Oct 3, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 24

Oak moved silently around the table. Setting it up the perfect configuration was not only necessary, it was important too. He wanted to make his guests feel as comfortable and at home as he could. There was a tray of burgers placed in the middle of the table and a faucet in the middle of the table for guests to fill their glasses with the fizzy drinks of their choice.

Once he felt everything was as good as he could make it, he flipped open the cover of the computer he wore on his forearm. It took only moments to press a few buttons and the room filled up with bright yellow light and a smell of brimstone and sulfur.

The fat man was the first to arrive. He moved his bulk through the portal and looked around the room.

"Not too shabby, Oak," he nodded at Oak, dragged his chair out and took his place the table. "I hope these burgers are fresh," he laughed at Oak and Oak simply smiled in return. The fat man picked up a burger and chomped down on it. He said something more with his mouth filled with the burger, but it was lost in the chomping and smacking sounds that his mouth made. Oak looked away and wrinkled his nose in disgust. Two more to arrive.

The old woman was the second to arrive. As gracious as ever, she wore a dark blure sari that was embellished with jewels that even Oak did not know the names of. She stepped out of the portal and took Oak's offered hand. He lead her out and kissed the back of her hand. A smile flickered on her face and then it was gone. Oak pulled her chair and she slithered into her seat. A glass of fizzy Coke appeared in front of her. She looked at the drink with distaste and sighed.

Oak waited for the third man to appear. No one came out of the portal. He waited some more. And then, as if from a faulty phone line, the strange disjoined voice spoke. "Oak. Old buddy. Do I have a trick for you?"

Oak peered into the portal at a vaguely humanoid figure. It seemed to be coming closer, floating on waves of light. "Think of a card, Oak. Any card. But wait, don't tell me what that card is. Choose your card and think of it in your mind."

There was nothing to do, if he needed these three in one place, he'd have to play along with their tricks. Oak closed his eyes and thought of a card. It seemed to float in front of his eyes and it vanished with an audible poof as he opened his eyes.

"Will you please take your seat at the table?"

The Jester slid out of the portal like a man slipping on a banana peel. Oak could feel a headache building behind his eyes. Behind him, the fat man made a strangulated sound. He got up from the table so fast that his chair went shooting past behind him and struck the wall with a flat bang. The fat man's hands were locked around his own throat. His eyes watered and he grunted like an animal trapped in a vice. The lady in the sari looked at the choking man with an amused expression on her face. She had not touched her drink till now, but now she picked up the glass and took a sip.

The jester grabbed the fat man's shoulder and bent him over the back of the third chair. He then slapped his back with an open hand. Once, twice, and the third time the fat man hawked something out of his mouth. It was something small and covered in bits of burger. The fat man picked it up with shaking fingers. He unfolded the small package.

It was a playing card. The Joker.

The headache burned behind Oak's eyes like an unrelenting desire to murder. He quashed down the desire to burn everything and everyone in the room there and then.

"Wondering how your card got in fatty's mouth?" the Jester asked Oak.

"There will be time for such questions later, why don't you all take your seats so that we can go ahead with the things we want to discuss in this meeting."

The fat man was sweating and he wiped his face with his sleeve as he picked up his fallen chair and put it in its place. He looked at the small mountain of burgers and picked another one that he chomped down.

"I have convinced Otrahun to stay here. It was difficult, but it's done. Now, I need you all to tell me how the hell are we going to activate his powers to their full potential?"

"Oh," Jester picked up a burger and bit into it. "I guess we'll have to kill him to do that."

The headache behind Oak's eyes amplified with the rage of a thousand suns.


Oct 2, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 23

Reality hiccuped, burped and belched at the same time for Otrahun. He was back in the white room. It looked as pristine as ever. On the wide screen in the middle of the room, the old man looked even frailer and closer to death.

"Ah, you. You will just not die an easy death."

"I was ready to die, until you showed me that place. You should have never sent me there."

"Hindsight is always 20-20, Otrahun. You of all people should know that."

Otrahun sat down cross-legged on the ground. He looked up at the screen with a mixture of sadness and pity.

"Did you get your files?" he asked.

"Of course, we did. All the records are in place. Every sin ever committed on this planet. Every mark, every tally of it all, recorded and cataloged."

"Good, good. That's great. My name might be there in a few places, too," he paused and wiped his face with his hand. "What do you plan to do with the information in these files?"

"The same that we have done all these years. Maintain the balance in the corridors of power in this world. When we have leverage, we use it to control those who make decisions and propel the world towards a better future."

"Ah," Otrahun sighed. "I should have known."

"You should send Lisa back. I need her here."

"No can do, old man. She fucked with the wrong kind of creatures by meddling too much in the other place. They are going to keep her there."

The old man frowned. "I will not have my most valuable lieutenant rotting in the jails of that place. I demand you return her here."

"She won't rot anywhere. She is a guest of Oak and others. But if you come for us there, we will make sure she rots."

"We? And you dare threaten me?"

"Yes, we. Because now that I know you have dirt on me, I am not staying here. And I can threaten you because I am going back to where you can't touch me."

"Otrahun, you are right. And you will be fine. But watch your back, because I promise you, one day, I will send someone to put a knife in there."

"Oh, won't that be exciting. Goodbye old man. I hope your circuits fail and your boot order is corrupted."

Otrahun looked at the table once more. Same steel where his body once laid strapped. Now empty and cold. He waved a middle finger salute at the old man and bit by bit, started to disappear.


Oct 1, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 22

When he was a little child, Otrahun's father took him to a pool to teach him swimming. The older man told the boy to get up on the ramp and jump in the water. I will catch you, the old man had lied but the little boy knew nothing of the lies of elders. He had jumped and once he had drunk enough pool water and tried his best to yell out half-cries for help, his father had jumped in and helped him out. The first lesson had nothing to do with swimming, but everything to do with life.

Trust no one.

As Otrahun lay strapped to the table with a scalpel hovering above his face, he remembered nothing of what his father had told him. He could only feel the crunch of a wrapper in his pocket. He inched his fingers toward his pocket while Lisa touched the blade of the scalpel to his face, deciding where to make the first cut.

"Do you really have to cut my face?" he asked Lisa. "Just kill me if you want and let it be."

"We still don't know how you pulled it off. And we need to know that in case this fuckery repeats itself."

"You want to know how I found your files? Why didn't you just ask? I'd gladly tell you everything."

"You might be leading us the wrong way. That's why I need to torture you first. To make sure you tell the truth."

"Please put away the scalpel. I like my face too much to lie about the process of getting your stupid files. I'll tell you, just untie me first."

"No can do, Otrahun. You are going to get cut and it will hurt a lot. Just ride through the pain and be truthful when I start asking the question."

His fingers found the wrapper of the burger he'd taken from Oak's restaurant. With the wrapper clenched tight in his fist, he closed his eyes and thought of the drum performance Oak had given. The beat of the drums was like the heartbeat of a giant creature powering through something grand. It was chaotic and melodious. Like listening to music that opens up your mind to the possibilities that the universe might present to you. The drum solo reached its crescendo, with Oak going mad on the drums, the sticks in his hands a blur, the large horns on his head swaying to an internal beat that was too much in control when this beat was a maniac tsunami of death and destruction.

And when Otrahun's heart also started to beat in time with the drums, he let go of the wrapper. The piece of oiled paper fell to the ground and in a blink, the atmosphere around him changed. He was back in the world he had left and Lisa also stood there with him, still holding the scalpel in her hand which chose the exact moment to fall.

"Oh, boy. I am so fucked." she muttered.

Oak appeared like a ghost by Otrahun's side. "Good to see you back here, Mr. Yaway."

At Oak's signal, two burly demons broke away from the throng and grabbed Lisa by the arms and lead her away.

"What are you going to do with her, Oak?"

"To be frank," the giant murmured, "nothing." He sighed. "We will just keep her in a cell"

"Understandable. She's been poisoning this place for quite some time. Oh, and thanks for the beat. I'd have never found my way back here if I did not have that in my mind."

"Always a pleasure to show a way through music. I believe you are going to make one more trip back there?"

Otrahun nodded. There were still some T's that needing crossing and i's that needed dotting.

"I'll be back before you notice that I was gone."

He closed his eyes again and then, he waited.

Sep 25, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 21

The surreality of the situation was not lost on Otrahun. Here he was, stuck in a place that had no name or meaning, carrying his own head through a dusty landscape. Hunted by demons who wanted to switch him for no other reason than that he was in this place. He wasn't even there out of his own choice.

He carried his head in the crook of his arm and walked towards the next building in the row. He had a feeling that they were all connected and if he could access the mainframe from the previous building, he might be able to patch in through any of these buildings. It was a long shot, but it was the only shot he had got.

The next building's outer wall was smooth as polished glass and there was not even a single mark or indention anywhere. He grabbed his head and touched it to the surface of the building. And nothing happened. He did not fall through, the building's doors did not open, he did not even get shocked to death.

Damnation, he whispered and punched the wall. The change was immediate. The wall suddenly became transparent. Behind the transparent pane of glass, he saw a screen just like the one he had left in the previous building. It was even on the same page of the program he was using.

Otrahun sighed. Everything was connected. He just needed some more time to make it work. So far, this building had been nothing but a big tease. His hand curled itself into a fist and punched the wall again. The glass cracked like a spiderweb. A thin trickle of blood smeared Otrahun's fingers. He sighed and punched the wall again. And again. And again.

The glass shattered under the force of his punches and he kicked away the rest to make a small opening for him to get into the building. The insides were cold like places that have been left locked up for far too long.

He walked to the computer and put his head down on the table looking at the screen. He started to type, picking up the work from where he had left.

Something shuddered in his left arm and the hand went limp. He'd been disconnected from his body for too long now. But he was close now and quitting was not an option. Not at this stage. He kept typing with just one hand, hoping against hope that the right hand would not give up on him.

A wave of nausea washed over him. Drawing the next breath became a challenge for Otrahun, while some disconnected part of his mind wondered how he was able to breathe if his head was not connected to the body. With spots swimming in his vision, he looked at the screen. Squeezed on eye and hit Enter on the keyboard.

The screen went blank and nothing else happened.

Fuck, he thought as he lost consciousness for the nth time.

It was the smell of industry standard disinfectant that woke up him. For a moment, he thought he was in a hospital. The woman's face swam into view. The smile on her face looked like as awkward as an ill-fitting wedding dress on a rotting corpse.

"My name is Lisa." she said. "We want to congratulate you on the behalf of our company for bringing to us what belonged to us."

Otrahun tried to get up. He could not. He was strapped in place with too many straps.

"Lisa, go fuck yourself with your congratulations."

Lisa smiled her corpse smile at him.

"I promise I will make it hurt as much as possible."

She took out a small scalpel from the box on the desk and put a new blade on it.

"No hard feelings, Otrahun. We can't really let you move out there with all that you know now. It just won't be right."

Otrahun said nothing.

Reaching the end, soon. 

Sep 20, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 20

The dirt felt alive under his fingers and he could feel the wetness of the mud seep in through his shirt. He was lying down on the ground and the cacophony of the world around him meant nothing to him for now.

Otrahun focused and his body on the other end of the field put a palm on the ground. Another hand in position and he forced his blood and bones to get into motion and get up. His headless body staggered like a child learning to walk for the first time. Another demon kicked his head up and he spun like a ragdoll. His focus wavered and his body stumbled a step.

This time, he closed his eyes and went deep in his own mind. There was an old memory of a rainy day somewhere in his headspace. When the rain fell like jewels on the pavement and the world was as blurred as a watercolor painting that will never go dry. Gears in his head whirred and clicked. Like a key slipping into a slot, something clicked and his body on the other end straightened up like a rod.

It took one step and then another.

It ran for him.

Toothy saw what was happening and yelled a command to his troop of demons. There was a sudden shift in the game. The addition of a new player put both teams in a new wave of motion.

They rushed him. Otrahun took a stock of the crowd of demons heading his body's way and everything slowed down in his mind. There were gaps in the mass of bodies. There were weak points in the huddle. There was a path of least resistance and he could make his body reach him if he only followed it through.

The mass of claws, teeth, and sharp appendages reached for his body. He kicked, punched, clawed, jumped, crawled, and slithered his way through the two teams. Time flexed back to its usual speed and they were all beating up one of their own.

With only a few feet between him and his body, Otrahun put a burst of speed in legs. If only he could pick up his head and get out of this place.

Then Toothy tackled him.

They rolled and tumbled in the red dirt. Toothy punched his body and he punched back with double the force. After all, he did not have to protect his head anymore. They tangled with each other like angry lovers. But there was one way Otrahun had an edge over Toothy. He was fucking angry.

As they fought, Otrahun's hands found Toothy's throat and in a flip second, the demon was in a headlock. Otrahun locked his arms and squeezed the air out of Toothy's lungs. Seconds passed and the demon started to thrash. His thrashings got weaker and then his body went limp in Otrahun's arms.

Otrahun's tired body then walked over and picked up his head. It was the first time he was looking at himself without the aid of a mirror or a camera. He looked worse than he thought himself to look. The signs of his age and the weariness of the struggle were all taking its toll on him. He was hungry but he was not sure if eating anything would help if his head was not connected to his body.

He grabbed the head like a trophy and walked over to one of the walls. There was only one way to find out if the wall will let him through. With his forehead against the wall, he said a little prayer for the first time in years.

The wall flickered and he fell outside.

The red dirt and forever sunset mode made him feel a deep sense of depression. He had two tasks on his mind now. Get his head back in place and find those fucking files.

He chose a building at random and headed towards it.

Two observers watched him walk.

Feisty little shit, isn't he?

He's got what it takes, I'd give him that.

Can he do it?

Only he can.

Would you bet on it?

Of course. I'm sure I'd win.

Sep 19, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 19

There is only one requirement for a successful beatdown.

Keep the subject conscious and in constant pain. As long as they are awake and alive, the beating is fun. But the moment they lose consciousness, they are gone beyond the control of the person delivering the punishment. They have won by losing. And no matter how much you beat them now, it's all the same to them.

Luckily for Otrahun, Toothy did not know shit about delivering a successful beatdown. The bone club swung once and almost took off Otrahun's head. He ducked and tried to move away from the crushing swing of the club, but it still clipped him on the shoulder. He felt his bones slip and slide in his shoulder socket. This was definitely going to hurt.

Toothy went to town beating up Otrahun till the man was lying flat on the floor looking less like something alive and more like a bag of beaten bones and blood. All this and Toothy was not even breathing hard.

"Get him up!" he roared to his minions and two burly demons broke away from the watching party and picked up Otrahun by his arms.

He placed the bone club's heavy end under Otrahun's chin and lifted up his head.

"Any last words, pretty boy?"

"Yeah," Otrahun managed to whisper through broken teeth. "Take this club and go fuck yourself."

The swing of the club, when it connected took Otrahun's head off his shoulders, sending the meatball rolling on the floor in darkness. His body sagged and the demons next to him wiped the geyser of blood that erupted from his neck.

Somewhere else, Otrahun woke up screaming. He tried to get up from the bed, but his arms and legs were tied to the bed. He tried to speak, but the words were drowned under a torrent of incoherent screams. With a crushing sense of horror, he realized that he could not breathe. He opened his mouth wide and tried to gulp in air, but he could not make his throat swallow. He was drowning without water. Black spots danced like flies in front of his eyes. To his right, someone was yelling. A peaceful darkness descended on him.

Otrahun opened his eyes and the world was tilted. The angle of things was all fucked up and he found he could not move his body. A clawed foot loomed into his vision and it kicked his face with a loud thwack. A cheer rose up nearby. His world tumbled and spun as he slammed into the ground again and again. Pain was somewhere far away, what hurt more were the feelings of embarrassment and rage that engulfed him.

They were playing football with his head. And somehow he was conscious through it all. He had thought Toothy was an amateur. Turns out he was a professional.

Another foot rushed towards him but this time he was ready. He opened his mouth and grabbed a mouthful of a stinking, filthy and sharp toe. Biting down as hard as he could, he locked his jaw so that it would take a crowbar to pry his mouth open. The demon whose foot he had locked on to panicked and fell to the ground, trying to kick off the head that had latched on to his foot. He was not successful. A pair of claws grabbed his face and tried to pry it off the foot. Chop off the foot, someone yelled. A finger reached its way into Otrahun's nose and pulled, but he did not let go.

Toothy came down to Otrahun's level and shrugged at him. "We've got a game going on, what the fuck are you doing?"

"I don't want to be a part of this game!" Otrahun managed to speak through the toe in his mouth.

"Then why didn't you say so! Let Chunchy's foot go and we'll find another head to play with!"

"Do I have your word?"

"Of course, the game is more important right now."

"I will bite down on another foot if you go back on your word."

"I will not go back on my word, I promise by all the powers in hell and beyond."

Gingerly, Otrahun leg go of the toe and Toothy picked him up.

"Now, here's a lesson in negotiations, pretty boy. Never give up leverage. And you didn't have any to begin with."

Toothy took a rag from somewhere on his person and rolled it up into a small ball and shoved it in Otrahun's mouth as far as it would go. The smelly cloth went down his mouth, his throat and it made him want to die. A length of tape was wrapped around his mouth for good measure.

Toothy threw his head up and kicked it towards an imaginary goal. The world spun once again and the road of demons drowned out the bellows of rage that were burning in Otrahun's head. He clenched his fist in frustration and slammed it in the ground.


Sep 11, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 18

Before there was the world, before the first Big Bang, before the creation of the universe was a dream in the creator's mind, there was the command line. A blinking cursor in the darkness of space, hanging there like the beginning or the end of everything that was and everything that will be.

And then someone pressed a key and started this endless parade of bullshit.

"Fuck me," Otrahun whispered in the darkness of the room as he typed, digging deeper into a system that he had no right to be. This type of security on a system was only talked about in the deepest reaches of the world net and even there, it was as credible as sightings of The Lochness Monster or Bigfoot. But here it was. And he was digging in with all his knowledge and all his speed at his disposal.

The system had locks on it that were designed to be complicated. It was like playing a game where the rules changed with every move that caused the game itself to change. To Otrahun, it felt the same way an addict would feel on finding a neverending stash of his favorite drug. Was that why the woman had picked him up? Because she knew he was could crack this thing and find the needle in this haystack? Engrossed deep in the mental arithmetic with the machine, he did not notice the room around him get brighter. A white light leaked out from the ceiling and it was so gradual that Otrahun did not even take his fingers away from the keyboard when the room brightened up completely.

He was close. So close. Just a few seconds more and he would have the thread in his hand with which he would unravel this system and then on the other end of the revelation, the files that the old man wanted. He could be out of there in just a few keystrokes.

And then the screen went blank. The sound of clapping hands started behind him. It rose like a wave and so did the anger in Otrahun's mind. It felt like the steam of rage that was building up in him was going to blow his skull off like a bullet from a gun. He touched his head with his fist and turned around, ready to fuck up whoever was standing behind him.

It was the gang from McDonald's and they were all clapping.

Rage wooshed out of Otrahun like air from a balloon and he felt himself deflate physically as well. His legs could not hold his weight anymore. He was weak, tired and starving. For one moment, he thought he might be able to ride out the wave of nausea but then he collapsed where he stood. A deep sleep took him under and with closing eyelids, he saw the toothy demon walk towards him. He was holding a club made of bone and it dragged behind him as he walked towards Otrahun.

"Fuck me," he thought and promptly lost his hold on consciousness.

He opened his eyes in the white room to look at the pissed off face of the woman.

She held her thumb and index finger a hair's breadth apart and pushed her hand in Otrahun's face.

"This close," she said. "You were this close, you dumb fuck. I'll send you back one more time and if you fail, forget about getting out of there. I will leave you there to rot and dice up your body piece by piece here."

She pressed a button on the datapad tied to her wrist and Otrahun felt himself going under once again. He opened his mouth to say something to her, but she was gone.

Toothy demon's face appeared in his line of sight. The demon smiled and it sent a barb of fear spiking down his spine.

Toothy slapped the heavy club with his palm.

"I am going to take my time with you, outsider. And only one of us is going to enjoy it."

Sep 5, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 17

The burger tasted like dirt in his mouth. The meat was hard, chewy and had an aftertaste of copper in it.

But Otrahun was so hungry that he wolfed it down like it was ambrosia drenched in ichor. He crunched up the wrapper in his fist and put it in his pocket. Best not to leave anything that the McDonalds demon party could track him by. They were all here somewhere and the sooner he found some way to get inside these buildings, the safer he would be. Or so he hoped.

The buildings were placed randomly with no sense of design or cohesion. The surface of each structure was scrawled with moving glyphs that changed as soon as you looked at them. He touched the wall of the building he was hiding against, and the surface moved under his fingers, the black lines of the glyphs scattering away like scared fish and the glyphs rearranged themselves in a new form as soon as he took away his hand.

There was no way of knowing if there would be an entrance into the building because it merely looked like a square with strange markings left in a field of similar squares.

"I am so fucked." He put his head against the wall and kept it there, pressed against the cold surface. A sudden realization made him open his eyes. The glyphs had not scattered away when he touched them with his head. They were still there, slowly undulating in their spots. With a finger raised, he tried to touch one of the glyphs and the ink washed onto his hand like a fearless bird looking for a breadcrumb. The glyph moved onto his hand and disappeared inside the cuff of his shirt.

Other glyphs jumped from the wall on to his hands and squirreled onto his skin like a suit made of mad spiders. The sensation, though strange was not entirely uncomfortable. He still had his head touching the wall, afraid to take it away in case the glyphs ran back to the wall. They were all over him now, his hand a black glove as the markings slithered up his neck and on his face.

"I am so fucked," he muttered as the wall in front of him fell away and he stumbled head-first into absolute darkness. And with the darkness came the pin drop silence. Even the sound of his own heartbeat felt muted and distant to him. No sound came to him when he stomped his foot down on the ground and neither did the sound reach his ears when he opened his mouth and screamed.

Then, a sliver of light lit up the darkness. It was just a pinpoint, but it was right in front of him.

The light blinked once. Twice. And kept on blinking.

Otrahun moved towards the light.

The edge of something bumped into his waist and the light was just a few feet away from his face. He placed his hand on the edge and felt the edge transform into a surface.

He squinted his eyes and looked closer at the blinking light.

It was a cursor.

"Hello?" he said and the screen came alive with a blinding glare.

The screen was placed on a table in front of him and the edge of the table was what had hit his waist. The darkness around him rushed in to eat the light from the screen, but the brightness kept the dark at bay. He looked around and he could see almost nothing. There were shapes and figures in the darkness, but that was probably his eyes playing tricks on him.

He moved his hand under the monitor and felt the familiar shape of a keyboard.

Now this, this he could handle. All the weirdness aside, this was still something he knew and was good at.

Otrahun put his fingers on the home row and started to type into the command line.

Sep 2, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 16

Oak had taken off his large horns, but even without them he easily stood at seven feet tall and his wide stature didn't make him look any less intimidating.

"Why did you run, Mr. Yaway?" Oak asked, "why did you?"

"Look, look, Oak," he said, stepping back to put some distance between him and the big monster, "I can explain."

"The concert was important for me and for all those who were attending. They all had given something to make the night a success and all because you were not willing, we had to break it all up. We were all together in that moment," he raised one accusing drumstick at Otrahun, "and you fucked it all up."

"You were going to skin me alive! What the fuck was I supposed to do?"

"Aaaaargh," Oak looked up at the burning orange sky and rolled his head in frustration, "it was a symbolic gesture. A dead flake of your dandruff would have done, too! No one would have skinned you! What do you think we lot are?"

Otrahun shrugged, "there was no way for me to know. All I felt was that your audience was going to skin me alive and use my skin as cover for your next drum solo."

"Well, now you know. And you are coming to the next performance. I will hear no arguments."

"Man, Oak, I don't know." He sat down cross-legged on the uneven ground. "I got stuck in with some bad people and now they want me to get something from this place. I can't leave till I get them what they need."

"You realize this place is not what you thought it to be,"

"I did, just some time back. I thought I was in hell, dead and paying for my sins. This place doesn't look like any hell that I know about."

"You will figure it out, sooner or later. We all did, too. I'd tell you, but I'd rather you found it on your own." Oak stared into the distance as a flare rose up from the dusty hills up ahead and exploded high in the sky. He turned to Otrahun. "I have to go from here. But I wish you luck, Mr. Yaway."

"Wait, I just need to know one thing. Is it safe to check those buildings out?"

Oak smiled and incisors the size of chopsticks erupted from his lips. "I am sure you will find out in a bit. Goodbye."

He raised his hand in a gesture of salutation and vanished with a gust of wind.

Otrahun looked at the shifting buildings. His stomach grumbled and he realized he was still hungry. The hunger was replaced by a fear of something unknown as if something was watching him. He closed his eyes and thought for a moment.

It was not mere chance that he had ended up where he had. Something or someone had been guiding him towards these buildings. The files that could be the key to his freedom were somewhere in there. He knew it as well as he knew the fear of something unknown swirling in his stomach.

He made his mind up. He was going to at least investigate these buildings.

Another flare rose up in the sky like a small rocket and exploded at the zenith of its trajectory. It spread plumes of blue and pink in the sky and the smoke stood out against the hellish orange sky.

He got up and started to walk towards the buildings. Something small and wrapped in paper caught his attention. As he bent down to pick it up, something swooshed past his head. He picked up the wrapped McDonald burger and another arrow struck the ground just where his hand was a moment ago.

Otrahun did not look back. He zigged and zagged as he ran towards the buildings and arrows peppered the ground around him.

Finally, in the protective shade of one of the buildings, he dared to look at who was shooting at him. The small group of demons from his first encounter in the McDonalds was here. He unwrapped the burger and chomped down on it.

If he was going to die here, he was not going to die on an empty stomach. 

Aug 31, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 15

It did not take much to get Otrahun running from the venue of the demonic concert. The horde of revelers was not wearing masks but brandishing their own fucked up faces that were without any skin or flesh. A jawbone went flying by his head, thrown by an overenthusiastic ghoul. He knew if they managed to hit him, they'd take him back and skin him alive for Oak's drums.

And what the fuck was that about? Oak seemed like a top dude back in the McDonalds, which seemed like an eternity ago. He stumbled on something that was protruding from the ground and for a second he thought he was going to fall and get trampled by the small army of demons that were chasing him. But then the woman grabbed his arm and hauled him up.

"Second time!" she raised two fingers in his face, "second time that I am saving your sorry ass."

If he had breath and a quick retort, he'd have answered her, but he had neither so he tried to keep up with her. The landscape in front of them was dotted with crests and troughs of hills and small valleys, there were incomprehensible geometric structures in the distance and the sky was the color of frozen blood.

"Is this really hell?" he managed to mumble as they ran, "this looks so different from all the versions of hell I have read about."

"Hell is only a state of mind," she replied, "focus on the problem at hand."

"What happens if they catch us?"

"Exactly what you have imagined."

"Shit," he said as she pointed towards a building and he ran after her.

He did not have much time to examine the building, but it shifted in shape and size as soon as he fixed his eyes on it. There were edges to the building that seemed to melt into each other as they vibrated right in front of his eyes. He thought he was losing his mind, but then again, anything was possible in this place. And what the hell was this place, surely not hell.

They both set their backs against the cool wall of the building to catch their breath.

"Look, you have to tell me something about whatever is going on here. I saw you back in the white room when you injected me with something. What was that about? Whatever it is, I want out of it. I want to go back to my boring life."

The woman grinned at him. "Really? Aren't you curious about this place or about what happens next?"

"Fuck curiosity if it gets me killed. How do I get out?"

"You don't till you find us what we are looking for in here."

"I just got chased by skull faced demons who were going to skin me alive, do I look like I give a fuck about whatever it is that you are looking for?"

"There is no one else who will get you out of this place. You are stuck, for better or worse. We need those files and they are here somewhere. Find them and I will come and find you."

"The sin records that your old coot of a boss talked about? Shit, this is a wasteland, lady. There are no files here. Files are supposed to be in computers, do you see any computers here?!"

She moved closer to Otrahun and took his face in her hands. "They are here. I know it, and you know it too. Find them and we are square. You will save the world from the coming apocalypse and we'll load you with so much cash that you will never need to work another day in your life."

He looked at her. It was the first time he noticed that her eyes were a deep aquamarine color that seemed to shift and change the more he looked at her.

"I will do it on one condition," he said, "I need to know your name."

"I'll do you one better. Call me whatever you like, once you have the files."

Otrahun looked around him. The geometrically shifting buildings were still there. Their colors leeching out into the sky and each of the buildings seemed to vibrate with an alien energy.

"I guess I can start looking in one of those buildings."

He turned around and the woman was gone.

And in her place stook Oak with a pair of drumsticks in his hands.

"Why did you run, Mr. Yaway?"

Aug 26, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 14

There are so many things that one can say about darkness, but to say that it was comforting after a  series of uncomfortable events, would be just about right. Otrahun felt at ease as the lights slowly went down. The darkness slithered over like a prehistoric creature that has finally found its resting place.

The voice on the microphone continued in an almost whispering and conspirational tone.

"Tonight, we have with us, the prince of percussion, the Badshah of beat, the sultan of skins and he is here to perform just for all you lovely dead tonight."

The crowd hissed back in response. "So, without further ado, let me present to you, our drum striker of tonight, the gentle-demon Ooooooooooak."

Huh, Otrahun thought. I know someone in here finally and so what if he is on the stage.

The crowd's voice rose like a wave of jubilation and even Otrahun threw up his arms and yelled along in his incomprehensible imitation of the words that the revelers were yelling.

A single spotlight lit up the drums and like a magic trick, Oak was sitting there. His headgear had changed to display massive horns that made him look even larger than he was. The sticks looked like toothpicks in his massive hands and Otrahun realized that the drum-kit was scaled up in size, but it was still not enough to meet the massive size that Oak presented.

The magic started when he began playing the drums. The beat rose up like a trampling horde crushing civilizations under clawed feet. It was angry and gentle at the same time. It crested and flowed through the crowd and they all moved with the drums, swaying like marionettes strung by crazy strings. As the tempo of the beat increased, Otrahun found that he was swaying with the crowd too. The beat of the drums got crazier and complex. He could feel his blood throbbing with every hit of the stick on the drums and his heart felt like it was going to explode through his chest.

He opened his mouth but no words came out. He tried to suck in a breath, but all he did was gape wordlessly at the stage. He could not breathe, but there was no panic in his head. Death was only another possibility that he would have to handle to listen to the sweet music again and again. He'd stand here with his dead brethren and listen to Oak play night after night till the world ended.

A hand landed on his collar and he was violently jerked out of his reverie. Someone grabbed him as he fell on the ground and put a pair of headphones on his head. Silence flooded into his ears and he had to shake his head to clear the cobwebs of the tune that were lingering there like uninvited guests.

What the fuck, he thought. All he knew that he was extremely thirsty and he wanted, no, he needed to listen to that music again. The lady's face swam into view and she slapped him hard on the face.

"I didn't want to do this, but you left me no choice." She was also wearing a pair of headphones and her voice was clear in his ears. "We need to get out of here. Can you walk?"

Otrahun just nodded. He could no longer hear the beat of the drums, but he could still feel it reverberate through his ribcage. The sudden stop of that vibration made him look behind him.

It was not the first mistake he made, it'd not be the last.

Oak was standing on his chair and his hand with a stick in it was pointed right at Otrahun. As one, the eyes of the crowd found him, too. The empty sockets and the leering, broken grins turned to face Otrahun.

Otrahun saw Oak's lips move and he said four words that froze his blood.

"I need new skins."

The crowd surged towards Otrahun and the lady as a single creature devoid of any thought but the one demand by its master.

"I hope you are as good a runner as you say, Mr. Yaway."

Aug 23, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 13

The sensation of falling returned and for a moment, Otrahun thought he had fallen from the platform in his sleep. He was back in hell, or wherever the fuck it was.

There was nowhere to go from here. The platform made him feel like a man stuck in the vast emptiness of space. The lights from the platform didn't breach the darkness for too far. If he closed his eyes, he could still hear the crackle of electricity somewhere in the distance.

Then he heard a shrill whine that kept getting clearer and clearer with every passing second.

Something was coming his way. Something big. And fast.

He stepped to the edge of the platform and looked at its sides. A mistake as the oncoming train nearly took off his head. At the last moment, he flinched back and the wooshing of the train made him stagger back a step or three.

The train slowed down and it seemed to simply float in the air in the absence of any tracks. He could see inside the compartments, lit by an orange light, the train carried with it a smell of burning hair and rotten eggs. The doors of the train opened like the maw of a filthy animal and the smell was even stronger now.

"No way back, no way to get off this platform, except this train. Oh, what the hell, what's the worst that could happen?"

Otrahun took a deep breath and stepped onto the train. The door closed at once and the train started to move. He held his breath for as long as he could, but then spots started to appear in front of his eyes and he had to take a breath of the fetid air. Surprisingly, the air did not smell too bad now that he was inside the train.

There were no seats or handholds inside the train. Only small protrusions from the walls that were a sort of handhold, if one stretched his imagination. Outside the glass windows, it was all darkness. Once or twice, lights flashed outside and Otrahun fancied he could see a sort of landscape. But it was gone in a flash.

With no idea where the train was going, he sat down and put his back against the wall of the compartment. In his mind, he ran through all that had happened so far.

Strange girl. Stranger offer. Threatening. Something about saving the world. The talk of dying and then this. He tried to connect the dots, but it did not make too much sense. As if the writer of the story his life had no idea what to do with him. He needed to take control of the situation or he'd be stumbling around in this hellscape for god knew however long.

The train was finally slowing down. He stood up and went near the door to see whatever was visible outside. The lights were different here. Strobing and pulsing lasers dotted the landscape, faint hard techno bass thrummed through the compartment and the glass shook from the sound. The doors opened and the noise was like a punch in the gut. He could see a stage in the distance but there was no band on the stage, only a drum-set.

"This looks like fun," he murmured and stepped out of the train's compartment.

He walked towards the crowd that had gathered in the ground near the stage. Everyone in the crowd was wearing masks. Most of them were some variation of a skull with bits and pieces missing. He was surprised at how real the masks looked. They were all wearing tattered clothes that looked more like rags and less like clothes. He chose a comfortable space and tapped his foot to the beat of the rhythm that was playing from the speakers placed all around the ground.

The lights were dimmed just then and the harsh techno music slowly petered away.

The lady's voice in his ear sounded like she was standing just next to him. It was so sudden that he almost spun around. But there was no one there.

"Get the fuck out of there. Get out before the music starts again."

"Yeah? Fuck you," he said. "When I asked for help you were silent and now that I want to watch this, you want me to move? Fuck that. I'll listen to the music for as long as I want."

"Move from there or you will not be able to."

"Like I give a fuck. I am staying put."

The voice on the other end went silent.

A slow roar rose in the throats of the gathered masses as a spotlight lit up the drum-set. The feedback whine of the microphone made him wince.

A voice heavy as Sisyphus' boulder rumbled, "Ladies and gentleghouls!"

Aug 22, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 12

Oak looked down at Otrahun who had a shit-eating grin plastered on his face.

"Well," Oak said, a bit surprised, "I don't remember that being there."

"But it is, and I am going to use it." Otrahun bent down to fiddle with the handle, he turned and looked at Oak. "Do me a favor and tell that googly-eyed freak to get fucked with a baseball bat."

Oak shrugged.

Otrahun pulled at the handle of the door that had appeared under the counter and stepped onto the staircase that was visible there. He stepped deeper as lights hidden in the walls lit up automatically. He shut the door behind him as something heavy thumped into it. There was a lock and as he tried to close the lock, the door vanished right in front of his eyes.

"Great. Nowhere else to go but down."

Somewhere behind him, he could hear the frustrated screams of what he guessed was the demon with protruding eyes and a face that even a mother would not love.

"Hey, lady. Any clues where to go from here?" He was hoping for a response, but all he heard was the silence of a large empty place and a crackling sound of electricity somewhere far away. He kept going down the stairs and got a rough idea about the place that he was in. The stairs were right next to a wall that was curved. He guessed he was in some kind of cylindrical building, maybe a tower of some kind and now as he went down, he knew it had to end somewhere. He did not know what he was going to find, but he knew it could not be worse than the gang of demons he had left behind him.

The stairs finally ended at a small platform and as he walked onto it, the soft blue-white lights lit up the periphery of the platform. He dared to look over the edge and realized that the place was bigger still. There was a lot of darkness below him and simply looking there gave him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach that made him want to jump from there. He stepped back and took a stock of his surroundings.

"Hello? Anyone?" he yelled into the void and the only answer he got was the echo of his own voice. He was tired of all the climbing down and his legs were burning up with fatigue. He sat down and put his back against the last step that he had climbed down from. He had not realized how tired he was. All the aches and pains in his muscles started to make themselves known. The lack of food made his stomach grumble and he was thirsty again. No chance of finding a McDonalds in this dump so far below.

"Should have picked a burger when I had the chance."

His eyes closed and sleep slowly took over him. He dreamed he was flying again, but this time, his feet were tied with a thread that burned with a golden-green light. He tried to fly up but he was stuck. Reaching out to his feet, he tried to untangle the rope, but it started to tie itself around his hands, too. He gave up untying the rope and stopped trying to fly.

Otrahun fell again and his leg jerked in his sleep.

The shock made him open his eyes and he was in the white room again with the woman looking at him with a bewildered expression on her face.

"How the fuck did you get back?"

And she jabbed a needle right in his neck.

"Go back to sleep, silly man."

Aug 20, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 11

If there is one thing you can rely on in life, it's the taste of a McDonald's burger. The same, everywhere. Across time and space.

The building in front of Otrahun stood out in the hellish landscape like a corpse at a wedding. The cheery facade of the building, colored red and yellow called out to the junk food addict in Otrahun. Right now, he'd give his left arm to eat and drink something that would sate his thirst and hunger. He was beyond questioning the impossibility of the things that he was seeing as he pushed the glass door opened and suddenly the whole atmosphere around him changed.

Cold air-conditioning pleasantly assaulted his person and for one moment, he believed in whatever gods existed. The tables were sparsely populated by humanoid shapes, but his attention was only towards the counter behind which a soda machine was drenched in condensation from the ice in the bowels of that machine.

He climbed up the counter and attached his mouth under the soda machine's nozzle like a hungry baby on a teat and pressed the lever that would release sweet, carbonated fizz in his mouth. For the next few seconds, he forgot that he was in hell. The cool carbonated liquid felt like gold in his mouth and he gulped it down till he choked and had to pull himself away from the machine to take a breath. One breath later, he was back to chugging it all in. He coughed and choked as his body took in the sudden onslaught of cold after trekking in the heat for so long.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder and handed him some paper napkins. Otrahun wiped his face as best as he could and turned around to thank the guy. The "guy" who had handed him the paper napkins was eight feet tall and built like a small house. Muscles bulged over his muscles and there were parts of his body that branched out as if to escape from the gravitational pull of the thing's core.

"Are you alright, Mr. Yaway?" he asked in a voice that was too gentle for someone so big.

Otrahun could only nod his assent. He had to crane his neck up to look at the guy's face and he had a sinking feeling that the guy hunching down to try and be at Otrahun's level.

"Very well," he said. "My name is Oak and I run this establishment. I believe the drink that you just partook was satisfying."

Otrahun nodded again. "How do you know my name?" he managed to blurt out.

Oak simply smiled displaying serrated rows of teeth that were too sharp for Oak to be a vegetarian.

"Everyone knows your name here, Mr. Yaway. You are the first one to be here without going through the usual paths of reaching here. I believe you are somewhat of a celebrity here."

"That's good, then. I guess."

"Ah," Oak sighed. He looked at Otrahun and smiled the smile that parents give to children who have not seen the brutal realities of life yet.

"Actually, not a good thing. There is already a line of people ready to kill you here. Just to take the honor."

"But I was sent here against my will!" he protested.

"Do you think the denizens of this place give a fuck how you reached here? You are a prize right now and those who want to kill something that should not exist, those people listen to no reasons."

"Send me back, then!"

"No can do, Mr. Yaway. But I can give you a tip."

"I am all ears."

"Don't eat the fries here. They're always too salty."

The door to the restaurant shattered just then. A wave of heat rushed in and with that, a group of demonic creatures walked in.

A stick thin demon with bulging eyes and arms that reached to the ground walked in front of the group.

"We heard there is new meat on the menu. Undead meat. We are here for a taste. Where is it?"

Otrahun tried hiding behind Oak but all eyes were on the big demon who simply moved to the side exposing Otrahun to the angry group of demons.

"H-hello," Otrahun said to no one in general.

"Are you ready to die, meat?"

"Not at all, sir. Is there any way we can avoid that?"

The demon grinned and two of its teeth spiked through its upper lip. It moved its hand and two of the smaller demons moved in Otrahun's direction.

"I am so fucked," he said to himself.

"Not if you listen and do exactly as I say," the woman's voice was clear as day in his ear and he almost jumped back in surprise.

"Shit, you were listening in all this time?"

"I can get you out of this jam."

"I am still not over you shooting at me."

"Focus, Mr. Yaway. There is something under the counter, it might help."

Otrahun bent down and looked under the counter. His eyes widened in surprise and a grin slowly materialized on his face.

Aug 17, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 10

Otrahun fell.

The wind beneath his wings was gone and he could see a sullen and desolate landscape come up to meet him through the smoke and the fires that burned below. He kept thinking maybe a parachute will open up and arrest his fall but nothing did. He slammed into the ground like a bag of blood and bones. The shock drove him to stillness and then the pain rushed into the vacuum of his missing soul.

He tried to scream but no sound came out of his mouth. He tried to claw at his throat with broken fingers but there was no power in his feeble attempts to get his voice back. As soon as the pain had started, it vanished too. The pain was soon replaced by a feeling of itching inside his body.

His broken fingers set themselves like the hands of some invisible doctor were pulling them in the right position. His lungs inflated, sucking in the fetid air of the hellscape and his teeth mended themselves as he coughed and retched, trying to make sense of where he was and what he was doing there.

It was his luck that he had landed on an outcrop of a mountain instead of the boiling pool of lava that burned below him. He had to shade his eyes because of the heat and the rising flames from the pool.

The vista around him bubbled and throbbed with some ancient pain and the sky above was the color of an infected wound. He tried to place the stench in the air that was somewhere between days old rotten sewage, eggs, and meat has gone bad. A spell of retching came over him once more and he sat there on the rough ground trying to gather his wits about him as his body's internals slowly knit together to make him whole again.

How long he sat there, he did not know but after a considerable time had passed, he got up and decided to explore the region. Thirst was clawing up his throat like a dead body trying to climb out of an open grave. His stomach felt acidic and made sounds that were vaguely threatening. He needed to eat and drink something.

There was only one direction to go, away from the pool of lava. He walked as thirst and hunger continued to fight inside him. He climbed on a hill and saw movement in the corner of his eye.

It was a crude signpost moving on its own even when there was no wind blowing. On the board, a familiar logo of twin golden arches and an arrow sign were painted.

"Well, I'll be damned," he said and started to walk in the direction of the arrow.

Aug 2, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 9

Otrahun turned to his left and pressed his forehead into the barrel of the gun.

"Look, lady. Just shoot me. I played along with your bullshit till now because I was drunk and you looked hot. But, now. This old dude is just hopped up on his medication and the shit he's talking doesn't make sense."

He spread his arms wide at his side and leaned into the gun.

"Be a babe and pull the trigger."

"Sir?" The woman looked at the old man and he nodded at her.

From the corner of his eye, Otrahun saw the old man nod. He felt the gun's barrel push into his forehead as the woman brought her other hand up to stabilize the gun. He saw her finger slowly squeeze the trigger. Felt the hammer striker the primer of the bullet, the vibrations reaching till the back of his teeth. Some ancient survival instinct made him pull his head away at the last moment. The bullet exiting the barrel of the gun was the loudest sound he had ever heard. And then he could hear no more because a toneless sound replaced everything he could hear. He touched his left ear and felt only blood and a mess of flesh and cartilage.

"Bitch! You actually shot me!" The disbelief poured out of him in an outraged aggression. "Fuck, you shot me!"

She reholstered the gun and bent down to pick him up by his collar. He was still too shocked to resist her effort to pull him up. She half carried half dragged him to the wall on the right side of the room and pressed a panel in the wall. Sections of the wall slid out and started to rearrange on their own in shapes and figures that looked eerily familiar to Otrahun.

The woman strapped Otrahun in the chair and put a white helmet on his head. He saw her flicking and swiping on her handheld module again. There was a satisfied look on her face as she tapped the screen with her index finger. The tap felt to Otrahun like the falling of the executioner's blade.

A feeling of multiple needles pricking the base of his neck and then he was drifting. Time passed and he dreamed of mountains, trees, and flowing water. There were sounds of birds and slow chants somewhere in the hills. A feeling of wellness flooded his senses and he felt more alive than he had in years. His constant headache and the building hangover was gone. He could see more clearly and feel the cold mountain air in his lungs. He was flying. Somewhere above the trees and rivers and mountains.

He felt a presence glide close to him and the woman's voice in his fucked up ear was as comfortable as getting your fingernails ripped.

"Get ready, loverboy," she said and before he could ask what the fuck she meant, he was falling.

The heat and chaos rose up to meet him like an angry ex's embrace. 

Aug 1, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 8

"With all due respect, sir. What the fuck?"

"I told you what the fuck is, Mr. Yaway. You will need to die if you want to save the world."

"And why precisely would I want to do that since I won't be able to make use of the money that you people will supposedly pay me if I manage to 'save the world' as you say."

The old man on the screen smiled and Otrahun felt a twisted bard of worry in the pit of his stomach.

"I speak casually of death because it's not the kind of death that you know or understand. You will die, of course, but it is in our power to bring you back or even rebuild you from the basic building blocks of your DNA."

"Are you talking about cloning me? Don't you know that cloning is illegal and the technology has not been perfected by anyone for that sole reason?"

"Mr. Yaway, we are beyond the realms of legal and illegal here. The companies that I head work in various fields of bio-technology, human genome mapping, and cloning. There are various other branches of this business that I can no longer supervise, but I know that we are far ahead of anything that the government can think or imagine for the technologies that we have developed."

"I can still say no and walk out of here. I really would like the money in any other way that doesn't involve my death."

"Hmm, for a smart man, you are quite stupid. You were chosen and brought here for a reason and if you think that you can just leave without any repercussions, then you are more delusional than we have projected you to be."

There was a slide and a click somewhere to Otrahun's left and then the cold metal of a gun touched his temple.

"My colleague here would not hesitate in blowing away your face, but maybe she will just shoot you in leg or start cutting your fingers till you decide to co-operate. We have other ways of making you help us, but we'd prefer if you worked with us voluntarily. The process goes easier that way."

"Do you really expect me to stay calm and work with you when you are asking me to die?"

"We will bring you back. It's not the first time we have done this."

"Bring me back from where?"

"From Hell. That's where we want you to go."

Jul 27, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 7

The old man on the screen coughed once and a hand appeared from the right side of the screen to dab the corner of his mouth with a tissue. He waved the hand away and continued to look at Otrahun. He was old as old people come, but there was a spark in his eyes that made it hard to look away from him.

"Do I believe in what?" Otrahun said.

"Sin. The morality and immorality of what we do and what we don't do. The concept of heaven, hell, and everything in between. The fact that there might be an afterlife and we're all doomed to suffer even more."

Otrahun shrugged. "I am sorry. I am not what you can call an ideal human being. I've done shit and some of it made me feel bad, but once it was done there was no taking it back. So, I live with it, just like everyone else."

"So, you have sinned," the old man said. "God bless your soul," he muttered under his breath.

"But what does that have to do with me being here and how can I help in saving the world?"

The old man ignored his questions.

"Did you know that there is a record of every sin of every man and woman on this planet? And there is going to be a time when everyone will be called to explain their sins?"

"That would take a lot of time, I believe."

"Time doesn't work in the sense that you believe when you are called to account for the things that you have done. You are there and you are not there. It's not a place in time or space. It just exists and you have an eternity to contemplate your fate with your judge."

"Still doesn't explain anything."

The old man sighed. The small gesture made him look his age, defeated and small. A creature away from his time, crushed by the weight of memories, waiting for everything to end.

"As my assistant must have explained it to you. You are what we like to call as an anomaly. We needed someone like you. Your social life is minimal and you are another cog in the big machine, but you have your place in a bigger machine where you can be of much more importance. If you choose."

Otrahun listened to the old man talk and it seemed to him like the same old spiel of bullshit that he'd been fed all these years. The only problem for him was that he liked the taste of that bullshit.

"I came here, so I guess my choice is pretty much evident. If you are willing to line my bank account with a number ending with enough zeros, I am all yours."

The old man smiled at this. "We are dealing with things that are much beyond money and power, Mr. Yaway. But if money is what you are after, then rest assured, you will get enough if you are able to do what we ask of you."

"That's great, it seems like you are about to come to a point."

"I am. And my point is that Mr. Otrahun Yaway, you will need to die for our sins."

Jul 26, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 6

There was a pressing sense of unease that descended on Otrahun as he stepped into the lift that would take them higher up the building. The helipad that they had landed on was built only halfway up the building on an extended platform that looked like a beggar's bowl asking for alms.

"I'd always looked at this building from my flat but I never thought I'd actually be in it."

The woman looked up from her screen for a second and stared at Otrahun. She looked completely at ease inside the building and her former disgust at the roadside stall was all but vanished. This was a woman who belonged here and she was in her natural habitat of concrete and glass.

And then, like a ten car pile up on the highway with a double-digit death count, she smiled at him. "You've seen nothing yet."

The lift rose higher up the side of the building and Otrahun fancied that he could see till the far edges of the city. Down there, where the human worms ate each other up for another chance to live one more day. Where the rich conspired and gossiped to get a sense of thrill in their vacant lives. And then there were those stuck in the middle, like replaceable cogs in the great machine of economics took their place till they were ground down to nothing in the gears and belts of what made everything work.

The lift slowed down to a halt and the door opened up with a cheerful chime that was exactly opposite to the dark mood that had come upon Otrahun. Was this world really worth saving, even if it made him rich enough to not work another day in his life?

The room they both stepped into was white. Everything from the walls to the floor the ceiling was pristine white. So much so that Otrahun was afraid of taking another step forward for the fear of spoiling the whiteness of the room with the dirt that he might have carried on his person. It felt like walking into a box of nothing where you could see for miles and everything seemed to be coming at you.

A screen lit up in the middle of the room and the face of a grizzled old man appeared on it. There was a pair of tubes snaking in his nostrils and his left eye drooped along with his face.  His other eye looked at Otrahun with judgment and open hostility. When he spoke, his voice had a clear authority that sent a needle of fear sliding down Otrahun's spine.

"Son," he said, "do you believe in sin?"

Jul 25, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 5

He had never sat in a helicopter.

There had been airplane flights that his office had sponsored and some vacations he had taken when he had a life. But a helicopter was still a new experience. The woman got climbed in before him and settled into a seat as she buckled her seatbelt. She put on a pair of headphones and handed him a pair, too. Otrahun plopped down next to her. He put on his seatbelt and adjusted the headphones to be the least uncomfortable.

The woman moved her finger in a circular motion and the pilot nodded at her. Even with the door closed, the sound of the rotors was a loud whumph-whumph that seemed to press down on you. The helicopter lurched once and then it was airborne.

Otrahun looked at the woman, waiting for her to start talking about what was going on. But she had her attention fixed on the small screen in her hand as her fingers danced on the glass sending commands and numbers, tapping, swiping and sliding windows around.

"Hey," he said. "Where are we going then?"

She raised one finger in the universal gesture of wait a fucking second.

Outside the window of the helicopter. The city's lights were shining like fireflies on a dark sky below. A slow mist enveloped the slums on the south-west corner of the city and the lights from the posh areas lit up the streets in a garish display of a rain-soaked orgy of wealth and fuck-you money. Somewhere beyond the abode of the rich, in the carbon copy apartments, one of the boxed dwellings belonged to Otrahun. He thought about the fish he had left behind in his aquarium. He was sure the fish could survive not being fed for two or three days. After all, how long can it take to save the world?

"We are here." The woman's voice crackled in his ear, stained by the fuzz of electronics and her natural disdain.

"And where is here?" he turned to ask her, but she was already stepping out of the chopper. The thing had landed and Otrahun was so lost in his thoughts that he did not even realize it. They were somewhere near the city, but the building that the helicopter had landed on top of towered above it all.

Realization about the identity of the building dawned on him like a falling shroud and despite himself, Otrahun felt like vomiting out his meal. What the fuck had he got himself into?

Jul 24, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 4

"My name is none of your concern, Mr. Yaway. If you need to call me for anything, Miss or Ma'am would do."

Otrahun sighed. The food had done him little good and he was still buzzing from the leftover alcohol in his system. Some part of him was hoping it was all a drunken mistake, but then again, he had done worse things when drunk, what difference did it make if it was saving the world this time.

The woman got up from the chair. "You need to come with me to our offices where our people will get you up to speed about what we need from you."

"Can you at least give me the assurance that this is not some organ harvesting scheme. I'd hate to wake up in an ice bath when the alcohol wears off."

"Mr. Yaway, I assure you that the threats that we are fighting are very much real and if you prove your usefulness, an organ harvesting scheme would be the least of your worries."

"You have neither confirmed nor denied what your whole scheme is about." He put some money on the table and the boy waiting at the stall scurried forward to take away his plates and the money. "But you know, as you said I am the anomaly, I guess I'll have to agree with you on that one."

The woman took out a device from her purse and pressed a single button on it. It was too small to be a phone and there wasn't any visible marking on the device. Just a small black box with a single button.

"So, what happens now? Do we get picked up by black helicopters or what?"

The woman looked at him and the ghost of a smile haunted her face for a single second before vanishing in a scowl that resided there permanently.

Otrahun felt a gust of wind so strong that he stumbled for a second before regaining his balance. The wind got stronger and a sleek shape appeared from the sky like a shark in dark waters.

He looked at the black helicopter as it landed on the empty road and a tiny rat of worry poked its nose out of the rathole in his head.

Nah, he told the rat to relax. What the worse that could happen?

Jul 22, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 3

The woman closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. This was going to be difficult. She picked up the chair and put it next to the table. The sense of unease about the condition of the chair just wasn't leaving her. How many had sat on this chair before her? And what kind of people?

Otrahun watched her squirm in discomfort and even though it was fun to watch, he needed her to start talking so he could get done with her and get to his house for some much-needed sleep. He took out his handkerchief from his back pocket and offered it to her.

She took the handkerchief and opened it up. There was a stain right in one corner of the cloth and one side was almost a dirty black. She held the piece of cloth like it was a dead animal and she was tasked with disposing off the carcass.

"Oh, crud." she said and gave the handkerchief back to Otrahun who folded it and put it back in his pocket. She took a deep breath and sat down on the chair, only at the edge though and the rest of her almost hovered in the air.

"I don't like this, I don't like you, and I don't want to be here right now. But because this is important, I am going to be quick."

Otrahun scooped a spoonful of noodles and soup and slurped it like the animal that he was. He motioned with the spoon for her to continue.

"You are a fucking anomaly in this world. There is literally no one that would miss you if you disappeared from the face of the planet tomorrow. And because the world is in danger, we are in need of people like you. We pay handsomely."

"How many zeroes are we talking about?"

"Enough to help you retire if you can help us in saving the world."

Otrahun sliced an egg with his spoon and chomped down on it. He thought for a moment. He hated his job, he hated his life, and he was not looking forward to going to office come Monday. And if the world was ending, he might as well spend the time doing something different for a change.

He nodded to himself as the woman kept looking at him with urgency in her eyes.

"Sounds good to me, but there is one thing that I want to know."

"Shoot," the woman said as she started to get up from the chair.

"What's your name?"

Jul 20, 2018

The Anomaly - Part 2

The voice that reached his ears carried with it a sense of authority that was not common to streetwalkers, which he had assumed the owner of the voice to be.

He had assumed wrong. The woman's voice gave him a sick flashback of the voice of his first boss. Filled with righteous authority that said the worst things in ways that didn't accept any argument. He sighed and suppressed the impulse to puke again. Gods knew he had nothing more left in the tank, but still, you can never be too careful.

Otrahun looked up at the woman and the face he saw matched his mental image. She was a sharp looking creature that had walked out of some fashion magazine pages on this squalid corner of the street. Her face was framed by a sharp hairstyle that could give papercuts to barbers and her nose was pointed upwards in a haughty expression. The look in her eyes said that she wanted to be here less than Otrahun wanted her to be here. She wore an expensive coat that probably cost more than Otrahun made in a month. Her skirt was cut diagonally at the knees, showing off shapely legs that had led to the wrong assumption.

A boy from the stall brought another rickety plastic chair and placed it near her table. The woman looked at the chair and her brows crinkled up in horror.

"What do you need from me? I am too drunk and too hungry to be of any use to anyone." Otrahun said to her through a slowly clearly fog that had enveloped his head.

"I need you to do a job for me, Mr. Yaway," she said while standing, getting more uncomfortable by the minute.


"Because the fate of the world is at stake." A slight sense of urgency leaked into her voice.

"I don't give a fuck about the world."

"Do you give a fuck about money, Mr. Yaway?"

The boy from the stall brought a bowl of noodle soup with two halves of a perfectly boiled egg by the side. The smell from the soup made his stomach grumble and his mouth watered up. He looked up at the woman through the steam rising from the soup.

"How much money are we talking about here?"

The Anomaly - Part 1

At 2 AM, the night was still young. A slight rain fell on the streets, giving everything a washed up, clean look. The smells of the city magnified in that atmosphere. Diesel, sweat, and cooking oil mixed up with the sizzle of frying meats and dying dreams of the people who were still out there at this hour.

Otrahun Yaway was one such man. Right now, he was sitting on a rickety plastic chair at a roadside food stall, waiting for something, anything to be brought to his table. He needed to get some food in him, the drinks he'd had earlier in the evening had made him ten kinds of drunk and he had puked his way to the food stall from the club where he had danced till the bouncer had thrown him out for grabbing a girl who did not want to be grabbed.

Not my fault, Otrahun reasoned to himself. If she fell on my hands, what was I supposed to do?

The smell of food cooking in a large wok made him realize he was too hungry. He had not had anything to eat the previous day. A long day in the office, battling documents that did not want to accept defeat had beaten him at the end of the day and he wanted to forget everything from the office for the next two days.

He had his head in his hand and he was staring at the nothing in front of him when a pair of shapely legs swam into his view. Sigh, not this, he thought.

"Go away," he mumbled, "I don't need company."

"But I do, Mr. Yaway." 

Mar 13, 2018

What Does The Middleman Take?

Need. Need. Need. The hunger. The lust. The want. The desire. It explodes inside her mind like a billion supernovas. It makes her want to burn herself at the altars of the dark gods. Just to be clean.

To be cleansed of all that’s ailing her. The world around her crowds in like a gaggle of people crowd in on an accident. She doesn’t want that. She just wants to be free. Swimming in the pristine waters. And she wants to be clean. But how? Her teeth are dirty. Her tongue has crammed up with the detritus of ages of eating. Her throat feels raw and she can’t even sing anymore. She tries, but only bubbles exit from her throat.

She closes her eyes and thinks of the men who had promised their Lives to the worship of their dark gods. Ages ago. The promises made and favors asked for. Now it was time to call them in. Now was the time to reap the harvest she had sown so many years ago. And they all better listen to mother. They better. Or mother will be angry. And an angry mother is not a good thing.

The message came to all of them in a shared dream. 30316 people all around the world woke up from their sleep at the same time in their sleep cycle. Everyone bathed in their own sweat, right eye bleeding tears, and the words from the mother flashing in their heads like a death knell.

She needed a cleansing. Her children were going to make sure she got it. Come whatever may.

The children of leviathan activated within minutes. Phones were ringing, people were woken up from their sleep. Everyone knew where they stood in the grand scheme of things and they all made efforts in their own way to get mother What she had asked for. Because they all owed their Lives to her.

Jay posted an ad in a newspaper. His logic for doing that was simple. Very few people read the paper these days and any soul desperate enough to respond to the ad would be the kind of person who’d not be missed if he were to vanish from the face of earth. Of course, he was not interested in the mere physicality of the person, the real juice was in the soul and the energies that were tied to a person’s soul. Calls were made to the right people in the right departments, the text was written and proofed and once the payments were done, the advertisement was placed in the advertisement section of a single newspaper. Jay had no hope of getting any response for the ad.

But he got two. Before the two applicants could find anything about him, he found out everything about them. He was that kind of person. Contacts and relations in every department and every town. His first responder was a tired and dejected man who was living estranged from his wife and spent most of his time at his dead-end job. He was stuck in the job and the cost of getting out was something that he did not afford. And even though he hated the job he needed it, so it hurt him, even more, when his boss told him to check out for the day and forget about coming in the next morning. He picked up the newspapers on his way back from office so that he could look for jobs in the area. But he saw the ad and dialed the number that would take him to either his doom or his salvation.

Jay, as fate would have it, knew all these things. His assistant had already given him a file on the man. He studied the file and did some mental math on how to approach the man’s case so that he would be the best candidate to serve mother. He flipped a coin, decided on a heart attack and closed the file.

The second file was an interesting one. A chemistry teacher in a school who dabbled in poisons. Jay read the file and knew this was someone that he’d deal with later and enjoy it a lot too. There were few instances in his career when he got to interact with others who had the same interests as him. Death, disorder, and anarchy being the three tenets on which the house of his job was built. But the foundation of his house had always been the same. To serve mother. Now and always.

The meeting with the man in the rundown pub went fine. Smooth as a knife slid just right between the ribs to pierce the heart. Jay left the man’s body slumped on the table while his soul was committed to the service of mother. The people crowded around the man, trying to wake him up. No one would remember Jay because he was just another face in the crowd that you never really notice even when you are paying a lot of attention.

It was time for meeting the second candidate. Jay knew that he needed to work on that guy quickly. You could not take a risk with such dangerous and unstable people. Luckily, the man had invited Jay to his office and Jay had no qualms in meeting a man in his place of power. He needed only one touch and then all the powers in the world would not be able to save Professor. Black.

The office of the kind professor was an antithesis of minimalism. There were mountains of files on every table, threatening to topple with the slightest gust of wind. There was a small chemistry lab in one corner of the room and something orange and yellow bubbled in one of the beakers. The whole room had the smell of old chemicals. The professor was sitting behind his mountain of files as if trying to shield himself with all the paper was going to do him any good.

“Professor Black, it’s nice to finally put a face to the name.”

The professor looked at Jay over the rim of his thick glasses. His eyebrows were in the phase of growth that spoke of accidents that took place somewhere in the past.

“Please have a seat, sir. What an interesting advertisement you gave in the newspaper. I just knew I had to get in touch with you.”

Jay picked up a piece of paper from the desk. There were chemical equations and formulas hastily scribbled on the page. The ink was, strangely, still wet. His thumb came off black from the page. He tried to rub the blackness off on the page, but it did not get off. A sense of unease rose in his chest as he struggled to breathe. His eyes felt watery and his vision blurred. He wiped his eye and his hand came away bloody.

He saw Professor Black looming over him from the other end of the desk as he collapsed to the floor, he heard the professor say four words that filled him with a chill deeper than any depth of the sea ever could.

“Happy cleaning, little fish.”

This one took some time to connect. But I am glad how it turned out. Sometimes, you have to let a story lead you.

Mar 8, 2018


“So, how was school?” Gezex's father asked him as he piled his plate with some more chicken from the bowl.

“Poisoning, dad. Professor Black gave a pretty interesting lecture. There was a practical demonstration where he poisoned one student from the class.”

“Ah, Black. Same old tricks, that old coot. What did he use for the demonstration? Was it cobra venom or Snakeroot again? That one was his favorite.”

“He did not specify. Said it was our homework assignment to figure out the poison from the symptoms.”

The father smiled as he chomped down on a piece of chicken. “Not going to help you then. Your mother was always the better poisoner of us two. You can ask her for clues, but I don’t think she’d want you to cheat on an assignment.”

“I think I can figure it out on my own from my books and literature I have read. Strange symptoms. Really unique.”

“Oh, yeah? Tell me some of the symptoms, maybe I can figure it out too.”

“The tears are the first indication. It looks like your eyes are bleeding, but it fact, it’s simple tears tinged with blood. The mark does not feel anything wrong with him, but those seeing him are fazed at sight.” Gezex said and poured some water into his glass.

“Then comes the sweat,” he continued. “It starts pouring in from the mark’s skull first. Causes dehydration in some and makes the tears appear even redder. There is confusion, bewilderment, and hallucinations in most cases.”

“Reminds me of the college parties back in my day,” the father said. He looked around the table for something more to eat. There was an untouched bowl of sauteed broccoli with diced potatoes lying close to Gezex. He motioned the boy to pass the bowl.

“The professor also said that the cure for the poison was available in common household items and that if we looked in our kitchen, we’d be able to find a way to neutralize the poison.”
“Hah, classic old trick. Now, listen G, you can’t really find a cure for a poison unless you know what the poison is, am I right? Do you get what I am trying to say?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Gezex said as he toyed with the food on his plate with a fork. “I have just been wondering, dad. Why did Professor Black choose me for the demonstration? I have always been regular…”

“Wait, what the fuck? He chose you for the poison demonstration? Did he give you an antidote?” Panic rose in the father’s voice. He usually did not swear around the kid, but this sudden revelation brought out a torrent of insults out of his mouth, and if Professor Black had been there, the father would have strangulated the man with his own bare hands.

"Wife!” he yelled for the Gezex ’s mother. “Wife! Come here, quick!”

The boy’s mother came in the hall from the kitchen. She was still wearing her apron. She wiped her hands dry with a towel. “What happened, husband? Is everything ok? Was there something wrong with the food?”

“No!” he raged, “everything is not ok! Did you know that our son got poisoned at the school today and he was not even been given the antidote? Whatever was given to him is still in his system.”

“Was it Professor Black?” the mother asked with a frown on her face. “That one has always had a thing for our family.”

“I am going to call that son of a bitch and give him a piece of my mind. What was he thinking poisoning our son like this.”

“Just hold your horses, husband. We need to focus on the issue right here and right now. Calling the professor can wait for a while.”

She looked at her son. “What was the poison? He must have gloated about the symptoms.”
“Blood tinged tears, sweat, hallucinations, dehydration.” Gezex ticked off the symptoms like a parrot.

“Oh boy,” a scowl swam over the mother’s face like a shark swims towards her prey. “That does not sound nice at all. Did he talk about the cure? Any clues?”

Gezex felt the mild panic slowly uncurl in his stomach like a snake waking up from its slumber.

“He...he said household ingredients can be used for making the cure.”

"Just what I had feared.” The mother pulled out a chair from the table and sat down with a thump. She sighed, “Now look little G, the symptoms go much deeper than this. You will slowly start to lose all sensation in the extremities of your body. You won’t be able to use your smartphone or your gaming console. You will start to get irritated by darkness, and you will have to stay in the light just to feel at ease. There are other symptoms that I can’t even tell you right now because I don’t want to scare you too much.”

"But, mom, he said there was a cure.”

“Oh damnation,” the father spoke up, “I am calling the professor, and I am going to wring the cure out of him if I have to.”
“Husband,” the wife put her hand over his hand that held the phone. Her eyes told him to shut the fuck up, and such was the intensity of the gaze that he was calmed at once.

“Gez, look at me.” His mother looked around the table and saw the bowl of broccoli and potatoes. “First thing you need to do is eat this. This will stop the poison from reaching your heart. After that, I will cook something for you that will work to neutralize the poison in your body.”

The boy gave a disgusted look to the bowl of vegetables in front of him.

“I think I can see a red tear in the corner of your eye.”

He pounced on the vegetables like a hungry tiger.

“It’s going to take months to get the poison out of your body, and you better eat everything I give to you.”

“Mmmff,” he managed to nod between mouthfuls of broccoli.


I have always wanted to write something around a dinner table.

More stories coming up.

Mar 5, 2018

The Man Who Drinks

The shaking of his hands stopped only at the third glass of whiskey down his gullet. He poured a fourth glass and told himself to take it easy. Still, his foot tapped the sawdust encrusted wooden floor with a maniac rhythm that would put a flamenco dancer to shame. He looked at the door of the dinghy excuse for a pub for the umpteenth time.

The person he was waiting for was still not here and the man was getting impatient. One more glass, he promised himself. That’s only how long I will wait. He looked down into the golden brown liquid, wishing it was filled with some poison that would save him the misery of this encounter, but it remained the same old whiskey that swirled in the glass slowly as he picked it up.

Then something strange happened. The color of the liquid in the glass deepened by a shade. The looked at his fingers and his bitten off cuticles, the skin took a healthier shade of pink and the wood on the table looked more wood than any kind of wood had right to look like. The man took a deep breath and steeled himself for what was about to come through the door. He did not look at the door, but he heard the door’s hinges swing as if well oiled and felt his contact walk in like a summer breeze flowing through the flowers in a graveyard.

“Is this chair taken, friend?” his voice, a singsong melody, drifted through the noise in the pub to be heard perfectly clear. The man spread his hand in a please-take-a-seat gesture and the stranger pulled the chair back and sat down. To say he was an attractive man would be a lie. He was not. Not by any means. He had one of those faces that you might see every day on the street and never think about again. He was the John Doe of faces. The template on which others were based. His basic clean-shaved look framed by the delicately combed hair and brown eyes that seemed pedestrian by every standard. His clothes didn’t attract attention to him. They were functional and smooth and nothing that could not be bought from any market in any town.

And yet, the man commanded attention. You felt like respecting him. You wanted to listen to him when he was looking at you. There was this ancient urge to make the man happy. To please him in any and every way possible if only to have him look at you with an appreciating eye.

The stranger smiled and offered his hand across the table. “I am Jay.”

The man loosened his hand on the whiskey glass that he had not realized he had been holding too tightly. “Smith.” He shook the hand and then paused, “I saw the ad.”

Jay smiled at this the room shook with an explosion of color for a second. Like a glitch in the mainframe of universe’s existence.

“Of course, you did, Smith. I am sure that’s not your real name, but let’s roll with it for now.”

The man wanted to blurt out his real name there and then. It rose in his throat like vomit from a night of drinking too much, but he locked it down with a resolve he didn’t know he had.

“I need it. My life is a mess and you are my only hope.”

Jay pretended to look at his immaculately clean nails. “That’s understandable, Smith. We can make it work for you. Fix up your life. Get the wife back. Make the boss call you back on the job. The neighbors will respect you and we might even put your childhood dog in the package.”

Smith’s eyes shone with a greedy glow for the first time that evening.

“But are you willing to pay the price?”

Smith looked in his glass of whiskey. The memories came rushing at him like a stampede of wild horses. He choked down a rush of tears and nodded at Jay. “Yes. Yes. I am willing.”

“Give me your hand,” Jay said and put his hand on the table palm upwards.

Smith put his hand in Jay’s and felt the squeeze of Jay’s hand on his own. In that one moment, everything ceased to matter. There was a sensation of floating in warm ocean currents while the sun blazed somewhere above him and was just a shimmering ball of light seen through the lens of water. There were fish in the water. Leviathans, bigger in person than he had seen them on TV. One of the floating behemoths swam closer to him and opened up its mouth to swallow him. Smith was not afraid. That was alright. That was the way of the things. That was how it was supposed to be. Once in the whale’s mouth, he sat down on the whale’s tongue and started to clean the teeth with his fingers. A voice called his name from deeper into the whale but he ignored it. For now, his only task was clear to him. To clean, clean, clean and clean the best he could.

Someone was calling his name still, but it was far away, deeper than deep and he did not care for it anymore. It was not even his name and he did not remember what his real name was anymore. He was happy in this moment and he was happy in his task.

Jay held the man’s hand in his own. He looked into the man’s eyes and blinked as the man’s head smashed into the table, knocking over the fourth undrunk glass of whiskey. Then Jay calmly signaled to the barkeeper.

“Please call an ambulance, my friend here seems to have suffered from a heart attack.” As the panicked barkeeper dialed the emergency number, Jay put his hand on Smith’s head and patted it like one would pat an obedient dog’s head.

“Happy cleaning, little fish.”

Hang on to your hats. We are going old school weird here.