A Reality without a Shadow- Deep into the night

It was at least a different privilege for Yuva as he was being escorted not in that dusty, old khaki jeep that he despised so much, and that he was not having handcuffs. Innocent till proven otherwise, he told himself. There was a cold silence that was sweeping through the respectable Hyundai they were travelling in.

Maya, his best friend, the best woman of his wedding, Yuva couldn’t believe it was just yesterday that the mysterious murdering maniac who has wrecking hell in Maya’s professional life seemed to have nothing to do with their happiness, at least not when Priyanka sneaked in ten minutes before the traditional proceedings begun, and hug him so tightly, and said ‘I will never let you go’.

She has let go. Probably it was him who let her go. He did not hold onto her tight enough. She disappeared; fell on the floor like a beautiful rosebud that was just contaminated with poison. Tears swelled in his eyes. That rosebud deserves a proper sending off, at least. And what is he subjected to, being escorted to the police station. All those dead bodies don’t matter to him. Four rowdies. Do they matter? No, Priyanka matters, because she doesn’t deserve all this. Probably he should have listened when she said she didn’t want an American-bred boy. He lured her, and tried so hard, all so that she could meet an end the first day of their marriage?

There was another call. Prakash, by now, was tired of answering these calls. The car stopped, and he let out a big sigh. Maya was quiet all along. She didn’t like looking at Prakash like that. He has given up, exhausted. The charm that comforted her has finally disappeared. He is vulnerable. And for the first time, she did not ask what happened. That did not matter. And for the first time again, she reached out, patted him in the back, in a reversal of roles for what has been happening in the past few days.

They pulled up in front of another secluded area shortly later. Prakash decided he would do this alone. He walked in. Pritam was there- eyes wide open, his mouth wide open- just like how a fat lazy henchman like him would open his mouth when presented with a pack of briyani. No external damage. No blood. He lied there, just by his bed- lifeless. Prakash had been on the phone just moments before with him. And now he was also swept by the haunting bug.

Prakash got back into the car. “I’m trying to make sense of it,” he finally spoke . “Prakash,” Maya called out slowly. “Drop the two of us back home?” she added.

Prakash looked back at him. “We left Priyanka alone,” she added. Yuva tried hard to fight back tears.

The door creaked open, and both of them walked in slowly. Maya decided to stay away from the body as much as she could. Yuva might be a suspect, but she will not let the humane aspects be lost in pursuit of a mindless murderer or whatever that is taking these lives away. It will not rob her off her humanity, it will not take away the person who is able to be compassionate, be loving, and above all, trusting a lifelong friend. She doesn’t care about professional wisdom. Yuva deserves to say his goodbye to her, no matter what- even if it means Maya getting sacked.

She mixed a couple of drinks for him. She wouldn’t drink hers. It was a ploy, to at least make that grieving man have something in his stomach.

Yuva was kneeling down in front of Priyanka’s body. Maya did not plan to move the body anytime soon. She did not know how to call Yuva for a drink without sounding so ignorant either. She walked slowly towards Yuva. She kneeled down behind him. She raised her finger to touch him, but like a small boy who was waiting for his mother to come back just so that he could cry to her, he grabbed her shirt and buried his face in it. He had been cheerful, jovial, happy. The only times he ever got angry was when anything happened to Maya or someone did anything to hurt her. But she never saw him cry before. She still haven’t seen him cry. She can only hear. But that is already bad enough.

They carried the body and rolled her under a blanket later, toughening themselves. Maya decided she would let Prakash rest before he drops by in the morning to help cremate Priyanka. She managed to have him drink, and later decided she would sleep beside him. She never saw him this vulnerable, and she wouldn’t take the risk. What this grief might drive him to do- she didn’t know.

She slept in some peace that night. She managed to stop crying. Because if there is a devil out there that is on a killing spree, it would know that neither she, Yuva or Prakash are spending any time talking about the devil. It’s time to talk about the humans. About Priyanka. She preferred it this way- don’t talk about it. It doesn’t matter. She closed her eyes.

Like a pre-set alarm she opened her eyes every now and then, checking on Yuva. He seemed exhausted, he was rambling. But at least, he was asleep. She made a point to sleep with her back straight. She did not flinch, did not roll over to her right or her left. She wanted to keep her guard.

And then, late into the night, she had a headache. She woke up. A searing pain through her head, as if someone was squeezing her brains. She struggled. She shouted. But she knew nobody was hearing her. Everything seemed muffled out. She did not try to look at Yuva, she just felt that she is going to die. And then something happened.

The room has a huge life-sized mirror located right opposite of Maya. And in that mirror she was a man, a sage, a saint, or something along those lines. He was bearded, charismatic, with a synical smile. He was looking at her. She still did not turn away to check on anything. She was dealing with her pain, with her disappearing resolve to fight back and live, and the other part was occupied with this image. She knew, she has to hold on to this image. Every detail of it. It would unlock the mystery. But first she has to live.

And, with one final push, She kicked Yuva. And like waking up from a deep, disturbing dream in which you are dying, she felt relief all over her body. She gasped for breath. Yuva had fallen on the ground, and woke up to see her panting. She took her time to regain her composure. She looked at the mirror. The man was gone. And he was gone when Yuva sprung awake.

She did not know where this will head, but a clue is something she will accept. To end all this, this is a start.

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