Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

The Last One

Whenever I used to watch the tales of immortal beings — I used to get a thrill. Part of it was because how idiotic it all looked. Whenever people envisioned immortality, they would picture vampires or other similar creatures. Hideous, heinous and horrible. Either that, or it was pictured that it was happening through some scientific discovery that was only available to the rich. The third option of course was to be a god. All in all, being immortal was considered either a curse or a boon. It wasn’t an option available for humans.

The second reason for the thrill was because I’m immortal. I know… I know… You are surprised. I know what you people are thinking — “Come on Arvindraj. Surely you are joking. You don’t look over 25. How can you be immortal?”

But you see, that’s the thing. 25 is the peak human physical age. And I stopped at that point. My body doesn’t age and I simply regenerate any tissue or damage. Diseases are rare and infrequent. And most don’t affect my perfect immune system.

Now, I’m not here to brag about how awesome living forever is. I mean don’t get me wrong — it’s awesome — but there is more to this than just living forever. You have to watch your people go.

Saying this, Arvindraj clicked the camera and shut it down. He couldn’t carry on any further. He sat there for a few minutes thinking about the last time he had to let go. That was the most pain he had ever felt in his entire life. 500 years have passed since that incident and yet, he has not yet forgotten the day his species, sans him, ceased to exist.

Over the past 3500 years, he had lived through many catastrophes including the great floods and the bubonic plague. He had seen the people he love pass away. His friends, kids, their grandkids and so many more people. However, he had never anticipated in his dreams that he would ever see the end of human race.

“We seemed so durable.” Arvindraj said to himself before a flash light brought him to the reality.

“I’m sorry Mr. Human. Can you give me your autograph?” A small kid asked in a grating tone. The sound reminded him of turning wheels screeching on the road. His English was clearly broken and weak.

“Sure, kid. What’s your name?” Arvindraj asked the kid. He was around 3 feet tall, with three feet. One of the feet was basically a wheel that could balance on itself. There were twelve eyes that Arvindraj constituted as triple vision he had heard about recently. This kid could see more colors than Arvindraj could imagine. His hair were small tentacles that could be used for smelling and he had gotten one of his hand replaced by a mechanical arm.

‘Typical Homo Supreme kid.’ Arvindraj thought.

“My name is Kryznk.” The kid said. Three individuals were looking towards Arvindraj wondrously. Arvindraj assumed they were Kryznk’s parents. Arvindraj couldn’t distinguish between the parents as mother or father. He found it difficult to do with Homo Supreme. Especially since they had three sets of DNA, aside from the multiple machine parts.

Arvindraj wrote a few words in English and then in another language that he knew was Kryznk’s local tongue.

“You can speak this language.” Kryznk said awe-struck. Arvindraj had heard this tone several times. Most Homo Supreme people assumed that he was some prehistoric creature who would barely understand what they were saying. And while it was true that Homo Supremes were more intelligent due to their two brain structure, Arvindraj was no slouch. He had over the millennia learnt hundreds of languages and he could pick them up as quickly as any Homo Supreme. Besides, the fact that all Homo Supremes speak the same language gave Arvindraj more incentive to learn the language.

“Kryznk!” One of the parents’ whispered. Arvindraj was sure that the parent must have spoken more but it was difficult for Arvindraj to pick up the frequency. The kid however seemed to understand.

“I will go. Bye.” The kid said and left Arvindraj. Arvindraj looked around the room and checked the clock. He decided to call it a day. Arvindraj went to the reception area of the hotel where he was staying.

“Can you bring these items for me?” Arvindraj said giving the creature his list. This person had only three eyes and one of them was a compound eye and a second one was bionic.

The creature nodded. The kind of food Arvindraj needed was no longer easily available. Arvindraj knew that if he wasn’t on government payroll, he wouldn’t probably even be able to afford most of it. Thankfully, once Homo Supreme government realised that Arvindraj was immortal and the last of his species, they decided to keep him on their expense.

It was soon after the last human mother gave birth to a Homo Supreme baby with her husband, who was a homo supreme. Arvindraj had always thought that human race would end in a war. Instead, they were just assimilated into a superior race. It was no anti-climactic that Arvindraj could have never guessed it.

“Your food sir.” A person with tiny wings gave him the food and went away.

Arvindraj sat down and ate the food while looking at the itinerary for the next week. As part of the deal, Arvindraj had to attend 12 exhibitions every year where he was paraded along with several near-extinct species. This, along with weekly tests to see how he was immortal were the two conditions that helped him escape confinement.

‘With each Homo Supreme connected via hive mind, running away would have been futile anyways.’ Arvindraj thought to himself as he munched down on some chicken and rice.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Purgatory

Biswadip screamed and fainted.

“Finally! I have been waiting for you to be up for some time now.” A sweet voice spoke. It was a little high pitched but Biswadip couldn’t discern whether the voice was male or female.

Biswadip opened his eyes to a dim lighting.

“Thank God the lighting isn’t sharp. In all the movies, they show that people wake up to bright lights.” Biswadip blurted.

“Well. I guess you can thank the God for the idea. But I was the one who adjusted the light to your perfection. Along with the room decor, it took me almost 5 years of fine tuning.”

“Huh!” Biswadip finally was up. He looked at the room. It was his own room along with a few modifications. The things that needed fixing were fixed, there were a few things he had wanted to get added. Those were added.

“You like it?” The voice said excitedly. Biswadip couldn’t still find a source of the light.

“Where are you? Who are you?” Biswadip said confused.

“Oh! I am sorry.” The voice said and bubbles started to form infront of Biswadip which then translated into a cloud. The cloud started to take a human shape. Biswadip couldn’t recognise the person but it was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

“You are beautiful.” Biswadip said.

“Thank you. I was hoping to take a shape that is pleasing to you.”

“Taking a shape?”

“We don’t have a shape in general. However, we attempt to take a shape that is pleasing to the guest.”

“Guest?” Biswadip finally was up and looked around carefully. He realised that this was not his home.

“Oh yes. You have been our guest for the past 5 years. However, only now have you woken up.” The woman said smiling.

“What is going on?” Biswadip said panic rising in him. The heartbeat increased and he got up from the bed looking for a door.

“Oh you poor soul. Please let me show you a video.” The woman said and the wall in front of Biswadip turned into a giant television.

“Welcome to purgatory. You favorite place before you find out where your future lies.” The video started with a light blue screen and a deep voice.

“Purgatory?”

“We call it Limbo as well.” The woman suggested helpfully. The video had automatically stopped when Biswadip spoke and started again when the room became silent.

“You are here because you finished your life on Earth.” The video continued.

“I am dead.” Biswadip whispered. The woman nodded smiling.

“How?” Biswadip asked.

“Shh.. See the video.” The woman hushed Biswadip.

“This place is adjusted to your every need and wish. It is supposed to be your stay until you get your judgement. After that, you will be sent to heaven or hell as per the judgement. Hope you like the facilities. For any requests, just ask and Shaila would be at your service.”

“That’s me.” Shaila said smiling.

“How long have I been dead?” Biswadip asked.

“You have been here for the past 5 years. It takes different time for each person to wake up. Some take a few seconds, others more. There is a girl five cabins from here who is yet to wake up. She died almost 2000 years ago.”

“And how long before I get my results?” Biswadip felt weird asking about whether he would get heaven or hell but he didn’t even remember much as of now so this seemed the most prudent of questions.

“Oh! They will be here any time now.” Shaila said as the television flickered again.

“Hi Biswadip. Your results are decided. Please get ready for your travel.” The TV said and then closed.

“But I have just woken up. How did they it so fast?”

“Oh dear. You really didn’t think our service would be slow.” Shaila said and giggled.

“What do I do now?”

“You just have to cross that door. You will reach your destination.” Shaila said pointing towards a door.

“I don’t understand. If I had to spend only this much time here, why take so much effort on this room. Why are you here? What are the services for?” Biswadip asked confused.

“Because dear, it is up to you as to when go through that door. Today, tomorrow, next year. You can choose to stay here as long as you want. When you want to see your decision, you can go through the door.” Shaila said.

“Okay. But then, why would any evil person go through that door? If they know that they will go to hell.” Biswadip asked.

Shaila looked at her smugly.

“Most people believe that they will go to heaven. Besides, curiosity comes into play. Don’t you want to know what was the sum worth of your life? Finally, humans desire change. This place becomes boring for them — to the extent that they would rather go to hell than stay here.” Shaila said.

“Oh. Okay. Can I stay here for sometime?”

“As long as you want.” Shaila said.

“What has been the longest stay here?” Biswadip asked.

Shaila smiled.

“Goodbye. Let me know if you need me.”

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Lost and Fighting

The brightly lit room reminded Zeenat of the last time she had seen Rajendra. Three years had passed and as much as Zeenat missed him, she knew that it was for the better that the two of them were not together. She had been nothing but a rot in Rajendra’s life and the best thing he ever did was to throw her from his life. She did wish she could change but now, even she didn’t believe that she could change, let alone anyone else.

Zeenat picked up the medicines that were assigned to her and gulped them down in on go. She remembered the days when swallowing even one pill was impossible for her. Now, she was a pro. The medical facility had taught her this, if nothing else. This place where Rajendra had left her after the attack she had last time. When she had accidentally killed his mother. How could he forgive her for that?

She slowly moved back to the room assigned to her. For three years that has been her schedule and she had followed it diligently. If she couldn’t give Rajendra her mom back, the least she could do was penance.

“Hello. Rajendra here.” Rajendra picked up the phone. He was absent-mindedly working on some modifications on his earlier presentations. He wasn’t going to present them so he had to ensure that the person who was going to do it doesn’t make a mess of it.

“Hi Rajendra. Her reports are with me.” Doctor spoke from the other end. Rajendra immediately shot up.

“What does it say?” Rajendra said with a nervousness.

“I think it is time we shift her.”

“No doctor. I can’t handle that.” Rajendra said sweating. He had thought the doctor might say something like that. He had prepared his whole speech for the moment.

“Last three years have been hell for me Doc! I can’t increase the pain for myself. You will have to find some other arrangements.”

“But Rajendra, this is getting more expensive by the day. The alternate is going to be cost-effective.” Doctor tried explaining.

“Cost isn’t an issue doc. I can get the money. But I can’t… ever since mom died. You have to understand. She’s the one. Only one.” Rajendra said his voice cracking up.

“But…” Doctor said his voice faltering.

“Any other news. Any good news.” Rajendra said changing the topic.

“If you can take it as such. Her life expectancy has increased. If her care is taken properly, she should be able to live a long life. The medicines, while not able to treat her psychological disorder, reduce the physical burden on her body.”

“Hmm.” Rajendra grunted.

“Actually that’s why I was saying that expenses would increase more. And it seemed that shifting her would be a good option.”

“No doctor. Shifting her is not an option.”

“Ok. By the way, will you be coming today?”

“To see her?”

“Yes and take the report as well.”

“I will drop by the evening.”

“Alright. Bye.” The doctor kept the phone hoping to convince Rajendra in person. He then went to the room to check on Rajendra’s patient.

“How’s she?” Rajendra asked.

“Stable. Maybe someday you will have her back.” Doctor spoke. Rajendra smiled.

“If only I could get both of my women back in my life, it would be back to being perfect.” Rajendra said.

Doctor nodded unable to say anything. As a doctor, he had learned that sometimes people should be left with their hope, as impossible as it maybe.

“And you are still adamant about Zeenat?” Doctor asked.

Rajendra looked through the glass window longingly. Then he steeled himself visibly.

“Yes. That’s her place.”

“Alright.”

“Doctor. Can I hold my mom’s hand?” Rajendra pleaded.

The two entered the room they were standing in front of. Rajendra’s mother was attached to multiple tubes and machines. Rajendra held her hand gingerly as if trying to grab a hand made of sand.

“The tubes are mostly for feeding. Her recovery is almost complete. I don’t know what will happen after that. Coma is something even we doctors do not understand completely.” Doctor repeated this line for the hundredth time.

Rajendra kissed his mother’s hand. He could still vividly remember the day Zeenat had that attack. When Zeenat had blacked out and his mother had tried to save his wife. While she was able to save Zeenat, Rajendra lost both of them that day. Her mother almost died and Zeenat went into a complete psychotic breakdown. All she would utter is that she killed Rajendra’s mom.

“I still feel Zeenat should be here. We can take better care of her. And how long will you work from home Rajendra?” The doctor said.

“Home is my work place now Doc. I won’t leave Zeenat for a second. She’s the love of my life and my mother didn’t save her so that Zeenat spends her whole life in the hospital.”

“She doesn’t even realise that she’s at home.” Doctor insisted.

“No she doesn’t. But the day she wakes up from whatever it is, I’ll be there, holding her.” Rajendra said with finality.

Doctor sighed.

“I am getting one more nurse assigned to your house.”

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Tree of Life

The time was moving slowly but it didn’t mean anything to Juniper. She had seen time since ages and its pace didn’t affect her anymore. In fact, she had become used to the current pace and hoped that it remained this way for some time. After all, she could finally understand humans a bit due to this pace.

Humans were fast creatures. By the time Juniper understood something about a human, the person would change both physically and mentally. Fickle minded and fragile, that’s how Juniper had perceived humans since ever. This change of pace had helped her look at humans in a better light. Apparently, some of them can slow down and remain calm. Juniper kept looking at the individual sitting under her branches.

Rakesh had lost all sense of time. He didn’t know when was the last time he had left this place. He was tired of the world and decided to find its meaning before dying. Now, neither was happening. For some reason, his body was sustaining itself without any food and water. He wasn’t even getting tired. Just in a void! The only solace was the tree which was giving him company for the whole duration. He had not yet started talking to the tree, thank God for that. However, the tree was a companion in his journey to the truth. However long it took.

Juniper turned her branches slightly to get more sun. It helped her live. She did not understand how it worked but for some reason she felt tired without the sun. The human needed nothing. Earlier, Juniper used to think that humans needed to move so much to survive. She had seen glimpses of humans eating plants and other animals but this individual defied her understanding. ‘Was he different?’ Juniper thought. Maybe this wasn’t human but some new being different from humans. That made sense. Nevertheless, she was fine with trying to comprehend this being as well.

Rakesh had a million thoughts in his mind. He had thought meditating was going to be easy. Emptying the mind of all thoughts and focusing on a single point. Ha! He might as well start flying. Rakesh hasn’t opened his eyes for so long, sitting in the same position, but nothing close to an empty mind was happening. If anything, his mind was fuller. His imagination had start forming ideas and thoughts that he didn’t even understand. Ideas of humans flying in giant boxes, moving around in metal containers, and so many of them. When Rakesh had left his tribe to find the truth, he had known only 15 of his mind. 8 in his group and 7 in another tribe. He had expected more in other places but the idea that the whole world is filled with humans was absurd. Rakesh knew his mind had turned to mush. When he thought of logical problems like communication and travel, his mind was people talking on devices that aren’t connected to anything. Rakesh then tried to shut his mind. He wanted the answers to his questions and not succumb to madness.

Juniper had over the years formed a circle around the individual. She started doing it when he began to glow. It made sense as he radiated some thing as the sun. This meant she was never tired. This also protected him from other creatures, curious creatures who were fast, too fast for Juniper to react. The energy also showed her images that reflected some of the things she could glimpse in reality. The images were slower and helped her understand what truly was happening. Juniper didn’t understand how that was happening but she took it for granted now, as she took her own life.

Rakesh felt a sudden charge of energy. He didn’t know what it meant. He was tempted to open his eyes to see but the feeling lasted just a second. He decided that it was nothing. And then his mind went blank.

Juniper was getting attracted to the energy that the human was glowing with. She tried to touch him with her branch. A shock went through her and she went numb. Before her slow senses could comprehend, flashes of signals went through her. She began to grow faster and before she could stop or understand, the human was gone. She had devoured him. She felt a rush of guilt when a voice came from within.

“Are you God?”

Juniper couldn’t recognise the voice, never heard him before. However, she recognised the energy.

“No. What’s happening?” Juniper said fear pervading her voice.

Rakesh’s mind opened to a vastness. He couldn’t feel his body but instead felt infinite. He felt another presence too. Afraid but giant.

“Let’s find out.” Rakesh said and searched for the second presence.

Juniper felt his touch. It was soft and soon the two consciousnesses started to move around each other. Like a binary star, they moved and interacted. Years of knowledge passed, centuries of communication happened, all in a single moment.

Finally, Rakesh opened his eyes and Juniper could see everything.

“Are you sure this is the place?”

“Yes. This is the tree of life. It is said that this point here is the origin of life.” The girl replied.

“You really don’t think life began with this.” The boy laughed.

“You remember the earthquake 5 years ago. This tree was at the centre of it. And yet, everything five kms of here is like garden of Eden. And it’s growing. There is something incredible about this tree.” The girl said.

“Or something sinister.” The boy said shivering.

“Either ways, I’m going to find the truth.”

Juniper and Rakesh looked at the two individuals.

“5 years since we met.” Juniper sent to Rakesh.

Rakesh sent back warmth. He had spent more than 15000 years in search of the Truth. He found it not alone but with someone to share the knowledge as well. Without Juniper, his journey would have been a futile one.

“Hopefully, these two find the truth as well. Together.” Rakesh shared with Juniper.

“And hopefully, faster than us.” Juniper teased. Rakesh laughed and the two consciousnesses moved faster around each other.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Birth of a Master

The night was getting dark enough to hide even the darkest secrets of men. Satbir hoped that his secret was also safe in this night. He turned the corner and killed the first guy he saw. Then he moved to kill the second one. He felt lucky tonight that people were wandering alone in the night.

“Maybe it’s just God’s grace on me.” Satbir thought as he slit the throat of a woman with a baby. The baby started to bawl and by the time Satbir was done with the baby, lights begun to show from some of the windows.

“Spoke too soon of God’s grace.” Satbir said laughing and ran towards his shelter. He counted his kills in his head. Thirty-seven killed in which one was a baby and another was a child. This would mean that in all, the count would be 40. A child was counted as two men and a baby as three.

‘It is crueller to kill an infant than a man or a woman.’ He remembered his master’s words. The figure of 40 was respectable score but Satbir had hoped to touch the magical figure of 50. That was one more than what his master had achieved in one night for his initiation ceremony. Forty was decent enough to put him in top 5.

The rules of initiation are simple but following them without falling to temptation is hard. To become a member, one has to kill at least ten people in one night. One can’t be caught, seen or found out doing this. A person can’t go in any building, house or public, to complete the task. Only people walking on the road can be killed. This brought a lot of uncertainty in the system. However, the individual to be initiated was allowed to decide a date himself or herself. This helped counter the luck and many like Satbir even decide on a path and pattern to follow for maximum kills.

“Finally, I will be a member of the most prestigious clan in the world. I’ll be respected and revered by all.” Satbir thought to himself and went to bed still wishing that he had touch fifty. The highest ever was achieved by the founder — 50 in one night. In fact, if his master had touched 50, he would have become the head of the clan that day itself. Now, he was in line and might not even make it.

His master, often called the lenient one had taught him everything he knew. He was like a father to Satbir and he also treated Satbir like a son. Satbir didn’t know why his master was called the lenient. His master’s hard eyes and strong sense of justice both scared him and awed him. If his master thought something right, he would not stop for any emotion or any other reason. He almost bordered on cruel and with Satbir, it was more so.

“I’m not impressed.” Satbir’s master said. Satbir knew as much. His master had hoped that Satbir would surpass him.

“I’m sorry master.” Satbir said meekly.

“Nevertheless, it is a good score. Satbir can now be inducted on the path of the Kray.” Juman said. He was his master’s faithful advisor.

“What is the path of the Kray?” Satbir asked. His master ignored him.

“Do you think he can follow on the footsteps of great Jun-kray?” His master said to Juman.

“Oh yes, O lenient one.” Juman said with a smirk on his face.

Satbir looked at his master who had winced at the Juman’s address. Satbir knew that his master didn’t like being called that. However, it stuck and now nothing could change that. Satbir did wonder why his master was called so. Satbir had never felt any leniency from his master. If anything, he was harder than other teachers.

“Go now Satbir. Your path will be decided tomorrow. If it’s the path of Kray, we have a lot to do.”

“What is the path of Kray?” Satbir asked.

“As you know, there are leaders and masters. Leaders decide the direction that our clan would take and masters decide the kind of people our clan would have. The path of Kray is a unique training that makes you both. Usually, no one takes this path as it is harder than either. Named after the great Jun-Kray, who was both a master and a leader.” Juman explained in his drawling voice.

“Oh! Alright. Is that the path you took master?” Satbir asked.

“No! That wasn’t my path to take.” His master said in a tired voice. “Now go.”

— —

“You should tell him.” Juman said.

“No. I can’t.”

“He should know why you aren’t a leader. Why you chose the path of a master despite wanting to be a leader all your life.” Juman insisted.

“No one needs to know why I made my decisions. They are my decisions.”

“He doesn’t deserve to know why you stopped?” Juman exclaimed.

“What will I tell him Juman? That his parents were my 48th and 49th kill. That he was supposed to be my 50th but I couldn’t. Should I tell him that he’s the reason I stopped killing. I became a master instead of a leader because of him.”

“But he might be inspired by you.”

“Inspired to not kill. I don’t want that. I want him to become a leader. I want him to become the greatest. Besides, if we tell him, either he would be angry and feel betrayed that I killed his parents or he might follow my path and not kill anymore. No, Juman! This is for the best. Let me be.”

“Alright, O lenient one!” Juman said.

“You started this nickname, didn’t you?”

Juman smirked.