deal

Winter Thaws… at Last

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“The Tower cut a deal with that man at last. And he didn’t realise it then how much power he held in his mere existence, he was too dazed himself. The Tower couldn’t let the people see a man from the past. Everything that he knew, from the 21st century, was too dangerous. He knew how the people had led to the formation of the Tower itself. More than anything, he knew about God, and about religion. The Tower couldn’t risk the people believing in those things again. All control would be lost. Ironically, the reigning Head Lord even quoted a very Godly phrase in context to the matter- ‘All Hell would break loose.’ ”

Auxi stared at Vizas, as he held her hands and tried to explain.

“So the Tower cut him a deal, on which grounds he was to disappear in an excavation assignment. In fact, there was nothing we were actually trying to uncover, the Tower most certainly didn’t want any huge discoveries, and we just went round the world to Nepal to bury the man’s memory. He was actually, pulled into an underground settlement, along with some other top secret officers and projects. The man lived there for some while before he realised he was actually being killed, slowly, with every meal he took.”

“I don’t understand… why would he cause this winter… and why- why would he kill Bei?”

“That’s where we went wrong, Auxi. He had nothing to do with Bei. Or this winter. It has nothing to do with anyone actually. No Tower conspiracy, nothing. It’s just plain history, repeating itself. The world is constantly being born and living and dying. He knows tales himself, of how his generation came from an Ice Age. This is our Ice Age. This is our Judgement Day, our Apocalypse. It’s a circle, and these things keep happening.”

“But the Tower only momentarily lost control. They explained that the heat controls had collapsed. It all came to control after the S-Crisis.”

“The Tower didn’t know what had happened. They believed it was an internal failure. We are so advanced, we think we can manage anything. Actually, it was the first Ice Blast. The Tower only understood one thing. That the people who were on that excavation trip in Nepal would remember the snow that had permanently covered those mountains. They called in that team, remember?”

“Yeah- but what did they do?”

“The team, incidentally, comprised six of the remaining excavation base members. Some commoners were red-herrings…”

“But we selected that team. How could the Tower ensure they came?”

“The Tower was relying on our trust on those people. They were known for that excavation. That landslide, the pictures… the people were our heroes… and if those people weren’t chosen, the Tower was ready for a long drawn-out program to call in the people somehow or the other.”

“But what did they want with them?”

“Just assurance. When the team thought they were touring through the Tower controls, inspecting… they were actually going through interrogation. Lord Janei, by the way, was one of the people on the team. He knew everything, I think. And anyone you should signs of rebellion was immediately pulled out-”

“Killed?!” gasped Auxi.

“No Auxi. Just pulled out. They were put on the Tower as officer, often within the same control centre- thermal. That ensured confidentiality, as per Tower regulations. And the people could also help control the thermal crisis coming.”

Auxi’s eyes widened. “Befriend the enemy.”

“Something like that.”

“But they killed Bei!” cried an outrage Auxi. Nothing was wrong? Then why did Bei die?! She was tortured, if nothing else!

“Bei- it’s tough Auxi.” He gathered her close. “Bei thought he was onto a conspiracy. He thought there was something the Tower was hiding. He was right. That man from the past, the coming of the Ice Age… and when he started poking, they tried to kick him out. He wouldn’t stop. So the Tower cut the 21st century man a new deal. He was threatening their control now, since he knew he was being poisoned. The Tower had no choice but let him inside the control rooms. He did what he pleased. And soon he heard that Bei was poking around.”

“So he did kill him?!”

“Auxi, this man, was the exact image of Bei’s great-great-grandfather. And you know how Bei was always boasting of his noble bloodline. Bei saw his own an-descent, talked to him, and before he died, Bei knew everything. But what Bei did not know was that he had caused his own death by meeting the man.”

“Bei could not believe what he had seen. He started acting weird. The Tower was already troubled. If the man didn’t tell everyone, Bei could. But before they could do anything, Bei died of a nervous fit. Not heart attack. Nervous fit. Which is completely possible in his circumstances.”

“I don’t believe that.” Auxi grunted.

“I knew you won’t. But that’s where I will leave-”

“And me? Why did that man come after me?!”

“He realised that his own power stayed as long as he was the only, exclusive threat. Otherwise, the Tower would wipe out the entire problem without thought. He needed us to shut up, and the people must not know.”

“So he would have killed us!”

“No. He would only scare us to silence. He didn’t know himself how far he was willing to go, but not murder.”

“And he told you all this readily? Wow! Man suddenly has a conscience!”

“It came at a price…”

“I don’t believe it, I just don’t. The Tower wouldn’t waste so much time on a threat. This winter is totally under our control, and I intend to make that five moon donation for the heat machine. This man is a killer, Vizas, I’m telling you. He killed Bei.”

“I knew you would want to know on your own. So I’m leaving you this-”

“Leaving you?! Where are YOU going?”

“This information came at a price, Auxi.” Vizas smiled suddenly. But his eyes were sad.

“What price? Vizas? What’s going on?”

“I love you Auxi. I told you I would be saying that to you once I got out of Waratia. Here we are Auxi. I’m just one year and fifty-eight days early.”

“Vizas! Where are you going?!”

“He’s taking me with him. I don’t know where. But that’s how this will end. He is leaving the Tower to explain for themselves. The winter won’t get better Auxi, so get underground. Start building. I’ll come for you as soon as I can.”

“Vizas, you can’t go! How can you- Where-”

“Auxi, I want you to know I love you. And I always will.”

“Vizas!”

But Vizas pushed her away and walked to the door of her house. He opened it, gave her one last look and then vanished, forever.

In that last look Auxi saw that he was destroyed. Everything was over. Nothing meant anything anymore. And the winter had already thawed… because what was cold, heat, pain, or love, without anyone to share it with?

Ice Age may come next minute, and Auxi couldn’t care less. Because Auxi had already died.

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SpocKirk Jackson

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“And Spock saved the day.”

“What are you talking about? It was totally Kirk!”

“In case you didn’t know, Spock is the hero in StarTrek.”

“Is not! It’s obviously Kirk!”

“Is not!”

“He IS!”

“Is not!”

“Will you guys stop it! It’s neither Spock nor Kirk! It’s Pike. He was the Captain.”

“So was Spock.”

“So was Kirk! And anyway, Pike was the character that gets out of the way for the hero to shine!”

“And for the hero to save! Which Spock did.”

“Spock was ALSO the character that gets out of the way to be saved. And KIRK saved Pike.”

“Not without Spock who took the enemy’s main attention to the drill. And anyway, he got the girl.”

“Yeah but…. STAR TREK IS NOT A ROMANCE!”

“The hero gets the girl, by RULE.”

“You guys sure are wrong- it’s got to be Pike. He took the wriggly black thing in his mouth in Nero’s torture-”

“SHUT UP!” came a chorus reply.

“Toss you for it. Heads, Kirk is hero. Tales, we’ll pretend Spock is.”

“My coin.”

A coin is tossed. It lands vertical.

“Maybe that means Pike…?” Two glares cut short the sentence.

“Kirk came up with the right plan.”

“Spock lost his mother! The hero always loses family.”

“Oh please! Kirk’s dad?”

“Spock met his future self.”

“What- so WHAT?! If Kirk had not met the future Spock on the planet they would have lost. So KIRK is the one who is more important.”

“The information came from the future SPOCK! And it was SPOCK who put Kirk on the planet in the first place.”

“Kirk had the cute nickname.”

Two people stared. “Uhh… Jim? It is cute…”

“Spock has the cute NAME. He doesn’t need a nickname.”

“Tell you what. Come to my place today and we’ll count the number of dialogues they had. The winner is the hero.”

“Not counting groans, sighs and other noises.”

“Deal.”

“If you guys are doing it anyway, let’s just count Pike’s too…”

“Fine. You come too.”

And that was why I was trying to find the Star Trek video in Jacko’s room. John Carter was under the stupid impression that Spock was the hero of Star Trek. He must be blind or something. Alan Boyd, the traitor who is one-third the reason I didn’t perform in the Grade One ballet, was even¬† more misinformed. How in the world could anyone believe Pike was hero? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

But it would all be corrected. I felt proud defending Captain Kirk. And I knew it would be better still when the movie finished, and I switched on the lights to smile into two stupid, ashamed boy faces.

Just as the bell rang, I pulled out the disc. Five o’clock. Trust John Carter to be on time. How boring!

Without much ado, we went in the drawing room, everyone took their chairs and I put the video in the TV. Then I moved Alan out of daddy’s chair and pressed start.

And then began The Movie.

I held my pen firmly, and put a tally mark every time either contender spoke. To my surprise, there were times when Spock greatly outdid Kirk, but it all kept balancing sooner or later.

When Kirk woke up with his scary puffy hands on-board Enterprise, Jacko came in the room.

“What are you guys doing?” he asked from the doorway.

Three angry hisses silenced him.

“Did you count that last dialogue by Spock Jenny Jackson?”

“Shut up Carter. It’s not even Spock’s scene.”

Jacko didn’t say anything but came and sat beside daddy’s chair. He looked at my tally marks, read the headings, looked up at me and stared.

I sighed. “Got to tell these guys how much Kirk is hero.”

“What are you talking about? It’s Spock!”

Unfortunately, John heard this. “Hi Five brother!”

Jacko stretched all across me and caught John’s five and left me and Alan outnumbered.

When Spock grabbed Kirk’s neck and made him unconscious, they laughed. When Kirk was thrown out of the ship, they rolled on the floor. When the big red thing chased Kirk they were spilling out with mute laughter, clutching their sides and streaming tears so much that I lost my patience and pulled the plug from the TV.

“Oh no! What happened!” I acted, because no one had seen me. Even Alan was looking at the other two rolling and laughing.

I tapped the TV. I checked the remote. I Paused and Played the video. No good.

“It’s an old thing. Must have broken out or something. Hey John, you want to play baseball outside?” asked Jacko.

“Yeah sure.”

“What about the deal?” I cried.

“Oh yeah.. umm, what’s the current score?”

“Kirk leading… by two.”

“Oh. Umm.. fine, you win.”

And off went Jacko and John and Alan ran out after them. That’s it? I won?

I didn’t know what to do. Kirk won?

Okay.

I replugged the TV, took out the video, kept it back and went to my room.

I took out Buzz and started playing with him.

“Welcome aboard The Enterprise, Commander Buzz! This is Captain-”

Buzz looked at me expectantly.

“Captain SpocKirk Jackson. And we have a ship to blast.”

Jacksons settle a deal

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19

Jacko has a funny habit. If he needs to make a quick visit to a room, say- go in, switch on the light, take what he wants, and switch the light off- he just can’t do it. He has no problem with shutting a light off. He just can’t switch it on. There is no reason behind it. He just can’t. Not that he’s lazy. You can tell him to run fifteen times to a shop and get a new thing every time, and irritate him at that,¬† but he won’t get tired.

And he could switch on lights. But when he was staying for long. Like, if he was going to sit for even ten minutes, he’d happily switch the light on himself. Without any quirks.But if it was for less time, his hand would suddenly repulse from the switchboard, and his smile droop down.

He tried many things. He tried finding his things in the dark, but often came out with the wrong thing, of similar shape/size/feel… and had to run back in so many times, he even tried a flashlight. But he kept dropping it.

He tried asking me to go ahead of him and switch on the light… Like this one time when he came running to get a baseball bat, but stood fidgeting and frowning near the front entrance, waiting for me to get the light. And just as he saw the light shine on the barrister, off he fled up the stairs and threw himself at his bat and was ready to return. In fact, he had come so quick I hadn’t even moved away from the switchboard. As a result, both of us came down the stairs together. It was too much action.

Finally, it was settled, much to the comfort of both of us, that these flying visits would be made solely by me. That is, he would tell me what to bring and I would get it. It wasn’t easy at first. I knew little of the layout of Jacko’s room, despite the amount of time I spent there.

So he’d tell me to get the Checker’s board, and I would take hours to find it, even when all his games I knew were supposed to be on the bottom shelf. Okay, not hours, his room isn’t that big, but that’s what he would groan and say. The price of which was, often, refusal to play anymore. So after I had finally found the board and brought it down, I had to go back up and keep it back. The deal wasn’t very nice any more. It was soon to be changed.

It was Baseball day. Wednesday. All the most serious games of the neighborhood happened on Wednesday. Last Wednesday, Jacko had got a strike three. This Wednesday, he wasn’t playing.

However much his team, or me, persuaded him, he just kept saying no. Why? “I got work to do. I won’t come to play.” was all he kept saying. So they all finally left,and I followed Jacko to his room. Just what work did he have to do, I wanted to see. But Jacko didn’t do anything. He just picked up his book, and sat down reading it.

“Jacko!! Why are you reading?”

“Because I can?” he snorted.

“But why are you reading now?”

He didn’t answer. So I went and checked his calender next to the window. He didn’t have any test coming. Why was he reading then?

“Jacko. Is this the work you said you had to do?”I suddenly asked.

“Yes Jenny. Now are you done being an itch with all your endless questions?”

“I’m just asking because Fat Joe was coming to play at the other side today. You missed on a good game.” I said, very concerned.

Jacko flushed. He turned to his book quickly.

“Hey! What’s wrong!”

“Nothing Jenny.”

I coaxed. I pried. I snatched the book away. I was about to use the blaster ‘Jacko-do-you-know-why-mummy-and-daddy-fight’ emotional blackmail, when finally, finally, Jacko said,

“Oh get off it! I don’t want to play Fat Joe. That’s why I didn’t go, okay!” And he snatched the book back.

Ohhh. Serious thing.

“Why not, Jacko?”

“Jennnnnnyyyy!”He said in an unusually thick tone.

“Yes Jacko?” I honestly didn’t understand.

“Oh God! I’m scared okay! So STOP IT NOW!!!” He burst out, stamped his foot on the bed (which didn’t make much effect) and stomped out of the room.

I was stunned. Jacko was afraid of playing Fat Joe.

Woww.

20

It was evening. Daddy would be getting home soon. I was playing with Buzz, in my room.

“Hey Jen?” I turned to see Jacko at the door, hands behind his back.

“Ye-ah?” I said.

“Umm- could we talk for a minute?” He took a step forward.

“Oh sure! Come on in!” I jumped onto my bed, and invited him to join me. He seemed to breathe more.

“Hey, I just wanted to ask you- if, you know, you won’t tell anyone about what I told you today.” He said.

“Uhh okay, but- what did you tell me?”

“You know- about Fat Joe-”

“Oh that. Cool. I’ll say you shut your door and I couldn’t see what work you were doing.”

“Thanks.” Jacko smiled. He got up to leave.

“But I want something in return.” I remembered suddenly.

“We’ll take turns at bringing your stuff down. And when I bring a game down from your room, you will play it.”

“I can’t take turns.”

“Fine, just promise to play.”

“Deal.”

“Deal.”

And that’s how my problem was solved.

A Jackson is angry

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6

“Jacko, don’t- do- what you are doing. I am angry. You’ve got to respect that. You can’t make me try to forget my anger with Cheetos!” I stamped my foot and held my hands in tight fists.

“Placate. That’s what you want to say. Don’t placate me.”

“Yes, don’t do that. I am angry.”

“I know that. You said that already.”

“Well- that’s because I am. Angry.”

“I see.”

“You should.”

“And I do.”

“Good.”

I stood there, looking at him. He was standing still, looking at me. He had the Cheetos in his hand. He wasn’t offering me any anymore.

I walked out of his room, and went and sat on my bed. Then I remembered I hadn’t told mommy.

So I went downstairs, into the kitchen and pat mommy’s back. She had taught me long ago to do that and not start speaking just as I entered. I waited. Mommy said, “Yes Jenny?” and continued doing her work. The mixer whizzed.I had to shout above the noise.

“MOMMY! I AM-”

The mixer stopped.

“-ANGRY.”

Mommy turned towards me and gave me a tight slap across the cheek. The one that Jacko had put a bruise on.

“Who do you think you are, shouting like that? Think I’m your servant or something, huh? Your father’s daughter, you are. Go on speaking like that to me and I’ll show you! Now, off you go to your room and don’t show me your face until you’re called.”

I went upstairs, rubbing my cheek. I blamed the mixer. Ruddy useless thing. It was only because of that foolish thing that I couldn’t tell mommy that I was angry.

I went to Jacko’s room. I went and stood against the wall, hanging my head low and pulling an upside-down smile. I looked up. Jacko was watching me. I hung my head again.

“Come on. Let’s fix you a glass.” Jacko pulled me beside him, and took me downstairs. Jacko always fixed me ‘a glass’. It was water- hot and cold fifty-fifty. It made us think we were making something exotic. I liked it. We never made a real drink. Jacko and I just sorta didn’t like alcohol.

“It’s not fair,” I mumbled under my breath. But Jacko always did hear.

“What’s not fair, Jen?”

“I am not allowed to be angry. Daddy gets angry, mommy does… even you do Jacko. Just not me. I get slapped for being angry. It’s not fair.”

“I know Jenny. You don’t get it fair. But say what- I’ll cut you a deal. If you promise you won’t be angry anymore, I’ll let you have Buzz.”

Buzz was Jacko’s favourite person from Toy Story. He never let me touch it, he said I might break it. I knew Jacko was being very kind.

“Ok. I won’t be angry anymore.”

“Ok. Just take care of him.”

Jacko told me to wait outside, as mommy was still in the kitchen.

I thought about the right place in my room to keep Buzz. Jacko would like him to be safe. I decided to keep Buzz in my sock-drawer. That was safe.

Jacko got me my ‘glass’. I sipped through it, sitting beside him. The familiar taste of warm water coming in suddenly through the cold gave me a thrill. Jacko watched and smiled.

I finished my drink and Jacko took me upstairs. He read a book, and I sat beside him and peeked in.

I dreamed about Buzz.