Sunday, 26 April 2015

The dark tower

© Jairus Reflections

The moment you step into it, the outside world fades away. You lose control of your emotions. Huge waves of euphoria will come crashing over you. You lose all sense of time, urgency and longing (of reality). And direction, of course. But don’t worry, you will somehow, somehow stumble your way out eventually. And when you do, a horror will befall upon you. You would have come to your senses – you would finally see the reality. The (grave) mistakes that you’ve made. The time that you’ve squandered. The people that you’ve left behind (and hurt in the process). And despite knowing all of that, you will somehow, somehow always be enticed to return whenever you gaze upon it. That is the mystery of the dark tower.

I am a 32-year-old businessman, happily married to a beautiful woman, with 2 wonderful little princesses. Life is all I have right now. I don’t have the money – no one around here does (ever since the crisis) – but it’s all right. I have my family. I have my soul, unlike the tower slaves. We call them slaves because they seem to hate that place. Yet, as though against their will, they keep going back again and again. And each time they come out of it, they become a little more like a zombie. Lifeless. Soulless. At least, that was what I heard from my guardians (the people who brought me up). “Never step into the tower, even if you have nothing left in life. At least you have life itself.” They would always warn us; and then, I would always warn my daughters.

I would always warn my daughters… What I forgot to do that fine day was to remind myself. I was walking home from work as usual when a tower slave approached me from a distance. (It was easy to tell – they dragged their feet as though their muscles were wasted and hunched their backs as though they could barely carry their weight.) I was prepared to turn my back. “Flee. If any of them ever approach you, flee immediately. They hate the state that they’re in and they’re willing to do what it takes to Drag. You. To. Hell.” It was instilled into me. It was my natural reflex to flee whenever I saw a tower slave within a distance. Yet, somehow, before my brain could transmit the signal to my body, I was drawn to the flames in his eyes - the insatiable thirst and hunger that seemed to be consuming his entire being. Out of curiosity, I took a closer glance. I had never been this close to a tower slave. Curiosity killed the cat. Curiosity killed me.

Forgetting the countless of warnings, I was dexterously indoctrinated into experiencing the dark tower for myself. (If I were put into the same situation again, I would probably still have been persuaded. It was staggeringly alluring – anyone in that position would probably have also become a victim.) It was impossible to say no to the promises of unimpaired satisfaction, majestic grandeur, and uncontainable enrapture.

Promises were kept; expectations were met, and way surpassed. The exterior of the building resembled a decrepit tomb, with rotting corpse and dead bugs residing in it. The interior was antipodean. It was as though I had stepped into a palace that was intricately fashioned to my liking (although I had never actually considered how my ideal residence would look like). Ladies dressed in flamboyant skimpy night gowns flocked towards me, flanking me from all directions. I was reminded of a time when I was young, suave and desired (a time that I later realised never truly existed). They led me to the lower chambers and there was the answer to my insoluble poverty – rows and rows of poker tables surrounded by zealous men in tuxedos; none of which resembled the tower slaves. Then, I looked at my reflection in the glass door to my left and realised that I, too, was magically suited up in a maroon tuxedo with a black bow tie. I was led to the table at the end of the room and was taught the rules of the game. As I moved on from one round to another, I could hardly contain the exhilaration of my wealth accumulation in such a short span of time. Yet, it puzzled me that everyone seemed equally as thrilled – even the losers.

I was reluctant to leave the poker table but the fair lady at the corner of the room had successfully beguiled me with her flirtatious winks and frivolous grins. (I had already accumulated my fair share of loot anyway.) She took me by the hand and guided me into a luxurious suite, which had the optimal amount of light and fragrance, and a bewitching sensual lullaby to tingle my sensory devices. It was the best night I have ever had.

I stumbled into a few more rooms when the first hint of sunlight started to appear. It was dawn. I felt a faint tug at the back of my head followed by an instantaneous flashback to the moment that I had stepped into the building. My head started to throb and immediately, I knew that I had to find the exit (which was the entrance that I entered) before the flashback faded away. I ran down the stairs in double time, crashing into stewards dressed in ostentatious suits. “How do I get out?!” I yelled. All they did was to reciprocate with condescending smirks on their faces, as though they knew something that I didn’t. My arm ached to slap the grin off their faces, but I didn’t have anytime to waste.

I slipped and fell, slipped and fell. I was overwhelmed with fatigue and the flashback had already become a distant memory.

I relented. A lanky stewardess in a French Fuchsia short puffy dress waved for me to re-enter the main building area. I was back in one of the rooms that I had stumbled into intially. The room was lined up with tables and tables of men and women holding their shisha pipes. It was beautiful and it reminded me of hot air balloons and rainbows. I headed over to the counter to grab a mouthpiece and a mint flavour soex herbal tobacco, and strategically placed myself at an isolated corner to waste my day away.

When I had my fill, I got up to search for something new. I explored every nook and cranny of the building and realised that there was nothing left to excite me. I was prepared to return to the chamber with the poker tables – why not earn some extra cash while I was there? “Excuse me, how do I get to the lower chambers?” A midget stewardess with a pixie haircut directed me with animated hand gestures. Following her instructions, I walked along the periphery of the main area before entering the stairway that would (supposedly) take me to the lower chambers. I kept climbing and climbing down the stairs but the lower chambers never came. Ten flights of stairs down and I was where I started – the entrance (which is now the exit) that I had been looking for previously.

Stepping out of that door for the first time was the most dreadful feeling that I have ever had. The door was ravishing from the inside – it sparkled with rare gems, sophisticatedly intertwined with gold and silver plating. But it was horrible from the outside. Looking at it from the outside for the second time (after knowing what lies on the inside) made me fall on my knees and cry in anguish.

No, no. It wasn’t the (ugly, horribly ugly) door. It was reality. Reality had hit me. I wasn’t suited up in an extravagant piece of tuxedo. I was in my usual rags – but that wasn’t the problem. I slipped my fingers into the inner pocket of my seaweed green jacket – the compartment where I always store the little amount of cash that I earn for the day. The cash that is just enough to feed my family. (We had no savings and we lived by the day.) It was all gone. My pocket was empty. The money that I had won at the poker table was… gone. No wonder everyone seemed happy (even if they were losing). Everyone thought they were winning when in fact no one did!

The buzz of my phone snapped me out of my reverie. “Wife”, it read. 89 missed calls?! It suddenly hit me that I had spent the night away from home. Night. NIGHT. “It was the best night I have ever had.” Of course it was. It was the only night that I had in my memory. I had completely forgotten about my wife, about the bliss of simply holding her to sleep at night. What had I done…?

I picked up the call with my trembling hands, bracing myself for the thing that I dreaded the most (hundredfold, no, a thousandfold), the thing that I had always done by best to prevent – her sobs. I looked down to the puddle of water that had yet to dry up from the downpour the previous night. I saw a zombie staring right back at me. He glared at me with such intense hatred, and pity. It was as though he was begging me to pull him out of the water. But I couldn’t. He had already become a slave - a tower slave.

Since then, I pray and I pray never to stumble upon the tower ever again. In fact, I make intentional detours to avoid having it within sight. Yet, somehow, somehow, I always find myself treading towards it (against my will), towards its consummate cruelty. 

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