I couldn’t exactly recall when the door to the strange world of a dream opened during a peaceful sleep. When I opened my eyes, what I saw was the rough fabric of the blue mosquito net. That was when I became aware that I was in a dream!

I tried to recall what I saw a moment ago. A large city. I am wading through the heavy rush hour. All of a sudden, the rhythm of the crowd was disrupted. Riot! Communal riot! Some people are shouting. Everyone is running helter-skelter seeking havens of safety. Confused about what to do, I am the only one still standing there. Anyway, it was only a dream. I closed my eyes with relief. What?! What is this?! I am still there in the city?! How could this be possible? I’ve never heard of the same dream continuing even after one wakes up from a dream and closes the eyes again!

Where is that very thin line that demarcates the conscious and subconscious planes?

Somebody touched my shoulder. “Why are you standing here? Try to escape! Already arson, looting and murder have happened. Who knows what will happen next?” After saying these words, that man ran away and vanished somewhere.

I observed the surroundings. The very atmosphere is filled with discomfort. Cloudy sky. But it isn’t raining either. Even the leaves of the trees standing here and there, aren’t moving. Has the wind also gone into hiding? The shops are closing one by one. If they wait to close, the shops could end up getting razed down. The metal shutter of a shop came down fast and hit the bald head of a shopkeeper badly, when he tried to pull it down. A young man, may be his son, is hurrying to help the old man get up. On the road, three people are trying to ride one scooter. But they can’t start it. From afar, between the buildings, curls of black smoke are rising like a genie that has jumped out of a jar. They abandoned the scooter and ran for their lives.

The fact that I was still standing there watching everything, reached my brain like a shockwave. Where to run? The roads are getting deserted. I ran along the first turning on the road without thinking or looking back.

I opened my eyes. Again the mosquito net is appearing! What does this mean? Was it a dream? I decided to pinch my arm to confirm. If I feel pain, then this mosquito net that covers me and this bed will be the reality. I can’t move my body! No, I can’t! However, I can feel the mosquito net rubbing against my body in the gust of air triggered by the rapidly spinning ceiling fan. The rough texture of the mosquito net makes me uncomfortable. I tried to sleep again.

I am on the run now. I can hear some shrieks from several parts of the city. Isn’t that a large hospital? I can run into the hospital. Perhaps, the rioters won’t enter it. I ran into the first ward of the hospital I saw. It is panic there too. Some stones that came rocketing from beyond the hospital have smashed the windowpane. The rioters are near! Everyone is trying to escape. Female nurses are fleeing. In a situation like this, women will be treated as if they are inferior to even insects. Doctors are also running. Some of them are throwing away their stethoscopes and overcoats that prove a hindrance while running fast! Those patients lying on beds, who have the capacity to get up, are jumping out of their beds in their bid to escape. Relatives are trying to carry those patients who can’t walk or run. Cries and pandemonium are everywhere!

Something fell on the hospital campus and exploded. I ran further inside the hospital. There are so many doors and corridors! Where should I go? I looked through the iron-netted windows of the corridor. There are some human figures standing outside, holding deadly weapons! My only option is to escape through the backyard of the hospital. I am not sure how I will reach there. Anyway, I jumped onto the backyard. Slightly in front of me, there is a row of thorny bougainvillea plants. Beyond that, there is the hospital compound’s huge boundary wall with a sharp barbed wire fence on top of it.

I stood there for a moment paralysed. Did I run so much only to get trapped here? I was a fool to think that they would spare at least the hospital. Those who try to spread destruction everywhere, because they have lost their self-awareness after being brainwashed by their leaders, won’t have any humanity left in them! How can I ever forget the sad scenes I saw in this hospital?

There is only one way to escape now. Climbing this wall and jumping over it! Perhaps, not even a world cup-winning athlete will be able to do it! But this is a life and death issue for me! In this damned moment, it is wiser not to exercise common sense! There could be poisonous reptiles in the bush near the bougainvillea plants. But I felt that the snakes and the thorns of bougainvillea are far better than the horribly venomous human snakes that could arrive any moment! I climbed on to the wall through the plants, reached the top and looked back. They are already here! I jumped over the barbed wire somehow. There is no time to see where the barbed wire has injured my body. I landed on a maidan! There isn’t any place to hide in this open ground! Then I was almost flying with my feet rarely touching the ground.

I jumped over another wall and landed on a college campus. I can’t see any human being there. It is best to hide in such a huge building, I thought. If I hide here in this deserted place, no one could find me easily. I am lucky! The entrance to the staircase to the upper floors isn’t closed. I ran up the stairs at lightning speed and looked down.

Oh God! My calculations have gone awry again! The rioters chasing me are trying to enter the college campus! I prayed desperately for God’s help from the depths of my heart. However, God is helpless! Isn’t all this violence going on in the name of God? I am sure that there is no use trying to call on such a God. I have to find a way to save myself! I’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention. I must find a secure place to hide. But, there is no way ahead. There is a wall looming large in front of me like a white ghost! What a pig-headed fool I am!

Before running into this college building, I forgot to check whether there were any class rooms open here! If I try to go downstairs now, it will mean throwing myself before those wolves! I sat there tired with despair. They are rushing towards the college building.

Suddenly, I saw a girl standing in front of the college building! I don’t know from where she has appeared! She is wearing a flaming red coloured dress! My eyes settled on her face. I’ve never seen so much beauty anywhere! It seems laser beams are emanating from her eyes! What is this girl doing here? She isn’t trying to escape either! Will I have the misfortune to face those barbarians doing to her what shouldn’t be done?! I prepared to shout loudly and warn her. But my voice is hiding in the throat afraid to come out! I closed my eyes tight.

Unbearable heat is enveloping me! What is causing so much heat here? I looked downwards at the ground. In front of that girl, a fire is burning on the ground in a straight line! Fire flowers are blossoming in the atmosphere! She is standing there firmly. Her face is flaming with superhuman power!

The inhuman hyenas have arrived. Some of them ran towards her with glee at the sight of a potential victim. I saw flames of fire shooting towards them from the pointed finger of the girl! Those who came near the girl were reduced to a handful of ashes! The rest of them got scared and ran away!

Is the atmosphere itself on fire?! What an intense heat! She is still standing there with her fiery face! I rushed downstairs to say at least a word of thanks to her! But when I reached the ground I couldn’t see anyone there! Where is she? Where is that girl who manifested the miracle?! There isn’t anyone there! But the horrific heat is still there! I bathed in sweat. On the ground, there is a straight line of burnt soil! And scattered ashes! So what I saw was real. My eyes weren’t cheating me! I ran to escape from the heat. But there is searing heat everywhere! Some people came running! One of them is shouting aloud, “The riot has been foiled!”

“What happened?” I asked anxiously. It is odd. I learned that it was not the police who brought the riot under control. The rioters dispersed in fear after facing something strange! Those rioters, who were trying to escape, inadvertently fell into the hands of the police. The faces of the arrested rioters where frozen without even a drop of blood as if they had seen something frightening! Many of them had considerable burns on their bodies!

I didn’t have the courage to tell anyone about what I had seen! Waves of joy and relief started to wash over the city. At that moment, I opened my eyes! The mosquito net made faces at me! What is this? Was that a dream? I closed the eyes once again. But now the dream is not continuing like before. I tried to get up from bed. But the body is still on the bed, motionless like a log though I can close and open the eyes! I realised with disbelief that I was still experiencing intense heat that could vapourise even the blood!

I have never ever seen such a weird dream before! Could the intervals between the waking state and unconsciousness, give birth to a semblance of reality? The heat that is still present stands like a gigantic question mark before my sense of time, space and rationality. I turned my eyes as much as possible and looked at the window. There is still hardened darkness on the glass panes of the window. Morning hasn’t arrived yet. The tick tick sound of the timepiece irritated my ears. Shall I call and wake up others? But the tongue is not rising! I’ve never faced such a condition in my life so far! The heat is too much! How long will I remain trapped on this bed inside the mosquito net like this?

It seems I had seen the girl in the dream somewhere and had forgotten! But I couldn’t identify her though I tried very hard. Anyway, I don’t feel I can ever forget that face again. What is the meaning of that dream? It isn’t yielding to my intelligence! If I have to escape from this intense heat that is covering me like a flaming enigma, someone will have to help me get up from this bed in the morning! I stayed there on the bed in the mandala of fire inside the mosquito net, with open eyes, waiting for the rays of the rising sun to enter through the glass of the window. I don’t think any human being would have ever yearned for the dawn so sincerely like me!

Copyright © 1991 Prabhath P