Thursday, January 10, 2013

A World in Black and White

Posted by A Great Liar

[The following is an excerpt from a currently undergoing novel, 'Requiem for a Vertical Man']

One quick glance at Raspil and you would suspect that he was a rat who has learned to evolve with the passage of time and exposure to human bondage. Learned to speak rather than squeal and to walk on two, a lone survivor distinguished from the rest of his clan beneath the swells and filth of the life underground; a labyrinth of dark sewers populated by the blind seers that feed upon the human waste, and look upon them as would an ill-treated disciple upon the Godhead responsible for their little misfortunes.

He entered the East End of the city, after one long hour of walking, an abstract figure with his head down, with usual brisk strides. Just one of his daily night walks.

Raspil has always felt more at home in the suburbs of the low, with the weakly lit street lights, and poorly maintained houses with broken porch stairs and the fuzzy window panes with secret messages scratched all over its glass. The old bricks that have witnessed millennia of living their lives, never to stir a limb, or utter a whimper of complain, for the years of inhuman conditions it has endured, forever plunged into the sinful cycle; the livelihood of the East End inhabitants.

The usual expressions stayed frozen for ages on the heavy laden doorways, made of thick wood from which arose a dull odor of ennui and old age, and men who appeared out of them every morning, leaving behind a stupor to join the squalor that they have grown to love and hate in their own peculiar ways; the way of an East Ender.

Silly rabbits seeking heaven in the most unlikeliest of the rabbit holes, behind dark lanes of the slums and dwellings, at the Hogan’s Alley, with years grown immune to the stench and foul odor of the little dens carefully tucked in between the residences of poverty, where strangers made merry on most nights during the week. And come every weekend, it was a mass requiem of the sinners and the unfaithful, men with prospects of syphilis, and the painted fairies of the dark who much appreciated their penchant for doom and feasted on it.

In the mornings, the sun light burned against the lice on their skin and the ugly whiskers, and their faces grim with the rounds of cheap whiskeys down at Bernie’s. Most of the men of the East End dreaded the mornings to follow; the light bringing little favors to their lives, lives which only made sense as a whisper and a secret that most had not the courage to admit in their most private, honest moments.

Inevitably, most men drank the nights out of the prospect of facing themselves in the mirror, and with good effect. For generations since the days of Separation, it has worked for the better. There were no places of worship left in the East Side, mostly bombed to smithereens by the blindgods of the skies; the metallic night fliers that flew from the other side of the bridge.

All that murder and mayhem during the days of the war. Though the bombings hardly took place these days, very rarely if ever, but Death has continued to frequent the East End, leaving the men to live in a constant state of hangover, from one to another and so on in their daily lives. 


Out in the streets, the ravens of the night were missing from the ledges and the street poles with lights that have either gone missing or now were left to burn with the dull overbearing gaze of a near blind.

The emptiness added to the mornings, that feeling of unbearable loneliness in spite of the squalor, the dead end jobs on the factories and pubs, and the delis of the East Side. Though not all of them chose to work for a living. A number of men, rounded out into various packs, hounded the streets and the deserted back lanes, seeking a potential victim with enough in his or her pockets to get them off the hook as far as their next meal was concerned, while the day wears on, their stomachs churning, their hearts getting colder, and their minds conjuring crimes of the lowest variety. 

And as the day draws to the close, a beggar in rags was seen running in the main market street, chasing down a boy who hardly looked more than seven, with not a shred of clothing on his painfully thin body, while in the backdrop the reckless Sun quietly headed towards the West.


At exactly the same time, at Hogan’s Alley, which was just off the lane Raspil was currently engaged in, three drunken scavengers gathered asunder, visibly in protest against the fire that took place couple of days ago, burning to death a mother and her two young children, in the tenement house 25 Pitt street. Mother, Lena Leiman was 24, and the children, Sadie Leiman and Henry Leiman, were two years and seven months old respectively.

The fire, it is thought, started in the rear portion of the cellar, which is partitioned off into bins for storing coal and wood. The flames spread with such rapidity that in a few minutes they had seized upon the stairway which ran up through the center of the house, thus cutting off the means of egress for the members of twelve families who lived on the upper floors.

All who were on fire escapes were rescued without accident. Those who were suffering from inhaling smoke were attended by a surgeon at the local hospital and soon recovered.

When the firemen came to explore the building, while Assistant Foreman and the rest of the squad were overhauling the debris in the stairway between the third and fourth floor, they found three bodies burned almost beyond recognition.

They proved to be those of Mrs. Lena Leiman and her two children. Aaron Leiman, the husband and father, a cloakmaker, was at work in a cloak factory at 124 Greene Street when the fire occurred. The mother had her two children clasped to her breast when found.

The bodies were in a fan-shaped recess midway on the stairway leading from the fourth to the third floor. The family occupied rooms on the fourth floor, and it was evident that the woman had caught up her children and attempted to make her way down the staircase, but had been overcome by the smoke and had fallen on the staircase.


He noticed a young girl, holding a baby, sitting in a doorway next to a garbage can. Raspil decided to halt, looking around to make sure that he was alone in the narrow lane, and take his time to study the girl.

The eyes were the first thing that he noticed. And the large wooden door serving as a grim backdrop to the overall visage, a silhouette of faded lighter shade on the dark wooden color a testimony of the many years of its existence in the most unfavorable of conditions.

The eyes lacked the dream; if anything, they were too attentive for their own good, like a set of x-ray balls on a hard stern face. It’s a face of a ten year old that has learned to give nothing away as early as that, having learned that the world around her was nothing but a great and secret show holding no secrets.

Raspil attempted to start a conversation with her, and was received with the sheer immobility of her response, no words or gestures that could account for the fact that the girl noticed him at all, except the eyes that continued to stare back at him.


The fire had burned fiercely; a burning dot at first perhaps borne of some freak accident, it fed like a hungry wild beast and grew in stature, like a giant blob spreading, brooding upon the wood and the human flesh alike, holding nothing back. It burned as if there was no tomorrow, and world would have nothing left to burn. As if quenching a thirst that was unfathomable.

And when the unfortunate mother tripped on the stairway, her survival no longer an equation, the beast of flames swallowed the unfortunate family in its snares, and the innocent faces of fear in denial of the approaching death, hoping against the inevitable.


As Raspil grew closer, he began to realize the horror at hand.
The thing the girl was holding so irrepressibly against herself was a charred, burned beyond recognition body of a little infant. There was nothing of the face, or the skin that remained salvaged.

He drew back, as if struck by an invisible bolt of lightening emanating from the girl. His stomach churned, perspiration beading from his forehead, and his mouth stayed agape, though it trifled no sound. 

[Do leave a comment, it matters...]


  1. OH AGLLL why so much sorrow? I was hurt by the little girls story.

    Actually I would like to write a novel too but there are many things that stop me. I cant dwell on sorrow and a story cannot have just joy!!!

    I have heard of many sad stories that have actually occured later on in reality (you would find them if u browse for amazing coincidences.)Like sinking of titanic. Though these are supposed to be coincidences I always feel that the mind has the power to create reality. The writer has an intense mind that sees everything in vivid detail while penning it. So I am afraid to create! I am like the hen that wants to lay an egg but thinks too much to lay any. HA HA

    Btw its good that u can dwell on any topic without these fears. AT least u an lay all ur eggs. :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi there :),

    it's not my first time on your blog,though I've never posted a comment.I must say I find it a bit difficult to read your stories,because the English you use is very elaborate - and unfortunately mine isn't.But,that won't discourage me to come back again and try to understand it all better.
    However,I must say I really liked your flesh story in only 55 words.Short,good language and very symbolic.A big story told in only 55 words :)!

    I wish you all the best with your writing :)!


  4. Wow. This was gut wrenchingly sad. Passionate indifference Is the word that comes to mind as I read the way it is written in. Beautiful. Deep and yet shallow. Ok that doesn't make sense. Lets just say it was amazing.

  5. I wonder,would there have been so much imagery if the place was just another pretty,polished,perfect,prissy vicinity?(couldn't resist all that Alliteration!)...nicely done!
    P.S. All these excerpts, are they continuations or do we have to wait for your book to come out?!

  6. I think sorrow becomes much sad after penning it down.

  7. Your imagination is amazing. The imagery is beautiful I must say.

    ✗ℴ ♡

    +To Me It Matters+

  8. love the way you write!.... I wish i could write like this...

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  10. not a liar but a fantastic writer whose expressions call forth the readers to think a little more with an open heart..alluring story with a language beyond the common man but for the common man..having brought up in Dubai i'm having a couple of good friends from pakistan, to my best knowledge they are very talented&considerate..smiles:) God<3u

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