Photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash

Meeting people is now a privilege. It seems unnatural now. Like the fragrance of the jasmine flowers in early autumn, or the sparkling dewdrops on the leaves of grass. I remember a time when we used to be happy meeting our friends, strolling through the village streets in the winter mornings, hearing the songs of the green grass. Touching people, other than new born babies and the partner during the intercourse, is prohibited.

I have been basking here in this house full of neon lights and robots since time unknown. We are now not allowed to go outside, take a walk in the nature, or just swim away our day long stress in the pool. Only thing we can do is talking to people who share the same apartment. We can go see the outer world once in every three months. That too depends on how much have you contributed to the Golden Tower.

Now we don’t need sunlight or the touch of evening zephyr to feel alive. Moonlight is a luxury. Sitting in my pod, I ruminate about the time when the world was filled with love, warmth, rain, mist, oceans, birdsongs, and human. The homemade food, the fountain by our village, the evening soiree with friends, my secret hideout in the forest, the power of imagination, the books that told stories about people’s trials and tribulations, fast and feasts, joy and sorrow, and the impermanence of life, the notebooks made of paper where we could illustrate our million dreams. Who would have thought that such day will come and we’ll be the prisoners of our own karma? I was guilt-ridden when it all started. After one or two year, the inner critic has stopped talking nonsense to me. I started to find solace in the solitude of this cozy pod. It has everything a man needs to live a fulfilling life. I could listen to any music of my choice, read any book I like in the e-device, I could sleep as much as I wanted, never had to work, never had to meet people, never had to do anything I don’t like. Then it was time for actual confrontation with the Big Boss of the Tower and I lost my mind. As greedy and a daydreamer I became, I decided to ask him for more luxury items for my pod. I thought the BB would act like a genie, a supernatural entity that will obey all my orders, fulfill all my wishes. At the end of the conversation, I could hear his sarcastic laugh. I could not see him as he was in a shadow in the other side of the screen. It was a rule in the Tower that the BB never talks to the ‘inmates’. The people who were captured and forced to live a ‘life of comfort’ are called as ‘inmates’. The BB just appears in the screen, listens and leaves. I didn’t understand why they are keeping him a secret. The mobile-like device vibrated. There was a notification. I read the message and realized what have I done. Instead of fulfilling my requests, they ceased everything. My book-reading device, my music player, and the high-tech notebook where I used to write my thoughts and could watch the news.

I see Sadia through the little glass window of my pod. Her pod is just next to me. She has came here one week before me. She looks at me through her little window for a moment and then close the curtain. I met her last week in the canteen. We talked for a while. She seemed to be sad in an unexplainable way. “It’s just a guilt ride, Abinash. Nothing else.” She murmured staring at her plate. I looked at her in surprise. “It’s the sanctuary of our dreams, as they say. Isn’t it? We get what we want?” She scoffed a little. Somewhere a bell rang. Three times. The people on guard seemed to be alerted hearing the bells. Sadia took a bite from her muffin. All of a sudden, her eyes filled with tears. She could not shallow the food. I became so worried that I could not help but screamed, “Somebody help please!” A lady guard in all black uniform came towards our table with the enthusiasm of an air hostess. But before she reached our table, Sadia rose and hurried towards the washroom. I exchanged glance with the guard and just about to apologize for the inconvenience, she turned her back and returned to her position.

I remember Geet, my lovely wife. Her giggles and her loving gestures. In my last birthday, she arranged a special party in a lavish resort. She was so happy that day. She wore a beautiful crimson saree, matching jewelry, ordered a customized cake with little lights, pearls and ribbons, arranged a little get together with our friends, invited Rishabh, her singer buddy. It was me. It was all me. It was my fault I broke her heart, humiliated her in front of her friends. “I think Geet this marriage is over. We should part our ways. I want to file a divorce.”

“And do what? Marry Ritu?”

She already knew? I was surprised. But not the way it was intended. I was too drunk to defend myself or give her an explanation.

“You are wrong, Abinash.” These were her last words before she left my house carrying her big trolley suitcase next morning. I was so idiot. I did not even love Ritu, she was not the type of girl I would woo. She was just a friend I met on instagram. We met a few times of course. I was just bewitched with her beauty and seductive look.

My marriage ended after three years. Because I spent too much time on my mobile and it corrupted our relationship to the point where there was no way to come back.

Today also Sadia closed her curtain. I’m starting to feel lonely and bored here. There’s nothing to do. Maybe I should talk to someone. Maybe ask for a job.

It’s been almost five hours, they came and woke me up. I dressed up and followed them as ordered. All of them were wearing jet black uniform and carrying guns. I was afraid. They took me to an empty room and threw me inside. They locked the door from outside. There was a smartphone on the ground floor. I looked around. It looked more like a cube than a room. All the walls, the ceiling and the ground floor were white. I took the smartphone and sat in one corner. I tried to unlock the phone. Again and again but I could not. I tried for few more minutes. But, it was impossible to unlock the phone. Suddenly I started to feel suffocated. I knocked on the door. No one was there. I knocked again and again. No answer from the outside. “hey, open the damn door. You pricks. Hey, let me out.” I yelled as loudly as I could. But still no one answered. I was trapped. Finally I started to realize the truth about this place, the frustration and fear in Sadia’s eyes.

The rippled water of the lake

blue mirror

quiet as peace

mellow autumn’s yellow leaves

float like a dream in wind

Chaos end here!

The sunlight fell directly on my face. Irritated, I woke up covering my eyes with my right arm. No it was not sunlight. It was brightness of the white walls. I closed my eyes again but could not fell asleep. I tried to unlock the smartphone again. Nonsense. I started laughing like a madman. Everything seemed funny for me all of a sudden. Someone was approaching the door, I could hear the steps. I stop laughing. “Hey, open the door. Whoever is there, please help me. Let me out. I don’t want to be here. I want to go home, to my people, to my little daughter.”

The footsteps were departing.

“Hey, hey, please please let me out. I don’t know what I have done to deserve this punishment. I’m sorry you know. I’m really really really sorry.” Without knowing I started sobbing. The footsteps disappeared somewhere far in the corridor.

After almost thirty to forty minutes, I stopped crying and felt exhausted.

“You were unconscious for two weeks straight.” Sadia told me after I was brought back to my pod. She laughed looking at my face.

“Where was I?”

“Paradise. You were in Paradise.”

“Paradise, Geet. It is my paradise. This smart life, smartphone, smart devices, and smart home with smart robot-assistants, this is paradise.”

“You are wrong, Abinash. You are so wrong. You don’t have any idea. Paradise is where your love is. Let’s go for a weekend trip. Maldives. It’ll be fun. We can leave Anaya with Mom and Papa for a few days.”

“No, Geet. I don’t want to go anywhere leaving my paradise.”

“Not even for me?”

“No Geet. If you want to go, go. Don’t bother me.”

Sadia was staring at my face.

“What is this, Sadia? I want to go home. How can we escape?”

Sadia scoffs, “Huh. There’s no way, my friend. We are prisoners here. These are not people. They build universe. They build our dreams. They know so much about us, we even don’t know. And they have brought us here to build their empire. By contributing money. By sacrificing our time and energy for nothing..”

“How do you know?”

“I know because I observe.”

“Do you know if anyone has been able to escape from this place?”

“Maybe. But only after redemption.”


“The bells. They give everyone a chance to accept their sins and greed for materialistic nothings.”

“How much time it takes before redemption?”

Sadia laughs and then stops.

“Nobody knows that except you. When you’re ready, you’ll know. So wait for that. And remember the rule. If you break another, the punishment will be 10x than the last one.”

Puzzled, I kept staring at her. She was leaving to meet someone she loves. Somewhere a bell rang again.

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