The Wish.

It was one of those summer days which you would want to spend outside in the sunlight and fresh air.It was a small town and everyone knew each other and they weren’t scared to let the kids wander off to play. For Jimmy, Peter and Charlie it was another day they got to spent together weaving stories out of thin air and acting out the characters.

They were on their way as soon as they could get out of their homes to spend the day in their favorite spot which was the edge of an abandoned field where all that was left was an old well. Most of the well was covered up so that no one would fall in. The three boys went on with their games. Today’s story was a reenactment of a war scene. Being too young to realize the real horrors of war they just saw it as a time where they got to use, or pretend to use, big guns.

The day went on and it was almost time to go home. The boys laid down on the grass gazing at the sky. Each was lost in his own thought.Peter sat up and said ” Men, We had a great day. Now we’ll leave the guns here as we have won the great war. No more violence”. For any other kid to talk like this would have seemed strange but Peter always talked like a grown up and they were used to it. Jimmy believed that this was the outcome of reading too many books and often said so when his friend started talking too much in his own way.

Charlie, who was still staring up the sky, asked ” What do you think we’ll do when we grow up?”  Neither Peter or Jimmy had any answer. This was the first any of them had given actual thought to the question. Charlie answered his own question ” I think I’ll be a pilot and fly big planes. I’ll be up there in the sky and I’ll see new places. What do you think?”.

Jimmy replied that it was a good idea. He looked at his friends and gave his own answer ” I think I’ll still like using big guns when I grow up. They will let me use actual guns! I’ll go join the army like Joe.” The others knew that his big brother Joe was Jimmy hero. Though they both were in awe of Joe, who they thought looked exactly like  soldiers in stories, they were a little scared of him.

It was Peter’s turn and he used his usual grown up voice to answer, “I’ll write books. People everywhere will read them and they’ll love it.” Jimmy thought that it wasn’t such a great plan. He’ll never have any adventures but didn’t say so because he knew Peter will always be strange when it came to books.

Charlie sat up quickly and had a look on his face which the others were familiar with. He had some idea which the others will have to take part in without any option of quitting. They had learned long ago that it was useless to argue when Charlie had that look on his face. Charlie began telling them his idea, ” We all know what we want to do so we’ll write it in paper and throw it in the well. We will become what we planned to be”. Jimmy and Peter were silent they were waiting for the rest of the plan. It took them a few seconds to realize Charlie had finished and it surprised them, he usually came up with hare-brained schemes which got all of them into trouble.

Knowing they can’t get into trouble for this they went along with it. Peter always had pen and paper with him in his bag so they wrote down what their dreams jobs on it. Then slipped the pieces of paper into the well and stood there as if waiting for something. They heard someone moving and turned around to find a man standing behind them. They hadn’t seen him come up the ground earlier but at that moment they didn’t wonder about it. He was dressed in a suit and was looking down on them with a smile. He asked them in a strong voice “Were you making a wish?”

Charlie answered him with a simple “Yes”.

The man continued to smile and answered  It’s getting dark, shouldn’t you be going home? And don’t worry, your wishes will come true” The kids looked at each other and then picked up their stuff and left. When they looked back the man was still standing there looking at them.

It was fifty years since that day. Peter had come back to visit his childhood town and stopped by the old farm ground. The well was still there. He stood there recollecting memories from the day they dropped the pieces of paper down the well and the strange man they met. That’s when he realized they never bothered to find who the man was. He was never seen again but his words had proven to be true. He, Peter was now an author.  Jimmy and Charlie too had their wishes fulfilled. Peter continued to stand there by the well, looking up at the sky that was tinted pink from the setting sun, wondering who the man was.

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The Last View

It was just a few months into the year 2050. The world had hanged drastically over the last 50 years. We had defeated most of the major illnesses and space was within our grasp. The latest discovery was a cure for cancer. The rate of cancer in people had increased in the last few years, so needless to say this discovery was the most important.The first 500 human trials were reported as success. People around the world were queuing up for the their chance at the miracle cure. 

That’s when things started going horribly wrong. The worst horrors were turning into reality. People who had taken the cure were changing into something else. The only way people could describe them were as zombies, thanks to the countless movies and books. There brain function was almost nil and their logical and reasoning capabilities were non-existent. They were left as empty shells driven by an urge to feed on anything organic. Regular life ceased and people were driven into hiding while the government tried to manage the crisis. Within a month all countries had manged to round-up most of those to who had used the drug. Reports that the situation was coming under control was spread out to calm the people.

The next week changed everything. Those who weren’t found on time had infected other humans and chaos had broken out. Large scale evacuations were carried out.By the end of three months the population of the living had reduced to mere 1%,  while the undead where spreading everywhere. Decisions were made. We couldn’t hide forever.Life on earth was no longer an option. We had four airships ready for travel. These ships were made for space exploration and other studies but now their purpose had changed. They had the capabilities to sustain life for a long period.  Taking into account all the factors it was found that at full capacity people could live here for a hundred years. Food was no longer a problem as they had been reduced to the form of pills. And the fact that the ships had labs that doubled as farms meant some forms of plant life could be saved.Those who chose to stay behind were asked to stay in bunkers. Even though it was certain it wont be much use. The plan was to come back once the planet was once again able to sustain human life.

Everything was ready and we were prepared to leave the planet we called home. Everyone rushed to the viewing area to catch a last glimpse of blue planet. The captain’s voice announced that there were five seconds left on the timer. We kept our eyes locked on earth, taking in the spectacular view. From up here it looked so serene, no signs of the horror down there were visible. The timer counted down and we braced ourselves, not the for the physical impact of the nukes, but for the vision of our home blowing up and becoming a memory.

Written for Ermilia’s Picture It & Write Challenge. Click the pic for the original challenge.

© Sunita Menon,2012

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The Family Dinner

The preparations were in full swing and mom was determined not to leave anything short of perfect. We all knew this was a tall order but acted supportive nonetheless. Some long forgotten relative, whom we were to call “Uncle (Something)”, was coming for dinner. The only fact known about said the relative was that he was rich and had no heir. Hence, the preparation to prove to him that this family is the one to inherit his millions. This wasn’t the only family he was visiting so the process of scrubbing, dinner planning and attempting to discipline the kids was going on in every household. The kids(which included me) was probably the toughest part seeing that we all lacked the gene that helped not to make a mess of simplest of things.

With every passing hour mom’s panic was reaching new heights. She had managed to put into order most of the rooms. The bedrooms belonging to us kids were our sole responsibility, so it need not be said that they were going to remain a mess. My defense for the bedroom situation was “Hey, at least I’m honest. This is how things usually look around here”. Mom had turned her attention to cooking. She had received advice from a cousin that the Uncle didn’t approve of vegan meals and that he hated chicken. Dad was dispatched with the job of buying anything but chicken. He wasn’t happy leaving, some big game was on, but knew it was hopeless to argue.

Big Brother was in his room next door with his girlfriend of the month. An argument was going on. The walls weren’t thick enough to keep out the whiny voice of girlfriend who was saying ” Why did your mom say I was plump? She could have used the word curvy! They all think I’m dumb don’t they?” It was a pain to have her join this circus. It was hard to decide who should be blamed for her presence, should it be Big Brother or the parents who gave in after five different arguments on the topic. His demand was that she should join the dinner as “she was The One”, which no one believed seeing he had said the same about the last four. Little brother was in his room, glued to his computer screen as usual.

Dad came back an hour later with enough chicken for ten people. Mom’s face went from pale to red in a matter of seconds. Dad went into self-preservation mode. He kept repeating that no one told him about the preferred meat. I didn’t want to be dragged into the argument so I decided not to point out that Mom had explicitly told ‘no chicken’. Poor guy! he must have been lost in the game on TV and only one word must have registered in his head “chicken”, which happened to be his favorite.

By six thirty everything was ready or as ready as it could be. We were all dressed properly. Even Little brother managed to look proper for once. At seven sharp the Uncle arrived. He was quite old but had sharp eyes and a disapproving look. After spending some time with him I got to the conclusion that he was born with the look.

We all proceeded to the table which looked splendid with all the dishes (The chicken was passed of as pheasant). Mom was trying to be the best host while the Uncle was proving to be the worst. He had complains about the lighting, seating, journey, the food and various other things.  Big brother and girlfriend were lost in their world. Little brother had manged to eat five servings and his white shirt now resembled a work of modern art.

The agonizing dinner was finally over and the Uncle left, his face still holding the same expression. A month later we got the news. He had passed away and all his money was donated to different organizations. Dad was speechless and Mom couldn’t move from the couch for a while. The conditions of adults from the various other households were reported to be the same. As for the rest of us, Big brother was lost in his own world, Little brother was still glued to his computer screen and Me? I was happy that I got a good story out of it.

© Sunita Menon,2012

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It was close to midnight and the dance was finally over. It was an absolute success. As one of the organizers, I felt really proud of our work. I couldn’t help but gloat. This was without doubt the best dance ever in any high school.  They are going to be talking about this one for years.

Few of the guys made plans to take the party elsewhere. Ideas for available locations were thrown around and it was decided that the woods at the edge of the town was the safest place to host a late night party away from the eyes of any adults. People piled into the cars and rushed to continue the dancing and drinking and everything else that ensued in any teen party.

The music was ready, someone had already got the fire going and all of us were ready to continue the fun into the next day.It was close to two a.m when everyone got tired of dancing. As we weren’t ready to go home yet we gathered around the fire. The topics of conversation kept changing. I must have fallen asleep for a while. When I opened my eyes again only six of us were left and the topic of conversation had reached that of the local legend which said these woods were haunted. All of us knew the stories, which varied from person to person, but the base line was some guy died here years ago and the legend was there was a curse on the woods that if someone dies here their soul gets stuck in limbo until someone else dies. He’s still supposed to be out there, trying to kill people. We regarded this as just a ruse to keeps kids away but the eerie silence, and the pale light from the full moon made it perfect setting to recount the old story.

It took a long time to finish the story because everyone  pitched in with their own versions.  it took everyone a while to notice but the silence had deepened and the temperature had dropped almost to freezing. Then the sounds started. It was as if the woods had come to life. Branches were breaking, the leaves were moving and it sounded like moving towards us. The first thought was it were the cops here to bust our late night bash. We waited minutes for them to come into view but no one did.

The sounds continued. All of us were terrified and visibly shivering from the combination of cold and fear.I started feeling dazed and confused and it was becoming harder and harder to think straight. All together we started running towards the highway.

We must have gone in the wrong direction, there was no sign of the highway and tempers were running short.Before we could make it out a fight broke out. Fists were flying and cries of those hit added to the sounds of the woods. I remember helping others to break up the fight but caught a hit straight on the face and went down. I remember weird noises and people running away. Just before my eyes closed I saw a figure coming towards me.

I woke up to the sound of people somewhere near by. Getting up was painful, I seemed to have landed head first onto a rock. It took a while for my eyes to focus; when it did I saw that the  cops were here and one of them was carrying something. Then it hit me that it wasn’t something but a someone. There was no one near. I realized they were leaving me behind. Using whatever strength was left in me I ran towards them. Calling out for them to stop but no one heard me. I caught up to them just before the edge of the woods. That’s when the guy turned around and all the air left me. My legs failed and I fell to the ground. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the figure in his arms. It was me!.

I sat there, unable to move, while questions raced through my head. “No, It couldn’t be me. I must be still unconscious.” I got up and tried to move but try as I might I couldn’t leave the woods. After hours or what might have been days, the truth finally seeped in.Some legends were true. A soul once trapped in the woods will only be released when another takes its place. While my body rots and the memory of me disappears from people’s minds my soul is stuck in the woods waiting for the next victim to lift the curse. For all I know I could be trapped here forever!.

© Sunita Menon,2012

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A Day In The City

Against all concerns of my over protective parents I moved to the big city. The dream is the same as hundreds and thousands who have done the same before me; To make it big and to be somebody.  Being from a small town I grew up with a picture in my head that a city is place full of muggers, murderers and plunderers. I knew it’s all fake, just like everyone else, but when you hear something enough times it kinda gets stuck in your head even if you don’t want it to.

Well, it’s been a month now and I’m still living and breathing! And all I’ve lost over the last month are a set of keys and a pair of earrings  which are just part of my long history of carelessness. That’s all the reassurance I need to make it through another day of work.

Eight hours of work and then I’m free. All I want to do is get home, take a nice shower and relax but before that I get my usual cup of coffee from the shop across the street from my office. One cup of coffee and a few delicious cookies and I’m on my way home. Two  blocks later I notice that a guy has been following me. He’s been walking some distance behind me since I left the coffee-shop.

I don’t panic right away. Its strange but its a big place and I reckon there are definitely more than one person going in the same direction. I walk down couple more blocks and now panic starts to set in. This guys been keeping the same pace. All the dire warnings from my parents start run through my mind like an annoying ticker tape with special highlights on the nasty words – muggers, murderers, plunderers.

I increase my pace. The fact that there are not much people around and I have to walk 5 mins more to get to my apartment do nothing to calm me down. I notice that the guy has increased his pace too. I have the apartment in sight know and I choose to leave all dignity behind and break out into a run. I turn around to find that the guy is right behind and just as I reach for the door he catches up. before I can go in he gets  hold of my hand and turns me around.

I start running all the action sequences from TV and movies through my head ignoring he fact that i don’t know the first thing about fighting. Then the guy says” Hey, Sorry if i scared you. I’m new to town and forgot the way back to the apartment. I knew you lived here and thought I’ll follow you home”.

All I could do is just stand there and say “Oh!”. It took my mind a couple of minutes to come out the fight or flight mode. Then reality of what happened seeps in and he’s already gone inside the building and I’m still standing there dumbstruck. I want to yell and scream at this guy! “Seriously! Dude couldn’t you just ask the damn way instead of going all stalker mode and scaring the shit out of me!!” All that I could have said to this guy and all I said was a damn “oh”.

© Sunita Menon,2012

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Through The Haze

There seems to be  an odd shine to everything around me, but at the same time it feels like I’m  in the middle of a fog. The forest had an ethereal quality to it. The forest! I have no recollection of how i got here or what I’m doing here.

Written for Ermilia’s Picture It & Write Challenge. Click the pic for the original challenge.

I remember closing my eyes. Was that yesterday or a minute before? Now I seem to standing in some sort of clearing. Surrounded by tall trees that cast weird shadows onto a leaf covered floor.  There is a soft light falling on everything which seems to make it more beautiful yet it still leaves behind a feeling in you that you shouldn’t believe what you see.There is definitely something odd about this place though it’s hard to put my finger on it. The haze that surrounds me seems to be effecting  my mind too! Only way I react to that thought is, “Ha, Now that sounds stupid”. But I accept that there is something odd about this place.  I can’t find where the light is coming from. There is no sun, or at least none that I can see. It’s not even possible to decide on a time of a day.

I realize that everything is too still and silent. Through all this time, when I stood there watching my surroundings, not even a leaf has moved from it place, there are no scattering or rustling sounds people usually associate with forests. All that’s there is a profound silence. No sooner had this thought entered my mind and a wind started to blow. Not a light summer breeze but strong gusts like a storm is about to start.

One minute I’m going through all these thoughts and next I’m scared. I get this feeling in my gut that I should run. Run hard and fast and get away from here. But why? why am i here and what am I running from? The haze makes it hard to think properly. All of a sudden there’s a movement in the trees behind me. Somethings coming. I don’t know how I know it but I know its going to harm me. I run into the forest. Everything is  darker here and I try my best to keep a good pace without tripping on the vines or slipping on the damp patches.

It feels like I’ve been running for a long time but the trees all look the same. I fear that I’m just running in circles! Whatever is behind me seems to be gaining on me. I speed up again.  There seems to an opening up ahead and i decide to take my chances running towards it rather than scampering around the forest.

I’m almost at the end of the treeline when a shrill ringing starts. It all round me. There is no source, no tune just a continuous ringing that makes my head rattle. And suddenly its the end of the treeline but what I thought to be a clearing turns out to be a wide chasm. There is no way to stop before I hit the edge. And I start falling. I try desperately to cling on to something, anything that will save me from rocks that I can see below. But there is nothing. I keep falling. My ears are still full with ringing that seems to have gained volume and my eyes are filled with the view of the rocks below.  Te rocks seems to be rushing up at me and…

I open my eyes. The soft light from the rising sun fills my room I’m back in bed with the alarm still ringing next to me. The first thought of the day  : “No more late night horror flicks!” .

© Sunita Menon,2012

Posted in Picture It & Write, Short Stories | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments