Philip blew away the smoke in circles.He was not a regular smoker, but he felt deeply disturbed today.A gut feeling that something was very wrong.
“Was it this easy?” he wondered. “What is so glorious about success if it comes in a blink of eye!!Is this all??”
He looked at the tall buildings surrounding him,proudly holding their heads high.They were not build in a day, were they?Each brick at a time, is that not how it is supposed to be.A slow and painful process !!
Nothing in this world came into existence in a spur of a moment and nothing should have.If it has,then there is something wrong, terribly wrong.
Philip clung on to the cigarette stub as if it was his only solace.
When the stub grew too small to be puffed on, he threw it away. He watched it etching burn marks on the mahogany patio table. He did not care.
As he lighted the next cigar, he casually let his eyes graze the room that stretched behind him.Had he even seen anything as luxurious as this in his fanciest dreams? The truth was no. It was not that he did not have any vision for his future. He was indeed a dreamer, he thought his dreams were big enough. But who could have envisioned such heights of life, that too in such a short span of time ! At least not him.After seeing his father stumble through failures after failures, did he himself draw the boundaries for his dreams?He has already proved invincible at the mere age of 28.What else was left to be done? And all it took was 8 years, just eight bloody years.
If it is so easy, then why aren’t everybody doing it?Why aren’t everybody living in abodes of luxury like him? Why aren’t everybody soaring in the sky of fame?
He heard the phone ring in the other room.It would be taken care of.He had told his staff that he was not to be disturbed and they would rather kill themselves than dare to disrupt his privacy. He was not sure if they actually liked him. He was
not sure if anybody liked him at all. Was everybody around him secretly loathing him? It did not matter, actually nothing mattered to him anymore.
He watched the evening sun cast it’s orange blaze on the glass walls of the skyscrapers. It did not invoke any feelings in him.There would have been a moment in his past when anything half beautiful would have moved him to tears. But not today.He turned and walked back into his room and drew the curtains, the cigarette still burning in his hands.He sat back on the cozy arm chair by his work desk. A cheque was lying on the table, bearing an amount that his eyes failed
to comprehend. He could buy half of the city with that amount, he thought. How much more was he going to grow? For some reason the very thought sent chills down his spine.
May be he should go back to his house one more time, back to where everything started.That one bare room which cradled him and dared him to pour his thoughts out into those papers, was it missing him? Just one more night in that hot room, lying on that creaky wooden floor, listening to all those noises that came from beyond the darkness.May be that was what he wanted, may be that would make him sane again.
There was a light knock on the door which he chose to ignore.What ever it was could wait!
He did not know when he dozed off.When he woke up the room was pitch black.He lightly clapped his hands and it lit up.He pressed the buzzer, he was hungry. It just took a little over a minute for piping hot food to be ushered in to his room.
Most of the things on the food trolley, he did not recognize. He carefully looked at the options and picked up a greasy bread roll. He dug his teeth into the same, it was delicious yet far from satisfying. What he wanted was a stale bread and
a cup of black coffee!Something to remind him of who he was, what he actually deserved.
His assistant warily tried to catch his attention by clearing his throat. He knew that a list of things were going to be unveiled before him.Important meetings, calls from big shots, people waiting for his last word.He nodded without interest
while the guy proceeded to read from the list.As he chewed the last bits of his dinner, his assistant promptly told him that Mr Seaman wanted to meet him the next day. Now that was a name he could not refuse. His God father? That was how he gracefully put it in the public.
It was back in his second year of college that it all started,a year after his father’s suicide.His father was a great man, and just as it would have it the greatness came with equal share of eccentricity. He weaved magic with words, as a boy Philip had been in awe of his father. But yes, the world saw him through different eyes.A dirty lazy drunkard, that was what his father was for the rest of them. His mother had left when he was 10 to marry yet another man and even at that age Philip knew that it was with his father that he belonged.
The judge had looked quite amused when the ten year old boy had refused to go with his mother and wanted to stay with his tramp of a father. His father had been indifferent , not caring if his son had stayed or left. Of course, there were moments when he hated his father,when wanted something more than pure indifference, when he wanted to just escape his addicting influence. But then he never regretted his decision.Like his father, he too was relieved to get rid of his Mother’s presence.Not that she was vile or anything, but anything plain boring put him off even then.May be that is why he was getting miffed now. He was turning into one of those plain boring types, something that intrigued no one.
His father was a writer, though that was not what he did for a living. He was a plumber by profession.Philip was the only one who might have read what his father wrote. Though he was not an ardent reader, when he read this piece written by his father, he felt it really was something.It had that alluring power and that magnet like attraction that doesn’t let you put it down until you drink on the very last word .It was better than his father’s other works.His father had refused to approach any publisher, when Philip persisted he told him that he couldn’t stoop any lower, what ever it had meant.Philip did not give up, he told his father that this was something that has to be read by the whole world, something that was going to make his father famous. Finally his father had given in. The last that he saw of his father was when he left to meet a publisher, wearing almost decent clothing for a change.It was the first time that he had seen something other than indifference in his father’s eyes. He saw hope gleaming in there.
That day when he returned from the bar ,where he worked as the bartender after the college hours, he saw his father dangling down from the roof in the garage.All his journals lied around him, burned.May be it was the shock of rejection.His father was a man who never cared about making it big , who never cared about anything. But then,when he willed to dream, he might not have been ready to take in the bitterness of rejection.Philip felt guilty.It was his fault, wasn’t it?Wasn’t he who had pushed his father beyond his realms of comfort?
As days passed, his father became a mere memory and memory faded into a distant thought.
It was his year end assignment.A contemporary piece of fiction, that was what the snob of teacher wanted. He just wanted to give her a surprise , he knew what she thought about him.He thought wrote like what his father would have. He made it as cynical as he possibly could. He wanted to give his teacher a shock of her life time.
Shocked she was to his delight. She had not thrown his copy back to his desk as he had expected.Instead she looked at him with a fear in her eyes.May be she thought he was a psycho , the kind that carries around a gun in the back pack to shoot down the entire class. He smiled to himself.When she returned back his copy, he told her that it was all hers and she could keep it.He tried to keep a straight face when he was all guffawing from within.
A few months passed and one fine morning he woke up to a heavy knock on the door of his old tattered house.That was when he saw Mr Seaman for the first time.
“Can we talk about this?” he had asked showing him the very copy of his only work. He was a little surprised and very curious.How did this old whim of a man get hold of this thing? He let him in. “I can understand a genius when I read one” He had smiled. Philip looked baffled. That piece was no way a piece of genius.It was just an attempt to annoy his teacher, only because she had not kept it a secret that she thought he was a trash.
“You know who I am, don’t you?” Mr Seaman asked him, showing him his toothy grin.Philip picked his mind. He had seen the face somewhere.But couldn’t recall where. He look back blankly.If the old man had felt little taken aback, he had covered up quickly.”I make movies” He told Philip and after a pause added “only good ones”.
Mr Seaman wanted to make his story in to a movie, “with a few changes of course” the man added.”So you want to buy my story?” Philip asked hopefully, a few extra bucks would not be a bad idea.The man gave him another of those toothy grins and said “I would not have come all the way down here” he wrinkled his nose as he said that looking around disapprovingly “if I wanted to just buy it off. I want you to write the screen play young man”. Philip looked at him as if he had heard a very bad joke.Was this man nuts? Did he know that he haven’t even seen any thing called a ‘movie’ in years?
Mr Seaman was persistent and his offer was too tempting. He had offered a good deal of money and he reassured that he was there to mentor him.”I hand pick only geniuses” he added.Now, that was a little too flattering, especially for a someone who was being treated as dirt all his life. Even when he nodded his approval, he was skeptical. And he was even intrigued about how that particular piece of writing made it’s way all the way to Mr Seaman. “I have my ways to find what I want , young man.You just have to keep yourself open and what ever you truly desire will somehow find a means to reach you.” He did feel that the lines were a little cheesy, but he kept quiet.
He, by no means felt he did any justice to the screen play he had written.After two months of watching movie after movie and reading all the screen plays that Seaman had handed him over , he went ahead and bravely jolted down his first script.It was stretched beyond it’s ductility, a four page story was made into a 100 pages script. More over, he had written under the close watch of Mr Seaman and had to include very very cheesy kind of lines of wisdom in between to get his nod of approval. Phrases like “My power lies beyond my arm, it resides in my mind,it is unfathomable” and “Love is just a metaphor, when you tell me that you love me , all I can hear is the whine of a needy flesh” were splashed graciously in those pages and they grinned and made faces at him from time to time.He knew that it was a piece of shit and in no way was going to be accepted.
He had either underestimated his talent or over estimated Mr Seaman’s taste.His script was liked, loved and praised. It roll into a full length movie, pretty quickly.He was even forced to play a character as Mr Seaman could not ‘visualize any one else in that place’. When the movie hit the theaters, he thought it was all.The roller coaster ride was over. But then how little did he know about the industry, about the people.It was a block buster which broke all records.
How? He wondered initially.How did that happen? Mr Seaman reassured him again with the very phrase that had now become music to Philips eyes “I know a genius when I read one’.Soon projects followed. He wrote the next few in panic, in the fear of rejection and failure. But when one after the other, the screen adaptations of his words hit the jackpot, he became the most sought after man. Prestigious awards found their way in to his arms. He ruled the industry, without even knowing it. It was like a sixth sense that he had possessed, the one that made it easy for him to read the minds, that gave him the advantage of knowing what the plain ordinary people wanted.
When the initial ecstasy of success wore of, Philip felt a little wary.He stopped putting in any effort.Just wrote what he thought was absolute bull shit and still there were takers. He even went ahead to direct a screenplay of his which he believed was the crappiest.He himself produced it with big stars and all. He knew nothing about direction and he was certain that he was going to fail, lose everything.But then that’s what he had wanted.A reassurance that what he believed in existed, that the world was not a play ground of fools.But then, as fate would have it, his movie became the biggest thing. It was an instant success.It brought him more money, more fame, more glory. That was the last nail on the coffin, Philip thought as he slipped back to sleep.
Next morning he woke up to a refreshing smell of Colombian coffee.It waited by his bed side, hot,black and sugarless, just as he liked it.Near it lay his fancy tablet.Philip was not tech-savvy. He had accounts and pages in all social networking sites, which his “social -media-bright-staff” maintained. The only thing that he did was checking his email, only his personal one. He did not get many emails in that account, he had very few friends.But that was the routine, it was always done with an unexplained anticipation.Everyday he would log in and while the account loaded ,he would wait with beating heart.As if something would be waiting for him in his inbox, something relevant, something unexpected.But he knew it was not going to happen.At least he thought it was not going to happen until he saw the very message in his Inbox that precise moment.
“From the other side” said the subject.
“I know what is haunting you day and night. You don’t know how close you are to the answer. I have your answer Philip!
You can’t imagine how close I am to you.I am so close to you that I can hear your thoughts.
Now it is time for you to let me in,let me cross those barriers that isolates you.Meet you today at 11 am, at your studio in the downtown
‘A Survivor’ sounded childish! Was it some prankster or a loose headed fan? He read and re read the email. It made no sense, he told himself.He shifted his attention to the printout of his itinerary stuck to the side of his lamp post.It was packed, nothing unexpected. There was a cross country award function and his flight was at 3 pm. Moreover he had to meet Mr Seaman before that, that was not something he could skip.
While he was in shower, he tried to push off the email from his mind.But it kept coming back as a boomerang.His thoughts kept taunting him. As he changed into his suit, he knew he would finally go to meet this survivor, how much he tried to convince himself against it! But he tried to resist the urge.What he did not know was how long he was going to fight before he gave up!!
He was in the studio when it was 10. He instructed the receptionist and the security guys to not stop anyone from coming in. They looked quite confused as they nodded their head.
Who said time flies?It does not, it crawls, it dawdles. Philip sat staring at the big wall clock, as the second needle rushed past, as the minute needle graciously moved and the hours needle looked on indifferently. All the time, he puffed on and on.As the clocked ticked past, he felt a tug in the pit of his stomach.He somehow knew something was going to happen, something big.
“Sir, a lady is here to see you!” Philip woke up from his thoughts. He knew he was ready.”Let her in”
She had dark hair, an extra large awkward sunglasses hid half of her face. He guessed she was in her thirties.She was in a good shape.As his staff cleared out, she made herself comfortable on the couch.Philip looked at her nervously. Wasn’t she a little too young to be a survivor, a beginner would have been a better way to sign the email!
She removed her glasses and sat cross legged.”Philip” she looked serious, no trace of a smile.
He looked into her cold eyes and nodded.”Who are you?” He asked
“I don’t do introductions.”She paused.”But may be you should look at me a little longer and you might figure it yourself” She continued as she removed her wig and sprouted a bald head beneath.
Philip did not blink his eyes as she removed her sunglasses.She did look familiar, he couldn’t just place her face.As he continued to stare at her, she smiled for the first time.
“It doesn’t take long for the world to forget the faces”She did not look disappointed.
“I can do without them recognizing me.I had my years in limelight.Since I was -what- 16- ,I was famous.”
Philip felt a little uneasy, what was she doing, showing off?Who was she anyway?
“At nights I used to lie awake and think.Am as good as they tell me I am?Why did I not have to do anything at all to get all those applause?”
Philip did not react, he kept staring at her. Who was she?
“And there is always a pattern. Oh yes, there is. They show at your doorsteps without any warning and they offer you this tempting opportunity.And you fall for it. Then they tell you that they love all the crap you do. They make you believe that it those crappy things that makes your talent and chokes your actual talent from within.They slowly kill your inner genius.Then they watch your metamorphosis-from being exceptional to being ordinary.And they make you think they are doing you a favor.”
“What crap!!Where did you get these ideas?” Philip exclaimed.
“I got help from other side too.From another messenger. ”
There was an eerie silence.
“You still haven’t recognized me, have you?” He shook his head.She took out an old magazine from her bag and tossed it to him.He stared at the front cover, it was Julia Jones.
He blinked unconvincingly. She was that famous actress who went missing five years back.People had different stories about her, some said she killed herself in some lonely islands, some said she had a psychological break down,some said she had some underworld connections.
“I hid myself Philip, for five long years.I held myself back, I protected myself till people stopped caring.Now that is the point, run, hide, make yourself invisible,until they find a new victim to prey on. Escape.”
Philip gazed into her hazel blue eyes.She got up and walked towards him.She bend towards him and whispered in his ear.”Run Philip.Hide before they can do more damage. Hide before you end up like them, ordinary”She put her wig back and pushed back her sunglasses on.
“Where would I be going?How long?” His voice quivered
“For eternity…..be gone for eternity” she mouthed as she disappeared beyond the door.
He sat there , unsure, shaken.For now time did fly.Minutes and hours galloped past him.He had dismissed his staff for the day.They had reluctantly leaved. His assistant kept calling him until he switched off his phone and unplugged the land line.The functions and meetings carried on without him that day.
Philip sat in his cabin while drafting the email.It was addressed to James Collins, the new political charismatic. Ten years hence it was finally his turn to warn.This time he was the survivor, he was the messenger from the other side.