Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

I died, therefore I am

‘I died around one year ago. It was an accident. Nothing fancy. Not even anyone’s fault. However, as fate would have it, I died. Heck! I don’t even have anyone to take revenge from as no one is an evil culprit. And while once I would have given anything to be alive again, this wasn’t what I had bargained for.’

Rajesh wrote in his diary and folded it neatly in a cover. He then went ahead and placed it in the hidden cabinet only he knew about. He didn’t write much anymore. When he was alive, his diary was his second most important friend, after his twin brother. However, now, the diary was all he had to share his life with. Life, after death.

Usually, whenever he used to sit down, he would at least finish off 2 pages before getting up. However, today, he didn’t feel like writing much. He was repeating what he had written more than once. In fact, the opening line was some thing of a daily ritual. A kind of reminder for him to know that the life he is living right now is wrong.

Rajesh went to the laptop and opened incognito window in browser. He took care that no one finds out that he was around them. His only inclination to even go online was the curiosity to know if there were other cases like him. The results were less than exciting.

‘I sometimes feel that he is around. I don’t know how. But he seems to be here with me.’

Rajesh read the account of a person talking about his dead brother. He wondered if his brother Ritesh also felt the same way. Maybe Ritesh also felt the tingling of Rajesh’s presence. Dare Rajesh hope so?

Rajesh shuddered. He had given up all kind of hope in that regard after the first month. Initially, excited at the new development, he had tried to contact his brother but that turned counter-intuitive. His brother almost went into an attack that resulted in a two-day coma. This happened more than three times before Rajesh gave up on trying to contact his brother. His presence had a much deeper impact on his brother than he had thought.

A tear trickled through his eye as he kept searching for any case as unique as his. He did not ask for it and now that he was here, he did not know what to do with this half-life. Like a vampire, he would come to life every night and then roam around with nothing to do and nowhere to go. When the sun came up, he would vanish, cease to exist and then next night, come to life like waking up from a sleep.

The tears started flowing a bit more freely as he lamented his condition. Rajesh never believed in self-pity but now, he could not help it.

“Honey! What are you doing up in the night?” Neha called from the bedroom door.

Rajesh quickly wiped his tears and shut the laptop screen.

“Nothing dear.” Rajesh said, his voice a little hoarse.

“Are you crying?” Neha said in a concerned voice. She came close to Rajesh and opened the laptop screen. The browser window showed a case of a man talking about his brother’s death.

“Oh dear!” Neha said and then held Rajesh in her arms from behind. She kissed him on the head and gave him a big hug.

“You are missing him today.” Neha said finally.

Unable to say anything, Rajesh nodded.

“I miss him too Ritesh. But please don’t hurt yourself like this. It has been over a year since Rajesh left us. You have to let him go.” Neha said rubbing Rajesh’s cheeks.

Rajesh nodded and wiped off the last traces of tears. Guilt had replaced sadness. He wanted to tell Neha that he was not Ritesh but Rajesh but he could not, not without hurting Ritesh.

“Come to bed now.” Neha said still hugging Rajesh.

“You go. I will come in a minute. Let me wash my face.” Rajesh said.

Neha gave Rajesh or rather Ritesh’s lips, a quick kiss and went to bed. Rajesh burnt with guilt as he went to the bathroom and looked at Ritesh’s face. He washed it and started crying again.

This time, without any inhibitions.

Two days after his death, he had woken up in Ritesh’s body. Ever since then, each day, as soon as Ritesh would go to sleep, Rajesh would wake up and whenever Ritesh woke up, Rajesh would stop existing. He did not know how it worked. It has never happened in the day time.

It could mean that either Ritesh never slept in the day or Rajesh could only come in the night. He did not know so much and there was nothing he could do. He tried going to bed early but to no avail. Unless Ritesh wakes up, Rajesh would remain in his body. Many days, he would keep lying in the bed doing nothing. Other days, he would try to research about this. All as inconspicuously as possible.

Most of all, he tried to ensure that Ritesh and Neha do not find out about this. He can’t risk his brother’s life at any cost.