Lights. Bright orange lights enveloped me. I had to adjust my vision to see clearly. The hall was almost empty when I walked in. I found myself a seat at the far end of the hall. Sitting there I scanned the whole arena. There were 90 windows and 25 doors. I saw a huge chandelier hanging from the center of the roof. It had 250 bulbs all decorated exquisitely. All the 550 seats were arranged in a semicircle, like in a theatre. I had another 20 minutes to spare. The competition is bound to start only by 10.00 am.
I can see people streaming into this massive hall. All kinds of them. The chirpy ones, the loners, the cynics and the serious ones. Some smiled as they walked past me. Their attires exuded a rare fragrance, quite new to my olfactory. After all this is my first close encounter with the "humankind". I was really enjoying this exhilarating experience. People brushing past me. Their nonchalant nudges and touches sending me into a frenzy of visual and mental images. That lady who just went past me has got a bad liver. I can smell the cancer slowly showing its ugly silhouette. This hefty man sitting in front of me had sex just before coming in. I can still smell the bodily fluids clinging on to his unwashed uncouth physique. Some were talking animatedly. Their hands making strange gestures in the air. The noise inside the hall was steadily rising. I looked at the clock at the far end of the hall. Another 10 mins to go. I just closed my eyes and tried to browse through the 1000s of books which I have read. The myriad characters coming alive from the dusty confines of the leather jacketed books. The ones which I relished the most stayed longer in the vacuous space of my mind. I swam amidst these wondrous reflections, weaving one story to another. Hmmm....there were men trying desperately to save the world from people brandishing knives. The rush of blood on to the face of a lovely teenaged girl as she receives her first kiss. The trauma of a doting mother who had lost her son to the plague. The stories of triumphs and tribulations. Of victories and ruinous loses. It was all coming back to me. Picture by picture. Word by word.
As I opened my eyes, I saw that the hall was full now. There were hushed whisperings all around me. The girl sitting next to me looked at me and smiled. "First time?" she asked. Yea , this is all kind of new to me, I said. "Relax" , she said. Free your mind. You will do fine. I just smiled at her and thanked her.
Someone announced that the competition is about to begin. Within the next new hours I have to narrate an impromptu story on the topic which they will give me. The girl next to me was the first one to be called. She was given five minutes to make up a story on "Corruption". She did well, except for a few misquotes from the annals of contemporary literature. I just closed my eyes and listened to each of these stories. Some were very interesting. The way the human brain works. It's marvelous!. Some people got stuck in the middle of their lugubrious stories and had to struggle a lot to end it in a decent manner. Poor things! Wish they could do what I could do. After nearly 3 hours and 15 minutes my name was called. As I walked to the podium I sensed people looking at me curiously. I just looked at them and smiled. When I got on to the stage , I was asked to pick a lot from the box kept at the corner. In the tiny piece of rolled up paper it was written in italics "Redemption" . I then walked on to the podium and announced the topic. My voice sounded static over the micro phone. Then I looked at the gathering. There were anxiously looking at me to begin. There were people making snickering remarks in the front rows. I just looked at them and smiled. I closed my eyes and thought about 100s of narratives. I aligned and realigned appropriate openings and endings. For close to one minute, I uttered nothing. I could hear a growing resentment among the crowd. When I opened my eyes, I was ready. I started my story. I could see people suddenly turning their heads and starting to listen. There was a look on awe on their faces followed by a stunned silence. I could hear only my static voice ricocheting from the far corners of the hall. I concluded my story in about 15 minutes. There was a huge uproar amongst the audience. The applause continued even after I thanked them and walked back to my place. People were swarming all over me. Shaking hands with me. Patting my back. Congratulating me. Finally when the pandemonium settled down, the girl sitting next to me asked me excitedly "How could you come up with such a fantastic story in such a short time? I just smiled at her and said "It comes naturally to me". I have been created like this! She looked bemused for a second and then laughed heartily. "I really like your style" , she said. I smiled at her again and said nothing.
At the end of the day , the results were announced. "It was obvious". That was the exact word which the person with the microphone used. I have won it with all hands up. After exchanging pleasantries with all the participants and the organizers, I started my way back to my so called home.
As I was cozily seated in the back seat of the cab, I thought to myself "the experiment was a huge success". I need to give the details to Mr Pullman, my creator. He will be very happy. Finally after 1 hour of jostling among the myriad vehicles, I came to my home. It was a huge 3 storied building cordoned off from the prying eyes of the public. As I entered my cabin, I saw that my creator was waiting for me. When he saw the smile on my face, he just hugged me. Then we both sat down and I narrated to him the whole day's affair. He listened intently, smiling at the right places. Finally he got up and said "Its time for you to sleep" You had a tough tiring day today" . With these words he came and stood behind me , lifted my shirt and pressed a button . My vision blurred , I could feel my head slowly tilting forward , finally coming to rest on the table top.
The final thing that I heard was a "Click" sound ..............
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