The Wagon of Death

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“Hello, Sir. May I come in?”.

“Arghh. You again? What do you want this time? Can’t you youngsters just understand what it means to keep away?”, growled the old man sipping his red wine. Mr. Brent was never fond of people disturbing him during his evenings. “I’ve come as a client sir”, She said fanning out a bunch of handwritten parchments. “Wanted to get these printed. Do we have enough space for these in tomorrow’s columns?”.

“$10 per snippet for whatever the hell these things are”. The old man never cared what was printed in his newspaper if he got paid for it.

“But sir, as an employee, I am entitled to a discount of…”

“You are entitled to nothing, you little piece of shit. It’s $10 or you go to the Guardian.”

“No no no. It’s important that these are published in our newspaper and tomorrow”, trying to frantically save the situation. The old man attempted a sardonic smile. “Good. I’ll hand them over to McCain.”

The old man lifted the pieces and unconsciously glanced at what was written on them. Some of the parchments had photographs neatly stapled onto them. His eyes caught something strange. His face grew pale. Petrified, he asked, “What are…”


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“Seat number 3, elite ride on the jumbo roller coaster”, said Antony showing his ticket to the checker. It was a perfect day for an adventurous trip to the amusement park. Clear sky, cool breeze and a free pass to the costliest ride in the park. “Sure sir. You don’t need to stand in the queue. The car seats only 3 and we will start once all the riders arrive”, the ticket checker didn’t look up from her booth. It had been a busy day but very few could afford the elite ride.

Antony strolled through the slender wooden passage to get into the car. Only one rider had arrived and was fastening his seatbelt. Antony tried to pull open the metal door but it wouldn’t budge. Seeing Antony pull unnecessarily, the rider sitting inside popped the latch. The door flew and hit Antony hard in the chest. “Ughhh”. Hard enough to make him wail. “Hey man, are you alright?”, the man unfastened his belt quickly to talk to a whimpering Antony. “You idiot! I think I hit my sternum”, he gave an agonizing cry. “I hope it’s not too serious.” “I think… umm… I should be fine”, said Anthony as he rubbed his thumb on his chest. His thumb applying slightly more pressure than what his injured bone could handle at this moment. “Ughhhh”

“Are you alright?”

“Dad, are you alright? Say something”. 14-year old Ana was in tears as she saw her dad struggle with Asthma. “I think it’s the weather. It hasn’t stopped raining in the past 3 days.” Ana rushed her dad to the nearest hospital. His face had turned purple due to the lack of oxygen his lungs received.

“Doctor… Doctor, please save my dad”, she shrieked, as she barged into the doctor’s cabin pleading him to save her father. The doctor stood up pulling his sleeves back. It was as if he wanted to flash his shiny Rolex. He looked at the girl’s tattered clothes and realized that this treatment isn’t going to be paid for. “You’ve come to the right place, child. I do specialize in chest-related ailments. But you know…”, the doctor inched closer to Ana. He looked straight into her wet eyes and whispered to her, “these treatments cost a lot. And I don’t do charity.”

Ana kept begging, “Please”, barely able to speak now. “Security, throw this child and Thanos out. And if I see anyone like this enter the hospital again, I’ll make sure you guys don’t survive my snap.” The scared, helpless guards dragged Ana and her dad out. As she stood at the hospital gates, under the heavy rainfall, her father breathed his last.

The doctor usually parked his car in the alley right beside the hospital. He entered the silent alley, unbeknownst to the fact that someone had been following him all along. “Your money and the keys… NOW!”, he yelled. He was twice as wide as him and held a gun at a 10-point distance. “The watch too… C’mon, quickly”, he screamed at him. “No no no, I’ve earned this…” SNAP! The robber pulled the trigger. The doctor fell head first on his car bonnet. His medical coat slashed in the center, blood spraying across his windshield. A small note stuck on the windshield slid right before him. “In your hour of need, when you taste the blame, hope you taste the flavor of greed -Ana.”

A gold medalist in his university and one of the best doctors in New York lost his life after a robber shot him straight in his heart. His friends from college remember him as one of the smartest fellows they had ever met and someone who never had malice in his heart. He is survived by his wife and a daughter. He was 32.


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“Can my son take the ride instead of me?”

The ticket checker leaned forward from her desk to look at a 6-year-old kid staring at her puppy-eyed. “Aww. I really wish I could do it sir, but the ride is only limited to the ticket holders and it has your name on it.” “Can I get another seat in the same car? I could pay a little to…”, the kid’s father tried to negotiate. “No, sir. I am sorry. The rules don’t allow me to do that. You should take the ride yourself, sir. You deserve it!”, she replied. “You deserve it, Dad”, the kid spoke with a big smile on his face. He got down on one knee to speak to the 3-foot-tall, already maturing son of his. “You stay close to your mom, okay?”.

“Let the party begin”, he smirked as he started to stroll towards the car. The ticket checker, smiled at the kid and handed him an ice-cream asking, “Kid, what do you want to become when you grow up?”

“A Reporter… sir.” “I want to become a journalist. I have always wanted to write”, Ana was quick to answer. You could see the glitter in her eyes whenever she spoke about her desire to become a journalist. “So, what brings you here, child?”, the clerk asked. Not a lot of interesting things happened every day in this old government office. “I had sent some of my articles to the Malcolm Gladwell foundation. They absolutely loved them. They have agreed to fund my journalism education at the Harvard University, starting this fall. I thought that the letter came in earlier…”, her excitement echoing off the old walls. The telephone on the clerk’s table rang interrupting Ana. “Yes, sir. Okay, I’ll send her in”. “Mr. Henly will see you now Ms. Ana. All the best”, he gave her a fatherly smile.

An overwhelming stench of tobacco tickled her nose as she entered the room. Mr. Henly sat on his chair smoking a cigar, as usual. He pointed towards an envelope as Ana entered the room. She excitedly opened the envelope to find a cheque. It showed an amount of $200. For a second Ana thought that she missed reading a few zeroes. “Wait… what? I thought the Gladwell foundation agreed to fund my entire education. They promised me $60,000, this is not even…”. Henly looked up towards her and said, “This is all we received”, his words deceiving what his eyes portrayed. Ana could see her dreams crashing in front of her. The government office was infamous for their corruption scandals, but not in her wildest dreams, she thought they would be eating off a student’s grant.

Ana ran outside, swinging the door as hard as she could. She thought she didn’t have enough strength to move the door, but a loud thud that followed convinced her. Ana started to hear people murmuring behind her as she rushed out. She turned back and noticed that the door had hardly moved. Everyone was running into Mr. Henly’s office.

Mr. Robert Henly, the minister of state for education, had a fatal heart attack while he was at work. His untimely demise has left his family and friends devastated. His years of loyal service, moral practices and his efforts in promoting education in the state will be always remembered. He was 44.


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“So, what do you?”, asked Mustafa. He had been looking at Ana for quite some time now. Ana simply smiled as she looked into his blue eyes. “I am studying journalism at Boston University. How about you?” “I am a mechanical engineer. I work at Spacy’s”, he replied.

It didn’t take long for Mustafa to waltz in and steal Ana’s heart. Settling for BU instead of Harvard, she tried to fill her emptiness through him. She looked for him everywhere. Her world started to revolve around him. She often glanced at him from the side at times, sneaking a peak and he would simply smile, raising his eyebrow, as if he was trying to ask her a question. Ana would try hard to curb the overpowering emotions she felt for him. She felt that her heart would burst because of all the things she wanted to say to him and she had been feeling since they met.

Ana’s dreams were realized the day Mustafa proposed to her and they got together. But once the flowery time of their fleeting love affair came to a halt, she wished her dream never came true. Mustafa was the one for her, but it wasn’t true for him. He kept her twisted in knots and made her go through an emotional trauma, too much for a 22-year-old to handle. Ana would try hard to curb the overpowering emotions she felt for him. He gave her an important lesson on how she should be choosing the people she trusted more wisely. “My first memories of hell”, she often described it. He made her realize that the world isn’t as nice as she’d always thought it to be. However bad the things were, she still tried to hold it together.

Her world shook when she got to know that Mustafa was already married back in Mexico. Furious, she rushed to his place to end things with him for once and for all. When she reached his house, she saw policemen patrolling the area. “No, no, no…”, Ana tried to run inside the house to take a look. The police stopped her.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Umm… the elite ride on the jumbo coaster? I have a ticket for the same. Here.” The ticket checker punched the ticket and let him enter the narrow passageway. “Enjoy your ride, sir”


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“You really loved him, didn’t you?”, asked Kristen. She had been Ana’s best friend since her 8th grade. She worked as a nurse and had the amazing ability to nurse each of Ana’s wounds, physical or psychological. “I did, but it all kind of went down, once I really got to know about him.” She showed her a small newspaper snippet that she had cut.

Mustafa Thomas, an engineer at Spacy’s was found brutally murdered in his residence. The police have arrested his girlfriend, Mia Malkova for attacking him with a knife. Mustafa had accused Mia of having extra-marital affairs in a police report submitted hours before his murder. He was a jolly fellow and was loved by all. He died at a young age of 28.

“So, he was cheating on his wife and on you as well with a third person! Wow! I am really happy you got out of it, though in a nasty way”, she said, giving Ana a tight side-hug. “He really messed me up. I have started to look at every new relationship with suspicion”, her eyes welled.

“It’s okay. I heard you got a great promotion at your new job. Congratulations on becoming a junior editor now”, she just knew how to cheer her up. “Yeah, it’s good, but my boss is an absolute jerk. I don’t see myself rising up the ladder.”

“Hey, Kristen… I need some help”, she asked in a serious tone. “Anything for you, darling!”


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“The ride is already full! Should I take it on the next turn?”, he shouted as soon as he reached the entrance. The car had a fat old man and two young men sitting inside and waiting for the ride to start. “Just a second sir, let me check”, the ticket checker ran inside quickly. He large green cap hiding her beautiful face.

“Mr. Vernon, could you please take the next ride? These gentlemen have booked the current slot.”, she announced. The old man looked happy that he didn’t have to walk back the passageway without taking the ride. “Why couldn’t you tell me earlier?”, vexed, he got out of the car. “Please sir”, she signaled the final customer to enter the car.

“Vernon! How have you been? Never saw you since your internship back at Spacy’s!”, he asked. “I am great sir. Enjoy your ride. I’ll catch you in a while”, he said as he stepped out of the car.

He sat in the vacant seat and fastened his seat belt. His blue eyes scanning the faces of his fellow travelers. “Hi, aren’t you Mr. Henly, the minister of education of state?”, he asked. “Yes, I am. How do you know me?”, Mr. Henly looked startled.

Even though he was a minister who had stayed in his cabin for the last 20 years, the common public rarely knew him. “Umm… This is weird. But my ex…friend really hated you, man. She spoke about corruption in your office”, passing a snide remark. “Maybe your friend came in for a donation. I really don’t believe in charity if you are not talented enough”, the cigar smell filled the small cabin. The car started.

“That, I agree”, replied Antony, pulling his sleeves back to flash his watch. “I think we share a common opinion here. Just that, I don’t believe in charity even if you are talented”, Antony smirked.  “Dr. Antony Hopkins. I am an ENT specialist, have a hospital near the road. Did your ex talk about me too?”, always trying to be a smartass. Mr. Henly and Antony shared a laugh but Mustafa looked like he was deep in thought. “Actually, she did…”

The car reached its highest point. They often paused for a moment to let the riders enjoy the view before it sped at a 100 mph. The ride maintainer was supposed to pull the lever to start the ride.

“How did you guys get tickets for this ride?”, a terrified Henly asked. “My nurse told me I got it for free from some medical agent”, replied Antony. “I got it at Spacy’s. It was in a newspaper there”, his face turned white. “A student gave it to me”, answered Henly. “So, none of us really brought the tickets to this ride? We need to get out… Now!”

“Stop it! Stop it now!”, they started to shout. Their sounds buried in hundreds of rides around them. “Looks like they are already enjoying”, said the ticket checker and pulled the lever, smiling at the maintainer.


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“What are these, Ana”, asked the old man. “Obituaries, sir. Could I have them printed in tomorrow’s paper?” Mr. Brent started to check the content of the parchments. His eyes lit upon seeing a recognizable name. “This is Mr. Henly, isn’t it? How do you have his obituary, when he died just 20 minutes ago and you have been waiting here for the last one hour?”

“I dreamt about them dying, okay? Can you please stop asking questions and get them printed tomorrow?”, she asked sternly. Mr. Brent nodded. He was scared and in awe at the same time. Ana started to leave.

“Oh! How forgetful of me! I forgot to give you this one”, she said as she handed another piece of paper to him.

Mr. Chris Brent, senior editor of the New Yorker was found dead in his office. Police suspect that his red wine had been poisoned, though the real cause of death is still unknown. His memories will be eternal in the numerous articles he has written about workplace equality and gender biases in the country. He would be deeply missed. He was 57.

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No Strings Attached

The whole crowd was bustling with excitement as the two Cowboys walked in. The death stare they gave each other said it all about their rivalry. Ashton and Brock, once the best of friends, now, never missed a single chance to blow each other’s head off. Shelley who had been the prime reason for their acrimonious enmity stood in one corner.

Shelly covered her eyes with her hands but occasionally kept looking furtively at the herdsmen. Both gave Shelley a pleading glance and then stared hard at each other. They look away and start a rhythmic walk in the opposite directions. The sound of their boots touching the ground often coming before their shoes touch the ground. Their hands softly holding onto the gun in their vest. Just one bullet in each of their guns.


The crowd was going wild. Even though all of them knew where this was going, the excitement, the tension could be felt. Their hands started to sweat.

Even though they had practiced for this very moment for years, there was a tense silence in their heads amidst the noisy crowd. Both knew, they just could not screw this up now. It had become too big already.


Tik…Tok…Tik..Tok.. The same sound meant different things for different people. It was the sound of the willow hitting the ground for the people sitting the closest and who were super interested. It was the sound of the clock for a few whimsical ones who had lost interest in the fight already.

And for Ashton and Brock, it was the sound of their heart thumping. Ashton stops. He turns and shoots. Brock hears the bullet and instantly turns and shoots too. The sounds of the two shots coming after a little bit of lag. (Light travels faster than sound?).

Ashton had wished Shelley a goodbye far too many times. He knew it that this time he wouldn’t have to. He hit. Brock missed.


“What the…?”, screams Brock. Ashton smiles slyly. He had just proved that he won’t be taking orders from Brock anymore. Brock still standing still. Stunned to his core. The situation demands that he falls now.

He lowers his hand and slowly loosens himself to the ground. The crowd grows ecstatic. The unexpected had happened. The experts who claimed to have seen a lot of such fights had just been proven wrong.


Shelley starts to run towards Ashton. She appeared a little confused initially about which way to go. She trod as fast as she could and hugged Ashton tightly.

The crowd was on its feet. A loud applause! Ashton, Shelley, and Brock bow down to the crowd. Their hands rise. They look up. They see strings attached which are pulling them upwards now.


Ashton and Brock are still bowing down. Trying to take in the thunderous applause the crowd laid out for them.

Brock looks angrily at Ashton for changing the storyline impromptu. Ashton simply looks upwards. His hands rise. There are no strings attached now.

A Passing Day

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Someone was playing a known tune on the Harmonium. A few octants into the tune, the Sitar starts to add to the melody. The quick hits by the drummer on the cymbal start to add a gravelly texture to the tone. A slow tirkita on the tabla and the sarangi being played pizzicato starts to add flair to the piece. The lyrics have already teleported me to a different world as I keep writing code in an IPython notebook. I press Ctrl + Enter and wait. I know this will take some time to produce the output.

I keep my headphones on and start to look around. On my right, I see him draw some charts. He had been drawing them for the last 2-3 days. Does he like to make such reports, I wonder. The base guitarist pulling off a masterpiece. No one often notices how much importance he brings to the band. Like always, he turns to me and says, “Dude, this draw.io is amazing. I am actually enjoying doing this”, answering the question I asked him mentally. Then he goes on to share some research articles which he has read and understands too. (Do you get it? Both? Two in one).

The vocalist starts to make an impact. It is probably what most people listening to this piece will take away. I crane my neck further to see another friend. Why is he dancing? He is always so alive! His Samsung phone vibrates which pulsates the entire desk. It gives me shivers too. Probably just a text from his girlfriend but a Samsung phone often makes you rethink what a phone can do. The dance turns into a small celebration. A celebration of his code running perfectly, as always. How many people reside within this one person, I wonder. Seems like I have gotten to know only a few of them yet.

The pianist now gets a solo! Her dwindling fingers over the black and white making a fantastic melody. I turn my head further to the right to see the next person. The headphone wire which is plugged into my Laptop is already taut but I fail to notice. I see her trying to juggle her attention across three screens. I ponder how she manages this. I try to softly call her but she doesn’t seem to respond. Too low? Is she super busy? A train of questions running through my head. Damn! The darker, thicker strand of what I thought was her hair was, in fact, her earphone wire. I try to turn away before anyone notices my embarrassing act. She has now become a puzzle to me, but I probably know why.

The second vocalist starts to add flavor now. She has a high-pitched voice but a confident voice. My chair now at 120 degrees from the initial position. This time I see someone short trying to look at a screen which is about 20 cm higher than her eye level. Always, the best at whatever she has done, keeping her head high might be something that comes naturally to her. Her blue headphones which almost strangled me once, canceling out the noise of the world from her.

The flutist starts playing now. It’s going to be the end of the song probably. I turn more. My headphones pull me back this time. Finally, they gave up. My head now getting pulled backward creating a strenuous situation. I snap out of it with some wild movements to see him right behind me. Rumor has it that he has hundreds of parallel threads running in his head whenever he hears something. The sink node of only of them is known which always ends in a pun. I try to reason if he is one of the purest person and coders I have met.

I realize that it is time to give some momentum to my chair and turn around completely and check the output of my program. Meanwhile, I think why does this group bond well? Probably, everyone is a different kind of weird.

Damn! I forgot to run the previous cells. YouTube in the other window shows play again.

Somewhere between Yesterday and Tomorrow

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“Hi, Tom. I was expecting to meet you. How are you?”, shouted Christian as he saw Tom approaching him. Tall, lean and dressed smartly in business casuals, Tom walked towards him. He was carrying his office bag and another bag containing Christian’s favorite sweets.

“I am so sorry. It has been so long since we’ve met. I have been working twice as harder than you thought I would. No time for anything”, said Tom raising his hands up in the air and giving them a slight twist. The bag in his hand turning a full 360 degrees and then going in the reverse direction. Christian’s head moving laterally along with the bag.  

“Here. I got these for you”, he said as he handed over the sweets box to Christian, his eyes glowing seeing the box. He gulped down a few of them before asking Tom, “Do you like them too?” The puppy-eyed look Christian gave him automatically made him answer in negative.

“So, how is it all going?”, he asked.

“Not much. Too much homework nowadays. I am not getting enough time to play. People might say that school is easy to get through but probably they never studied in my school”, he cribbed. Tom smiled. He realized that a broken nib of the pencil stuck in a sharpener isn’t the biggest worry in his life anymore. Times had changed.

“Yeah. You know, I feel the same about my office work”, he replied mimicking Christian. It is rightly said that every age has its own problems.

“People in school keep asking me what I wanted to become in the future. I don’t think I have a differentiating factor. Did you become what you wanted to?”, asked the ever-inquisitive Christian.

“I don’t know, dude. Goals, plans, everything changes with time. Remember you once told me that you wished to become a teacher? Don’t give up on it easily. You might regret it later. As of now, I am still chasing myself in my dreams. On some days when I get tired of chasing myself, I remember you”, replied Tom.

“So, how is it working out with Susie?”, he enquired. Christian gave a dejected look. “Not very good”, he replied.

“Don’t worry. You will meet someone great in the future”. Christian gave an asymmetric smile. His heart believing what Tom said but not his mind. “Trust me”, he reassured him. Symmetry visible at a glance now.

“What happened to the newspaper?”, queried Christian.

“It was a hit for a while but I couldn’t keep it going. I still blog, though”, Tom answered.

“What do you write about? I love writing editorials too”, his questions never ended.

“I know”, Tom smiled. “Almost anything. Maybe, I’ll blog about our talk today under the moonlight. I did find some of your articles a few days back. They were good.” Christian gave a wide smile. “I think I should value your opinion more than everyone else’s.”

“I think I should value your opinion more than everyone else’s”. “Yeah, you wouldn’t have called yourself ‘Christian’, otherwise”, laughed Tom. Christian simply rolled his eyes.

It was time for Tom to leave. He got up and picked up his briefcase. His eyes trying to see if any sweets were still left in the box he gave Christian. “Here”, Christian held his hand out. “I knew you liked them.”

“Hey, Tom. Remember the vice principal of the school once told us, never give up on what you set your eyes on. The universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart.”

“Not forgetting this anytime soon. If I do, I’ll come back to meet you. Also, you know, whatever differentiating factor you have, you need to keep upgrading it. If it becomes constant, it might become zero”. Tom laughing at his own pun. Christian gave a surprised look. “Don’t worry. You’ll learn soon”, he took off.

“Tom… Tom.. wake up!”, his mom shaking him with all her strength. Tom woke up with a big wide smile.

“What?”, she asked. “Again dreamt meeting yourself 10 years in the future?”

“This time I went in the past!”

Title Courtesy – Aditi Srivastava ( Who else! ).

Bend in the Road

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“Where should we go? Right or Straight ahead?”.

Right took them back home, straight ahead meant another round. “Umm …”, Sana glanced at the clock on her phone while Aarush was looking at her eyes which were dark as the desert skies. The kohl bordering the eyes making them look deeper, full of dreams and ambitions. He wondered if she put it on every day or was it something she used only during festivals. “It has already been 15 minutes, but I think we can go for another round!” Somehow, you always know the answer even before you look at the time, he felt.

Vihaan was describing his recent trip to the North during their walk. “I have heard that the mountains change colors! The clear skies, apple trees, double rainbows and the birds make it heavenly”, said Aarush looking at Sana. She smiled and simply nodded. Vihaan looked puzzled since he knew Aarush had never been there, but was describing the place perfectly.

Sana started, “You know; I see your story unfold like a scroll. A clean scroll. Smooth edges, neatly tied up”. Little did she know that the ribbon tying them up was too tight and had already left a few grooves. She went on “Unfolding a fresh turn everyday …” Vihaan interrupted her speech when he started to speak about some problems at work all of a sudden. Aarush gave him a glaring look for intervening. “What?”, asked a baffled Vihaan. Aarush did this weird thing whenever he was annoyed with someone. Go back in time and think about all the amazing things that person has done for you. Check if you can nullify it with his errors. “Nothing. The epicenter knows the reason for the quakes.” Sana giggled, twitching her nose a little as she did so. She knew Aarush had been using her lines.
“How come you are quiet today? You once told me, you tend to talk a lot more when I am listening!”, asked Aarush. Even though the question had been pointed towards Sana, Vihaan answered this one saying he had anyways being doing most of the talking. Probably, the “good listener” was just thinking about something else.
Their conversations had always been incredible. The onus was on them to make each one better than the previous ones. So many memories etched on that very road they walked on. Aarush looked at the other two. She was the perfect medley of things he always wanted in a friend and Vihaan was perfect one who could help him sort out his mess. He wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world.
Time often bent its rules when they were out. It seemed to pass quicker every time. But they always managed to squeeze in some stories that were closest to them. Sometimes, people talk about things not to get sympathy or help, but just to kill its power by allowing the truth of things to hit the air.
They reached the T-point. Vihaan looked at Aarush and asked, “So. Where should we go? Right or Straight ahead?” Aarush looked around, as if he was searching for someone. He couldn’t spot Sana anywhere around. “What happened now?”, asked a perplexed Vihaan. “Nothing. I didn’t remember it was just the two of us!”. He was apparently toggling the switch between past and present all this while. He took out his phone and glanced at the time. “Let’s take a right turn.”

Rewind

 

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The Professor threw him out again. However hard he tried to convince him, he had to leave the class. For the fifth time.

The entire department bonded with each other. Courtesy, a trip to the nearby hill. Yet again!

He hugged his room partner tightly. The same way he did, when he bagged the best job offers and when he went through the toughest of times.

He did their signature greeting of twitching the eyes as soon he met his best friend. They smiled, as both of them still had their cutest picture together as their contact images.

They all sat at the divider, sipping tea. Everyone gave their daily update like they had been doing for the last 5 years. When all of them were together, they had to hit rewind.

The head of the department called out his name. It was the loudest he ever heard him speak. He would have been scared stiff on normal days. But this time, he walked straight towards him.

He had two cameras to look into. A DSLR, right in front of him and a phone camera about 500m away. He knew exactly where to look. He had been looking up to them all his life. As he walked away, he added an adjective to his list.

“CONVOCATED”

 

 

 

Inspired by – An Instagram post by Akash Tandon.

Title – Aditi Srivastava.

Sentenced to drama for life

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“Hey Man! Long time since I saw you! How are you?” greeted Darcy when he saw Wyatt.

“The customary greetings from you again, huh, Darcy? Should never have taught you manners!” smiled Wyatt as he entered the room.

Wyatt and Darcy were always close friends, but their busy schedules had reduced the talks they had. “You don’t remember how you got here, do you?”, asked Wyatt. Darcy’s blank looks answered the question. “You really need to stop drinking so much. Though, I love having a conversation with you when you are wasted.” This cracked up both of them. They laughed hard, just like the old times.

“So, how’s everything in your life?”, Wyatt broke the silence.

He often used this phrase to strike up a conversation with people he was close to.

“You still stuck on this clichéd opening line?”, asked Darcy as he was downing another bottle of beer.

“I don’t ask this because I don’t have anything to talk about. Sometimes, you feel good if you have someone to ask you this! At least, I do.”, replied Wyatt.

“Wow! She really messed you up, didn’t she?”, Darcy somehow always struck the right chord with him. Probably he was the only one who understood him. Wyatt was still waiting to get his answer.

“Oh! I haven’t yet been able to get over whatever has happened recently. There is this excruciating mental pain. It really hurts a lot.” Wyatt looked down as if he was responsible for what was happening to Darcy.

“Hey, do you want me to relieve you from it? I swear I can help you forget that”, cried Wyatt.

“No. Why would anyone want to forget stuff that hurts them? Sometimes that is the only memory of people you have who did this to you. People have such wrong notions about grief. They feel it collapses their world from inside, but it indeed opens new ones that they have never explored.” His response made Wyatt think how much Darcy had grown.

“That’s easy to say for a person who has no clue of what is happening around him”, argued Wyatt.

“I think you are right! I constantly have a feeling that I am a puppet and this world around me is not the real one. It is somehow feels like everything in my life is pre-planned. Nothing ever changes. Everything follows its course and my world is being designed by someone else. I don’t feel free”.

“How down are you?”, asked Wyatt.

“7 beers.” “Well that explains most of it!”.

“But that is something I envy about you! You can be anyone, do whatever you want at that moment. I will remain the jack of all but you can be the master of anything!”, Wyatt went on pointing to Darcy’s bottle.

“You can forget anything you want, not care to care and just move on! You know people like me are idiots. They are like stars. They pretend to move on, but it’s just a lie.” Darcy cut him in between, “People are beautiful. They are like stars and the milky way. You just need to look at them through a proper angle and at proper times.” They both smiled.

Wyatt got up to leave. He bid adieu to Darcy saying, “I am making you the astronomer in the next story. Buckle up.” “At your command sir! I am sentenced to drama for life.”

Conversation between a writer and his character is always interesting.

A route to the Gateway

 

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“You are up next. You would be number 47”. Robert kept the phone down. He had been expecting this call, but he never expected it to come so soon. He had been trained for this all his life, yet the news made him a little nervous. “It’s okay, calm down. We are in this together”, chimed in Vint, who had received the call just a second ago.

Both, Vint and Robert had a little chat before they rushed out of their rooms. They knew they had to get everything ready quickly before they set out on their voyage. However exciting and adventurous it sounded, they knew that they were risking their lives here. The phone rang again. It was the same voice, but a little bit grimmer this time. “Collect your bags from the 4th floor.”

“So, what do these suitcases contain?”, asked Rob to the person handing them the bags. He stopped as soon as he asked this question. “Don’t you dare to open this. We will know anyways if you do so.” “And what happens if we do?”, Vint interrogated. “You wouldn’t want to know!”. The wicked smile on his face said a million things. “I have heard the road to the destination is not very smooth. What if something gets broken? We ought to know what we are carrying”, Robert looked in no mood of carrying something he didn’t know about. “You should not worry about all that. There is a list inside the bags that tells what are the things present. The receiver will let us know if there is something missing.”  Scared, they picked up the bags and walked to the next room.

“Ah! Here you two are! Leonard?”, shouted Ron. He looked like a man in charge there. The only happy looking face they had seen in some time. Leonard marched in and hurriedly put some locks on the bags the two were holding. Surprisingly, he handed them the keys as well! “So, you two should now go downstairs and receive the instructions before you start your journey”, Ron bid adieu. Confused, both Robert and Vint went to the floor below them.

This floor looked like a call center. Lots of people were talking on the phone and the noise made it impossible to make out what even a single one of them was saying. Robert and Vint started to have doubts, if they were actually heading for a secret mission. “The path is clear. You two can leave”, whispered someone. “But where?”, Vint whispered back, not sure who he was whispering to. “The second floor guys would tell you that! Have they again hired newbies?” They remembered something of this sort from their training, but everything looked blurry now.

Donald escorted them to a room. There they received an itinerary, the destination they had to head to and the pit stops they could take on their way. They also received strict instructions, that if they took more time than it was written in their contract, the consequences would be horrendous. They had a few badges attached to their bags as well. Luckily, both Robert and Vint were headed to the same location. The addresses they received made no sense to them, yet none of them dared to ask. Nothing was falling into place. Moreover, it was a little difficult to understand what Donald was trying to say, though it sounded familiar. Perhaps, he spoke a different dialect.

First floor now. Each floor had just multiplied their confusion about what was happening around them. They were simply trained to carry baggage from one counter to another, but with so many people working and the secretiveness around what they were carrying was making them anxious. “We just talked with them. The train would wait for you two to get in and then move. Make sure you reach in time.” “But, the addresses we received upstairs makes no sense”, Robert dared to speak. “Oh don’t worry about that. You can follow this one”, he handed him a new address. This time it made sense. “Looks like we need to travel at speed of light to meet this timeline”, chuckled Vint. “Tell us when you reach”, shouted someone. “We will. It is in our nature.”

As they were about to leave the building on the ground floor, Robert asked, “Hey Vint! Do you know this could probably be the last time we two are travelling together?” “Someone once told me, that people tend to be more open when they travel. Perhaps, I will get to know most of the interesting stuff about you during this journey. Travelling first leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”, replied Vint. “You know I am happy we are not like the UDP guys. No one ever know what happens to them once they leave their organization premises.”

“True! But the network is pretty dangerous for TCP Packets like us as well! I hope the Router we meet is soft spoken. This place is creeping me out a little.” The two jumped into a binary converter of the Data Link Layer before they set out on their epic journey.

Rising Sands of Time

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He knew it was the end of their story. This was probably going to be their last meet after what Aarush learned about Chaitali, some time ago. Aarush kept looking towards the ground. His eyes motionless. Chaitali got up and started to leave. No sign of regret or remorse on her face. She walked fast, maybe trying to hide the true emotions that would have burst out had she stayed.

Aarush always found her graceful and she did look graceful even as she walked away from him. He wanted someone to be beside him as the kingdom he built was collapsing but the wrecker was the one he was seeking. A chain of her bag was open, her mind too occupied to notice such things. As she walked away in a rhythmic way, something fell out of it.


Aarush picked it up. It was her diary.  In a lot of their previous conversations, she had mentioned how she poured out everything that happened to her in her diary. Chaitali always anonymized all the characters in her diary, but being a good writer as she was, it was pretty evident who she was talking about.

He gave it a lot of thought whether he should read it or not. The manager in him did a quick SWOT analysis about it. The remark which convinced him read, isn’t that why people keep diaries? To be read by someone else? Aarush delved deeper into Chaitali’s world with every turning page. He was in tears by the time he finished reading it, especially by the last few chapters. He wanted the diary to go on, but unfortunately, no one can write about their future.

The Chaitali he knew about an hour ago and the one now were drastically different.  He held himself up and gave her a call immediately. He just had to get everything clarified. The two agreed to meet and put an end to the misconceptions that had kept arising between them.


They decided to meet at Chaitali’s house. An hours’ talk resolved most of them. Even though Aarush still had doubts about the things he heard from her, he seemed convinced. A phone call reminded her that she was getting late for her classes. She left in a hurry rattling her bookshelf and the table on the way.

“Always in a hurry! Take Care”, chimed Aarush. She just smiled back at him and kept walking. Her smile completed her. Her smile completed him. He kept looking at her pictures in the room. “Still the same!”, he said looking at them as he started to leave. He kicked something on his way out. After all, Chaitali’s collision had a got a flurry of things on the floor.


A lot of news around Chaitali had recently surfaced. Aarush was never bothered by them. He always turned down such ‘rumors’ to be just hearsay things. Chaitali was a smart girl. Aarush always thought of her as a mess of gorgeous chaos. She had beautiful brown eyes, making him think how he might be looking in her eyes.

The two of them shared an amazing relationship. They often talked for hours, getting to know each other better with every passing day. Aarush, being a very simple person was always open but had millions of things to talk about. Chaitali on the other hand always had an air of mystery around her.

He always tried to decipher her, but she was like an onion. However deep he thought that he knew her, there were always some layers to peel. She had just called him to tell him something important.


Both of them had been chosen to intern at the same place this year. “I want to go for Masters in the future”, said Aarush, during one of their ‘n’ outings during the golden internship period. “I am still undecided. Might go for Masters as well!”, she replied.

The two grew really close over this period building some immortal memories. No matter how serious their lives got, the two had each other they could be completely stupid with! Two years had passed since this. Their friendship changing from just stealing glances from each other to going out almost every day.


Aarush was sitting in the classroom of the university he had just joined. Just as he was introducing himself to his newly made friends, someone entered the classroom with beautiful brown eyes. Something about her clicked in him. He kept watching her as she took her place. Some old memories fresh, he chose to wave off this feeling!


“Probably, should have kept the feelings away, like the way I chose to do it 4 years ago when I first saw her”, thought Aarush as he kept his diary down. He believed in happy endings, but the only way his own story could have been happy was by reading it in reverse.


Title Courtesy for all short stories on this blog: Aditi Srivastava! 😀

The Playing Crusaders

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“Man, again! It has been the third consecutive time. Just because of you I need to sit out of this one as well”, said Lancelot, looking dejected. “What am I supposed to do? Even I am out myself. Maybe, they do not care enough for us”, replied Sancroft.


Sancroft and Lancelot, though enemies on the battlefield, were fast friends outside. The two always had the most interesting conversations ever, whenever they could catch up. “You know, I have heard they are getting a bigger playground for us. Do you think they will let us play there?” chirped Lancelot. He was the inquisitive, impulsive one. Sancroft on the other hand was calm and answered practically. “I doubt that. With a bigger playground, new teams would come in as well. We might get in as substitutes someday though”, singlehandedly bringing down the excitement level of Lancelot.


Even though both of them were considered equals, the two played significantly different roles. While Lancelot was famous for his quick, short, unexpected attacks, Sancroft was favored for his long term visions. “I really admire the way you showed grit and determination to grow. It took you some time to get the basics right, but now I guess, you are one of the most dangerous players I have ever met!” “We are all puppets, my friend! We perform the way he wants us to”, replied Lancelot elegantly.


“But, I guess, you are the quickest grasper of the game. Moreover, anyone can piss me off. Even the weakest of the players, force me to move. You fight them fearlessly”, Sancroft went down the praising lane. “You were never meant to fight the weakest players. You can simply jump over them. You are meant to attack the strongest ones and you are the only one who can make him answer”, said Lancelot consoling him. “Trust me, I am closer to them, than you are, and you always make them shiver”, adding a bounty for Sancroft with that statement.
“I am just a sidekick. Alone, I am incapable of finishing the game, unlike you guys. You are so touch perfect with your long distance hits. I know I can never achieve that! I guess, in the end we are all born for different purposes, aren’t we?”


“At least you can meet your beloved at the same place. No matter, how hard I try, we will always share an asymptotic relationship”, Sancroft’ eyes turned moist. “Even though we meet, how long do we stay together? Our roles make us replace each other.”


The silence between the two could be heard. “Your Highness”, said Sancroft breaking the silence, as the queen passed them. “Looks like the game is about to get over”, they deduced. “She can reflect all of us and better, but not you. Doesn’t that make you feel special?” This brought a smile on Lancelot’s face. “Yes it does! Thanks.”


The game just ended in front of them. “Here it comes”, said Sancroft as two hands came down to pick them up and stuff into the box. “Hey Sancroft, are you still afraid of Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone?”, giggled Lancelot just before parting ways. “Haha, not as much as the Dark Knight is scared of our pawns”, shouted Sancroft. “You son of a Bishop.”