The Believer – A SciFi Story by Jeyamohan

July 12th, 2010 Cyril Alex Posted in Short Story, Translation 1 Comment »

Suddenly the radio buzzed. As it cracked the silence in the room, every one turned with shock. The youngster quivered as if he had done something unbecoming and stopped it.

“An instrument of the infidels” said the chief loathingly. “It has never helped the faithful when needed.”

“Devil’s tongue!” said another.

“But now we have no other way. We have only this for communication.“ said the youngster gaining confidence.  He tuned it again. It just hissed.

“Would you reach heaven by hearing these noises?” said someone. Others smiled.

The cave was believed to be from King Solomon’s time. Carved into a sandy rock in the middle of the desert. The desert’s scorching heat does not enter the cave. After it became battlefield it was fortified with iron gates and concrete doors. Inside, in rooms there were piles of weapons, explosives. There was sufficient food and water to last for years. It was a key hideout of the ‘soldiers of the true God’. All the nine inside, including the old priest were well trained soldiers. They have been fighting everyday on the ten year old world war.

Radio suddenly babbled something in Masaki language. Everyone surrounded it. The words came scattered and shapeless, in metallic voice.

 “Greetings in the name of the most merciful god. Praise to his holy name! Let his faithful be victorious!”. The voice hailed enthusiastically. “We did not lose. We still remain. Our undefeated soldiers are hiding in many places. When God’s grace is with us none could defeat us. We will be victorious at the end. The path of the true God will never fail. God has commanded victory on them…”

The cave echoed with jubilations.

“Good news” said the chief, with a sigh. “Let us wait.”

“Yes. We will win.” said another.

“But we do not know what’s happening outside” said the youngster.

“Be patient. Let us listen.”

There were war cries for quiet sometime. “Let us see if there is any news in English.” said the youngster.

“Shut up.” The chief snapped, “Why should we listen to their lies? Any language other than God’s only sanctioned language Masaki is false language….”

The youngster said nothing. He stared at the radio. Someone served bread. They ate in silence. There was only the noise of chewing.

When started again, the radio sounded different. It announced that it was from head quarters of ‘The soldiers of true God’. Then a sweet voice spoke.

‘Praise be to the name of one true God. May his endless grace and boundless be with us. Greetings from Kutha-ala-sameesh soldiers. We are in a very very critical situation. Our war is at an important juncture. The greedy lowly infidels have attacked us with devil’s most powerful weapon. We hear that so far 20 nitrogen bombs have been exploded.  Word is that an attack on saa-um-thul, the center of earth, has decimated the area. All faithful countries have been targeted. We learn that the entire population of these countries might have been killed. The earth is covered in a huge cloud of smoke. We see sky-high dusty mushroom clouds everywhere. The sky looks orange red and dark. We have not seen sun rise for two days. Only a few who are in shelters remain. What is our duty? What does the most merciful demand of us? We don’t know. We will wait for His command. There is only one end to this war. Our Lord’s kingdom will rein on earth. He would turn this earth into aakath-sum-aav. There could only be one end to this war. The coming of the Kingdom. The faithful will win and destroy the infidels. In this holy war compromise is the gravest sin, says our holy book. So we will not fail. We shall not stay low. We will fight again and again. Yes friends, to us the war is not over yet.  Let us wait.”

Radio faded.

Everyone sighed.

“so it’s true. Holy saa-um-thul is destroyed. The devil’s mercenaries have done it.”

“Our holy book has foretold this” said the priest. His voice was calm. “Chapter 48 describes the end of earth in detail. ‘Kaimath qflavaa’ means the sign of the end. There would be ten important signs, says the book. Three prophets would descend on earth from heaven. There would be three lunar eclipses in a month.. one in the west, one in the east and one over the holy saa-um-thul…” the old man said.  “We saw it with our eyes, oh believers!. Last month I saw the moon go dark twice.”

“Yes! Yes!” people chorused, “Glory be to God! Glory be to the holy book!”

The youngster said softly, ”Those were caused by their spy satellites.”

“Still aren’t they eclipses?”

The young man sighed.

“It is said thus… ‘then a vicious king with a sweet voice would attack saa-um-thul with great force. To his aid a Violet smoke would spread over earth. With that smoke he would destroy the believers of the earth. Then saa-um-thul would be destroyed…”

“That’s what has happened now.” Said the chief. “The big smoke.”

The priest continued “… the book says what is to follow. After the holy saa-um-thul  has been destroyed camphor like smell would spread through earth, in a silky smooth cool wave. It is a wave of deadly poison. All the faithful would die from it. None will be spared. None will remain to utter the name of our Lord. When the last believer dies the earth will be filled with the infidels. Instantly the Gate of mercy would be closed. Turning to faith after that will be futile. From the next day Sun would not raise for hundred and twenty days.  There would be darkness everywhere. The nonbelievers would try to win it with their knowledge. But they will fail in that. They will be perplexed. Then from above the earth, from the hell of Kizabath Amnaa a vicious curse would fall on earth. From below the earth, from the hell of Samaabhath Amnaa another vicious curse would raise on the people of the earth. All universal laws would be displaced. Camels would go mad.  Fire would flow in rivers. Seas would lose their boundaries.” The priest sang these verses in a soft voice.

“Then from the east a wave of fierce fire would encompass the earth. It would destroy what remains of the earth. No life would be spared. Then the gates of Heaven would open. Our last prophet would come down with the drawn sword of justice. Tombs will open up on that day. All the dead would arise. They will stand before him with their sins and virtues. Friends, our Holy book describes this as the Last Standing. We will find what we were searching for. Those who looked for sin will find the fires of hell.  Those who searched for virtues would find heaven. There is no deed without its due, says the holy book.”

The people in the room raised their hands up and sought refuge in the Lord.

The priest closed his eyes in meditation.

The youngster slowly kept tuning the radio. It kept hissing.

“Why is that devilish thing making that noise?”

“There is radiation in the sky.” said the youngster.

Radio came alive once again. Someone spoke in English,” Yes. There is no denying that this would be a grave grief to the people of the earth. But there was no other choice for those humane forces that fight for democracy, human rights and equality. Our United Security Council’s satellites identified that about one hundred powerful nuclear bombs had been launched targeting our important cities. Only after confirming their launch did our automatic missiles launch. As per the Democratic Security Alliance Army’s official announcement seventeen high-pressure medium radioactive nitrogen bombs have been detonated. The ten year old world war that brought great destruction has been brought to an end with this. ‘Peace has a chance again’ said the chief of joint operations….”

“Fools! They are fighting with the Lord. They will be destroyed.” said the chief.

“To those who are against God there will be no victory, happiness or heaven says the holy book.” The priest quoted.

The radio echoed a warning message, “An important announcement! Warning! Radioactivity warning to the people of the earth. There is deadly radioactivity all over the earth. It might stay potent for about seventeen days. Those inside shelters are advised to stay in. Drink only water from bore wells. Do not inhale outside air directly. Do not touch anything that is outside. Avoid any produce from outside totally. There is information that around the world those who lived outside shelters have all perished. But their bodies won’t decompose since the bacteria on earth have also been wiped out by the radiation. It is sad that there has been grave losses of life. But there is no other way. If the earth was to peaceful y coexist we had to make this choice… it is an unavoidable loss. For our peace and our future we had to do this sacrifice…”

“Does that radiation smell of camphor?” asked the priest. Everyone jolted.

“…in a silky smooth cool wave… our holy book is never wrong.” said the old priest.”Its name is Uugaath. God’s holy breath.”

The youngster turned the radio with a sigh.

“Shut it.” Said the chief. “Let us pray now.”

They prayed in silence. Then they ate and lied down.

Late at night he switched the radio on. A priest was saying something in Masaki. But he could not grasp it. Then the message kept repeating in all languages on earth. Again and again. The others woke up by then.  Once again the message came in Masaki. “The last standing day prophesied in our holy book has come. Khaisaamath qplavaa! Khaisaamath qplavaa! Khaisaamath qplavaa! Oh faithful, the silky cool camphor smelling Uugath is all around. Let us raise our hands towards our Lord and get out. Let us call towards heaven and ask for His grace. No believer should remain anymore.”

“Blessed are those who exult the Lord!” the group shouted aloud. “Let us go! Let us go!”.

The young man was baffled in disbelief.  “No! No!.. this is…”he muttered ”wait this might be a false announcement. A scheme by Devil’s mercenaries. “

“Even so it would be a loss to them” said the priest “if all those who believe die then this earth would not last a moment.  It is an indestructible promise from our holy book. .. Let us go.”

“Let us fight… yes,  we are soldiers. We should not commit suicide. Let us fight…”

“Look. Our fight is to obey the holy book. Leave.” The chief started to leave.

“Foolishness! This is radiation. It will subside in fifteen days.”

“Does that mean that you are not coming?”

“No. I won’t. This is foolishness.”

“We will not stop you. To us the holy war that we fought using human weapons has ended. To the believer there is only one goal in life, to fight with nonbelievers. We cannot fight anymore. There is no purpose in life without this fight. So there is only one more thing to do. Let us surrender before the Lord and let Him fight this war. Yes there is no other way.”

“Please understand! The radiation will be over soon.. listen.. please..”

“as we speak world over believers are getting out to breath the Uugath and attaining eternity. In a few hours all believers would vanish. What would you alone do then? The Lord might delay the destruction just because you remain. He might wait till you die. It might be six months, or a year or even fifty years… is that what you desire? Do you wish for these merciless profit mongers to enjoy their riches till then?”

“This is madness. This is not Uugath. This is Radiation.”

“You speak the language of the Devil..” said the chief, “May God show you the way. May you find peace.”

They went out one by one. He screamed and cried trying to stop them. Then covered his face and laid down. He felt like running behind them. But he could not do it. The beauty of the light filled sky and green pastures flashed within him. He wept again and again. Then he fell asleep.

Inside the room in the cave he laid down blabbering, deluded and confused.  To cope with the situation his mind began day dreaming. In a warm dessert forest he was hunting with his eight brothers and his father, fielding shiny guns. They returned home with some sheep. In the nights the entire village gathered, sharing one bread and one chalice among themselves. They sang Alaang songs and danced. His sister made her sweet little face blush and said something to him. His dear camel Thuleen turned to gaze at its shadow and murmured.  Somewhere afar, the sweet sound of musical instrument Maiyamph.  The sandy smell of a new desert wind… his village. There was always poverty but never disparity.

When he woke up he started counting the days. He did not know day and night. He kept tuning the radio. Suddenly a station broadcasted news. ‘There would be radiation for seven more days. Seven days, seven days.. Seven days and seven nights and then, and then the earth! The sky!’ Each cell in his body grasped those two words. Like rain in the desert those two words poured onto his droughty soul. ‘The Earth! The Sky!’

He ate now and then. Slept long. He hoped that he would wake up from the nightmare and find them in the room. Then broke down and wept.

The radio kept making that announcement. After a few days he realized it was prerecorded and kept rerunning again and again. ‘Five days. Oh God. It’s close. Five more days.’

He tuned the radio again. There was a conversation in English.

“… yes the war is over. None of them remain. Not a single person. They came in rows outside their shelters, raising their hands towards heaven, praying, and died of the radiation. So it was a victory. Right? Complete victory. We should celebrate right? Dr. Sam why should we celebrate? Millions of people living in huts in Africa and Asia have been annihilated. Like worms. Millions. The count itself is absurd. About 70% of human population has died. Some economist might say that the burden on mother earth has been lifted.

But animals, insects and microbes.. without them how would life go on? In Europe and in America almost the entire population has survived. In the eastern countries the rich and powerful have survived. They were loyal to Europe, in turn we built them safest shelters. In underground shelters people await the day the radiation withers… that day might be another Christmas… But Dr. Sam what would happen after that? What would happen to the equilibrium of life on earth? What are the after effects of this radiation? The chemical reaction? The real destruction cometh. Yes… The destruction has begun just now…”

“You are neurotic Dr. Vishnu. War has collaterals… your nerves might be affected..”

“Yes. I do feel that I don’t have the nerves of steel that this world demands of me. Scientific people like me have lost our voices. They should stop with lamentations over radios. Dr. Sam, “bread I broke with you was more than bread.” – Conrad Aiken’s poetic lines. I love those words. When this earth is shared it is like sweet bread. When it is not shared it is a vicious poison. For half a century we have created laws of oppression and destroyed the earth. Yes we have destroyed it. Completely.”

“What do you thing will happen?”

“Many microbes have been destroyed. There are many such life forms under the earth they might surface and start proliferating. We can’t imagine what diseases they might bring. If the radioactive equilibrium of the atmosphere shifts it might spur several types of energy outbursts…”

The young man stared at the roof in despair. He slowly lost the sense of time and space. His mind created an illusion in order to survive. He was living in his desert village happily.

Then when he woke up he could not understand anything for a long time. He jumped on the radio like a mad man. Turned it frantically. ‘How many more days? Oh heavens! oh earth!’

He heard music and happy voices bubbling from all over. Millions celebrated in several European languages.

“…all over people are celebrating the end of the nightmare. No one is inside their homes. It feels like the cities have gone mad. Liquor is flowing through streets. Men women and children are dancing around. Some actresses danced nude to prove there was no radiation. The president gave two speeches. In that historical speech he said ‘we should not forget the losses of the war. They were bitter but unavoidable. We needed this war for world peace and equality. We remain after a war. We have won. It’s god’s command that we should taste victory. Who can defeat the command of the lord of the heavens? We won. We witnessed that every night has a dawn. Let us celebrate this day,  the day of the dawn. This is a day for peace. A day for brotherhood. This is the foremost feast in this earth.’ Said the president. ‘Scientists claim that equilibrium of life has been disturbed. That might even destroy the earth. But that’s science. Let us seek the grace of god. There is nothing impossible to our lord says our holy book. Let us kneel before him. Let us march on with his grace. We will never fail. Because we have been chosen to be victorious.’ Said our president.”

Music flowed out like mountain spring from the radio. Cheers of millions, acclamations and music. He heard them again and again. All stations echoed the same celebrations.

He was sitting down with his face buried between his legs. Suddenly he stood up, “Me?” he said… ”what if…”

Then he opened the doors fiercely and ran out. It was murky outside. There eastern sky shined orangey red. Then he took his handgun frantically. He slid it into his mouth and shouted “Oh God! The most merciful.” And pulled the trigger.

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To Read in Tamil click here

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The Tongue – SciFi Short story by Jeyamohan

July 8th, 2010 Cyril Alex Posted in Short Story, Translation 1 Comment »

The cake was shaped like a woman’s face with a Cherry on her red lips. Krishnan picked up the cherry and asked “Have you heard of Abdul Latif Al Bagdadi?”

Nazar replied “No. Is he our shareholder?”

“A doctor by profession.  Involved in Chemistry also. A religious scholar as well.” Said Krishnan, “from 12th century.”

“Oh.” Said Nazar uninterestedly. Dead people don’t benefit his business.

“Original name was Abu Muvafq Atheen Abdul Latif Al Bagdadi. Born in Hijri 557 in Bagdad. That is 1162 AD.”

“Iraqi.”

“There was no Iraq then.” Said Krishnan. “He knew eight languages including Hebrew.  He traveled all his life. His important book was on anatomy. In 11th century that was the one taught in European colleges. Actually European medical system owes more to Arabian tradition than Greek.”

“Interesting man” said Nazar offering  a glass of drink to Krishnan “This liquor’s name is Shash. In Cairo we serve it to entertain dignitaries. “

“Is it Strong?”

“Very smooth drink. In fact it is non-alcoholic. A soft drink.” Said Nazar. “Not everyone makes it. A very few select companies own the secret recipe for generations. More like a family secret.”

“Egyptian Cola.” Said Krishnan.

“Almost. How is it?” Asked Nazar.

“Scintillating smell. Strange smooth taste.”

“That’s its specialty.  Have a couple more and you will be addicted to its taste and flavor.”

Krishnan wiped his lips clean. “Latif came to Egypt in 1197 AD. Taught at the Ashar school. Wrote his Cairo experiences in the book ‘Al iqfath val iqthifar’. There is a strange mention in the book, came to mind when I saw the cake.”

“Let’s go get meat.”

 “I’m vegetarian.” said Krishnan.

“Fish?”

“Strictly vegetarian for generations.”

“Is it a religious thing?”

“No. My tribe’s tradition. Call it a mental habit. Now many do, but I cannot even imagine eating meat.”

“Strange habit. Do you eat Greens? Salad?”

“Sure”, Krishnan continued “what was I saying… from 1200 AD to 1203 Nile dried up totally. Egypt suffered a famine.  Latif mentions that ‘Such grave famines were rare.’ About 150 thousand people died of hunger as per government records. People were madly looking for food, eating anything green in sight. Killed and looted. Ate dogs and such animals, even insects and worms. Then there was nothing. Everyone was famished. That’s how cannibalism started.”

Nazar stopped as he said “Vegetarian here..” looking keenly at Krishnan he exclaimed, “What?”.

“Man started eating man.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Latif has written what he saw. He never exaggerates. He was a scientist.”

“Who ate?”

“Everyone. First some people secretly roasted corpses and ate. Slowly it spread. When the initial inhibition withered people ate copse in groups. When there were no more corpses they started hunting,  in gangs, with weapons. They hunted mostly children and old people. Shortly they go used to the taste. They started cooking various dishes. Sold the excess human meat. Soon it turned into a trade. Cooked human meat was sold in stores. In a place called Misr Latif has seen broiled child corpses kept for sale. Human meat was kept in salt filled jars for sale.”

“Unbelievable!”

“You have to believe it.” Krishnan continued. “Then food started flowing in from other places. Famine subsided. But many people had already acquired a taste for human meat, and felt comfortable trading it. They could not be stopped from hunting humans. When the Egyptian government tried stopping them they settled in groups in remote places. They killed and ate travelers. Once when the army attacked such a settlement they found heaps of human bones. It was common to take doctors on the pretence of seeing a patient and eat them, even priests… Then slowly the habit dwindled.”

“Thank God.” Said Nazar “Bearer, Salad…”

“But my theory is, such habits never die. They continue to be in one form or the other. What we call culture today is a collection of such ever transitioning habits.”

“You mean they eat human meat even now?”

“May be. Somewhere … some people, very secretly. Sometimes it might have become part of a ritual. Once in a year people might eat it on some conditions. In some form the habit will exist.” Krishnan said. “Taste is such a thing. Like language. Both relate to the tongue. Both have a direct link to our deep inner conscience. Our inner conscience is made up of several things that are buried and decomposed. No eating habit of humans would die off. It would live on in the tongue as taste. The tongue keeps yearning  for that taste…”

“Cannot even imagine.” Said Nazar. “We prepare many types of breads made with meat to guests. But human flesh.. Oh no!.”

“Is it?” asked Krishnan. “Please ask for soup without meat.” Krishnan said wiping his face. “I would like to find out. I have nothing else to do in Cairo for two weeks. I would like to test my theory. We should research through the food habits of people around here.”

“Madness. In this century…”

“Madness is an essential ingredient in people’s habits. I am sure someone here eats human meat. In some form. We should find that out.”

Nazar nodded.

***

“Wonderful days.” Nazar shook hand. “I did not expect you to stay for so long and did not expect that I would go around with you for so long. I consider this an honor…”

Krishnan smiled, ”You took good care of me Nazar. I would remember this forever. Especially this drink Shash! I have almost become addicted to its taste.”

“When you go to America it would be waiting for you.” said Nazar smilingly. “I have sent about 40 bottles ten days ago.”

“Thanks.” Krishnan looked at his watch.”It’s time.”

“Ten more minutes. There is a saying in my tribe, ‘When you part a friend for long days, the last seconds become those long days themselves.’” Said Nazar.

“Shash has the scent of a drink from my place, I just discovered yesterday.” Said Krishnan. “Sects of people cultivating in our lands prepare it. We perform rituals to goddess Kali for 40 days in a year. They bring the drink during those days. Only men drink it. I have tasted it a few times in my childhood. I’m not sure if they make it anymore. Don’t know if Kali rituals themselves are being done.”

“You said you were a vegetarian sect?”

“About hundred years ago we ate meat. Not as regular food but as part of rituals. We are the ‘Saktheyas’.  We worship god as death, as an annihilating power, as a woman. We offer animals to her. Eat the meat. Liquor is also a part of it.”

Announcements were broadcast.

“I have not given up my theory” said Krishnan.”The tongue never forgets. It’s memory is deeper than human history.”

“Where else should we search in Egypt? We have seen almost all food habits, all tribes. “

“Yes. Certainly you did a great job. But as far research is concerned nothing is final. We may have gone the wrong path. May have missed something important. I might come back to Cairo next January..”

“but we are not researchers. That’s not our business…” Nazar said wearily.

“Yes. That’s why it’s our hobby. May be researchers do business as a hobby.” Krishnan smiled. Nazar smiled too.

Boarding started. Krishnan patted on Nazar’s back, smiled and began to leave. “Thank you Nazar. Great time. Nile is beautiful. Light skinned girls are beautiful.  Shash is sweet.”

“Thanks. Come again.”

***

An old woman in traditional dress waved to stop the car. Cars were jetting out from the parking lot. She leaned inside the car and said “Sir. I am in a hurry. Could you please drop me in downtown Cairo? My car has not come.”

Nazar said, ”Come in.” She climbed on.

“What tribe are you from?”

“Vangai.” she said. “I went out of town. My daughter knows I would come. But she has not come to pick me up. May be she couldn’t. Thanks a lot…”

She had long nails, rolled in like sea shells.

“Your nails…is that a habit?”

“No. This is our tribal tradition. We grow nails for four years. This tradition is not so prevalent now here. But in villages a lot of people follow.”

“Like a ritual?”

“Yes. But not just a ritual. We collect bunches of these nails and soak them in a potion for six months. They disintegrate and blend with the potion. It becomes a sweet liquor…”

Nazar was awakened. “What liquor is that?” he asked.

“Shash.”

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