Raghav woke up from his deep slumber; he wasn’t prone to these breaks in his sleep as long as there wasn’t a reason for that. He felt he heard a constant buzzing sound; he wasn’t hearing any now. He attempted to gain his full senses. He looked at the dimmed screen of his iPhone; it hadn’t woken him up as there were no new notifications. He wasn’t fully awake yet as he could hardly see anything around through his dizzy eyes. He attempted to see the time again on his iPhone; the screen read 03:28. He didn’t feel thirsty nor did he want to take a leak.
He got up and tottered along the floor to the bathroom. “I am awake anyway, might as well go visit the bathroom“. He got back to the still, dark room. The clock on the wall read 03:30 now.
Just as he fell flat facedown on the bed, the sound hit him again. He could clearly hear the steady, deep buzzing noise that had woken him; he was absolutely certain it wasn’t coming from something in his room. He got up, this time fully awake, wide-eyed. He was convinced it was a sound he had heard before, a rattle of sorts on a wooden top. He got out of his bedroom; he was certain now that the sound was coming from downstairs. He tried to calm his mind, suspecting it was his loneliness that was playing games.
Raghav stepped onto the first stair and the sound stopped with the first creak of the wooden stairs below his feet. The lack of sound now made him even more nervous. Did he make someone or something aware of his presence? Why did the sound stop? The lack of persistent hum was making his legs shake. He stood frozen on the stairs peering into the darkness beneath. It was lifeless, as it should be. But even the normal made Raghav quiver. He felt that the narrow staircase was closing in on him on both sides, becoming narrower with each second that he stood there.
“I cannot stand witless here anymore,” he thought. He flicked at the switch panel. The light hadn’t even filled the staircase yet and the heavy hum filled the empty soundless surrounding again. He was sure now that his mind wasn’t playing any games with him; there was something rattling on the dining table in the kitchen. He took a deep breath and ran down the staircase. He stood at the entrance of the kitchen and peeked inside. It was pitch dark inside, except for the dancing light from a buzzing mobile phone on the dining table. Raghav was relieved it wasn’t an unexplainable sound. But the relief was only short-lived as the realization that the phone wasn’t his soon hit him.
He ambled slowly towards the shuddering device; the screen visibly showed that there was an incoming call. Before he could see whom the call was from, the phone stopped ringing and fright struck him as the room went dark around him. He scuttled across the floor to the dining table, picked up the phone, and brought the screen back to life. He heaved a sigh as the faint light illuminated his surroundings. He hadn’t even exhaled the full sigh yet before the phone in his hand started to vibrate again. He slowly turned the now-brightened screen to face him; his face went white. The screen read Incoming call . . . Raghav iPhone.
Note: I was recently held back by the 10th prompt of Microblogvember. I couldn’t come up with a satisfying subplot. I asked my 6-year-old daughter to tell me a story about space. This is her short story — I believe she has a better plot than what I could come up with. She always beats me with her creativity and freedom of thought.
There once was an old spaceship. No one used it. Everyone wanted to use the new spaceship. The new spaceship had too many lights and it flew fast. So all new people wanted to use the new spaceship.
Some old people were talking once how they wished they could go to space and see the stars from close. The old spaceship heard them, it felt sad. So it took them to space. It showed them the stars and the moon. The old people felt very happy.
Some young boys did not like those old people were also going to space. So they stole the old spaceship and hid them. The old people felt very sad that their friend was stolen. So they searched for the old spaceship everywhere. But they did not find it.
One day they got an idea. They announced to the young boys that they have got a very new spaceship. They should come and take it from them. The young boys came to take the new spaceship. But they fell and all the old people held them.
The young boys got afraid and gave the old spaceship back to them. The old people were happy that got their friend back. Now they went to space every day with the old spaceship.
“Yes?” Ninad heard a confused, deep whisper at the other end.
“This is God speaking,” Ninad spoke loudly, trying hard to control his laughter at the same time. “You have some dues to clear, mister. Can we talk?”
Ninad was having the time of his life, making prank calls from the comfort of his room. The rotary dial telephone had been his entertainment hub for the last few hours now. But things were about to change for the worse.
“Need a single-bed room for today,” Ninad ordered the receptionist. He was exploring the morbid looking hotel lobby, still unsure of whether it really was a hotel. It was a small hut with utter lack of air, heat or light. But it did display fancy looking furniture and sculptures. Well kept, tidy.
“Wokovu homely heritage resort,” it had announced itself at the side of the highway. He still wondered if selecting the hotel just by its peculiar name was a right decision.
“Sure sir. And I assume it would be just you alone?” Ninad looked around and sighed, but then nodded, not really amused by the gratuitous insult.
The receptionist was right in a way. He was alone and stuck. The stormy weather outside didn’t leave him much choice to roam outside too. Not that the town had anything worth exploring. Even Google had struggled to pin it on its map.
“So, what amenities do you have?” Ninad inquired curiously. “And what’s Wokovu?”
The receptionist looked up at him, for the first time that Ninad could recall. “Nothing. And we are proud of that. It gives you time to spend time with yourself, for yourself. Frees you of your day-to-day burdens and distractions. Wokovu.”
Ninad forced a smile on his face, nodding. “Sure.” The sarcasm in his tone wasn’t lost on the receptionist too.
All the plans Ninad had for the day were cancelled, thanks to the terrible storm that had cordoned off the small town, closing off all the roads leading out. There was no way either for Ninad to leave this rotten place or for his colleagues to arrive. He now had to find ways to entertain himself in this so-called resort.
There was a silence on the line for some time. Ninad wondered if the phone had given up and died with age. But then he heard a tired sigh.
“You should not have come here. You should not have stayed here. You should not have used the phone. You should not have called me. Now be ready to face the consequences. And the first one on the list will be your wife Saba.”
Before Ninad could fathom the voice and words, the receiver of the rotary dial telephone burst in flames.
Wokovu — Swahili word for salvation
(noun) deliverance from sin and its consequences
“May I enter Detective?”, Mr Rao peeks through the open door of the kitchen. “I heard you had something you wanted to talk to me about.”
“Of course, Mr Rao. Come in. And please call me Naik. ‘Detective’ burdens the conversation for no necessary reason. I just want to have some chat. And at the same, if I can get the work I am here for, done quickly, better for all of us. Right?”
“Sure. By the way, ‘Mr’ is no less burdensome,” quips Mr Rao, half-heartedly.
“So what do you know about the situation we are in Rao?” Naik’s quick, curt response takes Rao by surprise. He realises that irrespective of the words used, the conversation to follow is going to be somber. His brow is getting damp, and he knows that isn’t a good sign.
“Nothing much to be frank. I came late from work yesterday, was completely tired you see. So I went straight to my room and went to sleep. I was woken up only in the morning by your friend, asking me to join you here. So in a sense, I know lesser than you do.” Rao blurts out everything he had come prepared with.
“That was lickety-split, huh, Rao.” Rao sees Naik lean closer and look deeper at him. He could sense Naik believes he knows more than what he was revealing. “Anything else you want to mention? We can also go through, you know, the regular drill. I can ask some questions to remind you of stuff you may know.”
Rao sighs. “I gave you what matters Naik. Others’ just stuff. Details.”
Naik is again quick to respond, “It is the stuff, the details I love Rao. You see otherwise this detective job is boring. What fun is it to listen only to the sad, murky bites from people’s lives?” He pats Rao’s lap a couple of times, then slumps back into the beanbag. “I love this job because I get to know people – their habits, their thoughts, their behaviours. I happen to solve some crazy cases over last few years just through such chats. Nothing much.”
Rao knows that wasn’t really the case — Naik was in the news a lot recently because he was a sagacious detective. He realises his attempt to skim through yesterday’s happenings was futile. He also knows the regular drill with Naik would be a lot more dreadful.
“As you wish Naik. I have been living in this house for last 4 years. You must already know ..”
Rao sees Naik signalling something to his friend. Realising Rao has stopped, Naik grins and mouths a nimble ‘sorry’ and leans back again.
Rao continues, “You must already know that we are 4 people sharing the house. Actually, 3 now, given, you know..” He peeps at the chalk outline around where Joy’s body lay. ”I met Joy just a couple of weeks back when he joined us in this house. Adi and he knew each other from the beginning. I am not sure how though. I haven’t got much chance to talk to them about their acquaintance. Adi and I have known each other for last two years. He is a good guy, so was Joy, I guess. Unfortunate, he had to fall this way.”
Naik’s scratching his soul patch, deep in some thoughts. “How do you think Joy died?”
Rao shrugs and then responds, “Well, it was an unfortunate accident, wasn’t it? An electric shock while using that Microwave? And that is why I was stumped in the morning when I heard you are on the case. Why, do you think there is some foul play here?”
“Sir,” Naik straightens up, “I rarely do think when I am on a case. As I told you earlier, I just come to chatter. I have just happened to have solved few cases over such chats. Anyway, do you know a lot about Microwaves?”
Rao is taken aback by the direct question. “Why? Me? No. I mean I am not an electrical engineer.”
“It’s alright, of course,” Naik grins. “I just felt you looked a lot confident on the reason behind Joy’s death. So I thought you must know something about Microwaves that I don’t. Why do you feel that that harmless device is the reason we are sitting here Rao?”
Rao continues to stare at Naik, his heart pounding now. I have no idea what’s cooking inside this devil’s mind. The perspiration is now clearly visible on his forehead. “Mr Naik, I have no idea what you are hinting at. On my way here, Adi had mentioned that Joy’s died of electric shock. I see him lying here on the floor, his legs towards the Microwave, with it still displaying the time since it had been on. Other than Joy’s fallen body, nothing else looks out of sort for this room. There are no signs of any combat that might have played out here last night. So I connect the dots and feel his death has to be natural — he got the electric shock while using the Microwave and ..”
“.. and he then turned around to fall face first?” Naik isn’t looking at Rao anymore — he is busy noting down something in his diary. After a momentary pause, he apologises, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to break your train of thoughts. But you were doing my job so well, that I felt I should help you too.”
The tone of snark in Naik’s voice isn’t lost on Rao and he is done fooling around though. “See. I have no clue what’s going on here. I have no idea why you are even here. I came home late yesterday, slept right away. I haven’t been to the kitchen since then — came here only in the morning today when you called me. I do not know Joy well, neither did I have an issue with him. He appeared to be a calm sedate guy, it’s unfortunate that he passed away. Even more unfortunate is the fact that now that you are on the case, we all would be held up in this house till you are done and I have to chat with you.”
“Aha, that’s how you summarise,” Naik is already jotting something in his notebook. “Thank you so much, Rao. You can leave now.” He goes through the content of page titled “Mr Roy (x)”.
Does not know Joy. Adi knows Joy well. Rao knows Adi well.
Easily swayed by bites of information and runs with it.
Lies about not being to the kitchen yesterday after office — has his tiffin at the wash basin.
As Rao is about to leave the kitchen, Naik stops him. “Just a food for thought Rao. Why do you think Joy died while using the Microwave and not, say, after using it?”
Rao, wiping his brow, shrugs, “I don’t know. Maybe because people do not instantly die after using a microwave. They usually eat?”
Naik slumps back, satisfied, in his beanbag, “There you go. Thank you, Mr Rao. You can go back to the living room.” He makes another note.
Did not have food at home last night.
Rick was following this foreign body across his own home for quite some time now. He did not like new people entering his den, rather he scorned all who did. The loneliness that the fate had stewed into his existence had made him finicky. For him, the life was far better when he was left alone.
And Rick was always alone. He was alone when he first opened his eyes in an orphanage. He was alone when he first learned to walk, when he uttered his first word. He was alone with his foster parents — people who used him as nothing more than a childminder to their younger son. He loved to walk, he loved to talk. But with no one ever by his side, life turned him into a lonely bloke.
So he ran away from the foster home, ran away from the people. He still does not recall how long was he hitchhiking – on the road, on the sea. He just stopped moving a fine day and fell into a surrounding he cared least about. He learnt he needed money to exist, he learnt ways to earn money, he earned money to exist. And he did exist. However, by now, his existence was under the fastidious care of his loneliness.
A silent persistent rumble brought Rick back to the reality. His heart sank to see how much mess the repairman was leaving behind in his house.
Unable to bear the ruin, Rick shouted, “Do you really have to screw around my whole house, strewing all your mess all across the floor?”
“Of course. Your neighbour has paid me to do,” teased the repairman. Realising how futile it was to kid around this sobersides, he corrected himself, ”Your neighbour has complained he hears a lot of noise in this wall, he is afraid there is a rat or some living creature in here.”
How can there be?, wondered Rick within. ”You have to go, now,” snarled Rick.
“Why? If there is a rat, it will help you too.” The repairman resumed his work — Rick perceived it as nothing less than carnage.
He has to go. Now.
“Gotya, wake up, you bum.”
Gotya was shaken up from his sleep. He shuddered, then forced his face to point to where the sound was coming from. He let in as much of his father’s looming figure as his hazy vision allowed.
Gotya’s father was tired of Gotya’s utter lack of competence at any work there possibly was to do. Gotya, on the other hand, was fed up with the extreme truculent manner in which his father constantly chided him. Neither of them attempted to right anything. Gotya continued to laze away the days and the nights. His father continued to bark at him for doing so.
“What are you going to do now?”
“Just what you told me Baba,” was all he managed to mutter. He was still livid with his father for waking him up early. Just as he was every day. He was still spread across his Charpai — spread even more than the bedsheet beneath him did.
“And what is that?”
“Not to do anything stupid,” he hissed now — his father just won’t give up.
“That is what you are not going to do, Gotya. I asked what are you going to do now?”
Gotya sighed. “Haven’t we just gone through this?” he pondered. And finally, annoyed, he shot back, “Anyway, what am I going to do?”
“We just went through this, you idiot. Stop being stupid.”
“See.” It was Gotya who barked now. “That’s why I keep saying you are getting old now. Isn’t that exactly what I said I am going to do – not doing anything stupid?”
Gotya sat straight now, his father contrarily bent a little. He then stretched somewhat and then bent a lot more, sighing. Herding this fool is no less difficult than the thoughtless goats, goats are easier withal, he mumbled.
This is another short-story from the series of adventures from this crazy village Tikwadi. I have also published the other humor stories as part of this series — The Lone Conductor, Day when a loan shark was tamed and He who wasn’t welcomed.
A sudden and repeated knock on the door reverberated through the room. It shook Rama, bringing her back from a sombre which had her unmoved for quite some time now. Unmoved, since a rock shattered her windows and her spirit. A rock with a paper wrapped around it.
She had no clue for how long she had been staring at that piece of paper. The words it read were pretty conspicuous in imparting the intentions of the one who wrote them. And they had had her shaken to her core.
Who knows about Sam? And about Ali? And how? Rama wondered.
No one should know about them. No one knows where they came from. No one will ever know where they went. Isn’t that what you always believed? A voice in Rama’s head chided her.
She read the words again.
I know about Sam. I know about Ali.
I know what you did to them.
I know what you intend to do to Rachit.
I will not let you. Beware.
None of the three lines should be written by anyone, but herself. And she was pretty confident she had not written them. Or had she?
Another knock pierced the silence of Rama’s lab. Darkness was creeping through the shattered window into the lab now.
Who can come to the lab? Who even knows you have a lab? The voice questioned Rama again. And you would not be stumped now had you not let Sam and Ali ever leave the lab. Or had them put away forever.
“They had to if Rachit, the cherished felicity of my existence, was to come to my life. They were not perfect. Rachit is,” shouted Rama.
The knocks grew louder, and faster now — each thump pounding vigorously at her mind. And, just as they began, they ceased suddenly. The lab went silent again. And a lot darker. So did her mind.
Rains were lashing the village of Tikwadi. No being, living, dead or inanimate, had had any respite from the persistent downfall of loaded raindrops. Pathways full of potholes were transformed into rivulets with uneven bed. Not that there was a dire need for use of any of these pathways.
Tikwadi was known for the distinct hebetude amongst the dwellers of this rugged land. There were different kinds of people – of varied nature, varied colour, varied beliefs and varied professions. What connected them all was their utter lack of liveliness in the face of any hardship. A hint of annoyance, and the whole village would go dead-still. Extreme summers made them spread themselves on the bed. Stormy monsoons had them locked in their houses. Chilly winters had them cloaked and hooded in the layers of Shawls. The village, and the villagers, ran when the nature was kind.
Of course, the incessant rains of last week had got the village long deserted. There was no seeable movement nor any discernible sound, except that of the pounding rain. A whoosh of wind that shook the whole surrounding was, hence, definitely bizarre for its suddenness. It was as if it had no trigger to originate, nor did it have a gradual route to non-existence; it just disappeared. It did leave behind something though, equally odd and a lot more ghastly.
Tikwadi wasn’t ready for Him yet.
Raghu and Ganya were huddled together under the porch to keep themselves dry, and warm. They saw a body, befogged by the rain around, walk towards them.
“Has it stopped raining?” Ganya quipped.
Raghu rolled his eyes, then on second thought kneaded his eyes a bit and looked around. But then rolled his eyes again and looked pitifully at Ganya.
“Don’t look at me like that.” Ganya responded, a bit flustered. “If it hasn’t stopped raining, who is that walking around?”
“He cannot be someone from here.” Raghu finally spoke.
“Then where is he from?” Ganya looked at the rolling eyes of Raghu and complained, “Whoever taught you that did not tell you when to do that.”
He had reached next to them by now. He spoke something that, to Raghu and Ganya, were just noises. They looked at each other, weighing the option of enquiring further. But their lethargic self won. So they just rolled their eyes, went inside and slammed the door in His face.
Sana hated Joel. It was not because he was a terrible person. It was, rather, for exactly the opposite reason. He was a gem of a person.
He always adorned his face with a wide, charming smile. A smile that captivated everyone, but was neither an attempt at hiding some innate stupidness nor a craving for being characterised as “the cheery guy”. It was all authentic. At work, he was best at what he did – extremely smart and diligent. He mesmerised everyone in the team, inside or the outside, with his knowledge and his stories. Sana had not yet come across a single topic which had him stumped.
Sana, on the other hand, was miserably inadequate at work. She rarely completed stuff assigned to her on her own, helping others was unthinkable. She wasn’t too keen either, as it involved interacting with them. As part of a group, she was perceived to be the pensive dumbo. She rarely added anything to a conversation, but got always swayed by everyone’s perspective. More often than not, she left a conversation being bitter for her inability to contribute.
Not Joel. He was never seen fussed. Outside of work, he dialled his impressiveness up a notch. He was a terrific singer — Sana believed he was good enough to be a lead singer of any band. Every party had a performance from the cheery guy. Him, strumming guitar, and his soulful crooning.
Sana had no interests, no passions. She was into her late twenties, and she had no profile to boast of. Every attempt of hers to break free was shot down mercilessly by her fate. Some by the fateful accident that took her family away. Some by the untimely fire that took her friends away. Fate never allowed Sana to be the unfettered child, burdening her always with the needs of ever debasing circumstances.
Sana was woken up by a collective shrill around her. Everyone was looking at her. And she, through her teary eyes, had been looking at Joel, a usual guitar in his hand. She, then, heard Joel speak.
“Yes, her. She is a great singer. I have heard her croon many times.”
Fate, over her life, had nurtured Sana to be a grouchy wench. Sana hated Joel for dissuading her from being herself.
Oas looked at the grumpy old sod again lying down in front of Sara’s picture. Well, at least that is what he thought Mr Marvel was. Somewhere deep down he knew he too was exactly the same — an old grumpy looking sod. And Marvel had made sure Oas is never allowed to forget that. He saw a human reflection in the feline every time he looked at him.
But as Sara had wished, Oas had made him his buddy, his partner for years now. They were inseparable — waking up and cleaning together; cooking and eating together; reading and sleeping together. Marvel made sure he spent, with Oas, every single minute of the day, spreading happiness and contentment. And Oas always believed things would stay the same.
Alas, the time has a way of unearthing one’ fallacies — putting one face-to-face with history. Didn’t Oas hold similar beliefs about his happy times with Sara? How can he have forgotten so quickly that they didn’t last him for the lifetime either? And today he woke up from the self-induced dreamy slumber again.
Not by Marvel, but by the absence of him on his side. Oas trotted down the stairs to find him motionless in front of Sara. He knew the grumpy sod was done being grumpy. Sara would’ve been ululating next to Marvel’s body — that was if she had been alive. Now, she must be dancing with joy, with Marvel to her side, at whichever the place it is where people go to stop being the sad mortals.
The thought cheered Oas up. He too was close to done being the grumpy old sod.
This is the conclusion of the story I had published on how Sara brought these two grumpy old souls together.