The family was cheerful as the dessert was being served. Everyone had come together for the first anniversary of the couple. They had had a long day with the celebrations and greeting all the family members, but were still looked as cheerful and fresh. Once everyone had left, they went to their bedroom. He lay down on the bed after changing into his pyjamas, and she joined him by his side. Neither spoke as they stared at the ceiling, before sleep came to them. A year after their marriage they were married by day and were strangers in the night.
I had a feeling of helplessness as I stood there, staring at the walls. The outer wall was once strong and protective, and now a blanket of green moss surrounded it. I didn’t want to spend much time there, so went inside to get it over with. I tried to prepare myself, for all that I could feel when I would get this over with. The walls were supposed to be once a symbol of strength, were now decaying with neglect.
The door was left open, probably by the last person who had been here to steal something for himself. The inner walls once bore a brilliant shade, but the purple paint was now peeling off to reveal the plaster beneath it. I stared at the fireplace in the hall. When once the room used to be covered in the orange warmth of its glowing fire, now lay the walls blackened by soot. A cracked shell of what it once was.
With great difficulty, I opened one of the cupboards that were there. The doors did not require much pull as they were swaying open with glasses broken, but I needed to strength to confront what I might find in them, present or missing. There were only two things left, an old notebook and a pot of ink. The pages had yellowed with age, but the ink still remained fluid. The bottle of vibrant blue ink held my eye, I assumed it would still glow if I saw it against the light.
I hoped to use this ink and write in the notebook as I once did. I would hold the nib of my pen for a second longer than I had to, when I would complete a chapter. It would amaze me how the ink would flow out fast and fluid, as it spread life in the pages on which I wrote. IT took me some time to look for a pen. I found one lying below the cupboard, its cap long lost. As I began to fill it with ink, I noticed that the nib was broken. The pen and the inkpot fell from my hand.
The ink spreads all over the carpet like a waste, quite different from how I remember it. Slow, and thick. I have a feeling of helplessness as I stand here, staring at the walls.
We all know about this game called Chinese Whispers in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. We at Write Tribe are doing just that but with stories on our blog. One person tells a short story on his/her blog, the next Blogger will continue the story, till it finishes on Blogger no. 9.
Chapter 5 – First stroke of luck
Ankitha kept staring at the man who sat in front of her. As much as he looked like Shishir, his behavior and mannerisms were totally different. The Shishir she knew carried himself with a sense of certainty, and confidence. The man in front of her was a bumbling man, who was reduced to stammers on being confronted by whom he thought was a stranger. She ignored the phone call she received and kept her attention on him. He was not taking it well. While he was just stammering before, he seemed a nervous wreck now. Sweat was trickling profusely from his temple, trickling slowly down by his ear and onto his neck. At this pace, he would begin to draw attention from those who sat in the café.
“Why don’t you visit the washroom?”
“I d-d-d-don’t have to.”
“Look at yourself, you’re sweating heavily. Go wash your face.”
Whatever protest he wanted to make, went down in a whimper when he saw the look on her face. He nodded and slowly walked towards the washroom, with his gaze on the floor all this while. She took this window of time to run through the back pack he had on him. There was a laptop and a hard disk in one of the compartments. While the contents of the hard disk interested her, she didn’t have the time to copy the data from it on to the memory cards she carried in her purse. There were some print outs of a project report, of which she quickly took photographs. There was a bunch of pen and pencils in the other along with a few bars of dark chocolate.
He hates dark chocolate, she thought. Why was he carrying a bunch of it then? It could all be part of his cover. That didn’t make any sense to carry so many of them, though. She quickly put a bar in her purse as well. She could hear him fumbling with the door lock to open it. She quickly zipped the bag, and kept it back on the floor. He came back looking refreshed, but still nervous. If this was an undercover mission, it didn’t seem that he was going to tell her about it in public. If he wanted to, he would contact her through the means they had already had in place for times like this.
“What, what d-d-d-oo you want from me?”
“I am sorry, you look a lot like my friend Shishir. He had disappeared six months ago. We are all worried about him.”
“I am sorry, I d-d-d-ont recognize you. My name may b-b-bee Shishir, b-b-but you have mistaken me with someone else.”
“I understand, sorry to have taken your time.”
He got up and walked out of the café, with his gaze down all the time. She didn’t want to follow him now, and arouse suspicion from whoever might be keeping an eye on him. She knew where he worked at , and would trace him from there. All she had were the photographs she had taken and the single bar of dark chocolate. It did not bear the name of any brand or have any distinguishing packaging or logo. Just the words ‘Dark chocolate 3’ were written on the wrapper. She tore open an edge of the wrapping and took a bite. It didn’t taste very different, just had a slightly pleasant after taste. She would get it checked in one of her trusted labs.
She got up and ordered a coffee for herself, and then began to read whatever she had captured in the photographs.
I now hand over to Ayush Chauhan to take the story ahead.
He had been lying asleep on the floor for some time now. One would have thought that the house had been empty had it not been for the sounds from the fan as it continued whirring. He was in a rare session of a long uninterrupted sleep from which he hadn’t woken up for the last 8 hours. This would however not last long as he was soon rudely awoken by the constant ringing of the doorbell. The doorbell along with the banging on the door aggravated the headache he got from the being woken up so suddenly.
“YES! YES! I am coming” He yelled before getting up. He got up with the help of the sofa, and walked groggily towards the door. He fumbled a little with the door lock before opening it. The sudden burst of sunlight hit him hard in the eyes. He looked through the squinted eyes to see his domestic help standing at the door. He let her in the house, and closed the door. She didn’t need any specific instructions and went about her normal routine which began with making the rooms tidy after which she would wash the clothes in the laundry basket and vessels in the kitchen sink. The sunlight had ensured that he was wide awake by now, and he went to the bathroom to freshen up.
After brushing his teeth, and washing his face he took a long look in the mirror. His hair hand grown long and without the generous of a comb appeared wild. His stubble had grown into a full beard, and had now begun to itch below his chin. In spite of the lack of responsibility he felt towards it because of being on a ten day leave, he took up the can of shaving foam and began to shave it itchy growth of. He turned on the shower and stood under it for some time, motionless. Generally he would find such a long bath relaxing, however he didn’t feel the same today. He wondered if he had felt anything for a long time now.
After the prolonged shower, he put on a tee and shorts. He walked in to the kitchen to take out something to drink from the fridge. He picked up an unfinished carton of juice, and began to drink from it. He stared at the month’s calendar he had stuck on the fridge. It was the 12th of this month. This meant that he still had four days left in his leave before he would have to resume the daily grind again. The very idea of it seemed to dull him even more.
The domestic help had finished her work and he nodded as she went out of the house shutting the door behind her. He went back to the hall where he had been lying asleep before. He checked his mobile after he plugged it in the charger. There were a couple of notifications from Facebook and Whatsapp. Nothing that couldn’t wait, he thought and sat down on the floor again. He rummaged through the brown bag that was kept on the sofa. He took out the many envelopes that were kept in them, with names of the different cities that he had been in.
He opened the envelope with the name SFO on it. He had very fond and personal memories associated with the place. He emptied the contents of it on the floor. There was a bill for the first breakfast he had there, couple of dollar coins which were returned as change, and a photo postcard he had purchased that he had forgotten to post. He stared at them for a couple of minutes more, lost in the memories that were rushing back. He then moved on the others.
He was sitting in his car admiring the river flow by ahead of him. He didn’t know when he had stopped by the bridge, or for how long had he been staring at the river. The river with all of its calm flow and huge size seemed serene. He smiled, and pulled the car out in reverse before taking it to the main road. In just a few moments he had driven over the bridge and then took the right turn as he approached it. It would take him towards the mall where he had planned to watch a movie with her.
Her. Her, is where his brain would stop working on other things for a moment and just think about her. Her. He tried to take his mind of her for a while since he was driving. It was as empty road ahead except for the odd car or two far away. Since such empty roads were hard to come by at such times, he made good use of them and reached the mall much earlier than he had thought. After parking the car outside, he went towards the ticket counter to collect the tickets. He had already booked the tickets online and just showed the sms before signing on the receipt and taking his tickets.
Before he could wonder about what to do next, he could make out a white car coming towards the mall. It looked like her car from afar. As the car came closer it did not turn towards the mall parking but kept going on the road ahead. He shrugged and walked towards the coffee shop. He opened the door and walked towards his favorite spot near the glass pane. It was a wonderful spot as one could see the roads outside, and smell the aroma of the coffee coming from the coffee machine nearby. There was no lingering aroma today though but the barista was busy making something. He signaled for his usual to be brought to him. He calmly sipped his coffee and waited for her to arrive while lost in his thoughts.
A few moments later he could see her coming out of the parking. He walked into the atrium towards her signaling for her with a wave. She was talking on her cell but nodded her head after seeing him wave. His mind began to focus on her again. This time he was looking at her lips move such effortlessly as she spoke and felt that he could just stand there and watch her talk for long and admire the motion of her lips. He began to feel an urge to kiss her.
‘Not like this,’ he thought ‘tell her about it first. Tell her what she makes you feel.’
“Did I make you wait for long?”
“Nope not much, got here early enough to have a coffee though. Let’s go.”
He walked ahead but she didn’t walk with him, and just stood there with a smile on her face. He went back and tried to pull her by her hand. He tried to, but his hand just passed through. He didn’t realize it at first and tried to pull her hand, but it passed through again. He had a look of wonder on his face, as he looked up at her face. She had a mischievous grin on her face now. He couldn’t understand what was happening, and tried to pull her hand again. As his hand passed through hers, she disappeared in a puff of smoke. He stood there, shocked.
“Come on Rahul, aren’t we getting late?” She called him with the same impish grin and a wave. She was now standing behind him.
“What are you doing?” He tried to touch her waving hand again, but the moment he touched it she disappeared in smoke again.
“What happened Rahul? Why aren’t you coming?” and she appeared to his right.
This time she didn’t wait for him to touch her but disappeared again as soon as he turned.
Rahul didn’t know how to react as she kept coming and disappearing in clouds of smoke all around the atrium. His eyes just kept following her eyes. Her eyes that were full of mischief.
“HHmnmnmn”, he grunted.
“Get up, I need to put this sheet away for washing.”
He turned around to see his mom come in to focus. He took a moment to check his surroundings. He was in his bed and his mother was pulling the sheet off. It had all been a dream. He got up and sat on the edge of the bed wondering about this dream. While his mom was talking something about the sheet, he was still under shock from what had happened in this dream. He didn’t collect anything of what was being told but just nodded before going to the bathroom. He had a nice long cold shower while he tried not to think about the dream. He quietly had his breakfast and kissed his mom on the forehead before leaving for the movie. He told her that since he was going for a movie, he wouldn’t be coming home for lunch.
He took out his car and drove towards the mall. Had it not been for the traffic that was normal for this hour, he would have been there earlier. He parked his car, and slowly walked towards the ticket counter. She was already standing there waiting for him. He collected the tickets before walking towards her. She was smiling at him. Just a regular smile at seeing someone familiar and quite unlike the grin he dreamt of. They hugged when he came close, and he held on to her for a moment longer than he normally would.
He wanted to tell her about the dream, and what he felt about her. He tried to reassure himself that she was real in that extra moment with her. But instead he just felt afraid.
Under the influence of different emotions, people tend to write different things. People react differently to the emotions and on being asked to write something with duress to their then state of mind, results in some interesting reads.
Yesterday I was sitting in The Chocolate Room after having met a friend. It had been a good day till then, and I was merrily sipping away my fruit drink with loads of ice in it when I thought of writing something. This is what I came up with:
Laugh now but know that I shall sow the seeds of vengeance, spite and envy and wait. Patiently. I shall water them, nurture them and let them grow in to big large trees. And when they bear fruits, I shall set the whole thing on fire. I shall watch it burn, and with it burn every bit of this place to ash. When there is nothing else left to burn, I shall dance.
There, this is what I come up with when I am all happy and merry. Frankly I quite like the way it came out, I think of having a story in which the villain says this to a supporting one before proceeding to kill him. This should drive the lead character into an emotionally charged burst of actions. After I had posted this on FB, a friend shared a poem I had not read before.
A poison tree (by William Blake)
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
“When does your train leave?”
“It leaves at ten, so we have about an hour’s worth of time left.”
“Ohhh let me stop at a chemist first. The shops will close by the time I return.”
“You’re not well?”
“No, I am fine. I just need to pick up sanitaries.”
“Why do you need to pick up sanitaries?”
He realized it was a stupid question to ask of her. She gave him a glance as she pulled over close the chemist shop. She silently turned the ignition off and got down to purchase the sanitary pads. He turned on a game on his cell phone to pass time till she would come back. She returned in a few minutes and started the engine. A few quiet minutes passed before he started staring at her.
“I have an awkward question.”
“Your questions are always awkward.”
“It is possibly stupid too”
“They happen to be that as well. But I am used to them now, ask.”
“If diapers and sanitary pads work on the same principle, why doesn’t a company make them both? I mean wouldn’t it make sense to use the same technology on two different products.”
“Companies already do that.”
“Oh, they do? It makes sense to do so.”
“Remind me again, why I am still a friend with you?”
“Because of my intelligence and charm!” he said as he made a rolling motion with his hand and grinned wide.
“And yet you ask questions like this.”
She continued to smile at him.
“So why are you leaving by the train, when you can take the early morning flight?”
“Arrey, I will have to wake up early for the early flight. Sleep will get screwed.”
“Yeah, I know how much you need your beauty sleep.”
“Haaww… I need to be my best for the presentation tomorrow. I thought I can catch up on my sleep in the train. Both will reach at the same time anyway.”
“No baba, beauty sleep.”
“Yeah, yeah, Beauty sleep. What do we know; some hot girl might end up hitting on me in the train.”
“Oh please do check if the girl is short sighted before you get such an impression from her.”
Both of them ended up guffawing. They had reached the railway station, and she parked the car. He took his bag out and walked towards the stairs while she went towards the ticket counter to purchase an entry ticket. She came back with one soon as there was no queue, and they both started climbing the stairs together. Since he was carrying his bag, she got ahead by a few steps. He noticed the way in which she climbed the stairs. How she took long strides that would make her take two steps instead of one. How her pants would pull against her and accentuate her rear, and how while climbing down there would be a little jiggle in them if she skipped a step.
She started looking at the overhead sign boards which would inform them where which compartment would be once the train would stop. Since they were still early by almost twenty minutes they were not showing any information. He set his bag down on one of the many seats on the platform while she asked a vendor where the AC coaches would stop. He saw that he had forgotten to bring water with him for the journey and signalled her to get a bottle for him from the same vendor.
“Your coach will be just a little ahead, so we can sit here till the train comes.”
“Oh good, I don’t have to lug this bag around then.”
“What are you carrying in it?”
“My laptop, a pair of clothes for tomorrow and a tee and capris for the return trip tomorrow.”
“You know if this presentation doesn’t work out, you can always try to find work as a coolie. You have good experience.”
“It’s not that heavy. Besides I can’t sleep in pants on the way back. So I packed a set of capris as well. I will come back to the company guest house and change before returning.”
“And why are you not taking a flight back?”
“Umm. I thought I could shop around a little and take the late night train back. Catch up on my beauty sleep.”
“You and your sleep.”
There was a pregnant pause. He didn’t know what she was thinking. He wanted to talk to her about it, but was unsure how to bring it about. He stared at her feet for a while which she was tapping away. She was wearing brown colored chappasl which had a pattern of red curves drawn into them. They were quiet for a while before they heard the announcement of his train. Soon enough they could make out the beam of the headlight of the train, followed by the blaring horn seconds later. Once the train came to stop, she stood by the waiting chairs while he went and kept his bag on his berth. He came out to say a bye.
“Reshma.” He called her name in a slow prolonged voice.
“Do you want me to get you anything from there?”
“I thought you’d never ask. I hear you can get good street-wear there. Get me some bracelets or beads.” She replied with a grin.
The train gave another blaring horn which meant that it would now leave. He turned and climbed on to it. She waived a bye.
“Message me one you reach home.”
This is how both of them parted. He got back to his berth, and lay down thinking about the night. Of all the things he had told, the ones he wanted to tell, and more importantly the ones he didn’t. He was lost in his thoughts of her, wondering when and how should he tell her about it. Few minutes passed before he received her message that she had reached home. Seconds later he received another wishing him a good night’s sleep. His beauty sleep was far from his mind as he lay awake on the berth now, lost in his thoughts.
“Around 12, want to check in a little early and go inside. You know how mum and papa are, they will get teary.”
“And will they be ok going back on their own?”
He was feeling uneasy today, again. He had been feeling so for the last few days now. He stood up from his chair and walked towards his window to slide it open. The view was wonderful. In the night he could see all the houses ahead with their lights as stars on earth. In the far one could make out a power plant with its silhouette of more tiny lights, like a cluster of stars. This was one of his favourite sights, and on a particularly good day a cool breeze would blow across. Today it didn’t have the relaxing feel as it normally did. He looked at the book in his hand and wondered where he had gone wrong.
He was reading Fountainhead when he paused upon a line. “He did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime..”. He brushed his hair with his hands as he thought of it. Courage. Courage had changed its meaning. It once meant walking across the hall in the dark, or crossing a street full of dogs on his own. Now it meant doing something to come out of where he was. Few weeks ago his mother had seen his bank statements. He had taken a loan some time back that was half way through. He hadn’t told her anything about it. Nor could he explain to her where he had spent it. In his defense he thought, he had taken the loan so that he would not have to take money from his mom for the expenses and investments that were due. But then he had no ways to explain how and where he had spent them away in the past few months, with some thing being bought every other day. It is a good thing he thought, that she hadn’t seen his credit card statements. That would have lead to hell, whatever of it was left to see.
Things were sour between him and his mother before. If they didn’t get along that well before now was a miserable time. He didn’t blame her, she lived alone in a different city, and the fact that he didn’t trust her with things hurt her more. Every discussion would end up in an argument. He wanted to change how things were, but end up walking out of each argument with his fist clenched or biting his lips so that he would not speak something he would end up regretting later. It was not that his mother had raised him in poverty. They were a well to do family, but money was spent only on the necessary things. Now that he had a good job, the sudden influx of money made him spend at things he wouldn’t have spent before. Now that he thought of it, that money was only as good as the person who was controlling it. This is not who he wanted to be. He thought himself to be great, and now had only great mistakes.
A week later after the first argument with his mother, he was almost run over by a car. He was walking around the park for some fresh air with his earphones on, trying to be away for some time. He didn’t pay attention to the car that was coming his way while crossing the road, but was lucky that the driver braked in time. It did give him ideas. He walked back to his home and picked up the chef’s knife. He had always admired it, all 8 inches of it with its smooth sharp blade. He was particularly fond of it as it cut vegetables of all sorts with great speed. He wondered if it could cut through his veins too with it. Maybe that would a way to end it all. He would not burn out as he had always thought, but would silently bleed through in the night. To be found later in the morning when his room mate would come back from his job. He took a moment for it to sink in, before the the horror of the very idea of taking his own life struck him. The knife fell with a clang as he began to take in deep breaths. The idea that he could even think of something like this was revolting.
A month had now passed since that incident. He got back to reading from that line. He thought the line was right. He needed courage, courage to face a lifetime. And he had to find that courage in himself.
This is in response to WEEK #53 (5-20-12 to 5-26-12): Pick a Line from a Book and Write from There. My entry is based on a line from The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
There he lay
His name written in water
And the waves made from the name ebbed away,
Touching the lass sitting little away on the bank,
Writing her own name in water
And then watch her name ebb away too.
She sat there too
Her hand still in water
Now just moving
And making random waves in it.
The blowing wind catches her attention
For it reminds her of a familiar scent,
Making her wish she could smell it again.
A smile escapes her lips,
Stars light up in here eyes,
And an odd form of beating begins in her breast.
There she lay, her hand in water
Writing a name not her own.
She continues to stare in her own reflection
Even after the name ebbs away
The one closer to her than her own.
She takes a deep breath
So full of passion; so full of hope
Giving her the strength
To sit there and gaze at the water
And find a face in it not her own.
A rustle in the leaves and the sound of some steps
And she turns around all euphoric
For her wait is now over
She puts her arms around him
And they share each other’s essence.
There he lay
His name written in water
And the waves made from the name ebbed away.
He wondered who theses waves
Would touch this time