The Saga of Mana Kilam
The room, through the acute angle formed by his feet, looks larger than it really is. In the middle of the elliptical room is a narrow bed, and this is where we see him. Reclining languidly, flicking the ash from a half-finished cigarette onto the cheap linoleum flooring. The pose of a man who has absolutely nothing else to do, a man for whom time is as consequential as the death of his great uncle’s youngest son’s father in law, who, it may be mentioned here, was ostensibly so repulsed by his gradual aging that he drowned himself in a bathtub chock full of embalming fluid. Fancy way to stop ageing, death is. This, however, is not the uninteresting and finally ridiculous story of our narcissistic self-embalmer’s death. No, this is the story of the old man’s last exploit before his bones became brittle and his heart grew sick.
You see, the late (questionably great) Mr. Mana Kilam was an Arctic explorer of some repute. Early on in his career he had discovered the mineral Goom. Upon further research it had turned out that Goom, in minute quantities, once highly oxidised, cooled to an absolute zero, and ultra-centrifuged, would be found covered in a patina of plasma-like substance, which when suspended in a flux field began to generate enough electricity to run New Delhi for a day. This film was soon given the apt moniker ‘Goomskin’ and was placed in its own row and column in the periodic table along with Goom. And although the United Union of America and other Assorted Countries (U.U.A.A.C.) soon influenced the intrepid young Kilam to formally hand the mineral over to them, they left him with a very healthy bank account and a quaint little villa in Sicily. The villa promptly became mission headquarters for all of his future conquests (of which there are far too many), and was soon referred to around town as Casa de Mana.
After a lifetime of steadfast research, during which the small quarry of Goom rocks he had discovered diminished rapidly through an unwarranted spike in the demand for electricity, Mana Kilam finally became able to hazard a guess at the location of a larger quarry of Goom rocks deep within the Arctic region. It is yet unknown what became of the expedition because of the seven brave souls on the expedition, only Kilam returned in an emaciated state, found feebly clawing the water near the beaches of Sicily. Needless to say, the U.U.A.A.C. and other interested nations extended their best facilities to the man, however, all Kilam managed to intelligibly blurt out was ‘no Goom there’ before losing consciousness again. Random bouts of catatonia became a daily occurrence in Kilam’s life and after accidentally leaving a burning cigarette near cans of nitro ethane and burning his villa down he brought about his own pathetic death in the bathroom of a seedy motel room in Sicily.
As our young man breaks out of his reverie, he observes that his cigarette has become a leaning tower of ash, and with a humourless chuckle he flicks the butt of the cigarette into a corner of the room. That is if the room had had any corners and had not been elliptical. What a strange design, he muses. The telephone, which is placed beside the bed on a tableau supported by the bent back of the figurine of a man being crushed, begins to ring creating a cantankerous contrast to the nervous serenity of the room’s atmosphere. Puzzlement is now distorting our young man’s boyish features, as he leans over to silence the phone. The receiver tucked between his ear and shoulder, he fishes out a pack of Gold Flake, swiftly withdrawing the last cigarette and dropping the empty pack on the linoleum. “Helloah,” his deceptively deep baritone rumbles into the mouthpiece of the telephone. As he puts the slender cigarette at an angle between his lips he can hear the rustle of someone disturbing the air around the mouthpiece of the phone on the other end. An almost shy clearing of the throat is followed by the words “Hullo, my dear boy, I’ve come to get you” spoken in a remarkably ebullient alto male voice. The young man lights his cigarette, draws a large drag, and slowly exhaling the smoke in twin tornadoes through his nostrils, he says “Come to get m… who is this? Moreover, where the fuck am I?” The alto on the other end lets out a laugh which matches his speech in ebullience. “It is only natural to be disoriented, we do not have much time and hence I shall be brief. I am Mana Kilam, your great uncle’s youngest son’s father-in-law. I heard you thinking about my final venture for Goom so I will just skip the details and tell you the essentials. The creature that was found in the ocean near Sicily was a cleverly designed homo-simulacrum dummy running on Goomskin.”
Tendrils of smoke are rising from the glowing tip of the cigarette as it hangs prostate between the young man’s lips. “What the fuck are you on about, man? What do you mean a ‘dummy’? You’re dead, I attended your funeral. I drove your wife and granddaughter home for crying out loud,” he rushes out through the unoccupied corner of his mouth. “Now, now, we will discuss more about this later once you’ve been transported, for now I would like a few moments of your silence as I cue you into the facts,” the ebullient voice chirped soothingly. The young man grunts into the phone, furrowing his eyebrows and taking an astounding drag of his cigarette, the sudden air flow causing the glowing tip to fugaciously intensify from ochre red to fluorescent orange.
“Well, let’s get to it, then! My expedition, as a brief review of my previous expeditions would easily foretell, was a success. I indeed found a large quarry of Goom rocks. However, along with the Goom rocks I happened upon the owners or rather the parents of the Goom rocks. For you see these rocks I had discovered so many years ago, were actually the eggs of a race of beings, very akin in physical appearance to humans, but vastly differing in intellect and sensibility. During my short stay here, I have started referring to them as Goomans. They are a delightful people, advanced in technology beyond anything the human imagination can conceive. They are born as globules of pure energy which detach themselves from a towering inferno of glowing light running through the centre of their world which they refer to as ‘Mankuta’. They do not eat nor do they sleep, and each globule once fully mature realises its function and sets off on the lifelong pursuit of perfection. Their lifespan is uncertain as none of them has ever died or shown any sign of ageing beyond what we humans would call the middle age. The only problem in their peaceful community is this; the globules of energy once detached slowly solidify and become what you are accustomed to hearing of as Goom rocks. These Goom rocks require climatic conditions differing from those available here. Namely, they require the climate conditions available at the arctic pole on Earth. These particular batches of eggs, that we’ve been sucking the life force out of for the better half of a century, were laid out for gestation during the First World War. During a routine reconnaissance mission the Goomans found humans using their precious eggs as power sources. The Goomans are not easily aggravated, but this, this act of base cruelty sent them, as a community, into a bout of fury which would have resulted in the gradual rise of global temperatures around the earth until everything was as lifeless as their beloved brothers and sisters.” There is a moment of silence which seems almost an homage to the lost lights.
Another diffident throat clearing can be heard and then the spirited voice continues, “Through a remarkable coincidence I happened to time my last expedition in such a manner as to encounter the final team of Goomans sent to push the heat levels around the world over the edge. Still furious over the lost Mankuta eggs they imprisoned us and one by one questioned my companions, eliminating them all due to their obvious failure to communicate. While my buddies were getting their life force extinguished, I managed to devise a filter (using the shell of Mankuta egg) for the telephone you are using right now, which transmogrifies every human language into the language of the Goomans. And thus equipped, I managed to not only preserve my life force, but explain to the Goomans the pressing need, humans as a society had for sources of energy. If I am not mistaken in understanding their facial expressions, their fury soon turned to a look of pity. And whether as a punishment or some sort of warped divine intervention they decided to reset and transport every living human being alive onto their planet. You have already been reset and will notice that, apart from the obvious feeling of being human and your human cognition, you know nothing of your past. The time has arrived for you to join us. Lie down on the bed and relax. I must leave you now, we will be together soon my dear boy…” The exuberant voice fades into a soft whirr.
And indeed it is clear, by the swift emotions rippling over the young man’s features, that he has just experienced the stunning combination of confusion and awe that paralyses the best of us. He is slowly assuming a decumbent position on the bed, dropping the still whirring phone with an elastically diminishing series of thuds on the linoleum. The bed seems to ripple with life, intermittently glowing like the erstwhile tip of the now dead cigarette. The bed is radiating a fantastic glow; nothing is hidden any longer, every molecule in the young man’s body is replete with the all-encompassing light.
The Mankuta shines just a little brighter for an evanescent moment as another human life joins its incandescent enigma.
Born in Kolkata in 1991, Siddhartha spent many of his formative years moving around all over the world, before returning to New Delhi, where he completed his schooling. He is currently pursuing a degree in electronic engineering and living in Bangalore.
Ananya is a design student and dog lover. When she's not busy drawing odd faces, she loves munching on some grape-flavoured Tang while keeping her stationery intact. She has a weakness for fine-nibbed black pens and