Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Month: January 2010

Einstein’s Twin (Short story)

I’m looking at the swirl of the cream in the coffee. I’m in a deep trance like some shaman trying to study the omens in the entrails of a slain animal. Perhaps if I looked hard enough I could see the future. But at this point in time, it’s the past that is eluding me.

I look outside through the glass doors of the café. I see the face of the smiling yuppie nursing a single malt scotch on a billboard and I feel some solace. Maybe I’m not that far away from the world outside. The curvaceous blonde peddling lingerie on the billboard by the side reassures me even more. Then I look at the teeming mass of humanity and I’m lost again.

A stranger!

That is what I am now, a stranger in a land, which was once home, in a city, which I used to know inside out, in a time which by all means should already be the past. It is as if I went outside the bubble and time stopped inside. For me ages have passed, but inside time has stood still.

I left this place behind for things it could not give me, faster cars, sleeker cell phones and a better currency conversion rate. I never looked back in all those years. I tried my best to forget my life here and I had expected the same courtesy from this place.

Yet here I am. Sitting in a coffee shop that I think I have been to before. Everything has changed. Everything is still the same.

A part of me screams inside to run away. Go back to where things still make sense, where at least I’m still sane. I think I hear another voice. A child is whispering names, of places, of people. It is too much for my brain. It reacts the only way it can. I hear that terrible screeching sound of a vinyl record pressed to hard against the turntable and I develop temporary amnesia again.

The child sighs, but doesn’t give up.

The whispers begin again…the child is asking me to open my eyes.

I open my eyes and look at the woman sitting across me. I’m searching for her name. I think I know her. The child tells me he does. The man is back shouting in my ears to get up and walk away. He’s afraid, very afraid. I think we’ve been here before.

I look at her. The child comes forward and so do some of the memories.

I think I used to love this woman.

The child says I still do.

The man points out I have a family outside of this bubble.

I try to shut them both.

Suddenly there is silence in my mind. They are gone, at least for the moment.

I try to make small talk. I opt for the safest opening.

“So how have you been?” I hear myself say.

“Good, thanks for asking. How about you?” she responds.

“Oh! Can’t complain! Business is good. We are expanding our operations here. A few more years and this place’s going to be gold.”

“Uh-huh.”

I think she is not here for the discourse on business opportunities in third world countries.

“I saw your picture in that magazine the other day.” She says,” You looked good!”

And then there is that silence between us again. She is sipping her coffee and I am trying to stop the swirls of the creamer in the coffee with my mind.

I can’t take it anymore. I beg for the child to come back and he whispers in my ears. I repeat like a zombie.

“I missed you.”

She looks up at me. There it is in her eyes, a glimmer of hope and then she starts laughing. It is a forced laughter. The one I am all too familiar with. It is the kind of laughter that pretends that the other person just said something he or she did not mean at all. Denial is one of our best natural defenses.

I repeat my words.

“C’mon, S____, after all these years? After all that has happened?” Her voice is getting sterner.

I am silent. I think I have a vague idea what she is talking about. I can sense that she is upset.

I look at the swirls in the coffee cup again. Suddenly the world around me shrinks and time rewinds.
It is the same coffee shop but years ago. I see myself with the same woman. She is crying and I am not even trying to console her. I see myself get up and walk away. I am at the door, fighting the urge to look back. I can almost hear myself thinking. The words are blurred but I think I am beginning to remember.
I snap back to the present.

She is still upset, but she isn’t as angry as I would have liked her to be. The child is now full of hope. He makes my hand go up to hers and I see myself patting her hands. She doesn’t try to remove the hand.
She looks up at me, her eyes a sea of conflict.

“I’m married now. I have three kids.”

Her voice is pleading, but not with me.

I still haven’t removed my hand.

We sit there, a tableau fixed in time.

An eternity passes.

The child is overjoyed and I hear nothing else.

“Come away with me.” I hear him speak.

The trance ends.

She snaps her hand back and mutters something about this having been a big mistake. She picks up her purse and storms out of the café. I let her go. The child is sad and silent and I think the man is back as I hear his “I told you so” snicker.

I sit there for some time.

I get up and pay for the coffee. I feel the memories flooding back and this time I do not resist. I walk outside and look at the place I once called home. I feel the barbs in my heart with each flash.

I see us on the park bench. Chatting away, full of dreams of being together till time ends.

I see us walking, hand in hand.

I don’t try to fight back. The man is in utter pain and I think so is the child.

It all builds up to a cacophony of pain and suddenly I almost remember her name. I hear the sound of scratching records again and I fade to black.

#

I’m at the airport now, the edge of the bubble. I am handing my boarding pass to the smiling lady and am walking down the tunnel that shall lead my way to freedom.

Soon I’ll be home, back in the place I know.

I don’t know why I came back. I don’t remember why I was sad.

I hear humming in my mind. It is a man, happy to be in control again.

Suddenly I hear a faint sound and I look back.

Somewhere out there a child is sobbing.

And I think so am I.

THE END

This is a short story that was first published in Chick Flix eZine in 2006.

Turbulence – a short story

this is adapted from a chapter from a novella I wrote a long time ago called “The Temple”

I had caught a connecting flight from Heathrow to New Delhi. The hardly audible voice over the telephone had given me the one piece of news that could possibly get me on a plane, or even think of going to India.

My father was dead. I was flying to perform his last rites.

I was never much of the jet-setting traveler type. I get airsick a lot. I can’t sleep on the planes and get twinges of claustrophobia encased in these steel sarcophagi. Air travel for me is hours of sitting in cramped coach seats, trying to wriggle my toes and fidgeting in the seat to pass the time.

This time it was different. I know not why but I managed to fall asleep. Maybe it was the fact that it was all finally sinking in, the fact that both my parents were now dead. I guess it was kind of a defense mechanism that brought on the soothing anesthetic blanket of sleep over my troubled mind.

I had the usual air travel woes when my journey began from Boston Logan. We faced some turbulence over the Atlantic. The plane was buffeting violently and I could see the wingtips dip and pitch from my seat near the window.

Sudden realization dawned on me as to how short life could be. What if I were to die right here right now? What if the plane crashed into the icy waters of the ocean below me?

At least it would be quick and painless for me, but what about those that I leave behind?

I thought of my wife and daughter. Had I been a good father to my daughter? What about Maya, my wife? The last memory she will have of us is the pointless quarrel we had the night before.

If I died right now, I would not even have said a proper goodbye to them both. Would they remember me after I am gone?

What would be the sum total of my life, my legacy or the fact that I have none? I have lived a normal uneventful life, a face in the crowd, nothing out of the ordinary. I own a beige sedan and a 1600 sq ft. Colonial in a distant suburb of Boston. Maybe that is worth something in the long run, the fact that I did not screw up royally?

But should not one aspire for more from life? What it is that lives on forever, long after one is gone from the face of the earth?

#

The turbulence outside had ceased, but I seemed not to notice. The storm still raged in my mind. It raced with questions I had not even given the slightest pause for ponder in a very long time.

Maybe it was mental fatigue, but I had not noticed when I had fallen asleep.

I dreamt of my mother. I had not thought of her for so many years now. She was the bridge between us, as my father and I drifted apart. She remained the common link between us, a surrogate for the bond that should have been in place between father and son.

What a strain it must have been for her, playing the silent peacemaker as the two men in her life bickered and fought at every available opportunity.

I would have liked her to have met Aikya. She had never met Maya. I met Maya after I’d moved to the United States. God! How nice it would have been if my mother could have seen what I made of my life!

Would she have approved?

In my dreams she seemed to, just as she had always done when she was alive.

She had been my anchor as an adolescent as I drifted hither and thither, trying to do one thing after the other, while my father disapproved. She stood by me silently. The best thing she always did was to do nothing.

She let me be, but my father was a different story.

He seemed to have charted the course of my life, ever since I had been born. I resented that. As soon as I was able, I rebelled against his every whim. When he wanted me to study liberal arts, I studied science. Just because he wanted me to focus on a career as an academic, a tenured professor Maybe, I chose to be a programmer.

When we quarreled, his precepts and quotes would be grounded in history and philosophy, while I waxed eloquent over parallels drawn from mathematics and quantum physics.

It was almost as if we preferred not even to speak the same language.

It must have troubled my mother a lot, but she did not say a word. I guess what I mistook for cowardice back then was in fact a quiet strength and wisdom that I completely engrossed in my rebellious teenaged self could not even begin to fathom. She did not take sides because she could not.

I think it was the strain that finally took her. I felt guilt rushing in swamping my thoughts like a cold inky black flood. I was as guilty as my father.

We both had killed her.

I knew it in that moment and I guess my father had known it then, on that fateful night, the night of her funeral. I think it was subconscious knowledge of this guilt that drove us both to the last altercation we ever had.

Even from beyond the grave, she had offered us a chance to reconcile that night and we in our raging macho posturing had blown it away.

My grief and sorrow were fresh again. I believe they had never left. I had just hid them somewhere deep inside me.

I woke up and found that I had been weeping.

I brushed my tears away. Perhaps fate had given me another chance. Maybe by honoring my father’s last wish would be my way of apologizing to both of them. I needed it. He needed it.

Maybe the scattering of his ashes would not erase fully all the painful memories of our relationship; but who knows?

Death is a great leveler, all bets are off.

I put my head back and pressed it hard against the headrest of my seat.

#

I looked out of the window. The turbulence was over. All I could see was the blue waters of the ocean and an even bluer sky.

The captain announced that we had caught a tailwind and would arrive half an hour earlier than our scheduled arrival at Heathrow. I am not a superstitious man, but in that moment I almost believed that it was an omen.

The storm had passed. I was going home.

THE END

Business As Usual

This is a short story I wrote a long time ago. Found it in my backups.

BUSINESS AS USUAL
By Saurav Mohapatra


Category: System Log Entry
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: SYSTEM INITIATION SUCCESSFUL

The system initiation procedure was successful. The energy infusion went smoothly and the containment frequencies functioned within limits. The resonant sonic harmonics stimulated the spontaneous condensation of the vibrant energy field correctly. The singularity responded as predicted and the proto-universe coalesced.

Maintaining observation mode.

–Brahma
Creator-in-chief, Trinity Labs

———————

Category : Personal Communiqué
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: Shiva@trinity.gov
Attachments: om.mp3

Downloaded a sample of the resonant sonic harmonic and looped it. Attached please find the results. Just thought you might like it since you are into dance and music.

B.

———————–

Category: System Log Entry
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: CONGRATULATIONS! IT’S ALIVE !!

Scans of sector ZZ-Alpha, Planet Prithvi indicate that the primordial soup responded well to the electrical stimulus provided by its atmosphere, protein initiation was successful.

Sampling has detected basic building blocks necessary for development of carbon based sentient life forms.

Under current conditions, test system should be ready to self-sustain itself soon.

———————

Category: Personal Communiqué
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: Shiva@trinity.gov

Subject: I WIN, AGAIN !

Hey.

Looks like I win again. I told you life was going to be Carbon based. Only thing Nitrogen is good for is making laughing gas, as you so very well know ! ;-)

You now owe me 100 bucks for this and the “betamax is going to rule the world!!!” bet.

Regards,
V.

PS: BTW, did you order the keg for the next party? If you plan on freaking out like the last one I strongly suggest you order two, one just for you and one for the rest of us.

———————

System Log Entry
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov
Attn: Vishnu@trinity.gov

Subject: Entering Maintenance mode.

System entered self-sustenance mode. All indications are promising, handing system over to maintenance daemons.

Vishnu, can you make sure that the initial transition is smoother than the last one! I am particularly worried about the leakage of the flammable coolant tubes on the last one! Boy was that a big bang or what??

—————————

System Log Entry
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: Meeting Request : Cataclysm Alert

Project has evolved into a stable multiphase system with a uniform division among aquatic systems and landmasses. However I am concerned over some instabilities under the ocean bed which might lead to flooding of the landmasses and eventual loss of many forms of land based life.

This event (whose probability has just been confirmed by simulations) shall create an undue shift in evolutionary pressure towards aquatic life forms.

Request a meeting of all of us to vote on whether intervention is required.

V.

—————————–

System Log Entry
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: Cataclysm Averted. Avatar Algorithm works

As per our collective decision last Friday, I rewrote the maintenance daemon algorithm to allow external insertions. However due to the narrow bandwidth available, I have managed to key it only to my sub ethereal frequencies. The Avatar Algorithm allows my consciousness to manifest itself inside the system while allowing for a portion of my external consciousness to be downloaded to that particular manifestation. I have named the algorithm as the “avatar system”. I have tried to design the system so that the inhabitants are mostly unaware of us except at a primitive level. However the long term effects of my insertion can only be seen with the passage of time. Also the process is very resource intensive and I propose we use it sparingly only to avert cataclysm class events.

As per the poll, I managed to interface with the system and manifest myself as a higher aquatic life form. I managed to convey the urgency of the situation to one of the leaders of the dominant land based organisms which have been classified as “maanavs” since the first of their kind was fondly referred to as “M.A.N.U.” by Brahma@trinity.org.

The maanavs managed to avert significant loss to the land based ecosystem by evacuating to a higher area along with as much samples of existing life as possible. The loss was acceptable and I believe the system can continue on its own from here on.

V.

————————————————-

Corporate M.O.U.

Signed by: Trinity Labs and Yahweh Inc.

We the undersigned to do hereby agree to share space in the project Brahmand construct. Yahweh inc shall be provided with space and initial sentience seeding in the Mesopotamian Sector of Planet Prithvi.

sd:

for Trinity Labs.

Indra,
Managing Director

for Yahweh! Inc

Yahweh,
CEO, President, Chairman of the Board and Sole Proprietor

———————–

Confidential Complaint
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: hr@trinity.gov
CC: admin@trinity.gov

Subject: Attitude issues exhibited my co-workers

Attachments : Yahweh-Moses-Burning-Bush.avi
DNA-Sampling-Report-Jesus-Of-Nazareth.doc
Combined Expense Reports For Eight Avataric Manifestations.xls

Dear Madam,

As you are aware project Brahmand has started exhibiting signs of increasing instability and has been demanding more and more resources. I believe this is in part due to the cavalier attitude exhibited by my coworkers. Since the system has entered maintenance mode, their active roles are limited.

However as referenced by my earlier memos and log entries, the Avatar algorithm designed by me has been called in to play at least nine times in the recent past. As the self awareness of the inhabitants of the construct grows, they are slowly becoming aware of us (the trinity) albeit in a limited sense. My avataric manifestations have become sort of the lynchpin of their religion.

Also the Yahweh Inc deal which turned out to be such a cash cow for our company is in my opinion sort of undermining the harmony of the system. Three major religions have sprung up and are growing fast with Yahweh as the central deity and he is relishing it. He has been using the experimental Audio Visual interface to manipulate the simple minded folk in his sector. More alarmingly I think Yahweh has developed the technology to inject his DNA into unsuspecting female inhabitants, please see the attached DNA Sampling report on a certain Jesus of Nazareth who I am pretty certain is Yahweh’s child.

I am not sure of Yahweh’s ultimate agenda, but I think it might end up introducing irreversible incompatibilities among the system inhabitants.

My Trinity Labs coworkers are not above a bit of tinkering either. They have been constantly using the A/V interface to grant so called “boons” to people who chant their name. Even though they have not yet violated the prime directive as in granting immortality to inhabitants, I have had to use the Avatar Algorithm seven more times in the recent past to control the damage done by their youthful pranks. That makes it eight avataric manifestations in three systemic epochs.

I have left psychosocial controls in place to avoid any further requirement of avataric manifestations. Even Yahweh has agreed to insert similar controls.

We have spun a doomsday story that indicates any further interference by the “Gods” or “god” (in Yahweh’s case) shall be the last and it shall bring about the End of Days.

Regards

Vishnu
Chief Operating Officer, Trinity Labs

———————-

Category : Termination Notice
From: finance@trinity.gov
To: vishnu@trinity.gov, Brahma@trinity.gov, Shiva@trinity.gov
CC: yahweh@yahweh.com

Subject: PROJECT BRAHMAND BUDGET WITHDRAWN

Dear Sir(s),

The corporate financial audit found that the return on investment on the above mentioned project was very low and except for the franchise deal with Yahweh Inc, there has been no financial gain from the project.

It is thus been decided by the board to terminate the project immediately. You are hereby authorized to launch Termination Sequence : TAN – DAV to release the resources tied up in the construct.
This notice also serves as communication of intent to terminate as per clause 42(v) of our M.O.U. with Yahweh Inc. They are requested to launch their preparatory programs of System Termination.

Regards

Kuber, CPA
Finance Department
Trinity Labs

—————–

Personal Log Entry
By: Shiva@trinity.gov
To:
Subject: Everything Ends, Everything Begins…

I was asked to launch the TAN-DAV Algorithm on the system today. Even though I take great pride in the algorithms workings and must say enjoy the sheer beauty of it, it is with a heavy heart that I write this.

TAN-DAV is designed to take apart bit by bit the resonant harmonic matter constraints that keep the mini-universe in place. As the algorithm traverses across the system, it shall release the energy equivalence of the universe construct and store it in a zero point module for future use.

I feel sad as we all put a lot of effort into this project, especially Vishnu. It is going to be real hard on him. Have not seen him since last evening when we got the memo about system termination. Brahma is glassy eyed too since that time.

Well that leaves me. I am a professional this is what I do. My only consolation is some day we might get approval for another project and we shall reuse this energy to build another universe.

Till then, life goes on.

———–

System Log Entry
From: Tandav-Daemon@trinity.gov
CC: all@trinity.gov

Subject: Termination Sequence finished

System Termination finished. Energy has been store in zero point module 9512102.

——————-

Personal Communiqué
From: Yahweh@yahweh.com
To: Vishnu@trinity.gov, Brahma@trinity.gov, Shiva@trinity.gov
Subject: FYI: Good News.

Hi All,

I have managed to gather funding from a couple of venture capitalists I know. They are eager to invest in Project Brahmand. The VC firm of Al-Zahila is backed by the Saudi Royal family, so we know their money is good. We can reinitiate the project as soon as I get the details sorted out. Just thought you guys should know first.

Regards

Yahweh

P.S. : I thought of a great system initiation banner. It goes, “Let there be light”

THE END

A Heaven for Trishanku

The website for my new graphic novel project “A Heaven for Trishanku” (drawn by R. Manikandan) is live at AHeavenForTrishanku.com. Mani and I did Sadhu volume 2 : The Silent Ones together and it is a real kicker to be working with him again.

As a story AHFT is very different from anything I’ve done so far. It’s the story of Anwesh Bannerjee, a student activist in the ’70s who along with his “comrades” tried to blow up a bridge to protest against the “Bourgeoisie”-controlled government and ended up accidentally killing an Indian Railways worker who was on duty. Haunted by this guilt, Anwesh surrendered and the court sentenced him to Life imprisonment. Now after more than four decades he is set free and sets about finding the last surviving kin of his victim to apologize.

The story is set against the backdrop of Modern India well on its way to becoming America Light and is represented in the story by Anwesh’s nephew Manu, a 16 year old living in an ideological void populated only by the materialistic swarm of cell phones and iPod’s.

This is the story of Anwesh’s quest for redemption. This is the story of Manu’s unwitting search for an ideological anchor. This too is the story of an unusual friendship between a sixty year old and a sixteen year old, both adrift in the churning ocean that is India today, itself searching for an identity.

About A Heaven for Trishanku

A Heaven for Trishanku (AHFT) is written by Saurav Mohapatra (DEVI, SADHU, MUMBAI MACGUFFIN, INDIA AUTHENTIC, JIMMY ZHINGCHAK, PHANTOM CHRONICLES) and drawn by R. Manikandan (SADHU, KSHATRIYA : BLADE FO THE WARRIOR).