Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Apologies

“Umm.. I am sorry. I am SORRY.. I AM SORRY!!! THAT’S ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY.” She didn’t realise she was screaming by the end of the sentence. Sudhanshu’s ears were realising it too much.

“I just slept with a girl. It’s not like I fell in love with her. It was just physical.” Sudhanshu said casually. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t care about Pallavi’s overreaction.

“We are in a relationship. How could you do this? How can you be nonchalant about it?” Pallavi said and threw her phone towards him. He grabbed it and kept it on the bed.

“Our relationship is still as it was. I still love you and care about you. This is just plain sex with a skank because I was missing sex with you. I did this because I was missing you.”

Pallavi burst into tears. She felt a strong pain in her heart that started to flow through her body. She was unable to breathe properly and was gasping between sobs.

“Sit down Pallavi.” Sudhanshu said and Pallavi obeyed. She didn’t think she could handle the stress standing.

“What is happening?” Pallavi said looking from Sudhanshu to the girl lying naked in the bed.

The girl was looking at the whole scene with a smirk on her face.

“It’s nothing Pallavi. You are taking it all very seriously.” Sudhanshu said and got out of the bed. He wasn’t wearing anything but didn’t care about it in the least.

“Who are you?” Pallavi asked the girl.

“Hi. My name is Pallavi as well. I work in his office in a different department. He talks about you a lot. It’s so good to finally meet you.” The girl said extending her arm towards Pallavi. Her blanket slipped a bit showing that she wasn’t wearing anything. Pallavi felt like she was punched.

“You two were really doing it.” Pallavi said. She realised that until she had seen both of them naked, she was still harbouring some hope that this was a prank.

“Of course. Sudhanshu is extremely good. And nice to me too. You are a lucky woman Pallavi.” The girl said.

“How long have you two been having sex?” Pallavi asked.

“A few months ago. Only when you are not in the city and I miss you.” Sudhanshu said drinking a gulp of water from the glass. He poured some water and gave it to Pallavi as well.

Pallavi took a deep breath finally. It was alright, she said to herself. Only a few months. In their 5 years of marriage, these few months are just a blip. This was just a phase that they would survive. Pallavi looked at Sudhanshu who was smiling at her. She turned to the girl, the other Pallavi who was beaming at her as if meeting a star.

“Oh don’t mind me. I have just heard so much about it. I have wanted to meet you for some time now.” The girl said and hugged Pallavi. She couldn’t understand what was happening. When she had entered her home, she didn’t imagine being hugged by a naked girl who was sleeping with her husband.

“You should leave now. Me and Pallavi will sort this out. Let’s meet after that.” Sudhanshu said to the girl. She got dressed, kissed Sudhanshu on the cheek, gave Pallavi another hug and left.

“This is not acceptable Sudhanshu. You can’t cheat on you. You can’t be this casual about it.”

“I wasn’t cheating on you. I was missing you.”

“How would you feel if I did the same on my trips?” Pallavi asked him looking at him directly.

“Like when you slept with my friend just before the wedding five years ago.” Sudhanshu said knocking the wind out of Pallavi.

“You knew about that.”

“Not then. I found out about it only a year later. He told me once drunk. Apologised and what not. Said to me that he didn’t know we were engaged.” Sudhanshu said with an old bitterness entering his tone.

Pallavi looked at him, heart broken.

“Why didn’t you confront me?”

“I love you Pallavi. I kept hoping that you would tell me some day. That someday, we would again be in a monogamous relationship.”

“I have never cheated on you since we have been married. It was a stupid mistake. I got scared by the prospect of marriage. Trust me.”

Sudhanshu smiled. “It’s alright. Maybe we can start over now. Honestly, I have only ever wanted to sleep with you anyways.”

“Really.” Pallavi looked at him smiling hopefully.

“Yeah. That’s why I was so happy that her name was Pallavi. It was so weird calling other girls Pallavi. They don’t like it one bit.” Sudhanshu said grinning.

“Other girls. How many?” Pallavi asked crestfallen. Sudhanshu started to laugh.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

The Pause

“I love you.” Shubham said, his heartbeat a tad higher, his voice an octave lower in his attempt to sound serious and his palms sweaty. He looked at Anamika hoping to hear the same words back.

Time stood still.

“Not now.” Shubham groaned.

It was a scene that Shubham had seen a thousand times but it still managed to annoy him to no end.

“What do you want?” Shubham said, repeating a line that he had said over and over again expecting a different answer every time.

“Why, I want what I always want — to kill you.” The voice said. Shubham had heard this line many times. Still, he felt crestfallen to hear this line again, especially when he was at the cusp of something so important. Yet, he braced himself for the fight.

The voice gained a body and wings slashed across Shubham’s cheek. A thin line of blood came through the cut before it healed, leaving a trace on his cheek. Shubham wiped out the trace and looked at the white beast in front of him.

Shubham remembered the first time he had felt the time stop. He hadn’t understood what had happened for the first two seconds. On the third second, the whole scene changed and he was on an empty platform. He had heard a flap of wings from afar and had looked towards the horizon with anxiety and excitement mixed. When Shubham had first time seen it, he had thought it was an angel. That mistake had almost cost him his life.

Now, Shubham knew better and was almost always prepared with a few small weapons and one large knife in his back pocket. He brought out the long knife and without even looking at the creature directly slashed. The screech told him that he had aimed true. However, when Shubham looked the creature wasn’t dead. Only a cut on it’s wing. That, however was enough to put it on the ground where Shubham had the advantage.

Shubham ran towards the creature, his knife in stabbing position. The creature shifted slightly and a shine came from its hand that turned out to be a blade. It was a tiny blade but was enough to cut through Shubham’s shirt. Luckily, Shubham had turned at the right moment and the side of the shirt was torn along with his ribs.

Shubham gasped and fell. His momentum created some distance between him and the creature and in that moment, he hoped that he would heal. His knife was lying five feet away from him and he started moving towards it. The creature laughed.

“It is time, Shubham Meena. I finally kill you today.” The creature said in a grating voice. He moved slowly towards Shubham with a knife in his hand.

“Not yet whitey.” Shubham said and crawled towards his knife. He also used his right hand to pick out a smaller knife that he held in his front pocket. The creature fell for the ruse and jumped on Shubham. In a split second, Shubham turned to avoid the creature’s knife and opened the blade of his knife towards the creature’s bosom.

The white creature bawled and tried to run away. The first few times, Shubham had let the creature run away but now, it was just a habit. Like a practiced butcher, Shubham cut through the creature’s wings, made incisions throughout its body and finally beheaded it. In a few minutes the creature was lying on the floor with white creamy blood pouring out of its body.

A lot of Shubham’s life was punctuated by a pause that lasted a fight with this creature. Shubham didn’t know if this was the same creature reincarnate or if they were bred somewhere. Shubham also didn’t understand why he didn’t age or how he healed so quickly in this world. He had once gained his severed arm in this world. But he had learned that he took back the artefacts of the injuries to his world with him. The spliced shirt would remain so and so will any injury that doesn’t heal before he goes back. Due to this, Shubham usually took his time in killing the creature so that his injuries heal in this world.

Finally, he felt a tug in his body and he saw the body of the creature dissolve. It was time to go back.

It was at this moment that Shubham remembered where he had left half an hour ago. Suddenly, he was afraid.

Time started to move again. Anamika was looking at him weirdly as if trying to find the truth in his eyes. Shubham tried to hide the cut on the shirt and hoped there were no other visible signs of his battle. Finally, Anamika smiled.

“I love you too.” Anamika said. Shubham let out a sigh and hugged her. Shubham smiled and kissed Anamika jumping into the bliss before time would stop again.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Lapse

It was a momentarily lapse in judgement but it was enough for the whole life to go on a spiral for Raj.

The car swirled wildly as he tried to save the dog that had come in front of the car — a dog he didn’t see earlier because he was looking at the message he had just received.

In what seemed like a lifetime of fifteen seconds, Raj was sitting in car that was standing still but looking the other way. He tried to remember what had happened in the past few seconds.

The dog had come from the divider on to the road barking at the car. Unfortunately, Raj saw this only at the last second and swirled to the left. The car, which was going at over 50 mph was out of Raj’s control and edged towards the end of the road. Only then Raj saw that the road ended in a deep ditch. Raj pulled the steering with all his force and the car moved towards the divider like a drunkard.

Raj realised that even in this state of panic, he was able to keep his cool enough to make the right choice. Either that or he was lucky that this choice turned out to be right. Instead of turning to left again, Raj swirled the car even more and the car twisted a whole 180 degree and came to a standstill.

The dog was looking at the car uncertainly. Raj kept sitting in the car for a few minutes. It was an empty road. If something had happened, no one would have been there to save him. Luckily, this also meant that no other car bumped into him while he was in this frenzy. That would have been lethal.

He turned the car slowly and was now driving at 20 mph. His heart rate was higher than he had ever experienced. But it was all fine.

At least that’s how he liked to remember the story. Even though the slight blood on the tyres was a bit difficult to fit in this story. And so was the fact that sometimes he had nightmares where the dog would turn into a 5-year old kid.

But in his story, it was all fine.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

World War III

The world was breaking and there wasn’t she couldn’t do everything about it. The pain of incompetence was too much for her to handle.

“Should I just end the pain?” She asked herself.

“NO!” A loud voice boomed in her head. Mahevash looked around bewildered. She couldn’t see anyone and assumed that the pain was getting to her. Mahevash started the procedure for the complete annihilation.

“STOP!” The voice again shouted, scaring Mahevash into stopping the procedure.

“Who are you?” Mahevash shouted. She got no reply. She looked around. The trees were slowly melting. The buildings were crumbling unto themselves. The sea was almost black towards the shore and Mahevash knew that the situation farther away won’t be much better. The Earth was done for.

The growing environmental problems had suffocated her for so long and then the nuclear war had reduced whatever hope Mahevash had to zero.

The only question was, whether the death should be slow and painful or should the pain be eased.

“This pain is terrible.” Mahevash shouted to no one. There was no one to hear her.

“It will pass.” A soothing voice came.

“How?” Mahevash pleaded.

“By more pain.” The voice chuckled.

“It’s not funny.” Mahevash cried still looking around. “Who are you? Where are you?”

“I’m coming. I’ll cause you great pain but I will help you live. I’m sorry.” The voice said trailing off.

Mahevash didn’t understand anything that was happening. She looked around at all the destruction. She had loved humans. They had caused her immense pain but she hadn’t wanted this to happen. All of them dead. She just wanted to know what happened.

“I’m here.” The voice came. Mahevash looked far and saw him coming. A huge meteor was hurtling towards her. Handsome and young, the meteor had a sheepish smile on his face.

“You caused all this.” Mahevash said angrily.

“Not directly. But I guess I am going to the cause of great pain to you.”

“I didn’t want any of this.” Mahevash said helplessly.

“I can’t change the fate. Time for you to start afresh.” The voice said as the meteor came close.

“Not again.” Mahevash replied as she felt the impact on her. The pain was excruciating. However, she knew, like last time, it would stop soon and she would have to start all over again.

“And the biggest news today is that US and China have declared war. Since it has been confirmed by NASA that the meteor will soon destroy humanity, all nations have openly started to fight. US and China are the last two countries to enter this World War III.

The end is near. Pray to your God. Thank you.”

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

An Interesting Call

“Hey.” Purushottam heard the soft voice from the other end.

“Hello.” Purushottam said tentatively. He didn’t recognize the voice but the kind of days he was having, he was sure it was a prank call or sale call.

“How are you?” The voice asked. It was slightly husky voice with care seeping through the phone. Purushottam was thoroughly confused.

“I am good. I’m sorry but I didn’t recognize your voice.” Purushottam said.

“It’s alright. I’m glad that you are good.” Saying this, the voice cut the phone. Purushottam couldn’t understand what had just happened. He was sure that he had heard the voice before. Her voice wasn’t something you would forget easily. However, he couldn’t put a face to it.

Soon this became a daily pattern. He would get a call every day in the morning almost like an alarm. She would ask him how he was doing and then cut the phone. Some days the conversation would be longer when Purushottam had had bad days. Other times, it would just be a few seconds. Purushottam had tried various methods to trace the call, starting from Truecaller. The app showed the name Neha but he couldn’t remember any Neha with that voice. Even then, he confronted her with the name but didn’t find any answer. Even then, he started calling her Neha anyways and she didn’t object to it.

“Listen Neha. I love talking to you but you have to tell me who are you?” One day Purushottam lost his temper. He was having a particularly bad day and the last thing he wanted was to shout at one person who asked his well being but it wasn’t so.

“As long as you are fine, how does it matter?” Neha asked.

“It matters because I am not fine. I am talking to someone whom I don’t know. Please tell me who you are or at least something to placate my doubts. Please.” He heard an audible sigh.

“I’m your guardian angel Purushottam. When you tried to commit suicide, I lost my angel privileges. I can’t look after you directly through the heavens. Hence the call.”

“Suicide? I have never tried to commit suicide.” Purushottam said flabbergasted.

“It’s alright Purushottam. I know it must be shameful for you to remember that but don’t worry. I know about that anyways. I just want you to know that I am here to help you, care after you and support you in any way.” Neha urged. Her voice had a ring of earnestness in it that somehow convinced Purushottam that it wasn’t a prank call. This opened two possibilities. Either Neha was a mental patient or she was telling the truth. He didn’t know which was more frightening.

“If you are an angel, where do you live?”

“In the heavens of course.”

“And they have good communication systems set up there to talk to humans.”

“I had to get one just for this. Though there are other angels like me. Suicide cases are complicated, especially if they fail. However, few angels actually try to communicate like me.” Neha explained in detail.

“But Neha… What is your name Neha?”

“I have no name in English language. Neha is fine.”

“Ok. Neha. I have never tried to commit suicide. As shitty as my life sounds, it isn’t that worthless. Honestly, I think there is some misunderstanding. I don’t think I’m the Purushottam you are looking for.” Purushottam said. There was no voice from the other end. He heard a few taps and whispers but couldn’t make out anything out of it.

“Oh! I’m sorry. Wrong number.” Neha said in a hushed voice. Purushottam could hear her blushing.

“So who’s my angel?”

“Your angel is looking upon you. Bye.” Neha said and cut the phone. Purushottam looked at the headset muddled. He was glad that there was a guardian angel looking after him but a little saddened that he wouldn’t get to talk to Neha anymore.

“I just hope the other Purushottam is still alive.” Purushottam chuckled.