A Tunnel to the Heaven (Symbolic Short Story: Part II)

John Kolyav By John Kolyav, 4th Sep 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

What is pilgrimage? Is it worshipping god stepping over the corpse of a fellow human being? What happens to the limping man in the cave?

The sacred oath

By ten o’ clock six buses came to our area for taking us. In spite of the rush I could get inside one with the help of Krishna. We got seats together and I took the side one to see the outer world on the way.

Most of the people were old but some of them were spinsters unable to procure husbands due to the lack of dowry. All were in new dresses since they had sold out everything to comply with the instructions.

Within ten minutes the buses were ready to move. A man, who looked like a captain, rose from the front seat close to the driver and turned back. He, by a gesture, asked us to keep silence.

He roared, “All of you should take the oath before we leave. If there is any disbeliever, please get down immediately!” He watched a while for any slight protest. Fully satisfied, he started loudly,

“In the tunnel that leads to the heaven we do believe, believe, and believe!”

We all repeated as loudly as possible. It was arising from all the other buses also and I felt the entire city was rocking in its echo. My hairs rose out of ecstasy.

“In the promised tunnel leading north that is the only way for salvation we do believe, believe, and believe!”

We recited.

“In the unity of length, breadth and height of the three-dimensional tunnel we do believe, believe, and believe!”

When we completed it he went back to his seat in extreme satisfaction. He signaled the driver to start.

We looked enthusiastically at the people seeing us off and waved our hands. The happiness and hopes in our faces made them gloomy although they waved mechanically.

I was curiously looking at the scenery unknown to me.

The journey

The bus was moving very fast crossing bridges, lakes, rivers, paddy fields, coconut landscapes and rubber estates. Krishna started sleeping.

By one o’ clock I was hungry. But the scenes outside made me ignore my stomach’s complaints.

We reached the hilly places before three o’clock. The bus was moving slowly as the road was becoming more and more winding. The buses returning also slowed down our progress since the road was not very broad.

At 3.30 p.m. we reached a vast area in between two small mountains. There was an oceanic crowd hopefully waiting. We alighted from the bus and became two small dots on the outskirt of the large gathering. I was relieved by the sight. There was no need of any anxiety since all those people could not be cheated together.

“Don’t you believe the truth now?” Krishna enquired.

“Absolutely!”

My only doubt was whether we would reach the tunnel before closing it.

“Are you not hungry, Thomas?” He asked in a low tone.

“Yes! What about you?”

“Why to ask? But, we won’t get anything here; may be in the tunnel. Or else, they wouldn’t have mentioned in the pamphlet clearly not to bring food items.”

His reply comforted me.

We were sweating profusely. There was not even a breeze and hence the stagnated vapor from human engines was unbearable.

Some of them had brought sand clocks. When it showed 4.00 p.m. a grumble started and it grew to an uproar. Everyone wore caps. Although the distant hill was about one kilometer away from us we hoped that it was opened.

“So, the tunnel is a reality!” He must not have heard my excited expression.

Slowly we felt a wave-like movement. We were among the last and the event was like water draining from a large vessel through a small hole.

“I’m afraid whether it would close by the time we reach there.” His words seemed ominous.

It was tiresome for me as the movement of the crowd was discontinuous. Gradually, when we covered half way, the movement became faster. The crowd was diminishing fast and the mountain became clearer.

I was surprised seeing the vast mouth of the tunnel far away waiting to swallow anything in front of it. Three elephants might enter together. We were among the last ones who reached it. I looked at the red sun touching the hill.

“There is no gatekeeper here! Then why did he register our names?”

Holding my wrist he said, “They also must have left. We are far behind. Hurry up!”
His tone revealed a little annoyance.
Those who entered with us all moved away. The tips of the towels hanging from their shoulders ware waving rhythmically as if those were beckoning us.

The dark world


Within a few meters it grew quite dim. I could see nothing. Echoes were slowly fading and nothing was visible. The only consolation was that the floor was smooth and the path seemed straight and slightly descending. Suffocating stink of burnt out wicks was there but no light was seen.

A deafening sound was heard far behind. I did not to turn back.

“It’s the tunnel closed!” His voice was faltering. “It must be exact six p.m. now. It’ll open only in another millennium in a different space and time.”

“Because you are holding me I’m able to walk. How should I express thanks…?” Words were choking in my throat.

He did not reply. I felt him pull me strongly. Although his face was not visible I doubted if he was worried due to my lag.

The ground was slowly becoming muddy. It became sticky and I felt it difficult to walk.

“Some of them are hours in front. We two only are far behind. Hurry up!”

I shuddered at his impatient voice. Hesitatingly I asked,

“Shall we light the lamp?”

“Don’t be foolish as those who did it in the very beginning. That is for emergency!”

There were not even slight sounds in front. I wondered if the forerunners already had reached heaven although six days of journey was mentioned.

“You are very sluggish! Shall I move forward? I’ll wait for you.”

I realized his grip loosening. His fading footsteps turned me numb.

The chill, loneliness and the droplets falling from the roof awakened me. I decided to walk until fall.

The exhaustion and hunger at last informed me that about five hours had passed after entering the tunnel. I yearned for a place to sit and take rest.

Next step I tumbled down on something. I stood up, balanced and lighted the lamp.

I was shocked seeing dead bodies in the mud all around. Towels were tightened around their necks; eyes bulged and tongues protruded. The tunnel was ending and was bifurcating into eastern and western branches. Their bags were intact.

It must be stampede out of indecision. But, I could not imagine a believer could step over another human being for the sake of promised heaven. Suddenly I recollected many similar events during pilgrimage in the outer world.

I selected the one leading west. I wished not to see Krishna’s body since he was my only hope, waiting with a small flame.

***
Other links: http://expertscolumn.com/users/johnsonpjohn

Malayalam Novel: http://www.johnsonpj.com/swargathilekkoru-thurangam.html

Tags

God, Heaven, Kerala, Krishna, Pilgrimage, Stampede, Symbolism, Thomas, Tunnel, Worship

Meet the author

author avatar John Kolyav
Born in 1963, Postgraduated in 1986. Six novels and four poetry books published. Got three state- level awards for literary works. More details at www.johnsonpj.com

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