Half-Life Compatible

Saadiq Amar Khan walked as though he floated. At least, that’s the appearance he gave whenever he moved through the streets, putting one foot in front of the other- an everyday motion performed by billions of people around the world.

When his close(and only) friend, Shivani once joked about this floating (walting-as she called it), Saadiq said it was a skill he developed thanks to all the times he has been walking home drunk these past few months. Ever since he moved to Bangalore, his intake of alcohol has gone significantly up- a fact which he didn’t resent; in fact, he cherished it- linking it to the fact that he was an atheist and not bound by the rules of the Khoran anymore.

The Half-Life too noticed the floating-like movement of the tall lanky dude walking down a back street in  Kormangala 5th block. It was nearing the midnight hour and the couple of provisionary stores that were still open in the lane were shutting up.

It was the young man’s peculiar gait which made the Hal-Life take note of him- that, and the fact that he was the first human to come this way who looked young enough to have a malleable psyche. The Half-Life has been waiting in the shade of a gulhomar tree in the park for nearly half an hour(by human time). And in this duration, he has seen no more than eight people take that lane, the hour being late. Of the eight, half of them were in moving vehicles, so the Half-Life had trouble getting a good assessment of the specimen- he was still getting used to the way the humans’ body moved in relation to the background when they rode in a vehicle. The fact that different vehicles moved at different paces, thereby rendering a universal frame of reference invalid made this even more difficult.

‘But, I have been on this planets just a few hours,’ thought the Half-Life. ‘Given time, I am sure that I would get better at it.’

Not that the Half-Life was keen in spending too much time without anchoring.

It was after years(in their time) of searching that his species has found a planet the dominant species of which was deemed fit for anchoring. And the prospect of feeling a completion to his life, getting a sense of purpose and fulfillment- something that has been denied his species on his home planet for generations, made him all the more eager to leave the external space of this earth and occupy the inner realms for which he and his kind were made.

And the tall lanky young dude(the Half-Life estimated his age to be no more than 25) who walked down the narrow street lit with harsh yellow street lights, brought that prospect ever closer with every step that he took.

**

 

“Lunch?”

Shivani tapped on his shoulder when he didn’t respond to the question. Even then, another few seconds had to pass before he looked up from the monitor- he was drawing a lady in a butterfly costume.

“Hmm?” he enquired when his eyes met hers. Shivani gestured “food” by bringing her hand towards her mouth.

About five minutes later, they were at a restaurant in the building next to their office. The restaurant, for some reason was called ‘Sliced Apples’ though there was nothing of the kind on their menu- not even fresh juice. It was just a small joint with a seating capacity of about 20 people, that served the regular Chinese fare available in a multitude of joints across Bangalore- too spicy chilli chicken, Manchurian that’s too oily and noodles which digest almost as soon as you put them in your mouth.

But Shivani, for reasons unfathomable to Saadiq loved such junk food. In fact, in Saadiq’s opinion, it was beneath junk food- he had another term for such category of food- ‘trash food.’

“How can you eat that thing with so much relish?” he asked, watching her dip a wad of noodles wound around the fork which had a piece of chicken already stuck in it into a bowl of chillie sauce. Shivani chewed on the food- as he said, with relish, before answering.

“You don’t have to ask me that every time we come here,” she said. A smile brought a dimple on her cheek. She gave him the same answer as always: “I am not someone subscribe to the idea of women having to eat modestly so that they can keep a trim figure pertaining to the male fantasy!”

Saadiq wasn’t a huge fan of food(he found it hard to finish a mini burger even if he were starved- “I think I am genetically predisposed to waste as little food as possible, by not eating at all” was how he joked about his anti-food nature.). He took another sip of his corn soup and nodded sagely. He liked listening to Shivani talk. Though she was just 26-one year older to himself, he has always felt that, intellectually she was at least five years ahead of him.

Part of the reason, he surmised, must be that she was a writer- one of the two copywriters the agency had hired recently. Then, there was also the fact that her mother was one of the more well known Bengali writers, who had two novels and numerous short stories and essays to her name, winning a few major awards on the way.

Shivani had told him once how, after her parents got divorced, she grew up under her mother’s care. She was just 6 years when the divorce happened. Saadiq had read a couple of books by her mother- even before he met Shivani, and in her writings, she came across as a strong willed person who was a feminist to the core. Surely, growing up under such a personality must also have contributed to Shivani’s higher maturity level.

She told him about her mother falling out with her investor banker husband one night at a colleague’s house party. They were on the terrace, sitting under a starless sky, sipping beer that had long gone warm. “Father went way after that- to Australia. He became an in-house consultant for an oil company who has operations in that country. He came home to visit me once every year- around Christmas time, keeping in synch with the holiday season in Australia. And we are not even Christians!” she added with a chortle. Her entire derision for her father apparent in a single smirk.

Maybe it was the fact that she opened up to him so willfully- at that time, they had known each other for just over a month, or maybe it was the extra couple of beers he had, or both- that same night, Saadiq spoke to her about his past like he has never done with anyone before.

He spoke about the endless hours in his childhood when he would lie curled up in his bed, listening to his parents loudly arguing, hoping that they would end it- not just the argument but their lives together. He spoke about how he  felt burdened by the fact that his parents decided to stick it out “for the sake of the child”- something that he has heard either of them say multitude of times when they argued.

“Over the years, they stopped the verbal and physical fights- almost. But the coldness persisted between them , so much so that they rarely speak to each other anymore. But the fights do break out still at times- vulgar, cold and always heartbreaking- assuming they have still pieces of heart left to be broken,” he spoke in a monotone, as though reciting an old lesson he learned in school.

**

The more Saadiq walked closer to him, the more the Half-Life felt sure that he was the one whom he would anchor in. He just hoped that the human would be willing to comply.

As per his compatriots’ reports, even though the humans initially expressed fear or anger at the idea of someone-or something, infringing upon their very psyche, they soon got over it-once they were explained the benefits. “These humans are conditioned to think of everything in terms of ‘what’s in it for me’ by virtue of this system of governance they follow called consumerism. So, give them the sales pitch and they probably will buy it” was how one report put it.

The trickiest part, as per consensus, was getting them to have a conversation with a half-life.

Though a half-life was more or less humanoid in shape(barring the long green tail), there were differences aplenty with the humans. For one thing, there was the matter of that green gill on the bald heads that was their breathing apparatus. Then, there was also the fact that instead of a visible orifice for intake of food, they had small yellow bubbles floating around just beneath the viscous skin of their face. These bubbles were powerful absorbents of psychic material that’s found in the atmosphere or inside a living being- and the half-lives thrived on psychic matter.

Such things not just tended to make the humans weary, it downright frightened them. As per one report, “It looks like our appearance pertains to their notion of a demon-which is an imaginary creature that wreaks havoc in the human world.”

The Half-Life could hardly wait to try and engage the incoming young man in a conversation. The man’s angular facial features gave him a aura of strength, and the way his eyes were slightly out of focus, as though he were looking equally inwards as much as out suggested an intelligence which might consider the possibility of alien life in the universe as not incongruous.

At one point, feeling impatience creep into his system, the Half-Life even thought of coming out of the park and going up to the man. But he restrained himself- there were no apartments around the park, and the relatively high number of tall trees gave this place a seclusion which the street up ahead lacked. It would be better for him to wait here.

‘After all,’ thought the Half-Life, ‘He will be here in a few seconds. And what’s a few more seconds when I have waited centuries for the chance of life-fulfillment. Though I do wish he would look up and see me. Perhaps, he may get curious at my appearance and come up to investigate. A curious soul is always more prone to be open to anchoring than an uncurious one.’

But Saadiq didn’t look up. In fact, he had his eyes more or less always on the ground in front of him- the fact that there was no traffic at this time of the night afforded him the simple luxury of walking without taking heed of what lied ahead. And as the Half-Life had assumed, he was indeed thinking about something.

He was, actually, thinking about aliens. The ones in the movie he just saw.

Being a visual artist, Saadiq had an affinity for movies with grand visual effects. The movie he just came out from, called ‘Life’ had plenty of that, though he didn’t like the movie itself. Like most of Hollywood films of the kind, the sound and visuals were loud enough to drown out the paper thin storyline. However, the idea of a malevolent species that humans confront in outer space- an idea he has encountered multitude of times in comic books, TV series, video games and movies, still fascinated him.

Ever since turning an atheist, the question of the place of humans in the grand universal scheme has been of particular interest to him. In the absence of religion, there was no ready-made answer to fall back on.

**

“So, what made you an atheist?”

The question, for some reason sounded odd to him , given the surroundings in which it was asked. They were walking down the sidewalk in front of the Forum mall, having come out of the mall themselves, Shivani holding a few bags with purchase- a couple of clothes for herself and one for her boyfriend- it was his birthday the next day.

There was nothing in the grind of the traffic on the road or the loud music coming from the speakers in front of the mall or the multitude of youngsters hitting the pub on the opposite side of the street to suggest religion. Besides, they were just discussing the influence of DJing in popular music- prompted by the Punjabi song from the speakers at the mall, when Shivani’s question came out of the blue.

But then, in the six months that he has known her, he has learned that Shivani’s was a mind which always boiled over with questions- a writer’s inquisitiveness an eternal element of her self.

“It’s books, actually,” he said, nonchatlantly.

“No shit!”she said. “Though a lover of books, I have quite honestly, never believed that books had that level of power. Not anymore.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean, books are like movies these days, isn’t it? They are for entertainment- nothing wrong in that, god only knows that after a tough day, there’s no better pleasure than a pulp novel. But very few people read anymore. And of the ones that do read, very few actually read with the intent to transform themselves.”

“Well, to be honest, I didn’t start reading with the intent to transform myself either,” said Saadiq, as he took her hand and crossed the road. “I was at the point of passing teenage-maybe 16 or 17, when I outgrew the comic books that I grew up with. I guess part of the reason was that at around that time, another huge fight broke out between my parents. Also, it was just after my first break-up. My first and only one so far. There was this girl who joined our class in high school. She too was a bit like me- moody, an introvert who preferred spending more time with fictitious characters than real people. We both took up arts as our extra-curricular course and that’s when we hit it off. I thought that the relationship was serious, as much as I could conceive the idea of a serious relationship at that age.

“But after passing out of high school, she moved to another district for college. She cited that as a good enough reason to break up the relationship. I knew it was the flimsiest of reasons. For one thing, it’s Kerala that we are talking about, where the farthest districts are divided by just an 8 hour train ride- and she was just moving two districts away. Then, there was the fact that this happened in the post internet, post-smart phone world. So, if she really wanted to keep in touch, she didn’t have to invent the satellite.

“Anyway, I was heartbroken, and then this fight between my parents happened, which made things even worse. I tried to find solace in the verses of the Koran, but couldn’t. As was usually the case in such situations, I then turned to my beloved comic books for comfort- but everyone from Popey the Sailor to Logan of X-Men let me down. That’s when I decided to willfully graduate to long reads- novels and stuff. But though I liked many of the novels I read- mostly pulp, they always were too emotional for me. Even in the most action-packed of thrillers, you would find characters who suffered pangs of a broken childhood or a relationship that went nowhere-too close to home for comfort.

“So, I began reading non-fiction. Science, in particular. I loved the analytical manner in which scientists approached things. Loved the emotionless world in which atoms moved around, and loved learning about the rings of Saturn, so removed from the pitiful human lives. I wasn’t aware of it then, but my move towards atheism began at that point. The transformation was gradual- one might say like the growth of a tree, but once I moved to Singapore to do my graduation, where in lived for the first time away from my parents, I could hardly listen to the muezzin’s call without flinching, let alone say the Namaaz five times a day. “

They were on their way to a restaurant- another one of Shivani’s favourite trash food places. They walked the rest of the way in silence.

**

“Hello?”

Having woken from a deep sleep to pick the call, Saadiq hadn’t noticed the caller id. He was surprised when he heard his mother’s voice.

“Is something wrong?” he asked, even though he knew full well what the answer would be. The red digits on the bedside clock told a time when humans wouldn’t normally be awake.

Another fight, he thought.

“I tried not to call you. I didn’t want you to get worried. But I couldn’t. I just needed to talk to you.”

Saadiq offered to leave for Kerala, to his parents’ home right then and there. But his mother said no. “It’s alright now. You come down here for Ramzan- that’s still three weeks away, but that would be enough. I just..I just wanted to hear your voice.”

Saadiq spoke with his mother for an hour. About his work at the ad agency, about the climate in Banaglore that was steadily worsening, about one of the neighbours of his parents passing away from a heart attack- she was so young, barely forty, said his mother. They spoke about anything and everything except for the fight at home.

Just before he got off the phone, Saadiq asked, “Where is vaapa?”

“Sleeping.”

That would be just like him, he thought, though he didn’t say it out loud.

**

A character in the movie- one of the scientists on the outer-space exploration did something utterly stupid- probably something no scientist in his right mind would ever do in such a situation. He removed his protective gear and touched with his bare hand an alien living thing. That was more or less the starting point for all the troubles for the exploration crew.

Thinking about it brought a smile to Saadiq’s lips. It also put in his mind a question-  a thought he has had plenty of times before: Did his parents make a mistake in marrying each other? More importantly, did they make a mistake in not getting out of the relationship when they were both still young- when they both could have gone ahead and made distinct lives for themselves?

Close on the heel of these thoughts came another-a question which stung him like the tail of a venomous scorpion every time it arose in his mind- Was he their mistake?

The only reason uppa and umma stuck with each other is him. So, if he was not there in the picture, would they have had better lives?

Whatever enjoyment he had derived from the below-average movie set in outer space(and the story of which rung as vacuous as that space) left him.

To distract himself, he plugged in his ear phones, he was sorting through the songs in his ipod- mostly Linkin Park tunes- a band which he just couldn’t seem to outgrow, when he caught something moving out of the corner of his eye.

He looked up. The movement he noticed was slight- it could have been just a branch of a tree swaying in the wind. Or not.

Things like mugging is not usual around these parts- there was a higher police presence in the area compared to many other places in Bangalore- thanks to the fact that there were a lot of affluent people, VIPs even, who lived in and around Kormangala. State protection always follow the money trail.

But that’s not to say that some bugger may not have steeled himself to give the cops a run for their money, by making away with the money of some poor lad walking home after a night show.

But looking up, Saadiq saw no one- just the empty(and closed) park ahead of him, and all the trees bathed in moonlight. For a second, he thought whether he should take a deroute- if he took the lane adjacent to this one, he would have to take the longer way  home but the path would lead him through localities that were highly populated- and where a few shops would still be open, even at this late an hour.

“Don’t be a sissy!” he murmured to himself, dismissing outright the thought of the deroute, especially now that he has seen that there were indeed branches swaying gently in the wind, and leaves blowing around. Probably, it’s something like that that caught his attention before.

But before he took another two steps, Saadiq got the shock of his life.

**

Saadiq never smoked. He tried cigarettes a couple of times around the time he started drinking, some five years ago, but couldn’t seem to get a hang of it. The way he saw it, cigarettes ruined both your sense of taste and your digestive system, and that’s the associative issues to the main problem they caused to the lungs. Besides, for all the trouble, it doesn’t even make you high.

And even though he didn’t work out(the last time he stepped inside a gym, he was in high school, and that too because it was compulsory for students at his school to attend the gym), he walked almost every day. For at least an hour every evening. Though his parents kept urging him to buy a motorbike(his father even offered the money) he kept putting aside the idea, afraid that the comfort of wheels would make him too complacent to walk anymore. And walking was one of the few things in life which he found to be genuinely calming. Some days, it’s even the best part of his day- taking slow steps down a less populated lane, watching the clouds drift across the sky and stray cats cautiously crossing the roads- things that often brought to his mind images from a Miyazaki film.

The regular habit of walking and the absence of smoking meant that he was rarely out of breath, not even when he went trekking, as he did sometimes on weekends to one small hillock or the other around Bangalore.

But when the Half-Life moved from behind a tree and stood right in his path, he found it hard to breathe. It was as though, instead of on the path in front of him, the obstacle lied in his throat, making him gag every time he tried to take a breath.

He could see that the obstacle was biological in nature. It was almost as high as himself, over six feet, with what appeared to be gills opening and closing on its pate- the somewhat viscous looking apparatus gleaming under the moonlight.

Someone is playing a prank, he thought. It’s a man in a suit.

Halloween was still months away and he has long since stopped going to Halloween parties. In fact, he has long since stopped going to parties, unless he couldn’t help it. Which meant that he wasn’t all that popular a person, someone who enjoyed the pleasure of having a lot of friends.

So, who could possibly play a prank like this on him?

“Who…who are you?” he said in English. There was no visible sign of the thing breathing- no rise and fall of the chest or the belly, no slight flaring of the nostrils(in fact, no nostrils at all). But somehow, Saadiq had a feeling that the green thing that stood in his path was biological. There was just a ‘vibe’- if he were to use the terminology of some of his weed smoking colleagues- which told him that though grotesque to look at and distinctly unhuman, the thing shared one crucial attribute with him- life.

He was about to repeat the question(and if he didn’t get any reply,he  decided he would turn on his heel and walk away) when he heard the Half-Life speak.

It spoke in a deep husky voice- the kind of voice one might associate with a chain smoking uncle who used to be in the army. There was no mouth visible on the thing’s face, so Saadiq couldn’t ascertain where the words were coming from.

But the words that were spoken certainly made him intrigued.

“I am so sorry that I startled you” were the first words that the Half-Life spoke to Saadiq.

Saadiq was positively amused by the statement that for a second, he even forgot all about how startled he was just a second ago. The being looked positively revolting and in some ways, scary-especially the orbs beneath its forehead which gleamed the brightest red- a grotesque approximation of eyes. He has never expected such a thing to talk to him in so courteous a tone, that too in English- there was no inflection to its tone, as though the creature learned the language more from reading and not from hearing people talk.

“Who are you?” Saadiq asked again. He unplugged the earphones from his ears, all intent to hear its reply. It was just an instinctive gesture since the Half-Life’s words were heard within his mind, easily bypassing the medium of the air around them, transmitting the thoughts directly into his brain.

After a brief hesitation, the Half-Life said, “I am a being from another planet. In our language, the planet is called Hantah- meaning the beautiful green one. There’s a lot of greenery on the planet-just like yours is a blue planet. Just as the dominant species on this Earth is humans, the dominant species on ours is called Alkums. But it’s not always been like that. Earlier, whenever an Alkum is born, a Half-Life would be  anchored in his psyche. You see, the Alkums are born with a high proclivity to anger. So, to temper it, they need the Half-Lives, a species with immense compassion to be part of their psyche. In other words, the two species complete each other. But then, a certain sect of Alkums began to reject the Half-Lives, saying how the absence of Half-lives in their psyche brought them greater freedom.

“What made a few of the Alkums do this, we are not sure. It was something without precedence. It might be some mutation which made the Alkums behave in that manner. Maybe Time decided that it was time to disrupt the balance, as Time does all too frequently. Whatever the reason, it didn’t take long for the Alkums to reject Half-Lives collectively. Two generations down the line, the practice of anchoring was stopped altogether. The Half-Lives began to be treated as second class citizens. ‘What purpose is there for this species? They are just parasites!’ the Alkums began to say. Without us in them, the Alkum’s life span came down by half and the quality of their life also deteriorated. But they didn’t mind. Their new philosophy was ‘As long as we have a fun life, what matters if it’s a short life?’  Indeed, our name ‘Half-Life’ became a derogative title for the first time in the history of Hantah.

“For the Half-Lives, living as slaves to Alkums- doing all the menial tasks was too heavy a burden. The Alkums have a far sturdier constitution than us Half-Lives. This made whatever rebellion that we put up meaningless. The Alkums started torturing Half-Lives just for the sake of it. Indeed, maiming us, injecting inedible and highly toxic substances into our bodies, rearranging our body parts to approximate fantastic beasts of our fiction- these things became their principal mode of entertainment. Just as watching violence on television news is for your kind,” the Half-Life added.

Saadiq remained silent. The night wind picked up in velocity and blew in their direction even more dead leaves. A few of them clung to Saadiq’s jacket. But he noticed that all the leaves that touched the alien’s body vibrated and changed direction, some floating upwards while others drifted in the opposite direction to the rest of the leaves, as though they got charged with electrons that gave them the power to move against the wind.

Whatever this is, this is not a prank, thought Saadiq.

“Once the cruelty inflicted on us began to be too much, we started to leave- at least, the ones who had access to space ships. We had identified about 6 sentient species on multiple worlds which we hoped would be compatible for anchoring. You see, without being anchored to a being, we lack purpose- a state of affairs that makes us feel like we are always bleeding inside. And going without a host makes us weak, it cuts short the span of our lives, it makes us pariahs in a world where we lack substance, if you know what I mean..”

Saadiq nodded, as though it’s perfectly normal for him to encounter an alien on his way home from a late night movie.

“ Unfortunately for us,” continued the Half-Life, “none of the species we identified turned out to be compatible. Their psyches, and in some cases even their physique were just too different for that. Our species had two options left- either go back to Hantah and live as slaves to the Alkums, or space drift and see if we can find any other species in which we could anchor.

“It was not even a choice, all of us felt. Our resources weren’t inexhaustible. We had a limited time in which to find a suitable host or perish. We had no clue in which direction to look. As your species has found out, space is quite vast a place..So, we decided to go in different directions. Luck would be the primary driver behind the question of whether we would find a suitable host or not. Many of us perished without finding our objective, failing to meet our purpose in life….A few of us, very few, found the Earth, we found the humans..”

“And we are compatible, is it?” said Saadiq, unable to keep the awe he felt, from his voice. Not only were there other sentient beings in the universe, but multiple species, divided by light years could potentially benefit from each other. This brings a whole new dimension(literally) to the question of man’s place in the grand scheme of things- one which religion, which always puts man at the centre of things- the highest being as conceived by God, failed to address.

“Yes,” said Half-Life, failing to mention the multiple reports he has been getting from his peers who landed in other parts of the earth about certain humans displaying unforeseen behaviours in the aftermath of the anchoring.

“Would you be willing to let me anchor in you?” said the Half-Life. “There will, of course be benefits for you…”he added, realizing that it was now time to make his sales pitch.

“Such as..?” said Saadiq. He imagined developing superlative abilities like a comic book superhero.

“Complete peace of mind and happiness,” said the Half-Life.

Saadiq nodded. Judging from the stillness with which the alien looked at him, the latter meant what he said. Complete peace of mind and happiness…now, that’s the kind of proposal that’s hard to turn down. In many ways, even better than Superman’s X-ray vision and the ability to fly.

“You mean, I would feel drugged out all the time?” said Saadiq.

“No, of course not!” The alien sounded positively offended. “We are a species of compassion, as I have said. The anchoring wouldn’t make your mind any duller. Indeed, it would only remove all the impurities from there and soothe it…And there is plenty of soothing to be done there, isn’t that so?”

For the first time since he saw him, the Half-Life felt Saadiq closing up, getting defensive. Indeed, he even took a step backwards, though he was not conscious of it.

“You can read my mind?” he said.

“No, of course not,” said the Half-Life. ‘At least, not yet,’ he thought though he didn’t say it out loud. “Our species has done a cursory study of the humans since we landed here. Though not by any means comprehensive, the study has made it evident to us that every adult human on this planet bears a load of impurities and burdens, things which they would do just about anything to get rid of…It’s a generalization, I know..Perhaps, you are an exception? Perhaps, in asking that question, I have offended you?”

The sound of Saadiq laughing made the Half-Life rather nervous. Of all the different curiosities regarding the bipedal species- from creating weapons that could destroy the entire planet and everything in it to the idea of worshipping humans whom they call pop stars, the only thing which made the Half-Life truly nervous, that which came across as an unabashed reminder that he was dealing with an alien species was the human ability to laugh.

It was a very strange ability- the kind of which he has never heard of in any other species, whether on this or some other planet. On occasions, he even saw the humans laughing while they were on their own. He had assumed that the only purpose of laughing was to let another person know that something that they said was appreciated.

Humans were a baffling species, indeed. And he couldn’t understand why this man clad in a black jacket and wearing a circular glasses suddenly started laughing. As far as the Half-Life could make out, he hasn’t said anything funny.

Perhaps sensing the alien’s bafflement, Saadiq said, “I am no exception, believe me. I bear as much burden in my mind as anyone else…if not more.” After a moment of silence he said, “So, you have brought peace to the world, huh? Man, it’s so fricking unreal!”

Upon hearing footsteps coming nearer, the alien jumped over the fence to the park and hid behind a tree. Thinking it would be odd if anyone were to find him just standing in the middle of the lane, doing nothing, Saadiq turned towards a wall, unzipped and stood as though he was urinating. The fact that his bladder was full-he had a half liter bottle of Coke for dinner and nothing else, made the piss pass for real as two young men- obviously drunk from the loud tones in which they spoke- passed him by.

Once the young drunks were out of sight(and Saadiq emptied his bladder) the alien and the human got together again, to discuss the prospect of a merger.

**

After a couple of more minutes of discussion, Saadiq said, “Alright. Let’s do this- I have tried everything from drinking to dropping acid to binge travelling in the hope of clearing my mind of the debris. Nothing has helped. So, if a compassionate being from the heavens is the answer, so be it! In fact, I think my parents would be happy with such a solution- they may even consider you godsent, though you look a lot like a demon, I must say. And what’s that gooey substance floating just beneath the skin surface of your face? That’s gross!”

The Half-Life didn’t listen to all that he said. Once he heard Saadiq say the magic words- “Let’s do this!”, he was overcome with a rush of exultation.

Finally, after escaping the suppression in his home planet and traversing the cosmos in search of a suitable host, he was finally going to get fulfillment- he will finally fulfil his purpose in life!

But his prospective host’s next words made him focus again on the present moments.

“But before we do this, I have a couple of questions,” Saadiq said. “One, why don’t you try anchoring with babies? The way you said it, that’s how it used to work with the dominant species in your planet. I’m sorry, I can’t remember their name…”

“The Alkums..” said the alien. If he had the ability to laugh, or even to smile, he would have done so. For just a second, he had thought that the human was going to raise some objection to the anchoring. But the question he raised was innocent, valid.

“The physical as well as the mental makeup of the Alkums and the Humans are entirely different,” said the Half-Life. “Some of us did try anchoring with human newborns but the attempt was a pathetic failure.” He didn’t add that some of the ‘failures’ meant babies’ brains getting rewired permanently, something that would make them reach less than their full potential mentally. “It has been established that with humans, the anchoring works best in adults- preferably in the twenty to thirty age group, and it works best if the host- I mean, the human would willfully let us in.”

After reflecting on the alien’s words for a moment, Saadiq said, “You refer to us as hosts. Let me give you a tip- that’s not going to take you far with humans. Humans generally don’t like to be treated as subjects of a scientific experiment. In fact, humans don’t like science, period. There’s nothing more pleasant to us than indulging in our primal instincts.”

“But, we have noticed how much your species cherish technology,” said the Half-Life. “Indeed, I myself have observed in some instances, humans like the technology better than their own offspring- at least, that’s the impression that they give.”

“We like technology as long as it helps us indulge in some primal urges- like seeking out nude women and men online,” said Saadiq.

“You seem to have a rather dismal view of your own species. All the more reason to take up my offer,” said the Half-Life.

“You don’t have to sell your idea to me anymore. I am already sold on it, remember?” Saadiq said with a smile. “Another thing I wanted to know before we do it…will it hurt? And how exactly does this anchoring work? I mean, do you make yourself small and crawl up into my body..how?” he gave a nervous laugh.

“The material with which my body is made is..shall we say, amorphous. I can easily transform it into something that’s very close in nature to the psychic material in you. You know, in all our expeditions across the heavens, in no planet have our species found difference in the nature of psychic material. It’s truly universal.  My transformed body would hold a charge opposite in polarity to your psyche- making it attach to it like magnet to steel. Of course, that’s an over-simplified and crude way to explain the mechanism. But I reckon it should do…unless you are really interested in knowing the minutiae.”

Waving an arm, Saadiq said, “Not at all. It’s getting late and I am feeling rather tired. I have work tomorrow, you see. So, ,might as well get this over with. Now, you are sure that there won’t be any damage- any side effects with doing this?”

“Of course, not” said the Half-Life. The brief moment of hesitation that preceded the statement seemed to have been lost on Saadiq.

He extended an arm towards the alien. “My name is Saadiq, by the way,” he said. Seeing the Half-Life hesitate in taking his arm, he added, “It’s okay to touch me without turning amorphous, isn’t it?”

“Of course, Saadiq,” said the Half-Life. “I was just taking a moment to contemplate how momentous this occasion is. It’s the first time that I have successfully established communication with a species from another planet.”

“One small step for the Half-Life, one giant leap for mankind,” muttered Saadiq.

“What was it?” said the Half-Life.

“Nothing..Just saying that you should know that things wouldn’t have gone so easy for you unless you have found someone as messed up in the head as me,” said Saadiq, offering a smirk.

The Half-Life shook his hand. “Are you ready?” he asked.

Saadiq nodded. “Yes,” he said, “But before that, what is your name?”

The Half-Life didn’t have an answer. Back in his home planet, none in their species was given a distinct name, not unless anchoring happened. And once anchored, they would simply take up the name of their host Alkum. For instance, if the Alkum was named Sobrarba(which means “the pale one” in their language), the anchored Half-Life would be called Sobraba 1.

“You can call me Half-Life1”, said the Half-Life.

Saadiq looked for a moment as though he was about to make some smart remark on the Half-Life’s name(exposing himself to plentiful of pop culture, he almost always had a smart remark to make about almost anything on the earth-or beyond the earth, for that matter). But he let the moment pass, stifled the rising yawn (it was getting seriously late) and said, “Ok, Half-Life 1, let’s do this!”

**

“Are you sure that you are okay?,” said Shivani.

“Of course, why did you ask?”

“Because I have never seen you eat so much before!” she exclaimed. She giggled, watching him take a huge bite out of a lamb burger. So far, she noted, he has put away a cheese burger, a double omelette, a pack of French fries(out of which he shared with her just one small piece) and a tall glass of cold coffee. Judging by the way he attacked the lamb burger, it looked as though the considerable quantity of food he had consumed since they arrived in this restaurant some half an hour back hasn’t done much to placate his belly.

“Yes, but I haven’t had breakfast today!” Saadiq said in between two bites on the burger.

The restaurant was on the roof of the building at the very end of the lane of their office. Shivani, who was there for the first time, assumed that it would be pleasant in the evening but in the afternoon, when the ceiling fans on the aluminum roof did nothing to alleviate the overwhelming heat, it wasn’t probably the best place to be at. However, Saadiq had insisted that they went to some other place than the regular ‘trash food’ place for lunch. “Somewhere with edible food,” he has said.

And that’s how they ended up at the restaurant, ‘Grasshopper’- after finding it highly rated on Zomato.

The food was rather good, Shivani admitted. But even the quality of the food didn’t warrant Saadiq’s bingeing, she thought. All the same, she found it rather amusing to watch him eat like there was no tomorrow. She even took a picture of him with sauce and what not dripping down his lips. She uploaded it on Facebook, with the words, “I believe in miracles now!”

**

Aside from the pangs of hunger which he got frequently, Saadiq felt no different in the days immediately following Half-Life 1’s anchoring in his psyche. He communicated regularly with the alien in his mind, asking him such things as “How are you doing in there?” and “When would the peace kick in?”

The alien replied to all of his questions in the same steady monotone which Saadiq now assumed expressed the height of the Half-Life’s excitement(After all, the Half-Life has now fulfilled its purpose in life. How much more excitement could you expect from life?). “You just need to give some time for both of us to reach a symbiosis- once we cross that threshold, the peace would settle in for good.”

As to Saadiq’s impatient question of “When?” the alien didn’t have a clear-cut answer.

But three days after the anchoring, a day after the bingeing at Grasshopper, Saadiq woke up to the most peaceful day in his entire life. Not that there was anything special about the day which made it peaceful.

It was just another working day, and he woke up to the still ceiling fan, the power having gone out sometime during the night. Indeed, his pillow was sweat soaked and so was the bedsheet- the kind of things that would have been enough to make him wake in a grumpy mood. But not this day. This day, he felt like the earth was a paradise where the question of worrying was a moot point, just like the question of a goal was non-existent in a cricket match.

The upbeat mode persisted even as he ran into the loud kid from next door on his way out to work, who irritated him with incessant- and irrelevant- questions(“Why are you wearing the yellow jacket today?”, “Why don’t you bring any friends home?” “Is there going to be construction work next door today as well, do you think, ‘cause it hurts my ears to hear all the loud sounds!”).

He had breakfast(one masal dosa, two vadas, one ghee roast and a Coke) from a small but neat vegetarian restaurant on the way to work. The neatness of the premises didn’t translate well into the food they served since he found a coil of hair in the chutney. Used to be, if such a thing happened, he would make an issue out of it with the management. “I don’t eat that much to begin with. So I expect whatever I do eat to be clean!” he might have yelled something like that at the manager, making the latter wonder if it was a joke or a taunt or both.

But this day, seeing the black coil of hair curled up in the white chutney, like a worm in a glass of milk, he simply shrugged and coiled the hair around his finger before throwing it away-using a striking motion as one might use in a game of caroms. After paying the bill he left the restaurant with a spring in his steps.

By the time he reached the office, he was positively glowing. He was sweating too, since the day was much hotter than usual. He wiped away the sweat with a paper napkin he found on his desk but retained the warm glowing feel within.

He turned on his mac. He has been working on a menu design for a restaurant client- something that he has been bemoaning over the last couple of days, what with the incessant ‘requests’ for corrections that the client has been making- “Can you make the pot of biryani a little bigger?”, “Maybe we can try a Chinese styled font for the Chinese food section?”

Telling the client things like, “Having a separate font on a single section alone would make the entire menu look cheap” rarely worked- this Saadiq had learned in the few months he has been with the agency so far. But tried he did, explaining patiently over the phone, hoping that the client would see the light, explaining multiple times why he didn’t put another dragon’s image around the soup(not giving the real reason, of course, which was “Because it looks fucking ridiculous!”). But the client never listens.

And Saadiq had one too many drinks because of it.

But this day, turning on the computer, he went directly to work on the menu, reworking it as per the client’s directives, and no matter how ridiculous the directives were, he worked on the changes with a passion befitting a child at play over the vacation.

**

That very same night, he got a call from his mother. He didn’t attend the call, though he did see the name on the caller id. He was watching a television show on the computer. He felt the sound of the phone’s ringing too distracting. He put the phone in silent mode and resumed watching the show, which was about a football player making it big, working his way up from a slum to the top of the game, literally.

He found the story exhilarating. The camera work and the music were exceptional, and the guy who played the football player, though a newcomer was perfect for the role. There were intensely emotional scenes in which the guy acted with restrain but at the same time communicated the emotions perfectly.

He has a great future in the entertainment world, thought Saadiq.

He felt happy for the tall blonde guy who played the player.

He realized that the compassionate Half-Life 1 has started doing his job. For here he was, feeling happy for a man he didn’t know personally, an actor whom he discovered just today. Such unalloyed happiness at another person’s good prospects, he has rarely felt.

He imagined a warm glow radiating from the centre of his heart. Peace, sweet peace descended on him like rain drops on a flower petal.

**

The phone kept ringing for a long time after he went to sleep that night. But Saadiq was blissfully unaware, having left the phone in silent mode, having forgotten all about the call from his mother, lost in a wonderful dream involving a game of football and flying horses and other wonderful characters right out of a Disney cartoon.

Whether it was the effect of the dream or not, but Saadiq woke up the next day feeling like a child. A child with a lot of hope in his heart as his entire future  was stretched out in front of him. Indeed, he cartwheeled his way out of the bed.

He saw the large number of missed calls from his mother on his phone, while he was getting dressed for work. For some reason, it made him irate to see the calls.

It was only after he was more than half the way to work that he realized that the anger he had felt-even if momentarily, was  not in tune with the overall peace and tranquility he has been experiencing these past few days.

“Is anything wrong, Half Life1?” he muttered.

“No, of course not,” came the prompt reply. Knowing full well the cause for such a question, the alien added, “The anger, though it spiked, spiked only for a few moments. It has now disappeared completely, hasn’t it?”

“Yes,” muttered Saadiq. He couldn’t help but smile. It must have been just a glitch, he thought, like an app malfunctioning. But even as he thought so, he found he couldn’t work himself up to worry about it. The smile on his face widened.

He plugged the earphones in and hit play on his iPod. Linkin Park came on. He skipped it straight to a Justin Beiber track. He nodded as he resumed walking, almost dancing, towards his office.

*

The anger spiked again once he reached the office and checked his inbox on his computer- practically the first thing which he did at the office. The anger was brought about by the sight of two emails from his mother- both with “no subject” for a subject line.

His mother wasn’t what you would call computer savvy. Which explained the first of the mails being blank when he clicked it open. She must have pushed the send button by accident even before composing the mail. “Silly bitch,” he muttered under his breath. The latest mail, upon clicking open, revealed just a couple of lines which said she called him a few times last night but he didn’t pick the call, was he alright? She called for no reason, just felt like talking with him, that’s all.

**

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Nothing much,” said Saadiq. He has just got up from his desk to go to the loo when he was blocked by Shivani. “Nice,” he said, pointing at the Hippy peace sign earrings that she wore.

“Thanks,” she said but didn’t look all that pleased. “Are you alright?” she added.

Saadiq frowned. “No, it really is nice!” he said.

“No, I meant you haven’t said a single word to me in three days straight. And you don’t come with me for lunch either!” she added.

“But I told you, I have proper breakfast these days,” said Saadiq. “So, I don’t feel hungry until much later.”

“Then, what about ignoring me all the time?” Even though everyone else in the art room was out for lunch, Shivani kept her voice low, but the hurt in her voice still rang loud.

Not to Saadiq, it seemed, for he simply shrugged and said, “If I had been doing that, I wasn’t aware of it.” There was no change in his expression as he said the words- the same placid look with the same half-smile on his lips.

Looking at him closely, Shivani said, “What happened to you?”

He tilted his head as though asking what she exactly meant, but didn’t say a word.

Getting no other response from him, Shivani walked away.

Once he was sure she was out of sight and couldn’t hear him anymore, he said, “Silly bitch!” before proceeded to the loo.

**

Half Life1 has been getting alarming reports from his peers.

The aliens were blessed with the capacity for pure telepathy- projecting thoughts into each other’s minds without the aid of technology(certain other species on their home planet could do this with the aid of rudimentary ‘technology’, for instance, by clubbing together two naturally obtaining substances and pasting the result over the forehead). Some of the reports that he got from his compatriots made Half Life1 wish that his species wasn’t the recipient of such a gift- for these reports were too distressing. About how a human’s skull combusted from within due to the prolonged anchoring, or how some humans started showing deviant behavior in the aftermath of the anchoring. One of the reports even mentioned a perfectly ordinary man with a job and a family- he was a cab driver in Bangalore, turned into a serial killer and started murdering his passengers.

Indeed, many of the experiments involving Half Life-Human anchoring were turning to be failures. And there were moments when Half-Life1 wondered if he was being his compassionate self by remaining in Saadiq’s psyche even after knowing the potential dangers.

But then again, not all the anchorings were failures. In fact, of the nearly 1,000 different Half-Lives who had found hosts in this planet, only about 50 reported their hosts coming to harm(or harming others) because of the anchoring.

Sure, he did notice how Saadiq has changed since the anchoring- the dude has become even more introverted than before, the other day even turning down an offer for a night out by his colleagues, bringing his social life closer towards non-existent with each passing day.

‘But that’s just a minor change. It can hardly be compared with the cab driver who decided that his fare’s trip should be their very last!’, thought Half-Life1.

But at some part of his mind, the question till nagged him: was he being completely ethical and compassionate by sticking(literally) with Saadiq? Who knows where the changes that he has seen come over the young man would lead?

‘Yes, but the man is still enjoying a higher level of peace and tranquility than ever before! Sure, he’s a little more of an introvert, and well..maybe even apathetic to an extent. But still, he hasn’t really harmed anyone. And he is enjoying peace! Also, for the first time in his life, he’s having a healthy appetite! His mom would be proud of him! What more could you want!’

“I am sorry, were you saying something?” Saadiq’s words brought Half Life1’s train of thoughts to a crashing halt. For a moment, he had forgotten that the heightened symbiosis between them meant that if his thoughts were loud enough, the host could hear them too.

“Nothing!” said Half Life1. “I was just saying how maybe the image you are creating would look even better if the girl’s dress was a deeper blue.” He was referring to the picture Saadiq was drawing on his computer for a client’s hoarding.

Saadiq halted his drawing for a few seconds, leaning back in the chair, he apprehended the image under construction. Nodding thoughtfully, he said, “I think you are right, Half Life1. You know what, I think that just as you are ‘healing’ me- if that’s the right word- with your compassionate self, something of me is also getting transfused to you- my aesthetic sense, I mean.”

‘I certainly hope that my sense of compassion is healing you,’ thought Half Life1. But the thought was feeble enough to float under the radar of Saadiq’s perception.

**

Saadiq sat in a kind of trance- much deeper a trance than the one he had when he tried acid once.

But this one was nearly not as enjoyable. While the other one had him seated in a vortex of swirling colours and visions that were too awesome for words, this one had him in a cold place devoid of colours. It was a strange kind of pece. For even as he sat within a cold cocoon he felt somewhat at ease, didn’t feel the necessity to move from that place, and even though a million shafts of pain hung poised just outside the cocoon, ready to break in and inflict violence upon his self, he knew he had nothing to fear from them. He knew he had Half Life 1 to thank for that. And indeed, he felt grateful for the alien that has practically become part of his self- his guardian angel and his eternal friend.

He remained in that trance-like state throughout the burial, though from the perspective of those who came to attend the ceremony, he was functional enough- uttering his thanks when they expressed their condolences, smiling sadly when a familiar face came up to greet him and even shedding a tear drop or two when the air around him became thick with the emotion-filled wailing of those relatives who were closest to his mother.

The trance-like state, Saadiq entered almost as soon as he got the call saying that his mother passed away. It was his father who reported the suicide to the police. She hung from the ceiling fan.

His mother, a housewife all her adult life was never really a creative person- she did her BA in  History, opting it over Literature precisely because she couldn’t digest most of the ideas put forward by writers of fiction, ideas which had very little bearing upon the everyday world of common people. Everyone expressed a certain surprise when little Saadiq began to show signs of creativity- drawing pictures of superheroes with an ease which was uncommon for a 6 year old. Saadiq’s father- the owner of a couple of garment shops in Trivandrum, used to act in plays when he was in college- that was the closest claim Saadiq had to a creative pedigree.

In death too, his mother didn’t show any creativity. She just used the most common of devices to make her way out of life- a length of rope.

Since it was a suicide, the body was buried in a government burial ground- suicide is a sin according to the Koran and so the mosque couldn’t accept her body. After the ceremony was over and all the guests left, Saadiq and his father remained in the grounds.

Neither of them had said anything to each other since Saadiq reached home yesterday.

In fact, Saadiq couldn’t remember when was the last time he talked with his father- either face to face or over the phone.

**

Later that same night, the father and son were  alone in the house.

“It’s amazing how the absence of one person could make a house feel so much lonelier, isn’t it?” said Saadiq.

“Yes,” replied Half Life1. Delivered in his trademark monotone, Saadiq couldn’t be sure how much emotion was part of the single word that the alien uttered.

Saadiq was in his bedroom which was only dimly lit by a naked bulb that he kept low. The poster of Archie and Jughead which he had put up ages ago looked more yellow than blue-which was its predominant colour. Even though he was home in tragic circumstances, there was nonetheless something very comforting about being in the room which he used from childhood since he was grown enough to leave home.

He would have liked to continue the just-begun conversation with Half Life1. Would have loved to relate to the alien all the little things that he remembered from his childhood spent in this house: about learning to climb trees in the compound, realizing that every tree had a different character, some giving you- the human, more preference over insects while others favoured ants over humans who would get bit like hell if they dared climb. Or about the way he dreamed with open eyes as he lied awake in the night, looking at the open window, imagining a giant dragon lowering its head, looking at him out of its deep red eye.

There were plenty of things he would have liked to share with the alien. Indeed, he felt as though Half Life 1 was a guest at his home and it was his duty to entertain him.

But before he could take the conversation any further, in came his father- a tragic figure if there ever was one, with red rimmed eyes and cheeks that sagged with the pressure of sadness, a sadness which he just couldn’t beat.

He came and sat on the bed where Saadiq was sitting holding an old Rubik’s cube he found in the wardrobe while searching for something to wear.

For a few seconds, his father didn’t speak, simply sat looking at Saadiq’s face instead, hoping that his son would break the awkward silence which has settled between them so long ago- way, way before the death of his mother.

But such hopes were not to be realized as Saadiq simply complemented the silence with a dose of his own, twirling the Rubik’s cube in one hand and taking a harder grip on the object which he held in his other hand, the one well-hidden from his father’s eyes as it was pressed close to his left thigh.

“You haven’t said a single word to me since you arrived,” said his father in a pathetic voice which grated on Saadiq’s nerves. When Saadiq continued his silence, his father added, “You do know that I..I wasn’t the one who drove her to..to do this terrible thing. This time, she was the one who started the fight….I would admit that I said some things which I shouldn’t have, but so did she, Saadiq, so did she!”

In all his twenty five years, Saadiq has felt like an adult on only  very few occasions- the time when he was learning in Singapore and had to stand up against some goons who attacked his friends while they were out drinking was one such. And when a few years ago, his mother was taken ill when his father was away on a business trip, when he had to take care of a lot of things at the hospital was another.

Now, on this night as he sat listening to his father whimpering, making excuses like a child, he couldn’t help but feel adult. But this time the sensation was much stronger. In fact, more than a mere sensation it felt like he was leaving a place behind, walking through a door which he couldn’t enter again.

His grip on the object in his left hand tightened. Though the situation was rather bleak, Saadiq did feel amusement at the irony of it all- some part of him has always resisted the urge to grow up, hoping in a rather juvenile manner how the feeling of complete security which he has never experienced in his childhood-growing up under the shadow of a volatile relationship- would be given to him by destiny or his parents. Only after that would he grow up.

“Silly me!” he muttered as a smile spread across his face. Half Life1, who was watching closely everything that happened in his host in the past few hours became convinced with the smile that that whatever was going to happen next, wouldn’t be good.

Saadiq’s father looked up at him, the sadness pushing him towards the brink of tears.Even though he heard what Saadiq just said, he asked, “What did you say, my dear son?”

Saadiq looked up- an expression of unalloyed happiness on his face- happiness at the prospect of what he was about to do. His first act as a bona fide adult. Fuck the idea of closure, fuck the idea of gaining the secure feeling which he never experienced as a child. Fuck all that! He was now an adult and he was going to do what it takes!

“I..said…die!” he enunciated each word with the deliberateness of a lion creeping towards its prey. Before his father could fully fathom the import of the words, Saadiq raised the knife in his left hand- his dominant hand and brought it down on his sire’s neck, plunging it deep, rupturing the man’s adam’s apple, rendering him incapable of even screaming, as his final moments on earth arrived in a heady rush of pain.

**

Half Life1 lacked a beating heart- either in his biological or amorphous state. Had he got one, it would have been beating the hardest as he wondered what the hell was going on.

Hell and heaven were concepts that existed on the Earth alone as far as he knew. And though his mind- one which followed the dictums of logic far better than a human mind,  could see clearly both the folly and the wisdom in such fantastic conceptions , in the hours since Saadiq killed his father in cold blood, the alien has come to view hell as literal.

Indeed, he has been wondering if the geographic location of hell could be triangulated on the position which Saadiq presently occupied- more precisely the location of his psyche, for residing there, Half Life1 suffered the heat of questions that rose incessantly. ‘Am I responsible for this?’ ‘Did my continued anchoring unbalance his psyche so much that he murdered his own father?’ ‘First, he hated his mother for no reason. Then, when she died, he hated his father!’ ‘Did he went mad because of me?’

He would then counter the questions and appease himself with such things as ‘He would have done it anyway’ and ‘After all, he has been reeling under the pressure cast by his parents’ unsteady relationship for long’. But the questions would rise again, like lava erupting after a dormancy which lasts just a few moments.

And what pushed him further down the path of panic was that Saadiq had ceased to respond to him. After making sure that the life has fled from his father’s  body(kneeling down, he pressed a finger against the side of his neck from which the blood still trickled), Saadiq left home immediately, taking nothing but the Rubik’s cube which his father presented him on a birthday and his wallet.

He came straight to the Shanghumugham beach-which was deserted so early in the morning. In fact, it was just two hours after midnight. A few dogs dotted the beach like rags carelessly left behind. There was also the generous splattering of debris which told the story of yet another evening in which people gently reveled, forgetting themselves and the environment.

Reveling was the farthest thing on Saadiq’s mind as he sat quite far from the ocean, holding the Rubik’s cube in hand. A couple of times, a police patrol jeep passed him by on the road behind, making Half Life1 think that they have come to get Saadiq. He has grown sentimentally attached to his host and didn’t wish him to come to any harm.

But then again, another side of him kept telling him that what the man did was wrong- he committed a murder, nothing less! He must surely suffer the punishment for it!

Even as Half Life1 was thinking about these things, Saadiq stood up. There was a determination to the steps that he took towards the ocean.

“Saadiq, what are you doing?”

The alien’s words went unheeded. Indeed Half-Life1 could sense his words bouncing off a defensive wall which Saadiq built in his mind. Also, ever since news came about the his mother’s death, he has been unable get a reading of Saadiq’s thoughts- no more able even to tell if the human’s thoughts veered to the dangerous or the mundane.

The way Saadiq’s steps proceeded towards the ocean which was relatively calm in the hours before sunrise, he reckoned that the thoughts were not mundane.

‘Well, he deserve punishment for what he did!’ ‘No, but he is my host! Can’t let anything bad happen to my host!’- Conflicting thoughts boiled over in the alien’s mind, even as the waters seemingly boil over in a disturbed sea.

“Is it I…Is it I who pushed him towards this point?” Half-Life 1 asked himself as Saadiq allowed the salty, depthless ocean to devour him.

As his host’s body plunged into the unfathomable darkness of the sea, Half Life1 disengaged from Saadiq’s psyche. For a moment, he hovered above the man’s body, looking into those wide eyes which seemingly started seeing death’s face.

“If it is I who did this, then, it is what is fitting for this species! For I and my kind- we are better than them!” the alien shouted, though no one heard.

He floated up to the surface and even beyond to the stratosphere, in search of his next host- having lost his previous identity, attuning himself to the new version , which by his own reckoning, has very little in common with the compassionate self that was born and nurtured in his home planet.

Was it something in the air of this planet which changed him so? Or was it just years of accumulated rage at the Alkums who inflicted so much pain and disgrace on his kind and himself, that has finally come to bloom, resulting in a transformation of his own psyche? He wasn’t sure.

All he was certain was- to use a line he has seen on many places on the earth- ‘I am liking it!’

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