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

The Truth of Lucifer

“So, how do we tell him?” I asked Slavo.

“I have no idea. He won’t be pleased and I don’t want to be the messenger.” Slavo said while rechecking all the figures.

“Are you sure?” I asked Slavo.

“No, I just made this shit up because it is so wonderful.” Slavo said annoyed.

“Alright… Alright… Don’t bite me.” I replied.

“You have to tell him. He loves you the most.” Slavo said.

“Nonsense.” I said.

“You know its true. Go tell him now.” Slavo said.

— —

“Err.. God.. sir.. God..” Darshit said stuttering. “May I come in?”

“Oh hi Darshit. Come in, come in. Look what I am making.” God invited Darshit to his chambers.

There was a figurine of a large creature that was moving slowly on the table.

“I will call it a dinosaur. This would be my greatest creation.” God said proudly.

“Sir, you have already created them once. You put them on planet Earth.” Darshit reminded him.

“Oh really! And how did they fare?”

“They got destroyed when you were playing marbles. One of them bounced off and hit Earth.”

“Sad Indeed. In that case, I will put them on the planet again. It was my fault so I will rectify it.” God said.

“Yeah… About that. We recently located planet Earth for ahem.. research purposes. I don’t think we can put the dinosaurs there anymore.” Darshit said sweating slightly.

“Why?” God asked.

“It is already inhabited by humans.”

“Humans, what?”

“You created them sometime ago. Adam and Eve, you named them.” Darshit said, bracing himself.

“THOSE IDIOTS!” God thundered.

“They are still alive. Did their kill switch stopped working?” God asked.

“They are not alive. Their kill switch worked on the right time. However, before that, they reproduced their offsprings. The chain continues.” Darshit said.

“I will kill them myself. How many are their, five or ten?” God asked.

“Around 7 billion.”

“WHAT?”

“Yeah. They kind of enjoy the process of reproduction. They do it even if they don’t want an offspring. Some even do it alone. Others enjoy it with their own gender.”

“But, how does it even work?” God said completely flabbergasted.

“I don’t think it is an important point. The important thing is that they thrive and now, we have to guide them.” Darshit said cautiously.

God looked at him incredulously.

“After what they have done. Never!” God said.

“It was long time ago. It was just an apple.” Darshit said.

“You know that apple was the seed for a new planet. It set my plans to create a four-dimensional beings back by so much.

“I know my lord. But you finally were able to do it. Its time to move on.”

“Its not just about the apple and you know it. I would have forgiven them about it. But then they go ahead and blame you — my first and best creation — my son. I mean come on. Be brave and take some responsibility. But no, it is Darshit’s fault. He is the Lucifer. They called you Lucifer. How can you not be mad at them?”

Lucifer was the lowest insult that anyone can cast on an angel. Darshit knew that and it had hurt him immensely but over the course of so many years, his heart had purified itself. The fact that he was made of pure joy helped. Unfortunately, God didn’t have that advantage. He was simply made of everything — Joy, Hate, Death and everything else in between. He did not forgive easily. Forget maybe, but never forgive.

“My lord, they now are repentant about eating the apple. They praise you day and night. If they see you, they would love you.” Darshit tried to pacify him.

“Really! That is interesting. And what do they say about you. Have they apologised to you?” God asked Darshit.

“Err.. some have started to apologise.” Darshit fumbled with words.

“Really! I will see for myself.” God said and looked on.

“So… They apologised, you said.” God said looking at Darshit. Darshit looked down sheepishly.

“They call you devil and blame you for everything. They think you and me are fighting over them…” God said angrily.

“Well technically we are right now, aren’t we?” Darshit said trying to lighten the mood.

“You are too naive my son. But I will not have this. They will pay for their sins. They will be destroyed.”

“Please my lord. Let them be. I am sorry I brought this up. Please forget about them.” Darshit pleaded.

God looked at Darshit and calmed down a bit.

“Oh I will punish them. How dare they vilify you! You said they love the act of reproduction, right. I will make them fear it. They like to name things evil, right. Let them name this.”

God created a virus out of nowhere and before Darshit could stop him, he sent it to the planet.

“What will it do?” Darshit finally asked.

“Oh, not much. It will simply kill the fight in them. They would be eaten up by the creatures around them, inside them. Even a small bacteria would become a deadly creature to these humans. And it would travel by their favourite activity. Let’s see how long they last now.”

Darshit left God and told Slavo what had transpired.

“So, now what?” Slavo asked.

“Now, humans actually have a reason to hate me.” Darshit said.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Godslayer

The old gods have died. It was not a pretty sight. Nevertheless, it happened.

People do not believe it. I don’t force them for it. People should believe what they want to believe in. Who am I to force them into believing this, even if it might be the truth.

To be honest, I don’t think I even want people to know the truth. What if they believe me? What if they ask me how? Can I really tell them the truth?

I had to kill them. In my defence, it was necessary. A new order can only be established once order of the old is removed. Only in the mess of chaos can an order be established. I had to create that mess. I had to destroy the old gods so that new ones can take their place.

I hope if the people find out the truth they would forgive me. They would understand that I had no choice.

Who am I?

My name is Kunal and I am the Godslayer.

— —

The sound of crying woke up Kunal’s mother. She picked up the child and the child erupted in giggles looking at his mother.

“Oh my god. It was again a ploy to play. You are a very naughty child Kunal.” His mother said kissing him on the cheek. Kunal kept playing in his mother’s lap.

Years later, he would come to regret these beautiful moments of his life. All he would remember is the torture he gave his tired mother. But for now, he was happily making his mother walk around the village so that he could enjoy the cool breeze.

— —

“You have to go Kunal. You have to get trained. It is the only way.” Kunal’s father told him without mincing any words.

“No! I won’t leave you and mother alone.” Kunal said in an equally stubborn voice.

At the age of fifteen, the village mage had asked the Gods if Kunal could be trained by the higher powers. Not only the boy had huge potential, but he was a pure hearted creature. Rare combination in these uncertain times.

The Gods agreed. He was given over to Okiana, the goddess of the seas. He was to leave the land for 10 years and learn the arts of life in the depths of the deepest ocean.

Kunal did not like the terms and rejected them.

The Gods did not like this. For the past six days, each water source had been salty and the food was rotting even before it could be harvested.

“Kunal… Come, let’s walk.” Kunal’s mother said and took his hand in hers.

— —

It has been five years since Kunal saw his mother last.

He could still remember the last time they took the stroll around the village. He was too big for her to carry but she still took her hand every time they walked around the village. Even before they had started he knew she would convince him. And she did.

He had hated every moment here. Yet, he pushed on hoping to see his parents once the ten years have passed.

Sometimes, his mind wandered into the idea that his parents might have died. He killed such thoughts immediately. His only motivation to keep going was his mother’s last words –

“We, your father and I, will wait for you. In this world or next. Forever. You are our everything. Remember that and make us proud. Make us immortal. Don’t just learn from the Gods. Go! become a God.”

He trained harder than all the others combined. His mother never told her to go for the village or for even himself. She told him to go for them- his ma and pa.

— —

“You brought this upon yourself Levid. You are not getting forgiveness, never!” Kunal said and tore Levid apart with his bare hands.

Levid, the God of nature, screamed and then became still. The world was not going to bloom in any order any more. Randomness would begin and unless someone took the responsibility, it would rule.

Grithe, Levid’s mother, and the goddess of death, looked at her son’s lifeless eyes, disbelieved by what she was seeing.

“How? He was immortal. You killed him. Why?” She said incoherently.

Kunal simply looked at her and then turned away. He would not kill her. Despite what she did, she was after all, a mother.

“Why?” Grithe repeated sobbing in his son’s golden robes.

“I owed him a debt. This was my repayment.”

— —

“There is no other way. We have to wage a war against him. He has killed a god.” Gifth, the war god said.

“I understand what you are saying. But can we even take him down?” Enja, the ruler of Gods asked his brethren.

“My lord, we cannot.” Okiana said.

“You trained him too well.” Fiord, the sun god quipped.

“Perhaps. However, it was Levid who unleashed him.” Okiana said.

“Don’t judge Levid on human scale, Okiana.” Grithe said, livid.

“My apologies Grithe. But I believe what he did was wrong. If I was on land, I would have never let this happen.”

“So, he killed Kunal’s parents. What is the big fuss in that? Humans die all the time.” Ereb, the god of joy said.

“That is true Ereb, but not the complete truth. “ Okiana said turning towards Ereb. “Levid killed them alright. But…”

— —

“My lord Kunal. The Gods have taken to full assault. They refuse to stop.” Jeema said to Kunal. He was the lieutenant of his army. An army that constituted three members including Jeema.

“Is Okiana with them?” Kunal asked.

“No my lord.” Jeema said.

Kunal looked up and simply nodded. Jeema had known Kunal since his childhood. The biggest prankster, Kunal’s laughter was famous in the whole village. Now, he had not seen a more morose face. His body had more cuts than a sheep mauled by lions. His eyes were gaunt, reeking of death. His hair were white like fear.

When he had came to the village after 10 years, he was the most handsome man Jeema had ever seen. At 25, he had the built of a bull and yet, his eyes had the same twinkle that he had when he had left. His face was more haggard and showed the hardships that he had faced. But joy had not left them.

In the past one year, he had changed from that to this. Jeema did not even know if Kunal was human anymore. Can any human kill a god? Can any human kill a hundred?

Kunal had killed a hundred gods in the past six months. The first six months, he had given to searching Levid, finally killing him.

Jeema was the only one then who believed Kunal did the right thing. Even now, most people do not believe that the gods are dying. Most think Kunal has gone mad.

Maybe he has. Even Jeema could not deny the fierceness of those eyes. But Kunal was not lying. Jeema could not deny what he was seeing with his own eyes.

Jeema however still thought sometimes. If only Levid had not decided to punish Kunal’s parents for his insubordination.

Jeema still remembered the day Kunal had gone to Goddess Okiama. Within hours, Levid had come to their village, in all his glory.

The whole village saw him going to Kunal’s house. Jeema was a kid then, only twelve years old. He heard screams coming from Kunal’s house and ran towards it.

Jeema will never be able to erase the memory of that moment.

Kunal’s father was torn and split in two, blood gushing out and mixing with the dirt. Levid’s hand were red as he laughed looking at the whole village.

“His son defied the gods by saying no. He deserves no life, in this world or the next.”

Levid then moved towards Kunal’s mother.

Jeema clearly remember the look of defiance in Kunal’s mother’s eyes. In that moment, Jeema knew why Kunal loved her so much and why Kunal was chosen by the gods. Her husband was dead, she was facing a certain death and yet, she stood tall.

“You think your son can become a god. You fool woman!” Levid sneered.

“He will become more than a god. He will be better than you all. You can kill us but that won’t stop Kunal. This…” Kunal’s mother pointed towards her husband. “… only make you a monster.” Kunal’s mother said in a loud, clear voice.

“Oh I won’t kill you. Don’t get me wrong. You will die a thousand deaths. But I won’t kill you. Not right now.” Levid said and vanished. So did Kunal’s mother.

No one could find her before Kunal came back to the village. Learning about the events he went on a quest to find her.

He came back a changed man. His hair had turned white, his eyes were fierce and he did not look at things naturally. He only talked about his mother once when Jeema asked about her.

“Okiana freed my mother of mortal chains when she found her. I have thanked her for that. My mother has joined my father. I have killed Levid.”

After that, he never talked about his parents.

— —

I didn’t go after the gods. They came for me. I would have lived a happy life, with my family. I had no ambitions. I still don’t have any desires.

Jeema would create a better order. Okiana is training him to become the new god ruler. As for me — I am not god.

I could not fulfil my mother’s dream. I am simply a Godslayer.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Blessed Awakening of a Cursed Morning

Ashish yawned and stretched his legs. The alarm had woken him up abruptly. It almost felt like he had not slept at all. The truth was not far from this as well. He had gone to sleep just three hours before the alarm woke him back.

Ashish moved towards the bathroom like a zombie. The biggest advantage of living alone was that no one bothered him while he completed his daily rituals in the bathroom. At least that is what Ashish thought. His mother however, had other plans. His phone started to ring.

“Hi mom,” Ashish said coming out of the bathroom hastily.

“So Ashish, how are you?” his mom asked over the phone.

“I’m fine mom. Why are you calling this early?” Ashish asked.

“Can’t a mother call her son?” Came the reply.

Ashish was annoyed at hearing this. It was not that he didn’t like his mother. In fact, he adored his mother. However, since his breakup his mother had become overly caring of him. She had started to call more than once a day. It was almost as if she was expecting him to do something really stupid. Also, it had been more than six months since the breakup and while he had welcomed this change in the first month or so, now it had become annoying.

“So do you two talk to each other?” His mother asked.

“We have not talked to each other over a month now.”

“Okay. And how are you doing?”

“I am fine mom. You don’t have to bother this much.” Ashish said.

Ashish and Radhika had been the peach of his mother’s eyes. As a matter of fact, his friends too loved Radhika. It was considered certain that they would end up together forever. At one point of time even the two of them had started to think in this same fashion. But, as fate would have it the two were separated by the seven seas. Radhika got a great opportunity to work in the United States. While she was reluctant to go, Ashish convinced her that it would be the best course of action. Of course, at that point of time Ashish thought that they could walk a long distance relationship. However, within three months of being in a long-distance relationship he realised that it was far tougher than he had thought.

After the initial charm of a long-distance relationship had passed the two started fighting over everything. Soon, the two started dreading each other’s calls instead of awaiting them. It took a lot of courage for Ashish but he finally had the talk. Radhika was also relieved to hear that Ashish was also facing similar problems. When the actual breakup happened, they both felt that it was long overdue.

They tried to keep in touch for some time as friends but that failed miserably. Eventually, they decided to stop contacting each other and move on with their own lives. They both knew that if an opportunity ever comes that they are in the same city things would rekindle but until then they were two strangers for each other.

It was not that Ashish didn’t miss her. Initially, he was in a lot of pain as well over the breakup. Nevertheless, six months later, he was fine. The breakup had not been as hard on him as he had imagined. Perhaps the reason for this was their long fights and even longer silences.

Yet, he knew the reason why his family and friends were concerned about him. It was due to the clothes that were still in his home. When Radhika had left for US, she had left her clothes in Ashish’s house. These clothes represented the hope that they had in their relationship. And now, Ashish didn’t know what to do with these clothes. He thought of throwing them away but decided against it and thus the clothes were in his house.

“You will tell me if something is wrong honey?” His mother asked suspiciously.

“Yes mom. If ever anything is even slightly wrong, you will be the first person whom I will tell.” Ashish said to his mother.

“Okay. Love you honey. Bye.” his mother said.

“Bye mom. Love you too.” Ashish said and started to get ready.

Ashish’s office was a little far off. It took him about an hour to reach their and in the evening even more than that. However, the driving was a great distraction from all the tensions in the world.

When Ashish came back from the office he found Radhika’s clothes on the bed. He was a little confused at seeing the clothes on the bed because he had given strict instructions to the maid to leave the clothes alone. Annoyed, he kept back all the clothes in the wardrobe and put a reminder to tell the maid off. Tired, he went to sleep.

The incessant ringing of the alarm woke him up in the morning. He opened his eyes and felt drowsy despite the full eight hours sleep the night before. Rubbing his eyes he opened them slightly and saw Radhika’s face. Beside him, in a silk gown she was sleeping like an angel.

“Good morning, honey.” Ashish said smiling.

“Good morning, love.” Radhika said humming.

Suddenly, realising what had just transpired he woke up with a start. Radhika was still lying on the bed with her eyes closed and a faint smile on our face.

“What… How… When??” Ashish mumbled.

Radhika opened her eyes and there was a clear joy in them, even though her smile seemed pained. Ashish held her face in his palm. Radhika smiled and said — “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Ashish said in an uncertain voice.

“I missed you” Radhika said stretching herself.

Ashish started to laugh and Radhika joined in. Ashish hugged Radhika.

“Now, bring me a cup of tea.” Radhika ordered playfully.

Ashish kissed Radhika, picked up his phone and went to the kitchen to make tea. He saw that there were 15 messages and five missed calls on it. All of them from her mother. He opened a message. The message said:

‘Radhika had an accident last night. She couldn’t make it. Call me as soon as you are up.’

Ashish could not believe what was written and ran back to his bedroom. He could not find Radhika anywhere. The gown however, was still lying on the bed.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

The Bright Window

“Arrghhh…” I woke up with a start. It was a terrible dream. I could have sworn that someone was calling out my name and had every intention to kill me.

In fact, I could still hear — “Vinay… Vinay…” in my ears. Thankfully, it was morning. The window was bright like a new bulb. I felt very tired and I decided to take a small nap. After all, the alarm had not yet tried its shrill voice on me. Wait!

I immediately checked my phone. The stupid thing had gained a habit of shutting itself at the most crucial of occasions. Yup! It was as dead as a dodo. Panicked, I immediately pushed the on button and put the phone on charging. The phone took its own sweet time to start.

I had a meeting at 9 in the morning. The sun seemed to be up enough to be 12 to be honest. Unfortunately, my stupid phone was the only watch I had.

And the time was wrong on the phone. It was showing 2 am. Apparently, the phone gods had decided to play with me today. I synced the phone with internet and changed the date and time settings.

The time still remained unchanged.

Giving up, I finally decided to get ready and went to kitchen to get my cup of coffee. To be honest, if not for the meeting, I would have not woken up at all. I was feeling extremely tired.

I poured my coffee and before I could stifle it, I yawned. I moved a little towards the kitchen window. It was open and the cold breeze of the night was very eye-opening.

Wait! What?

The kitchen window was open and outside, there was extreme dark. My throat dried up. I immediately went back to my room and the bedroom window was lit bright. I ran towards the main gate and outside was pitch black. Even the moon seemed to have taken a shelter somewhere. I checked my phone again — It was showing 2:15 am. Everything on it was working perfectly. Was it possible that the watch was also right. I opened the Television and the telebrand ads greeted me. The news channel showed 2:15 am.

It was night.

I peeked in my bedroom again and the window was shining bright.

Against my better judgment, I decided to look into the matter. I went outside and checked the window from outside. There was nothing on it. It was dark outside and the guard was snoring peacefully. I woke him up and asked if someone had come here. He, obviously, said no.

Hoping the prank was over, I went back to my bedroom where the window was as bright as last time. In fact, it looked like it was getting brighter. I opened the window frame but the glass was as bright as before. In fact, I could see the morning scene that I don’t usually see in the day. Mr. Sharma was coming back to his house, probably for lunch. The kids were playing in the park and the vegetable vendors were selling some stale food that they could not sell in the morning. A kid, I forgot his name, was roaming around with his dog Jojo.

I closed the window and went out again. It was pitch black.

My heart was racing and all I could think was that tonight, I will die like in the horror movies. I remembered the movie Grudge and how everyone was killed in it. Suddenly, I was at peace. I was screwed and decided to die in peace.

I went back to my bed, pulled up the blanket to my head and closed my eyes. Right now, I would take the nightmare over reality.

— –

My mobile’s alarm woke me up. This time, it was 7 am. So, I was alive. To taunt me, it seems the window had decided to become dark. I looked outside and the scene was of the evening. Everyone was returning home. Jojo was again roaming around with his owner, whatever his name was.

And apparently, a new statue was placed temporarily in the middle of the street. Guess, some event was coming up.

I got ready and went out of the house. Dreading my return to my haunted house, I worked extra hard today. Unfortunately, that meant I was done by 5 pm. My boss forced me out of the office by 6 and I headed home.

The statue was in the middle of the street. Jojo was playing and everything was exactly as I had seen in the morning. I ran to the house and opened the bedroom door. The window had started glowing softly — like a morning.

— –

It had been three years since I have been living in the house since that fateful day. The window still opens to the future, exactly 12 hours ahead. I know it is no superpower and frankly, it has been of little use to me. I do sometimes check if the vegetable vendor had brought the veggies I ate. If now, I would come back home buying those things. Other than that, it is just a companion that I have accepted. I do not talk about it and I do not bring girls in the room. They would not understand. Even I do not understand it.

I am not scared of the night glow of the window anymore. It tells me that I have a tomorrow. Sometimes, I do fear that one day, it would stop working.

Will that be my last day?