I know this may seem preposterous, but to grant myself solace from this perpetual atrocity, I knew I had to commit a murder. Now, before all of you go haywire and condemn me for harboring such a heinous thought in my mind or you become excited foreseeing an opportunity to satiate your bestial inclinations, I must clarify that depravity didn’t drive my reason and neither any enthrallment to foray onto mortal path persuaded me to undertake this trudge. There was no way around this, so without further ado, I embarked on the task.

The skill of claiming a life is an art. Like one ponders around a galleria to deduce the deepest painting of all, one has to go through the depths of his insanity and wit to narrow down his target. I followed the same.

First, I wandered around the square. The city’s heart, where riches assembled to lament about their rags. Where the glitter of jewels shamed the heavens and the flow of money demeaned any ebb,. At first, one of them seemed a perfect candidate to be disposed of from the face of this earth, but then I forfeited this notion, for they were mere masks with manipulated expressions plastered on them. Even if I had slaughtered one of them, someone would have replaced it soon. Also, it would have attracted unnecessary attention. Something I wasn’t too keen to commit to. So, I left the square and headed to the area that remained closer to my heart: the middle class.

The occupants were livelier than their precursors, and their approach reflected candor, but they soon slipped off my chart, because even though they wore a genuine smile, it was a container to imprison their agony, and if I had broken it, a domino effect would have caused the castration of the world, and I never wanted it. So, I moved on to the next classification of my targets: children.

Escaping loneliness

Children. Ah! Who can forget those little, delightful creatures? They pertain to all the innocence of this world and yet exhume the potential to walk over the other side. For once, their unsophistication lured me to make them the altar of my intent—a perfect deed on their behalf and a proper emancipation for them. However, soon enough, I resigned this thought, for I realized the folly of my decision. The greatest sin is to deny someone the right to choose, and though I walked on the line of infamy, my morality didn’t fall so low as to commit such an act. So, I left.

The presence of a tide without a channel is a paragon of destruction. It ate me away that even after coming through ranks and areas, I failed to find the appropriate person to be disposed of. However, no matter how ironic, fate does retain a sort of benevolence. Soon enough, I found the one I was looking for. A government official.

Forgotten but an essential cog in the pinnacle of the mechanics of corruption. Now, who would be a better candidate than the man in the discussion itself? He didn’t wear a mask. He didn’t struggle with the daily necessities like the middle class. And he was way past the point in his life to be deemed untamed.

Like a shadow, I followed this drunk gentleman through the streets and alleys of the city. He was as unsure of his destination as I was, and it excited me. There were moments where he seemed to have known of my presence and my trailing, but he didn’t seem to mind it; rather, he gave silent approval to his impending fate, and what is more miraculous than being approved of the task that you are about to perform?

I didn’t waste any time because I was afraid that he might change his stance. I followed him into the next lane and did a swift arc of my knife across his neck. His eyes widened as he gave me that weird look. It told me he had accepted his fate but didn’t expect it to be delivered in this way. Strangely, it enthralled me, and when he fell on the concrete, I spared no moment in falling to my knees and smearing my face with his blood. Warmth! What a warmth it was! I never felt it before. It numbed me to the extent that I slumped beside the corpse and was robbed of my senses till the break of dawn.

When it returned, I found the police and excited commoners around me like famished vultures. Their faces exuded anger, shock, and sparse joy. They hurled cusses, exclamations, and occasional curiosity. When I committed the deed, escape was not in my mind, but what I experienced in the heat of the moment shook me from the inside. Nonetheless, the time couldn’t be reversed, so I accepted my fate and put on a smile, which appeared to be the most viable option.

I wore the grin when they pushed me through the crowd and into the paddy wagon, when they drove me through all sorts of scrutiny, and especially when they threw me in court to receive the verdict. But they took my beam for a smirk, and I still didn’t mind it. They exhibited a formulated disdain and mechanical expressions, something already embedded deep in the limits of my tolerance. Then there was this officer in charge of my case.

Unlike others, his countenance was different. It was enshrouded in a veil, thin enough to declare its presence but just strong enough to conceal it in obscurity. It annoyed me in the beginning, but as time went by, his stares intensified, and so did his expressions. My annoyance turned to hate. I despised him. A constant thought kept occurring: what if I had killed him at the beginning? It would have been wonderful. I already slaughtered one; what difference would one more have made? But now the time was gone, and so was any prospect to repent upon the lost opportunity.

The session began, and to my expectations, my smile irked the judge, who labelled me as a madman devoid of even animalistic empathy. Their persistent lack of understanding was laughable, but I didn’t have the time to jest; I was indulged in loathing my foe, who stood there with me with the same despicable face.

Soon the trial ended, and the verdict was life imprisonment with enforced time at some asylum to check my mental wellbeing. As I boarded the wagon, I felt relieved, but my reprieve was short-lived as the same officer entered the vehicle with the intent to accompany me to the state penitentiary.

The coach commenced its journey. Neither of us said anything, but a storm brewed inside me. My forehead perspired and my fists clenched in a menacing way while I moved uneasily on my seat. The moment arrived when I was ready to jump on my feet and take down that abomination.

However, before such an incident could register its existence, the officer spoke, ‘I’ve been an officer for my entire life, in which I’ve witnessed countless maniacs, but you are different. Your smile doesn’t denote a lack of empathy, but it reeks of desperation. So, tell me, and tell me the truth, why did you murder that man?’

The officer’s words brought me an eddy of surprise.

My ire and my loathing were all washed away in an instant. The tension withered away, and serenity loosened my body, gently pushing me back on the seat like a considerate mother. For minutes, I sat still. My head was down, and the officer was also not in a hurry. He didn’t press me and waited for me to gather the resolve to answer, which I did not long after. I lifted my head and stared right into his eyes with the broadest smile of all: ‘Thank you; I won’t be alone now.’ These were the last words that came out of my mouth before the officer’s surprised expressions and the wagon both disappeared into the impending filth of the ghetto.

Also Read: Metamorphosis – The Misfortune of Change by Nishant Verma

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