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.

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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”

Rooks And Ravens – Part Two

The King picked up the bundle of sticks and tied it around his wrist. Turning around, he swallowed the vast vista of an empire that once belonged to him alone. The high towers of the empires of his three sons rose above him. A magnificent bridge of vine stretched between the terraces of the three towers. In the past, violet flowers bloomed ceaselessly over the length of the vines…spreading their fragrance all over the kingdom beneath. The townsfolk called them the Bridges of Myrrh.

The King, when apportioning the kingdom between his sons, was concerned about infighting between them. With the desire to keep an eye without being meddlesome, he had employed his best wizards to ‘grow’ the bridge, adding his own little secret to it. At the slightest discord between two brothers, the violets on the bridge between their towers would wither and wilt. Thus, the King would always be forewarned, and with wit and wisdom, he would unravel and settle the affair before it was too late.

Now, the three bridges wore a dry and brown shadow. The King had employed reason, authority, even force, but the dissent between the three brothers was unnaturally stubborn. Shocked at the sudden lack of understanding and common sense in his sons, he had investigated, and his worst fears had come true.

It was with this thought in mind that the King had ascended the Thousand Steps of Tribulation to see Ferow, the King of All Fliers.

With a shake of his head, the King started walking towards the Inner Halls.

The Temple was carved out of magnificent black stone. The roughness of the walls and ceiling together with the reflective floor added a distinct elegance to it. Cleverly positioned vents in the roof and walls maintained a steady breeze and pleasing brightness in the Halls. A heady scent of Sandalwood, the same as from the Eagle’s nest, permeated the Halls. The King felt at peace and even joyous, though he was painfully aware it was only the sandalwood playing games with his mind.

A mysteriously lit bend led to a winding flight of stairs. Forgetting his fatigue, the King ascended the stairs and was led into an enormous open gallery, at the tip of the mountain. Looking down, he could see numerous smaller galleries every few feet down.

Ferow stood large and brilliant  in the middle of the gallery, his golden feathers reflecting sunlight over the cliffs and precipices around them.

The King bowed low.

Ferow cocked his neck, almost haughtily, but nevertheless. returned the gesture.

“Greetings, The Great Golden, and accept my apologies for coming here so without prior consent.” The King volunteered.

“Is not the sandeltræ armbånd around your wrist enough proof of the consent you so worry about, O King? But come now, lets not waste time in needless greetings. You have not taken the Steps of Tribulation to come and exchange pleasantries with me! Though I claim to be quite aware of the cause of your disquiet, having been witness to the slow decay of your wondrous bridges, the broer af myrra, I would rather hear it from you, lest any misunderstanding cloud my reason.”

“You are wise, Golden One, for it is indeed what you fathom it is, though there is nothing of suspicion in the things you have keenly witnessed. My ever wise, honest and noble sons have lost all reason, and I know what has befallen them. As your keen eyes must have long observed, the Grey Legion has awakened beyond the seas, and they seek followers, armies of the dead, to lay siege upon the Emperor. It is with this intent that the Lord of the Grey Legion, Mustvari, has let loose his shadowy spies who fill the minds of sane humans with thoughts of unwarranted and unjustified malice towards his fellows. As the hatred turns into all out war, the followers of the Shadow, the Vari Järgijaid, watch gleefully from the sidelines as fathers kill sons, brothers behead brothers, till one side emerges victorious, only to be ambushed by the waiting Järgijaid, killing swiftly as the victors celebrate. Then the shamans, Vari šamaanid, are summoned, to resurrect the headless, limbless bodies and lead them to the Trenches of the Shadow Lord, to join the other dismembered soldiers of his ever growing army of decay.”

“Indeed, this is true Wise King, and it pains me to know that such fate awaits your sons. Is there nothing that can be done to save your sons and your kingdom?”

“I am old now, King of the Skies, and it is only because of my timely intervention that the Three Kingdoms have managed to survive for so long, even when there was no threat from the Shadow. My sons, though noble and wise, have blinding ambition and a craving for more land and glories of battle. Even if I manage to stave off the threat this time, I would be helpless the next time, knowing that days are few. Sooner than later, the Vari Järgijaid will return, and my beloved Kingdom will be a dominion of rotting bodies. I shall not let that come to pass. I come to you with a certain machination in mind, and I wish you to help me with it, knowing very well that on hearing it, you will be wont to throw me off this high abode of yours to die in a manner fit for a cruel and selfish man.”

Rooks And Ravens – Part One

The King walked up the stone steps of the Temple, hewn out of rock in the summit of a huge mountain.  Each step he took sent a pain through his legs… each step and each stab reminding him of all that he had to sacrifice, put on the line, risk-to win the land now surrounding him.

He looked up at the many stone steps he had to climb.

He had a strange sense of foreboding as he climbed, for even though the mountain was on land that belonged to him, the mountain itself was not his to claim. He had visited the Temple on top just once, alone, and whatever had transpired there was a mystery to all. The King had forbade everyone from attempting to ascend the mountain thereafter.

A great white Eagle soared high above him…its golden beak shone brilliantly in the  sunlight. It was Ferow the Golden. The great Eagle swooped and threw itself into a dive and hovered a few feet above the tiring King. It looked at the King with a  mocking sorrow in its eyes.

The look in the Eagle’s eyes shook the King into a defiance…and angry with his depleting strength, he threw himself up and up, relentlessly, breathlessly, carelessly..not stopping for a breath or drink, the sorrowful eyes of the Eagle an insulting shove upwards.

Sweat pooled in and around the King’s argentine mane…streams of salty liquid flowed down his eyebrows, over the strong nose and around his thin, firm lips and under his strong jaw. The weight of the mighty, double-bladed, diamond gilded Thorn of Triund bore down at his belt.

The ancient hard black stone steps fell behind…the summit drawing ever closer. The Eagle soared higher and higher. Circled. Swooped down. Shot up. And circled. Like a hungry vulture waiting for its tired carcass to give up its soul.

With a final defiance of his frail health, and a mighty push from his pride, the King ascended the last step and stood facing the sanctum. Permitting himself the luxury of rest, he unsheathed the Thorn of Triund and got down on his knees. The trusted sword was his support even now…its keen point fast against the black rock.

The great Eagle sat on its perch above the stone temple, and swooped down to greet the King.

It landed at a respectable distance, and the King laid down pieces of white meat on a cloth of a golden velvet. Taking a bow, the King stood up and walked back a few steps. Both of them knew they were Kings of their domains and treated each other as such.

The Eagle glided forward and accepted the offering.

Finishing the last piece, he flew off towards his perch. Moments later, a bundle of sweet-smelling sticks landed at the King’s feet. The sticks belonged to the Eagle’s nest-a sign that the King could now enter the sanctum.

Cut chai.

VERY EXPLICIT

————————–

“Chhote…do chai la” (Chhote, bring two cups of tea)
Chhotu, really Bansi, wasn’t listening. It was a cloudy, windy day. Just the way he liked it. Sitting below the big banyan by the tapri, he was enjoying himself. Looking at the dark, moving masses of clouds through the branches and shoots of the banyan, he was lost in a different world.
“Abe laude, chai la bola na!” (I asked u to bring tea, dickhead)
Chhotu snapped out of his daze. Laude. Here in the tapri, only he had the distinction of being called a lauda…which literally meant penis. He didn’t mind…it was more like a nickname for him here. He was happy today too…the weather was one thing, but the five rupees he had managed to pocket the earlier day…ahh! Today he wouldn’t mind if they called him lundkatya…dickless…
He checked the little secret pocket he had stitched himself on the groin of his half-pants, from the inside. The touch of the cold five rupee coin excited him.
“Abe kya andar hath daal ke baitha hain…chai kaha hain? Kaat dunga saale tera fir kya chhooega?” (Get your hands out of your pants…where’s the tea? You wont have anything to touch if I cutoff your thing)
Chhotu ignored the man. He was still thinking about the five rupees. He knew what he could do with them. It had been a long time since he had seen a movie. There was one in the local theatre…stall seats for a measly Rs.5/-…Aishwarya Rai, his favorite, in the role of a princess…he was in high spirits.

He got up. Chhotu was 17, but hardly looked it. The shirt he was wearing was that of a 12 year old, discarded because he had outgrown it.
Chhotu passed the two cut-chais and went back to the banyan tree. Today the tree felt like home. His banyan tree.
The skies had darkened now. A lone kite circled above them…its unmoving wings giving it a ghastly, pale, phantom like look against the grey-white streaked sky. A long, forked bolt of lightning cut across the sky…bisecting it mercilessly..the brightness and the darkness. Chhotu looked up and saw a second kite…it seemed to have appeared straight out of hell with the bolt.
He smiled and started to lose himself again…romancing Aishwarya…flexing his muscles…kissing her…making love in the hay…

“BANSI!”
He jumped. Only Kanhaiya, the tapriwala, called him by that name.

He stood up and faced him. One look at his face was enough for Chhotu…Kanhaiya knew about the missing five rupees.
“Paanch rupya. Hisaab mein kam hain. Kaha hain?” (Five rupees. Missing. Where are they?)
“Nahi pata. Humare haath mein kaunu paisa deta hain?” (I don’t know. No one around here gives me any money to keep.)
“Humse baatein banata hain? Paisa kaha hain banchod? Kal sigaret ke liye diya thha tereko saanth rupya. bees sigaret pachpan ka hua. baki paanch?” (Dont tell me stories. Where’s the money sisterfucker? I had given you Rs. 60 for cigarettes yesterday. 20 cigs are for Rs. 55. Where’s the remaining 5 rupees?)
“Saanth ka bees hua. Teen ka ek hain.” (20 cigarettes for sixty rupees. One cig is for three rupees.)
Kanhaiya slapped him across the face.
“Maa ki choot tere. Humse jhoot bolega tu? Abhi panwala aakar gaya. Nikal paise madar!” (Dont lie to me, motherfucker. Give me the money.)
Chhotu gave a sob.
“Ro mat chhakke…paise nikal!” (Stop crying and give me the money, eunuch).
Kanhaiya started searching him. On finding the five rupee coin, his face contorted with fury. What followed was an all-out assault on chhotu. He was pinched, kicked, punched…thrown about by the hair. His clothes were ripped and his lips were bloody. Somehow, he managed to escape from Kanhaiya and bolted towards the nearby ghats on his cycle.
Lying under a tree, he looked up at the twilight sky, sobbing, licking his lips. The moon was up amongst the clouds…a thin, diffused crescent. Silhouttes of spider webs cut across his vision…the trees alive with shrieks of insects. Then it started to drizzle.
Chhotu stopped crying. Rain. He loved it. Breathing in the cool air…his senses coming alive…the smell of damp mud…the cool breeze…he felt safe…secure in his own cocoon. The sense of safety broght in a new optimism. He started to have happy thoughts again…”I’ll earn my own money. I’ll buy Kanhaiya’s tapri. make it into a big hotel. I’ll keep kanhaiya as a waiter. Ahh! That will be great!”
And so his thoughts went…every passing second making him beleive he was living his dream life. Reassuring himself he could do it.. Why not? Amitabh Bachchan had done it in a movie he had seen!
He picked up his cycle and started cycling back. ‘I will apologize to Kanhaiya. He would let me stay for a few days…then I could go and buy him out…’ He started singing a merry song…”rain is falling chhama-chham-chham…”

Two lights appeared a little way ahead. It was dark now, and Chhotu was thankful for the lights. He cycled towards them. A police jeep.The officers inside seemed high and merry…hawaldars mostly and a driver. Chhotu stopped and got down the narrow road. The jeep took up most of it. Chhotu watched as the jeep approached…it was going fast.
‘Just as in the movies. Must be going after some gang of dakus…’ he thought.
He looked down as the jeep approached closer…knowing that the police could mean trouble. He was releived when the jeep didnt slow down even after its lights fell on him. Just then came a loud laugh from inside the jeep. Abruptly the jeep swerved and hit Chhotu head on. He was thrown down in the rocky valley, his head hit a rock, and it was over. The police got down, threw the mangled cycle in behind him and drove away, not wishing to own up for their mistake.
The next day, nobody knew where Chhotu was. No one tried to find out.

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…

Cork

It was a hot, humid night.
The railway platform was crowded-people talking, yelling, eating, laughing, crying.
The man walked briskly…clearly in a hurry. He was tall and sturdily built. Wearing a pair of faded dark blue jeans and large brown boots, he looked tough. A thick steel chain hung between his belt and the left pocket of his jeans. It clanged against the metal belt buckle with every step. He walked erect…the black denim jacket augmenting his broad shoulders. At about 6’4″, he stood taller than almost everyone on the platform.

Stopping briefly after a few steps, he would check the small digital boards overhead which showed the position of the bogeys of the train arriving next. Finding the one he wanted, he stopped and put down his luggage-a small heavy red duffel bag. Just then there was an announcement-the train would arrive in ten minutes.
He looked around-the platform was crowded as expected. All the walking had him perspiring, but even now wasn’t calm. He had a mission to complete now.
He checked the watch. A few more minutes and the train would be here. He started fidgeting…pacing around. Every few minutes he took a few steps toward the platform exit, but changed his mind and came back. He looked at the people around him…they didn’t seem to pay any attention. He looked at the bag and pushed it slowly near the luggage of a family standing close by.
Looking at his watch again, he thought “Nobody would notice if I leave the bag here and get out”.
He took a few steps towards the exit, but stopped again. He was in a conflict. “Let the train arrive, then do it” said one voice….”Do it now!” said the other.
He couldn’t make up his mind. He would pace around, stop, look at the bag thinking something and start pacing again. He just couldn’t stand still.

From a little distance away, a policeman watched intently. He had been watching the man since he had walked in on the platform with the bag. From the way the man carried the bag, it was clear to the policeman it was heavy. He was a new officer, but his eyes were trained to pick out suspicious behaviour. Looking at the man and the way he handled the bag, the policeman immediately suspected the worst-a bomb. Although he had read that terrorists were as calm an composed as they can be before an attack, he did not want to take any chances. He could tell one thing-the man was trying to leave the bag and go-and that was enough.
The loudspeaker came to life again-five minutes to arrival.

The policeman quickly got into action. The railway police alerted the station master. The train was wired to stop where it was. A bomb disposal squad was called for, and a cache of police officers was readied to nail the suspect.
The officers spread themselves in the crowd. Taking care not to let the suspect know what was going on, the officers asked the people to get away from the platform. Slowly, the officers closed in on him, mingling with the departing crowds. The stationmaster made an announcement regarding the delay in the arrival time. He was expressly told not to mention the man or the bag.

The man, on hearing the announcement, made up his mind. Taking a deep breath, he lunged toward the exit. The officers were ready. Swiftly, two policemen burst out of the crowd and tackled him to the ground. The man was dumbstruck, but he had no time to think. “Noo!” he yelled and tore away from the officers.”Stop or I’ll shoot!” shouted a policeman…but the man was already near the exit. Out of nowhere, three policemen appeared between the man and the exit door. They pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him.
“No…please…God…no…its too late…its too late…” The man had turned pale.
The officer holding him by the waist suddenly cringed and let him go.

A dark wet patch was spreading around the crotch of the man.
“I was just going for a leak!” the man broke down.
The bomb squad had meanwhile got to work on the bag and had quickly discovered two steel containers full of laddoos

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.

déjà vu

Well…another try. .I think there’s too much happening in the story. Am trying to learn to make them short and sharp. Have a long way to go….
——————

Nakul was struggling. Gasping for air. His head felt heavier than a boulder and his lower jaw was twitching frantically, involuntarily…teeth rubbing against each other. Much as he tried, he couldn’t stop it. Through half closed eyes, he could see the light fixture on his bedroom wall. It was a diffused image, with just about enough detail registering to him. But the image was strange…it was superimposed with a series of images he couldn’t connect together. He could distinctly hear Tool’s Lost Keys playing on his system. Everything seemed bleak…and he wanted to shut it off. He wanted to wake up, get out of the state. But an invisible force seemed to push him down, pinning him to his bed.

He held his jaw, gritted his teeth and took a breath. Concentrating on waking up, he pushed against the force. His head throbbed violently, vision blurred…and he started suffocating. His breath was cut short, and he went down again. Exhausted from the mental effort, he lost control, and the jaw started twitching violently again. Breathing in spasms, the strange images came back…he saw a tall wall, white tiled, with two posters-one with the GE logo and the other with a coffee mug. Nothing made sense. He labored against the force again, with some vigor, but was pushed down. Again images formed before his eyes-a room, bathed in yellow light, with high glass windows draped with thick brown curtains. A snake clung to the curtain from the outside. Reeling in confusion, his mind knew he was in trouble. If he didn’t wake up soon, he would die. Mustering up some air, he pushed again. The force was overwhelming. His breath started to betray almost immediately. The weight felt massive. He continued to push against it, jaws twitching, choking, gasping…and finally broke out of it. He sat up immediately, afraid to sleep again. The pillow was wet with sweat. Gulping in fresh air, he tried to steady himself and his mind. There was a slight throb in his temples, he tried to shake it off.

Out of the trance now, his thoughts cleared. The music system was silent. He hated to have his noon nap ruined. Although he had been having this ‘dream’ as long as he could remember, it was never so frequent. This was the second time in the last three days he had been through this. Wondering why he always saw the image of the room with glass windows, he walked to the refrigerator. He took a draught from a Pepsi PET bottle filled with water..It tasted bad-there was a layer of cig residue on his tongue.

Back in his room, he checked the cell…there were 3 missed calls and a message from one of his friends-Vishal. Nakul had slept for 3 hours…and he was supposed to be at Vishal’s place two hours back, with two more of his friends.

Splashing cool water on his face, he hurried out. It was sultry hot outside, and the traffic didn’t make it any better. Riding along at a leisurely speed, he got to Vishal’s in 10 minutes. The three guys were sprawled on the floor, smoking and watching LOTR on DVD. As Nakul entered, “Aahh!” was all Vishal said. The other two were too lazy to acknowledge his entry. Wincing at the smoke, Nakul made a place for himself between the wall and a couple of empty packets of Lays.

Besides Vishal, there were Muddy and Mandar, who called himself ManD, in the room. Nakul could see that Vishal and Muddy were really watching the movie, but ManD seemed lost, almost on the verge of weeping. Nakul knew too well what this meant. When ManD was down, he would generally keep to himself. But when he was down AND with friends, it meant he wanted everyone to know he was down, and go down with him. Looking at him now, Nakul understood that nobody had bothered to ask him what was wrong. “Whats wrong with your face”?, he had to ask. He was expecting ManD’s reply to be something like “Aw nothin” or something of that sort. But he had really lost his patience waiting for the the other two to ask him, and so he literally exploded. “I ain’t goin to live in this new flat man!”. Being patient for so long, alongwith whatever was troubling him, had taken its toll…he sounded like an old crow with a throat infection..

Mandar had just decided to move out of his hostel room to a rented flat. Everyone had liked the place. It was in a very old building. A bit rundown yet cozy.He had been living there for almost a week now. Everything seemed fine.

But what he had heard from the neighbors was a bit disturbing. During the few days just after moving in, he could not understand why they gave him strange looks, or why everyone would stop in the middle of their conversation if he happened to pass by. The women and kids of the society looked at him and whispered. The men gave him a look which much to his annoyance seemed like pity. All this made him feel like a sick man in a hospice, who could drop dead any second. Having had enough of it, he had asked them what was going on. All they told him was that the flat had been unoccupied for 25 years. At first they did not tell why, but on persisting had said that the place was haunted.

Listening to Mandar narrate this, all four of them had burst into laughter, and soon forgotten bout it.

But today, it did not take Nakul long to make the connection. “You know that stuff is shit” he said, an unbelieving look on his face. Muddy and Vishal stared, the corners of their lips twitching, ready to guffaw any instant.

Mandar was shaking his head vigorously. “No, no! Its not shit man!”

Nakul looked at him intently. Mandar was a prankster, but surely not a good actor. He couldn’t possibly be faking the look on his face. He was in agony.

“Um..so you tellin us that you saw a ghost in your room at night?” Muddy asked. Vishal chuckled and turned red.

Mandar’s face was sagging. “No. I saw it in the noon.”

This was too much for Vishal, and he spiralled into a frenzy of laughter. Muddy too joined in.

“I ain’t kiddin guys! I swear!” It was more of a plea. And it silenced everyone.

“Are you sure Old Monk wasn’t involved?” Vishal asked, stifling another chuckle.

Mandar answered with a sigh and a shake of the head.

“Well, if you are not faking this, there’s only one thing we should do. All of us will go to the flat tomorrow and check it out.” There was a note of seriousness in Nakul’s voice. They agreed.
The next day, after college, all four of them headed for the flat. On reaching it, Mandar handed over the key to Vishal and slipped behind him. Vishal opened the door slowly. Mandar was cowering, half expecting a severed head to jump at them through the door. The old door creaked and protested at the hinges. The room was dark. It took time for Vishal’s eyes to adjust to the low brightness. He stared inside, blinked and stiffened. His eyes widened. Before anyone could know what he saw, Vishal started shaking violently and gasping. Then he began to moan. Scared like a baby, Mandar ran down the stairs, two at a time. On reaching the ground floor, he frantically gestured at the watchman, when he heard loud laughter from upstairs…
The flat was dusty and unkempt. Books, CDs, empty Milds packets, matchsticks, clothes, magazines, shoes covered the floor. The wall directly opposite them had a huge poster with a Ferrari F40. Another poster was hanging on three corners, the cello tape hadn’t held on the fourth. A few other posters lay rolled up in a corner. Vishal peeked inside the rolls, whistled on finding the one, and unrolled it. It was a wide poster, with Bipasha in a bikini slinked on a bed, her dark skin glistening. Mandar was looking nervously at the inner room. Following his gaze, Nakul went in.

“Is this the place where you were enlightened, dude?”

Mandar nodded. The others went in, pushing him ahead of them.

It was a fairly large room. There were large windows on two walls, with a bed against one of them. The windows and a door leading to balcony were covered with blue curtains. A length of pipe dangled down from above a cupboard. The room was bathed in bright sunlight. It seemed pleasant and sunny.

“Hm. It is highly unlikely a spirit would like being here. That too during the day!”. Nakul said.

“Maybe the ghost was a she and couldn’t resist checkin ManD out!” Vishal observed.

“Yeah…musbe really disappointed to see him bolt like a bat outa hell!” Muddy couldn’t help choking on his words with a laugh.

“Fuck off man! I told ya I ain’t kiddin! There was a th..thing here and he was sitting on the bed!” Mandar was fuming.

“Heh! So you’re wrong Muddy…the ghost was a He, although I wouldn’t be surprised if He was mistaken and checked ManD out anyway!” Vishal was in hysterics now.

“And he was sittin ready in the bed too!” Muddy clutched his sides.

Nakul rolled his eyes. “You guys have a sucky sense of humour…”.

The whole day passed without any sights or sounds. Mandar was not keen to stay in the flat for the night, so they all left. Then on they went to the flat everyday after college, staying till nightfall.. But there were no ghosts, no spirits, no nothing.
A week went by without event. On a Sunday, they were at the flat early..The college was off for a week for the annual youth fest. Even Mandar had almost got over whatever he had seen, dismissing it as a trick of light. Carrying vodka and cigs in their bags, they were looking forward to a day of boozing. Then there was the party at night in the college auditorium. Nakul was expecting to see her and…confess

In the flat, the back room had been converted into a hangout. Muddy had rigged a computer to a 6.1 set, a speaker in every corner and two at the ends. Kid Rock’s American Badass was on. The room was already filled with smoke and the blabber of a lightweight Mandar.

Muddy and Vishal had brought along a CD and were ogling over Lindsay Lohan. The day was warm, the sky cloudless. Muddy had kept the windows open to let the smoke out. A few hours passed.

Having had enough of the cigs, Nakul reached for a vodka. He couldn’t get her out of his head. Thoughts of her lingered in his head like a fog. He poured half of a 180ml bottle in a glass, then topped it off with Sprite. He tried to think how would he break it to her, but the music was too loud. By now the sun was overhead and the room was too bright for comfort. Placing his glass on the bedrest, Nakul closed both the windows and pulled over the curtains. The room was pleasantly dark now. He went over to the computer and turned off the music. Getting his glass again, he settled on the bed, enjoying the peace. Then Mandar turned on the night lamp.

The vision hit him like a truck. His eyes widened with horror. His face blanched. The glass dropped from his hand and he buckled. He gazed at it, but couldn’t believe his eyes. The night lamp had bathed the room in yellow light. Under the light, the blue curtains appeared dark brown. Strangely, a serpent seemed to have appeared on the curtains. It was the shadow of the pipe on the cupboard, cast by the lamp. The resemblance to a snake was uncanny.Nakul started to shiver and collapsed on the floor. His jaw was twitching and his breath was in spasms. Vishal ran up to him and yelled. “Whats up buddy? Whats wrong?” Nakul was running out of breath. Fear choked him. He barely managed a whisper “…spirit…me…?”.
“What?”
“the spirit…”
“But we don’t see anything man!” Mandar was sick with dread.
“Not before I sleep…not before I sleep…” he said…and then it was over.

The post-mortem listed severe trauma as the cause of death.