I stood in the crowded cafeteria and gazed at her silent face. She hadn’t spoken anything in the last five minutes and her silence was beginning test my patience. My question was fairly straightforward and given our three year long relationship it wasn’t very difficult to answer. Nevertheless I allowed her to take her own time.
Her rubicund lips finally parted. They formed an oval and out came the two syllables, slowly, one after the other, each one taking an eternity to enter my ears and settle down. Then they formed an inseparable bond and gradually the word “no” began to ring in my ears. It echoed over and over again until my cognitive processes finally deduced that my proposal had received a heartless “no”.
The world around me froze and I found myself trapped in a canvas from which there was no escape. Everything began to sink in the background pushing a white, colourless, frozen mass to the fore which was devoid of colour and life. Warmth started seeping out of my body leaving a cold trail behind which caused blood in my veins to freeze. I could feel the heat making its way towards the tips of my fingers and toes from where it just leaped out into a space that was unknown to me. All the other people in the room ceased to exist. I couldn’t see them anymore. Where were they? Buried under the disappointment that surrounded me? Or had they melted due to the heat that had just escaped my body? I did not know and to be honest I did not care.
I looked at her for the last time. Her auburn hair were more fiery than ever before. Her face was glowing, radiating nonchalance and indifference. Colour had drained from her lips and cheeks and for all I knew she was a mannequin or a wax figure blissfully ignorant of human emotions.
I turned and started walking away from her, from all the promises she had made and kisses that we had shared. I felt a cold draught above my head that brought back all the memories we had painted together. I tried to spin an impervious shield around myself, but in vain.
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Sheila boarded the bus hurriedly and sat down on the window seat. She glanced at her watch. It was past 11 o’clock. ” Damn! These late night meetings have made my life miserable. I’ll quit this stupid job one of these coming days.” She dug her hand into her purse and after making its way past a plethora of useless things ( old bus tickets, an empty key chain, lipsticks, used tissue papers, chocolate wrappers etc) it finally touched her iPod. “Arrgh… this goddamn purse needs to be cleaned. I never find the things I need on time”. After searching the purse frenziedly for money to buy the bus ticket she finally settled down and plugged the earphones in her ears. The mellifluous voice of Celine Dion trickled down her auditory canal and soaked all her stress away. Sheila peered out of the window and a waft of cool and crisp night air brushed against her face. All her worries were forgotten. She sank into her seat and started humming the tune of her favourite song.
Suddenly her eyes fell on an old man who was sitting across her. There was something eerie about him that made Sheila shiver. His face was like a stone; cold, hard and expressionless. It was a face that would never reveal the sinister thoughts brewing inside his mind. His lips were pursed, struggling to prevent words from seeping out. The disheveled, grey hair on his forehead lent an unfriendly air to his exterior. But it were his eyes that troubled Sheila the most. They were extremely still like the ocean on a calm and silent night. They seemed like the heralds of a violent storm. She had never seen such intimidating eyes before. She took a deep breath and shifted her gaze from the old man to the scene outside, determined not to look at him anymore.
Sheila tried to prevent her eyes from wandering in his direction but in vain. His eyes had a certain hypnotic quality which forced her to look into them. She fished a worn out copy of a novel from her purse and buried her face in it. However, the fictional characters failed to divert her mind. She looked at him again. His eyes were fixed at her. They did not move. Not even a little bit. He seemed like a tiger who was carefully observing the movements of its prey before pouncing on it.“Calm down”, she said to herself, “just calm down. There is no need to panic. You are not alone. Your co-passengers will surely help you”. Her confidence plummeted when she scanned the entire bus and found that it was empty.
The old man continued to stare at her. She was terrified. Her legs started wobbling like jelly. The muscles in her abdomen tightened and she broke into a light sweat. The thought of sitting an arm’s length away from a man who could be a murderer, rapist or a psychopath was not at all comforting. “ Just think, Sheila, just think! He should not catch you off guard. Be prepared”. She tried to gather her thoughts and devise a plan that would prevent her from getting harmed. “ I can get off the bus at the next stop….No no… It’s very late…. Should I give him a piece of my mind?…. He might react….. Should I …….?” Her thoughts were interrupted by the ticket collector’s voice, ” Avenue Street”. She was a little relieved. “Only one more stop to go.“, she thought.
Just then the old man put his hand in his bag. Sheila noticed a small cylindrical bulge that resembled the muzzle of a gun. Her heart skipped a beat. She was about to raise an alarm when the old man stood up. He pulled out a blind man’s folding cane from his bag and straightened it. The bus screeched to a halt and the ticket collector guided him to the door. He got off and slowly vanished into the darkness of the night.
Sheila sat in her place, stunned. “He was not looking at me! He was not looking at anything!” She felt guilty for having jumped to a conclusion without reasoning. She looked out of the window and felt the cool wind on her face. Numerous thoughts raced through her mind. Suddenly a smile spread across her face. ” … and it were his eyes that scared me the most. That’s ironical”.
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The evening sun bid farewell to the naked trees that stood silently on the banks of the golden lake. He had to leave this part of the world behind him and illuminate other horizons that waited for him in lands far far away. How they wished he wasn’t going, leaving them to face the notorious, cold blooded night which always awakened the evil spirit that resided inside them. If only he could stay there forever. If only he could revel in their joys and weep in their sorrows for every single moment each day. But that was not going to happen. It did not matter if the winds protested by refusing to sway. It did not matter if the waves stopped dancing and stood absolutely still. It did not matter if the disheartened trees shook their foliage away. He was expected to leave and that was all that mattered.
Anne sat on the banks of the lake with a bunch of yellow balloons, her emotions in sync with those of the trees and wind around her. All her protests had been ignored. All her prayers had been left unanswered. It did not matter if she loved him dearly. He was going to leave her and go away.
Anne released the balloons and watched them as they went upwards into the sky. Balloons always delighted her eight year old son and she prayed they reached heaven before he did. Her son had always been scared of living alone, all by himself. Maybe the balloons would make him smile up there and lessen his pain of parting.
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I love the sweet smell of smoke as it lingers near my nose preventing any other smell from entering my body. It’s feathery touch on my skin is so exhilarating, almost orgasmic, like hands of an invisible goddess that caress my body and my soul. The whimsical patterns it forms in the air blind me. The rest of the world becomes invisible. I can’t see the smile on people’s faces, I can’t see their grotesque expressions as they scream and shout, begging me not to kill them. I guess it’s this goddamn smoke that helps me kill people with such ease.
Yes. I kill. I kill for a living. As a child I never thought I would grow up to become a murderer. But here I am, the henchman of the biggest don in the city.
Today I stand at the very same place where my family was murdered fifteen years back. It seems only yesterday when a mob of religious fanatics, incensed by a provocative comment that a religious leader had made, ran up these staircase and slaughtered my family like butchers. I was right there, hiding under the cot and watching a scene that settled in my mind as indelible memories.
Having satisfied their thirst for blood those bastards went away, leaving behind a room in which my loved ones rested with their eyes wide open and their throats cut. The floor was damp with their blood and my tears. The eerie silence that hung in the air after the bedlam made me sick. I stood there nonplussed.
I had survived, but only to skid on the blood of my kin and fall into the world of crime from which there was no coming back.
At the moment I am waiting for my accomplice. He’ll hand me a gun with a bullet that has an unlucky soul’s name written on it. And after that… one more life will be taken.
Peter waded through the water while the other fishermen stood precariously on the wooden boats. He had caught a glimpse of it. He had a gut feeling that his search was going to come to an end. He would finally get an answer to the question that had been haunting him for the past twelve hours. It was only the previous day that he had smiled under the very same sun as he headed towards the growling sea to catch fish. But that day things were different. Each passing moment reminded him of his helplessness. Each rising wave dropped hints of an impending doom. Each breath he took seemed to suck life away from his body. Gradually. Silently.
His companions stood on the boats, watching their pal as he made his way through the somber waters. They waited silently and pretended that nothing had happened. Their fishing net lay immersed in the water as they exchanged short glances, understanding what the other person was going through. No words were uttered. None. They stood their like pantomimists who didn’t speak a word but voiced their feelings through their faces. Their friend Peter had been very calm and they did not want to disturb this calmness by offering their condolences.
Peter bent and looked closely. At first he saw his own reflection which gradually became blurred by the image of a dead body. He was right. It was Sophie, his wife.
The previous night he had returned home to find his wife missing. His neighbours had informed him that they had heard voices but by the time they reached his house Sophie was gone. Everything was in disarray and most of the expensive items were missing. Ever since then Peter had been out with his friends looking for his wife.
Finally, he had found her. He lifted Sophie’s body in his arms and looked at her face. At places it had been eaten up by the fish. They had taken their revenge by feeding on those very people who killed them. His friends took the cue and pulled back the net. The thing that they had been trying to catch had been caught. Peter walked towards the boat and placed the body gently on the net. They rowed back with a dead body and a handful of dead fish.
The sea was unusually quiet. There was mayhem in his heart. The pantomime had come to an end.