It started with a nightmare.
Prabodh snapped his eyes open, heart pounding, drifting in a fugue, unsure if he was still sleeping of awake. It took a moment for him to remember why he was feeling so panicky, and then it came back to him in pieces – standing on top of a tall building, looking at the street so far away below him, and then finally taking that final step out into space –
He shuddered. After a moment, he snapped his bedside light on, squinted against the sudden brightness, and took a long drink from the bottle of water he kept on his bedside table.
His hands still felt clammy. He couldn’t remember anything else from the dream, only the desperation he’d felt as he’d stood at the summit, the certainty that he couldn’t go on another moment more…
Prabodh raised his hands to his face and scrubbed hard. He couldn’t think of any reason why he’d be having nightmares, he wasn’t particularly stressed at work – sure, there was the new client he’d just taken on, an online lifestyle mag that wanted a time intensive design, but it was nothing he hadn’t done before. He had no significant other to fight with, and he’d come out to his family a while ago, so it wasn’t his personal life that was subconsciously eating away at him.
Shaking his head, Prabodh staggered up from the bed to wash his face. Hopefully it would him put the nightmare beind him. A moment later, he lay down again, pushing the blankets off his body. It was too hot for it to be comfortable, and the power was out, so the air conditioner wouldn’t work. He closed his eyes.
‘My god, you look terrible! What happened?’
Prabodh winced at his colleague, who was looking at him over the wall of his cubicle with a worried expression.
‘Had trouble getting to sleep last night,’ he muttered.
And it was true. He’d lain awake all morning, turning this way and that, counting sheep and doing mental yoga, trying to get to sleep by any means possible. When he’d heard muted noises from the room next to his, he’d realised it was seven O’ clock; his roommate was getting ready to go to work – he’d lain awake the whole night.
He’d stumbled out of bed, feeling groggy and slightly feverish, dragging himself to office while battling huge yawns. He’d forgone his bike this morning, he was in no state to drive the twenty kilometres to work.
As he powered up his computer, Prabodh signalled the office boy for a cup of coffee. The client was scheduled to come in today, to have a look at the first draft of the design they had commissioned.
It was going to be a long day.
By the third sleepless night, Prabodh decided that enough was enough, and bought a bottle of an over the counter sleeping medication. He’d tried all the usual techniques; alcohol, tiring himself out with extra hours at the gym, warm milk before bed time – but nothing had worked.
Now he was desperate. He felt perpetually tired, and a headache seemed to have taken up permanent residence behind his right eye. Something had to be done.
The clerk at the pharmacy had assured him the sedative was the best that money could buy – ‘perfect for stressed young professionals’, he’d said, and Prabodh had only nodded, giving a huge yawn.
Now, as he shook out two tablets into his palm and swallowed them with some water, Prabodh hoped the pills would live up to their hype.
It took him a long time to drift off, he had just about decided to have some words with the pharmacist the next day for selling him faulty medication, when Prabodh finally fell sleep.
Prabodh blinked his eyes open, wondering why he was awake. The room was full of pale sunshine, and his head hurt…
Prabodh shook his head, trying to get his thoughts in order. It felt like his head was full of sand, he couldn’t quite hold a thought in his head—
After a moment, his fuzzy mind cleared a little, and he realised that someone was banging on his bedroom door. Sighing, Prabodh staggered to the door. Weak light was pouring through his half drawn curtains, it looked like early morning.
And just when he had finally fallen asleep.
Fumbling with the tower lock, Prabodh finally opened the door, squinting out at his two roommates.
‘Whaddya want, man?’ he demanded, irritably. ‘Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep?’
‘Fuck, Prabodh, we thought something had happened to you!’ cried Jatin, throwing up his hands. ‘Let one of us know if you want to go on a drunken bender again, okay?’
‘What? I wasn’t drunk. Just sleeping.’
‘For two days?’
His roommates exchanged a worried glance. ‘You’ve been locked inside your room for two days, Prabodh.’
Featuring cross-dressing assassins, were-snakes, gods and goddesses, demonesses and asura kings, Dark Things Between the Shadow and the Soul retells age-old tales from Indian mythology—with a twist. Rearranging myth and legend to create new plots, these short stories will delight lovers of the unusual.
Image from Morguefile.com, with thanks.
[music| Kikyou’s theme: Inuyasha OST]