Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 35/39: Two’s a company

“Hey.”

Mick looked up. A girl in her 20s was looking at her with a faint smile.

“Hey,” he said with a return smile. It wasn’t often that a girl would come to a guy directly in a bar.

“Is this seat empty?” The girl asked.

“Yeah,” he said with an inner glee. Then he remembered and his heart sank. Even if she liked him, there wasn’t much he could do about it.

Mick had died a couple of weeks ago. His soul had decided to stay around the body and while he couldn’t enter the body and revive himself, he was able to hold it and use it to enact, almost like a zombie. The first two days after that had been great and he decided that he will continue to live on like this. Then, his body started to show signs of deterioration. He realized that his body’s functions that were protecting him from bacteria and other microorganisms had stopped functioning. His heart wasn’t pumping blood and he was definitely not going to last. He decided to complete some final tasks – taking care of his parents’ finances, ensuring that his brother was off his ground, finishing his will, etc. before he leaves his body. It had taken two weeks to get everything done and each passing day had been harder than the last. At this point, he was just a hollow shell with skin preserved through chemicals. Mick had decided that tonight was the last night and thus, he decided to come to a bar. Alcohol isn’t going to do any good to his already dead body and would destroy a multitude of cells that will never regenerate. But he wanted to drink once more before he died.

The girl sat down in front of him and gave him a smile. She had a glass filled with ice and plain vodka or tequila if he had to guess. He could never judge a drink and with transparent drinks, he was just lost.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” the girl said. She was wearing a tall skirt, almost like a gown.

“Yeah. I don’t come to bars and pubs often,” Mick said. In truth, he had not come to a bar in a couple of years. The alcohol was cheaper to buy in a market and he preferred organizing parties at his home.

“Oh. I love parties and pubs,” the girl said with a visible change in her mood. Mick scolded herself for blowing his chance and then scolded himself for forgetting that he had no chance.

‘Mick! you died because of alcohol poisoning you idiot. If anything, you should tell this girl to reduce her drinking.’ Mick thought in his mind, remembering how he checked the first day on how he died. The only logical conclusion was either bad alcohol poisoning or overdosing on alcohol, which basically meant alcohol poisoning. The night before, they had partied harder than anything he had ever seen. Of course, if his death was discovered, the next morning would have been a damp one but that didn’t happen and all his friends left the place happy. Hungover, but happy.

“Good for you,” Mick said and focused on his drink. It was a mix of every drink possible. It tasted horrible but he wanted to drink everything once more. He had taken a pint of beer on the side as well just so that he could wash this horrible concoction with ease. Thankfully, he could feel all the sensations in his body albeit he had to focus on them now. For example, he could lose a limb and not feel it if he didn’t focus but he could feel his body being eaten alive by flesh-eating bacteria on his right thigh, right now. He tried to kill them twice daily so that his body could remain in shape but by night, they often restarted within twelve or so hours.

The girl sat there quietly for a couple of minutes, probably waiting for Mick to say something but he didn’t bother so she started again.

“Please tell me you aren’t the quiet type.”

Mick smiled. He realized that death had definitely changed him. From the shutter box that he was called earlier, he was now deemed a quiet type.

“And why is that?” Mick asked. Her curiosity in him had piqued his curiosity in her.

“I think you would be a really interesting guy to talk with,” the girl said.

“Really! And why is that?” Mick asked.

The girl giggled for straight fifteen seconds before answering.

“Because in all my life, I have never seen a guy whose ear fell off and he didn’t notice,” she said and bent down to pick an ear. She held it to Mick who immediately recognized it as his own, a feeling confirmed by his hand which couldn’t find his right ear on his head.

He looked at her scandalized. ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m dead anyway. It doesn’t matter.’ He repeated in his mind but his soul was panicking at this point. He didn’t even know that souls could panic.

“Don’t worry. I’m not letting your secret out,” the girl said with a genuine smile.

“Thank you!” Mick said and hid the ear in his pocket.

“When did you die?” The girl asked.

“How did you know?”

“When?”

“Two weeks ago.”

“You are holding up quite well for a two weeks old dead body.”

“Not really! This is frankly the end of the road for me.”

The girl laughed.

“I was joking, you idiot. You are in terrible shape.”

“What?” Mick said looking at her confused.

“First thing. Stop drinking alcohol you idiot. That is bad for a dead body.”

“This is my last day. I’m planning on leaving tonight. I can drink whatever I want.”

The girl rolled her eyes.

“Were you this idiot when you were alive or has death decreased your IQ points?”

“Huh!”

“How did you die?”

Mick looked down, ashamed.

“How?”

“Alcohol poisoning.”

The girl’s eyes widened.

“Urghhh. If you weren’t the only dead guy around,” she said loudly, “and so frigging cute,” she whispered.

“Come with me.”

“Where?”

“To teach you a few things about life after death.”

“Like what? And who are you?”

“Like when you are out partying, drink water mixed with ice, which is also water. No one would know,” she said showing him her glass.

His eyes reflected the shock he was feeling.

“You… you… you…”

“Don’t act as if you have seen a ghost. Or at least the first ghost.”

“Since when?”

“Three months.”

“Woah!”

“Yeah. If you take proper care, you can have a normal life. At least for more than two weeks.”

“Okay,” Mick said hopefully.

“What’s your name? I’m …”

“Wait! Don’t tell me your real name. Let’s keep this interesting. Tell me a random name you can think of right now.”

“Uh. Okay. My name is Pongsathorn. And yours?”

“Selina.”

“So, Selina. Now what?” Mick asked as they came out of the bar.

“Now, I teach you how to live when you’re dead,” Selina said with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.

Story Collection - MSPM39

Story 30/39: Over the Moon

Nivedita gasped at the magnanimity of the scenery around her. She had never imagined that space would be this impending. Even though she had heard stories and read about the vastness of the space, observing it in person was completely shattering her mind. The dark emptiness, the size of the moon, the white sun, everything was crushing her perspective about her beliefs.

“Nivedita! Can you please focus?” A stern voice came through the communication device.

“Uh. Yes. Copy that.”

“This is a critical mission and its success would define if we will be able to launch our next manned shuttle to Mars. Please focus.” The voice said sarcastically.

Nivedita rolled her eyes. She was an accomplished scientist and an astronaut but she was being handled like a toddler. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time. As glamorous as being an astronaut sounds, the awe is only for the people outside or the astronaut himself. The team that is actually sending you to space is as competent, sometimes more than you and it’s hard to impress them. At best, you are a competent colleague, at worst, a glorified driver of a vehicle that mostly runs on autopilot.

She didn’t mind it though. The stern voice was actually Maggie’s who was her best friend and the closest thing she had to a family.

“Nivedita, can you please upload the results of the tests?” Maggie said over the comms.

“Already done. They should reach you soon,” Nivedita said. There was no way around the distance and as much as they might want, the time it takes to communicate with each other was bounded by the laws of physics.

Nivedita got back to her work. She had been sent with two other teammates to build a booster platform on the Moon. The idea was that this booster would be released in space at a specific time to get attached to the rocket that would be coming from the Earth in a particular manner boosting the rocket’s fuel as well as velocity towards Mars. The hypothesis was that this push would reduce the time to reach Mars by around 7%. While the number may seem meager ordinarily, it was significant for a distance to Mars.

It had been her dream to explore space and now that she was here, it was everything she had dreamt about and more. Every time she looked outside, she was mesmerized. She was also happy that she got to see all this before she left the world.

A secret she was unable to share with anyone right now was that her pulse had stopped during the take-off. Maybe it was an aneurism or perhaps just the shock of the travel, her heart had stopped beating by the time the ship had stabilized. Her soul was basically traversing outside her body looking at the three of them, close-eyed waiting for the ship to leave the atmosphere. Nivedita tried to enter her body but she could only occupy it like a ghost owning a zombie.

She got lucky that in space, everyone’s motion was weird so her mishaps were blamed on space instead of her newly dead zombie phenomenon. She had hidden it well till now, but she knew it will become more difficult with each passing day. She could feel her body deteriorating as it had stopped healing itself.

“Maybe, I will leave the body in a couple of days,” Nivedita said to her for the tenth time in the past five days. In two days, they will have their mandatory full-body checkup which will tell everyone the truth. Her mind had started whirring towards faking the test somehow.

“I wish I could restart it somehow,” Nivedita said holding her hand to her heart. She felt no beat, no pulse, no breath in her body. She looked at a picture of Maggie that she had brought with her.

“Maggie, have I paid a price too heavy to see the space?” She asked the picture and looked outside. The view, in all its glory, lost sheen for a second in that moment. “Perhaps, being at Earth, eating my favorite food with you would have been a better option.”

“Nivedita! We are unable to keep the booster in its place. What do you suggest?” One of the astronauts said.

Nivedita looked at the scenario and her jaw dropped. The whole booster was finally on the Moon’s surface and it looked magnificent. Unfortunately, it was barely holding despite the absence of atmosphere.

“We will have to do it manually!” Nivedita said and no one said anything for a while. They were given strict instructions to not leave the spacecraft for this mission. It was deemed far too dangerous.

“But we aren’t supposed to…” Sadia said.

“But the mission would fail if it’s not stabilized,” Casey added.

“No one goes outside,” Maggie’s response came through the comms. Apparently, Sadia and Casey had informed Maggie about the situation.

‘It’s dangerous, for a living person,’ Nivedita thought in her mind. ‘You are already dead. Might as well make a hero out of yourself, Nivedita.’

“You are right, Maggie. It’s dangerous,” Nivedita said and started the process to leave the ship.

“What are you doing?” Casey hissed.

“You both try to balance it from here. I will add some support from outside. Hopefully, we should be done before I die.” Nivedita said with a smirk. She was glad that her death hadn’t affected her sense of humor.

Casey and Sadia nodded. By the time Maggie’s resounding ‘No’ came from the comms, Nivedita was outside.

Once the machine was stabilized, Nivedita decided it was as good a time as any to leave her body as a zombie. The mission was a success and she was standing on the moon. It was the best exit she could have asked for and she decided to take it.

Casey and Sadia looked through the ship as Nivedita’s body went limp and fell in slow motion on the surface of the moon.

Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Post-Death Syndrome

Anant grabbed the knife and ran towards the open door. He knew he had a few minutes before Priya would wake up.

“Shit.. Shit.. Shit.. I shouldn’t have stabbed her. I hope she’s alive.” Anant cursed himself and shut the door behind him. Ever since the outbreak of the virus, dying has become worse for the killer. If Priya died, he would have a real hard time. All he could hope was that he would be far away before she wakes up.

Anant had just reached his car when he heard Priya’s voice.

“I knew it.” Priya said looking at Anant from the door. Blood was gushing out of the cut that Anant had made. Priya’s clothes were tattering because of the scuffle that they two had had.

“You won’t catch me Priya.” Anant said and jumped in the car. Even before he could start the car, Priya was at the door.

“No Anant. You don’t get to run.” Priya said and broke the window of the car and grabbed Anant.

Within a minute, Anant was on the road, his neck broken.

“I hate you.” Anant said standing up.

“You still didn’t have to kill me.” Priya said an annoyed look on her face.

“I didn’t want to. I just hate you so much that I couldn’t control myself.”

“Now, what are you going to do?” Priya asked. She was sitting down now, her body’s strength seeping away. The virus that had activated her body post-death had used up the energy.

“I will probably go and tell Suhani about this. She lives a block away so I will reach her in time.” Anant said.

“I wish I had the time to kill that bitch.” Priya said and lied down.

The virus only became activated when a person died. However, during that period, the brain would be reactivated and the body gained huge energy surge. A person would get superhuman strength and speed for a flicker. Scientists called this Post-Death Syndrome. This reanimation would only happen in bodies with virus and almost 95% of humans were infected by the virus. As there were no other probable side-affects, the research for cure was limited.

“Goodbye Priya. I didn’t want it to end this way. I’m sorry.” Anant said and sped off.

“Bye Anant Chaudhary. I love you.” Priya said to the wind Anant had left behind and then fell silent. The virus was done with her now.