120 Seconds

Day 1, Evening
As his eyes regained focus, he saw the crow flapping away. For a moment, he thought the
crow had winked at him. He wondered how the deal would work out.
He let an assortment of cars and bikes and buses pass. Each passing vehicle sent a shudder
through the slabs that made up the bridge. He counted about 20 shudders absently, then
stopped. The bright yellow stripes of paint in the middle of the road glistene d in the waning
sun. A wall that rose chest-high on either bank of the bridge hid the dark underside from
people passing over the bridge. A few kite-eagles dived into and rose out of the murkiness,
keeping its secrets to themselves.
Naman sighed. He cast a long gaze over the trees on the far bank of the river that flowed
along the bridge, his eyes unfocused.
“Well, that’s that” he thought, and kicked his bike alive. He had to find a petrol pump.

Day 2
The alarm on the stool beside Naman’s bed buzzed and jangled like it had every day, month
after month. But today, he put it to snooze, and ten minutes later when it jangled again, he
simply pulled out the cord and went back to sleep.
By the time his mother woke him up, it was 10 AM. He should have been in office an hour
ago.
He gave her a vicious look, and without a word, set to get ready for office.
“Are you feeling alright?” she asked.
He replied with a curt grunt.
“Didn’t you have office today?” she had concern in her voice.
“Yes mom, am I not getting ready?” he spoke in an irritated voice.
She left it at that and replaced the air-starved chappatis in his Tupperware lunch box with
fresh ones.
Like everyday he smoked a cigarette at the pan shop below his office building. Even though
he was late for work, he did not seem to care.

As he was butting out the cigarette, a small girl trundled up to him, one arm stretched out
carelessly, the other scratching her matted hair. She jerked the shiny steel bowl she was
clutching. The few coins in it clattered loudly.
Without a thought, Naman tossed whatever change the panwala had given him in the bowl.
It was a sum the beggar girl had never received in one go. With a twinkle in her eye that
seemed as out of place as the bright smile that livened up her emaciated features, she ran
back to her mother and siblings sitting across the road on the footpath. Their mother took
the money and hugged the little girl happily.
An even younger boy, jealous of the attention his sister was getting, grabbed a bowl and ran
towards Naman. He held out his bowl, but failed to catch Naman’s attention. He went
around and tugged at Naman’s trousers.
Instead of a firm reprimand, Naman simply slapped the little boy right across his face. The
under-nourished kid fell in a heap at Naman’s feet. Without as much as a second look, he
strode back into the office building, leaving in his wake shocked faces and the wails of the
child.

That evening, a cat had a horrible time trying to catch a crow that landed on the ground
after flying a few feet, hopped a bit, and then took off again as the cat came closer.

Day 3
The cord for the alarm clock had not been plugged in again. Naman was still in bed when the
RJ on his mother’s radio announced it was 10 AM in her best I-know-men-love-me voice.
His mother looked at him warily.
“I hope you have a good reason to be so indifferent towards your job. We don’t want any
problems just as you are getting engaged.”
Naman only stared at her, his face showing no sign of any emotion or comprehension.
“The hotel wanted an advance payment for the party right? I think you should clear the
advance today. Tell them the menu would be as we had finalized, too.”
The thought of more expenditure pinched him in the gut. He had lost his father years ago,
and so was paying out of his own pocket for his engagement. Even though Chinmayi’s father
had insisted on splitting the expenses 50/50, together with the engagement ring the
expenditure was turning out to be substantial. With the engagement just three days away,
Naman cringed at every last-minute expense that came up.

“Yes mom I will do it” he mumbled robotically and left for office.
Despite being two hours late already, he did not skip the habitual cigarette outside office.
He noticed the pan wala looking at him curiously. The beggar family looked at him from
across the road, the mother was incessantly mumbling, gesturing at him. The little boy was
prostrate in her lap, his eyes looking into zero.
As he walked into office and sat down at his desk, his boss walked over and, leaning in close,
asked if everything was fine at home. Naman nodded, with a smile.
“Guess there’s lots to do with the engagement and all coming up eh?” the boss laughed and
slapped Naman happily on the back, then walked back to his cubicle. Naman shrank into his
chair, his mind in a tumult.
At lunch that afternoon, he logged in to his banking website and transferred a meaty sum
into the hotel’s account. He quickly logged out, not wanting to see how much remained in
his account. It was depressing.
He leaned back on his chair, and out of the corner of his eye noticed the thick wallet of his
colleague lying on the table.
As he pulled out and pocketed five crisp five-hundred rupee notes from the wallet, he failed
to notice a certain somebody standing behind him had seen e verything.

As the sun began its westward descent that day, passersby on a road a few buildings away
from Naman’s office witnessed a scene that drew loud laughter from a bunch of kids playing
nearby:
A crow, as if in a daze, staggered and swayed in mid-flight as it tried to control itself. It hit a
billboard, toppled to the ground, limped up to its feet, then took off again.

Day 4
Chinmayi was in an upbeat mood in the morning. Her dad had enthusiastically applied
himself to making all the arrangements for the engagement. Her boss had happily granted
her a week’s leave, and had promised a month’s leave after her wedding, winking good
naturedly.
She sat her terminal, typing away briskly, as she ran a mad race with herself to finish all her
assignments. The report she was working on was not due for another week.
Her phone rang in her drawer, the muffled tune unmistakable. It was the tone she had set
for Naman.
She answered quickly.
“Hi! You at this hour? What’s happening?” she chirruped.
“Got leave from today.” His voice was flat on the other side.
“Wow! Really? Wasn’t boss fussing about it just a few days back? What did you do?” she
had a habit of asking a lot of questions when she was happy.
“Just. This and that. Meet up for lunch? Then a movie?”
She readily said yes. Later, as she said her goodbyes and again invited everyone to her
engagement, everybody said the glow on her face was worth a million bucks.
That afternoon, she noticed he was pre-occupied. There was still some time to go for the
movie, so they idly strolled around on the lawns in front of the mall.
Then, Naman saw a crow, sitting on the back of a park bench. Letting go of her hand, he
started walking towards it, taking long and purposeful strides.
Chinmayi freaked out the next moment when she saw Naman break into a run as the crow
flew off, shouting “Give it back! Give it back!” at the top of his voice.
As a curious and shocked group of people turned towards them, Chinmayi made a show that
he was doing it only to make her laugh, and holding his hand, firmly pulled him inside the
mall.
Once she was sure they had blended in with the crowd, she turned to him.
“What’s gotten into you?” she demanded.
Naman mumbled something she could not hear, and simply turned his back to her.

That afternoon, a bus hit a divider in from of Naman’s office. The driver said he was startled
by a crow which suddenly appeared out of nowhere and hit the windscreen right in front of
him.
Some passengers claimed they saw the bird flying away erratically, losing its balance again
and again, as if it was flying under a heavy load.

Day 5
The crow could hardly get off the ground that day. The bus hit had severely damaged his leg,
but thankfully the wings were intact.
Early in the morning, with a great effort, he had flown towards a tree opposite the office
and sat down on a branch. It leaned against the stem every once in a while to take the
weight off the broken leg.
As he sat there waiting, he thought of his flock. They must have disowned him by now.
He had done something no crow had done before.
There was a time when he would get goosebumps thinking this line. Now, all he felt was the
heavy realization of his naiveté. He had set out thinking himself to be a rebel, only to end up
with a broken leg, with a cat following him everyday like a shadow. She was being a good
vulture, he thought.
He felt the weight increasing with each passing day, and all he wanted to do was find
Naman and give him back what was rightfully his.
Though he waited out the whole day, it proved fruitless.

That night, like all nights, Naman slept peacefully.
His mother stayed up late into the night, worrying about the engagement the next day.
Chinmayi couldn’t sleep. She was much too excited and worried at the same time. Naman’s
behaviour had been very odd.
Her thoughts were broken into by the shrill tone of the landline phone in their living room. A
few moments later, she heard the gruff ‘Hello’ of her father, and then she slowly drifted off
to sleep, listening to him say “Hm, hm” every few seconds.

Day 6
Naman’s mother wept profusely. So did Chinmayi. Naman stood before Chinmayi’s father,
his eyes steady, his mind confused. The colleague whose money Naman had stolen stood a
little behind them. He had called Chinmayi’s father the previous night. He had asked him to
come and meet near the office so they could talk. Chinmayi’s father had asked everyone
else to come there too.
He was speaking loudly, almost shouting.
“…he said he had got leave! Is it not, Chinmayi? Turns out he was forced to take leave for a
few days. Late to office every day, and then stealing? Where is your shame boy? What has
gotten into you that you had to do this? You think I would let Chinmayi…”

Naman heard in silence, though the voices around him had retreated to the background of
his awareness. He thought of the choice he had been given, and how he had chosen what he
thought was the best option. “Just ask, and I will give it back” the crow h ad said. He cursed
himself for not asking how he will find him. If only he could find the crow now…
A faint cawing brought him to his senses with a jolt. He whipped around and saw a tired
looking crow hobble, stagger and fly towards him, even as a big bl ack cat stalked it.
Naman ran towards it and Chinmayi felt her world collapse around her. Why was he being
like this? She ran behind him.
“Wait Naman, please! What’s wrong with you?” she shouted behind him.
As Naman got to where the crow was, it ceased its futile attempts at trying to fly and looked
up at him.
“Give it back, please, give it back to me.” Naman managed in between laboured breaths.
For a moment, Chinmayi thought Naman had lost it, but she was aghast when she heard the
crow speak back in a very strange voice.
“It’s too heavy for me now.”
The next instant was a cacophony of sounds as the crow cawed in exultation as it soared,
free of its weight, the cat screeched in frustration as it lunged at the crow in vain, and
Naman collapsed to his knees with a long, pained wail.

Day 1, Evening
The light turned green and the avalanche of metal and smoke and noise moved like a giant,
hopeless monster, a few pieces broke off from it and blazed ahead. Naman purposely stayed
behind, starting slow and letting everyone pass. Soon, every car and bike behind him had
moved on ahead. He rode at a leisurely place, knowing that the next avalanche was at least
120 seconds away.
“120 seconds of peace” he thought to himself as he drifted along on the bridge.
He enjoyed this routine every day. The signal timer was set to 120 seconds. Enough time for
all the vehicles with him to move on. And as it was a one way bridge, there was never any
oncoming traffic. The river flowing along the bridge and its far banks provided pretty vistas
for Naman’s mind. He always felt peaceful when he commuted on the bridge.
But today, his thoughts were taken up by Chinmayi. He loved her so dearly. And they were
to be engaged in a week’s time.
It had taken him a long time to finally propose marriage to her; with his father dead a long
time, he was not sure he could afford all the expenses by himself. But his company had been
happy with him, and he was now doing ‘well for himself’ as people were wont to say.
He mentally ticked off the ‘to do’ he had made up; buy clothes, ring, train reservations for
some close relatives. Only the advance for the hotel was left. That was going to be a big
amount, he thought, but what the heck. I won’t get engaged again. He smiled at the
lameness of his joke.
Suddenly, faint puttering started up somewhere behind him. Before he could turn around
and try to find the source, a strange black man and biker appeared beside him.
The biker was very strange looking, dressed all in black and wearing a helmet that had a
beak like projection. The bike, or whatever it was, was all black too, with a curiously oily
looking paint job and a texture that somehow looked like crow’s feathers. The bike made a
funny puttering sound as it moved, its speed matching perfectly with Naman’s. The rider
wore a grey scarf around his neck and a large pair of shockingly red sunglasses.
“You seem to be enjoying yourself, and your leisure ride!” the rider said to Naman, while
the strange bike seemed to move on its own.
“What?” Naman looked at the stranger curiously, “And who are you?”
“I am crow” the rider said simply.
“Um, sure” Naman twisted his accelerator and tried to get away from the biker. But the
biker kept up with him effortlessly.
“I won’t push too much petrol into the engine if I was you” the biker went on, his bike was
so close, to someone looking from a distance it would have looked like the shadow of
Naman’s bike.
Naman began to panic. The biker talked on, his words were rough and somewhat drawn
out.
“You should have really tanked up on petrol after office like you were thinking then.”
Naman twisted the accelerator fully and raced ahead. The biker stuck to him, there was not
a moment he would be left behind.
“Um, if you don’t stop and pull up right now you are going to run out of fuel and a big
orange dump truck is going to run over you and kill you.” The biker made himself heard over
the sound of the wind.
Sure enough, Naman felt the engine going sluggish below him as it starved on the last drops
of fuel in the tank. He looked into the rearview, there really was an orange dumptruck a few
metres behind them.
He pulled over.
The biker smoothly came to a stop at the exact same spot.
“Alright man, who are you? I am straight so if you have any ideas I am sorry ok?” Naman
demanded.
The biker cackled.
“Oh sorry, sorry. I shouldn’t be laughing. So morbid of me, laughing like this the day you are
supposed to die.”
“What?” Naman felt a fear rise inside him. Was this guy a murderer of some sort?
“Well, as I said, I am a crow. Not just any crow, but the crow who had been saddled with the
responsibility of carrying of your soul and keeping it with me for thirteen days, after you die
under the wheels of that truck.” The man pointed at the orange truck as it passed them
harmlessly.
“Well, why am I not dead then?” Naman asked, thinking the man to be deranged. He started
contemplating stopping some passing car to help him.
“Um, don’t think about stopping anybody. It won’t help.”
Naman stared. The crow continued.
“Look, I am not kidding. You were supposed to die today, and being the chosen carrier of
your soul, I can hear your thoughts today. That’s how I found you.”
Naman thought it was all too surreal, and his mind refused to cope. But the crow had
spoken out his thought precisely. His head began to reel.
“Ok, so I am not dead. Why? And is it done then?”
“You are not dead because I did not let you. I have failed in my duties, and my flock will
definitely expel me for this. But I have always fancied myself a rebel. I never invaded a
cuckoo’s nest.” The crow said smugly, and Naman could not help but laugh at the crow’s
remark. It was very weird, but yet not alien.
“But it’s not done. I will have to take something from you though. I am bound by the laws of
nature, and though I have broken one hell of a rule, I still have to carry something of yours
with me for thirteen days as fulfilment of my duty to a greater God.”
“What part of me?” Naman was in a strange way enjoying this.
“Uhm, you have four choices. Since not your whole soul, I will need to take one of its parts:
your awareness, your conscience, your will or your intellect.”
“And what if I refuse?” Naman asked.
“Well, then you would have to die. I will make sure you will, I have connections in the right
places for that.” The crow said simply.
Naman laughed at the humor of the crow, and then at his own morbidity.
He thought long and hard. He couldn’t live like a vegetable, so awareness was out. Without
his will, he wouldn’t have what a man needs to feel alive; without his intellect, he would be
a sorry laughing stock.
Could he live without conscience? It was only a matter of right or wrong, and he won’t have
to feel guilty, for a long time!
He made up his mind.
“If you want it back, ever, just come to me and ask.” The crow said.
As the crow took his conscience from him, Naman felt his vision blurring.
He vaguely saw the black biker shape-shift into a crow.

As his eyes regained focus, he saw the crow flapping away. For a moment, he thought the
crow had winked at him.

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Sane and Dead

The darkness around consumes me as I ride through. Trees appear and again melt into the air…leaving behind blurry outlines of the moment of their existence. I hunt for milestones…markers to remind me of what is to come.
The city is 10 kilometres away.
It reveals its existence once very few turns, bright lights finding their way through the maze of trees, electricity poles and general rot. I ride in anticipation.
The road winds ahead of me. I agree to its path…with reluctance. Its not time yet. The engine throbs under me. Pushing it down to neutral, I engage first and jerk open the throttle, riding the wind on one wheel. I like the feeling of being in control.
She rushes into my thoughts with the wind. The whole pink-lips-pretty-smile-soft-hair-sweet-voice-warm-hugs of her. I turn around and salute with a finger what I am leaving behind.
The city approaches.
The lights claw towards me. I accelerate and rush headlong into an intersection of two highways.
I see fate rushing towards me on 18 wheels. I hope the front disc works as advertised…but decide not to use it.
Sadly, the trucker is not insane . He brakes, his machine wobbles embarrassingly for its size and takes down two cars with it.
I stop, stare, and ride on to get my fill of chilled beer for the night.

Bodcount

The night air smelled sinfully sweet…or of blood and splattered guts. The breeze played its part…diffusing an ugly warmth to every niche of the city.

A sleek black Audi steered into a side street and stopped behind a tumble-down building. She stepped down from the car, ill-at-ease in the tight black skirt and much too aware of it. She tugged at it, hoping to gain an extra inch of decency. It refused to budge. She swore under her breath…too naive to realize the neighborhood she was in cared a fuck for correctitude…even in whore-clothing.

She walked to the main street and made sure the car was not visible. The locality was not used to the slick elegance of an Audi.

A beep from her watch said it was 11 PM. Making sure no one was around, she walked back to the car. She made a note in a small diary:

“Day 3. The trail has led me to the sorriest whore-hole I have ever seen. Hope to find the fucker today. Cant afford to rack up the body count any higher. The bastard will pay for all the blood he has made me spill.”

She knew she could not afford to arouse any suspicion from the regular beat-girls in the district, and hoped her blood red lipstick and 3 inch stiletto heels could help her commingle in the slutmush.

A long blade lay beneath her skirt. Glittering stones adorned the haft…spelling out “Tempter’s Girl”. She had vowed not to wash the blade till she found him. The stains would remind him of the men she had to kill…men he had set up to ambush her. So far, he had managed to be one step ahead.

A small visiting card from her ‘employees’ had the address hastily scribbled on its back. She flipped the card and read the name of the escort service again.

Rosie

New Day, New Girl

Hussies With Attitude

She smiled at the ignorant contradiction.

The sky glowed a dirty glow…her thoughts seemed to manifest themselves in more ways than one. A few girls lounged beneath lamp-posts, talking shop, hooked to Mary Jane.

Finding the building she was looking for, she stepped in the foyer. The building paraded its woebegone state-dog shit littered the floor. Spiders and lizards played an endless game of eat-and-shit on the ceiling. A small bulb glowed in some nook…its light muddled by the malodorous vapors.

Deftly avoiding the slosh, she got to the second floor. A long passage spanned to her left and right. Moldy doors lined the passage on either side…she could knock them down with a kick. She took to the left, studying the grubby numbers on each door…and came upon the one she was looking for. 222.

She instinctively drew the blade as a chill went up her spine. Readying herself to slash if need be, she knocked.

“New Girl, New Day!” she hoped it sounded like a hussy with attitude.

“Hold your titties sweety…comin’!”…the voice sounded far-off.

She saw the metal knob turn…and the door swung open.

“…am coming…will come again-“

He stood frozen, the link between his mouth and brain momentarily broken. She slipped inside and kicked the door close.

“Got you sonovahoe!” She pushed him down on the bed, ripping of his clothes with the blade.

He laughed like a madman…and pushed the blade out of her grasp. Pulling her closer, he stifled her excited body with a smothering kiss.

“You are getting better at our little game with every turn sweetheart …just three days this time!” he said, pulling her clothes off.

“My bodycount has gone up to seven you fuck…you are still at three! This time around, I won’t make it so easy for you. My turn starts tomorrow.”

——————-

Alice In Chains – Facelift – Love, Hate, Love

Silver Chill

The salty water filled his mouth. He stared at her…unable to fathom what had happened. The waves twisted and turned her form…moving farther every second…

A thin smile appeared on his lips. The events of the evening came rushing back to him…

Wearing his blue (or was it grey?) suit, he was not really looking forward to see her. It was just yesterday (or was it more?) when he had confessed his love…and she had not said anything. Her silence told him what she felt. Always a fugitive, he had decided to leave the town, sure that he could not bear seeing her in some other man’s arms. Just before leaving, he had asked her to come see him…one last time.

They had decided to meet at the docks…he could meet her and leave on the ferry for the converted carge ship moored in the distance.

Dressed in a black gown, she looked stunning. He stared at the glittering bracelet on her bare arm…and felt a jab in the gut…wishing he could hold her arm…hold her hand…caress her lips…it pained him..knowing that she was all dressed up not for him. He had tried to hide his tears…it wasn’t easy after the whole vodka he had downed…

He smiled at her, “You look beautiful”

“Thank you. Its a friend’s birthday by the beach.” He knew she was lying.

“Oh..thats nice. Do wish her from me. I am leaving.” He blurted.

“Where for?” He had hated her then…or hated the absence of even a hint of disappointment in her voice.

“…have an assignment…”

“Okay…Come back soon though.”  Why was she being so…uninterested?

“Ofcourse…” He did not wish to tell her that he was going for good…lest she thought it was because of her. Or maybe he did not wish to let her know that he had lost. There was still some pride left in him.

There was an awkward silence between them. The ferry rumbled up to the dock. People scrambled around them…shouting…calling to their children…shoving each other…he felt like a statue in a marketplace.

He looked at her…she was looking away, at the city lights…lost in her thoughts…or maybe just impatient to get back. Her foot was tracing a small arc on the ground.

“Your friends might be waiting for you…better go now” He said.

“Yea…I should. Dont want to miss out on the cake!” she managed a fake laugh.

The ferry had started to move away. He took a step towards it and stopped. There was something in her eyes. She cocked a wink at him and jumped into the ferry. Stunned for a moment, he ran for it but the ferry was out of reach. He jumped.

The salty water filled his mouth. He stared at her…unable to fathom what had happened. The waves twisted and turned her form…moving farther every second…he started swimming towards the ferry. A thin smile appeared on his lips…a smile of ecstasy. She held out a hand. He grabbed it and climbed aboard. They hugged under the november moon…the chill in the air bringing them ever closer…

Bhangra!

Trrrraaaaaaanggg!!
The high pitched metallic rattle of the alarm clock violently jerked him out of sleep. Not that he had slept peacefully…a violent start to another tumultuous day…after a turbulent sleep…

He stared out of the window at a greasy brick wall…the red was showing in patches. Dirty, smelly grime covered the rest of it…knotted, dangling spider webs cut odd streaks across the wall. ‘Like rotten depths of a forgotten cavern…’ he thought.
He walked to the basin and face contorted…he hadnt turned on the tap after throwing up last night.

The small bottle of No.1 lay on the floor, a few crowns of Bagpiper club soda scattered around it. He had had to do with less of whiskey and more of soda last night…no money left for even a pack of peanuts…
His head throbbed as he tried to recollect the events of the night.
Ahh! She had dumped him last evening. The whole of yesterday wasa blur…but he remembered their last few minutes of conversation quite vividly:

Him: “I love this time…the time when Im with you…I wish we could be like this forever…”
and then he had bit his lip…afraid it was too late…he shouldn’t have said that…he knew what was coming…

Her: “I know…I love being with you too..”

thank God for that…she didn’t start it this time…always ends in a fight..
Him: “…You know Daljit got a new pair of jootis for himself….proper punjabi jootis…i think I’ll get a pair too..”

Her: “Didn’t he get anything for her?”

here it comes…
He: “I don’t know”

Her: “Ofcourse. Why would you know. You would never remember such things. Daljit is a responsible man. He married the girl he loved…not like you. You are a loafer really.”

there…again…

Him: “Please dear. I have told you already. Daljit’s story is different..he has his father who is providing for him…for now…”

Her: “I don’t want to hear all that. Bhaiyya and dadaji are searching for a match for me. Unless you do something soon…”

“I have heard this a million times ok…please give me some time-“

“What do I tell them? What reason should I make up now? I cannot think of anything now. you are coming to talk to dadaji…tell me when you are coming…now!”

“You know I am not earning much…it is hardly enough for me…”

“Tell me now..please!”
“I need some tim-“
“I cannot. I really cannot. Its been four years since we have been together..but nothing has happened..”
“I cannot give you an answer now…please try to understand…I need time..”
“I am sorry. I just cannot. You either come to my place tomorrow and talk to dadaji…or we will never see each other again”

With that, she had walked off…he had sat there…stunned…unsuspecting…and then cursing her for all she had said and done.
He had walked home, bought the whiskey and soda on the way. By the time he had reached his rundown single room ‘home’, he knew he had done wrong. Taking it all too easy…

…now…after drinking…puking…sleeping…and coming back to his senses…he knew what the answer was going to be. He put on his ‘costume’…his job required him to wear it. A bright yellow lungi…a bright yellow bhugari…and a white kurta. He put on his jootis and joined the others from his group…today he was to dance at the wedding of a wealthy marwari merchant’s only daughter…

Glitter

The large diamond on her ring sparkled subtly in the waning light. Its numerous faces looked sinful…distant lights sparkling on its sharp edges.
Andrea looked at it and felt a tingle of excitement shoot through her body. She shivered in the thin nightgown. She had put it on today only for him. People on the way had given her strange looks. She had ignored them…anything for Julian, she thought.
She was going to be with him again.
The wind was playing mischief at that late hour-as gentle as a stream one moment, as wild as a gale the next. The gown flapped against her legs noisily. From a distance, her silhouette looked like a perfectly sculpted female form.
She grew impatient with each passing minute.The week had seemed to her like an eternity. But now she couldn’t wait. She wanted to feel his arms wrapped around her. The smell of his cologne was still etched in her mind…a scent that roused her even now.
She started to pace around to calm her anxiety and anticipation. They would always meet at the place she was at now. The old, twisted tree, whom they both lovingly called ‘grandpa’, stood like an unshakeable pillar. The sight reassured her. She lighted a cigarette, but immediately stubbed it out. He had always disliked the bitter taste burnt tobacco left behind on her lips. “Not today sweetheart”.

She looked up at the stars and the moonlit sky. It was a beautiful night. The crescent of the moon was mesmerizing. In a surge of excitement, she slid the gown off her.
Closing her eyes, she imagined him coming up and lifting her in a warm embrace. “Be patient” she told herself and looked at the ring. Staring at the diamond, her lips unconsciously curled into a smile. She vividly remebered the day he had proposed to her. After the initial euphoric shock, she had squealed with joy looking at the beautiful diamond he had slid onto her finger.
“I cant wait any longer” she said to herself.

With one swift move, she bit the ring and swallowed the stone.
Her limp body collapsed, her head leaning against a headstone. The inscription on it read:
“Julian Wurz”

Game Theory

“I think I love you”

The words appeared on Anirban’s screen. As soon as the words registered to his conscience, Anirban’s vision blurred. A wave of memories rushed up on him. He found himself struggling against a maelstrom of suppressed emotions. He shut his eyes tight, fighting back against it.
His mind took him back two years, when he had typed out these exact same words on his keyboard.

He had met Antara on one of the numerous community websites he was a member of…he didn’t remember which. It did not matter. Within two days of “meeting” each other online, they had exchanged their private messenger IDs. He would spend long, sleepless and cozy nights chatting with her, and yet it never would seem enough. He remembered how happy he was then. Talking to Antara was like talking to a person he wished to be. He knew he was in love.

Within a few weeks, they had moved on to the phone.

Hearing her voice for the first time had sent a tingle of excitement through him. From that day on he had had a deep longing to see her…to be with her. Her voice was magical, angelic to him-straight out of a fairy tale. He would find comfort in the gentle and caressing words…it was like a sanctum.

He would spend his days day dreaming…dreaming about him and Antara living together, talking, holding hands, just being close. He would imagine himself sprawled on the floor, his head on her lap, her fingers gently ruffling his hair. He would imagine holding her hand and walking along a tree-lined road, silently, feeling the gentle breeze…watching the wind blow a few strands of hair across her face…life would be beautiful with Antara, he would think.

Days had turned to months, and yet things weren’t moving on. Anirban knew he would have to do something. He would call her, but never had he been able to brave his insecurities and tell her about his feelings. He would grow desperate by each passing day. Then, on one evening, he had made up his mind to tell her online. He had signed into his chat program half an hour before the time they met. He vividly remembered those 3o mins he had waited for her…the anxiety, “what if she doesnt take it well”…numerous possibilities…what she might say, would she say yes or would she laugh it off…he was in utter turmoil. So much so that when she had turned up at the usual hour, he had lost his nerve. After a few lines of small talk, he had failed to hold it back, and in swift keystrokes, afraid of his mind faltering again, had typed it out:

“I think I love you.”

A few moments had passed, and then his world was heaven..

“I think I love you too.”

It had been that easy. That simple.
The two years that followed had been the best of his life. Until one fine day it all ended. They had decided to meet at one of her friend’s place in her town. They had been meeting regularly now, though living in different cities.
That day Anirban had decided to surprise her by going straight to her place. In high spirits and dying to see her, he had hurried up to her door and entered with a an air of having a right. And in the living room itself he saw her.

Dressed in the same black corset he had asked her to wear, she looked lovely. Her hair had been made up just the way he liked them. She was kissing a man he had never seen before, his hands all over her. The shock had destroyed him, and all he had done wass yell “FUCK YOU” and got out of there. Once outside, he had vomitted in disgust. He never saw her again. And he could never love anyone again.

Suddenly, a loud buzz went off from the speakers. Anirban was jolted back to the present, and he stared at his computer screen.

“I think I love you”

He liked Shubhra.
They had been in school together for an year, way back in Standard V. It was a long time back, but he remembered her as a timid, sweet girl. All these days they had been talking, he could easily connect her words with the cute little face he remembered from school.

His mind faltered. He did not want her to go through a heart break. He wondered what he would tell her, why was he doing this. He wondered if she would beleive him if he told her he just had lost the desire to love. There was a buzz again.Anirban made up his mind. What had to be done, had to be done.

“I think I love you too.”

That easy.
That simple.
Its my turn to play games now.

He was happy she couldn’t see the sadistic smirk on his face.