Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Alive!

Swapnil picked up the diary and started reading a random excerpt.

There will always be something or the other than bothers me. Life isn’t about having a cool life but about having troubles of the mind. I do realise that I have more peace when I am single and when I am not chasing after romance. I am more able to look at myself and improving myself. However, no person wants to live alone. No one wants to have a life that is not shared.

The social animal in me roars for a company. The human in me detests it. I don’t know what is the solution to this problem but I am assuming that the solution is going to be simple.

Swapnil was intrigued by these words. The victim was a curious person and if he would have been alive, Swapnil would have definitely wanted to talk to him based on his diary excerpts. However, it was not so and all Swapnil could do was find out what actually happened.

The most likely theory was that he committed suicide. He was single, alone and according to the neighbours, a quiet and reserved person. Most people living around were more surprised to know that he still was alive than by his death.

Swapnil had made a habit of reading this diary for the past three days. The material gave him insights about the person and he hoped to find some clue in those insights. Swapnil was also enchanted by the word flow and the quality of writing. It seemed that the person was a habitual writer — a professional even. Unfortunately, Swapnil couldn’t find out his profession yet. Other than the fact that he was rich enough to afford the place he was living in, the guy had little possessions.

An old television set, a pair of headphones and a laptop. This was his entertainment. Add to that three sets of clothes and it was no wonder that barely anyone ever knew him. This man never wanted to go outside.

These facts made the diary all the more interesting. The diary implied that he wanted to go outside and there was a fight between the social and unsocial part of him.

“Somehow, he thought that the unsocial part of him was human.” Swapnil spoke out loud. Everyone around him started to look at him. He sheepishly grinned and went back to the diary.

One thing I have understood about life. Whether alone or among a million people, life is beautiful.

Swapnil read it and his mind started to race. This man wouldn’t commit suicide. At least the man in the diary.

“You seem a bit too engrossed for an open and shut case.” Arpita said patting Swapnil on his head.

“This man doesn’t make sense at all. The diary shows a man who loved life and while he was a bit antisocial, he was also not a socially awkward person. On the other hand, he has barely any possessions, no one knew about the person in the building and no one seems to know him outside either. Heck! We haven’t been able to find his profession yet.”

“Now that you mention it, another thing is very interesting.” Arpita said looking through the photographs.

“What?” Swapnil asked.

“He is physically fit. Extremely fit per the medical report.”

“So.”

“You can’t maintain this kind of fitness level without a regime. You need a gym and a trainer or you need to have equipments at home.”

“There were no equipments at home and no membership cards etc. were found. No one ever saw him exercising as well. But I will check the nearby gyms.” Swapnil said.

“You still don’t understand. He was too physically fit and he was doing this without anyone finding it out. It’s almost as if he was preparing for a fight.” Arpita said with a glint in her eyes.

Swapnil looked through the reports once again with this new perspective.

“Oh no!” Swapnil said and ran.

“Wait! I’ll come.” Arpita ran after him.

“What happened Swapnil?” Arpita asked as the two moved towards the victim’s flat in his car.

“The flat wasn’t his house. He was meeting someone there. Someone with whom he was going to have a fight.” Swapnil said in one breath.

“This means there must be some other place where he lived.”

“Yeah. I have told Jacob to broaden his search to the whole city.”

“But someone was living there. Otherwise people would have said it was empty.”

“I know. There is one wild explanation I have but I can’t prove it right now.”

“Care to share.”

“What if everyone’s lying?”

“The whole building.”

“What if they are protecting the murderer. The person who actually lived at that place.”

“Yeah, it’s a crazy idea alright.”

Swapnil and Arpita reached the flat and started looking around. Arpita didn’t know what she was looking for but assumed that anything different from the last time would be good.

Swapnil moved around with fervour as if possessed.

“Yes.” Swapnil said and turned towards Arpita.

“It’s a photograph.” Arpita said disappointed.

“Yes. Now look at it.” Swapnil said shoving it in Arpita’s hand. It was a photograph of the victim.

“What’s the big deal about it? It’s the victim’s photo before he died.” Arpita said.

“Check the date.”

“It’s 2 days before his death.” Arpita said. Swapnil smiled like a maniac.

“Now, look at his physique.” Swapnil said.

“Oh my God!” Arpita said and dropped the photo.

Swapnil picked the photo and kept looking at it.

“Something crazy is going on. The guy who died can’t get this physically fit in 2 days. We are missing something crucial.” Swapnil said.

“What are you saying?”

“I am saying that I will solve this case.” Swapnil said.

A knock on the door woke up Graham. He moved shabbily towards the entrance. He opened the door and a look of shock filled his face.

“Happy Birthday Graham! You didn’t think we would forget your birthday.” A teenage girl squealed and entered the house, followed by half the building.

Graham looked at them grumpily. He hated socialising but didn’t want to avoid it either. He did wish he looked better so he could actually ask someone out. As far as he could see, building people were more courteous to him than caring.

He did hope that he would be able to change all that with the research he was working on. Hidden in his other room was his creation that he believed would change the way he lived.

“How’s your work coming along?” Jennifer asked. Graham’s heart elated. No one actually knew what the research was about but they still asked how it was moving. And Jennifer knowing about his research was a reward in it’s own.

“It’s going well. If everything goes as per plan, you will see a new me in two days.” Graham said excited.

“A new you.” Jennifer spoke, confused.

“Just wait for two days.” Graham smiled, while cursing himself slightly for saying more than he had meant to.

Jennifer smiled.

The party moved along smoothly and when it finally ended, Graham relaxed on his chair.

‘Two more days.’ Graham thought and went to his room for more tinkering.

“Hi Jennifer.” Swapnil said in a soft voice. Arpita sniggered behind him.

“H.. hi..” Jennifer said. Her voice was cracking and she was on the verge of tears.

“I know Jennifer that it is a weird case. You can tell me whatever the truth is and I will believe you.” Swapnil spoke in a soothing tone.

In the past three days, he has racked up every theory about what might have happened. Had the past version of Graham came and got killed by the present one? Were there twins? Or was it all a hoax to fox him. He had interrogated the whole building again but all of them had been silent on the matter, saying that they had not seen Graham for some time. Except for Jennifer, who had accidentally spilled that Graham’s birthday was two days before his death.

“I don’t know what happened.” Jennifer said trembling.

“But you know that something weird has happened. Right.” Arpita spoke from behind, in an even calmer voice.

Swapnil could smell victory but before he could prod Jennifer, Arpita put her hand on him and stopped him.

“You liked him, didn’t you?” Arpita said carefully.

Jennifer nodded and wiped tears from her eyes.

“Tell us the whole thing Jennifer. I know that you haven’t killed him. You have nothing to be afraid about.” Swapnil spoke taking cue from Arpita.

“We dated a few years ago. At that time, he was the jolliest person I knew. He was well liked in the whole building. No one actually knows how he earned money but most guessed that either he was wealthy or worked from home.

However, he was very conscious of how he looked and crazy about having the best looking body. When he started gaining weight, he became obsessed about improving his health. However, doctors said that it was a hormonal issue and while they can help him control the weight, he won’t ever be in the same shape as before.

He started having mood swings and became sad. He dumped me saying that he didn’t want to inflict himself upon me. I tried convincing him that it doesn’t matter but he won’t listen. We talked on and off and he hinted to me that he was working on a solution to get his old body back.” Jennifer spoke with intermittent of sobbing. Arpita put her hand on Jennifer’s shoulder and squeezed it.

“So, the body we found was…”

“…how Graham used to look. But I had seen him two days ago and he was not looking like this. He did mention he would have a new look in two days. I don’t know what he did but it was weird. The whole building is spooked by seeing the old Graham’s body. No one actually believes it’s Graham. They think he is hiding somewhere. Some think he was doing some ritual that failed.”

Swapnil and Arpita looked at each other. The story filled a lot of gaps but they still didn’t know how he died.

Jennifer’s phone vibrated on the table. She looked at the two, asking for permission to pick up the phone. Swapnil nodded. Jennifer looked at the message and squeaked. She dropped the phone and moved away from the table.

“What happened?” Swapnil asked urgently.

“The message is from Graham.”

Swapnil picked the phone and checked the mail.

Hey Jennifer.

If you are reading this mail, it means my experiment failed. It also means that my experiment succeeded.

I tried to create a perfect body all my life and then, it failed me due to faulty programming. Hormones, which were supposed to help me become better retaliated against me. However, I could never give up.

I started working with researchers across the world to create a tissue body for me that would be perfect in all ways. The trouble was how to shift my consciousness into the new body.

The challenge was big but I tried by best. No hard disk was big enough to store the whole consciousness. That’s when I got the idea that changed my life. I used a distributed network to disperse my consciousness.

Thus, it became a two step process. First, I removed myself from the old body. Second, to put it in the new body and reboot the body.

I had started the process of dispersion a few months ago. After the birthday, I put my new body in the house while removing the old body forever. The plan was to show you the new me, as a return gift to you.

Unfortunately, if you are getting this mail, it means I did the first step correctly but failed in the second step. Maybe the body didn’t reboot or it failed in some other way.

I loved you a lot Jenny and I’m sorry for failing to become better.

Goodbye!

Swapnil read the whole email and sat down. All three of them looked at each other. Jennifer’s hands were on her mouth and Arpita was looking from Jennifer to Swapnil to the phone.

“It can’t be possible.” Jennifer spoke first.

“I don’t know.” Swapnil said honestly. Of all the theories he had thought, the truth still beat him in weirdness.

“What is a distributed system?” Jennifer asked.

“Any system that shares resources. For example the internet is something like this. Theoretically, one can use the processing and storage power of multiple computers for a single purpose.” Arpita explained.

“Like creating a consciousness.” Jennifer asked.

“I don’t think that’s possible.” Swapnil said looking at Arpita.

The phone vibrated once again.

Hey Jennifer.

I am alive!

It’s incredible. I thought my consciousness would dissolve once the experiment has failed but I can feel everything.

I have finally found the perfect body. Now, we can be together forever.

I love you.

Graham.

Swapnil finished the sentence and a silence fell in the room.