those mules which people sometimes run across in some nameless town whose inner fire had died while navigating this parched land. I was waiting for the one last gasp of breath before toppling off to the other side.

    A soft hiss and then a cough from one of the kitchen guys who was taking orders for dinner brought me out of the thoughts I was in. Light spilled onto my face from the high intensity torch as one of the gargoyles who had occupied this timeless train stomped impatiently once more to hiss at me that the lunch was ready and asked if I was coming down or not. I told him to head on over and I’ll be there in a bit.

    Looking out the window one last time before I left, I saw the town which was just rolling into view was quite deserted. After what seemed like a lifetime, I finally made my way to the dining room to have my fill before getting off the train and see if I could lose myself in some nameless down without failing this time. The constant chatter of others at the table could not keep my mind from feeling a little uneasiness I was feeling.

    Not having much of a hunger, I nibble at the food and eventually stop pretending that I am hungry. Staring at the still full plate, I realize that I am an old man now and many countless years have flown by, yet the time which has flown by was so different from the one I lived now. Time and age which might have dulled my memory yet I remember one event like it was yesterday. Some events remain buried for what seems like many long years, yet flood the mind when something happens to release the memory. With a heavy mind and heart, I wander out into the memory lane which was dimly lit except for a few pools of lights that seemed to flicker every so often.

    Time started to move on ever so slowly like thickening molasses in a cold winter day. The meandering river throws me back in time to an era long forgotten. Gasping for breath I started to drown in time. One after the other, memories start to sweep past me. The dark thoughts flowing like a raging thought sweeping me into the hunt looking for the fish for whom the net is cast.

    The sound of the screeching train whistle drew me out the dark thoughts I was floating in. I slowly came to the senses like a snake waking up from deep sleep. The bone deep weariness fell off me and I slowly started to felt refreshed. I sat awhile by the window and smoked the remaining part of my cigar as the town grew nearer. Electricity poles, town lights and small houses started to dot the moving landscape.

    The stiff muscles from the long journey slowly started to loosen up. I stretched myself and ran my hand across my face and thought of getting a shave and a bath before getting off the train. I needed some more food to fill my empty stomach but that will have to wait a bit as the kitchen was now closed and the lone kitchen crew member was in a foul mood it seemed. Heading down the aisle to drive away the boredom, I noticed that it was late in the evening and the train was dead empty. A few flies buzzed around and the place was as listless as the food which I had attempted to eat earlier. The few people who were huddled in the corner whispered amongst themselves. There were occasional shouts, a few angry words and the worked up men were seated down once more when told to hush up. The train came to a full halt at another nameless dead town. A few porters were seen idling away their time in the far end of the platform playing a card game and stray dogs chased the rest till all disappeared around the bend. Heading out the door, I glanced back wondering what new adventures were in store for me as I hit the road once more.

    Looking upwards as I stepped out, I noticed that the sky was starting to cloud up and a torrential downpour might happen anytime. The winds from the north were already rocking the city and hardly anyone was venturing outside. The streets and the shops wore a deserted look and most of the shops were closed even though shops around the station stayed open till late everyday to cater to the crowds that disembarked from distant town to make a livelihood.

    I was pacing back and forth across the platform waiting for the taxi to pick me up. The taxi finally arrived though very late, yet I was glad to see it arrive and didn’t bother to chew the driver out for making me wait in the awful weather as it was my own choice to stand there in the first place. I checked my bags once more before I zipped them a final time and told the driver to put them in the trunk of the car. The constant chatter of the taxi driver kept my mind away from the grim thoughts. The driver introduced himself as Tom who talked just about everything under the sun and I really seemed to enjoy the monologue which consisted of how awful the town was doing, the mysterious disappearance of people, the food joints, who bashed whom last night at the bar and how his wife always gave him an ear full for coming home late. Pretty soon, the suffocating cluttered feeling turned into a comfortable one and I must have dozed off.

    The taxis horn and the jovial cheeky remarks woke me out of the slumber. The old abandoned boarded up warehouse loomed ahead and it seemed no different than the other building sitting next to it. The sun was sinking deeper into the horizon, the moon was just starting to peek over the horizon and it seemed like my hunger was growing stronger by the moment. The weariness was growing on me and I felt my eyes growing heavier with each passing minute. I tried to shrug it off yet its hold on me was getting stronger with each passing moment. I sat awhile gripping the seat tight, yet the vortex was dragging me deeper into itself. Sleep was overtaking me and I fell unconscious as soon as the sun sank below the horizon and darkness grew upon the land.

    The darkness began to clear as I groggily regained from the memory less sleep. As I regained my senses, my eyes focused on the blood soaked driver seat. The eyes started to rove around the small front area until they suddenly stopped on man who seeing the gaze upon him started to whisper all the names of the different Gods he knew. I saw a few spots of red on the heavily built man which I assumed was food until I got closer. The deep red stains on the floor in the far corner of the left hand side door made me wonder what I had done and yet the hunger grew in me stronger with each passing moment. Squirming backwards, he kept begging me to let him be as it will bring only ill tidings to all while he started looking for an escape till I reached the very edge of the cab while his fumbling hands tried to unlock the door. The only response he heard was harsh laughter, a snarl and a swift punch in the abdomen. Not being able to back any further, he started to push himself up with his back towards the windshield while grimacing in pain. Like a shark closing in for the kill, the circle drew smaller and smaller. The last sounds I heard before abandoning the cab after pushing it into dense undergrowth was the blaring of the taxi cb radio demanding to know where the cab was. Holding my hat firmly with the blood stained gloves, I got out of the taxi which was now lying in a ditch in the far end of the junkyard and ran towards the steps.

    One of the dock gates was open and light outside was burning bright. Each warehouse had two docks and a side entrance. Pulling the cap down firmly with the bloodied gloves, I found myself inside the only safe house I knew. The warehouse was dimly lit except for a few pools of lights that seemed to flicker every so often. I eventually found my way to the sitting area where I went straight to the laundry section to dump the clothes in the heavy duty machine to wash off the blood soaked clothes and the bath area to scrub myself clean. I had not been this way for many months. The only one I trusted was the half vampire who had lived here for ages. Coffee was offered and gladly taken as we exchanged stories of our travels around the country. I always loved coming here for many long years whenever the opportunity presented itself. It had become a routine habit which I had never skipped no matter how bad the weather and provided me with an opportunity to lie low till the storm passes. We spent our time telling old man’s stories that seemed so surreal and maybe it might be due to the fact that this place seemed older than the hills.

    Time used to stand still in this place and one only realized that it had flown by the fact that the logs in the small fire place had burned down to cinders and cold was creeping back into the room. The grandfather clock down in the hallway boomed and the hand had struck twelve. It startled me out of the deep thought I was in. The tobacco in my own pipe had burned to ashes and I got up to leave as it was late.

    As I drove off, I turned around a final time to look back and wondered when I’ll be back at this place. I was getting old and I just cannot do these long hauls much longer. My mind always ended in turmoil as if stuck in a loop whenever I left such meetings as if I had decided the right course in life by choosing the so called immortality and becoming only a night walker. The journey back home seemed longer than the start. I passed through a few dead towns and many dying towns. The empty dark streets devoid of all life sent had made me travel further and further from the warehouse always looking for new blood to feed on. The only thing common to all the towns I travelled through was the emptiness in the town and in people themselves. The streets and the shops usually wore a deserted look even though some of the shops were open waiting for someone to walk in yet knowing that no one will dare to venture out of their houses once the sun sets. The few people who were seen on the sidewalks were rushing through any opening either trying to catch an elusive bus or a taxi and trying to find any imagined safety they could find without becoming the next meal. The palatable fear emitting from the town made my hunger even stronger yet I resisted its call. The tow trucks were seen pulling the cars out of the ditches and the dead cars to the service centers. Every so often a police cars rushed passed to answer some call of another missing person who was never found.