DEP

It was one rainy afternoon that Lokesh first met the creature. It was a tiny blob, protruding out of Lokesh’s right shoulder, wrapped in flesh. It looked like an ugly tumour-a vile protuberance, peeking out from under his skin. It had soft squishy hands, and a bulby, non-descript face. The torso seemed connected to Lokesh’s shoulder, like a small plant, rooted in earth. Lokesh named him Dep. 


Dep didn’t really talk much. It had no mouth or vocal cords to communicate. But it could hear, as was evident with his wiggling hands anytime Lokesh talked to it. Lokesh was fond of Dep. He would hike the hills surrounding the limestone mines. Once at the top, he would pull out his shirt. Dep would peek at the large, gaping hole in the centre and wiggle happily. 

“That’s the limestone quarry, Dep. And look there, near the rim- those are Dumpers. People take out stones, from that claw-machine over there, and put it into the dumpers.” 


Dep was fascinated by this. It took its small hands and pointed at the pit. Then he pointed again- insistently. 


“You want to go in that pit?” Lokesh asked. 


Dep wiggled happily. 


“Is that where your home is?” 


Dep wiggled again. Lokesh gazed back at the pit. 


“Not today, my friend. I am sorry. There are people watching. It could mean trouble for both of us.” 


Dep gave a low, unenthusiastic wiggle.


***


Winter fog greeted Lokesh early morning. He lay in his cot, staring at the mist as they swirled by. Dep lay huddled against him. It had grown remarkably. Dep could now almost reach and pat Lokesh’s hair- which it liked to do all day. It had also swelled taking up almost all the right shoulder. 


“You have grown pretty heavy, Dep.” said Lokesh. “It’s getting difficult for me to carry you around.” 


Dep reached out to gently pat at his hair. 


“Do you have friends?” he asked. Dep wiggled happily. Lokesh flinched. It had started paining every time it did so. 


“I don’t mean me. Other friends-more like you?” 


Dep slumped over. Then slowly shook its mushroom head. 


“Don’t worry. You got me. Let’s see- what do you want to do today?” 


Dep got all excited and began wiggling. Its hands touched each other, making a triangle. 

“Hills-really? Fine. It has been a while. I guess we can go there today. Let’s get dressed.” Dep fluttered. 


They reached the top by late afternoon. The mist has almost dissipated and the sun lay hung over their head-lazily streaking across the sky. He found a rock, jutting out of the stone and sat. Dep freed himself from his shirt and began glancing around. In the distance, the JCBs and the dumpers sang their monotonous tune. 


“The pit has grown considerably. They have mined a lot.” Dep nodded. 


“I have become lazy. Carrying you everywhere has taken a toll on me. Someday you will have to go, Dep.” Lokesh said. Dep seemed sad at the thought. It was scared. 


“Don’t worry. Not yet. I can still handle you for the time being.” Dep gave a light pat on his head. 


“It’s just that. I can’t function properly. The school results came out yesterday. I have failed.” 

Dep didn’t respond. It kept looking at the pit. Lokesh felt it’s yearning inside him. It wanted to go inside. Lokesh felt the same. The quarry was not the dark, monstrous mouth as it was in his childhood. It was a tunnel to another world. A world full of light and happiness. And peace. Yes, there was peace. 


Dep pointed with his hand. 


“Not today, my friend. I am sorry. There are people watching. It could mean trouble for both of us.” 


Dep gave a light pat. They sat there as the sun disappeared slowly in the horizon- and the mist came back.


***


The summer mornings can be harsh. Sun shone brightly through the window-its sunlight slapping Lokesh with heat. He winced, then pulled the bedsheet tight over his head. Dep slept undisturbed by his side. It had grown to the size of a child. Muscles in its arms drooping aimlessly. Lokesh felt weak and didn’t want to get up. 


He nudged Dep, and it shivered a little. A flash of pain shot through. Pain receded, giving way to numbness. Dep got up and looked at him. 


“I am okay, I am okay.” Said Lokesh. 


“I really don’t feel like getting up. Give me some time.” Dep nodded thoughtfully. It extended those fluffy hands and began gently caressing his head. 


“Oh Dep, what did I do? I feel overwhelmed and tired.” Lokesh could feel tears building up. Dep said nothing. It simply went on stroking his head. 


“I just don’t know what to do.” He looked up at Dep. Its featureless face regarded him for a while. Then he made a triangle with its hands. Lokesh felt a rhythm of dull, throbbing yearning inside. He fell silent for a while. 


He finally said- “Yes. You are right. We should go to the pits today. Just give me some time. Goddamn it, I feel really tired.” 


***

Dusk has arrived painting the sky in various shades of red and oranges. They hiked up to the top of the hill. Then made their way down the slopes to the mouth. Dep hung behind him- it had wrapped its arms around his neck and silently peeking from his side. Lokesh made his way down the slope rolling across small, round pebbles. 

They reached the mouth. 


The machineries lay abandoned by the sides throwing eerie shadows into the ground. Lokesh has waited for them to leave for the day before climbing down. He now stood at the edge, staring deep into the depth of the quarry. He could sense echoes inside, of bats and birds; of tiny multi-legged insects which come out at night. 


Dep was wiggling frantically. Lokesh knelt, tearing in pain. 


“You promise right, once we go in- you will leave me. I don’t hate you Dep, you are a part of me- it’s just that I can’t handle this pain.” 


Dep wiggled violently. It grabbed his hair by the fist and started yanking. 


“Oh-god. I am sorry. I am sorry for everything. I just want to get away from this pain. You are too heavy to carry.” 


Dep went silent. The numbness returned. 


Lokesh stood up. He wiped away his tears. “It’s not a pit, it’s a tunnel. On the other end, is light. And peace.” 


He looked at Dep. It was looking at him. 


“Hold tight. Let’s get you home.” Lokesh spread his hands and felt wind tugging at him. Pulling him back. He didn’t care. Not anymore. There’s nobody watching. Nobody ever has. 

He let go and fell inside the gaping hole. 


***


Lokesh’s body was discovered the next day.

By Saurabh Shukla