fiction

AWAKENED: EPILOGUE

This is your 364th time since you first realized of your ability to come here.

364, huh?!

The same number that I used to identify myself in my alma mater. Brings back a lot of memories. Have I told you about the time when I got the last position in Cross Country or the time when I nearly drowned in the swimming pool or when…

Ah, come on. Not again.

Sorry, let’s forget about my alma mater coz I tend to go on talking about my experiences.

Yeah, that’s typical you. Hahaha.

So, how are you doing lately? Got something to hold onto.

Nah. Not since you left me. Although I won’t deny there will be something in the next few weeks.

Ah, so you have set your eyes on something precious.  

Yeah, it kinda surprised me when I found out. Forget about that, will ya? Tell me, honestly, have you been able to track her down?

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Who are these mysterious characters having an unusual conversation? Stay tuned. Don’t miss this new series.

Oh, her. I forgot about that. My bad. What if I said “yes”?

Maji de?! When was it?

Sunday, I think? Nah, Monday… Oh, wait. One week right after you left. Hmm. Just kidding.

(a long pause)

Hahaha. Do you know that you are the only one whom I can laugh with for a long time?

 Always the same reply. Isn’t it time for you to answer seriously? Why do you want to keep her away from me?

Keep her away from you? Stop fooling around. She’s not important. That’s all.  

Not important, you say? Then, why did you deliberately come here?

Look, who’s talking here. Trust me. Trust your friend.

Friend. Yeah. Once. A long time ago. Now, you are just a fleeting presence in the minds of everyone you had a connection with.

Such harsh words. I can bear it anyway.

Next time, you are gonna tell everything about her. I will make sure about that. (about to exit) See you, my …

(exits)

As for me, the journey to search her continues in this lonely place.

 

LAST MAN STANDING

Year: 3114 AD.

Location: Somewhere in Greater Himalayas

I write to you all as a time traveller of the 21st century. Not so in the distant future (21st century), I am able to build a time travelling machine. I then travelled to 31st century. Exactly to the year I am well connected to, 3064. Now, most of you are anticipating about the discoveries that mankind made in this century. If I were you, it would be tempting to read about them.

Now, 31st century is way, way, way, way, primitive. No typos there. Primitive. I guess it has to do with the catastrophic turn of events in the early 29th century that led the earth to completely change its landscapes. I have already been here for 50 years. However, it just feels like I landed here yesterday. In this entire time, I have not been able to meet a single human. I have travelled to far places that you guys now know as Antarctica, Arctic, Sahara Desert and even tried contacting the humans living in Mars but all in vain. You see, there’s no question that I am the last man standing here.

The reason I am writing to the 21st century folks is that I want to convince myself that there were people whom I had spent a significant chunk of my life with. Also, I want to avoid the possibility that I am alone in this world. That there existed an interesting species called humans. Sure, 31st century has given me no hope. Maybe dwelling in the past will ease my pain. I will continue to explore, though.

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“What else can I do than smile at the trees and ask if they can communicate with other tress in the world and tell if any humans exist?”

Haha, funnny thing is that the advances we so strived for in the 21st century took a U-turn in the 27th century when an ingenious scientist by the name of Langtang Caesar developed an immortal body made possible with the advances in picotechnology. After integrating nuclear and solar energies into it, his madness pushed the world at the brink of extinction. He demolished all the things that symbolized human. There are hardly any manmade sculptures of your day that you will see in this century. The era of artificial intelligence and centuries of war pushed some space organizations to send humans to space. God knows if they are still alive.

Every day, I wake up expecting someone to be here. Someone whom I can talk to. Someone whose existence will help me in deducing that mankind has not perished. I live in a small hut near Mt. Manaslu. Living near the hills was a bad idea. I could become a prey for the animals. Living near a mountain is not good either. The cold bursts of wind make me difficult to find foods. There are a few animals whom I can hunt confidently. I have to say, the knowledge of edible plants that I gained in the 21st century is the only thing that is still keeping me alive.

Normally, I have two meals a day. I have already lost a major portion of my weight. Life is hard here. Once every few months, I cross the Himalayas and go to China. From there, I make my journey into Europe. The deserted looks of many popular cities such as London, Munich, Paris, Vienna horrify me. Sometimes, I reflect back as a species of human and think about where we had gone wrong. Sometimes, I try to understand the raison d’etre of my life. I question about my journey. I reason with animals whom I cannot communicate with. No point in that. I get it. How do you expect me to deal with this situation then?

Oh, why am I crying at a time like this? Why does it feel so sad to write a simple letter? Wait, why am I even writing this? These are some questions that often come up. I try to suppress my emotions. Of course, I fail everytime. I just hope that one of these letters will find you. One of these will definitely be the turning point for mankind. One of these will convince me that I am not alone. That I am someone who is stranded in the distant future with the title “Last Man Standing”.

 

RELATING TO FICTIONAL CHARACTERS

Fictional stories exist in various forms with interactive media topping the list. We watch our superheroes battling against the villains who desire power to rule the world or a regular student who inspires his friends to make a difference in other people’s lives. After either watching the countless TV shows or reading them in books or newspapers, we tend to relate our lives to the fictional characters in those mediums. That, for most of us, is exciting and inspiring.

Over the last couple of months, I have finished countless anime shows and two real-life TV shows. Anime shows include Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist:Brotherhood, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, Stein’s Gate, Cowboy Bebop, Ano Hana, Baccano, Ef-A Tale of Memories, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Garden of Words, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, 5 Centimeters Per Second and Parasyte. I have also finished most of the animated DC movies released after 2007 that revolves around Superman, Batman and the Justice League. Also, I am currently on the latest episodes of The CW’s Arrow and The Flash. Now, these shows have exposed me to a lot of characters whose lives have affected me in some aspect.

Characters from Death Note and Code Geass give perspectives of how powers were used by the main characters Yagami Light and Lelouch Lamperouge respectively in their attempts to rule the world. No other shows have matched the critical thinking skills than these ones. After finishing these shows, Code Geass helped me to realize that having brains was not enough. It was necessary to use powers for a noble cause. Well, unless you reach its final episode, you view Lelouch’s actions to be the same as Light’s actions and then bam, you would make sense about the sacrifices that was made till the last episode. I highly recommend watching these two shows as they completely blow your mind.

FMAB is all about the importance of having brothers by your side. The journey that two brothers take in order to cure the younger brother’s body with the use of alchemy is truly awe-inspiring. The short but intense battles that take place balance the flow of the show. Roy Mustang’s desire to dethrone King Bradley is nicely orchestrated.

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Characters from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Image Credits: http://static.minitokyo.net/ )

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Stein’s Gate are time-travel centered shows where the characters mess with time. This creates different timelines and the characters need to deal with the consequences of the Butterfly Effect. I highly rank Stein’s Gate as the best time travel show of all time. The lead protagonist Okabe Rintarou has to undo all of his actions in order to prevent both the deaths of his long-time friend Shiina Mayuri and his girlfriend Makise Kurisu. It teaches just how precious our relationships with other people are that when in times of crisis, we are in a dilemma to save a person at the cost of the other. In other words, it is all about preferences and hard choices. Are you ready to save your love for your long time friend or vice versa? Sometimes, we are left with a difficult question to name one person whom who we want to save between two persons whom we hold as the most important people of our lives. The show beautifully showcased the choice conundrum in terms of relationships and it made a lasting impression in my life.

Among all these shows, Ano Hana was the most emotional show that I had watched. It tells the story about six childhood friends who distanced themselves after one of them drowns in the river. It is set years after the incident happened when the ghost of the dead child roams until her promise is fulfilled. In case you are wondering if it is a ghost series, it is not. With just 11 episodes, the show has many eye watering moments. The desire to unite all of the distanced friends and share the ghost’s promise involves patience and belief that there is ghost among the friend circle. For most parts, the show reminded me how distanced our friend circle can get as we get older. It gave me chills about moving away from my friends and the lack of communication as a consequence. There are some friends whom I have not talked after high school. It is why I created a Viber group of over 30 friends where we communicate and stay in touch. For anyone who is moved by friendship stories and cannot handle serious emotions, this is a show worth watching. I am so obsessed with it that I can watch again and again. Just give four hours for it and you will become its huge fan.

I also loved the remaining shows equally. The point is that when we finish a show, we try to extrapolate the characters’ personalities into ourselves. We find that there is something missing in our lives or something that can fill the void. We take inspirations from them and move forward in our lives. Maybe we even long for the powers they have and pretend that they have effects in real lives. Maybe we even relate the difficult circumstances we once were in. Maybe the atmosphere that these characters are in bear some resemblance to our lives. In my case, I totally enjoy rumbling like Felicity Smoak, imagine processing my surroundings at a speed of attosecond just like Barry Allen does, try my best to think critically just as Light and Lelouch did, try not to time travel and not get into trouble like Rintarou and Makkoto Konno (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and, not distance myself from my close friends just like Anohana portrayed. I don’t know why I involuntarily mimic the fictional characters from my favorite shows but one thing is certain-I am in love with it. In doing so I realize the power that these fictional characters can have in my life and it is awesome!

HEY THERE, 30s MANASBI!

Aanch jhilke, k chha yaar tero belaako zindagi? Chill haaniraaxas ta?

I am literally laughing right now because it’s too weird for me to write a letter to you. Yeah, you. You, moron! Now, where should I start?

Ahaa, how about what every one of my time asks to his 30s future self –Have you married? Love or arranged? Nepali or foreigner? Wait, what? You don’t want to answer! Are you shy? Haha, all right, all right. I did not mean to ask such personal questions (although me asking myself is not personal, duh). Where was I? I don’t intend to lose your interest in my banal talks.

Hah, ok, ok. I will get to the point. The most important thing I really wanted to ask was this one: Have you returned to Nepal? Because, right now, I had decided to return to Nepal after my graduation. Wait, you did not?? Then, ladies and gentleman, behold the clichéd answer that comes from my 30s mouth: “Times change, pal (with a typical Nripesh pose)… We are then forced to change.” Or “That time, we were kids. Now, we are adults. We don’t dream anymore.”

I suspect the following scenarios then: you got a job, well paid, maybe $1,000,000 per year (that’s huge Manasbi! No wonder, you are living a boring life. Hah, contradicted you, twake) or even more, found a girl, married, and then, lived happily ever after… Just like the ones we watched in Disney movies. Or, maybe Nepal banned you from entering the country because you stirred the internet with your radical views in your blog in a not-so-distant-future. Or, the worst case scenario…..you know what it is, right? I don’t want to think about it. I will leave it up to you.

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Hello on the other side…

So, do you remember when we talked to each other through the reflections in the mirror? You became the future guy and I talked on and on about countless stupid ideas. You would then comment on those ideas and extrapolate the efforts that I currently have in order to guess whether I will turn it into reality or not. A couple of those ideas included forming a tech company based in Pokhara with strong influence in Myagdi (our birth district), living the life that Phunsukh Wangdu lived at the end of 3 Idiots, earning US$s by outsourcing your CS talents and then pushing the Nepali communities to embrace tech in every aspect of their lives (besides the unlimited times they spend surfing to like statuses in FB or Twitter), and completely relying on solar power for your home or office (hopefully, you will have one).

We sure dreamed big. Those were the glorious days. Freedom, we had enjoyed. Well, we had promised to deliver the results (after all, we were heavily influenced by Elon Musk’s insane ideas and his craziness to make them happen). So, did you? Or, is it the money issue? Man, money is always there. But, did not we figure it out?

I don’t know how you are spending your life in your time. Just don’t follow what most people do. Get a job. Go to office at 8. Work until 5. Return home. Dinner. Sleep. Live life like a DC current. Mundane, pal. We had talked about it. We promised not to follow that path.

Does your era rely on TV?? Isn’t that obsolete? Isn’t it time to watch through goggles and with the use of holograms? Sounds interesting, if that is the case.  

Oh, I remember again. Did not we plan to fully utilize the lands we had in our village to modernize agriculture and hold Skype (provided it still is the first choice) with our office employees from our village? At the same time, work together with Mahabir Pun and advance Myagdi district!

When I think about those ideas right now, I firmly believe that they will one day be possible. I don’t know why I wanted to write to you. Your future is uncertain. Still, there is a part of me that still seeks answers to these questions and still a part of me that wants to encourage you to have an adventurous life.

Maybe you should go out and carry out our ideas if you have not been doing so. Get out, now. NOW. Don’t let family responsibilities or workloads impede your lively spirit. Be young. Come on, pal. Let this letter remind you how I look upon you. Be my hero. Push yourself. Influence other people’s lives. Only then will you be able to create a legacy among your countrymen. Isn’t that what you always wanted? Leaving a legacy behind. Isn’t that what you learned from Luffy, Naruto, Roger Federer and so on some ten years ago?

Waiting for your days….waiting…make me proud.

Yours Yourself,

Manasbi from 2015

PS: Ah, couple of extra things that I wanted to ask you. Has Arsenal won premier league titles? UCL? Who is your new lawn tennis best player as Federer had already retired by then? Who is your new favorite soccer player? As One Piece has ended already, did Luffy find the treasure? If yes, then how? What do you read in the manga these days?

WHY YOU MUST WATCH/READ ONE PIECE !

I am a cartoon/manga addict. It’s a truth that I have embraced and practiced throughout my life. The context of imagining life without dwelling on creative plots and a flurry of imaginative scenarios remains out of question for me. That is why I hate people who detest these series just because they are ‘cartoons’ and ‘shouldn’t be watched by grown ups’. I had compiled my top ten cartoons list in the initial stages of my blogging venture but had quite surprisingly failed to note the impact that One Piece has brought to my life. I affirm that the series comes close to other manga series such as Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tail when it comes to popularity but, in my opinion, One Piece beats them.

One piece is about a devil fruit user named Monkey D. Luffy who with his rubber powers aims to be the Pirate King and be the rightful owner of ‘One Piece’, a collection of all the treasures that Pirate King Gold Roger had in his life and which was left at the end of the island called Raftel in the Grand Line. A pirate age enveloped the world when Gold Roger spoke of the treasure as his dying wish in Loguetown. Now, Luffy and his eight crew members, sail through the seas and into the mercurial Grand Line where they meet strange devil fruit users and challenge to battles and make their way forward.

The Straw Hats crew

                      The Straw Hats crew

Most of us categorize pirates as dangerous hooligans but Straw Hats are the antithesis of this. Adamant in his aim to pursuit One Piece, Luffy makes sure that every challenges are overcome by the crew no matter what. And that is the most captivating quality that the crew possesses. They are resilient and beat the hell out of monstrous pirates or the Navy whose sole aim is to capture all the pirates that are causing ruckus in the world. Be it the pirate who caused anarchy in Alabasta or the Shichibukai (warlord pirate) who has a penchant to steal shadows, Luffy and his crew make sure that the victims do not have to suffer like they have suffered before. In other words, they have a soft spot for people who have been terrorized by the evil doings of pirates or to some extent, even the Navy.

One Piece encapsulates the necessity to make amends to the society through the actions that Straw Hat pirates take on their course to achieve their separate aims. Zoro dreams to be the best swordsman, Nami ventures to map the whole world, Usopp aspires to be the sharpest shooter, Sanji is lured by the All Blue legend, Chopper decides to be the best doctor, Robin swears to study the world’s history and examine the 100 year void, Brook lives to fulfill the promise he made when he entered Grand Line, and Franky heats up to make his self-built ship reach the end of Grand Line. They all have different ambitions, but such is the stubbornness towards fulfilling their dreams that they don’t care if they have to cross any lines or fear that their wanted posters surge in their price. As an audience, it is very inspiring to push you towards your limits as the manga teaches you that nothing can stop you from fulfilling your dreams.

Most of the mangas (comics that are released in Japan) bear a common quality that echo the mentalities of their main characters and it is friendship. A quality that has been portrayed in such a compelling emotional gesture that it is hard to put down reading one if you start on a manga reading/watching spree. One Piece depicts friendship in a truly spectacular ways with scenes of betrayal, rescue missions from hell (Enies Lobby), and faith and trust towards the captain that it is impossible to go along with the emotional weight and shed tears in your face. In some of the scenes, you just can’t put an end to tears and have difficulty in muttering a single word. The emotions such as ecstasy, joy, faith, rage, outburst, and determination steal the show and the show just maintains this emotional level throughout the series without interrupting the anticipation that you have built since the last episode.

Characters that have appeared in One Piece. (Image credit: fanpop.com)

Characters that have appeared in One Piece.        (Image credit: fanpop.com)

When you are a big fan of anything, you want it to last forever. And One Piece does just that. The characters that Eiichiro Oda has created bring out more action scenes and the fight seems to never end. Straw Hats have built such a large circle of friends and enemies that you never get tired of guessing what would happen next. It is this very quality of One Piece that I believe edges out other manga series or even American cartoons. Right now, One Piece has crossed just over 50% of its story in its eighteenth year in print. An amazing feat considering the fact that many of the other manga barely cross fifteen years in print. For an avid fan like me, it makes a perfect sense as I can still relish the adventures of Straw Hat Pirates for the next ten years or even more than that.

For those of you who quite don’t know that such a manga/series existed, go google it or watch it or read it. And I bet it may turn out to be the best series (animated or non-animated) that you have ever experienced till date. When I told my friend Nimesh who was a die-hard Naruto fan that Naruto is nothing compared to One Piece, he had laughed at me. Now, he thanks me often for the entertainment that gets packed in reading/watching One Piece. So just grab a copy of One Piece and who knows that you will have a similar experience to share with me?

HAPPY ONE PIECE ADVENTURES WITH STRAW HATS!

THE TWO PEOPLE I MET IN HEAVEN

“It’s too early for you to come here, Manasbi.”

“Where am I?” I quizzed myself as I looked around the place but did not see any buildings in my field of vision.

“That is why I told you that you ought not to be here,” an old man who was at the entrance of the big gate shrugged off his shoulders.

“Excuse me, do I know you? You just called out my name.” I asked the gatekeeper.

“Uff. Another boring question. That’s what everyone asks me when they come here only for them later to realize that there’s a name tag around their neck to identify themselves,” the man said.

I looked down and there it was: my name tag. It had stated all my personal information but something in it caught my attention. It had stamped my death date!

“Hey, why is there a date of death in my tag?” I questioned.

“Coz you are dead, idiot. You just haven’t realized it yet.”

***

“Oh, there you are. We have been searching for over ten hours to meet you. It’s such a relief!” a voice echoed as I saw a silhouette of a young man and an old man in the distance. The clouds were so surreal and full of sparkle that it looked like Disney had embellished the place.

I moved towards the shadows. Every step that I took surged an anticipation of oneness. My breath grew heavy as everything that I heard earlier did not make any sense. It was just a while back that I was dating this blond girl in the cafeteria and I didn’t even have the faintest idea how I ended up here in such a small time frame.

“In case you are wondering, welcome to HEAVEN. Been a long time since we last met, huh, pal?” the figure in front of me greeted.

“Ap….aa…..rrr…..???!!!” I tried desperately to call out his name as I couldn’t believe I was meeting him here in heaven.

K chha Manasbi? Ahem, ahem,” I heard another shadow coughing in the distance as he slowly appeared in sight.

Hajurbua?!

I immediately reached for his foot as I took a blessing from my grandfather.

K chha tero haalkhabar?” my grandfather asked.

Thik chha. How did you guys know I was here?” I asked them.

“Come, we’ll take you to our residence,” Apar replied.

Well, I didn’t exactly know how the clocks of heaven worked and hence in no time I had reached my beloved grandfather’s and my friend’s residences.

“Manasbi, here’s the truth: you are dead!” Apar cleared the doubts in my mind.

“What are you saying?” I didn’t believe what he was saying.

“Let’s skip the details for a moment, shall we? Here, drink some water,” Apar said.

I slowly began to understand the lifestyle of the people living in heaven. My grandfather, for instance, sleeps five hours a day and then heads out for exercises everyday. He had already read most of the religious books that was available in the Heaven’s Library. Most of the time, he hanged out with his buddies and together, enjoyed their afterlives to the fullest.

As for Apar, he has made a routine to finish at least one book in a week and mostly indulges in watching Chelsea’s football games and Australian cricket as sources of entertainment. He also shared the happiness that he experienced when Australia were crowned the ICC World Cricket World Cup Champions of 2015 yesterday.

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“It was a one sided match, and now I can’t wait to watch Kolkata Knight Riders play in the IPL” my friend noted who always gave a good analysis of the games he watched. “You know, I met your grandfather when our Chill Out club organized a one day interaction to spend some amazing time with old people. After I asked a couple of questions and started knowing him, I found out that you were his grandson. And then we have been hanging out ever since.”

My grandfather had learnt to play chess from Apar and garnered some knowledge on football and cricket. He came twice to closely beating my professional friend.

“You know, sometimes we play the paper cricket that we often played during our stay in Makalu House. And paper football, too,” Apar said. I noticed tears flowing from his eyes and in no time, I had mine, too.

Ghartira ta sabai sanchai chhan hola kyare? Maile sabailai samjheko chhu bhandinu. Ta chai raamro sanga padnu ani naam uchha paarnu ni.” my grandfather sobbed as he found it difficult to control his emotions.

Sabaijana sanchai hoisinchha, hajurbua. Maile hajurle bhaneko kura sadhai samjhinchhu. Ani sabailai hajursanga bhet bhayeko kura bhandinchhu. Tara ma ta marisakeko haina? Ani maile kasari bhannu ta?” I comforted my grandfather and questioned on the purpose he had been telling me all this.

“You aren’t dead yet,” Apar said, “Look down, a group of experienced doctors have successfully saved your life and in a while, you will be conscious. Maybe the gatekeeper had wished for the right thing to question your presence in the heaven so early. And, in the hospital, there are your families and close friends sitting outside to hear the good news.”

“But how did I end up in the hospital?”

“When you were dating that girl, your eyes turned towards a six year old boy who was about to get knocked down by a van coming from the opposite side as he tried to cross the road. You made your decision to save the boy and succeeded in the process. However, the van knocked you unconscious and there was little life left in you as you were taken to the hospital. We were immediately notified of your arrival to heaven. And the rest you know it.” Apar provided me with complete details of how I ended up here.

“Now, I remember some of the details.”

Jaane bela bhaisakechha. La ta ni!” my grandfather bid me farewell.

“Look, you have got a second chance. Make the most of it. And tell all our friends that I miss them everyday. Goodbye, priya saathi.” Apar’s words were the last words that I heard before I slowly gained consciousness in the hospital.

Tata, hajurbua. Bye, Apar.” By the time I wanted to say something, it was already inaudible. They understood my expression and seemed glad that I made their day. Next thing I knew, I was in the hospital bed cherishing the magical moment of my revival and desperate, as Apar said, to make the most of my life.

“Oh my god, he’s alive! Everyone, our prayers have been answered.”

All the people that I had treasured in my lives were there and were busy exchanging happiness. Their smiles were divine and perhaps unknown to them was the fact that I had met two of the best people in heaven.

PS: This post is dedicated to my grandfather and my friend, Apar.