Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

The New Marriage Counselling Method

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was biting her lip. Not a good sign.

“How many times?”

“Not much, a couple of times before.”

“And has he shot you?”

“No.” The woman said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikalp reached home and sank in the sofa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Waiting, for what?” Vikalp asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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