Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 141 Should I believe?

When Chloe Castelle walked the ramp the world of Parisian fashion held its collective breath; she was beautiful. She could make the work of any designer look good, even the mundane and the ordinary.

She had a show in Milano and landed late for the Saint Laurent show.  Makeup, hair and fittings were all done at the same time, a manic energy in the back stage area filled with cigarette smoke and rounds of espresso to keep alive and kicking.  The music came on, claps from the other side of the wall, the show had begun. Chloe was the showstopper, ten minutes more she told herself.

The floor assistant signaled to her with her fingers, two minutes, Chloe nodded and then absent mindedly gazed at an open laptop carelessly left open on a poetry website. She read the poem on the page, what she did not know was that it would change her life forever. Her eyes scanned the poem, “Waking, The crumbs of euphoria linger, The ringing laughter, The silly banter, The scent of her being, The sly glancing, Linger” Chloe was so lost in the poem that she missed her cue, the assistant had to push her onto the stage.

The flashbulbs popped and the beaching strobes blinded her, this was not new to her, she was accustomed to it but on that day something odd happened, between every flash she saw the lines of the poem, flash, “A piece of paper, Torn, Carelessly placed, Digits written with the color, Color of her lips, Mere ten jabs to her voice, Ten jabs away, The promise of more euphoria” More flashes and then more lines of the poem, “And yet so many jabs at euphoria, The memories of so many, Laughter, Scents, Banters, Glances. And yet this morning I wake, Alone, Wake again to another promise, On the bed of many dead ones.”

Chloe felt like the poet was talking to her, it was like he was in her mind, in the light of the glaring flashes she found the words floating towards her, “The piece of paper, Torn, carelessly placed, The look lingers, Hope lingers, One more time, One more chance to wake, Wake to euphoria”

She stepped back into the green room and read the last lines again, “The moment passes that decides forever, I hold breath then let go, I let go, Forever begins all over again, In search of forever.”

It was late at night, Chloe was exhausted but she could not sleep. She had to know more about the Poet who could write those lines. She knew like her he was a lonely lost soul. Michel Dubois, she liked the name. The website had an email contact and Chloe, spontaneous as she was, decided to write Michel an email.

“I found the treasure of your poems. They have my heart, Chloe Castelle.”
The next day she received an answer from him, “Are you the poet or am I?  Or then are you ‘The Great Chloe Castelle’ ?”

Anton was doing her hair, she asked him to stop, she had to respond to the email, she giggled like a child as she responded, “I am Chloe Castelle but not really great!”

“My poems have your heart and you have mine,” the mail came back quicker this time.

Soon the emails moved to text messages and then to whatsapp messenger. She loved his voice when they spoke for the first time. Three weeks into their constant chatting she asked him to write her a poem. He did.

“Should I believe?
Should I believe everything happens for a reason? 
Should I believe in Destiny?
Should I believe you are here for a reason?
Should I believe you sigh when you hear from me?
Should I believe when you close your eyes you see me?
Should I believe you think, if only?
Should I believe you are so many unsaid thoughts?
Should I believe you are so many feelings?
Should I believe you smile to yourself? Should I believe you have a secret? Should I believe I could be your secret?
Should I believe I make a difference? Should I believe you hear music? Should I believe I could be your music? 
Should I believe you have dreams? Should I believe I  could be your dream?
Should I believe that silences have meanings?
Should I believe I could be your silence?
Should I believe there is no beginning? Should I believe there is no end? Should I believe it is right for me to believe?
Should I believe that love is what I believe?”

She cried when she read the poem. The she reread the poem and cried again. Then through her tears she wrote him a mail, “You should believe.”
They fell in love.

There was one problem, Michel refused to meet her. He told her that he was not what she imagined. He was only good enough to be loved over the Internet or a telephone call. Should she meet him, she would be disappointed. Chloe told him that it was not fair of him to decide for her. Michel relented finally but she would have to come home to see him, he would not step out.

Chloe found Michel’s apartment with a fair amount of ease, tucked away in a lonely street off Trocadero. When the door opened on her and she stepped in she realized why Michel did not want to see her, he was in a wheelchair, paralyzed waist down.

“This is my life,” Michel explained to her, “I have so much love to give but I can only do it through my poetry. My body has betrayed me.”

Chloe went down on her knees to face him, “I love you Michel Dubois, I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“Why would you do that? You are a woman that all the men in the world would want to make to love to and you want to be with a man who cannot do exactly that? Do you know that I have nothing but words?”

Chloe held him very tight, “Michel, men may love me with their bodies, your words make love to my soul.”

-Arsee.

 

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 140 Be You

There was a time when Franco was the toast of Rome. He was the head chef of the fine dining Italian restaurant off the Piazza Navona aptly named the Caesar’s Buffet. There was a time when the restaurant was pre-booked by the European cuisine aficionados weeks in advance; there was a time…. That time was past.
 
Two years ago the owner of the restaurant, Mr. Puccini passed away quietly in his sleep, leaving in his wake a time of disquiet. Santino Puccini, his son, did not like food as much as he liked money. He wanted to add another floor to the restaurant and change the menu to one that suited every palate.
 
“When you try to please everyone, you please no one! We are the Caesar’s Buffet and not the Piazza Express!” Franco had said in the firmest way he knew but sadly it wasn’t firm enough. Franco had always been a mild mannered man, a lot of his friends would think him non-confrontational and they were right.
 
“There were two kinds of people,” Laura, his wife would tell him often. “One, who explode and get all the anger out of their system and two, those who implode and constantly slow burn within themselves. But you are the rare third kind, you don’t feel any anger at all!” He would laugh at that elucidation of his personality because he knew that Laura saw the real him.

Laura did know Franco better than anybody and she knew he was hurting terribly since the change happened in the restaurant. Yet, whenever she tried to broach the subject he just brushed it aside like it was just a figment of her imagination.

The new floor came up and with that came another chef to “share the burden” as Santino put it succinctly. Very quickly the other chef became the one in charge and he was just left to do the mundane work. Then came the hard blow when everyone but a few of them did not get a raise and Franco was among the few. The connoisseurs stopped visiting the restaurant that was now full of American tourists. Franco was dying a little everyday but would not speak about it.

Laura noticed their personal relationship change, Franco was depressed most of the time and not the romantic Italian lover she knew.

It was a warm summer night. Laura joined her husband on the patio of their apartment that overlooked the Tiber. Franco was quiet, smoking his pipe and looking out at the river.

“Do you know about the frog experiment Franco?” Laura asked him. Franco looked at her and shook his head, not really interested in the experiment.

“They say when a frog is put into hot water in a saucepan it jumps out but when put in cold water it does not jump out…”

“Laura, anyone would do that! Why would you need an experiment to prove that?”

“Franco, listen to the whole thing. They say that a frog can regulate its body temperature, so when you put a frog into cold water and then very gradually begin to heat the water, the frog does not notice the change but becomes more active in the water to keep its body temperature in tune with the water.”

Franco stopped looking out at the river and turned to Laura, interested.

“The water gets hotter and the frog grows more active till the frog gets tired and cannot regulate the body temperature anymore. The frog dies in the hot water. It has spent too much energy trying to deal with a problem that would never go away. It has no energy left to jump out.”

Laura kissed Franco, gave him a tight hug and then walked back into the house allowing Franco to take in the night and his future.
Six months later Franco and Laura invited everyone they knew to the opening of their own restaurant, a fine dining Italian restaurant.They called it, “The Leaping Frog”.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 139 The Wait Was Worth It

The cold wind found the tiniest gap between the wooden boards and whistled through them. Don checked the level of battery on his phone, 38% it read. There was no network anywhere in the mountain lodge, a fact established earlier in the evening when he had first taken shelter there.

He wondered if Rachel was alive, he could not hear her scream anymore. He could let himself out of the basement and check on here, as he should, but he had dumped the burden of bravado very early on in the evening, he felt safer hiding behind his cowardice.

The lights had crashed out and the generator had thrown out a gallon of black murky oil and then died. If Rachel was dead then he was the only one to survive. He knew for certain the four others were dead. He also knew that all of them had assembled at this mountain lodge high up in Rocky Mountains not by accident but by a sinister design, the design of the entity that was getting rid of them one after the other. He had no reason why they were the chosen ones.
Don held his breath as he heard sound of footsteps on the wooden boards and quickly turned the light of the cell phone off. The footsteps were coming towards him, slow, measured and unhurried. If the entity decided to fling the trapdoor open and walk down to him, he had no plan of resistance. Hiding was the only plan he had.

The footsteps were just above him now, on the wooden boards that made the floor of the kitchen and the ceiling of the hole that he was hiding in. He could do nothing to stop himself from shaking and tried very hard to suppress the urge to scream out loud. Not that anyone would come to help him, there was nothing but snow for miles around and the relentlessly long night to add.

The footsteps began to move away from him, slowly but surely. Don found himself able to breathe again and with the breath came a sense of relief, Don collapsed on the cold stone floor. Something told him that it was still not safe to turn the light of his cell phone on.

Lying on the cold stone floor Don thought back to the blizzard and how each one of them had landed up at the Mountain Lodge. He was the last one to arrive after his car was snowed in half a mile away on a lonely stretched of road. Rachel was trekking with her friend Gloria, Adam a wild life photographer was filming the forest in the snow, Noah and Sarah were on a skiing trip though they never got to Aspen and all of them found the isolated lodge by sheer chance. It seemed like a good place to ride out the storm, what they did not know was that there was a bigger storm waiting for them inside the lodge.

The wind lashed against the boarded doors and windows carrying with it angry flakes of snow that remained stuck to the glass, slowly forming a veil of white hiding the outside from the six of them.

Adam was the first to go, found dead with a kitchen knife embedded in the side of his head. At that point the rest of them thought perhaps there was a psychopath between them but when Sarah died and Noah was the only one who could not be accounted for at the time of her death, it became clear that there was someone or something that wanted them dead.

Noah, crazed after Sarah died, tried to make a dash for his car but reached only as far the porch. They found him hanging by the strong birch beams that made the façade. Gloria disappeared soon after and then there was only Rachel and he.

Don could not hear the footsteps anymore; he felt it was safe to turn the cell phone torch on. In the white luminescence he found that he had fallen on a part of the basement that had a lot of unused stuff dumped in a corner. A white sheet seemed to flit in the heap, calling attention to it. Don grabbed the sheet to discover that it was an old black and white picture. On the back of the picture were scribbled the words, “Ski trip Christmas 1948”, Don turned the picture around and what he saw drained all the blood from his face.

It was a picture of seven friends; all of them looked the same, Adam, Rachel, Gloria, Noah, Sarah and he. They were dressed in ski gear and toasting something with joy on their faces. What the hell were they doing there easily twenty-five years before all of them were born? Then Don looked at the seventh one in the picture, she was pretty and as young as them but if she was with them then, why was she not there with them now? Suddenly the light of his cell phone went off. It would not come on. Then he heard the wind howling through the boards change its whistle to a word, it was not his imagination, he was sure it was saying something. He tried to steady his breathing to be able to hear something above the thumping of his heart. The wind seemed to say, “you…. Dooonnn.…” Don began to shake uncontrollably, banging his phone with the palm of his hand, light…. he needed light! Then it came on.

In the whiteness of the phone light he saw the seventh girl standing in front of him, her face was half eaten, her hair matted into rope like strands, her teeth black and yellow and her eyes, they were half white with the effect of cataract.

She smiled, “We meet again Richard.”
In that second Don’s heart stopped, he fell on the cold floor. The light of the cell phone went out.

The wind howled through the tiniest gap in the wooden boards, it seemed to say, “the wait was worth it….”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 138 Justice Denied

Nobody really knew Dr. Sampat. Nobody knew what kind of doctor he was. They just knew that he was a doctor because the nameplate outside his house said so. The neighbors would see him leave home for work in the early hours of the morning and return only late at night, he kept to himself. Dr. Sampat lost his wife years ago to an autoimmune disease; she was the only family he had.

Dr. Sampat was an enigma albeit a reticent one.

It was shocking for the neighbors to see him being arrested early one morning. A seventy-year old man, handcuffed and walking with his trademark slouch towards a waiting police van. No one knew what crime he had committed. The whisper going around was that it was murder.

The next morning the newspapers announced that Dr. Sampat had been arrested for the murder of Rohan Raichand, the spoilt brat of a wealthy father. Rohan was arrested, tried and consequently acquitted for the rape and murder of a sixteen year old but the odd thing was that he had died of a respiratory failure and Dr. Sampat was not even his doctor then how in the world was Dr. Sampat responsible for the death? Things were getting only murkier.

The hearing was slated for a rainy July morning. Dr. Sampat had refused a lawyer, “I do not need saving”, were the words he had said softly at the bail hearing. The media interest in the case was understandably enormous and the courtroom was jam packed with the eyes of the world trained on the goings on in a single room of a large city.

Dr. Sampat took the stand meant for the accused. He looked calm, stoic even.

“You have refused any kind of legal representation, is that correct?” The Judge asked of Dr. Sampat.

“Yes, your honor, that is correct,” Dr. Sampat acquiesced.

The judged nodded and gestured to the Public Prosecutor to start the proceedings. The Prosecutor cleared his throat with an eye at theatrics of a career making trial.

“Dr. Sampat, you have confessed to the murder of Rohan Raichand, yet you have told the investigators that you will only reveal your motivations and the modus operandi in court, so here we are, waiting for you to tell us everything.”

“My wife passed away when Barkha was only five years old. I was left without anyone in the world, without any friends or family. Barkha and her parents became my family, though they did not know that, they still don’t. I would look at the family of three from my bedroom window, I had a view of pretty much all the windows of their house. I saw them having dinner and had dinner along with them, I would wake up roughly the time they did and have my breakfast with the family. I could not hear them but from their faces and expressions I began to understand what they were talking about. I enjoyed the time I spent with them. And Barkha? She was the sweetest little brat in the world…”

The courtroom had never been this quiet, ever. The only sound was the pain filled voice of Dr. Sampat.

“I watched Barkha grow up, watched her study late into the night, watched her birthday parties, watched her cry and fight with her mother, watched her come home triumphant after her boards, watched her talking to her friends on her brand new cell phone late into the night, watched her dress up and feel beautiful… and then one day I watched her come home dead, raped and murdered. I was devastated, my family had been attacked, it was like my grand daughter was dead, murdered.”

Dr. Sampat took a moment to gather himself. The Jude asked the clerk to give him a drink of water. The courtroom remained quiet, waiting…

“It was in a courtroom like this that I sat everyday for two years and at the end of the those two years I watched the guilty bastard, Rohan Raichand walk away acquitted on all counts. There was just not enough evidence or lets say that if there was evidence it was lost under huge heaps of money. On that day I walked out of the Hall of Justice and decided to exact justice on my own. I owed Barkha that, I owed her parents that.”

“So how did you kill him Dr. Sampat?” the Public Prosecutor asked.

Dr. Sampat looked up at the crowded room for the first time and spoke louder, “I invented my own weapon. A bio-genetic missile.”

The court looked stupefied. “Explain to the court!” the Judge demanded.

“I realized that there was no way that I could kill a man at my age with conventional weapons, also I would never get passed his ring of security,” Dr. Sampat continued to explain. “So I fell back on the work I do. I am a genetic scientist and my work is the study of diseases embedded in the DNA code. I had a way of killing him but I needed a sample of DNA. I stated following him and what would have been pretty tedious was made easy by a power up there; Rohan walked out drunk from a party and vomited on the sidewalk. There was enough DNA on the sidewalk to do a lifetime’s research. Once I had his DNA I researched and engineered a virus that would only affect his DNA. Like a guided missile that did not carry a nuclear warhead but a virus as its payload, then I let the virus loose near his house.”

“And this would not affect other people?” the Judge had now taken over the questioning.

“No, your honor,” Dr. Sampat looked the Judge in the eye. “The virus must have caused a cold or a mild cough in the area but when it found Rohan Raichand, it nailed him. The DNA sequence matched and the virus in him was incurable.”

No one uttered a word in the courtroom. The most potent weapon of the century had been used by an old man who was wronged.

“Did you call Rohan on his cell phone from different numbers everyday asking him if he could breathe?” the Prosecutor asked, moving on.

“Yes I did.”

“Why?”

“Cause I knew he was finding it difficult and I wanted him to know that someone was happy for his predicament.” Dr. Sampat said without a grain of guilt. “I wanted the rapist feel what it feels to be a woman whose breath is taken away from her.”

“Dr. Sampat, does this mean you have invented a genetic missile that can be used by anyone?” The Judge almost looked ashen.

“Yes Sir, it will now be available on the market.”

“Why? Why did you have to be so cruel to everyone? This rape was not everyone’s fault!” the Judge cried out.

“It was Sir! I realized there was only one way to make women feel safe, make men feel unsafe. Now I have leveled the playing field. If a woman lives in fear, now, so will men.”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 137

Meera sat alone outside her temple, the night sky filled with its billion stars and the little oil lamps that she lit seemed to mesh into one big blanket of twinkling light, like fireflies that cloaked her into a world where only she and her Kanha existed.

The cold air of Rajasthan did not bother her; she was lost in the thoughts of her husband,her Kanha. A beatific smile on her face and a song forming in her mind in the praise of her Lord, she did not need anything else.

“Are you smiling because she you do not want to show your pain? Is the smile hiding the tears that you want to shed?” Kanha stepped out of the temple and sat down beside her, he seemed troubled. Mira looked up to find her Lord staring at her with his intoxicating lotus eyes.
“Why would I be suffering Kanha when you are here with me?” Mira said a voice that was gentle as the wind.
“Meera, you may suffer this with a smile but it is hurting me. I cannot take this anymore.” Kanha was clearly distraught.
“And what troubles you my Lord?”
“You are suffering in my name. Your in-laws give you a goblet of poison, the so-called pious of the court call you names, you have to sleep here in the temple, in the cold, you go hungry for days, you fall ill… I just cannot take it anymore. I am hurting, please stop this, please go back to your family, you need not tell the world that I am your husband!”
Mira smiled at Kanha, “Ah! My Lord is worried?”
“The world thinks that I am this Idol of stone, that I like to be prayed to and enjoy the attention, that I feel nothing but they don’t know how much I am suffering in your suffering!” Kanha’s eyes welled up with sorrow.
“So is my Lord worried about my suffering or is he worried about what the world thinks of him?” Mira teased Kanha.
“You can argue better than me sometimes!”
“Most times,” Mira teased again then smiled and put her head on her Lord’s shoulder. “If you are so concerned about me why do you keep saving me from poison goblets and snakes that they send for me? Why don’t you take me away from all this? Why don’t you take me with you?”
Kanha shook his head with exasperation, “I have made this world for everyone to follow their free will. I cannot interfere with the design of this universe. If I start doing that there would be chaos Meera.”
“Then let it be and just enjoy the starry night with me, let me hold your hand and sing you a song my Lord,” Mira did not allow Kanha to argue more and began to sing Kanha a beautiful song. Kanha cried his silent tears through the night.
 
As the years went by Kanha saw his beautiful bride suffer in silence, her only crime was her love for him. He saw her leave the kingdom of Mewar and go on a pilgrimage; she went to Dwarka and then to Vrindavan. She would not eat, her health was failing and she was getting older, he worried for her all the time.

He hated the laws of the universe he had made himself. He wished Meera would understand, he wished she would live like the queen she was, he wished she would not suffer so much in his name and most of all he wished he could be more than a helpless God.
On a cold morning in 1547 Meera lay at the feet of his stone idol in the temple and Kanha had had enough. A large number of people would swear later that they saw the temple doors close miraculously and when they opened Meera was gone. Kanha had taken her away.
 
Sitting by his side in a place after death Meera asked her Kanha, “So what made you change your laws of the universe and take me away?”
Kanha held her close and said with a smile, “It was not me but the entire universe that bowed to your love Meera. The Lord of the universe was no match for your doting Husband. Your husband changed the laws of the universe for you my love”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 136

In the year 1970 a computer could take up an entire room, in the year 2018 everything that was in that room could be put into a cell phone with ten times more power. In the year 2021 everything that was in the cell phone could be put into a single blood cell. In the year 2025 genetic engineering could use nanotechnology and inject computerized cells into the blood, diseases could be cured easily. In the year 2035 came the first hybrid human, from the age of three to the age of eight all kinds of different software were injected into her, language, mathematics, communication skills, geography, history, science and everything else that a human being bcould require and more.

In the year 2045, the institution of schools ceased to exist, they were not necessary anymore, everything could be downloaded into the human being in stages.

It was a great time for everyone who could afford technology but it was hell for those who could not. Human beings had become like computers; if they were not upgraded they became useless.

Stella worked as a city cleaner and Mike was trying hard to get a job. Mike used to drive a cab but since teleportation became a reality no one needed cabs. It was a year since Mike had been unemployed and cleaning did not really pay Stella well. Yet, money was not the problem, the problem was the upgrade.

Both Stella and Mike hadn’t gotten themselves upgraded in four years and their software was really out of date. It had become impossible to communicate, their neural pathways could no longer connect to the super computer, they were lost most of the time and matters had come to a point where they could not even access their own memory. The software was just too old.

Mike saw the red blinking message on the right side of his field of vision. It said that if he did not get a systems upgrade by the next day he would be shut down. Stella came home and told Mike that she was seeing the same message flash in her vision.

They watched the sun set behind the glass dome that covered their city, it kept the toxic atmosphere out and the air clean. They held hands and shared the last of the energy drinks that they had. None of them spoke; there was nothing to talk about. It was the end of the road for them.

“We have credits enough for one upgrade, why don’t you get an upgrade, I don’t mind shutting down,” Stella smiled at Mike and made the suggestion seem pleasant. “You mean exist without you?” Mike asked her. Stella did not respond but looked away. “I am not existing without you. What is there to exist for?”

They sat alone for a while more and then suddenly Mike got up with great excitement, “I have an idea! What if I get a hacked software upgrade? It works for most people and besides, this is not for a long-term plan, this is only till we have enough credits to get us both proper upgrades. What do you think?”

“Those hacks are not reliable Mike! They can shut down anytime!”

“Anytime is better than tomorrow Stella,” Mike argued.

Stella thought about it for a while and then nodded slowly. Mike ran to her and gave her a kiss. He bounded out of the house filled with a new sense of hope. Stella smiled to herself, she knew why she loved him so much, he was just filled with hope all the time.

It was past midnight and Mike had not come home. The old software had restricted their interpersonal communication so Stella had to use the cellular device. Mike did not answer the phone but instead it rang in the house. Mike never left the house without his cellular device and then she realized that Mike had not taken any credits with him. How the hell was he going to get a hack? In a heartbreaking moment she realized what he had done. She ran out of the house, she had to get to the law agency and ask them to send out a message looking for Mike. But she stopped on the staircase; the law agent was already there to see her. It was too late. Mike had shut himself down so that Stella could exist.

Stella let out a blood-curdling scream as she collapsed on the staircase.

The next day Stella was at the upgrade center, she wanted to shut down after Mike had gone but she would never want Mike’s death to go in vain. She had to exist to honor his shut down.

As the upgrade robot connected her to the super computer he looked at her and smiled, “You look sad, people getting upgrades are generally very happy.”

Stella said nothing in response.

“Do you seek any new software out of the quiver?”

“Do you have anything that cures a broken heart and takes away human misery?”

The robot looked at her confused, “I have no idea what that is.”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 135 Silent Prayer

Tvam-Eva Maataa Ca Pitaa Tvam-Eva| Tvam-Eva Bandhush Ca Sakhaa Tvam-Eva| Tvam-Eva Viidyaa Dravinnam Tvam-Eva| Tvam-Eva Sarvam Mama Deva Deva||

Shreya began every morning of her life with this prayer, it meant, You Truly are my Mother And You Truly are my Father, You Truly are my Relative And You Truly are my Friend. You Truly are my Knowledge and You Truly are my Wealth, You Truly are my All, My God of God. And she meant every bit of it because for her God was everything. She was an orphan and grew up in an orphanage but she never felt less deserving than anyone else. Her God made sure that she had everything that others had. She was a brilliant student, did her Masters in the Arts, she met Naitik, simply put a good man. She had a home, a family and all that she could ask for in life. She was thankful to God.

The long month of fasting was the toughest for Shreya. She would wake up early, say her prayers, make lunch for Naitik to carry to work, then pack the little tiffin for her eight-year old Karan and then quickly dash off to the departmental store where she was head of sales for the Ladies’ apparel department. She allowed herself only water through the day and survived on fruits at night. Yet, she was only filled with gratitude.

Shreya had just gotten back from work when Malti the domestic help brought to her attention that Karan had not eaten anything at school. His tiffin was untouched as it had been packed. Shreya was very surprised and caught hold of the brat sweating and just back home after a game of cricket.

“You did not eat your lunch Karan?” Shreya asked the question admonishingly.
“No Mom. I did the right thing,” he answered, distracted.
“Right thing?” Shreya was appalled.
“There is a new boy in school who told me that even his Mother fasts and that he does the right thing by not eating because she is not eating.”
Shreya felt so much love for the little boy’s innocence.
“That is only for Mothers and not a little child. You must eat? Alright?”
“Okay Mom!” Karan did not argue and ran in for a shower.
 
The next day at the apparel floor Shreya found a beautiful young Lady absently going through some dresses on display. “Do you need any help?” Shreya offered with a smile. The Lady smiled back and shook her head then she looked back at Shreya, “Your son did the right thing, I heard?” Shreya was stumped. “Are you the Mother of the new boy in school?” The Lady shook her head again, “I am a Mother but not of that boy.” The Lady then put the dress back on the rack and left the floor. It was enigmatic to say the least.

That evening at home the story repeated itself, Karan had not eaten and this was becoming stressful for Shreya who was already weak with all the fasting. She gave Karan a piece of her mind and told him that no matter what anyone said he must eat. Karan shrugged and nodded.

But the next day it was the same and the day after that. Shreya decided enough was enough. She marched to the school and to the Teacher. “This new boy in your class is asking Karan not to eat his lunch and Karan is listening to him and getting weaker everyday. I am very concerned. Perhaps you should talk to this boy and ask him to stop influencing my Son!”
“Mrs. Gupta, you seem to be mistaken, there is no new boy,” the Teacher seemed equally baffled. 

Shreya could hardly concentrate at work that day. An array of disturbing thoughts stormed her mind. Was her Son mentally ill? Was he seeing things? Was this a kind of anorexia? Then a voice broke her reverie, “Your Son still doing the right thing?” Shreya looked up to find the same beautiful young Lady holding a dress in her hand. Shreya was not in the mood for polite conversation, “Look here! If you and your son are playing some game with my son I will have you arrested. Are you some kind of a witch? What joy are you getting by doing all this?”
The young Lady smiled, “You say your prayers every morning? Tvam-Eva Maataa Ca Pitaa Tvam-Eva? You call God your Mother and Father and yet you do not realize that the way you hurt when your child does not eat, so does God! Any Mother and any Father cannot bear the pain of seeing their child suffer. You cannot see Karan’s suffering and God, your Mother and Father, cannot see yours. It is so simple Shreya.”

Shreya was rooted to the floor, dumbfounded. “Now if you don’t mind I would like to try this dress,” the young Lady turned around and walked to the changing room. “Who are you? How do you know my name?” Shreya called out behind her. The young Lady did not answer and shut the door to the changing room.

Five minutes later the door opened lazily and there was no one inside. The dress lay on the floor, untried. Shreya stood there overwhelmed.

That evening Shreya noticed that Karan had eaten his food. He sat lovingly on his Mother’s lap and said; “The new boy said he won’t come to school from tomorrow. He said your Mother knows why.”

Shreya closed her eyes and said a silent prayer, indeed she knew why.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 134 Innocent

Part 3.

The prosecution had managed to construct a clever case around the motivation of a harassed battered wife’s need to kill her husband. Mira knew that she had to do something and do it fast but the walls were closing in on her.

Farzana walked in looking shattered. She tossed her sunglasses to a side and sat down more defeated than exhausted. Mira waited for her to start detailing her findings when she was ready.

“Rajesh did not do it. His alibi is watertight. He was waiting for Vaidehi at a coffee house and both the manager of the coffee house and the CCTV confirm the fact that he did not leave till he got a phone call at 11:00 PM, which was way after the murder.” Farzana did not care to open her tired eyes as she imparted all that information leaning back on the couch.

“Aruna? The daughter?” Mira asked. “Again a strong alibi. Aruna was in Pune when this happened. She only got to know in the morning when the police called to inform her,” Farzana stared out of the window and thought about Vaidehi being a possibility.

“Vaidehi did not do it!” Mira said reading her thoughts. “My bet is on Aruna. She wanted to avenge her Mother’s death and now she is old enough.”
“But she was in Pune!”
“Does not take long to drive to Mumbai, murder and then get back to Pune. I bet she has Shekhar’s original gun. Only we can’t get a search warrant.”
“What is your theory?” Farzana asked knowing that Mira had already thought something out.
“Okay here it is then,” Mira began to explain. “Aruna’s Mother was killed in a car crash. The police report and the media said that she was driving the car while Shekhar was in the passenger seat but it was not consistent with their injuries and forensic reports. If I were Aruna I would have grown up thinking that my Father killed my Mother, remarried another woman and forgot all about me. I would try and get rid of both of them in one blow. I have a hunch that she was the one who called her Father anonymously and told him that Vaidehi was seeing Rajesh. There was no way a drunkard like Shekhar would ever think of hiring a detective.”
“So far you have me, but…” Farzana interjected but Mira held her hand up, asking Farzana to wait till she was finished.
“On the day Vaidehi had planned to run, Aruna knew there would be an altercation, knowing her drunk Father. She entered the house, waited for an opportune time. Then shot Shekhar with her gun because she could obviously not use his gun. She took Shekhar’s gun with her and left her gun in his hand. This way the gun had Shekhar’s handprints and when Vaidehi being stupid picked up the gun it also had her prints.”
Mira sat back looking at Farzana and Farzana in turn, took her time to process the theory.

“There is only problem The CCTV footage shows that no one entered the house for the two hours between the time Vaidehi came from office and the murder took place. So if Aruna stole into the house, how did she do it?” Farzana posed the question almost killing the theory completely.

“She could have stolen in during the day and… but no, we know that in the day she was in Pune.” Mira was mulling the facts but to Farzana it seemed that she was trying to make the facts fit the theory and not the theory fit the facts, this was not like Mira, perhaps she was not on top of her game.

“Do you have the CCTV footage here?” Mira inquired out of the blue.
“Yes.”
“Can I see it?”
Farzana brought the CD out of her bag and handed it to Mira who slid it into her DVD drive on her laptop and clicked on the play icon.

The image came alive.

Mira stared at the images for what seemed like a really long time and then called out to Farzana. “You see that puddle of water outside the building?” Mira asked with a smile. Farzana nodded, wondering why a puddle was important. “I think we have just cracked this one. Get someone to enlarge the puddle image.” Mira stood up with relief, picked her handbag up and walked out to spend the evening with her daughter. Farzana had no clue how the puddle was going to help!

“The defense would like Mr. Rammurthy. He is the manager of the security agency,” Mira announced to the court.
“Objection Your Honor!” The Public Prosecutor was up in a jiffy. “We have already examined his testimony and introduced the CCTV footage of the apartment building as a prosecution exhibit!” 
“Your honor, the defense has a question on that very CCTV footage. I am sure we are well within our rights to a re-examination?” Mira shouted above the din, rather forcefully. “Objection overruled!” the Judge seemed as eager as everyone else to know what the defense was after.

The head manager of the security agency took his place in the witness box. Mira walked up to him and then with a splash of drama she turned on the television that was placed in court to replay the CCTV footage.

“You are the manager of the Security agency, Mr. Rammurthy, right?” Mira began her examination.
“Yes, I am.” The man croaked out of nervousness.
“Are you in charge of the CCTV footage of this apartment building”
“Yes I am.”
“You have submitted to the court a copy of the footage of the night of 1st of May 2018, the night Mr. Shekhar Varma was murdered in the same apartment building. Is that right?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Mr. Rammurthy, is this the copy of the footage of that night?”
Mira played the footage for the Manager again. No one in court had a clue what Mira was after.
“Yes, this is the footage,” the Manager confirmed.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I am,” the Manager was a bit shaken.
“And we can see that no one really came in and out of the building at the time before and after the murder?” Mira pressed on.
“Yes that is correct.”
Mira then paused the CCTV footage and looked towards the Judge,“Your honor I would like to draw your attention to the biggish puddle of water that one can see clearly in the footage. I would like you to see what image is reflected in the puddle.”

The Judge narrowed his eyes to see but he could not make out. “I cannot see clearly.” The Judge said.
“I took the liberty to get a soft engineer to magnify the image and since it was inverted owing to the reflection I got him to set it straight.” Mira offered to explain and then paused on the inverted image.
“What do you see Mr. Rammurthy?” Mira asked the Manager.
“It is the movie theatre across the street. And the poster of a movie on it.” Everyone in court could now read this clearly, including Vaidehi who was caught up in the confusion as everyone else.
“Does it say Now Showing? And the name of the film?” Mira asked the manager again.
“Yes I can.”
“Can you see the name of the film?” Mira asked again.
“The Power of Nano.”
“That is correct!” Mira said encouragingly.
“Do you know Mr. Rammurthy that the 1st of May was a Thursday and the 2nd of May obviously a Friday. The Power of Nano released in theatres on the 2nd of May and I can bring the manager of the this theatre to attest to this fact, do you wish me to do that?”

The Court burst into a huge uproar. Everyone was talking at the same time and the Manager Rammurthy looked like he was getting a heart attack.

“Mr. Rammurthy, you have lied under oath and you will go to jail I am sure. Is this not the footage of the next day? Have you not replaced the footage?” Rammurthy was now a shaking aspen leaf.
“Answer me!” screamed Mira.
“Yes! Yes!” Rammurthy said looking pale.
“Who asked you to lie to the court? Tell us now!”
Rammurthy pointed to Aruna Varma sitting quietly in the corner of the court. Nothing could be heard after that. Everyone was speaking at the same time.

Mira looked at Vaidehi with a smile, Vaidehi could only fold her hands and thank Mira through the tears that ran down her face.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 133 Innocent

Part 2.

The Monsoon had arrived early. The rain came down in torrents, splattering Mira’s office window with millions of watery stars that refracted the light of the moving traffic outside. It made her feel like she was in a universe of her own with the glassy sky making for a wall between her thoughts and the chaotic world outside.

Farzana had been Mira’s assistant for a few years now. On a case that was important to Mira it was always Farzana who was her deputy.
Mira rewound the Dictaphone once again to the beginning and asked Farzana to take notes while she let the facts talk to her. She did not want to hurry this one up, she did not want Vaidehi to hang for something she had not done.

The Dictaphone came to life and Mira’s voice filled the room.
Mira: Meeting number four, client Vaidehi Varma, Tuesday 29th May. Vaidehi, while we tell the court that you have not murdered Shekhar we must also point the court in the right direction. In other words proving that you did not murder is not enough, we must also bring the real killer to light. You understand?
Vaidehi: Yes
Mira: Good, now tells me everyone who could be involved. We must suspect everyone who could have a motive. Starting with Rajesh.
Vaidehi: Rajesh was helping me escape why would he kill Shekhar?
Mira: He could be sending you out of town so that blame would not come on you and then kill Shekhar. He has been secretly in love with you? And you know that, right?
Vaidehi: Right
Mira: So Rajesh is on the list. Then you said that Shekhar had an ex wife?
Vaidehi: Yes but she is dead. Years back.
Mira: But did Shekhar not have a daughter from that marriage?
Vaidehi: He does.
Mira: How old is she?
Vaidehi: She is about 22
Mira: Where does she live?
Vaidehi: In Dubai. Shekhar and Aruna, that is his daughter’s name, are not in touch. I have seen her only once through my married years.
Mira: Hmmmm, so Aruna is very much on the list. Anyone else you can think of? Anyone who might have a motive?
Vaidehi: I have no idea.
Mira: Hmmm, all right, I understand.
Mira turned the Dictaphone off and gazed out at the rain swept city.

Farzana played a rhythm beating the pencil on the pad, putting her mind into high gear. “So it could be Rajesh or Aruna?” Farzana made the question seem more like an ambiguous statement hanging in the air. Mira did not respond. “It could also be Shekhar himself…” Farzana added with a little bit of hesitation.

Mira turned to her with a sudden interest, “Why would you say that?”
“There are some kind of people who can cut the nose to spite the face. Shekhar knew he wasn’t getting anywhere in life and then realized that even his only source of income was running away. He could get vindictive?” Farzana posed her theory and chucked the pencil on the table.
“Hmmm, he could do that but have you seen the forensic report?” Mira got up to get herself a glass of water from the bottle on the study table.
“No, I have not,” Farzana felt a tad guilty for not having done that.
“I am foxed by the report. It says that the bullets found in Shekhar’s body were definitely fired from the gun that was found at the crime scene and it had both Shekhar and Vaidehi’s fingerprints on it but…” Mira sat back down sipping on the glass of water. “But the strange thing is that there was a road rage incident that Shekhar was arrested for a couple of years back. He had fired a bullet at someone’s car. The police had done a forensic report at that time as well. The thing is that gun is different from this one. The bullet fired at that time does not match the bullet found in Shekhar’s body. They are two different guns. Why would Shekhar own two guns of the same kind? Also he has license for only one gun. So where did this other gun come from?”
Farzana could only stare back in response.

Mira continued with her thought process, “If the guns have been exchanged then someone killed Shekhar with this gun and took his gun away. The guns were exchanged. Farzana, in this gun exchange lies the secret of this case!”

To be continued….

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 132 Innocent

Part 1.

Mira watched her seven-year old daughter walk into school, a water bottle and lunch box in her little hands. The smile lingered on her face long after her daughter had disappeared in the throng of other tots.

She had much to thank God for even though her divorce had been bitter and the physical battering had left her scared for life, there was still her darling daughter and her work. The pain and humiliation had made her one of the top criminal lawyers of the country.

Mira turned around and walked back to her car albeit slowly. She was deep in thought. She had a decision to make. The murder case that had come to her was pro bono and it would take a lot of her time. Yet, there was something about the lady she had met the previous day in the female prison that reminded her of herself. As she strapped the seatbelt on and turned the ignition she decided to go meet Vaidehi once more before making her mind up.

Vaidehi was brought in handcuffed to the visitor’s room. Mira could see what prison could do to a demure, timid woman. Vaidehi looked like she had not slept in days, her hair was all matted and there were slight bruises on her face. Mira flashed her most reassuring smile as she sat down in front of her.

“The police not hurting you I hope?” Mira inquired. Vaidehi shook her head, “No, they just keep asking me the same questions again and again.” “That is just an interrogation technique. They want to check if your answers are the same every time,” Mira tried to make little of the interrogation hoping it would make Vaidehi feel better but she knew that nothing could make a woman who was accused of killing her husband feel better. “Will you take my case?” Vaidehi asked hopefully. “To be honest, I have not decided yet,” Mira decided to be honest with the woman. “I need to understand what happened the night your husband died. Bluntly put I need to make sure whether you killed your husband or not. Though you say you have not and I have no reason to doubt you but I have my own ways of going about things. I hope you understand?” Vaidehi nodded. “Then tell me once again what happened?” Mira asked softly. Vaidehi took a deep breath and launched into her story of anguish. “I was married to Shekhar for four years and as I told you earlier, in those four years I only saw the ugly side of him. Shekhar was a drunkard, unemployed and frustrated. I ran the house with whatever I earned at the advertising agency.” “And you were an accountant at the agency?” Mira interrupted to check her notes. “Yes, that is correct.”
“Please go on,” Mira sounded apologetic for interrupting. “As the years went by Shekhar’s behavior only got worse. He would beat me at the slightest provocation. I was scared, very scared. Then one day I met a friend of mine from college. He was someone I had dated for a bit but things did not work between us. This time however he became my pillar of strength.” “This is Rajesh?” Mira quickly checked again. Vaidehi nodded and continued, “Rajesh told me that the only way out for me was to run away from Shekhar and start a life somewhere else, in some other city. I could see the sense in this. On that night I had decided that I would get home, behave like everything was normal and then when Shekhar was asleep I would just leave, taking all the money and jewelry that was mine. But when I got home Shekhar had pictures of Rajesh and me together. Apparently he had hired a detective. He somehow knew that I was planning to run. He began to slap me around again. I tried fighting back but he was just too strong for me. Then he took his gun out. He told me he would shoot and kill me, he had had enough. I was petrified. I ran to the bathroom and locked myself in. I heard him hollering and threatening to break the door down. Then I heard two gunshots. After that I did not hear anything. I was too scared to come out but when I heard nothing for about half an hour I let myself out very carefully. To my horror Shekhar lay there in a pool of blood. He was shot dead, two bullets inside him. I saw his gun lying there. I picked the gun up, in case he was playing some trick on me. The next thing I heard was the police sirens and I was arrested for killing my husband.”

Vaidehi closed her eyes, too rattled to live through it again. Mira stretched her hand and held Vaidehi’s shaking hands. “And that is all that happened? Your husband threatens to kill you but lies dead himself when you come out after half an hour?” Mira asked for the last time.Vaidehi could only nod. “I have no idea who did it but I know you did not. I will take your case!” Mira said with a smile.

Vaidehi smiled, tears of relief rolled down her face.

To be continued….

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 131 Expectations

“Richard Bryner, was awarded the Tacitus Award for outstanding achievement in Law. In the award ceremony held last night he did not even mention your name in his ‘thank you speech’, as someone who mentored him and set up him as a lawyer in this cutthroat city. How does that feel, this lack of gratitude?” the voice of the Journalist asked Malcolm Meyer.
Malcolm took a deep breath and tried to look for the words but they failed him. Years of court battles had taught him that when in doubt say nothing. “I am sorry, I am in a meeting but I would be happy to talk to you after office hours,” Malcolm obfuscated. The Journalist promised to call back and hung off.

Malcolm could feel a huge weight on his chest, like someone was feeling physically pressing on it. He was hurt. Very hurt.

Richard was a paralegal in his firm all those years ago. Malcolm had seen a bright mind and sincerity in the boy. He asked Richard to stop working and study for the bar, in that one year that Richard did not work Malcolm paid for everything, from his rent to his food. Malcolm was right; Richard passed the bar with flying colors and turned out to be a bright lawyer. Malcolm was one of the biggest lawyers in the city and any ambitious lawyer would have kill to be his assistant but Malcolm did not give that opportunity to anyone. In his heart and mind he always saw Richard as his assistant and in the years to come he saw Richard’s name on the letterhead with his name. Meyer and Bryner that was his dream.

It was Richard’s birthday and Malcolm took out for a drink. Over their second Bourbon Malcolm offered Richard to be his partner, to have his name with his. Richard did not look happy, instead he asked for a day to think about it. Malcolm found that odd, he thought Richard would jump at it, anyone would have but he said little. Richard had the right to choose.

The next day Richard told Malcolm that he wanted to start a firm of his own.“I work best alone, that is something I have realized,” Richard confessed. Malcolm felt a stab in his heart but also knew that every man had a right to make his destiny. He blessed Richard on his new venture and even offered to help. Malcolm parted with a few high value clients so that Richard could have a good start on his firm. “Well begun is half done boy!” Malcolm said with a pat on Richard’s back. Richard had readily accepted the clients.

As the years went by Malcolm saw Richard do really well for himself but he also saw that the phone calls from Richard became less. The Christmas wishes and Thanksgiving phone calls ceased as well. And then the award function where Malcolm learned in the cruelest fashion that Richard had not even a thank you for him.

Malcolm found it difficult to sit in his office chamber; his hurt was turning into a rage. He had to teach Richard a lesson; he had to make sure that Richard knew that even dogs had gratitude. He had to put Richard in his place and Malcolm was still the cat in the game of rats. It was time to take a rat apart.

Malcolm walked out if his office and on to the park that spread adjacent to his office building. The day was grey; a crisp breeze blew in from the North. Malcolm sat himself down on the park bench. This was his place, his strategy place. He had sat there on many occasions making strategies to tear the opposition apart and all those strategies had worked.

How does one destroy another lawyer thought Malcolm? He had to start by making him look ungrateful, which was not tough because Richard was ungrateful. He would speak to that Journalist in the evening and give an interview that would make him look mean and selfish. Next, he had to tear his reputation as a lawyer apart. He knew that all lawyers played around with the law to get their way in court but most of them crossed the line between legal and illegal and Malcolm would have to catch him crossing the line.

Slowly a plan to destroy Richard began to take shape in Malcolm’s mind. This was going to be fun; it would help heal the wounds that Richard had given him over the years. He wondered who coined the term “ungrateful dog” when it was humans who were ungrateful. He felt better about everything and decided to spend some more time sitting on the bench feeling the breeze and the scant sun.

In front of him he saw a toddler playing with his Father. The toddler walked a bit and then fell, his Father gave him a hand; the toddler stood up, walked a bit and then fell again. It was a very moving game to watch. The Father and Son both seemed to enjoy it. Malcolm had no clue why the tears began to flow from his eyes; he had no clue why the tears turned into a sobbing.The Father and Son stopped playing the game and looked at him. Malcolm closed his eyes to understand what the tears were telling him.

Gratitude was not a right, you could not demand gratitude, you either got it or you did not, it was not up to you but up to the person who you think you had helped. The Father could not demand gratitude from the toddler for teaching him how to walk. The need for gratitude could not be a cage where you could trap someone. Gratitude had to be the need of the other’s soul. Feeling gratitude meant that you had to realize that others aided your journey and to realize that you had to first understand that you are not the be all and end all of everything. Richard would get there one day, if he did at all. It had to be his journey, not his. His journey was to pick up another Richard working as a paralegal somewhere.

Malcolm opened his eyes and smiled. The sun peeped from behind a cloud and bathed Malcolm in its golden hue. He walked up to the Father and thanked him, the Father of course had no idea for what he was being thanked.

He took his phone out from his pocket and wrote a message to Richard, “Congratulations on your award, may you soar higher and attain new heights, love Malcolm”.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 130 The Victim

Autumn was in the air. The leaves were betraying their green for a yellow and gold; the summer was leaving to go warm a cold world in the south but for Fabian Alexander it was the best time of his life. He was the youngest lawyer to be appointed a Judge.

The wine and cheese gathering to appreciate modern art bored him but these were things that he had to do. He also reminded himself to smile. That was another he had to do. No one liked a sullen Judge and he had this terrible need to be liked at all times. June was of the opinion that this came out of low self-esteem; he was of the opinion that June was full of shit! “Language dear Fabian,” his mother reminded him from a different corner of his mind.

He was slowly moving towards the door when a young lady accosted him. She did not seem like she was really part of the gathering, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt to a wine and cheese do, not done.

“Judge Alexander?” she asked, a terrified look in her eyes.
“Yes, that is me,” Fabian smiled.
“The hit and run case that you are hearing is not a hit and run. It is a murder case. Please remember that!” she said with a strange urgency.
“Look here Lady, it is not legal for you to do this and I can have you arrested. You are interfering with the process of law by coming to me like this!” Fabian’s words however only lingered in the air for the young lady had turned around and walked away as fast as she could, out through the doors and into the street.

Fabian spent an uncomfortable night. He decided that he had to tell both the lawyers, after they had finished their opening arguments, that a young lady had warned him about the case. He should leave it to their judgment if they wanted him recused.
The court was full. The hit and run case had a celebrity at the wheel. He knew that this was going to be a tough one. Fabian gestured asking everyone to be seated and then invited the District Attorney to start his argument.

The District Attorney stood and marched towards the Jury with a picture of the deceased in his hand. “This ladies and gentlemen is the picture of the hit and run victim. This of course is a picture taken by the forensics hours after the accident but let me assure you that the victim looked way better than this when alive!”

Then he turned Fabian, “Your honor I would like to introduce to the court this picture as prosecution exhibit A.” Fabian nodded, “So let it be entered in the proceedings of the court.” The clerk got up and handed the Judge the picture.

Fabian stopped hearing what the District Attorney was saying and a faint screaming sound began to ring in his head as he saw that the hit and run victim was wearing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, it was the young lady at the party

-Arsee.