The shots rang out in the distance, twin staccato bursts that caused the stir in the room to freeze, all ears straining to ascertain the exact nature of the shots. Then the bodies unfroze and there followed a muted buzz as glances were thrown warily at each other. You could see the questions in the eyes of the people in various positions of sitting and standing: could it be a car backfiring? Certainly not gunshots, were they? Did that even come from inside the hotel?
For the briefest moment, the man standing at the podium stayed distracted by the sound of the shots and the murmur of slight trepidation roiling across the room. Then he regained his sangfroid, gripped the lectern and peered avidly into the sea of faces eddying before him. His intensity gradually captured the general attention, and once again, he was the focus, the droning baritone of his voice, when he commenced speaking, weaving an allure that was spellbinding, and his words holding centre stage once again.
“I have had so many request of me the blueprint of success as a writer, as an artist, as a person. Now if I am to say the secret of my, well, ‘success’ lies in my exercise regimen every morning—fifty push-ups—they get prostrate. If I am to say it has to do with my daily jogging, they strap on their boots. Now, let’s take it a bit further; I married my first wife because she was the first one who gave me positive reviews for my work. She was an angel, but I realized later, not my angel. Do they do that too? Ape my blunders, too? But I also know my writing is shaped by my life, the sum total of my experiences, and as such, everything is ‘good’, helped shape my literary depth, and got me to where I am. Getting my blueprints, and applying them to your life would only make you a second-rate me, instead of a first-rate you. You end up giving the world an unfair rendition of what it already has while depriving it of the best of what it never had—you. Note therefore that the point is that successful writing—and almost all other life endeavors—is a personal, dynamic experience. Everyone has the aptitude for greatness; one only needs to find that personal recipe that will work for one.”
At that time, there was a rush of feet right outside the ballroom; it was followed by a click as the doors were opened slightly to admit a nondescript-looking man. The man at the podium glanced briefly at the new arrival, only mildly interested in him.
He continued, “Sometimes, life isn’t a quest for the right answer. Sometimes, you need to find the right questions. And in that quest, it is important to note that one shouldn’t expect victories in life, because the little-known truth is that there are no victories in life. There are just battles. And the best you can hope for is that you find some place where you can make your stand. And if you’re lucky, you find someone to stand with you. Someone who you can say to: ‘If this is your stand, then I’ll stand by you.’”
He paused to look around, to let the words settle, to drive his point home. His gaze spanned the room, settled on the new arrival, and had begun to wander away from him, his mouth opening to continue speaking, when the man withdrew his hand from inside the jacket of his suit, his fist clenched around the barrel of a gun, the purpose on his face set on one of the guests. The speaker’s eyes widened with terror, and his words had taken the shape of a cry of alarm when the shots rang out, their booming resonance wrecking pandemonium inside the room.
(Excerpt from The Event)
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