Today’s Collab Week post by Shivendra Shukla is on the colour Blue. You can find his Instagram here.
John was a very ordinary person. The strangest thing he had ever done was rescue a prickly chicken that had been stuck in a drain. John was also a tea-drinker.
As he stood in his office, with its cold, almost blue, industrial lighting scheme, he yearned for something more, not for the first time. He closed his eyes, hoping against hope that he was anywhere but where he was, but when he opened them again, he was still there – in his dreary little cubicle. Just like every day before, and every other day for the rest of his life, it seemed.
He sighed, and gazed at the mug of coffee on his desk. He still didn’t know why, but he had decided to break his morning routine of drinking tea.
John was a man of habit.
This tiny, seemingly inconsequential change in the otherwise constant flow of John’s frankly rather dull life would set into motion a long and complicated chain of events. Of course, John did not know this.
He took a tentative sip.
It tasted electric.
Almost instantly, John knew that this was a drink far better than tea, and right there, sitting at his overflowing desk, he made himself a promise: to always drink coffee, whenever he had the chance. He took a few more eager gulps, swirling the liquid in his mouth, basking in the glorious taste, inhaling the scent, as a man who had just emerged from a desert would cherish the sweet taste of water.
Feeling a strange sense of excitement, and buzzing with energy, he flipped open the file that sat atop the large, precariously balanced pile of almost identical, important looking dark blue folders. The tiny letters and numbers lapped against the white paper in waves of midnight seas, as John methodically, with well-practised precision, made short work of them. This was also highly unusual.
Having decided that today was not going to be so mundane after all, he thought to push things even further, and took a long lunch break. After a highly satisfying meal at a nearby restaurant, followed by a delicious coffee, John felt like he was the king of the world. This newfound confidence was immediately noticeable, and his co-workers marveled at his swagger, and wondered what had happened to him.
Towards the evening, the high wore off, and John was feeling a bit more like his usual self. Boring. Bland. However, having discovered the magic of coffee, he knew he could never go back. Having firmly made up his mind on this, he proceeded to purchase a whole bunch of coffee powder. He rather liked this new, impulsive lifestyle he had come up with straight out of the blue.
Once home, he switched on the television, which filled the room with a harsh blue glare, silently blasting him with advertisements, and set about making himself yet another mug of coffee. This time, he tried adding a large dollop of cream to it. He’d heard it improved the taste even more.
He stared in wonder at how beautiful the coffee looked, perfectly catching the light. With a slight tinge of regret, he put the mug to his lips, and drank deeply. It tasted suggestive. Almost like it was telling him to get rid of all the tea in his apartment.
Nodding to himself in agreement, he put on some soft blues-rock, and as the smooth sounds of ‘Blue Jeans Blues’ filled the room, set about collecting all the various teabags and tealeaves in his tiny kitchen, and unceremoniously dumped them all into a large bowl. The television set still projected its pictures in dumb silence. A man was being arrested for spray-painting ‘Kanye West is the Beetles of our generation’ on the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Taking a deep breath, hesitating just for a moment, John set fire to the pile of tea. In his mind, this was his own revolution, his own Boston Tea Party. He didn’t need any ships, or a harbour. This was an internal revolution.
The tea smouldered, producing large, dark clouds of billowing smoke. John hurriedly switched off the smoke detector, and took the bowl into the balcony. The smoke swirled thickly, joining the smog of the city in the indigo sky, forming vague shapes that were then torn apart by stray gusts of wind.
No, that was impossible. John blinked: he could have sworn he’d seen a large, smoky, ethereal hand beckon to him. Pushing the thought aside, he went back indoors, feeling rather liberated. Draining the mug, he whiled away the rest of the night watching the Oceans Trilogy of movies. Danny Ocean was so cool, he thought.
Saturday morning arrived, and John moved to turn off the television set. His finger slipped, and the television switched back to cable mode. A man was talking about a marathon, to be held the next day. John had a flashback to his glory days, when he was a star track runner in high school. He dismissed the thought, and shrugging, turned off the telly, and went to sleep.
His dreams were strange, and rather disturbing.
At 12 o clock, he sat bolt upright. He put on his sports shoes, and a light t-shirt and his favourite pair of running shorts. With determined aggression, he stalked to the kitchen, and made himself yet another cup of coffee. The rest of the day, he slowly jogged through the bustling city, from end to end, and then walked back, even more slowly. Exhausted, he fell asleep. The morning of the marathon arrived, and John woke up early, feeling well rested, and confident of his chances. He had a large breakfast, complimented it with a large fistful of pure sugar, and downed it all with coffee.
Feeling sufficiently prepared, he set off. Having secured a spot registration with surprising, but not altogether unexpected ease, he set about doing his stretches.
* * * * *
The very earth seemed to shudder as he bounced along upon it. His legs screamed with pain as they burned with an icy fire, but he kept going. He ran in a way he had never run before, or even thought he was capable of running. A large bead of sweat rolled into his eyes, and he blinked in pain. His vision blurred, and he almost gave up and stopped, but the memories from the previous morning spurred him on.
He remembered that he had been having a particularly odd dream, when a smoking, billowy figure had appeared to him. It had wings, like an angel’s, and it had told him that there was a message for him. John remembered asking the angel what it was. A loud, shrill beep had filled his head, like that of a supernatural answering machine. The sound had risen to a crescendo, and jolted him out of his slumber. Drenched in sweat, he had looked about, blearily, and seen a folded piece of baby-blue card paper on his side table.
“Come forth and receive eternal life,” it had spoken. John hadn’t been quite sure whether he was still dreaming, because pieces of paper did not ordinarily speak. After a while, it dawned on him: the voice had been in his head. Feeling satisfied with his conclusion, he stared down at the paper. It was hard to focus on the thin, ornate writing. It said that he should take part in the marathon tomorrow.
It was signed ‘– G’.
He sent one last burst of energy through to his exhausted legs –he could not stop: not now, when he was so close. Not now that God had finally noticed him.
As he crossed the line, he collapsed. The rain in the distance was visible, but not quite here yet. The city and the sky blended in a perfect harmony of cerulean as his vision grew foggy. His legs felt like they’d been frozen solid. He felt, and looked drained, a mere shadow of his former self.
As the announcer read out the names and their times, he closed his eyes, hoping against hope, but when he opened them again, he found that life had played a cruel joke on him, once again. He had come fifth, and won a toaster.
It was in this state that a strange man approached John.
“Hello, John. I’ve been watching you.”
“Who are you?” John asked, feebly.
The figure handed him a business card. It said his name was Gdevil.
The sky that existed in John’s eyes clouded over in visible confusion.
“The G is silent,” the man said.
And it all made perfect sense.