Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 154 Conflict

Howard “Buzz” Ford was the best agent that the Covert Agency had. He was a veteran of more missions than he could remember. The Agency itself was kept under wraps and even the mention of it was hushed up by the Government, much like Area 51 and what went on there. Buzz, as he was called for a reason that he could not really recollect, was an expert at ballistics and bombs, a talent that held him in good stead in the war areas of the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq and more recently Syria.

Buzz did the work that could never have Government clearance for obvious reasons. Nasty assassinations, risky extractions, illegal kidnappings, Buzz did them all. 

Then what could have been so severe in his latest mission that made him shut himself in his house was the question the agency was asking.
Ever since Buzz had come back from Lebanon something inside him had changed. He was distant, uncommunicative and his neighbors did see the newspapers gather outside his door. He was not even stepping outside his house.

On a cold winter day the Agency had to break his door down because he would not answer their calls or mails. They found him dead, hanging from the ceiling, suicide. 

Nick Rogers was his partner on many a mission. Nick was shocked to learn that Buzz had killed himself. He wanted to know why but the Agency kept everything under wraps, need to know basis only. Nick told the agency that if they wanted him out in the field than they better level with him or they could “Kiss his ass Goodbye”. The Agency could not afford to lose two agents in a week. They sent Nick a DVD with instructions to destroy after he watched it.

The television screen came alive with Buzz’s face on it. Nick sat down to see what his friend had to say. Buzz looked like he had not slept, eaten, shaved or even lived in days. He spoke in a shattered lonesome tone.

“If you are watching this video, then you know that I have succeeded in killing myself. I could not live another day with his young innocent eyes looking at me. Everywhere I go I see his eyes, even when I close my eyes I see him, he is smiling at me, he is stretching his hand out, his innocence is tearing me apart.”

Buzz closed his eyes and took a deep breath, “I was in Lebanon and my mission was to kill Abu Tariq. He was the genius who was routing the funding for the groups that we want decimated. Like all men who have secrets Abu Tariq had one. He had a Mistress that he visited every week, the day and time would vary, so I had to stalk him for weeks to learn that there was no choice but to wait for him to appear. His security made it impossible for a direct assault. There was only one way, detonate the damn place when he was inside with her. The Mistress would be collateral damage but then she deserved it for sleeping with the devil. I lined the place up when she went out for a chore. I chose a remote detonator with an exclusive frequency and a place the I rented for a month with a view to the Mistress’s house.”

“Late on a Sunday night Abu Tariq came there, what I had not bargained for was that he would come with his twelve-year old boy. What kind of an asshole came to a Mistress with a kid? I put my headphones on and heard him telling the Mistress that she had to move; he had intel that he was being watched. He would have one of his men take her to an undisclosed place. I was going to loose him if I did not kill him there and then, if I did, I would kill an innocent child. It was the Devil’s Alternative. The seconds ticked by and I saw Tariq get up to leave, it was either now or never. I hit the button. Just before the place went up in flames I caught the sight of the little boy saying goodbye to the lady with a smile.”

Buzz began to sob, “I cannot forget that smile and the waving of the hand. It was like he was saying goodbye to the world. The sight haunts me, I cannot live with that smile but most of all I cannot live with myself.”

Then Buzz wiped his tears, “I have no idea what we are fighting for anymore. Their children are dying and our children are dying. We are fighting for a future but what kind of future is it where there are no children? A Chinese curse comes to my mind, ‘May you outlive your children.’ We are making that curse come true.”

The video went off and left Nick looking at the flurry of the television signal. He closed his eyes and leaned back. What would turn the tide of so much hate, he wondered. Then he sighed and wished the world did not have so many believers. For a moment he wished there was no God, no his God and no my God. Just no God. Humans, he realized, had the need to make others believe in what they believed in. In the end all conflict came to that My belief versus your belief.

-Arsee.

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Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 153 Reflections

“So you are back my dear Rowena?” the Plastic Surgeon walked up to receive Rowena Red into his plush office with his welcoming salesman smile. He had figured very long back that people were more worried about how they looked and not how they felt. He had converted that knowledge into a lucrative business of plastic surgery, the crème de la crème of tinsel town made it their temple, a temple where they found the elixir of everlasting youth under the Surgeon’s experienced scalpel.

Rowena Red had been a heartthrob of millions when she lit up the movie screens throughout the world but that was a while ago. Now she was just a lonely woman battling her wrinkles in a huge mansion surrounded by dogs and security guards.

“We cannot do another surgery, it is not advisable. There is only that much the skin can take,” the Surgeon informed Rowena with a despondent look. Rowena sighed. She did not want to look the way she looked now; she wanted to look like she was five years back, ten years even. There was a searing silence in the office; it was not easy for the most beautiful girl in the world to accept that she would not be beautiful anymore.

“There is one thing I can do for you,” the Surgeon sprang an idea. “There is a mirror I have experimented on and perfected. No matter how old you get, it will only reflect what you want it to reflect, the age you want it to reflect and the mood that makes you look the best. It has a one time setting on it, unfortunately, once you set it you cannot change it but why would you want to change it?” the Surgeon smiled like he was selling another product.

Rowena was interested immediately. She never went out and almost never called anyone home. It could be a perfect fix for her problem. “How many mirrors can I buy?” she asked. “As many as you wish.” The Surgeon countered with glee. Rowena nodded and smiled slowly.

A week later all the mirrors in her house were changed to the special mirror that she had bought from the Surgeon. They were set to the age of thirty-five, it was closer to the truth but not the truth entirely. Rowena was absolutely delighted with this new mechanism, it worked perfectly for her. There was a self-destruct mechanism that came with the mirrors, in case she wanted to shatter them and have the originals back but Rowena knew she would never need a mechanism like that, ever!

She would wake up in the morning to look at a young smiling face in the mirror, it felt wonderful to see no pigmentation and no wrinkles. The mirror became her best friend; she could not stop looking at herself. She would change her clothes five times day and the mirror would reflect those clothes on a thirty-five year old hourglass figure. It was what she wanted all her life, everlasting youth. There were days when she felt unwell, days when she felt her hair was not falling right, days when she could not be bothered to wear make-up and even those days turned delightful thanks to the mirror.

On a bright summer morning Rowena woke up to a blurry vision in her right eye. She could have a sty or an infection, she went to the mirror but it showed her a perfectly beautiful eye, every mirror only showed her perfection. She had no idea how to check what was wrong with her eye! She walked to her car outside and checked her eye in the rearview mirror but she forgot that she had them fixed as well. The only way was to go to the Eye Doctor, but then she did not know how she really looked. She could not see, only an idea how she might appear. She had to risk it. Fortunately, the Doctor did not even notice her clothes or how she looked. It was an infection and all she needed was to put some eye drops.

As the days went by the infection got better but Rowena’s need to see her real self began to grow. The reflection was beginning to get to her. Her reflection was like an ineffective advertisement smiling at her from a billboard, selling her a fantasy. She wanted to see herself sad, lonely, depressed, alone and miserable but all she saw was a happy reflection, a young woman smiling at her in the clothes that she wore. She grew tired and restless, tired of being an unfeeling, unthinking person.

Days passed and the restlessness grew into an urgent need to see her. She knew her hair was falling, she could see that on the pillow, she was getting frail and her clothes would not fit her, she could see that her hands were getting wrinkled and she knew she had to make a choice.

She had to make a choice between how she wanted to see herself and how she wanted the world to see her. It was not an easy choice. It kept her up at nights and hungry through the day. But finally the choice was made.

She opened the self-destruct box and steeling herself, pressed on the button. With a terrific shattering noise all the mirrors in the house came down. When she walked to the mirror frame nearest to her she saw that there was a note from the Surgeon, “You are perfect in your imperfections, the joy of youth is in the fact that it is not everlasting. And then neither is life.”

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 152 The Serial Killer

It seemed like the case had taken years out of his life, though it had been only two months since the first killing. A young professional, beautiful and blonde, she was getting home late from work. There were no eyewitnesses but they had found her phone on Auburn Road under the overpass. Four days later they found her body and what was done to her was plain unspeakable, the product of a deranged mind.

Paul Torino was an expert at these kind cases but with all his talent and experience he was at his wits end after two months and three more blonde girls dead with their bodies found in depraved conditions. There were no leads, no fingerprints and no witnesses, it was like the Killer came from nowhere and went into nowhere.

Paul sat alone at his desk pouring over tons of files when the storm outside grew indignant and blew the power grid swallowing an entire part of the city into the mouth of its darkness. Paul let his hands find his cell phone and turned on the torch. There wasn’t really any point working anymore in the dark. Perhaps the morning would bring with it some light for the case, it was time to call it a night.

 

Paul drove through the empty streets; the sheets of rain that fell were enough discouragement for any odd jaywalker. It was a block past the Auburn road intersection when Paul felt a loud thud. Paul had little choice but to step out in the downpour to see what had happened. The front right wheel had sunk into an open manhole; the damn thing was big enough to swallow the tyre of a monster truck. This was bad news. He looked around for anyone who could help but there was no one around, not that he could really see far in this driving rain. He would have to call the towing company to pull the car out and probably take a cab home.

“Why don’t you put the car into reverse while I lift the car out of the hole?” Paul was startled by the voice. He turned around to find an old man in a strange hat and a long trench coat smiling at him through some broken front teeth.

“You mean you could be at the wheel while I tried to pull it out?” Paul clarified.

“No, I meant what I said,” the smile remained constant like it was plastered on the Stranger’s face. Paul shrugged, he did not have anything to loose. He sat behind the wheel and put the stick shifted into reverse, stepped on the pedal and watched to his shock the Stranger pull the car out on the manhole with remarkable ease. He must be a hell of a strong man, Paul thought to himself.

Even before he could get out of the car to thank the Stranger, the Stranger was at his window, “That was not that difficult now? Was it?”

“Thank you,” Paul acknowledged with a smile.

“You are welcome,” the Stranger had not changed his smile since Paul saw him first. “If you would be going downtown would you give me a lift to 42nd and Lansbury?” the Stranger asked. Paul thought it was the least he could do and asked the Stranger to him to hope on.

 

They rode in absolute silence, the rain falling on the tin roof and the rhythmic swipe of the wipers the only sound. The Stranger looked straight ahead and what was more odd, his smile would not fade.

 

Paul pulled over at the corner of 42nd and Lansbury to let the Stranger off. The Stranger thanked him and walked away in the furious rain. Paul looked on at the Stranger for a moment longer and then to his horror the Stranger walked into a cemetery. Who the hell walked into a cemetery in a downpour like this? What the hell was this guy? Paul was out of his car and chasing behind the stranger in a flash but he was still too late. The Stranger was nowhere to be seen, just rows and rows of graves and no man till the eye could see. There was no way he could have walked so fast into any direction. Paul was not someone who encouraged the supernatural nonsense but that seemed to be the only logical explanation. Had he ridden three miles in the driving rain with a spirit? It made his hair stand on end and a deep sense of dread filled him.

 

“We have a survivor Sir!” his deputy screamed into the phone with excitement. “This one got away from the Serial killer.” Paul told him that he would be at the station within the hour.

 

The sketch artist had taken the cue from the survivor and made a sketch. The Stranger in the rain stared at him, the smile was unmistakable and it was the serial killer. Paul crashed onto the chair behind him; in the distance he could hear the thunder of the retreating storm. How does one catch a Serial killer who is not even alive?

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 151 Two Choices

The Manhattan evening traffic was unforgiving but then Brad was really not in a hurry to get home. Today was the day, it had to be today, he had to do it today. He could not live the lie anymore.

Kate and he had been living together for a year and Kate was ready to take the next step, which was marriage. The subtle hints had given way to long restless conversations and the restless conversations were now hurtful quarrels. It all had to end. It was becoming a nightmare for the both of them.

He watched the endless rows of cars on Park Avenue and decided to cut through and take the FDR. Snaking through the traffic clogged streets Brad had enough time to introspect, he knew that all the reasons that he gave Kate for not wanting to get married were rubbish. The fact was that he could not forget Irene.

She had betrayed him; she had promised to live her life with him and then gone ahead and broken the promise, dying on him. A freak accident is how the police put it. A cold winter day, north of Boston, on her way to him, a tyre burst and the car swirled out of control. It was his life that had swirled out of control. He could not get the image out of his mind, his beautiful Irene lying naked on the cold morgue table bloody and battered. It was there all the time; a part of his being, like a nametag that he wore. It had taken him a long time to start dating again and an even longer time to live in with Kate. And yet Kate was not Irene. He knew she tried her best, she did everything to make him happy but it was all just pointless. Perhaps he was damaged beyond repair.

Brad rode the elevator to his thirty-seventh floor apartment and for the last time rehearsed the words that he would say to Kate to make the break up easy. He did not want to hurt her anymore. He wanted to make it easy for her.

He opened the door to an apartment lit by beautiful candles and the sound of Strauss, his heart sank. She was trying to make the evening special and he was going to ruin it. But he could not let this matter. He had to do it today or the courage would fail him.

Kate stepped out of the bedroom looking fabulous in a short black evening dress. It was going to be heartbreaking.

She smiled at him and holding his hand gently guided him to the dining table. It was set beautifully for two, the best China and steel. Brad took a deep breath and was about to say something but she put a finger on his lips and had him sit down. There was an envelope on the table with his name on it. Kate smiled and gestured for him to open the letter. He did.

Dear Brad,

I am writing this in a letter because I don’t want this to become an endless discussion or worse, a quarrel.

There has always been three people in this relationship, you, me and Irene. I know what happened is not easy to forget. I know you have tried. I know I have tried but I also know that you are finding it hard. You care and so you don’t want to hurt me but I can see the writing on the wall. We are done. And that’s fine as well.

I am leaving today.

But I want to tell you that you have made me realize something about life. All of us have two choices, one, you look at yourself now from some point in the past or two, you look at the past from where you are now. They are not the same things. Think about it.

Love
Kate.

Brad looked at her, sitting across the table in the candlelight. She wore her gentle smile. He did not realize when he had begun to cry. Kate stood up and walked around the table to where he sat, she kissed one last time and then walked out of the door.

The door banged shut, leaving Brad with two choices.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 150 Penance

Balram watched Krishna closely as he read the letter that had come from Princess Rukmini, daughter of King Bhishmaka and sister to the dreaded Rukmi. He had watched his younger brother since childhood and he knew from the expression on Kanha’s face that Kanha was going to create trouble. It was like Kanha loved trouble!

“She writes that she is to be married to Shishupala and she does not want to be married to him,” Krishna informed his older brother. “And why is she writing to you? You don’t even know her!” Balram had raised his voice in anticipation of the argument to follow. “She has always been in love with me and won’t marry anyone else. She wants me to go and kidnap her and then marry her,” Krishna smiled at Balram as he said that.

“Are you even considering that Kanha? Are you seriously out of your mind? You are not a Shepherd boy anymore, you are the Ruler of Dwarka. Do you understand the political implications of this?” Balram was exasperated in anticipation as well.

Krishna sat on his swing and looked at Balram, his eyes twinkling with that hint of naughtiness and a smile to go with it, “What are the political implications? Please educate me.”

“Don’t give me this innocent act Kanha, you know all too well. Shishupal and Rukmi are both vassals of Jarasandha. And Jarasandha was Kansa ‘s father-in-law, the man you killed remember? You are going to start a war!”

Krishna nodded and gestured to his brother to sit next to him on the swing. Balram grudgingly obliged. Then he put a loving hand on his brother and spoke with great tenderness, “Brother, do you know why we are all stuck in this cycle of birth and rebirth? It is to learn lessons that our soul needs to learn. I need to learn a lesson as well.”

Balram looked at Krishna with an irritable frown, “I know who you really are, don’t forget. You can fool the world. You don’t fool me Kanha.”

“I am not trying to fool you,” and then a sad look descended on Kanha, “In my last birth I was a Prince, I had three brothers but I was the eldest, the heir to the throne. I married a beautiful and pious lady, brought her home to make her a queen but my Stepmother had other plans. To help my father keep his word to my Stepmother I went into exile for fourteen years, my wife did not utter a word, she accompanied me. In the forest she was kidnapped by a fiend. I had to wage a war to save her. She was made to take an agnipariksha for her piety. I knew that hurt her but she still did not utter a word.”

“When I became king after all those years and she queen, I heard ramblings about her having spent time with another man, the populace was talking loosely about her. So I sent her away, knowing she was pregnant with my children. She still did not utter a word. Finally when I went to claim my children she absolved herself of a lifetime of sadness and disrespect. I was a good son, a good brother, a good king but I was not a good husband.”

Balram was quickly angered but he was even quicker saddened. He was teary eyed and kept his silence cause he did not trust himself to speak.

“This birth I will not stand around and watch a woman unprotected, a woman helpless or a woman unsheltered,” Krishna said with grim determination. “I will tear the world apart and plunge the universe into chaos if I have to, but this is Krishna ‘s responsibility and Krishna does not shirk his responsibility!”

Balram nodded and hugged his brother, “You are right, you are stubborn and you are incorrigible.”

Krishna laughed,“So should we kidnap a Princess?”

“I think we should!” Balram’s voice resounded through the Palace.

(It’s the 150th Story. Has to she about Kanha smile 🙂 )

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 149 The Birth of a Planet

“We are entering the orbit of the designated planet, you are advised to start the landing procedure Izzac,” the almost human voice of the onboard computer informed Izzac. How was a computer supposed to know that Izzac did not need to be informed? He had been waiting for this day since he left his home planet two hundred years back.

With his body still stiff with the effects of long-term hibernation, Izzac looked out of the porthole of the spacecraft and looked at the planet they were circling. The sight brought tears to his eyes; it was just like home, blue with water and interspersed with fluffy white clouds. It was worth travelling the more than 1000 AU to get here. The Sun that shone on the planet was much younger than the Sun of his solar system and a fiery yellow orb.

It was time to carry out his mission; he was the last hope of humanity.

Izzac finished the final checks on the planetary landing module that was far smaller than the huge spacecraft that had brought him here. It was specifically designed to land on planets with varying gravitational forces. The engines fired up and the craft began its journey towards the planet. Izzac looked at the load that he was carrying, just one thermal jar with two compartments.

As the module tore through the clouds, Izzac thought back to his own planet and the sad chain of events that led him here. The advent of nuclear power, the division of the populace on the basis of religious faiths, the corruption of power hungry governments, the war that came and the destruction that ruined the planet. It was now just a wasteland of radiation. Considering he had spent two hundred years getting here, he was probably the only survivor of that entire planet that once boasted of such varied specimens of life. Waste, such a bloody waste!

Izzac landed his craft on the designated site. It was the mouth of a river high in the mountains. He was informed by the scientist back on his planet that the chance of life thriving was best in a free flowing river that was open to enough sunlight. Life needed three things, he was told, water, heat or sunlight and the building blocks of life that he brought with himself.

The plan was to leave the building blocks to their destiny, if they survived, their species would survive, if not they did not deserve to survive.

He only wished that the species did not make the same mistakes that they had made. He hoped they would live in peace and harmony, he hoped they understood that a habitable planet was difficult to find.

He took the two different kind of Nitrogen and Carbon cells that were engineered back at home. They would interact with one another and form life. Under the harsh scrutiny of the laboratory only two of the cells showed promised, they were called A-dominant and E-submissive. He hoped they would do the trick. He took the capsules out of the jar, mixed them together in a petri dish and then let the mix flow into the water.

As he strode back towards the module he took the empty jar back with him, on it were scribbled the abbreviations for the cell structures, Adom (A-Dominant) and Eve (E-submissive). He wished both Adom and Eve the best and flew off the planet. It was the third planet from the Sun, Earth, they called it.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 148 Detective Rustom Baba

Part 2.

“The first thing I would ask you to do is cancel your father’s funeral and be ready to have an autopsy if the need arises. Are you ready to do that?” Rustom asked Fenil, observing him closely over his glasses.

“That would create a furor in the family,” Fenil was clearly concerned.

“We either get to the bottom of it or not. The choice is yours, Mr. Mehta.”

Fenil Mehta took a deep breath and then nodded slowly. Rustom smiled at him encouragingly, “I would like to meet all your family members and Ruby mentioned that there were two nurses that took care of your Father, I would like to meet them as well.”

“I shall arrange that.” Fenil said with a certain amount of finality and determination.

Later as they sat playing a game of carrom Ruby asked Rustom what were his thoughts. “I think the most important decision in the game of carrom is when you decide to pocket the red coin.” Rustom said as he pocketed the red coin with full concentration. Those were not the kind of thoughts Ruby had in mind but she also realised it was pointless probing further.

“Ahh from Sikkim, did you say?” Rustom asked the Day Nurse. The Nurse replied in the affirmative.

“About twelve miles from Nellore, in Andhra Pradesh. It is a small place you would not know.” The Night Nurse said responding to Rustom’s query. Rustom nodded and gestured to Ruby to make a note.

Rustom and Ruby sat in Fenil’s elder brother’s office chamber. “So you say this is not your father’s first heart attack?” Ruby posed this time. “No, he had two before. He was ailing it was a matter of time.” Rustom in the meanwhile was lost looking at pictures of various Gods on his desk. “You are religious Mister Mehta?” Rustom interjected. “Sometimes.” The elder Mehta Son smiled enigmatically as he said that.

“You were married to Mr. Mehta but you did not sleep in the same room as him?” Rustom asked Neena Mehta, Fenil’s Stepmother. “Well, he was ill and the nurse would be there day and night. Did not seem there was much privacy in any case!” Rustom glanced at Ruby to catch her disapprove with her trademark frown.

“I just got in from Paris last night, had been there for the past one month.” testified the Stepbrother.

Rustom had what he needed. He marched up to Fenil Mehta and on a piece of paper gave him the name of the murderer and the modus operandi.

Rustom was more interested in figuring the six letter word for angst but Ruby insisted that he tell her the who and why of the Mehta case. Just then the television announced that Dheeraj Mehta, Fenil’s elder brother, and a Nurse had been arrested for the murder of Mr Mehta. They also credited Rustom Baba with solving the case.

Ruby turned around to look at Rustom in shock. Rustom knew he had to explain, he put the crossword aside, “When we first visited the Mehta house I found some medicines on Mehta’s bedside table. Amongst them was a tube of ointment that had been opened from the bottom. Like tampered with. Like someone had put something else in the tube. Next I found a bottle of e liquid in the trash. The liquid is used in electronic cigarettes. It is concentrated nicotine and add to it no one smoked in the house. Odd? I knew then that nicotine was the culprit.”

Rustom grew a tad excited as he revisited the case, he stood up and began to pace the room, “The night Nurse came from Nellore. Nellore is famous for Tobacco plantations and a common illness that strikes people who work these plantations is called Green Tobacco Sickness. Inexperienced harvesters would be in constant contact with wet Tobacco plants and the nicotine would enter their blood stream through the skin and make them ill. The Nurse from Nellore had to know that.”

“Next, when we visited the Mehta boy in the office I saw the depictions of Lord Mallikarjuna and Goddes Kamakshi among the other God’s that he had. These dieties are rare. And the temples are in the same town, 12 kilometers from Nellore. So do the math!”

Ruby began to piece it all together, “You mean the Night Nurse put the e liquid in the ointment tube and applied it as a muscle relaxant. The nicotine tingling gave the feeling of a muscle relaxant. The unnaturally high amounts of nicotine that seeped in impacted Mr. Mehta’s heart. It gave him a heart attack. Oh my God! The Son and the Nurse really had it going!”

Rustom nodded sadly, “Money is a strange thing. Turns sons against fathers”

“Misery,” whispered Ruby.

“What?”

“The six letter word for angst,” Ruby said with a sigh.

-Arsee.