Random Tales

The Letter

Samantha picked the letter once more. Maybe the words had changed, her mind said to her heart. The letter contained just three words but their weight was slumping her shoulders and making her tired with each passing second.

‘I am done.’

Ashfaq had left in the morning before she woke up and all she got was this letter. No explanation, no reasoning, nothing. Just a letter with three words. Even a hollow statement of care would have been comforting to her but Ashfaq wasn’t like that. He spoke little and to the point.

‘Anything more is just flub,’ he often said.

Samantha looked at their fight yesterday. Was it that big of a deal? Was he overreacting? Had she crossed some invisible line?

“No, our love can’t be this weak that it can’t stand a single fight,” Samantha said to herself trying to make sense of the situation. Tears start to pour from her eyes.

Urooj came in the room and picked up Samantha. “What happened?” She asked Samantha. She looked at Urooj with glassy eyes.

“Ashfaq left me. How could he leave me, all alone?” Samantha said showing Urooj the letter with three words written on them.

Urooj sighed. She picked up Samantha and helped her sit on a chair.

“Can you believe it? Ashfaq left me because of one small fight.”

“What was the fight about?” Urooj asked Samantha.

“Silly thing. I got drunk last night and acted a bit crazy. He had told me to not drink too much but I still did it. He was mad last night. He took care of me the whole night and then left in the morning. He was so kind. How can he be so cruel? I know it’s my fault but he didn’t give me a chance.”

Urooj cradled Samantha who was crying uncontrollably now.

“Mom. Please calm down.”

“But the letter.”

“Forget about the letter.”

“You’re right. Ashfaq hasn’t taken his clothes and everything except for his phone and wallet were still in the house. In fact, it is technically his house. How can he go from his own house?” Samantha said with some comfort.

Urooj nodded, now, tears glistening her eyes as well.

“He will be back,” Samantha said confidently. Her wrinkled fingers clutching the letter in her hands.

Urooj helped her mom lie down in the bed. She couldn’t get the letter out of Samantha’s hand, as much she tried. Once Samantha dozed off, Urooj came out of the room.

“It’s her third attack in two days,” Urooj said to her brother James who had been in the other room, talking to the lawyer.

“The doctor said that these attacks would go away with time. We have to be patient,” James said hugging his sister.

“She’s not ready to leave the letter.”

“Frankly, I’m surprised that she still had that letter.”

“Yeah. When dad used to say that they kept everything, he wasn’t joking.”

“Yeah. I still wish she had not kept the letter. It takes her back to 35 years ago. And I tried telling her that dad came back after a couple of hours but she doesn’t hear or understand it at all.”

Urooj nodded. Their mom and dad had a fairytale love story. Except for that one day, early in their relationship, when their dad got too frustrated with their mom, the two never left each other’s side. For more than 35 years, they were together, until two days back when their dad passed away.

Urooj and James were sad but their mom was shattered. She was holding on to a meaningless letter, waiting for her boyfriend to come back. A boyfriend who came back and became a husband and a father. James and Urooj looked at their family picture from a few years ago. The four of them were smiling with a small caption –

Samantha, Ashfaq, James, Urooj – the perfect family.

“Miss you, Dad,” Urooj said.

“Miss you, Dad,” James said.

Random Tales

Family Members Only!

I was fifteen when my father died. Luckily, it was cancer. Now, I know what you are thinking. How can it be lucky? In a contorted way, it was lucky because it gave us time to prepare. We shared some wonderful moments and he imparted his wisdom on me.

Two years have passed since then and I take his words as gospels.

  • Never break someone’s trust.
  • Always be kind, even if you can’t be nice to someone.
  • Never wear a crumpled shirt.
  • Always follow the rules on your first day at work.

…and so on. I know the last one might be hilarious for you but in his view, one should always follow a rule until one understands why it exists. Once you understand a rule, you can decide whether you should break it or not.

Yesterday, I was almost forced to break one of his rules but I can proudly say that I didn’t. I hope he’s proud of me.

I started a part-time job in a hospital. My badge said night-attendant but in truth, I was a glorified guard outside the ICU – the Intensive Care Unit – where all the critically ill and terminal patients were kept. I was to ensure that only the family members of the patients are allowed to come inside their respective rooms. Apparently, it was usual for other patients to come in these rooms due to better facilities and sometimes, stronger drugs and I was there to stop that from happening.

I didn’t believe it for fifteen minutes of starting to work. Then, the first guy tried to enter the ICU. He was around 50 years old and while he seemed on his deathbed himself, I realized soon that it was an act. Ten minutes later, a woman, in her 20s tried to enter the ICU. I had to stop at least 10 people in a span of a few hours from entering the ICU.

No wonder that I couldn’t recognize the tall hooded creature when he tried to enter the ICU. He wore a brown-black robe which covered all of his head and his thin and bony fingers were barely visible from the arms of the robe.

“Sorry, sir. You can’t enter. Family members only,” I said to the hood and he promptly ignored me and continued towards the door.

“Excuse me, hooded man. I’m talking to you. You can’t enter,” I said and placed my hand in front of him. He turned to me and whispered in a shocked voice.

“You can see me?”

Anger surged through my body at the idiotic question but I pushed it down.

“Yes, sir. I can see you and I don’t think you are one of the family members of these patients. This means you can’t go inside.”

The man lowered his hood and a tall man with a smirk was looking at me.

“But can’t the rules be bent a little,” he said with a grin on his face. “For special, ah… guests.”

“It’s not up to me to decide that sir.”

“Of course. Perhaps this would help me persuade you to break the rules today.” The man said an fished his hand in his pocket for what I presumed was a few green ones. Not the first person to try this.

“With all due respect, money won’t work.”

“No… No… No… Not money. This,” he said and brought out a six inches rod. He gave it one jiggle and it turned into a large scythe. At the same time, his face started to turn white. No! Scratch that. The skin on his face started to dry out and the white skeleton started to show.

“Oh.” I said.

“Oh indeed.”

“Can I enter now? I have an important appointment with one of the patients. It’s a matter of death and death.”

I took a deep break, closed my eyes and opened them again to find the figure standing tall in front of me. My heartbeat was increasing by the second and panic was taking over every fiber of my body until the image of my father dawned over me.

“I’m sorry sir, Mr. Death. I can’t let you in. It’s the hospital’s rule and I can’t break it. Not today.” I didn’t know why Death was entertaining me. I was sure that it could take me out with a single swipe. I could see in Death’s face that it was also considering that option. But I couldn’t care less. The initial panic and fear was nowhere to be found now. It was replaced by anger and hatred. Death must have come for my father as well. It was because of Death that I became fatherless at the age of 15. It wasn’t cancer but the creature standing in front of me who caused my father’s death.

I won’t let him have another one today.

“I can see your mind. You’re angry.”

“Mr. Death. Please leave, family only.” I reiterated controlling my fury.

The man smiled.

“Ahh… Yes. I remember you. Two years ago. You were crying, holding your father’s hand. I’m sorry I had to do that.”

I felt my eyes welling up.

“Family members only,” I said mustering as much force as I could in my words. They were still feeble. I could see the nurse looking at me weirdly. She was probably seeing a man standing alone fighting back his tears, whispering and mumbling some words to an imaginary friend.

The man smiled once again but there was a strain in his smile.

“It’s very interesting that I can go through any wall but I can’t kill someone whose time isn’t up. Neither can I cross someone who can see me. I don’t know how the rules work but for me to complete my work, you have to move,” he said with a menacing rumble. I realized a moment later that I had indeed shifted a bit just by the strength of his words.

“NO!” I said once more. “Family members only.”

Death looked at me, deeply and then passed through me. I felt a shock run through my whole body.

He had a grin on his face.

“I thought you couldn’t pass me.”

“I can’t pass you to the ICY but I can pass through you, find out what you want so that I can change your mind,” Death said.

“You can’t.”

“Definitely not today. Your father’s gospel run strong in you. But maybe tomorrow?”

“Never.”

“Now… Now… Don’t be hasty. Let me make you a deal. If I keep my end of the bargain, will you break your promise tomorrow?”

I didn’t say anything but he continued talking. After a while, he left. That was yesterday. Today, I’m waiting for him.

My father said never to break a rule on the first day of the job. I kept my promise. I hope he is proud of me when he sees me today.


This story was from a Reddit Prompt and can also be read here – http://bit.ly/2UTw4GY

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Alone

Mukund picked another photo and decided that now, this one was his favorite. He had changed his mind with every photograph and had spent hours on some photographs. He had saved the album from the fire. The only thing that he could save from the wretched fire.

Mukund pondered a lot where he should put the image of his mom. She was looking prettier than he could imagine. The black and white added to a sincerity to the photograph that isn’t the same in a colored photograph. And yet, Mukund would have preferred to have the photographs colored. He remembered asking his mom as a 5-year-old, why some photographs were colored whereas some were black and white.

“Oh Sweety! It’s because the colors are present in photographs of people who are alive. For example, look here, your grandfather’s photograph is black and white while standing beside her, your father is colored because you have to get him out of the bed for breakfast now. Now hurry up.” She said and Mukund ran up to his father.

He liked to remember that day. It was one of those memories etched in his mind that he hoped would stay even if he forgets everything else. Unlike the memory formed three years ago.

He was at college, last year with a job in hand. To enjoy the moment, he and his friends and gone out and partied late. He had woken up at 10 am in the morning with a girl he had picked up at the bar.

“Perfect.” He said to himself and stretched to relieve himself of the morning lethargy. He looked at the side table to check his phone and saw that the photograph of his family had turned black and white. The only person in color was him. His mother and father were already turned black and white. His younger sister’s face was turning from skin tone to black and white as he continued to look at it aghast.

He opened his phone immediately and saw multiple missed calls and messages. He called back and his friend replied in tears.

“A burglar came into the house. Your father tried to stop him but he was armed…..” Mukund didn’t hear much after that. He was at the airport taking the first flight to his hometown. Within a few hours he was at the place that gave him so much joy as a kid. It was teeming with policemen and neighbours. Some tried to provide him solace by hugging him while others mumbled words of condolences. Mukund barely remembered who was there much alone who said what. The whole world had gone silent for him.

As much as Mukund tried to forget that day, it was beyond him. He couldn’t believe that a day before that, he was worried about getting a job. It seems so trivial now.

Even the fire that burnt his house down today didn’t faze him much. Except for this box of photo albums, nothing was worth preserving in his mind anyways. He had lived alone for the past three years and had bare enough things in his house to survive. With no relatives and no family, he didn’t find any joy in buying anything. While most of these photographs had backups on cloud, he still wanted to hold on to the original versions.

Mukund picked another photograph. He hadn’t seen it ever. It was Mukund’s mother’s great-grandfather along with his family. Mukund kept looking at the photograph with a shocked look on his face. The photograph was old and withered. Its corners were turning yellowish and the whole of it was black and white; except for his great-great-grandfather. He was brimming with vivid colors. The photograph was when he would have been in his prime and looking at it, no one could say that he was dead for decades.

‘Is he though?’ A though lingered in Mukund’s mind. He realised that something was wrong. He checked his computer for the same photograph and realised that even in that photograph, his great-great-grandfather was colored.

“What the hell is happening?” Mukund shouted out loud. In response, his house’s IoT system turned on — ‘Opening News Channel’ — it said and switched on the television.

“In other news, a man has been discovered from the ice. We have yet to understand how he was alive and how old he actually is. He’s still asleep but doctors say that he is in good shape. His photograph is being shown on your screen and if anyone can identify him, please contact the number below.”

Mukund looked at the image on the screen and looked at the photograph he was holding. He fumbled towards the phone and called the number.

“Yes. My great-great-grandfather looks exactly like that. Also, the photo has turned colored. It might be him.” Mukund said hurriedly. He was given an address that he wrote on his laptop. He flicked a tear that was coming from his eye and booked a cab.

Mukund couldn’t believe that he was going to have a family again.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Jessica’s Fairy Tale

Jessica looked at her father, almost on the verge of tears.

“I don’t want a new mommy.” She said looking at Radhika with fear. Rajaram was uneasily looking at Radhika and Jessica. He had anticipated some friction from his five-year-old daughter but the sheer pain in Jessica’s voice shocked him.

Radhika’s face was unable to hide her surprise at Jessica’s straight out no.

“But honey, I thought you liked Radhika.” Rajaram asked gingerly. He controlled his emotions and tried to be as gentle as possible. It was essential for him that Jessica was ok with this. She had already told Radhika that Jessica had the veto power on their relationship.

“I don’t want a stepmom.” Jessica repeated herself closing her eyes. Tears started to stream from her eyes. She kept uttering the same phrase punctuated by sniffs and gulps.

“But Jessica…” Rajaram started before Radhika stopped him. She kept her hand Rajaram’s shoulder.

“It’s alright Rajaram.” Radhika said and stooped to face Jessica. She wiped Jessica’s tears and spoke softly.

“If that’s what you want, I won’t be your new mommy. I am sorry that we hurt you like this.” Radhika said.

Jessica opened her eyes and finally a smile spread on her face.

“You promise?” Jessica asked looking from Radhika to Rajaram. Rajaram never thought Jessica’s smile would hurt Rajaram but for once, he couldn’t help himself. He steeled himself. Jessica came first.

“Yes. We promise.” Rajaram said.

“Yes. We promise.” Radhika said. She stood up and looked at Rajaram. Rajaram could see in her eyes the pain he was feeling as well.

“It’s alright Raja.” Radhika said, her voice on the verge of cracking up. Rajaram tried to convey all his love through the silence that was expanding between them. The last time he had felt this pain was when Jessica’s mother was gone.

“Yay!” Jessica’s voice broke the silence and brought back Rajaram and Radhika to the reality. A reality in which they weren’t together anymore.

“I’ll leave.” Radhika said wiping a tear from her eye. Rajaram nodded. He knew this was the last time he was seeing Radhika.

“Don’t resent Jessica, please.” Radhika said softly to Rajaram. Jessica was now perfectly happy and had already started playing with her doll.

Rajaram nodded again, facing away from Radhika.

“Jessica. I’m going. You take care. I love you.” Radhika said and hugged her. She tried to fill the hug with all the love she had for Jessica. Over the past few months, she had come to love Jessica as her own daughter. Leaving her was as difficult as leaving Rajaram.

“Where are you going? We are to go to the park. You promised you would take me today.” Jessica said confused.

“You want to go to the park with me?” Radhika asked uncertainly.

“Of course! You promised. See, I got ready for this too.” Jessica said and showed her the frock she was wearing. It was the same frock Radhika had gifted Jessica a few weeks back.

“You like me?” Radhika asked tentatively.

Jessica slapped her forehead like Radhika was making no sense to her.

“Of course. I love you. Why would I want to go with you otherwise?” Jessica said matter-of-factly.

“And you want me to stay?” Jessica asked.

Jessica nodded.

“But you don’t want us to get married.” Rajaram added. Rajaram looked at Radhika and she looked as flabbergasted as Rajaram was feeling.

“No.”

“Do you wanna share why?” Rajaram asked curiously.

“I don’t want her to turn into an evil-stepmom.” Jessica said as it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“So you are trying to protect her.” Rajaram asked, this time amused.

“Obviously. I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.” Jessica said confidently.

“Ok. So, let me get this right. You want me and your daddy to stay together but not get married.” Radhika asked smiling, finally catching up on the joke.

Jessica nodded in agreement.

“Can we please go to the park now?”

“Yes. Just one more question honey.” Rajaram said.

“How would you feel if Radhika lives here with us?” Rajaram asked.

Jessica smiled the biggest smile Rajaram had ever seen.

“That would be so AWESOME!!” Jessica said shouting at the last word. “Will you live with us?” Jessica asked Radhika.

Radhika looked from Jessica to Rajaram, incredulously.

“Huh! I… guess… Yes.” Radhika said laughing.

“Yay!” Jessica shouted and hugged Radhika.