Fiction · Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 195 Courage

There were more torches that burned in the distant horizon than Kanha could count. It was after all the mightiest army of the time. The army of the great ruler of Magdha, Jarasandha and it was threateningly advancing towards him yet again. Kanha had repulsed his attacks more than a dozen times but every time they came back with a bigger, larger army and a firmer resolve. This was after all not about annexing Mathura, it was about revenge.

Kanha had killed Jarasandha’s son-in-law, Kansa. He had widowed both his daughters who were married to Kansa. The pain of two widowed daughters was more than Jarasandha could bear. He wanted the head of the cowherd that had done this to his daughters. He wanted Kanha dead. There had been a wave after wave of attacks and now Mathura was beginning to shake and tremble with the sound of approaching battle drums. Food was scarce and the stench of death all around.

Kanha did not notice his older brother Balram standing behind him and watching the same scene albeit with a worried frown on his face.
“Not again Kanha, the people can’t take it. Not another battle,” Balram’s voice was heavy with concern. Kanha nodded but did not offer any comment.
“You have a plan, don’t you?” Balram probed further.
Kanha smiled his naughty smile and then said craftily, “Yes, I do have a plan. We must run! Run from Mathura, not just you and me but the entire population, men, women, children, livestock, everyone!”
Balram was shocked to hear Kanha say this. “You mean run from the battlefield? Have you lost your mind Kanha?” 

Kanha simply shook his head, “No I have not!”
“Do you know we will become the laughing stock of the entire land? The little King of Mathura running from Jarasandha?” 
Kanha found Balram’s temper amusing as always, “What’s wrong with being laughed at? Everyone laughs at everyone behind their backs, right?” 
“Fine!” fumed Balram. “Yet, at least you and I know who you really are, you are omnipotent. You alone can crush this army without any help. Why don’t you do it Kanha?”

And then just for once Kanha’s smile faded and just a little bit his eyes grew sad. “I have come to understand Balram that being a God is easy. It is being a human being that is so difficult. If I have to do things that God’s can do then why do I have to incarnate? I can just sit up there on my godly throne and choke all the evil in the world. I have come here to lead man by example and you know what is the best example I can set right now?”
“Run?” asked Balram, still in disbelief.
“Yes. There are different ways to look at courage and sometimes the biggest act of courage is to swallow our impractical sense of pride and live to fight another day. Stepping back requires more courage than stepping forward sometimes. And this is that time.” 

Balram stood speechless. Kanha’s wisdom had a way of dispelling his temper. But what Balram did not know was that Kanha had already made plans of a golden future, a city by the name of Dwarka.

And it was because of this that forever, Kanha would be known as ‘Ranchhod’.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 194 The Old Man & The Gas Station

The Gas Station was from another era, it was easy to see. One could imagine the old Buicks and Chevrolets guzzling gas from those archaic feeders. The wooden sign that announced that this was the last Gas Station for another sixty kilometers swung on its old chains making an eerie creaking noise.

Jessie would have never made this trip had the call from the old age home not come to her and informed with scant sensitivity that her mother had had a stroke. Galveston was a small town in the middle of the Swedish nowhere. Crossing the forest at night had always deterred travellers but Jessie had no choice. She loved her mother and wouldn’t let her go till she had been given the one final shot with the best medical treatment available. “Now you are a brave young woman aren’t you?” The words came forth from an haggard Gas Station keeper. His clothes needed to be laundered and then laundered again. He needed a dentist to save his decaying teeth, though they looked like they were passed saving.

Jessie decided to ignore the Old Man’s barb and asked for her Lexus SUV to be topped up. The Man nodded and went for the gas tank of the car. “You do know that no one has survived a drive through these woods on a full moon night?” The Old Man had an evil grin to go with his poser.
“I don’t belive in hauntings and such,” Jessie responded dismissively. The Old Man laughed shaking his head. “Let’s hope you last longer than the fuel does,” he grunted enigmatic as the night.

Jessie settled her bill in cash, the Gas Station did not have a credit card machine. She drove out, her mind filled with the dread that the silly Gas Station Man had put into her. “Perish the thought Jessie,” she reprimanded herself. “Ghosts don’t exist!”

The headlights cast a bright yellow glow on the road, killing the darkness everywhere the car turned. The tall trees with their mangled branches seemed alive, like they could move their branches like limbs and grab an innocent traveler. Jessie drove on, the mantra of perish the thought on loop in her mind. Then she saw her, the gypsy woman waiting on the side of the road. She had dirty long red hair, matted and uncombed. Silver jewelry that could shame a vampire seeker. A long skirt with infinite gathers, a strange kind of design on it and an odd blouse. The Woman signaled with her thumb asking for a ride.

Jessie was in two minds, a companion through the forest could be a good idea but on the other hand could you trust a stranger? Jessie slowed the car down if only to refuse politely.
“Where you headed to?” the Gypsy woman inquired. “Galveston, but I don’t think I could take…” Jessie couldn’t finish what she was saying. She glanced at the feet of the Gypsy Woman and found they were the other way around. Her heels where her toes should be and her toes where her heels. Jessie let out a muffled scream and stepped on the gas.

The Gypsy Woman began to run with Jessie’s car, “Where you headed to?” she asked in the same tone and manner. Her hand on Jessie’s window, not allowing the glass to raise itself up. Jessie turned to see the face of the Gypsy Woman. She had a strange smile on her face and her teeth gleamed in the moonlight.

Jessie pushed the accelerator harder, the needle showed ninety kilometers an hour, the Gypsy Woman was still running with her, “Where you headed to?” she kept repeating. What terrified Jessie even more was the fact that the Gypsy Woman showed no signs of strain or exertion. She kept the smile and her tone the same.
Hundred kilometers an hour….“Where you headed to?”…. Hundred and ten kilometers an hour…. the same smile, the same tone…. Hundred and twenty kilometers an hour…. She had not even broken a sweat. She just kept running like she was walking in a park, nice and easy.

Jessie drove faster and faster and the Gypsy Woman kept pace, now her smile had turned into a strange kind of laughter, her eyes bluer than the moon and her teeth whiter than the moonlight. Jessie saw the tree too late, it appeared out of the darkness and came towards her before Jessie could even hit the brakes.

Jessie’s world went dark.

It was the hour before dawn. The Gypsy Woman brought Jessie’s dead body to the Gas Station. The Old Man at the Gas Station smiled at the Woman, “You have done well to bring me a new body. You are free to disappear into the land of the dead. This one will now do on the next full moon what you did today.”

As the Gypsy Woman glided into the dark forest the Old Man looked down at the dead Jessie and smiled. Then he bent down and placed a gentle kiss on her pale lips.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 193

There was one thing that troubled Vaidehi about reincarnation. If reincarnation was a reality then was there not a huge problem with the learning system that humans had to go through? First there was language to learn and basic skills in the form of walking and talking. And then as we grew older we had to amass the learning of eons of human civilization. The mind had to be crammed in with knowledge, information and wisdom but to what end?

When we died everything was lost and we had to relearn everything when we were born again. Spend another half a life gathering what we already knew in another life, with a few updates of course.

What if there was a way by which humans could carry whatever they had learned from one lifetime to another? Not language or basic skills but learning that took a lifetime. Value of truth, teachings of the masters, the nature of the universe, the dangers of the vices, the connection with the divine, what if all these were never to be forgotten? Would it not help the soul in its journey?

It became the most important question in Vaidehi’s mind, an obsession with her.

Yet, rapidly she discovered that the solution did not lie in science. When science barely recognized the existence of the soul how could it record the memories for the soul? There had to be another way and the way had to be spirituality.

Unfortunately for Vaidehi spirituality was not a paying profession and Vaidehi had to come to terms with that reality. 

She buried herself in the study of languages and as the years passed she became a professor in English Literature for a leading institution but she knew that the mission of her life was to find the answer to how the soul could carry memories.

Vaidehi’s Father refused to travel with his daughter out of Pondicherry, for him that was the world and Vaidehi was free to come and visit whenever she wanted. 

It was a cold January morning when Vaidehi received the news that her Father had taken terribly ill, it was his third cardiac arrest and the doctor told her over the phone that the prognosis wasn’t very good. Vaidehi took the first available flight to Chennai and was at the hospital in Pondicherry by nightfall. 

Her Mother and Sisters were more than relieved to see her, though her Father had been deeply sedated they had heard him whisper Vaidehi’s name in his sleep. He missed his daughter.

Vaidehi insisted on being the night watchman outside the ICCU while her Mother and Sisters got some much needed rest, they could take over from her early the next day. They agreed.

It was about two in the morning when the duty nurse woke Vaidehi up from a wakeful sleep in the waiting room. Her Father was asking for her. Vaidehi immediately snapped out her fatigue and strode to her Father’s room. 

Her Father lay inclined on a bunch of pillows, breathing heavily but strangely awake. He smiled tearfully as he watched his daughter walk into the room and patted the side of his bed indicating her to sit by his side. Vaidehi sat next to her Father. “When I had my cardiac arrest I fell unconscious but I did see something, someone would be a better way to put it,” her Father whispered.
Vaidehi leaned forward to his listen to her Father better. “What did you see?” she asked her Father.

“A Light, it wanted me to explain to you the answer that you have been seeking since you were little. The answer to soul memory.”
Vaidehi furrowed her brow; this was unusual at best and bizarre at the least. “What did the Light want to say to me?”

Her Father closed his eyes in an attempt to remember everything in detail. “The Light said to me that souls did have memory and the memory of the souls were always recorded. It was just that Man had lost the ability to access the memory of the soul from his other lives. The early Man was able to do it with considerable ease.”

“So where is the soul memory recorded?” Vaidehi asked almost shaking with excitement and hoping the answer made sense.

“Man has many Chakras that are the passages from his physical body to the metaphysical one but the seven Chakras are most important and they keep the soul memory intact. The seven chakras actually signify the advent of Man, his journey. The first is the root chakra, it is the man himself, the primordial man with his primitive needs and the second one is the sacral chakra that depicts the first desire of man or the need for the propagation of the species, the third chakra, the solar plexus or the navel chakra, man’s need for sustenance, the fourth is heart chakra, the need for love, for compassion, for others. The fifth chakra is the throat chakra, the need for communication. The sixth the forehead chakra or the third eye chakra is the vision of the future and the need to see a better tomorrow and then the last one the crown chakra, the need for man’s need to be in touch with the divine. The Seven chakras are but the journey of man from his primordial self to the divine.”

Her Father took a deep breath, he seemed exhausted. Vaidehi had always known about the chakras but never explained like this. It seemed that the Light that had spoken to her Father had been a Light of knowledge.

“Then the Light told me that the memory of the soul is preserved in these chakras,” Vaidehi’s Father continued with urgency of a dying man. “The root chakra has the memory of the entire soul journey and that is the reason why you use the term gut feeling. Your fears and survival instinct memories are stored there, the sacral chakra has the memory of your carnal instincts, the solar plexus has stored in its self the memories of the civilizations that you have traversed, the heart chakra has stored your relationships and loves deep in them, the throat chakra has in it the specific moments that the soul can remember, like things spoken or words heard, the third eye stores all your aspirations and dreams, from one life to another and the seventh chakra is the memories of your encounters with the divine. If you are able to meditate and reach your chakras your memories will open up to you.”

Vaidehi could only stare in awe at her Father. The entire quest of her life was revealed to her in one night at a remote hospital in Pondicherry. Tired her Father closed his eyes and fell asleep once again. Vaidehi walked out of her Father’s room and sat back in the waiting room. The realization had hit her too hard. 

She had no idea when an hour went by. It was only when the nurse came back and called her attention that Vaidehi came out of her deep thought. She was at pains to inform her that her Father had passed away. Somewhere, somehow, Vaidehi expected that. She began to walk to her Father’s room when the nurse told her that she was going to the wrong room, her Father’s room was the other way. Vaidehi stared at her in disbelief.

“Did you not call me an hour back and tell me that my Father wanted to speak to me?”

“No ma’am, I never came to you and your Father has never woken up from his sleep. You must have met someone else in some other room.”

All Vaidehi could so was stare.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 192 Blessing of a Mother

Vengeance Part 2.

The amphitheater in Mathura was packed to the brim. People from far and wide wanted to see the wrestling match between Channur and Kanha. The news that Kanha and Balram had killed the demon elephant that Kansa had sent to welcome the brothers to Mathura had spead far and wide. Kuvalayapeeda was a dreadful beast and for a sixteen-year old Kanha to have killed him was close to astounding.

Kansa was as eager as the gathering crowd to see the boy who had been a part of his nightmares even before he was born. The news of Kuvalayapeeda’s death had only made Kansa more worried. He had tried everything to kill this boy Kanha and the boy had just refused to die. Now, Channur seemed Kansa’s only hope but what if Channur should die? Kansa called upon his commander and asked him to surround the amphitheater with the guards who had come to protect him from Magadha. If Kanha survived the match with Channur then he was to be put into chains and thrown into the dungeons.

Kanha could see the guards standing amongst the crowd. He knew what Kansa was planning. It was not very clever but then Kansa was not a clever man, he was just an evil man with the arrogance of power. There was nothing more dangerous in the world than an evil fool in a seat of power.

The roar of the crowd almost immediately seized his attention as both Channur and Mushtika stepped into the arena. These were men the size of mountains, they were also men who had crushed so many men in the arena.

Kanha glanced at the stage atop the amphitheater. Kansa sat on the throne, obese and pompous. It was a fact that sooner or later the outside and the inside of men began to look similar. You became outside what you were inside. For a moment their eyes met and in that meeting there was a clash of abject fear and the wrath of God. Kansa felt a cold shiver and in the midst of the hot afternoon he felt a cold chill.

The bugles blew loud; Balram and Kanha entered the ring. Channur and Mushtika looked at the little boys in front of them and smiled. This was going to be a walk in the park.

Somewhere inside the entrails of the cold dark palace a maid ran towards Devki and Vasudev. They had been allowed to remain unchained for a while now but still under guard in the outer palace. The maid reached the old couple and shouted with excitement, “Kanha and Balram are here! They are going to fight Channur and Mushtika in the ring!”

Devki stood up with fear, “Oh my God! No! Those demons will kill those children. My Kanha! He will be killed, he will die!”

Vasudev held her back lovingly, “We have to be brave Devki. If the prophecy is true then it is today that we will find out. If not, it was never meant to be.”

Devki collapsed into Vasudev’s arms, her grief too intense to allow her to speak.

Back in the ring Channur rushed towards Kanha and to the delight of the crowd Kanha seemed difficult to pin down for the mighty beast. He was just too quick for a big man. And then before Channur could turn around Kanha was on his back, he had taken Channur’s neck in his supple arms and twisted it all the way round.

The mighty wrestler fell to the ground like an oak tree in a forest fire.

The crowd was on their feet clapping and roaring. Kanha could see that the guards were approaching him tearing through the crowd. Kansa was shifty on his throne. With the agility of a panther Kanha sprang towards the stage and using a silk drapery that adorned the area under the stage Kanha sprang up and like lightening was in front of Kansa.

Finally they were face to face the tormentor and the savior. Kansa leapt up from his throne to a grab a sword from his side but Kanha was faster, he grabbed the very same sword and tore the Asura’s head from his torso. The entire crowd screamed in unison and then fell silent in unison.

Kansa’s head rolled from the dais, down the steps, across the marble landing and into the arena. Never before did so many people gathered together feel so much silence, you could have heard a pin if it fell.

But for Kanha it was not about a boastful victory, it was about freeing the people and his parents. He was there to emancipate and not to proclaim himself ruler. There was no victory speech to make; there was no revenge to enjoy publicly. It was done.

The whisper of Kanha’s victory spread through the palace and very soon it reached Devki and Vasudev. Devki looked at the door, wondering if the guards were still out there. Wondering if Kanha would come to see them, if he would walk in at all.

Then the doors were flung open and Kanha stood there framed within the opened doorway.

Vasudev held Devki up; he did not want her to collapse. The boy looked at his parents and the parents looked at the boy. So much had changed, yet nothing had changed. Devki freed her hand away from her husband and walked to her son. She was shaking and trying her best to be steady on her feet. She did not want to blink because she was afraid that this could be a dream and should she open her eyes Kanha would be gone. But most of all she did not know what to do with her son, how should she greet him.

“I know who you are, I am honored you chose to be born to me and your father but… how do I… I want to fall at your feet for the God you are and I want to hug you for the son you are… would the God mind if I hugged the son?” Devki spoke in her soft angelic voice filled with the pain of years of separation.

Kanha could barely speak himself; all he could do was cry. He bent down and fell at Devki’s feet and kissed them, “There is only one thing greater than God in this universe and that is a Mother. And there is only one blessing greater than the blessing of God and that is the blessing of a Mother. Bless me Mother so that both your Son and God can feel the bliss that only a Mother’s blessing can bring.”

Then Devki bent down herself and kissed Kanha on his forehead, “You my Son are blessed by all the Mothers of this universe.”

From where Vasudev stood he saw both the Mother and Son hold each other and cry tears of joy for their union and regret for the years lost.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Krishna · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 191 Vengeance

Kanha plunged back into the Yamuna one last time before he turned around and began to walk towards the bank of the river.

Sitting under the tree while the horses were fed and the attendants oiled the chariots Akrura watched the magnificent sight of Kanha stepping out of the river. He couldn’t help the smile on his face as he thought how much this young boy had grown. Kanha’s muscles rippled in the morning sun and the droplets of water that ran down his body sparkled like a million diamonds. His long hair,  angelic eyes, his dark complexion, Akrura knew he was the incarnation of Vishnu and if he was not than there was no Vishnu.

Kanha walked up to Akrura and sat by his side. He had been waiting for this journey to Mathura ever since he was born, he knew it was going to happen and the fact was that he had engineered it, though no one would ever know.

Kansa knew that he was Devki’s eight born and wanted to have him out of the way before the prophecy came true and Kanha killed him. He couldn’t send his demonic assassins anymore so he had engineered a wicked plan. Call the boy to Mathura and challenge him to wrestle with the dreaded Chanur which for a sixteen-year old Kanha was akin to a death sentence.

Kanha had accepted the challenge. He knew it was time for the face off with Kansa but more than that it was time to free his Mother and Father from Kansa’s prison.

“Have you met my Mother?” Kanha asked Akrura.
“Yes, I have, often. Why do you ask?”
“What does she look like? Can you paint a picture of her for me?” Kanha asked with a smile. Akrura smiled back. He really had no idea if Kanha already knew what she looked like and was only playing with him or if he genuinely wanted to know and so he told himself that it was no use thinking about what Kanha knew, perhaps no one in the world would know.
“Your Mother is a very beautiful woman. Even after all the tragedy that has befallen her she is still glorious in her grace,” Akrura tried to paint the best picture of her that he could. “You have your mother’s eyes and lips you know Kanha?”
Kanha smiled and urged him to go on with a gesture.
“She is petite, not very tall, her complexion sparkles and in the light of the lamps at night she looks like she made of alabaster. Her hair is very long. Almost till her knees and they say…”
“Did he pull her with her hair?” Kanha asked out of the blue. Akrura lost the scent of the conversation and looked at Kanha confused.
“I have heard that Kansa pulled my mother by her hair from the chariot she was on, then dragged her by her hair through the palace and locked her up because of a prophecy and all this on the day of her marriage. Is thar true? Did he pull her by the hair? Did he drag her?”
Akrura was taken aback by the sudden change in the tone of the conversation. He had no other answer but the honest one. “Yes he did. How did you know this?” Akrura was finding it hard to talk about Devki’s pain and humiliation to her very own son.
“You forget that the palace was filled with Yadav men and women who have not forgotten what happened,” Kanha reminded Akrura and Akrura nodded. Kanha was right.
“Is it true that he put my mother in chains, that her wrists and ankles bled?” Kanha shot another question at Akrura who could only stare in return. Kanha did not take his eyes of Akrura till after a pained moment Akrura nodded.
“Is it true that he took my mother’s new borns, my brothers and sisters and smashed their heads against the wall? While my mother cried and begged and wailed in terror?”
Akrura saw the tears of anger run down Kanha’s face. He had never seen rage like this ever before. But did God feel so much? Did God cry? He nodded again in response to Kanha’s questions unable to trust his voice to speak.
“Why are you doing this to yourself Kanha? Please don’t pain yourself do much,” Akrura beseeched him.
“Pain is where all revenge is born Uncle Akrura. Hate is good. Hate keeps a man alive. When I see my Uncle Kansas face I don’t want to stop hearing my mother’s screams in my ears. I don’t want to stop seeing her bloodied wrists and ankles. I don’t want to stop feeling her tears. To beat a man bigger and better than you, you don’t need muscle or money, you just need enough anger. I am going to tear Mathura apart. Kansa will have to answer for every tear that my mother has shed!”

When the messenger informed Kansa that Kanha was on his way with Akrura, Kansa had no idea why he was filled with fear. He was also certain that his throne shook but he could not understand why… 

(Ends Tomorrow)

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 190

Part 2.

When Dr. Reubens got back to Madison after a two-hour break he had only one question to ask her before he finally made up his mind.
 
“Will my sortie into the human body really cure aids or am I just part of an experiment?” he asked the Doctor evenly. Dr. Reubens sat herself down behind her steel and glass desk and after a thoughtful moment sighed inwardly. “You see Mason…”
 
“Madison,” corrected Madison and Dr. Reubens quickly acknowledged that with a smile. “You see Madison, the military does not want me to reveal the plan to you till you decide, which if you ask me is a little rough on you, considering you have been given the opportunity to refuse to go on this mission. So I am going to just break the rules and tell you what this is about.”
 
Madison flashed her an appreciative smile, “Thank you.”
“So I shall try and explain this to you in the most simple way as possible.” Dr. Reubens plunged into her explanation with intensity, as if she was doing it for the first time. “Like there is a space outside our bodies there is also a space within our bodies. I would call it the universe inside us. Within us live a lot of parasites and most of them the body needs, the ones in the stomach for example. But then there are some that want to just use us a host and ultimately kill us. The HIV-1 virus is one such that wants to live inside us and ultimately will destroy us. Are you with me so far?”
Madison nodded and gestured for her to go on. “To put it simply HIV-1 is the enemy and it attacks our system and we need to fight back but unfortunately our weapons have not been enough until the discovery that some people have a specific variation of a gene, APOBEC3H, which produces an antiretroviral protein that inhibits the replication of HIV. APOBEC3H itself has seven variations, and if you broadly group these into those that make stable and those that make unstable proteins. The ones that make stable proteins have been able to offer resistance to some forms of HIV. Are you lost?”
 
Dr. Reubens could easily make out from Madison’s empty stare that the Ace of aces was clearly not of a scientific bent. Madison shrugged and Dr. Reubens laughed out loud.
 
“Imagine this,” she began anew with renewed vigor. “The fortress of the humans that the HIV attacks is called T lymphocytes and this fortress possess its defense mechanism in the form of antiretroviral proteins produced by the APOBEC3 genes. But here comes the problem, HIV has its own counter-defense, a protein referred to as viral infectivity factor (Vif), which tricks T lymphocytes into destroying APOBEC3 enzymes. So it is a clever weapon that makes the fortress destroy its own weapons. How was that?” Madison grinned and Dr. Reubens smiled back. “We have made a new protein in the lab that will strengthen the APOBEC3 gene and won’t let it get fooled and here comes the crunch. We don’t have a delivery system. We need you to take the protein and fly into the Thymus gland that makes the T-lymphocytes.”
 
It was all too much for Madison to gather. “Why can’t you just inject the protein into the gland?” he asked almost sounding like an ignoramus.
 
“Cause the HIV virus will not allow it. You have to fool the HIV virus and do your job.” Dr. Reubens shot back.
 
“Are you like serious? You mean this is like a real war? The Virus will come for me when I am in there?” Madison asked his eyes wide in astonishment. “Yes. It will. The virus is a life within our life. It wants to survive as much as we do.”
 
“So how does my mission work exactly?” Madison asked.
 
“We will put you into a jet and then Nano it by a process called cell information technique. We should not get into that. You will have the payload of the proteins at two missiles. As soon as you are in the blood stream the virus will recognize you and come for you. You will have to maneuver and get to the thymus gland and then fire the payload right into it. If you succeed we will know how successful our protein really is, it could cure HIV forever and we could use the protein to immunize the new born.” Dr. Reubens grabbed the bottle of water lying on her desk. She needed some after all that explanation.
 
“Is there a reason other than the fact that I am one of the best pilots to choose me for the job?” Madison inquired in a matter of fact tone.
 
“Not that I know of,” Dr. Reubens answered with the same amount of honesty.
 
“I will do it. What is my exit plan from the body?” Madison asked.
 
“You will use the tear ducts and you will come out in the patients tears.”
 
Madison was impressed with all the thought that had gone into the mission. “I know and you know that this seems like a suicide mission. I have a daughter. She is thirteen. Should anything happen to me would you take letter from me to her?” Madison had a sudden tenderness in his voice and Dr. Reubens responded with genuine care.
 
 
Two weeks later Squadron Leader Madison Lewis was in his jet, ready for battle. The Nano machine made him small enough to be a cell. The doctors took the jet and injected it into the arm, far from the heart, which would break his aircraft into bits.
 
The jet was in the blood stream and the entire hall of international scientists, doctors and military personnel watched the battle of battles on the large computer screen. As soon as the jet began its journey the virus was alerted and it sent messages to its neighboring virus cells. Madison had to be faster than the virus. That was all he had to do. That was the plan. It did not seem a good one once the chase began. The virus was coming at him from all sides. The hall watched with bated breath, was this the end?
 
Madison knew that the blood stream route would never work. He did something that he was taught to do on the battlefield, “Improvise”. He flew through and out of the vein, outside the blood stream. It was dark and he did not know where the hell he was flying but he kept following the veins from the outside. The virus knew that the Thymus was the final destination and it was waiting there. Madison knew that virus would block the payload. He did the only thing that any pilot could. He flew into the Thymus with the payload. Firing only once he was inside it.
 
The room jumped with joy. Dr. Reubens felt a tear escape her eye. Madison was dead. He knew it all along. It was a suicide mission.
 
 
Strangely the letter to his daughter was scribbled on a note pad and not even put into an envelope. “Dear Rachel, Papa is going to cure you. The good Doctor Reubens will have a new medicine for you after I am gone. Papa killed HIV for you. Papa loves you.”
 
Dr. Reubens could not control her sobs. She wished there was a way of bottling courage.
 

(w/inputs, HIV Immunity: Genetic Variation And Antiviral Enzymes Explain Why Some People Are Naturally Immune To HIV
by Susan Scutti)

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 189

Squadron leader Lewis Madison was an Ace of Aces. A veteran of the Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and more recently the Mediterranean  theatre of war. If a sortie was being led by Lewis Madison it was a done deal was the belief in the force.

Hidden carelessly under his weather beaten craggy face and behind those legendary crow’s feet one could still see a handsome face. At six feet two inches and a lean physique it was a little wonder that people called him the Clint Eastwood of the Eastern Command.

Lewis thought he had seen everything that human cruelty and frailty could offer but when he was ordered to a basement in the Swiss city of Zurich he was rudely reminded that there was a lot that he had yet to see.

“We need you to help us fight HIV-1 or as some call it AIDS,” General Williams said in his low baritone. Lewis could see a strange mix of military personnel and doctors in the room, a very unlikely mix.
“Me sir? I know nothing about medicine. I am a fighter pilot. At least the last time I checked,” Lewis countered cheekily, encouraging a spattering of laughter from the room.
“We know that Squadron Commander Madison. And what we need is not a scientist or a doctor but an ace pilot which you are,” the General responded without paying much attention to Lewis’s attempt at humor. Before Lewis could get another question in he heard the clanging of high heels on the untreated granite floor. He looked at a silhouette of a tall woman who obviously had much reason to be proud of her curves but when the overhead hanging light caught her face in its brightness he realized she had much more to be a proud of then her curves. She wore a lab coat that had her name stitched on it, Dr Reubens it read, unless she was wearing another person’s lab coat which given the moment was highly unlikely. She was certainly a scientist meets a doctor of some kind but more surely Lewis understood from where the movies and television got the idea of a sexy curvy doctor.
“This is Doctor Reubens,” the General introduced quite uselessly given the lab coat. “She will take you through what is expected out of you but there is one important aspect of this mission, you are allowed to reject it. This is not military and it’s not mandatory for you to accept.”
This made Lewis even more curious than he was. “This way,” Dr Reubens had a husky voice to go with her external attributes. Was she an actor pretending to be a doctor or scientist or whatever? Lewis nodded to the group before following the Lady out of the room.

Squadron leader Lewis Madison had seen many a war rooms in his life but he wasnt ready for what he saw in the underbelly of Zurich that day. More people in white lab coats working on computer stations that had clearly something unfathomable on their screens. On the far side of the room was a giant bit of equally complex machinery but it’s size was enormous, like it could swallow up two elephants standing one on top of another. People from all parts of the world seemed to be present there. Hispanic faces, Oriental faces, Caucasian faces and some Asian faces as well. A project that could bring so many nationalities together had to be a really important one.

They crossed the large hall and entered a plush office that had Dr. Ruebens painted on its glass door. Dr. Reubens gestured to Madison asking him to sit. Madison took the offer up and sat himself on a couch that seemed fairly comfortable.
“May I call you Madison?” Dr. Reubens asked without a smile and Madison responded in the affirmative without a smile. “Sometime technology has a lopsided progress Madison. We have made huge progress in the fields of nanotechnology technology and computers since the year 2029 but our battle on the frontiers of health care have been feeble. At least till technology gave us the intrasubmarine.”
“Intrasubmarine?” Madison had a host of questions hidden in that one word.
“Yes, through nano technology we have been able to create the first aircraft that can fly into the human body.”
“You mean like airplanes can fly into buildings?” Madison inquired. Despite her professional demeanor Dr. Reuben could not suppress a laugh. “No, I mean that we have made the first aircraft that is as small as a single cell and can fly through the insides of the human body.”
“Woah! You mean like those science fiction movies where a man can go into a human body?” Madison almost stood up with excitement. “Yes, exactly like that.” Dr. Reubens shot back. 

Madison kept quiet for a full two minutes and Dr. Reuben let him have the time to process what he just heard. Then Madison slowly looked up at her. He knew what his mission was.
“Yes, you got it right Madison. We want you to fly the first aircraft into the inside of the human body and the reason you can refuse this mission is its high risk factor. Chances are you might not survive the mission. You have two hours to decide whether you want to fly the first aircraft softie in the war against HIV.”

Dr. Reuben left the office. Madison found that the couch was not that comfortable all of a sudden.

(End Tomorrow)

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 188 Short Lived

Chang Liu had studied with the Zen Master for seven years and the Master in turn was pleased with his pupil. Chang was wise and would make an excellent Master one day, thought the Zen Master but before he bid his disciple a farewell and wished him the best in life there was one final test that Chang would have to go through.

In the early hours of the morning when the sun painted a beautiful red sky outside the monastery, the Master called for Chang and spoke to him with the calm of the gentle wind, “Chang, you are now ready for the one final question that I wish to pose to you.”
Chang was only too eager to hear what the Master wanted to ask him. “Go out there and find for me what is that one bit of knowledge that no man can live his life without. That my dear Chang is what I ask of you.”
Chang knew the question would be a difficult one but he had no idea it was going to be so uphill.

The very next day Chang left the monastery and began his quest for the answer. He traveled far and wide. On many an occasion he was certain he had found the right answer but soon enough he would realize that he was close but not right.

It was a foggy winter day when Chang stood outside the walls of the Forbidden City and gazed passed the old roofs at the sun playing a game with the clouds. His glassy stare was evidence of his mind turning the problem that he had been battling with.

He was startled out of his reverie when an American tourist standing next to him burst into peels of high pitched appreciation for the splendor in front of him. Chang looked at him with enough disdain for the man to sufficiently curb his enthusiasm and make a quieter attempt at being joyous. He did not succeed in curbing his decibel level but did succeed in making Chang laugh out loud.

Three hours later they sat at a quiet tea house in the Capital and listened with fascination to each other’s lives. Theodore Williams was a scientist of a strange kind. He was researching suicides in animals other than humans. Did animals commit suicide? Chang was astonished to learn that there has been documentation to prove that dogs have tried to commit suicide. Whales and dolpins have know to beach themselves in an effort to commit suicide. As a matter of facts there were certain parasites that created a need in their host animal to end their lives.

When Chang parted from his new found friend late in the evening he was carrying in his mind a new treasure of knowledge. How invigorating it was to meet someone like Theodore Williams. Then suddenly Chang stopped in his tracks. Just like that he had found the answer to the question his Master has posed to him. He smiled, he had to go back to the Master.

It had been six months since Chang had left the monastery and yet the Master was surprised to find him back so early. He had anticipated Chang to take much longer. “Tell me then, what is your answer Chang?” the Master probed with an enigmatic smile.
“Death Master. Death. Man cannot do without the knowledge of death.” Chang replied with a humble bow.
“What makes you say that?” the Master inquired further.
“Man is the only animal in the world who know that there is an end to life. He is the only animal that knows that death is inevitable. And that knowledge has made man different from every other animal. It is death that gives man’s life a meaning. Only when you know that there might not be a tomorrow does today hold any value. Everything we do can be divided into one of three things… One, about living through others after we are gone. two, to postpone our own end and three, to make every moment count. These are all the gifts of death.”

The Master stood from his seat clapping his hands with joy and walked to Chang giving him a warm embrace. “You make me proud Chang, very very  proud.”
Chang, all he could feel was gratitude.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 187 Gift of Dreams

It was about an inheritance of a different kind. Not the kind which involved money or real estate or then the ambitions of a corporate takeover. This is was about inheriting the gift from Grandma. She had the gift of dreams and she had made it known on her seventy-fifth birthday that the gift could be passed on. Now as she lay on her death bed the entire family had gathered, ostensibly to pay their last respects but intrinsically to grab the gift.

It had begun to happen soon after Grandma’s marriage to Grandpa. Grandpa had been the running the shop for an automobile retail agency. He was bored and wanted to go out on his own, probably start a business of automobile parts, he knew there was money for the making in that part of the woods but he was filled with uncertainty.

On the one hand there was the security of being employed and not worry about going out and looking for business but on the other hand he would never justify his immense talent and business acumen. He would stagnate surely.

Then Grandma had a dream. She saw that Grandpa had left his job and was doing splendidly for himself. He owned a sprawling office and suited minions were scurrying in all directions carrying out his orders. She told Grandpa about the dream and that tipped the scale in favour of venturing away from security. Grandpa did do splendidly exactly like the dream.

With the years the dreams rolled in as well. Uncle Fred and his decision to join politics, Aunt Margaret and her choice of a French husband, cousin Albert and the Finance company he owned, Harry James from the Parish and his little printing press, the list was endless. They would come to Grandma with their difficult choices and Grandma would see a dream soon enough and tell them what she saw. Not one person who had come to Grandma had ever been disappointed in her dream forecasts. A hundred percent track record that could shame many a psychic.

Grandma had refused the hospital and insisted on breathing her last in her own home, a decision that her three sons and two daughters respected.

The Doctor had come to visit the night before and the news wasn’t good. She would not last the weekend. The time had come for her to announce the successor of her gift.

Her five children and the many wives and husbands along with their children, in some cases even their children’s children were all there, waiting to be called into her room. Wondering who would be the heir to her powers.

I was shocked when the nurse stepped out and called out my name. “Your Grandma wants to see you Laura,” she announced. I was the black sheep of the family. Divorced, ex-alcoholic and clearly lacking of basic decorum. I was not even on the list of contestants. The entire motley crew looked my way and in that moment I knew that I had just gotten blacker in the sheep department but if the gift was indeed passed on to me I had also gotten a promotion in the indespensible department.

“Come and sit by me Laura,” Grandma could barely speak.
“Save your breath and cough up the gift,” I retorted with a snide laughter. Grandma joined in, she did find a place for humor, even on her death bed.
I sat her by her side, wondering if there was going to be a ceremony involved or if I would see an angel appear from the woodwork. She held my hand instead and spoke with the affection only she ever gave to me. “You and I, Laura, we are similar. If I was born in your time I would have quite clearly been like you.”
“The black sheep of the family you mean?” I posed.
“No, the scoundrel.” This time she did not laugh and neither did I. “It can only be a scoundrel who can get my gift cause there is no gift.”
I Could only stared at her in response, deeply flummoxed.
“I have lied all my life. I never saw even one dream that I can remember. I only recollect falling asleep as soon I hit the pillow. I only did what I saw with my eyes open. People need to be pushed towards the more difficult choice but they fear what destiny has in store for them. When I lied and told them that destiny was with them they felt brave enough to venture onwards. Man just needs to know that he has the celestial blessing to have faith on himself. That’s the way it is. So lie away once I am gone my scoundrel Laura. The gift is now yours.”

All I could do was bend down and give her old withering body a warm hug. She had a gift all right, the gift to understand what made people brave.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 186 The Ripple Effect

If I could do something about it, I would but all I can do is watch. That’s the rule of the game and I agreed to play by the rules. A lot of the younger ones ask me what is my most important learning and I have the answer even before they have finished the question. It’s the ripple effect.

You have all have seen a calm standing pond and you have all chucked a stone into that water. If you have, then you remember the ripples that the stone created, it spread away from where the stone splashed into the water and by the time the ripple got to the bank of the pond it was almost a little wave. Those nerdy types in the science lab would call it an exponential increase in activity with the progression of the event. I am far from the nerdy type.
When I stare into a dark starlit sky on many a night I can’t help but ruminate about the importance of the ripple effect. Everything in the world is caused by a ripple effect. Imagine life on Earth. A planet somewhere struck by an asteroid and the asteroid sped towards Earth and then it happened to carry the building blocks of life. The Sun added to the ripple and with water and heat the equation was complete, life was born.

One thing leads to another, very evidently. But the most heartbreaking thing I have seen is how people set ripples in motion all the time not knowing how that one ripple could come back to change their lives. From where I am, I have seen how the adage, “What goes around comes around” plays out in life.

One of my favorite, well favourite is not really a good work to use for a mishap but then looking at it the other way it was also quite a hap, as opposed to mishap that is. I wonder if that is a word but I digress.

Now listen to this carefully cause almost everyone gets lost in the ripple and I find it hard to unripple the ripple, if you know what I mean. I don’t know if unripple is a word. Which I am sure… Oh there I go again! So here is how it unfolded.

Anuj and Shreya, were all set for a life in paradise till a demon called opportunity came and messed things up. Anuj had been offered a better job and better pay but in another city. Shreya did not want to give her work up. The agendas had changed and togetherness was destroyed. Anuj took the job offer and Shreya, she just went into a depression. Now hold on to this (part of the story) one!

In the meanwhile, Rahul had been a friend of Shreya for the longest time but he secretly loved her, perhaps lusted her would have been a better way to describe it and I know that lust is a word. Rahul wished that Anuj would just disappear, leave, die, get kidnapped by aliens or just spontaneously combust. When he learned that Shreya and Anuj were done he was delirious. He had a devious plan, call Shreya over for a friendly drink and then pitch in for the position of friend turned lover. Now hold on to this part of the story as well.

An hour before Shreya was due to arrive for a drink Rahul realized that he did not have anything at home to eat. How careless could he be? He called up a popular pizzeria round the corner that did pride itself on delivering every order within half an hour. He barked his order on the phone and warned that he would be counting the minutes to the delivery. He wouldn’t pay if it was even a minute late.

The pizza delivery man was like hell on wheels. He was riding with the order of one pizza at a speed that would give Robin a run for his money. Not the Robin of hood but of Gotham. Oh, there I go again! He cut through a lane and charged down a side alley but not before he had seriously disturbed Mr. Mehra’s driving pleasure. Mr. Mehra drove his new BMW into a streetlight. Boom!

Mr. Mehra was not going to leave his car on the road till the towing company got there. This made Mrs. Mehra very upset. She had been looking forward to this gala and she was not going to be seen there without her husband. She rang off on him before he could ask her to go to hell. Mrs. Mehra’s fall back plan was her two friends who were at her beck and call, as long as Mrs. Mehra was buying the drinks. So she called her favorite Restobar and asked for her favorite table. The table was unfortunately not available. It was reserved. Mrs Mehra swore and threatened to call a policemen who closed down bars as a past time. The table was suddenly available.

Now, Yatin was besides himself with rage when he found out that his table had been given away to someone else. He had been planning this for weeks. He was going to propose to Riya over wine and cheese and now there was no table to put the wine and cheese on. Riya was with him in the car and she didn’t know why Yatin was so angry. Yatin decided to improvise. He was going to make this memorable for Riya, one way or the other. He held her hand and led her to the divider strip in the middle of the road and went down on his knees. The traffic stopped on both sides looking at this beautiful warm scene. Both motorists and passengers shouted and blew their horns in celebration.

Anuj was on his way to the airport when he watched the Yatin and Riya scene from the cab. He was hit by a tsunami of realization. This was love! He could not ever leave Shreya! He asked the Cabbie to turn the car around and called Shreya to tell her that he was not going. Shreya began to sob with joy.

Rahul had to eat a pizza alone. Also the poor chap had to pretend to be happy for Shreya. He had been downgraded to friend level again.

You see the ripple effect? Not always a good idea to threaten a pizza delivery man is not the moral of the story. Hope you get that!

Me? I am still training to be an angel. But even if I do become a regular member of the angel’s brigade I have been warned that I can never interfere with the ripple effect. That was for the humans to figure!

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 185 1:15 to Amritsar

It was customary for the outgoing Station Master to brief his replacement about the little idiosyncrasies of the area. In a country like India the trains were a part of the culture, inherited from another time. Bhagwant Singh had a fairly long sojourn as the Indore Station Master and was certainly looking forward to the silence of the Khasa Railway Station. A much smaller railway station with a lot less responsibility for its Master. He was going to enjoy being back in the Punjab and savor the joyous air of home.

Mohan Rai had come to the end of his list of Do’s and Don’t’s as the outgoing Master and now there was just this one little thing that he needed to explain to Bhagwant Singh.
“Every night, past midnight, at about 1:15 in the morning there comes a train from the Attari direction. When you hear the train coming your way, towards the station, go into your office and do not come out till the train has left the station.” Mohan Rai smiled and made it sound like a routine expectation from a Station Master.
“Do not come out of my office? What do you mean?” Bhagwant found that most incongruous. 
“I mean just don’t come out of your office till after the train has left the Station. That is all I wish to tell you about it.” Mohan Rai brought the conversation to an end with the finality of a man unwilling to relive an unspoken terror. His smile cracked and behind his shifty eyes Bhagwant could see dread. He let it go.

The first night at the job Bhagwant decided to stay up late and catch up on a lot of tardiness that Mohan Rai had leftin his wake. At a little past one in the morning he could hear some shouts on the platform and as he stepped out of his office he saw the regular station workers scurry to their hideaways, out of the sight of the approaching train. Then he remembered that it was the dreaded 1:15 AM train. He stood rooted to the spotted, a part of him wanted to stay where he was and see what the train was about. The other part of him was terrorized by the sudden goings on around him, heed the warnings that had been handed to him and quickly shut himself into the safety of his office. The other part won.

On the frosted window of his office he could see the pale yellow light of the train cast strange shadows. The light stopped moving. The train had arrived. Silence. Then strange moans shattered the silence of the night, cries of pain that could shake a steely heart. Silence. Then the light on the glass began to move. The train left as silently as it came. Ten minutes later when Bhagwant stepped onto the station it was business as usual, like nothing had happened. This was really bizarre.

The happenings of the night had troubled Bhagwant immensely. It was not like him to hide himself in the office out of fear. He knew how terror worked. It was contagious. Someone else’s terror could easily become your terror if you left it unchecked. He had inherited Mohan’s terror and without giving much thought to the what or why of it he had made that terror his own. He could not live with it. He was not a coward.

That night when all and sundry scurried away as the train approached Bhagwant did not. He stood his spot bravely, he even moved closer to the tracks in a move of silent defiance. If he was going to tempt fate he was going to do it with panache. The Train arrived. To his amazement it did not look like a modern electric locomotive, there was something archaic about it. As it approached the station in silence Bhagwant saw that not one person alighted from it. He began to walk the length of the train and what he saw made him shudder right to his foundations. It was a train of dead bodies. There was not one person alive in it, women, children, men, young and old, all dead, slaughtered. Some of the bodies were burned and charred, some hacked and others disembodied. Then out of nowhere began the moans, not loud, not shouts of pain, just whimpers, as gentle as the wind.  Bhagwant stood there, horrified. And then the train chugged away from the station. 

It was the early hours of the morning; Bhagwant sat in his office, the moans still ringing in his ears. He knew what this train was, every one who worked in the railways had heard about these trains and from where they came but to actually see one after all these years? It was a surreal experience. It had to mean something. Bhagwant was quite certain he knew what it meant.

“The last train before the 1:15 am train, it terminates in Ambala, right?” Bhagwant asked the Linesman that afternoon. The Linesman nodded his confirmation. “Tonight after the Ambala train passes change the line so that it terminates in Amritsar.”
“But Sir…” the Linesman began to protest but Bhagwant shut him up with a show of his hand.

Bhagwant refused to go home. He waited. The 1:15 am train steamed into the station. Bhagwant closed his eyes and fought his tears as the moans filled the air. He waited till the train left the station and then looked at the train like he was seeing it for the last time. He was. The train never came again.

One month into his job the Linesman found a certain familiarity with Bhagwant to ask him what he had done to make the train stop.

Bhagwant sighed, a deep sigh, “It was not a train in reality. Just a ghost train, it was a death train from Pakistan. I believe a few of them came exactly like that from Pakistan during the partition. But do you know why it kept coming every night. Cause we refused to look at it. We hid ourselves. And so it came night after night. Then a month back we terminated the track at Amritsar, the site of the one of the holiest temples. The train got its absolution. Yet, it only happened because we looked at it. There is no healing of these wounds by looking away. No looking away has ever helped. The train has passed, but some moans still have to be silenced.”

The Linesman knew that in times to come no one was going to believe this story.

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 184 Room No. 432

Part 2.

It had to be some kind of mind-altering drug that had been slipped into his drink at the dinner joint he had been to, that was the only explanation. Peter had to get to the hospital before he did something dangerous. He had to have the antidote to whatever had been administered to him. He bolted to the archaic elevator and rang the elevator button like a man possessed. There was no one sign of any elevator. To his horror he could not even see an elevator in the shaft. This was a really bad trip. 

The fire exit! Peter dashed across the corridor to the green sign of a man running out of the door. In his mind he was the man in the sign, he needed that door. He found the door and to his relief it was unlocked. He ran down the steps, two at a time and came to the landing of what should have been the third floor but read fourth floor. He tore through another flight of stairs to arrive once again at the fourth floor. Yet another flight of stairs and he was still the fourth floor. 

Peter Woo began to cry, frustrated.

This was certainly not the way out if all he could to do was arrive at the fourth floor no matter how many stairs he climbed down. He shot back into the hotel corridor through the emergency exit. Still the fourth floor and still the rooms were all room number 432.

He pushed the nearest door open and found Wendy in the room, she stood by the window, looking worried. “I told you coming to this Hotel was a bad idea Peter but you thought me a village idiot who believed in mumbo jumbo. Now what are we going to do?”

“I have no idea! How did Bruce get here? How did you get here? Is this all happening for real?” Peter collapsed on a chair by the dresser, gasping for breath, exhausted with all the stairwell jumping. 

“Perhaps all this is just in your mind, perhaps I am just a memory but I am not here to help you. I am here to ask you a question.” The look in Wendy’s eyes changed from concern to sadness.

“What question?” Peter asked her.

“Have you never seen the love in my eyes for you? Have you been blind? Are you the self-centered unfeeling person the world claims you are?”

Peter could not believe his ears. Wendy had been in love with him all these years and he did not even know? How could that be? This was not Wendy! This was just another trap. He stood up and began to make for the door. Wendy only looked on sadly. 

This time Peter did not even feel the need to run. He had resigned to his fate. There was indeed something wrong with this hotel. He had no idea what it was but it was like he was caught in the grip of his wrong doings.

In one room he saw his high school teacher who he had sent love letters to secretly, she knew it was him all along she said. His Mother in one room, she was not happy that he had left China for Hong Kong. His Father was not happy that he could not keep a family, he was a drunk and he was an embarrassment.

But he was not ready for Michael. He saw Michael lying on the hotel bed but strangely it looked more like a hospital bed. Michael had the hospital tubes and wires sprouting from him, he looked Peter firmly in the eye and whispered in a gruff voice, “One day I will wake up Peter, I am not going to be in a coma forever. I am going to wake up and tell everyone what you did to me. I am going to tell Mom and Dad that I did not fall and that you pushed me. You pushed me on the glass table and I severed my spine. You are a monster. The worst kind of older brother a man can have!”

“It was an accident Michael. We were just kids. I was only ten and you were eight. I was scared. Very scared of what Mom and Dad would do to me.” Peter began sobbing at the sight of his younger Brother in all those tubes. But what started making Peter breathless was the secret that he had kept all his life. A panic began to grip his heart and it felt like someone was taking all the breathable air away from him. He started to hyperventilate.

He ran out of the room. Dashing to another one to find some air but it only got worse. There was not only no air to breathe but Michael lay in that room as well. “You lived a happy life while I lay in a coma. You stole my life from me Peter. You don’t deserve the air you breathe!” Michael screamed out from the bed he lay on.

Peter felt his lungs were going to burst, the rhythm of his heart had become an unbearable thumping and his vision began to blur. The window! He had to open the window somehow, he needed to breathe!

Then Peter got up to his feet and without a second thought crashed through the window and its glass. 

Later night revelers on the streets of Macau would tell the police later that they saw the man jump from the fourth floor and crash on the pavement. One of them even went on to say that they heard the man whisper, “Forgive me Michael.”

Wendy read the news in the morning paper. It was a curse to live for thousands of years and make people see their real selves in torturous ways like the Clube Macau Hotel, but then that was the bane of being the Angel of Death. It was a job and she had to do it.

-Arsee.