It was late afternoon and I was sitting at my desk. I was a volunteer at an NGO that ran a suicide helpline to talk people out of their attempts to commit suicide. I had a break from college and I wanted to utilize my time by contributing to the society. I had just recovered from a serious bout of depression, a depression that had given birth to thoughts of suicide in my mind. I was lucky that my family had talked to me during that time. They explained that my then boyfriend’s abusive behavior was no reason to give up on living. They had told me that I was strong and he was not worth my feelings or efforts. They had heard me out. I had been lucky. But, there are so many people out there who have no one to hear them out and talk them out of committing the unwarranted act. I wanted to be that person. This is why I joined the NGO.
I was just starting out back then, and being a rookie, the NGO had assigned the afternoon slot to me. This time slot statistically showed the lowest attempts at suicide. It had been two weeks now and I had had to pick up the landline phone on my desk only thrice, among which one of them was a call asking about a Pizza delivery. There was only an hour to go before my shift ended. I was leaning back against my chair. Not expecting any calls, I was relaxing with a smoke. Just as I had taken my third drag, the telephone rang. The caller ID showed an unsaved number. I stubbed out my cigarette and picked up the call.
“Hello! Angel Ears, we are here to help you.”
The person on the other side responded with a chuckle. It was hoarse and raspy, as if the person was going out of breath. It chilled my insides.
“Do you think taking of life is the right thing?” the person asked in a soft pitched voice. It sounded as if the person was a male.
“Sir, let me help you out. It is never the right thing to take your own life. Tell me what is on your mind. We will find a way out.”
He chuckled again.
“What if death is the only way out? What if it is a lost cause to continue living?”
His voice was sinister and irritating at the same time. I had a feeling this was a prank call. But, I could not cut the call, it was against the NGO’s policy. I had to continue respond.
“Living is never a lost cause and death is not the way out. Sir, could I know your name?”
He chuckled, his voice getting hoarser and hoarser. It was making me uneasy. Half of me wanted to cut the call right away.
“You can call me… Chuckles. What if a person does not deserve to live? What if there is no redemption available in life for a person? What if that person nearly led someone else to their death?”
“Chuckles, none of that warrants a person to take their own life. Everyone deserves to live.”
And the chuckling started again. It lasted longer than the previous times.
“Not even if he abuses his girlfriend, physically and mentally torments her every day? Does he still deserve to live?”
The question hit me hard. I was at a loss for words as memories came flooding back to me. I could still hear the man chuckling. It took all my willpower to resist slamming the receiver down. I replied to him as calmly as I could.
“Yes, even such a person deserves to live. Do not give up on life.”
“I know you aren’t being honest. Do such fiends deserve to live?”
A stream of tears had started running down my cheeks.
“No, such fiends deserve to die. But Chuckles, please do not do something as bad as killing yourself. Promise me you won’t suicide.”
My seniors at the NGO had told me that asking for promise was a good way to prevent the suicide attempt. The man did not reply for a few seconds, but I could hear his breath. He seemed to be thinking.
“Very well, I promise you I will not kill…myself.”
He chuckled again before he cut the call. I felt relieved. I had prevented another suicide attempt and I did not have to hear any more of that voice or the chuckles. I lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Even though I felt relaxed, I could still not get over the pause he took before saying ‘myself’. It had an ominous ring to it. Pushing those thoughts to the back of my mind, I tried getting comfortable in my chair. At that moment, I heard a loud crash coming from the street. I got up from my chair and ran to the window. The NGO had a rented out office space on the third floor of a building overlooking a side street. As I looked out from the window, I could see a throng of people encircling a wrecked car. As I concentrated on the wreck, I realized a man was lying on top of it, sprawled in an awkward angle. It was my best guess that this man had plummeted to his death. By the looks of it, he had jumped out of a window of the building that was opposite to the building I was in. I couldn’t help but think that it was Chuckles who was lying on top of the car. I could hear the police coming in and I headed back to my chair. The guilt was weighing down on me. I paced around the room, trying to clear my head.
It had been a good fifteen minutes before I heard the phone ring again. I was hoping that the caller was Chuckles. I ran back to the phone, stubbed my cigarette out and checked the dialer ID. It was a different number. I picked up the receiver. But, before I could say anything, I heard the familiar chuckling.
“Relieved to hear my voice? I had promised I would not kill myself hadn’t I? I keep my promises.”
“I’m glad to hear that Chuckles. Are you feeling positive about life now?”
“Yes…I am. But, you were right. Fiends do not deserve to live. I feel better now.”
“I am glad you do. Do have a nice rest of the day and remember, never give up on your life.”
“I will never forget that. Thank you. “
His chuckling had progressed into a full-fledged laughter which was even creepier. I quickly slammed the receiver down. No sooner had I done that, than the phone rang again. It was yet another phone number. I picked it up.
“Hello! Angel Ears, we are here to help you.”
“This is Detective D’Souza from the police department. May I know what conversation did you have a few minutes ago with Mr. Aviral Singh?”
I was taken aback.
“Aviral Singh? No, sir. I haven’t spoken to him.”
“Ma’am, it would be better for the both of us if you stopped lying. I have Aviral Singh’s phone here with me. Before falling to his death at Reggae Street, the last conversation he had was with this number. Give me the address registered to this number. You and I need to have a chat.”
The detective cut the call. I was shell-shocked. Reggae Street was the street I was on right now. So, the man I saw on the car, must have been Aviral Singh.
It may have been a massive coincidence, but Aviral Singh was the name of my ex-boyfriend. I could feel Chuckles’ chuckling around me.
Image Credits: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/02/19/article-2103456-11C80587000005DC-203_468x497.jpg
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