Science Fiction and Fantasy | An Indian Experience

The Year of the Porcupine By Dinker Charak
Issue 6

The Year of the Porcupine By Dinker Charak

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In the dream, Anthro was kissing a girl. The sharp protrusions of her silver bangles were pressing against him. For some time he was able to ignore it. His mind was somewhere else.

“Of course,” in his dream he thought, “one does not get to kiss such a beautiful girl often.”

However, the bangles kept pricking hard until it became unbearable—

§   §   §   
Few hours earlier, he had been inside a rent-a-movie shop.

“Good choice. It is real scary!”

“I don’t get scared easily,” Anthro told the girl at the counter while taking his cash.

“This one is. Believe me.”

“Yeah, right!”

He gave a very dry smile as he walked away from her.

As he walked away, he heard her almost grumble to herself, “Wait till you piss in your own pants.”

Anthro just ignored her.

§   §   §   
Anthro sat on his bed. It was the dream. The pricking bangles had broken his blissful sleep. Now what he saw made sure he lost it forever.

His hands hung in the air as if he was resting them on an invisible stand. His mouth was open and his breath heavy. He looked scared and almost as if, he had pissed in his own pants!

He was looking at his belly. It was hurting and a steady stream of blood flowed from the left side of his navel down his belly. Anthro did not move or maybe he could not move at all. He stared at his belly as if frozen in time in that posture. A single quill lay embedded into his belly, exactly where the girl’s bangles were hurting in his dream.

§   §   §   
Back at the rent-a-movie shop, after having walked off the girl in the counter, Anthro swore to himself he would have killed that girl had he been in a bad mood. He walked out of the shop and onto the street. Lost in a sea of irritation, he did not notice the man with a heavy bag struggling to walk straight. Anthro simply walked into him. The man lost his grip and balance and dropped the bag from his hand. At that moment, Anthro’s mood changed into bad mood.

Anthro grabbed the man by the collar and pulled him up and whispered, “You are in such a hurry. Is your mother dead or is your wife about to sleep with your neighbour?”

The poor man did not understand what happened. It took him a while to regain his balance and then realize that it was because of Anthro, he had fell and that Anthro had said something nasty to him. Before he knew any further or could have reacted, Anthro had walked away.

§   §   §   
Now, Anthro sat in his bed, shocked. The television was on and so was his video player. The movie tape had ended and there were just random dots dancing on the television screen. Anthro raised his eyes and his eyes fell on a single quill protruding from the remote of the television. His eyes stopped. It was similar to one in his stomach. As the panic started to hit him, his eyes swiftly scanned the room. Quills lay nailed into every possible thing in the room. Anthro did not know what to do. He felt the rush in his stomach as it flowed up, towards his head and came out as a chilling, loud scream. It was then, Anthro pissed in his pants.

§   §   §   
Earlier, after his unpleasant exchange with the girl at the counter and then with the man on the roadside, Anthro has arrived home without any more such exchanges.

“Piss in my pants! I won’t even piss on her,” Anthro grumbled wishing the girl at the counter were in his room now so he could hurl a volley of abuses at her.

He forced the cassette into the video player, grabbed a bag of walnuts and played it.

§   §   §   
Now in his bedroom, as soon as he was able to, Anthro called his friends over. He tried his best to act calm, but they knew something was very wrong. He never had asked for help before. He had never asked for help like this before. Moreover, they had never heard his cry before.

§   §   §   
Earlier, while watching the movie he realized that the movie was really a scary one. He wanted to stop it and watch something else but the climax was approaching. In a perverse way, the terror held his attention. He wanted to see the chilling climax. As the scene’s background music sounded more haunting, the main character of the movie, a child, wandered into the mist and as the realisation that given the build-up something terrible will show up, his eyes opened wide in anticipation. As the moment came, he felt the terror rush through him.

For first time in life, he jerked back scared just as the director of the movie intended. He did not realize, but something weird happened the next moment. Before he could realize, he lost his conscious and fell down on the bed.

§   §   §   
“I have no idea where did all these quills come from.”

“Do you have a porcupine for a pet?” one of his friends asked him. “Anthro, do you have a porcupine for a pet?” she repeated when he did not reply.

“Never had any,” Anthro responded.

“I could have sworn these are porcupine quill, though quite big.”

“Maybe he killed a porcupine in his previous birth and now it is payback!” joked a friend.

Not everyone found his comment funny.

§   §   §   
Few days had passed since the incident. Though Anthro was recovering fast, he had no idea what really had happened. As he sat in the town library, he hoped to find some answers on their computer.

Hello, welcome to World Wide Web Search. Please type what you are looking for:

> “porcupine quill human”

Now showing 3,150 results…

Anthro started reading the results. He did not give a thought to the fact that it may not be possible for him to read all the information. He was determined to find out what had happened to him.

Quite a few articles talked of a calendar cult. This cult had derived their calendar from the ancient Chinese and Indian calendars. According to that calendar, the year Anthro was born in was the year of the Porcupine. Another result of the search was an article from a gossip tabloid covering a report saying that they had found a little girl in the snowy Tundra whose hair had fused together and now she had something like quills instead of hair. He printed a few long articles so he could read them at home later.

That evening after returning from work, he took those articles to bed. He kept reading them he finished his bedtime snack of a bag of nuts. After which, he fell asleep.

He woke up after few hours with a start. He immediate looked around and at his belly if there were more quill but there were none. His relaxed as he stood up and talked towards his kitchen. His friends had left some food for him to eat. He felt like having some fresh air blow at him and decided to go out for a walk. He moved the thick curtain and look outside the window. It was dark, but he felt it was a good time to take a walk. He got ready, locked his home and left.

He took a deep breath of the water-laden spring air. It was fresh and tasty. He walked towards the community park. As soon as he stepped off the footpath, he heard loud horn of a truck. He looked back and realized that he had stepped on the road without having looked both sides. A truck was coming at him from the wrong side.

He stood few feet away from the truck. Its headlights were off but it was not driving very fast. As he withdrew back to the footpath, the truck swivels past him. His hands rushed to the side as if he would push away the truck if it came close.

The surge in the noise as the truck approached and the immediate hush as soon as it passed due to the Doppler Effect scared him. The blaring horns undid what his friends and the sleep had done after the quills. He panicked and screamed. As he crouched, he heard his heart pound under the noise of the truck and his scream.

He felt a million pinpricks pierce his back as he fell on the footpath. The fading sound of the truck sounded like music from another world as he drifted into sleep.

§   §   §   
Over next few months, Anthro realized how his emotional extreme triggered this strange response. He looked for answers on the internet and in the libraries. He could not find any precedents. Only things that came close to his reality were the fantasies of the comic books.

All this made him very irritable. More intolerable than what some very tolerant people could tolerate.

§   §   §   
A street dweller was trying to wake Anthro.

“Wake up! You drunk! Idiot! Wake up! If you want to die, die on some other street. Do not mess my neighbourhood.”

Anthro woke to these words and realized what had happened. He was soon in his elements.

“Go to hell. I will die anywhere I want. But there is only one place where you can die, a trash can!”

Anthro walked away.

“You nasty moron, may the bees bite you till you are dead and bloated,” the man screamed at Anthro’s back.

“I don’t have to say anything to you! The cockroaches are already getting you!” Anthro screamed back at him.

Anthro walked back to his home and broke a few glasses in anger. His already chaotic life was now even bigger a skein. He wished he were dead.

§   §   §   
“Do not move, stay still”

Anthro could not help but move. His friend stood next to him with a seven-inch blade knife and he was planning to stab him with it.

“Give me that knife and you sit here,” replied Anthro with mild irritation. “Then show me how to stay still. No wonder your girl friend left you. You must have always been still with her too!”

“Damn it Anthro, I am trying to help you and you are so—”

“Shut up and stab me. I talk nasty. I cannot help it. Take it or jump out of the window. Either way is fine with me!”

He lugged the knife hard towards Anthro. The blade hit his skin and it scratched as the blade hit it. As before, all he could do was scratch Anthro’s skin. His skin was so tough that the blade could not penetrate.

He sat in the couch with a huff. Those who stood behind watching him stab Anthro stepped back.

“What is wrong with you guys? I am a normal human!”

“I wonder what else is ‘normal’ about you,” asked his friend with the knife.

§   §   §   
Anthro read that obituary for the third time. Anthro himself had written it. It talked of death of his friend due to cancer at a very young age. Anthro grieved. He sat in the room with rest of his friends.

He wished he could cry and all he could do was finish all the walnuts he had in the home.

§   §   §   
Anthro kept looking for answers for his questions and reasons for his fate. He talked to his family, but never revealing what he was going through. He talked to few scientists. He even talked to some fantasy writers asking them how they come up with ideas about ‘special’ humans. If there were specks of truth or any related things, they had heard. Most of them dismissed his as comic lover gone too far with his love.

Those who did talk to him often had to end the meeting to save their selves from all the verbal abuse the impatient Anthro subjected them to.

§   §   §   
Anthro hoped it would not be the same girl when he walked into the store. He quietly walked in and picked up the movie that seemed to have started it all. He went to the counter. It was the same girl.

She looked at the movie and said, “It is real scary!”

Anthro relaxed as he realized she did not remember him. “I know and the last time I saw it I pissed in my pants!” and they both laughed.

§   §   §   
He played it again and it scared him just like before. However, in the months that had passed, he had gained better control over himself. This time during the climax, he was just scared.

§   §   §   
The police constable was breathless. He was grossly out of shape and lacked stamina. Still, he was running very determinately. He was, apparently not going to give up. He screamed to people ahead to trip the man running ahead so he could pounce on him. In the confusion, few understood what was happening. It had happened all so sudden.

Anthro saw the man come at him. He heard the police constable and he knew what he had to do. He looked at the road. His bus was coming. It was few seconds away from its usual stop. Anthro raised his hand and the man fell. The police constable caught up.

Anthro boarded his bus and it drove away. From the window, he saw the police constable look at the fallen man with a strange look.

§   §   §   
Anthro walked back in the video store. This time the girl recognized him. She told him the movie he had picked a real nice movie. It was her favourite.

Anthro saw that movie thrice.

§   §   §   
Anthro was irritated as usual. The paperboy had broken the flower plant he was growing in the earthen pot. He found an appropriate twig from the nearby park and used it as a prop for the broken stem. He used some thread to bind them together.

He complained to the newspaper manager about it later in the day. It was a brief and gentle conversation.

§   §   §   
“What is wrong with you? I am sure there millions of fungus inside you? With your rotten attitude, you can be a one man mushroom factory!”

Anthro was more than irritated this time. The man in front of him was acting strange. He was very rude to the woman in front of him. Even though waiting in the queue was universally irritating, this man’s noxious behaviour was making it worse for everyone.

“What did you say to?”

“I said did you daughter pay the neighbour to sleep with your wife so she could call a better man her father?”

The man, visibly angered, looked away. Apparently, he wanted to avoid a confrontation. Nevertheless, Anthro’s words had done the things. He was now still and silent. Anthro had put him in his place.

Still, Anthro felt uneasy. Things irritated him very easily. But what this man caused was more than that and Anthro did not like the feeling.

Pretending he was reading a book, he kept his attention on the man. The queue moved slowly. He had already been there over twenty minutes. Given the going speed, he expected to be there for another forty minutes or so.

As Anthro kept a close watch on the man, he realized that the small object he had noticed inside his jacket was almost shaped like a gun. Anthro grew alert. People were not allowed to bring in guns here.

Someone who wanted to bring in a gun may want to conceal it in a bag or something. But this man wore it as if he wanted to take it out instantly. It was then he realized why he had been pestering the old woman to keep distance. It might be somehow detrimental to his plans. Anthro kept his eyes on the man.

The time crept by. Soon, the man with the gun was at the counter now. He was talking to the man on the counter. He was asking about something and the man was trying to him as much as he could. It was apparent to Anthro that he was just making up all the questions.

Suddenly he saw his hands move to his jacket. Anthro’s eyes tried to follow him but he could not see. He moved in closer and he heard the faint click as the gun’s lock released. Anthro realized what was going to happen.

Anthro moved to the man’s side so he could see a bit more. His hands we on the gun and he was slowly taking it out. Anthro had to act quickly.

He raised his hand and pointed his finger at the man’s lower back. A single quill appeared and punctured his lower spine. The man fell motionless as the quill withdrew.

In the mêlée that followed, Anthro quietly walk out of there.


Cover picture by Quinn Dombrowski

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Dinker has over a decade of experience in building products across diverse domains as Industrial Automation, Home Automations, Operating Systems, High Energy Particle Physics, Embedded Systems, Online Video Advertising, Messaging, K-12 education and Private Banking. He also founded Gungroo Software. His books #ProMa, Absolute and None & The Murmurs of the Dawn are available on Amazon.