Written by Krish Sajnani
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The wall shakes. The blinding light appears again, vanishing as quickly as it came. My eyes frantically twitch from side to side, searching for something, someone to reach out to. But the box remains unyielding, almost remorseless. Nothing but my sustenance lies in front of me, a signal that the box wants me alive. Yet, it shrinks everyday, waiting for me to break, waiting for me to talk.
The light appears again, this time bearing a written message from the outsiders — “Talk or suffer.” They want to know how I got past them. I want to know what they’ll do next. I toss the ball aside and spit at the floor. The box doesn’t like that. My back starts to scorch as the box heats up, burning up my determination, incinerating my hope.
The heat brings back memories of better times. A 5-year-old playing on the beach whose tiny smile is the most breathtaking thing in the world. A beautiful woman sleeping in my bed, a ring glistening on her 3rd finger, the same as mine. The sounds of birds chirping, the kettle heating up, and the faint rumble of cars passing by. A tiny cottage overlooking the golden sunrise over the ocean.
The heat soon stops but the darkness in the box welcomes itself in front of me. The box becomes the screen and my brain the projector as I am dragged back to relive the mistakes I made. I hear the phone ring, demanding my presence at the outpost. I see twenty young men gearing up with guns at their sides, waiting for me to guide them through enemy lines, ready to lay down their lives. I watch us swimming through the river, undetected by the enemy soldiers. I watch in horror as the mine blows up and try to warn my past self about the invitation I had just sent to the enemies to feast upon us. I see my team retreating as I hold my position, trying to take down as many enemies as I can. I hear the sounds of guns blazing and the agonizing shrieks of the soldiers. I make out a trail of crimson blood mixed with the wet mud flowing on the ground, the trail of Styx. I relive the horrors, the anger, and the stupidity. I watch myself emptying a hundred rounds into “my enemy” and him bleeding out. Yet another toy crushed by the unruly tantrum of a crying child.
Soon, the dust settles around me. The screams vanish almost completely, as if they were just a death rattle. All I can hear is the malicious murmurs of the outsiders, looking for some spoils of war like goblins in a gold mine. I have been defeated and have nowhere to run. I am their trophy and they want me in a cabinet.
The rumours and tales of this simple yet sadistic torture device were supposed to be a myth — The Box. Never has a Prisoner of War escaped its wrath. It wasn’t until I was thrown into it that I learnt what the box truly was. My training made me go through a lot, but nothing in my life could’ve prepared me for this. This metallic behemoth was made for a sole purpose — to amplify your fears. I thought I knew torture until I was subjected to it. The box soon became the only place I knew and the last place I’ll ever be in.
I open my eyes, unable to differentiate between my dreams and my reality. My chest starts beating rapidly and a sheen of sweat glistens on my body, sending shivers down my spine. Even in the scorching heat of the box, my body feels numb and cold. The hand that was once as steady as steel now shakes involuntarily. The strength I once possessed has been reduced to naught.
I close my eyes again, trying to calm myself. “When the morning dawns, you’ll wake up and realize that everything was just a bad dream.” But reality doesn’t work like that. You close your eyes and wake up just to realize that life itself is a bad dream. You are born, and then eventually, you die. Everyone does. Is this how it all really ends? After everything I did for my country? All the years I spent away from my family, away from everything. Now I lie here, helpless, dependent on a miracle.
The box has given its verdict. My time has come. The light flickers for the last time as I hear ‘the outsiders’ prepare for my departure. The walls start hammering down on me. My bones start creaking and the blood starts spewing. The box has rendered me useless, unable to experience the pain, because the pain inside my mind is far greater than anything I would ever be able to comprehend. At least now, I could see the sunset with my family.