The Fat Lady in the Sky – Part 3

By order of the mayor, the scaffold for a makeshift platform went up almost overnight in the Vashishts’ backyard, close to the pond. The Vashishts didn’t object. How could they? It was their boy after all who had caused this rupture.

“Mind you,” said Mrs. Vashisht to her husband when Mr. Kumar and his haggard, slovenly-in-comparison assistant, Mr. Luthra, left on foot to check on the other villagers’ well-being; the son having been sent up to his room to mull over his mistakes without the distraction of food or games. “Given time, even he’d have had a go at it.”

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The Fat Lady in the Sky – Part 2

Key Phrase: Fat Lady in the Sky

The mayor was first on the scene.

Standing on the topmost rung of the fire engine ladder, in a three-piece suit, holding back the occasional bout of nausea with a crisp, monogrammed, lemon-scented handkerchief pressed to his nose, Mr. Kumar congratulated her most heartily. All his attention deliberately focused on the pillowy, pink face of the suspended woman looking him squarely in the eye, the cat-eye sunglasses perched on her head like little ears. In her hands a bouquet of crushed roses from Mrs. Naidu’s garden, taken without her permission, that he’d thrust at her before he dropped it himself.

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The Fat Lady in the Sky – Part I

Key Phrase: Fat Lady in the Sky

One bright day, the sky froze over the village in a dome and cracked like an egg shell at the curves. Yet it held together, by some miracle.

A child below, who had been flitting pebbles across the pond in his backyard, curious, flung a large rock at the now-crystallized sky and watched it smash through. Like a stone through a glass pane or a windshield. Nearly missing the fat lady gliding across in a hand glider.

She shot, “watch out.”

And the child cackled. “Look, look, there’s a fat lady in the frozen sky everyone.”

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Message Run

I have to run faster, faster than I have ever run before, but my legs are tiring. The straps of my backpack are cutting into my skin. And the worn-out slippers, which I bought off a kid by the road, lack the grip of the running shoes now lying in a ditch somewhere, sole split the whole way through.

Twigs snap under my feet dangerously.

I’m cloaked in sweat. It drips down my face, blinds me momentarily as I falter through the undergrowth.

A slithery thing drops from a branch before me, and I almost scream out loud. It’s a snake, a thin, green one and it quickly slithers away into the dense foliage.

Easy boy, easy, I mutter to myself. It’s gone. But you’ve got to stay calm, move noiselessly through the woods, or they’d pick up your trail.

They are nearby. I can hear them hacking away at the dense undergrowth, cursing in a language that sounds a lot like my mother tongue, but is not quite.

I can hear myself panting. My lungs are screaming for air.

I’ve got to run faster, put in more miles between us.

I don’t want to be caught.

A gunshot, then another echoes through the woods. It sends a chill down my spine. I stop dead in my tracks.

It’s over. I have to destroy the message. Before it falls into the enemy’s hands. The fate of our entire nation rests on it.

The message’s aflame when a voice shouts first in pashto and then in hindi: “haat khade kar.”

I turn around slowly, hands up in the air, but the soldiers are nowhere in sight.

Heavy footfalls hurry past in the opposite direction. A gun goes off again, and someone falls with a scream.

But my relief is momentary.

The woods trick me. They trip me on a protruding root; send me hurtling down a steep slope, through overgrown grass, wild, scentless flowers, and soggy earth, into the backyard of a large country house.

Freshly washed laundry flaps in the wind, on rows upon rows of clothes’ lines.

It’s almost dusk. The sky turns azure. The fragrance of a dum biryani wafts through from the inside of the huge house, two-storey high. Its red-brick walls purplish at dusk.

A figure lingers outside the back door. She seems old, frail, lost in her own thoughts, the wide, open sky enough to engage her imagination.

As she spots me, she smiles widely. Her toothless grin makes me feel safe again. I have made it. Across the border. I am home. I just need to find a phone and call it in. When I spot the enemy flag across her yard. And I see her eyes squeeze and then grow wide in alarm as she points at me … past me … and shrieks … get down. But it’s too late. The bullets can’t tell us apart.

Supernova: The Origin Story

I was going along just fine, minding my own business, hiding my true self from the entire world.

The way I saw it – if I didn’t bother them, they wouldn’t bother me either.

And yet they came, the pack of wolves in jocks’ clothing, hunting for weaklings like us outside of school.

We had gatecrashed a party. It was Laila’s fifteenth birthday bash and my friend here was sweet on her since kindergarten. So we had to do it. Get him his first kiss and me a feel of how the other side lived like. Our bad. We got chased down the street into a dark alley. We hid behind the dumpster, but Jay’s sniffles gave us away.

They smashed us up pretty bad. Like Sing in Kung Fu Hustle or Neo in Matrix. But we were no chosen ones. Sure, I had my occasional run-ins with my brave self and turning my thumb into a lighter could sure win me some brownie points at the freak show. But taking on these hulks right here, right now, seemed impossible.

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