Friday, May 30, 2014

Bee-ing Alive

The Giants attacked soon after dawn. They attacked on a fine spring morning. They attacked with destructive and vicious swings of their fire-sticks. They attacked and drove us from our home. They attacked and killed hundreds. They attacked and slew indiscriminately our soldiers, our aged, our young. They attacked and laid waste to our stores, our granaries, our city. They attacked, and we could do nothing but watch as they plundered and pillaged with abandon and avaricious glee.

The attack was not wholly unexpected. Our scouts had spied the Giants amassing a few furlongs many hours earlier. Their large forms were difficult to miss – their smallest member was taller than our largest by a few hundred-fold. So yes, we had time to prepare. But we knew our airborne arsenal would be of no use against them. This essentially meant we’d have to bodily smash into them to cause even mild discomfort… and multiple hits would have to be scored before any of them fell before us. Many of us would perish upon impact. This we knew for certain. We had no other choice.

The city was buzzing with talk of the upcoming attack. Fear showed in some eyes, anger in others, frustration and defiance made their presence felt on many faces, and disheartened submission in a few shoulders. This wasn't the first time the Giants had attacked. This would not be the last.

Our Queen decided to flee to safety with her trusted bodyguards – the Mighty Hymenoptera, those swarthy warriors in their yellow and black hauberks and long-bladed sabers that taper into a stiletto-like point. She was vital to the establishment of a new colony and city should the worst happen – her protection was of paramount importance. Squadron Lima would make up an additional escort.

Air Marshal Hibuzz was left in command of the defenses and the counter-attack. We lived high up above the ground, and had no artillery or naval fleet to command. We knew this. The Giants knew this. The Giants knew we knew this. So that left the air, and we knew the Giants would be prepared for any aerial stratagem we threw at them.

The Air Marshal wasted no time in sending scouting parties for aerial sorties. Their mission: try to slow down the Giants’ initial advance. Squadron Alpha, made up of veteran soldiers, and Squadron Omega, made up of cadets fresh out of Flight School took off to provide peripheral support. The elderly and the youngsters formed Squadron Delta. As the most expendable, they would lead the first counter attack. Squadrons Bravo, Charlie, Foxtrot and Zulu, comprising the working class, were designated for defensive maneuvers – they would form the last line of defense against the Giants. Squadrons Sierra and Tango took off -- Sierra to launch a flanking attack from the East with the Sun behind it to provide cover, Tango from the North-West to harry the Giants from the rear. Squadrons Romeo and Juliet would make up the second and third wave of attack.

The Giants’ attack was accompanied by loud roars and the stamping of feet. Their Fire-sticks burst into action, filling the air with heat and smoke – smoke designed to suffocate and blind and disorient our troops. The scouts who were busy running sorties against the advancing horde were, not surprisingly, routed first. Many fell victim to the heat from the gigantic Fire-sticks, shriveled up and fell to the ground twitching in agony. Scores of them were trampled under the Giants’ feet. The others would never be the same again, even if they survived. The surviving scouts broke off the attack and fell back, but here too, not all succeeded. The blinding smoke camouflaged the underlying fire, and most saw the flames approach through the fog too late to execute evasive maneuvers. Some of them flew smack-dab into the flailing arms of the Giants and were swatted aside.

We had no answer that would serve.

Those who did make it back regrouped warily, and as per plan, joined ranks with Squadrons Romeo and Juliet. Air Marshal Hibuzz sounded the charge, and the counter attack began in right earnest. Squadrons Alpha flew in first, diving out of the sky and aiming for the heads and shoulders. Squadron Omega flew in low, making a beeline for the waist. The idea was to open the efforts with a two-pronged attack.

Both Squadrons crashed against the approaching Giants, and fell before the smoke and heat. It was time to send in the reinforcements. Now nature came to our rescue, and a strong gust of wind blew the smoke back towards the Giants’ ranks, giving the second wave a small opening. Air Marshal Hibuzz took off to lead the second wave himself and make the most of the opportunity. At his signal, Squadron Sierra and Squadron Tango switched to attack mode. But the wind was now blowing the smoke directly towards Squadron Tango, and it was soon decimated, much as those who flew in before it. Squadron Sierra fared a little better -- having the Sun behind them worked in their favour, and they managed to close on the Giants – but they too eventually ran up against the searing heat from the Fire-Sticks, and dwindles in numbers, becoming little more than charred specks on the hard ground.

Those that got through came up against a new hurdle. The Giants wore body-fitted armour crafted from closely latticed metal, and our daggers, not much more than thorns from a Giant’s point of view, proved ineffective. They broke off on the armour, and the onslaught turned into a massacre -- a wasted sacrifice. The Air Marshal’s voiced roard into the radio of every squadron, galvanizing the rest of us into action. “Attack At Will” he shouted, and every one of us that was able to, responded with a fatalistic finality.

By now, the wind had turned direction once again – nature herself had given up on us. We shrugged it off. It was too late. We dove and wove and spun and struck, trying to find a chink in their armour, trying to swerve around the randomly waving fire-sticks, trying to dodge the fire itself, trying to survive.
We were soon reduced to a few stragglers. The Air Marshal was nowhere to be seen. We heard on the radio, reports of him going down somewhere over the enemy’s western flank. His squadron-members said he was soon indistinguishable from the ground, his broken body being trampled into it, squashed and crushed to an unrecognizable pulp.

Ten thousand we were before the Giants attacked. Two hundred beat a hasty retreat. Only one hundred made it to the grove where the Queen had found sanctuary.

We staggered in, and turned to watch the Giants dance their victory dance over the corpses of our valiant forces; jump and shout and thump their brawny chests, and scramble over each other to get to our supplies. They ripped into our granaries without a hint of contrition, or care, crushing homes and offices and other myriad structures of our city in their ungodly haste. They picked up our carefully-built-up stores in their grubby fists and squeezed them into their wide-open mouths, swallowing months of back-breaking work in seconds, letting bits of it dribble down the sides of their gaping maws, licking remnants off their fingers and palms with long, thick tongues and grunting loudly with perverse satisfaction.
All this we watched… and waited.

The Giants were soon sated. They extinguished their Fire-Sticks in vats of water, took handfuls of our quaint city for souvenirs of the day’s triumph, and moved off into the vast wilderness, no doubt in search of more colonies to uproot. They took care to leave portions of our city undamaged -- those portions we could rebuild upon. They knew we would. We knew we would too. It’s far easier to rebuild that to start from scratch; plus, we had lived there for generations. It was home.


The Queen and her entourage began to head back. We followed. The rebuilding would start immediately. There was no time to waste. For the most part, the Giants only attack once a year, and winter was still a way away -- enough time to stock up before the chill sets in, the frost covers the fields and deflowers our crop, and hunger threatens our lives.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Pain

We are masochists. No more. No less. Self-flagellation gives us immense satisfaction. More so, mental self-flagellation. It leaves us gasping with pleasure. That’s just the way it is.
It is more heavenly and infinitely more fulfilling to feel pain in the mind, pick at sore wounds and scratch at crimson scabs and count the welts and weals therein, and wince metaphysically, than to suffer the ignominy of bearing physical scars and the inconvenience of staunching free-flowing blood. Mayhap imagination has a role in this. After all, the brain can fathom and fabricate exquisite anguish in all its gory visceral detail.
Some of us hide it better than others. Those who don’t – those that flinch at their thoughts and gape in horror and scream in abject horror at the terrible scenes playing out in their head – we call delusional. Those that don’t react visibly, but still relish it all and grin whilst admitting to the enjoyment from derived ecstasy, we ostracize for non-conformity with our social mores; all the while caving in to a deep-seated jealousy of the outcasts, and in a perverse fashion, letting that very jealousy gouge fresh lacerations on the spirit. The satisfaction from this is silently borne; nurtured in solitude and adoringly stroked and stoked in privacy, all the while cloaked in an innocuous word or phrase that does no justice to the fa├žade it provides.
Masks we wear, masks we discard, masks we exchange, and betimes we don’t know we do it. And when realization does strike, we hasten to strip one mask away, and replace it with another, glowing with satisfaction at how we’ve fooled our compatriots.
We pat the ego, feed the hubris, and tend to the braggadocio like long-lost children reunited, and smirk with self-indulgent mirth at having duped ourselves. And to add insult to serious mental injury, we caveat the process, naming it resilience and quick-thinking, using an indolent shrug for a gambit, wielding sarcastic wit as a shield, deploying indifference as a sophisticated ruse, and hurling barbed insults in a way-ward offensive.

But deep in the confines of our clandestine chambers and secluded alcoves, we let ourselves go – breathing deeply as we caress fondly the objects of our own damnation – those subliminal whips and rods and flails and cords and batons and prongs and whatnots that will hold us till next we return.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sob Story

As I made my way towards my abode after a hearty luncheon with old friends, I made my costomary stop outside the double-doors of the building elevator. As I whistled the familiar refrain to "With a little bit o'luck" from the motion picture adaptation of Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion which gained immense popularity under the name My Fair Lady, I became aware that someone was providing an odd accompanyment to it -- one that missed the beats and did nothing to add to the mood of the moment.
Upon investigation, I came upon a little girl sitting on the stairs, sobbing and sniffling -- that's where the intrusive, off-beat percussion emanated from.
"What happened? Why are you crying?" I asked, adopting what I considered to be a suitably sympathetic tone.
"My parents think I'm stupid because I didn't get good grades on my science test," she responded, with appropriate pauses for sobs and sniffs.
"But being stupid is not a reason to cry; it's your parents and teachers who should be crying," I offered.
She didn't get it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oh Baby, Baby!

I have nothing against infants. My pet philosophy of “Live and Let Live” fits in perfectly where these puking, gurgling blobs are concerned.
That being said, I do take umbrage when these little critters are treated like circus animals. Pride in your progeny is one thing, but I think parents should give filial pride a chance -- even if not filial piety -- not to mention allowing the yet-uncoordinated objects of their affection a fighting chance at self-respect.
My objection is not really to what the kids or their saintly parents go through – that’s their business. What gets my goat every time is when the charade plays out in my presence, or Heaven forbid, in my honor.
I was put through just such an ordeal a few days ago, when I called a friend to wish him on his birthday. Now this friend and I go way back (primary school), and while I dutifully attended his wedding, I have not had occasion to set eyes on him (or his better half) since that fateful day 4 years ago. And while I congratulated him on his virility in achieving fatherhood three-and-a-half years later, I have never been gripped by either the curiosity or the need to make the acquaintance of the scion of that family. Truth be told, I actually do not remember the kid's name; nor his mother’s, for that matter.
So imagine my chagrin when after the initial pleasantries were done with, and I was looking for an opening to hang-up and get on with my day, the father uttered the words that sent a chill up my spine: “Hold on man, Dippy wants to say hello!”
The chills held off for a bit, as my mind tried to decipher this ominous uttering. Was “Dippy” what he called his wife? And if indeed it was, why would he introduce me to her under the aegis of such a goofy name? The name her parents bestowed on her would surely have done just fine – it would also have nudged me into recalling her name; I am pretty sure it would transverse all lines of propriety to address her as “Dippy”, not to mention that the name itself was quite stupid and downright nauseating.
Now I have no objection to said female, but why he thought I would like to talk to her when my sole objective in connecting with him was to wish him on his birthday, I could not fathom. But good upbringing forbade me to decline his invitation, so with forced gaiety, I braced myself for the ordeal.
The verbal babble that accosted my ear in the seconds that followed the transfer threw me.
“Goo bwalllle aaa eeeeennnnhhhh sutg gsa…”
It took me a second to realize that the jabber I was hearing was nothing any adult could claim to understand.
It then dawned on me: Dippy, was what they called their heir!
And over this babble, I heard my pal’s voice saying, “Say Hello uncle, how are you??”
He repeated this directive three more times, and every time, the little brat continued to dish out a series of spluttering noises that in no way even remotely resembled the coherence the patriarch had achieved.
I was out of my depth, but I can honestly say with pride that I put up a valiant front, responding to the noises emanating from my telephone with a gutsy “Hello!!! How you doing, little fellow? Are you troubling your parents yet???”
That was about all I could take. I had barely resolved to hang up and blame it on poor connectivity when the dad came back on line.
“See, he’s so smart!!! He actually talks on the phone.”
The pride there, though completely misplaced, was touching. I agreed with him, and as I hung up with promises to catch up soon, there was just one thought running through my mind: Love is not just as blind as a bat, it also gives an adder a run for its money on the deafness scale.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recharged & Reloaded

So rare these stolen moments of solace and warmth
away from mechanical, prying eyes and ears
away from those wonders of science
that human imagination made possible.

But now I must to reality return,
where communion with machines
of varying size and colour and texture
make me a lesser man --
domesticated and chained in bonds of ones and zeros
as an animal snared in the wilderness.

And I return to answer those urgent summons
sent out by impatient masters;
Whizzing e-mails and buzzing phones,
those tools that rule our world today,
that once were created to be just slaves,
are Titans in their ever-changing image.

Cheers! Prost! Salud!

To Survival:
An instinct more deeply embedded in the gene pool than any other.
An urge that makes the unimaginable possible.
An echo of time past and lost; memories, ashes and dust.
A simple state of being.

Friday, December 04, 2009

One Of A Million

Every now and again, a gust of wind blows over me, enters and swirls around, fighting to find a way out, like a zebra that wanders into a lion’s den and realizes it too late. The sudden bursts of activity within me are not silent, echoing the frustrated travails of the beast trapped within, its fears, its desperation, its panic, its struggle… and the noise rattles around inside me, and escapes from any crevice it chances upon, emanating as wheezes and moans and groans from my parched lips.
Slowly, the noise dies away; the animal within has given up, embracing captivity with a shudder and a sigh. Maybe it’s trying to summon up that last vestige of energy and zest to try just one more time. But the initial pause is all that’s needed to make its prison walls close in on it, constrict it, suffocate it, and master it.
Its breathing becomes shallower by the passing moment, becoming more erratic.
It dies.
It festers.
It withers away into nothingness, leaving no trace. Its momentary existence, its valiant struggle, its fears, its hopes, its dreams, its past known to none.
I remain unrepentant, resolute, immobile and unfeeling. The wait is now on. The next gust is on its way. Soon… very soon…
I am a shell: hard on the outside, empty inside.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

An Exercise In Futility

The irony in comtemplating the futility of your actions is not that the actions were futile, but that your contemplation is...