Short Stories

Three Days

Day One

You wake up, rub your eyes, and stay in bed for a while longer. Did you get any sleep at all? Yes, you must have. You remember the dream. It was too horrid to be real. You make your way to the bathroom. As you grab your toothbrush and put some paste on it, you stare at your reflection in the mirror. As you brush your teeth, you notice a bright red scratch mark on the left side of your stomach. Has it always been there? It has something pale sticking out of it. A shrapnel of some sort? You gently remove it. Touching the cut, however, makes you flinch so you let it be. You must have unknowingly scratched yourself somehow yesterday. Weird.

You get ready for work and leave the apartment at your usual 8.07 a.m. You reach the subway station at 8.16 and patiently wait for your 8.18 subway to arrive. Once it does, you enter your usual carriage and look around. You spot your seat next to Nathan. He beckons you over with a small nod. After exchanging your usual pleasantries, he hands you his neatly folded morning paper while talking about the highlights of the day. Some rugby tournament, something about the mayor, nothing particularly captivating. As you go through the paper yourself, you notice a small red stain at the lower left corner of the pages. Upon your inquiry about the stain, Nathan explains a bloody broken nail as the cause of the stains. How did he break his nail? He does not know. Weird.

As per routine, Nathan gets off two stops before you. Where he works or what he does isn’t important. All you know is that you won’t be seeing him till the 8.18 a.m. subway the next day; he is simply your subway acquaintance and nothing more.

You get off at your stop and make your way to the 9-to-5 job you’ve never dreamed of. After an exhausting day and then some excruciating overtime, you’re on your way back home. In the subway, your mind wanders to the dream you had last night. You only remember bits and pieces now. You were standing on a bridge of some sort. Where? There was something that made you feel angry. What? There was another man. Who?  Don’t know. Weird

Day Two

The next morning, you wake up, rub your eyes, and let out a small groan. You hands ache. Why? Focusing your gaze on your hands lets you see your now-red knuckles. You try folding your hand into a fist and then stretching it open, but you can’t. It’s too painful. You try to recall any event that could’ve led to these bruised knuckles, but to no avail.

Suddenly, it starts coming back to you. It’s the bridge. The anger. The man. Is it the same dream as the night before? No, there was something different about this one. You are doing something on that bridge this time. What is it? Wait, you’re pushing the man. You’re punching his ribs and shoving him to the ground. Why? Who is this man? Is this why you have these bruises? The memory vanishes.

You get ready slower than usual. You can’t strain your hands too much otherwise your knuckles start aching even more. You grab an ice pack for them from the freezer and leave your apartment slightly annoyed: it’s 8.09 a.m. You’re late. You go through the doors of your 8.18 a.m. subway with seconds to spare as the doors shut close behind you. You head to over to Nathan who looks a bit gloomier than usual.  You wonder what’s wrong with him, but you’re in no mood to ask. Luckily enough for you, he tells you himself. He had a rough night. Oh. He fell off his bed. That’s unfortunate. He needs to visit the hospital in the afternoon because he thinks his ribs are bruised. Wait, what?

That’s strange. Could your dream have anything to do with Nathan’s injuries? No, it’s not possible. You barely know Nathan apart from his subway habits. You couldn’t have had any involvement in this. You sympathize with Nathan’s injury and wish him a speedy recovery as his stop arrives. He gets off and you are left bewildered. But it’s just a coincidence, so it doesn’t matter.

After another long day, which seemed even longer because of your restricted hand mobility, you are in the subway on your way home. You’re now wishing for nothing more than the comfort of your bed to put you to sleep.

Day Three

You wake up the next day expecting newfound pain; but, to your surprise, there’s a sense of satisfaction gushing through your body. Weird.

Your hands still hurt and the cut on your stomach seems redder, but you’ll get over it. You go about your morning the way you usually do; suddenly, you start recollecting. Recollecting what? Some images, a face, a weapon. Is this last night’s dream? There’s a sword of some sort in your hand, there’s blood boiling in your veins and there’s the man standing 4 feet away from you, frozen in time with his hands in a defensive position, on the very same bridge as the one from the nights before.  You snap out of the flashback and try to shake that anger away. What has been happening over the last three nights?

You leave your apartment at 8.07 a.m. and reach the subway station by 8.16. In the two minutes that you spend waiting for your 8.18 subway, the recollection begins again. This time, you’re moving towards that man, ready to plunge the sword into his chest, right through his heart. You see no expression on his face, hell, you can’t even see his face. You shake the memory out of your head, although you know what follows next. The 8.18 arrives and you board and make your way to your seat, but Nathan is nowhere to be seen. Weird.

He never misses the subway, he’s too particular. You find today’s paper on the seat next to you, though, so you decide to flip through it. There’s an election coming up, a new insect species has been discovered, a person was stabbed last night. Wait, what?

‘Unidentified man found stabbed through chest on Dwam Bridge this morning. No witnesses, no leads.’ 

Alongside the title was a photograph of Nathan.

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Columns

The Polar Express

It’s 8.57 p.m. as I write this and I know all too well that I would be better off studying for my less-than-two-days-away exams. But here I am. I hear the sounds of people having a party downstairs. They sound happy and cheerful. There’s a lot of singing, a bit of drunk laughter, and it’s all in good fun. Isn’t this the state we are always supposed to be in?Won’t we be at our happiest when we are laughing like that? When we let go?

In a world like ours, I think that’s easier said than done.

For the last few days, I have been plagued with outrage posts every time I’ve opened any one of my social media accounts. The topics range from offensive remarks by Mira Rajput to all the wrongdoings that festivals like Holi cause. And that’s just local news. When I open international news sites, the majority of the (often clickbait) titles have to do with the revelation of a new layer of President Trump’s craziness or the dire threat of Russia (as well as its ties with the United States). If I’m smart enough to go onto the right news sites, I may find a greater array of information and news to add to my knowledge but, I have realized that, in the past, I have mostly opted for the more accessible sources of information (read: accessible meaning anything that comes up on my Twitter/Facebook/Snapchat/Instagram feed). Yes, I realize that this is one of the weakest methods of learning anything.

Sure, I enjoy laughing at a meme or two, liking my friends’ rant statuses, or checking out photos posted by people I follow. However, more often than not, I close these applications feeling nothing but agitated. Angry, even. I read articles about feminism that polarize me to the core of morality, making me feel as if the entire world is against women. I am a feminist, yes, but I also realize that the light we are portrayed under isn’t what the actual case is. Yes, I do think Mira Rajput’s ‘..the new wave of feminism is destructive’ comment was quite uncalled for, and it angered me for a long time. But I also realize that she is a 22-year-old who has just recently entered the public limelight, someone who still doesn’t know the ropes of being an influential personality. But yet again, she is a woman and since she is for accepting other people’s choices, maybe she should put the 22-year-old brain to use and realize that sometimes leaving one’s child alone (like a puppy) is not a choice, but a necessity. However, knowing she comes from a relatively privileged life, I do not expect her to necessarily understand these ideas.

I engage in a monolog that moves back-and-forth in this very manner. Just when I think it’s okay for people to express their opinions, when I think that it’s okay for Mira to feel what she feels, that her words were maybe just phrased in the wrong manner, I read articles on the issue that make me feel like she’s one of the oppressors, like she is part of the group of people who are trying to push back the feminist movement.

But is it really so?

Why am I supposed to feel this anger, this incessant irritation, by the words of a woman who just happens to have become a public figure? Okay, so she said something that was controversial, something that I disagree with, but does that mean I am going to rip her apart for it? Is that what I’m supposed to do every time someone opposes my views? Why am I subconsciously being told what to do and feel through these posts? Why am I being emotionally drained by such things on a constant basis? 

Apart from this, I have a question that has not left my mind since the beginning fo this year: is President Trump really that much of a threat? Sure, he has passed some executive orders, one of which even prevents U.S. aids from providing any support to foundations even remotely linked to abortion. But does one not realize that a lot of his orders and pleas do not always go directly into effect? There is a procedure wherein either the Justice System or Congress has to actually accept and vote for the bill/order and then it gets implemented. President Trump gives out these orders which are reviewed and put into motion only if the other parts of the democratic body are in alignment with it.

Why is it that a lot of people don’t know this? Maybe there aren’t enough Facebook posts about it.Maybe we’ve been made to focus on how Donald Trump should be scaring us (CNBC, The Guardian, The Philly, The Washington Post, News24). Maybe the only reason we are terrified is because we have been instructed to be terrified.

Why is there an increasing sense of polarity in the mainstream social media today? Facebook’s move to filter out fake news from people’s feeds was a good step in moving towards a better understanding of the world but it really won’t be effective until we, ourselves, decide to do something about it.

I refuse to be polarized by yet another article that tells me how much of terrible person President Trump is for saying that he wants to build a wall: the proposal is now in the hands of Congress meaning my anger will be directed at someone who isn’t even in charge of the decision anymore.

Why are we being provoked with every word?

Why is it that the number of ‘clicks’ an article gets is so much more important than the content?

Why is everything suddenly becoming an us-versus-them situation?

It’s 9.42 p.m. now and, as is my habit, I scroll through a bit of my Facebook news feed for my daily dose of annoyance. It takes me lot of control to not click on the post that will tell me why ‘Holi is the worst festival that exists’. I’m so tempted. I close the tab and stare at the screen of my laptop. I feel frustrated. There really is no way to cut off from this extremization of events, is there? 

Oh look, my phone just buzzed with a news update. All aboard the Polar Express.

 

 

Short Stories

Tick Tock

Tick tock.

I sit on the edge of the window pane, my legs dangling outside. Tonight, the darkness besieges me with a greater force.  Fourteen stories up, I know no one can sense my fear. 

Tick tock.

Is it midnight? I can’t tell. I’m too engrossed in a conversation with my silent partner.  The flow of thoughts in this exchange is exhilarating.

Tick tock.

They say that the darkest phase of the night comes in the hours preceding dawn. Is that true? Where is my sunrise?

Tick tock.

I find myself fascinated by the oddest of sensations. The smooth granite I rest my hands on seems to emit the most peculiar sort of sound when I tap on it.  It almost sound like a raindrop teetering down a window on a rainy day. The air under my bare feet feels rough and disturbed. I think it’s trying to get somewhere.

Tick tock.

My mouth is dry from talking too much. I love talking around my friend. He seems to understand everything I say, although I can never be sure, because he hasn’t ever responded to me through words yet.

Tick tock.

My friend likes the soothing sound of the wind on a silent night. I can only talk to him on such nights. It’s when he is in his softest, most innocuous of forms.

Tick tock.

My friend is my only companion. I cannot fathom life without him. After all, what good is light, if all I have ever seen is darkness?

Tick tock.

I wonder about the color of light. I wonder about the color of my face when I’m in a fiery rage.  What is the color of rage? Is it anything like the color of the nothingness I have been betrothed to?

Tick tock.

I smile at my companion and I hope he sees it. I’ve been told smiles light up the world. I smile each time, hoping it will light up mine.

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My Time.

Would you prefer collecting my body as it washes up on a beach or would you rather find it hammered into the wall with your invisible screws?

Would you rather replace all the figurines in our home with my little fingers or would you rather stitch up my mouth permanently?

Would you hang the blood stained sheets on the terrace, for everyone to see? Or would you use it to strangle me for something that isn’t my fault?

Would you rather pluck out all my feathers and leave me bare or would you leave my skin scalded and scarred, like those before me?

Does it really matter which one you choose? Does it really matter if I have anything to say?
Am I a secret that has to be hidden? Am I a disgrace, too shameful to be let loose?

No, Mother, I am none of that.

I am a part of you, Mother. I am a part of your journey. You created me. You made me. Now, you suffocate me. You dismiss me. Is that why I constantly have hot, scarlet, ringing ears?

I am too little to tell you how to raise me. I know you know best. You can tell right from wrong, can’t you Mother?

I wonder why my friends are scared to come to our home. What could be keeping them? Is it Father’s violent look? Is it your incessant screaming?

I never hear you scream at Brother. I have seen him done some very wrong things, but he scares me into keeping shut. Can’t you feel my pain?

Oh Mother, I don’t think I should smother you with these little troubles of mine. You would never listen anyway.

I wonder, as I do with everything, why Father has never objected to Brother’s actions. I wonder why you never object to his actions, actions against me. Am I really that trivial?

Some people had come to our house yesterday, Mother, and you told me to get dressed for them. I wore the yellow kurta for the first time in my life. I didn’t know new clothes could feel so nice.

There was a man, amidst all those people yesterday, who kept staring at me, Mother. I didn’t like his eyes. They told me that his smiling face was just a facade. Why was he staring, Mother? I wanted to leave the room, but I couldn’t risk you or Father staining my walls after they left. It has happened before, and painting my wall yellow after it had been tainted with a deep red was a tedious task and it made my hand hurt, in addition to my back.

Is this my eternal cycle? What happens when I grow up? Can I do something for myself then? Can I choose what to wear, where to go and how to dress? Will I be subject to the decisions of the unknown person you sell me off to?

What is my fate, Mother? Is it the same as yours? Will my children’s fate be the same? Will they be murdered before they learn how to live? Will they have to learn to struggle with the mind games and the torture?

No, Mother, I won’t let them.
I will not be brushed under the carpet.
I will fight. I may be little, but I know what I can do. I have seen countless of my kind aquiesce to this life, but not me.

There’s a little voice inside my head, a voice strong enough to reach out to the entire world, if I want it to. You know everything, Mother.

I may be small, but I know I have a place in this tiny world, and that place is not beside him, Mother. He is rich. He will give me nice things, but he will not listen to me. I could see it in his petrifying glare.

I belong in a different world. A world where I won’t be made a slave to my own family. A world in which I am not the caged admirer of the soaring bird, but the free bird itself. I belong to a world where my Father would be proud to have me and my Brother would protect me.

Is this world really so hard to create? Won’t you atleast try? I know you know best, Mother, but I cannot wait any longer.

This is my time.

Short Stories

Home

Another night of dealing with the aftermath of your profligacy. I was sitting patiently on the worn out couch, listening to you struggling with the front door. Listening to the tingling of your keys, to the sound of your key chain.

I take a deep breath and remember a happier day. You used to complain about how you kept losing your keys, maybe because you forgot where you kept them or maybe because you left them somewhere. In light of this, I gifted you a key chain. Not any ordinary key chain, though. This key chain played our favorite song – ‘I’ve Got To Be Close To You’ by Jonathan Clay. This may not have been the brightest solution to your forgetfulness but at least you managed to keep your keys with you at all times.

‘…Maybe it’s the way you get that look in your eye..’

You open the door with mighty force and a grunt. You spot me, your eyes bloodshot. You dawdle into the kitchen, muttering incomprehensibly. My gaze follows your movements. It would be futile to censure your behaviour. You grab a bottle of water and make your way to me. You have left your key inside the keyhole. The music is still playing.

‘…I’ve got to be, got to be, close to you.’

‘How long have you been waiting?’

‘Depends on how long you’ve been gone.’

‘You shouldn’t have waited.’

‘You shouldn’t have left.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘No, you’re not.’

You let out a sigh and sit down beside me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know where to look. I just don’t know anymore. I adore you, but you aren’t you anymore. I shift my gaze from the floor to your face. I can see the scar on your left cheek, right next to your lips. You got that the first time you flung the glass vase at the wall. I had cleaned the cut and bandaged it with caution, all the while ensuring you wouldn’t notice my trembling lips and watery eyes.

I look further up, above your right eyebrow. It’s still red. It must still burn. That was the first time you tried to hurt me with fire, as if the fiery rage inside you wasn’t enough to burn me.

Isn’t it funny? Every time you tried to hurt me, you got hurt in the process. You can’t hurt a part of yourself and not feel it. You can’t hurt me without feeling the pain yourself. You can’t destroy me without destroying yourself.

‘…I think we know there’s no way to stop what’s in motion…’

You touch my hand. I flinch. I have my share of scars,too, don’t you remember? My right hand still hasn’t fully recovered from the blow it received just last week. Don’t you remember that night?

You reach for my hand, gently this time, and hold it in yours. If this were two years ago, your stench would have made me squirm. Now, it’s just an integral part of this insipid void that you’ve got me in.

‘Your hand is cold. You’re all bones now’, you say, with genuine concern in your voice.

I continue staring at this familiarly unfamiliar face, saying nothing. You gulp down a couple of sips of water.

‘…Doesn’t take a song to say how I can’t stand when you’re away..’

Suddenly, all those routine feelings come whizzing back to me. The trepidation, the fear, the ardent fury, the fervent love. On cue, adrenaline begins pumping all throughout me. I look into your eyes. Your expression hardens. The concern is replaced by an apathetic gaze.

‘..When you’re nowhere around, I lose the clarity I’ve found.’

You strengthen your grip. I whimper as the pain makes its way back into my system. Your eyes are now redder than ever. Your lips are pressed together tightly. You get up with a jolt, pulling me up with you. My hand is now being twisted in the most unimaginable of ways. I dare not let out a cry. Your hold gets stronger, my pain gets more brutal. My vision starts blurring, bit by bit. This unconscionable pain that you are causing me, is it for your pleasure?

Amidst all of this, I manage to look back at you and I see a helplessness in your eyes. Are you sorry for your actions? I smile ever so slightly. You grab my other hand as well, but I see you smiling back.

‘…Maybe it’s the way you get that look in your eye, the way you captivate me with the hint of your smile..’

I know it will be okay.

My vision is now deteriorating at a rapid rate. I look around the loft, my eyes searching for something. The key? It’s still in the hole. The bottle of water? It has spilled onto the floor. The picture of me and you? Ah, yes. There it is, on the wall, right behind us. With whatever strength I have left, I push myself backwards, causing you to crash against the wall. The picture shatters into pieces. Glass flies everywhere. I free myself from your grip with a gasp, and then I look back at you. Your bloody head matches your bloody eyes. It matches the bloody love we share. It matches the bloody rage that is boiling inside of us right now. My hand is throbbing. Your hands are placed on your bleeding temples. But you’re still smiling,

I let out a small laugh.

You stay in place, our eyes fixed on each other. You stutter some words but I fail to catch them.

The glass has covered the worthless carpet. Not caring, I make my way towards you, the glass piercing through the soles of my feet with every step.

‘You still have a lot of blood to lose to make up for what I’ve lost.’, I say with a smirk.

I trip on a large shard of glass and land with a thud. As savage as our love may be, it is just as functional. Your bloody hands manage to catch me somehow and my face is saved. I am now lying with my head on your lap, with cuts and bruises all over my body. This is our happy place. This is why we are still here after all these years.

‘This is the parfait you used to talk about, isn’t it?’, I whisper with the energy I have left.

‘Yes. This is that paradise. This is where we belong. Together.’

I close my eyes with a smile on my face. We are home. Happy. At peace.

Poetry

Yellow Post

So I took a trip to yellow post
And I bumped into a seemingly innocent ghost

I felt a chill as a turned around,
My first thought being: ‘I hope you don’t drown.’
I looked back at my ghostly friend
And asked him: ‘Is this the end?’
He looks at me with his empty eyes
And says: ‘It’s time to say goodbye.
Far away from this madness,
You may just find some happiness.’

Having faith, I take my last breath
With which I embrace my serene death.
My life flashes before me
As I fall into a dreamless sleep.

However, I remember you, and nothing more
I can see you walking out the front door.

Teary eyes, stained windows,
Is this what one sees when they’re on the death row?

I called out to you, I tried to make you stop
But you kept on going, as steadily as the clock went tick-tock.

This is a humorous(ish) type of poem that I found while rummaging through one of my old notebooks. I’d written this in the 9th grade and this is the completely unedited version of it – mistakes, weird storyline and the works.

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Emotions

Guilt.

I am overwhelmed by the intensity of these emotions. They’re slowly taking over my thoughts and they are getting settled in my chest and creating lumps in my throat.

The emotions creep upto me without any warning, without any signal. It is always the usual gang: Sadness, Anxiety, traces of Irritation, and,of course,their leader, Guilt.

The parasites, once comfortable in my lungs, start to eat their way through my chest, trying to get my attention. Unfortunately, their efforts are never futile.

-Prakriti Sharma