Monday, October 22, 2012

A God Dances Through Me (a short story)

Posted by A Great Liar

“I betcha don’t believe a word am sayin’. You one of them city boys who believe God won’t push the button nomore.” The old man said. “Well, you betcha sorry ass He has.”

Crazy people tend to prey on the fears and vulnerabilities of the other people. Most of them could smell that in their prey like no other animal.

I told myself not to panic. A single click of the ignition could be all I need to put it behind, and a bit of faith that broken down vehicles in the middle of a highway have a way of sorting themselves out on the first sign of trouble.

And the old man was trouble. He was trouble all the way.

Feeling nervous, I asked. “And when do you reckon He did that?”

“It’s been two days straight, or a little over. When did you last switched onto your radio?” He pointed to the car radio. “Or does the damn thing work?”

The damn thing that the old man referred to did work. My Sony car radio looking a touch too battered by years of neglect. 

He began pleading, as if reading my thoughts. “Yo’ sti’l plann’ to head north, arentcha? Like the rest of them fools.” He paused, half expecting me to panic and race off. “God’s finally made up His mind to get back on us you see. You ever seen people meltin’, that’s what it looked like to me back there. And most of the newborns lookin’ half finished too.”

“You been in some kind of trouble, old man?” I asked, losing my patience. “Back there where you from.”

“Huhn. What didcha say?”

“Up to something no good back there perhaps? Got too drunk and whacked a fella, or touched a wrong girl or somethin’. Got an old limpin’ fool like you scurryin’ off like that.” 

The old man stared at me, long and hard. “Now look here, young man. Don’tcha go smartin’ on me now. I ain’t tellin’ you to do nothin’. Dig your own damn grave if its fits ya. All am doin’ is telling you that back north, things ain’t the same nomore.”

I reached for the ignition, praying for a miracle.


My initial reaction was to run the damn thing down, and I probably would have, had it not been for a broken down car in the middle of a fucking desert. And no, I ain’t crazy, I ain’t the killing sort of man. It was just this thing, you see. Something about him that … that just didn’t quite fit in. Looking drunk, starved and running as if to escape God’s little planet.

Or to ruin it.

A desert noon playing tricks, that’s all. I told myself.

Stranded on the highway, I couldn’t help but notice a figure running in the middle of a heated noon, waving about at the speeding vehicles, though there were none to speak of. The old man hardly had any clothes on.

He cut a lone figure on the long deserted road, lingering a shadow longer than I had ever seen.

Fell for the worm as they say. Curiosity makes a fish of us all. 

“Car trouble?” The old man asked once he got close enough, standing next to the car window with his eyes squinting, staring down at my face. “You headin’ north?”

He looked a forlorn drunken figure, probably in his early 70s, long hairs and sunburns. Yes, plenty of them, and they looked a lot worse up close.

But sometimes, you miss out on something that is right in front of your eyes.

I replied in affirmative.

“I ought to warn you off. Been doing that since I got off them towns, and none of those fools on the wheels payin’ shit to anything I said.” He paused. “Seemed to me that the whole world is headin’ north them last couple of days.”

Around us, nothing else seemed to move. Nothing else seemed bothered. The whole universe had dipped its fat round head in the intergalactic pit of sand against the face of this intruder. 

I asked him to explain himself. Quietly telling him he was making no sense.

“There ain’t nothin’ in them towns but trouble.” He croaked. “You can’t be headin’ north. No one in his right mind should. Need you to turn around, and put as many miles behind ya as ya can.” 

A crazy doomsayer on a highway wasn’t something I would have made my bets on when making up my mind for a trip back to my hometown after a decade of keeping distance, a decade of cold heartedness on my part borne of an unhappy childhood. Though the fact that my distant father has passed away recently made it a lot easier to go back to the things left behind. The trip wasn’t just about visiting him, but to bury him, and hopefully the memories that came with it.

I noticed the empty bottle of whiskey in one of his hands, knowing where exactly all of this was going.

The man looked back north, contemplating. “I been livin’ one of them towns. Them’s all too ugly now. All of them folks down there too. The whole bunch of towns’ lookin’ like scattered swamps, swarmed with bunch of creeps who once looked like men.”

He pointed down his feet. “Lookie! I got a bit roughened up ma self. Down the riverside I walked yesterday morn’, Got ma feet all nastied up in the water there. Ain’t looked like no water I ever seen in ma life.”

I needed to move on.


I told him that the radio worked just fine. I recalled listening to Cold Play’s Viva La Vida, Bill Withers’ Aint No Sunshine, and even to gruffly voiced Dylan getting feverish about death and dying. Telling us it was ok to die if you only put up a little fight, made it long enough and hard enough against the dying of the light.

“Been listenin’ to the news lately?” He asked. “It ought to be in the news by now.”

“Yes, I have.” I lied. “There ain’t nothin’ in them that I noticed.” I haven’t specifically been hunting for news on my trip so far.

“Hmm, well, maybe the news hasn’t reached them ears yet.” The old man replied. “Or maybe they ain’t no believers no more. Little city boys like you busting their asses off for a livin’ while the world’s running short on time.”

I took a moment to stare deep down into his bushy eyes, and saw nothing. Nothing of the madness pouring out of his mouth.

I pointed at the empty bottle dangling on his left hand. “You been living of them cheap whiskey for too long, old man.” I managed a smile. A right amount of whiskey in the veins could bring the whole world crumbling down.

“Whiskey my ass”. The old man crooned. Smashing down the bottle on the road as if to prove it. “I been runnin’ down this road for two days straight and this damn bottle ain’t licked liquor for the best part of it.”

“You expect me to believe that?” I said.

“I expect you to turn on that darn radio.” He replied. “That’s what I expect you to do, good and proper.”

I looked at him, keeping a straight face. Thinking how crazy I would have to be to actually reach out for my radio, if only to make sure if the world was still round enough since I last checked in.

“Turn it on, wontcha.” A wide grin appeared on the old man’s face, unveiling the dark holes between the random set of crooked teeth and bad gum. The expression on his face seemed to be one of invitation. Daring me to accept the challenge.

“Turn it on and believe, city boy.”

He is from some other planet. A crazy thought occurred to me.

“Whatcha lookin’ at me for like that”. The grin just got wider. “You ain’t no smart city boy are ya. Can’t ya tell that a God dances through me? Can’t you see nothing beyond the busted cars and sunny radio sets.” Paused. “Can’t ya see nothin’ yet?”

I half expected the old man to change. To watch him waver and blink as a hologram would, failing to hold on to some mysterious relay gone momentarily stray, channeled off by some cosmic plateau none have heard of; a deep dark hole in space responsible for all this.

And I have fallen for the worm.

Looking back at the radio set, I watched my hand reaching for the little red button, trying to hold onto the part of me saying that all I have to do is to turn the damn thing on, switch to one of those news channels, and that would be the end of this whole crazy episode. Same part of us that laughs about things we don’t understand, pats us on the backs, and tells us that it’s nothing at all.

I froze. My fingers against the cold dreaded button, itching to home in. Telling myself I ain’t the crazy one here. Telling myself that all I needed is a little push.

The End

[Do leave a comment, it matters]


  1. this was.. intriguing. are you a columnist? it seems so, except that you say you're down with Achilles' heel when it comes to grammar, and that wouldn't make sense. you write beautifully, and you don't sound like some teenage kid. your stories are more mature, with an in depth charisma which a kid can never portray.

    and talking about the end of the world, sometimes it feels like it's looming over us, ready to pounce, at the blink of an eye.

  2. @The Butterfly Effect: Oh thanks a million once again. This one was originally writen for and published at Michael Brown's MUDJOB few months back.

    And lolz, I am 28 plus years old, teen years now seem like a distant dream... ;)

    What made you think I was a teen? Just curious...

  3. @The Butterfly Effect: And no, I am not a columnist, I am a techie by profession, and a reader/writer by choice.

  4. Well you follow a lot of teen blogs, and somehow what you write and your choice of reading (assuming what you've written in ur profile is correct) doesn't match with the blogs you follow:D

    once in a while when going through the boring newspaper you find a column that holds your complete attention and makes you think, that's what your writing invokes in me, the same kinda feeling. Hence I asked whether you're a columnist:)

  5. @the butterfly effect: Oh ok. When I first started this blog, almost 2 yrs back, I went around following blogs left, rite and center in order to attract visitors. To b honest, majority of those blogs I have hardly visited more than once.

    And well, blogging and promoting one's blog has their charms, but they r certainly not durable, at least not for me. So I have kinda lost the zest for it, as it were, which is evident from the fact that my blog's been stuck at 100 followers for a while now. But it just doesnt seem to matter anymore.

    And yes, whats in my profile is correct, and a touch outdated I am afraid. Those details were filled sometime ago. At least my list of fav reads have certainly increased since then...

    I been to your profile too, and well, Oscar Wilde is also one of my favs too :)

  6. i know what you mean about gathering followers, it's a phase and it passes as quickly as it comes. but frankly it doesn't really matter, because writers write for their own sake not for someone else's, mostly.

    when i read your blog, i feel like a whinny old lady comparing mine to urs :D you should compile all ur short stories and publish 'em. they're brilliant.

    talking about outdated profiles, i made mine 4 years ago. and maybe it's been updated once, i can't say.

    oscar wilde is good, yes. but i have read many since that. haven't had much time to read in a while, since the load of responsibilities increased, but i like nothing better than to curl up with a good book. reading is like entering someone else's life, escaping our own. so yeah, it's bliss :D

  7. Yes, that is quite true. Writers do write for their own sakes, however, it would also be vain not to admit that they love to be read. :D

    And well, regarding publishing, sometimes I wish I had more time for myself. I do make attempts at writing a novel from time to time, but the progress tend to be a bit slow, for obvious reasons. Currently I have about 4 to 5 ideas for a novel that I do tinker with from time to time.

    Its unfortunate that in the modern day publishing world, there is very little acceptance or market for short story collections, very few editors are willing to take on a short story collection, and that is also strictly for writers who already have a established name in the market, and have at least a reasonable amount of readership at their disposal. Upcoming writers have very little chance of making it, to be honest. Writing a novel is their best bet,

    Reading is bliss indeed. Nothing like losing one's self in book to be honest. Do tell me more about the author/books that u r into.

    I actually grew up reading a lot of Stephen King, from my school days actually. How is that for the creepy coming of age? :) Though I have moved on from SK since then, and these days I love brooding on writers like Thomas Pynchon, Don Delillo, John Steinbeck and Cormac Mccarthy.

    "oscar wilde is great, ain't he? though most people don't like him for his cynicism, i like him for precisely that"

    Oh wow, you just echoed my thoughts, word to word. Have you ever tried one of Shaw's? If you liked Wilde, you will totally love Shaw, especially his Man and Superman.

  8. That's true, nothing boosts up the ego as much as words of praise from a reader:) and if they happen to be awesome writers themselves, its a cherry on top the cake:D

    That is actually true, its really hard for new writers to survive in a place that's become competitive as hell. Hence most people lack imagination because they don't read, that's because noone actually promotes reading.

    Stephen king, huh? I don't think I could ever read anything by him, I'm too much of a scardy cat.I tried reading pet cemetary and got scared outta my bones:D

    I still remember the name of the first book I ever read; the magic faraway tree by Enid Blyton. I was eight. And from then on, I read all her series of famous five, the adventures, the five find-outers and dog and stuff like that. Then I moved onto agatha christie and frankilin w.dixon (the hardy boys) and of course harry potter:D

    About 5 years ago I discovered dorian gray, loved it. Then pulled out other works by OW.

    I've read classics by austen, by hardy, by bronte sisters, I've read paolo coelho, then khalid hosseini.

    Then one day I dicovered dostoevsky. It was amazing. Then there's franz kafka. The list goes on. I even read an urdu novel, the only one I'll ever read, peer e kamil by umera ahmed.

    I don't really follow any specific authors now, just good books recommended by people who have good taste in reading. I hardly have time to search for myself.

    And I'll be sure to read Shaw, I hope its good. I have been in search of a good book these days, as my studies tend to exhaust me.

    Oh and I hope one day you'l write your novel, and publish it. And then I'll be able to brag that I knew this author from his blog:P

  9. "That's true, nothing boosts up the ego as much as words of praise from a reader:) and if they happen to be awesome writers themselves, its a cherry on top the cake:D"

    Oh well, thats leaves me scratching me head! :D How do I return the compliment. A mere thanx sounds so lame. :)

    And well, the publishing world is all about making money now, and Good Heavens, least said about the kind of books that make it to the bookstores' shelves the better, the majority of them anyway, including all those vampire/cheesy romance serial fictions that every writer is churning out left right and center.

    I have often been left dissapointed by books that have been so overly hyped in the literary media, Dragon Tattoo trilogy being one of the many examples.

    But again, hard to blame the publishers alone since there is a wide readership available for the material in question.

    Ppl, majority of them anyway, lack imagination to be honest. A lot of it has to do with the modern day forms of entertainment at their disposal, televisions, gaming, etc etc u name it. A lot of these activities may be highly entertaining, but they never mentally challenge the viewer. I can understand imagination being something you inherit rather than acquire, but I also believe that an individual's taste can be improved upon by exposure to more competitive forms of entertainment.

    Oh Pet Sematry! That was one of SK's more mature works. One of my favs from him. Its such a slow burner this one, like for the first half, 200 odd pages, hardly anything happens, SK just builds the whole thing tirelessly till he eventually decides to unleash. The climax is one of the best I have read in a horror novel, very subtle, something that you rarely experience in horror genre.

    Btw, if I may make a recommendation, you can try SK's The Green Mile, its his best work by far, and it isnt a horror novel. Its a btfly written book, and probably his only work that might survive him. (Unless you have already seen the movie, starring Tom Hanks)

    And well, do try Shaw. I might sound blasphemic, but as a playwright, he happens to be far superior to Oscar Wilde. However, on the other hand, OW's Dorian

    Gray is just an extraordinary piece of art, and I believe OW had so much more to offer to the literary world had he not been so self inflicting a soul.

    Temptation was one of his problems apparently. I find his personae and the story of his life rather fascinating.

    Well, I have tried my hand at Coelho and Hosseini, but somehow they didnt really work for me. The universe simply failed to conspire, I suppose. My bad surely. Though I have read almost all of Dostoevsky, and was awed by the depth of his writing. Am yet to try Kafka though, but been looking forward to for a while.

    Please do try Shaw, my recommendation would be to start with Man and Superman, his best work surely. And then there are Back to Methuselah and Devil's Disciple.

    "just good books recommended by people who have good taste in reading. I hardly have time to search for myself."

    Well, I dont profess to have a gud taste in buks though I can certainly make recommendations, the buks that I think are worth a read. However, I am usually very careful with recommending most of my favs becoz lots of them, like Ulysses or Suttree, are deemed as plotless drivels by most readers. Which is kinda tue becoz those books serve more as an in-depth study of the state of human condtion rather than provide the kind of entertainment that most of contemporary fiction aims to these days.

    "And then I'll be able to brag that I knew this author from his blog"

    Oh lolz, thats a gud one! I am overwhelmed. Sounds like quite a lot to live up to. Fingers crossed I guess. :D

  10. you are right about the publishing world. they've to make money, so they,naturally, publish things that they know will sell. things like vampires and god knows what, i have no idea how people can read something that's so preposterous, and not in a good way.

    Tv is hardly anything constructive. it limits the inner eye, the thoughts and stones one's mind into thinking within the box. it shatters the possibilities one can attain through imagination.

    good books have been ruined in the name of "movies" and its ridiculous how people prefer watching them over reading.

    i knew green mile's a book, i didn't know it was by Stephen king. i never saw the movie, although many people recommended it, i always wanted to read the book. and now i will. after my exams, of course.

    i'll have to download all these books, and 'm tempted to do it now. i want to believe that "the only thing to do to get rid of temptation is to yield to it" but i think it'll be really stupid to do it now, since my exams are hovering over my head.

    you may try the trial by Kafka. i like it, though i think i wanna read it again, since i was a kid when i read it first and i know my comprehension of it may differ now from when i read it at 15.

    and as for you having a good taste in books, i think the way you write tells a lot about your taste in reading, which i think will be good, because no one reading stupid books could write so well :D

    i hope you'll succeed in your dream to write a novel. because, really, you ARE that good. masha'Allah, if i may add.


  11. Yes, I totally agree. Majority of the movie adaptations have not done justice to the books they were based on, let alone precede it, very few to be honest.

    Though Green Mile is one of the few exceptions, it may not be as good as the book, which cannot be taken as a criticism becoz the book is just excellent, but still is well worth a watch. I would definitly recommend you to watch the flick once you have gone thru the book

    I have a novel's collection of Kafka lying in my shelf, am gonna try The Trial pretty soon now. Thanx for the recommend. :)

    And I totally agree with Wilde's conviction, temptations are meant to pursued, irrespective of the consequences, call it stupid or poetic, sometimes the line between them is so thin... :)

    And thank you for all the words of encouragement and the best wishes, meant a lot. Seriously... :)

    Wish you all the best with your upcoming exams,

  12. Very well written!
    Holds onto your attention!

  13. I'll read the book and watch the movie once I'm done with the whole studies mess:D

    And pleasure is all mine, of course, its a delight to read something good.

    And about temptation... If only life was that easy:)

    Good luck to you, too, for everything that you do in life. It was good talking to you.

    Take care:)

  14. Plz do so at your convenience. And would be luking forward to your feedback, if possible. :)

    And its a pleasure to be read, to be honest,

    And regarding life, I always thought that we spend a gud part of our lives trying to put the humpty dumpty back together again. Perhaps it makes a lot more sense to simply bring the wall down, :)

    And good luck to you as well, in the coming exams and the things to follow. It was really nice talking to you B.E,

    Do take care :) ...

  15. Lol, I think you're right about bringing the wall down:D I make plans of it but I'm a planner when it comes to wreaking havoc, I never act on it for the fear of consequences. Actually, to be honest, its not fear, I just find it bothersome to deal with consequences. I'm one dame lazy bones:D

    And thanks, I'll be sure to update you when I read all that.

    And btw, name's Mahnoor :)

  16. Oh Lolz. Consequence is a river that runs both ways, or so I think.

    And it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance Mahnoor, I am Javed. :)

  17. Thank you. And a Very Happy Eid to you as well... :)