HELLO I AM KARTHICK… THAT’S K.A.R.T.H.I.C.K…with a C
‘There is a haziness in the air, I can’t explain it,’
Then let me do it for you.
The air was dense, foggy, thick and smoky like the insides of a shady establishment, like that of an asthmatics worse nightmare. Would you prefer that? Or would you like this; The air was thick and murky like it was slithering in woods at dusk.
‘Why are you here?’
I wouldn’t be unless you wanted me to. You didn’t answer my question.
‘The former. You didn’t answer mine,’
I have no obligation to. What is it about this scene that begs explanation really?
‘You know I only had asthma as a child. That was really long ago,’
I only said it hoping it would strike a nerve and I am glad it did. Oh and dear readers, only his dialogue get the inverted commas because of a supposed legal pinky-swear deal.
Our protagonist name is Karthick by the way, pronounced ‘Car-Thick’ (if you were pretentiously trying to imitate a person from the Anglosphere); a thin but potbellied alcoholic, diabetic man-child in his early 30s who was once a prodigy at a promising law-firm, then turned it all down for an insatiable itch a la private investigating. He snaps a lot of creepy photos, makes phone calls, and gets in the way of the police a lot. He drinks, he smokes and he occasionally gets laid, but most nights he just sits and bickers while reading posts on social media on how his lawyer friends are all getting wasted with their girlfriends and/or wives in the Bahamas and how he is evidently not. He was once married and it failed miserably as she left him for ‘the Dragon King’ because she thought he was mad and had too many secrets and that he needed help, which of course he contested. That in turn leading to his hugest secret, ME!
As Karthick slumped on his creaking desk chair, wearing the same clothes he had on since yesterday, he pondered meaningless questions puffing his umpteenth cigarette while he careless searched around for his wastepaper bin to empty his overflowing ashtray. Any onlooker who if given the opportunity, no, the punishment to judge this man based on first impressions alone, would take one good look at the clutter on his desk, the pizza stains on the wall (at least I hope it’s pizza) and immediately leave through the door from which they entered. That is of course if the vile stench doesn’t rush to their senses first.
Karthick raised his arm, lightly sniffing.
‘It’s not that bad,’
You ever heard of sensitization?
‘Oh, I am very familiar with that,’
Are you talking about me? Oh poor you, having to struggle against the voice of reason emanating from the recesses of your own head.
‘Yes! And why this whole narration huh?’
Well, I think it’s because you feel there might be a story about to unfold, as it is typical of you.
How the hell would I know? Karthick strained and grunted as he tried to wake his legs up so he could reach toilet a few meters away from him. As his knees cracked, he found his balance only to…
…only for him to stumble and fall flat onto the ground.
It was probably the whisky or the strange looking pills in which some of it seemed to have been crushed and by the looks of the used straw next to it, snorted.
Jesus Karthick, you told me never again.
A foul stench overpowered that already existing one. As Karthick gleefully smiled laying there on the floor, he produced himself a puddle between his legs that would give the cleaning lady nightmares once she comes in tomorrow.
‘She won’t be coming,’ Karthick mumbled.
‘I fired her. She was not doing a good job,’
I had finally realised why the room was so foggy. It was apparent that Karthick had been stewing in his own filth for the past week as nothing was on; not the AC, not the fans, not even tap water. So, it was evident that Karthick’s real problem was that he was actually…
‘BINGO! You’re a smart narrator! Why are you so smart? If I was half as smart as you…’ Karthick began to wave his finger around while the rest of him enjoyed their prone, lazy attitudes, bathing in the sludge of dead skin, sweat and now unsurprisingly, urine.
‘Nope!’ Karthick pushed himself up. Slowly and without any vigour, he managed to get back on his knees.
‘I will freshen up!’ he exclaimed while he fumbled across the carpeting and rammed his body on toilet door before quickly unlatching it to swing himself inside only to grab the sink where he would unabashedly empty out his gastric contents.
‘Wait! What happened?’
It’s the second scene.
‘I don’t remember. What did I do after the toilet?’
It’s probably not relevant to the plot progress.
‘So what now?’
There were raindrops hitting hard on the glass window behind him as he sat back on his dying chair. Karthick shivered a little. Come on that’s too boring. Do something.
Karthick reached into his pockets. He smiled with a short burst of excitement when he… REALLY?
‘What?’ he retorted as he found a stray joint of marijuana that he had saved up for special occasions. He peered hard at his desk dimly reflecting the stray rays of streetlights that shone past the windows and reached for his lighter an arm’s stretch away.
He flicked in on and a small wavering ember lit up the whole place as it were a cave in the damp. The fan kept blowing it off so he had to keep at it until he could sustain the fire, much like his erections.
‘HA!… HA!… I said sarcastically,’ he uttered sarcastically.
Just as he was about to burn one end of the bud hanging from the verge of his cracked lips, he noticed something.
‘There’s a note,’ he mumbled, careful not to drop his precious joint.
He flicked the lighter a few more times to get a better look. He could make a small written noted stuck to the lighter, wrapped around it.
‘FIND ME!’ it read.
‘Who?’ Karthick scratched his 3-day old stubble. He tried to defog his memory by reaching for a glass of water on his nightstand. The water itself appeared as sandy and old as his stubble.
‘I am going to ignore that.’ He sipped a bit and immediately spat it back into the glass without any shame.
‘Why should I give you the satisfaction?’
Just tell me who you think did that.
‘I can’t be sure. However, I think we had sex. Because nobody touches this lighter except that time when…’
A flashback? Really? Well, how about I simplify it for the readers.
Karthick thought back about that night from a few weeks ago when a woman followed him back from the bar. They giggled and smoked together, on that dirty worn mattress, they shared a night of passion.’
‘TWICE!’ Karthick’s ego felt the need to exclaim that trivial victory as a ‘VICTORY’. He soon continued to ignore me as he studied the note a little harder.
‘Yes! I remember now. She was playing with me. Maybe hide and seek. The room was very different. The bed was a lot nicer, bouncy, helpful on the knees. Then we ran about. She went to the desk and…’
Karthick’s eyes widened. He had recollected most of the memory. He got up from the chair and started pacing. He approached the wardrobe, fumbling in the dark but reached it eventually. He opened it wide, and there were obvious hangers, tons of them, filled with clothing he couldn’t make what exactly, but the smell of clean cotton was enough to jolt more memories.
‘Yes! Then she opened the top drawer,’
Karthick hit his forehead craning his neck up to look for it. It had appeared that the drawer was never shut and Karthick’s head had chipped of some the wood from the underside of that drawer.
‘She reached into the drawer and she started to flail a gun around. A 45 magnum,’
‘I know right. Then we fought a bit. I told her to stop. Then she told me to stand back because it was loaded. I peed in my pants. Over there!’ he pointed at the stain from earlier.
Yes, you peed earlier, now can you get on with the story?
‘Sure. She started laughing. Then the gun went off,’
Karthick rushed to the window behind the desk. He unlatched the bottom from the sills and pushed the windows outward. A strange African drumbeat played as a soundtrack signifying his tension.
Karthick face was white, petrified. He was staring coldly at the ground where a body of a woman laid flat, her arms and legs wide open, like a ragdoll thrown out with fresh blood oozing along her back, trailing away in a meandering stream of rainwater on dirty tar.
The drum beating stopped bravado.
I surmise that it could not have been one week since this happened.
‘No! It just did. Her face is still so beautiful, and there no signs of lividity yet,’
You are saying all this from up here? Wow! I’m being sarcastic by the way.
‘You’re not telling me I murdered this woman, are you? ‘It’s not something I would do. Think about it. I am the protagonist aren’t I?’
But not necessarily the ‘hero’.
Karthick turned around and reached for the door. He searched the side of the wall for his keys when he realised there was nothing there. He peered hard and moved his hands around, even more, trying to feel for the nail that should have been there as his makeshift key-holder and now was conspicuously missing.
Then he finally realised something. The whirring of the fan finally caught his ear. He craned his neck and observed its slow turning.
‘We weren’t here in scene 1, were we? There wasn’t even rain then. You would have mentioned it otherwise to set the premise,’
By God, you are right. Something happened between scenes.
‘Yes! This is not our home,’
Then where the fuck are we? I apologize but that will be only ‘F’ bomb I drop in this story. Well, if it is a story.
Karthick twisted the knob of the front door and found that it was already unlocked. He rushed out and noticed a flight of stairs to his right, instead of his usual left. It threw him off a little, but he rushed down as hurriedly as he could without waiting around. Just one floor down and he was at the lobby. He noticed easily a dozen Chinese people of various age groups sitting at the lobby or waiting at the entrance for the rains to stop. Some were outside, just blocking the entrance. He observed some awkward stares coming right at him.
‘Shit!’ He noticed a police vehicle out in the front. Just the glaring lights and men in uniforms, but that was enough to panic him.
He headed for the door and excused himself out. He was getting drenched but he didn’t care due to a more obvious pressing issue. The police did not stop him but from the sound of it, they were harassing the other people waiting by the door.
You know for the sake of the readers and the writer, can I just make them all speak English. I mean you can translate if you want but it’ll just make things a lot easier if I do.
‘Not now man, please. It’s not funny. It’s Chinatown. Most people here would know English.’
Karthick had walked to the end of the street and was now facing a large intersection. There were so many people walking about and there was heavy vehicular traffic, like on a busy night after a football match (and yes I mean the real football), only that it wasn’t. He noticed they were all in raincoats but himself, and the more he stood there showered by the heavy rainfall, the more eyes periodically glanced at him.
‘What’s their problem? They have never seen an Indian before? This is Singapore isn’t it?’
As soon as the lights changed, Karthick rushed along the crosswalk, along with many others, and suffered the drips of cold rainwater pouring down from several umbrellas sinking in on his skull.
He shivered a little.
‘I must be hallucinating,’
Exactly what did you take? The pills. What were those pills?
‘No, I mean look around you. Everything is in Chinese. Everyone is Chinese,’
Well as you so aptly pointed out earlier, it’s Chinatown.
‘But everyone? Everything? And even all the writing. The ads? The streets signs?’ He then pointed out a distance, ‘Look! That family over there even have masks on.’
I started to see some truth in what Karthick was trying to imply. What exactly happened between scenes?
‘I think we came to China.’
I would contest that because Karthick had not seen what I was seeing. I nudged him to raise his head and observe the sky. There were skyscrapers, with numerous floors all lit up with traditional oriental lanterns but at the very top of that night sky, a silver dragon-like creature, no, an actual mythical 100-or-so feet long Chinese dragon was majestically roaming about, roaring as a neon shadow trailed from its tail.
‘Ok, that’s not real,’
Then it can’t be China. So Karthick, and I hate to repeat myself but I am again truly sorry dear readers, but it still counts as one, ‘Where the fuck are we?’
Queue the African drum beating and…
TO BE CONTINUED…