The first time they entered the fold, he was all of sixteen, and she was frightened.
The fold was the least frightening place in the world, if you thought about it for a second. Well, technically, it wasn’t in the world, and time kind of stood still, and you never really aged, but you get the drift; you’ve read your science fiction. No, the fold was a peaceful, green land, with acre upon acre of grassland and large stretches of river meandering their way across the plains. The sky there was always blue, the clouds always wispy, and the air always fresh.
It didn’t have much in the way of animals, to be fair. In that sense it was a little dull. But tell that to two young kids from the suburbs in love, growing up in a filthy, choked city.
The first time they entered the fold, he was all of sixteen: full of the hopes, aspirations and energy that age brings with it, but none of the angst. And she found her orderly, usual life shattered by something a shy, lanky boy unassumingly introduced to the both of them.
She — we’ll call her Nina — was remarkably mature for her age, as most sensible girls of sixteen are, compared to their guy counterparts. She was a romantic, but didn’t have her head in the clouds like Gustav. It’s why she fell in love with him; it’s as things go. He meant for her everything she’d always wanted to be but couldn’t, while she, for him, was the bedrock in a world brimming with misguided energy. The two had a stormy, unusual friendship: a self-perpetuating motion machine always threatening to grind to a halt, but never quite getting there. They were in love.
Things started changing in the fold. You could blame time. Time, endless swathes of abandoned, sweet time — does things to a human being. Not so to an animal, mind. An animal is capable of infinite boredom, a profound laxness in the face of endless tedium. A human needs to keep moving. It needs to talk, make love, dance. If nothing else works, at least think.
Gustav and Nina, like most youngsters their age faced with an incredible luxury, opted for the most obvious route. They made love all day.
They frolicked, they gamboled, they kissed. It was never night, and they would much rather it was night at times, with deep purple skies and twin moons and all of that. It’s strange how typical the most perceptive, the most intelligent humans can be. Maybe there is some truth to stereotypes after all, they thought simultaneously, as they licked each others’ skin, and explored one another for the first time, in ways adults can only try for.
All of that lasted a good 6 months. Well, in earth time, that is. It could have been years there, for all you know.
It was then that they came across a dead end in their friendship. For once, back on Earth, things were calm too, almost peaceful. School had gotten over in the meantime, college had begun. Both of them had, predictably enough, landed in the same place. Both of them read like crazy. Both of them made new friends, but different friends. Their graphs approached each other for the first time, and attained a dull equilibrium. It’s the kind of thing that makes or breaks friendship, the kind of time when you need a jolt to the system, a crisis, to need each other again.
Well, there wasn’t any in the real world, and there sure wasn’t any in the fold.
Nowadays, their visits, while in no way infrequent, had become things of unease. What a strange turn of events! Imagine this little, peaceful heaven of space and quiet, become a testing ground for conversation.
Nothing came to their lips, however. The talk was strained, the thought behind it restless with a need to escape. They were recapitulating everything they did in real life, in here as well.
Then one day, as they were sitting together, idly murmuring about dull events back in college, idly brushing at the shrubbery and grass, Gustav’s fingers felt something hard underneath him. “That’s odd”, he thought. In all this time, they’d never come across anything remotely strange, or unfamiliar, in the fold.
He took to brushing away the soil, the feeling of anticipation mounting in him. She helped too, although she didn’t know to what end. They scrambled and dug and brushed, almost feverishly, trying to get at some truth. It was almost as if all the pent up energies of theirs in the fold was now manifesting itself in a useless gesture.
They found a finger. Then a hand attached to the finger. Then a limb, and a body.
Then several bodies.
Several bodies of two sixteen year old kids, who looked suspiciously like Gustav and Nina.
All the memories came flooding back then, caught in a moment of profound unease. There was no smell, the bodies showed no signs of decomposition. They could almost have been sleeping, but they knew they were really quite dead.
Their faces, however, were all smiling. An innocent something they suddenly remembered, memories suddenly flooding back inexorably.
Gustav and Nina fled the fold that day, but what they felt wasn’t fear. Not quite. I don’t think I can quite put in words what it was that they felt, because a place as incongruous and as illogical as the fold brings with it sensations even more incongruous and illogical. Emotions entirely unique.
They never returned. But they needed each other, suddenly, and they wanted to build something together again. Anything.
As long as it didn’t involve escape.
© Arnab Chakraborty, 2015