Saurav Mohapatra - comic book writer

author, artist and bona fide geek

Category: Short Stories

[Short Story] PALINDROME

This one won the REVERSE WRITING PROMPT contest at HeavyGlow - a flash fiction magazine. The prompt was inspired by the movie MEMENTO (directed by Christopher “Dark Knight” Nolan), to write a story in reverse. I decided to experiment further and write a true palindrome, one that can be read in both directions. You can read the sections either from top to bottom or from bottom to top (the section flow goes in order of writing).

It was fun to write. The subject matter is kind of dark and violent though. You’ve been warned! :)

Sometimes you smoke, because you’re awake.

#

I can’t sleep anymore. For me, life is one never ending polar night. I don’t care if the sun comes up tomorrow morning or if it goes down the evening after. I sit on the ledge of my window-sill and look at the world outside, not actually noticing anything.

#

The knife clatters down to the ground. The world is spinning too fast and it’s hard for me to focus. The red haze slowly descends onto me. I feel my eyes close and I sink down to the floor. The floor is slick with blood.

Some of it is my own and the rest… Mara’s.

#

It’s a coronary. I just know it. Feels like someone poured molten lead down my throat. I’m flushed, been trying to cough it out, tried to beat it out of my chest even. It’s almost as if someone has lit a fire in my lungs. I take the knife and try to slit my ribs to let the fumes out, stab my arms again and again, just feel the pain, some acknowledgment that there are worse things than what burns inside me.

I bang my head against the walls.

#

The loneliness is gone and it feels like a weight was lifted off of my chest, as the realization hits me like a two ton truck speeding down the freeway. I don’t feel sad, because there is no sadness at her parting. That’s how it should be. What we had could never be forgotten or whittled away. I won’t let that happen. I’ll fight till the last shard of my sanity to hang on to that sweet feeling, move mountains to make sure I remember her.

#

The Mara I knew would never cheat on me. It must’ve been someone else, someone who hijacked her very being, corrupted her soul and made her a walking travesty of infidelity and debauchery.

Yes, that must be it. She’s possessed, or rather what remains of her is. What she was is no more, her mind purloined and her body commandeered by some demon from hell.

I make up my mind. I must free her from the foul entity that infests her shell. I’ll do it for Mara, for us, for the times we had together.

#

Is there something wrong with me? I feel guilty. I should be crying rivers, yet here I’m sitting quietly on the ledge, my legs dangling into the dark night.

#

Sometimes you smoke to stay awake.

THE END

[Short Story] Place of Many Doors

Somewhere out there is a door.

Sometimes a door is all that there is.

#

She checks her reflection in the window pane of the Raymond’s shop. She pats her shirt down flat across the tummy and heaves a sigh of relief.

“Thank God! It doesn’t show yet.”

She draws a deep breath and rounds the corner of State Street. She can see Ajay sitting in the café looking nervously at the Curzon Road entrance.

She shakes her head.

That kind of describes aptly their recently concluded relationship.

Love was never a problem. It was just that they could never match their expectations. If their life together were to be this café, Nandini always entered through the State Street entrance while Ajay expected her to come through the Curzon Road one.

Finally, it had gotten to a point where he had decided it was better to call it quits than to carry on. She had respected his decision and that had been it.

That was a month ago.

#

She awakens in a strange place. The first sensation she gets is that of emptiness. The place is a big white… nothing. She feels the void wrap around her like a misty blanket, the vast expanse of nothingness ironically triggering a bout of claustrophobia. There is nothing to see, or to hear, a truly silent null.

She is confused, too confused to be afraid. She tries to make sense of it, but her brain refuses to grasp even a tiny sliver of a context. She finds not even a tiny knob to hang her thoughts upon.

Just a big empty place full of nothing.

#

She stands at the café door, willing Ajay to consider the remote possibility that she might have entered from the other end. After a while, she gives up and starts walking towards the glass doors. The door chime sounds as she opens them and that catches his attention. He turns to look at her. Maybe she is imagining it, but she thinks she can spot a brief flicker of disappointment on his face that she had chosen to enter through this entrance and not the one he had picked for her in his mind.

“Easy now, girl! Be focused. This is really important.”

She does a few repetitions of the deep breathing technique she had learned from the Tai-chi book and walks up to the table.

By the looks of it he is already on the 3rd pack of the day. The ashtray on the table is crammed with butts, some still smoldering.  She wonders if he has any inkling of the news she is about to break to him.

She orders an Earl Gray (no milk, no sugar, as usual) and sits there. Neither of them speaks for a while. Finally Ajay breaks the silence.

“So, how have you been?”

There is a hint of awkwardness in his voice. Nandini is nervous too. The ancient Chinese practitioners of Tai-chi apparently didn’t cover meetings this soon after a break-up.

She has thought of this moment and rehearsed what she was going to say a thousand times. But her mind betrays her and she forgets the opening words.

“I’m late.”

As she blurts out the words, she realizes that getting straight to the point perhaps is the best opening she could hope for. The subject she is about to broach had no right or wrong approach.

“Oh, it’s okay. No biggie. I came a bit early, was in the area.”

“No, Ajay. I’m not talking about that. I’m L-A-T-E. This is the second period I’ve missed. I went to the doctor day before yesterday. I’m pregnant.”

There! Just like that she drops the bombshell in his lap.

Ajay is transfixed. His hand is stuck midway between its arc from the table to his mouth. It takes him a solid minute or two to regain composure. He puts the cigarette in his mouth, but changes his mind the next instant and stubs it out. He stares at the dying wisp of smoke that curls up from the ashtray.

They sit like that for a few minutes. There is no conversation. A few times, either of them tries to say something. The words just get stuck in their throats. After a few of these false starts, they just give up and sit staring at each other in silence.

#

She thinks she can see some sort of dark shape form in that white haze. Perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her, but she decides to find out.

She walks towards it.

As she gets nearer, she can make out the shape.

It’s a door, a plain old wooden door with shiny brass door knob.

Even though there’s no light, she thinks she can see the knob gleam. It’s almost as if it’s beckoning her to open it and step through.

She stands there for a moment. She stands there for an eternity. She debates in her mind whether or not to open it. She doesn’t know where she is, neither does she have the foggiest notion what lies behind the door. Her hand is on the knob, yet her body is frozen by indecision, taut with the tension of inactivity.

“What the hell! At least something is better than this nothing.”

She turns the knob and steps through.

#

“I’m telling you strictly FYI. Don’t read anything else into it.”

She decides that the silence has gone on for long enough.

“Uh-huh.. you? How? Wow! This is all very sudden.”

“Ajay, did you hear what I just said? Don’t read anything else into it. I’m not here to guilt trip you. We’re history. I just thought you should know.”

She can’t help firming her tone as she speaks. She feels guilty about that the very moment she says it.

She had been up the whole night trying to debate whether or not to tell Ajay. Now that she had told him, she feels that she should never have come here.

But somewhere deep inside her, she feels glad that she did. It was also his child. Even though they had parted ways, there had been a time when they had been in love. Just for that he deserved to know.

She tries to remember their time together and how the world had seemed like a perfect place.

#

The door opens to a meadow.

It is beautiful. A stream flows through it. She thinks she can hear music, like the soft clink of silvery wires tapped with a delicate crystal wand.

“I have died and gone to heaven.”

She feels a mix of panic and ecstasy at the same time.

The place soothes her troubled mind. She stands their trying to make sense of it all. There’s a part of her that wishes to remain here, yet somehow after a while the place seems emptier than the void she had just been in.

She can’t put her finger on it. Maybe it’s the sameness of it. It seems like a fixed tableau, never changing, never altering a bit.

“Well! I AM getting bored of this Norman Rockwell shit.”

As she soon as she thinks this, another door appears in front of her.

#

“I don’t know what to say, Nandini.”

“Then don’t.”

She doesn’t know what she expected out of this, but she can tell this isn’t going well. She had to speak to someone and she is secretly glad that she had told at least one other living soul about her situation. But now she wasn’t sure if Ajay was the perfect confidante in this matter.

“I… I… Are you absolutely sure that it’s mine?”

“Men!  So predictable. I’m telling him I’m going to have his child and this is all he can come up with.”

She cannot help snickering even in this situation, abeit it happens entirely in her mind. That response was just… so Ajay.

“Yes. The doctor’s office called last evening. I’m two months pregnant.”

“Oh boy!”

Ajay looks like he is ready to cry.

Damn! That’s the last thing she wants now. She nervously looks around the café to see if anyone is looking. She feels that hard not in the pit of her stomach tighten and all of a sudden she feels very sick.

#

She is sinking.

The door had opened into a quagmire. As soon as she had stepped through, she had started sinking into the quicksand. She was up to her waist now in it and it wouldn’t be long before it engulfed her completely. She tries desperately to break free, flailing her arms in futile attempt to swim in that gloop.

The muck completely restrains her lower half and she can no longer feel her legs. The harder she tries to break free, the stronger it seems to get.

She has sunk till her chest by now.

She tries harder.

#

Ajay bursts into tears.

She hadn’t expected this. When she had decided to come here, she just wished to tell him and walk away.

“Ajay, please don’t do this. Don’t make this harder for me than it already is.  Please!”

The crying subsides, but he keeps on sniffling.

“It’s all my fault. I should’ve never left. If only I had known!”

“Please!”

He raises his head and looks at her. His nose is red like a child’s after a bout of cold and his voice sounds like he’s gasping for breath.

“What do you plan to do?”

She had asked herself this question a thousand times last night. Now hearing him articulate it, she feels that she is back at square one. The truth is she doesn’t know. Not for the first time in her life, she is unsure of everything.

She doesn’t know what the hell she wants to do.

#

She is up to her neck now in the mud. Her arms are barely above the quicksand and she is getting tired.

Resignation has set in. She doesn’t want to fight anymore.

She stops moving and waits for the inevitable.

#

“We… We could get back together. We could get married.”

“Stop it, Ajay. I didn’t come here for pity. It was a mistake.”

She starts getting up, but Ajay holds her hand.”

“No! No! Nandini, please hear me out. I want us to be together again. I was a fool to walk out.”

Now people are definitely looking at them.

She feels the tingle in the nape of her neck as she realizes that they are now the center of all attention in that small smoke filled café. She feels like time has paused around her. She looks at him, his eyes pleading with her. She feels the knot in her stomach tighten further. She has that somehow vaguely familiar feeling that she is sinking deep into something primordial that is sapping her of all feeling of being alive.

She feels her body and mind go numb.

#

It’s up to her chin now. She can’t see them, but she almost feels her numb arms dangle lifelessly by her side. She feels utterly helpless.

Her body is not responding to her mind and slowly she feels her mind giving up too. Her thoughts have crawled to a standstill. As she sinks even further, she feels the cold mud engulf her entire being.

This is the end.

“No!”

She surprises herself with the violence of her own thought. She feels as if something inside of her is crying out loud, lashing out with all her strength. In that briefest of instants, she feels her mind fire with the last spurt of energy left in her numb form.

She understands. She has made a decision.

She stops moving and closes her eyes. She slides completely into the quagmire and she opens her eyes.

A door appears before her.

#

She looks at Ajay with a level gaze and even he can feel the intensity in her eyes. He stops bawling and lets go of her hand.

When she speaks, she feels as if she were out of her body and is hearing her own voice from a distance.

She doesn’t care who overhears her words or what they think of it. She has made up her mind.

“Listen to me carefully, Ajay. What we had was once wonderful, but it’s over. It’s no use for you to come back out of guilt. It would just be the same shit, over and over again.”

“B-but, I thought…”

“As I had told you before, I came here because I felt you had a right to know. I have made a decision and the best you can do is to honor it and support me one last time.”

#

The door opens back to the meadow. Something has changed. It feels different, as if someone has breathed life into it.

She sees a cottage by the stream and there is a bench there overlooking the meadow and the woods beyond. She walks over and sits on it.

She doesn’t know how long she sits there, nor does she care. For once in her life, she is at peace. Her trance is broken by a sweet sound of laughter that sounds purer than the untouched snow on the hills, the voice of an angel calling out to her.

“Mama! Mama! Look at what I found.”

She turns to see a little girl running towards her.

Nandinit smiles and walks towards her. The child is excited and is jumping up and down with  enthusiasm as only a child can.

“You must see this, Mama. Come.”

The girl grabs her hand and she lets herself be led towards wherever the child wishes to take her.

They cross the rise in the heart of the meadow and there on the dip, she sees the most beautiful sight she has ever seen.

#

“I’m going to have this child and she’ll be mine alone. You needn’t worry. I’m not going to ask you for child support. You’re welcome to your life and I wish the same favor from you. I want you to have nothing to do with me or my child.”

He is crestfallen, but somehow he seems to accept her words.

She turns and walks towards the front door of the café. She can hear him sign and when she is almost at the door, she thinks she can hear him start to weep. She resists the urge to turn and look back.

In front of her the brass door knob gleams as if beckoning her to open it and step through. She opens the door and steps outside.

#

There on the meadow, mother and child behold the wonderful sight of an infinite number of doors, each looking different and glowing in the morning light. Each door beckons them to open and step through.

Nandini pulls her daughter close to her and they both start laughing with joy.

THE END

Author’s Note
This story was the winner of Sulekha.com/DNA-Me short story contest and was published in the Nov 2006 Issue of DNA-Me. I had to edit the story down to 1000 words for publication. The version posted here is the longer / uncut version with some changes made. It was the first time I had to write something non-genre and for a publication geared towards a female audience. I’m really thankful to Sathya Saran, editor DNA-Me for choosing this story and working with me on the condensed version.

The first two lines are part of a writing prompt I used to write a story called “The Door”. I loved the line so much I wrote this story around that line.

[Short Story] A DEATH BY ANY OTHER DAME

I see her swing her arms. Can’t fault her aim, she connects dead center on my nose. I feel it crunch and shatter like some cheap three day old cannoli. For a scrawny little dame, she packs a mean punch. I’d known a few like her back in the day, back east when I used to run with the DeLucci crew, all velvet and Chanel on the outside and steel on the inside, a dame after my own heart.

I feel woozy, not necessarily from her punch, takes helluva lot more than one punch from a dame to knock me out. I think it is the stake through my heart that is kinda messing with me right now. That and the four others she got through my palms and legs.

I’m pinned to this mesa wall like some two bit messiah on his wooden cross. Lady knows her vampires, looks like she spent a lot of time planning this.

Guess I deserve this, for being stupid.

But then I was always a sucker for dames, if ya know what I mean.

#

(Two Hours Earlier)

I’m on a roll. I hit the lucky seven three times in just under an hour, must be my lucky day.

I see her across the floor, in a va va voom red dress, every inch the femme fatale.

I’ve had my dinner not so long ago, a tasty little dish in a slinky black dress. She tasted like smoked redheads usually do, two parts perfume, one part cheap menthol cigarettes with a seasoning of moonshine. I’d stuck my fangs deep in her throat and had drank my fill, sucking the life out of her and enjoying every bit of it. Her body I dumped back in a dark alley. Didn’t bother to find out the name, they are all the same in this town. Ya don’t try to remember the names of hookers and alleys. Just do your stuff and head on out into the night. Funny thing is they all look the same, been in one means ya been in all of ‘em.

Now that I was hungry no more, I got other itches to scratch. I straighten my tie and hit the strip.

The dealers out here know me. I mean not that I’m a bloodsucker, but the bona-fide high roller part. I get chips worth ten grand, no nickels and dimes for me. I do the roulette first, double my take in an hour and move on. I’m at the crap table when I first see her.

I sense her watchin’ me from where she sits. I sneak a peek and find her still staring at me. Eye contact is inevitable. Her kissers are as red as her dress and I let my eyes wander on down her cleavage right down to the low neck line.

Suddenly another need knocks at the door. I feel it grow like a drop of ink on starched white linen sheets, pretty soon she is all I can think of.

I walk over to her.

We chitchat for a while about meaningless things. I check my watch, still a good two hours before sunrise.

A couple of drinks and I find her willing. We take my car.

She drives.

I let her.

#

We go way out into the desert, under the starry sky, where there is nothin’ but the stars, Joshua trees and the two of us.

She stops the car and leans over to kiss me.

Her smell drives me mad. I can’t resist.

We go outside.

She leans back on the hood with all the subtlety of minx in heat.

I move in hungrily.

Strange! I usually feed once in a night! But right now I hunger for her.

I lean over as if to kiss her throat.

The fangs are out.

#

I’m falling. I never felt her stab me. She slid the stake in like a stiletto, one quick jab and she got it right in the ticker. I feel numb in my chest like someone just held me in a tub of ice water for an hour.

I find it difficult to breathe. I fall back gasping. If I wasn’t dead already, that would’ve done me in for sure.

She picks me up and sets me against the hood. She says something about her child. I think I fed on the little one.

Yeah! As if I remember! Water under the bridge, babe! Men gotta feed. No regrets there! I say as much. She spits in my face.

She pushes me off the hood and back against the wall of earth behind it. She drives the stake in deeper and pins me to the wall. She opens her purse and takes out a mallet and four more stakes. As I said before lady did her homework.

As she is hammering in the spikes in my palms and my feet, I say something about how her child tasted.

She snaps.

She punches me.

#

(Right now)

The lady in red is gone. Been pinned to the wall for a long time now, can’t tell how long. She took my watch, along with my car and wallet. Guess Ms. Righteous Vengeance is not above petty theft either. Ah! As I said before a dame after my own heart! Oh babe! Only if I’d known you back in the day, what times we might’ve had together!

The sun’s gonna come up any time now. I’m growing number by the minute. I’ve managed to free my right arm, but that’s it. I’m too weak to do anything else but wait. With some effort I manage to get the pack of luckies outta my jacket pocket. I put one in my mouth and fidget some more lookin’ for my lighter, guess in her hurry she did not notice the gold plated zippo in my jacket pocket. Well! Hallelujah and thank heavens for small favors.

I light the cigarette and draw a deep one. There are worse ways to go than this. The flame is still on. I hold it up and look at it.

Goddamn! Will the sun come up already!

the morning breeze is still cool, but I can feel it gettin’ warmer. The flame flickers and desperately tries to stay alive.

What’s the point! It’s as good as dead already. I decide to put it out of its misery and snap the lighter shut with a practiced flick of the wrist.

#

The sun comes up.

THE END

Author’s note
First published in 2006 in The Harrow. This was an attempt by me to write a hard boiled story with a horror-ish setting.

[Short Story] The Unborn

He surveys his domain from atop the tallest spire of the largest construct.

Jake would have been ten today.

He is the sentinel of this realm, guardian of this place.

I miss Jake.

He is one with the four winds that caress the sleeping vista at night, his senses on high alert for a sliver of anything out of the ordinary.

Deb and I had planned a long time for Jake. They said it was too late for both of us. But we wanted a baby so bad we did not listen to them.

He feels the winds shift. His senses are abuzz and he turns to face whence the ripple has originated.

Deb was the first to know, to feel the genesis of Jake. It was as if the warmth of a life created inside her womb washed all over her psyche like the first rays of the sun on a chilly morning.

He senses the magik even from this distance. It never loses its novelty. Every time it happens, he feels the same. Another one has arrived.

Sometimes I would wake up in the night to find Deb sitting by the window-sill, singing to the baby in her womb. We found out it was a boy. Deb picked the name. Jake, she wanted to call him.

He rises in the air and flies towards the spot. His consciousness is blending with the ether and he seeks a name.

I still remember that night. The heavens opened their hearts as the rain came down in a torrent. Jake was not due for a couple of weeks. But Deb knew that it was time. I drove them to the city as fast as I could.

He flies over the grand structures that make up this place, so formless at first glance, yet for one who has the patience to look again, a grand symphony of beauty. He caresses a few as he passes them. They are his now, till the end of time. He tends to them and looks after them.

For ten years I have replayed that moment in my mind trying to find someone to blame. May be the truck driver was at fault, his attention having wavered for a second. Perhaps it was I who should have been more careful. But in that split second, my life changed. I felt the sharp pang of pain even before it happened. All I remember are the lights of the behemoth shining directly into my wide open eyes and then there was darkness.

He sees the new arrival. Glistening and glowing, shimmering like the ones before it. He lands nearby and walks towards it.

Deb did not survive the crash. In a way I feel that it was for the best. She never had to know that Jake did not make it. The doctors did their best, but Jake was gone too.

He embraces the essence of the arrival and feels his own course over it. It grows with the infusion and settles down onto the ground. He steps back and watches it grow, another structure taking shape in this Garden of the Unborn Souls, too pure and innocent to be judged.

My life has been a blur since the accident. I try not to think about them, but all I think about now are Deb and Jake. My therapist suggested writing as an outlet. So I write now. It is a small comfort as I shape and reshape my own reality trying to come to terms with what happened. For ten long years I have tried to let go, but the effort is as pointless as the torment of Tantalus. Sometimes I resist the urge to think about it, other times I rush in towards mental mirages of Deb and Jake smiling to me from beyond the haze of the absinthe.

I miss Deb a lot but what torments me most is the loss of the person I knew the least. I feel pained at what Jake could have become. Sometimes I weep in the night mourning chances lost.

The ether finally speaks back. He senses the word in his mind. He runs his hand over at the newest addition to his domain. A smile forms on his lips. It has a name now.

Sometimes I tell myself, may be it is a better place that Jake has gone to.

He looks lovingly at the new one and says, “Welcome home, Jake!”

THE END

Author’s Note
First published in HeavyGlow in 2007. The image is a capture from the movie THE CATHEDRAL.

[Short Story] FLYING

FLYING
I was flying. It was all that I had dreamt of. I was one with the Ether and free from the clutches of earth and water.

I was flying and it felt good.

#

Ever since I’ve known I wished to fly. Our people were a grand and noble race, who had for generations lived on the Land of Rock and Sea, in the shadow of the Great Eye. The Eye was the mighty beacon that had watched over us from its high silver tower. It was our silent sentinel, our protector, savior and judge. It had silently stood watching our race for generations, from a time before time, or so my mother had told me.

Even now I remember my father soaring up to the sky, flying close to the silver tower. It was beautiful, as I watched him from the nest, crowded with the other hatchlings. From afar, I knew not how he communed with the Eye, yet in my heart I felt it — the power, the urge to soar up and be one with the Eye. I watched and I waited, for the day when I too would be able to spread my wings and make the pilgrimage to the tower of the Great Eye.

I waited and I prayed – for strength to bear the wind on my wings, for wisdom to comprehend all that the Eye shall reveal to me when the day came.
Slowly as time passed, we grew big and our feathers long. It was then that I noticed that I was different. My brothers and sisters grew big and strong with majestic wings, but I didn’t. I could see them flap their wings faster and faster, yet mine felt like great weights.

As we grew even older, I saw each one of them join my father and the others in flight. I watched them fly up to the abode of the Great Eye and receive from it the wisdom needed to traverse the Great Blue Yonder. I watched them, touched by the Kindness and Grace of the Eye, cavort in the feel of the wind and the spray. I watched and I waited. I lay in the nest waiting for the dregs they brought back for me out of sheer pity.

I didn’t know what others thought of my condition. Whenever I hobbled over to where they were sitting, there would be an uncomfortable silence followed by an even more uncomfortable attempt at pleasantries. The feeble attempts would end abruptly as each one of them made excuses and flew away.
I had grown used to my solitude. I was cursed. The Great Eye didn’t will me to fly.

I knew not what transgression I had committed in my life or before. Every night, when the others fell asleep, I lay there quietly, watching the Great Eye shine among the stars. And I prayed – for strength to be able to fly for once in my life.

With time, my prayers grew desperate. I began asking the Eye questions of ultimate heresy.

“Why, o Great One? Why Me? Is not the Great Blue for me? Why hast thou forsaken me?”

Not a single answer came back. I chided myself for doubting the Great One’s Grand Design and prayed again with renewed fervor.

It was then that I had the Vision.

#
I was flying.

The Great One came to me in my dreams and made me fly.

For the first time in years, I woke up with hope. It was clear what I had to do. The Eye had shown me the way. If I were to take the Pilgrimage to the very top of the silver tower, the Eye shall grant me flight.

#

The next morning, I waited till my brethren had flown away. I trudged up across the rocks towards the tower. ‘Twas a long and hard road, hobbling over the slippery stones to get to the tower.

I fell many times.

But my faith gave me strength. I soldiered on the path that would lead me to my destiny. In the ever deepening gloom of despair, my belief in His Greatness kept me afloat.

As the sun dipped own to kiss the sea, I finally made it to the tower. I heard the cackle from the nest I had left. My brethren had returned from their flight, yet I didn’t for once look back whence I came. For before me stood the portal to the Realm of the Great Eye, the Stairway to Heaven beckoned to me. The sight filled me with renewed vigor. I slowly pulled myself up and began climbing, one Celestial Stair at a time. As I got nearer to the Sanctum, I could feel the presence of the Eye. With each step, the pull became stronger, the call louder. The Great Eye was calling to me.

In my mind’s eye, I was already soaring.

#

Finally I reached the hallowed chamber of the Great Eye. He that Was, Is and shall be for all Eternity. Tired of body, yet Joyous of mind, I beheld the Eye in all Its Glory.
The Great Eye — the orb of dazzling light that turned and watched over all Creation. In turn it gazed upon the Rocks, the Sea and the Ether. As his Vision chanced upon me, I stood there feeling a sense of Bliss I had never felt before. His Light shone down into my very soul and washed away my sorrows and sins. There was nothing He did not see. I fell to my knees in rapture, for such was the power of His presence. The thunder of the surf that had filled my ears all my life, was but a muted chant, a paean to His Glory.

I felt the Eye whispering at me to come closer. I prayed for strength again and felt the wake of the Great One’s revolutions caress my feathers. In my rapture I drew very close to Him. I didn’t notice the Great Eye come at me and brush me aside our past the barrier on the edge of his tower. He blessed me and cast me into the Void.

The Eye had given me the one thing I longed for.

#

I was flying and it felt good.

THE END

Author’s note

This particular story is special to me. Nearly 16 years ago, I wrote a story for the first time ever in my life. I had seen a copy of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in a bookstore and I was at a particular juncture in my life where I had questions about Faith, Religion and Spirituality and no one to ask them of. So I wrote this story as a sort of exploration of those questions.

I recently found it in my backups and edited it for spelling/grammar and some minor language (the first draft was too floral. gimme a break I was 16 at that time) :) I’d love to hear what your interpretations of the piece (especially the ending) are. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a line. If you found this to your liking, then perhaps you might want to read this post.

PS: my only regret so far is that I have never been able to read the copy of Johnathan Livingstone Seagull, that I bought then :( Never can bring myself to read it, after writing this.

Einstein’s Twin (Short story)

I’m looking at the swirl of the cream in the coffee. I’m in a deep trance like some shaman trying to study the omens in the entrails of a slain animal. Perhaps if I looked hard enough I could see the future. But at this point in time, it’s the past that is eluding me.

I look outside through the glass doors of the café. I see the face of the smiling yuppie nursing a single malt scotch on a billboard and I feel some solace. Maybe I’m not that far away from the world outside. The curvaceous blonde peddling lingerie on the billboard by the side reassures me even more. Then I look at the teeming mass of humanity and I’m lost again.

A stranger!

That is what I am now, a stranger in a land, which was once home, in a city, which I used to know inside out, in a time which by all means should already be the past. It is as if I went outside the bubble and time stopped inside. For me ages have passed, but inside time has stood still.

I left this place behind for things it could not give me, faster cars, sleeker cell phones and a better currency conversion rate. I never looked back in all those years. I tried my best to forget my life here and I had expected the same courtesy from this place.

Yet here I am. Sitting in a coffee shop that I think I have been to before. Everything has changed. Everything is still the same.

A part of me screams inside to run away. Go back to where things still make sense, where at least I’m still sane. I think I hear another voice. A child is whispering names, of places, of people. It is too much for my brain. It reacts the only way it can. I hear that terrible screeching sound of a vinyl record pressed to hard against the turntable and I develop temporary amnesia again.

The child sighs, but doesn’t give up.

The whispers begin again…the child is asking me to open my eyes.

I open my eyes and look at the woman sitting across me. I’m searching for her name. I think I know her. The child tells me he does. The man is back shouting in my ears to get up and walk away. He’s afraid, very afraid. I think we’ve been here before.

I look at her. The child comes forward and so do some of the memories.

I think I used to love this woman.

The child says I still do.

The man points out I have a family outside of this bubble.

I try to shut them both.

Suddenly there is silence in my mind. They are gone, at least for the moment.

I try to make small talk. I opt for the safest opening.

“So how have you been?” I hear myself say.

“Good, thanks for asking. How about you?” she responds.

“Oh! Can’t complain! Business is good. We are expanding our operations here. A few more years and this place’s going to be gold.”

“Uh-huh.”

I think she is not here for the discourse on business opportunities in third world countries.

“I saw your picture in that magazine the other day.” She says,” You looked good!”

And then there is that silence between us again. She is sipping her coffee and I am trying to stop the swirls of the creamer in the coffee with my mind.

I can’t take it anymore. I beg for the child to come back and he whispers in my ears. I repeat like a zombie.

“I missed you.”

She looks up at me. There it is in her eyes, a glimmer of hope and then she starts laughing. It is a forced laughter. The one I am all too familiar with. It is the kind of laughter that pretends that the other person just said something he or she did not mean at all. Denial is one of our best natural defenses.

I repeat my words.

“C’mon, S____, after all these years? After all that has happened?” Her voice is getting sterner.

I am silent. I think I have a vague idea what she is talking about. I can sense that she is upset.

I look at the swirls in the coffee cup again. Suddenly the world around me shrinks and time rewinds.
It is the same coffee shop but years ago. I see myself with the same woman. She is crying and I am not even trying to console her. I see myself get up and walk away. I am at the door, fighting the urge to look back. I can almost hear myself thinking. The words are blurred but I think I am beginning to remember.
I snap back to the present.

She is still upset, but she isn’t as angry as I would have liked her to be. The child is now full of hope. He makes my hand go up to hers and I see myself patting her hands. She doesn’t try to remove the hand.
She looks up at me, her eyes a sea of conflict.

“I’m married now. I have three kids.”

Her voice is pleading, but not with me.

I still haven’t removed my hand.

We sit there, a tableau fixed in time.

An eternity passes.

The child is overjoyed and I hear nothing else.

“Come away with me.” I hear him speak.

The trance ends.

She snaps her hand back and mutters something about this having been a big mistake. She picks up her purse and storms out of the café. I let her go. The child is sad and silent and I think the man is back as I hear his “I told you so” snicker.

I sit there for some time.

I get up and pay for the coffee. I feel the memories flooding back and this time I do not resist. I walk outside and look at the place I once called home. I feel the barbs in my heart with each flash.

I see us on the park bench. Chatting away, full of dreams of being together till time ends.

I see us walking, hand in hand.

I don’t try to fight back. The man is in utter pain and I think so is the child.

It all builds up to a cacophony of pain and suddenly I almost remember her name. I hear the sound of scratching records again and I fade to black.

#

I’m at the airport now, the edge of the bubble. I am handing my boarding pass to the smiling lady and am walking down the tunnel that shall lead my way to freedom.

Soon I’ll be home, back in the place I know.

I don’t know why I came back. I don’t remember why I was sad.

I hear humming in my mind. It is a man, happy to be in control again.

Suddenly I hear a faint sound and I look back.

Somewhere out there a child is sobbing.

And I think so am I.

THE END

This is a short story that was first published in Chick Flix eZine in 2006.

Turbulence – a short story

this is adapted from a chapter from a novella I wrote a long time ago called “The Temple”

I had caught a connecting flight from Heathrow to New Delhi. The hardly audible voice over the telephone had given me the one piece of news that could possibly get me on a plane, or even think of going to India.

My father was dead. I was flying to perform his last rites.

I was never much of the jet-setting traveler type. I get airsick a lot. I can’t sleep on the planes and get twinges of claustrophobia encased in these steel sarcophagi. Air travel for me is hours of sitting in cramped coach seats, trying to wriggle my toes and fidgeting in the seat to pass the time.

This time it was different. I know not why but I managed to fall asleep. Maybe it was the fact that it was all finally sinking in, the fact that both my parents were now dead. I guess it was kind of a defense mechanism that brought on the soothing anesthetic blanket of sleep over my troubled mind.

I had the usual air travel woes when my journey began from Boston Logan. We faced some turbulence over the Atlantic. The plane was buffeting violently and I could see the wingtips dip and pitch from my seat near the window.

Sudden realization dawned on me as to how short life could be. What if I were to die right here right now? What if the plane crashed into the icy waters of the ocean below me?

At least it would be quick and painless for me, but what about those that I leave behind?

I thought of my wife and daughter. Had I been a good father to my daughter? What about Maya, my wife? The last memory she will have of us is the pointless quarrel we had the night before.

If I died right now, I would not even have said a proper goodbye to them both. Would they remember me after I am gone?

What would be the sum total of my life, my legacy or the fact that I have none? I have lived a normal uneventful life, a face in the crowd, nothing out of the ordinary. I own a beige sedan and a 1600 sq ft. Colonial in a distant suburb of Boston. Maybe that is worth something in the long run, the fact that I did not screw up royally?

But should not one aspire for more from life? What it is that lives on forever, long after one is gone from the face of the earth?

#

The turbulence outside had ceased, but I seemed not to notice. The storm still raged in my mind. It raced with questions I had not even given the slightest pause for ponder in a very long time.

Maybe it was mental fatigue, but I had not noticed when I had fallen asleep.

I dreamt of my mother. I had not thought of her for so many years now. She was the bridge between us, as my father and I drifted apart. She remained the common link between us, a surrogate for the bond that should have been in place between father and son.

What a strain it must have been for her, playing the silent peacemaker as the two men in her life bickered and fought at every available opportunity.

I would have liked her to have met Aikya. She had never met Maya. I met Maya after I’d moved to the United States. God! How nice it would have been if my mother could have seen what I made of my life!

Would she have approved?

In my dreams she seemed to, just as she had always done when she was alive.

She had been my anchor as an adolescent as I drifted hither and thither, trying to do one thing after the other, while my father disapproved. She stood by me silently. The best thing she always did was to do nothing.

She let me be, but my father was a different story.

He seemed to have charted the course of my life, ever since I had been born. I resented that. As soon as I was able, I rebelled against his every whim. When he wanted me to study liberal arts, I studied science. Just because he wanted me to focus on a career as an academic, a tenured professor Maybe, I chose to be a programmer.

When we quarreled, his precepts and quotes would be grounded in history and philosophy, while I waxed eloquent over parallels drawn from mathematics and quantum physics.

It was almost as if we preferred not even to speak the same language.

It must have troubled my mother a lot, but she did not say a word. I guess what I mistook for cowardice back then was in fact a quiet strength and wisdom that I completely engrossed in my rebellious teenaged self could not even begin to fathom. She did not take sides because she could not.

I think it was the strain that finally took her. I felt guilt rushing in swamping my thoughts like a cold inky black flood. I was as guilty as my father.

We both had killed her.

I knew it in that moment and I guess my father had known it then, on that fateful night, the night of her funeral. I think it was subconscious knowledge of this guilt that drove us both to the last altercation we ever had.

Even from beyond the grave, she had offered us a chance to reconcile that night and we in our raging macho posturing had blown it away.

My grief and sorrow were fresh again. I believe they had never left. I had just hid them somewhere deep inside me.

I woke up and found that I had been weeping.

I brushed my tears away. Perhaps fate had given me another chance. Maybe by honoring my father’s last wish would be my way of apologizing to both of them. I needed it. He needed it.

Maybe the scattering of his ashes would not erase fully all the painful memories of our relationship; but who knows?

Death is a great leveler, all bets are off.

I put my head back and pressed it hard against the headrest of my seat.

#

I looked out of the window. The turbulence was over. All I could see was the blue waters of the ocean and an even bluer sky.

The captain announced that we had caught a tailwind and would arrive half an hour earlier than our scheduled arrival at Heathrow. I am not a superstitious man, but in that moment I almost believed that it was an omen.

The storm had passed. I was going home.

THE END

Business As Usual

This is a short story I wrote a long time ago. Found it in my backups.

BUSINESS AS USUAL
By Saurav Mohapatra


Category: System Log Entry
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: SYSTEM INITIATION SUCCESSFUL

The system initiation procedure was successful. The energy infusion went smoothly and the containment frequencies functioned within limits. The resonant sonic harmonics stimulated the spontaneous condensation of the vibrant energy field correctly. The singularity responded as predicted and the proto-universe coalesced.

Maintaining observation mode.

–Brahma
Creator-in-chief, Trinity Labs

———————

Category : Personal Communiqué
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: Shiva@trinity.gov
Attachments: om.mp3

Downloaded a sample of the resonant sonic harmonic and looped it. Attached please find the results. Just thought you might like it since you are into dance and music.

B.

———————–

Category: System Log Entry
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: CONGRATULATIONS! IT’S ALIVE !!

Scans of sector ZZ-Alpha, Planet Prithvi indicate that the primordial soup responded well to the electrical stimulus provided by its atmosphere, protein initiation was successful.

Sampling has detected basic building blocks necessary for development of carbon based sentient life forms.

Under current conditions, test system should be ready to self-sustain itself soon.

———————

Category: Personal Communiqué
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: Shiva@trinity.gov

Subject: I WIN, AGAIN !

Hey.

Looks like I win again. I told you life was going to be Carbon based. Only thing Nitrogen is good for is making laughing gas, as you so very well know ! ;-)

You now owe me 100 bucks for this and the “betamax is going to rule the world!!!” bet.

Regards,
V.

PS: BTW, did you order the keg for the next party? If you plan on freaking out like the last one I strongly suggest you order two, one just for you and one for the rest of us.

———————

System Log Entry
By: Brahma@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov
Attn: Vishnu@trinity.gov

Subject: Entering Maintenance mode.

System entered self-sustenance mode. All indications are promising, handing system over to maintenance daemons.

Vishnu, can you make sure that the initial transition is smoother than the last one! I am particularly worried about the leakage of the flammable coolant tubes on the last one! Boy was that a big bang or what??

—————————

System Log Entry
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: Meeting Request : Cataclysm Alert

Project has evolved into a stable multiphase system with a uniform division among aquatic systems and landmasses. However I am concerned over some instabilities under the ocean bed which might lead to flooding of the landmasses and eventual loss of many forms of land based life.

This event (whose probability has just been confirmed by simulations) shall create an undue shift in evolutionary pressure towards aquatic life forms.

Request a meeting of all of us to vote on whether intervention is required.

V.

—————————–

System Log Entry
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: all@trinity.gov

Subject: Cataclysm Averted. Avatar Algorithm works

As per our collective decision last Friday, I rewrote the maintenance daemon algorithm to allow external insertions. However due to the narrow bandwidth available, I have managed to key it only to my sub ethereal frequencies. The Avatar Algorithm allows my consciousness to manifest itself inside the system while allowing for a portion of my external consciousness to be downloaded to that particular manifestation. I have named the algorithm as the “avatar system”. I have tried to design the system so that the inhabitants are mostly unaware of us except at a primitive level. However the long term effects of my insertion can only be seen with the passage of time. Also the process is very resource intensive and I propose we use it sparingly only to avert cataclysm class events.

As per the poll, I managed to interface with the system and manifest myself as a higher aquatic life form. I managed to convey the urgency of the situation to one of the leaders of the dominant land based organisms which have been classified as “maanavs” since the first of their kind was fondly referred to as “M.A.N.U.” by Brahma@trinity.org.

The maanavs managed to avert significant loss to the land based ecosystem by evacuating to a higher area along with as much samples of existing life as possible. The loss was acceptable and I believe the system can continue on its own from here on.

V.

————————————————-

Corporate M.O.U.

Signed by: Trinity Labs and Yahweh Inc.

We the undersigned to do hereby agree to share space in the project Brahmand construct. Yahweh inc shall be provided with space and initial sentience seeding in the Mesopotamian Sector of Planet Prithvi.

sd:

for Trinity Labs.

Indra,
Managing Director

for Yahweh! Inc

Yahweh,
CEO, President, Chairman of the Board and Sole Proprietor

———————–

Confidential Complaint
By: Vishnu@trinity.gov
To: hr@trinity.gov
CC: admin@trinity.gov

Subject: Attitude issues exhibited my co-workers

Attachments : Yahweh-Moses-Burning-Bush.avi
DNA-Sampling-Report-Jesus-Of-Nazareth.doc
Combined Expense Reports For Eight Avataric Manifestations.xls

Dear Madam,

As you are aware project Brahmand has started exhibiting signs of increasing instability and has been demanding more and more resources. I believe this is in part due to the cavalier attitude exhibited by my coworkers. Since the system has entered maintenance mode, their active roles are limited.

However as referenced by my earlier memos and log entries, the Avatar algorithm designed by me has been called in to play at least nine times in the recent past. As the self awareness of the inhabitants of the construct grows, they are slowly becoming aware of us (the trinity) albeit in a limited sense. My avataric manifestations have become sort of the lynchpin of their religion.

Also the Yahweh Inc deal which turned out to be such a cash cow for our company is in my opinion sort of undermining the harmony of the system. Three major religions have sprung up and are growing fast with Yahweh as the central deity and he is relishing it. He has been using the experimental Audio Visual interface to manipulate the simple minded folk in his sector. More alarmingly I think Yahweh has developed the technology to inject his DNA into unsuspecting female inhabitants, please see the attached DNA Sampling report on a certain Jesus of Nazareth who I am pretty certain is Yahweh’s child.

I am not sure of Yahweh’s ultimate agenda, but I think it might end up introducing irreversible incompatibilities among the system inhabitants.

My Trinity Labs coworkers are not above a bit of tinkering either. They have been constantly using the A/V interface to grant so called “boons” to people who chant their name. Even though they have not yet violated the prime directive as in granting immortality to inhabitants, I have had to use the Avatar Algorithm seven more times in the recent past to control the damage done by their youthful pranks. That makes it eight avataric manifestations in three systemic epochs.

I have left psychosocial controls in place to avoid any further requirement of avataric manifestations. Even Yahweh has agreed to insert similar controls.

We have spun a doomsday story that indicates any further interference by the “Gods” or “god” (in Yahweh’s case) shall be the last and it shall bring about the End of Days.

Regards

Vishnu
Chief Operating Officer, Trinity Labs

———————-

Category : Termination Notice
From: finance@trinity.gov
To: vishnu@trinity.gov, Brahma@trinity.gov, Shiva@trinity.gov
CC: yahweh@yahweh.com

Subject: PROJECT BRAHMAND BUDGET WITHDRAWN

Dear Sir(s),

The corporate financial audit found that the return on investment on the above mentioned project was very low and except for the franchise deal with Yahweh Inc, there has been no financial gain from the project.

It is thus been decided by the board to terminate the project immediately. You are hereby authorized to launch Termination Sequence : TAN – DAV to release the resources tied up in the construct.
This notice also serves as communication of intent to terminate as per clause 42(v) of our M.O.U. with Yahweh Inc. They are requested to launch their preparatory programs of System Termination.

Regards

Kuber, CPA
Finance Department
Trinity Labs

—————–

Personal Log Entry
By: Shiva@trinity.gov
To:
Subject: Everything Ends, Everything Begins…

I was asked to launch the TAN-DAV Algorithm on the system today. Even though I take great pride in the algorithms workings and must say enjoy the sheer beauty of it, it is with a heavy heart that I write this.

TAN-DAV is designed to take apart bit by bit the resonant harmonic matter constraints that keep the mini-universe in place. As the algorithm traverses across the system, it shall release the energy equivalence of the universe construct and store it in a zero point module for future use.

I feel sad as we all put a lot of effort into this project, especially Vishnu. It is going to be real hard on him. Have not seen him since last evening when we got the memo about system termination. Brahma is glassy eyed too since that time.

Well that leaves me. I am a professional this is what I do. My only consolation is some day we might get approval for another project and we shall reuse this energy to build another universe.

Till then, life goes on.

———–

System Log Entry
From: Tandav-Daemon@trinity.gov
CC: all@trinity.gov

Subject: Termination Sequence finished

System Termination finished. Energy has been store in zero point module 9512102.

——————-

Personal Communiqué
From: Yahweh@yahweh.com
To: Vishnu@trinity.gov, Brahma@trinity.gov, Shiva@trinity.gov
Subject: FYI: Good News.

Hi All,

I have managed to gather funding from a couple of venture capitalists I know. They are eager to invest in Project Brahmand. The VC firm of Al-Zahila is backed by the Saudi Royal family, so we know their money is good. We can reinitiate the project as soon as I get the details sorted out. Just thought you guys should know first.

Regards

Yahweh

P.S. : I thought of a great system initiation banner. It goes, “Let there be light”

THE END

Lascivious Intentions

(A repost from my old sulekha.com blog. This was written on the back of a napkin at Amsterdam airport while waiting for a connecting flight. contains strong language and graphic sexuality, might not be suitable for minors)

LASCIVIOUS INTENTIONS
by Saurav Mohapatra

They were having sex in a public place and no one looked.

The measly looking old man was banging the naked busty blonde right there on the floor of a busy airport lounge and no one even bothered to bat an eyelid.

Apathy, the greatest virtue of modern man! We seem to be born with it. We would revel in it if we could trigger the faintest bit of emotion.

Being apathetic is not a zero sum game. There is plenty to go around for everybody.

#

The old man was now lying flat on his back and the blonde was riding him hard.

Still no one cared.

Oh! My Lord! What the f#$% has happened to your world?

I sipped my coffee trying to drown out their moans and groans. It was getting on my nerves.

I still had five hours to go before my connecting flight left and I had to put up with this.

#

They seemed to have insatiable appetites. Now the blonde was kneeling over and the old man was pumping away furiously shouting in broken English, “Who Yore daddy!”. She was shouting indecipherable obscenities in a language that sounded German. Having watched umpteen pornographic movies, I could fill in the dialogues in English.

The racket was unbearable.

“Stop it.” I wanted to shout.

“Stop it now! I cannot take this anymore.”

I wanted to go over and kick them hard. They were behaving like mongrels in heat and deserved to be treated as such.

I finally got the nerve and stood up.

#

The old man was sitting there on the bench right across me, fully clothed of course and so was the blonde.

Did I imagine it?

Damn! This waiting is playing havoc with my mind.

I pretended to stretch my legs and sat down.

The old man was reading a newspaper. He gave me a courtesy smile as our eyes met and I realized I had been staring.

I smiled guiltily and looked over at the blonde.

#

Ahhh! There she was! Butt naked on the floor, pleasuring herself and of course no one looked.

I got in touch with my inner apathetic modern man. I turned my attention to my coffee and looked at my watch.

Four more hours plus change!

#

Still no one looked.

THE END