Beyond Normal (Mathew K. Mathew )

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2 May 2022

Beyond Normal (Mathew K. Mathew )

Some strange incidents in his life prompts Manuel Mohan aka Manu, son of a rich rubber planter from Kanjirapally, Kerala, to have a keen interest in paranormal phenomenon. At Gurukulam, a Buddhist monastery in the Paro hills of Bhutan, Manu learns Jnana Yoga (Yoga of the Mind) under Maharshi Ganesh Yogi (Guruji) who is widely known as an authority on all four branches of yoga. Besides Jnana yoga, Manu also gets advanced training in psychokinesis, an extreme psychic activity related to the phenomenon of mind over matter.

In simpler terms, psychokinesis refers to the extrasensory capability of a person to move bodily matter with the control of their thoughts. Earlier this was called ‘telekinesis’ and it was believed that such movements were the work of ghosts.

After graduating from Gurukulam,
Manu invests more time to practice psychokinesis. Somehow it doesn’t work according to his plan. Frustrated, he goes to Stanford University to study computer science with specialization in artificial intelligence and robotics.

Manu Mohan is interviewed by Hubert Bose, the renowned television talk show host and journalist on HBO. Both men are seated on a stage under a circle of soft light; the audience is barely visible in the semi-dark hall.

HUBERT BOSE: “Now that you have created a couple of humanoids, have you thought about their deployment? Where would they fit in?”

MANU: “They can be a boon to any project that requires dedicated and disciplined workforce. One area of use in particular is deep space exploration where prolonged space travel can be a limiting factor for us humans.”

HUBERT BOSE: “How about deploying them in the defense forces? And for espionage?”

MANU: “I haven’t ruled out any options.”

The host asks Manu the question he least expected: his uncanny ability to shape-shift and escape from danger or even vanish into thin air!

HUBERT BOSE: “They say you have the ability to evade danger and death with great ease?”

MANU: “That needs some explanation…”

(BOOM!)

There’s an explosion. Glass and wall panels fly. Manu and the host get startled and jump to their feet. Masked men have taken over the TV station. They storm into the studio with explosives and automatic weapons.

One of the intruders takes aim and fires at Manu. He got hit on his chest and another one on his head and falls back. He lies motionless on the floor while
the TV host stands frozen with fear writ large on his ashen face.

The whole incident is broadcast
LIVE on HBO!

A masked man talks into his cell phone in hushed voice: “Got him. Shall I bring him over?”

VOICE FROM THE OTHER END:
“Not yet. Check him out thoroughly.
Make sure it’s him.”

One of the masked men rips open Manu’s dress and inspects him. He looks surprised by what he saw. It’s not Manu but a humanoid; a replica of Manu! Masked man talks into his phone:

“It’s not HIM. It’s just a dummy!”

Baltimore: May 2021

Though he hated the slush and salt on roads after a snowstorm, Manu Mohan never complained. It was his decision to come to Baltimore and found ManNa (acronym of Manu & Naran), the artificial intelligence research lab, overriding protestations from Naran Nair, his business partner. It’s only after ManNa was awarded lucrative projects by the Defense Department that Naran relented. Nevertheless, he still remains a thorn in Manu’s side. The only reason why Manu tolerates Naran’s tantrums, French leaves and misdeeds is his ability to convince people his novel ideas and make those ideas work. With exemplary results. However, the Cyborg Project that he initiated seems to be going nowhere. The long absence of Naran makes it impossible for Manu to do it all alone.
He wondered why Naran hasn’t invested any time into his pet project lately.

•••••••••••••••∆•••••••••••••••

A strange voice woke up Manu from his nap. Was it a dream or did he really hear it? He couldn’t be sure. But one thing was certain: he was not at home. It took a while before it dawned upon him that he was sitting in front of a workstation at ManNa. And he didn’t know how long he was dozing off there tonight.

Phew! Manu got up and looked out through the huge glass window at Inner Harbor below. From the 15th floor the panorama was magnificent even under a cold dark sky. Barring a disabled vehicle being hauled onto a tow-truck, and a police cruiser with its flashing lights in front of the Renaissance Hotel, the streets were practically empty.

For a good reason. It’s snowing heavily.

“What? Snow in April? Another Nor’easter?” Manu couldn’t believe it. Blame it on climate change.

“Whatever,” Manu didn’t care. Other thoughts were already weighing heavily on his mind. Like, where the hell’s Naran? Why his phone rings but
won’t answer or call back?


••••••••••••••••• ∆ •••••••••••••••••

On a clear night one could see the Bay Bridge and beyond from here. Tonight even the Domino Sugar sign is a fussy blob of red color. Baltimore is already under a thick blanket of snow. The Bromo Seltzer clock appeared to have frozen at 1:55 am.
“It’s better to get out now before the roads got treacherous even for my Range Rover,” Manu told himself. He shut down the workstation and searched the closet for something to wear in the snow.

A Patagonia Venn parka that rarely had seen any heavy snow hung like a relic
in the closet. It looked appropriate for the night.

Did he hear someone calling his name? It seemed the voice was coming from
the very room.

His iPhone suddenly woke up and chirped. He almost jumped out of his skin. A text message flashed: <GURUJI ILL. He wants to see Manu ASAP>

“Is it a prank?”, he wondered.

Manu paused for a moment before picking up the phone and dialing back. He waited eagerly. There was no response. The call didn’t even get through.

“Something is fishy,” Manu looked around as if searching for an answer.

“May be I’ll find out… Soon.” He turned on the Range Rover that was parked in the basement with his iPhone. The vehicle should be warm enough by the time he reached it. He set the office alarm, shut the door and made for
the elevator.

Manu looked around as he came out
into the street. The streets were empty. A heavy fog hung above the waters at Inner Harbor where the cold air and the warm water met.

Deserted streets and sidewalks had become a heap of snow. A light snow fell steadily and created fuzzy halos around the street lights. It looked like a typical Hitchcock movie set.

Manu walked towards his Range Rover. Something moved in the alley.
A hooded man, let’s call him Hoody, appeared from the shadows. Hands tucked into his coat pockets he approached Manu.

HOODY: “Gimme your wallet and
car keys.”

MANU: “There’s no money in it.”

HOODY: “OK, I’ll take the vehicle, then?”

Manu lobbed the keychain with the car remote starter to the hooded man.

The keychain hit the man’s chest
and fell on the sidewalk.

HOODY: “You idiot! Pick it up and give it to me.”

MANU: “You pick it. Now it’s yours.”

Manu sensed someone was behind him. He turned around and faced another man. A giant in a bulky body!

MANU IS IN DOUBLE TROUBLE…
HIS HEART RACED FAST AND SWEAT FORMED UNDER HIS COAT…
COLD SWEAT!

Bulky grabbed Manu by the neck and held him in a choke hold.
He pushed Manu towards Hoody.

MANU KNEW HE HAD NO CHANCE OF ESCAPE FROM CERTAIN BODILY HARM OR EVEN DEATH…

HOODY: “You smart ass. I’ll cut you up before I take the car. Now get me the damn keys!”

Bulky pushed Manu’s head down towards the keychain on the sidewalk.
As Manu reached for the keychain, Hoody stamped hard on his hand.

The searing pain made him cry out: “AMMA!”

HOODY: “Pull him up… Let me see this sissy clearly.”

As Bulky tightened his grip on Manu’s neck he struggled for breath. Bulky pulled up Manu and made him face Hoody. Hoody snapped open a switchblade and pressed it against Manu’s chin. A close look at Manu made him hiss like a snake.

HOODY: “You Indian crap!”

That epithet was more than Manu could take and it showed on his face. Warm blood rushed into his cold head. Manu knew something strange was happening to him. All the fear left him and a new energy flowed from some unknown source. With a quick twist of his hands he grabbed the man behind him by the neck and leapt high into the air. A heavy kick on Hoody’s under belly sent him crashing into the slushy street like a doll. The sudden thrust propelled Manu fall back with Bulky onto the sidewalk.

Manu and Bulky lay there with Bulky’s grip still intact on Manu’s neck. Manu struggled like a fish on a hook.

Hoody crawled through the slush towards Manu with the knife raised and ready for a strike. Manu knew he had no escape but tried hard to get rid of Bulky from his back. But the choke hold stayed intact. Hoody lunged forward and plunged the knife into Manu’s chest repeatedly. The knife went deep into Manu’s body as if it was made of butter. The blade went past Manu and hit Bulky where it hurt real bad. It met his heart and pierced it. Again and again… Bulky shook violently and screamed.

BULKY ROLLED WITH PAIN AS THE KNIFE WENT PAST HIS HEART REPEATEDLY…

His gasps and shrieks echoed through the quiet alleys of Fells Point.
There was not a single soul around to hear his cries for help.

Hoody got up puzzled and stared at Manu who is already on his feet and in disbelief. Hoody took another long look at his fallen friend and darted off into the dark night.

BULKY IS DYING… SHOULD MANU LEAVE THE SCENE BEFORE
HE IS IMPLICATED BY THE POLICE?

Manu looked at the fallen man again. A beat cop heard Bulky’s cries for help and alerted the EMS. The policeman came running towards Bulky but to his surprise Manu noticed that the officer didn’t see him even though he was standing next to the fallen man!

Soon a paramedic walked straight through Manu as if he never existed!

MANU: (Holy Molly! Did I die? Am I seeing ghosts?)

IT TOOK A WHILE BEFORE MANU REALIZES THAT HIS LEARNING
AT GURUKULAM HAS SAVED HIS LIFE… PSYCHOKINESIS…

IT WORKED… MANU ALSO REALIZES THAT IT WORKED WHEN HIS VERY LIFE WAS THREATENED THE MOST!

MANU: (At last… it worked!)