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Echoes of Solitude

Veiled whispers in the empty streets

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02 May '24
9 min read


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“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~ Carl Jung.

 

As the monotonous clock ticked forward, being an impermeable barrier of coordination and sharp precision, he realized that he was becoming more accustomed to his world. He realized the fact that this was simply the way how things were, and that nothing could be changed or altered. He accepted the fact that this was his existence, and he had to get used to it. He had learned a long time ago that hanging on to something would only deepen your inexpressible pain and attachment to it, and the best way to relieve yourself of the pain was to let go of it. 

This is why he chose to accept his solitude. To revel in it and to project himself as completely independent, although his understanding fathomed the unmistakable fact that there was nobody he wanted to project his feelings toward. He had wondered quite often the reason as to why he was the only resident in this huge town. Why he seemed to recognize the photographs on his mantle but couldn’t quite remember where he had seen them before. This, he had realized, was life – and there was two ways he could go – adapt, or cease survival. 

He started his day like any other – rolled out of bed, shut off his alarm clock and stepped outside to enjoy the sunrise. The day felt warm, with no disturbances around him, no sounds of traffic or commutation – just the trees swaying with the wind, the birds chirping, and the sun slowly advancing from the horizon. He inhaled deeply, taking in the indubitable fresh air, not yet polluted with the advancements of humans. It would have been beautiful to share with the rest of the world – but, as he had recently convinced himself over and over again, he was the only person who lived in this town. It had no human presence other than him, and except for the sounds of nature, it always remained eerily and deafeningly silent. He often liked to pretend that he was not alone, but the fact of the matter was that it was just that – a pretense. He had long since accepted that he was the only person left, and that he had to survive by adapting to whatever conditions were necessary. 

He lived in a house along the street, one which was well-furnished and comfortable. Numerous bookshelves with long rows of books were present, and he often read them to keep himself busy and entertained. Somehow, there were a lot of books whose topics centered on the practice of medicine. He had read books on the topics of neurological surgery, dialysis and vitamin deficiency. Though his understanding of these were limited, he pushed through and sometimes read for hours at a stretch, sometimes not understanding a word he was reading. It was as though he was trying to find something – anything – to remind him that humanity was still not out of his reach. He often sat on a tall, leather-backed chair in front of the television and switched it on to watch commercials… hear another human being’s voice for the first time in what seemed like years... but he wasn’t very satisfied with this practice. Whenever he invested his time in watching television, he found that there was only one show which used to play on it – a show featuring doctors. Doctors who were wearing white gowns, walking around the hospital room talking amongst themselves in low voices, glancing at the screen every so often. The dialogue was often inaudible to him, though the unexpressed vibes of the show clearly reached him. At other times, he mysteriously received calls on his cell phone. Whenever he picked it up and said “Hello?”, he received pure silence as a reply. After repeating his greeting multiple times, there would still be no reply, although the call would still be active. This had happened a few times now, and he was feeling generally insecure and wondered as to who the caller could be. These strange occurrences were not uncommon ever since he had accepted the fact that he was the only person living in the town. 

After pondering this chain of thoughts, he turned around and re-entered his house. Maybe I’ll go for a walk, he thought. Nothing was wrong with the air or scenery of the town, and he had discovered that they refreshed him immensely. Just as he was tying his shoelaces and heading towards the front door, he was interrupted by a loud, sharp ringing. He felt vibrations near his thigh, and reluctantly pulled out his phone. As he always did, he answered the call with a “Hello?”. Silence. “Hello?”, he repeated. “Who is this?”. There was more silence. He was about to hang up, when he heard something peculiar. There was a slight static sound on the other end of the line, which wasn’t very clear - he was straining to hear it. Then, he discerned some slight, muffled voices talking in the background, and the same static noise, constant and buzzing over it, and he heard an additional sound – was that crying? He was feeling more insecure and scared by the second. He made a significant effort to try and understand what words were being said, but it just sounded like an incessant inflow of the English language, without any of the words being clear. Wait – what was that? “Hello? Who is this?”, he asked. “Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz photo buzz buzz…” was what he heard as a reply. “Excuse me? Who is this?”, he inquired yet again. Then, it went back to the usual, perpetual silence. After his repeated enquiries as to who the caller was, there was absolutely no sound and no reply. A chill went up his spine, for this was the first time he had heard anything at all from somebody other than himself. He glanced back at his phone’s screen, to observe that the call had ended. Disoriented, he looked around at his windows, hoping wildly that someone was there. No one. Slightly disappointed, he glanced back, cast a furtive gaze around the hall, and started making his way out of the front door again – when he noticed a small tuft of paper sticking out from under his door. Out of his unconventional inquisitiveness, he tugged on the piece of paper, which revealed itself to be a much longer rendition of itself, with a person’s smiling face printed on it – a photograph. He glanced at the woman in the photo, with her long chocolate-brown tresses and smile flashing perfect, white teeth. As he gazed upon it, his mind seemed to rupture with an entirely new load of information which should have been there, but wasn’t. His immediate impression was as though he was receiving an invitation to a party that ended years ago. He felt as if he should know the woman in the photo – but who was it? And who had sent it to him? His face frowned in a desperate attempt of recognition, which yielded nothing. Tears formed at his eyes out of frustration – so many things around him which he felt he had to know, but not remembering any of them had turned out to be a greater ordeal than he had anticipated, and he was tired of it. Slowly, he placed the photo on his desk, and turned the handle of the door, stepping out into the town which foreboded more things he did not recognize, more unknown mysteries, more tantalizingly familiar relics from his life, and he hoped with every fiber of his being that he would be able to recognize it someday, and that all his surroundings would make perfect sense to him… that day was yet to come. With a sigh, he trudged on, unknowing if he was ready to face the remainder of his challenges.

He walked.

********

The doctor had dark circles under his eyes. He and his colleagues had been trying for months now to fulfill the task that was expected of him, to alleviate the burdens carried by the tired and depressed people waiting outside his office door. Covering his face in his hands, he stepped outside his office, walking towards the tired family sitting on the bench near the receptionist. 

The mother stood up as he approached her. Her eyes reflected all the troubles she had faced, while at the same time filled with hope, hoping for a change.

“Well, doctor?”, she asked, tremblingly. “Has there been any change? Any at all?”.

“I’m afraid there has been no significant change”, the doctor replied with a sigh. “His condition has not worsened, yes, but it has not improved either. We’re going to be trying different methods from tomorrow – all we can do now is just hope for the best…”.

“But you said he would recover!”, she sobbed, desperate for the doctor to deliver any good news of her son’s recovery to her. “You said that he’d wake from his coma in due time, and that he’d be able to talk again in a few days!”.

“His coma seems to be in an advanced state.”, he replied. “I’m not saying he won’t recover, but merely that the depth of his coma is such that it is more challenging than before to successfully rouse him. We tried showing him a photo of you today. He seemed to recognize it – maybe a sign that his brain is more capable of pattern recognition than it was before – but it’s too early to say anything for sure. We will continue to note our observations and administer the appropriate methods to awaken him…”

 

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Category : Fiction


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Written by Rahul Hoysala

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