The Unexpected

There was an open writing competition at the college of a friend of mine. She told me about it and it sounded fun to me. I needed a little push to write since I’ve been writing less lately. Maybe this was it. So the basic requirement for a fiction piece was for it to be under 2000 words. Here’s what I managed to cough up. Its not my best, I agree but I hope you like it. And just btw, the comment section could use some activity 😀 Thanks!


Derek presented his boarding pass to the woman at the gate. She flashed a warm and lively smile at him and took the ticket from him and having checked it, handed it back to him with a cheerful “Have a nice flight!” Derek thanked her and walked down to the plane.

Derek studied Physics at the city’s university and though he hadn’t exactly been a star student through school or early college, he came through when it mattered. He was headed to Cape Town to see his parents who lived there. His family was of South African descent. He had a seat in Economy and as he walked towards his seat he noticed how empty the plane was. He walked past three seats, which were all occupied by conspicuously well-dressed individuals, all in perfectly tailored suits.

***

Walter had just settled down in his seat in Economy Seat 52(G) in the 74-row plane. The aisle seat allowed him easy access to the aisle whenever he felt the need to stretch his legs a bit. He was pretty used to long flights now, but that need still hadn’t perished.

Walter was plugging in his phone into his laptop when he saw a kid walk by him. He looked like he was in his early twenties and he had a backpack on his shoulders. He held a book in his hands. ‘A Clash of Kings’. He wore thick-rimmed black spectacles and had a faint hunch in his gait.

Walter kept looking at him till he could no longer see him. He just wondered how many other youngsters and kids must be on the flight and what would happen to them if this all went south.

He switched on his mobile phone and pressed 7.

“You got something Bradley? There’s ten minutes to gate-closing time.” He asked to the man on the other side of the line.

“Negative. No network activity, no suspicions on the passenger list yet. Nothing much on the airport cameras either. I’ll keep you posted.”

Walter sighed and put his phone into his pocket. He decided to take a stroll and just have a look at the passengers. He buttoned up his jacket and corrected the dimple in his tie as he stood up.

***

Derek was sitting in his window seat and playing a game on his iPad. He had the urge to continue reading his book but he decided to keep it off till he was airborne. The airhostess came by to ask him if he needed anything, and he said he could use some water.

He heard the footsteps of somebody approaching from behind at a relaxed pace. He put his iPad aside just as the loud-footed, dark-skinned individual came into view. Derek looked at him and he looked back. They both smiled at each other. Derek noticed he was one of those guys in the back who he noticed earlier – the ones with the expensive-looking suits.

Walter noticed that the kid put away his tablet away just before he walked into view. He looked back at the kid when he had walked to four seat rows ahead of him. He had his tablet in his hands again. Almost suspicious, Walter thought.

***

The plane was four hours into its journey. Walter had finished his observational tour of the plane but hadn’t really caught anybody suspicious. He didn’t expect he would either. His phone screen suddenly lit up.

Continue reading “The Unexpected”

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From Your Sister, With Love

College has just started but I already have quite a few assignments to complete and a project as well. I don’t find it to be a burden at all, though. The subjects are also pretty easy and I actually have fun studying here. At least more than I did at school. It is a whole new experience and a new place and fresh air. And I don’t think this is one of those short-lived, just-at-the-beginning feelings and I feel it will last.

There was one assignment which I looked forward to getting my hands on as soon as we were told we had to complete it. We read this short story, ‘Bike Ride’ from our textbooks. Its written by an Esther Young and the story is basically about the writer’s relationship with her elder sister which is conveyed to us through how the sister teaches the writer how to ride a bike. We read the story in class and the assignment was to imagine ourselves to be the writer, Esther Young, and write a letter to her (our) sister thanking her for teaching her (us) how to ride a bike.

Now that definitely doesn’t sound like something you’d be told to write in the 11th Grade. It sounded to me like something I’d done a hundred times in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Grades. And even then, I couldn’t wait to get to it. The teacher explained our assignment to us and gave us the rest of the class (twenty full minutes) to write the letter.

Informal letters are more or less like writing an essay, only you’re addressing it to a single person and there’s a comparatively more rigid format to go about it. But in my head, out of this whole definition, the word ‘essay’ sticks out. Why? Because I LOVE WRITING. I practically wrote the letter-assignment in seven minutes flat. The words just kept flowing out of my pen.

I’m going to stop blabbing and here’s the letter I wrote (in the 11th Grade Board prescribed format):

7th August, 2014.

 Dear sister,

                         I heard you got selected for the college cheerleading team and that you will be performing next month during the college football match. I’ll be there when you trip and fall on stage.

I know we live together in the same house, but there are some things you can’t say to each other without ruining a tediously constructed image. One of those things is saying ‘thank you’, in this case, for helping me learn how to ride a bike.

Before you stepped in I though I’d never be able to ride a bike and do my part in reversing global warming. You know mother had labelled me as a lost cause because I just couldn’t cycle (though I think its because she’s just too old to run around holding the bike) and I’ll admit I was a bit of a headache back then. I remember how you saw me crying and, without a word, put me back on the bike. Those three hours probably set an eternal record for the most time we have been together without turning the place into a figurative boxing ring. Jokes apart, I am really thankful to you for helping me out and I hope I can repay you some day, in some form.

Again, congratulations on making it into the cheerleading squad and all the best for your show. Don’t forget to smile and enjoy because they’ll probably never pick you again. Lastly, let’s keep this letter confidential, because, as I said, it will destroy as much of your image as mine.

Yours sincerely,

Esther.

If you managed to not smile or laugh even once, sir/madam, you must be superhuman and have to, as a general rule, let me know you exist in the comments below. If you ended up cracking up or couldn’t help breaking into a grin, you’ll let me know nonetheless.

Thanks all 🙂


Somehow, just the first paragraph of the letter got indented and began under the ‘dear sister’ and the remaining paragraphs got left out though I didn’t write it that way originally. It appears and then sometimes not. Its supposed to start under ‘dear sister’ since that’s the format we are to follow. Sorry about that glitch.

The Early Break

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“Cameras at the front of the store and those at adjacent streets that he used, got satisfactory photographs of the culprit’s face and the number plate of the car he used”

The whole room was a mess. Papers covered the desk and much of the floor. The cabinets were overflowing. Files were precariously stacked on top of said cabinets. The whole scene indicated utter laxity.

“So, here it is,” said the hefty lieutenant.

“This is my cabin, sir?” the young policeman was apprehensive.

“What is it? Too cramped for your liking? You’ll get used to it, boy!” The lieutenant thumped his fat palm on the youth’s back and waddled off, still laughing at his own joke.

“Sure I will.”

Sarcasm. It was Mayank’s alter ego. Sometimes he used it more often than he knew. It’s probably a mixed bag when you want to be a detective. Useful at times and sometimes sarcastic is probably the last thing you want to be.

Mayank looked at the state of the room, wondering how its previous occupant managed to not choke on the dust. As he recollected, he had in fact choked. Not on the dust, obviously, but at the hands of a drug lord who the said occupant had tracked down. The family pleaded in court but the evidence, thanks to the drug lord’s heavy bribes, had been burnt. That’s just how the criminal law system works nowadays. You either deal with it or it deals with you.

Most of the files were outdated and many more were filled with cases that had been closed. They had to be moved to the archives. Mayank found a cardboard box under the desk and filled it with all the files he could fit in it.

“Hey! New guy! The boss man’s calling you,” said a fellow employee to Mayank just as he was emptying the cardboard box in the archive room.

“Oh. Okay thanks.”

“I’m Jai, by the way. Over at forensics.”

“Hi! I’m Mayank.”

“I know. Everybody knows. You topped the test.”

“Yeah. You’re new too?

“Pretty much. Been here two months.”

“Okay then. See you later!”

“I’ll catch you at lunch if you’re free. Vada pav?”

“Yeah that’s cool”

Mayank felt slightly less tense now that he’d made a friend on the first day. He knocked on the Inspector’s door and went in after a resounding “COME IN” emanated from within.

Continue reading “The Early Break”

All’s Well That Ends… Oh Wait…

Image Courtesy - www.wallmild.com
Image Courtesy – http://www.wallmild.com

There can only be two reasons for looking at the sunset. And by looking, I mean actually sitting there, enjoying the breeze and appreciating the alluring, vibrant hues of yellow, red and vermillion. These reasons are: 1. When we’re really happy and 2. When we’re not. In rare cases there is a third (like, you’re out at the beach with your family so instead of building lousy old sand castles with your younger sibling you’re looking at the sunset), but the state of mind ultimately boils down to these two reasons.

The other day I found myself looking out at the sunset. A lot of thoughts drifted through my mind and I usually have a pretty long train of thought that doesn’t last beyond the moment so I can’t really recount those thoughts here. Surprisingly, I don’t remember whether I was particularly happy or not at that moment. It was definitely a mix of both. The circumstances in my life would make me think that it was more of not-happy than the opposite (my 10th Grade results are under a week away).

I’ve always had a positive approach to life to the point of being called an unabashed optimist. I’m certainly not ashamed of that despite my optimism not materialising in various situations.

I believe failure doesn’t deserve the amount of hate it receives. People are not supposed to fear failure. They are certainly not supposed to go hunting for it with axes and clubs but at the same time one must always reserve a margin for possible failure. It is in this aspect that I regret being the brazen idealist that I was.

I used to believe that even when I did not give my best effort, everything would turn out fine and that my effort was ‘just enough’. Obviously, it turned out to be far from enough and this would make me doubt myself. This self – doubt would deprive me of self – confidence and anxiety would creep in. I started setting unrealistic goals for myself and I always thought that whatever I did was not enough. It was a vicious cycle. It had to be broken sometime.

Like the hero in most movies, I fought my demons (and I’m still fighting them), but life’s been much better since that teensy – but – oh – so – ginormous epiphany about a year back.

Well, this ain’t therapy and I’m definitely not looking for a shoulder to cry on (like I would ever do that). Usually I just keep writing when I do, so one thing kinda led to another.

Anyway… thank you for bearing with me and here’s a little story (like a potato at the end of long memes :P):

Continue reading “All’s Well That Ends… Oh Wait…”

The Occupational Hazard

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Image Courtesy – http://www.flickr.com

Jonathan trundled along, leaning into Steve. He pressed the blood – soaked napkin onto his right hand and held it in a sling made from his left hand.

He could already feel the onset of spasms deep in his belly. His occasional groans would echo in his ears for a while and then fade away into the dense undergrowth. He could still see, that speckled band, hissing. Should he not have been dying, Jonathan knew that that image would haunt him for a long, long time.

A sparrow, chirping its lungs out, flew above them with another in pursuit.

The spasms grew exponentially over the next couple of minutes and gave way to delusions. “Why am I so stupid, Steve? Huh?” he would mumble. He would keep mumbling for several minutes and then stop as suddenly as he had begun.

“Just hang on Johnny. We’re getting there. I just need you to hang in there, okay buddy?” Steve held back a tear.

Steve understood the gravity of the situation. He knew what was going on. He knew what was going on even before it happened.

You know that tingly feeling you have before you do something exciting? That feeling that people call the adrenaline rush? And then when you look back at how awry things went you realise that that feeling was mixed with a tinge of fear, of apprehension. This was the feeling Steve had. This was the feeling he dreaded. This was the feeling we all shrink from.

He saw the mornings events replay in his mind.

Continue reading “The Occupational Hazard”

The Foiled Robbery

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“He was hard to miss, with his neon hoody.”

“I will be back before you know it, Maxie,” I said cajolingly to Maxwell. Maxwell was my dog, and sole companion in my apartment. I could not close the door to leave for the bank because his head stuck out. After a few shoves from my side and a few grunts from his, I managed to shut the door.

I did my routine check of the mailbox and patted a boy who seemed to perpetually be playing in the lobby, every time I passed it. I needed to draw a few thousand rupees from the bank as I was low on cash. I fished around in my pockets for my credit card and found it in my left shirt pocket. Another perpetuity in my life was that the nearest ATM was always out of order and I had to go to the bank to draw cash.

Naturally, there was a long line at the counter. I stood in line behind a tall woman, in and office outfit. She was presumably very well-to-do. She wore a white skirt, a pink shirt and a white jacket over it. She had a light complexion, brown eyes and brown hair to go with them. A beige coloured purse was slung over her right shoulder and she held a large mobile phone in her left hand.

My attention went to a man behind me in the line. He kept taunting the fish in a huge fish-tank that was apparently a new addition to the bank’s interiors. The woman ahead of me drew one lakh rupees and I cursed myself for listening but there was only so much you could do for privacy when the ATM was out of order. I drew five thousand rupees and sat beside the woman, recounting my money.

The woman left before me and I saw her in the distance, walking swiftly. What caught my attention was an incongruous figure walking behind her. He was hard to miss, with his neon hoody. Co – incidentally, the three of us took the same turn on Main Street. He followed her everywhere. I managed to get closer to the man and saw the figure of a gun in his pant pocket pressed against his body. He moved up beside the woman, caught her left arm, and moved her into an alley.

Continue reading “The Foiled Robbery”

Commotion at the Railway Station

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“I sat on a stray bench…”

It was a hot summer day at Nagpur Railway Station. I sat on a stray bench, on a stray platform, beside a stray dog, as I watched the railway tracks glisten in the sun. I was waiting for the Mumbai – bound train to arrive. A thick bead of sweat ran down my cheek, neck and down my shirt. The gradual increase in the rattle of the tracks told me of the arrival of a train. It passed through without stopping and evidently wasn’t the train I was here for. Just as I had seen the last bogey disappear from the station, I thought I heard the shrill cry of a man.

I dismissed the thought as a random mixup of various noises of the train. A few minutes later, however, I saw a crowd gathering at the far end of the station, their murmurs growing louder with each passing minute, till it was no longer ignorable. As I figured I had at least a few more minutes before my train arrived, I decided to head over and see the cause of the commotion.

What I saw, eliminated the thought from my head, that the cry I had heard, earlier was just my imagination. It appeared a man had indeed emitted the cry. He now lay at the centre of the huddle of people that I had seen when I sat on the stray bench, beside the stray dog.

He was very young, probably in his mid – twenties. His entire left side was covered in blood – unfortunately his own – and his hand looked like it had been fastened by the uncoordinated hands of a four – year old. The left side of his face was devoid of most natural features and his sinew and blood vessels were clearly visible. His legs ‘looked’ fine, but an elderly man’s attempt at making him stand up, ruled out that fact very gruesomely, for we heard a loud crack from the man’s knees. His entire appearance gave a very vivid feeling and I began feeling sick in the stomach, the more I looked at the man.

For some time, I stood there watching, in complete disbelief. After a while, the people wanted to move the man to a safer place, probably the ticket – booth, where first aid could be administered. Some people had already rung up the boy’s brother, whose telephone number he had produced. It seemed as if he did not want to disclose his carelessness’s consequences to his parent(s). I helped the younger lot of the crowd to carry the man to the ticket – booth and just as I had finished doing so I saw the train, my train, rumble and grumble into the station. It let out a satisfying hissing sound as it did so.

I sprinted back to the stray bench to find the stray dog circling my bag and baggage as if loyally guarding it. I always kept some dry fruits in my shirt pocket. Smiling, I tossed a few groundnuts at the dog, despite knowing his taste, patted him on the head, picked up my bags and walked to the train door. I looked back at the stray platform, stray bench and the stray dog sniffing the groundnuts, said a small prayer for the injured man and boarded the train.