Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Metal Box

(The 3 ingredients used in this story are - Old Metal Box, A Reclusive Billionaire, A Recurring Memory)

It has been quite a long time since Mr. Morrison’s death, but it still feels like he talks to me in his usual grumbling manner. Mr. Morrison’s story is the only crawling truth that I’ve ever come across in my whole working life. I am a psychiatrist by profession and I have dealt with many kinds of mental illnesses, but Morrison’s was unique, I must say it literally challenged my education and practice. I don’t exactly remember who referred Mr. Morrison’s case to me, but I owe a lot to him.

My first encounter with Mr. Morrison proved to be a fiasco. As per his wish, we were scheduled to meet at a strange, unheard of café at the end of the town. Well, I usually do not start the sessions anywhere outside my chamber, but Mr. Morrison was an exception. He happened to be a member of the elite-class, and of some billionaire clubs, owned some antique gold pocket-watches, suited in the most expensive linen, owned several Ferraris, Limousines and, of course, Rolls Royce. Keeping his aristocracy in mind, I decided to fulfill his wish, but I was dumbfounded when I came to know the venue of the meeting. Why a rich and affluent person like him wants to meet me in an obscure place was beyond me. Maybe, he was afraid of being recognized.

When I reached the café, I saw some people pushing Morrison and trying to get him out of that place. I chose to watch from behind one of the huge pillars there. After the whole hullabaloo, I quizzed a waiter about what happened. He informed me that Morrison was caught red handed while stealing their cup-cakes and donuts. I was confused to comprehend why a respectable person like Mr. Morrison had to steal the food. I was aware of his misfortune; of the fact that he was bankrupt, his estate having been snatched from him, and how his debts engulfed his nest egg. I didn’t meet him that evening, but tried to sit back and think the incident through.

The very next day, I woke up to Mr. Morrison’s call. He spoke uncouthly in a muffled voice, and told me that he wants to meet me at my place. I wasn’t too keen to, but agreed nonetheless. The moment he entered my house, I was taken by surprise to see the change-over in him. He was profoundly different from how he had appeared at the café the previous day. He was very well behaved; attired in a suit which was, though old, scarcely ruffled. Taking his seat, he asked me for a cigar. But I wretchedly satisfied him with a cigarette instead. After releasing the first ring of smoke, his tale began.

‘I have had a bad past.’ he said, ‘that still haunts me everywhere; my dreams and even in real. It ruined my life, my successful life; I now am nothing but a destitute, penniless, pitiable eighty-years-old lunatic.’ That was the time I got to know about his age for the first time.

He continued his anecdote. ‘I was almost twenty or twenty-two; dynamic, vigorous and a very bright young lad when I started studying in New York. I had always been very sharp as a student, so my parents wanted to send me off to the city’s best college. My life was very mundane, I prepared my own meal, cleaned my own dishes, laundered my own clothes; the amount of money my father used to send was very little to be invested in restaurant-bills or paid laundry. I was very displeased with my stereotyped life. But then I met Sally Moore. Sally was the wife of Ronald Moore, a well-to-do business tycoon back then. He had a couple of industries to his name and owned a palatial estate-cum-house on the outskirts of New York. Mr. Moore was in his late sixty’s then, and Sally was a third his age. Sally and I were classmates, we were friends, and gradually we fell in love with one another. We used to hang around, talk a lot and have our meals together. She took good care of me, lent me money whenever I needed, fed me, cleaned my dishes and laundered my clothes, much like a committed ‘wife’. Neither of us had the guts to marry or live together, partly because Mr. Moore was at the peak of all powers. He had the money, and the connections to kill us. So, we waited for his death, which was expectantly not so far.’

He stopped suddenly, stubbed out the remainder of the cigarette and asked for one more. I hurried gave him another, as I was so very excited to hear the next part of his story. After lighting the second cigarette, he resumed.

‘Where was I? Oh, yes, Mr. Moore did not really know what went on, but he had his own suspicions. Whenever I went to the house, mainly to take my books back, he had several questions in store for me.

One day, in Mr. Moore’s absence, Sally invited me over to her house. That was the only time when we were so close; I felt her from every dimension. We made love, relentlessly chatting and caressing all along. Sally drew out a metal box from a chest underneath her bed and placed it in front of me. When I asked about it, she said that her father had given her the box when she was married. The box was filled with precious antique jewelry. She had never mentioned this before. She even went on to say that after Mr. Moore’s death, we would not need to touch any of his valuables; and that we could happily live with the contents of that box.

All of a sudden, the door flew open. Mr. Moore was standing, anger seething across his face. I thought this was my end; my life was about to draw to a close. But, strangely he let me go. After that day, Sally did not come to college for a while. Sometime later, I received a call from Mr. Moore, who said he wanted to meet me. I was both worried and excited to meet him. When he told me what he actually wanted from me, I was astounded. He actually wanted me to kill Sally and grab that metal box, which Sally had hidden from him for long, for him. And, he also offered me a huge amount of his fortune and a palace to live in. I staggered for a few hours after he left. Then, I brutally decided to go for the fortune rather than love.

On that very day, I blindfolded Sally and kissed her, then thrust the sharp blazing knife into her chest vigilantly. Her gown was drenched in blood in no time. As per Mr. Moore’s command I took her body to the woods and carefully buried her without a trace.’

‘So, this is how you become what you are now’, I quizzed him. But he didn’t say a word in reply, but merely continued his monologue.

‘Now, it has been almost fifty years, I have almost forgotten about the old days. But she has not forgotten me.’

‘Who is she?’ I asked.

‘Sally, she is back, and she is haunting me all over. A few months back, I got that metal box at my doorstep. All of this started after that. I am about to become insane. I lost all my riches in drinking. Please save me, she will kill me. Every night she calls me by the name she gave me, ‘Billy’. She leaves everything that I gave to her on my bed-side table; a red scarf, piles of letters and a few dove-feathers. Please save me, save me.’

I was not so amazed to hear his problem; I met several people every day with the same problem. But what made me amazed was his story of gaining the royalty. I knew it was nothing but his hallucination, maybe because at this point of lonely life and over-age, he was repenting his atrocious deed. Maybe his conscience badgered him. I gave him a few anti-depressants and told him to plan a vacation. But, he would not listen. The next day, I got to know that he got suffered a cardiac-arrest and passed away. I felt sorry for him; he was a very noble man, apart from the heinous crime that blackened his past.

I was invited to his funeral. Many aristocrat, ministers and socialites were there to pray for him. I was zealously moving around his house and suddenly I saw something at his bedroom. There was a metal box, aged but still dazzling, a red scarf, a pile of letters and a few dove-feathers lying on the floor.


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