The rain came in torrents now, hissing like an angry serpent. He
huddled in the doorway under the meagre shelter of the eaves, trying
vainly to stay dry. It wasn't the getting wet that he minded so much
but - he touched the small packet inside his shirt. He had to keep it
The storm was slowing down a bit now but it was still pouring. The new
moon darkness was pierced through as headlights signalled the approach
of a vehicle on the road. Tires screeched as the car swerved to avoid
the mangy mutt that had suddenly limped across the road on three legs.
The roar of the engine died away as the dog nosed hopefully around the
curled-up form. When it had sniffed around for a few moments in vain it
pressed its wet clinging fur to him trying to share his warmth. Dim
memories stirred as he put his arm around it. Slowly, his head began to
droop and his face buried itself in the flea-bitten pelt of his
And he dreamed.......
He dreamed. A little white house with the tiniest of lawns in front. A
little house with a green door and green curtains and a neat little
flower bed lining the green grass of the lawn. There were people on the
lawn - a young woman who sat with a smile as she watched a big
black-bearded man romping with two little boys. They wrestled to get at
something he held in his closed fist, out of their reach, and their
childish giggles mingled with his deep throated laughter like the bells
of an old cathedral. And the woman sat and smiled as she looked
Then, all at once - a thick fog that obscured everything. Nothing but
wisps of white. Then, as abruptly as it came, the fog disappeared. But
he saw something else now - the inside of a room, it seemed, very
sparsely furnished but spotlessly clean. There was a table in the
centre of the room and four people sat around it. There were plates
before each of them and a large dish in the middle. The black-bearded
man sat at the head of the table but his eyes were rimmed with
spectacles now. The two boys were there, older and no longer giggling.
They appeared taller than their mother, who seemed not have changed at
all. Their heads were bowed as the big man clasped his hands and gave
thanks to his God.
And the dreamer's mind stirred as long-forgotten words pierced through
his stupor. In his sleep, he raised a feeble hand as though to beat off
an unseen and secret adversary.
Then, the very same mist came rolling in and blotted out the vision.
When it receded, with the same sudden silence, a new scene unfolded. A
railway platform, with milling crowds jostling each other as they
thronged about the great black locomotive that stood impassively on its
rails. And he saw them again! His foursome, even more changed this
time. One of the two boys stood at the door of a carriage while his
mother, father and brother stood on the platform below him. The big
man, his beard tinged with strands of grey, was grave and serene while
his wife, looking older this time, seemed to struggle with a great
hidden emotion. The two boys, young men now, talked animatedly and
hurriedly, as if to forget an impending pain. Then, the whistle of the
train let off a thunderous blast. The young man on the train seemed
overcome by emotion as he hugged his father and brother and kissed his
weeping mother. The locomotive lurched forward, anxious to be on its
way, as the boy stood at the door in silent agony, and watched his
family grow smaller and smaller. The big man stood with his arm around
his wife and son, the hopes and fears of a family written in their eyes
; joy and pain etched in their hearts.
And suddenly, the scene transformed itself without the fog, to reveal
the murky darkness of a dingy little room. Two or three human forms
were prone on the floor. Two were sprawled still as death but the third
stirred dreamily. His lips seemed to babble silently and his head
lolled to one side while his eyes began to roll. And the dreamer's soul
seemed to shudder as an unearthly light appeared to illuminate the face
of the man. And the dreamer felt drawn towards the rolling eyes of the
spread-eagled figure and then he was sucked into them; into an
inky-black tunnel that started at those eyes and seemed to go
On and on it went and all of a sudden it began to leak and then, to
rain cats and dogs. Then, as his vision turned a corner, he spied a
ragged bundle at one side of the tunnel walls, getting wet in the
pouring rain ; like a man huddled up trying to stay warm.
The dreamer woke with a jolt. The rain had stopped and the lame dog was
gone. He had rolled from the doorway and was lying face-down on the
edge of the road, in a murky puddle of rain. And as he raised his muddy
face, another vision seemed to dance before his eyes. The big man and
his wife and the second son ; they were standing there before him.
Their eyes were full of pain and their lips moved silently as their
arms stretched out, as if to touch him.
The derelict staggered to his feet and lurched towards the three
figures in the dark with a guttural cry. But there was only the hard ,
cold stone wall, stern and forbidding in the night. And the dreamer
stretched his arms along the wall as memories burst into flame in his
dimmed heart; and he began to cry. Long, convulsing, body-racking sobs
that were loud and resonant in the night. Pain and emptiness that had
made their home in his soul, now voicing their cry.
As his cries receded into muffled whimpering, he pressed close to the
stone wall - and felt a hard lump pressing into his body. He searched
inside his drenched shirt and pulled out a little packet, cosy and dry
as a bone. And as he stared at the dusky grey powder inside, he was
filled with an uncontrollable revulsion and fury. With all the strength
that his destitute body could muster he flung it far into the night.
The force of his throw caused him to lose his balance and plunged
forward onto his face, in the mud and lay there, still.
The dog came again at dawn, and nosed at the fallen figure, and
wondered why there was no arm put around him in welcome.