Withdrawal Syndrome – A conversation

Author’s Note: ‘Conversations’ is a series of fictional short stories comprising of conversations between the fictional ‘ME’ and a fictional ‘SHE’

SHE – Who drinks coffee at 1 in the afternoon?
ME – (grins) Well, if you walk into that coffee shop with me, you would know.!
SHE – Wow.! Instead, why don’t we walk into that FINE-DINE across the road and find out who on the freaking earth would have lunch at 1 in the afternoon..!

Was she irritated? I grew confused and kept quiet for a moment.

ME – Okay.! Tell me one thing. On a scale of 1-10, how hungry are you?
SHE – Well, I don’t know about hungry.! (pause) But if you ask me how angry I am on the scale of 1-10, I would say that the scale is about to snap now.

She was certainly irritated.

ME – Did you have coffee in the morning?
SHE – No.. I didn’t..
ME – See.. there you go..!
SHE – What?
ME – The withdrawal syndrome!
SHE – (confused) Eh?
ME – You consumed zero caffeine today.! And you have already begun to show the withdrawal syndrome..!
SHE – Look! I don’t even know if that was an attempt at humor. But I am real hungry now..!
ME – There you go.! Symptom number one – Increased Hunger
SHE – (restraining anger) Do you even realize that you are seconds away from getting yelled at?
ME – And that would be the second symptom. Irritability coupled with anger.!

I grinned, but she didn’t. My laugh died a silent death.
She stared at me for a while and began to walk away. She entered the restaurant and I followed her into it. She sat down and I picked up the menu.

ME – (surfing through the menu) Okay listen.! You want to start with some soup?
SHE – Yes..! Let us..!
ME – (confused) But they don’t have soup in here.!
SHE – (shouts) Then for god’s sake, order something that they have in here..!

The entire restaurant fell silent for a moment. I fought awkward glances from everyone in there.

ME – This has gone out of my hands.!
SHE – What?
ME – First it was caffeine withdrawal syndrome. And now you are showing ‘Soup withdrawal syndrome’.!

She didn’t respond, not with words. She grabbed the menu card from my hands and quickly glanced through the items.
Waiter arrived at our table.

SHE – Give me number 4 in the starter and number 7 in the main course. And make it spicy.!

She passed on the menu to me. I snubbed the menu card and placed my order.

ME – (to the waiter) Listen. Give me number ten in the starter and number nine in the main course.!
WAITER – (confused) But there’s no ten in the starter.!
ME – What? No ten? You got a nine in there?
WAITER – We got only eight items in the starters sir..!
ME – What’s the eighth?
WAITER – Lava chicken sir..

I think for a while.

ME – Why don’t you do one thing. Prepare Lava chicken and make it extra spicy. Make it your tenth item in the menu, name it ‘volcanic chicken’ and bring it to my table.

I grinned at the waiter and he threw an unhappy smile at me, before exiting into the kitchen. And we dived deep into 2 minutes of silence.

SHE – Okay listen.! I am sorry.! The hunger got on my nerves.! And the mood swings thanks to the cycle of my month..
ME – That’s okay.! (smiles) Thank god I stayed calm..!
SHE – (smiles) Else?
ME – Else, I would have missed an opportunity of having starter number ten, main course number nine with the lady number one.

She smiled, gently. And then, Silence…

ME – And wow.! Look at us.! I was a lunch boy and you were a coffee girl.! But today we have opposite cravings..!
SHE – (smiles) Well.. Things gotta change right?
ME – Yes..! Like the coffee that they served in your favorite coffee place.
SHE – What about it?
ME – Earlier it was a bad coffee place..
SHE – (laughs gently) And you like it now..?
ME – Na.! Now they have gone worse.! But things not good for you, that’s what we get addicted to..!

Gentle laughs exchanged. Soft Jazz in the restaurant, continues to play. Soft Jazz in the restaurant, continues to play.

SHE – (smiles) You have changed.! A lot.!
ME – How about my sense of humor? Still intact..?
SHE – It”s like my favorite coffee place. It has gone from bad to worse (laughs)
ME – Ah.! Beware.! You might pick addiction.!

We both laugh gently, yet again. Followed by, awkward silence..

ME – Anyway.. As you said, things gotta change and so should people. We are meeting after a year and I sincerely hope that I am coming across as a better person and not a different one

She didn’t speak. Me neither. Waiter arrived at our table with the orders. We slowly began to munch the starters.

SHE – What was running in your mind, when you asked us stay away from each from each other other for a year??
ME – You know I am weird, don’t you?

SHE smiled softly.

ME – Hmm… you know when you start watching movies, reading stories, you sort of begin to imagine the ‘would be happy moments’ – Scripted beautifully, executed to perfection.

I grabbed a tissue, wiped my mouth and continued.

ME – I thought an year of staying away, would induce longings and when we finally meet, it would be one of the happiest moments in our lives
SHE – (poignant smile) Did that work?
ME – You tell me..!
SHE – Well… I don’t know.! This is strange. It’s completely awkward (pause) It’s like I know you, but I don’t. And it’s this strange confusion.! If all the memories that we had together, was it real or was it figment of imagination? or a beautiful dream that I had as a kid that’s appearing blurred now?

Poignant silence…

ME – Tell me one thing?
SHE – What?
ME – Am I coming across as a stranger?

silence..

SHE – May be… yes.. (pause) I mean, I can still see the weird you.! But I think it’s me.! I think I’ve changed as a person
ME – So you no longer interested in trivial talks? weird conversations and poor humor?
SHE – I don’t know..
ME – Well.. I know..
SHE – What?
ME – It’s the withdrawal syndrome..
SHE – From coffee?
ME – From ME..

Silence..

ME – Well… I guess, you are right.! We are strangers….

I get up and made an exit from the restaurant, leaving her in pensive silence.
*****************************************************************************
After ten minutes….

ME – Are you expecting someone?

I walked into the restaurant and pointed at the chair across her table. SHE frowned in confusion, and then smiled gently.

ME – Ah. I am here in the town after an year. The town has changed, a lot. Afraid that I would be lost, I was looking for a person to have a lunch conversation with. Would you mind?

She smiled gently.

ME – I shall take that as a yes…

The waiter arrived with the bill.

ME – So lady, what will you have?
SHE – I had my lunch. I could stay until you finish yours..
ME – Oh.. Then how about some bad coffee?

Without waiting for her response, I turned to the waiter.

ME – Get us two cups of bad coffee
WAITER – Sir.. but we have only latte, espresso, cappuccino, Macchiato..
ME – Well.. Any of these would anyway make a great bad coffee.. Get us two cups..
WAITER leaves in confusion.

ME – (smiles) So..Let me start with the formal question. What do you do for living?

She held her silence, before she spoke.

SHE – Listen… I know you are trying hard. I want to smile, I want to talk to you. And as much I think about it, its making me increasingly uncomfortable and filling me with awkward feelings.. And I am certain that we can never get to being the old us..!

There was a strange sense of pain. I looked at her for a while and smiled. The jazz playlist continued to play.

ME – May be you are right.. We can never get to being the old ‘us’.. That might spoil all our beautiful memories, the happy pictures that we have in our mind (Pause) But we could try being the new ‘us’…


SHE – And what is the new ‘us’..?


ME – Two strangers.. who’ve met for the first time.. Have a long memorable weird, funny conversation. And while they converse, they also know that this would be their last ever meeting..

I smiled. There was a long silence, before the waiter arrived at our table with the orders. We picked the coffee cups and took our first sips.

SHE – So..Let me start with the formal question. What do you do for living?


                                                                                                                                                       -Chan

Leave Me Alone – A conversation

ME – So tell me exactly.. What happened?
SHE – It fell into the pool from the first floor .
ME – I thought cats knew how to swim..
SHE – The pool was dry.. it hit the floor..
ME – (laughs) that’s a funny way to die..

SHE glared at me, through her sadness. I stopped laughing and blurted out.

ME – I mean..I am sorry for its death. I do…
SHE – That’s okay..!
ME – So are you okay now?

SHE continued to look sad.

ME – What does the silence mean? That you are not okay?
SHE – The silence means that I want to spend sometime in silence..
ME – (confused) Oh..! Does silence help?
SHE – I don’t know. I will only know if you stop asking me questions and let me be by myself. So, please .. could I get a moment alone?
ME – Yeah. You could. But when do u want it?
SHE – (irked) Now..!

Awkward silence.

ME – I mean.. I am confused now.. Does it mean that I should leave or would you be leaving?

She looked at me for a while, got up and began to walk away. I quickly ran behind her.

ME – Listen..
SHE – (turns around) What?
ME – Why would the cat jump into a water less pool?

SHE was visibly annoyed.

ME – See.. I was trying to understand.. Did it really think that there was water in the pool or did it accidentally slip and fall?
SHE – Na.. It had a rivalry with the cat next door. So that cat plotted a murder, pushed mine from the first floor and made it appear like a suicide.!

Awkward silence and then I break into loud laugh.

ME – You are joking right?
SHE – (restraining) What do you want?

My laugh died…

ME – I want you to smile..
SHE – I shall… I need sometime..

She began to walk away. I began to follow her. She stops, turns around.

SHE – I asked you not to follow me..
ME – (confused).. No you didn’t say that.. You just told me that you want to spend sometime in silence.. So I was following you silently..

She glared at me for a while..

SHE – Okay.. Stop following me, stop talking to me and Leave me alone..
ME – Come on.. You can’t keep adding rules..
SHE – See.. I understand that you want to see me smile.. I shall, eventually. But for now, it’s important for me to be sad for something dear that I have lost..
ME – Why is it so important? I didn’t cry for my dog when it died..
SHE – I never knew that you had a dog..
ME – Apparently we had one, when I was a kid, 4 year old. Car ran over it. But more importantly I didn’t cry..
SHE – You were a kid! Why would you cry?
ME – Well.. I had cried when I had lost my mickey mouse eraser

She looked at me for a while.

SHE – You cried over a lost eraser but not over a dead dog. Wow..! What does that tell about you?

I think for a while..

ME – I don’t know. That’s a difficult question. Don’t confuse me now. You just tell me what should I do to make you smile?
SHE – Leave me alone..
ME – I don’t think that would make you smile..

She began to walk away.

ME – Hey.. I figured out the answer..!
SHE – For what?
ME – I cried over a lot eraser but not over a dead dog. I know what it tells about me…
SHE – What?

ME – That I was a Stupid kid… and that..hmm… being stupid helps.. See I know that your cat had..
SHE – Stop calling it a cat.! It had a name..
ME – And what was it? Cat Winslet?
SHE – No. it was a male. Winnie..
ME – Winnie is a nice name. But anyway.. See.. when Winnie was alive, it made you smile right.? Now that it’s gone, you think that being sad is a way to pay respects. But I feel that Winslet..
SHE – Winnie..

ME – Yeah sorry.. I feel that Winnie would be so offended to see you forcing yourself to be sad. Winnie would be like – “come on girl. I died, you cried and I smiled. But now don’t stretch it too far. Get over it. Stop overacting”

Silence..

SHE – Was that a joke?
ME – No.. It was a beautiful philosophy. But I can come up with a joke – What would you call a cat which serves ice cream?
SHE – Sorry.. I am in no mood to listen to jokes…
ME – It’s a puzzle for god’s sake.. I will leave you alone if you answer it..

She continues to walk, briskly towards her car.

ME – Moreover the puzzle has a cat in it.. Please.. You got to respect cats.

SHE stops, looks at me.

SHE – All rite.. You are going to leave me alone if I get the answer right.

I nod and she begins to think…

SHE – cat-all-ice-is? as in catalysis..

ME – Well.. This sounds like a better answer than the one that I had in mind..
SHE – And what did you have in mind?

I smiled at her and walked towards her car. She followed me.

ME – Well.. A cat which serves ice cream is called… ( I opened the car door)…A gift that would make you smile..

I kept looking at her, with a hope that my SURPRISE GIFT would make her smile.
Her expression changed for sure. But wait.! She isn’t smiling. What’s wrong..!

I looked inside the car – The ice cream splattered all over the seat and her beautiful cushioned seat torn apart. It wasn’t a pleasant sight.
The only thing that was intact was the bow on the kitten’s head with a tiny label which read- “CAT WINSLET”.

ME – (nervous smile) I think you are right. I should leave you alone… That always helps.

And I sped away….!

 

The Wedding Gift – A conversation

SHE – But what’s wrong with gifting an AC?

ME – Look, all that an AC does is sucking the interior temperature and pushing it outside! Implication? The outside temperature continues to grow! That’s global warming!

SHE – Yeah.! I know the science!

ME – But knowing science is not enough. You would continue to use AC because the globe is warming and the warming continues.. Look.. Any Invention should, if possible, eliminate its need and not strengthen its necessity!

SHE – But I didn’t invent an AC! Willis Carrier did!

ME – Yeah.! But you are strengthening its necessity!

Silence…

SHE – So what should we gift them? A ceiling fan?

ME – That won’t help the humidity!

SHE – But this is hill station! It’s never humid here!

ME – But what if after a year, they move to a coastal place? That would be humid!

SHE – That’s a maybe case! And maybe they have better things to pack and move than a ceiling fan!

Silence..

ME – Let’s not gift them a ceiling fan!

SHE – Okay.! But you wanted to gift them something that would help them in the summer! You don’t want to gift an air cooler because it takes in water and in summer there might be water crisis! No to an AC because it would strengthen its necessity! Ceiling fan would not help in humidity! What’s left? Ice packs?

Silence followed by an exchange of mild laughter….

SHE – Let’s stick to my first plan! Let’s go for a bouquet and a gift voucher!

ME – That would be a fall back option, if we can’t decide on anything!

SHE- We better decide now! Once we cross the city, there are no shops near the resort to buy any gifts!

Silence… As I begin to think..

ME – Let us go-to a nursery!

SHE – Nursery? To gift an admission to their future kid, kids?

ME – No.! The plant nursery!

SHE – You planning to gift them..

ME – (interrupts) Yes.! You guessed it right! Planning to gift them seeds.! (Pause) and a pot! They can sow the seeds in the pot!

SHE – But I thought you would say plants, at least!

Awkward silence..!

ME – That’s not a bad idea! We could gift them the plants!

SHE – Seriously! You want to walk into a wedding hall holding a flower plant!

ME – I had mango plant in mind! You know, with mangoes in them!

SHE – Seriously? Mango plant with mangoes in it? That’s called a mango tree! And I am not carrying a mango tree into the wedding hall

ME – Why not?

SHE – Two reasons! One, I don’t want to carry a mango tree into a wedding hall. Two, I can’t carry a mango tree! Not into a wedding hall, not into a restaurant! I can’t carry it anywhere, because I am not a superwoman!

She was right. How can I gift them a mango tree, if I can’t carry it.?

Silence…

SHE – Unless…

ME – Unless..?

SHE – Unless it’s a Bonsai..

Bonsai is not a bad idea, I felt!

ME – That’s exactly, what I had in mind! Bonsai, that’s the word and the gift that I was looking for!

*************************************************************************************

After buying the bonsai tree..

SHE – But you were so adamant about gifting them something that would help them beat heat!

ME – And who does it better than plants? The bonsai mango tree will live in their room, suck all the CO2, and give out oxygen! That would be cool!  You know what; I should name this – The Mangold Star AC.!

SHE – ha ha… Like the Goldstar AC? That’s lame!

ME – May be its lame, but it’s still cool..! (Pause) And oh! Wait! Whenever the girl feels like having a mango, she need not climb the tree or pelt stones! Because it’s a bonsai tree and the fruit will be at hand’s reach!

SHE – And when the tree has no mangoes left?

ME – She can buy them from the market!

Laughs..

**********************************************************

After arriving at the resort..

ME – What happened?

SHE – The receptionist is telling that they have only two rooms left and only one of them has AC.!

ME – And what did you say?

SHE – I told her that she is wrong!

ME – What?

SHE – Yes! They have two air conditioned rooms!

ME – Okay! Then we don’t have a problem right! Everything is sorted!

SHE – Yes! I shall be taking the one with the Bluestar AC and you will be taking the one with the Mangold Star AC..!

A moment of silence..

ME – That would be cool! (Laughs)

-CHAN

To read other episodes of Conversations, click here. You could leave your feedback in the comment section below or write to me at passionophoria@gmail.com

To Dance or not to Dance – A Conversation

SHE- But, I have never danced before!

ME – Liar! Everyone would have! At least in their kindergarten days, you know during the annual day functions! Or At least in the bathroom!

SHE – But that’s different!

ME – So, I am right!

SHE – Right about what?

ME – About you dancing in the bathroom! That’s weird you know! Because, I only sing!

Laughs exchanged…

ME – Anyway! Imagine that this is going to be your last night before you die!

SHE – Who is going to kill me? You?

ME – I can! (Pause) I mean, I have the ability to!

SHE – Ah! Do you?

ME – Yes! I can choke you to death! Or may be stab you with the butter knife!

SHE – Butter knife is blunt! It can’t kill me!

ME – Ah! I don’t believe your word! Let me give a try!

I looked at the butter knife, picked it up and tried stabbing her!

A moment of Laughter….

SHE – See… I told you! Butter knives can’t kill me! (Laughs)

ME – Okay! Forget butter knife! But there could be earthquake, the pub roof might collapse! Some female might try using her deodorant! Since the deodorant is inflammable, the candle in the corner table might explode! The pub might catch fire! We might get roasted like chicken!

She cringes….

ME – Okay! That’s horrible death! Let’s imagine something that is less horrible!  Oh! What if you swallow the chicken bone and choke to death!

SHE – Both of us know that it’s never going to happen! I don’t eat chicken!

Silence!

ME – Or a potato! If you swallow it whole, even a potato can choke you to death! (Pause) Or maybe you step out of the pub; some drunk female runs you over on her scooter!

SHE – This is disappointing, I thought you would save me!

She puts up a sad face! Laughs exchanged..

ME – Anyways! My point is! Think that you are going to die this night! And that you will never be able to dance after this! So it’s now or never!

SHE – If it’s going to be my last night before I die, I have better things to do! I have a long bucket list!

ME – How long!

SHE – 53 items!

ME – 53? What weird wishes do you have in there? Things like Jumping into the volcano!

Silence..

SHE – Now I have 54th entry in the list!

ME – What? You want to jump into the volcano! Seriously?

SHE – No! I would want to stand on the top of the volcanic mountain, stare down at the lava and photograph it!

ME – Or you might as well swallow the potato and choke to death!

Laughs exchanged…

ME – But seriously… why don’t you dance! Look around! So many people on the floor, dancing!

SHE – Yeah! But I can’t dance! I don’t know to dance!

ME – Come on! You just need to move your feet or may be sway a little! No one’s expecting you to do dance like Hrithik!

SHE – Yeah! But moving the feet or swaying the body, for that I need to feel the rhythm!  I am bad at rhythms!

ME – Okay! Look at it this way! We have been sitting here, sipping onto our drinks for so long! Among that dancing lot, there are bad dancers as well as good ones! Do you remember any of their faces?

She thinks for a while and nods a no.

ME – There you go! You had better things to do than nit-picking! Same case with others! Those who are dancing are too busy with their dance! Those who are not dancing are either waiting to hit the floor or might be way too nervous! Just like you!

A moment of silence…

ME – Look! The bottom line is, this is not some stage program and the spotlight is not on you! Everyone has better things to do than watch you dance! So hold my hands and join me in the dance

She appears hesitant…

ME – Okay! Let’s try this! I shall go there, dancing alone for a minute or two! Like real bad dance! Ugly and weird! That way you might get inspired!

SHE – Inspired to do what? Dance badly?

ME – Dance decently! Or may be badly! Look I have already told you, no one’s going to remember your face! Give me a moment!

I got up and slowly joined the dancing crowd. I began to move my feet, then the torso and after a few seconds, the head!

The DJ moved onto the next track! I closed my eyes and began to shake my hands and legs wildly! The track continued for a minute or two and when the DJ changed the track, I opened my eyes to walk up to her and drag her into the dance.

And when I opened my eyes, I found myself in the middle of the crowd who had stopped dancing and were staring at me! Ugly stares!

I quickly walked up to her.

ME – I think we need to leave! People are laughing at me!

SHE – Come on! It’s okay!

ME – I danced real bad, didn’t I?

SHE – Yep!

ME – How bad?

SHE – Bad enough to inspire me!

And she dragged me into the dance floor. She started moving her feet, the torso and then the head!

-CHAN

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Walk under the rain – A Conversation

SHE – I don’t think it’s a good idea!

ME – Come on! It doesn’t rain every other day!

SHE – Yeah! But walking in the rain? Who does that!

ME – Everyone does that!

SHE – Everyone with an umbrella!

ME – And raincoat!

SHE – Okay! But we neither have raincoat nor an umbrella!

ME – That’s exactly what I was talking about! Walking in the rain without an umbrella or raincoat! Getting completely drenched!

SHE – And why exactly do you think we should be doing that?

ME – So you think it’s not an exciting idea?

SHE – “Bad idea”, is the precise way of describing it!

A moment of silence!

ME – Okay girl! Tell me! Have you ever done bungee jumping?

SHE – No!

ME – See! That’s my point! You have never done a bungee jump because you “think” that you are scared of heights!

SHE – Wrong! I have never done a bungee jumping because I have never been to a place which has one.

A moment of silence!

ME – I should probably use some other example! Okay! Tell me one thing that you don’t like!

SHE – Walking under the rain without an umbrella or raincoat!

ME – Ah! Come on! Give me another!

SHE – You want another? That would be you trying to convince me to walk under the rain!

Silence….

ME – Ok! Look at it this way! You think that you don’t like walking under the rain! But how will you know if you don’t give it a try! Give it and a try and then arrive at conclusion!

SHE – last week, after the movie! I hope you remember how we ran from the theatre to the parking lot and I slipped real bad.

ME – But you didn’t fall down!

SHE – But I fell ill!

ME – Yeah! But you didn’t fall “down”!

SHE – I could have fallen! Had I fallen, I would have broken my knee!

ME – Look! When you slip, you fall on your back! There’s no way that your knee will get hurt!

SHE – So, you saying that you are okay with me breaking my back?

Silence….

ME – Look, that was Sprint! But this! This would be walking. A real slow walk!

SHE – Oh! Come on! That’s illogical? How different are they? Moreover I don’t want people to laugh at us, while we walk slowly under the rain!

ME – How is that illogical! And are saying that Usain bolt and Matej Toth are no different from each other?

SHE – Who is Matej Toth?

ME – He won gold in 20km walk! The Rio Olympics!

SHE – I didn’t know that!

ME – Exactly! See everyone knows Usain Bolt, but not Matej Toth! Bottom line- If you run people would notice, but if you walk, people would not! So there is no question of people laughing at us!

Silence…

SHE – I am not coming! Let’s end this conversation!

ME – Okay! How about this? I will walk under the rain? And you could use an umbrella and walk along!

SHE – Yeah! But we don’t have an umbrella!

I proceeded to make an exit.

SHE – Where are you going?

ME – Give me 5 minutes lady and you would know!

*******************************************************************************

After an hour…

SHE – It’s been an hour! Where are you? Where did you go?

ME – I had come out to buy an umbrella from this shop across the street and…

SHE – And what? You still deciding on the colors?

ME – Na! I slipped while sprinting to this shop and..

SHE – And…? Did you break your back?

ME – No! It’s the knee!

-CHAN

To read other episodes of Conversations, click here. You could leave your feedback in the comment section below or write to me at passionophoria@gmail.com

Meat and Flesh – A Conversation

She – Meat is non veg.!

Me – yeah! But you shouldn’t ignore the fact that I eat dead meat!

She – Dead meat?

Me – Of course! Meat is dead! Else it would be flesh. And I don’t eat flesh! So technically, I eat dead animals and I don’t kill one!

She – You have got the definition wrong, haven’t you?

He – What definition?

She – Meat is edible flesh! Chicken meat, pork meat, mutton meat! There is no human meat!

He – Oh! Come on! Cannibals would beg to differ! I mean, I am not a cannibal! I just eat the bird! No lamb, no pork! Just the bird! (Pause) And fish sometimes! But not from the aquarium, you know!

She – Who would eat fish from an aquarium?

Me – My cat would! But anyway my point is I am a non-vegetarian! And there’s nothing wrong about it!

She – Everything is wrong about it! Inflicting so much pain!

Me- Oh! Come on! Even plants have life! CV Raman has proved it in his experiment!

She – That was JC Bose!

Me – So what! Would a plant’s life become any less important, because JC Bose discovered it!

She didn’t speak for a while! May be, I had won the debate! The waiter arrived at our table and served our orders – Me, some fancy chicken dish and she? May be potato or paneer! What else a vegetarian would eat!

She – No.! Okay! Tell me one thing! Why does pain exist?

Me – Oh Please! I don’t want to discuss religion, philosophy and god!

She – No man.! The science question! Why does one feel pain, when he..

Me – Or she!

She – yeah ok! Why does one feel the pain, when he or she gets injured?

I thought for a while! The question didn’t make sense!

Me – It’s good as asking why a green leaf is green! (Pause) Oh. Wait! There’s a scientific reason why a green leaf is green! Absorbed components of light, reflected components of light and all that nonsense! But hey, the pain thing, I don’t think it has got any scientific reason!

She – Think about it! Cutting your hair or nails doesn’t hurt you! But anything happens to skin, eyes, or you know other body parts, you feel the pain!

I thought for a while.

Me -You know what! I had felt the same when I was in my kindergarten!

She – Good! Anyway, pain is the body’s inbuilt mechanism to alert you! To tell you that something wrong is happening to your body! If you let it continue, you might die! So do something about it!

Me – Well. This didn’t cross my mind when I was in kindergarten! Hey! Nice observation!

She – Thanks! So if you get injured, you might die because of the blood loss, so the pain! Heart attack, same thing! But cut your hair or nail! Your life is safe! So no alert!

Me – Oh! And what about tooth decay? Why does it hurt?

She- the infection could spread to the eye and then the brain and could kill you!

Me – Fever?

She – That’s a slightly different topic! Body temperature increases significantly to kill the foreign bodies! Anyways, the point is if you pluck the leaf, vegetables and fruits, that wouldn’t kill the plant! So, plants don’t feel the pain when we do that!

Me – Who gave this theory, JC Bose?

She – No.! Me!

Me – Then I can disprove it! Let me think of some examples!

We were done with the eating business and the waiter handed us the cheque!

Me – Hey! Tell me one thing!

She – What?

Me – Can losing money, kill you?

“No!” She laughed. “Why?” she asked.

“Because right now, I am feeling a strange sense of pain!” I said looking at the four figured sum on the bill!

-CHAN

To read other episodes of Conversations, click here. You could leave your feedback in the comment section below or write to me at passionophoria@gmail.com

The Prophecy Machine – A short story

The Present

“Here he comes, our last guest for the evening!”, smiled Gerald soon after he answered the doorbell.

All those present in the hall turned towards the door at once and acknowledged his arrival. There were 4 of them – Ms Natalia, Mr Goodsmith, Mr Plunter and Mr Linton.

Willman, the editor of ‘Morning Reader’ – a leading national daily, in his early fifties, smiled in return and occupied the seat next to Natalia.

“Time for some the customary serve, gentlemen”, smiled Gerald. “And lady”, he added looking at Natalia, who was about to put up a complaining face.

Everyone rose to their feet and followed Gerald into the dining hall.

Gerald was the Mathematics professor in the University of Origiana. He was just over twenty five, and had the whole nation looking at him when at the age of eighteen he was awarded with National Science prize – country’s highest award in the field of science. His research work on ‘Mathematical model for optimal machine learning’ was widely referred and revered by AI scientists from all over the world.

“Melanie, help our guests with the wine”, he instructed the tall female soon after reaching the dining hall.

“Melanie will be the maid for the evening, gentlemen”, Gerald smiled.

“And lady”, added Natalia. “Time and again comes the need to make my presence felt”, she laughed.

There were murmurs, laughs and gentle talks once the fluid was served. Guests, all five of them began to wander in the hall exploring those beautiful paintings-antique ones, adorning the walls. Citations and awards received by Gerald sat prettily on the other wall facing east.

Though guests present had nationwide recognition and needed no introduction about each other, Gerald ran a formal round of introduction.

Mr Plunter was a nuclear chemist and Mr Linton was the country’s most revered advocate.

After about half an hour, the small crowd followed Gerald into another room that appeared to be his workstation. Illegible mathematical notations were seen all around – walls, papers lying on the ground, desks etc.

It was a dark room filled with machines of various shapes and sizes smothered in dust.

“Gentlemen and lady, this is why we are here today”, Gerald pointed at a small ugly looking machine with a tiny monitor that sat on top of the wooden table.

******************************************************************************

A Day in the Past

“We can’t fund you anymore Arthur. It’s been more than six years and we have seen no good sign”, said Potman- the man with a grey beard.

“You have to understand me in this regard Mr Potman. It’s of my understanding that when you are asking me regarding the status of the machine, you are in fact inquiring about its functional status and not being curious about its beauty”, Arthur tried a soft defense.

He paused for a while before continuing. “Let me tell you Sir, if it’s about looks, the machine is already looking gorgeous and you will fall in love with it the moment you look at it”, said Arthur and paused again to study the reactions of Potman and his other three companions.

“But”, he resumed. “If you are curious to know if the machine works, all that I can present right now is the sound of revolving gears that arises when I turn it on. Because, for machines like these, there are only two states-it works or it doesn’t work, there is nothing called -it half works.  And respected gentlemen, right now it’s not working”.

“I had told you Gentlemen, we shouldn’t have invested in this. You can never build a machine that predicts future. Prophecy is something that is beyond the limits of a machine”, Potman let out his fuss.

******************************************************************************

The Present

“Few years back I’d heard my father making a mention of it. But the question is, does it really work? Because, as we know it, this world is random. Every event that occurs is random. If randomness is something that we are dealing with, you can never predict an outcome of such event”, Natalia argued.

Natalia was a research head in Originian center of astrophysics.

“I am surprised that you are an advocate of theory that states that every event in the world is random”, Gerald raised his eyebrows.

“Madam Natalia, I understand that you are a scientist and so are you Mr Gerald. But, I don’t understand science”, Mr Goodsmith broke his long held silence. He was the chairman of ‘New way Investors’ – an investing firm.

“It’s of my understanding Mr Gerald”, he paused for a while and continued. “That I am invited here to look at your machine and buy it if I am impressed. Honestly speaking, I don’t really care what this world is – random or definite. But, if there is a machine that is going to predict the future accurately, I am gonna bloody buy it. And if it doesn’t work, your loss would be Natalia’s gain”. He ended it with a grin.

Plunter, the Nuclear Chemist didn’t appear happy.

******************************************************************************

A Day in the Past – conversation Continued

“Please shut it down Arthur. Its clangor is hard on my ears. It’s been almost an hour”, Potman complained.

Arthur turned off the machine and stood helplessly.

“I told you sir, it’s not ready”.

“It will never be”, said Potman.  “I don’t know how to put it across Arthur”, he thought for a while and took out a coin from his pocket.

“I will take the example of a coin Arthur, something we all have studied in our high school Mathematics. When you toss a coin, the chances of it falling on its head are as great as it falling on its tail. Probability 50 percent!”he paused for a while. “Every time you toss a coin, the outcome is purely random and so is every event in the world”.  

No one spoke.

“If you can accurately predict an outcome of a random event, it’s no more random. It’s definite”, he added.

“Exactly..!!”, exclaimed Arthur and took the coin from the man’s hand and started twirling it.

“When you toss a coin, the result of it depends on too many things- the weight of the coin, the height from the ground, the force with which and the angle at which you toss it. It also depends on the wind speed, the texture of the ground surface etc.

If you actually look at it, it’s just a mathematical equation with too many variables”, he stopped to look at Potman and his companion.

Everyone was listening.

“So is every other event in the world. They are all definite”, he paused again. “If you identify all the variables that can influence the outcome of an event, then prediction is all about solving that mathematical equation by filling in the right values of each those variables”, he smiled and tossed the coin.

The coin fell on its head!

******************************************************************************

The present

“Everything that we do is influenced by the events from the past. If you have chosen to drink the wine that Melanie has served you, it is because of the outcome of various individual events from past and its collective impact.  Individual events like, her choice to serve the drink, the availability of the wine, her presence in the house, your arrival, the present mood, body state etc. Each of these is again dependent on a set of other events. For example, she chose to serve the drink because I asked her to do. Now my decision to order the drink is again influenced on a bunch of events from the past, so on and so forth. Similar things could be said about your present mood, body state etc.

If I keep backtracking every event in the present to past, it shall all find its origin in the very first event that ever took place in the universe. The first ever event in the universe, gave rise to organic chain of events that took place in the past, taking place in the present and will take place in the future.

My machine understands this propagation of impact of events, in a way no one ever did”, Gerald proudly ran his fingers over the ugly looking machine.

“My dear friends, I think before debating on mathematical and what not theories, it would be better to ask our dear friend to show what his machine is capable of doing”, Willman voiced his opinion. The editor was invited, for he had been writing columns in the daily since long, ridiculing Gerald’s efforts in developing the machine. Gerald wanted to silence him, once for all.

“The machine says that its feeling privileged “said Gerald. “What do you want to foresee my dear guests?”

“How about the result of the Bar council elections? Mr. Linton is contesting” Willman exclaimed.

“You don’t need a machine to predict that, do you? Mr. Linton is going to have a cake walk in the elections, like he always did”, Goodsmith dismissed Willman’s suggestion.  Linton appeared pleased, but tried containing the emotion.

“How about stock prices?”, Willman suggested.

Natalia and Plunter posed objection stating their lack of interest and knowledge in stock market.

“How about something related to this hall that we are in? Something like, what’s going to happen in next one hour?” When he couldn’t see the gathering arriving at a unanimous agreement, Gerald threw in his opinion. After all, he was waiting to exhibit the machine’s prowess.

“You serious? Can your machine predict things as vague as these?”, Natalia sounded surprised.

“Nothing should stop us from trying” Gerald replied.

“So.. Gentlemen”, he paused to look at Natalia. “And you lady”, he floated a gentle smile towards her. “Time to know the future”, he said and ran his fingers over the keyboard. “Might take some time”, he added.

“How long?”asked Goodsmith.

“Twenty good minutes”, Gerald smiled.

******************************************************************************

A Day in the past – conversation continued

“Six more months. That’s all I am asking you. Your due patience can hand you the world’s most powerful machine”, pleaded Arthur.

“We are dealing with your favorite subject Arthur, the probability. As we see it, the probability that your machine will be ready in six months, is less than 0.5. But let’s offer you a discount here. We shall make assumptions. I shall assume that your machine will be ready in the stated period. However the probability that it would work perfectly would still remain the same. Less than 0.2”, Mr Potman tried putting a final nail in the coffin.

“So ‘No’ is going to be your final word?”, Arthur asked.

“There’s a ‘No’. And after that I would like to add two more words. ‘Good luck’“, Potman grinned. Everyone continued to stay silent.

“All right! You needn’t fund me anymore. But don’t come back to me with a lot of regrets and complaints, when after six months, I will be presenting the world with the most powerful machine that was ever built”.

“Regrets..! Ah. You wish..!”Potman issued his smirk.

******************************************************************************

The present

“I told you this machine is going to do a lot of bullshit”, said Willman – the editor. He didn’t appear to be pleased with what he saw.

Plunter stood up from his chair. “This doesn’t appear good. I think I will have to leave”, said he and kept his wineglass on the table.

Gerald stood in front of the machine, staring at the screen with his tense eyes. The machine had predicted that a death will be witnessed in the room, in an hour. “Nobody leaves the room”, he said in a shaky voice. “None of you!”

Plunter marched towards the door. “I’m leaving. I told you, I am not into this game”, he said. He appeared to be in hurry.

“You are not”, Willman spoke in cold voice. Plunter turned around. Willman had his pistol aimed at him.

“I am not certain if this machine can predict the future right. But with you showing eagerness to leave the room, the cloud of suspicion only gets denser”, Willman cast his doubts.

“My machine can never fail. If it has predicted something then it’s bound to happen”, said Gerald in his shaky little tone.

“You can’t force someone to stay here. Even I want to leave”, said Natalia.

“You are not”, said Willman while shifting his aim towards her. “What if one of you has planted something in this room that might lead to one of our deaths?”

“Melanie. Please lock the room from outside”, Willman ordered her.

The maid who was standing outside the door appeared to be horrified all this while. When Willman ordered her to close the door, she did so faithfully yet fearfully and stayed outside the hall.

******************************************************************************

Some other day in the past

“Pa.! Will it really work, the machine that you are going to build?”, the ten year old Gerald asked Arthur.

“Let’s keep this little secret between us”, he had said.

“What is it?”, the kid had asked in a curious tone.

“I don’t know if this is going to work”, Arthur had smiled.

Gerald – “Then why are you building it?”

Arthur – “To see if it works. Curiosity is some devil, isn’t it?”

He had laughed.

Gerald – “Pa..!”

Arthur – “Yes..!”

“Isn’t Uncle Frank building something similar?”, Gerald’s was curious .

“He was building something similar. Was..!”, Arthur smiled.

******************************************************************************

The present

“If you claim that your machine predicts it right, then we have an option”, said Natalia.

“What’s that?”, asked Gerald.

“Run the machine to check who will be the victim”, Natalia suggested.

“That’s a query too complex for my machine to handle”, Gerald adjusted his glasses while reaching for his hand kerchief.

A brief moment of silence loomed before Gerald spoke again.

“I don’t know if your machine could issue prophecy, but I now know one thing about it for sure. It has the power to melt your pride”, Natalia was in no mood to let go an opportunity to attack Gerald’s ego.

“Why are you not having the wine?” Willman posed a query and it was then that everyone realized it.  Everyone in the room was holding a wine glass, except for Gerald.

Willman shifted his aim towards Gerald and everyone dubiously looked at the glasses in their hands. The wine had invited their suspicion.

Gerald appeared humiliated, walked to each one of them, snatched their glasses and emptied them. When he was done with the last glass in the hall, he appeared to be vexed and threw an ugly glare at Willman.

“I didn’t say that you have poisoned us. It was just a casually inquiry”, Willman posed a wry smile.

The room returned to what could be aptly termed as normalcy – shell of quietness mixed with anxiety.

“What if you run a check on every individual present here, predicting the future of each one of us in turns?” Natalia suggested.

“That’s complex”, Gerald shrugged his shoulders.

Natalia – “about death? That should be a simple one”

Gerald – “I could do that”

“How much time would each check take?”, Willman asked.

Gerald – “Five minutes each”.

Linton – “Ah! You guys..! It’s a waste of t…”

He was yet to complete his sentence when Willman waved his pistol at him.

“All right! Have fun”, Linton exhibited his displeasure.

Goodsmith – “Six of us here. That would make it thirty minutes”.

“And we have around twenty five minutes left”, Gerald expressed his concern.

“Twenty six”, Willman corrected him.

“Twenty five minutes is all that we need”, said Natalia. Everyone looked at her.

“Come on Gerald, I expected something better from a mathematician of your stature”

“What?” he was still looking at her demanding an explanation.

“We just need to run five checks. And if none of five turns out to be a victim, then the one left is the one who is apparently going to die”, she explained while putting an extra stress on the word ‘apparently’.

“Gerald”, Willman exclaimed. “What are you looking at, just run your god damn machine”

Plunter continued to look unhappy, while Goodsmith had his complaining look at Linton, all through the scene.

Melanie continued to eavesdrop, standing behind the door. She appeared tensed! There was something wrong!

******************************************************************************

Yesterday

“Are you certain about the query that he is going to run?”, Person1 asked from the other end of the telephone line.

“Yes! He might have built the machine. But constructing queries in a way that machine understands it, is quite a challenge and takes time. A minor error and he might have to cut a sorry figure. Hence, he has decided the query that he is going to run tomorrow and has been rehearsing it”, Person2 explained.

Person1 – “And you sure that you will be able to manipulate the machine?”

Person2 – “You need not worry about that. When the machine runs tomorrow, it’s going to predict death. When he runs the second check, his name will pop out”

Person1 – “Great! But tell me one thing. The query for the second check, he has no clue that he might have to run it tomorrow. Would he be able to construct it tomorrow? Wouldn’t that be difficult? ”

Person2 – “That’s an easy one that even I could construct. Moreover, does it matter if he makes an error? Whether he makes an error or not, what it blurts out wouldn’t change. Not after I manipulate it”

Person1 laughed.

Person2 – “And what about your part?”

“You needn’t worry about that Melanie. I shall do it with a great perfection”, Natalia smiled.

******************************************************************************

The Present

The machine came to halt after displaying the result. Willman let out a sigh of relief after finding himself safe. Earlier, the checks against Goodsmith, Linton and Plunter had given similar result. They were all marked safe.

“With that we have only two of you left”, said Willman while still in possession of the pistol. “Good luck Gerald and you Ms Natalia”.

Both of them held their breath.

“We are running out of time. Run your stupid machine”, Natalia screamed. “And you better run your check on me”, she added.

******************************************************************************

Yesterday – Conversation continued

“Complaint as much as you would want to! But I still have my share of doubts. Is he really going to kill himself?” Natalia expressed her doubts.

“The way I know him, he would go to any extent to prove that his machine is right. People like Gerald, would kill themselves but not their ego”, said Melanie.

Natalia remained silent.

“Moreover, nothing should stop us from trying”, Melanie laughed.

******************************************************************************

The Present

“For god’s sake put those guns down”, Gerald screamed.

Willman looked at everyone. They seem to have bought Gerald’s concern and had their suspicious looks at Willman.

“Come on you guys.! Not me”, said Willman and kept his pistol on the table. He didn’t appear happy doing so.

The machine began to slow down. It was few more seconds before they knew the outcome.

Tension was only mounting. Natalia was only faking it. She knew what was going to happen.

******************************************************************************

Yesterday, Night

“You wouldn’t sleep tonight, would you?”, Melanie laughed.

“Answer my question, will you?”, the male voice on the other end of the phone sounded tensed.

“Okay.! Everything is set.! The machine is going to mark Natalia to be victim”, she replied.

“And you sure that he is going to kill her?”, he was far from being convinced.

“Yes.! And for the zillionth time I repeat! To prove his machine right, he is going to kill Natalia”, she was tired of explaining him. “I feel sorry for her. She is going to die for no good reason”, she let out a sigh.

“No good, you say? So you haven’t got the point, have you?”

“No..! Care explaining?”

“There are three people who are in contention for Goodsmith’s funding. Gerald, Natalia and me. Gerald has already built his product. If it works, Goodsmith is going to buy it”

“You needn’t tell me what I already know. I was the one who suggested the plan to you. If Gerald dies, Natalia and you will be left vying for the sponsorship”

“Yes..! But if I could somehow get Gerald into killing Natalia, then everything shall fall in place. I will have no one to compete with”

Melanie didn’t respond.

“So now you tell me, is Natalia dying for no good?”, he asked.

“No Mr Plunter. She isn’t”, Melanie smiled.

******************************************************************************

The Present

Standing behind the door, Melanie was soaked in sweat. When the machine had predicted death in the room, she was shocked.

When the machine had marked everyone apart from Gerald and Natalia as safe, it had sent chills down her spine. Something wasn’t right!

Gerald had run the last check – Is Natalia going to die in the hall?

Time was running out. In few seconds, they shall get an answer. Irrespective of whether the machine comes up with an ‘yes’ or ‘no’, they will be left with one minute.

‘If Natalia is marked safe, then it would mean that I am the one, who is going to die’, he was certain.

He knew one thing for sure; the machine can never go wrong. Or at least, he would not let it go wrong – Not in front of others.

******************************************************************************

Today, early in the morning

“Wait, what?”, Linton couldn’t come in terms with what Goodsmith had demanded.

“Do as I say. You could reserve your exclaims for later”, the latter instructed him.

“I have already instructed Melanie to rig the machine. She must have done it by now”, Linton sounded helpless.

“If I remember correctly, you had earlier described Melanie as one smart lass. That it would take her not more than ten minutes to manipulate the machine. Would you like to make an amendment to your earlier statement?”

“No.! But..”

“Good! In that case, we have all the time in the world. Ask her to reset her changes. Let the machine behave the way it is supposed to”, Goodsmith posed a wide smile, a fake one though.

“Mr Potman would be an unhappy man”

“Unhappy soul, you mean?”, Goodsmith offered a correction.

“Look Smith! There was a reason why your father had stopped funding it. There was a reason why he had asked me to see to it that the machine fails”, Linton tried explaining.

“I understand. My father had publicly ridiculed Arthur’s efforts, stating that Arthur is building a money eating machine. He went on further, saying that a million Stellars has been wasted on the machine and burning that much money in the hearth would have done far more good by helping one to beat the winter cold. My father did have a great sense of humor, didn’t he?”

“That was an alibi”

“What do you mean that was an alibi?”

“Your father Mr Potman had always despised the idea of building the machine. But since most of the board members were in its favor, he had no other go. However, he kept trying his best to stop the machine from taking shape”

“There was some Mr Frank, who was building a similar machine. He had died under mysterious circumstances. Did my father…” Goodsmith had his suspicion

“Oh.. For god’s sake Smith! Your father wouldn’t do that!” Linton found it hard to digest the accusation.

“Yet, he had no qualms about his death. He felt that the death of Frank had put an end to machine’s chances. However, his joy was short lived as Arthur came out of the blue and put forth a similar idea. Tell me one thing, what was my father’s intention? Why was he against the machine?”

“Your father had realized that such thing would only push the mankind into misery. We are happy as long as we don’t know tomorrow”

“What if I get to know that I have a better tomorrow? For instance, if I get to know that I am going to get a Million Stellars in cash, it would only make me happy”, Goodsmith scoffed at Linton’s argument.

“It’s the element of uncertainty that brings in excitement in your life. Without uncertainty, a thing called hope wouldn’t exist. It’s the hope that is the driving energy of the universe. And consider this! What if you get to know that there is something bad in store? Would it still make you happy?”

“Come on Linton. You are ruining my fun with your philosophies. I am an optimistic man”

“And perhaps you are a man with a great memory, who remembers his father’s dying wish”

Ensure that the machine never gets built?, Goodsmith laughed. “Yes! True..! But how is Melanie’s plan of manipulating the machine to predict a death is going to help us fulfill my father’s last wish?”, he asked.

“It’s going to predict Gerald’s death. Either he shall let the machine fail or he shall kill himself to prove the machine right. In either case, there’s no future for the machine”, Linton explained.

“Or we could just let it behave the way it is supposed to. See if it works for real. If it does, buy it. The debate on it pros and cons could wait”, Goodsmith tried convincing him.

“But…”, Linton tried not to give up, when Goodsmith cut him short.

“We don’t have much time left Uncle Linton, do we? Now do the sweet thing. Call up Melanie. Ask her to reset the machine”

******************************************************************************

The Present

From the exclamations that she heard from the hall, Melanie learnt that the machine had marked Natalia as safe.

‘Everything is happening as per her earlier plans. Is this an extreme case of coincidence? Or is there a possibility that Gerald has made an error in the second query?’  She was filled with thoughts.

******************************************************************************

Something about Melanie

When she sought an employment at Gerald’s house by posing as a maid, she had done so for a reason. She was Frank’s daughter. Frank, someone who had tried building a similar machine long before Arthur did. His efforts had come to a halt, when he had died under mysterious circumstances.

As a kid, Melanie had always believed that Arthur was responsible for her father’s death and that he had stolen her father’s idea. Alas, what could a child aged ten do? She thought that she would grow up one day, only to avenge her father’s death.

The destiny didn’t seem to be in agreement with her plans. Arthur had died even before she could do something about him.

When Linton learnt about Frank’s kid who held Arthur responsible for her father’s death, a kid filled with vengeance, he had found a way to carry out Mr Potman’s words.

Ensure that the machine never gets built’, was Mr Potman’s last words after learning that Gerald was trying to build what his father couldn’t.

Linton asked Melanie to work as a maid at Gerald’s and spy on him. Melanie was a smart kid. It was not only on Gerald that she had kept her eye on. She was secretly monitoring his research, his findings and every gear that went into the making of the machine.

When Gerald had claimed that he has built the machine, it didn’t take her long to draft a plan. She proposed in front of Linton, the plan of manipulating the machine. It was only later that she had realized it – Here was a chance for her to win a fortune, from more than one channel.

She secretly contacted Natalia and told her that she has a plan to get rid of Gerald and help Natalia in winning the ‘Newway Investors’ funding. She held a similar secret discussion same with Plunter.

It all looked in good shape, until Plunter had change in plans. He wanted the machine to point at Natalia and force Gerald into killing her. Carrying out Plunter’s task wouldn’t change anything for her – Natalia has already paid her and she wouldn’t be alive to question her. Gerald would anyway be charged with Natalia’s murder and he wouldn’t escape the death penalty.

She had stayed unperturbed, until the arrival of Linton’s call early in the morning. Linton had revoked his instruction. ‘Goodsmith wants to test the machine for real. He is curious to know if it actually works and if it does, he wants to buy it. So reset your changes’, he had said.

She would now need to repay the advance money that she had received from Plunter and Natalia.

*****************************************************************************

The Present

“Does it mean that you are going to be the victim?”, Natalia asked.

Gerald was lost in thoughts. He appeared to be tensed. ‘I know my machine. It can’t lie. But who is going to kill me?’

He noticed the pistol that Willman had earlier rested on the table. ‘Shouldn’t let anyone touch it’, he realized and quickly seized it from the table.

“Gerald.! Don’t panic. There’s a good chance that the machine has a bug. Look there’s no danger in the room. Please don’t panic”, Willman tried to calm him down.

Willman had no belief in the prophecy. However, gun in the hands of Gerald was of a significant concern.

‘Don’t panic. Yes. I shouldn’t.! There’s a good chance that a heart attack could kill me. Don’t panic. Stay calm’, Gerald tried taking deep breaths, while maintaining his firm grip over the pistol.

Time was running out. A minute away, before the fate would be decided. But whose fate? The Fate of Gerald or that of the Prophecy machine?

Or, did the wine indeed have minor proportions of poison. Since I have drank them all, is there a chance that they all have accumulated in dangerous proportions’, he tried giving it a thought.

“Nobody moves until the clock ticks. Nobody!” Gerald instructed everyone.

‘Everything is working as per plan’, Natalia felt.

Melanie has screwed up my plan. I shall not forgive her for this’, Plunter had anger bubbling up, something that he couldn’t display on his face.

‘Did she forget to reset her changes?’, Linton had his doubts.

‘Linton must have disobeyed my instruction. He must have told Melanie to stick to the original plan’, Goodsmith was contemplating.

If he continues to panic, he is going to die out of heart attack for sure. Or he might kill one of us. I shouldn’t have carried my pistol in the first place’, Willman continued to stay concerned.

Forty more seconds to go.

Melanie continued to stay behind the door and tried to figure out what was happening.

‘I remember, I am certain. I have undone my changes. The machine shouldn’t have predicted death in the first place. And now it’s hinting at the death of Gerald. Of course it was the original plan, but after the reset, it shouldn’t have behaved so’, Melanie was confused, terribly.

30 more seconds!

‘What if I don’t die? I can’t let the machine to be dismissed as a faulty invention. I can’t let that happen. Thirty more seconds. If nothing wrong is likely to happen, I shall make it happen. I have the gun. I could kill myself. Or is there a way that I don’t die and yet prove the machine right’, Gerald thought hard.

All of a sudden it occurred to him. ‘There’s a way!’. His eyes lit up.

“The machine had predicted death in the hall, hasn’t it?”, Gerald asked. Everyone nodded in confusion.

Gerald and checked the magazine. It was loaded.

“Gerald.. Easy on the gun, please!”, Willman had his heart pounding fast and loud.

“The machine has marked every one of you safe. Hasn’t it? Natalia, Mr Linton, Mr Goodsmith, Plunter and Willman. All five of you?”, he asked and slowly began to walk towards the door.

“That’s right”, Willman replied. Everyone continued to stay confused.

Natalia and Linton tried veiling their excitement. ‘This fool is going to kill himself’, they felt.

Gerald continued to walk towards the door. “Death in the hall! And all five of you are safe! Isn’t that right?”, Gerald repeated his question.

‘ Death in the hall. Five of them safe. If the machine is stating the truth, that would mean that Gerald is going to be the victim. ‘, Melanie repeated the words in her mind. ‘Wait! That doesn’t prove that Gerald is going to be the victim. There is also a chance that the Gerald might have made some mistake or..’, her eyes widened as she realized it.

‘Or there’s a good chance that..’ It was too late, by the time it occurred to her! All of a sudden, the door opened and Melanie who was leaning against it, lost her balance and fell inside.

“I am sorry Melanie Frank”, Gerald whispered in her ears.

Melanie appeared horrified. ‘So he knew my identity’

Five seconds left.

“I am doing this for my father. And you should be doing it for yours “, Gerald spoke in her ears.

Even before she could decipher the last line of his, he had fired six bullets into her chest! There were so many questions left unanswered.!

**THE END**

-CHAN

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

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