December 6, 2020

Kaam

(c) J. Singh, 2017

Jeevan Singh sat cross-legged in front of the old man, an impatient smile on his lips. The old man sat silently, eyed closed, meditating. Jeevan took a deep, loud breath. He was tired of waiting. The old man opened his eyes and looked at Jeevan with a mixture of compassion and pity.

"I will be going soon," Jeevan said. He had come to give the old man the news. He thought the old man would be heartbroken, so he decided to make it as quick and direct as possible. He had been studying with the old man for several months. He had learned how to steady his mind, how to focus, and how to clear limiting beliefs and mental blocks that hindered his spiritual progress. He was grateful to the old man for all his help.

The old man closed his eyes and returned to his meditation. Jeevan was a bit taken aback. So this was it? he thought. How callous. Can't handle it so you ignore me?

Jeevan stood up and turned to leave.

"You are not ready," the old man spoke, his eyes still closed.

"Why not?" Jeevan demanded an answer, mildly irritated at the way he was being treated. But the old man said no more. And Jeevan couldn't get anything more out of him. Finally, frustrated and angry, he left.

The city of Chicago welcomed Jeevan with open arms. Shortly after moving into a modern high-rise apartment in the heart of the city, Jeevan began his career. It didn't take him long to make friends, and before he knew it, he was immersed in his new life. The old meditations were forgotten, cast aside like a worn pair of clothes. Jeevan had a shiny new life to engage in, complete with back-to-back appointments, chai latte's, traffic commutes, and late-night partying. His demanding new schedule ran roughshod over the precious moments that had been prescribed for daily thought, contemplation, and connection to the Divine. Slowly but surely, all the teachings and coaching that the old man had so painstakingly imparted to him were being forgotten and lost. Jeevan didn't really notice or pay much attention. His focus was on succeeding in his new role and his new life.

He remembered to call home. He talked with his little sister and his parents, lingering on the phone to speak with his mother the longest. They all missed him, but they were so proud of him. They were happy that he had achieved success in his profession, and they felt assured that his future would be bright and happy. He promised that he would visit them as soon as he was able to get a break from his hectic schedule.

Everything seemed to be going well. Until the day he saw her. It was a particularly cold day, with the icy wind whipping about in impatient lashes. Commuters hurried to get to the warmth of their homes as the daylight faded. Menacing dark clouds and thunder overhead threatened a storm.

Jeevan hugged himself to keep warm. Even with the thick coat, he still felt chills as the unforgiving wind assaulted him. He wrapped his muffler around his face as he walked, hoping for relief from the biting wind. Only a few more blocks until he reached home. He leaned into the wind, struggling to take step after step. Finally, he could see the beige wall of the apartment building across the intersection. Relieved, he quickened his pace.

And that's when he saw her. Standing across the street, in front of his building, seemingly lost. She seemed out of place, out of context. For one thing, she was dressed all wrong. For this weather, anyway. She was wearing only a flimsy, sleeveless bright red dress. The material was sheer and torn in places, as if she had just been in some sort of a fight. Her arms and legs were bare. On her left foot, she wore a high-heeled pointed-toe sandal. She was loosely holding the other sandal in her hand. She had a vacant look on her face, staring out into nothingness as if dazed or confused.

Jeevan was astonished. How could she be standing out in this weather with barely any clothes on? he wondered. Does she need any kind of help?

He ran across the street towards her. As he approached, she turned her gaze towards him.

"Are you alright?" he asked. "Do you need any help? Are you cold?"

Her dark hair flew in the wind, giving her an unearthly appearance. She seemed to be unaffected by the cold or the gathering storm. She didn't say any words, but looked into Jeevan, tilting her head as if with a mild curiosity. Jeevan saw that her eyes were not normal, there was no pupil, no iris that he could make out, it was just all black. He paused, uncertain what to do next.

"Do you need any help?" he asked again, hesitating a little.

Thunder struck loudly overhead, and a swirl of dark clouds appeared to coalesce above them. She smiled a sinister, evil smile. It was a smile that struck terror into Jeevan. He didn't know who she was, but it seemed to him that she was not a human being at all.

The streets appeared to be abandoned. Gone were the commuters, the pedestrians, the buses, the taxi cabs. The roads were completely deserted and empty. He was alone here with this creature. There was nobody to turn to for help.

Her attention appeared to be completely fixated upon him now. She took a deliberate step in his direction. He cried out, terrified, and turned to run. But his legs refused to carry him far. He stumbled and fell onto the concrete pavement, grazing the palms of his hands.

Panicked and shaking, he attempted to struggle to his feet, but knew she was already behind him. He tried to crawl away as fast as he could. He could see the doors to his apartment building, just a few feet away. If only he could make it. But he was shaking with fear, and his legs gave way again, and he collapsed onto the ground.

Rain began to fall. Thick drops of ice cold water stung his skin and soaked him as they fell.

And then he heard her voice. It was sultry, seductive, and dripping with a venomous hate that he had never experienced. His blood ran cold when he heard her call his name. He could feel her seething rage, as if she wanted to rip him apart. He lowered his head into the pavement and hid his face, his terrified sobbing drowned out by the thunderous downpour.

An unseen forced flipped him onto his back. He looked up, blinking as the raindrops fell on his face and into his eyes. She was towering over him, looking down at him with that same idle curiosity, as a scientist might look upon a lab specimen. But she was no scientist. And she knew who he was. It seemed like she knew him personally.

Again she called his name. A long whisper, she sang it like a song. Her voice was seductive and laced with malevolence. She meant him harm, he could feel it.

She leaned down closer to him, her wet hair dripping rainwater onto his face. Her dress was completely soaked now and clinging to her skin. And then, without warning, she raised her hand and struck him forcefully in the head with the heel of her shoe. The impact sent a sharp, shooting pain through his body. He screamed in agony, raising his arms for protection. But the blows kept coming. She hit him repeatedly, viciously. Blood began to flow freely from his head and onto the concrete pavement, where it mingled with the rainwater and flowed down into the street.

Through the searing pain, Jeevan's thoughts flashed back to something the old man had said. Something he realized he should have paid more attention to.

"You are not ready."

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