It was hot inside the room. The AC was broken and the fan was reeking as if counting its own few last breaths. The still air in the room was suffocating me but everyone else seemed to be dead-sleep. I was lying on my bed, going through everything that had happened that day. It was then that I heard a distant horn-blow of a train.
The Palakkad railway station was just 50 m away from our hotel. And something about it had pulled me when we had checked-in earlier that day. I should go for an aimless walk to the railway station, it occurred to me.
I walked out of my hotel room then. As I walked down the alley of the hotel, I saw two guys talking. First, stone-faced with dark-eyes, looking straight into the other guy. Second, bespectacled, carrying strong expressions on his face. They were too occupied by anger, I suppose, to have noticed me pass by them. I took the stairs instead of the lift and I could find some boys sitting around the steps, some standing in the alley holding a glass of alcohol in hand, talking. That reminded me of my days during college, scraping off some long-buried mis-happenings.
As I reached the glass doors of the hotel couple of floors down, I could see nothing outside. I stood there to get accustomed to the darkness and while I waited, I could hear the guys I had passed earlier. They were shouting now. Both of them. It was the anger talking.
As I stepped out, a sudden pang of chilly wind pierced my skin, sending out shivers all along my spine.
“I should’ve gotten my jacket”, sliding my hands in the pockets of my jeans, I murmured and headed out to the railway station.
“The train has left the earlier station. It should be here in next 15 mins”, I heard someone speak as I reached the platform.
I kept walking on the main platform, taking in all those varied sounds and emotions and without any second thought, went on to walk on the rails. The edgy, crushed stones made noise as I walked over them. The famous Palakkad winds were caressing my face and I was flipping from stones to rails and back.
After 10 mins, I saw the flickering lights of an engine far away. Sounds of metals clanking slithered through the rails and a series of horn-blows followed. I realized that I was walking on the rails on which the train was chugging and hence I moved away. At the same time, I heard a faint shout from ahead of me but didn’t find anyone around. Deeming the shout as coming from one of the houses nearby, I sat down at the edge of one of the rails.
When I looked up towards the platform after I settled, strangely enough, I saw a guy walking on the rails. I got curious and kept looking at the guy. As he passed an overhead lamp along the rails, I got a shimmered glance at him. What I saw made me tremble.
The guy looked exactly like me.
“Am I dreaming? How is that even possible? Am I hallucinating?”, I was fighting with myself. I rubbed my eyes vigorously and then looked at him again. He was there, still walking on the rails, flipping from stones to rails and back. Just the way I was walking few moments back. It took me some time to realize, to my horror, that he was walking on the rails on which the train was coming. Not knowing what to do, I stood up frantically. I was breathing heavily at this point of time.
I heard the series of horn-blows again. The train was closer now but was still very aggressive. It occurred to me that the guy would realize the impending danger and move away as I had done.
But he didn’t. I felt the ground below me slipping away.
“Hey, woa”, I shouted at the top of my voice and ran towards him with a kick. I was looking at the train and then looking at him. I could hear the rattles of the train now.
Train, him. Train, him.
“Why is he not moving away from the track? What does he have on his mind? Is he crazy? What is wrong with him? Why is he not looking at me?”, I blabbered.
“Hey, woa. Get away from the track.”
I was shivering with fear but I kept shouting and running towards him. I heard horn-blows more frequently now and the intensity of those blows wrapped me with fear.
Suddenly, he stopped. He stopped walking and looked up. I stopped running but scurried towards him. Those edgy, crushed stones didn’t matter.
“Hey, woa. Get away from that track. Can’t you see the train coming? Get away lad.”, I shouted, addressing him. I could now see him clearly, very clearly. I was just a track away from him now.
He looked at me and smiled.
The train blared the horns again. The horns, this time, shook me from within. I shouted again. For one last time.
Something that I can not forget even today is the smile on his face. A smile that was mine. A smile that died with him.