Everybody seeks heaven, no one wants hell. But what do you do when hell comes knocking at your door? Overnight, your home becomes your prison. At the stroke of midnight, Lucifer paid you a visit; marking the bearings of your door. The morning is as dark and listless as the night. The voices are hushed, the windows shut in fear; perhaps even the sunlight has turned hostile. You are mustered in one corner of the room, arms clasping the knees; shaking as each breath obligates your grief onto them. The night was no normal one. There were sounds emanating from outside, and you are still unsure if any of them were echoes from your nightmares.
I was warned against going there. But still I went. They say it was all stories. I knew it wasn’t. It’s different to report a pogrom and to live through one. And here I was, 23 years later; walking through recently constructed lanes. The rapid urban development can never erase the markings of a horrifying past. Gaining an entry was a walk in the park. But not back then. I still remember the barricade, the brandished soldiers, and the brooding brave hearts. We caught up with them and they smiled, saying there was peace all around. I figured they were asked to ignore the black smoke rising in the background.
I was awakened by the sound of heavy thrashing on the doors. I felt so insecure. I imagined my home to be like a fort, though I never had any enemies. Now the feeling was gone. Unseen faces burned in rage through the walls of my abode. Someone threw in a vial containing kerosene; I knew what it was thanks to its foul smell which I kind of loved to sniff. It was followed by torches coming in through the ventilator. The fire spread a little, but soon stubbed out due to the incombustible nature of the floor. I thought our ordeal was over.
I knew something fishy was going on. The silence maintained by the authorities added to my fears. I ran to the nearest police station. I asked for help. There were no personnel on duty it seemed. The only people there were doing the routine paperwork. The SHO was out of town, perfectly timing his exit while the city was burning. I had no clue what to do next. I ran back to the realm of hell spawns. Now the men of honor were missing from here too. I felt like a fool running here and there. I sat down there somewhere, oblivious to the horrors that lay beyond the gateway.
Suddenly the doors cracked open and the trolls barged in. The sudden events startled us enough to jump on our toes; to come out of our hiding places. Like a plague, they moved forth and reached for us. Before I could blink, I saw the hate in numerous bloodshot eyes, shouts of hatred, gleam from the blade of a sword, a swooshing sound and finally, a shriek that was cut short. An immense pain arose in my abdomen, as if the blade was still held in place. The next moment I tasted the dust on floor and passed out.
I never realized when I had dozed off. The armored vehicles were gone. There was no trace of a soul there. The emptiness of the surroundings was replaced by stench of something dying or rotting. I entered the street. And that must be man’s first step in hell. This hell had no firm ground for me to put my foot on; just bodies and human parts strewn over. The rest of the ground and walls around were blackened, with the moon highlighting their crimson tinge. Did I see something move?
I was staring the roof of my house; don’t know since how long. The bleeding had drained all my energy and it had still not stopped. I got hold of a piece of cloth and tied it over the wound. I was thirsty. I crawled towards the battered doorway; not without seeing what remained of my family. Hell stormed in and left their job unfinished. I was left back. Maybe I paid for my sins by watching that gruesome scene. Was I old enough to have committed so many of them?
There was a young lad pushing himself forward on his stomach. I wonder why destiny intrigued against him. Wasn’t he supposed to run carefree; here he was creeping towards a certain death. I saw him from a distance, and then I realized what it means to be on the other side of the thin red line. God will never be able to justify His actions, His prejudice. Why does he test man once too often? I went forth towards that lad, picking up the pace of my steps each passing moment. Was I running out of time?
I surely was. I didn’t even know who the stranger was. Maybe he was one of the murderers. Maybe he was not, they were all gone. I never saw their faces. One thing I knew, they were all humans. None of those demons we heard about or saw in our nightmares. He ran towards me. Perhaps he could hear my faint murmur. Water, that’s all I ever wanted. A gulp down the throat could make me forget the dealings of the last night. There was no hate in his eyes. I held out my hand and…
I dashed towards him. I knew there was nothing I could do. I was myself so numbed by grief. But that boy needed me. What could I give? A little hope, a simple touch of affection. With everything hazed by gloom, it was almost unavoidable to see him smile. He looked up and outstretched his hand. The wind on my face dried up my tears. And suddenly, the other hand supporting his body gave way. On the earth fell his lifeless form. The smile disappeared slowly, fading with the pinkish glow of his cheeks.
And here I was, at the same point. All the people around me went about their work. I guess a majority of them were not here on that fateful night. The everyday life has come to terms with the horrors, prodigies of a blissful ignorance. I saw the cheerfulness and prosperity around me; it made me feel so guilty. How could one forget their doings of the past? How could the connivers of these atrocities sleep so peacefully in their homes? How could heaven not lose its charm after opening the gates to hell on earth?