Short Story #5

Genre: Dark fiction

Words: 670

The Robbery

a short story

by Sarthak Parajulee

 

My head throbbed as I staggered out of my bedroom.

The hall had an unnerving silence. The sort that follows or precedes a storm.

But my furniture were where they were supposed to be and none of the expensive artifacts in my collection were missing.

So no robbery.

Then why had someone drugged me?

Randev was my last visitor, as far as I remembered. And he did need money, according to the conversation we had a few days back. But I’d checked the safe in my room and the cash was still there.

So what the fuck was going on?

I trudged toward the main door across the marbled gallery, cold biting into my bare feet. My head screamed on every step and a deep burn had started in my gut.

But I didn’t have time for that just yet.

I pushed the door open and observed the perimeter.

The entire facility lay in a comforting tranquility. My luxurious sedan sat proudly on the front porch. And the two guards stood at their post in the main gate with all the enthusiasm of a koala bear.

I called out to one of them and waved a hand.

He came rushing. For all his military training, he panted like an old fool.

“Sir?”

“Anyone left the premise recently?”

He looked perplexed. “Recently?”

“An hour or two back?”

He shook his head. “No, sir.”

“You sure you’re doing your fucking job right?”

The color of his face turned white. “Sir… no sir. I mean, yes, sir.” He bit his tongue. “Mr. Randev is the only one to leave. But it was very early in the morning.”

“What are you talking about? He arrived early in the morning.”

The guard frowned, his fear turning into irritation. “Um, sorry, sir… but he arrived yesterday morning. He left this morning.”

My throat went dry and I struggled to find my voice. I could hear my heartbeat like drums playing in my headphones.

Yesterday?

I pressed against the side of my head and nearly lost my equilibrium. Gods, the pain!

The guard tried to come to my aid but I send him away and, somehow, managed to bring myself back inside the house safely.

I slogged to the center of the hall, with a hand under my belly, and slumped myself down on the couch.

My ex-wife was right. I was too fast on trusting people.

First, I hit Randev with my car, to which he reacts very politely and is generous enough to not file complain. Then he shows up at my office door for a fucking job and looks surprised to find me there. And for the first time in twenty years, my car breaks in the middle of nowhere and he shows up to drop me home.

Ha, ha, ex-wife. I looked skyward. You happy now?

With all the shouting and moving about, the pain had doubled up. It bit at the side of my body and I struggled to maintain my sanity.

What that sly bastard took away was beyond me.

In a delirium of pain and frustration, I saw the images of the other day when the two of us had a nice little chat over a cup of tea. Like friends long lost.

He had spoken of his problems and I had revealed my vulnerabilities. Usually the stuff you would share over two bottles of a whiskey. He had won my trust, after all.

He had lamented about his wife’s failed kidney so it was logical to think he took off with a load of cash. But I still couldn’t find anything missing so…

I froze.

A sudden horror crept up my body, all the way from my feet to the head like a slow volcano.

Slowly, I lifted the thin fabric of my cotton shirt above my waist.

There, at the side of my belly, I saw a long gash — well stitched, and already healing.

“Bloody motherfucker!”

Short Story #4

Genre: Literary Fiction (I think!)

550 words

The Shattering

a short story by

Sarthak Parajulee

THE LOUD EXPLOSION SOMEWHERE a few meters behind his car started Wen. There wasn’t much suggesting to the exact reason for the noise but his sense of politics told him that the rebellion had begun.

So it must have been around 6 pm. Funny how he didn’t need watch these days.

He saw a large column of men approaching him. Firelight raised high in their hands – a tide of flames blanketing over a crowd of men. Something told Wen that these were angry faces, hard and cold. Unforgiving.

Wen wasn’t exactly an enemy of this mob. But he owned a car and that meant a capital possession several steps higher in the social ladder than the rebels. Bad place and position to run out of gas.

Police siren sounded in the distance. Violence Control Front or VCF, as they were more popularly called these days. Perhaps, he would be saved after all.

The heavily fortified vehicle skidded around a corner and stopped directly ahead him. A muscular officer with massive mustache raised his protective helmet and eye gear and looked him straight in the eye. Then frowned down at Wen’s out-of-gas Corolla for a bit longer than was required.

I poked my head out of the window. “Sir, can…”

“The heck you think you’re doing, Sir?”

His tone of voice betrayed his use of the word ‘Sir’.

“I ran out of gas,” Wen said, as politely as possible. Didn’t need to add to the list of his hostilities. Frankly, he couldn’t afford it at the moment.

“Please step off your damned vehicle and get out of the road.”

“But my car.” He looked around, frantic. There wasn’t a single vehicle in the street. And why would there be any. They had clearly stated that no vehicle were supposed to be moving at the moment. Who would be that stupid?

Except him, of course.

“Sir,” Wen tried to reason with his tender tone. “My car…”

“Forget your damned car.”

Wen’s eyes widened for a second or two. Then the urgency of the situation struck him. Get out of way or die.

The forces coked their guns and took aim, directly behind him, at the oncoming rebellions.

Get out or die.

Wen ran to the side of the road, slightly crouching, cursing to himself.

The noise behind him was deafening – guns roaring, magazines reloading, people screaming, VCF barking orders, rebellion scattering.

Wen dared to look back only when he had safely reached the footpath and behind the cover of a frail wall.

His car was full of holes, at least three tires had popped, the windshield had shattered.

Surprisingly, and unfortunately, the real horror lay some twenty feet away from his car.

Bloody bodies lying upon one another, dead eyes staring at nothing. Some would say it was violence control. No. Seeing it up close, it was clear to Wen – such an act could only be defined as a massacre.

“Well done, boys,” the mustached officer roared. He signaled something and the fortified van reversed and drove away the way they had come.

He stood stunned, staring at them mouth-gaped. This is the price of human lives these days. A pat in the back!

No one human deserves that from another human.

Everybody, these days, are worried about a shattering nation. But he feared more for that shattering of humanity. A nation can be, hopefully, rebuilt – even the loss of human lives, with time, might recover. He doubted the same could be said for the loss of humanity.

But what can I do? Turn blind eyes and deaf ears like everyone else, of course, and keep believing that bad things won’t happen to him.

His watched his car – another shattered victim of the violence.

I need a mechanic, perhaps he can salvage something out of it.

From the far eastern side of the road, he heard an ambulance

I hope they can salvage something too.

END

Short Story #3

Genre: Drama

Words: 3000

Accounts, Balanced

by Sarthak Parajulee

The irony of his life was that he was named Ram — a Hindu God, who is the epitome of character, integrity, truth, and sacrifice.

But she didn’t had to know that just yet.

“I’m an accountant,” he said, tugging at the collar of his shirt. “I… um… do accounts.” Whatever that is.

Her eyes went wide. “Get out!” She rested her palms on the table and studied his face. “You’re too good-looking for that sorta job.”

And now we’re flirting. His lips curled to a smile. That’s believable. “You don’t look too bad either,” he teased, “for a newspaper columnist.”

She leaned in, narrowing her eyes. “You’re kidding, right? Newspaper columnist are one of the sexiest looking girls out there.”

“Well…” He cocked his head to a side, pondering over the new revelation. It was hard to argue with that fact with her in front of him. “If you say so.”

There was a long, awkward silence in which she began to study the paintings on the wall next to their table. “Ah. I love this,” she said.

“It’s victorian, isn’t it?” Ram commented. “Michael Angelo, I think.” He bluffed the first thing that came to his mind.

She paused. “Well…” Then smiled. “I was only trying to kill the silence. Don’t have a clue about paintings.” Just his luck.

Ah. The perks of getting the corner table. When that awkward moment crawls in, you could always grow an intensive interest in the walls.

“So… Miss…” There was a low beep, barely audible to the girl across him, and he checked his phone for the notification.

“Well, let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?” she said with a shrug of her shoulder, clearly impatient.

He sighed and nodded. “Let’s do just that.” He put the phone back into his coat pocket and looked up. “So what’s your final offer?”

“Fifteen,” she said, folding her arms across his chest and a firm smile planted on her face.

Ram smiled at that. Go on. Act like you don’t care and you’re super confident about making this deal. Sorry, miss. But I am the corporate haggler here.

“You know as well that the figure is nothing to me.” He shrugged. “Especially when I consider my stakes in this.”

“Sorry, Mr. Ram. But it’s the only figure I can offer.” That flirtatious smile of hers never dipped.

“Listen, Miss… ?”

“Apekshya,” she said. “And you can lose the formalities.”

“Fine,” he nodded. “Apekshya… If that’s the case, I think we’re done here.”

She fought hard to conceal it but Ram caught a sudden surge of dread — that particular sinew over her eyebrows — on her face.

“Mr. Ram… I think it is in best…”

An incoming waiter forced her to bite back her words. He placed a couple of glasses and a bottle of Santa Rita in the table and began filling our glasses. This time, she resorted to her phone to kill the silence.

A couple of swipes into her iPhone later, she looked up and thanked the waiter for his service. Turning toward Ram with a potent smile, she resumed right from where she’d left. “It is in both of our best of interests that we work together.”

Ram shrugged. “I don’t know. I can get plenty of other journalists who would write this for me. And would pay me good too handsomely.”

She opened her mouth to say something but then quickly closed them. “But…” She gulped. “Listen, Ram. Let me get this straight to you.” She sighed. “You’ve got to help me out here.” Her voice almost a whisper now. “My company won’t trust me with a rupee more than that.

Ah. And a sudden change of power, then? How delightful!

“Just listen to me…”

Ram rested his elbow on the table and his head upon the opened palm. “Go.”

She sighed yet again, a particular habit he was beginning to find pretty cute by the time. “I need this story. I… This is my last shot at my career. Please.”

“I’m sorry for your… um, situation… but I cannot be emotional about this. I’m putting way too much on line for this. If this goes bad, I’m left without a job, without a sellable expertise, and without a friggin’ PR. Not to mention with the jaws of the most powerful corporate tycoon at my throat.”

Ram could see her resolve break slightly. Her old confidence was replaced by lines of doubt all over her face. Boy did that confident smile dip from her face!

He decided to go for the KO. “I can’t afford to be gracious, Apekshya. It’s take it or leave it.”

She rested her elbows on the table and placed held her head in both hands. “Maybe…” She looked up and Ram could actually she her throat quelch as she swallowed hard. “Maybe there’s another way?

“Maybe… I could reward you in some other way?”

Oh, God, please no. “Apekshya, I truly sympathise with your situation. And I simply cannot imagine myself misusing your situation.” Some desperate night in the distant future, Ram knew he’d be looking back on this moment with a lot of regret. But as of now, in all his senses and ethical judgement, he did what he thought was right.

Some things are just unforgivable. Question his integrity as much as you’d like, but he wasn’t a sinner. And that realization, perhaps, was the boiling point for all the emotions this girl had managed to held on to herself so far.

She broke into tears. Slowly, at first, and then a little wilder.

Concerned, Ram watched around the hall for any over-smart intruders taking too much interest in someone else’s problem. Luckily, no one really saw. Or cared. Whatever.

Perks of having the corner table.

“Now, now. Please…” He tried to conjure his best soothing voice.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” she said, voice muffled. “I really didn’t mean to cry. Oh… You must think I’m such a… ” She allowed the unsaid word, bitch, hanging in air and took a handful of napkin off the table to wipe her tears. The manner in which she was careful about her makeup even then was truly remarkable.

“I don’t know why I even suggested that!” she continued. “I didn’t know I could go so low.”

Ram couldn’t resist the urge to rest his hand above hers. “No. Please…” He searched for the most diplomatic of words. “I am not judging you or anything, so please stop.”

She nodded but Ram didn’t think she could ever forgive herself for suggesting him to sleep with her for the story.

“All right,” Ram suddenly said, drumming his fingers on the table. He took a long sigh, pondering over it, assuring himself that it would work out. Somehow.

“I’ll give you the story,” he finally said.

Her eyes lit up but they were still doubtful.

“Fifteen should do it, don’t worry.”

Her lips twitched at the corners but eyes turned even more glassy. “Oh. I cannot…” Her voice shook with emotion. “I cannot thank you enough.”

He raised his hand before her face. “Don’t. Just realize that my career and, ultimately, my life hangs on this thread. Make sure you don’t knit it too weak, darlin’. If your article is just another article. And if it isn’t moving enough to get the general public hating those bastards… then I’ve sacrificed my career for nothing.”

She nodded furiously. “Don’t worry. I’ll work my ass off to get you the story and the coverage you deserve.” She raised her glass. “To working our asses off.”

They clinked their glasses and sipped on the sweet taste of Santa Rita, glancing each other from over the rim of the glasses, basking each other in something that could be only explained as a deep affection.

#

Ram waked up to the sound of a heavy pounding on his door. He opened his eyes just a crack and saw the table clock read 11 A.M.

He jerked upright, jumped out of bed, and slipped into cotton pants and a loose white tee shirt. It was going to be a sweaty morning.

He casually opened the door, confident about who it was on the otherside.

“You shit-ass!” The voice was stone over iron. Rough. Sharp. Angry.

“Mr. Pandei.” He gave him the best of his morning smile and morning breath. “A very good morning to you too!”

“Tell me,” he fumed, entering inside, and shoving The Himalayan Times in Ram’s face. “Tell me you did this so I can fuck you up right now.”

“I…” He took a step back and tried to read the headline. He knew what would be said in that article but it was the choice of words he was rather curious about. Just how low are you going to show them, Miss Apekshya?

His eye lit up as he saw the headline. Smiling, he clutched the paper away from his boss’s hand and read on:

BILLIONS GO INTO RICH MAN’S POCKETS IN THE NAME OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY CAMPAIGN

Everybody thought that for once, in this country, a corporate giant was making a difference. That they were looking at people and society below them. For the first time, they had us thinking that someone actually believes in moving forward and taking the society along with him.

Sorry, gentlemen. All a hoax.

Senior Member of Pandei Group of Industries and company’s Director of Accounts, Ram Mani Ekrat has confessed with the press that a major part of the money collected in the name of their famous “Help Us Help Them” social enhancement campaign, much popularly coined these days as a “Corporate Social Responsibility” campaign, has gone straight into the pockets of the corporate cannibals, the go-getters of…

Ram bit his tongue. He doubted his boss had needed reading any further.

Pandei’s hand grasped his throat.

He was whining about something and cursing even more. But Ram’s thoughts were on the crying face of Apekshya that day in the restaurant. She had certainly held back nothing. All her anger and frustration with her career and the corporate giants putting her under their thumb had made her vomit out the venom in form of words in the Sunday morning edition of the Himalayan Times.

“What are you smiling about, you fool?” the boss spat. “Do you realize what damage this would do to our reputation? How will we ever get anymore investors with the world thinking that we are some sort of cheat?”

Thinking?” You are a cheat, you little idiot. “Well, maybe you should have thought of that before robbing all those money away.”

Pandei’s eyes went wide. “Robbing?” He closed his hand into a tight fist. “That was my money, in the first place, you fool!”

“People donated those so some people on the eastern part of the country would get a roof over their school. No so that you could add another sedan to your automobile collection!”

“Ah.” He made an arc in the air before Ram’s face, as if to create a rainbow. “The invincible Justice-man.” He scowled. “Where was your sense of justice when we planned this thing out. You were the one to place this idea in the first place!”

Ram frowned. “At first, yes! But didn’t I warn you that this would be wrong? More than once, I’d suggested you against this!”

“Against this?” He started raising fists in air. “Against this?”

Few of Ram’s neighbours, sharing the same floor, walked past the door, passing curious glances toward them and then looking away quickly as they looked back, and murmuring to one another.

“I know what it is, Ram” Mr. Pandei continued as the neighbors left. “Don’t take me for a fool.” He shook his head in disapproval. “It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about not getting the deserving share, isn’t it? You felt you had been wronged, you little fucker.”

Ram smiled. “I never took you for a fool, sir. That’s why I was so shocked when you cut me out of my share.” He shrugged. “I knew you had become a…” He pretended to be referring to the paper in his hand. “… what were the words in here? Ah, right. The corporate cannibal.”

Pandei gritted his teeth. “And what does that make you? You are just as guilty in this.”

“Ah, but I confessed, you see.” He leaned against the wall and stood casually. “I am cleansed of my crime. Even the Gods acknowledge that rule.”

“You won’t get away with this,” Pandei said, backing out. “I will make sure you rot your rest of the life away. I’ll make sure you get no more job, and no more…”

“Watch the door,” Ram casually said.

His boss stopped short just in time to keep himself from smashing on the sharp edge of the door.

“You’re fucked,” he said, stepping out. “I assure you. You’re life’s over.”

Ram stepped on the threshold and poked out his head. His boss was just at the stairs, still cursing.

“Excuse me, Sir,” he screamed from the doorway. “So do I need to submit my written resignation or should we considered it done?”

#

Ram strolled through the sidewalk of the UN Park. He had begun enjoying his mornings in that place. And most part of his afternoons as well. Not much else to do with his life, anyway.

He often thought he got a bit carried away in that restaurant that day. Should have asked the girl to get the hell out of there and searched some other reporter who would have paid way more than ‘fifteen’. There’s something about crying girls that disrupts men’s thinking capacity.

But would some other person had written the piece with so much heart that caused the District Court to serve Mr. Pandei with 2 years of prison sentence for a deliberate involvement in fraud and scam.

Honestly. He didn’t even know that there was such a law written in the new constitution. And Apekshya had forced a good percentage of the people in the legal system to activate it with that 14-by-20 article. He had to thank her for that.

And what good would that do? He wouldn’t be removed from the corporate blacklist, would he? No one wants a backstabber in their organization.

Maybe he should have just swallowed the way Pandei treated him and keep kissing his ass. At least, he would have had a good office and good money. And what else do you need for a good life?

I wouldn’t be happy, he reminded himself. Not due to his ethical woes, he wouldn’t cheat himself with that sort of excuse. But for not making his boss pay for the all the wrongs he inferred upon him.

Suddenly a couple passed them, trying to catch their troublesome child. Poor kid must have found the open space a joyous break from the monotony of the haphazard construction of the city.

I wouldn’t have felt this free, he suddenly realized. I can at least sleep well knowing that I made him suffer. Though, the apartment itself, where he actually slept was in a serious danger of being taken away. EMIs don’t pay themselves. Not unless you have a job and a routine salary structure.

There was a low humming and a little vibration. It took a while but it started Ram back from his thoughts.

“Hello,” he said into the phone..

“Hey,” the voice was unmistakable. “Remember me?”

“Apekshya.” He didn’t let the surprise show in his tone. “How do I owe this pleasure?”

“Well, I had been meaning to call,” she said. “For a while.”

“Is everything alright? That falling career and all?”

“Well, let’s just say the story helped me keep my job at least. And people recognize me these days.”

“Huh. Isn’t that nice?”

There was a short silence.

“You know,” she said at the end of it. “A couple of days back I was talking to this friend of mine who works at this top news channel in our country…” She took a pause.

“You prefer to keep that name a secret?”

“Let’s just say its logo involves a lot of blue color. And it’s got its own magazine too.”

“And… ?” Well, she had his attention now.

“See, here’s the thing… She’s thinking of a concept. A fiery talk show with the current wizards of the corporate world! She’s planning on raising those issues that I am supposedly an expert on.”

He laughed. “Let me guess. Ethical backstabbing and the rise of corporate cannibalism?”

“Um.” He heard her laugh and almost pictured the image of her sitting across him in the restaurant that day. “Anyways. I convinced her that I had a far better expert on hand. One who is dying to exact his revenge upon the corporate world!”

“Wait, exact a… what?”

“Yeah. I added that for a dramatic effect. I told her to think of all the spicy and hard-hitting issues you could raise and the reaction of the corporates. And your recent confession about the twenty crore rupees fiasco would create an unbeatable hype for the show. It’d be an instant hit!”

“But… I…” He trailed off. What could he say? He knew she was right. He could really exact revenge upon the corporate world.

I know all the ins and outs of the market and can serve that spicy chit-chat that viewers crave for. This is something I can really do!

“Would you like me to fix you a meeting with her?”

Like, hell yes. “Sure. But… what about you? You would leave this opportunity?”

“Writing is all I care about. I wouldn’t have that much time anyway.” She laughed. “One thing, though… She wants you be ready to create spicy shows, if you know what I mean. Not every story is going to be the ‘CSR-fiasco’ interesting. You might have to dig up old facts, twist them, and make them appear something else… you understand?”

Another silence.

“Well?” she probed.

Ram scoffed and heard his own breath through the speaker. “Dear, girl, you just described everything that I’d been doing for all those years as an accountant!”

My approval took a moment to register into her mind. “Great! I’ll give my friend a call then. See you later!”

She hung up and left Ram thinking.

Could he really go for another round of searching, twisting, bending, and misrepresenting facts for self-fulfilling needs.

Something told him that he was more than ready for this. Suddenly it occurred to him — perhaps, he was born to do this?

But the irony of his life was that he was named Ram.

another shot at poem – Upon This Land

UPON THIS LAND

Upon this land, full of wrongs
We’re the men who see things right
And on this dusk, accused of despair
We do believe in new dawn’s light

Upon this land, full of wrongs,
Many are men who are lost
Seeking that elusive perfection,
In all things, they see the worst

System’s gone lose
And politics isn’t right
Damned be the law
It’s just not that tight
Just about everything, really!
Has become an ugly shite

Funny that!
For beauty is a thing
Only a beautiful mind sees
And perfection
Just another disease.

But there’s a new wave rising
Ours.
Of passion and fire
Of faith and desire
Of those willing to see the change
Of those willing to be the change.

So on our ground we stand tall
Till the Odds bow to favor our plight.
But sweet goodbye, dear all
The deserters!
May the Gods bless forever your might.

REBLOGGED | Writing Critique from Janice Hardy (The Other Side of the Story)

Janice Hardy critiqued a 250 words snippet of my Fantasy book Reminiscence of a Shadow last yearJanice is a writer of Fantasy and Science-fiction for teens. She runs this awesome blog site dedicated to all writers called The Other Side of the Story.

The Snippet:

Background: First person narrative in Sword and Sorcery fantasy genre. Narrator becomes a Shade-in-training after his death. In this scene, he travels with Marin and Taren after being separated with their Captain, when a monster, which had been following them since long, attacks them. 

A light tremor shook the earth beneath me gently. I felt a sudden chill at my chest. Something came whistling through the air above us. Flying or falling, I’d no idea.

From how far did he make that jump? 

The monster landed on its knee, crouching. The sheer power of the collision of him against the earth sent a ripple through the hard ground!

“Can’t believe I’m going to die with you lot!” said Marin.

Taren frowned. “The feeling’s mutual, friend.”

Marin looked at me sidelong. “How did you get rid of it the first time?”

I shrugged. “Um…I had to die.”

“Now where’s a Shade when you need one?” said Marin.

Taren brought out his blade and charged ahead. He hardly reached up to the monster’s waist, how he planned to kill it, I’d no idea.

The monster took out its battleaxe — as large as one of those smaller trees — even larger compared to Taren’s sword. Then it stomped its foot to the ground, making Taren stumble upon the tremor. It stepped in, flicked away the sword off Taren’s hand and raised the axe high above his head.

A giant arc cut down at him. I closed my eyes involuntarily, expecting the worse.

When I opened it a moment later, I found the axe still above the monster’s head.

A dark wire – dark, and smoldered in an even darker mist –- held the axe, mid-way, against the will of the monster.

“Captain!” I screamed like a little boy. Never before had I been this happy to see that face.

END

Critique By Janice Hardy (@Janice_Hardy): on The Other Side of the Story: Real Life Diagnostics: Keeping Action Scenes Clear…

One can have the snippets of their works critiqued through her blog’s weekly column “Real Life Diagnostic (RLD)”Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues.  Follow the guidelines and Submit! 

 

Excerpts from my book: Chapter 3 of “AMARANTH: The Hunt for the Unicorn”

(Lens Ryk’s Intro)
Chapter 3
The Face that Lied

“Raise you ten.” Lens leaned back on his chair with a smile on his face. “Is that your hands trembling, Al?”

The man to his opposite frowned and tightened his grip. He glanced from his cards to Lens, then back to the cards—brows furrowed, wrinkles forming up his forehead.

And still the fool tries to read me. “Come, Al. There’s a lot at stake here. We’ve raised too far out for the day.”

Al watched him intently, wrinkles furrowing deeper on his temple.

Go on, then. Lens’ lip twitched slightly at the corner. Try to read my face. More the attention there, the better.

“Sharks!” Al cursed, letting his cards fall. “Fold.”

“Aw, come, man, Al,” some brown-haired boy said. One of the many spectators. “He is only bluffing. You know that!”

Lens lips curled to a crooked smile.

The big man snorted. “Well, yes…” He set his jaws tight. “But he could just as easily be telling the truth. There’s no reading this man. And I’ve just lost too much today.”

“Wise man, you are, Al.” Lens spread out his cards.

“Three wizards!” Al gasped. “That’s a bit too much luck for a day.”

Lens collected his coins with one swipe of the table and stuffed it into his leather bag. “Have some spirit, Al. Now, we’d a great time, no?”

“Yenh—” The big man shrugged. “Easy for you to say. Don’t have no woman waiting up for you to bring some riches back home, eh?”

“Uh-huh. No home. No woman. Lots of women, though.” Lens swung the bag of coins across his shoulder, hitting the folded cards and scattering it all over in the process. “So long, then. Meet ye when I do!”

He whistled to low note as he turned to leave.

“Now, wait a fuckin moment!” Al’s voice came from behind.

“Enough with your complaining, Al,” he turned back sharp. “What did I say about—”

Two wizards looked out at him from the big guy’s hand. He took a quick glance at the table and found the three that he showed still lying there.

Al furrowed his brows. “Looks like two wizards went astray from the folded set to the playing set, neh?”

Lens clicked his tongue. “Well, you know what they say in south—never trust them fuckin wizards.”

He darted toward the nearest door.

“Come back’ere,” Al roared. “Bloody cheat!” He followed after Lens.

Lens danced his way around the crowd of people, jumped over a table…grabbed a piece of meatsauce from one of them…and skittered out past the door.

“Here, boy. Here!” he screamed, hovering the meatsauce in air.

Five large stray dogs came galloping toward him.

Al arrived right on time. “I am taking them shiny coins for my wife tonight, Lens.”

“How very unromantic!” Lens threw the meatsauce at him. “Try some meatsauce instead.”

The dogs jumped at Al, bringing him down along.

“Fuck! I’ll skin you, Lens. Get’em off me.”

Lens smiled with content and darted away.

#

He walked a narrow path in the Silk street. The busy evening market flanked his way and he blended among them like shadows blend to night. Safer that way. When you’re Lens Ryk, there’s no telling who might decide to show up and put a steel inches deep into your gut.

“Hey, Lens!” A honey-coated voice stopped him on his tracks. He followed the sound to find a young girl standing, leaning against a pillar.

“Well, hello, there…” he said, an eyebrow raised.

“Long time, sweet,” she said, eyes flickering.

“Indeed. Two weeks, is it?” He put his fingers against his stubbles. “No, wait. That was someone else.”

The girl rolled her eyes. “Let’s just…” She put her smile back. “Let’s just head over to my place, what do you say?” She pressed her soft delicate finger against his chest.

“What do I say?” He grinned and raised his arm up in air. “I say haa-ooh, girl.”

#

Lens leaned against the wall with his hand as he watched the girl unlock the front door.

“Colored it again, eh?” Lens remarked. The color of the house definitely had been different last time around.

She narrowed her eyes with a hint of a smile. “So you couldn’t place my name but remembered the color of my house?”

“Yuh, no. Actually, the paint got on my hand.” He placed his hand before her, blue as the house.

She crackled softly and rolled her eyes.

The lock clicked and she opened the door. “Shall we get inside?” she said.

He shrugged. “Well, that’s the whole point of the door, right?”

She sighed, then stepped closer and kissed him on the lips. A deep, passionate kiss. The likes of which he’d never received.

She pulled him in, slammed the door shut behind her, and locked it. “I’m so going to miss you.”

He breathed in as much as possible. “I get that a lot.” Then blinked hard. “Wait, what?”

She snapped her fingers in a loud click.

Ten armored men stormed out. Weapons at the ready.

“Lens Ryk,” one of them said, voice heavy. “You have the orders to surrender to our custody. Any reprehension would be taken as criminal offense against the state and the King.”

He spread his arms out. “Hmm, I get that a lot, too.”

Lens watched around the room. No windows, no access to any other rooms or the roof, no furnitures, no chances of managing a make-shift weapon, no speaking your way out of it, and just one exit that was already locked. Also, no instrument for the make-shift key.

Sweet Crackles! The house was redesigned to be Lens Ryk proof. “So, I guess no haa-ooh, then?”

The man with the heavy voice handed over a bag to the girl. Lens resisted a serious urge to ask the price at which he was rated.

Why go to this length for me? Thousands of answers surfaced his mind.

Alright, who could be most desperate?

Lens pursed his lips. “Very well, brave people. Legends will speak of how you used a fragile girl to get to me.” He tried mustering as much of a guilt-laden face as he could, and raised both hands in air. “I surrender to your custody, or whatever it is.”

The men brought out a thick steel chain, some six feet long and possessing several locks.

Lens frowned. “Oh, you overestimate me.”

But the heavy armored men were having none of it. He was tightened with chains all over, save for his head and legs—and that too in a fashion that he couldn’t move freely more than a yard.

“God, we’re going to move slow. Hope you’ve brought chariots, eh?”

Someone pushed him from behind. “Move, thief.”

“Master,” he said. “It’s master-thief.” He bowed to the girl as much as the tight chains allowed. “Well, meet ye’ when I do…erm…” He squinted his eyes, hard. “Some girl.”

END of Chapter 3

 

Telekin #ShortStory

Telekin

My fingers fumbled around the inside of my coat pockets and found the last cigarette. I pressed it tight between my lips. I didn’t need the smoke, really. Just the touch and faint aroma calmed my senses on many different levels than one realized.

Kahl lit it for me. Ironic, that. The doctor who never smoked carried the lighter for some reason. I didn’t bother asking about it. The next thing I know, his answer would be that few aliens planted it on him. Such bizarre were the turn of events that day—anything seemed abso-bloody-lutely possible!

I waited for the doctor to say something. Anything.

“Telekinesis,” he finally said, voice rasp and weary…yet unnaturally calm. Doctor Kahl.

“Telekinesis.” His words echoed through my tight lips and I immediately felt like a complete retard.

“You seem surprised,” the Doctor said in that oh-so-casual way of his.

My eyes twitched. “That is your conclusion?”

“A speculation.” He rested his elbow against the table as he leaned closer to me. “For now.”

“Outrageous, doctor,” I barked. “Even for you.”

“Human mind, my friend,” Kahl said, standing from his chair. “It is an outrageous instrument. Capable of outrageous feats.”

I decided to go with it for the time being. It was still a better concept than an alien implantation. One that was slightly backed by science and years of research—even though on a completely controversial level.

I let out a ring of smoke toward the roof. “Say, it’s true. Say, I did it.” I shook my head, sighing. “Where does that leave me now?”

He smacked his lips. “That, Professor, leaves you in a rather difficult situation.”

I rolled my eye at the gash in my left hand. Still fresh and open. “I can see that.” I gulped. “What do you suggest further? Should I just…paralyze my mind?”

He chuckled. “If one could paralyze his mind just by simple will and on a whim, the world would have got three or four Buddha by now.” He waved his palm dismissively. “No, my friend. That sort of mental power is difficult to achieve—only possible, even if it were ever possible, through extensive meditation, focus, and will.”

“So, basically, I need to achieve Nirvana.”

The doctor eyed me from above his specs and gave a half-hearted shrug. “Basically…”

I stood up. “Yeah. So, thanks for your time, doctor. You’ve been as helpful as ever.” I managed a smile and turned to leave.

“Szel,” he said. One of the rare instances, even after years of knowing each other, when he called me by my first name. “I suggest you stay under my observation.”

“In your facility?”

His brows furrowed deep. “In my home.”

I scoffed. “Home?” I shook my head. “You mean asylum.”

“Home to some.” The doctor pursed his lips. “Asylum to others.”

I narrowed my eyes. “And what would it be for me?”

He watched me with cold eyes, bearing into mine as if he intended to see my very soul. I expected a quick come back, like he usually does. But he stood in silence. For once.

“No, thank you, doctor…” I said, gulping. “Kahl.” One of the rare instances when I called him by his first name. I offered him my hand and he shook it heartily.

I left the doctor’s hospice with nothing but an abominating theory and the bitter taste of medicine at the back of my mouth. A useless pill, that one. I frowned to myself. Useless pill from a useless doctor.

The guard at the elevator to my apartment shot me a salute.

Ugh. “Don’t do that, Mic,” I said. “You embarrass me.”

He only smiled at that. He always smiles, Mic.

I waited for the elevator. My mind wandered off in idleness and began counting the number of loose seats in the lobby.

One of the seats flew and came toward me, as if there was a giant magnet on me.

Shit! I looked away, forcing my mind to think about something else. I never turned to find if it did the trick. Didn’t even wait for the elevator anymore. I shot straight for the stairs and climbed up–two steps at a time.

Reaching the fourth floor was tiresome. Getting old, Szel. At thirty at that! In our profession, that was no age to get old. One of my colleagues…former colleagues…took twenty classes a day at sixty-five.

Reaching inside my coat for the apartment keys, I trudged toward it. I was almost thankful for the door to not fly open on my thought. Unlike earlier that day in my office. I could do with a few less glares for the day.

I turned the lock only to find my keys defunct. Not now. I pressed harder, twisted this way and that, even frowned at it a little. Nothing.

“I’m throwing you out, Szel,” a voice came, hard and cold. Cruel. My landlord, no doubt.

“You gotta’ be kiddin’ me, Redge.”

“Not this time, no.” His voice was firm.

I wiped my forehead. “Look, man. I’ve had a long day.”

“I don’t care. You don’t pay. You don’t stay.”

I really hoped that he’d disappear at the moment. Where’s the damned telekinesis when you need it? “A’ight. Lemme’ stay for the night. I’ll find my way out on the first light tomorrow.”

“Jessi’s Den. Only two blocks way. I hear their service is good.”

I sighed. “And my furnitures? My stuffs? Clothes?”

“Tomorrow. I’ll open it for an hour. Get your things out.”

He turned to leave. “Be grateful, Szel. I’m letting you have all your stuffs. I could’ve used that to recollect your debts.”

I smacked my lips. I’d been tight on my bills since…the weakness. Earnings were hard as it were, the weakness left me famished on all my resources. Of course, I couldn’t borrow from my colleagues, or Kahl even. What’d be of the dignity of the great Szel! Way to go, Professor.

As if everything that day hadn’t been worse enough, the God decided to play some sort of practical joke. It rained.

I walked, holding my jacket as far up the head as possible, utterly missing my umbrella tucked somewhere safely inside my apartment. I’d walked for more than two blocks, for sure. But I didn’t care if I ever passed the Jesse’s Den—getting the roof for the night were the least of my problems. I’d just lost everything I had.

My job. My apartment. My life.

Everything but the wretched weakness.

Ever since the first attack, I’d been weak. Even fainted on several different occasions. Once, shamefully, in the middle of my class. One of the students recall me ‘crying like a baby’ before I fell. One even dared confront me and ask if I…erm, sniffed.

“Psst.” A voice from the dark.

I started. ‘Shocked’ would’ve been a more natural instinct. Dark corners, only shadows in my wake, and all that—odds were good that I was about to be robbed. Except, I’d no cash on me. The perks of being broke. Finally.

“You’re the Professor, aren’t ye’?” The voice was thick with accent. For some reason, that made it a bit less scary. That and probably the pitch of it. That was no voice to have if you’re a mugger.

“Who’s asking?” I said, squinting my eyes to read his face. It always pays to recognize your mugger’s face.

I heard a hint of a scoff. Anyway, a sharp-nosed boy in a dark hoodie walked out of the shadows. Still twenty-two, maybe. “You’re in trouble, Prof?”

“Chase?” I wiped some water off my face. “That you?”

He smiled. “You’re in trouble, Prof.”

I looked at the sky. The rain showed no sign of settling. “As a matter of fact, I am.”

“Come, then,” he said. “I can get you a place.”

“Heh?” I said. His demeanor surprised me. You want to help me? Something didn’t add up.

He shrugged. “Let me help you. Don’t be too Professor Szel about it now. All human need one another, remember? Sociology 101.”

He didn’t wait for me to respond and walked away along the street.

I frowned to myself for a second or two. He used my name for an adjective.

Chase Marcoe. I was one of the nine-membered panel that sanctioned his expulsion not two years ago—basically on the accusation of…well, sniffing. The chances were real good that I’d be found dead the next morn if I followed the boy. Young boys taking to violence much quicker these days and all that.

“I won’t kill you, Prof,” he said, perhaps, sensing my hesitation and fear. His voice came distant, somewhat muted over the tattering rain, and only the silhouette of him visible under the dim light of a faraway lamp-post. “You’ve only saved my life by expelling me. Come, now.”

Maybe it was the hopelessness of my situation, but I decided to take a leap of faith. Dying didn’t seem any worse at the moment. Did I say I was stupid?

“So…” I said, walking beside him in the narrow pavement. “What have you been up to these days?”

“Really, Prof?” he raised an eyebrow. “We’re doing small talks now?” He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Let’s not try and kill the silence, ’kay?”

I frowned. I could do with silence. “Sure.”

He stopped before a huge building—a concrete tower that reached for the skies. My neck craned to see the top of it. I swear I heard it click. “This looks like an expensive apart–”

“Not my home, Prof.” He reached inside his jacket and retrieved a credit-card thing.

I turned to him sharply, clicking my neck for the second time. “Whose, then?” You’re parents? Some mob leader you get your ‘stuff’ from? The contract killers you’ve set for me?

He stared into my eyes for a split second. “Ours.”

My eyes widened. “Ours…” Wait a second, son. Is this boy high even now?

He walked up the porch and stood before the front door. His fingers searched for something at the wall just beside the door. They stopped at a slit—so slim and almost invisible to the eye. He swiped his card in that slit. Forgot where it’d been the last time around?

The door became radiant at the hinges. There was a swirling sound and the door parted from the center, sliding inside the wall.

We stepped into an enormous hall. A single sofa sat at the far end of the room. A desk to it’s side. A lady behind the desk. And a rather ornate elevator behind the lady. Organized.

“You seem a little short on the furnitures lately,” I said casually, my gaze darting around the hall.

He didn’t react, obviously, but it was odd that the hall of that size would be made for a single sofa and a desk. To top it off, no paintings on the wall, no windows, and no real paint—an extreme white color dominated everything around us in the room—save for the sofa, the desk, and, of course, the lady.

Let me correct myself on that one. The gorgeous lady. Her beauty only elucidated with each step we took toward her.

“One-one-one,” Chase said at the desk, slamming the card on the table.

The lady looked up to meet his eyes. She frowned. “One-one-one?”

Chase half-heartedly pointed at me with his thumb.

She watched me for about five seconds. Top to as bottom as was visible. Then she rolled her eyes for no apparent reason. She, however, accepted the card and pressed a few buttons behind her desk.

“Listen,” I hissed into Chase’s ear. “If I could afford a hotel like this, I’d…”

“Not even a hotel, Prof,” Chase said. He didn’t wait for me and walked toward the elevator.

I held him at the shoulder and forced him to face me. “I’m not taking a step further. Tell me where you’re taking me or I’m taking the door.”

Chase smiled. A genuine smile. “I’m afraid, Prof. That door closed the moment we entered.”

I spun wildly at the door from where we entered. Shut as expected.

Chase grinned. A bit pretentious this time around. “And there was just one card that could open it.”

“Was?” I repeated after him absently.

I turned to look at the lady at the desk.

Gone. Even the furnitures.

The room was vacant, a sea of endless white.

I felt Chase’s breath on my ear. “I’d take that elevator.”