JIMMY: Why does Marlow keep going up the river, why doesn't he turn back?
HAYES: There's a part of him that wants to, Jimmy. A part, deep inside himself that sounds a warning, but there's another part, that needs to know ....that needs to defeat the thing which makes him afraid.
-( King Kong (2005))
Derek grew up midst horrifying tales of the dark side of the alley. People feared it so much that it was perilous to even mention about it to anyone. However Derek had managed to get his grandmother to tell him everything. So she had told him. Unsure of the origin of the evil, she guessed it to have been there since the nights of the first ages. Ages which have long gone by leaving behind hardly any memories or relics except for that living and breathing abomination, that disowned entity of God. So by virtue of the characteristic curiosity endowed upon adoloscent minds, to chase the unchasable, to see the invisible and the desire to challenge fear, Derek became convinced that his life would be futile if he didn't see for himself the truth of the legend. The first instance when Derek had toyed with the possibility of following the elders in their midnight pursuit, Larzi and Quoti, his childhood buddies and partners in several of his domestic adventures, had unequivocally denied aiding him in his plans. But with his inimitable persuasive dexterity, Derek took only five minutes to convince them to shed their reluctance. He reminded them of past experiences, where they had discovered tremendous thrill and excitement, in similar pursuits. Each time they had followed Derek in his small quests, they had been rewarded with memorable thrill and frolic. The chase of the last of Bravadian boars, the half day long walk to the Gyeti river and the sumptuous feast of fishes that followed, the arduous yet fun filled climb on the sole surviving Lafugh tree of the woods and sleeping on its chair sized leaves. Thus their secret watch had made them discover that every full moon night, elders offered the most tender grown hens and goats at the genesis of the alley But when Derek asked them to join him on his adventure to discover what walked the alley after night fall none came forward. This time it was graver, much graver. Everyone knew about the unspoken legend of something vile and predatorial lurking around the alley at night. There was no chance in hell they would risk their lives for an adventure and there was no chance in hell either for Derek to go on without this adventure in his life. There was no stopping him now. He fixed the next full moon night for his rendezvous with evil.
Derek cursed himself for not choosing a better spot than where he concealed himslef, for the pathetic mosquitoes were biting the living daylights out of him.. He noticed the pregnant clouds above his head, ready to deliver any moment now. The alley wore a desolate look. Its forlornness could have easily deterred the bravest from daring it at that time of the night. His watch beeped feebly indicating a dying battery. He strained his eyes to read the time which displayed 23.15. The regular pack of stray dogs had also scampered off to inconspicuous retreats. He disconnected the headphones from his cellphone and let the song play aloud, trying to introduce a relieving disquiet into the eerie calm surrounding him. In his zealous attempt at remaining conscious about his surroundings, he overlooked the repeated warnings of his portable transistor asking him to immediately charge its fading battery. Soon the device died and so did the only noise in the pervasive silence. Everything was back to eerie again.
He looked up to check the clouds as he saw the last bit of the reclusive moon menacingly subdued, thrusting a scary darkness all around, heedless of the deepest cravings of mortals, dependent on its bright beams. The flickering street lamp nearest to him graciously allowed him some visibility. Things were neither clear nor invisible. One had to guess identities from hazy proportions and confusing dimensions.. He couldn't tell a man from a lady. He recalled all those times when he had boasted of not believing in the supernatural. He could not find that self of his. It had abandoned him, leaving him cordoned by the most non scientific and non explainable apprehensions clouding his head. The moment was throbbing with supernatural written all over it. He was stunned to see a solitary bicyclist steadily paddling away humming some indistinct verses of thanksgiving. He was baffled at the man's disregard for the scary legend dwelling in every household of their town. He must be a tourist, he thought to himself. He waited for the good man to cover the distance so that he could inquire about his whereabouts and warn him off the alley. When he came closer, Derek shot out a "Hello" from the depths of his parched vocals. There was no response. Derek repeated his effort. Dogs fought among themselves at indecipherable distance giving off deafening howls, but the cyclist didn't seem to have ears for either. Derek decided to go through his eyes. He brandished his hands and simultaneously kept screaming Hello, hello. The man passed him with such an air of ignorance & oblivion that caused Derek to doubt his own existence.
Exasperated, Derek turned around and kicked a crushed can of something. It jumped and rolled away making repeated announcements of its increasing distance from its kicker. He let his frustration wear down and brooded over the reasons that might have caused the cyclist to miss him. But he utterly failed in convincing himself with any rational one. How could he not see him, when he clearly waved his hands, right in front of his face. May be darkness hindered his visibility, but then wasn't he seeing his path as he cycled away. He grumbled for the lack of an explanation, he hated inexplicable things, but he wasn't getting any, not tonight. He sat down on the public bench and rested his head on the cusp of his sweaty palms. He witnessed the passing of minutes into an hour. It was past midnight and he fervently thought of his home. He thought of the faint radio rambling that penetrated his room's closed doors and how it always failed to disturb him as he slipped into the cradle of sleep every night. He felt a cold growing from within his guts and spreading towards his feet. He was hungry and in the clutches of fatigue. Nothing was stopping him from retreating but he stayed. Not a soul passed as his watch beeped for the last time, only once, before it stopped due to lack of power. His radio was dead and his watch followed, and there was no sign of anything abnormal. What are the odds, he thought to himself. He felt helpless thinking how his family must be frantically trying to contact him. He could say from his observation that it was midnight.. He remembered something which made him shiver like it was freezing winter.
Sometime back when his neighbourhood was under the grip of repeated power failures, he had gone up to the roof with his friend Vivian to spend some time with him, till electricity resumed. After several issues of discussion, they had stumbled upon the topic of bad spirits. Vivian had told him during the discussion about witching hour which he narrated to be the time of day when supernatural creatures such as witches, demons, and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful. It was a time of bad luck or in which something bad has a greater likelihood to occur . Vivian had vividly elaborated that the period from midnight to three A.M., is the devil's hour, when Lord Christ was said to have been crucified. This time of night, according to legend, is the time when demons and ghosts come out to do their dirty work. It's when witches cast their spells and men turn to wolves, he had informed him. Derek felt terrified at the thought of encountering one. He tried to calm himself. There was nothing he could do. He then thought of walking his way back home, which was roughly ten kilometres away. He took a deep sigh, hopelessly looked for the last time at the alley and began walking.
He must have paced for about a kilometre or so when he heard something rising behind him. It was a low snarling like the aggression of starving curs. It began growing as he kept walking. Countless times he confronted the thought of turning back and checking out its source, but his fear got the better of him and he kept moving forward fixing his head at the path ahead of him. He could sense it keeping up with him and the snarl suddenly transformed into a gut tearing growl. Derek could not help turning around his head. And when he did, he took to his heels instantaneously, when he saw what he saw. He was not sure whether it was a dog or a wolf or a overgrown jackal or an unholy hybrid of all the three. In that fleeting moment of glimpse that he caught of it, he had seen everything which was enough to induce a heart stroke. Its teeth had grown to the length of murderous daggers, its eyes shone despite the lack of any light; they reflected unadulterated evil. He looked down to see its claws pushing their way out of their furry caverns and then he witnessed the most horrifying sight of all. He watched in absolute horror as the creature perfectly balanced itself on its hind legs and stood fully on them. Nothing that Derek knew could have explained what he was looking at. There it was, a monster, right from the underbelly of hell, about seven feet tall, covered with thick black fur, towering over Derek, snarling at his meal, ready to devour him & dismiss his whining soul from his mortal form. Its eyes glowed like molten magma, and saliva trickled from its canines like that of a rabid mongrel. The very sight gave Derek such speed to his legs that he ran for his life, dropping all that he carried in a foolish attempt at increasing his velocity. As Derek scurried along the God forsaken pathway, the creature gave out a reverberating howl, that echoed through the endless alley. It could have undubitably frozen hearts of steel.
He must have run a good deal of distance for when he looked around he realized he was was alone. The beast was gone. But Derek wasn't taking any chances. He kept running. He thought of the demon, its flashes not leaving his eyes. Men, he thought, are used to see the shackled forms of monsters under the guard of barrel. They are not accustomed, not anymore, to see a thing monstrous and free. Soon his heart felt like bursting out of the confines of his body, his mouth and throat became bereft of moistness. He clutched his belly and hunched for a moment. The only sound he could hear was that of his racing heart and his panting. But then something interrupted it. Derek stressed his ears. It was the sound of metal grinding over metal. He heard carefully and could know that it was the sound emitted from a bicycle. Could it be ? He turned around with lightning speed and his mouth fell open in shock. It was the same strange man from before. Only this time Derek had nothing to call or wave to, for the cyclist was headless. With an unearthly laidbackness the torso paddled away on his way. Derek was cold from his head to feet. He felt like screaming but his voice failed him, he felt like running but his legs were weak with numbness, he felt like turning away his head from the grotesqueness but he felt powerless to even move a finger. He stood there watching the bicyclist fade into the dark of the road. But what followed threatened the remnants of his sanity. As he was on the fringe of losing his senses, he clamoured for space behind him. He lost his mind when he saw a severed head sitting right next to his feet. The hair on it were stripped of life long before its severance from the torso, the eyes on it were fast shut, indicating something between pain and liberation and the most gruesome of all was that it had no ears. It struck like a lightning to Derek's mind that with eyes closed and ears ripped, a man could neither hear nor see. Well, that must explain why he missed him calling out for help. But Derek soon realized that he was trying to connect dots and draw a line in a pond full of water. He was trying to offer explanations for uncanny phenomenons. What had beheaded the cyclist and torn away his ears? He stressed his mind in vain.
From out of the blue Derek felt a shearing pain pervade his chest. He felt like kneeling down in surrender, but he was unable to move any part of his body. He stood there, feeling the excruciating ache travel from his chest to his feet and then, just like that, it left him. He gasped and fell down on his knees, panting hard, spitting saliva in exhaustion. He closed his eyes relishing the relief, for a brief moment. As he was on the verge of rising back to his feet, he felt something circling around his waist. Before he could figure out what it was, it tightened its grip around him. Derek was stiff with pain again. He screamed and howled throwing his hands in the air. He realized that he was being lifted up. When he resumed his survey he froze again. It was the beast who was lifting him up with its tail. Its eyes emitting signs of an impious appetite. It tilted its large head closely smelling Derek and his sumptuous scent. Derek thought of God and angels and helplessly prayed for being rescued. But deep down his anxiety was escalating at phenomenal pace. He knew he was going to get killed. He'd often heard that man's hopes are his biggest source of strength and so he hoped for a miracle. The beast coiled back its head, ready to fill its mouth, in a single plunge. But then it happened. A flash of heavenly light tore through the hellish dark and blinded the beast. It whined in pain as if the rays butchered its flesh like thousand knives . In a moment of defense, it gave up its clutch and Derek fell down. But he did not find ground and kept falling freely into the infinite space and peace under him.
Derek woke up lying on his soft bed. The whole family was surrounding his bed when he woke up. There was one person whom he did not recognize. A middle aged bespectacled man with his prominent stubble, claimed equal space in the small family cluster. Noticing Derek regain his senses, his folks started showering praise on the Almighty Lord. Their child was back. Derek still felt considerable fatigue in his legs and stiffness in his waist. The table clock read 4 A.M. He went back to sleep. Just before he closed his eyes, he saw the stranger leave his bedside wearing a relieved grin. Derek shut his eyes. The next morning, his mother narrated how his father had rushed to the cops when he did not return till midnight. From the Station, Derek's father accompanied the sheriff on a patrol to search him out. After about three hours of search, he came back dejected, after filing a missing report for him. But when he reached home, he found Derek lying on the courtyard. He was rushed in and the doctor was called who checked and found no sign of any injury whatsoever. Derek's father sought an explanation for last night. Derek was quiet. He only asked about the man who was near his bed last night and saw clueless responses. Then with utter reluctance he narrated the inexplicable incident of the by gone night. He told them that he doesn't expect them to understand his need to have undertaken that life risking adventure. But he never stayed out after dark, for at least a good long year. What was that creature he confronted last night ? Who saved him from it ? How did he reach home ? were a few of the many questions that circled inside his head endlessly. For several days he saw a recurring dream, in which a large wolf was being chased away from their courtyard, by a bespectacled middle aged man.
("The Alley" is a work of fiction and any resemblance in it to any person, incident or place is purely co - incidental)