Note : This short story was my first attempt in writing a lengthy piece of fiction – 2400 words to be precise.I had published this last year in my book blog but I decided the story wasn’t that good and pulled it down. On a whim I modified the story and changed the title. I’m comfortable writing in third person but writing in first person was such a challenge. Here goes my first attempt. Constructive criticism welcome.
I woke up with a start, sweating profusely in spite of the air conditioner running in full blast. This was the third time that dream had spoiled my already sparse sleep. I had hit the bed just a couple of hours ago, thanks to my latest project that had me wrecking my brains and pulling out my hair.
The dream always began with a blinding green light just like that of Harry Potter’s dream. I found myself standing in a crowded airport. I figured that should be the Delhi IGI airport-Terminal 1. Terminal 1 or T1 as it is called, is always a crowded place as it caters to the low cost airline carriers namely SpiceJet and IndiGo. Having traveled a lot to Delhi on those annoying business trips, I am quite familiar with the airport. Being a complete chocoholic, I always visited Chokola, the store that stocked varieties of chocolate. In the dream, I was standing near one of the many small rows that stocked dark chocolates in that shop. A tall man came and stood next to me. He was one of the many ‘firangis’ or foreigners who visited India. I was always fascinated by faces. I loved observing people, their reactions and mannerisms. I sneaked a glance at that tall man who was debating choosing between a 60% dark chocolate and a 45% dark chocolate. He was easily 6.3’ tall and looked quite fit. I couldn’t guess his age, I always had trouble guessing a person’s age. He had brilliant blue eyes, a sharp nose and thin lips. His hair was jet black and fell all over his forehead. He was wearing a three piece black suit and a small bag which looked like a sleek laptop case, hung over his shoulder. He sensed that I was looking at him and turned to look at me. I flushed as I was caught staring. He simply smiled and asked me pointing at the chocolates, “Which do I pick!” I pointed at the 60% dark chocolate and replied, “That is my personal favorite. I have a thing for bitter-sweet chocolates”. Strangely, I never have replied to a stranger without stammering initially, but this time I did like I knew him forever. We then went on to pay for our purchases. We parted ways smiling at each other.
It was like almost the dream took a small leap, I found myself waiting near the gates to board the flight. The sleek black screen showed gate 7 boarding – Delhi to Mumbai. The tall man whom I met in the shop was standing way ahead of me at the line. As the snaking line progressed, it was my turn to show the boarding pass. The ground staff smiled as she flashed my pass to the bar-code reader. I went on to board the bus that would take us the aircraft. As I boarded the bus, I spotted the tall man standing near the door. My heart flipped as he turned and smiled at me. It wasn’t that “oh-he-is-so-handsome” sort of feeling. It was like danger signaling me to stop looking at him. I heeded to that instinct and turned away from him. The doors of the bus closed and we began moving towards the aircraft.
We crossed a lot of planes which were all in the middle of some sort of maintenance activity. Finally I spotted a plane which was all set with the ramp and ready to take on passengers. The bus did a U-Turn and came to halt. The driver parked the bus in front of the plane’s nose, so that the passengers could embark from the bus and board the plane without having to walk a lot of distance. Before the door opened I heard a loud bang. Before I could realize what was happening, the front glass of the bus shattered and the bus shook. I was about to fall when I felt a strong hand steady me by my waist. It was that tall man. As I turned my face to look at the source of the havoc, I felt a blast of hot air assaulting my face and hair. The plane standing next to one that I was about to board somehow managed to blow itself up suddenly. The acrid smell of soot and aviation fuel was nauseating, making me feel light headed. Again there was a lot of green light and the dream ended abruptly. It was the third time I had this dream. I always woke up with a pounding heart and drenched clothes. What worried me was that I couldn’t see what happened after that. Did we all die or did we survive, I wondered. Must be all the sleepless nights that I spent working, I reasoned. I didn’t have a trip on the cards to Delhi or Mumbai. In fact, it had been nearly a year since I last visited Delhi. I used to work for a Building Management project in a cluster of buildings in Noida. That project was complete long ago, thus not requiring any trip to Delhi.
Given that I was already wide awake, I decided to jump out of the bed and catch up on the news. It had been long since I read newspapers. I almost always woke up late, with time just enough to shower, thrown on some clothes, gulp down some breakfast and head to work. My mom got tired of trying to get me to sleep early and wake up early. She let me sleep in most of the time. Just as I was turning the front page of the paper, my phone rang. I wondered which poor soul called me this early. It was 7AM in the morning. For my peer group, be it my colleagues or my friends, the day began only after 8.30AM. Any time before that was called “early”. My caller ID flashed my best friend Vinitha’s number. Vinitha and me, we have been best friends since primary school. We joined the same college and ended up working for the same company, but for a different division. Vinitha had married 4 years ago and left for Delhi, for her husband was based out of Delhi.
Vinitha was an early bird, but still it was strange for her to call me this early. I picked the call and almost answered it only to hear a high pitched scream from the other side, followed by Vinitha’s voice, “ Hi Jan! Good morning sleepy head. Wake up!”
“I am very much awake you dodo. What do want of me in this ungodly hour and who is that screaming” I replied.
“Say hi to my little princess Viraajitha” replied Vinitha. I chocked. Little princess? Viraajitha? Since when you could get babies “instantly” I wondered! And Viraajitha? How cheesier could they get – that named sounded like a combination of the names Vinitha and Rajath – my dear friend and her husband.
“Vinitha! Either you are drunk or I am hallucinating!” I cried out
“Nope. Wrong answer. The results finally came out. Rajath is sadly impotent just as we feared. So we decided to get through with the adoption. Viraajitha was the tiniest of all the kids. Her parents were both daily wage laborers who died when the building that they were working on collapsed. This little fighter survived. Catch the next flight to Delhi and come meet her you moron! You are her godmother for heavens’ sake!” spoke Vinitha rapidly.
I was truly elated. Rajath was the perfect husband. He was my ex-boss as well. He mentored me when I stepped into corporate fresh out of college. He was transferred to Delhi as our company was opening up an engineering office there. Vinitha always wanted a big family. She was orphaned at a very young age and grew up pretty much being ignored by all her relatives who saw her as a burden. I simply played the “intro maker” to them when we all went out for a movie. Rajath swept Vinitha off her feet. He loved her truly, and made up for all those days of being hated and ignored. They got married within a year of that “intro” meeting!
Sadly, Fate had other plans for them. Rajath had met with an accident just after 6 months of their marriage. The doctor who treated him back then suspected that the accident might have turned him impotent. He referred Rajath to a sexual wellness doctor who tried his best to treat Rajath, but Vinitha simply wasn’t able to conceive. Finally she decided to adopt and Rajath being the ever supportive husband agreed to it though his family was vehemently against it. Apparently they finally adopted a girl after dilly-dallying. I felt happy for her.
“Okay! Okay! I’ll talk to my manager yaar! I have an acceptance testing coming up in a week in Mumbai. I’m simply loaded with work.” I replied. I knew she wouldn’t have any of those excuses.
“Oh really?! Wait until I get Rajath to pull you here on the pretext of a business visit. Who do you think you are talking, you dodo bird!” she said. Clearly, Vinitha was in her elements.
“Noooooooooooo! Please don’t do that. Okay darling, I’ll cite some emergency and talk to my manager” I replied. It was pointless to argue with that thick headed friend of mine.
“Good for you! Okay I got to go now. Text me your flight details, I’ll get someone to pick you up” she said and hung up.
I got to office after completing all my mundane duties. I had to act on Vinitha’s ultimatum, for she wouldn’t hesitate one bit to strong- arm her husband and get him to interfere in my business. Rajath presently was the operations manager for the entire engineering division of our company. It was no secret that we were beyond colleagues.
I met my manager and explained that I wanted to work out of the Delhi office for a couple of days. Initially he was skeptical. I then convinced him that I would complete all work as promised and head to Mumbai on time for testing. After all the procedures I booked my flight and texted Vinitha the details.
I went back home and packed my bags. I left for Delhi the very same day. I almost forgot about that weird dream until I reached the boarding gates. Thankfully the boarding was through an aero-bridge. That calmed my nerves. After all, I didn’t have to travel by the bus and relive the dream. I landed in Delhi after 3 hours and reached Vinitha’s house in about an hour.
Time flew! Before I knew it was time for me to head to Mumbai. We had so much to catch up and Viraajitha was keeping us both busy. It was a refreshing ‘almost vacation’ from my backbreaking schedule. My sleep was restored and that dream didn’t disturb me anymore.
Once again I packed my bags to catch the evening flight to Mumbai. Rajath personally dropped me in the airport for I had spent the entire day in back to back meetings through Video calling. Technology, I realized, is a curse more than a boon. I had skipped lunch and my tummy was growling protesting the lack of food. I decided to hit Chokola, my regular place for my regular poison – Dark Chocolate. I spotted a tall man when I was picking my chocolates. He was exactly like the man from my dream. That sense of Déjà vu was overwhelming. I started dreading the worst as I started recollecting the dream. Instead of staring at him like I did in the dream I simply rushed to the billing counter and left the shop as fast as I could without attracting attention.
Just as I rushed out, the boarding call was announced for my flight. It was the same gate and the same ground staff from the dream. My heart was pounding and I was afraid it would simply pop out of my rib cage. The ground staff noticed me sweating profusely and offered me a glass of water, which I refused. I almost ran towards the bus and boarded it only to find the tall guy standing near the door. I walked to the rear end of the bus and found myself a seat. I was praying to every possible god I could remember at that point of time. The bus started moving and we reached the plane that would ferry us to Mumbai. The driver parked the bus and waited a few seconds before opening the doors. I was expecting an explosion any minute. To my surprise, nothing happened. The door opened and people began boarding the plane. Though I was shivering, I eventually got down and walked to board the plane. The attendant checked my boarding pass and let me to the ramp that led to the plane. I got in and found my seat. That tall guy from my dreams was sitting right next to my seat. He smiled at me. That smile almost seemed like he read my mind; it was one of those “enigmatic” smiles. I wonder if he also had the same dream.
Then came a loud bang and I fainted. A feeble baritone and something cold on my face got me slowly got me back to my senses. The baritone became a bit louder and my head started to hammer away. “Are you okay mam?” asked a sharply dressed steward. The baritone belonged to him. He looked genuinely worried yet unharmed. Surprisingly his dress was all crisp and he didn’t look like a man in hurry. No explosion then I mused, but I panicked wondering if this was all a dream and if we were all dead. “Are we alive? Didn’t something explode?” I asked. My throat felt parched and my voice sounded like that of a frog. “Uh? Mam are you sure all right? Do you want me to call the doctor? Does your head hurt?” he asked, looking utterly confused. “There was a loud noise right! What was that?” I asked touching my cheeks to check if I was still alive. “That was the Captain Ma’am, he slammed the cockpit shut ma’am” he replied with a perplexed look. I started laughing and shooed him away telling I was just fine and it was momentary weakness.
Strange tricks the human mind plays!