It was a creepy friend I had. A very unnatural boy with unique habits and unique hobbies. Maybe it was this uniqueness in my friend that made me like him. He was my roommate. Maybe if I knew him before we became roommates we would not have become roommates but as destiny would have it, a small thread of my life got tied to his.
I anticipated that it would also be a devil I will meet that day. But the person I saw was not obviously a devil. He was no angel also. In his looks he was quite normal. Tall, underweight, chocolate coloured and wearing goggle-like-glasses. He sported a long nose, which fell a bit short from that of Pinocchio’s. Only a small bunch of hair was left on the top of his head. He came out on my the third ring of the bell an apologized saying that his mind was wandering. He was courteous but not friendly.
It was the room, or to say the location of the building that convinced me on putting up my quarters there. It was 10 mins from Dumdum airport and metro on both sides and 20 mins away from my place of work. There were three markets, a smaller one near and the others at 5 mins distance by bus. Light but not the sound from the main road reached the apartment. Fresh air entered from each window. Mosquitoes were a problem but not a great one. The rent was not cheap but affordable.
On weekdays I was engaged at work from nine o’ clock in the morning till eight o’ clock in the evening. I had neither patience or energy to interact with my roommate after this hours. He did not seem to mind an I did not seem to care. So our interactions always took place during Saturdays and Sundays. He never volunteered to talk so I always began the conversation. His voice was low and weak. It took me a few weeks to know that he was an assistant professor at a god-knows-which institute.
He used to make tea. I don’t know what unique ingredients did he add to his tea but it tasted really good. So I insisted on him making more.Once I had a desire to find out the special ingredients of the tea and went to the kitchen. He was talking to himself. I spoke aloud,”Hi!”He literally jumped up an saw a ghost in front of him. It was several seconds before he realized the ghost was me. Go knows what was he doing. I also came to know ,except his talking-to-himself habit, his tea’s special ingredient. Guess what? His skill.
Except for his tea and his talking-to-himself habit, there were many things eccentric about him. For once he never switched off the light of the room at night. I don’t know how he managed to sleep will all lights on. Maybe he was afraid of dark. He hated power cuts. He actually made a bulb which runs on a battery and always carried with him. Some professors are boring. But I have not any professor who has not seen a cinema even once in life. He never wore anything but his grey pants, off-white shirt and his BATA canvas shoes.
One day I had returned early from office to join a friend, Sihika’s birthday party after dressing up. When I entered the flat I heard Akhil screaming at someone. I entered his room hurriedly without knocking to find out what was wrong. Something was terribly wrong indeed. He was screaming on no one. His phone was on the desk. The moment I entered he saw me. He was panting. He colored, and then grew pale. He looked at something with beseeching eyes. Then he looked at me again and grew pale.
“What is it Akhil?”,I asked.
“Nothing, really nothing. I am too tired. Its just that.”
“Whatever it is Akhil, you can tell me. Trust me.”
“It’s nothing. I need some rest.”
“OK, have some rest.”
Yes, he needed rest.But it was not work that tired him. I knew that he was among those few men who loved their work. It was something else or maybe someone else that was bothering him.
I was most surprised when I found a letter from a well known psychiatrist addressed to Akhil in our common letter box. So I was most probably living with a psycho. Very well. I had to fight the desire to open it. But I knew I had to know what was happening with this man I shared the flat with. So when he was sitting in the dining room, reading the morning news, I handed over the envelop to him looking at him with a quizzical eye. He opened his mouth to say something but could not utter the exact words. I raised my eyebrows in disgust.
“I see her. She was a research scientist. We were on a project together. A very important one. But it went wrong. She blew herself up. No I blew her up. I mixed the wrong ratios of the chemical. A slight change makes a great difference. So when I left the lab I heard the explosion.”, he could speak no more. He sat there for some time and continued,”She is coercing me to continue the project. But I can’t risk it. I can’t risk another life.” Tears went down his cheek,”She is my best friend.Was my…..”
I didn’t keep any time to find out who this ‘she’ was, a ghost, a delusion or whatever. Living with either a psycho or a ghost didn’t suite me. So I deserted this friend of mine, and in a week from this incident, shifted my position to the present quarters. I pray to God to help him where I had deserted him. I wish that life erases this memory from my mind.