I felt my breath knocked out of me. I gasped for some form of sensation as my heart began pumping at a thousand beats a minute. A little voice inside me asked me “Dude, why the panic attack?”. “She just walked in, that’s why you fool!” I snapped back as I saw her walking towards my table. Medium heighted, lithe figured and absolutely gorgeous, she always caused this reaction in me. I tried looking away, but I couldn’t as my eyes met her soft blue ones. Damn, she was beautiful. I somehow gathered myself, smiled weakly and tapped at my watch, not that I minded waiting though.
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!”
It’s not every day that Lord Jeffery Archer himself issues you a challenge. I recently was at the book launch of “Best Kept Secret“, his third book for the Clifton Chronicles. While interacting with us, he posed us a challenge which was posed to him by Reader’s Digest years ago.
PS:It’s a short story!
Pitch black darkness.
Except for a circle of blinding light in the middle of the room. And at the centre of illumination a man, chained to a platform, with electrodes all over his body.
He is naked. Stripped off all clothes.
He has ‘The Fringe’ haircut.
The silence is shattered by the steps of heavy boots as a figure steps into the light from out of the shadows. Dressed in a black cloak, he leans forward and smiles at the prisoner.
“Good evening. You can call me The Shadow. And you are looking at your downfall.”
The prisoner looks up and can see anger and hate in his eyes of his captor.
Holding up a newspaper The Shadow reads:
If you are sick and tired of watching Justin Bieber all over the place, then beware you are suffering from Bieber Fever.
So get set to learn music form the Justin Bieber School of Music, wear your love for him by buying dresses from his clothing line, get a recording deal under his music label, spend quality time with your close ones at his chain of restaurants and pit your talent against others in his reality shows.
“Justin Bieber as a brand is a ‘cute and talented’ person and wants to work hard and continue to do so,” Bieber said.
His fashion label, designed along the lines of his songs, kicks off with T-shirts that will hit the local stores soon.
Bieber will also starting his own line of salons whose branches will be opened in all the major countries.
The Shadow stares straight into the eyes of his captive.
“So Bieber, why don’t you start by telling me about this Bieber Fever— this huge conspiracy to corrupt the youth of the world? You think I don’t know that when a man or a woman buys a Bieber Tshirt, they actually sell away their souls to you? You think I am unaware that you are trying to start a new cult? That these so-called Schools of Music are nothing but devious churches whose only job is to preach that there is only one true saviour— the ‘cute and talented’ Justin Bieber? What were you going to call your followers? Your Biebs?
The prisoner tries to turn his face away as The Shadow’s words and spit hits him square in the eye.
The Shadow gives a humourless and cruel laugh.
“I am sick and I am tired of you, Bieber. Turn on the TV and it’s you. Go to any part of the world and I can hear your music blaring. I see ladies wearing revealing “One Less Lonely Girl” tops and all the rowdy low lives flirting with them singing ”Love Me”.”
“You are a disease, Bieber. And you need to be eradicated.”
Bieber knows that The Shadow has stripped him naked and shorn him off his dignity. He realizes that his manhood (seriously?) is being silently mocked.
The smell of fear invades the room.
Bieber remains silent.
The Shadow whispers “I don’t think you understand what sort of trouble you are in, Bieber. Trust me, when I say I will send 440 volts of electricity through your “Eenie Meenie” if you continue to remain silent.”
Bieber finally breaks his silence.
“You have made a big mistake and now you will suffer for it. You have chained my hands, my legs and wired my entire body. You have even wired up my “Eenie Meenie”. However, you forgot one simple thing.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Everything has been planned meticulously by me. You are looking at your downfall.”
“No, you are. You forgot to gag me.”
Before The Shadow can react, the prisoner unleashes a blood-curdling “Baaaaaabbbbbbbbbyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy“. The Shadow is flung away. Glass and wood splinter fly all over. Tongues of blue electricity leap outwards. The prisoner sings “Ohhhhhhh Baaabbbbbyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” drowning out the metallic voice in the background:
“Level 5 security breach. Facility lockdown. Quarantine process activated. Biohazard uncontained and dangerous.”
The Shadow clutches his ears in pain. His ear drums have been blasted to pieces. Blood trickles down his body.
As he drifts away into the darkness, the last thing he sees is the naked figure of ‘The Fringe’ haircut Bieber flying into freedom.
The Shadow awakes. A golden gate lies ahead. A light blue cloudless sky all around. A gentle breeze. And he feels peace.
An old kind man comes upto him and says:
“My son, welcome to heaven. Peace be with you.”
The man has ‘The Fringe’ haircut. And his white gown says “Never Say Never”.
As I reached the odd looking shop and smiled at Jagran Chacha, he appeared to be in a bright mood. Here’s why it was fishy. Jagran Chacha was infamous for his grouchy expressions as he read the Dainik Jagran editorials perennially. He last smiled during the monsoons of 2010 when apparently his village had been nominated for a development award. I plonked three moldy 10 rupee notes on his table and wordlessly picked up my Ice-cream. That’s one thing I loved as a regular customer! Every afternoon at 1.30 my double chocolate Cornetto awaited me at Chacha’s shop. The small talk with Chotu and Chacha, was admittedly not the day’s highlight, but yes, it did figure into my daily dose of indulgence. Ironically, I decided to forgo today the one thing that I needed the most, an off chit-chat.
As I stood outside the shop and took a bite, I wondered about my precarious decisions and the mess that I know called life. One of my friends had once postulated “If you’re sorted right now, it just means God’s planning some mischief, Satan-style”. Strange isn’t it? Life suddenly changes paths without a warning, everything loses order or sense and you descend into chaos. That’s what was happening to me. I had potently decided that I needed to take some bold steps to curb my problems. Giving up on the supposed vices of teenage life was a priority. My sister already laid claim to my cell phone, and social networks were to be closed at the click of a button. Sorting and planning were my buzz words for the day as I miserably started off with the waffle of the cone. I don’t know why, but ice-cream, especially a Cornetto always brings me to my senses. Once I actually sat down to find the reason behind it. I even tried to interpret some deep meaning behind the melting of the soft chocolate flavored disk and I reached a sensible conclusion which read “If it’s hot, it’ll melt you dummy!” So I let it be.
Biting into the bottom half of the cone, I saw an uncanny scene. Right across the road, a small little boy, perhaps the age of three or four, the rags made him look older though, was walking. An insignificant empty can sat right in the middle of his path. The boy stopped in his tracks, and with eyes full of snide yet innocent curiosity, began examining it. He prodded it with small squishy fingers, stared at the nearly gone label and measured its size. Perhaps it was a religious thing or maybe an odd fixation, but he wasn’t going on further, as if the can was stopping him. Seemingly seeing no alternative, he did what most of us do to feel good; he started crying. He cried et he wailed, but the can didn’t move. How was the young child to know that like most people today, metallic cans too didn’t have hearts that melt at the sight of someone else’s anguish. Just as I bit into the best yet unfortunately the last bit of the cone, I saw the child wipe his snotty nose of his rag like clothes and angrily stand up. If I had not known better, I would have thought it to be the angry young man look of Bollywood. He raised his leg, and in perfect arc, swung it with force towards the can and kicked it straight across the road where it rolled over to God knows where. With a smile, the kid walked on.
I hastily wiped my spectacles to remove the oily, sweat smudge. As I put them back on, everything seemed to change. The bloodshot eyes stare seemed to be more of a stranger’s courteous acknowledgement than hate. The woman’s flared nose as she bargained with Jagran Chacha over something seemed cute again and Chacha’s grouchy expression was back. The kids were giggling at me and my slightly displaced look. As I exited the shop, the afternoon seemed brighter and so did my mood. I wondered why I was thinking so oddly. Maybe, it was the spectacle’s smudge or perhaps the ice-cream. I’ll never know, but the best part is, I don’t want to know.