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  • Writer's pictureRitwik Raha

The Man in the Cape

Updated: May 7

The Man in the cape had great difficulty in finding the pub. It wasn't a pub to begin with. Over the years it had been a great many things - a cave, a hut, a castle, a manor, and now a pub. He always liked the Old Man but could never understand why he kept changing the place. It was not like he did not have enough troubles of his own. For one he could not remember any names, not even his own. This was a recurring problem, it happened when he was a knight, a cowboy, a detective, and now - well he didn't know what he was exactly.

The pub was rather well furnished considering the overall state of things. A fire was burning in the corner where the Old Man sat with a heavy book and a pipe. He was a grand old fellow, rather large for his age, with beard as white as snow. Never could say how old he was, probably as old as time itself.

A middle aged and slightly overweight woman sat at the table nearest to him. She wore a bright red dress and all sorts of jewellery. She looked bored and smoked a cigarette that was held by a gold cigarette holder. The Man in the cape got the feeling that he knew her quite well. She must have been very beautiful in her youth.

He spotted the twins at the far end of the room.Somehow he remembered their names, Education and his sister Success stood aloof from the rest of the family. The man, fair and fit as he always had been. He was donning a white Tee and a pair of casual loafers. The Rolex in his hand twinkled in the firelight. 'He was doing well, even in these times', thought the Man in the Cape. The woman wore a black tweed suit and carried a briefcase. Her eyes twinkled behind a pair of rimless glasses, her hair tied up in a bun. He wondered if she ever let her hair down. They looked at him while speaking in hushed business like tone amongst themselves.

'God, he hated them! '

He looked around searching for the Others but a rowdy young loudmouth met his eyes.

"Hello there I am the youngest, you can call me the Salesman", the boy was a peculiarly dressed individual. He wore a suit almost as flashy as the Lady at the table. He carried a briefcase and his left hand was adorned with gold chains and a quiet heavy watch. But his most remarkable feature was the exact same domino mask that the Man in the cape so proudly wore.

"Listen old soap says she doesn't wanna talk to me. But hey listen, I am not the villain over here. Besides I just cracked a deal with that fine looking broad over there so what say lets get you in on a subscription eh? You can have as many seasons you like.. ", the boy carried on relentlessly. The Man in the cape knew he should be paying attention but the boy went so fast that it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with him.

It was not long before the Old Man looked up from his book and took his pipe in his hand to address them.

" Well? ", he spoke. There was something warm and reassuring in his voice decided the Man in the cape.

" Is this all? ", he inquired taking turns to look at them over his round glasses.

" Oh yes. Yes sir. ", the Salesman replied with his usual enthusiasm. The Old Man looked at the Lady at the table.

" Your elder sister, she won't be joining us? "

"What Theatre? ", cackled the Salesman again.

" Her and her son gone killed themselves in the nightmare. " The Man in the cape felt a sudden and uncontrollable urge to hit the boy.

The Lady spoke with newfound boredom, "She's just asleep is all. I'll pass on whatever you got to say. Just make it quick, I am on a strict schedule unlike the rest of you buggers. "

The Old Man paid no heed at the insult or the lack of interest among his children. He kept his pipe and the large book aside and beckoned them closer before opening his mouth again -

"So I guess I'll tell you all a story, as I have always done.. "

"Oh great here we go again", groaned the Lady at the table.

The twins edged closer but stood at the bar maintaining their distance.

" Wait, hold up! Are we talking content right now? I want rights, I mean exclusive digital rights. How about a world premiere eh?.. ", the boy interrupted once again. And once again the Man in the cape felt an overbearing urge to punch him. He took a seat at another table closer to the Old Man.

" Once upon a time in a land not so far from here lived a poor man and his son. The man lived an honest life and saved what little he could so that his son could live a better life. And the son tried too, aye he tried but alas the way to the top was too steep and the price too high. "

The twins shifted uncomfortably at the last line but the Old Man carried on as if he didn't notice.

" So they lived, father and son and a handful of dreams between them. They weren't rich in wealth but they had other riches to keep smiles on their faces and mirth in their lives.

But the land was a cursed land and soon an illness came to town. It was a strange illness for it brought death silently in the sleep. It was said that there was no cure save for avoiding the sick.

So the land prepared and the town folk stayed at home and the doctors and healers and nurses toiled and toiled to keep the sickness at bay. But it crept in like the shadow of death. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months but the sickness stayed. The houses rich and poor alike lost men, women and children and soon the graveyards had no more beds to offer.

The father grew afraid for they were poor and staying home would not feed two mouths. He had lost a loved one in his youth and could never trust doctors or healers again.

"They're all damned to hell, the lot of them", he would say. " Dead or alive we make no difference to them, they're just here to get rich like the rest of these bastards. "

The son would listen to him and keep his quiet. But he worried, what would happen if the illness came knocking at their door.

And as fate would have it, the illness did arrive. The father burned with fever and breathed with great difficulty. As the day turned into night his fever took hold of his senses.

The next morning, the son helpless and afraid carried his father to a doctor's house. He was turned away at the door, for the doctor knew not how to treat the sickness. And as the sun rose and fell in the sky, the boy walked from door to door asking, begging them to treat his father.

But they were poor and doctors had their hands full. The son carried his father to the biggest establishment of the town. The clerk behind the desk turned a cool gaze at them and spoke-

"We'll admit him, but you must pay -"

"I'll pay. I'll pay whatever you want. ", cried the son desperately.

-Very well. Leave him to us.

The father senseless in his pain was taken away by the healers. The son left to raise the sum that was asked.

Over the weeks that followed the establishment asked and asked and the son sold his belongings, their house and even some of his clothes to raise the sums. Finally when he had nothing else to sell and no one else to borrow from he asked to see his father.

The clerk left and returned a little while later with a doctor.

" We are very sorry, but your father has passed away last week. It was quite complicated the state he came in, quite complicated. We are very sorry. "

By the time the son had looked up the doctor had already walked away and the clerk had returned to his desk.

The son, confused beyond his wits asked the clerk if he could see his father's body. The clerk checked a few books and crossed a few lists and turned a cool long gaze at him.

" We are sorry, there has been a technical issue. Your father's corpse was mistaken for another. I am afraid he has already been buried. "

When the son reached the graveyard he found that the dead were not given any names. Some of the graves had no wood or stone to mark them. They were simply left there buried 'neath a single layer of Earth.

No one knew what happened of him but some say he spent the rest of his days running through the maze of graves roaring but a single line -

"They're all damned the lot of them"

The Old Man took up his pipe once more, taking turns to look at all of them. Gauging how his story had left them.

"What, that's it? That's the story? ", exclaimed the Lady at the table.

" I'll pass it on to sister dearest and her son. Maybe they'll be more interested. Six months of lockdown and that's the story he tells us.. ", the Lady grumbled to herself as she stormed out without a goodbye.

The Man in the cape sat there perplexed at what he just heard. He could not believe the story was finished. ' There must be more. ', he thought, 'Something's amiss. '

" Ahh geez, I guess she's right. That's no story to tell in a time like this Old Man. ", the Salesman left as well. He seemed more disturbed than angry.

The twins muttered a polite goodbye before walking out in the same business like manner in which they conducted themselves.

The Man in the cape still sat at his table, pondering upon what he heard. The Old Man got up and took his rather large and heavy book in one hand and the pipe in another. The pub had begun to unmake itself. The tables were already gone, the fireplace had disappeared. The bar and the drinks were turning into white sand that swept and vanished into the white nothingness.

"Excuse me? ", the Man in the cape called out after the Old Man who had already walked a great deal.

" Yes?", he answered, not turning back.

-Excuse me but that's not the end is it?

-Of course not.

" Well then what is the end? ", asked the Man in the cape panting to keep up. The Old Man turned to look at him, amused and surprised. There were wrinkles in his face and his bright blue eyes peeked from behind his round glasses. He was a large man and stood quite tall even in his old age.

" That's for you to decide, I am afraid. Every hundred years I tell my children a story right here to remind them of their purpose. Some of them change a great deal and some not so much. You are the eldest of them all, but even you must find your own purpose. ", the Old Man patted him on his shoulder before walking off into the distance.

The Man in the cape stood in the nothingness. It was all coming back to him slowly, his name, his purpose. The Old Man had vanished like the white sand. But he would resurface again in his children's realms. Sometimes inside printed pages or television soaps or even online entertainment platforms.

' Of course the story isn't complete. ', the Man in the cape smiled to himself.

' How could it be? It didn't have him. It didn't have Hope.'

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