Karan is in his room. He looked at his phone for the time and the screen reflected 11:58 pm on it. He could see the moon rays pouring onto his lap through the window. He started to hear howling sounds and felt like his house was surrounded by foxes. Then he thought, maybe they are dogs and probably it’s their mating season. He tried to calm down and distract himself from the sounds coming from outside. But now he started to hear his own heartbeat. He tried to observe his breath to calm down. He started to hear footsteps outside his room. He started to count them. one, two, three, … and then he could hear more than he could count. He froze knowing everyone would be inside his room now. He started to sweat and started having high anxiety anticipating all of them walking through his door. With one push his younger sister, Ravali who is 10 years younger than him opened the door with a bang and ran towards him, hugged and said ‘Happy birthday big brother’ and put up a big smile. Their parents and friends came in to wish him his birthday. Karan’s heart froze for a moment when Ravali bang opened the door but tried to give a fake smile to her and others. He tried to act as if he just woke up and tried to look surprised. He tried his best not to show his anxiety on his face. Karan was pretty extroverted until 18 months back. He is charming and would make friends with anyone in an instance. Once he was travelling from Puri to Vizag by train and started talking to a family of four who was sitting next to him. They were so impressed by him that they took a picture together in their DSLR and sent a photocopy to him in the post. When the pandemic hit, he stopped going out initially because of the restrictions but later he stopped going out in fear of getting Covid. In the first wave, after the lockdown was finished, he started going out initially. But within 3 weeks, he heard the news of his best friend Kumar that he passed away to covid. He started to go into depression and then he started to have more fear to go out. He decided not to go out at all unless necessary. He stopped meeting his friends. He started to wake up at 10 am because he had nothing to go out for. He would get into the office call directly after he woke up. He would get groceries and sanitize them. For vegetables and fruits, he would keep them in salt water for two days. He did not meet anyone for 7 months and even asked his maid to stop coming because he felt she would go to multiple houses to work and she might carry the virus with her to his place. He started to sleep 10 hours a day. He stopped calling his parents. Even if they call him, he would just hang up the phone in 1-2 minutes because he has nothing new happening in his life. He even stopped looking at his WhatsApp messages. As the days passed he stopped noticing which day it was. He kept his alarm from Monday to Friday. So he would wake up if the alarm is set off. Otherwise, he would sleep till later afternoon. He stopped feeling any emotions but he did not know it. How could he know if he doesn’t talk to anyone? After 7 months of this lifestyle. One day his father called him. He told Karan that he needed some documents to be signed for a new loan he is taking. Karan said he would do it on the same day and send it back. He went to the Xerox shop for the same. There were only two people in the shop, but they had to go inside the shop and stand in there for their turn. When he got into the shop. He started to feel so uncomfortable and claustrophobic that he almost felt breathless. He tried to tell the shop guy that he would go out and come back in a few minutes. He wanted to get some fresh air. But when he tried to call the shop guy, he felt anxious about calling him and speaking to him. Words were not coming to his mind on what and how to call him. He could just say bhaya and he would have turned back. But his mind became so numb that he was not able to recollect how to make simple conversations. He ran out and started to walk around the shop and went back when he saw there was no one in the shop. When he spoke to the shop guy saying ‘Please make two copies of these and give me an A4 size cover.’ He felt surprised at how easy it was to talk but felt completely new. He started to think. Oh, I could speak and it felt automatic. Then he felt stupid at his own thoughts. He continued to be isolated even when things cooled down. The thought that he would feel the fear of talking like he had at the Xerox shop scared him and he did not want such an uncomfortable experience again. His social anxiety started to build up even more. Now it’s been 18 months he came out of his house or spoke to anyone. Their parents insisted that he come home for his birthday at least. They called him so many times on this that he agreed to be at home just so he could avoid the phone calls. He said he could come for only a couple of days and go back. He did not make any conversation with anyone throughout the journey. He got a reservation during the day. He sat at his place and pretended to be sleeping all day just to avoid conversations. Now that he is home he knows that his family and friends are going to come to him to wish at midnight(like every year). He got scared. He wanted to run out of the house and come back in the morning. But he could not do it, because after his dinner he said to his family that he would sleep. He did not. He could hear his friends coming into the house. He thought it’s better to hang himself in the room than go out and face people. After his family and friends wished him. They took him into the hall and made him cut the cake. As people started to sing the birthday songs, his heart started to beat faster. He was just giving replies to people's questions or saying thank you when they wished him. He started to feel more anxious and breathless from his claustrophobia. He felt like pushing everyone around, running to the kitchen, drinking rat poison and dying. Just then, he felt a slap on his shoulder from one of his friends. He jerked with shock, took the knife in the cake and ran it to his friend's abdomen. The plastic knife broke and everyone was shocked at what just happened. Karan himself got shocked by his reaction and said sorry many times to his friend and told him he didn't know why he did it. The whole hall became calm. Ravali gave water to Karan and his friend to drink in two glasses. It got awkward. His friends said they would take a leave, wished him and left the house. His mom told, maybe he was too tired from the journey and probably had a nightmare in half-sleep. Though, it was very evident that his mom is trying to come to terms with what she saw. His father suggested they get back to sleep and can talk in the morning. Because no one knew how to react at that time. Karan came back to his room thinking about what just happened. He felt very repulsive talking to his family or friends. He used to love his sister so much and both were very close. But now, he hardly felt any love or affection even when she came to hug him. He was even feeling anxious when she was coming to him to speak at the dinner table or while she wished him a happy birthday. He felt lost. He started to feel what’s the point of this whole family, friends and living?. When he knew it would only make him more anxious to talk to them. He felt meaningless working because it wasn’t helping him for anything other than paying bills. He felt he needed to keep working at least, so he could pay his bills. He tried to remember how it felt like working in the last 18 months. He then realized there was nothing that was meaningful about working too. Because there were no ups or downs and he was working like a robot non-stop. He silently came out and went up to the terrace. He stood over near the wall and started to look around the city. It was calm. He looked down and had a rush of fear coming to his head. He felt like gravity was pulling him down. He never had fear of heights but he started to feel it now. He started to think about how he started to feel anxious at Xerox shop, how he had to pretend to be asleep on the train, how he started to feel anxious talking to his own sister or how he almost had the murderer instinct his friend slapped on his shoulder. He could not understand why he had to live in fear. He wanted to fight his fears. He still stood near the wall. He started to slowly look down. He figured it may be at least 200 feet from where he is because it is a 20 story building. In an instant, his mind gave the answer on how to end his fears. With one push, he jamp over the wall. His body smashed into the ground with a big thud sound. Karan could feel his whole body and head wet. First, he thought it was blood from all over his body. Then he realized it was completely dark but he was able to still think. He could feel his body paralyzed and couldn't move. He got confused thinking if he was dead and it was his soul thinking like in the movies or if he got paralysed. He thought, if he was paralysed, then this would have been the most stupid decision he ever made. Because his mind is still working and that's where the problem still is. He now wanted to be alive again. Go back to his sister and hug her. He wanted to sit with his parents at the breakfast table and talk to them. He wanted to get back to working and talking personal life to his colleagues in video and not just work. He wanted to go out with his friends and sit at their favourite chai and cigarette place and bitch about his job and life. But he knew it was too late. Whether he is dead and his soul was alive or he is alive and got paralysed. He knew it was too late. He wanted to open his eyes but couldn’t. He wanted to open his mouth but couldn’t. He tried to understand if he was dead or alive. He realized he was not feeling any pain. He now got convinced he was dead and it was his soul self-talking. He thought he did not know there was life after death. But now he knew. Then he thought if it was his soul, why is he not able to move or come out of his body and walk around like in movies? He thought, maybe I need to wait and see who will come and pick his soul, so he can learn which religion is incorrect about after death. He was hoping Yama would come, so at least going to temples was not a waste of time. Because now he knows Hindu mythology is real. He waited and nothing happened. He then thought he would try his best to move and tried to move his feet. He couldn’t. He is not sure why everything is still dark. He thought again. What the fuck did I do? Why did I do it? I just probably needed more time to spend with my friends, family and strangers to get back to normal. Maybe not talking to people made me anxious, maybe talking to people more would have solved the problem he thought. Shitttt. He told himself. He started to get bored of not being able to move and too much self-talk. He decided to put all his effort into his soul to move his body and open his eyes. He gave a herculean effort for it. And then, he was able to open his eyes. He found himself in his room lying on his bed. There was no power and he was completely sweating. The only light that was coming was the moonlight through his window. He started to hear foxes howling, then he thought maybe it was the dog's mating season. He looked at his phone and it reflected 11:58 am to him. He took a deep breath. He thought it was only a dream. He saw his door was open already. He smirked thinking now his sister can’t bang open and come. He looked at his phone again. It was 00:00 pm. He was anticipating some steps but heard none. He looked at the wall clock just above the door. It showed 3:00 am. He got confused. He walked out. The hall was empty. He walked back to his room and sat on his bed. He heard the noises again from the outside. Then he figured, the numbers are more than he heard before and closer to his apartment. He went out to look from his window. He saw himself sleeping on a bed wrapped in white sheets and put in a box. Everyone was crying around him. He said to himself. Shittt.
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