Zakir was clearly under some discomfort. The searing heat of the place, the hangover given by the glass of marijuana or something more sinister, could have been the reason behind it. What the others didn’t know was that, ever since he had woken up, a mysterious voice had been whispering in his ears. The voice was clear, soothing and had a seducing tone. This was happening repeatedly and was not a one-off occurrence. The words it uttered were;
“The disclosure will happen, upon your awakening!”.
Whenever this other-worldly voice surfaced, Zakir would slip into a trance like state, albeit for a few seconds. However, he couldn’t make any sense of the phenomenon. He thought that his mind was playing tricks on him. Hence, he decided to keep this secret to himself.
With one hand on his forehead, he slowly headed towards the guest house, much to the amusement of the other two. However, they followed him.
Upon reaching their room, Zakir walked towards the window overlooking the tree, while Alex roamed around in the room, mumbling something to himself, while secretly glancing at Zakir. Meanwhile, Tarak had made himself comfortable on the bed, next to the window, on which he had apparently slept last night.
“Is there anything that you missed telling us?”, asked Zakir, with his back towards Tarak and his eyes on the contentious tree.
Tarak, who was massaging his bruised forearm, affirmed, “I told you everything that I had heard and witnessed yesterday”.
There was silence.
Zakir walked up to Tarak and sat beside him.
“You said, that we all came here looking for something. Alex wanted to bathe in the waterfall, while I came here looking for aliens and Anand was in the quest of Nirvana. Isn’t it?”, asked Zakir.
“Yes”, replied Tarak.
“Did I tell you, where I would be finding these aliens?”, asked Zakir.
Tarak looked at Zakir, sympathetically. It seemed that he had lost the grudge, he was holding onto so far. He replied, “You were saying that the prehistoric caves within these jungles, housed some rare cave paintings made by its ancient dwellers, which proved that we were visited by aliens in the distant past”.
Alex who was listening attentively to the conversation, curbed his laughter by putting his hand on his mouth. He managed to conceal his exhilaration under the veil of coughs and puffs.
Once, he had managed to regain his composure, he remarked with a cheeky grin, “Ah! So that’s what you were after. The proof of aliens, having come from space, thousands of years ago and having produced star babies by mating with good-looking primates on earth. The ancient astronaut theory – nothing but a whole lot of baloney!”.
Zakir chose to ignore Alex’s persistent niggling.
“Do you know what the babies produced through this great union of aliens and apes were called?”, asked Alex, staring at Tarak.
“No! I don’t. What were they called?”, replied Tarak.
“They were called humans!”, yelled Alex, saying which he burst out into a squeaky laughter. Zakir turned his face towards the window to avoid confrontation. He chose not to indulge himself, further in this vile conversation. Tarak on the other hand, looked clueless.
Alex, however, kept on piling on the agony. Murmuring and slurring, random words at will. He seemed like a man possessed, adamant to take revenge for all the accusations previously levelled against him. He couldn’t stop laughing, although he was completely out of breath.
But his laughter was abruptly ended by a sudden crash of thunder, which was unexpected at that hour of the day.
Tarak looked at his watch. It was 2 pm. He seemed a bit distressed.
“What is the matter?”, asked Alex.
“This was the time both of you, returned from the jungle yesterday. It had started raining then!”, said Tarak, gazing at the grey clouds, which had inexplicably appeared, quite literally out of the blue.
“So what?”, asked Alex, visibly annoyed at the vacuous conclusion that was drawn out of a natural phenomenon.
“Everything took a turn for the worst, once it had started raining!”, replied Tarak, in a quivering voice.
The sky was rapidly turning grey, and the hot winds had now given way to a sharp and cool breeze, brimming with moisture. A sudden streak of lightning descended from the heavens and touched the top of one of the hills in the horizon. Tiny droplets of rain fell onto the uppermost leaves of the tree and slowly trickled down onto the earth, after a brief stint with the dry branches. This was undoubtedly a bizarre turn of events after the sweltering heat experienced, just a few minutes back.
The rain got heavier with each passing minute and the day was rapidly turning into night, at ten minutes past two in the afternoon!
What specifically caught the attention of the three men, was an ominous looking dark cloud, which had drifted, right above the tree. It was mercilessly spitting rain onto the tree, while the surroundings were drenched in nothing more than a gentle drizzle. The stark contrast was unmissable, and the three men marvelled at this strange occurrence.
“How many glasses of that wretched bhang lassi, did we say, we had consumed, before leaving Varanasi?”, asked Zakir, petrified.
“3 glasses!”, came Tarak’s, short and sweet answer.
Zakir clenched the windowsill tightly, while Alex hung his head in shame. The two men who were standing next to the window, glanced at each other for a second and then turned away.
“Didn’t you have any? I mean – did we not force you to have a glass as well?”, asked Zakir.
“No. I didn’t. I mean – I did not give in to your evil persuasions”, replied Tarak, assertively.
Zakir and Alex, glanced at each other, once again.
“Do you have any recollection of what happened to you last night?”, asked Zakir.
Just as Tarak was about to answer Zakir’s question, a beam of lightning, entered through the window and obliterated everything in its path. It missed Zakir and Alex by a whisker, but the impact hurled the two to two corners of the room!
After a minute, Zakir opened his eyes and saw that the room was engulfed in smoke. It was evident, that the lightning had struck the dining table, as it was on fire. His hand was bruised and his body was numb. He raised his head gently to look around the room and found Alex next to the bathroom, trying desperately to get up on his feet.
“Where is Tarak?”, shouted Zakir.
“There”, yelled Alex, pointing his finger towards the bed. The impact had hurled Tarak, under the bed. He seemed unconscious and only his head was visible though the smoke and haze.
Zakir moved slowly towards Tarak; on all fours. He put his palm on Tarak’s face and gently turned it towards himself. He was right in his assumption – Tarak was alive but unconscious. But something caught his attention: The two circular black spots on his neck, under the left jawline!
“He didn’t have them a minute back!”, whispered Zakir to himself.
“Do you see this?”, asked Zakir. “See what?”, enquired Alex, as he crawled his way through the haze to sit next to Zakir.
“These are the same marks, I saw last night on his neck, after he was attacked by the UFO. He didn’t seem to have them all day”, said Zakir, running his hand over the supposed wound. Alex didn’t respond and simply gazed at the black marks. He couldn’t deny that the black spots were for real, but also couldn’t accept that Zakir was experiencing a déjà vu moment.
“How could this be?”, asked Zakir, bewildered.
“Now, if I tell you that there is a white owl sitting on the branch of that tree, what would you attribute that to – a mere coincidence or alien intervention?”, replied Alex, confidently.
“You are kidding me, right?”, asked Zakir.
“No, I am not! Have a look”, replied Alex, with a cheeky grin on his face.
Zakir turned around and at once his body went numb with fear. Alex was right. There was an owl, that too a white one with the same hypnotic brown eyes! The rain was lashing down on it, but it didn’t budge an inch. It stood on the branch of the tree, unflinchingly, as if it were a statue and not a living thing.
The congruity between the sequence of events of last night and today was just too perfect to be dismissed as mere coincidence.
The owl ominously opened its beak! Upon noticing it, without uttering a word, Zakir raised a shivering finger towards the owl, as if to warn Alex of the upcoming dangers. Alex looked on in silence. He wasn’t too bothered by his friend’s frenzied behaviour.
Just then, the mysterious voice resurfaced and whispered something in Zakir’s ear. Strangely, the words uttered were in perfect harmony with the movement of the owl’s beak! It went on to repeat the same sentence multiple times, but each time it repeated it, the pitch went up by a notch. The shrillness of which pierced Zakir’s ear and was causing much discomfort. He was forced to cover his ears with his hands.
But this time the words uttered were different. In a shrill yet rhythmic tone the voice was constantly repeating;
“The time has come!”
Alex was perplexed.
“Why are you behaving so oddly?”, he asked.
Zakir couldn’t hear a thing. He was fully engrossed in what was happening to him. This went on for a few minutes, until the voice ceased. Then, he gently opened his eyes which were shut tightly in agony.
“Are you okay?”, asked Alex.
“We are in big trouble!”, replied Zakir. Alex held onto his friend’s shivering hand to provide some relief. “Relax. We were lucky not to have been struck by that lightning. You should be thankful”, said Alex. Zakir looked into Alex’s eyes. The fear, anguish and helplessness in his eyes was very clear.
“Do you think it was lightning that nearly struck us?”, enquired Zakir.
“What else was it?”, asked Alex, cautiously.
“You fool! We are going to be abducted!”, replied Zakir.
“What do you mean?”, asked Alex, in a hushed voice. He too, was beginning to feel the chills now.
“Do you see that giant, dark cloud anymore?”, asked Zakir.
A shiver went down Alex’s spine, as he slowly turned his head, towards the window. Zakir was right – the cloud was gone! In fact, it wasn’t a cloud at the first place. It was a giant flying saucer and it was hovering just outside the window, right next to the tree.
The 2 men were helpless. It was too late for them, to do anything now.
The voice resurfaced.
“It is time to go”, it said.
“We are doomed!”, shouted Zakir.
A streak of lightning entered the room and struck Alex. It was so intense, that it flung Alex in the air, and he crashed onto the front door, thereby knocking the wind out of him. Then, the UFO moved left and right for a few seconds, seemingly observing Alex’s movements. Once it was assured that Alex was unconscious, it stopped. Zakir’s heart missed a beat.
There was an eerie silence.
The owl took flight and disappeared into the night sky.
A rumbling sound came out of the flying saucer. Zakir froze. He stood motionless like an electrocuted cat. A beam of white, blinding light started emanating from the flying saucer through an opening in it. With each passing second, the opening grew wider and the white light became more intense, cutting everything else in sight.
“It is time for you to meet the Gods”, said the voice.
The light had now engulfed the whole room. Zakir and Alex were now floating in it, without their realization. Alex was unconscious while Zakir was under a hypnotic spell. The voice continued to speak to Zakir.
“Let me take you to the truth”, it said.
The two got sucked into a white, unending tunnel and they travelled through the abyss with only the voice guiding them.
“The Gods are waiting for you”, the voice repeated and kept on repeating the same in an unhurried and soothing tone. Zakir was mesmerized by the spectacle. Everything seemed serene and calm. The stress was miraculously gone!
“You are truly awake now”, said the voice.
Zakir nodded in agreement. It was a slow and relaxed nod.
“What do you want from the Gods?”, asked the voice.
“I want to see the truth”, replied Zakir.
“Be rest assured, you will see the truth”, assured the voice.
There was silence for a few seconds as the two men drifted deeper into the white abyss.
“You are the worthy one. Unfortunately, we will have to get rid of your friend. He is of no use for the Gods”, said the voice in a commanding tone. A gap suddenly, appeared in the tunnel, under Alex’s feet, sucking his body into it. He was hurled into the night sky, thousands of feet above the ground.
He plummeted downwards into the jungle beneath at breakneck speed. He spiralled through the clouds and fell into the white waters of waterfall, which was glistening in the moonlight. A loud splashing sound confirmed he had reached his intended destination.
Zakir was expressionless. His face testified that he wasn’t feeling any emotion.
The gap within the tunnel closed and Zakir started drifting again.
“It is time for you to fully awaken and see the truth. Open your eyes and your mind”, said the voice, as the white light began clearing. Zakir’s body was numb and he couldn’t do anything on his own. He was at the mercy of the Gods.
“The Gods would like to see you now”, said the voice.
The white light gradually disappeared and there was darkness. Everything was pitch black for a few seconds. Three beings appeared from the dark with a white halo behind them. The light from the halo was so blinding that he could only see the outline of their faces. They looked like human faces but slightly larger.
One of them bent down and whispered in Zakir’s ears, “You are going to become one of us very soon. You are going to become God!”.
Zakir smiled and said, “I have one wish before you do that”.
“And what is that my son?”, asked the Being, graciously.
“I would like to see my friend Anand. He is lost and I haven’t been able to find him”, replied Zakir.
There was silence for a second.
“Anand is not lost. He is one of us now. Do you want to see him?”, asked the Being, lovingly.
“Yes, please let me see him”, replied Zakir, enthusiastically.
“Sure. Close your eyes then”, said the Being.
As soon as Zakir closed his eyes, he felt his body plummeting downwards at a dizzying speed. After a few seconds he stopped. The halt was abrupt and sudden. He opened his eyes to see that he was in the middle of a cave. He realized he had regained sensation in his arms and legs. He got up cautiously and walked. There was a fire, lit somewhere within the cave, which made everything visible.
The place seemed mysteriously familiar. Its walls were adorned with paintings which Zakir could touch. The paintings told stories of ancient hunting missions, battles, engineering feats and alien visitations! It shimmered in the light, emanating from the fire, making them look even more mesmerizing.
A voice called out to Zakir from within the cave. It too sounded very familiar.
“Zakir, my friend. Welcome. I have discovered the truth and now you will too”, said the familiar voice. Zakir noticed that the voice was coming from the direction of the fire. He headed towards it, vigilant yet assured.
The narrow path he was on meandered towards the left. The light inside the cave was getting brighter with each passing second, confirming that he was heading in the right direction. The voice kept calling out to him. Just then, a giant shadow appeared on the walls. Zakir noticed, that it was the shadow of someone sitting behind the wall towards his right. Only his left hand was visible through the flicker of the flames. With a gentle gesture the hand called out to him. Zakir proceeded.
The face appeared from within the shadows. It was a picture of calmness. The man’s eyes were undoubtedly, that of a realized human or perhaps a God. Although, the eyes were alien to Zakir, the face surely wasn’t. The face was partly concealed on the sides, by the big locks of the man, which stretched from head to knee.
“Anand! Is that you? Where have you have been?”, asked Zakir, gleefully.
The ascetic raised his head to reveal his face fully. It was him! His intense eyes were wide open, looking at Zakir.
“I am happy that you found me. Never was I in doubt, that you would”, said Anand.
Zakir nodded with a big smile.
“I can’t even recognize you. What happened? How did you turn into a hermit?”, asked Zakir.
“I found the truth. And now, you will too”, replied Anand.
Zakir was perplexed. Anand handed over a green potion to Zakir in a shining silver chalice.
“Drink from it and you too will unite with your source”, uttered Anand.
Zakir felt the numbness again creeping into his system. He had no choice but to give in. He took the chalice gently from Anand and put it on his lips. He gulped the drink down, in one go.
There was silence.
Zakir felt a sudden surge of energy within himself. It travelled from toe to head at a rapid speed, engulfing and ravaging him. It overpowered not just his body but also quelled his thoughts. He was being pushed vehemently into nothingness. A state of nihilism where nothing existed. He felt a strong sense of fulfillment.
Anand smiled and said, “It is time for you to go”.
Zakir nodded. The joy in his eyes could not be missed.
Just then the rugged, rock-strewn floor he was sitting on started rumbling. Everything around started shaking violently. It was as if a new creation, was coming into being, obliterating everything that was old. The ground beneath Zakir opened out, as the walls of the cave started disintegrating. The destruction looked spectacular!
“Goodbye my friend!”, said Anand.
Zakir fell into the abyss. And, as he fell, he started losing consciousness. Before he lost consciousness fully, the voice resurfaced again.
It said, “You have become one of us”.
It repeated the sentence thrice, until everything blanked out.
Zakir woke up. It was night.
The sound of splashing water, coming from the bathroom, caught his attention. Someone was singing a song in the most disgusting and jarring voice. It was Alex.
A sudden gust of wind made its way into the room, ruffling everything in its path. The window, which was shut, was thrown open with a thud. Zakir’s eyes were wide open. They were focussed on the tree, outside the window.
“Not Again!”, whispered Zakir to himself.
He pulled the pillow towards himself and covered his face. But one eye of his, was still staring at the tree.
He looked at his watch. It was 11pm!
To make things worse, the owl inexplicably appeared. Again!
It was the same white owl with the most beautiful luminescent, brown and hypnotic eyes.
Zakir’s heart started pounding. He noticed neither Anand nor Tarak were in the room.
He shouted, “Anand! Where are you?”.
A hand patted Zakir’s back. He turned around.
“Are you okay?”, asked Anand, his eyes were joyous and reassuring.
Photo credits: Pixabay
To read previous parts click links below: