Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Out of Depression

Apurv picked up a brick and slammed it against the sword that was swung against it. The force of the sword broke the sword and the upper half of the brick crumbled. Apurv went with the flow and turned in a circle and the next swing of the brick had its target as the swordsman’s face. The man holding the broken sword screamed and moved to one side. He was on the floor bleeding. However, Apurv did not have the time to look at the man. Apurv took another turn and threw the half broken brick at the man holding the gun a few feet away from him.

All this happened in a span of 3 seconds. The most adrenaline filled 3 seconds of Apurv’s life.

— —

“You really thought that I can’t eat the whole pizza?” Jason said stuffing the last piece in his mouth.

“The question wasn’t whether you could but whether you should.” Neha said yawning and looking at the watch. It was late and she was already done with the food almost an hour ago. Eating one pasta is not that hard a job. At least in comparison to a whole pizza.

“Whatever. I win. Now, we will go to the movie.” Jason said and immediately took out the phone to book it.

“Come on! At least book it tomorrow. Let’s go now. I am tired.” Neha said and got up. It was almost 12 night and the pizzeria owner was looking at them longingly. He desperately wanted them to leave.

Jason looked at her, stuck out his tongue and continued tapping on the phone.

“I am booking a cab doofus.”

“Oh Ok.” Neha said meekly.

“There are no damn cabs in the nearby area. Oh wait. There is one. Booked. Will take around 15 minutes though.”

“It’s alright. We can wait outside till then.” Neha said.

— —

It is never a good sight to see drunk men on the road. Unfortunately, this is a sight seen too often in the city. Why people drink so much and then roam around is something Apurv never understood. It had been almost 10 months now since he was driving the cab.

Brought up in a rich family, Apurv never felt the need to earn money. Bored to his wit’s end, he ended up having depression attacks. He tried gymming, Krav Maga, sports, arts and what not. Nothing worked. He wanted to do something, anything to get away from this. His solution, become a driver. No one understood it. Neither his parents, nor friends nor he himself. But he would drive the car on weekends and that gave him a thrill that he did not understand. Despite the fact that overall there is little action but the conversations with the customers somehow gave him a kind of peace that helped him with his solitude and depression bouts.

Apurv used to drive from around 12 in the afternoon to 8 or 9 in the evening. Then he would meet his friends for the nightlife of the city. After the weekends were over, he would go to his father’s business and for once he was enjoying the work at office too. His parent’s did not understand how it was working but they were happy that their son was happy. They had almost lost their son to depression and now he was fighting it. Fear of someone finding out the truth about him and him getting kidnapped still gripped them on weekends when he was away but they were learning to live with it.

Apurv had taken an early break from the partying today and had dropped his girlfriend home while going home when he switched on the cab service just to see if someone needed his help. The service blinked about 15 minutes from where he was. It was a little out of his way but he decided to take the detour anyway.

Apurv reached the place in only 10 minutes and the scene there shook him to the core.

— —

Neha and Jason walked hand in hand a little outside the pizzeria. 
“7 more minutes left.” Jason said as he gave a soft kiss on Neha’s lips.
Neha looked at him and melted in his arms.

“Give us a few kisses too bitch.” A man said in a slurred voice. Neha and Jason turned and saw three men walking towards them.

“They are drunk.” Jason whispered to Neha and the two started to move away from the three people.

One of them took out a gun and another took out a big knife.

“Don’t run sweetheart. We are not going to hurt you.” The third one said.

Even amidst the stress, Neha could only think — “Why does this man have a sword?”

— —

Two guys were in a scuffle. One of the two had a knife and he was almost at the other guy’s throat. Apurv swerved the car towards them. They immediately broke up. It was then that Apurv saw the girl.

Her clothes half torn, two guys were holding her. She was trying her best to fight the two but was failing miserably. Even from the distance, Apurv could see tears flowing from her eyes.

Apurv immediately came out of the car and moved towards the girl. He shouted at the two people and got their attention for the first time. One immediately took out a gun and took a shot at Apurv. Apurv barely escaped and that too probably because the guy seemed drunk. Apurv was panicking. He did not know what to do but he knew he had to do something. He picked a brick and threw it at the guy holding the gun. The guy moved but the brick hit him and he fell down. The girl took advantage off the commotion and ran towards one of the two guys Apurv had initially seen. His boyfriend maybe, Apurv’s mind registered.

Apurv turned towards the man with the sword. Why he had a sword, Apurv thought. 
Before Apurv could reach the man, pain ran through his body. His hand moved towards his back. A huge knife was stuck on his waist. He turned and saw a man grinning.

“I should have hit you with the car.” Apurv said and gave the grinning man a punch. Apurv’s old strength and technique was still with him. The man was on the ground in one punch. Apurv turned towards the other two.

The man with the sword was coming towards him.

Apurv picked up a brick and slammed it against the sword that was swung against it. The force of the sword broke the sword and the upper half of the brick crumbled. Apurv went with the flow and turned in a circle and the next swing of the brick had its target as the swordsman’s face. The man holding the broken sword screamed and moved to one side. He was on the floor bleeding. However, Apurv did not have the time to look at the man. Apurv took another turn and threw the half broken brick at the man holding the gun a few feet away from him.

All this happened in a span of 3 seconds. The most adrenaline filled 3 seconds of Apurv’s life.

— —

Over a year had passed since that day. Apurv did not change his habits much. The only shift was that now, he would start his cab around 11 and till 5 in the morning on the weekends. His outlook however had changed completely.

He had survived that night, but barely. Ever since then, he had decided to become stronger and understand the criminals more. He became obsessed with how the minds of the criminals were working. He did not have bouts of depression anymore. In a way, his life didn’t change but the way he looked at life changed completely.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

The New Marriage Counselling Method

“Ok. So let me go through this again. You killed him because he wore the wrong color of shirt?” Her lawyer asked her in disbelief.

“Umm.. Is it that unusual? I mean, have you seen the color. It looked horrible on him and he wanted to go out wearing that. I couldn’t have let him do that. What would the world think of him?”

“You could have asked him to change the shirt.”

“There was no time. He was almost through the door. It was lucky that I had the gun close by.” She said nodding to herself.

Fifth case in a week. Vikalp thought to himself and took a sip of water and checked his phone. His wife had sent a message to come home early. He wanted to say he was pleased seeing the increased number of cases he handled but his world view had gone so bleak that he almost wished he would get a heart attack.

Seventy-two years old, Vikalp was 45 when the company Infinite Life succeeded. For years there were rumors that death could be cheated and UMAR worked on this secretly. The results were less than targeted but way more than ever expected. Suddenly, there were two types of dying — Natural and Unnatural. Infinite Life’s program U.M.A.R. (Unnatural Mortality Always Removed) was able to create a serum and procedure that could restore a human body to its original shape after any unnatural death. This included car accidents, gun shots and even some diseases.

The only cause of deaths remaining were diseases like cancer, heart attacks or brain aneurysms. Some diseases like AIDS were still tricky as they affected human body in a different manner. Due to this, even if a person was raised back (now an official term), he would still have the disease and would die promptly.

Other than that, people easily lived till 100. In fact, at 72, Vikalp was still considered in middle age instead of old. The leading cause of death was now old age which came around 95. The process wasn’t cheap but very affordable by standards. Any middle class family could afford the procedure at least once a year. In fact, the new generation didn’t even understand the concept of unnatural death. Now, you weren’t dying because of a disease but because you were poor.

“Do you think he will file for divorce once he wakes up?” The woman in front of Vikalp asked him.

“I am not sure. He does have the right to do that. However, if you can make him understand that it was for his own good, he might accept it.” Vikalp explained it to her.

“Anyways, it is not a big enough reason for divorce if this was a one off incident.” Vikalp said looking at her sharply.

She was biting her lip. Not a good sign.

“How many times?”

“Not much, a couple of times before.”

“And has he shot you?”

“No.” The woman said.

This was another interesting turn of events due to this invention. Gun shootings went very high in the world in general. Suddenly, shooting someone became equivalent of a slap — especially for the people who could afford it. No, not a slap — more like a car accident. When it happened, no one felt very guilty but simply gave the person his insurance number.

Insurance companies of course started covering the damage. It was a money making opportunity. The laws too changed. Where once a murder put a person in jail forever — now, it was only if the other person reported that the case was event started. The punishments were also mostly monetary compensation with sometimes a jail of a few weeks.

“I will see what can be done.” Vikalp finally said to the woman and she left satisfied.

The most unexpected development to Vikalp was the increase in domestic shootings. It was dramatic and highly skewed. Overall, men were more prone to shooting than woman but in a domestic setting, women shot men far more than men shot women. And the reasons were also not due to some repressed anger — at least not on the surface. Most women loved their husbands and shot them for their own good — even the husbands accepted that. Vikalp didn’t understand why this was happening — were the women jumping to the most extreme measure immediately or was it some old suppression that was unwinding itself.

Whatever be the reason — his most cases nowadays were women coming to inform him that they have shot their husbands because they wore a shirt they didn’t like, ate unhealthy food or were watching too much sports and not spending enough time with the kids.

“Sigh! Wish people were less violent.” Vikalp finally decided that he had had enough for the day. He wanted to get home, rest a bit and watch the game.

Vikalp reached home and sank in the sofa.

“The world is going nuts honey. I am telling you, it is a good thing that we are from a different generation.”

“You didn’t say that when Joey had the accident.” His wife said smiling.

“Hmphh.. That is different. He had an accident. Now, people have just become more violent because they can and for flimsical of reasons.”

“Anyways, I have made some chicken today, your favorite. And talk to Joey! It is good to talk to your son sometimes you know.”

“I did talk to him last week. He is doing fine. Look, he event sent me this.” Vikalp said showing his wife Jennifer the new watch.

“Ahh yes. He mentioned. It is beautiful.” Jennifer said smiling. “He also sent me this necklace.”

“Amazing that kid is. I don’t know how he turned out so normal in this kind of world.”

“Well he had amazing parents. His mom and dad who found each other and then raised him so well.” Jennifer said smiling some more at Vikalp.

“True. Although it was more you than me to be honest.” Vikalp said smiling back.

The two started to eat the dinner. Jennifer gave Vikalp a few furtive glances tracing her hand on her new necklace.

“Listen! after the dinner, I will watch the game from afternoon. I have managed to not know the results. Shut down the data on my phone and everything. Couldn’t believe it was possible but I did it.” Vikalp said with a glint in his eyes after the dinner was over.

“Oh yes! Great work.” Jennifer said her smile drooping.

“You don’t have to watch the match with me love.” Vikalp said understandingly.

“No. Its fine. I will.. Its fine.” Jennifer said.

“I have to see the match love. You know that.” Vikalp said and moved towards the television.

“Yes! We won. We won.” Vikalp said loudly.

It just crossed 12 when the game ended. Jennifer came in the room from the bedroom.

“Oh shit! Did I wake you up honey?” Vikalp said

“No, I was up. Waiting.” Jennifer said angrily.

“Waiting, for what?” Vikalp asked.

Jennifer didn’t say anything. She raised her hand. She was holding a gun and before Vikalp could comprehend, she shot him in the chest. Pain flared up in Vikalp’s chest and then in his whole body.

“What? What? Why?” Vikalp asked. He felt betrayed. Accusing all those women when his own wife shot him for watching a match.

Jennifer was already calling the ambulance. She kept the phone down, came towards Vikalp and sat down face to face in front of him.

“Yesterday was 29th July.” Jennifer said, her voice shaking with anger.

“What! Oh, shit.” Vikalp said realizing it was his 40th anniversary yesterday. Suddenly the gifts from Joey made sense.

“Yup, deserve this.” Vikalp said as his eyes closed and his mind went blanked.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Kill the Healthy One

The Dark Dawn — This is what it is called.

And no, the sun did not die that day; nor was it a solar eclipse. I wish it was either of the two. It was the day I found out that I am a mass murderer.

“And for the murder of 7 billion, 65 million, 432 thousand and 100 people, the court pron… cough cough.. pronounce.. cough cough.. Mr. Shantesh guilty.” The judge said and wiped his mouth with a white handkerchief. Spots of blood filled the white canvas and infuriated the judge even more.

“You dog. You merciless scoundrel.” The judge roared and had to be controlled by the attendant.

“You will be hanged to death, publicly. Tomorrow at 7 am, exactly 3 days after the events of the dark dawn.” The judge said.

Shantesh stood in front of the whole courtroom with his head down. Tears started to form in his eyes and he could barely see his feet. A few droplets found there way to his cheek and then to the ground too. However, he accepted the punishment without any argument. He was too stunned to retaliate.

I want to say that I knew about it all. At least, the death would not seem so… meek.

Shantesh had never felt this energetic in his life. The first day at office, he felt like he could conquer the world. He met everyone with a huge smile on his face, shaking hands with every person on the street and jumping up and down on every other step. He was receiving the same response in return as well. The people loved him, cheered for his success and helped him if he faltered. He felt he could do no wrong!

“Shantesh! I know its your first day but relax.” His boss said sharply although her face showed that she was simply amused.

“Sorry Neha! I just can’t control it. I have wanted to be a lawyer forever and now that I am here, the biggest law firm in the world, I just can’t keep it in.” Shantesh said and pumped his fist.

“Hahaha..” Laughing hard, Neha sneezed.

“Bless you!” Shantesh said smiling.

“It is getting worse you know. My cold is increasing by the day.”

“Don’t worry. You know what they say about cold. At best, it takes seven days; at worst, a week.” Shantesh said.

“True.”

‘Violent epidemic has hit Japan, with over a million people getting ill. No one knows how that happened but most suddenly woke up with feeling shivers and fevers. This day had the maximum leaves in Tokyo ever.’

“Hello mom! How are you?” Shantesh asked with concern.

“I am fine. Don’t you worry about me. Its just a little cold.” Shantesh’s mother said and asked about Shantesh. The whole conversation after that was about Shantesh’s life with the topic of his mother’s illness never came. With his father passing when he was 12, his mother was all his life.

“Please take care.” Shantesh said with concern.

“I will. Love you.”

“Love you too ma.”

“Wait! Did you hear about the aliens?” His mom suddenly said.

“What aliens?”

“The news is showing that scientists have found some sort of portal from which aliens can come through.

“It must be a fake mom. Don’t take it seriously.” Shantesh said.

“Ok son! Take care.”

“You too. Bbye.”

Shantesh cut the phone and immediately opened the news. He was curious!

The news that day was the beginning of our… my troubles.

‘The portal is a very small one — 4 feet by 3 feet — and it has no visible markings except for an occasional spark. Scientists are unable to see what lies beyond the portal but the preliminary tests show that the place beyond the portal is inhabitable to a certain extent. The quantity of CO2 is higher than our earth but the oxygen to nitrogen ratio is optimal with traces of water vapors also present. Further tests are awaited. In the meantime, the location has been secured by the government and is not being disclosed.’

The news was by one of Shantesh’s favorite news channels. It was his most credible source of information on television so he decided to dig a bit deeper. Internet opened immediately and he found plethora of faff moving around but for all practical purposes it was authentic information. The government had declined to comment further except that they had found a portal and were testing if it was safe.

“Wow! This actually might be true. Another world. Wonder what it would have.”

For every action there is a repercussion somewhere!

“Major Charm. What is the report?” Xi asked his close friend formally.

“Sir, the situation is under control but the subject is panicking. She has lost a lot of blood and while we are recording her every word, most have stopped making sense.”

“Thank you Major Charm.” Xi said as they both entered his office. He closed the door.

“Heck Xi! What have you thrown at me this time? I am out of my depth here.”

“I know Charm but you know I don’t trust anyone more than you. Please explain to me what the hell is happening.”

“As far as scientists say, she is not an alien. She has human physiology with subtle changes that can be attributed to the different kind of environment. She is dying Xi and we can’t do anything to save her. She says gibberish most of the time now. The only thing constant is the name Shantesh. She says that name and cries. If someone else says that name, she becomes delirious. This Shantesh guy is either her boyfriend or someone who killed her boyfriend. We don’t know! We don’t know so much!” Charm said angrily banging the table. His anger always stopped him from getting promotions but Xi knew that in crisis he was the best person to turn to. He was Xi’s oldest friend, mentor, and best man in Xi’s wedding.

“How much time does she have?” Xi said focusing on what he understood best — a person in peril.

“We can’t say, perhaps a few hours, a couple of days but not more than that. We are trying to make it comfortable for her now.”

“Ok. Let’s focus on the portal then and we can…” Xi was interrupted in the middle by a knock on the door.

“Come in.” Xi said.

“Sir! There has been a new development and Ms. Yasmin wants to talk to you immediately. She has something to show.”

“Alright, lets go!” Xi said thinking what new hell has come.

In a few minutes, Xi and Charm were standing in front of a bobbing Yasmin. She was a ball of energy and got excited easily. However, she was one of the best programmers in his team and was an expert in facial recognitions and mass surveillance.

“So, I had a crazy idea and decided to test it.” Yasmin said.

“Of course.” Charm said under his breath to Xi. Xi looked at him scandalously.

“I ran a facial recognition of this girl across the planet. It was just a hunch but it matched.”

“What!” Both Charm and Xi said in unison.

“Yes. She has a doppelganger on our planet. I have taken the liberty to get her to our facility. I hope you do not mind that but I think we can find something here.”

“Its alright Yasmin. You have that authority.” Xi said. Being young, Yasmin always tended to ask people before doing something. It was good that she was taking initiatives, Xi thought.

Could I have changed anything, if I knew earlier? No, probably not.

Kifi looked at her doppelganger and felt a sudden spark of energy.

“Hi Kifi. I am Commander Xi. I am sure Yasmin must have briefed you about the situation. To be honest, even we don’t know what we are expecting but please let us know if you find something.”

“Can I meet her?” Kifi asked.

Xi looked at Charm and after his nod, approved Kifi’s entry. Kifi entered the room and looked at the sleeping girl. She looked tired, wrinkled and frail but it was her. The girl opened her eyes and looked at Kifi. Kifi took her hand in her own.

“He will kill everyone. Shantesh… Shantesh will kill everyone. Please stop him. Punish him.”

The girl said crying.

“We will stop him. We will stop Shantesh. Please tell me where are you from?” Kifi said to her softly.

“Earth.” The girl said and started to seize. Kifi was taken out as doctors entered.

Xi stood patiently and Charm walked worried till the doctors came out with the bad news.

“We could not save her.”

Xi grimly nodded.

“Cough.. cough..”

Everyone turned to see Kifi coughing. She was getting ill. Yasmin immediately moved towards Kifi and let Kifi fall on her shoulder. The doctors took a look at her but no visible reasons were found for the sudden cough and weakness. In a span of 2 hours, she also got cold and the fainted.

The whole ordeal lasted around 5 hours. After that, she was completely fine.

“It was weird.” Major Charm said.

Although, no one said anything, Xi was too mature to consider this a coincidence that Kifi became sick suddenly after her doppelganger died. He could understand the fainting but the coughing, sneezing and the blood were not a result of that. He knew that Charm also was thinking on the same lines.

“Yasmin, please keep our guest for a few more days. She needs care after the trauma she has been through. Kifi, I insist.” Xi said in a tone he rarely used. It was an order but with all the politeness he could muster. Both of the girls felt that their father had just ordered them to stay in their room. They simply nodded.

After the two girls went, Xi immediately ordered one member of Yasmin’s team to find all people with the name Shantesh and also send a bot with camera to the other side.

“Charm, come with me.” Xi said and moved towards his room.

“We need to send some one in there.” Charm said as soon as they entered the room.

“And fast. I want to know what is happening on the other side. If these two things are coincidental, it is alright.”

“But coincidences do not happen.” Charm said completing Xi’s thoughts.

“I want to find out about Shantesh.”

Am I a victim or a culprit? Maybe, it is my fault.

“The report says that the war is still on.” Charm informed Xi.

“And our soldier?”

“He has planted the cameras in a few places and they are transmitting information but he is lost to us.” Charm said in his rare somber tone.

There was a silence in the room that they both understood was for their fallen comrade. After a minute or so Charm spoke again.

“We have the face. Yasmin is searching for that person here.”

“You think we can do something to protect the other world?”

“I don’t know. But I think the bigger problem is the Kalpe papers that got leaked.” Charm said looking at the muted news running on a screen.

The whole world knew about their mission!

Xi didn’t know what to do or who to turn to in the situation. He wanted to vanish and go to summer beach with his family. Instead, he was answering questions of the media, the president and the whole world about a new world they knew nothing about. Suddenly, there were groups that wanted revenge for the crimes done on that planet. For once, Xi didn’t have any idea what to do and for the first time, even Charm was silent.

“Sir! We have found him. His name is Shantesh on this world as well.” Yasmin came into the room and blurted out.

Xi looked at her and immediately nodded her to guide him. Protocols are for a time of peace. This was a war, even if on a different world.

Finally, I don’t think it matters.

“But sir, its not right.” Xi pleaded.

“It doesn’t matter anymore. The pressure of the people is very high. The whole world… cough.. cough.. You see. A whole world is destroyed. Someone has to take the blame.” President said while wheezing and coughing.

Even Xi was feeling the effects. He knew something terrible has happened on the other side. All communication was destroyed and everyone on the planet was sick, except for one — Shantesh.

Shantesh was the only one who wasn’t ill. They had monitored him carefully since they had found him. He was one of the most ordinary people Xi had ever seen. Xi couldn’t believe that the person who was the definition of average on this world is the cause of a catastrophe on another. However, the proofs were clear enough.

People were rallying against Shantesh and Xi had to get him in custody for his protection. He thought he could keep Shantesh safe from this madness. How wrong he was!

“The order is passed. Please do the needful.” The president said dismissively and the line got cut.

“I can’t be a part of it Xi.” Charm said immediately.

Xi nodded and Charm left the room. Xi knew that Charm would try to free Shantesh but both he and Charm knew that he would fail.

This war will end with the death of the only non-sick person on the planet.

Shantesh stood in front of the whole crowd looking at him with loathing. He knew what was happening but understood none of it. He had panicked initially but made peace with it eventually.

The noose was put on his neck and tightened.

“Cough.. cough..” Shantesh’s last.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

And Thus They Attacked

The year was 2017, July and the date was 29. That was the day when one of humanities biggest question was answered — “Are we alone in universe?”

The answer — ‘No’

We finally contacted a species that did not have its origins rooted in Earth. The Kiptch race was born on different planet billions of light-years away from our Earth. Despite this, they were quite adept at handling our climate and environment. There was no War of the Worlds — unfortunately.

I so wish that it was possible. They were more prepared than that. They were….

“Stop narrating the damn recorder and help me out here.” Shama said in the midst of an explosion.

Vishal stopped the recorder and looked sheepishly at Shama.

“Sorry! I just want future generations to understand.”

“Future generations. Ha!” Shama said as she used her Aqua-vaporiser.

She was right. Vishal thought and started moving his hands quickly. He checked his oxygen level. It was slightly higher than he had expected. Especially since he had been babbling for the past 15 minutes.

“You shouldn’t have quit. You are not made for war.” Shama said to Vishal as she pulled him towards the trench.

“I had to.” Vishal said passionately.

He heard John’s voice over the earpiece — “It’s 2100 hours, year 2018, December 15th. We have recaptured Los Angeles. I repeat. We have recaptured Los Angeles.”

Vishal heard a loud shout in the ear piece soon after. They had few victories now and each was cherished.

Vishal wanted to call it an inter-galactic war but in reality, it was an ambush. The human race was taken by surprise and what was considered a threat to future generations suddenly changed into a race for survival for the current generation itself. 2017 was the year when humans found out that aliens are real.

2017 was also the year the Kiptch celebrated their 25th anniversary on Earth, by attacking the humans.

“You think we will be able to keep it?” Vishal asked Shama shutting the others out.

“LA? No, but at least we got it for now.” Shama said bluntly. Vishal liked this about her. She was honest and yet gentle.

Los Angeles was one of the primary targets for the aliens. It was one of the first points to be attacked. Maybe the aliens thought humans would expect an attack on New York and went for LA first. LA of course, folded like a man playing against a Royal Flush.

“Why do you think we can’t hold it?” Vishal asked Shama.

“It was the first place they attacked. I expect them to have strongest fortifications around that area. Besides, LA is completely submerged and most of the buildings are destroyed. We won’t have any tactical or strategic advantages in LA. The only reasons we are still in this war is because the Kiptch have no affinity for land.”

The attack did not come from the sky. In fact, it was not even an attack by an army. It was the outcome of a plan set in motion by Kiptch as soon as they arrived on the planet. We even had a name for the attack — Global Warming!

They had a population of 5000 when they arrived on Earth. Immediately, they took shelter in the sea. The level of the sea has been increasing at a faster pace since then. The overall temperature also started to increase. Basically, we helped them get a warm climate by increasing temperature. They helped themselves to make it even more conducive for the Kiptch.

When the attack happened, the total Kiptch population on the planet was expected around 150,000,000. It seems small but they had the whole ocean behind them. The advanced technology that they had ensured that they had the upper hand. Also, we cannot attack them with out best weapon — Nuke. Too much water.

And thus, we were in an all out attack against an opponent which was technologically superior, had a higher.. err.. lower.. err.. better ground in the war and had 25 years of intel on us.

We would lose this war.

“Do you think it would have been better if we had accepted their conditions?”

“Better than this. Obviously!”

When they had first come out, it was not to fight but with a request and a threat. We did not fulfil the request and thus they executed the threat.

Being the President of the Earth, I was there when the lord of the Kiptch had made the formal request.

“Can you please stop putting all the waste in ocean? We will help you in the task. If not, we will have to clean up the ocean’s pollution and its cause ourselves.” He had said.

“If only the head of the nations would have listened to you.” Shama said and looked at Vishal with a dejected smile.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Why recycle if you can produce?

I was in front of the weirdest scene possible.

A man-child of around 20 years was standing in front of me gawking while beside him stood — no, hovered — a creature. The creature was barely human with the whole body shining like a holograph. It had no feet and the whole body below the waist simply turned into smoke. He spoke first.

“Master! Your wish has been fulfilled. Due to the enormity of the wish, I will need to rest for at least a week before I will be able to fulfil any wish and almost a year before a similar wish.”

“I know. Rest well my friend.” The boy said smugly. The genie vanished in a puff of smoke. The boy turned to me now. He looked at me up and down like a prized goat. A shiver ran through my body. Do I know them?

“Excuse me…” I finally built courage to speak. “Where am I? And how did I land here? I was….” Shit! I didn’t remember where I was before this.

The boy smiled creepily.

“What is your name?” He asked me.

“My name is ….” Why didn’t I know my name? I knew so many other things. I could tell you the current president of US is Obama and that my favorite city was Barcelona. Why couldn’t I tell him my own name?

“I thought so.” He nodded to himself and sat down.

Suddenly his face was tired. He didn’t look the same creepy person of a minute back.

“Sit down.” He commanded.

“Excuse me. Who are you to order me?” I said.

He looked up at me and laughed.

“Sit down, please.”

I sat down.

“You know you are the most beautiful woman in the world.”

“Thank you. I am flattered but I don’t think its true.”

“Oh it is true. I would know.”

“You would know. How?”

He smiled again the creepy smile.

“Because I wished it to be so. Ralph is a genie you see. Within a few limitations, it can grant any wish. I wished for the most beautiful woman to be with me.”

I was stunned. I was created on a whim of a boy. What does he intend to do with me? If I don’t agree, can he kill me as easily?

“Why?” I finally stuttered.

“Every year, there is a comic convention that I go to. I would prefer to go with a companion rather than alone, if you know what I mean.” He said grinning.

“You created me to go to a party with you?” I was incredulous.

“Having a personal genie can make you a bit callous I suppose.” The boy said smiling. He had started to nibble on the bread sitting in front of him. I realised I was hungry as well.

“You can eat too.” He said, as if reading my mind.

“Thank you. But I thought genies fulfilled only 3 wishes.”

“I thought so too before I met it three years ago. That is just a myth. Genies can fulfil any number of wishes. In fact, they like granting wishes. It is like an orgasm to them. The only catch is that they need a rest period after every wish. Small wishes like bringing food requires a second or so. On the other hand, a girl will set you back for almost a year before a similar wish can be fulfilled.”

I started to eat but my questions were not over.

“So, what is my name?” I finally asked.

“Well, I have made a list of them. Choose whichever you like.” He said giving me a sheet with names and their meaning.

“After the comic-con, what will you do with me?” I finally mustered up the courage to ask him. I was disposable to him. No one knows I exist. He can kill me and no one would be wiser.

“I am not going to kill you, if that is your concern.” He said looking into my eyes. He must have seen fear in them.

“I am sorry. Its just that everything is so surreal.”

“Its alright. You can stay with me for a year or so. We can date too if you are interested. Although, I must warn you, I don’t find woman as interesting as computers. My suggestion to you would be to participate in the Miss Universe contest. I will ask the genie to make a fake ID for you. Won’t be a big problem and you will surely win.”

“Wow! You have it all sorted out.”

“The convention is not happening for the first time you know.” He said winking at me.

“You mean to say I am not the first.”

“Or the last. Why recycle if you can produce?”