The Brown Tree Bark

I got chased by a man today. A man called Janak.
He ran after me, and tried to kill me.

But Janak wasn’t always a homicidal maniac. Before the incident, I remember sitting with him and his mom. His sisters too – he had lots. It was a nice, large gathering of people. Janak’s mom was going on about this tree bark she held in her hands. It was brown – I’ll never forget the exact shade. She was telling us about its therapeutic properties. Its only beauty for me though, was its colour. It seemed to hypnotise me.

Sequoiadendron giganteum bark
Suddenly the earth took on an ethereal quality. Everyone seemed to float, and talk in slow motion. In fact, it became like a dream. Janak started talking angrily. He was saying something nasty and stabbing an accusing finger at me. Soon everyone present wore disapproving looks, and shook their heads at me. In a world of big hungry cats, I became the mouse by default. But this was one tough mouse. I stood my ground, stated my innocence and stormed out, head high.

I arrived home, dignity in tact. But I couldn’t shake that horrible sense of foreboding. I was about to step inside the house when I heard a loud bellow behind me. I spun around to behold Janak about ten feet away from me. It seemed that that was his war cry. Rage contorted his features to a barely recognisable mass, and I got the feeling I was dealing with a rabid dog. But he was no dog – his arms swung loosely beside him, and one hand clutched onto something I couldn’t quite see.

Ah, I thought, he’s about to draw on me.

But I had no gun myself, and there were no little cyclones of dried leaves that characterise this customary event; no cowboy whistling in the background; no dust moving about the arid, western air. Instead a thick fog enveloped us. What was once ethereal was now ominous. Figures of people – friend or foe, I couldn’t determine – were silhouetted against the miasma. They seemed to materialise before my eyes, spectators to this about-to-get-grim confrontation. Fear seemed an appropriate emotion then. I began to run, and run, and I ran for dear life.

But before I realised it, Janak was on me, my body and limbs pinned down with the sheer weight of himself.
Before I realised it, he had pried my lips apart, and stuck a brown tree bark down my throat.
Before I realised it, saliva had formed and I’d swallowed some of it, my eyes bulged with disbelief.
I was helpless and could barely move, but at least I had a voice. I’ll scream, was my plan, and help would come. Those figures could be allies and besides, this was my turf, my doppelganger was around here somewhere – she’d rescue me. So I gathered all that was in me and SCREAMED…but he managed to stifle it with his hand. Still I screamed, “Janak killed me!”  I was thinking ahead so whatever happened, maybe someone would recall hearing that. I was hoping my doppelganger would hear it and avenge my death, if it came to that.

But then a strange thing happened.
My voice began to fade…slowly…slowly…
Acute fear stole me, and radiated through every pore in my body. The tree bark was a poison!
Janak no longer had to stifle my shouts.  With all the force of my will I screeched. But even to me, it sounded little more than a thought. Then he released me. Before I could even wonder why he was doing so, I tried to get up but could not move. In fact, I realised I couldn’t feel myself at all. I could only try to scream, try to move.
It suddenly hit me that all was black. No, not black, just not there. Not the fog, not the figures, not even Janak. Just a deep nothingness.

Fears of the utmost degrees gripped me.  Am I dead?

Then from my peripheral view of nothing, I saw the tree bark, one end still sticking out of my mouth. An eternity seemed to pass, yet nothing changed. No sounds, no sights, no feel of someone checking to see if I were okay. Just the tree bark staring back at me. Somehow I knew Janak had won.

Now all I could think of was not getting to my doppelganger on time – maybe I could have been saved from this void endlessness, this endless void that may or may not be a jinx, a coma, or death. All I could think of was all that was now my world – the beautiful dark hue of the brown tree bark.


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