A Grey Masquerade

“See, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.”

The Joker.

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I feel an absence in my bones. The emptiness leaves a hush upon me, like the silence after a raging storm. It is peaceful, yet a hurricane. The storm never abated. The tumult persists inside these fragile walls. The absence is not the only thing that meddles with my soul. There is another feeling, hidden deep beneath those rusty bars of time. A feeling I have not been able to explain, not even to myself. There is something beckoning me from those deep recesses. Every time I try tapping that thread, something inside me resonates with such intensity that my head feels like the deep gongs of a monastery.

I live in a dark place. There is a lot of sunshine, but it’s dark and colorful. A paradox. It is an unknown culmination of a lifetime.

It was time to leave. I took my umbrella, picked my coat, and ventured out. It was raining heavily outside. I could hear the little dense drops striking the umbrella. I went into my garage and got into my car, a black sedan, which clearly reflected my disheveled visage as I reached it. I drove into the night. Lightning struck the sky relentlessly as the wheels drifted through the hazy roads. Lightning has always fascinated me. Blue streaks of purity and dazzle. It somehow gave you a glimpse into the past and the future, that moment when you saw the raw power of nature, capable of chaste destruction and justice.

I stopped at a bar.

“What would you like today, Sir?”, the female bartender asked me with a smile.

“The usual, Sarah”, I smiled back.

I was treated with a pitiful grace and quickly supplied with my drink.

I could listen to her, even when she was speaking in dressed undertones, “Poor man, lost his wife. Not lost, really. She ran away with another man. People saw those two. Rumoured to have gone out of the country. Six months of marriage, new home, and this. He’s been a sad little heart since then. Try and treat him well.” This was addressed to a new bartender.

I looked at Sarah but did not say a word. Just smiled, again, ever so slightly. I finished my drink, paid my bill, and went out again.

It was still raining.

I stopped at a nearby gas station. Everyone knew my story here, and that bout of sympathy that came naturally to humans was displayed with perfect expertise.

“How are you holding up, man?”, one said.

“Anything we can help you with?”, another said.

“I’m fine. The gas would be enough help for now.”

It’s really strange and sad how so many minds find empathy a gesture worth considering. No one believes in sharing sorrows. Everyone is on their own. Everyone has to calculate their own justice. Empathy only serves the purpose of disillusioning the brain and making one full of oneself. That’s what it does. It is a self-serving gesture, purely selfish in its motive and nothing else.

I drove on, the rain still hitting the windshield in a torrent. The road was barely visible ahead. I felt a tingling sensation in my spine. The time had come. I finally reached the outskirts of the city. I did not stop, not yet. I kept driving till I reached a region with dense undergrowth. I took my flashlight with me, and began navigating through a region I knew pretty well.

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I finally reached a dark shelter. Abandoned. I went inside and lighted the two candles already kept inside, and kept my flashlight on. The candlelight cast a soft, orange glow onto the silhouette of two figures, moving very little, drugged.

I said, “Hello, Robert. How are you holding up? Anything I can help you with? After all, you are the dear husband. You must be happy to know that humans around you are kind and generous. Why do you look so sad? There is so much in this world. So much laughter, joy, and you choose to be sad.”

“Why, please, why.”

“Everything in due course, Robert. Wifey, I’m sure you have something to say, don’t you? No? Well, see, I am sure you want to know things. Curiosity must never be suppressed. That’s what gives way to marvels. I am a marvel of my own making just because I have always been curious. Wait. Let us do it this way.”

That tingling had given way to a seductive pleasure. I had a feeling of supreme power in that moment. It made that day precious. It was time for the omega, the crescendo.

I took out a surgical scalpel, and made precise cuts on both their necks, enough to make them bleed to death, but not until I was done satisfying their curiosity. It was important. No person should die without their questions answered. That is a mortal sin.

“Remember, wifey, the guy that asked you out when you were serving at that bar during college?”

The look on her face was everything I could have ever asked for. So much time and effort for the reward, and it was worth it.

Both of them flailed and shuddered. Pure elation.

“That was me. Yes. You denied and humiliated me with all those soft, meaningless, words. Denial is one thing, empathy is another. I hate empathy, you see. It is fake.

Then, you married this man. Beautiful. Poetic, I must say. You left a kink in my heart, though. That irregular beat. You had to be taught the meaning of life, obviously. As someone had to do it, here I am. As always.

You had moved there two days back. No one even knew your faces. They still think I am the husband and the person they saw you running away with was a stranger. They think I have been through police procedures. Tell one drunk moron a story and the whole town sympathizes with you. Such fools. But then, who am I to judge, yes?”

“Please, please…”, wifey murmured through a bleeding fit.

“Shhhhh, do not try to do that. You wouldn’t want to die before him, would you, now? You are soul mates, you shall reach those gates together, hand-in-hand, as you thought you would. This is touching. I really should have brought my camera. Could have shown them the real meaning of a wedding bond.”

I watched as life slowly left their squirming bodies. It was such a peaceful moment. It felt eternal. The resolution of curiosity does douse a fire inside you. I could see that they were waiting for the reality. That was their trigger. It was a mesmerizing symphony. A symphony of the sweetest composition in the world. A symphony of life and death.

The next day, I went to the bar and asked her,” Sarah, I want to get over this and move on. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee sometime?”

She smiled. I smiled back.

Empathy. The evil.