Runners and tales
Mr. Runner looked as though his face was about to explode in fury. But, he held himself in check. Mr. Runner was a tall man with shiny black hair and a crooked nose. Everything about him spoke about neatness. He stepped close to the desk and placed his hands on the desk, leaning forward almost menacingly, “Let me make one thing clear, Mr. Tale. I'm not here to chit chat about the weather or about how my mother's doing. Let's get down to business, shall we?”
Mr. Tale was also a tall man, with flaming red hair, a long but vague face with eyes that could burn a hole in your soul. Mr. Tale stood up, and turned around, towards the back wall, which was more of a window than an actual wall. He looked out towards the vast horizon. Mr. Runner followed suit, playing along to make things… smooth. They watched as thousands and thousands of men toiled in the desert through a intricate machine that was more alive than mechanical, under a blazing sun hundred yards above. They watched as some fell on their face and they watched as giant vultures swooped down to take those fallen workers away. A sadness descended on Tale's face, but Runner was interested in something else. He was looking back inside the office to another side of the wall… Or what was on the wall.
Tale turned, too, watching Runner's face change into what he could only define as awestruck. A young woman with an equally vague face, and similar flaming hair came into the office and left four cups of coffee. She left before anyone even realized she was here. The two goons of Runner were at the door, still as stones, blank as golems.
“You know what I want Tale. Give it to me.”
Tale was calm as ever. “You know I won't do that.”
Runner walked to the center of the office and stood glaring at Tale, his face showing nothing but hatred. “I will give you whatever the hell you want. I'll give you seven worlds, and I'll throw in a dozen stars. A black hole, too if it makes you happy. I want that.” His voice was certainty and conviction as Runner pointed at the wall to Tale's right.
You couldn't tell that there was a portal in this office unless someone specifically pointed it out to, or if you knew it from before. Tale looked to his portal and once again he got lost in the craftsmanship of it. The actual solid gateway was ornamented and decorated with metals and rocks from the farthest corners of the galaxy. They glowed with an eerie light not of this world. They sucked in the air and gave back something entirely different. It made the room hard to breathe in. If you were mortal.
The actual portal itself was nearly indescribable- A mass of energy that was fire, ice, lightning, and light- it was all of these things and more at the same time. The mass of energy whirled and twirled inward into a dark obsidian world. It should have been howling with power. But, it was as quiet as a log. It should have sucked in the universe and throw out its remnants to feed the fabled God-devourers. But, it didn't.
Tale looked back to Runner and smiled. “Sorry. No deal. I'll be asking you to leave now…” Runner now grew furious, raised his hand and snapped his fingers. Pretty hard. There was a momentary earthquake and even before it could settle down, Runner's thugs were at Tale. They hand him on his knees, holding him up with his hands.
Runner growled fiercely and began to place heavy kicks at Tale's stomach with each word he spoke next, “That. Was. Not. A deal. It. Was.” A last kick to the face, and Tale was on the ground bleeding his guts out. “An Ultimate, you piece of junk.” Tale's nose lay crooked and broken, his jaw snapped out of place, his eyes and ears oozing blood. He looked up at Runner from his position at the ground. Runner was still furious, his nostrils flaring, while his skin steamed.
Tale grinned. The thugs fell back, as if horror had struck them. Runner stood his ground, still fuming and enraged. Tale stood up slowly, first on week knees, then on firmer ground. The grin made him look like a maniac with his bloody face. He looked at the thugs, and they fell to the ground, rubbles of dust, smelling of strong carbon and molten iron. He was up and strong now, and he seemed to have somehow gotten taller… He spoke. “Mr. Runner… My… asking you… to leave wasn't a… deal either… It, too… was… an ultimatum.” He was speaking in gasps, and seemed to have trouble breathing. But, that was not… it. His voice had changed radically. It had turned into a growl. Hard, and coarse, and terrible- a growl that reached deep inside you and pulled at your heartstrings- unpleasantly. Runner fumbled once, but stood his ground, but his face betrayed his stature.
Tale screamed out in pain and agony, a more terrible growl than before. Runner heard Tale's vocal cords snap. He heard the lungs burst, and he heard the heart explode splattering blood all over inside his chest. But, that's not what terrified him. What terrified him was what he saw. Tale had grown much much larger, now. His face was neither any longer recognizable nor passable as anything human. His teeth had turned jagged, sharp and bent at the wrong places. His nose had disappeared to be replaced by flaming nostrils. His eyes were huge, bulging and bloody. His ears had turned pointed until they became twisted horns. And his flaming red hair was now literally flaming. His whole face was covered with bumps and ridges, and textures of impossible nature. His hands clawed, and his feet were cloven. His tail bone extended to grow into a tentacle tail. Sharp bones protruded from his knee-caps and elbows, and his shoulder blades retracted to make way for wings.
Gigantic bat like wings of fire and darkness stretched out from one side of the office to the other. Where his feet were, the floor was burning. Tale's skin had boiled and melted off to be replaced by metallic scales… And the transformation was complete.
Runner looked on, his mouth a gaping hole, his eyes were dark reflecting nothing but fear. His brain was on fire, and his skin seemed to have fallen off too, leaving nothing but red muscle, flesh and veins. He had stumbled and fallen to the ground, crawling on his back towards the office door… If only he could reach it…
Tale took one step forward, and the foundation of the world shook. Runner stopped. Tale grinned. And what a horrible monstrous grin that was… Runner held his hand to his chest. He was having a heart attack. How that was possible for him, he didn't know. His pants were soiled and wet. What would be scarier? To see a demonic monster entirely out of this world, that could devour worlds? Or to see a skinless humanoid whimpering in despair?
Tale growled, what passed for speaking, “I hate… yourrr kind… You bother me… too much. You're the… lasssst, are you not?” His flaming head had melted a whole in the roof. “Then… it issss done… You… are done…” He picked up Runner who had simply stopped struggling. Fatalistic as he was, he knew when the fat lady's song ended. The dance was over, and he was finished. But, something inside him snapped. Something primitive. The instinct for survival. He fidgeted and screamed, slamming his fists against the giant red fingers. But, only in vain. The contact only burned him more.
Tale brought the man closer to his mouth, and opened wide. Runner didn't know what exactly do to do… Should he cry? Should he scream for help? His mind snapped with the inevitability of the situation. Laughter erupted from his mouth, and tears fell from his eyes. The teeth slammed down against the neck, and off it came, and his scream would echo across the universe for centuries to come. There were a few crunches, before Tale swallowed. He looked at the portal and threw the body into it. The energy cackled for a second before returning to its previous quietness.
Slowly, and gradually, Tale turned back into what passed for human, naked as the day he was born. Whenever that was. The office was a mess, blood everywhere, rubble, and dust and scorch marks. The woman from before came in with a glass of water on a tray. The blood and everything didn't go unnoticed. She placed the tray on a flat surface and said to Tale, “I'll have this place cleaned up in a jiffy, sir.”
Tale closed his eyes and materialized clothing for himself. “No need… We're shifting office.”
“Right you are, sir. I'll get everything prepared, then.”
“Good girl.” Said Tale, as he paced around the face. He stood infront of the portal. How infantile for something so terrible… He looked at the place where Runner was last standing… “Don't play poker if the other person holds all the cards…” He touched one of the runes on the gate, and the energy cackled and changed formation and color. He touched the energy, and it seemed to burst like lightning. Tale stepped through the deep blue portal, the mass of energy seemingly writhing in pain. It calmed down again, once Tale was completely through.
The desert and everything outside the office disappeared, until it was all that remained in a black space. The office too began to disappear. The woman hurried and went through the portal. She seemed to be muttering. It sounded something like, “I hate moving day…” The office disappeared with a pop and nothing remained.
IT was very late at night. I woke up with a start and suddenly felt very thirsty. So I got off the bed and walked towards our dining table. The soft moonlight coming from the big windows along with the cool breeze created a spooky atmosphere. As I reached the table and poured some water into my glass, I saw a figure with white clothes standing beside the window. The back was turned towards me so I couldn't see the face. Since my father wears white clothes at home, I thought it's him. “Baba, what are you doing here?” I said softly, but there was no reply. I repeated my question louder but to no avail. I was just about to reach out when a crunching noise made me turn around. I was shocked to see my father walking towards me!
I screamed “Baba bhoot” and hurried towards him. I explained what I saw and pointed towards the place but there was no one. My father said that I must have imagined it all and made me go back to bed. The next morning I told my mum the story and she said in a firm voice “You have an overactive imagination, ghosts don't exist!” I nodded meekly but wasn't reassured. I thought to myself, what was it that I saw? Was it real? I guess I will never know.
By Nishita Aurnab
Trick or Treat?
BACK when I was an elementary student of American Int. School, once in a year, I was forced to wear a black cape, fake fangs and apply a lot of make-up on my face. Then looking like a distant cousin of Dracula, I was dropped at school, which was gaily decorated with candles and filled with kids dressed as aliens, tramps, pirates, doctors, and I even vaguely remember one of my friend, dressed up as a cereal box! Although those days are long gone, I still cannot help feel excited when I watch kids on television on Halloween Eve.
The origins of Halloween can be traced back in the ancient times. They thought that on Halloween Eve, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them. Halloween was perceived as the night during which the division between the world of the living and the otherworld was blurred so spirits of the dead and inhabitants from the underworld were able to walk free on the earth. It was believed necessary to dress as a spirit or otherworldly creature when venturing outdoors to blend in, and this is where dressing in such a manner for Halloween comes from.
Moreover, what is Halloween without Trick or treating? It is one of the traditions of Halloween, and although it is much more popular in European and North American countries, the practice of presenting children with treats like chocolates, confectionary items and candy apples never became obsolete! The "trick" part of "trick or treat" is an idle threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given. Although nowadays no one tricks the host, people find it unethical to turn down kids at their doorsteps on Hallows Eve.
Although some Christians do not appreciate the resultant de-emphasis of the more spiritual aspects of All Hallows Eve and Reformation Day, the American culture has so finely blended with others, that one is always lured by the festive mood. Being either ghouls, spirit, vampire, werewolf, zombie or just a post-man, everyone embraces Halloween, and with it, the bond among all people, and respect for the dead.
By The Dark Lord
| Issues | The Daily Star Home|
© 2008 The Daily Star