Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Bargain with the Devil

“Dang!” Varnith said and jumped up and down a few times with his left leg in the air.

“What happened?” Jules asked.

“Same old thing. Hit by a prick. Can you please help?” Varnith said and sat on a rock nearby. Jules picked out the thorn from his foot and gently wiped the blood clean. This was the third wound Varnith had had during the past two hours. Jules was impressed that the number wasn’t higher considering the foolhardiness shown by her boss.

“Why don’t you wear the shoes I had brought for you? They would work perfectly for you.” Varnith ignored her as always. She bit her lip but remained silent.

“We are almost there. No need for the shoes.” Varnith said after 5 min of more traveling. The place looked beautiful and yet had a rustic feel to it.

“Wow!” Jules said looking at the grandeur in front of her. She hated her boss’ eccentricities most of the times but she was awed by his knowledge and taste. Most of the weirdness shown by Varnith, she attributed to his being uber-rich. Varnith was one of the richest men in the world and unlike other people, he was not a one-trick pony. He had invested again and again in multiple business, held several PHDs in multiple fields and had even received a Nobel Prize in Physics. As far as Jules knew, Varnith was what happened when Iron Man was on steroids.

And with all this, he would find time to find exotic and pristine places.

“So, do you think it would be a good place to start the next project.”

“Yeah. I suppose. But I still don’t understand. Why do you want to learn music and why do you need a place like this for that?” Jules asked. Varnith had one day woke up and decided he wanted to be a musician. No one questioned him.

“Oh Shit!” Varnith said and fell down. His foot had hit a huge boulder and a part of the stone had cut a sharp cut.

Varnith looked at the blood and promptly fainted.

“Wha.. What happened?” Varnith said after waking up.

“What happened is that you saw blood and fainted. After that, I had to pick you up and do the first aid. For the past hour, you have been easily sleeping while I have been trying to clean this wound. This would which seems infected.” Jules said tears coming out of her eyes.

“The boulder had some sort of vine on it. Maybe this is some kind of poison.” Varnith said calmly.

“P.. P.. Poison.” Jules said her eyes still moist with tears.

“It’s alright. I’ll be fine. I have a long life to live. This is just a tiny torture.”

“Tiny torture. Really! Poison is tiny torture.” Jules said her voice rising.

Varnith smiled at her and lied down again.

“Lie beside me Jules. You can’t do anything more there. Might as well rest.”

“No! I have to ensure that the infection doesn’t spread.”

“Jules. Your work there is done. Now rest.” Varnith said in an authoritative tone. A tone he rarely used, or needed. Jules immediately complied. Despite all his casual attitude, everyone who worked for Varnith feared this tone.

“Now, have some sleep.” Varnith said in a soft tone and Jules closed her eyes, still worried about Varnith’s infection. Soon, she dozed off.

She woke up to the tune of a flute. This was the best flute she had ever heard and when she saw who was playing it, she was shocked.

“Varnith! I didn’t know you could play flute.” She asked. He seemed perfectly at ease.

“And your infection?” She said looking at his leg. It was completely fine.

“I told you I’ll be fine. And I did come to learn music. Didn’t I?” Varnith said smiling.

“This can’t be. How do you do this? Are… Are you human?” Jules said scared.

“Last I checked.” Varnith said calmly.

“Then how do you do THIS.” Jules said just pointing at everything. Maybe it was the sleep or the weirdness of the location but for the first time, Jules realised that Varnith wasn’t just good, he was inhuman in his success. No one can actually achieve this much.

“I had been thinking of telling this to you for sometime now. But now that we are here, I am scared.” Varnith said softly.

“What?” Jules said listening intently.

“I.. umm.. like you Jules. You have been there for me more than anyone ever. I love talking to you and I would like to share more of my life with you. If, you are interested.” Varnith said, losing none of his panache and yet seeming hesitant.

Jules sat down. She had never given this a thought. She had been at this job for less than a year and she never thought Varnith and she had had any special connection. She was told that Varnith was a recluse and she never found this to be true but other than that, she didn’t think that Varnith thought of anything special about her. She realised, she was wrong. Varnith did think of her as special. That made her blush.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I gathered that from the 5 minutes that passed in the meantime.” Varnith said laughing and started playing the flute again.

“You didn’t tell me how you learnt to be this good.”

“This… This is not all me. You see, I sold my sole to the devil. In return, I got to be good at anything I do.” Varnith said.

“You sold your SOUL to the DEVIL. Come on! I am not that gullible. Tell me the truth.”

“I’m telling the truth. However, perhaps my sole is different from your soul.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I had intended to sell my soul but there was a typo in the form and I went with it. So, my spirit is safe. However, as you can see, I can’t protect my feet.”

“You sold your SOLE. Are you kidding me?”

“As good as the devil is in being devil, he isn’t good with paperwork. Lots of typos and errors. I corrected a few that helped me but left this one out.” Varnith said winking.

“You are joking.” Jules said.

“I have not joked or lied about anything I have said in this place Jules. However, you still haven’t given me answer to the first question. Can you be with a guy who sold his sole to the devil?” Varnith said with a wink.

“You will always be bare-feet.”

“Yes. Can you live with a bare-feet boy?”

“I suppose I can try.” Jules said smiling for the first time.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Valhalla’s Falling Standards

“Welcome to Valhalla.” The sweet voice said. The door was still closed. Arjun pushed the door but the door didn’t budge.

“Darn it.” Arjun said and pushed it again, harder. The door started to move slowly and finally, Arjun huffed his way into Valhalla — the paradise for heroes. Valhalla was the hall of Odin — a grand party for all the heroes who had fallen in battle. A huge honor and a huge burden, Arjun thought to himself as he entered. After entering, his mind simply went blank.

The whole room was the size of ten football fields and was filled with hundreds of tables with heroes of the lore walking around laughing and eating and having the time of their lives. Maidens of both genders moving around offering drinks and food to everyone while the music was in full blow, playing his favorite songs and filling the whole environment with electricity that he hadn’t felt in 35 years.

“Wow! You must have some gumption to be in a fight at this age.” A man with burly muscles and twirly moustache said to him. He was holding a huge mug filled with mead. He was posing the classical macho look that was allotted to the Norse gods. Arjun was stumped. He opened his mouth but no words came out. In response, he gulped some of the mead that was close to him.

“Hey everybody. This is Arjun. The newest member of Valhalla. Welcome the brave soul.” The man said in a booming voice bringing everyone’s attention to the duo. Arjun slouched a little more to hide himself from the sharp gazes.

“So, Arjun. What did you do while alive?” A woman asked. She had a slender body but the fierceness of her eyes told Arjun that she was a fighter.

“I was an accountant for most of life. Before that, I used to play in a band. For the last few years, I had been retired, hoping to die peacefully.” Arjun said truthfully. In his heart, Arjun didn’t know why he was present here. He had never had a fight in his whole life.

“And then life happened.” A young man smiled at him. Like Arjun, this person also didn’t have a warrior built. In fact, he looked just like a younger version of Arjun himself.

“How did you come here?” Arjun asked before he could stop himself. He hoped that this would give him some sense of reasoning for his presence.

The young man smiled. There was a sadness in his eyes that didn’t match the enthusiasm that this place held. His smile didn’t reach his eyes.

“I know I don’t look like a fighting person. In fact, it was the only fight I was ever in. A girl was being raped and I intervened. Unfortunately, I failed. I couldn’t save her or myself. The last thing I remember is gasping for breath as the two brutes choked me. Then, I was in front of that gate welcoming me to Valhalla.”

“That’s incredible.” Arjun said overwhelmed besides himself. He felt diminished in front of a young man, almost a boy, who gave up his life to save someone else.

“You must have been in a similar situation. You don’t look like a fighter too. No offence!” The young man said. Arjun nodded.

“You shut up Jonah! Look at this man’s eyes. He has seen the world.” A man older than Arjun came up and looked at Jonah with fierce eyes. Arjun was astounded at the fire that was blazing in this old man’s eyes.

“He might have killed more people than half of the people here combined.” Jonah whispered to Arjun and moved away. It was clear that no one messed with this old man.

“Who are you?” Arjun asked gingerly.

“Genghis.” The man said and Arjun’s non-existent heart beat jumped. He had heard of the man who change the world forever and now, that man was standing in front of him. Arjun immediately knew that all the stories about him were true. A hundred questions came to his mind but only one popped up — “Did you really sleep with more than a thousand women?”

Genghis looked at him incredulously and started to laugh. He shook his head with laughter and moved away.

“Don’t worry. Almost everyone asks this question.” A girl, not more than twenty, spoke eyeing the old man. It seemed that the charm of the old man still held, Arjun thought.

“TO ME!” A voice boomed in the whole hall and everyone looked in one direction. Arjun looked at the same place as well. Odin was here. Arjun immediately recognized the eye-patch and Odin’s aura fell on all of the people. Arjun had renewed strength and he felt he could have pushed that door with his little pinky finger.

“Today, we have six new members joining the halls of Valhalla. Watch their bravery, applaud their sacrifice and welcome their courage.” Odin said and the wall behind him exploded into a billion pixels showing off the largest television screen Arjun had ever seen, much bigger than anything he had ever imagined.

“Joyce. Step up girl.” Odin said bringing a thirty year old woman on the stage. She had been a nurse in the midst of a civil war. Arjun saw her protecting children from the strife. Then she picked up a gun and killed almost 10 men before dying. Her sacrifice saved those children and they were rescued. Arjun dabbed his eyes with his hands as the video ended.

“Rahman.” Odin said and a man in beard appeared on the stage. He was short in height and Arjun guessed that this person would be from somewhere in the middle-east — the region of perennial conflict. The video started to show how this man went into the battle knowing he would die. The whole scene turned bloody and Arjun started to feel queasy. He looked away till he heard the loud cheer from rest of them signalling that the video was over.

A couple of people also came and went, making Arjun feel even more confused as to why he was here. One girl had died fighting in a street fight while another guy was a soldier.

“Arjun.” Odin said and Arjun evaporated from his place and found himself standing on the stage besides him. Everyone was looking at him expectantly. The video behind him began.

Arjun was playing with his grandson — Amit. Amit ran from him outside and Arjun ran behind him.

“It’s not safe Amit. Come back.” Arjun shouted. Everyone held their breath expecting a bear to jump in front of Arjun. Arjun knew what was going to happen and his face reddened.

“Tickle war.” Amit said and jumped on Arjun. He started to tickle Arjun and Arjun tried to push him away while laughing.

“No Amit.” Arjun said and started to cough.

“Tickle war.” Amit said again and continued to tickle Arjun wildly.

Suddenly, Arjun clutched his chest and gasped on the screen. On the stage, Arjun realised why he was on this stage and shame engulfed him.

“Tickle war.” Amit said again however, this time a little apprehensive.

“Call your daddy.” Arjun said and pushed Amit away. Amit got scared and ran towards the house.

The video stopped.

Arjun looked at Odin who was looking at him sheepishly, as if saying, that’s it. Arjun looked around and everyone was looking at him with weird expressions on their faces. Arjun looked down, unable to meet their eyes.

“Tickle war. Really!” Arjun whispered to himself incredulously.

Random Tales

kpwrites #5

Tosef welped and jumped two feet high. His old nemesis had turned the whole floor unstandable. Tosef knew it was just the beginning and his old dread was back. He looked at Josef and pleaded for help but Josef’s eyes were filled with a mania that Tosef revolted from. Josef was possessed and Tosef’s plea was falling on deaf ears. He put Tosef in a box and started to fill the box with the liquid.

The thick liquid that had covered the floor slowly started to touch Tosef’s feet. It was warm like an acid and Tosef knew soon he would start to melt. Josef pushed Tosef further into the floor of the box. Tosef closed his eyes and finally accepted his fate and let out a lament in low tone – his final wail.

Fifteen minutes later Tosef was covered in linen and Josef was rubbing him vigorously. He couldn’t believe he survived the acid. Maybe Josef heard the wail and came to his senses. Tosef got excited and got himself free of the linen and ran around the house.

“Damn Tosef, stop running around. I just gave you a bath,” cried Josef holding a wet towel in his hand.

Tales of a Clumsy Girl

#8 Pay Me Not!

Mansi decided that life isn’t worth living. She had shouted, screamed and cried but nothing could change the inevitable. She hadn’t slept properly for days and she had even forgotten all her relationships because of this and yet, she hadn’t found success.

“We are working on it.” She heard every time she called Airbnb customer care.

“Let me tell you what the issue is,” Mansi started telling the customer care person what the bug in their system was and how they can fix it. The customer care respondent – definitely not a coder – listened patiently while checking her canned response number 53 and repeated it with utmost courtesy.

“Urgghhh. Listen, you…” Mansi started but before she could continue, the phone was snatched from her.

“You shouldn’t talk like this with them.”

“Can you believe them? I’m trying to pay them to book the rooms. I literally want to pay them money and they aren’t ready to take it. Morons!” Mansi roared.

“Don’t worry. It’s a corporation. They will find a way to take our money.”

“Yeah. Let’s hope we aren’t sleeping on the streets when we reach Rome,” Mansi said and tried to pay through the website again.