Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hidden Lies

It was raining. I distinctly remembered it.

"Siddarth!"

I turned as I heard my name.

Shilpa was walking towards me with a hesitant smile on her face.

"Thanks for the notes," she told me handing my book back.

I nodded taking my book back and said nothing more.

My hostel room was barely a kilometer walk from my class, but I was feeling dejected.

Looking at the downpour, I realized that no matter how much I tried, I was going to get drenched. Not that I had anything against the rain in particular. Just that I was sure that my notes would be wet by the time I reached my room.

I saw Shilpa ahead of me looking out at the rain.. her hair and her dark eyes... They always cast a magical spell on me.

Not Shilpa. God, Shilpa was dumb. Way too dumb for me to put up with her. Shilpa's hair and eyes – they reminded me of someone. And for the life of me, I cannot remember who it reminds me of.

But whoever it reminds me – probably a memory from another life time – the eyes were special. There were some drunk nights when I found myself thinking of being in the embrace of a lovely woman with sparkling dark eyes.

Those were the days, I woke up with my usual nightmare of being stabbed in the heart.

So, this is all I am –

An Engineer who will have his Masters degree in two months time. I just cannot believe that I have actually finished my under graduation in the same college five years back. I remember almost nothing of it. Vague memories...and someone with a lot of hair...

Which leads to the second fact about me. I am someone with an overactive imagination.

Naturally, I am an overachiever in college and someone whom other students avoid like a plague.

The other students...well, let us not go there. We never see eye to eye. Me being what I am and they being what they are.

Most of them do not even remember me. Which is exactly how I like it to be. Trust me, staying alone and far away from that mad group of "students" is a far better deal. The only exception to that rule is Shilpa. She sometimes asks me questions – stupid ones, I might add. But then I tolerate her. And I honestly have no idea why.

It was thinking all this, that I stepped into the rain.

Probably, I heard some snickers behind me. But it died down soon enough.

My classmates learnt it the hard way to never mess up with me. I may be a nerd, but still I really do not like it when people point it out to me. And I definitely made that jerk in class realize exactly how much I don't like being pointed out that I was a nerd.

As I walked in the rain, I realized that being in the rain is actually a pleasant thing. Drip...drip....drip...The water sloshing all around me. It is actually fun hearing to it. My floaters were getting wet. If I did not think about the fact that my room is going to be a mess when I reach it, it might be fun actually.

Naturally, I was thinking about it.

That was when I felt it. Someone was looking at me. Specifically me.

I mean, I am not one of those people who is "self-aware" or whatever. But right now, I knew I was being watched.

I turned around sharply and other than my boring classmates, I actually saw no one. There was absolutely no reason, why any of them would be watching me. In fact, they were not. They all were looking miserably at the rain, just waiting for it to pass. There was all the more reason for them to completely ignore me. Something was irritating them even more than me.

Finally, I just managed to see my campus room, when I felt movement behind me.

I turned and I blinked. And still blinked again. I mean, I am not one of those brigade who blinks and stares and does all those weird things that generally people do in books. I am a proud student of science and hardly anything surprises me. Everything I can see, I can explain.

But this, was impossible.

The woman who was walking up to me, had long plaited hair and she was tall. The thing was I definitely cannot explain how she appeared so suddenly in my line of sight. I definitely did not see her a few seconds back.

The most unsurprising part in the entire thing was that she looked very angry at me. More than angry. That was a pretty normal reaction, as far as I am concerned. People who are around me, eventually get around to having that expression which the woman had in her face.

The thing was she looked dangerous. Like she was going to kill me, if I did something wrong – that kind of dangerous.

And believe me, in my life, those kind of people are not rare – they are just non-existent.

People do get annoyed with me a lot. They may have even dreamt of killing me, because I am so overly smart and all that.

But despite all that, no one has physically tried any of their homicidal tendencies on me – other than of course, the woman in my nightmares.

Anyway, back to reality, the look of the woman suggested that she wanted to make my nightmare, real. For the life of me, I could not understand why. I do not even know her – I don't normally hack into people's email accounts on a whim. Not anymore. I used to do it before. But now, that became boring. So that was probably not the reason the chick before me was so furious.

And that was when I noticed the dagger in her belt.

Well, for starters, I don't remember seeing daggers this close to me. Agreed, I do dream a lot about daggers, but then you can blame my overactive imagination for that too.

I admit it, I am freakish about the whole weapons thing. I never get close to weapons of any kind. Especially, since even without all that, I manage to hurt myself a lot.

No, that was also not what I found strange about her. The dagger...there was a part of me, telling me that I knew that dagger.

Behind her were two burly men – the kinds which really scared nerds like me. But even without the two men, by the side, the woman looked pretty scary.

"We are doing this again, Time Warrior!" She fumed angrily at me.

Her look got a lot worse and she was honestly looking at me like I was a bug to be squashed. For one incongruent minute, I realized that in the unlikely event, Sulphuric acid ever developed a conscious and saw me staring at it, through the other side of the test tube, this was exactly how it was going to feel.

After the initial terror rolled over me, I turned and there was a part of me wondering which cool dude got the benefit of being addressed as "Time Warrior" by this chick. I had to admit it, it sounded cool and goofy at the same time. And from her mouth, it even sounded slightly terrifying.

What took the cake was that she stopped right in front of me. Her brown eyes looked angrily at me. "We know that you are in a hiatus, after your last mission." She told me looking very serious. "But I had no choice. The Dark Star minions have attacked the City of Techno again."

I blinked some more. I realized that this was one of those rare occasions, when the individual words made sense, but together it gave me no cohesive meaning. Actually, it gave absolutely no meaning. And I was beginning to have a headache. A small headache.

And her hand was hovering over the dagger which bothered me a lot.

"The memory implant works well. He is looking like an idiot at me!" She fumed angrily and this time she was talking to the man on her right.

"Are you talking about me?" I demanded as I ignored the headache.

I may be a nerd. I may not have a six pack like those two jerks beside her. But I had my pride. Ok, I know that dialogues like those got you killed very painfully. But still, I had my pride. A beautiful woman with brown eyes and long plaited hair and two bodyguards could not get away with insulting me for no apparent reason. To be honest, if she had a reason for insulting me, I would have kept my mouth shut – she and the two guys were that scary.

"Of course, we are talking about you, mister!" She snapped angrily at me. "I don't see anyone else other than the four of us, here. Teleporting here to this exact location when you were not surrounded by the others, was really tough" She nearly chewed out the words. "And I really do not have time to waste. With Dark Star loose in the city, General Varayana wants you as soon as possible."

"OMG!" I said weakly, swallowing painfully. It was very painful, because despite the fact that she was a beautiful girl, I hated to break it to her that she had escaped from a mental asylum. Nothing else could explain the gibberish I was hearing. And for the first time in my life, I hated to be the bearer of bad news. Something told me, the woman did not take well to bad news and the bearers of the bad news.

"Do you know the name of your attending doctor?" I asked feebly, praying that the dagger she had was not real. "I can call him and have you transported back to your cell."

She snarled angrily and the two men behind her came forward.

If I had seen this in the movies, I would have been actually impressed. Watching in for real, was frankly more even more scarier than my nightmare.

That was when in a move so fast, the two men turned me and pushed me hard against the wall.

My scream was cut in my throat and frankly, the only important thing I wanted to tell the woman was that there was absolutely no point in kidnapping me. My net worth, even including the scholarship fees was no more than fifty thousand rupees. It really was not worth....

I gasped as something hot pricked me in the neck.

And the last thing I remembered was wanting to tell the woman that she as an idiot. There was no point in what she was trying to do....Then the darkness claimed me as I fell unceremoniously on the two men.

*********

I woke up suddenly and I wondered why Kira was looking so angrily at me.

And my head was... I clutched my head, stifling back a groan as I saw Karan and Thark beside her.

My initial nausea went back a notch, when the last memory came crashing in my head

"I wanted out!" I said hoarsely trying to sit up. "You and your stupid city of Techno – I am done with that crap!" I hissed at Kira angrily.

She had no business dragging me back into this stupid mess, especially since the last time.

Because after the last time that I had saved their stupid city, I just could not do it anymore.

Having my heart broken was actually the easiest part of the entire thing. I really missed was the normalcy of a boring college life with no one trying to kill me. And I had specifically asked out. General Varayana did not like it. But he really knew that he could not force me. Not if I did not want it. Did I mention I had my heart broken? God, that life really infuriated me.

"At least, he remembers everything," Kira said looking angrily at me, breathing noisily through her nose, as he looked at Karan. "This is the first time, we have undone the memory implant on any human, after putting them on a hiatus."

"Take me back home, Kira!" I told Kira angrily, not listening to anything she had said. God, it hurt. It hurt so badly. I could still see Tara's beautiful hair and her intense dark eyes. There was a time when those eyes meant the world to me. Meant everything to me.

Which was why Tara's betrayal hurt me so much. She had just left me and joined that crazy group of lunatics – Dark Star.

I had no answers of why she would do such a thing. I really thought she loved me. And the more I thought about it, the more insane it drove me. So I just wanted to forget it. I wanted to forget it all. That was why, I even had the experimental memory implant put in my brain. I wanted out and I wanted to remember absolutely no part of my life as the "Time Warrior" - Other than the fancy name, it offered me nothing. Nothing good at all.

They thought I'd forget. But I remembered. Everything.

Tara's eyes and the dagger through my heart....Both seemed equally sharp and equally heart wrenching. And I hated it from the bottom of my heart.

And now these idiots had just undone my implant.

That was when Kira spoke. "Tara and few members of the Dark Star have escaped from the penal colony," she said pulling out a beautifully carved dagger, as she handed it to me. "And Tara left a message for you. Specifically for you."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

In the Dead of the Night - Part 3 of 3



The first five minutes of their walk was completely silent. Each lost in their own thoughts. The night was silent. Eerily silent. And Karan had no difficulty imagining that somewhere in this night was a drug peddlar who was being hunted by the cops and they were probably very close to the place that he was standing. 

She stopped Karan suddenly and strained to hear something. At first Karan heard nothing. Then he heard a faint rat-a-tat and looked around worried. 

"Not this side," she said pointing him left. "They are not yet here. And I will take you through another route. It is longer, but I think it will be safer."

Karan said nothing as he just followed her. And the woman never faltered. She walked through narrow lanes and picked out roads which Karan could not even see in the dark night. But the woman knew this place. And she was here to help him. As Karan followed her, he just made a realization which just shocked him – he trusted this woman – implicitly.

"Please do not get me the wrong way," Karan told her finally. "How did you get like this?" 

Kiara looked at Karan for a long second and Karan saw the strange expression the one which she had been having since he had given his coat to Chaitra. 

Kiara shrugged, shaking her head. "It is a boring sob story. And I don't do sob stories well." She said in a gruff voice. 

"Please." Karan said quietly. 

"Nothing much to talk. Never knew my father. Mother abandoned us. Had to take care of my family. Was not very well educated." Kiara sighed shaking her head. "This was practically the only option open to me."

Karan said nothing as they walked in silence for the next two minutes. 

"Don't you have anything that you have ever wanted?" Karan asked. The words were almost torn out of his mouth. Because the way she had spoken, it was obvious that she was not looking for sympathy. She was not even feeling sorry for herself. 

Kiara looked at Karan with a frown. "I do everything to live, mister. What more could I want?"

Karan was feeling so strange and surreal that he honestly could not make sense of her answer. 

"So what is your deal?" She asked him finally, when the silence between the two of them was getting too loud to even bear.

"Lost my company tonight." Karan said in a hoarse voice, finally. "My rival – he said I made some bad judgments about the company investments. The other directors supported him. So long story short, he had me ousted from my own company."

"I am guessing that is bad," Kiara said after a few minutes. "So that is why you kept walking and you were lost here?" 

Karan nodded. His misadventures here did not change anything. He still was a man without a job as of now. The company that he had started five years back investing everything in....was taken away from him and he was now reduced to nothing. 

"You could always restart," Kiara said in a musing tone.

Karan blinked. "What?" he asked her faintly.

"Make another company." She told Karan looking annoyed.

Karan shook his head nearly snapping, at the woman for her suggestion, "It takes years to rebuild a company. Not to mention money. Plenty of it! I do not have that kind of money."

"Well, you hardly look like a man who has started off with a silver spoon in your mouth. Those are the men who bitch all the time about the things that they lost," Kiara said in a sneering tone. "But you are a man who fights. You have seen the ups and downs of life. You are down now. So get back up. Start again. And this time put the people you trust around you." Kiara nearly grinned. 

Karan sighed to himself as he saw a faint light come up from the road ahead and saw a vehicle pass through in the perpendicular road. Karan realized that she had brought him to the main road. 

The woman nodded at Karan pointing at the road. "I guess this is where you go your way."

Karan pulled the wallet and took all the remaining money and gave it to her. "Thank you." It seemed like a cheap word. But Karan did not have any other oratory skills to convey what he was feeling at that time. 

The woman laughed and gave him back a single note from the wad that he had handed over. "You will need that to get to your home." was all she said as she walked back into the darkness of the street behind her.

Karan stayed there for some time and wished he could call her and tell her something. But Karan did not know why he would want to call her or even what he could tell her. And a good two minutes later, he could not even make out her outlines in the darkness of the street. But Karan knew she was there. Somewhere there.

"Going home?" A red eyed tired driver came up to Karan slowly in the main road. 

Karan looked at the taxi driver who was obviously struggling to keep awake and looked at the note and gave it to the man. "I just want to go home. And keep the change." 

**********

Five years later

"You started this company when you were ousted from your previous company – the one that you managed to buy out in a year of starting the new company. At that time, you were thrown out from your previous company, by your own board members because they had absolutely no faith in you. That was when you started Kiara and Co, Mr. Mathur." The TV talk show asked curiously. "What gave you that kind of strength?"

Karan was blinking from the harsh TV lights shining on him on the talk show for the best entrepreneurs in the country. He was feeling grateful that he had not worn his suit and shirt for the talk show. But that was hardly any surprise. Karan had not worn those showy and classy things for a really long time. In fact, he almost did not own anything like that anymore.

But Karan was not thinking any of those things. He was thinking about the host's questions. Karan was unsure about how to answer her question. He still could not believe that it had been five years back. To Karan, the memory of that night was something which never faded.

The host looked at his hesitation and cleared her throat. "We also know that it was your anonymous contribution which kickstarted the campaign which you have for underprivileged children."

Karan was about to deny it, when he stopped himself. In his world, it was not possible to keep something like this a secret. Probably, he should not try to either. 

He smiled at the host and said nothing as she looked a little expectedly at Karan, "Well, Mr. Mathur?" She asked finally.

"In the dead of night, when I had nothing to hold onto, I had someone to look after me. She did not have what I had in my life and still she taught me what I had forgotten in my life. And I was lucky, I saw her. The worst part was that I never saw her after that day – no matter how much I searched. It almost seemed like she told me what I had to know and then disappeared." Karan said looking unbearably sad. "I started Kiara and Co, because that was what she taught me. That I could always restart. That was the reason, I started this fund too. I had been lucky, she helped me. It seemed too cheap to say thank you for what she did to me. The fund seemed the least I could do for her."  

In the Dead of the Night - Part 2 of 3

They entered what seemed like a huge warehouse as the she walked towards the centre and left Karan there. Karan was beginning to focus better and his head throb was becoming a dull ache and things seemed better. The woman opened her purse and pulled out wads of cloth which was so dirty that Karan was sure that he was going to get infected by it.
Hold still,” She said as she went to Karan’s back and was rubbing his wound on his head. Karan winced but he said nothing as the woman completely wiped out all the blood from his head. “You really are not from around here, are you?” She asked him as she was rubbing the blood away.
I got lost,” Karan said wincing and groaning.
Yeah, I can see,” She said walking towards a leaky dripping tap on the side of the place. She was washing her cloth and bringing it and wiping his head. “Men who come here, usually do not react the way you just did. Those are the kind of bastards that hit you.” She said viciously rubbing his wound even more ferociously as Karan nearly growled.
Then suddenly both heard movement from the outside and Karan could feel the woman freeze.
Swearing again, she pulled out what seemed like a really small, sleek looking gun from her purse and pointed it at the door.
Most probably, it must be one of the other girls. Words must have gotten around that the coppers were coming for Rik…” She muttered as the gun was lying uncertainly in her side.
Is that a gun?” Karan asked looking completely shocked and he was so terrified and he was left to wonder how hard he had hit his head.
You rich bastards are such freaking idiots,” She fumed at Karan angrily.
Kiara,” The voice came from outside as the woman beside Karan sighed and put the gun back in her purse.
Come, its me,” Kiara, the woman said angrily as Karan saw another woman come inside the place.
The coppers are here,” The new entrant said angrily, as she entered the room. Karan nearly gasped. The woman was breathtakingly beautiful. But that was not what caught his attention. She was probably twenty years old. She could be no older than that. But the one thing which completely took away the effect of her beauty were the woman’s eyes. They belonged to a woman, who had seen it all and had absolutely no illusions or hope left in the world. “Damn Rik! I told him to stop peddling drugs. I knew it was nothing but trouble!” The new comer woman fumed angrily, making herself comfortable as she was sitting on the sacks at the far end of the warehouse. “Now, Rik dragged the damned coppers for the night. I can do no business for the night,” The new comer woman fumed angrily. “I needed some money so badly.”
For home, Chaitra?” Kiara asked the other woman and Karan could not believe how gentle Kiara’s voice had become.
Yeah,” Chaitra, the other woman fumed still angry.
And that was when Chaitra saw Karan.
She looked at Kiara and then Karan and sighed. “I am sorry for butting in. I did not know you had a customer..” She started as she got up. “I will go to Ria’s house at the end.”
Wait,” Kiara said sharply. “You cannot go out now. The coppers are out. And our business…” Kiara said looking at Karan. “..is complicated. I bought him here because he was hurt.” She said.
Chaitra said something about Karan which any other time Karan would have found offensive. Right now, Karan was too much in information overload to even process what Chaitra had said. Let alone get offended by it.
You don’t understand. He is not my regular customer. He got hurt, when we were trying to get away from the cops.” Kiara said sighing as she shook her head.
Chaitra looked at Karan and looked unhappy. “I am sorry,” She said gruffly paying no more attention to Karan.
And that was when Karan nearly trembled as he heard a loud rat-a-tat from the side. Even Chaitra was slightly shocked.
Kiara pushed the two of them to the side of the sack to keep them safe. “Keep your head down and don’t talk,” She said angrily.
Karan was nearly hyperventilating as he realized that it was a gun. A real gun which could kill people. Karan was even more shocked when there was a sudden wail from somewhere and held his trembling hands tightly as he realized that someone was hurt. He nearly pulled himself up as Kiara sneered angrily at him and pulled him down. “Keep your head down, your freaking idiot,” She yelled. “Or it is going to be you who is next.”
Over, the next half an hour, the sounds of the shots came from all over the place. Wails, bullets, guns, cursing, yelling....
Chaitra who was skimpily dressed was shivering as Kiara was hugging her slightly.
After what seemed like an eternity, the shooting stopped. Then Karan realized that it had not stopped. It had moved over further away.
Is it over?” Chaitra asked Kiara in a whimper and Karan could see tears in her eyes. Karan found his hands trembling badly and was struggling to breath.
The first time is always terrifying,” Kiara said sadly. “Over time, we get used to it,” Kiara said in the same tone. Kiara looked at Karan and said nothing. “Lets get you home mister,” She told Karan. “Before the cops come back here and the fight comes here again.”
Karan nodded as Kiara took the money from her purse and gave it to Chaitra. “Don’t stray out, till morning,” Kiara told Chaitra. “It is not yet over. Take the money for your home.” Kiara said with a small smile.
Chaitra looked shocked as she saw the money. “I can’t take this money, Kiara,” Chaitra said shaking her head. “I...”
Repay me later, Chaitra,” Kiara said dismissing it, pushing the money in her hands. “Besides this guy promised to pay me some more money, when I get him to the main road.” Kiara said nodding at Karan. “So don’t worry.”
Thank you!” Chaitra said with a smile as tears came up to her face and Karan realized that Kiara looked breathtakingly beautiful at that time. She was not putting on a mask and without the mask of world weariness, she looked like a beautiful twenty year old girl. A girl whose entire future was waiting before her.
Here, take this,” Karan said lamely handing over his suit to Chaitra. “You are cold.”
Chaitra looked shocked. Kiara saw Karan completely blankly, like he was an alien from outer space.
He is not from around here, is he?” Chaitra asked in a slight whisper looking at the coat.

Kiara nodded and for the first time she was looking at Karan with a strange expression. “Let’s go mister,” She told Karan. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

In the Dead of the Night - Part 1 of 3



"Bad night?"

Karan turned as he was walking and that was when he realized that his suit was horrible. After that really messed up meeting where the tables had turned on him so badly, Karan had no recollection of even walking out of the hotel. He was numb with shock. His own people and they had just got rid of him. Just like that. If this was what they were going to do, they need not have invited him at all. They could have just removed from the company, without even having to call him to the meeting. But still they called him in. Just to rub it in. And now he was no longer the MD of Informatics. His company...No more.

Karan honestly did not even remember that he had come to the hotel in his own car and had just kept walking out of the hotel.

He had walked for a very long time and the walk seemed to calm him. Calm him from the shame of having attended that meeting.

And after walking for so long, it was only now that Karan realized that existence of other people in the planet besides him. Agreed that he was a long way from calm, but at least he was beginning to think. And that was always a start.

It was a few seconds later that Karan realized that he had heard someone else speak to him.

He turned and stared....Stared blankly.

Standing before him was an skimpily dressed woman with far too much make up. There was probably a time when the woman looked beautiful even without the make up, but right now, it was hard to tell. Her eyes had that hard tough look which only years of living on the streets and surviving could get and she looked like an extremely tough cookie. A woman who had seen human nature at its worst, endured it and was right now in a position to even handle it well.

"You look like a man who has had a rough night and looking for some company," the woman said as she realized that she had the attention of the man who had been walking haphazardly until a few seconds back.

"Who are you?" Karan asked. Even in that numb state of mind, Karan really did not need his wits to know what the woman was. Karan looked around and realized that he had walked close to a few kilometers and he had not even known about it. He was in the older, worse part of the city. The one that people like himself usually did not even try stepping into.

People like himself.... Karan was having a dry feeling wondering whether he could even consider himself a part of that group. After all, they had taken away his company from him. He had nothing left now. He had invested everything in his company. That was his dream. And it was gone. In a second.

But even as he spoke, the practical side of Karan, which was not feeling sorry for him, was taking over. He had not risen to what he had been by not having an ounce of common sense. He had it. Plenty of it. Just that right now, the breaks went against him.

And right now, Karan was practical enough to pay attention to note the way the woman was dressed, her coarse tongue, the fact that he had left his cell phone at the hotel and that it was almost past mid night and that the street that he was in, was dark...All these realizations were making Karan steadily scared.

"No one has ever asked me who I am!" The woman said as she gave a rough laugh. "And if it bothers you so much, you can pick a name for me."

Karan stared and wondered why he was feeling so sorry for the woman. He shook his head trying to think. "I need to be getting back," Karan said turning and looked at the road, wondering which way he had to walk to get back home.

"To what? You don't look like a man who has anyone to talk to," The woman said.

"THAT'S NOT TRUE!" Karan shouted suddenly, feeling an unnatural anger build up inside him. You have no one to talk to..... What the hell did that woman know about him? Or what rights did the damned woman have to talk about him?

"Ok." She shrugged. His anger did not seem to bother her. "I spoke because I thought that some company could do well for you," She said running an appraising eye over him.

"My family is waiting for me!" Karan said seething angrily.

She laughed and shrugged. "If you want me to believe that, I will," She said rolling her eyes.

"Leave me alone, please." Karan said and he was really pleading now.

"Fine," The woman said shrugging looking disappointed. "The main road is three kilometers to the right." She said turning away from there.

Three what? Karan was numb with shock as the words of the woman made its way to his brain. Karan looked behind and saw the dark road and real fear gripped him. He did not know why. But he was afraid. For the first time in his life, Karan realized that he was not too sure he could make it back to the main road...safely....

He looked at the woman and willed himself to control his revulsion and his fear. "Here," Karan said pulling out his wallet and taking half the money from the purse and held it out to her. "Take it," He said in a hoarse voice.

The woman turned and she saw the money and then a smug expression came to her face. "People always come around," She told him, shaking her head.

Karan nearly winced as he looked at the woman, "No, you don't understand," he stammered, "Escort me till the main road and you get the rest." Karan promised her.

The woman came forward and there was instant suspicion in her face, which made her face go almost hard. "I need half the money now," She said in a sullen tone. "And no weird stuff," She said. "And I definitely don't do drugs. And..." She saw him as Karan felt her study him thoroughly. "You a copper?" She demanded suddenly hostile.

Karan swallowed painfully and shook his head. "No, I am no cop," Karan said willing that the woman would believe him.

She took the money and looked at him still suspicious and in the dim street light, she even checked the notes as Karan looked around the place.

Now that he saw the place, he could see more people lurking in the shadows. And Karan's fear suddenly heightened, as he was wondering what was really happening to him.

She seemed completely oblivious to the entire surrounding as she seemed satisfied with the genuineness of the money.

"These days you just can't be sure anymore," She told him as she walked near him, leading him right.

She caught his hands as Karan pushed himself back, wiggling out her grasp. "Touchy customer," She muttered rolling her eyes and started walking right.

Karan took a deep breath, trying to calm himself as he followed the woman telling himself to ignore the cheap perfume of the woman which was making him nauseous.

They had walked for two to three minutes and Karan thought he heard some faint wailing from one of the buildings. Almost as a reflex he turned trying to locate the sound. The lady's grip on his hands were so strong that Karan winced, pushing himself back.

"Keep to your business and do not interfere in stuff you don't understand!" She hissed angrily in his ears as the wailing continued. "Just walk!" She said angrily pushing Karan ahead. Karan saw her give an angry look at one of the buildings as she was muttering something vile under her breath as she kept walking and still clutched his hands tightly. Her grip told him something that he already knew. She was very angry.

Karan swallowed painfully pointing back and caught up with the woman and was about to ask her something when she stopped suddenly looking ahead.

She swore viciously, pushing Karan hard against the wall behind, while making sure that they were completely hidden in the shadows.

And Karan found himself too close to the woman. Far more close than he could even tolerate. "HEY," He yelled. "JUST.."

"SHUT UP!" The woman sneered angrily, clamping his mouth. "What sort of idiot son did your father raise?" She demanded. "Rik is coming this way." She told him in the same whispering voice. "He seems drunk. You wouldn't want to meet that bastard right now," She told him. She muttered a lot of other words which Karan had been taught never to even think. Saying it was quiet some other thing.

And Karan was completely going to freak out and run away from the place. For heaven's sake, he was lost and needed to get home. Not have a crash course in what seemed like every single word which had never made it to any dictionary in any part of the world.

Karan never got around to saying anything. From the shadows emerged what was a huge boulder. The fact that it was moving, told Karan that it could not be a boulder.

As his vision adjusted to the dark, Karan realized that it was a man. A man built to what seemed to be gigantic proportions. Karan was no small guy but right then, Karan felt like a pygmy. The person whoever it was, was huge, which was probably an understatement.

"Don't talk," The woman hissed at Karan angrily.

Karan nodded fervently wishing that the woman just removed her hand from his mouth as the woman looked something close to disgust at him and let him go.

Rik, whoever he was, went away without noticing them and honestly Karan was struggling to get his breath out as he saw the boulder guy rumble across the road.

"Can we go now?" Karan asked getting out a shaky breath.

The woman nodded and that was when they heard a slight sound.

Karan saw a car vrooming silently through the streets and strangely the car had no headlights. The streetlights from the other side was shining the light on the inmates of the car as the car passed them.

Karan almost winced as the woman shrieked in a whisper and let lose a barrage of insults most of which Karan did not even know.

"What are the coppers doing here?" She demanded angrily as she saw the car moving across. She swore again in what seemed like every single horrible word ever known and suddenly she stopped as she looked at Karan suspiciously. "You lied, didn't you?" She demanded snarling angrily pushing Karan back hard as his head thudded painfully against the wall.

Karan winced and groaned as he fell down. Even as he fell down, Karan was filled with an intense fear. Some survival instinct in his head was activated as he realized that the woman thought that he had something to do with the people in the jeep.

"No," Karan gasped as he was clutching his head hard as his vision was blurring badly. "Please, believe me," Karan croaked as he could make out her outline as she again raised her hands looking to slap Karan.

Strangely the woman stopped as Karan pushed himself back haphazardly, trying to avoid her slap.

"You really have no idea, do you?" She asked as Karan was trying not to throw up as he was leaning heavily against the wall, struggling not to tremble.

"No," Karan said dully. His head felt like it had been cracked open and he could not focus on anything.

The woman swore angrily as her red lips almost went a darker shade. Karan was groping in the dark hoping his head would stop hurting as he was struggling to focus on the woman. That was when the woman swore again. "I am sorry," She said gruffly. "Didn't know you were such a pussy." She said as she helped him up. "Let's get you some place safe. The cops must have come for Rik." The woman studied the dark streets again. "If we are here, the damned street is going to be ablaze in an hour. Very unhealthy for watchers," She said in a philosophical voice, as Karan was leaning heavily on her as she was leading him away from the place. "And if the cops do get you, they will just close the case against you claiming you were a criminal," She finished as she was walking slowly helping him up.

"I wanna go home," Karan said swallowing painfully. He needed some painkillers, a bath and some sleep. Then he would know for sure that all this was just a horrible nightmare which he had concocted when he lost his mind after losing his company.

For the first time, the woman laughed softly but that did not take away the contempt in her voice. "You really have no idea about the real world, do you?" The woman asked him as she never stopped walking. "We don't wear suits and shirt and speak in a rich way like you do," She said in a sneering voice. "We survive here. We keep our eyes open and try not to die. That is all."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Bracelet of Fire and the Map of Time

"She was caught trespassing into the lands, Master Centaur Hiran!" The ogre Orham grunted as he dragged a handcuffed and badly bruised human teenager inside the jail cell.

Despite the fact that the human looked tiny before the other magical creatures, her eyes were smoldering with anger as she looked around.

Hiran with his seven feet height, was magnificent and looked every inch like the lord and master of the throne of Zorton – though everyone knew that Hiran had usurped the throne from the beloved King Wezer and his queen, after capturing and banishing the royal couple to the Portal of Darkness. And later, the Centaur had destroyed the entire royal clan – all except the three year old princess.

It had been rumoured that the queen had smuggled the little princess out of the castle, using her Phoenix.

But no one believed in that anymore. No one had seen any relations of the king for the past fifteen years. Besides Phoenixes were mythical beings. Not real

At least that was what everyone believed.

Looking at the blue eyes of the girl, Hiran frowned coming forward, "Who are you?"

"None of your ..." The girl never completed her sentence as something shot straight at her heart.

Hiran's hands were glowing as all the people in the cell stepped back looking horrified. The girl fell back groaning as her already bruised forehead started bleeding.

"Who are you?" Hiran repeated, his hands glowing even more.

"Kira - daughter of Wezen," The girl whimpered trying to catch her breath.

Her words were met with silence as Hiran's eyes went dangerously dark.

Orham came forward as Hiran stopped him and turned his attention to Kira.

"So you have come to know why I killed your parents?" Hiran asked her, smirking.

Kira snarled angrily, her hands trembling, as the shield around her zapped her. Kira winced as she fell down panting and was trying to catch her breath.

Carelessly, Hiran teleported himself, the girl and Orham to his own room inside the fortress.

The girl struggled against the shield and in the process got hurt even more. Hiran laughed seeing her, as his eyes grew vicious. "The shield which I have cast on you, has no counter spell. I am the only one who can open it. And the shield will sap your energy, until you are reduced to nothing. And then you will die!" Hiran told her.

Smirking, Hiran turned his attention to the wall before him. "That is the same shield that I have protected my vault with." He said waving his hands on the wall in front of him.

Kira barely looked like she could focus on anything. But even she did not miss the fact that Hiran's magic was too powerful. And Kira whimpered as she saw a vault appear before Hiran.

"And inside this vault is the Bracelet and the Map, which belonged to your family" Hiran said with a flourish giving Kira a cold smile.

Kira swore viciously and cursed the Centaur. And the shield zapped her again, as she collapsed unceremoniously.

Hiran watched Kira grinning. But Orham seemed a little shocked. "She is too weak. Your shield has already begun to affect her."

Hiran gave a theatrical sigh as he shook his head walking towards the girl.

His cruel eyes were studying the unconscious human. He knew that he could kill the girl, very painfully – just by keeping her inside his shield. That was just the sort of thing the Centaur would do and he really enjoyed doing things like that.

He came forward smiling as he removed the shield around the girl – just to see how bad she really was.

And Hiran never even knew what hit him.

Kira caught his hands and teleported them out of the place so fast that Orham who was nearby, did not even know what had happened.

But the Darkness was strong in Hiran and he was powerful because of it. In the blink of an eye Hiran recovered and broke Kira's teleportation spell.

She fell back hitting her head real hard. Groaning, she got up wincing and realized that they had just teleported outside the jail cell.

Hiran looked vicious as the white hot fire glowed in his hands again. "The only thing more faster than me is the legendary Phoenix. You really think a pathetic creature like you can kidnap me?"

He was about to fire as Kira looked around fervently. Hiran's furious eyes were telling her that she was going to die. And she was going to die, unless ....

That was when there was a sudden rumble behind them.

Hiran was shocked and the fire in his hands were snuffed out, because though he had heard that rumble just once in his life – it still terrified him.

And Hiran was in too much shock to notice Kira's smile.

"Kidnapping you was never part of my plan," Kira said cheekily winking at the Centaur. "My job was to make sure that you left that vault open."

Hiran looked back as he saw a huge bird appear just above the castle. He was horrified to see that it was a Phoenix.

Without any warning, the Phoenix broke the tower of the castle viciously. Numbly, Hiran tried to invoke a charm to stop the bird.

But the Phoenix was too quick. And Hiran could not cope up.

In a flash, the vault and the girl next to Hiran, disappeared from there ...

***

Kira grinned as she sat on the back of Phero - the Phoenix. The wind was rushing through her hair as she made sure that the vault was safe with Phero.

"Little one, that was dangerous," Phero rumbled.

"You always say that," Kira said disdainfully.

She looked back at the fortress which was now a tiny speck. "Hiran is going to regret that he came after our family," Kira said angrily as she was already thinking of how to use the Fire Bracelet and the Time Map.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"What is with this stain?"



"What is with this stain?" I demanded sighing. The stain looked strange - like a weird bubblegum plastered on the wall.

And right now, I was not too sure that I did not want to know the answer to my own question.

For the past three days, stains and any forms of dirt were freaking me out. Actually, they are beginning to terrify me.

I stopped my examination of the stain on the wall and winced. My back was really killing me.

My snappiness would be understandable if you know that my home is having a spring cleaning - that annual torture where we begin to get our house as a livable place was on. Exactly why our home was considered "unlivable" until then or the purpose of the entire cleaning, is unclear to me. But this has been going on for as long as I can remember.

And so here I was - throwing away junk which I had collected lovingly in the past one year - junk which probably were the most useless things, in the first place....

And for the past three days, I can hardly remember being clean – I have been dusting, cleaning, sweeping and in between, I have been eating and sleeping.

There has never been a time when I have cursed the vacation time. Looks like spring cleaning has done the impossible. It has made me yearn to go back to school. Right now the uncomfortable desk and bench at school sounded so tempting...Yeah, I know. Something is wrong with me. But trust me, if you do the spring cleaning, you would see my point of view.

Anyway, back to the present, it started out with the halls and damn...cleaning the hall alone, took forever. There is still a huge fast-filling carton which I have labeled "No idea what this is", downstairs.

Every single thing that I have seen all over the home and some things I do not even know what it is, goes inside the carton.

And frankly I do not have the guts to check the carton.

And looking at the rate the carton was getting filled up, I decided in horror that the box was probably going to move back inside the house, in some other corner of the house.

Seriously, cleaning sucks.

Which was exactly why watching the stain on the wall was freaking me out.

"Leave that alone, kid!" That was my equally harassed father and right now he was looking like a bandit – carrying a huge mop and cleaning the top of the walls, and covering his face with a cloth which had been white at some point of time, and a shirt which probably a pirate would not want to be caught dead in, and his sweat glistening face as he was struggling not to sigh..I was probably insulting bandits everywhere, by comparing my dad with them.

But right now I was thinking about none of these things. I looked at the stain and back at my dad. The stain was hidden behind the bed and looked really horrible up close. It looked like some mad artist had started scribbling on the wall and given up the effort halfway. I thought I even saw some long dried food particles from the place....Yuck!

The only reason no one had noticed it was that until now it had been hidden behind the bed. That stain had no business being anywhere in the home.

And here was my dad saying things like this looking at the stain like it was the masterpiece of Picasso. Ok, I have no idea how people look at the Picasso's painting. Ok, let me rewind even more. Picasso is an artist right? Or was it someone else. Anyway as I said – details and boring.

"What?" I was confused wondering what my dad was talking about.

"That stain stays." My dad said with one of his "Do as your told" tone. My dad usually does not have that tone. That right is reserved for my mom. It was very surprising to hear that tone from dad to say the least.

More from curiosity and less from the fact that my back was aching, I dropped the broom in my hand and plopped myself on the dirty sofa which I would probably have given a look of disdain any other time. Honestly, the fact that the sofa was dirty did not even register in my head at that time. Besides I was curious.

"What?" I asked daddy again.

Daddy smiled as he dropped his mopper gratefully and slipped in the sofa behind me. And I should probably not add the fact that my dad is a stickler for cleanliness. But spring cleaning does take a toll of you. It makes you forget some things.

"You made that. When you were five," Dad told me without any preamble.

I blinked for some more time.

"I made that stain?" I asked again looking at the weird bubblegum thing. For the life of me, I could not remember doing anything like that. I was not even an artist for heavens sake. Give me science and maths - I can handle that. Art in any form...is beyond me.

"What was I trying to do?" I asked again.

"No idea!" My dad said in a plaintive voice.

"Dad!" I scolded my dad as he was chuckling.

"Do you remember Kiran?" My father asked me.

I just stopped myself from huffing angrily. Of course I remembered the asshole. Seriously, that was the only part of my childhood which I completely want to forget and somehow I could never do that. That idiot was my neighbour was a pain in neck. And someone whom I would not touch with a bargepole. Even now.

"Yeah what about him?" I asked sighing.

"You both used to play together when you were kids," my dad said.

"I know that dad," I said rolling my eyes. I was the one doing the playing. Well, we were not exactly playing. All Kiran used to do was show me his toys in his nauseatingly clean home. His mom used to keep the home so clean and she would never let us play there, properly. Besides, Kiran being who he was, he would just show me his toys and never let me play with it. God, I really hated it. The only reason I played was because there was no one else my age to play with at that time.

As I said, history and ancient history at that. Right now, with my dad being a well known doctor in town, I could probably afford all that things and more. None of that really mattered to me.

"One day his father brought some precious painting and his father was doing the usual," My dad said.

I rolled my eyes. The usual being that his father was probably showing off to the world at large how rich they were and what big assholes they were. But that was hardly surprising. Kiran's father had been the richest businessman in the city and they were such showoffs that now I am actually embarrassed when I think about it.

"So?" I asked.

"I have no idea what got into you," My dad said. "But you came home and you did that." I looked at that stain and then looked at my dad. "You took every single colour that you had at home and even the stuff left over from mom's cooking for that."

"And you did not stop me?" I asked my dad.

My dad looked shocked at the very suggestion. "Why would I? To me that is special," He told me. "Especially because of what you told me after finishing this an hour later."

I still said nothing as my dad continued. "You said that I do not have to worry, because our house also now has a painting. And that I could call all my friends and show them this."

I was silent as I stared at the stain. Words were frankly beyond me.

My dad said it for me. "That was the day I realized that I may not be as rich as that man. But I had something that he did not. He had a house – of brick and mortar. And I had a home full of stains." My dad smiled at the stain again. "Stains which made my house into a home."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bits of Paper lying on the....

"You kept this in your shelf?" I asked my mother almost numb with shock as she pulled out the old wrinkled yellow paper carefully.
And the reason for my shock was obvious. The shelf was the place, where my mom said that she kept important things – though she never told me what was inside it. She said she would tell me only when I earned my first month's salary and not a day before.
I genuinely thought until now that, she kept all the important and boring documents in the shelf – the boring documents that other adults generally kept safe.
With trembling hands, I took the almost crumpled paper with the words "Thank you" scribbled on it. The pencil writing was a childish scrawl and now almost invisible.
But I could see the words clearly. Almost as clearly as I could visualize the day I got the note.
"Where else would I keep this, darling?" My mother asked me gently as she pushed aside a strand of hair on my forehead.
"It is just..." I took a deep breath to control myself. "It is just a piece of paper, mom," I said taking a deep breath. "You don't even know what this means."
My mother laughed. "You really think I do not know who wrote that?" She asked me with her twinkling eyes.
I looked confused as my mother smiled. "At the age of ten, my daughter fought with a teacher for her friend, because my daughter believed her friend was right and that the teacher was wrong," My mother told me looking at me with a beautiful smile. "And my daughter even convinced the teacher that she was right." My mother shook her head looking at the paper.
"Mom..." I just could not say anything more than that. I was slightly horrified to find that I was feeling slightly mushy eyes. God, this was getting embarrassing....
My mother held up the paper carefully looking at me with genuine pride. "And that is what she got in return." Mom shook her head. "This paper should not be thrown out. It deserves to be framed." My mom looked at me slightly sheepishly. "I think you would have found it embarrassing. So I did the next best thing. I kept the paper safe with all the other things I found important in my life."
I honestly could not talk as I hugged my mom tightly.

"Baby," My mom told me quietly. "And I am always going to keep this. I am keeping this so that I never forget that my daughter is never afraid to do the right thing. And that, my daughter does not mind fighting against whoever it is on the other side," Mom said with pride. "And I am also keeping it, so that I can show this paper to her, in case, she ever forgets that!"