Two orphans, with strange addictions...
| By Soham Saha
Crash! The cup shatters to a million pieces as it hits the ground, slipping from my shivering fingers. I sigh. I knew that I had it coming - it was only a matter of time
“Whahwazzat? Answer me you freaking son of a …” the manager screams from the next room.
I feel sorry for him. Running this orphan asylum is not an easy job. He rushes into the room as I pick up the broken pieces.
” Another one, that makes two this week you slimy, worthless piece of ..,” he shouts.
That’s not true. The other one was broken by someone else. But I figure it would not be a good idea to remind him that. He limps towards me, brandishing his cane, shouting,
“I’ll straighten you boy. I’ll whip the living daylights outta you, if that’s the last thing I do.” He grabs my hair and throws me at the foot of the dining table.
The other boys at work shiver and move away, still wiping the rest of the cups. I try to stand up. Poor guy, wish there was a way I could help him. My instincts try to take over. But I must restrain myself. I bite my lips to stop me from screaming, as the cane swishes down on my back. My cotton tee shirt was never much good at absorbing shocks. The next one cuts into my flesh. Then another, and another. After about ten whips of the cane he tires out, and returns to his couch, panting. I stagger upon my feet. The addiction tries to take over again. I feel my legs trembling. But I had promised to stop.
I return to my room. My sister’s there, waiting for me. She applies the ointment that she had stolen from the department store she works at.
“I cannot stop it Emma. It’s too much. I’m afraid I’ll break my promise,” I cry out.
She pulls out a pack of cigarettes from her pockets. I light one and breathe the smoke in. It feels soothing. I blow the smoke out the frameless window, the one we often use as our exit, so that the smell doesn’t build up. I don’t want to bother the old man.
“Did you bring the batteries?” I ask her. She nods. I plug the batteries into my small, portable radio. I turn the knob to find my favorite station.
The machine croaks:”Mysterious murder at the old asylum still unresolved after a month…” I turn the knob.”The vertebral column surrounds and protects the spinal cord, a bundle of nerves connecting the brain to the rest of the body. A section through the spinal cord reveals…” Emma turns to another station. “I wanna hear something classical.”
But I am not listening anymore. I close my eyes, and visualize the structure of bones surrounding the soft bundle of nerves… the human lifeline. My muscles tauten as I picture the following night. Suddenly, Emma jerks me off my dreams and stares at me.
”I know that expression. Whatever you’re thinking, stop it. Because of your stupid addiction, we cannot stay in one place for more’n a month. It’s only a matter of time before we’re caught,” she says.
I feel angry. I snatch the box of cigarettes and smoke them one after another. I feel relaxed.
“Give me your needle,” I ask her.
“The gramps tore off my tee shirt.”
As I sew, I listen to the old man cough as he strolls along the corridor. Poor guy.
The next morning I buy a pack of sleeping pills, and an anatomy chart with the money I stole from my sister’s savings. She is surprised when she sees the chart. “You planning to be a doctor?”She asks. I smile at her .That’s one way to put it. The smile worries her further. She asks for her needle, to sew her shirt. I don’t give it back. The shirt’s fine. The neat-freak.
In the afternoon, I get severely beaten up by the manager, as he finds the cigarette pack in our room. He says he’d throw me out the next day. That evening, I catch a fever. My sister is nowhere to be found. Her stuff has disappeared as well. But it doesn’t bother me. I trust her.
I slip three of the sleeping pills in the old man’s evening coffee. Waste not. The town clock strikes twelve. The headache feels unbearable. I walk down the corridor to the old man’s room, the chart in my hand. The man is sleeping peacefully, smiling. It soothes me to see it. The coffee cup is empty. I turn him slowly to his side. I feel his bones at the back of his neck, and look at the chart. I take the needle and plunge it between two of his vertebra, deep into his spinal cord- once, twice, and thrice. Three drops of blood ooze out, which I wipe off with my finger. I check his pulse. It has stopped. The incisions are invisible. I slide him over his back again. The smile is still etched on his face. Finally, I feel happy for him. I have relieved him of his ailments. Like a doctor.
I go to my room and fall asleep. Next morning, a prick in my back wakes me up. It’s my sister.
”Time for us to disappear. “She whispers. I am not surprised. I trust her. We leave out the window, and disappear amidst the sea of pedestrians.
We walk across a few towns. I turn the radio on. It croaks,”… mysterious death of the manager of the orphan asylum in the town of… no sign on his body… “My sister turns the knob. “I wanna hear classical.” I notice something on her hand. The needle.
“You left this beside the man’s body. “She says.
“Must’ve dropped it. Headache.”I reply.
She sighs. I smile at her. The neat-freak. Holding hands, we walk towards the horizon.