There was a cool breeze that night
The first thing he noticed was the cool breeze on his upturned face. It smelled sweet, and fresh, and had the tastte of spring on it. He sniffed appreciatively, savouring the breeze, feeling ecstatic for being able to feel it.
He looked around. It was sometime very late at night. The road was deserted. He didnt recognize it; he had no idea where he was. It didnt matter. Just to be alive again was enough. The road was lit by strange yellow lights. He hadnt seen that sort before. There was a high wall on the other side of the road, with jagged pieces of glass along the top. Wires sang their monotonous tune, high above his head, as they passed through a power pylon.
He was sitting on a pile of earth. Behind him, there was a pit within which he could make out thick insulated cable. The pit and the accompanying piles of earth continued on both sides of him along the road as far as he could see. Behind that was a barbed wire fence bordering an open ground. He suddenly recognised the place. The open ground was an NCC training ground, it had an obstacle course they used. Beyond that would be the hill... he looked up, and there it was. It had many more lights at the top than he remembered.
So a long time had passed, since he was last aware of himself. Vaguely, he could remember the period in between. How people had given him a wide berth as he'd staggered down the street, muttering. He remembered a couple of kind-eyed beggar children who'd given him a roti, backing off as soon as he'd taken it. One strange memory of him being a lion, and a watchman chasing him in disgust, not realising that he was a fearsome beast. A few snatches of a nurse holding him down while a doctor gave him an injection (the world blacked out after that). And sevral faded feelings of being hungry, being thirsty, feeling pain, feeling a strange sense of loss...
But all that, it seemed, was in the past. He was sane again, and aware of the cool breeze blowing against his face. Able to think of what to do next, able to put his past behind him and decide how to get on with living.
He'd done it before. He could remember how he'd started from nothing - that assortment of wooden planks, aluminium roofing and cardboard that had been his house in the slum. How it had been just him and his father, both starving half the time and fighting each other the rest of it. The long journey from there to a job, Maya, and their flat. And from there to Vakil Bhai, a simple loan at first, then bigger and bigger, until those men had burst into their home to collect or else...
But that was long gone, God knows how many months or years ago. He'd start again.
He looked around again, watched a lone motorcyclist speed by. He lifted up a hand to scratch his cheek, then noticed how thin and wrinkled his fingers were. Somewhat alarmed, he looked down at himself. He was old, and worn out. He must be about sixty-five or seventy years old. He had very little time left, then. He had to make something of himself, and quickly. He would start by -
Eh? Why had he stumbled? Was he so far gone that he couldnt even walk? He tried again and nearly fell down. His left hand instinctively reached out, and he realised why he hadnt been able to get up. There was an old twisted branch with a small slab of wook nailed across one end. Rough, for sure, but a crutch nevertheless... his left foot was gone.
He hoisted himself to his feet, using the crutch as support. It didnt matter, really. He'd done it before and could do it again. He mumbled a bit as he made his plans, hobbling down the road, the cool breeze of the night ruffling his thin white hair.
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