21 Children

21 Children

“21 children. 21 chances. One miss and you’re gone.”

Rajesh cursed that moment when he had encountered Shirley. For prompt money he had readily agreed to her offer, without weighing the pros and cons. There was no escape now from this embroiled route. She had planted a chip in his body to detect his movements. Moreover, someone would follow him better than his shadow.

“You’ll be invisible when you enter their rooms. Use it well.”

Rajesh stood, in front of the 1st child’s window. Clammy with sweat he was hell nervous. He had seen in films that some can even see through invisibility. He should be careful.

He could see the child, Rose’s mother giving her a tight hug before sleeping. He recalled how his mother, too, had performed the same task.

“Do all mothers practise this night ritual?”

“Hurry!” the Bluetooth screaked.

Little fumbling, Rajesh tiptoed to Rose’s room. He, then, tactfully, chopped of her hair without leaving a trace behind.

 “These 21 nights would be hectic but I would be free on the 22nd,”he assured himself. Reluctantly he carried out the assigned task.

He successfully accomplished the next few ones.

“Madam, what will you do with all those hair?”  He had dared to ask her.

“No questioning!” Came the stern reply.

And, Rajesh thought, maybe she needed them for some noble cause. He had heard of people and even children generously donating their tresses for cancer patients.

All the children were born on the 21st and were aged 5 years. Rajesh couldn’t understand Shirley’s obsession with 21. But he couldn’t pluck up.

Finally, it was Kevin. He was the 21st child. Now, the emboldened Rajesh got in seeing little Kevin deep in sleep. As he was about to cut his hair,

“Cut it properly, Uncle. Make a dhinchak style.” Kevin’s voice stunned Rajesh.

“Weren’t you asleep? How can you see me?” Rajesh was perplexed thinking of the consequences if he missed this one.

“I’ve X-Ray eyes.”

“Please don’t screech. Let me do my work.”

“Ok. But I’ll go with you to your boss.”

Rajesh and Kevin arrived at Shirley’s netherworld. Filthy stench and a constantly boiling cauldron with shrivelled bodies greeted their eyes.

“Hadn’t you been the best coiffeur in this town I wouldn’t have appointed you. Now you’ll be punished.” Shirley’s fury was more dangerous than the orange flame burning in that cauldron.

While Shirley was busy admonishing Rajesh, Kevin sprinted towards the bottles of colourful liquid. He mixed the red one with blue and a colourful sparkle happened like the fireworks. He then got hold of the dried flowers and herbs.

All the aides started running after Kevin. Shirley, in her long black gown, sweeping the floor, failed to catch him. He escaped them, sometimes crawling, sometimes darting.

In the chase the crystal ball fell down. The spell was damaged. Shirley’s wish to immortalise herself remained unfulfilled.

“Thanks, champ!” And, they looked back to see the big fire, with splinters falling everywhere.
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