The Numbers

Manas Mulay
29 Mar 2018

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I woke up with a heavy head. Sleep had been difficult to achieve for the past few days, a growing sense of impending doom had been spreading through me, numbing me. The sun’s golden rays streamed through the window. The leaves of the tree outside made eerie dancing shadows on the floor and the wall.

I washed up and got ready to leave for work. Jimmy, my dog came up to me. He was whimpering. Strange, I thought he doesn’t do that too often. I patted him on the head and he nuzzled up against my hand, licking my fingers with his warm tongue. Bidding goodbye to him, I opened the door and got out.

I squinted as the sun’s rays hit me straight in the eyes. It took a while for me to adjust to the light. Ah! There, I could see again, all the people, bustling about, hurrying to get to work.

And above everyone’s heads floated the numbers. Oh, the numbers, God’s way of playing a joke on us. Those numbers were the exact time and date of when a person was going to die. You couldn’t avoid it. You couldn’t influence it. All your decisions finally led to the same day; it was cast in stone. It didn’t provide the location where you would have your life snuffed out of you.

The thing with the dreadful numbers was that one couldn’t see their own number, and no one ever told anybody theirs. That was the way. The moment someone tried to warn a person of his approaching death, the words would just go unheard. As if the person had gone mute. I tried to warn a street bum once, in sign language. The silly fool wouldn’t listen. He ran off and got caught between two cars. Maybe it was writ in stone.

I turned up my collar against the cold biting wind, hurrying to get to the station. People were exceptionally nice today. Now that I think of it, they had no arguments in the past month. Maybe it was about the country winning the war, and everyone was happy. Who knows what goes through people’s heads. Aren’t we all just the same? A complex bundle of proteins, emotions, and water patched up into a compressed space, with stardust sprinkled onto us to bring us to life?

On the train, I noticed an old lady looking at me. She looked straight into my eyes and stared for quite some time. Maybe, I reminded her of a son she’d lost in the war, or maybe her husband. Who knows?

The peculiar incidences continued throughout the day. Why were people so nice to me, I asked myself. The feeling of impending doom returned, washing over my body. I could barely move my hands and legs due to fear. Could it be? Was it the day already? I was a strapping young lad, twenty-something and going about his life, joyous, cheerful and merry and my time was up already.

I walked out of my office and told the manager that I was feeling sick. He seemed to understand. Maybe the fated day to “get my affairs in order” was today. All I could think of was if Jimmy my dog was going to be alright. Maybe even the animals could sense the end of our days.

Death had never scared me, why should it today? I went around walking around town and told the kennel to pick my dog up in a day or two. I explored the city for a while and received a free meal at a small restaurant where the owner seemed overly sympathetic. It’s funny how people don’t really care about you when you are walking about with many days to your timer. Humans become human only when trouble is sure to befall you. Maybe you do realize the true value of a person only after they are gone.

Shuffling about the old part of town, I came across a very strange shop named


Preserving since 3010

Curious, I walked into the shop. I was greeted with the sweet aroma of old books, dust and the lingering smell of countless cigarettes that men had smoked there before me. There sat a man, almost imperceptible in the pale, dim light of the one solitary bulb that hung crookedly from the ceiling.

“Yes?” he said, “What can I do for you today?”

Looking up, he perhaps noticed the numbers above my head and said, “Oh.”

He walked towards me and grabbed me by my collar. Resistance was futile. If today was my last day, why not just play along? He led me through a small door at the back of his shop. Instantly, the smell of formaldehyde, disinfectants and other chemicals flooded my nose.

“This is the preserving chamber. Here we put you to sleep before your clock runs out. Your mind stays awake, we take care of that. Your body doesn’t deteriorate. We are in the middle of finding out the methods for revival. Imagine that. Preserved and not dead. Revived; back to life again. Just like Lazarus. My name is Dr. Ethan Byrne. Would you like to go ahead with the process?”

Live and die, or become an Egyptian mummy. It was all the same to me. I enthusiastically nodded my head.

Handing me a diary, he said, “Here, write down all you want about today. When and if you are revived, you can start writing some more.”

So these are possibly my last words for the people on Earth. Change is inevitable. If you come to accept this universal truth, you may perhaps be able to live peacefully. Don’t run away from challenges. Stand put in the face of fear and danger. Great things do not come easy. Only when you are dead from exhaustion should you stop trying to achieve your destiny. The Universe loves a stubborn heart. And most importantly, don’t get stuck in a groove, for it will drain the life out of you.


It is I. Alive and well. It is the year 3141. I have survived untouched, unaged for the last 70 years. Surprisingly, the diary has survived the ravage of time. Dr. Byrne is no more, but his colleagues managed to find a formula for revival after all. Maybe they will now try to make the human race immortal. However, these ingenious folks have devised a method that renders anyone who is injected with the formula, infertile. Continuation of species is not required if the whole race lives till eternity. Ingenious. Eternity scares me though.

As I left the room, I met a janitor in the hallway. NO! It couldn’t be. The number above his head was still present. However, it was the year 7525. I stood still. Shocked. Maybe it was the end of the world. Or maybe the human body could withstand only so much of eternity.

Maybe Dr. Byrne understood this. Maybe this was the very reason he decided not to preserve his body. Funny how a man who invented immortality decided to lie in a peaceful slumber; never to be woken up again. What is the purpose of living if you are not going to die someday?

Manas Mulay

Loves to read, write, talk, walk and randomly roam about cities. Also cinema and guitars and much more.

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