short story

The Emotional Gene

​In a mad world, only the mad are sane. And into a highly advanced, no nonsense, seriously mad world Mo was born. She was seven when she first displayed that she was not quite normal. The majority say she is cursed, and a minority claims she is gifted. She was not sure of anything, until she had been sent to the Reset Centre. There she had had a late realisation: that this war had come to a climax.

She remembered that day very well, eleven years ago how she had failed miserably in her practical telekinesis class. Her blood pressure was going haywire, and she could not speak. She had cried out loud that day. That was the first time she had displayed her defect. As she grew up, the defects increased, and after her seventh public display of defect, the Social Affairs Court had taken matters into their hands. 

Homo sapiens did manage to achieve a lot: they found a way to overcome global warning, they got rid of all the various currencies and came up with Solars and Lunars. Money was no longer the priority, it was just a means to maintain social and economic stability. Humans even managed to make water, and other resources which had been categorised non-renewable years ago. But the most important ‘development’ was that they had managed to upgrade their brains.  From Homo sapiens they became Home cogno sapiens. 

They had finally become a superior race, but in this long journey they had sacrificed a lot. A lot of people lost their lives, and the world population came down tremendously. Earth – or what was left of it – was dying. Humans had to sacrifice life – the joy of life. They no longer experienced or expressed emotions. And that is where Mo went wrong, or rather her DNA.

Mo was certainly not the first case to have reported display of emotions. One was only allowed ‘the first cry’ at birth, as it enabled the baby to take in gulps of oxygen. But after that, there were machines to assist the baby in everything. The whole idea was still under strict research, but the scientists believe that it is due to the absence of a mutated gene. Usually, genetic disorders are due to the presence of a mutation, but in this case, the gene was similar to the ones found in Homo sapiens. This led to decreased cognitive abilities, and also emotions. The scientists were unable to find out why there was a negative mutation (where the mutation takes you backwards in the chronology of evolution.).  Thus, this special genetic disorder was named Inferiority Cognition Disorder and the gene was named The Inferior Gene. 

Thus, people with the gene is often considered genetically inferior. There are people who believe that the gene is in fact a gift; that nature is trying to teach humans something they have long forgotten in this race for success. These people are mostly scientific and psychosocial historians, who have studied Homo sapiens in detail. They, in spite of being genetically advanced, are experimenting with emotions. 

A Reset Centre is where people who suffer from this disorder is sent to be rectified. It is a huge white building where every corridor leads you to another, walls after walls. Seven. That was the ultimatum. There were people who tried to hide the disorder, but then emotions became complex as one grew – and thus more difficult to hide too. If the disorder was not treated privately, then the Social Courts Affairs would take matters into its own hands. They wanted a perfect uniform society of advanced cognition.

Mo had experienced her seventh attack on her seventeenth birthday. It was similar to her first, but much worse. Her parents were both engineers, busy building the city. They were not at all bothered about their only daughter, or that she was suffering from the disorder. They did not show up for her birthday either, and she broke down in front of her guests. It was mixture of anger, sorrow, loneliness and failure. She didn’t know what exactly the emotion was, but it was burning her heart. 

All her life, she believed what the society told her: she was cursed, genetically inferior, a major failure for her family genealogy. Her parents regret the genes they passed down. They soon had another child, a boy, when she was nine. She hardly saw him, they kept him away from her. But, at the Reset Home, she came across so many others like her, and asked herself why should it be abnormal at all?  There were various exercises meant to help upgrade their mental abilities. And after one year at the centre, she was at peace with the whole controversy.

One day, after one of the Reset sessions, she heard voices from behind the door marked ‘RESEARCH’. Entry was limited to staff, mostly scientists who were using the centre’s data to research further into the issue, and to try and avoid such a genetic combination in the future. You could rectify this genetic error, but only if you are able to detect it within the first trimester. This gene, for reasons unknown, could not be detected at such an early stage. The rate at which the ‘defects’ were infecting the population was increasing. Representatives from all over the world decided that this was unhealthy, and had to be cured soon.

But what made Mo stop in front of that door were the voices, and that particular noise which she was unable to comprehend. One of the voice is …. Speaking fast, and in a rude tone. Yes, he sounds angry. And the girl… is crying.. no almost crying. Sob..sobb..sobbing? yes, sounds like that. That’s weird, I thought we were not allowed into the room, wondered Mo. Just then the man walked out the door, almost bumping into Mo. She ran away before he could shout at her, but not before she saw that the girl was in fact one of the researchers.
The centre was divided into various wings (A, B, C, D etc), and they were identified by their numbers, and not names. Mo was G7. Once back in G wing, she shared her experience with her mates. They pondered over it for a while. Finally, G16 asked what the argument had been about. 

“Well, I couldn’t make much sense of it, but it sounded like one of their experiments had gone wrong, and the man was furious.” she replied.

And then, all of a sudden everybody began talking at once, wondering what could have gone wrong. But Mo, was confused. She silenced her mates, and said, “We all know that normal human beings can  feel only one thing – and that is a sense of dissatisfaction or disappointment. Nothing more than that. But we can. And that is why we are here. The important question here is what went so wrong that the man was so angry? That the women was sobbing? What went so wrong that they became like us?”

There was a moment silent realisation, when the dinner bell rang. It was decided they would try to gather as much information possible during dinner. And the next step would be decided afterwards. 

After dinner, they gathered again to discuss what might have happened. There had been rumours that extreme and irreversible defects were often experimented on for research purposes. But nothing more than that. Finally, G20 beckoned everybody to be quiet, and shared what she had overheard. 

She had not made much sense of it, most of it was barely audible. But an experiment had gone terribly wrong, it was meant to ‘switch off’ the gene that was responsible for emotions. She was not sure what exactly went wrong, but it was very contagious, since the rest of the staff were asked to take precautions. Mo knew she was almost there, just one last piece of the puzzle was missing. And she had made up her mind to get to the bottom of it.

The lab was full of workers, but it was not the same after what had happened. Lab Workers 271 and 165 had been put into quarantine. Anybody could be next, and the workaholic air had transformed into one of stress and confusion. Everybody was trying to act normal, to not express anything. But things had gone beyond their control, and their fears were confirmed when LW119 collapsed, his face in his hands, tears rolling down his cheek. One more down. 

Mo was hovering over the Q wing, as she wanted answers. She had heard that it was once used as a quarantine, but she had only recently heard that the members had been shifted to a different wing, so as to use the wing as a quarantine –for special cases. Cases that nobody really knew. She was there to find out more. But she was hardly even let into the wing. She told the staff on duty that she was there to meet her friend Q2, but they merely informed her that the wing had been evacuated. She tried to argue with them so as to try and peek into the wing, but all she could see was that there were three members – 2 males and a female. And then, suddenly, another scientist came up and pulled the staff aside. The staff motioned her to leave, and she nodded her head in obedience. But not before peeking into the wing one last time.

Back in her wing, her mates were eagerly waiting for her to share what she had seen. But Mo was not sure what to make of it. She had seen the same woman, the one who had been crying in the lab. She was also pretty sure that the man who had shouted at the woman was also in the same wing. And also another ‘defect’ was to be added to the wing. She had heard the scientist whisper, one more bed required. 

They all gathered later, after dinner, to discuss the day’s findings. G10 suspected alien invasion, G21 suspected a scam. Most of them were clueless, and finally G9 said something sensible: some sort of contagious disease had broken out, that were turning normal people into defects. But Mo had a better theory. 

What if the experiment had backfired? That was the only sensible theory that she could come up with. What if the experiment that was supposed to ‘switch off’ the gene in defects, had completely backfired. And what if that experiment was ‘switching on’ the gene in normal people?

G9 gasped, “That means…”

“Yes, that means everything we were told were wrong. Everybody must have the gene in them by birth, only ours is active.” said Mo.

The Head of Research had was under a lot of criticism, he was almost fired 5 minutes ago. Who the hell was responsible for that disaster? You should not have measured emotion more than you can handle, the subject was obviously overwhelmed. The public should not know of the radiations that were emitted by the subject during the disaster. This was what the President had to say. 

The gene had always existed, but humans had forgotten to use it. As a result, it had become quite redundant. The effort had always been to remove the gene from the coming generations completely- as per the unanimous decision by the world leaders. But what they did not want to face was the fact that the gene was turned on at least once in everybody’s life. Only the ones with no control whatsoever were called defects. And the lifestyle was such that the gene only become active three or four years after birth – which was why you could never detect it within the first trimester. The whole ‘defect program’ was a scam, a lie. The world leaders believed that emotions could hamper development.

The HOR never really believed that one could feel nothing – the world leaders in fact were scared. They would not call it so, but he knew that was what it was. They had tried to extract emotions from a subject. But the experiment had failed miserably – as the subject turned overwhelming, and overloaded the machines- which exploded- thus emitting radiations. Theses radiations were in fact triggering this gene – turning it ‘on’.

Mo was watching the Q wing closely. More people were admitted every passing day, and she also saw a lot of new people in the centre. The news reported rare cases where people had become defects during old age – an unlikely late discovery. Suddenly, people everywhere were becoming defects, and within months, all centres were full. Mo’s theory was beginning to substantiate itself.

And then, finally, the day came when history was about to repeat itself. The world leaders had ordered a genocide of the defect population. The defects were furious, and they became violent. The President was to declare the genocide at People’s Square. But a mutiny had already broken out. Two of the Reset Centres had completely broken down, and hundreds of defects walked into the Square, as the President was speaking. They were not going to sit simply this time; they had already been tagged defects – they had nothing else to fear. In fact, being a defect gave them the freedom to react, unlike the ‘normal’ ones who were trying hard to keep it together. 

One of the defects threw his shoe at the President. The President was completely taken aback for a second, scared the next, and then it finally turned into rage. But before he could shout, his guards escorted him. A man immediately took the stage – it was none other than the HOR at Mo’s centre. And he revealed the truth that had been hidden from them all along – and what better evidence to present than the president’s reaction?

It remained the headlines for a couple of weeks. More people gave into their emotions than suppressing it. It took time, but people started to acknowledge the truth. They too started seeing it as a gift, and broke into centres to free other defects. The Discipline Force could not control anything anymore – the world as such had fallen into chaos. The leaders had to meet again, and they quit. And within two months, a new set of leaders had emerged. Reset Centres were converted to Research Centres, to help people understand emotions better, and also to improve the emotional quotient of the world. 

And once again, the human race learned how to live. Emotions were no longer looked down upon, but respected. They were given the importance in life. They learned to care – for each other, about other species, and also about their wonderful planet that gave them life. After all, emotions are what makes us alive, than being vegetative.

family, movie

Why I Should Maybe Stop Watching Horror

And also movies where you have”suspenses”. 

Last Saturday, VJ let us engage in the Conversations about Cinema, and it was super fun. Everybody had stories to tell, but I forgot so many of my own. And that class brought back so much of them. 

I have often been scolded by my friends for spoiling the suspense, which I manage to guess. And there’s this thing I have for animation movies – because I feel they’re like dreams. Anything and everything can happen. 

I don’t remember when exactly I had first seen my horror movie. But then maybe, it doesn’t start with a movie at all? 

The earliest memory I have of anything ‘horror-ish’ is perhaps this weird serial I used to watch with my grandpa and cousins. This is something that happened only at my mom’s house. The room would be dark, lights off and all those trees would be peeking in through those old fashioned grilled windows. I don’t remember the name or the story at all; it has a couple and a yakshi I think. I don’t even remember how old I was – seven or eight? My grandpa used to watch, and we used to sit with him. Somehow, the idea of getting scared didn’t scare us, instead it might as well as have excited us. But one of my cousins was a little hesitant to look at the TV; she had the habit of peeking through the gaps in between the fingers of her hand – which covered her face – so that she would be terrified, but still not miss any part of it at the same time. The same cousin would, years later, sit with me to watch Paiyaa, fast forwarding through all the songs and the fight scenes – it’s a Tamil movie. 

Years later, my grandfather had passed away. The four of us were together in that house after years, for the rituals. And one night, we were in his bedroom discussing the movie ‘Mirrors‘. Well not really discussing, since we hadn’t watched the movie. I had just seen that one scene where the hero’s sister dies, and decided I’ll watch the movie in leisure – from the beginning- the next time. The eldest one, S, then continued to narrate the story. And I helped her scare the other two. And after this, I don’t remember why exactly  – we (S and I) had to step out of the room. It was dark out there, since our mothers were at some other corner of the house. We had to go to S’s room – she lived with her mother and grandpa – to take something. She was searching in the dark, so was I. But then she turned on the lights (on purpose) , and I was standing right in front of the dressing mirror. I had an exciting heart attack, after which we started giggling. We went back to the room and terrified the other two, reminding them that reflections were enough. 
I have perhaps become used to watching horror movies, and writing horror was a much later addition. I had watched Conjuring 2 in theatre, and that was the first horror movie I saw in a theatre. I had planned to go with my two BBFs – Bangalore Best Friends, S and P. 

The movie was, in many ways funny. And there were so many people commenting aloud – even us perhaps. But my classmates had perhaps praised it so much, that I had placed the movie high in expectations. So much that, no matter how scary the movie was, it would still not be scary enough for me. It was maybe unfair of me to do so. But then, it was a beautiful movie -mind blowing I would say. 
I have already written about how to write horror stories. Or rather how I write themI’ve always wondered what somebody expects from a horror movie. Many a times, almost half of the horror effect is lost when you’re watching it on TV. But you can still recreate it to an extent – lights off at midnight that leaves just you and the movie. Shefali says horror films bore her; and I sort of agree with her. It doesn’t bore me, but if you’ve already watched the movie, then you lose the advantage of the ‘surprise’ element. And also, there are movies with a lot of blood shed – killing people or butchering them, piranhas or sharks eating you. All these would never fall into my idea of horror. A little bit is perhaps inevitable, but usually such movies disgust me. 

I guess I’ve always been interested in the stories they tell, even if most of the time it is incomplete. And at times barely there. And this is not just for horror movies. We all keep watching a movie again and again and again. For instance, I don’t remember when exactly I had first seen Manichithrathazhu, but I know that every time after that I haven’t changed the channel if they’re playing the movie. My parents don’t let me see the movie in peace (or in pieces) as they start reciting dialogues as if the Bhoot has got them. And then, I join them. 

horror fiction, short story

The Light

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Triiiiinnnggg Triiiiinnnggg.
Triiiiinnnggg Triiiiinnnggg.

2:09 a.m.? Seriously? Who’s calling me now?
It was my best friend, who was sleeping in the adjacent room. I picked it up.

“Is this some kind of joke? If it is… ” , I said.

“Don’t take the charger off, keep it on. Please. ” she said.

I withdrew my hand from the charger immediately. Her tone was serious and urgent.

“Is everything alright ?”I asked, getting up from my bed – my hands searching for the light switch.

She replied :
“Listen to me carefully, stay still. Don’t move and no matter what don’t turn on -”
Click.

the light.”

Triiiiinnnggg Triiiiinnnggg. Triiiiinnnggg Triiiiinnnggg. Triiiiinnnggg Triiiiinnnggg. Triiiiinnnggg Triiiiinnnggg.

You have one missed call.

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poem

Knowledge Behind Bars

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This room is a cube, imagine.
Thinking beyond that cube is a sin,
I wonder why they do what they do
Like they say for those who
Want knowledge sincerely,
Or those who make them wealthier regularly?
What is shared here, wisdom or just shortcuts;
Deals that destroy your very guts?

The dusty corridors the ghosts abandoned,
In the midst of chaos, they leave you stranded –
Against their promises and assurances.
They’ll only widen your differences.
The deities of the orthodox world they built,
The course of the river never in the hands of the silt.
Your life defined by their rules, and terms.
Your thoughts, and food infected by their worms.
The seed of fear they will have sown,
And since then you shall never own,
That life you thought was yours,
Those choices you thought were yours.
Your true self , never again will you find.
For once in, you’ll be trapped in your own mind.

They’ll feed you sciences from behind the stars,
But what use of such knowledge behind bars?

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Alone

The Room

thAT46RNLG

It is two in the afternoon, the sun in its full voltage. People are all over the streets having lunch, going back to office, traveling and barbequed street vendors selling food.  Her mother is in the kitchen serving lunch. Her mother walked up to a door, and slid open a small compartment that formed a rectangular hole on the door. Her mother placed the food inside and closed the door.

There was a lot of noise: the horn, the vehicles, laughter, and chatter. But she was thrown away, the light screaming at her, burning her down. She kept her palm on the floor right on time to stop herself from falling off the bed. She was breathing heavily, and stayed like that – hanging in mid-air supporting herself on her hand. She rolled back into her bed and laid there closing her eyes.

But it didn’t make any difference, whether she had eyes closed or open. The room was dark, the tube lights had been removed. The windows sealed shut, and painted black, and thick covers that cut her off from the beautiful trees, and the world beyond it. Nothing from the outside world could ever think of passing these barriers and entering her room. Ever since that day, she had shut her eyes to the world. She was afraid of the light. She noticed her lunch at the door.

thYPANBWLH

Her parents, on the other hand were worried for her.

What do they do that she will come out of the darkness? Who will marry her? Who will look after her if something happens to them? Their questions were soon answered.

One day she decided enough was enough. No more of this misery, I shall end it once and for all. I cannot drag people who care for me into this misery. No.

So she finally gathered courage, stood behind the door for about more than an hour hesitating. She opened the door slowly – there was nobody around. Her father was at work, and her mom on the terrace. She walked out of her room, squinting. She took the challenge to another level – she decided to go outside. She went out the door, felt the earth against her feet. The wind welcomed her, and danced with her hair. She stretched her arms and walked forward to embrace light. She was no longer afraid of light anymore. All around her there were lots and lots of light. She never had to be afraid ever again.

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description, humour

The Perfect Horror

cg

You are obsessed with horror stories , and you want to write a decent one. But you have had a consistent history of turning your horror stories into humour. But at least, you have the Canterville ghost to support you. Only he shall be able to empathise with you, since he too had failed to scare the Otis family. But you decide to get serious. You take it to the next level.
You kick everybody out of your house, and make sure you lock only the main door ( and the balcony door) –  any door that is a connection to the outside world. The larger the house the better. You waste your time till 1 a.m. watching TV, preferably horror movies.
Then, you switch it off, get off the couch, check the door and find your pink blanket. Then you switch off every light, making sure only enough light passes through the window.  Enough light to make scary clawy shadows. ( if you’re living on the 17th floor, chances are there won’t be any claws. But you can still adjust with what you have.)
You walk to your bed, and you visualise yakshis and raktharaakshasis popping up from nowhere at your doorways. (You are allowed to imagine people you don’t like as the above mentioned.)You are on your bed, the blanket of darkness overwhelming the happy pink blanket. You imagine the worst things that can happen. Scare the shit out of yourself. You hear weird noises from upstairs. Better. You think you heard the door moan. Even better. You feel like there are evil spirits waiting for you to fall asleep so that they can have you as midnight snack. Excellent.

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Hide under your blanket, and write the story down. Then go to sleep – if you can. You are not done. Post it on your blog – categorise it, and add tags. Share it on the social media.
You show it to your mother, but she is not sure where the horror is. Your dad is in no mood for horror, and thus he has no idea what’s going on in the story. So he starts asking whys and whats. You call your best friend, who lives far away, and she can no longer speak – she is on her bed with a bad stomach ache. For she imagined you narrating the story, your voice echoing in her head. She could not take it, she almost died laughing. Only almost. You take it to your other best friend in the city. He is no longer on his chair, but already on the floor hugging himself – the minute he saw your name. For the same reasons mentioned earlier.

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You shall not lose hope. There are people who don’t know you at all. They will not hear your voice in their head. Only the voice of the story. So you wait. Till somebody likes it.