Something is eating Abdul Aziz’s flesh, he is sure of it. What is it, he doesn’t know. And it is bothering him. Not the flesh eating part, but the unknown thing that is eating it. He shared this with his wife, who screamed and started asking a thousand questions. He instantly regretted telling her.
Still, he tried to make her understand that the thing is eating the flesh from inside his body, and no, it is not cancer. He knows it is eating him because he can feel it. No, it doesn’t hurt, just a slight
uncomfortable feeling, and the awareness that he is losing flesh a little every day. His wife cannot make head or tail of it and decides to take him to a doctor.
After numerous tests that include drawing his blood, scanning first his head and then the full body and analysing every symptom, the doctors conclude that what Abdul Aziz has is not a physical, but a mental disease. Although they note he has lost some weight in three months, they dismiss it as resulting from his paranoia. Meanwhile, Abdul Aziz is vexed that nobody believes what he is so sure of. He keeps arguing with the medical professionals, berates his wife for taking him to them and complaines to everyone who will listen about the ineptitude of today’s doctors. His frustration in not knowing what is gnawing at him from inside coupled with the doctor’s insistence that he is perfectly fine somehow pushes him over the edge, so much so that his loving and caring wife has had to admit him to a mental facility. Abdul Aziz goes there without any protest. To tell the truth that he is a bit relieved with this decision. The constant arguing and defending his belief had made him a little weary. He packs his bag with his most favourite and comfortable clothes, and takes a diary and a pen on the psychiatrist’s instructions. He feels like a child going on his first vacation trip.
After reaching the place, Abdul Aziz’s spirit dampens a bit. He is showed his room by a stern looking nurse, and the sight of his narrow room with beige coloured walls and a single bed saddens him. He sits on the bed for a very long time and then a young, good looking doctor comes to his room with a toothy smile which does not help him feel any better. The doctor asks some questions, which Abdul Azis answers absent-mindedly. All he can think of is the thing that is slowly eating his flesh at that time. The doctor finally leaves the room, time flashing a smile which makes Abdul Aziz hate the man passionately.
It is not bothering Abdul Aziz much that a thing inside him is slowly corroding him, bringing him to an end – he says so to another doctor, who has a head full of grey and white hair and towards whom, Abdul Aziz feels a certain amount of reverence. The doctor asks him why he isn’t bothered by it to which Abdul Aziz replies that he simply doesn’t know. The doctor tells him to think about it and have an answer ready by the next session.
Abdul Aziz does not know what to say, his thoughts are not very clear to him and he is not a very
articulate person. He keeps trying to write in his diaries but soon realises writing frustrates him. He
asks for a sketchbook and enjoys drawing for a little while. But when the doctor asks him to imagine the thing inside him and to draw it for him it irks him so much that he stops. He feels like burning the sketchbook but his request for matches is denied. He keeps it in his bedside cabinet.
Every time Abdul Aziz is asked about the location of the flesh-eating thing his answer changes. Every time he wakes up he feels its presence in different parts. Sometimes he does not feel it at all. One day, for a whole day he does not feel anything, but when he lies down to sleep, after taking his
sleeping and muscle relaxation pills, he feels the thing chiselling at his shoulder. Abdul Aziz sighs and goes to sleep.
It really seems pointless to Abdul Aziz to explain what he feels and why he feels it. It was not that he was complaining to others about it. He argued with other people because he firmly believes in what he feels and what is happening inside him. Now he knows it was a flawed endeavour – to make people understand. After a lot of pondering he decides that this thing inside does not worry him because it gives him a kind of relief. He knows mortality is a part of life, sooner or later he must die. The thing inside is slowly but surely pushing him towards the right direction. He does not expect much from life, he feels he lead a safe and secure life and he has no complaints about it. He feels he does not have to fear the unknown, or wonder how he is going to die. He knows a thing will kill him from inside, he thinks this is a much better way to die rather than to lie mangled under a speeding bus or getting shot by a fellow human. All this he withholds from telling the doctor, as he feared it will consolidate his status as a “nut case”.
Abdul Aziz’s wife comes to visit him after two weeks of his admission to the hospital. She would have come to meet him sooner, but the doctors did not allow it. They sit face to face in a small room, door bearing a sign “VISITING ROOM” in bold white letters on a black background on a tin plate. This color combination reminds Abdul Aziz of prison and it makes him moody. His wife smiles bravely, and then starts crying which amuses him enough to make him forget about the sign. He tries to console her, saying he will get out of this place very soon, only he does not believe this.
Actually, he is waiting to die which he feels will happen any minute. Abdul Aziz’s wife is crying because she has noticed that he has become thin and his face looks gaunt. Only his eyes look brightly alive. He was never too heavy but losing weight has made him appear youthful. She talks to the doctor about her husband’s health, and is told that it is a side effect of one of the pills that he has been prescribed. She goes home feeling a great weight over her shoulders, not knowing what to do next.
The stern nurse, who showed Abdul Aziz his room the first day, comes in everyday to give him his pills. One day, a tall male nurse comes instead, and without Abdul Aziz asking anything, informs him that the woman’s elder daughter died giving birth so she had to leave her job to take care of her grandchildren and if Abdul Aziz needs anything, to ask him for it. Abdul Aziz likes this person’s simple, easy-going manner. There is a bell on the bed side table to ring for attendants, although he never uses it.
Now Abdul Aziz thinks he may call the male nurse, just to talk about things. He is becoming restless every day, Abdul Aziz. He feels light, feather light and yet something is keeping him here. By now he imagines there are no organs inside him, nothing but the thing that has been eating him. For the last few days, he has felt it lying still in some part of his chest, completely motionless. This is making him panic, because it is not what was supposed to happen, according to his intuition. Abdul Aziz keeps pacing in his small room, hoping somehow it will wear him down and finish him.
He has made a friend, the tall male nurse who is called Nosu, only Nosu. Abdul Aziz had asked for his full name, but the man laughed and repeated that his name is Nosu. Nosu tells him, like a close friend gossiping to another friend, that he believes these treatments are hoaxes. He says these doctors prescribe pills so that the patients can sleep all day or sit still. What good does this do, he asks Abdul Aziz who only nods at this rhetorical question. Nosu says he knows Abdul Aziz does not feel good and is not getting the proper treatment to which Abdul Aziz again nods while staring at the floor.
His wife comes again to meet him, pleads him to get better. He does not say much to her; he doesn’t talk much these days. Even when Nosu comes, he can stay for only five to seven minutes and does most of the talking Abdul Aziz shakes his head. Nosu talks about his frustrations, expresses anguish about the fact that there is nothing that makes him fulfilled. Abdul Aziz feels sympathy for him, but he is too worried about himself to make Nosu feel better about his concerns.
Six months have passed, and Abdul Aziz feels he and the thing have reached an impasse. He has almost resigned to his fate and come to accept that he might have to die some other time in some other way. He feels disappointed, and suspects he may have been wrong. All this he tells his doctor, the one with head full of grey and white hair. When he talks about these things the doctor scribbles in his notepad with a serene smile before looking up and asking if he thinks he should be released from the hospital. Abdul Aziz nods slowly, staring at the floor.
When Nosu comes in that night, Abdul Aziz tells him about his possible release. Nosu tries to seem happy for him, but Abdul Aziz can see the melancholy in his eyes. He tells him he will keep in touch and hands out his phone number, which brightens Nosu up.
But the next day when Nosu returns, he is sad again, a bit angry even. He tells Abdul Aziz that it disturbs him when things do not remain as it is, the constant changes around him wreck his nerves. Nosu’s complaints are never the same, and mostly contradictory, Abdul Aziz has noticed.
It is the night before Abdul Aziz’s release. His wife will come at ten in the morning to pick him up. He has packed his bags and given his sketch book to Nosu, who laughed a great deal after receiving the gift and thanked him. His amused laughter also made Abdul Aziz laugh, which is something he hasn’t done in a long time. He goes to sleep not exactly happy, but content.
The sleeping pills are powerful and Abdul Aziz is in deep slumber – a slumber so deep that he does not hear the click on his door and doesn’t feel a body approaching his bed. If he had, he could have seen a pair of eyes looking at him intently, and hesitating before plunging a knife into his heart. It surprises the stabber that Abdul Aziz does not open his eyes when the knife pierces his heart. The attacker goes away as swiftly as he had come, closing the door behind him.
The next morning, when Abdul Aziz’s body is found, it makes breaking news on all the channels and causes a great commotion for a few days. But even this murder case is washed away by the tide of other shocking news which shifts the vicarious interest of the masses, and no one knows for sure who killed him, or what.
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