Crossroad of Fear

SOURAV SARKAR

Horizon…The Gray sky…A green field…Stormy wind blowing…Shamik found himself standing amidst these. Silence is somehow emerging victorious over the wind’s whistle in the unmatched dual…The nature, it is playing some mystery.
Shamik lit a cigarette. He does it every time when he can’t judge a situation and fails to respond; and this is the epitome of all. He does not know how he ended up there nor does he know where exactly this ‘there’ is. He felt restless, anxious and uneasy about everything happening. Something is not right.
He is smoking hard but his very favored branded Nicotine tastes bitter. He threw the cigarette away. Momentarily he heard a laugh – an evil one; one which is sure to trigger anger in a frustrated you. A semi old man dressed in rags, excessively thin, uncombed hair and a blackish set of teeth has somehow got hold of the thrown cigarette and was giving the laugh. He was sitting on the field just behind Shamik and Shamik was too messed up in the situation to even think of the fact where from the man came in suddenly in the deserted place. The man continued to smoke the cigarette along with his laugh. Shamik tried to ignore him and started walking; but he could not escape. The laugh was getting louder in pitch and volume and the man even started following him. Shamik stopped and faced the man and found him holding a placard where it was written :- “ 50% of the world’s population will be affected by cancer by 2020 :-WHO ”.
Shamik started running. He ran, ran and ran. The evil laughter has now turned into a scream. Thousands of men and women were screaming and crying. Shamik stopped; he was tired and confused about the things happening. He did not know what to do. In a situation like this, the best he could think of doing is :- lit a cigarette.
Shamik was sweating badly – he felt fatigued, weak and lost. He somehow lifted his body up the bed. Yes it was a dream – a horrible one indeed and is no new. He has been getting these “visions” for the past few days; since the time he came across the report while casually going through a health magazine. The report he read can be summarized as:- WHO(World Health Organization) claims that cancer as a disease will take the form of an epidemic by 2020 and about 50% of world’s population will be affected by it.
Shamik tried to be calm. He tried taking a deep breath. But it was not working and to add fuel to the fire, he started feeling shortness of breath. Things can get more annoying than this. The feeling of not getting enough air to breath, Shamik thought, can never described to someone who have not seen the dearth. Breathing seemed to be an extra job for him now. Shamik walked slowly across the room. It was almost early morning. It had rained heavily at night .Atypical August rain. The sky is still on the darker side. Does it resemble something :- Shamik thought.
A 23 year old boy, built well enough, enthusiastic and active surely will not expect a day starting like this. Shamik sat and thought :- what’s next to be done. Calling a doctor maybe. It’s a new city for him, he hardly knows people here apart from 2 or 3 of his office colleagues. The owner of the house in which Shamik has been living as a tenant has always been kind to him. Will he call him and tell what is happening:- Shamik thought. His speculations were limitless. He has got no local guardian in the city. If “anything happens” to him what will his parents do. Wait a second :- what’s this, is his eyes wet!! Was this for his affection to his closed ones or simply because, he loves himself very much.
The shortness of breath has somehow subsided. Shamik felt thirsty. He drank water and his eyes moved on to the packet of cigarette placed on the table beside his bed. “Tobacco Causes Cancer” it stated in bold terms. Yes, Shamik has been a smoker since his college days. He smokes around 8/10 cigarettes in a normal day and Shamik had always felt proud of it. Actually he never had stipulated his time to even think over these facts. In a tense situation like these; the 1st thing he would have done is to light a cigarette. But Shamik is afraid today and interestingly he does not know(or he does not want to know) what actually his fear is. That magazine, the report, that’s where everything started. Shamik was ashamed of himself. How can he, he, get afraid and speculate negativity reading a magazine report. And then this breathing thing ; is the two interlinked or is just a coincidence. Shamik hardly falls ill; he is known to be a brave; a strong hearted and a still-nerved person. Then where from all these latent fears creeping out; Shamik wondered.
The crows had started their regular business. Shamik remembered that he has office today after yesterday’s holiday he has to report on time today. But he did not feel the urge to go. That’s what is captivity. He opened his laptop and randomly googled about something :- ‘causes for shortness of breath’ he typed. Google had given him thousands of results. He came to know thousands of causes :- starting from mere cold and cough to even lung cancer. Some even pointed that extreme anxiety and panic attacks can lead to this. But Shamik followed the simple human psychology :- he started speculating about the worst case scenario.
Well fear can do wonders. Shamik who has always been an announced atheist, opened a site which claims to predict man’s future. There is an option of ‘Death Prediction’ , he found, where giving one’s birthday and birth time, he/she will be provided his death date; the system claims so. Shamik typed his birth date and time; he was breathing fast again. His finger revolved around the ‘enter’ button but he could not press it; he closed the site. He was getting mad. He realized that human loves to live more than anything in this planet. He opened a devotional site; read some ,motivational quotes about life and karma. He forcefully tried to feel better.
He felt that if he remains home today probably he will do more of these things only. He decided to go to office. He made his tea and sat with the newspaper on the table. He could not concentrate. That laugh of the old man in his dreams; it was being played continuously on his ears. He stopped at the horoscope page of the newspaper unlike any other day. Virgo he searched. It was written :- 1) You will face serious health related problems from today 2) You will get interest in devotional and spiritual learning’s from today 3) You will get assistance from your friends in crises today…..He could not read more. He was trembling with fear. Shamik, who has been a graduate in physics and always speaking of rationality, is afraid today seeing horoscope in a news paper.
Shamik decided to go to office first and then directly make an appointment to the doctor in the evening. He wore a t-shirt, unlike his regular formal dress, and locked the room’s door. He decided to give the extra key to the landlord before going to the office and tell him the whole thing. The landlord’s room was locked; he is a late riser and goes to the roof every morning for walking. Shamik came to the roof. It was empty though. The national flag was there, the landlord’s son must have hosted it yesterday on the independence day and forgotten to take it back. Shamik stood for some time there. Suddenly he started running. He climbed down the stairs and hurried back to his room, opened the key and entered. There it was; the newspaper. Shamik took it up; the date was on the 1st page :- 15th August it was written. A note was also there :- “Disclaimer – All issues of the newspaper will be closed tomorrow due to National Holiday.”
A sense of relief filled in the room. Shamik wanted to laugh. Laugh loudly. He was feeling happy; probably the happiest he ever felt. He threw the newspaper out. All his tension was gone. He found that he can breathe now :- unhindered. He had conquered the fear. He danced and jumped on his place. He did not know what to do, how to express his joy and he lit a cigarette.

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