Fiction · writing

Infiltrated


He was careful to weigh the options before him- like a sentry who would be fired for one undue mistake, he was always on guard for the first sign of trouble. He had nightmares of machinated men leading cavalcades of monstrous armies across swathes of arid land whilst he slept on, the vaults unguarded, his possessions a gaping hole for the unstoppable forces of the enemies. He thought it could happen at any moment; while he slept with one hand on the gun, jerking awake and falling back into an uneasy doze, he made certain that the tiniest leap of a summer frog across the landing would register in his ears like a faithfully alert dog.

‘Excuse me?’

He was dreaming of armored men holding large swords and cutting through human flesh like a butter knife through its targeted slab. His eyes and chest hurt from the scratchy stretch of space between consciousness and unconsciousness on which he broodingly stood.

‘Excuse me!’

He startled and sat up straight, one hand on his rifle, eyes open for the first hint of trouble which would spring him into action, his other hand steady inches before the one-touch trigger which would raise the alarm.

Instead he was facing a woman. The prettiest woman he had ever seen. With ringlets of dark hair falling across her forehead and angled eyes the color of chestnuts lighting up a beautifully bronzed skin. In a moment, he forgot about the monsters and the dark creatures of the night and focused instead on her violet blouse with gold chains hung over firm breasts. He appreciatively admired her slim figure and his fingers relaxed around his weapon.

‘Excuse me?’ the woman said again, not angrily like most women would be but with a slightly quizzical expression that rounded up her delicate features, her mouth pouted into a round ‘O’.

‘May I help you madame?’, he finally replied in his glibbest voice, sending his hair flying backwards with a single flick of the neck.

‘Yes, I was wondering if you could guide me to a Mr.-Mr-‘

She held up a slip of paper, muttering words he couldn’t distinguish but the agonized urgency with which her hand pointed towards the paper in her hand moved him in a second and he reluctantly turned away from her to examine the paper.

‘Mr. Quastershquatsch’. He read out for her. He got that a lot. It was the weirdest name he had ever heard to.

‘Yeah, he’s up on the fifth.’

‘Well, that is so kind of you. I’m grateful.’

She flashed him a beautiful smile, revealing a set of glowing teeth and reached out to sign the visitor’s book before she turned away towards the glass doors.

He watched her retreating back with a smile of his own and settled back into the chair, the demons of his nightmares replaced by the beautiful woman he had just seen, pushing back his curls with his hands, he found her tender lips turned up and ready.

In a flash of lightning, he was awakened by the sounding of alarms.

The beautiful woman was at his desk again, signing herself off.

‘Looks like there is a spell of trouble brewing inside.’ She told him helpfully before letting herself out.

He ran up the stairs, confronted the gaping hole and looked around in despair for a signal. There were no large armies, no guns or cavalry men. Just a woman, three blocks away, turning up the collars of a dark coat in an alley which was carefully hidden from the nearest security camera, her breasts enlarged under the extra padding of weights they weren’t supposed to drag.

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Life · Love · writing

The Butterflies :)


Derek thought he held the whole world in his arms when he held her. It began with a simple kiss but soon turned out to be so much more than that. He felt like fireworks were playing a riot in the sky above him and bloody hell how!

The second time he met her, she looked adorable in a blue dress, stars shining in her eyes. He couldn’t resist; the kisses became louder and harder still. He found himself breathe in her hair, they smelt like roses and lavender and her skin was the most delicate thing he had ever touched.

That’s when he first asked her her name.

‘Delilah’, she replied simply in a voice with a lilt that seemed to entice him and tease him at the same time. He didn’t need to hear another word. She was pouting her lips and he bent down to kiss them but for once she pushed him away, laughing.

‘Aren’t you gonna tell me yours?’ she asked.

‘Derek’, he replied, too busy to reply, too busy to notice how big and round her eyes became when he uttered that one word.

‘So Derek. What do you do?’ she asked innocently. She was like an angel and soon he was telling her about his job in London, the long hours, the commute, the expenses and above all the loneliness of it all.

‘I can’t talk to just about anyone. And it’s just hard’, he told her.

‘Well let me make it a little easier for you,’ she flirted coyly and wrapped her arms around him and he forgot all about the world outside for a long time.

The next morning he packed to leave. He left his toothbrush behind, thinking, ‘I’ll be back here soon. He thought about how grand it would be, then took her leave gently.

When he finally got to the city, he took a cab to work and entered the  gigantic glass building with its glossy floors and perfectly lit hallway. It felt like heaven for a change, not a concrete prison.

He entered his cabin and took a step back. There was a note on the door. The handwriting was beautifully curled and simply read, ‘Derek’.

Deborah, he thought in a heartbeat, dropping his coat to the floor as he delicately picked up the note.

Opened it. It read, ‘You gave me a beautiful weekend. But I cannot belong to you. I can belong to no human being, Derek. I’m just not meant to. I can’t tell you why we met or how lovely it was but I thought I’d leave you a goodbye present. Don’t try to find me. Deboraaah.’

As he contemplated the way she had spelled out her name, something changed. Suddenly, he heard fluttering. His stomach lurched as the floor of the room began to shake in gentle waves. He held on to his desk for support but suddenly the envelope that had contained the letter burst and a thousand butterflies fluttered out.

Red, orange, green, blue, purple, yellow- all colors of the rainbow and possibly more fluttered out of that envelope and flew around his cabin, reaching every corner. Unafraid, free. Some of them reached out to him. Sat on his arms. Others fluttered out of the open window but many many more just swirled around and around in a magnificent display of absolutely stunning colors.

Derek watched with his jaw dropped.

His office door burst open and a colleague walked in.

‘Holy mother of God!’ the colleague exclaimed.

And suddenly, Derek was laughing out loud. And he just couldn’t stop!

Just details!

Fiction

What You Don’t Know- A Short Story


The same story can be told from different points of view. Here’s my story, explanation follows:

1.

Wanda was overworked that day. Her job at the diner was a hectic eight hour shift, after which she picked up her ten-year-old son from school. It was only at night when she finally tucked him into bed, did she get any time to pick up her books from where she’d let off the previous day. Night school was brilliant; she loved it because she was passionate about studying and had never had the chance or the money to. But watching her son play with numbers and letters and discover new things on those inanimate pieces of paper that made up a book, urged her to take up some books of her own. So she got together a bunch of women who, like her, wanted to learn but did not have the means and they shared their sons’ and daughters’ books every night and lay down the foundation, slowly. It was her secret. It was all she wanted.

It did make her sleepy in the mornings though, she realized as she served coffee to one of her regular customers. She liked this old man; he was always quiet and unassuming and he left her a good tip everyday. She yawned and tipped the mug a little too much, spilling some coffee on the table in front of the old man.

‘Oh I’m so sorry’, she said, feeling flustered and apologetic. Her night life was making work so much harder. ‘I’m really sloppy today’.

She gave him her best smile as she attempted to mop up the mess. The old man just smiled at her, somewhat sadly, she thought. It made her feel worse. As she turned away, she could feel his eyes watching her and it made her slightly uncomfortable. She could not understand why. But she shrugged it off and decided to throw in a muffin for him, on-the-house .

2.

The cook watched his waitress approaching. He felt his heart swell once more.

He had admired her for so long but hadn’t realized what he was feeling until recently, when she told him she had set up a sort of night school for some women in her neighborhood.

So kind and thoughtful and sensitive she was! He wished he could tell her that. He wished he could help her out but she would never listen. He was chubby and balding and although he could whip up the most sumptuous desserts, that just wasn’t what she wanted. Once bitten and twice shy, he supposed. He hadn’t had no chances at love. Or luck, either.

He watched her take down an order or two before making her way over to him. She flashed him her gorgeous smile as she shouted out the orders. He nodded back at her and prepared to watch her turn around and return to her post while the oven warmed up for the morning, but instead she stayed.

‘I feel really bad, Herb’, she said. ‘That old man looks really sad, don’t you think? Can we throw in a free muffin for him? I mean, I know you don’t do that unless it’s a special occasion, but…’

She waited for him to reply.

He looked towards the old man, who was staring intently at a piece of paper on his lap.

He did not like that elderly man. He could not place it. He never saw that man, except for an hour everyday when he came in to sit in a corner and eat poached eggs and drink his coffee. But there was something there. Herb knew he shouldn’t judge strangers and it was important to be kind to the elderly. He did not want trouble.

But he did not like that old man.

‘Sure’, he said, smiling back at the waitress he madly loved.

3.

The old man stared intently at the letter he held in his hand. His wife was dying. She probably wouldn’t make it through another week.

He wasn’t sure whether he should be happy or sad. On one hand, cancer was a slow, painful way to die. And that was quite a way for her to go. He did not want it to end so soon. On the other hand, he would finally be free of the burden that kept her clinging on to him, holding for dear life while he tried to pry her fingers open so she would just let go.

It had always been like that. He had regretted her since the very first day of their married life. He hadn’t thought marriage could be so nasty.

There was no love, no support, absolutely nothing. Just an empty expansive hollowness and wanting to hurt each other all the time. Through the decades of their childless, unromantic union, he had prayed for a savior. For something to make the torture go away, without the accountability.

If there was a God who answered prayers, he would have to be half-deaf. His prayer had been heard but too late. What’s a seventy year old man supposed to do as a widower? He couldn’t think of much.

Then again, he thought as he watched the perky little waitress returning with his breakfast, a muffin perched on the very top of her tray, smiling kindly at the elderly man she saw in front of her, he could always find ways.

He smiled back.

I suppose this theme was meant for a  heart-warming story but I prefer to add a spin in the end. And I’m sorry for turning the old man nasty, but the first idea that popped into my head when I read through the Weekly Challenge, was to flip it all around. If you read through and liked it, please let me know! Thank you. 😀

Fiction

Strangeness


It was hard to imagine, that night when we sat alone on an empty park bench, that being free like the wind could ever feel so constrictive. That this ardent desire to communicate could someday overwhelm and take over the need to be apart. That taking on new challenges could actually break us. That being miserable would spin not from inaction but from constant, unchanging pressures of trying to adjust to something that made no sense whatsoever, something unwilling to compromise, something that clung to our necks until we stopped breathing and then some more.

But the weirdness erupted from a different note, years later, when we were past the age where we could sit around on a park bench and joke about the funny things we’d done. When we could talk about a time in which that could feel like too much, too soon and too ugly. Because after seeing so many horrors since then, what we had left behind felt like it had a poetic charm to it. Like it was all sepia, songs and dreaming.

I remembered the night I had first met you. Not every day could be that special. Not everyday is about innocuous glances, everlasting smiles and an instant connection across a room full of the sharpest, wittiest, intellectually challenging people I was ever likely to meet. But you stood out. Maybe because you seemed so nineteenth-century, standing there in coattails as if you didn’t care. Like the world was a stage indeed and you; you had been brought into it to make a mockery of it. You stood with your head angled against the ostentatious glare that came from overly-decorated chandeliers. You stood with a slight upward-turned smile on your face. As though it didn’t matter what they thought. As though you knew I would seek you out.

And I did. I couldn’t have helped it; I wouldn’t even have known.

We were like two lovers swimming in a pool of wine, dancing just beyond the spiralling reaches of the moonlight. In you, I saw the adventure I sought from life. Never a dull moment, never fading to just black and white. Like spilling of the colours of a rainbow, mixed wth the intricate excitement of anticipating what was next, I let you guide me.

And when it got too much, you just let me dance away on my own.

But years later when we met, the first question on my lips was, ‘When did we go from being complete strangers to being two people who complete each other so well that even if all these years could stretch out and try to strangle what we’ve built, it would only feel as though I’d been away from you for not more than a day?’

And in the whispered sighs and declarations that followed, I saw clearly the first time under the bridge, with moonlight highlighting my tresses and bouncing off your grey-black sweater, you had leaned forward and told me, ‘Everything you see from this point forth will be a dream. It will be breathtaking, spectacular. It will be so crazy that you will have to believe it to be true because something so phenomenal cannot possibly be imagined, it can only be lived. And whether or not I am in it, you will find that the remnants of that dream will stay with you forever. Whether or not you choose to believe in a fairy-tale, you will find that that fairy-tale will live inside you forever. No matter how old you grow, this sensation will never leave you. This tingling, this longing to create, to feel, to live, to breathe, to be bathed in something so much bigger than just you or me or us that it will feel like divinity itself has come down to grace you with its presence. It will feel as though the Gods of Heaven and Hell are cheering you on. It will feel as if you control every bit of movement and action of the universe.’

And when you disappeared, it did.

And when you came back, I knew. There was brilliance shining in your eyes and its reflection was making me brighter.

Fiction · writing

The Childhood Connection Part Three


Part Three

 

By the time I stumbled back to my car, it was dark. That meant I had been out of my senses, lying amidst the trees in that lonely thicket for hours.

I felt disoriented and scared. A kind of panic had begun to set in on me. Because in my heart-of-hearts, I now knew the truth.

I had killed my parents.

That also meant I had killed that man last night.

As I started up my car, I was stuck with the realisation, I was a murderer.

But they can never prove it, a voice inside me said.

How does that matter? You are dangerous. You should be tested, you should be isolated from normal people, another voice said.

I took a deep breath. The second voice made sense. It was the voice of the part of me that was sane. If there was such a part. I needed to turn myself in. But before that, I needed some answers.

I drove straight home. My aunt was cooking. My stomach lurched. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat.

She seemed relieved to see me. ‘Sit down’, she said firmly. ‘I made soup.’

‘No’. I said adamantly. ‘I’m not hungry Aunt Emma, I need some answers.’

My aunt looked up expectantly. But did I see a flicker of emotion pass through her?

‘I need to know what happened to my parents. I never asked and you never told me. Nobody did. How did they die?’

My aunt looked hurt, as though the entire world she had created for us had suddenly crashed down around her. And it had.

We both stood silently for a few seconds. Then she sighed and came away from the stove. ‘Sit down’, she insisted. So I sat.

‘It was inexplicable what happened. The cause of death was never determined. It was as if their organs burst to shreds inside them and then ruptured through the skin. There were no wounds from the outside.’

My heart was pounding against my chest now. But I had expected a similar answer. Then I noticed that my aunt was looking at me strangely. It was as if she knew.

‘There is more’, my aunt continued reluctantly. ‘When your father was a toddler, his family was vacationing in the winters when your grandparents died mysteriously. Well apparently, there was a fire and someone close by saved your father but later on, it was discovered that your grandparents were dead before the fire reached them. They were covered in blood.’ She concluded.

My own blood was cold by this time. I looked down and saw that I had goose bumps. I looked up and there it was; behind my aunt- the apparition or whatever of my dad’s toddler. I could tell from its expression, that I knew what it knew now.

And that was what it had wanted me to know.

‘Help me’, it had said to me last night. And then somebody had died. An innocent man who happened to be nearby. Somebody who had nothing to do with this strange curse that my father had passed on to me. Who knows how he had got it? Had it been passed down through generations? But I had never dug up my family history. Hadn’t anyone else?

I focused back into the room. The apparition was gone. But my aunt was still there, surveying me in bewilderment.

And that was when I realised.

‘You need to leave!’ I told her.

‘What is it?’, she asked, frightened.

‘You need to leave this house now aunt Emma! Get as far away as possible.’

‘But…I am not leaving you alone!’ she insisted.

‘Don’t argue with me aunt. Please…you need to go.’

She sensed the urgency in my voice. I knew then that she trusted me. She turned to leave but I knew it was too late. I had seen it reflect in her eyes. Seen my demon reflect in her eyes.

‘No!’ I shouted, but it was too late. I leapt towards her but there was furniture in the way. Her back was towards me but she stood still and erect.

And then she began to fall. Like a replay from last night, I watched in horror as her body  twisted and turned on its way to the floor. I knew what was happening. I was causing it.

I should have turned away but there was no point now. Her blood was already staining the carpet beneath. Her body had already fallen.

I stood at a distance, surveying the pool of blood accumulate around her. Today I did not faint. I was no longer that person. The truth had transformed me.

 I watched as the blood trickled down her legs and softly spread on the surface of the carpet. I knew exactly how that blood felt; what its texture was like, how it smelt. Strangely, this thought now brought a smile to my face. The period of wonderment was over.

But now I knew I had to leave quickly. The thought of turning myself in had vanished in the moments I had spent staring at my dead aunt. There was so much more to the world. And I could be anonymous now.

I could be anyone. A grin tugged the corner of my lips at this thought and warmth spread through my body.

 

Fiction

The Childhood Connection


Part One

In the far recesses of my mind was a childhood memory I had never been able to reach. It would nag me, sometimes incessantly and for hours on end and at other times it would be triggered by something from around me, stay for a while and then when I was distracted, recede back into the past.

But no matter how hard I tried, I could not remember it. Not a single strand of that vital memory had revealed itself to me in over twenty years of life. All I knew was that it associated me with unpleasant sensations; a lurking fear, a half-hidden truth.

I lived with my aunt in an ordinary flat and I ran a children’s book store which had originally been run by my mum and later my aunt. And oh yeah, my parents were dead.

Life was good; I loved everything to do with little children and stories but then, that was all about to change.

One fateful winter twilight, I was nearing closing time and was in a hurry to get home. It was cold and there had been a draught in the store all day. Something was wrong with the heating. I made a mental note to get the thermostat checked as I shivered a little, drawing my scarf closer around me. I stared at the street beyond the glass doors of my store. Because it was so cold, there was almost nobody around outside. It had been a slow day and I longed to be back in the warmth of the flat I shared with my aunt.

Suddenly the bell above the door dinged. I turned to see a little boy, no more than three years old, entering the shop all on his own. On this cold winter evening, he was dressed in summer shorts and a t-shirt. He had brown hair and dark eyes. He was very fair and he looked around the shop with wonder, seeming lost like little children sometimes do.

‘Hello little boy’ I called out to him cheerfully, ‘Where is your mum? Are you lost?’

When he heard my voice, he turned his head and looked at me. He tilted his head a little to one side and raised his eyebrows with a childish curiosity that I found adorable. And yet…there was something vaguely familiar about him. Maybe he had been here before.

‘What’s your name?’ I said, stepping out from behind the counter. I peeped outside, probably expecting to see a harried parent calling out for him but the street beyond was as deserted as before.

The kid didn’t move and he didn’t respond. So I tried  again.

‘Hey you, are you lost? What’s your name?’

“Hey-we’ he said suddenly, straightening his head.

‘Harry? Is that your name? Where’s your mum Harry? Did she bring you here?’

I took a step forward.

Harry did not answer any of my questions, instead he turned and capered, he pushed against the door with both hands and was outside before I could react . He looked in both directions and then scurried off to the left.

‘Hey!’ I shouted, concerned. I ran to the door and stepped out into the chill but the boy had probably turned around the next corner and disappeared. I shrugged and went back inside.

But I felt miserable now and decided to call it a night. I gathered my stuff, put on my jacket and locked up the store.

Despite the welcome thickness of my scarf and jacket, I shivered involuntarily. The streets were more or less empty, though orange streetlights flooded the sidewalk. I drew my hands closer, as if to protect myself from the nip, and continued walking.

And that was when something happened.

I had walked less than a block from my store, when a shudder passed over me. And then I saw something…a man on the other side of the street. He had on a large brown trench coat and a hat and yet, underneath his hat I could see his eyes open in amazement. Then he turned a little and his eyes fixed on me. He tried to call out when he saw me but something was wrong, he was falling.

I called out to him and broke into a run but by the time I reached him, he had collapsed head-first on the pavement.

‘Oh my god’ I exclaimed as I kneeled down besides him.  A little reluctantly, I turned him over with both hands, saw and smelt blood and collapsed.

 

When I came to, there was a swarm of policemen everywhere on the street. I was wrapped in a blanket and propped on some steps nearby. A policeman was watching me with concern.

‘Ma’am’ he said.

I focused on him. I felt dizzy and nauseated but suddenly, it all came back to me and I sat up at once.

‘That man! Is he…?’

‘Yes ma’am. He is dead. And that is why I need to know. Did you see or hear anything at all?’

He was leaning forward eagerly. A little too eagerly. A thought crept into my head. Did he…suspect me, I wondered.

‘No, no I…uh…I just saw him fall. I collapsed because of the blood…it was all so much’. I realised I was shaking.

‘Its okay ma’am. You are okay.’ The policeman said, trying to be comforting. ‘I just need you to answer a few questions…’

They interrogated me for two hours before realising I knew absolutely nothing. One of the policemen dropped me home.

I entered the flat. My aunt had been waiting up for me.

She looked at me and sensed something was wrong. ‘What happened?’ she asked softly.

 

An hour later, I had assured her I was okay and put her into bed. I tried to eat but could not.

No I was definitely not okay.

Far from it. Something was wrong. Very wrong. I didn’t know why. It wasn’t just the strange murder, it was more than that. Deep inside me, the uncomfortable sense of my irrecoverable memory was growing again. And I did not know why.

I got up and brought out a box of old photographs, meaning to soothe myself down with them.

I sifted through albums, going down memory lane. I saw photographs from my childhood, pictures of me with my parents, their wedding photos.

Sifting further down, I reached the black-and-white era.

That was when I saw it.

A black-and-white photo of a child in shorts and a t-shirt. It was the child who had been in my store today.

I looked closer. Yes it was him. The exact same face. I turned it over

‘Peter Dawson’ It said, ’15 January 1962.’

My dad’s photo. From exactly 50 years ago.

I leaned back. And then it hit me.

My dad or the look-alike kid. He hadn’t said ‘Harry’ in reply to my question of who he was. That was what I had interpreted.

He had said ‘hey-we’.

Or, in children vernacular, ‘help me’.

 

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Uncategorized

The Streets- Part 2


I had met Billy by coincidence- it had been one of those inexplicable things when you start to feel that something like destiny does exists, even though you lead a poverty-stricken life and make your money outside the law.

It had been one of my usual nights on the subway, selling to junkies who knew I was reliable and regular with the supply, even though I couldn’t afford to be cheap. But there was no dearth of buyers, even on the worst of weeks. And close to Christmas, the demand trebled. Holiday loneliness of some sort.

Billy was one of those unpredictable men who would appear and disappear at will. It was hard to notice him; he was smooth and he was sly. He roamed around with two bulky men when he needed protection but he could become a shadow and hide in the darkness whenever he wanted.

Maybe he saw something in me he liked or maybe he was sniffing around to see if I was hunting on his territory. I was always careful to leave the Big Man’s business alone.

Whenever Billy would meet me, he would leave his bursting-out-of-their-shirts bodyguards. He first took me to his large underground hideout behind a regular jeweler store- it was one of those pies in which the Big Man had dipped his fingers. And there was a crack in the wall, through which a conveniently shown flashlight acted as a signal for entry. Or codes for other messages. But Billy never shared those.

He shared other things though. He told me that the Big Man was called Henry and lived in a secret location nobody knew. The only way to reach the Big Man, even for Billy, was to go through a network of men who were frequently rotated to a standard set of locations that changed at whimsy. Billy couldn’t contact his boss at any time; the boss contacted him.

Billy was so good-looking that it was excruciating to be around him those first few nights. He didn’t buy me anything, saying that it would be too ostentatious for him to do so and would immediately come to the boss’s notice. But he helped me in small ways of his own. He often bought all my stash from me at a price so exaggerated, I was afraid to hold the cash in my hand. But he said he would recover the money somewhere else.

And then one night, he turned up with a bottle of champagne. It was something I had never tasted before. He had gone through great pains to smuggle it out because, though he had access to a lot of things, it was all inventoried and subject to the scrutiny of the Big Man at all times.

I think that was the night i fell in love with Billy.

We were at the hide-out with that bottle of champagne. It wasn’t romantic- the rooms had an oddly musty smell and the plaster from the walls was peeling. Billy had a few hours to spare but one of his few trusted men were on the lookout outside, just in case something turned up.

After my first delicate sips of that elixir, I stopped worrying about all the things that pulled me down in the back of my mind. Billy got out some cigarettes and I watched him light up the first one and puff out into the air; the smell of soap mixed with smoke lingered towards me; I leaned closer and dared to rest my hand on his knee- it was our first intimate contact in over a week of friendship.

Truth be told, I was a little scared of Billy. He worked for Big Man, what if he was testing me, breaking me? There were a dozen ulterior motives I could think of in my head and this was one of the many reasons I hadn’t told Rats about him.

But that night, his shrewd eyes were full of amusement and laughter. He was always at ease, and he leaned in and brushed his lips gently against mine. The electricity of that touch made me shudder. I moved closer, until our bodies touched.

 

Someone was calling out my name. I drifted from the depths of a deep dream, sifting through memories to figure out what was going on. A sharp pain in my neck told me I was alive.

‘Hey’ somebody whispered. ‘Its Billy. Open your eyes.’

I did. I wasn’t dead because the pain was so real, so piercing but I didn’t know what was hurting. I couldn’t see, except for the hazy outline of Billy’s head floating in mid-air.

‘I need you to listen to me carefully.’ Billy was saying but I heard a moan next to me. I turned and saw Rats, half-unconscious and bound on the floor.

‘Remember I told you about the trafficking?’

I did. One night, a few weeks after our first champagne-soaked love-making, I reached the hide-out and noticed a car parked to one side, the car boot was half lifted and a girl, tied up and blindfolded, was lying inside. She wasn’t making much noise but I could see that she was trying to struggle. One side of her dress was a little torn and I noticed that she was wearing an expensive, heavily-laced bra within.

I went down to Billy’s. ‘Who’s that girl?’ I asked him.

Unfazed as ever, Billy lifted a cigarette to his lips and drew in deeply. ‘Just one of the side-businesses’, he offered by way of explanation.

I didn’t press further. In our world, you kept your head low and didn’t try to meddle with other people’s lives. It was the only way to survive. So no matter what I saw, I kept mum about it.

‘They are going to smuggle you and Rats out of here’ Billy was saying. ‘I can’t stop them. They were on to me. That’s how they got to you. I’m sorry.’

Even through my drug-hazed thoughts, this piece of information struck home. Smuggle us out. It meant one thing; I knew that there would be no turning back.

‘But I can’t let that happen’  Billy was saying. ‘I got one of my men to ring the alarm. He is calling the police. They’ll be here soon, are you listening to me?’

I tried to nod but couldn’t. The police. Yes, I would rather go to jail.

‘You might get busted but I doubt it. This place is flooded with things they’d wanna see. They’d be like children on Christmas morning with a bunch of presents. I think you’ll walk. The Big Man is another matter though.’

I realized suddenly that Billy had my head in his lap, and then realized something was very wrong. If the police were coming…

‘I can’t walk out of this, sweetheart. But I want you to know that through all these years of my infinitely cruel operations, I never for one moment imagined that I would ever get so powerfully caught up in love that I would prefer my own doom to that of a woman.’

A sense of alarm began to take over me. What was Billy saying? I tried to speak up, tried to move, but I was starting to black out. I felt him rest my head gently onto something soft, felt him walk away and then come back. He bent down in front of me and kissed my forehead.

‘Goodbye love’ he said, and before I could do anything or feel anything, the inevitable gunshot rang out and I saw a river of blood cloud my line of sight.

Far away, beyond the walls of the hide-out, I heard the ringing of police sirens.

(The end)

Fiction

The Streets- Part One


Bourke Street, Darlinghurst (NSW)
(Photo credit: State Records NSW)

I pulled up my hoodie and popped a stick of peppermint gum into my mouth.

Like everyone else who haunted the subway past midnight, I knew that I had my territory cut out for me. There was Big Man, who usually haunted the Manhattan route but he was known to change his mind. And when he did, if you happened to be in his path, well it would suffice to say that it could get ugly.

But I handled my zones with the quiet efficiency and stealth of a cat. I didn’t run with the lions and I wasn’t big enough to fight them. But since we belonged to the same family, I could keep my distance and target areas which were least occupied.

Sometimes we had crews- the rough, street kids who came from poor in-the-rut families and found an identity in an art form that was frowned upon during the day but could own the night. There were other girls too. Some of them were even from well-to-do families but they were all united by a common cause. They wanted some meaning in their life.

I knew the people who boarded the subway during the day in their posh business suits and shiny boots, holding polished briefcases and an over-sized cup of Starbucks, scorned upon our nightly activities. But in the silence of the night, it was them and not us who went into hibernation mode. We were out.

That night however, I wasn’t feeling up to it. I called my friend Natalie, who was known as Rats because she was short and mousy and timid but very quick. Rats was the family I hadn’t had since I’d been a little girl. She was the most loyal sidekick i could have asked for. And we both did know that she was the sidekick.

So Rats came to pick me up and we went into our anonymous location under a bridge where we could get drunk and not worry about being in trouble because nobody ever came there. We usually stashed our stuff in a niche we had carved into the wall. We even kept a blanket there. But something was different today. I could feel it, as we settled on the shore.

‘Big Man is closing his network’ Rats began in a low voice. ‘He is thinking of fleeing the country. He’s bored, he has a lot of stuff. Or-‘

‘Or they’re tightening the loop?’ I completed her sentence.

It was a well known fact that some of the policemen on the fringes of our gangs operated with full knowledge of all the activities we sanctioned. Hell, they had their own share. Those were the dirty cops. But there were loopholes everywhere. Nothing was foolproof.

‘Well which is it!’ I asked in desperation.

‘I cannot know for sure. We need to find out. His people are wrapping up, little by little. Today I walked by the Dumpster. Its in pieces.’

The Dumpster was Big Man’s hideout. Piles of garbage, emptied tins of food, beer bottles and large plastic bins offered adequate storage space for him and his croonies and their stash. If they were breaking it down, it meant they were clearing their act. Or they had already been caught.

‘There is only one place we can look’, I said, watching Rats pull off her holey socks and run her hands over a large blister on her toe. It should have disgusted me if I hadn’t been used to such things, growing up as I did.

‘Where?’, she asked, distracted by her toe. Her world was simpler than mine. She didn’t see dangers until they were clear and out in the open. I saw the silhouettes as they solidified.

‘Its this place. Come on, we have to go now. There isn’t time.’

A little reluctantly, Rats began to put the sock back on. I got to my feet and pulled out a bag from inside the niche.

‘That’s our emergency stuff’, Rats said, her eyes widening.

‘Well’ I told her grimly. ‘I think this is one.’

We both had our backpacks on. Mine contained a wad of cash, a can of beer, a couple of bars of chocolate, a flashlight, a change of clothes, a rope and a small book that had some hastily scrawled contacts inside it. It was Rats record and she had made two copies because I couldn’t write. I could read just enough to pick out numbers and familiar words. She had gone over it with me carefully. Slowly. She’d been to school for a bit. I never had.

We didn’t dare take the subway with threats hanging in the air. Instead, we slunk past grafiti-covered walls and circled the Dumpster, trudging in the shadows until we reached a shop window with its shutters down for the night.

I took out the flashlight, and while Rats watched in amazement, I bent close near the wall besides the shutter. There was a small crack there. i shone the flashlight through it and blinked it. On-off. On-off. Then silence. Then on-off. On-off again.

‘What are you doing?’ Rats whispered into my ear.

‘Shh’ I told her. ‘I know somebody who is close to Big Man.’

And I did. Not many people knew that Big Man’s real name was Henry. Not many people knew that he had been born into a rich family, hit bankruptcy, been disowned by his family and fallen into shady deals. I knew this because somebody had accompanied Big Man down under when he had fallen. Somebody had been his right man for over a decade now.

I heard a gentle tapping. It was my signal.

‘Come on’ I told Rats and led her past the shuttered shop, down a back alley until we reached the back door. It stood ajar. Perplexed as she was, Rats trusted me enough to follow me into the darkness.

I knew my way here like I knew the back of my hand, even in the dark. We walked through quickly, I could feel Rats hot breath on my neck. We emerged into a low-ceiling room with a single lamp hanging from the roof.

But things were very, very wrong. There was broken furniture everywhere, the pillows and sheets were torn, cupboard doors stood flung open and the contents inside spilled out and most ominously  there was blood. On the bed like somebody had been stabbed. On the floor, like somebody had been dragged.

‘What happened here? What is going on!’ Rats explained in horror, even more in the dark than me.

‘But I was aghast.

‘Allow me to explain, senoritas’ we heard an acerbic voice behind us and turned to find ourselves face-to-face with the hauntingly inimical figure of Henry aka the Big Man.

(to be continued)

Fiction

Hands Clasped in Mine (2)


Life on the Murder Scene
Life on the Murder Scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When she left, my life turned into a series of blank pages at the end of an unfinished book deserted by its writer in an exasperated lack of inspiration. I swam through life, through the doors of my residence, through the streets we had haunted together, through the nightclubs and the glitz. I  missed he in my own way. I spent hours playing on my violin and I gave myself in to reading with a feverish passion. I was not interested in the woman who sought to me to console me. I did not like it when they pulled up their skirts suggestively or offered to buy me a drink. I myself did not offer to buy anyone any drinks. I adopted asexuality with a sense of comradeship and spent lonely hours going over photoalbums, exploring tirelessly every aspect of her social life that I had captured in her years as my mistress.

When love dies, the thing that rears its ugly head in its place is not indifference or hate, but a desperate need to claim back what we have lost. That was what I wanted. I wanted her back. I didn’t know why the only people she wanted to impress were the ones who did not care if she was cold at night, or hurt, or unsafe, or unsatisfied, or unsure, or in tears. I cared about all those things. I would have kept her as my mistress for another fifty years until I lay cold in my grave but the excessiveness of her overtly ambitious desire to be the social butterfly of the world had grappled me with a white-hot scar that made me want to seek out every nightclub, every ball, every social event of the universe and replace them with a flaming desire in her loins so she would come crawling back to my arms.

I spent many fanciful evenings creating such long lusty scenes in my head; scenes that always ended with animalistic detailing of a powerful nature.

And then one day when I least expected it, a letter came in her artistically curvy handwriting. I tried to control my trembling hands, tried to tell myself that I was just glad she was alive but when the letter lay open at my feet, I knew a part of my soul had died forever. The unanswered questions did not matter anymore. Our quest had ended forever. I tore up the letter and rode out alone into the sunset sustaining my passionate urges with whores I picked up at reasonable prices, releasing my months of abstinence with a revengeful series of paid escorts who hung on my arms during a night-long festival of dancing and then got into my pants until the wee hours for love-making. This pleasure building exercise alienated me from all the women who had earlier flocked around me for attention.

At the heart of my wondrous, inventive nightly adventures lay a howling animal so wounded he would have slashed out at anything and everything if uncaged and so I let him remain tightly locked up underneath layers and layers of self-restraint padlocks. The magical remains of her smell, her skin, her beautiful, well-rounded body, her smile, her lips, her neck, her eyes disappeared from deep inside my memory. All that remained was an idea of a woman who was weak to the world but strong to me, seen by everyone but known only by me. My woman companions were lusty revenges but I did not know who I was taking revenge on. The woman who had shattered me lived on another continent now and flirted with life and men alike without a damned care in the world.

Then, one dawn when I lay in the arms of a modest hooker from somewhere Far East, I knew she was back in the city. I didn’t know how I knew or why it had to be true but it was. I untangled myself from the arms of this person who suddenly seemed both unreal and wrong to me and ran down several flights of stairs into the cold morning air in slippers and pyjamas, hastily pulling a cloak around myself.

I searched high and dry that entire day in all the places I thought she could be but without luck. When it finally dawned on me to look in the one place I had missed, it was already nightfall. I walked back slowly, drawing curious stares from strangers as I had been all day.

When I threw open the door of my apartment, I noticed at once that something was very amiss. Clothes lay strewn about everywhere; not just my clothes but silk dresses, stockings, silk undergarments…everything in loud, fast colours.

But it was the walls that drew me towards them. She had drawn a mosaic on all the walls of my small flat. Intricate paintings in flat, quick strokes that displayed every aspect of my years with her; everything told in a musical way that made the images dance before my eyes in visual ecstasy.

The trail of blood took a while to emerge before my eyes but once it did, I followed it into the bedroom. Propped up against my desk, arranged in a dignified manner was my hot whore from last night, her throat slit from side-to-side in a fluid motion. I understood at once, but did not recoil. I did not have the need to recoil. I could see and believe what I saw in an objective manner but it did not make me love her any less. It did not make me want her any less. In fact, she had clearly left me the one message I had sub-consciously known all along but never admitted to myself.

I smiled.

There was no need to clear up this mess. They wouldn’t find me. I walked to my closet and started to pack. I was going places.

I left behind all my books, gathering only some clothes and a bag of toiletries. I did not touch anything else, choosing to leave a broad mosaic of clues for the police.

As I closed the lights and walked out, I knew what the truth about us was.

She always had been the woman I thought she had just pretended to be, the woman I had seen only in the bedroom. Her need to please had been limited to me but I had interpreted her wrongly and she had chosen to let it all pass because for her, life really was a huge, unparalleled adventure and she couldn’t have drawn me into it with anything but the most drastic of steps.

And if a life had been lost in the process, it was just a life lost for a greater cause, wasn’t it? There was a world waiting for us.

I turned my back on that world, knowing that she would eventually find me.

Fiction

Standing Afar


“The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.”

Italo Calvino

‘Are we forever going to stand on this bridge, mum?’ Jimmy asked, indignation ringing in hs voice.

‘Are we going to stand on this bridge forever?’ I corrected him automatically. My eight year old son’s grammar was a constant source of painful reprimand in our lives but he took it as sportingly as any happy-go-lucky, wouldn’t-give-a-damn about this world eight-year-old was supposed to.

‘And I don’t know how long we are going to stand here, except that your father was supposed to be here to pick you up nearly forty minutes ago but he’s not!’

Jimmy could sense the hurt and anger in my voice. It was one year after the divorce and yet I was nowhere done being over that mess. Sometimes I did not think I would ever be over it. Maybe I could get a head-start if, for example, we hadn’t hauled a little boy over the coals with us. And if, to make up for all that, I didn’t have to endure fortnightly glimpses of my ex-husband, accompanied with petty small talk and false how-do-you-dos while on the inside, I wanted to kick off my heels and watch them bounce off the top of his head.

No, things weren’t good in that sense. And dating new men was another area in which I met frequent failure. But that was probably not because of my baggage. Quite contrarily, I think it had to do with the fact that I wrote a very bitter personal column in a very famous paper. And yes, women loved me. Which man wouldn’t be intimidated by something like that, eh?

So yes, basically things sucked in my love life. But yay me, I had an extremely cheeky eight year old on my hands.

‘Dad’s not always the one who is late’, Jimmy was mumbling under his breath as he bounced his basketball on the concrete. ‘And you shouldn’t think he has a lotta nice stuff to say about you either. And so, its like, I just don’t get you guys. Neither of you!’

Okay, my son was finally coming clear of some issues he’d been harbouring for a while. I couldn’t decide what brought on this sudden confession and I sure as hell didn’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing that he was bringing this up. Time to schedule a visit to my shrink, maybe?

I sighed and tried to be the good mother. The motherly woman I knew was buried deep within me. ‘Well honey, see things are hard now but they’ll get better. And okay, so I won’t say bad things about your dad anymore. And I will ask him not to either. Is that better?’

‘No its not better coz I know you’ll still be thinking them.’ He said and turned away.

I gave up and continued to poise with my hands over the bridge, the wind in my hair. I looked at the setting sun and the falling autumn leaves. How ironic that here I was, in a movie-like setting and the only man I was sure to see was the ONE man I would rather not! I could feel my latest column bubbling beneath my writer surface.

‘There’s daddy’ Jimmy yelled and pointed.

‘Don’t point at people’ I corrected before I could stop myself, then bit my lower lip as my son glared at me in a manner that made me think of the man he half-came from.

I looked up and there he was walking towards us:Chris. I could not deny that at forty, he looked just as gorgeous to me as he had at twenty-five, but then that was the problem! He was still as witty, with the same tongue-in-cheek humour, the same sarcastic eyes and the same ironic, crooked smile that broke my heart.

NOT good for me, I chided myself and then forced a smile as he approached us.

‘There’s my champ!’ he said to Jimmy and dropped down to his knees so he was level with the boy. ‘How’s your basketball coming along? Wanna practice over the weekend?’

‘Sure dad, that’d be great!’

So yes, I couldn’t deny Jimmy probably enjoyed being with his dad more than he enjoyed being with me. And I couldn’t change that, no matter how many video games and ice-cream and ninja toys I bought for my son.

Chris rose and with an easy-to-understand effort, he said to me, ‘So what are you going to do on your weekend off?’

‘Oh you know me, Chinese take-outs and some books on my i-pad’ I replied, trying to keep alive the non-existent nonchalance. ‘What have you planned out?’

‘Well Jimmy and I are going to do some fun things, but first I need to drop by at the studio. I am so sorry I kept you waiting but its been a long day and I still have a little work left to do. So I am going to let Angela watch him for a while.’

Angela was Chris’s hot, hot secretary. Yeah and she had been for like, three years now. You can imagine the fights we had had.

But that was all in the past now, wasn’t it?

‘Right, well…next time a heads-up will be useful’ I said curtly, turned on my heels and walked off.

So yeah, I knew I wasn’t the best mom, I told myself a couple of hours later as I walked back to my apartment with a Chinese take-away tucked under one arm and a large shopping bag in the other. But I wasn’t a bad mom either because my son was turning out okay! He wasn’t going to be a gentleman, I suppose, but then nobody would if they spent as much time with Chris as my son had to. And girls these days didn’t like gentlemen anyway, did they?

I turned a corner and almost ran into Chris!

‘You’re here?’ I couldn’t help screaming. ‘Where is my son? Its almost eleven, Chris! You’re still doing your ‘errands’? Are you sure that was all you were doing?’

‘Hey, calm down Jennifer’ he said in a deep, steady voice that took me by alarm.

He hadn’t used that voice around me in like, two years at least.

‘Jimmy’s fine. Angela took him home. I came out to pick some dinner.’ He held up a paperbag and waved it in front of me.

‘Oh’ I said, taken aback by the sudden difference in him. ‘So are you and her…?’

‘Angela and me?’ he said, sounding surprised. ‘No, it was never like that Jenny. We were friends only. I knew you never believed me, but there always was just one woman for me.’

‘Oh’ I said again.

‘Walk you to your block?’ he offered his arm and I took it. ‘Now I know you’re worried about Jimmy but he loves Angela. She’s sporty and fun and he enjoys being around her.’

‘As do you, I am sure’ I replied, bitter resentment kicking in.

‘Not so much Jenny.  I am more of a fan of the cheeky sarcasm’ he said, in that smooth, steady voice again. I smiled

He stopped and turned to face me. I turned towards him too, feeling uneasy in a good kind of way.

‘Honestly, she’s fun, but…’

‘But..?’ I asked breathlessly.

‘But you’re the one for me. You still are and you always will be’.

He was leaning in so I could smell his cologne and feel his breath on my skin. I leaned in too and felt his lips brush lightly against mine, his free hand was in the small of my back and mine were on his chest. We moved closer and then we kissed. It was sweet and fresh and drama-free and anger-free.

‘I’ll see you around’, he smiled and turned away and walked off without looking back. I watched him disappear around the bend and felt something bubbling inside of me.

Was there another way for us, after all?

I sighed and my hand went up to my lips as I imagined our kiss from ten seconds ago. I was standing stupidly in the middle of an empty sidewalk and smiling at nothing, I realised!

I turned and started to walk, a distinct skip in my step. Suddenly there was nothing in my head for this week’s bitterness column!

My phone rang.

‘Hello? Is this Jennifer?’ the female voice on the other end sounded distraught.

‘Yes, this is she.’ I replied, alert immediately.

‘Its Angela, Jennifer. I work with your husband. I think- I think you need to be here immediately.’

‘What’s wrong? Here? Where’s here? ’

She told me.

She also gave me an address at the other side of town and I took a cab.

I approached the scene cautiously, my heart in my mouth. It felt incredible beyond belief, like a nightmare in my head. I saw my son run towards me, tears in his eyes. Angela stood a little ways away, looking hot as ever, I noted.

A paramedic made his way towards me. ‘you must be Jennifer Taylor? I am so sorry about this. It was just a simple accident while crossing the road. The driver was drunk, there was little we could do when we got here.’

‘But you must be mistaken’, I said , turning to him in a daze. ‘I saw him, I met him.’

Angela came forward. ‘I know you did. I am sorry. He met you and then dropped Jimmy off with me and went to do some-‘

‘No, no! I met him fifteen seconds before you called. This is some other guy. It has to be.’

‘No Jennifer, look!’

Angela pulled me past the crowd that had gathered around.

There was a very dangerous car turned at a very disproportionate angle. And in the middle of the road, marked off with little orange traffic cones was a pool of blood. And lying in the pool of blood, Chris.

‘But-I-this-‘ I was thinking words but they weren’t coming out. And then I felt something. I turned and watched a shadow standing beyond the lights, beyond the traffic and noise and the people. And as I watched, it disappeared.