The alarm clock buzzed and Daksh looked towards it. The sound of the alarm had pulled him back to the reality. He stood up and looked through the giant window. It was around evening and the sunlight was shimmering on the glass panes. He could see the colossal skyscrapers and the people working inside the buildings. Everyone seemed to be running here and there to perform their tasks. Daksh was trapped inside a similar building. He worked for a Conglomerate. It was a dream job for many, a job people would kill for. But for him, the reality was very different. He hadn’t slept peacefully for months and the work was killing him; mostly, because he did not enjoy doing any of it. He had lost interest in everything. But he was the one who had signed up for this in the first place. At that time, he just wanted to keep his mind busy so that he could forget his past. A few years into the job, he realized it was not his cup of tea but he couldn’t leave it. He couldn’t muster the courage to tell his parents about it since they seemed pretty happy with him.
This job gave him the things he hoped for – more money than he could’ve spent and a beautiful wife. But now that he was able to afford anything, money had stopped making him happy and all his wife cared about was costly dresses. He had been living a life that was the exact opposite of what he had dreamed. Now, he wanted some peace and it was the one thing his job did not offer. Thus, he used to fight his frustration and depression during these shorts breaks. Each day, he would get up from his chair, stand near the window and look out. He had been doing it for three weeks now. He did not know why but it gave him a tiny escape from the usual turmoil his life was going through.
He went closer to the windowpane and looked thoughtfully at the distant white clouds that had formed a streak in the crimson sky. They seemed to be moving in the opposite direction, growing smaller with each second. He could see them fading away in the distance. It was beautiful and poetic, all of it; like the swan-song of a painter who has put years of thought into his magnum opus. He had never seen anything as beautiful as what he was witnessing at that moment. He wondered why the sky and a few clouds made him so happy that he smiled for the first time in months. He knew he saw something meaningful in those clouds. After a while, his reverie broke and he realized that the white clouds had disappeared and the sky was covered with gray ones now. He wondered where all of the white clouds had gone in an instant.
“But, they were just here. How can they disappear like this? Is their time up? Are they done playing their part?” he thought.
He was pondering over these questions when the rain came down hard and struck the glass panes with full force. He got distracted by the sound. It triggered something in his mind and a faint memory came to him. It made him feel uneasy. There were silhouettes and smiles, and the sound fading.
And then it was gone; he realized he was back in his office. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. He had quit smoking but always kept a pack just in case his demons thought of making a visit. After a puff or two, he realized, he was not enjoying it. So he threw it out of the window and kept looking at it until it disappeared in the rain. He opened up the window completely and a gust of fresh air entered his nostrils. It carried the petrichor; he used to love the smell the winds carried after the rain. It reminded him of his childhood.
He leaned on the windowsill and looked down towards the streets; it caused him vertigo since he was on the 19th floor but he kept on looking. The raindrops hit his hair and he had to pull his head back inside but his eyes were still fixated on the streets. How insignificant the world looked from up there, he wondered. Like everything was perfect in the world and nobody would care if something happened. His eyes wandered aimlessly and something caught his gaze; a billboard on the top of a nearby building. He had seen it hundreds of times before but today, something was different. The last ad which was for a discounted two weeks honeymoon package to Switzerland had been changed. The new ad was for an Insurance company. The flickering tagline said – Leave your mark before you go.
“What would happen if I jump out right now? Will I look like a spread eagle? Will I get to see a glimpse of my whole life in an ephemeral flashback? Will anyone say I was a good person? What would they say? “
That tagline had started a train of thought. He reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. From it, he pulled out a passport sized photograph. After taking a good long look at it, he turned it. There was a number written on the backside. He dialed the number on his phone and waited for it to connect.
“The number you are trying to reach does not exist” was the only response.
Dialing the number again did not help because the response was the same. He went back to his desk and tried calling from the landline but it was all in vain. Finally, he settled himself on his chair, picked up the paperweight and started rotating it on his table. After a while, he looked towards the window and got up from the chair. Slowly, he went near the window and climbed up on the windowsill. Then, he spread his arms, closed his eyes and let himself fall. The air resisted his fall temporarily but succumbed to his will. He opened his eyes and it came to him, one by one; the things he had forgotten.
“He saw his demons, dressed in black, and then all the colors trying to eat his soul. He saw them in flesh and blood, gnawing on him, chewing on his flesh, trying to rip his body apart, willing to suck every iota of life out of him. It hurt; it was painful – the most painful experience he had ever gone through. He did not want it to happen and yet he was the one feeding those ghouls. He was the one who took pleasure in this pain. Soon it will end, he thought. End, it will.”
And then everything turned black. The whole journey from 19th to ground floor took him mere 3-4 seconds but he saw 28 years of his life during that time. The last thought that lingered in his mind was the realization that he had wasted his life in running behind things that did not matter. He had forgotten what he would take with him when he died was not money but experiences and memories.
He made wrong decisions throughout his life. He was hardly right about anything and yet right before his death, he had made a right prediction – He did look like a spread eagle when he hit the ground.
He couldn’t move a limb anymore. His $800 iPhone had broken to smithereens. His $200 white shirt was soaked in blood. His $1000 watch had stopped working. He was a $3000 product lying flat on the floor. His head looked like a smashed watermelon. Raindrops struck his head constantly and a stream of blood appeared from beneath his cheek where it touched the ground. Soon, more followed and merged with one another. Within seconds, the whole floor was covered in red. His eyes were open but there seemed to be a dissatisfaction in them.
People who witnessed this unfortunate event started screaming and everyone looked in that direction. Soon, the whole building was standing near the windows to look down. No one ever knew that Daksh wanted to become an artist. He could not do it when he was alive but the last thing he left behind that day was an amazing piece of artistry. His co-workers were able to see it from the above – His interpretation of the Vitruvian Man painted in scarlet.