Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

2000 Year Long Journey

“For 2000 years!” Anish gasped and looked from his diary to Shivani.

“Yeah! Isn’t it exciting? We get to spend the rest of our life on a space ship.” Shivani said holding Anish’s hand and jumping up and down. Her voice had reached a higher octave while explaining to Anish about his birthday surprise. Anish looked at Shivani exasperated. While he had known that one day, he would have to be part of the generation voyage, Shivani had sped up the process by about 1000 times.

Project Generation was a 200 hundred year project that had been continuing for about 50 years now. The aim of the project was to expand human life beyond Earth. While, we have been able to successfully colonize Mars and the moon, the scientists had become ambitious and were hoping to go beyond the solar system. The initial phase was to send a rocket to Planet Zeta I. Even with the new modes of transports discovered, it would take around 2000 years to reach the planet.

“But why in this ship?” Anish said frustrated.

“Umm… Because this is the only one going to be launched in our life time dumbo.” Shivani said in a matter-of-factly tone.

“Of course.” Anish said miserably. It was Shivani’s dream to be part of the project Generation, a dream he had always supported. Now, it had come to bite him from behind. He had never thought they would plan the trip to planet Zeta I so quickly. Ten more years and they would be too old to go for the trip.

“The trip is next month. We have a lots to prepare and you have to sign this form as well. I will email them the document.” Shivani said and a form opened in front of Anish’s screen. He signed on the screen and saw Shivani happily tapping away their tickets to Generation ship.

“Love you! Bye.” Shivani said and went offline. Anish looked at the blank screen and opened a web browser to learn more about the trip. His mind wasn’t into it however. He was thinking about a problem that had bothered him ever since project Generation had come into existence. How will he hide his immortality in a closed machine with limited people?

— –

It had been 10 years since Anish and Shivani had been on the ship. They got married and had a child as well. Anish was still working on the age-old problem he had been facing since the past 10000 years — how to hide the fact that he was immortal.

Anish didn’t know how he became immortal, nor if there was some way of his death. He didn’t get sick, healed from every accident he had ever faced and hadn’t aged since he was in his early 30s. He had tried to understand his body by studying biology for almost 100 years but couldn’t understand the exact reason. For some reason, he was immortal in every way he could think of. And now, he was in a place containing limited number of people, each of them counted and taken account for every day and where everyone knew the other person. He had been able to use makeup to show some age for the past 10 years but he doubted that he would be able to continue it for the next 10 years. Moreover, he didn’t know what to do after 50 years or 100 years.

“Honey!” Shivani called him from the other room. They had been allocated dual rooms due to their child. The ship could easily hold 1 million people and was a city for all practical purposes. If it was not self-sustained in every way, everyone would have died within a few years. The ship got its energy from dual source of stars and atoms. Wherever possible, the energy was stored through the stars they passed by. Otherwise, nuclear fission was used to fuel the huge ship. There were fusion reactors as well but they were for the extreme condition to start the primary engine. It was supposed to be used if they fell into any stars gravitation field and couldn’t escape. The ship was built to last.

“I am here, love.” Anish called and finished reading the ship constitution. Being such a huge organisation in itself, it had its own set of laws and leaders. Shivani was head of the leadership council. That made it even harder for Anish to hide.

“I have a meeting in the afternoon. Will you be here then or will you go to the univ?” Shivani asked kissing Anish on the lips.

“I will go to the univ. Teaching is relaxing to me.”

“You didn’t sleep tonight as well?” Shivani said worried.

“Not as well as I want to sleep.” Anish said smiling at his wife.

“I have an important bill to discuss today. So, I will be late today.”

“Is it ‘The Bill’?” Anish asked jestingly. Shivani smiled at him guiltily.

“Actually yeah. Today might be the day.”

“Ooh! Best of luck.” Anish said winking at her.

“Thanks!” Shivani said and fluidly moved away.

Anish had been hearing about this magical bill from the past 5 years. He had been amazed at Shivani’s ambitiousness once they were in the ship. The girl who would trip at the thought of being at the centre of attention was not only leading the ship leadership but doing a great job at it too. She became the chief of leadership council last year and ever since then, she had been tweaking and discussing this bill and apparently, tonight, she will be putting it through the vote.

Anish heartily wished to know what was in the bill but Shivani held the secret to her heart and Anish was never a good snooper. Besides, he was already struggling with his own problem of immortality. He had come up with various ideas but none of them seemed to be effective. He opened his diary once again on his tablet to see if he might have missed any idea but was disappointed again. Each idea was as bad as the previous one, as outlandish and as unreal in application.

“Arrgghhh.. I should have stayed on Earth!” Anish shouted and regretted saying that immediately. He knew that every day spent with Shivani was worth it but he didn’t want to spend the rest of his days as a lab rat. Tired, he decided to go to the univ.

Univ was one place where he would forget everything and become the same person he was thousands of years ago — curious and carefree. Teaching came naturally to him, probably because of the years of information that he had in his mind. He tend to forget a lot of it but the incidents and the anecdotes stayed with him and he was able to bring them hypothetically in the class making him one of the most sought after teachers in the univ. Even before this ship, he would teach at various schools or universities where he could teach without bringing too much attention to himself.

Today too, the univ brought him peace of mind. He was glad for it too as tomorrow was his wedding anniversary and the last thing he wanted was for Shivani to feel that he was stressed. Teaching the kids gave him hope that he would probably be not treated as lab rat but like a grand old man who could tell them stories. He finished his classes elated and went home in a good mood.

‘When will you be back?’ He messaged Shivani.

‘Soon. The meeting is in full flow. I have never seen such fervour.’ Shivani replied.

He had returned around 10 from the univ and in two hours, it would be 10 years since Anish and Shivani had tied the knot. Their daughter was on a camp from the univ and would come tomorrow. It was better this way. He wanted to spend tonight with his wife alone. He still felt a pang of guilt that he never told her about his condition but he thought it was for the best. He decided that he would never lie to her but when does the topic of immortality come between a couple.

Anish waited for Shivani but dozed off soon.

“Anish! Anish!” Shivani shouted.

“Huh!” Anish woke up startled.

“You are getting old.” Shivani laughed in a chiming voice. Anish smiled.

“Happy anniversary husband.” Shivani said giving Anish a kiss. Anish looked at the clock. It was past 1.

“So, the bill passed?” Anish asked. He stood up from the chair where he was dozing off and gave his wife a long hug.

Shivani’s eyes twinkled. She gave him her widest smile and nodded vigorously. Anish smiled and went to open the wine he had been holding on to for this moment.

“Is this the third one?” Shivani said curiously.

Anish nodded. He had brought three bottles of vintage wine with him on the ship. The first was opened on their wedding and the second was opened when their daughter was born. When Anish saw Shivani’s zeal for this bill, he decided that he would open this bottle when she gets this bill passed.

Shivani was now bouncing up and down looking lovingly at her husband. She had never loved anyone as deeply as she loved Anish and yet, somehow, his calmer and caring love trumped her.

“Yum.” Shivani said taking the first sip. Anish shook his head hearing that.

“It’s wine, love. We don’t yum a wine.”

“Don’t tease me. I will make a law making it mandatory to say yum after drinking wine.” Shivani said sticking her tongue out to her husband.

“Of course. By the way, can I now know what the bill was about?”

“Sure. But first, what did you get me?” Shivani asked.

Anish went to the inner room and brought a packed box. The box was crudely wrapped and even from afar Shivani knew what it was going to be.

“How did you save so much money for it?” Shivani said opening the present.

“The only need I have is to keep you happy.” Anish said and sat down in front of her. Shivani had worn that pendant for their wedding, borrowing from the owner then. It was beyond what they could afford then but the lady let Shivani wear it for one day. Since then, Anish had been saving to give her the pendant as an anniversary present. It took ten years for him to achieve this goal.

“I love it.” Shivani said with tears in her eyes.

“Now, your present.” Shivani said dabbing her eyes. She gave him a paper.

“This is the copy of the bill.” Anish said plainly.

“Yeah… You were so curious to read it so as my gift, you get to read it first outside of the council.” Shivani said proudly.

Anish tried his best to keep his face from showing disappointment. As much as he loved Shivani, this was not exactly the present he had hoped for or expected.

“Go on… Read it.” Shivani said while looking at the mirror, admiring herself.

‘Should have brought that for myself.’ Anish thought to himself and started to read the bill.

**

Bill number 225 : Case of unique incidences.

a. If a person gets a disease that is incurable but non-transferable, he will have the choice to live in the society as he sees fit.

b. If a person gets a disease that is incurable and transferable, he will be quarantined and if he doesn’t cooperate, he will be left out of the ship.

**

“Don’t read like that. Skip to the part highlighted in yellow.” Shivani said irritated. She sat down in front of Anish excited.

**

k. If a person achieves immortality in any form, he would have the right to live normally except for these two conditions.

k1. He would once a month give test samples (in the same quantity as a normal full body checkup) to the scientists.

k2. He would not hold any position of leadership on the ship but can hold any other position of guidance (teacher, advisor etc.)

**

Anish read it and looked at Shivani.

“How.. What.. You..” He sputtered.

“Happy anniversary love.” Shivani said and kissed her immortal husband.

“You knew? Since when?”

“I think by our third meeting, I had an inkling. I did some digging and got the confirmation too. That’s why I wanted us to come to this ship. It is easier to influence a smaller group as compared to a larger group like a country. I decided to join the leadership council so that I could change this law. I have been trying to modify this law enough to get it passed for so long now.”

“But why all this?”

“Because I love you silly.” Shivani said with a fierce shine in her eyes.