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

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The secret in the Time Capsule – A short story

“What did you write?” she sounded curious.

Rudwig smiled at her and pressed the paper into another fold. “Are you done yet?” he asked her, while putting the folded paper into an envelope.

“I thought I had all the time in the world”, she complained and buried her face back into the paper.

They were on the green grounds of Welsa, under one of the large Palmigo trees.

“But Willy will be here any minute. And I don’t want to include him in this game. This should stay between us, we two”, he issued his share of complaints. William was the other kid in the neighborhood. Rudwig had always insisted that Jenny should stay away from him.

“But Willy is a nice g..”, she was trying to put forth her argument, but Rudwig’s upset looks didn’t let her complete it.

After about five minutes, Jenny appeared content with whatever she had written. She looked at Rudwig and smiled.

“The paper, put it in that envelope”, he instructed her while pointing at the envelope that laid next to her.

After she pushed the folded paper into the envelope, he wrote their names on each of the envelope and sealed them in a plastic bag. He then put the sealed bag inside a large glass bottle and poured the blue colored liquid into it.

“What’s that?”, the ten year old Jenny asked him.

“I borrowed it from Uncle Hanks. He had told me that it prevents the paper from ageing and would keep it safe”, replied the eleven year old kid.

He then closed the lid of the bottle and lowered it into a hole that he had dug up in the ground. The 4 feet deep hole had taken him more than an hour to dig.

“So, what next?”, Jenny asked.

“So, we meet here after ten years and then we shall unbury this time capsule. We will then read each other’s secrets clear and loud”, he said.

“Ten years it is. Under no circumstances shall the capsule be unearthed before its time”, she giggled after making a loud announcement.

“Ten years it is”, he adjusted his hat to suggest that he would keep the word.

“Yes! Until then, my secret stays with me and yours stays with you. Nobody else should know the secret”, she smiled.

“Yes. Nobody! Except the time capsule”, he added and both of them laughed.

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

After two years, upon his father’s job transfer, Rudwig had to move to the city of Nuivenna.

“So when am I going to see you again?” Jenny had asked.

“In the summer break, I shall board the first train to Welsa”, he had promised.

“You shall write to me until then, wouldn’t you?” she had asked.

“Yes!” he had smiled.

“Keep away from the city habits”, she had smiled after issuing the instruction.

“And you..! You keep away from Willy”, he had laughed.

Weeks passed and then months. They wrote to each other every second day. Rudwig shared stories from his new school, the life in the city and much more. Jenny wrote about her music classes, her new pets, how Willy fixed her bicycle and much more. They also discussed about the trending topics like newly elected president of United States – Grover Cleveland and about the arrival of Statue of Liberty in New York.

Eight months passed and then all of a sudden Rudwig stopped receiving letters. He grew worried and wrote to her a couple of more times, but with no luck.

And then, on one day he received a letter from her parents informing him about her untimely demise. She had died due to the yellow fever.

He wept and wept for weeks. Her death had pushed him into a state of despair.

In the break of summer, he caught the first train to Welsa. Upon reaching Welsa, he straight away went to the green grounds. He spotted the Palmigo tree under which he and Jenny had buried the time capsule. He wanted to read Jenny’s secret.

He picked up a shovel and began digging. All of a sudden he remembered it- words from Jenny.

Ten years it is. Under no circumstances shall the capsule be unearthed before its time”, was the agreed upon word. That would be eight years from now.

He refilled the hole and walked back. He promised himself that he would return after eight years to open the time capsule.

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

After eight years..

Rudwig was in college now, pursuing his degree in art history. He had been waiting on his heels for the day he would be able to read Jenny’s secret. And when the day arrived, he rushed to Welsa.

Welsa was no more a town, but a large city.

When he reached the green grounds, he was heartbroken. On the once green grounds of Welsa, now stood a large factory guarded by tall brick walls. “Welsa steel factory”, the board read.

He knew where exactly the capsule was buried, for the old Palmigo tree was still there. Under the tree staring back at him was a large stone sculpture that stood as a pride of the factory. The capsule would be right underneath it, he knew.

He thought of placing a request in front of the corresponding authority, to allow him to displace the sculpture and dig up the ground beneath it. However, he was appalled when he learnt that the factory was owned by Willy’s father.

He feared that Willy might get to know about the time capsule and would try to break open the secret.

He travelled back to Nuivenna. “A day will come when I get to read Jenny’s secret. That will be the day when I will be the owner of this land and this factory will be brought down to rubbles. I shall wait until then”, he  had silently vowed.

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

He began working as a clerk for one of the businessmen of Nuivenna, who was into railroad constructions. He quit his job after a few years.  From the savings that he had, he started selling goods door to door. He sold items like perfume and other cosmetic products.

All that he was trying to do was to gather enough money to buy Willy’s factory.

In the year 1905, Vyzan – a neighbouring country had declared a war on Originia. The president had urged the Originian men to fight for the nation. Rudwig joined the army and participated in the war.

After 3 long years of battle, Originia won. Rudwig was one of those two hundred brave soldiers who were honoured with the President’s medal.

He travelled to Welsa during the snowy winter, to see if the factory still stood there. The factory was still there, but it had only grown larger. The tall brick walls were now replaced by steel gates, gates that surrounded a large acre including the old Palmigo tree.

However, when William learnt the news of Rudwig’s arrival, he rushed to meet him. He told him how dearly he had missed Rudwig all these years. He kept asking him about the tales of war and heaped praises on him for fighting for the country.

“How much would it cost me to buy this from you?”, Rudwig had asked after the tea, leaving William confused.

“Why would you want to buy the factory Rudy? My father wouldn’t allow that”, he had replied.

“You have built your empire on something that’s dear to my heart. Let it take years and decades. But a day will come for sure, when I will own this”, Rudwig had uttered those words.

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

Upon returning to Nuivenna, Rudwig invested the savings from his earlier business and his military rewards into the ferry service that a friend of his had started.

The business took off really well and earned Rudwig a good fortune. He bought a low cost ferry and started his own small scale cargo service.

Very soon he had competitors – William one of them. William had ventured into the business of Cargo shipment and had vessels of all sizes. Rudwig’s business started shrinking and his aversion towards William began growing the other way.

With every day passing William’s business grew only bigger. He had ventured into multiple business lines varying from health care to automobile, retail to real estate.

With whatever money he had, Rudwig left to Cercia, a neighbouring country. It was a poor state, fighting its socio-economic adversities. Rudwig bought a farm land and in parallel began a small money lending institution.

He began cultivating fiber crops and had the borrowers working for him in his land. His cotton exports grew bigger. Few years later, he stopped exporting raw cotton and decided to start his own cotton mill.

His business grew, but he was still not in a position to buy the steel factory from William. William had turned into a powerful businessman and was counted amongst the riches of Originia.

Rudwig developed thoughts of expanding into a new vertical. He discussed with the state, the need of owning military weapons and that manufacturing them would be a low cost affair than importing them.

With the state aid fund, Rudwig built defence machinery plant.  For ten good years, his company continued manufacturing arms and sold it to the government.

In the year 1914, the Great War broke out between the great economic powers. William, who was one of the most influential figures in Origiana by now, had urged the President of Origiana to promote peace amongst it’s neighbouring nations.

The President invited his neighbouring countries including Cercia to sign a peace treaty. Under this treaty, the countries were required to stay away from the war and had to stop investing in military weapons.

The President of Cercia signed the treaty and the government stopped its defence investment with an immediate effect. Rudwig had to shut down his weapon manufacturing plant. He understood this as a tactical game play by William to ruin his business.

The Great War stopped in the year 1918. Over the next five years Rudwig tried running various business but with no great luck.

Rudwig was fifty and unmarried. His lifetime goal had turned into bringing William to ruins, and to buy his steel factory. Rudwig had believed that it was William who had stood between him and the secret of Jenny hidden in the time capsule. A secret for which he was longing since years.

He started a small scale steel plant in Cercia. However, the quality of the ore available in the lands of Cercia was low, it didn’t flourish. He then re-began his money lending institution, this time at a larger scale. Over the next ten years, it grew into becoming the largest bank in Cercia – “J.R bank of Cercia”.

The sixty year old Rudwig, travelled to Welsa and met William. William was preparing for the presidential elections.

“How are you doing Rudy?”, William had greeted him.

“I am doing good. Good luck with your elections Willy”, he had wished him luck.

“I assume you are here with an offer to buy my factory”, William had smiled.

Rudwig understood it as William’s attempt at mocking him.

“No.! Not now! Not before you are forced into selling it to me”, he had said.

“Oh.! Rudy..! You could have it. I will be more than willing it give it away for you, as a gift”, William had offered.

“Not as a gift Willy. I had told you, I will force you into selling it to me”, Rudwig had smiled after declining his offer.

“But why not?” William had asked.

“Good luck with your elections”, was Rudwig’s response, before making an exit.

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

William won the elections and became the president of Origiana.

Meanwhile, Rudwig exploited his financial stature to gain a stronghold across the political ranks of Cercia.

He contested the next term elections and went onto become the president of Cercia. Over a period of five years, border disputes rouse between Origiana and Cercia.

William wanted to initiate peace talks with Rudwig, but men in the assembly urged William to wage a war against Cercia. William put forth his refusal to do so and stepped down from the presidential position.

The new president took over and declared a war against Cercia. Rudwig who had secretly revived the defence wing during his ongoing tenure, was well prepared for the war.

The war lasted for six months and Cercia had managed to defeat Origiana.

A month later, Rudwig  travelled to Origiana with a feel of pride of having won the war. He wanted to visit William and tell him that the time has arrived for him to take over his factory.

When he reached Origiana, he was devastated by the sight of pain and death of the people over there. He was heartbroken, for he believed that he was responsible for the sorrow of the country in which he once lived.

“Jenny wouldn’t be happy, if she was alive”, he thought. The guilt swarmed over and he disappeared silently.

No one heard from him for about a year or so.

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

“Willy..!”, he was struggling to keep his eyes open.

William had moistened eyes when he sat next to the bed on which Rudwig laid. They were in a hospital.

“How did you get to know that I was here?”, Rudwig asked.

“Rudy.!”, said William. “I think you need to rest”, he added. William’s grand kid brought a flower bouquet and placed it on the table besides the bed.

Rudwig was battling his life after developing serious heart conditions. He had grown pale and weak.

“Rest? That I would Willy, but only after I issue my apology to you, for having hated you”, he paused for a deep breath. “I need to apologize for all the agony that I brought upon the country”, he added.

William held his hand firmly and smiled. “I stayed away from the war, because I was afraid of being a sinner. If I were brave, I would have stayed in the position. I should have protected my people either by preventing the war or by winning it. I did neither of those”.

He continued, “War was inevitable Rudwig.  If not you, somebody else would have done it. No matter the choice that you made, you stood by your people and that is what matters”.

“ Oh.! Willy.!”, Rudwig was in tears. “You are bringing upon so much peace to the heart of a dying man”.

William smiled through his sadness and so did his family.

“If only you could do me one more favour”, Rudwig asked with a pleading eyes.

“I have my assumption Rudy. Now you tell me, if I have assumed it right?”, William asked.

“You could have all my wealth and all my fortune. I had earned it all for the only thing that mattered to me on this earth. For something that lies beneath your steel factory. Please let me have it and allow the man die in peace”, he sobbed while he pleaded.

William’s son stepped forward. He had the glass bottle in his hand. He placed the time capsule next to the bed.

Rudwig looked at William and then at the capsule in disbelief. He was looking at it finally. The glass bottle -soiled by the age, filled with pale blue fluid and inside which floated a sealed plastic bag.

Rudwig had no qualms and complaints. He didn’t want to know how William learnt about the time capsule, for the only thing that mattered now was to read Jenny’s secret.

He signalled William’s son to open the bottle for him. He took out the plastic bag and wiped it clean before handing it over to Rudwig.

Rudwig opened the bag with his trembling hands. He took out two folded papers from it. “Our secrets”, he laughed in joy through his tears. “Of mine and Jenny!”.

He opened them, but his struggling eyes couldn’t help him read. He handed them over to William’s son. “Could you read it for me, Son?” he asked.

He nodded and opened the first paper. The words were almost faded and faintly visible.

“Jenny is the most beautiful girl in the world and I love her”, he read it.

“Ah! Ha ha! That is my letter! This is embarrassing. Wrote it as a kid”, Rudwig laughed while offering justification. William’s family smiled.

“Read Jenny’s secret now, will you?”, he asked.

William’s son opened the other paper. The words were not as faded as those in the other letter.

“It says”, he paused and smiled. “Rudwig is the most handsome boy in the world and I love him”.

“See.! I knew..!”, Rudwig had exclaimed in joy before breathing his last. William smiled through his tears. He was content, for having seen his friend die in peace.

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

The day Jenny died; William had rushed to the green grounds. He had dug up the hole below the Palmigo tree and had unearthed the bottle. He had known about the Time capsule all along, he had watched Jenny and Rudwig burry the bottle under the tree.

He had opened the letters and had wept hard after reading them.

After slipping one of those letters into his pocket, he had torn a paper from his notebook and begun to write.

 

**THE END**

-CHAN

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Thank you for reading this.

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Dew drop, Sunshine and a Blade of Grass..! (Episode -10)

Chapter 9

A new beginning

(Haven’t read the previous episode? click here to read it)

(Click here to read the first episode)

Present

“You needn’t apologize Sid”, said Amulya.

She was wearing a black t-shirt and pajamas. Her hair was tied to form a bun. With a serious face, she was no longer the 21 year old kid she used to be. A Lot had changed over a period of ten days.

She had joined a theatre group and had shifted to a ladies PG.

It’s said that there are five moments in a woman’s life, which bring in a significant change in her behaviour and outlook.

  • The First time she gets know that some guy likes her.
  • The First time a guy tells her that he loves her.
  • A guy breaks her heart for the first time.
  • That moment when she gets married.
  • That very moment, when she gives birth to her first kid.

Amulya was living in the aftermath of the third. I could rightfully take the credit for her new-found tough attitude towards life.

“You must go back home. I know I disappointed you, but why are you punishing yourselves for the mistake that you haven’t done”, I tried to convince her, once again. Her parents had tried doing it every single day, but in vain.

She looked at me sharply. Her innocent eyes were long gone.

“Sid..! I am happy the way I am.

Why are you considering it as my self-imposed punishment? Who told you that I don’t like doing theaters? I love acting. In fact, I always wanted to be an actress”, she spoke like a lawyer fighting her case.

“But why a sudden interest in acting? Why didn’t you tell your parents about it, when they were planning to get you married?”, I put forth my argument.

“I didn’t have courage! I am not denying the fact that you left me shattered by calling off our engagement. That wasn’t easy for me”, she paused to study my reaction.

The sense of shame and guilt had swarmed over me. I looked away.

“Moments like those don’t make you weak; they make you tough. It gives you enough time to think about your life. It makes you realize that you should start making decisions, instead of letting others do it for you.

Let me tell you, now I have an excuse to pursue my interest. I am able to do something beyond my studies. And I am very much excited to embrace it”.

“But..!”, in spite of feeling happy for her, I wanted to give my one last try.

“Sid.!  I am happy now. It’s a new beginning for me. Please don’t force me into my old life. I am feeling relieved that I don’t have to live with the nerd tag any more. Want to do something cool.!”, she pleaded, gently.

“All the best, then!”, I wished her luck.

“Thank you Sid. And chill dude!”, said she. She had intentionally played the ‘dude’ word trying to prove that she was happy. I smiled in return.

I was filled with remorse and wanted to come out of it. I sincerely hoped that she is and will be happy with her life.

“It’s my marriage. I want you to be there”, I said.

“Wow.! That’s wonderful?”, she exclaimed. I fell silent.

“Where’s the invitation card, Sid?”, she asked, this time playfully.

“I will text you the time and venue in a while. Hoping to see you tomorrow”, I said.

“Tomorrow? Sid..! They are picking actors for their next play. I should be here. It’s very important for me. I am extremely sorry”, she put up a sorry face.

“That’s okay..! Which play?” I asked.

“Based on O Henry’s last leaf”, she answered.

“Good luck”, I wished her luck, with a faint little smile.

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

Chapter 10

The proposal

Past

I double checked the ring in the velvet box. The beautiful jewel, with a heart shaped bright white stone was shining brightly under the sun.

A little girl tapped the window mildly. She was ten, I guess.  I was at the signal, waiting for it to turn green. I lowered the window and she held a bunch of roses towards me. It was as if she knew my plans for the day.

“How much?”, I asked.

“Ten rupees anna”. She handed me a rose.

She had a large blue polythene bag, good enough to carry over a hundred roses. “How much for the entire bag?”, I asked.

She was taken aback by the huge order that I had placed. I think she wasn’t prepared for the math.

She took a while before replying. “Hmm.. Don’t know uncle. Let me count”. I don’t know what prompted it, but she had switched to ‘uncle’ from ‘anna’.

Seeing her struggle to count, I asked her if she knew how to count.

“Not properly, anna”. The anna word had reappeared and I felt good.

“See.., this is why you should go to school. Okay.! Tell Me.! How many roses did you carry in the morning?”

“Ninety. And I have already sold ten”, replied the proud little girl.

“That makes it, eighty in the bag. And I have to pay you eight hundred”, said I in an attempt to teach her mathematics. She nodded with a smile.

I didn’t want to give her a lecture on the importance of schooling. Not today, I thought. I took out two notes of thousand rupee.

“Give me all those roses. I am going to pay you 2000 Rs. I want you to give this one note to your parents, showing it as your earning. With the other note, buy yourselves a nice little chappal and a cute little frock”, I said.

I don’t know if she understood it completely and I wasn’t sure if she was convinced the thousand Rupee note. She nodded in response and handed me over the large blue bag.

“Thanks anna”. She put into exercise, her dimpled cheeks.

I took out a rose from the bag and gave it to her. I think she felt a little shy, so she quickly ran across the street after refusing my rose.

‘This rose thing is indeed difficult’, I smiled to myself. The signal went green, the biker behind me honked and I moved my car.

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

I had worn a white full sleeved shirt and white trousers – Helps you with positive vibes while talking to a girl, somewhere I had read. However, when I reached the college, Mother Nature had some other plans in store.

In no time, the sunny day had turned rainy. After parking the car in the parking space, I dialed her number.

“Hey I am in front of your college”, I said.

“And I am inside it”, she replied.

“I haven’t carried my umbrella. Can you come out?”

“Sid..! Even I haven’t carried any! Who would carry an umbrella during summer! Moreover, it’s ethnic day. I am in saree. You don’t want me to spoil it, do you?”, she scolded me with a mix of laughter.

‘And I am in white and white. People are going to file an obscenity case against me for wearing wet white cloths”, I badly wanted to say. Intended words didn’t escape my mouth after I pictured her in the saree!

‘Wow.!’, I silently exclaimed. “Okay. Tell me where I should come”, I asked her, hiding my excitement.

“4th block, third floor. Information science final year classroom”, she replied.

“You got to be kidding. I am not coming to your class”, I complained like a kid. I didn’t want my proposal plans to be ruined.

“Come on. It’s ethnic day. We don’t have lectures today. Everyone is busy posing for photographs”, she said.

“But.. You wanted me to surprise you”, I said.

“Yeah! Surprise me in front of my friends”

All rite lady! You are asking for it. I am going to propose you, in front of your friends.  Don’t blame me later,  thought.

“All rite! In two minutes”, I said and cut the call.

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

Thanks to my sprint across their slushy college ground, it appeared as if I had spilled a can full of chocolate milk shake, all over my pant. My rear had got leopard prints all over it. The wet white shirt had turned transparent and I was standing in front of her classroom with a large blue plastic, torn at places.

I wasn’t offering a pleasant sight. The class stood staring at me and I felt like a clown.

I looked at Anahita. She was looking beautiful in her mild orange colored Saree. She had let loose her hair and had a bindi sitting prettily between her eyebrows. Her long earrings were dancing each time she moved. I am not sure if there is a research done on it, but on any given day, traditional Indian attire adds to the beauty of a woman.

When the girl you love starts looking extra beautiful, it grows you nervous and makes you struggle to breath. You will find it hard to resist the urge to continue looking at her. I was struggling to breathe now.

“He’s Sid, my friend”, she introduced me to her friends. I think the other group had already started gossiping.

“Hi.! And she’s Anahita”, I introduced her to her friends. I thought that would make them laugh and project my humorous side. To my disappointment, none of them laughed. My confidence sunk to bottom in seconds.

What was I thinking.! I felt stupid. This proposal thing is not going to happen today, not in front of her friends, I knew.

“Belated wishes Anahita”, I wished her and held the blue polythene bag towards her. Few roses and stems of other few were peeping through the plastic. “A bag full of roses”, I heard some girl whispering. I could easily trace the hint of mockery in it.

“So, That’s how you surprise people? With a bag full of roses?”, Anahita asked without batting an eye.

“Err. Hmm. I don’t know”, I smiled like a fool. God..! Why isn’t she smiling! Didn’t she like the surprise, I questioned myself.

Being in the middle of the unfamiliar college crowd was getting me suffocated.

“Happy birthday again”, I said. “Got to go”, I waved a bye after realizing that I won’t be able to propose her today. Without waiting for her response, I quickly ran down the stairs. I think, I heard them all laugh.

I had hardly entered the college ground, when my phone rang. The rain had refused to slow down. I ran under the tree to answer it.

“Where are you?”. It was Anahita.

“Under the tree”.

“Which one?”, she asked.

“The green one”, I said. And before she could ask me to stop answering like an idiot, I quickly added “The one in front of the e block”.

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

“You have spoilt your saree”, I said pointing at it. In spite of walking under the umbrella, she was completely drenched. Rain was dancing in every possible axes.

“That’s okay. Buy me a new one”, she said and before I could reply, she handed me over the plastic bag of roses. Rain water had formed puddles all over the ground and there was one next to us, under the tree.

“You didn’t like the flowers, did you?”, I asked.

“Everyone in the class is making fun of me Sid. Especially, my class guys! They think that you are my boyfriend”, she made a complaining face.

The wet green leaves hanging from the tree, were kissing her cheeks. Rain drops were running down them. I cleared them for her.

“Oh.! I am sorry”.

“Sid..! Do you want to come upstairs and flex some muscles?”, she winked.

“Ah..err.. I don’t know. I mean I can. But..”, I started searching for an appropriate answer.

“You are impossible”, she laughed.

“What?”, I asked.

“You were planning to propose me, weren’t you?”, she asked. My heart skipped a beat! Was I being so obvious in the class, I wondered.

I tried to smile through my nervousness.

“Yes or no?”, she asked like a kinder garden teacher.

“Yes..!”, I replied like a kid.

The tree and her umbrella weren’t able to completely shield us from the rain.

“How were you planning to propose me? I am curious.”

Her question and the tone, with which she asked it, conveyed something – The moment was here.

I think she was in love with me. Else, why would she want to see the way I wanted propose! What kind of proposal is she expecting? I can go on knees, but what if she finds it clichéd!

Parking aside my all other thoughts, I decided to start with a speech. I adjusted my hair. “Anahita..! I was always looking out for reasons to make you feel special. And I have found one in your birthday”, I started.

“Oh god..! Not again.!”, she interrupted me.

“What?”, I asked.

“This is the same speech that you gave on my birthday, right?”, she laughed.

I felt surprised and embarrassed at the same time. How did she know? Did someone upload that birthday video on YouTube? I felt puzzled.

“I was there. I watched the whole thing from the balcony. I was the one who had asked Sheetal to lie to you. Wanted to have some fun, you know.! I even have the video with me. My god..! That was quite a speech. And I must say, that was the most beautiful cake that I had ever seen”, she spoke with admiration.

“Oh.! I am embarrassed”, I said trying to look away, in spite of feeling proud.

“No. Not before you propose me”, she said.

Realizing that I can’t run my well-rehearsed speech, I had to proceed to the next ritual. “I can’t go on knees. I am wearing a white pant”, I complained.

She pointed at my trousers. I realized that my pant wasn’t white anymore.

“Fine..!”, I relented, went on knees and took out all those flowers from the bag. She lowered her umbrella to keep me away from the heavy downpour.

“Anahita..!”, I said.

“Too much rain. Can’t hear you?”, she said with a naughty smile.

“Anahita..!”, I added extra decibels to my usual tone. There was the sound of rain and that of mine. The stage was perfect.

“Yes..!”, she answered.

“I hope no one is watching this”, I spoke in anxiety.

“No stupid. Do it fast”. That was the first time that she had called me stupid. I felt good.

“Okay listen.! I am deeply and madly in love with you.

You might not be the most beautiful lady out there, but I know that you will be my most perfect partner.

I don’t want to be your boyfriend Anahita, but I want to be your lover. I don’t know the difference between two. But, I do know that I want to be with you, forever and ever.

Someday in the future, I do want to marry you.

And before my speech gets anymore filmy, boring and lengthy, and before I blabber some more nonsense, I want you to tell me that you love me. I want you to accept these roses, before my knee starts complaining”, I ended my one minute speech.

“Wow. This would be one of the most unromantic proposals ever made in the history. And with those wild thorns, your rose garden looks dangerous to touch”, said she and held the plastic cover towards me.

I was on my knees, wearing wet white cloths, completely soiled; under the tree; holding a bunch of more than hundred roses, wildly arranged.

In front of me was a girl whom I loved, standing under the rain holding a blue colored umbrella and a large polythene, signaling me to put all those roses in it – She was right..! This was one of most unromantic proposals that the world had ever seen.

“Everyone cannot have a perfect filmy proposal Anahita.! But I will try my best to ensure a perfect life ahead..!”, I said.

“I love you Sid.. and would love to stay with you, forever and ever”, she said with a sweet smile.

Is that all?  Isn’t she going to tell me why she loves me.! – I felt disappointed.

I heard her sneeze.

“Wow. That was cute. So can we kiss now?”, I asked. I think, I should have looked into her eyes and let that thing happen automatically, instead of seeking her permission.

“I think you watch too many movies. This kiss thing is not going to happen with me, not until we get married”, she said.

This sounded disappointing less and cute more.

“In that case, I don’t care if we are going to have an orthodox Hindu wedding. But when we do, I am going to ask one of my friend to conduct the ‘now you may kiss the bride’ ritual, right after I tie the mangalsutra around your neck”, I laughed.

“I am not going to oppose mister”, she said, this time in a loud voice.

I quickly remembered about the ring.

“Hey.. I have carried a ring too. Shall I put it around your finger?”, I asked and held out the ring in front of her.

“Oh my god..!”, she clasped in excitement and I stood up with a confused face.

“For few things, one must not seek permission”, she said, trying to hold back her tears. You can never know the kind of things that will run a girl into tears. She was immensely happy and emotional.

“But the kiss..”, I was about point out that she had denied me a kiss.

“Sid..! I said ‘few things’. And the kiss is definitely not amongst them”, she sneezed again.

“I will be waiting for the day we get married Anahita”, said I and put the ring around her fingers.

The rain continued to lash, heavily. And I stood there under the tree, with the lady I loved, being the happiest man on the earth.

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Chapter 11

The wedding

Present

My dad placed the silk pheta over my head and my mother adjusted my tie.

“Shall we?”, asked Amit. I nodded and he signalled the nurse to open the door.

I slowly entered the room. There were around fifty people in that large room of the hospital – friends, relatives, employees of my company and hospital staffs.

Anahita was on the bed, next to the wall. She was on artificial ventilation, with her eyes closed.

She had suffered a spinal haemorrhage. The loss of blood was immense and had refused to stop. Doctors had given up and she was counting her final moments.

When you know that your loved one is in her dying moments, you can do two things –

Think about the future without her and weep

Or..

Live in the present, make those final moments count. Make them beautiful and worth cherishing.I didn’t think twice before deciding to marry her.

On my request, my dad had asked the hospital administration to allow us carry out the ceremony in that room.

I wanted it to be special and romantic– something which Anahita always wanted. I had the whole hall filled with white flowers. Everyone was dressed in white.

Large photographs of her, capturing those beautiful moments of her journey – from childhood till date, were adorning the walls.

I looked at my watch. It was five forty in the morning.! In spite of being an early morning affair, I could see that no one had strained eyes.

Anahita’s mom offered me topor, the turban worn by the groom in Bengali weddings. I handed over my pheta to her and bent my head. She placed the topor on my head.

After taking blessings from my parents and her mom, I went up to her cot and stood next to it. The whole hall was silent.

I was perhaps the only person in the hall, who stood smiling. “It’s good to see you all here. Means a lot to me”, I thanked everyone in a calm voice.

“It doesn’t happen in Hindu marriages, but I want to deliver a short speech before I get married. You might feel that few things are being overdone and few other things might sound dramatic, but I want you people to know that, it’s important for me. It’s important for us. Please bear with it”, I added.

I turned towards Anahita.

“The moment is finally here Anahita. We are getting married”, I said and my voice choked. I wiped my tears and reminded myself to stay in the present.

“Every guy on the earth claims to be lucky, when he gets married to his lady love. But let me draw an exception”, said I and looked at her. All the calmness in the world was resting on her face. The nurse standing next to her was smiling through her tears.

“You are the luckiest woman in the world. You are getting married to the one who loves you the most.”, I paused again.

“On this day, I needn’t tell how much I love you. Because, you know about it and I don’t find a need for the world to know it. On this day, I don’t want to tell why I love you. Because, everything about you is equally specially to me. However, I do want to tell something. Something, which the world might find uninteresting, but you will definitely appreciate”.

The time read six. I signaled the staff and they slowly opened the windows of the hall. First rays of sun made their way to the hall and to the beautiful garden outside. Strokes of cold breeze traversed through the window. Birds started singing the music of the hour.

“Dew drops, sunshine and a blade of grass.! Few days back you had asked me the meaning of it, when I floated those words in front of you. That moment, I had no answer. But Now , I do have one.

The grass stays on the ground till it dies. Sun has been maintaining it’s routine for years. Dew drops make their presence felt in the night and starts disappearing with the first stroke of sunlight.

Everyday sun wakes up to tell us that it’s a new beginning.  That very moment, you neither think about the past, nor worry about the future. You live in the present, you live the moment.

That very moment..,where dew drop, sunshine and blades of grass meet up for the only time in the day. It comes only when your day begins, signalling a beautiful beginning to a new chapter.

The words ‘dewdrops, sunshine and a blade of grass’ will not make any difference to those who have not seen it. But those who have lived the experience, can understand the beauty behind it”, I said and pointed towards the window.

Everyone in the room looked in the direction. The tender rays of sun were amplifying the beauty of the moist green plants in the garden. The white flowers in the room, the greenery outside and the orange tinge from the sun light was dressing up the whole scene. It was grandeur in all its serenity.

“On this day, I want to tell you that our journey together has had several such chapters with beautiful beginnings”, my voiced choked again. Once again I asked myself to stop picturing a life without her.

“I want to tell you that this is once such new chapter in our life. A new chapter with a beautiful beginning. ! This day when I am marrying you, I want to tell you that this would the most beautiful chapter in my life, which I will cherish till my one last breath. Wishing both of us a happy married life”.

I was done with whatever I had to say. I don’t know if she was able to hear all that I said. But it didn’t matter. She already knew the only thing which I wanted her to know – that I love her.

Anahita’s mom handed me over the mangalsutra. The lady doctor and my mom along with a nurse approached the bed. They slowly lifted her head and I tied it around her neck.

Amit stepped forward. “Now you may kiss the bride”, he said.

I smiled at him and bent towards her.

I closed my eyes and placed a peck on her lips, though the ventilation mask. A tear silently slipped from the corner of her eye, down her cheeks!

New-Picture-37

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Chapter 56 and counting

The final chapter

Some day in the future

“I must say, that was quite a wine. I really appreciate the way you have dressed up the whole reading section. And I love the name that you have given to this place. It’s beautiful”, said the old man in his sixties. He was sitting in my cabin. He was a retired journalist.

I thanked him.

“Goaaaal….!!”, the loud cheer from the other hall breached its walls, reaching us feebly and I smiled.!!

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I stood there, facing the sky

On the top of the hill, all alone..!

All ears to the orchestra of birds

Arms outstretched, eyes closed and feeling the breeze against my skin!

The first ray of sun kissed my skin and made it warm.

I knew at once – A new day was here..!

A new day, marking a new beginning

Punctual as usual and being pleasant as ever!

I opened my eyes and looked all around..

Coming together for the only time in the day

Stood there.., smiling all around me…

Dewdrop, sunshine and blades of grass..!!

Adding a touch of beauty to the new beginning

Dewdrop, sunshine and a blade of grass..!!

gwxmxw

************   THE END  **********

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Thank you for reading. I cannot be sure that you have enjoyed this series, but I sincerely hope that you did.

If you have liked this series, please share it with your friends. That would help me reach maximum people, which I cannot otherwise. 🙂

I would also love to hear your feedback. You can provide yours by commenting here, or dropping an email to chandrajith.pb19@gmail.com.

Thank you once again 🙂 🙂

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