Once upon a time there was a scientist who wished to learn about the cause of complete happiness. Somehow he got his hands on a machine which could bring back people from the future. He traced the brain signatures of a number of candidates before selecting one whose aura had the radiance similar to his findings. The machine communicated to the subject in a unique fashion: it offered them the choice of going back in time while they dreamt of things that could have been.
He narrowed it down to a subject who showed exemplary satisfaction with his life. The fact that the subject refused the chance to come back to make things right reinforced the scientist’s faith as to the appropriateness of his choice. After a lot of coaxing, he finally got him to visit his past: the scientist’s present.
Upon arrival, and after the due introductions were made, the scientist inquired about the source of his happiness which he revealed to be his wife whom he absolutely loved, and who was expecting their first child. He had a successful career and faithful friends. He had enough assets to get along fine, but too little to attract undue attention.
Although the scientist did not admit it to himself, he had become jealous of this happy man with his perfect life. Without his consent, or indeed without his knowledge, the scientist silently plotted against the man, and set into motion events that would shake his state of perpetual peace. This would allow the scientist to see the effects of individual turning points that contributed to his jubilance, the justification being the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom in the interest of science so that people may have happier lives.
This resulted in the life force of the happy man to ebb, as both his happiness and his very existence were erased with mechanical precision, and before long he felt his life force leave him. The scientist hid his body in an old freezer box near the corner of his laboratory.
Still, the green fire of envy burned in the scientist’s heart, so he scanned the future again to bring back the very same individual, although now he was not the same at all. This time it was easier to grapple onto him, and ask him to return. Obviously, things had not played out as well for him this time.
When they met, and the introductions were made (again), the scientist asked him about his life. The answers were in the same direction, but to a lesser extent. The man had done everything in his power to do things right, but somehow they never quite went the way he expected them to, almost as if someone was plotting against him. But the paranoia had stopped a few years ago, and things finally seemed to be picking up. His beloved wife was expecting their first child, and he was progressing up his career ladder, and things were beginning to look bright. He wondered whether he should have came back, because now it had started to seem that things might turn out fine without his trying to remake his past.
The scientist was not pleased. He distracted his subject, and pricked his nerve with a lethal injection. The wretched devices for ruining the man’s life further began forming in the scientist’s mind before the man died.
The next time he brought the man back, he was almost too eager to return. Not many of the things had been well in his life, and he jumped at the chance to make amends, even if in an obscure dream. At some level, he had always understood the value of a happy life, and the things needed to lead one, but somehow all his attempts were blocked, almost as if there was something in the air that set its will against him, giving speed to his enemies, taking away the woman he loved, forced to do menial tasks and working under underlings.
As the scientist saw him, he couldn’t help but smile at his work. He could see each subtlety in his manner: the way he touched his lips, his balding hair, and his bent figure. However, being a man of science, trained in piercing perception of properties, he could determine that somewhere deep inside, the burning desire to be happy and free still survived, cloaked beneath the shroud of failed endeavors and unjust reprimands. ‘One more time,’ the scientist thought, ‘and it will be over.’
So, true to his form, the scientist once more killed the man, this time with an overdose of chloroform, and immediately began to work on the final touches to his masterpiece. He worked with a maddening glee, and no longer required the veil of science to justify his actions. He was so close to his prize he could almost taste it. Just once more and he would have his heart’s desire: true happiness.
Having executed the final steps to completely destroy his subject’s life and happiness, the scientist turned to his machine one final time to trace the unique signal of the once happy man’s brain. But before he could press the button activating the time circuits, a loud bang echoed through the laboratory as the scientist fell face first on the floor, a bullet in his head.
By the door, with a smoking revolver in his hand, stood the man whose life the scientist had ruined. He considered his actions.
For a long period, he could not understand why things would happen against him. When everything had failed, he set out to investigate the source of disturbance in his life. He found it. He debated with himself whether or not should the person responsible for everything be interrogated. He decided that people deserve a fair chance, and he would listen to his side of the story. Maybe he had a good reason for his actions.
Before entering the scientist’s premises, the man decided to scout the topography, during which he caught a glimpse of the scientist’s profile. As soon as he saw the pure, wicked, lustful delight on his face, he set his mind. Without thinking, he walked straight in. The door was open, the house deserted but for them, the moment precise, the trigger tingling, and the act was over.
Working on impulse and instinct, the man broke into the supplies cabinet and took out two cans of kerosene, which he emptied on the laboratory floor. His entire body was cringing with disgust against every object at the site, except an oddly placed old freezer box near a corner. He paused briefly when his eyes fell on it, and he felt almost sad looking at it. A part of him wanted to open it and see what lay inside, but something else stopped him from doing it. He felt as if he would lose what little soul he had left if he went even a step closer to it. Suppressing a shudder, he continued with his work.
He stepped out of the house, mindlessly fingering the scratch in his finger where he had lit the match. The smell of distant smoke was refreshing, and as he walked out away from the house, feeling the warmth of the burning building behind him, he felt something that had been missing for a long time: he felt happy.
~ Terence Tuhinanshu
Most of this came to me in an afternoon dream. I don’t usually sleep in the afternoons. For one it leaves me tired and groggy, and I never really wake up so the entire evening is ruined, and I’m frequently tired the next day as well. For another, I have the most vivid dreams that leave me disoriented and doubtful afterwards.
This one was different though. It was clear, and I was immediately gripped with purpose and had to write it out. Most of it is as it was in the dream, with minimal changes.
Rediscovered after six years, I now present in almost entirely it’s original writing. Although I have more command over language today than I did then, I have decided to preserve the original and present it in its form. What gives this piece value is not only its inherent quality but also the time in my life in which I wrote it, and must remain true to it.