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The Strange Story of Mr. Briggs - Chapter 3

by Geetashree Chatterjee
(New Delhi, India)


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Chapter 3



(vi)

Snow has a running stomach. He nudges me up at odd hours in the middle of the night to take him out.

It was 2 o’clock when Snow woke me up. Poor chap looked supremely uneasy. I grabbed a light shawl. There was a bit of a chill in the air and I did not want to catch a cold. As we walked down the lane by the side of the big MCD Park our footsteps echoed on the asphalt. An ancient peepal tree extends its branches out on the lane over the park wall, shrouded with thick foliage. Just under the tree, on the wall, sat a pair of smouldering grey eyes! I almost dropped Snow’s lead. It was the yellow cat mostly invisible in the dark but for his devilish stare.

Snow was up on his hind legs ready to pounce on him. The cat did not show any haste. I pulled Snow back with all my might. As I did so, I backed a bit, stumbled on a piece of stone, big and square, lying idle by the side and flopped down on its cold bed loosing a step. The grip over Snow’s chain slackened.

Snow was waiting for this. He lunged forward targeting the fat little monster which calmly stood up yawned and jumped onto the branch of the tree. Snow was furious, more so, because he missed a pretty chance of pawing his feline foe by a few slim seconds. The cat seemed undaunted and stood straight on the branch looking at Snow with undisguised merriment. And then he did something very odd. He lifted his right paw to his lips, a perfect set of milky white teeth flashed out gleaming against the backdrop of the dimly lit nightscape, his head bobbed up and down while his well fed body shook with unrestrained mirth. A spate of sarcastic, savage laughter followed! I was mesmerized and could not take my eyes off him
for a few seconds.

A cat guffawing in the middle of the night!

Was I hallucinating?

I caught hold of Snow’s lead and we ran – I, chased by fear and Snow because of diarrhoea.

***

Late into the night, I lie restless on the bed. Sleep eludes me. A perfect set of milky white teeth, manifesting vilest of humour in all its satanic splendour, haunts me. Does it remind me of something or someone? The cacophonous laugh resonates in eerie jest around the pitch black room. Round and round it goes………round and round! I think I am going crazy. Obsessed is the word. Did I really see a cat laughing? Did I actually hear him? I can’t make up my mind. It was so real. Naah, it must be the anti-allergens I have been taking for the itchy skin rashes, I conclude ………..

As the first streak of dawn slips in through the thin slits of the tightly shut windows, the nightmare of the previous hours seems to slowly back off to a faraway zone of the mind till it becomes a nebulous dot in the distant periphery, something beyond doubt and recognition. Something which did happen but at the same time did not……………Something on which I want to put my finger tip and feel its presence but which slips away, far, far away, as I try to do so.

I vacillate between sleep and wakefulness.

I am there but I was not……………..

I was there but I am very much present in this room…………..

Queries question and answers scrape past my rationale.

The laughing cat…………………the running feet……………..the soft pillows and the warm, downy mattress with a sheet pulled up to evade the first weak light of the day….all jumble up in a garbled mass of haze and indecision, an abstraction of existence and non-existence, a maze of suspicion and belief, a tug between reality and delusion………..endlessly bewildering, bewitching and beckoning me till I surrender to my subconscious.

End of Chapter 3


To be continued.....

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