thedarknetizen

Helpline

via Daily Prompt: Chuckle

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

If you liked my work (or hated it) please leave a comment. Let me know what if there is a theme you want me to explore. Cheers and Happy Reading!

 

The Hill

Books have been called a great many things – best friends, keys to wisdom’s treasure and a great deal of other titles. This is because of their ability of fueling imaginations. They have a tendency to warp our sense of reality. But, what if books managed to warp reality itself? What if they took you to new places in earnest?

Being a typical Sunday afternoon, Jon was lazing around his house. Not really in a mood to go outdoors in the summer heat, he decided to indulge in his favorite past time – reading. Jon went to his room and opened up the drawers inside which his many books were neatly arranged. While going through his books and trying to pick one, he found a book he hadn’t seen before. Its tattered look and yellow pages told Jon that the book was rather old. The book had no title on it. Jon opened the book. Instead of a title page, the page had a very peculiar message on it.

Please place your finger on the symbol below. It will seal the bond between book and reader.

Jon scoffed at the message. He figured it must have been something of a trend in the older generations. He decided to play along. He placed his right index finger on the symbol. However, the second he did that he felt a static shock on his finger. He pulled back his hand in reflex and dropped the book. The slight shock on his finger soon transcended into a deep throbbing. His head began to hurt and his eyes began to lose focus. Jon started losing his center of balance and blacked out.

When Jon came to, he realized he was lying on something soft. He thought it was his bed. But, when his eyes gained focus, he realized he was lying on something green. He blinked several times, allowing clarity to return to his vision. He realized the green he was lying on, was actually grass. He got to his feet and brushed off the grass clinging to his body. He looked around and noticed that he was standing at the base of a grassy hill. He thought that he was dreaming, because the last thing he could remember was fainting in his bedroom. He tried willing himself to wake up, but it was to no avail. He then remembered the weird message on the book. He knew that something was fishy, but he had no information to work on. He decided to explore the area.  As he took a few steps forward, the sound of approaching people reached him. He hid behind the bushes. Peeping out, he spotted the approaching people. They turned out to be a pair – a guy and a lady. Their clothing was outlandish. Jon had seen this style of clothing in one of his encyclopedias. It was common clothing during the medieval times. Jon decided to tail the pair. He could barely listen to what they were discussing. The accent was heavy, but he could make out what they were saying. The pair was a married couple. The wife was carrying an empty pail and the husband was carrying a hunting dagger, tucked in his waistband. The wife was complaining about climbing the hill.

“Why did you suddenly want to go on a walk together today? Did the deer you chase around every day, finally get tired of you?”

“Hahahaha! I just wanted to spend some time with my lovely wife. Did you have any other plans?”

“No! Nothing like that. I love spending time with you. I just don’t get why you want to go to the top of the hill right now?”

“It is an ideal spot. Besides, we need to get water too, we are almost out.”

“Very well, but let us not speak while climbing up. It is too tedious.”

The husband guffawed but remained silent. I followed them, making sure my presence went unnoticed.

After a climb of ten minutes, they finally reached the top. The top of the hill was quite rocky, unlike the grassy sides of the hill. At the center of the hill was well. The couple approached the well. Jon hid behind a small bush. He had to crouch low in order to conceal his presence. The wife placed the pail near the well.

“Now, why don’t you draw the water out?”

“Now my dear, what is the hurry? Let us enjoy our time. So, tell me. What are you usually up to when I am gone on my long hunting trips?”

“Well, I tend to our cattle, complete the daily chores, have a chat with my friends, ….”

“…and fool around with mine? Sleep with them?”

Her husband’s statement had clearly shocked the lady. Jon could feel her voice tremor.

“What are you saying, dear?”

“Stop playing dumb. Do you think I wouldn’t find out?”

Growling these words, the man drew his knife. The wife started backing away. With the large knife held in his left hand, the man rushed forward. The woman screamed, but no sound escaped her mouth, for the moment she had opened it, her head had been cut clean off her shoulders. Her head fell down, rolled and stopped near the bush Jon was hiding behind. He could see her wide eyes and open mouth clearly now. He stuffed his hand into his mouth, to avoid making any sound. The hunter had picked up the body of his wife which was still gushing blood. He dropped the body in the well. As Jon heard the splash, he realized the husband was walking towards him to retrieve the head of his wife. Jon’s heart began to pound as the man got closer to the bush. As the man bent to pick up the head, Jon felt as if his heart would give in explode inside his chest. However, nothing of that sort happened and the hunter started walking back to the well, head in hand. When he had reached about halfway, Jon felt that similar tingling in his right index finger. It soon turned into a shock and Jon gasped. The gasp was pretty audible. The hunter turned and his eyes narrowed down on the source of the sound. Jon broke cover and started backing away towards the edge of the hill. The hunter held the head in his right arm and his knife in the left. He charged at Jon, determined to end the witness to his heinous act. Jon’s head was already throbbing. His body had stopped responding. As he saw the hunter get closer, Jon gave up all hope. Groggy-headed, he watched the hunter trip on his own feet near the edge of the hill. The hunter fell down and hit his head on a rock, splitting his head open. Due to the motion of his fall, he continued tumbling down the hill. The head of his wife had fallen out of his hand when he had tripped. It started rolling down the hill as well, following her husband. Upon seeing this, Jon’s eyes closed as he blacked out for the second time in the same day.

Jon woke up to find himself in familiar surroundings of his room. His head was still throbbing, but it was quite mild. He noticed the book lying open, next to him on the floor. The page read

 

 

 

…..And Jill came tumbling after!

 

Image credits:  https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-3473861-stock-footage-aerial-shot-of-antelope-running-on-grassy-hill.html

Please Close The Door – I

Moving to a new city has its fair share of problems. Finding good housing is one of those problems. I had faced this problem up till a month ago. At that point, I was flat hunting. Luckily, I did not have to hunt for long. I found a flat in a good locality which was not too far from my workplace. The flat felt cozy and had a great sea-side view. The owner was a cheery old man. The only rule he set up for the flat was that I would have to pay for any damages I caused. Otherwise I was free to do what I wanted within the flat. I thought that was the end of my housing problem. I was wrong.

My flat was on the 11th floor of the building. I agree I like to stay fit. But, the thought of climbing eleven floors never crossed my mind. The elevator was the only option for me. The elevator used a double gate system.  The outer gate was a metal door with a small window at the top, allowing a person standing outside to look in and vice versa. The inner gate was a scissor gate. The elevator did not move unless the inner gate and outer gate were both closed. I was settling into my new job as well. There wasn’t a lot of workload, but I generally take my time to get used to a new environment. So, I used to end up coming late every night from work and after work dinner parties. My new flat was treating me well too. No leaks, no pests and no other bad surprises. However, three weeks ago was when the weird incidents started happening.

It was a Friday night, which meant that it was booze night. I had had my regular share of beers and was mildly buzzing by the time I got back. The night had grown late – 1am. My friends dropped me outside my building and I stepped in after waving them goodnight. I pressed the button for the lift. After it arrived, I opened the outer gate and was met with a familiar high pitched female voice saying

“Please close the door.”

I slid open the inner gate and stepped inside.

”Please close the door.”

My buzzing mind was finding this voice highly irritating.

“Please close the door.”

“Yea, yea, you dumb hag.”

I pulled the outer door and slid the inner gate back into the closed position. I pressed the button for the 11th floor and waited back. The annoying voice finally stopped and the lift began moving. My head was buzzing really hard now. I shifted my attention the LCD display that showed the floor number. Having nothing better to do I decided to count out the floor numbers.

Zero..

One..

Two..

Three..

Four..

Five..

Si –

The lift had halted at five. The female voice started speaking again

“Please open the door.”

I was not sure whether I heard that correctly. Did the voice say open instead of close, or was it the beer finally finishing its job? I started to feel very cold and a sense of uneasiness came over me. I decided to brush the feeling off. The lift had halted but no one entered the lift. I pressed the 11th floor button again. The lift resumed its climb and halted at my floor. I walked up to my flat, unlocked the door and settled into my bed. I decided to call it a night.

A couple of days went by without incident. I woke up in the morning, got ready for work and left my house. As I neared the outer gate of the lift, I noticed a sign put up on it. The sign read:

Lift is closed for maintenance. Please use the stairs.

Inconvenience is regretted.

– Management

I muttered a few curses and rushed towards the staircase. Now, my building had no main staircase. It only had an emergency staircase. On every floor, a door connected the floor to the staircase. I pushed the door open and began my long dash down the stairs. As I reached the fifth floor, I was almost out of breath. I agree, my fitness level was not what it once used to be. I noticed something peculiar. The door that led to the staircase was barricaded shut. This was weird. I figured there was an alternate staircase for the lower floors or something. I was in a hurry so I decided to not dwell on the peculiarity. However, as I reached the fourth floor, I noticed it had a normal functioning door. The same held true for the remaining three floors.  I thought it was really strange. I realized I had to get to office and decided to focus on that.

I got back early from work that evening. I was admiring my building basking in the setting sun when I noticed it. All the windows on the fifth floor were barricaded as well. I had never noticed this before. Or maybe I had, but had ignored it. Now, the entire situation seemed very peculiar. The lift stopping there, the change of statement and now the door and windows being barricaded, I had a feeling it was all connected. I decided to ask my watchman about it.

“Baburao, is the lift functioning now?”

“No sir. It will restart from tomorrow morning for sure.”

“Oh! Baburao, tell me this. Who lives on the fifth floor?”

The watchman gave me a very puzzled look.

“Sir, no one lives on the fifth floor. It has been empty for five years. In fact, it has been sealed shut.”

 

(To be continued…)

 

 

 

Brouhaha Part III

Karan and Darsh stealthily made their way across to the backdoor, thanking their stars that they did not run into anymore zombies.

As they reached the door, Karan whispered to Darsh,

“Darsh, check the door. I’ll cover you. “

Darsh nodded. Keeping one hand on the doorknob, he held up three fingers. Karan waited for the three-count. Three, Karan readied the bat. Two, Darsh tightened his hold on the knob. One, Darsh swung open the door. The duo held their breaths as the door slowly creaked and opened fully. They tiptoed their way inside and checked out the narrow corridor they were in. Karan flashed the torch on the floor. They followed the beam of light, not making any noise, like to two burglars on a job. Suddenly, they heard the shuffling of feet coming from behind them. The duo stopped in their tracks. Slowly turning around, they shone their beam of light on the floor behind them. The beam revealed a pair of two rotting feet, moving towards them. Soon, the legs attached to the feet revealed themselves, quickly followed by the torso attached to them.

“Karan, you know what’s coming, right?”

“Yes, I do. I think this one should be your debut kill.”

“That’s real gracious of you.”

“I know I’m a nice guy.”

Darsh smirked as he readied the rod. In the next second, the zombie revealed its face. This one had spectacles dangling from its left ear. Darsh did not delay. He swung heard right on the zombie’s face knocking the spectacles and the eyeballs it used to assist, right off the zombie’s face. Darsh followed his first strike, with a couple more strikes to the head, bashing the zombie’s head in. The zombie collapsed in the hallway at the Duo’s feet.

“Good show, Darsh. Your first kill. You made me so proud, you zombie-killer you.”

“Knock it off Karan.” Darsh said, trying hard to suppress a smile of relief. “That was Kevin, no doubt about it.”

“Yep, you are right there. No one else would be caught dead in those ugly frames. Get it, caught dead?”

“It’s a bad time for puns, bro.”

“There is no bad time for puns. Anyway, let’s get back to saving your ladylove. I reckon the master bedroom should be just a few steps ahead.”

“Yes, lead the way.”

The duo took a few silent steps ahead. They noticed a door to their right. Karan tried pushing it open, but stopped the next second, realizing it was locked. Darsh knocked.  There was no reply. Knocking again, Darsh said softly-

“Nisha, are you there? We have come to save you.”

Karan rolled his eyes.

They heard the sound of the door getting unlocked from the inside and it swung open. The flashlight revealed the relieved face of Nisha. She grabbed Darsh in an embrace.

“Thank you so much Darsh, you came to save me.”

“How could I leave you like this, Nisha?”

Karan coughed.

“We can do the Yash Raj dialogues later. Wasn’t Atman with you? Where is he?”

Nisha let Darsh go and pointed towards the bed. Karan shone the flashlight on the bed and there lay Atman – definitely not in a good condition. His body was trembling and his face had gone gaunt. His dilated pupils and heavy breathing only added to the horrible image he formed. Karan walked towards the bed.

“And this why kids, we do not do drugs.”

Darsh followed Karan and stood next to him.

“Karan, I told you this was no time to make jokes.”

“Jokes? No. I thought it was an opportune moment to give a good community message and set an example for our young impressionable readers out there.”

Nisha put her hands on her hips and hissed –

“Guys, we need to think about how to get out.”

“Yes, Nisha. Karan, what do we do about Atman?”

“What is there to do? We’ll leave him like this. Lock him in this room. After all he-”

Karan stopped midsentence as Atman stopped breathing heavily. His body relaxed and he slowly moved his head and turned to face them. His eyes were now fixed at Karan. Ex-Atman-now-zombie groaned as he made an attempt to get out of the bed.

“I suggest we do that now. Let’s go Darsh, Nisha, move out fast.”

Darsh and Nisha did not bother replying. They turned heel and ran out of the room. Karan followed suit. As Karan exited the room, he locked the door behind him. The next moment there was a thud on the door. It was soon followed by a series of thuds coming from the inside, which could only mean zombie-Atman was up from bed and seemed to be hungry.

Darsh turned towards the others- “That thing is causing a lot of noise. We must get out before-“

Darsh never got to complete his sentence as a series of grunts and moans came from their left. Zombie-Nilesh and zombie-Sana had announced their presence.

“Yep, to the back door. Darsh, go ahead with Nisha. I’ll bring up the rear.”

Darsh nodded. Grabbing Nisha’s hand, he bolted towards the backdoor. Karan followed them keeping an eye out for the two zombies hot on their tail. As they exited the backdoor, they heard the distinctive cracking of the master bedroom’s door. Zombie-Atman was out.

“Okay bro, we cannot take on three zombies. We need to hide. At least till we get our breaths back.”

“Agreed, but where are we going to go, Darsh?”

“Guys, we could go to the shed. I remember Vansh saying it is never locked. We could hide there for a while.”

Karan and Darsh nodded, too out of breath to verbally agree with Nisha’s suggestion.

They soon reached the shed. Just as Nisha had said, it wasn’t locked. They trio led themselves in and locked the door behind them.

“Karan, switch the flashlight off”, wheezed Nisha.

“Hey, no hanky-panky here. We are still running for our lives”

“Karan, shut up man.”

Karan sniggered and switched off the flashlight. The three sat in darkness, breathing heavily. After a couple of minutes the trio eased up. Having caught their breaths, they could focus on the situation.

“Okay, let’s review our situation here”, Darsh started.

“Sure, so we stand at three zombies trying to eat our fucking brains. And the only things that stand between them succeeding are our legs, my bat and your rod. Oh, and if things get to bad, we could always let them have this lady here.”

“Karan, I know you do not like me. But, let’s discuss that after we get out of here, alive. I suggest we look around in the shed. Look for things that can help us fight those creatures and escape.”

“Good idea, Nisha.”

“Since we have only one flashlight, Karan can do the searching. I and Darsh will wait here.”

“No, no. The sidekick will not do all the work while the hero enjoys the darkness with his lady. Not happening. Let’s see some of that feminism you support now, Nisha. You go and search. I and Darsh will wait here. We risked our lives for you, anyway.”

“Yea, yea. I’ll do it. You sit with your boyfriend here, Karan. Hold each other’s hands and complain about the situation. I’ll scout for objects.”

“Nisha, come on. You don’t have to do it. You rest, I’ll do it. Karan talks like an idiot all the time.”

“Darsh, I said I’ll do it.”

Darsh could not make out the expression on Nisha’s face in the darkness, but he was sure she did not say that out of concern. Nisha took the flashlight from a grinning Karan and went further inside the shed. Covering the flashlight with her hand, she managed to reduce the intensity of the light so as to not draw attention. Karan and Darsh sat in silence. They could hear constant shuffling and scraping coming from inside the shed. They heard the occasional moan coming from outside the tent, at which point they would grip their weapons tightly and sit alert. After what seemed like hours, but had only been a mere fifteen minutes, Nisha returned with what looked like two machetes, probably used to cut the tall grass and an oil lantern. She reached into her pocket and removed a matchbox.

“This is all I could find.”

Darsh grabbed one of the machetes.

“Nice job, Nisha. This is so much better than my stick.”

Karan tried to grab the other machete, but Nisha was too quick for him.

“Tsk, Tsk. Go find your own weapon.”

Karan shot her a disgusted look.

“No thanks. My trusted bat here is better than that rust-bucket any way.”

Darsh stepped in before Nisha could retort.

“Well, now that we are rested and armed, I think we should head for the main gate, before you both kill each other.”

Karan smirked.

“All right, lover boy. As you say. You lead the way. I’ll bring up the rear again. Nisha light up that lantern.”

Nisha did not acknowledge. But she proceeded to light the lantern, and with that done, they were ready to step out. The trio realized that with the lantern and the flashlight, there was a high chance of the zombies being attracted towards them. But, it was a risk they were willing to take.

They walked on towards the security booth in the formation Karan had suggested. The occasional moaning of the creatures had stopped. The only sounds they heard were the shuffling of their feet, the crunching of the dirt beneath them, and each other’s breaths. It was all good for some time. But, as soon as they reached the booth, they heard the unmistakable moaning of an undead creature.

Karan shone the flashlight in that direction. Sure enough, it revealed a zombie, with its rotting flesh and wide open mouth. This one had long hair that almost covered its eyes.

“Ah, here’s a pretty one. This one is Sana, no doubt. I can tell by her..”

“Yes, Karan we know about your observation skills. Pervert.”

“Darsh, why don’t you put a leash on your cat here and let me do the killing.”

Nisha snapped back.

“Stand back, Sissy. I’ll take care of this one.”

“Whoa, I finally get to see a cat fight. Lucky for me eh, Darsh?”

“Karan, shut up.”

 

Nisha stepped next to Darsh. Zombie-Sana started moving towards the trio, moaning and grunting as she approached. Nisha took her hand back, as she got ready to toss her machete.

Karan hissed – “Oi, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Nisha ignored him and threw the rusted blade at the approaching creature. It lodged itself inside the forehead of the zombie as it fell to the ground. Nisha dusted her shoulder.

Karan and Darsh stood with their mouths open. But, before they could say anything, they heard more moaning from behind them. Karan’s light revealed the two remaining zombies. They seemed to be moving slightly faster than before, spurred on by their increased hunger.

Karan took a few steps back.

“Guys, I think we should make a break for it. There is no one ahead of us. We’ll run towards the entrance gate and get out of here. These creatures look faster than before.”

Nisha grabbed Darsh’s arm.

“For the first time, I agree with Karan. Let’s get out of here Darsh.”

“We can’t. We might escape these creatures. But, other innocents might get targeted by them. We cannot let that happen. We should..”

“We should be the better person” said Karan and Nisha in unison.

Karan sighed.

“I know this idiot and his idiotic ideologies. Fine, let’s just finish these suckers off. Nisha, when those bozos come close toss the lantern at the left one. As he burns, we’ll take the other one out. Cool?”

“Cool.”

As the zombies closed by, the trio readied themselves. A few nervous seconds later, Nisha heard Karan’s shout.

“Now.”

She aimed at the left zombie and tossed the lantern. It hit the mark and zombie-Nilesh looked like a walking bonfire. However, zombie-Atman continued moving towards the trio. He fixed his eyes on Karan, yet again. Karan charged at the walking corpse and gave him a hard knock with the bat. Unbalanced, the undead creature sank to his knees.

“Darsh, finish him.”

“I always wanted to do this.”

Darsh summoned all his contempt and swung hard with his machete at the neck of the zombie. The machete made a deep gash in the neck and blackish blood gushed out of it. Zombie-Atman’s head dangled for a bit, and then finally collapsed.

The trio made their way out of Greenwood Acres, just in time to catch the sun rising.

Karan whistled.

“Wow, what a night.”

“Bro, let’s not talk about it for now, shall we?”

“Yes, Darsh. I really wanna get home to a hot shower and a meal.”

“I agree with Nisha now, at least the food part.”

“Right, then. I have signal now. I could call for an Ola or Uber cab.”

“Bro, why? They do not pay this blog. Stop publicizing them.”

“Don’t worry guys.  I’ll call up my driver and he’ll pick us up in no time.”

 

That night, Darsh’s bedroom.

 

“Yes Nisha, tell me.”

“Hi Darsh, I just called to say thank you for coming back. If you had not come, I would probably have been dead or worse- undead.”

“It’s all right Nisha. There was no way I was going to not come.”

“Well, there is also another thing. Yesterday, in the bedroom, Atman and I were indeed making out. I’m so sorry.”

Darsh heard a series of coughs.

“Well, let that be now. Are you okay?”

“Yes, I am. I just have a bad throat case.”

 

Brouhaha Part I

 

“This looks like it” said Darsh looking at the sign on the gate.
“Yep, Greenwood Acres it is. Sure sounds posh”, remarked Karan.
“Yea bro! Vansh sure does have a lot of dough. How else would he have such a bloody huge farm-house? Anyway, let’s get going. The gang will be waiting. I sure hope there is stuff left for us.”
“Hahaha! Yea, they better have. Or else somebody is going to die by my hands. There is no blasted signal here either. Can’t even let them know we have arrived.”

“Well, I do have a bit of a signal on my mobile. But my call isn’t reaching anyone else.”

“Probably, no one has signal over there. For now, let’s start walking. It looks like a long road toward the house.”

Darsh nodded in agreement. The gate was closed but not locked. Vansh had said he would keep it that way so that the both of them could enter when they arrived. He had added that since the farmhouse was in such a remote location, there was no real risk in keeping the door open.
“There are no people in the vicinity to rob my house anyways.” He had said.
Darsh opened the gate partially, enough for the both of them to pass through and closed the gate behind them. The road to the house was a thin, dusty one. It was illuminated by lamps placed at uneven distances along it. Karan assumed that they would be switched on soon, owing to the fading light of the evening.

“Let’s hurry it up. I’m starving.” said Karan, rubbing his tummy. “This bad boy needs some nutrition.”

“Speaking of bad boys, I hope that ass Atman is keeping his greasy hands away from Nisha”, Darsh muttered.

“Good luck with that. We all know how much of a flirt your girlfriend is.”

“Shut it Karan. I know you don’t like her. You don’t need to pass snide remarks on her all the time.”

“Okay, okay. Pick up your pace now, slow poke.”

The walk to the house ended up taking a good fifteen minutes. The amount of time taken had more to do with the fitness level of the two boys, than the actual length of the path. Their eyes finally fell upon Vansh’s house. The sheer size of the homestead left them with their mouths hanging wide open. It was pretty dark now but they could make out the brickwork on the walls. The French windows added elegance to the already awe-inspiring structure. The homestead was surrounded by a low stone wall and had one entry gate with a security booth right next to it.

“Whoa! The place really looks awesome.” Darsh said with his eyes gleaming.

“Yes it is. But, don’t you think it is a bit strange? There are no lights on. No music on either. It is a bit too quiet for our likes no? Knowing these guys, the music should have been loud enough to blast the glass off those windows.”

“True that. Maybe, they are all sleeping. You know, one of those hangovers. Or maybe the power is out. It is the countryside, after all. Let’s just go in and check.

The duo walked up to the security booth. Daily experience had taught them not to expect the watchman to be awake, but they had expected him to be present inside the booth at least. However, their expectation was not met. The booth was empty, save for a flashlight and a cricket bat lying on the stool.

“May be he went to relieve himself. It is a bit chilly over here.” Darsh said, offering an explanation. “Let’s just let ourselves in.”

Karan lifted the bat and flashlight.

“I know this bat. It belongs to Vansh. I have seen him play with it at cricket practice. I’ll return it to him. Hold on to this flashlight, Darsh. It’s getting dark and we might need it if they have lost power in there.”

Karan pushed the gate to check if it was locked. It wasn’t. It budged with a bit of an effort, making an eerie creaking sound as it opened. Both of them scuttled inside. Darsh switched on the flashlight. It helped them make their way across the unkempt lawn that lay between the gate and the front door, without stumbling or tripping on the uneven ground. They reached the front door and rang the doorbell. A series of gongs sounded inside the house.

“Well, at least we know that they have power.” Darsh smiled.

“But, that makes it weirder for them not to have even one light on.”

Five minutes and ten more rings later, the duo resorted to banging on the door.

“Just try the knob, will you?” Karan said, massaging his sore knuckles.

Darsh did exactly that, and to both of their surprise it turned and after a swift push at the door they were in. Darsh glided the beam of the flashlight around the door, looking for switches that operated the lights. He found them in a few seconds and motioned for Karan to switch the lights on. The lights to the main hall switched on, temporarily blinding the duo. As their eyes adjusted to the newfound light, they made their way into the hall. In the middle of the hall, they noticed the huge sofa and a person sitting on it with his back towards them.

“Yo Vansh! What’s on with the lights bro? You guys having a party in the dark?” Darsh said as he went towards their host.

Darsh placed his hand on Vansh’s shoulder.

“Yo! Are you listening? Or are you drunk?”

Vansh slowly turned towards Darsh. His skin facial skin gave the impression that the flesh was rotting. His mouth lay open. Crusted blood marked the area around it. With a glassy look in his eyes, he got up from the sofa. Darsh took a step back. With slow, jerking movements Vansh started moving towards Darsh.

“Bro, are you okay?” Darsh asked in a cracking voice.

Suddenly, Vansh lunged at Darsh. He managed to avoid Vansh in time and retreated towards where Karan was standing, clearly aghast. Vansh started moving towards the duo, making low moaning sounds as he approached. Karan did not wait for another lunge. He darted towards Vansh, or whatever that thing was, and whacked it with the bat he was holding. The duo heard the crunching of the skull as the creature fell down with a thud, blood spewing from its head.

“Let’s get the heck out of here.” Karan hissed with alarm in his voice.

Darsh needed no second telling. They dashed through the front door making their way across the lawns and finally arrived outside the creaking gate.

“What the hell was that? It sure resembled Vansh” Darsh said, gasping for air.

Karan was equally breathless.

“You know what it was – A zombie.”

“Now, how the heck would a zombie end up here?”

“I dunno. Why don’t you ask the writer of this frigging story? Anyway, we are getting out of here now.”

Darsh felt his breath returning to him.

“But, what if there are survivors inside. Our friends might need our help. Nisha might – “

“Zip it, Romeo. I have seen enough of zombie flicks to know that going back in never goes well. Besides, we have no guarantee that anyone is alive in there.”

Right at that moment, Darsh put his hand inside his pocket and removed his cellphone.

“Bro, Nisha’s calling.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Jump

Phew! I have worked in skyscrapers all my life, but one never quite gets used to the view they present. The small orbs of light, the moving glowing lights, buildings bathed in mild luminescence and the overall dazzling appearance of the city. It ever presents a sight to behold. And I am not one to ignore beauty, even though I may be admiring it from the ledge of a terrace.

Light shines all the more brightly, the denser the darkness, and it is one dark night. Not a star, nor the moon in sight. The night only emulates these truly dark times. Wars, commercial competition, and the ever increasing poverty gap, all helping to make this world all the more black. Sometimes, I feel that there is no hope for humanity and that we are walking towards an eternal night. Even though it presents a lovely sight, the cold truth is that the brighter the city appears, the darker the night it is. Our lives are just like this view I see before me. They can be dark, cold and pitch black. But, that just means we have an opportunity to make them shine all the more brighter. Hope is that ray of light that pierces through the black storm clouds, the despairs in our lives, the endearing sorrows. But, keeping hope for the future, my future, humanity’s future is no simple task. It takes courage.

It is courage that I have always sought, courage to push on when things seem bleak. In these times, liquid courage has helped me more than once. It keeps me going, the feel of the liquid slowly passing through my lips, lending its bitter smoothness to my tongue, caressing it as it passes into my cold, parched throat, warming it, before making its way into my hollow body, giving it a much needed stimulation. It kicks my mind into working conditions and I find the intrepidity that I require. Tonight, I find myself in need of a strong dose of liquid courage, and sure enough it is there with me right in my hand. It lies in its glass prison, waiting to be let out and bolster my courage.

The breeze is particularly pleasant tonight. I like how it teases my face as I stand on this ledge. It is a nice, deep plunge. Not a day has gone by in these last few weeks that I have not thought of this plunge. It would be an easy way out of the miseries this life holds. Maybe, death is the only true escape. This final gulp will leave only an empty bottle, the potent liquid having finally escaped from its black prison. How I long to be like this liquid. It is time now. I have to do it. I’ve wasted many a nights getting to this point. I cannot turn back now. I have to take the jump and jump I will, falling into the deep abyss I see below, the wind lashing at my body. I have to be the golden ray of light that will pierce through the dark.

J.A.R.V.I.S. , any time now.

Image Credit – Apoorva Gharpure

Repentance

The airport transit area- a familiar setting for me. I am a frequent flyer. My job requires me to go out of town at least once every week. It may sound tedious but I really do enjoy travelling and especially flying. There is something about being so high in the sky that gives me a thrilling joy. The wait in the transit area can get pretty long. But I have learnt to while away time by conversing with passengers. I have met and talked to many-a-character over the years. But none who were like him.

It had been a couple of years back. I saw him sitting alone, quite away from the crowd. He was looking at the floor the entire time seeming to be deep in thought. From his appearance he seemed like a man not from my own country, but then again the world has shrunk, so I did not know that for sure. But I did know that he seemed to be deep in thought. Something was clearly bothering him. I decided to go sit next to him. Now, quite-a-few people have said that I am nosy and don’t mind my own business. I beg to differ- I like to know about the other businessmen out there. So, I decided to strike a conversation with this troubled soul.

‘Hey. That’s a nice watch you have there.’

He grunted.

I decided to push on-

‘I couldn’t help but notice something seems to be bothering you.  Is it so? ‘

He looked at me with eyes full of gloom.

‘Yes. Something is bothering me. The wrath of God looms over me. I have done a horrendous thing. I do not think there is any salvation possible for me. No forgiveness. ‘

I was taken aback. The sudden outburst of sorrow instantly kicked in my damage-control instincts. I started consoling him.

‘Hey, don’t worry. I’m sure God almighty will forgive you. I do not think that you will be judged so harshly. God loves everyone.’

He said, looking down to the floor again-

‘No, after what I have done, all love will be lost for me. I repent my deeds.’

I was about to say more to him but a sudden increase in the television’s volume interrupted me. I turned my attention to the TV. A breaking-news was flashing on the screen-

“St. Mary High School Bombed. 495 killed.”

After looking at the dreadful images flashing on screen, a mixture of sorrow and rage filled me. I turned towards him and said-

‘Terrorists. They are truly pieces of shit who don’t deserve to live.’

Without giving me a glance, he said to me in a soft voice-

‘Yes. I know.’

Image source – http://sandiegolimoservicesignature.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/san-diego-airport-limo-service.jpg

Dinner

It was a habitual night at the Nath family’s high-rise apartment. It was 9 pm, almost dinner-time. Mr. Nath sat comfortably on his couch, reading the sports page of one of the many newspapers delivered at their house. Mrs. Nath was in the kitchen, making sure the food was warm enough. Ojas was sprawled on his bed, peering into his mobile phone and making sure his fingers received their daily dose of strenuous exercise.

“Dinner is ready” Mrs. Nath bellowed from the kitchen.

Ojas was the first to reach the kitchen. Spotting the golden fried prawns, he quickly grabbed a plate and piled on as many prawns as he could on his plate. He picked up a couple of slices of cucumber and lettuce and started to make his way back to his bedroom, his very own bat-cave.

“Where do you think you are going mister? Aren’t you forgetting something?” Mrs. Nath asked her teenage son, blocking his path.

“No mom. See, I even took vegetables so that you don’t make a fuss.” Ojas said, trying to sound as earnest as possible.

“Did me a huge favor by eating them.” Mrs. Nath said, her words dripping of sarcasm.  “Today is Friday young man, our weekly family-dinner night.”

“Oh damn. Alright, to the dining table it is.” Ojas said, as he stomped his way to the dining table.

Ojas picked the middle chair. His mother sat to his left and his father took the chair to his right.

“Mmm! Anita, the prawns smell wonderful.” Mr. Nath said, his eyes eyeing the juicy prawns in his plate from behind his glasses.

“Thank you, Sujat.” Mrs. Nath said, beaming.

Over the years, her culinary skills had become her sole source of the compliments that she received from her husband.

“Okay, now I think we should all tell each other how today went for us. You know, a nice conversation.” Mrs. Nath asserted.

Ojas and Mr. Nath looked at each other. They were both men of few words. But, they knew there was no escaping this weekly-dinner conversation, or there would be hell to pay. Ojas nodded his head. His mouth was too full of prawns to manage any reply in words.

“Brilliant. Ojas, why don’t you tell us how your day went? And for heaven’s sake, eat like a civilized human and not a nomadic barbarian.” Mr. Nath said looking at his son and offering him a glass of water to wash down the food in his mouth.

Having swallowed the mouthful, Ojas wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Ojas started his day’s tale.

“Well, okay. My day was normal, you know. I got up- “

“Late” Interjected his parents.

“Well yea, but I did wake up earlier than yesterday. Anyway, I ran to college since I was late. The lectures were normal. Did the same old shit, differentiation-integration all that blah. Then you know, my class bunked and we went and played football at the college ground. It was kick-ass. I scored two goals. Then, post my lunch break, we had free lectures. Apparently my class-teacher Mrs. Desai left during the lunch break. You know, that Mrs. Desai you guys had met in the last parent-teacher’s meeting.”

“Umm, I don’t really recall her, but okay.” Mr. Nath said, adjusting his glasses.

“I remember her. Sweet lady. Okay, go on Ojas.” Mrs. Nath said.

Ojas resumed his tale.

“So yea, she left early for some reason and when she came back after one free period, she seemed to be in a great mood. So, she gave us the rest of the day off. I decided to come home and take the car for a spin with my friends. But, I saw no lights in the house. Mom usually leaves them switched on because it gets dark so early. Had you gone out or something, mom?”

“Yes. I had to buy a few things. You know, for making the prawns.” Mrs. Nath said quickly.

“Ah, well. So anyways, I did not even see our driver, Kailash kaka near the car, so I used the car keys I had and took the car out. I met with a couple of my friends and we took a long drive. Then I dropped them home and came home. Ta-da! End of tale.”

“Okay, looks like you had a fun day. My turn now.”Mrs. Nath said, placing her fork on her empty plate.

“My day was fairly normal too. It began with me getting up and preparing tea and breakfast. Then I saw you both off. After that, I started my preparation for dinner. I had my early lunch while watching my favorite show- Broken Hearts- “

Mr. Nath and Ojas sniggered. Mrs. Nath shot them a killer glance. Both of them fell instantly silent. She continued her tale.

“After that, I called you during your lunch hour, on your cell.” She said looking at Mr. Nath. “But, you didn’t pick up. So I called your office up and they said you had left office. “

“Well, I had a meeting. So I left office early, slightly before lunch time and did not answer my call because I was in the meeting.” Mr. Nath said, and proceeded to gulp down the contents of his glass.

“Oh, okay. So, after that I went shopping. Like I said, there were a few things I needed to buy. I needed beer for making the batter. But, I could find only one bottle. I’m sure there were two yesterday.”

Ojas swept his palms through his hair.

“So, you went to buy beer, mom? “

“Yes. I went to buy a bottle, just in case. Then I came home and started frying the prawns. They turned out really well though. I’m happy you liked them so much.”

“Yes, they were really amazing.” Mr. Nath said, giving a broad grin which he reserved only for the rarest of occasions.

He began his day’s narrative.

“After all the daily morning rituals, I left for office. The roads were lovely today. No traffic. I sorted a few files in the office, nothing much. Then I left for my meeting before lunch.”

“How did it go, dad?” asked Ojas.

“It went really well. The second party was very pleased with what I had to offer.” Mr. Nath said, scratching his beard. “ So then, after the meeting I called you, Anita. But your phone was picked up by Kailash-“

“Yes. I had taken him along to carry stuff and had handed my phone over to him while I was looking at stuff.” Mrs. Nath interjected.

“Oh! That is why he wasn’t near the car. You guys must have gone walking.” Ojas said.

“Bingo. I needed some exercise. Haha.” Mrs. Nath said, brushing aside her hair from her brow.

“Right. So then I got back home. Oh yea, I fired Kailash today.” Mr. Nath said.

“Why?” asked mother and son in unison.

“I found cigarettes in our garage today, around the car.”

Ojas coughed and quickly reached for the bottle of water.

Mr. Nath continued.

“So, I went and confronted Kailash. He seemed strangely guilty even before I broached the topic of cigarettes. He directly started apologizing. But, I know his kind of people does not improve. So, I fired him there right there.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Nath in a soft tone.

“That is dinner done then. You guys clean up the table. I’ll get the dishes done.”

Just a regular family-dinner for the Nath family.

Sea of Blood 4

Edwards untied Alain from the bed. He went towards the door and opened it. He looked at his first-mate, Gracht, who had been waiting outside after knocking on the cabin door. On seeing Alain standing behind Edwards, he looked at Edwards quizzically.

“Mr. Gracht, I fear this is no reef that we have hit. Send word to the crew, to get ready for battle. “, said Edwards, giving no explanation about Alain’s presence.

Gracht showed a hint of surprise on his face. But being the loyal first-mate that he was, he did not question his Captain further. He turned and made his way to the deck.

“Alain, let’s go check up on our friend Jach shall we?”- said Edwards, turning towards Alain.

Alain nodded in agreement. They made their way towards Jach’s room. Edwards drew his flintlock as they approached the door. Edwards knocked on the door.

“Jach, are you in there?”

Edwards got no response. He knocked again.

A crew member ran up to Edwards and Alain.

“Sir, Mr. Gracht needs you on the deck.” He said with a sense of urgency.

“We will be there shortly. “, responded Edwards.

He quickly added –

“Have you seen Mr. Jach by any chance?”

“Yes, he is on deck with the rest of the crew.”

Edwards and Alain looked at each other and followed the crewman hastily to the deck. Sure enough, they spotted Jach. He was looking towards the sea. To Edwards, it looked as if Jach almost knew this was coming. His face showed no surprise or fear, unlike the other members of the crew. Jach noticed the captain and Alain walking towards him.

“Ah, captain, I was looking for you. Where were you? “

Removing his flintlock, Edwards aimed it Jach’s face.

“Stow it Jach. I am onto your game.”

Jach seemed surprised.

“Game, what game? Captain, I don’t understand what you are talking about.”

The crewmen grew alert to the situation. Gracht came up behind his captain.

“Captain, what are your orders?”

“Get two men to guard him, right now.”

Gracht motioned to two crewmen standing behind Jach. The moved up next to him, one on each side and held him by his arms.

The ship began quaking again. Edwards addressed his crew.

“Men, we have braved many perils together. It is another peril that we must face right now. In a few moments there are things that are going to attack us. People that dwell in the sea. They are going to be here for blood. I say let’s give it to them. Let us make these waters a sea of their blood. Draw weapons. “

Roused by the words of their captain, the crewmen drew their weapons. Rusted cutlasses, fish pikes, and flintlocks were their weapons of choice. They were all fishermen by profession, but every last one of them, had been tested in battle before. They were no strangers to battles.

Edwards aimed his flintlock at Jach again.

“Mr. Jach, Alain has told me everything about your kind.”

Jach’s face showed genuine surprise.

Edwards continued-

“Now tell me. What have your people got to do with me? Why am I a part of this equation?”

Jach continued looking surprised.

“I really do not understand this question Captain Edwards. What are you talking about?”

Edwards’ face developed a stern look.

“Do not play dumb with me. All your friends from underwater have plans. What are they? Alain told me there is a plan.”

Jach’s face turned pale.

“Alain told you.”

He looked at Alain.

“I get it now. You are with them. You were spying on me. Weren’t you?”

Alain smiled coldly.

“Yes, I was. Captain Edwards, let me kill him now. Before the others arrive.”

Edwards steadied his aim.

“Now Mr Jach, tell me the truth.”

Jach gulped.

“Captain, believe me. I do not know what he is talking about. I only wanted to get to Veluise Islands, which is why I decided to come along with you. In fact, I did not even know the directions. Alain gave them to me.”

It was now Edwards turn to look surprised. He turned around to see a shocked expression on Gracht’s face and long-knife coming out of his stomach. The knife belonged to Alain, whose face had a devilish grin on it, baring his sharp teeth.

Edwards aimed his flintlock at Alain.

“You were the traitor, not Jach. I will kill you now. “

Alain sniggered from behind the cover that Gracht’s lifeless body provided.

“That is an astute observation, Captain. But I fear it is a bit too late now. Kill them all. ”

At that moment, a dozen dark forms sprung onto the deck from the ocean. They had moved so fast, the crewmen had hardly noticed. The deck instantly broke into a battle. The Merfolk and crewmen went at each other with all they had got. Even though the crew outnumbered the sea-men by a huge margin, their larger numbers were easily kept at bay by the amazing speed and skill of the sea-men. It was an even battle.

Amidst the frenzy, Jach broke free of his captors and made his way to the edge of the deck. Alain followed in close pursuit. Alain managed to corner Jach.

“You can stop now Jach. We have you right where we want you. There is no escape”

Alain drew his knife and started walking slowly towards an unarmed Jach. Just after a couple of steps, Alain heard a loud bang, followed by an immense pain in his stomach. He looked down to see blood pouring out of a hole in his stomach. Clutching it, he turned around to see Edwards holding his flintlock, gunpowder smoke rising out of it.

“It would seem you have nowhere to escape, fish-man. “ – Edwards said with a grim look on his face.

Alain rested his knee on the floor, the wound sapping his strength by the second. Satisfied that Alain was of no more threat, Edwards jumped back into the fray.

The battle went on for a good twenty minutes. Bodies lay everywhere on the deck. The dead lay in a pool of blood, human blood as well as Merfolk blood. The Merfolk had been excellent fighters, managing to handle such a large number of people. But in the end, the sheer numbers had overwhelmed the Merfolk. Edwards himself had slain three out of the twelve assailants. Half of the crew of The Titania lay dead. Most of the ones alive had some or the other injury. Edwards ordered his crew to make a hasty turn around.

After the ship had turned, Edwards made his way back to the semi-conscious Alain. He had fallen down, with his back to the floor and had lost a lot of blood.  Edwards reckoned he did not have much time to live. But he couldn’t let him die without getting answers to his questions. He threw some water on Alain’s face and brought him back to full consciousness.

“Fish-man, I have a few questions for you and I am in no mood for long stories now. Make it quick.  I want to know everything. What have your people got to do with me? Speak fast. “

Alain coughed, spitting out blood. He spoke in a breathless voice.

“All you humans are so self-obsessed. You think everything in this world is related to you. It isn’t. The truth is that you were just being used to get us to this location. Jach is one of those human-loving scum. I was indeed spying on him. He had gained information that my people were up to something in the Veluise Islands. He holds vital information about his comrades too. We needed that. So, me and my twelve soldiers, my sworn brothers, decided to capture him and extract the information from him, once he made it here. I gave him the directions to this place. That night, I was truly making sure nothing goes wrong for my men. But you intervened and took away our element of surprise. You, human were only a vessel to accomplish our goals, and we will accomplish them. What you did today, will only delay the inevitable. Your race will perish.”

Alain coughed again, and spit more blood out and lay motionless on the floor. Edwards gave Alain’s body a disgusted look.

“Men, dump the bodies into the sea. We cannot have rotting corpses on our ship. May the souls of our brothers find peace. ”

The crewmen followed their captain’s orders. They said their last words for their friends while dumping their bodies into the sea and following that, they tossed the bodies of the Merfolk. Edwards watched as the bodies sunk into the sea. With Alain’s words still fresh in his mind, he knew he had a lot to talk about with Jach.

The bodies made their way slowly towards the bottom, lending more of their scarlet hue to the blue sea, with each passing moment. The sea soon turned red, sea of blood indeed. The bodies did not sink unnoticed. Hundreds of pairs of red, glowing eyes, peering from the dark marine depths, observed the bodies and the trail of blood left by the Titania.

(The End, for now)

Image courtesy : Rudhika

Sea of Blood 3

Alain’s story had been interesting till now. But, he had failed to explain anything about his motives, which gave Edwards no reason to trust Alain. He decided to leave Alain as he was, tied to the bed. Edwards removed his flintlock pistol from its position in his belt and placed it on the table, pointing in the direction of Alain. He placed is hand on the flintlock and looked at Alain –

“The story is nice. But, you had better get to the point now, fast.”

Alain glanced at the flintlock. Showing no sign of fear, he continued the story.

‘The teenage prince sunk rapidly, the chains bound to his body speeding up his descent. Mer held his breath. His vision started being invaded by darkness. His shock at being condemned to this fate was soon replaced by fear. His vision went completely black as his lungs finally gave in to the pressure. But instead of suffocating and drowning completely, Mer found it to be more pleasant under water than over it. He had no trouble breathing. His vision fully returned to him. He looked at his body. His elbows had developed prominent scales on them. The same could be said about his feet. He felt his neck. His fingers met with thin slits. Gills, he thought to himself. His body was still loosely bound with chains. His fear had now left him. It had been replaced with anger, a burning wrath against his father. He pushed out with his hands and to his surprise, the chains broke apart. This was a feat he could have never dreamed of performing before whatever it was that had happened to him. Free from his shackles, he scouted the area around him with his eyes. To his surprise, multiple pairs of peering red eyes looked back at him through the thick ocean flora. Slowly, hundreds of people began coming out of their hiding spots surrounding him. He looked around. All of them had red eyes and scales on their elbows and feet, just like him. He spotted features that seemingly matched his stable boy’s features, before he was drowned in the sea. He kept looking around and found several faces that were known to him. Then it dawned upon him. None of the condemned people had died. They were alive, just like him. The people had surrounded him now.

“It is Prince Mer. Let’s rip him apart. His father did this to us. “

A random voice said from the crowd.

Mer had always thought that talking underwater was impossible. But apparently, it wasn’t so.

“Yes. Kill him!”

More voices joined in.

Soon, the crowd began moving slowly towards Mer, their discontent clearly visible. Mer knew he had to put a stop this, or else his new lease on life would be a very short one.

“Stop! Listen to me. I know how you feel. I know you are all angry, angry with the King. Angry, that he abandoned you and condemned you, no us, to this fate.”

Mer paused. He looked around to check whether his words had been registered by the people. They had stopped moving towards him. Mer let his anger swell within him.

“I share this fate with you. My own father did this to me. And he will pay. I swear this to you. You, you are all my people. And I, Prince Mer shall lead you. Together, you and I shall crush the Kingdom of Veluise. I promise you, we will have our revenge. Will you share this revenge with me?”

A long pause followed. Mer had spoken with true feelings, and his speech was soon met with cries of approval. And from that day, Mer became the king of these people, and they came to call themselves – Merfolk.

Mer’s first order of business was to understand the extents of their new abilities, their strengths and weaknesses. Mer discovered that his people though much stronger inside water, could survive on the surface as well. As long as they were near the sea air, they would not die due to suffocation. However, they were not very physically strong without the presence of water. He also understood that their diseased bodies could only digest meat, even human meat. One of the amazing things Mer discovered was that a few of his kind could alter their physical features to look like normal humans for a short amount of time. They would manage to get rid of their gills and the red hue of their eyes. Mer felt this was most interesting and useful to his plan. He began training his people to fight as soldiers. He would need them for the war that was coming. He continued planning his revenge for many months, biding his time and waiting for the right moment to make his move.

The time finally came after thirteen months. The disease had been eradicated from the Kingdom of Veluise, and the king reigned over a peaceful time. Mer had carefully selected his time. At the night of the King’s birthday, the whole kingdom was in a celebratory mood. Taking advantage of the thin vigilance, Mer and his group of thirty best soldiers snuck into the royal palace. The hooded Mer made his way into the gala and approached the king. Mer taking his hood off, revealed his presence. Mer’s face was the last thing the old King ever saw, as Mer plunged a sword into his chest. His soldiers made quick work of the astonished royal guards. He went to the ramparts and lit a torch. His Generals recognizing this as the pre-planned signal launched their attacks. Merfolk began rising from the sea and attacking the island cities from all directions. The Veluise soldiers were caught unawares. It was a massacre. The unsuspecting people of Veluise stood no chance. A once great Kingdom had been turned into a mass grave.

Mer returned to the sea. Even though Veluise was destroyed, his own losses had been heavy. More than half of his people were among the bodies littering the islands. Mer’s hatred had extended towards the rest of humanity now.  A few of his subjects did not agree with his actions. Realizing his cruel ambitions, they decided to not be a part of his actions. They decided to stand beside humanity and act against Mer.

I am one of their descendants. ‘

Edwards took a moment to register everything. He went up to Alain and cut the cloth near his elbow. The gills on his elbow glittered in the lamp’s light.

“You still haven’t told me what you were doing yesterday night”, Edwards said as he lifted his pistol.

“I was making sure things do not go wrong. We are in Merfolk territory now. Every night, I keep a lookout for those who dwell inside these seas. I know they are planning something big and it is related to you somehow. “

Edwards was bemused now.

“Me? And how do you even know about all of this? “

Alain smiled dryly.

“Captain Edwards, how did you find someone to navigate these treacherous waters so easily? A bit too convenient, I would say. I did mention that some Merfolk could change their appearance, to appear human like. “

Edwards understood now.

“Jach! “, he exclaimed.

“Yes, captain. Jach. I have been keeping an eye on him, working undercover to get wind of their plan for humanity. They – “

Alain was cut short by the impact of motion as the ship suddenly stopped. Almost instantly a knock sounded on the door.

“Captain Edwards, we seem to have hit a reef.”

Edwards looked at Alain with alarm on his face.

“They are here”, Alain responded with equal alarm.