It was early evening and yet because of the clouds and the rain it was already beginning to get dark. I sat in my room leafing through a newspaper without actually reading it. My attention was caught by an advertisement about a new weekly 'Nawa-e-Jhelum' being brought out by GK publications. Nice title I thought, indeed the Jhelum must have lots of tales to tell. Musing thus I fell into a reverie when suddenly something startled me. I looked around with a strange panic growing inside me. The gloom in the room had darkened further but I could see an eerie glow in the middle of it and I could also sense the presence of something not quite tangible.
The carpet covering the floor appeared to be undulating. I thought that it must be an illusion; a trick played by the dwindling light and the deepening shadows but then as I watched with a mix of fascination and terror I could see that something was seeping through the carpet from below. This fluid 'something' continued to rise in a shapeless mass and then as if it had found a purpose and a design it gradually organised itself! Arms, legs, torso and a head with long wild locks became discernible with rapidity! The initially formless face began to develop recognisable features and in no time an ugly bloated human form with coarse features and bloodshot wild eyes became evident, horrifying enough to inspire horror in hearts much stouter than mine.
Outside the rain continued to fall in torrents, pelting the roof and dashing against the window panes as if trying to break in. The wild apparition that my eyes were beholding seemed to sway to the rhythm of the rain. Though there was no draft in the room the wild locks of this terrible humanoid were being tossed about as if caught up in a gale. It kept growing in size and I could see that its body was covered with muck and it bore ugly excrescences and scars and ulcers flowing with pus. Suddenly pointing a slime dripping finger in my direction, the apparition broke into maniacal laughter alternating with hysterical wailing.
The hairs on my neck stood up in fright. I wetted my dry lips with my tongue and managed to croak, "Who…who are you?"
"Who am I?!'' the apparition hissed. It stared at the newspaper that lay open by my side. As if commanded by its stare the open newspaper lifted up and lay suspended in midair. The advertisement announcing the new weekly 'Nawa-e-Jhelum' stared me in the face. The apparition extended its slimy finger and stabbing the word Jhelum in the advertisement said, "This is me! Jhelum! Look at me! I am The Jhelum!"
I looked at the slime-dripping, muck covered monstrosity. Even fear must not have been able to disguise the disgust on my face because the apparition smirked and said, "You find me disgusting?! Ugly?!"
"Well I am ugly!" it continued as I stared back speechlessly and then added with an increasing fury, "Look at me! Look at this! AND THIS!" the apparition pointed at the scars, the purulent ulcers on its bloated body, the filth that stuck to it at various places. "AND IT IS YOU, YOUR KIND THAT HAS MADE ME LIKE THIS!" The terrifying apparition which was by now bigger than any human could ever be thrashed about in its fury, foaming at the mouth. Then all of a sudden it paused in its frenzied dance and I thought I could feel its features softening a bit.
"I was not always like this…," it muttered, staring beyond me with glazed eyes and then turning towards me it whispered, "Why I was actually beautiful once!" I don't know whether it was my imagination but for a moment I thought I got a glimpse of the beauty that this bloated monstrosity must have been at one time.
"I was really a beauty," the apparition continued, "and then Man came to live in my vicinity. For years I nourished your kind, quenching their thirst, watering their fields. They would bathe in me; use me for cooking and cleaning. This beautiful relationship continued for centuries. I was highly valued, revered and some of them even prayed to me treating me like a goddess. Mankind flourished and progressed and then along came corruption, avarice and arrogance. Tapped water became available to men in their homes and I began to be treated with contempt. I got degenerated into a receptacle of waste and filth. Not only that, mankind encroached upon my territory and destroyed my outlets, my tributaries. Forests were wantonly cut down to feed the ever increasing greed of mankind and this brought down mountains of mud to choke me further. I was choked and smothered and converted into a huge drain until I could take it no longer!"
The apparition again turned into a raging fury, "It's payback time! You strangled me, now I will drown you and reduce your lofty mansions to a heap of rubble and filth! I already did it once but your kind never learns! You will taste my fury again! And again! I will yet destroy you!" These words seemed to agitate it further and it dashed against the walls all the while continuing to increase in bulk till it seemed to fill the whole room. I was squeezed and crushed against a wall until I began to feel suffocated which only added to my terror. I screamed…and screamed…and screamed…and it must have been my own screams that woke me up!
It was pitch dark and I felt an oppressive weight on my chest. I fumbled for the switch and after a moment of panic found it and flooded the room with light. I was alone in the room. I looked down at the carpet. It was undisturbed. My eyes fell upon the open newspaper. The title announcing the new weekly 'Nawa-e-Jhelum' in bold print stared me in the face.
Outside the rainfall continued with unabated fury. The apparition might have been a dream but the horror was real… I shuddered and closed my eyes and muttered a prayer for I knew that is all one could do.
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at email@example.com)