Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Lack of Knowledge

Devdatta entered the new realm and took a whiff of the fresh air.

“All around, the air is swirling transparently. I cannot believe it.” Devdatta said taking in as much air as he could.

“Gemma. Tell me which time-line we have entered?” Devdatta asked his AI.

“It is 2016. We have reached the right spot Devdatta.” Gemma replied. While most people used OPU (Orderly Programmed Unit) AIs as they were more in control and standardised, Devdatta had created Gemma from the scratch.

There were two reasons for this. One, most OPUs were created by some company or the other and therefore lacked customizations. Second, what he had plans to do was illegal at best and catastrophic at worst. The OPUs would be of no use to him as they are all tracked.

Gemma also was more advanced and was probably ahead of the other OPUs by a decade.

‘A man who can make a time machine can surely create a good AI.’ Devdatta thought smugly.

Gemma immediately connected to the internet and tried to download as much information about the present world.

“You were right Devdatta. This is the year where they have finally developed the tools required to protect the Earth. They are also talking about climate vigorously. This year will be the turning point and if you can inform the people about the climate change, the world would change indefinitely.” Gemma replied in the voice of Devdatta’s ex-girlfriend.

He had lost a lot in his quest to save the world. His girlfriend and their daughter were the biggest loss in this. He hadn’t talked to them in two years but he hoped that once he had changed the world for the better, he would be with them again.

‘Surely Aabir would understand. She has to.’

“Okay Gemma. Tell me about the group of scientists that are most well known right now. I believe they must be the highest authority here as they are in our times.”

Most people thought that politicians ruled the world. It was as far from the truth as it could be. Devdatta found out when he was inducted in the Guards of the Earth. A group of seven scientists are chosen to make all the prime decisions. Most people thought the world was a democracy and the political system on the outside shows presidents, prime ministers and countries but go a little deeper and everything is ruled by the scientists.

“I have tracked the seven most influential scientists who can be the potential rulers of the earth.” Gemma said and started listing the names along with their addresses on Devdatta’s watch.

“Its time to amend this generation’s lack of knowledge about pollution.”

— —

Dr. Shako had never been much of a humanitarian. Yet, he was disappointed by the meeting that had just occurred. He had thought that this time, the funding would be approved for his research in renewable energy. He was so close to ensure that the world would be a cleaner place. However, it was decided that there were more important things to worry about.

“Apparently, the world can handle itself while we continue to make profits.” He murmured and started tallying his research notes with those of other scientists in the field. He still had enough funding to last a couple of years but he will have to be frugal from here on. No more field tests. This would slow down his research to a crawl but crawling is still better than no movement.

“Hello Dr. Shako.” A man said to him, making him jump.

“How the hell did you come in?” Dr. Shako asked.

“Oh, I let myself in. I needed to converse with you urgently.” The man said smiling.

Dr. Shako looked at the man up and down and frowned. He was wearing a weird combination of torn jeans and shirt made up of threads. It felt that he was trying to look younger than he was — probably trying to be hip. Dr. Shako decided.

“What do you want?” Dr. Shako huffed.

‘First the funding and now this. I should just blow up the funding and go to the Caribbean.’ Dr. Shako thought and closed his laptop to listen to the man.

— —

Devdatta was amused to look at Dr. Shako. He was an old guy with the vigor of a 20-year-old person. He was definitely a leader even if he was trying to hide the fact.

“I want to warn you.” Devdatta said, adding the dramatic effect.

“Warn me. Why?” Dr. Shako looked thoroughly confused.

“The planet is in jeopardy and no one knows about it, except me.” Devdatta said.

Dr. Shako got intrigued.

“Tell me.”

“I have come from the future and the future is grim. The oceans have covered most of the masses and we only live in either the mountains or in waterproof bunkers. Most of the energy we get from the sun is blocked due to the polluted atmosphere. Almost all the land animals are dead. So are the plants. Our carbon reserves are gone and we have rationed energy. In fact, for all our technological advancement, we only have electricity for 6 hours every day for each person. The total population has also fallen. There are only 1 billion humans left and our population is declining even further. The world has forgotten about happiness, joy or comforts.”

Dr. Shako’s face became white listening to the ordeal. He was still skeptical about the man’s honesty but why would someone play a prank on him. Few knew him and those who did, were not the prankster kind.

“I know you would not believe me. But let me show you.” Devdatta told Dr. Shako enthusiastically and poured a holographic figure on the wall from his watch.

There were graphs, sheets and videos running simultaneously on a 200-inch screen. That equipment confirmed Dr. Shako’s doubts. No current technology is as advanced.

The videos showed the pitiful state the world was in and it wrenched Dr. Shako’s heart.

“How does it happen?” Dr. Shako asked.

“Humans. The pollution keeps on increasing and no environmental steps were taken. If we would have known earlier, this would never happen. Thus, I have come to make sure that the world changes for the better.” Devdatta said passionately.

Dr. Shako looked at Devdatta incredulously. After a few seconds, he started laughing.

“I know it seems unbelievable that pollution can destroy the world, but it can.” Devdatta said realising that the people of this time period would not understand the concept of environmental destruction.

“No… Its… not… cough… cough… that…” Dr. Shako said unable to control his laughter.

Devdatta stood there confused.

“Which time period you are from?” Dr. Shako finally asked.

“Around 300 years from now.” Devdatta replied honestly, still confused.

“Ahh.. I thought you were from 50 years or so ahead telling me about some war that is around the corner.” Dr. Shako said.

“But this is several times more destructive that any war. Surely you must understand this.” Devdatta said a little exasperated. He did not know how to make Dr. Shako understand the severeness of the issue.

“Of course, it is. I know. My whole life has gone in the research of the effects of pollution.” Dr. Shako said.

“What!” Devdatta said.

“Yes. We have known about the pollution problem for over two decades now. In fact, this decade has seen several researches on the matter.” Dr. Shako said.

“But then, you mean to say, the world already knew about the effects of pollution.” Devdatta asked.

“Let me show you.” Dr. Shako said and opened a word file of his research.

“””

My calculations show that if we go at the rate we are currently going, we would destroy the planet in less than 200 years. Even our current efforts would help us stretch the time by only around 100 years or so. Thus, either we change the whole system radically, or we ensure that we learn to live underwater.

“””

“You had already calculated this. Then, why didn’t you work on this. Did the other scientists disagree with you?” Devdatta asked incredulously.

“Almost all scientists agree on this. But the governments won’t agree on this. They have corporate pressure too. Thus, we are stuck with minor changes only.”

“But scientists are the supreme leaders. How can government overrule them?” Devdatta asked.

“Your knowledge of history is a little lacking my friend. At least right now, scientists can barely order around their assistants, let alone the governments.” Dr. Shako said.

“You mean to say that everyone knows and no one is doing anything?” Devdatta finally asked.

Dr. Shako smiled and nodded.

“Why the smile?” Devdatta said ruefully. He had just realised that all his efforts have been vain. His dream of changing the world just shattered. The world didn’t want to be changed.

“At least my calculations are correct.” Dr. Shako said smiling.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

A Night Journey

It was a dark and stormy night.

Anup had decided that he would never again drive in night to save time. He was sleepy, alone and bored. He had been driving for the past 5 hours and there was no respite from the nature or his body. Unfortunately, there was no way to take rest as the whole area was filled with jungle. The risk of stopping, at least right now, overweigh the risk of driving. Also, he loved driving his white sedan, Anup admitted grudgingly to himself.

5 more hours of driving was left. However, in the next three hours, the sun should come up and probably, some form of civilisation would also show itself. Then, he would make the decision of whether to stop or push himself to finish off the journey. Right now, the answer was simple.

Anup yawned while trying to keep his eyes open looking at the road in front. The tactic failed and for a split second, his eyes were closed.

That time felt like eternity when Anup opened his eyes. The change in scenario told him that he had closed his eyes for at least a few seconds.

“Fuck! I could have died. One turn and I would have been in the jungle, crashed and injured.”

Anup screamed loudly. The scream and scare of death opened his eyes wide.

He feared that he will have to do something to stay awake and he was getting out of ideas.

He increased the sound of music. The radio was gone but the pen-drive was working fine and he could enjoy the romantic music.

Realising his folly, Anup changed the music to thumping rock music. It opened his eyes a little more.

Two more hours passed uneventfully. There were slight rays of sun, or was he hallucinating, Anup thought.

Anup wasn’t. The sun had decided to pity the young man a little and within half an hour, the sun was out and the car’s lights were off. The jungle was still wide spanning. Anup had not counted on the length of jungle being so much. To make the matters worse, the road was not smooth either, with many a pits and potholes. Anup was keeping a steady 60 kmph but often felt bumping up and down. His car was making a repeated sound as well — ‘Tak Tak Tak’. But he avoided it as it wasn’t affecting the car much.

‘Probably something in the trunk is moving.’ Anup thought and continued.

It started two hours after Anup started and continued till now. He knew that the forest did not have many deadly animals but he was afraid of bandits.

‘Even in a jungle, I am more afraid of humans than animals. The world we live in.’ Anup thought with a mirth.

His eyes opened up a bit once he was out of the jungle, safe. There was only one more hour of journey left and Anup decided to keep moving. The city had awakened him enough. The buzz and hum of the city started flowing through him as well.

Morning people were looking at him, probably amazed at how someone could travel in the jungle at night, Anup thought proudly. Few people tried that.

However, Anup was a little concerned looking at the solemn look at most people. He had expected a more lively crowd in the city in the morning. It seemed that they were not happy about something.

“Did something happened in the night?” Anup thought to himself, a little concerned.

The city was in an earthquake prone region and an earthquake could have this affect on people. However, Anup expected to feel the tremors if an earthquake came.

‘What then?’ Anup thought while turning towards his home. He didn’t see many people on the road, not even a single police car.

“No one cares for the city anymore. Bloody Politicians, taking the money and doing nothing.” Anup said to himself annoyed.

However, as soon as he saw his house, these thoughts evaporated. He was going to meet his family after a whole month. His little girl and his wife. He could see his girl playing in the garden outside the house. Involuntarily, he smiled. She meant the world to him and he would keep her safe from everything. No pain or hurt of the world is ever going to be a part of his daughter’s life.

She looked at her father’s car coming from a distance and called for her mother. Then she stood on the chair to look at the car clearly.

Then, she screamed.

Anup heard his daughter screaming even from the distance. It was an earth-shattering scream and wrenched his heart. Scared, he sped up the car. His wife had came out hearing the scream as well, holding a plate.

Anup came inside the gate. His daughter kept on screaming. His wife saw him for the first time then and dropped the plate.

“What happened?” Anup said a little conscious. He stopped the car and came out. Both of them were looking at his car.

He looked at it and was shocked with horror. The whole car had splashes of red. The white car was riddle with blood.

‘Some animal’ Anup’s first thought.

However, he saw what his daughter was looking at and walked to the left side of the car.

The front tyre had a hand stuck to it. He could not see it while driving.

‘The tuk tuk sound.’ Anup thought, his blood draining from his face.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Magewriter

“Do you have it?” I asked gingerly.

“Yes.” The reply came. I smiled. I had waited a long time for this moment.

I have heard of legends who can create a complete story out of their minds. I am pretty sure that those legends are just that — legends. For me, and many others, creating a story is not so simple.

Each element has to be crafted separately and then combined. I remember my first story vividly. My mother had given me five small parts — two characters, one theme, one background, one conflict. Putting them together had taken me almost five days. The first time I had put them in the scritar it had spewed so much fluff that I had to clean the room for two days. In my zeal, I had put in too many kreyozine in the mixture. Almost 500 thousand words had flown out of the scritar which could contain only 10000 words. I will never forget the expression on my parent’s face when they saw my room overflowing with words.

It was then that my fate was revealed. I was expected to become a master story teller. My father gifted me his old scritar — It could contain around 200 thousand words in one go. My mother trained me about the importance of the quantity of kreyozine to ensure that the words are in check. More words dilute the story and reduce its impact.

My first time, the story simply continued on two people arguing with each other for 27 years. 500 thousand words of arguing.

Slowly, I learned the importance of other ingredients as well. Personally, I love Theod the most. It enables the writers to incorporate magic in the system. Most fantasy books have Theod in some form or the other. It increases the experience manifolds. My third story was when I was given a sliver of Theod. Enough to create my first dragon. As the Theod was only enough to create one dragon, I ended up having a family drama with a pet dragon. No more elements of fantasy could be incorporated in the story.

I have since learned a lot. Now, each of my story has as many as 50 ingredients. A hint of Jiva (flashbacks), a dash of Phita (romance), a slice of Creon (animals) and of course, lots of Theod. I became one of the most famous writers and was even offered the ultimate position — Magewriter.

Only one in a generation becomes a Magewriter. The criteria is nearly impossible to get, to be honest. One, you have to write with every ingredient at least once. While that might seem simple, it takes years to become adept at using some ingredients. It took me 7 years to master Theod.

In all, it took me around 15 years to master all the ingredients to the satisfaction of the committee. All except one — Grar.

Grar is the rarest of the rare ingredient.

You ever wonder why only one in a million horror stories is good enough to actually scare the pants off you. It is because that one story contains Grar in it. Most people use Grif to create horror stories. While a good ingredient, Grif needs a very skilled writer to actually accomplish a similar, if not same, level of quality as Grar.

Grif is mixed with a lot of other ingredients like Theod, Creon and Hrass (gore) to create some sort of bastard form of Grar.

Grar is the pure form of horror. The only story that I have seen made in my life from Grar used same quantity of Grar as of Theod that I used to make my dragon. And it was the biggest horror experience of our era. To become a Magewriter, I had to find Grar and learn to use it. For the past two years, I have been on a quest to find Grar, while perfecting the horror stories with Grif so that Grar might not take as much time as Theod did for me.

“Yes, but its not going to be cheap.” the boy said. He must have been only 18 but his face showed that years have not treated him well. His face was haggard and his hair were a mess. There were several strands of grey amidst the black as well.

“Money is no bar.” I said and picked out a few gold coins. The boy looked hungrily at the coins. It was evident that he had not eaten for a few days. While I was hoping that the price is not too high, looking at him, I didn’t mind giving him a few extra coins.

“Not money.” The boy said even thought his greed was dripping from his face. I was surprised.

“What do you want then?” I asked, curiously. Each ingredient had a cost associated with it. Easy to obtain ingredients like Phita or Creon were priced at 10–20 gold coins per piece. While expensive, you can reuse Creon so it becomes a long term investment. Other ingredients like Thema (theme) come dime a dozen. I have a jar of it that I think will rot before I ever finish it.

Some ingredients required other methods. For example, Phita was sold only in return for a kiss. That is why perhaps, many married writers had more Phita in their stories.

Similarly, Theod was on a different price point. It could not be bought off money. The only way to get a Theod was to create a story that absolutely needs the ingredient and then burst it with Kreyozine. This sudden burst created Theod in small quantity. In fact, Theod was the most expensive ingredient, after Grar.

“A character. That is the price.” The boy said and smiled lightly. Maybe, he was amused by my ignorance.

“What kind of character?” I asked despite the boy’s smile. I knew the answer but I wanted to make sure. In my searches, I had been warned that the price would not simply be money. I expected nothing less. There has to be a reason why Grar is not widely available.

“You should go back traveler. If you need to ask this question, you are not fit for Grar anyways.” The boy begin to laugh. His laugh was so loud that I had to put hands on my ears.

I waited till he could get his laugh out.

“I am going to get Grar. I need it.” I blurted.

“Need.” The boy raised an eyebrow. “You have been selected to be a Magewriter?” He looked at me quizzically.

‘No use hiding it now.’ I thought and nodded.

“What is your name?” The boy asked awed.

“Yashaswi.” I said.

“Very well then. Grar is actually not bought or sold. It is created, not unlike Theod.” The boy said.

He continued.

“However, it requires much more precision and innovation that Theod. It requires three things — a proper location, a proper time and an original character. You are almost in the proper location. This is the beginning of the jungle and in the middle of it, you can start the ritual. Time is obviously night. Grar can only be created in the night time, similar to other horror ingredients like Grif. Also, unlike some of the cheap ingredients, it can only be used by the person who creates it.”

I had expected that. Theod has a similar condition. The reason why it has to be made is because only the person creating it can use it. Many experiments to sell Theod have fallen flat.

“So, you can go to the jungle and when the sun goes down, you can start conceiving an original character. The more original the character, more the quantity of Grar is produced. Once the day comes, no more Grar would be produced and you will have to start with a new original character the next night. So, be sure to finish your character before the sun comes up.”

The boy told me and pointed me towards the entrance of the jungle.

“Thank you for your information.” I said and offered him the coins that I had. He accepted them and went back to his house without a word.

— —

It took me around 2 hours to reach the proper jungle. The entrance of the jungle is rarely a jungle.

I sat down and started to wait for the sun to go down. The advantage of being considered for Magewriter was the immense power bestowed even before one becomes a Magewriter. I did not worry about animals bothering me. They could sense a potential God and no one wants to mess with someone who might rule them.

The difficult part was to create an original character. I now understood why Grar was so rare. I have never seen an original character created. I myself might have created one when I was a kid but now, all my characters were Chimeras created from my life experiences and of the stories I read.

Now, I understood why there was no Magewriter since the past 1000 years. People who even obtain Grar spend all their life perfecting that one character and do not have time to learn other ingredients like Theod. Finally, the might of the task ahead dawned over me.

Night came. And I began to conceive an original character.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

One-minute Massacre

It was a one-sixth chance but I got it. I was going to be the first person to travel in time.

Our lab had been doing the research for over 5 years now. Building on the work of greats like Einstein, Jacoby, Sahay and others, we had finally built a machine that could transfer particles in time-drift. That was 2 years ago. It took us two more years to get living material to get to future.

Last month, we successfully completed our final test with animals, this time a horse. The size of the animal ensured that we should be able to get a human into the future. Also, the machine had automatic lock to return back after 1 hours of stay in case manual override is not performed. This is how, we were getting our animals back. Also, we used to send them only one day in the future (24 hours) so that we could see if they actually went in the future. Needless to say, the results were successful.

Thus, I got to be the Neil Armstrong of time travel. I had been training for one-month now. The journey would be small — 24 hours in the future. Then, after a small hour of stay, I will be back.

Okay, enough talking to your recorder Kanishk. Come here.” John said in an annoyed voice. He was one of the losers.

“Alright Kanishk. It is time to go.” Sam said. She was the head of this team for the past five years. An incredible person, she was probably the smartest human being on the planet right now.

I picked up my bag and went inside the machine. It was built in a fashion similar to a pod. While most people think that temporal traveling involves only the day, date and time, the actual location is a lot more complex.

During that time, the location of the planet is changing as is the space between the galaxies. In fact, we found out that the biggest challenge was not to actually send someone in time but to actually find out the exact position where to send. Without that, temporal travel was simply not possible.

The Lee-Khan equation, named after my boss Samantha Lee and Mr. Mahmood Khan, finally defined a new parameter which helped us to calculate the new location is space-time. Did I tell you how smart Sam is?

“Time to go Kanishk. Have fun and do let us know how we look in the future.” Sam smiled and winked at me. My heart melted a little as I waved her good bye.

“Meet you guys in 24 hours.” Brian said. He was the technical genius who had balanced the energy splitting that traveling in time was causing. Probably, due to the nature of the travel, dark energy was getting created and it was essential to balance it before we could actually take the machine anywhere. He did it by creating a nuclear reactor for the machine that not only did provide the energy for the machine but could eat up the dark energy. Actually it cancelled the energy but I think eating up is the formal term.

In less then one minute, the machine was whirring to reach its destination. In another, it was there. Traveling in time was fast, really fast. I guess there is only so much time that can pass when you are traveling through it.

The top of the dome had a window with a glass-polymer that could handle almost all kinds of stress and was yet transparent. I immediately looked outside the window, eager to meet the team. I would have jumped out of the machine immediately but the protocol was made to first check in case something went wrong.

Something had gone wrong!

The whole room was empty. Just in front was lying John’s body, smeared in blood. Near it was Brian’s arm. I could see the watch he wore on it. However, the rest of the body was nowhere around.

“No no no… This is all wrong.” I shouted.

Even in panic, my training kicked in.

‘Do not open the machine in case you find any distress’ I heard Sam’s words.

Sam!

I tried to look around through the small window. Near the glass door, she was lying, half sitting with her hand above her head. Where her hand ended, there was written in blood a single word — “Sorry”.

Looking at her, I couldn’t help and opened the machine. I reached her and saw a smile on her face. That was odd.

I saw in her other hand a pendrive with my name on it. I took it from her hand and opened it on my laptop.

“Hi Kanishk. If you are listening to this, it is not a good news. So, how do I explain this to you. First of all, I am sorry for putting you in that machine. It was a dream of mine to see that machine to work and I couldn’t resist the option even though I knew that it might have the repercussions which it had.”

My mind was reeling. So, Sam knew that this would happen. What has happened? Are there other people as well who are hurt by this?

“Perhaps, I should start with the fact that I am not exactly a human being. I am not an alien if that is what you are thinking. Or perhaps I am, if you define it that way. I am from Earth, just from a different universe. When we realised that there were multiple universes, we tried to find ways to reach them, contact them in some ways.

“Most of our trips were successful. The other Earths were advanced enough for us to return back to our universe. A few Earths were still in the dinosaur age. You would have liked them. It was not difficult to go back from them either as there was no interference.

“Unfortunately, I along with my dear co-pilot, got stuck in this Earth. The wavelengths of the services like phones etc. here created hinderances for our machine. In fact, every time we tried to go back, a huge discharge was formed but we could not travel.

“It took me 5 years to realise the issue and correct it. The time machine is just a front. Don’t get me wrong, it does travel in time. We had perfected that around 200 years back. However, I created the machine with a flaw. The dark energy created through this machine can be used to create a portal to multiple dimensions. Opening the portal however was a risky venture as during that period, anything could happen. The portal is not a one-to-one gate but more like an open platform where anyone can come or go.”

I paused the video and looked around once again. There were no signs of any portal opening. Besides, Sam herself was lying there, dead. Did she fail to go back? And where is the police? Surely, they would have come here by now.

“For one minute, the portal remains open and that is the minimum time I could muster after five years of research. It was sufficient for me to travel — at a cost. I won’t be able to travel with my body. Instead, I will have to send my DNA and replicate it back on my Earth. It is not difficult, but a little unpleasant. Also, I won’t be able to control who might travel through the portal and stay on earth for one minute. But I have a hunch as to who will. The beast can slay thousands of humans in one minute.

“In fact, I think with the population density of this Earth, it might kill millions. But, I can’t stay anymore. I am ready to take that burden with me if it means going home.

“I am sorry you had to see this side of me. I liked you Kanishk. I couldn’t imagine you dying because of my attempt to go home. I could have used this machine on the first try itself but I couldn’t. I had to ensure that you survive. I initially thought of sending you away but I knew that it was not a sure way. The only way to be sure was to send you in a time-vortex. That is the safest place from the beast.

“I know I am a monster but please know this — I did come to love you. I hope that you would forgive me for this… this slaughter.”

The video stopped. I looked around and decided to go back in the machine to stop it. I may be able to convince her to stop this madness. I went back in the machine but it would not work. The machine was made for one side travel and it had stopped working as soon as it landed here.

I came out and looked at the footage of the past 24 hours. It started with me entering the pod. Then, came the carnage. Words are not enough to describe the next two minutes. A beast came, 12 feet long, it looked like a dragon. It immediately started to rip apart everything it saw, as if in a frenzy. For the next one minute, it continued to kill everyone who was in the room. We had an army of 115 professionals around the room and 25 scientists in the various rooms at that time. All lay to ground as the beast killed everyone.

Not just that, it replicated each time it killed someone. Each of the new dragon immediately left the building as if to increase the damage area. I shuddered. I didn’t even want to know how many more people had died outside.

After that one unholy minute, there was an emptiness. I skipped a few hours to see if anything changed but nothing happened. I closed the video and opened the internet. News was flooded with sightings of dragons killing people.

An article estimated the death of around 25 million people in one minute.

I sat there stunned. I was in the middle of 25 million dead bodies.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Search for Skara

It is said that revenge is a dish best served cold.

I was 12 when my parents were murdered. Butchered in front of my eyes by a woman. I can still remember the wildness in those eyes. She was wearing a cloak, as if to hide herself in the darkness. When she approached us, she was wearing goggles, dark ones, in the night. In all honesty, that should have sent us running in the other direction. However, it wasn’t so. He asked my mother about her neckless. Her wayward walk and her blazing eyes, once she had removed the goggles, told us that she didn’t care about the neckless one bit.

After a minute of idle chat, she simply pulled out a kitchen knife and slit my mother’s throat. Next, she moved to my father. Before I could comprehend what had happened, I was an orphan.

It has been 15 years since that night. Not one night has passed when I have not dreamt about it. Not one day has passed when the word revenge has not flown through my mind.

But I had to become stronger first. A frail child could never have taken that revenge. It would take a lot of planning and even more guile to take down my enemy. Especially since that woman was now the Queenpin of the city. Yet, I planned for the sweet revenge. However, I never expected things to happen like that.

After my parents’ death, I was sent to Europe for higher studies.

Although an orphan, his family name was enough to get him a good school and later, a good college.

“Harshit, I am impressed by your improvement in the martial arts. Usually, Indian students are more focused on maths and science, subjects of the minds. I did not expect someone to be as interested and talented as you are in this field.” My master complemented me on my skills.

However, I was not done yet. I was only 24 and I could still not dodge bullets. I was getting some news on the woman- Skara was her name, at least that is what the underworld and police called her. She was getting stronger. In the past 12 years, she had gained more power than he expected. She ruled over the Mumbai Underworld. In fact, in the past few years, it was getting difficult to get any information regarding her as she was moving up the ranks of the underworld.

“Master John. Is it possible for me to get training with Master Mushi?” I asked my master tentatively. While he had declined my previous requests, his encouragement today gave me the courage to ask again. Master Mushi was the greatest martial artist in the world right now. Only he could train me well enough to beat Skara.

“I have already informed him. He will be expecting you in seven days.” Master John said smiling at me. While he knew my past, he did not know my intentions. He assumed that I was just a good student who wanted to improve. I wanted to kill.

Three years, I trained hard, making my steel body into diamond. I was quick before, now I was lightening. I was smart before, now I was cunning. I had learnt the martial arts before, now, I was a warrior.

These three years were not just an attempt to become a weapon for revenge but also a meditation to improve myself beyond my own expectations. I was finally ready.

After 15 years, I was ready to have my revenge.

It was not a difficult task to locate her business location. Before going to Master Mushi, I had made arrangements for people to keep tracks on her. I almost immediately found her evil lair.

However, as luck would have it, after killing 15 people and beating the heck out of at least 20 more, I only found that she rarely visited this site any more. In fact, she had not visited the site in the past one year. The thug, despite under my knee, looked proud when he said-

“Skara only goes where there is trouble. This site was perfect in every way so Skara never had any need to come here.”

“Until now.” I said in anger and burned even more of the building. Over 50 people died because of Skara that night.

If only she would have been there, the slaughter would have ended. However, she wanted to play and he was more than happy to comply.

In the next three weeks, he discovered four more safehouses of Skara’s group. However, his revenge seems to be always one step away. It was as if she could read his thoughts and move one step ahead.

‘Don’t be an idiot.’ I said to myself. ‘She is not a mind reader.’

My name was becoming famous in the underworld. People were scared of me. Even though, I was just trying to find one person, apparently people could not see the pattern in my killing. I never hurt people who helped me in moving closer to Skara, except for that one guy. But he had looked funny. I was sure, he would have informed her of my attack.

And all the other guys had it coming. Power hungry mongrels who just saying that they didn’t know the truth. I had to make others afraid so that I could get the truth out. Unfortunately, people were apparently loyal in the underworld. The only answer I received was that she was either resting or at some other place.

This was my last chance. This informant was reliable. Although he did not know much about Skara, before dying, he had told me about this meeting in detail. This meeting would have all the most important people of all crime organizations. This meeting was supposed to be really important and Skara was definitely going to be here.

I reached the rendezvous point and decided to wait outside. I wanted to get in the meeting but it would be too risky. Besides, I had already planted enough explosives inside for the whole place to blow up in a matter of minutes. It was good that these thieves have chosen an empty house for this meeting. Less collateral damage.

— —

“His name is not known. But many people call him ‘Shaitan’. People are afraid of him.” Rahim spoke softly. He managed most of the west Mumbai region and was the primary host for the meeting.

“It is said that he kills indiscriminately. Although, some reports suggest that he is searching for something… or someone. People have heard him use the word Skara often.” Veer said looking pointedly at Munna while sipping hot tea. He was famous for drinking more tea than most hooligans drank alcohol. He had been asked to look into the matter and his men were trying to understand and research about the monster who was after them.

“Skara?” Said Munna as his face paled. The 22-year old was the youngest in the meeting.

He came to the underworld by chance. He was 7 year old when he became an orphan. From the prospects of going to a good school and college, he was thrown in an orphanage from where, the natural trajectory of self-preservation took him to underworld. Here, he rose up the ranks till only last year, he finally established his own gang — Skara.

“What is this ‘shaitan’ asking about Skara?” An elderly man huffed and rolled his eyes while saying the word ‘shaitan’. He was in his 70s at the least but held the central Mumbai under strong control. His word was usually consider a law in the world of thieves, liars and hoodwinks. In many ways, he was the constant in the ever changing world of crime. Cunning and shrewd, it was his idea to arrange the meeting in a crowded place. This way, no one in his right mind would attack directly on them.

“This man is asking about a woman named ‘Skara’? Odd, isn’t it.” Veer said.

Munna jumped from his seat and was visibly terrified.

“It can only be him.” Munna whispered with white lips.

“Who?” The old man asked while puffing a cigar.

“His name was Harshit. His parents lived here in Mumbai only. My mother was a housemaid in their house. In addition to this, she would babysit Harshit as well when his parents went to parties or something like that. One day, when I was seven, I was told by policemen that my mother was killed in their house.

“According to them, they had found Harshit’s parents murdered by a knife in the drawing room while in the kitchen, they found the dead body of my mother — Skara. They told me that the murders were done by their 12 year old child Harshit who was apparently psycho. He first killed my mother and then waited for his parents to come. Then, he butchered them as well. They had sent him away to a mental asylum.”

Munna said as the others listened to him holding their breaths.

“So, what happened to Harshit?” Rahim finally asked.

“I don’t know. He destroyed my life, I didn’t want to track his.” Munna said shaking.

The old man called a minion of his and whispered something in his ear. He ran outside with his phone in his hand, already dialling a number.

The whole party came to a stand still as they analysed the new information Munna had provided them. Soon, the man came back from outside, and whispered back in the old man’s ear.

“So, gentleman, apparently, Mr. Harshit ran from the mental asylum three years ago and no one has seen him since then.” The old man said, dropping the temperature of the room by at least 5 degrees.

“So, we have a madman, chasing after a dead woman and who has already killed 200 people, out of which at least 100 were innocents including 15 children.” Veer summed up the whole situation.

“Suddenly, the crowded market place seems like a really bad idea.” The old man said.

As if on cue, the bombs started to explode.

— —

“When will I find Skara and get my revenge?” Harshit thought as he dejectedly returned after blowing up all the criminals in the abandoned building.

“At least, I am removing the bad people from the city.” Harshit said smiling as he went back to his house.