Monday, January 22, 2018
STORY TELLING

A SECOND CHANCE

He tried taking in long breaths, forcing his lungs to work hard, but to no avail. In that place, hope was in short supply, but in his case, there was none.

Part 1 of 2

The two men sat in separate cells, leaning against the hard walls, their hands and legs chained; both suffering from excruciating pain with their scars from the lashes. They sat in silence unaware of the fact that on the other side of the wall sat another prisoner living the same miserable, meaningless life.

Javed let out a sigh and coughed a dry cough. He tried taking in long breaths, forcing his lungs to work hard, but to no avail. In that place, hope was in short supply, but in his case, there was none.

He sensed his end creeping closer with every breath. He was about to be executed in a few hours. He tried to think of all the happy times in his life, of all the times when everything had been alright. When he wasn’t almost brought to the very brink of insanity. When people who loved him were around.

On the other side of the wall sat Lewis, a man who suffered the same fate. He tried his last chance at yanking his hands out of the shackles and let out an exasperated sigh. He had managed to break out every single time he had been captured, but his luck had finally run out, and here he sat in the last few hours of his life, finally digesting the fact that he was going to die after all. But, the feeling wasn’t new for him.

“Well, there are worse ways to go,” he said to himself. The prisoners had never known each other, had never known that they were leading the same pain filled lives. It was in the last few hours of their lives that they finally decided to acknowledge each other. The prison guard shoved in plates filled with food. Well, that’s what they called it, at least. “Your last meal,” he said in a nonchalant tone.

Both the ill-fated prisoners had longed for food – good, fresh food since their incarceration in prison. They never got it, but hunger can make a man eat almost anything. Their hunger died almost immediately as the feeling of death took over their minds. Dark thoughts filled them. They were scared. They tried to fight the feeling, but there was no avoiding them. The end was inevitable.

Javed coughed again and sniffled, a sob emerged from his throat.
“Oh please spare me from those,” Lewis said in an annoyed tone.
“Are you talking to me?” Javed asked quite surprised.

“Oh, no. The walls, they are quite entertaining and contribute to a great conversation.” Lewis replied with quite an edge to his voice. The ticking time was getting on his nerves. “Oh,” Javed said in a shaky voice. He sounded like he was about to cry. But he held back the tears, and remembered his family and friends, much to his comfort. He took in a deep breath, and said, “Tell me,
Mr…?”
“Lewis.”

“Yes. Tell me something, Mr. Lewis. Do you fear death?” “Appropriate timing for the question, let me tell you,” he said, as he let out a chuckle. But, this was nothing funny for Javed. The sense of humour he used to have was long gone. He still let out a forced chuckle, for the sake of it.

“But you haven’t answered, sir. Do you fear death?” “Oh, stop being so formal, I sure as hell don’t deserve that respect. And as for the “do I fear death”, I don’t know, I haven’t thought of it. I do wish I could escape from the hands of death as I had a few other times. What about you eh? Gotten lucky before?” “I don’t comprehend you sir,” Javed replied.

“Huh?” Lewis sounded amused. “First timer, eh? That must suck, not being able to pull off an act. What was the crime though? Mass murder?”

“Mass murder!!?? Oh dear Lord. NO!”
“Then what is it? What has led you here? Surely you must not be a saint to end up here.”
“Oh I am no saint. I have done terrible things,” he said shaking his head and choking on his voice. “Terrible things.”
“Now now…How can I comfort you when my own death awaits me?” Lewis said sarcastically. “Do you believe in second chances, Lewis?”
“Second chances? No! I believe in luck not second chances. Why? Do you feel you need another chance to redeem yourself?”
“Please,” Lewis laughed and said, “This certainly is not the time.”
“Don’t you have a family? Someone who’ll mourn when you’re gone? Don’t you feel you need to get back to them?”
“Let me tell you a story, young man. A story where you’ll pity the character but you shouldn’t because he doesn’t deserve it.” Lewis said.

Once there lived a young boy far away from the city, far away from this artificial and cruel world. His family lived in the woods. He was a happy young boy, innocent and sweet in his own way. He had doting parents, a younger sister to look out for, and a lamb which was his pet and which he adored. One day the young boy was walking down the hill when he saw wisps of smoke rising from his town. He walked closer and heard screams after screams. The boy was only seven and he looked around helplessly trying to understand the situation. He ran to where once was a beautiful village, now all that remained were ashes, rocks and screams of helpless children and woman. His young eyes searched in the destruction for his parents, his younger sister, and his lamb. But none was found. A mob of fanatics was the reason behind this. They were avenging the death of one of their leaders.

The young boy, fell down, tears rolled down his face. He couldn’t understand how and why his home was now a shattered pile of bricks. He couldn’t understand why his mom hadn’t come, picked him up and soothed him saying “It was just a bad dream son.”

Ten years later the same young boy was found in the busy streets of the city picking pockets, smuggling drugs, dealing with leaders of different gangs. He had become very popular amongst the gangs. Everyone wanted him to do their dirty jobs and he did it without a question. Three years later you could find his name in every “WANTED LIST”. The sweet young boy who once walked around with his lamb now walked around with a gun, killing people ruthlessly without any qualms or any sort of remorse. Everyone hated him now but he didn’t care. He tried thinking back to his old fine days but all that he could remember were faded memories. He killed a whole family once when they refused to give him what he wanted. He had become a monster.

Lewis sighed deeply, his eyes were filled with tears and he tried wiping them but was restrained by the chains.

Part 2 of 2

The silence between them was uncomfortable. Javed was searching for the right words, he then carefully said,
“That young boy, that man. It was you, wasn’t it?”
“Smart guess.” Lewis replied in a blank voice, his voice showed no feeling, no emotions. Other than a tad bit of sarcasm, maybe.
“I’m sorry for what you had to go through,” Javed said, empathically.

“Ah! You are sorry, are you? Pity is the last thing I need, considering what I’ve done.” “I am sorry for how the circumstances shaped you. I won’t say you haven’t done anything wrong but you must realize that it wasn’t entirely your fault. If you would have had your life, which you were torn away from, I’m sure you’d have turned out to be quite a young, fine man.”

For the first time since the horrifying incident, Lewis felt the power of words. After a long time, he wanted to let down his guards and shout and mourn for the life he might have had, for the family he would have lived with.

In a broken voice Lewis said,
“I have said enough. I look forward to hearing another story. Do you have one?”
“Yes! Yes I do.”
“It’s ab.. ab..” he stuttered. Javed took a deep breath. Shut his eyes to block the tears, and continued. “Once there lived a man, his wife and his five year old. He had what everyone would call a normal life. He was content with his life. He found happiness in his daily mundane tasks, going for a walk with his wife and son, putting his son to bed and reading him stories. He loved his wife with all his heart. He longed to be with her every living second. But then, he never imagined how his life would shatter in a moment. How everything from picture perfect would turn to an unmitigated disaster.

The only wrong decision he ever took was, getting involved with a gang. But he tried to turn everything right by making a fresh start to his life, by getting married and settling down with a fine job. One day the doorbell rang and the man went ahead to open the door. He stood there, terrified at the sight of the visitor. “Who is it, dear?” his wife called out. When no one answered, she came down to the living room with their son. She shrieked at the sight of a man standing with a gun pointed at her husband. A huge struggle followed, after which, the young man found himself standing with the gun. All he had to do was shoot the intruder and get it over with. His hands shook as he pulled the trigger. What followed was something that haunted him henceforth every single day…his five year old oblivious to the situation, jumped in front of the intruder.”

“Oh my god!” Lewis exclaimed, “The child! Did the man shoot his own child?” “No!” Javed replied with unmistakable sorrow in his voice. “No. The boy lived but the wife died.” “The wife ran to save her son, and ended up getting killed by the bullet. The man who deeply loved his wife, had never imagined that he would lead to her destruction; that he would bring about his family’s destruction.” “Your son,” Lewis asked “Where is he?”
“My son resides with his aunt now. He doesn’t quite understand why his parents are not with him. I couldn’t look at him when I was taken away. I couldn’t look into his eyes, knowing I had destroyed everything for myself and him. He cried when they took me away, he wanted to know what was happening, soon, someone would tell him, and I know my son, my little angel will hate his father.”

A second silence followed, leaving the two men in the dark, in their own miseries. They stared into the darkness trying to see past it, trying to imagine and live the life they had now lost. The ticking clock was forgotten for a moment until the guard stepped in. He said in a hoarse voice, “It’s time.” And one by one, he freed them of the chains that they were bound in. The men stretched, rubbed their sore wrists, and closed their eyes for one last prayer.

They were pushed out of the jail with the guard behind them. They looked at each other for the first time. Lewis looked at Javed and was taken aback; here was a young man just like him, walking down towards the end. A man, just like him, who had been torn away from his loved ones, his family. A man whose one mistake, was deciding the rest of his life.

Javed looked at Lewis. Behind the appearance of a hard core criminal, he saw the young vulnerable boy, walking down the hills with his lamb. He saw a young man, who had led a sorrowful life, a life he had been forced to choose.

The guard broke the silence. “Move forward without resisting. It’s time you pay for your deeds. I’m going to enjoy pulling the lever which will end your worthless lives.” Lewis took hold of Javed’s hand and whispered quickly,
“You need to get out of here, you need to get to your son and tell him the truth. Your son needs to know what happened that day; you can’t die with this guilt.”

Javed looked at Lewis with a startled expression. “What do you mean?” He asked. At this, Lewis jerked back, kicking the man and throwing a punch at him. He doubled over and shouted, “Help! Prisoner trying to escape!”
“Go! Go! Go!” Lewis pulled Javed along with him. Javed followed, stumbling a few times; it had been quite a time since he had walked.
“What are we doing?” he asked, his voice shaking.
“Where are we going?”
“Away. We are going away. Don’t you want to get back to your son?”
“Yes I do! Yes. Yes please. But how do you know the way out?”
“Oh I know the way out, don’t you worry. I know the way inside out with my eyes closed. This isn’t the first time I’m breaking free from here,” Lewis replied, panting and gasping for breath.

The two men ran along the dark corridors, turning, ducking and hiding. They ran with a single goal in their head – to start a new life, leaving everything behind. “There’s a loose slab here”, Lewis said, “help me remove it and it’ll lead to the deserted streets, it’s easy to get away from there.”

The two men looked at each other for one last time, Javed’s eyes filled with gratitude and Lewis’s, with sparks of victory. They pushed the slab aside with all their remaining strength. The sounds were getting closer. Guards screaming orders and tearing down the whole place looking for their prisoners, were getting more profound with the passing second.

“Go! Get out of here! Fast!” Lewis screamed at Javed. Javed stood there for a second, “No you go first, I’ll follow you.” “Oh for God’s sake, is this the time to decide to be a gentleman? Well mister wrong timing, now go!” Javed scrambled to his feet and crawled into the opening. He looked at the world outside and his heart was elated at the thought of meeting his little son.

He looked back and offered Lewis a hand. “Come on,” he encouraged. Lewis gave him a small smile and started forward. The gun went off around the corner; the sound of gunfire rang out loud. Javed looked at Lewis who was almost halfway through but had stiffened all of a sudden. His eyes widened, the sparks of victory were now replaced by shock and horror.

“No! No!” Javed cried out. “Come let me help you, we can get out of here together. Come on, GET UP.” Lewis shook his head and said quietly; “Maybe this is how it was meant to be. This is how it all ends for me. But you need to go, he coughed, and struggled, speaking the next words. Get back to your son.” All went quite as Javed let go of Lewis’s hands, he saw the light fade out of his eyes. Words echoed in his ears. “Get back to your son.” He took a step back and another, until he realized he was running, breaking free. Like Lewis called it, he “got lucky”. He, the one who was sure he was going to die, saw a second chance; a second chance for him to start over. A second chance which perhaps he didn’t quite deserve. He thanked Lewis repeatedly in his head. A man who had come as a blessing. The man, who offered him a second chance instead of taking it for himself. As Javed ran, he took an oath to avenge Lewis, with the utmost determination. He knew he could do it. And he would.

Gayathri Nambiar
Student Reporter
September-2016