The Meeting

© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

In the dead of the night she was thrown forward as the bus screeched to a halt. As she recovered from the shock she looked around herself and realized that she was the last passenger on the bus. She could have sworn that five minutes ago she had noticed three girls sitting behind her. Maybe, they got off when she had dozed off. The braking of the bus had startled her. She noted with satisfaction that she had not missed her stop yet.

She had not taken her usual route today.  She joined this office yesterday and didn’t  want to start off on the wrong foot with her boss so she had not mentioned that this meeting was in a part of the town she had never seen before. She had not wanted to sound like a lightweight. The meeting had been in a dilapidated building and the woman she met had looked unhappy and grim. Like she had nothing to laugh about.

She noted that even the ticket collector had got down from the bus. The driver, an old man, was driving the bus at a normal pace but kept glancing at her nervously. Something about his look made her edgy. Suddenly, she heard a bloodcurdling and hair-raising scream, the bus stopped. Thinking that she had imagined the sound she looked at the bus driver.

“Ma’am, you will have to get down here, I am afraid. I can’t drive further”, the driver said nervously.

“But… but… I don’t live here. How will I get home?” she stammered.

“Can’t help you, sorry”, he looked harassed but determined. Knowing when she was beaten, she reluctantly got down and looked around herself. It was dark and the street was empty, it was lit by one flickering streetlamp. She inched further nervously and calculated that she was fifteen minutes away from home.

There was a chill in the air and the air was oppressively gloomy. Suddenly, she heard a rattling sound behind her. She turned and saw a car moving towards her, a car without lights on such a dark night. It was a broken car and the windows were smashed roughly, it stopped when it reached her. She was amazed to see the person behind the wheel. The woman was wearing the same black dress and looked grimmer than she had done before, during the meeting.

“Do you want a ride”, the woman declared, as if she wasn’t asking but telling.

Nodding she moved towards the passenger door. Something told her not to get in the car but the alternative prospect of a long walk on this eerie night did not seem attractive either. As if on cue, the door opened without her even touching it.

She gave directions to the woman in black.

“Was your car in an accident recently”, she gathered enough courage to ask.

Her answer was a nod. She decided to abandon her attempts at conversation and looked outside.

Ten minutes later the car stopped. She didn’t remember giving the woman her house number but maybe, she had.

She formally thanked the woman for her help.

The woman gave her a blank look and left.

As soon as she entered her room her phone was ringing.

“Where have you been all evening. I have been calling you since forever”, her boss thundered.

“I am sorry. My phone had no battery”, she explained stiltedly because the bizarre events of the evening were still on her mind.

“Mrs. Postwalla, the woman who you had to see today met with an accident this afternoon and died”, he continued, “So where were you”?

The pounding in her ears made it impossible to form a coherent reply.

 

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The Sanctum

This was one of the most interesting writing challenges I have undertaken so far: writing a story in FIFTY words. I had heard about flash fiction but never thought I would do it.

And guess what? Flash fiction is fun!!

 

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Photo By: Mo

He came

He left

She came

She left

Was this all there was? Or was there something more? But, if there was, how come she had never found it? Struggling and choking in the turbulent waves of doubt, she had to make a decision: to swim up or swim down.

 

Photo:  By Mo

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The Visit (Part II)

The Visit

(For readers who are new to this post, please scroll down to read Part I before continuing with this story)

“For you to understand why I am here, you need to hear a story first”, Anushka sustained.

“This story is about a rich spoilt girl who met the man of her dreams in college. He was everything she had ever imagined her man would be. She was so besotted with him that when her mother said that he was too good to be true and there had to be something wrong with him, she had fought with her mother and had not spoken to her for a week.”

“Relenting, her parents had agreed albeit with reservations and married her soon after they graduated. It was after they married, that she realized that not everything was perfect in her world. The man she had married was completely different from the man she had fallen in love with, they were two completely different men. This man was prone to quick spurts of temper which he usually displayed by using physical violence.”

“Oh my God, did she tell her parents?”Isha asked.

Shaking her head she continued, “at first, he would cajole her and ask her for forgiveness saying he couldn’t help himself because he loved her too much, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. One day, they went out with his friends. He was charm personified when they were with other people but when they returned home that night; he burnt her back with the iron claiming that she had betrayed him by smiling at his friends.”

“That night, she had realized how wrong she had been to not listen to her parents and decided to confide in them the first thing in the morning. As soon as she had woken up the next day, she had been practicing what to tell her parents. Her thoughts had been interrupted by her favorite aunt’s phone call. Her usually full of life aunt sounded unusually dull which had scared her. Her aunt informed her that her parents had been involved in a car accident in the morning, and both of them had been killed instantly.”

“It was then that her world had collapsed around her. She was helpless without her parents. How would she fight the beast she had married without them at her side”, Anushka paused to look at her audience. Isha had not realized but there were tears in her eyes. Four months pregnant she had a husband who was arrested for murder but at least she knew she had someone who loved her and cared for her.

“Please tell me what happened next”, Isha pressed.

“It took her months and months but she learnt to practice the art of living within herself. All her joys and sorrows lived inside. The man of her dreams continued to physically and emotionally abuse her and she let him. She somehow believed that she had brought this on herself. Then, one day she learnt that she was free from all this sorrow and heartache”, Anushka continued.

“Today is that day, Isha. Believe me; your husband saved my life by stabbing him. That man was my husband”, she claimed tearfully. “I know, you think I was a coward not to leave him but Isha where would I have gone? And what would I have told them? That my husband burns and hits me because he likes it? Everyone in my world knew I had chosen him and fought with my family to marry him, what could I have possibly done?

“I know how much you went through, but, Anushka there are laws for such things. You didn’t have to live in that hell”, Isha found herself adding; she felt protective of this young, frail woman.

“How would the law have helped me? They would have asked me for evidence and my husband is the most charming and glib talking man you will ever meet, he could make a stone respond to him. He would have explained everything away. Don’t you think, I would have thought this through?” she continued in a hurt voice.

“I am sorry, I just can’t imagine what you must have gone through” Isha added. She craved to touch her hand to give her some comfort but feared her response and shied away from making things more difficult for her.

“I was afraid to come here because I was scared about how you would react”, Anushka continued, mirroring her own feelings. “But now when I have met you and spoken to you, I want to go to the police and tell them everything. I am sure your husband was provoked to stab him. Even, the knife that he was stabbed with belonged to my husband. I am sure the authorities will consider that. I suspect that he was mentally unstable as well but I never had the courage to do anything about it”, she voiced.

“Your husband gave me a new lease of life, Isha”, she added softly.

Isha was ashamed to hear this. This kind hearted woman who had gone through so much had given her husband the benefit of doubt without even knowing him. Shouldn’t she have done so as well? She had heard his story, known that he had not been responsible but she had still considered leaving him. How could she have been so short sighted? To be honest, Raj had not even stabbed him, he had hurled himself at the knife.

This woman’s visit had saved her marriage and her life.

Isha Sahai touched her swelling stomach and sent a silent prayer to Raj, “We are with you always”.

The Visit (Part I)

The Visit

How could he do it?

Isha Sahai was lying on her bed and staring at the white ceiling. It was quarter past eleven and she had been in this position for over two hours now. Even now, she couldn’t bring herself to believe what had been revealed to her only a few hours ago. “Your husband has been arrested for murder”, a crisp authoritarian voice had informed her. Her shocked, “but he can never do such a thing”, had been met with an indifferent snigger. “I am Rajesh Mishra, the Inspector- In charge of this investigation”, he continued and gave her a description of the bare facts in an emotionless voice. Her silence had been met with a sharp noise, which to her bemused system had signified an end to the alarming conversation.

Her hurried visit to the Police Station had been a nightmare. In her haste, she had completely forgotten the doctor’s advice that she was not supposed to run or walk quickly because she was in the second trimester of her first pregnancy. Her genetic history had revealed that she had to be careful in this trimester. Most of the women in her family had lost at least one child in their second trimester. This thought had jolted her back to reality. She had then made an attempt to calm down and changed her pace to a more reasonable one. The first time she saw Raj huddled in a cell, she could have wept for him. Her anguished “Raj”, had been answered by him getting up and facing her. The sight of his blood and tear stained face was like a kick in her solar plexus. Once again, she had reminded herself of her fragile state and tried to steady her nerves. With forced calm she had asked, “Raj, what has happened? Please tell me that what they are saying is not true”.

The few moments of silence after her heartfelt declaration had been the worst moments of her life.

“Isha, he got stabbed when I was trying to save my life”, he had pleaded.

Something in her perplexed expression had caught his attention as he began, “After I called you last night, Mr. Smith wanted to visit a new restaurant, La Club. Around midnight a man started shouting at the bartender. Coincidentally, I was at the counter for a refill. I merely asked him why he was making such a scene”, Raj looked at her to confirm whether she was with him and continued, “The moment I uttered these words, this man turned his full wrath upon me. He was a stout and pudgy man, not fearing him I faced him with my full height. His eyes were blood shot and he started hurling profanities my way. Something about his tone piqued me and I asked him to shut up.”

“This was when he produced a knife from somewhere and held it at me. By this time, everyone had gathered around us and no one dared to stop this man. Inebriated, his behavior did not seem normal, as if he was demented or completely unhinged. Seeing the gravity of the situation, the bartender tried to stop the man. I don’t know what happened, was he too fast or others too slow; he hurled the knife at the bartender this time and nearly got him. I picked up the knife and before I knew it, he hurled himself at me. The knife pierced into his flesh and he died instantaneously”, he finished on a disbelieving note, as if still unable to digest what had happened.

“But, Raj why did you have to interfere in the first place”, Isha had asked, hearing the full story had restored her confidence in her husband. But could she live with a murderer?  Whatever the reason, a man had been killed. Could she let her child be brought up by a man who had killed another man?

Their conversation had been broken by a shrill voice shouting that the visiting time was up. She had made her way back to the house as if in a trance. Even now, only a couple of hours later she could remember nothing of the journey back home.

The piercing sound of the door bell raised her from her reverie. She glanced at the clock, it was quarter past three; she must eat something she chided herself. Her eyes were met with a frail dark woman, her face was covered in worry lines and it seemed she was sweating profusely. Isha was startled to see her like this, “Can I help you with something, and you look like you could do with a drink”.

“Are you Raj Sahai’s wife”, she replied with a question of her own. Nodding, instinctively Isha moved back to let the woman in, her already troubled mind registered alarm at this question but she could hardly turn this distressed soul away. She could sense this woman’s fear and responded to it, “Why don’t you come in?” she asked politely.

The woman looked stupefied, as if, she had not been expecting a welcome. She looked like she was about to collapse but somehow she stepped into the house and made her way to the sitting room. Unsure about what to do, Isha said, “Allow me to get you a glass of water. Please make yourself comfortable”.

Unable to hold her curiosity any longer she rushed into the room with the promised water. She found the woman cracking her knuckles, when the woman caught her eye she rose as if to flee but sat down again with great difficulty.

“My name is Anushka Triweni”, she began nervously. She was looking everywhere but at Isha. The name ‘Triweni’ was enough to send Isha’s already agitated mind in a whirlwind of doubts. The man who was killed had the same last name. Who was she? Was she here to threaten her? Did she want money? Or worse, was she here for revenge? She hardly looked the type but you never know about these things, do you?

“I know, you are surprised to see me”, Anushka continued with increasing confidence. “I want to make it clear to you that I mean no harm”.

“Then why are you here”, Isha wanted to ask but didn’t. As far as she knew, the man had died in the scuffle and Raj was responsible for it. Had she somehow got the story wrong?

 

The next part of the story will follow soon

The Inner Precipice

photo-jun-05-10-40-37-pm

“Why do I always hurt the people I love the most?” he had cried passionately after she stormed off. The compassionate stranger who had witnessed the scene playing out in the middle of the street had kindly tapped his shoulder and left.

“You make it impossible to love you, Neil”, Priya had thrown at him.

Even today, weeks after the incident he could recall the episode in Technicolor. Every word, every look exchanged was still fresh in his mind. Somehow, this parting had affected him more than anything he had felt before. He felt like he had lost a part of himself. Not because he had lost Priya, he was certain about that but because it had finally dawned on him that he destroyed whatever was good in his life. He was his own enemy!

Suddenly he had felt trapped in his own skin, he was certain there was more to him than this cruel bastard who butchered dreams. The next day he had stormed into his boss’ office, “Sir, I need a month off”, he had declared. Mr. Wania had been visibly shocked at this unusual behavior but something about the look in his eyes had warned him off and he had merely nodded, “Okay, you can do that. But, explain everything about the project you are working on to Rajesh, before you leave”.

A month, trekking the Himalayas was what he needed he had told himself. He needed this rigorous physical exertion to douse out this inner storm. He didn’t want to get swallowed into this chasm of self-doubt and misery.

Two weeks here had done nothing but raise more doubts and questions, he had discounted the importance of silence. Wasn’t this something he must have avoided at all costs?

Sitting on a precipice, he could feel the vast and elusive sea beckoning him. How could such beauty be so perilous? If he jumped into this rapidly flowing maelstrom, could he then be able to start afresh? A new life and a new him, was this the answer?

It wasn’t just his relationship with Priya that had been marred by him. His parents, who had died last year in a car wreck, had been troubled by the change in him. They had never mentioned it, but he knew how much he had hurt them with his indifference and elusiveness.

Why was he intent on destroying the things he cherished? In hindsight, he had annihilated all his relationships after losing his best friend; they had been together since they were five. He had seen him die, seen the life suck out of him, it had been the hardest part of his life. Getting used to his absence had been worse. He had frozen inside.

But hadn’t he done the same to his life? Yogi never had a choice but he did… or did he?

Was there really a destiny mapped out for him or did he have a say in that? They all had said when Yogi died; he was destined to go like this. So, did he also have no choice? Maybe his fate had decided that he would live alone and die alone…. Maybe all this was destiny. What were the odds of him fighting that?

But the major question was what was he really scared of? Death?

Did the end of existence and the nothingness scare him? But what if this life was the abyss and death the real thing? What if Yogi was happier than he had ever been here, surely, he couldn’t be certain. So why fear the unknown?

He was intimate with death, had seen it riding around many times. Wasn’t he still alive and kicking? Didn’t that mean something?

He did have a choice, a tiny voice in his head whispered. He had the choice to live; he had the choice to live his life any way he wanted to. Who was stopping him from forming loving and healthy relationships with people and most importantly with himself? When had he started dissociating from himself?

Armed with this knowledge, he could see where he had gone wrong in all his relationships in the past; he had tuned the world out expecting it to lash at him, harm him. But, hey, the whole wide world wasn’t out to get him, why couldn’t he see that? He realized the more people loved him the more he pushed them away. So this had been his self-defense mechanism, yes. But who was he defending and from what?

He was safe. He had always been safe.

This short story has been written for the Daily Post Challenge.

Photo- Cheri Lucas Rowlands