Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Purposeless

I picked up a pebble and threw in in the ocean. The pebble jumped twice and then sunk in the water. The beach was crowded today. People of all age were on the beach, laughing, giggling and just about having the time of their lives.

A couple, elderly, probably around 75 years of age was walking towards him. I felt a pang of jealousy, looking at the silver hair on their heads. I ran my hand through my hair and a strand came out on my hand. Jet black! As always.

Damn!

It had been over 2000 years now. I don’t remember the exact time when I was born. I had forgotten most of the first 500 years of my life. And here they were, old couples walking hand in hand with grey hair.

“Bloody old people with their bloody white hair enjoying their bloody purposes.” I muttered and threw another stone in the ocean.

On an average a person lived around 80 years. The first twenty or thirty odd years go in finding a purpose. That is when a person truly starts to get older. Scary thought, isn’t it. Let me tell you something scarier — not finding your purpose.

It was fun for the first few centuries. I was alive while others grew old, weak and then died. The charm slowed down for a few years but started again during the dawn of industrial revolution. However, that lasted only so long and now, this new millenia really started to frustrate me.

I wanted out and there was nothing that I could do about it. I tried everything. Saved lives, traveled the world, learned to cook, invented a few things and became a voice artist for sometime as well. Believe me, I tried everything possible.

Unfortunately, not a single grey hair, zilch. I still look like a 20-something.

“Hey Suyash!” Sheena called me. I cringed. I turned hoping against hope that it is someone else calling some other Suyash. No such luck!

Sheena came running to me and gave me a bear hug. She had almost tackled me. That is amazing considering that she is a tiny girl.

“Hi Sheena.” I said trying to create some distance between us. I had met her only a week ago and boy if I had accidentally found a sick puppy. Let me tell you three things about Sheena.

One, she is accident prone. Trust me when I say that she is on a completely different obstacle course of life than the rest of us. She stumbles, fumbles and is outright idiotic. Two, I met her when she was thrown out of her orphanage for turning twenty. She immediately got attached to me like a flea to a dog. Three, in her twenty years, she learnt nothing about the world. She has seen the world through her books and all she knows about the world is what those books told her. Unfortunately, most of those books were fairy tales.

These three things combined meant that she couldn’t live through her entire day without being at some kind of risk. For the past one week, I have had to save her from thugs, thieves and even dogs. Really! Dogs. I leave her for two minutes and I come back to find her trying to feed a rabid dog. It was only my centuries of practice helped me aim towards dog with quick reflexes. I have no idea how she was surviving before meeting me but it gives me hope that she can live without me. Unfortunately, she isn’t leaving me.

“I missed you Suyash.” Sheena said while trying to still continue the hug.

“You had gone to change into beach clothes. It was just ten minutes.” I muttered.

“Whatever. So, I was thinking that maybe we should eat some seafood today. I am in the mood.”

“You are allergic to sea food.”

“Not all fishes. I can eat that small one.” Sheena said making a C with her fingers, trying to remind me of the small fish she ate a few days back. She is talking about Sushi. It was chicken sushi. Don’t ask.

“That wasn’t a fish.”

“But I thought we ordered fish.”

“I asked him to make the dish with chicken as you are allergic.”

“Oh. Okay. Chicken then.” Sheena said while picking up a pebble. She threw it towards the sea and it fell short of the waves. I shook my head silently.

“What! I am learning.” Sheena said and picked up another one.

“Don’t you have anything else to do?” I snapped. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate people. Even after thousands of years, I enjoy spending time with people but she is a torture. Can’t a man lament his immortality in peace. I know what you are thinking. Toughen up. Just 50-odd years and then I will be free of this person. Just because I have lived this long doesn’t mean my seconds have started to move faster. Those will be 50 long years.

“I had this appointment. Some interview or something. But I thought spending time with you would be more fun.” Sheena said as my eyes widened.

“You have an interview. For work?” I asked.

“Yeah. But it is like in half an hour or something.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well. I don’t know… I didn’t think it was important or you cared.” She said and picked up another stone. All I could see was an opportunity to spend 9 peaceful hours in a day, everyday. I took her hand and made a run for it.

“It is not right. A girl should be independent. You should go for that interview.” She yelped but continued to move with me. To be honest, she didn’t have much choice. I was around 6 feet while she barely scratched the 5 feet mark.

“Where is the office?” I asked her while running.

“Dunno. Somewhere in the central city region. I have the address in my mobile.” She said and gave me the mobile. I entered the password (yes, this girl gave me her mobile password in the first two days — go figure) and checked the email. I could make there in 30 minutes but I had to get Sheena into a dress as well.

“Sit.” I said to her and jumped in the driving seat. I called a friend of mine who worked in the same building and told him to get a dress for Sheena — size small — and meet me in the ground floor, within 20 minutes.

“You really care that much.” Sheena said while stifling a yawn.

“Yes. You will get this job. It will make you confident and independent. You should do it.” I said absent-mindedly. I was focused on the road. I don’t think I had drove like this since 1998. And the only time before this when I had my heart racing like this was around 1800s. The horses in those times were something.

“I don’t have the right clothes. I haven’t brought my certificates.”

“Your certificates! Where are they?”

“At your house. I brought them yesterday with my stuff.”

“You brought all your stuff to my place.” I was shocked and yet not. I should have expected it from her.

“Yeah.” I called my maid and gave the phone to Sheena.

“Tell her where the documents are.” I said while zipping through a yellow light. I think it turned red by the time I actually crossed the signal but that is a problem for another day.

She told the maid and I sent the address to her Whatsapp (yes, my maid uses Whatsapp). I called my driver to bring the documents within 15 minutes to the location. He should make it. I live in the central part of the city. I bought the land around 1750 when the city was a village.

We had reached the office just 5 minutes before her interview. I literally pushed her to the washroom to change and for once, she hurried. Within 5 minutes, she was ready. Unfortunately, my driver was not here yet. This meant we were late. I told my friend to bring the documents as soon as the driver came with them and ran towards the lift.

The lift took at least 5 minutes to reach the floor where the interview was set. I hate slow lifts.

“The interview.” I said panting.

“Name?” The woman sitting with glasses asked me in a stern tone. Remember, I look twenty something despite my age. What can I say, I maintain myself, unfortunately.

“Sheena.” Sheena said. Full name Sheena. I thought bitterly. Suddenly I realised that all these efforts might all be in vain. After all, they will talk to Sheena.

“Yes. I am sorry but your interview is delayed by fifteen minutes. Can you wait for 10 more minutes?”

I gave a sigh of relief, surely audible. I thanked the kind lady and sat down on one of the chairs present for candidates. Sheena said beside me taking my arm in hers. I was too exhausted to even push her away.

Five minutes later, my friend was there with the documents.

“Don’t worry. She will get the job.” He said to me. I thanked him.

“Ms. Sheena. You can go now.” Finally the lady called her. I stood up before Sheena, my excitement barely contained.

“Wow! I really didn’t think we would be here today. Thanks for doing this for me Suyash.” Sheena said and without warning kissed me.

This was the first time we were kissing and I must say, it was good and I have centuries of experience. Nevertheless, there were more pressing matters at hand and I pushed her away.

“All the best.” I said to her but more to myself.

“Thanks.” She said her hand stretching to weave in my hair. For once, I let her. I was too excited.

“Hey! I didn’t know you had grey hair, Mr. Oldie.” She said laughing.

“What?”

“Oh come on! Don’t be scared. Its just one grey strand. I just hope it wasn’t from the kiss.” She said and ran to the interview.

I went to the washroom and saw it. A grey strand standing proudly and not just that. I had a wrinkle near my left eye. It wasn’t there in the morning. A tear trickled down my eye. I didn’t know what caused it — the race, getting Sheena to the interview or the kiss — but I got older. I had found my purpose in life. I just had to pin-point on it. Somehow, though, I already knew it was the third one.

“Not again Sheena.” I said annoyed.

“Sorry.” Sheena said as I picked her up. She had tried to bend to get a pebble and fell down. At the age of 70, it is not wise to pick stones just to throw them in the ocean.

“Wow! You are still strong.” Sheena said. I smiled at her. Fifty years have passed since that first grey hair came in my life. Fifty years, spent in caring for Sheena and in spending time with her.

I do feel a guilt sometimes that maybe I stayed because being with her aged me. But I don’t care. She loves me absolutely and these past fifty years have been amazing. I did fell in love with her. When, I don’t know. Sometimes I think I fell in love the first time I met her but I didn’t want to accept it. Other times, I think it was after our first kid that I truly felt those feelings for her.

Honestly, I don’t know and now, after fifty years of growing old together, I don’t care.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Gods amongst Us!

Akshat sighed and picked up the bag of the man standing in front of him. The man was standing between two cops who held him tightly.

“You can release him now. I will take care of him.” Akshat said to the policemen.

“Are you sure?” One of the cops — Salman — said. Akshat did not blame him but felt a little disappointed. Just because a man looks middle-eastern, people judge him all the way to Sunday. He did not like the direction the world was moving towards but he eventually made peace with it.

“I will be fine.” Akshat said to the cop. The cops unshackled the man with long hair and a beard. He was wearing something like a toga and was looking all around astounded.

“You do not understand.” The man said and grabbed Akshat’s collars as soon as he was freed. The policemen held the man again.

“I told you he is dangerous. Deranged!” The other policeman — James — said.

“Really! And what has he done? He is just afraid.” Akshat finally said a little irritated.

“We did a background check on him. No records. And between you and me, look at his face — long beard, dishevelled hair and that accent…” Salman moved a little closer and whispered — “… he might be a terrorist, you know.”

“How can you say that? You yourself are a muslim.” Akshat said incredulously.

The cop looked a little flustered and didn’t say anything.

“Anyways, I will take care of him. Sir, please come with me.” Akshat said turning to the man held by the two cops.

“You don’t understand.” The man said, his head hanging. Although dejected, he followed Akshat slowly. The cops left him but stayed put in case the man tried to do something.

“This is going to be your room.” Akshat said and kept the bag in the room. “I will be back in 10 minutes. You get comfortable in the meantime.” Akshat said and moved back to the reception area.

“I don’t understand why you do this Akshat. These people should be put in a normal mental asylum.” James said to Akshat once he returned.

“No, James. I feel that people like him need a different type of surrounding. Anyways, thanks for bringing him to me before someone hurt him.”

“Yeah no problem buddy.”

“How did you find him, by the way?”

“No big deal. He was standing in the middle of a crossing in a fountain, trying to call people and tell them that he is Jesus. First we thought he was drunk as the whole fountain smelled like alcohol but then we realised that he was a candidate for your place.” Salman said.

“I just don’t understand why people like him choose my religion to taint.” James said. He was extremely religious.

“Better than the situation with my religion buddy.” Salman said and laughed. He was not at all religious.

“Hmm.. Its alright. I will take care of him.”

“Okay Akshat. Bye.” The two said and left. Akshat came back to the room and saw Jesus still standing where he had left him.

“Jesus, Lord. Are you alright?” The man looked up and asked.

“Who’s Jesus?” Akshat was taken aback. Maybe the man in front of him really was just a normal crazy guy.

“The policemen said that you were calling yourself Jesus when they found you.”

“What? No! I was trying to tell them that I am God’s son. I am reborn to help them to salvation. My name is Yeshua.” The man replied.

“Oh. Of course. I forgot.” Akshat said chiding himself.

“So, you don’t think I am crazy.” Yeshua asked, still a little uncertain.

“I don’t. I think you are who you say you are but you have not kept up with the times, my lord.”

“I feel the same way. I am sorry, I don’t know your name.”

“Akshat.”

“What should I do then Akshat?”

“You should get an orientation. I have already assigned you a mentor and he will help you in understanding the current situation in the world.”

“Oh. Ok.” Yeshua said.

Akshat took him to a breakout area. Around 5–6 people were sitting in the area. There were two women — one was wearing a sari while another was wearing a long robe. The men were of various shapes and sizes. One man had a pet eagle which he was stroking gently. A couple of people were playing a video game on a television. One man had a Jackal tattooed in his arm with a big A on top of it while the other one was wearing a locket with a trident. Another television was showing news with two old men watching it.

“Thor looks mighty fine, I must say.” The old man with an eyepatch said.

“Yes. He does.” Another old man with long white beard and white flowing hair responded.

“Odin… Brahma… This is Yeshua. He has joined in today.”

“Great to see you boy.” Odin replied.

“You people are here, in a mental institution.”

“Hahaha… It is an institution but not a mental one.” Brahma replied. “It is more like a school for people with special origins. Akshat borrowed the idea from X-Men. You can call me Professor X too if you want.” He said laughing.

“You will be Beast, Brahma.” Odin taunted Brahma.

“But why?” Yeshua asked confused.

“They will explain it all to you in detail. I have some other work however. I will take your leave.” Akshat said and left.

“Bye.” Yeshua said and then turned to the two old men.

“So, I am not a prisoner?” He asked.

“Prisoner! Hahaha. You are cute.” Odin chuckled.

“No boy. We will train you to understand the ways of the world so that you can change the world in the way it can be changed.” Brahma said.

“Yes. The world doesn’t like Gods anymore. They usually come in the way of religion for most people.” Odin said.

“What do you mean? Isn’t the two things same anymore?”

“You died too young kid. The two things were never the same. God is what created the humans. Religion is what kills them.”

“I thought I killed the humans.” A man shouted in a husky voice. Tall, dark with a shade of blue around the neck and piercing eyes that could burn, the man entered wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He was puffing a joint and smiled looking at the three.

“You are back early this week. Yeshua, this is Shiva. He is the God of actually a lot of things but he prefers to be called the God of destruction.”

“I know. I heard.” Yeshua said, a little apprehensive. He had heard of Shiva’s temper and did not intend to be on his bad side.

“New kid.” Shiva asked the two and they nodded. “Relax kid. Its a fun world out there. You just have to adjust a bit.” Shiva said taking a long drag.

“What is happening? Someone please help me understand.” Yeshua said a little frustrated.

“You guys didn’t explain it yet.” Shiva asked.

“We were about to when you walked in.” Odin huffed.

“Go ahead then.” Shiva said and went towards the ladies. He kissed the woman in the sari and spoke something in her ear. She giggled and nodded and went back to talking to the other woman. Shiva then moved to the two people playing video games and started chatting with them.

“His wife.” Brahma said as Yeshua looked at him quizzically.

“Anyways, orientation time. Sit down kid.” Odin said.

Yeshua sat down in front of the two old deities.

“The world has changed and it doesn’t accept Gods. A lot of Gods when come on Earth are either chided or are considered crazy.” Brahma started.

“Come to think of it, this all started with you kid.” Odin said grinning at Yeshua. Yeshua looked down not meeting his eyes.

“Its not your fault. People are… ahem… complicated. You give them free will and they are going to make bad choices.” Brahma said.

“Yeah. So, me and Brahma decided to do something about it.” Odin started but got interrupted by Brahma.

“Alright! Akshat decided to do something about it. He started this place and asked me and Brahma for help. We were free too so decided to chime in. Old folks helping out the new Gods to understand how the world works so that they can change it without getting thrown into asylums or prisons or worse, getting killed.”

“And how does that work?” Yeshua asked curiously.

“You play the game as per the human rules and then because you are a God, you beat the bad ones. So, it is kind becoming a super hero.” Odin said.

“More like big impactful personalities.”

“Yeah. Take Thor for instance. He is trying to change millions of lives by taking a direction no one dared to take.” Odin said pointing at the screen, his chest puffed with pride.

“He is making electric cars.” Yeshua asked skeptically.

“Yeah. The boy can’t keep himself away from lightening for some reason.” Odin said, laughing.

“Similarly, Apollo first became the richest man in the world and these days focuses on removing diseases in Africa. Ra and Zeus are working together. They have created a company with the motto — Do no evil. As if anyone believes that.” Brahma said.

“So, basically all rich people are Gods?” Yeshua asked.

“What, heck no! Some went into art, others went into other fields. They just ensure that they give direction to the human society in a positive way. Everything remains the same, the only downside being you are not called a god anymore. Some will call you a genius, other will call you a miracle and many would call you a God’s gift but no one of us is called Gods anymore.” Brahma said.

“Except for that one guy.” Odin said.

“Yeah.” Brahma replied.

“Who?” Yeshua asked curious.

“There is this one god — I won’t name him — but he decided to go into sports and that too a game played by like 10 countries — cricket, it is called. Everyone of us laughed at him and now, he is the only one called God.”

“Wow!” Yeshua said.

“Yeah. Didn’t see that one coming.” Odin said.

“So, basically, take a week here. Understand the world, talk to a few people here who live in the society and then take up an identity that you feel you can pull off.” Brahma summarised.

“Any questions, kid?” Odin asked.

“One more — who is Akshat? I mean I don’t think he is a human.”

Odin laughed in a booming voice, Brahma too smiled. The others looked towards them expectedly.

“What happened?” The woman in the robe asked.

“Athena, he is asking that who is Akshat.” Odin said in between tears.

The others also joined in with the the two old men. Yeshua looked at them confused. Brahma finally said.

“We thought you knew, or at least should have guessed till now. He is your old frenemy.”

“Frenemy?”

“Friend and Enemy.” Odin said. “What is the name of this place, kid?” He continued.

“Morning Star Institution. But what does that… Oh!” Yeshua said and smiled.

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

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.