Monday, 22 July 2013

The Ghost from Mud Lake - Chapter III

This chapter from the short story follows Chapter I and Chapter II.

The next few months passed as swiftly as my pocket-money fled my wallet. I had survived the torturous exams and emerged a graduate. Farewells to homeward-bound friends and frenemies; interviews with IT giants and startups; and scrounging the internet for dirt-cheap vacation-packages kept my summer occupied. The sun was strong but not enough to penetrate my heart that stayed frozen on the words I had read a hundred days ago. It was late in June that a phone call made my heart thaw.

I was offered full-time employment at the firm I was longing to hear from. And the fact that my office was in the same building as his, worked like heat-therapy on a sprained muscle. The heavens pronounced their approval with a light drizzle the day I joined office. I was more nervous at the prospect of seeing him than I was about my first day at work. I had never been as alert in school as I was that day. I expected to see him around every corner. My breath stopped and ears pricked at every sound that floated by me. I was exhausted, despite having done no work, when I got back home. However, as luck would have it, I did not chance upon him.

My black and white story would have a few days of colour when I would catch him in the lift across mine. My eyes would stay transfixed on his for the entire duration of seven seconds that both the lift-doors stayed open, and I would not blink until the two stainless steel halves cut him off from my dazed self. I would also find him at the parking lot sometimes- lost, in a world so removed from the one we walked in, that it seemed impossible he'd ever come back. He was the ghost of the jilted lover, shrouded in the trauma that refused to leave him. Each time he passed by, the ripples of the his shock would reach me for reasons unbeknownst to me. I hadn't figured out my feelings for him but I knew he had sensed my presence at every chance encounter.

He had held my gaze each time with an unspoken purposefulness, as if asking for something indecipherable. I had tried many times to begin a conversation with him to break the eerie silence that would wrap the two of us every time we saw each other, but to no avail. My throat would go dry whenever I had the presence of mind to speak, and he would have long gone by the time I regained my voice. We would have gone on with our deaf-and-mute act had it not been for the divine intervention of Fate.

Our golden chance to break our silence came in the guise of a fire-drill. All the eight odd offices in our building were to participate in the drill that aimed to bring us out of our cubicles and into the fresh outdoors. The exercise was amusing, even if saving oneself from a life-threatening scenario could hardly be counted as a means of amusement. All the employees were made to stand in rows facing the security-expert as she explained the dos and don'ts in a fire-scenario. The corporate services team had the foresight to station water-coolers at the back of all the rows. I filled a paper cup with water that sparkled in the sun and turned to find Tushhar standing behind me.

I moved to the left to make way for him.

"Hi", he said as he pressed the blue lever for cold water. 

"Hello", I replied, glad my voice hadn't deserted me.

"I've seen you around. You must've joined a few weeks back." His cup was almost full now.

I looked up to make eye contact. "Yeah. It's been a couple of months since I started." He had brown eyes and his honey-coloured skin glowed in the sun. I sipped on my water as I noticed the skin around his eyes had caramelized into a darker shade of brown. Lack of sleep, I guessed.

"Do you live nearby?" Honey was not only the colour of his skin but also the texture of his voice.

"Yes. My place is not too far. You do too?" Well of course, he did! I wondered why I asked him that.

"Oh, my flat is 10 minutes from here!" He said with pride. I noticed how his pink lips turned thin as they curved into a smile.

"See you, then!" I finished the last drop off my cup and proceeded to rejoin my colleagues.

"Sure, Praneetee!" 

And yet again, he managed to make me go numb. How did he do that every single time? I didn't remember telling him my name! The fire-safety instructions were of no use to me when I was burning under his glare. I walked towards my row with a heart that threatened to break out of my rib-cage if I did not chain it right there.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me hear your thoughts!