The train was trundling down the track in the midst of sheer darkness with a long irresistible horn. It was a cold foggy night and that incessant noise had triggered turbulence in its serene ambiance. I peeped my oval-shaped head out of the window to catch a glimmering light standing tall in the abyss darkness. That light slowed down the pounding heart in my chest. But as the train crawled along it judders past the light. Now it was never-ending darkness covering my sight so I drew back my head and rested it back on my seat.
“Hey, when it will reach the Nagpur station”, a ruddy-faced passenger asked
“Probably 1 in the noon tomorrow”, I replied
I checked my phone and it was a quarter past 10 so I had to bear another 15 hours of this hauling journey.
The day was already a tedious one before and this journey was making it worse. I hadn’t smoked weed in a coon’s age and every nerve of mine was craving for the blunt. But it was illicit to smoke here so I tried skewing my thoughts away from it. The compartment was filled with rantings of co-passengers complaining about its slow trotting pace. Just then I heard a long sigh from a girl sitting beside me – “not again”, she cried. The train had stopped somewhere in the desolate land probably waiting for the signal. It has always been a customary thing for our trains to take a halt anywhere anytime.
It was 11.15 and a chubby kid was relentlessly eating a cheese roll to which I was drooling over like a little puppy. I wanted to snatch that roll from him but then his mother cast a stern look at me. So, I swayed my eyeballs away towards the window. I was gazing around the compartment hoping for some small talks with the fellow commutators when I noticed a lone diary lying down. It was a blood-red color dilapidated diary gazing at me as if it wanted me to turn its pages. I looked around probably for its owner but couldn’t find one so I picked it up with some ill at ease.
I turned some pages with jittering fingers of mine. I was thinking the owner might punch me on my obnoxious nose if he catches me red handed reading the diary. But neglecting the consequences I kept on turning the pages till my eyes paused at the word- “Murder”.
The paragraph ran as follows:
26 November 2016
I got back home opened the front door from my latchkey and walked in languidly. It was just another day of loafing around the streets pondering over the latest traumas. We are in deep waters surviving on fringes with a ghastly secret buried inside. That secret is fluttering like a caged bird writhing to fly. There is the poison inside my throat which is killing me day by day. The poison of my heinous crime which I really need to vomit out, but that poison can burn our lives. So, I decided to keep it buried until I escape this hell.
I hung my overcoat and strolled in.
“Abhinav, you there”, I cried
I didn’t get any answer so I walked towards his room. The door was wide opened and Abhinav was sitting on his arm-chair with his head fallen sideways. There was a sharp-edged dagger lying on the floor submerged with the blood. The same blood was pouring down from my friend’s neck. I sauntered towards the body. He was dead, dead as the doornail. The countenance on his face suggested extreme shock. As if someone had attacked him out of the blue.
I was reeling with the shock when I noticed Sophia slouched against the wall. She was undressed and traumatized. But what was she doing there in my friend’s room? I asked her with intense gravity in my tone. She replied something in broken words that I don’t remember. Her face looked pale and white, white like a cheese. She was sobbing bitterly but didn’t run to hug me instead she ran away from me. I don’t know why. Maybe she was mad at me because I had broken her favourite vessel.
But who killed Abhinav? Is it my girl Sophia? But why she would kill my best friend. Maybe she killed him for the money. All these thoughts were rankling across my puny head when I saw my palms covered in the blood and stains around my t-shirt.
“Will you please turn off the lights”, said an old man from the seat above my head.
I turned off the light and closed the diary with heavy stomach.
I got up at the crack of the dawn. It was half-past 4 and all the fellow commutators were still in the deep sleep. The ear-splitting snorts of an old man had overpowered the putrid smell coming from the toilet. But people around me had turned a deaf ear to it. I don’t know how they were managing to sleep around that cacophonous noise and nasty smell. I had that red diary arrested to my chest so I decided to turn a few pages to drive my senses away from these miserable surroundings
1 December 2016
I’m surrounded by dark walls. There is no window here. My mouth has gone dry and my palms are wet. My head feels heavy it’s like I’m carrying a massive metal over my head. And my sight has grown dim. I can see the vague images of people through the ajar door darting outside this room. I can hear the menacing footsteps moving to and fro. It’s like a hammer striking my nerves. A daunting snarl of an animal is piercing my ear. It is trespassing through the wall which stands tall left to my ear. Maybe it’s a hound. My sullen eyes are searching for the animal but I can’t see it. I guess it is captured somewhere behind the dark walls. I feel for the petty animal.
I want to go home. I can fix it all. My friend is dead and my love is missing. But what the hell I’m doing here? This doesn’t feel real. It must be a dream, a nightmare. I was at my home gazing at the dead body of my friend. The terrified Sophia must be searching for my arms. I need to call her but there is no reception on my phone. Is this reality or a dream? I’m perplexed. It’s like a labyrinth that I’m toiling to solve. How did I get here?
No…no it must be a dream I need someone to wake me up. It’s puzzling I can’t figure out what’s real and what’s not. Is my friend still alive? Was that a dream? Or is this a dream? Whatever it is I just want to run away from here. But my legs are tied to a chain. I want to scream but it feels like I have strep throat.
I have the dark secret buried inside me. I remember how our vices turned into tragedy. I can fix it all. I know Sophia had stabbed my best friend. But I don’t know why she did this. Every time I close my eyes, I see Sophia undressed resting in the arms of Abhinav. He was caressing her cheeks and kissing her lips. They always cuddle in my dream. Maybe I have gone delirious. The shock of my friend’s demise has got over my nerves.
I was immersed in reading this intriguing story when my phone started ringing. It was my dad who probably wanted to know if I’m in the right train. After I hung up the call there was a long melancholy cry from the train while scuttling through the dark tunnel.
I was sipping my coffee till I turned the cup upside down with last drop lurching over my lips. The old man had climbed down. He was coiled up in the seat in front of my sullen eyes reading the newspaper. Others were still occupied in the deep sleep engrossed in their dreams. The compartment was stinking with all sorts of unsavoury smell so I opened the window to let the pleasant air nullify the smell. It was a clear blue sky with serene breeze marauding the land. The muffling air was trespassing the window caressing my hair and fluttering the pages of the diary. I was thinking about the riveting story of this red diary. So, I put my fingers on the page reading “The Narrow Shave”. It ran as follows.
9 November 2016
On a bright sunny day, we were occupied with gloomy clouds. Abhinav had thrown himself on his cosy bed rolling the joint while I was grinding the weed. He was a brisk roller and always used to leave me awestruck with his fine art. So as usual he had crafted a perfectly shaped joint in no time. He pressed the tip of the joint with his lips and the lights up the other side. Then he drew the smoke in, held it deep and then puffed out the dense cloud slowly. After carrying out this routine service he passed the stuff to me with white trembling fingers of his. In the next moment we were high as kite with red bloody eyes and dizzy head. After the quick nap of an hour I was all set to jerk off, surfing through the videos on Brazzers when the heavy rattles on the door was heard.
As I opened the door a big beefy guy holding 2 black bags was gazing at me.
“ Yes, how can I help you”, I asked
“Let me in first”, he replied with a nasty smile and barged me in.
He strolled in put the bags on the table and rested himself on the chair. He was a barrel-chested man with wired hair on his domed head. He was moving his dark brown eyes around the room. His biceps were built like a brick shithouse that were nearly the size of my waist.
“How you guys are doing”, he asked with some gravity in his tone.
“Fine”, I replied while gasping at our ominous host.
“I’m Joseph, the right hand of Peter”, he said with a grin
The name had hit me like a tracer bullet. Peter was the big name in our area. He was a gang leader, a vicious one. The gang was notorious for drug peddling, kidnapping and extortion. It was the vile empire in the city with law and order in its pocket.
“Remember you borrowed some money from us”, the beefy guy said while casting his eagle eye on me.
We had borrowed 50k from the gang to bet on a cricket match but unfortunately, we had lost the sum. Our purple patch had ended too soon and dreams of making easy money had shattered.
“Yeah, but we have already paid the amount”, I said in a muffling tone.
“Yes, you did but before demonetization”, he replied with a cunning smile
“Precisely”, I gasped
“So now the boss wants you to replace these old notes with the new currency” he said and pushed one of the bags towards me with his bulky arms.
“But that’s not pragmatic at all… I mean we will be questioned in banks and might land up in a trouble”, I said
“Trouble you say…hmm??”, he said and took out his gun and gently placed it on table.
Suddenly there was an adrenaline rush inside my pale body. My heart was pounding like someone is hammering inside my chest. Just then Abhinav walked in from his room. He was slumbering on his cosy bed but this little quarrel was enough to wake him up.
“What’s the matter”, he asked looking at our grave host.
I told Abhinav the whole story before he turned towards the beefy guy.
“It’s not fair man, we have already paid you the sum. You can leave now we will talk to your boss”, the vexed Abhinav said
“We had managed the money from our friends. So, it’s not possible to replace them now”, I said
“Look at you guys, you are either dick heads or pretending to be ones. So let me be very clear about this. I’m not giving you guys the options here..okay ?? it’s my order!! And you know what it means when I say it’s the order”, he scorned at us.
“If this is a threat, then I have number 100 saved in my speed dial”, Abhinav said
The swarthy guy cast a grimace look.
“I didn’t expect this from you guys. Poor kids!!! Listen you piece of shit the bullet inside the gun of mine can travel faster than the old jeeps of cops, wanna check?, he laughed and pointed his gun towards Abhinav.
“Take it easy man…, we can talk” I jumped in and persuaded the guy to put the gun down.
“So, you sound an intelligent one between the bunch of idiots”, the beefy guy said
Abhinav was all heated up. He was mad as hatter and especially in these intense situations he used to lose his cool.
“I’m sorry for his words, we will definitely try to resolve the issue”, I said
“It’s better if you do that in a week. Till then good bye and yes fill his shallow head with some knowledge before the bullets of my gun fill it”, he said while casting a deadly look at Abhinav and walked off leaving the bag with old notes on the table.
<…to be continued>
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