The Visitors

(This story has been written for the Creative Writing GC, an inter-hostel writing competition. This is supposed to be a cyclic story, wherein even if you start from the last paragraph {the part after ****}, the story should make sense. Though I didn’t win anything on this one, it <snare drum rolling> got a special mention. Yay!! Whoop de do!! Woohoo!! )

It was hard to believe that the Greek crowd should be milling in the marketplace in this awful, excruciating weather. The heat just lay there, suspended, unmoving, honouring the memory of a sepulchral silence. Big Ben winced, which contorted his mouth further in addition to the squinting due to the profuse illumination. The perpetual Greek chatter, occasionally adorned by interjections of bewilderment at the hiked price of a potato riled him all the more.

“Damn its hot.” said Big Ben, wiping the sweat off his brow, glancing down thereafter to scowl at a couple of the brats who tugged at his white attire which ridiculously hung till his toes. He had invested no less than forty-five seconds of his precious time arguing with the Italian eunuch who called himself a fashion designer. The deadline, however, made him bow eventually.

“Hey Fluff, all set?” he barked into a talkie.

“Yeah Ben, the harp needs some adjustment. One string’s broken, and the rest sound kinda like…”

“The harp isn’t your concern. You got your main stuff working?”

“All locked and loaded baby.”

“Max, you set?”

“I am standing beside the meat shop and it smells like shit. Presently I am cursing you, but I am set.”

“Great. We will be out in five minutes I promise. Stand by.”

Big Ben now held an apple in his right hand, shoplifted from an establishment under an awning while the shopkeeper had indulged in raucous bargaining with a customer beside. The brats had multiplied in number, and now gallivanted around in merriment as their little feet sent up the sand intermingling with the already sparse air. He bit into the apple, feeling a tinge of relief flowing down his throat. The digital face of his watch now displayed two minutes till the fireworks. He checked out a bootylicious damsel who at that moment was scrutinising some trinkets, but let out a gasp of disgust as soon as the hairs on her armpits were evident.

“Could have at least procured a decent harp…”

“Focus on the trigger goddammit! Any moment now…” Ben replied.

“Aluminium armour would have worked wonders as well. Now it is heavy AND hot.” Max vented his ire.

“Blame the Italian idiot. All that later now. 10 secs remaining. All the best. Max, take your best shot.”

“Of course, I never miss a target.”

Big Ben opened a display on his palm, indicating the positions of his crew amidst the labyrinthine alleys of this ancient city, and the yellow dot that edged closer. He threw the half-devoured apple away, retreating sufficiently before coming to a halt. The premonition was the collective surprised emotion evoked from the plebeian that rent the air, before the personality himself followed.

“And here comes Archiekins.” Said Big Ben. “You know what to do guys.”

And indeed he came, sprinting along the wake of a scintillating discovery, something that made him throw his arms out in jubilation emitting hoarse cries of “Eureka! Eureka!”

It was damn funny, thought Big Ben. One of the Greatest Thinkers ever to have walked the planet had a paunch, conspicuous over the bouncing chest and the flabby arms. Women shrieked at his incoming figure, cringing, grabbing their children out of harm’s way.  And even though he tried, he couldn’t evade the grotesque sight of his masculine endowment, grooving in unison with his strides.

Big Ben’s heartbeat quickened as he approached the square from where he was supposed to take a left, or the street now adjacent to him. Further along the street, Max waited for his cue. Big Ben could imagine Max now, holding the taut strings of the bow. He better not miss, Big Ben thought.

There was a sudden melee behind him, and out of nowhere came a pig squealing its lungs out. This new horror was too much for the onlookers, who flattened themselves along the walls and the shops. The pig made its way for the half-finished apple with its owner in tow. Big Ben slapped his forehead at his stupidity as the Great Greek deflected, taking the other route.

“Max! Fluff! He went the other way! Shit…shit…Fluff, take the alley to your right and sprint right ahead. Max, you run straight along. I will catch up.”

“And the harp? Wha..”

“Screw the harp! Take the smaller equipment! Now go! Go go go!”

Big Ben glanced down at the pig, wrestling still with its owner, now being given a hand by other young people in the vicinity. He lunged, grabbing the apple, as Max flew past at a break neck speed. Big Ben pursued too, but was falling rapidly behind. Before long Max vanished.

“Ouchh! Sorr..” There was burst of static.

“Fluff you OK?”

“Am. That must be Max.”

“Max, Max! Answer me goddammit!”

“Seems to have lost contact, Ben. We will have to wait.” His voice sounded more audible now. Big Ben swerved behind to see him hobbling through the crowd.

“Sprained my ankle. This is a shitty day.”

“Ben!” A voice bellowed from the distance.

Max had returned, the bow slung across his chest. He was on a jovial trot, smiling as he neared.

“Did you..?” enquired Big Ben.

“Best shot ever. Let’s get the hell out of this godforsaken place.”

Big Ben flicked a switch. A woozy sensation was experienced by all before they found themselves in the containment cell of a laboratory. An anxious scientist bounced on the balls of his feet outside, and blurted as soon was conversation was operational.

“How did it go?”

“This footage is gonna jack those TRP’s big time bro!” drawled Max. “You guys gotta see the part where those brats start running after him. Damn cheeky they were too.”

“Excellent. You will have to wait. Your former selves are yet to leave.”

“Hey Ben.” asked Fluff.

“Yeah?”

“What’s that apple doing in your hand?”

“Nothing. Liked it. Took it.”

A relentless jabber fill their eardrums at that moment, the Italian coming into view. He gesticulated towards Max’s armour, giving him the thumbs up. What an ostentatious bastard, Big Ben thought.

*********

“What a bastard.” declared the former self of Big Ben, while glaring at the Italian fashion designer.

“Let it be. I would advise you to acclimatise yourself somehow. It’s gonna be damn hot.” said a nervous looking scientist outside the containment cell.

“This harp looks nice. So does your costume Max.”

“Thanks buddy.”

“The History Channel has paid a fortune for this one. I suggest you two cease the tomfoolery.” said Big Ben. “And remember, try to make as little a change as possible, preferably none at all. We do not want to alter history. Check your gear.”

“5 seconds remain…4…3…2…”

The scientist’s voice gave way to the wind and the void.

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