Friday, December 1, 2017

Survival of a Rat

Hideous Saber-Tooth Rat by Vihola
Image Credit:

Scratch, scratch, scratch. 

Nails digging through. No not digging. Scratching. Scratch, scratch, scratch. 


There is a blaring need for food. For how long has the creature not eaten food? It can’t tell, all the creature feels is the emptiness in the pit of its stomach. Past a certain period of hunger caused by a lack of food, there is just … there is no hunger, only tiredness, fatigue and then death. That is what the creature feels. 

No. Death was still not upon it. The creature’s scratching slows. Tiredness, fatigue and then a final burst of energy. 

Scratch, scratch, scratch, scuttle. 

The creature - a rat - finally climbs up the debris it’s been buried under. 

Air, fresh air, nothing is more pleasant for the creature when it has been down a hole… yes even for a rat. Does it surprise you? Doesn’t matter - you are already dead. The human race is dead. 

The air.. it does not smell right. The rat raises itself on its hind legs and sniffs the air. At first, the air smells as clear as air can be, and then it’s second nose smelled, its odor-detecting organ, what the humans called (when they were alive) - the vomeronasal organ. This is how the rat truly senses the world. And, the rat smelled death. There was also dust, carbon particles, and smoke. 

As far as the rat could see, there was smoke rising up from the ground and up into the air. Buildings had crumbled, roads had turned into crater disasters, the humans were dead, the rat was hungry. 



A bird… no  - a cockroach. Even a cockroach would be a feast. Summoning up what energy it could, the rat charged towards the target. It leaped across the debris and crashed on the ground. The rat recovered and charged on. The cockroach was scuttling away. The rat scrambled up the rock, under the pipe, and across a thick layer of dust. The rat was right behind it, its weak bones and weak muscles running on pure will and the will to consume something, anything. 

The rat skipped over a human bone and climbed over human skull. The cockroach had snuck inside the skull socket. And then the rat came upon the cockroach. It’s claw struck through and through the insect. It felt the insect’s life drain and the body slowly come to a stop. 

Then the rat took a wholesome bite and chewed the first nutrition it had in days. The future was bleak. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Sick Robber

No, no, no, I killed her! That wasn’t supposed to happen. 

The gun was in my hand. About 10 meters ahead. a beautiful girl, my girl, my comrade in arms, was lying and dying on the floor. A puddle of blood was pooling next to her. Beside her lay a dead, and very much stupid security officer and his double barrel shotgun. He is dead, or dying. 

It’s his fault. It’s his god damn his fault, I thought, Fool thought he could try to take me down. Ekta, why did she had to jump in the way. I don’t understand. 

“You! You this is your fault” I pointed the gun at the bank manager hugging the ground; he had a surprised look on his face. 

“Get up. UP!” The barrel of the pistol presses against his neck and slowly, he stands up. 

“You killed her! You killed her! Yo-”. 

The bank manager tried to cut in, “No, it’s not my f-”


“No one ever wants to take responsibility”, I muttered to myself. The bank manager slid to the floor. 

“Now, no one better not try anything”. I scanned the customers and bank employees all hugging the ground. They wouldn’t try anything as long as I had the gun in my hand. I bent down and searched through the bank manager’s pockets. The keys have got to be in here somewhere. In the background, there is phone ringing. Probably the cops wanting to negotiate. Ah, here it is, my fingers loop over a ring and out from the pocket comes the bank manager’s key. 

The damn phone is still ringing. I stand up and pull the trigger. The plastic phone on the counter explodes into pieces. Not all the civilians are on the ground, some of them are standing at the windows - just in case a dumb sniper think he can shoot me. Then, I look towards the bank’s entrance. Etka, my girl, is lying there. I feel a yearning. 

“You”, I point to civilian on the ground, “go to the entrance and pull that woman here”. He looks at Ekta, then at me. He makes the right choice by going over there at tugging her body. I couldn’t do it. The glass windows of the bank would give the cops a perfect opportunity to shoot me.  

“Mr. Udey, we just want to talk”, a loud speaker voice came from outside. 

Ekta was in front of me. She was not moving, she was dead. I didn’t mean for this to happen, I just wanted the money.  “Get out of here”, I yelled blindly, “You have an hour to get out of here, or I’ll start killing people.” 

I crouch down and hugged her. Etka’s body was already cold. The life had gone out of her eyes. Of
course, she didn’t know I was going to rob the bank that she worked in. It didn’t matter. I kissed her lips and prayed she felt that in the afterlife. 

The money from the bank teller counters was already in the bag. 

“We can’t do that Mr. Udey. Just talk to us, we can work something out”, the police loudspeaker came from outside. 

“You” I point to another civilian, “Go and stand at the entrance”. Of course she does without hesitation, she hopes that she’ll be able to walk out of here. Once she’s standing in front of the door, I pull the trigger. She falls down and I, we all in the bank can hear her last dying breath. 

I go to the safe behind, open it with the key and remove the rest of the money. The bag feels heavy. 

Now, I just have to wait. 

“Mr. Udey, we can still save that woman. If she dies, that’s another death on your hands.” 

I did not reply. The art to such negotiate was to use the power of silence. It took another demonstration, another dead body. They were forcing my hand. Then the police moved out. All their cars, barricades, snipers on the roof, all of them disappeared. That was my cue. All I had to do was walk out of here. I took a last look at Ekta. Of course, she didn’t expect me to do this. I want to show her just how far I was willing to go. Oh well, things don’t always work out. 

I walk out of the bank. 


What was I thinking. Of course, the police wouldn’t clear. There’s a hole in my chest. I fall to the ground. The blood is leaking from my chest just like all those people I killed. Blaring sirens in the distance. Then, darkness. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Riches of the World

“The legends say that deep through the cracks of this mountain, pass the tunnels and caves, lies a massive mountain of gold”.
“Really Uncle?” the child piped up.
“Sage never believed legends. They are only myths and stories”, his uncle patted the child’s head, and then they parted away from the crack of the mountain.
That was a memory from a very long time ago. Sage glanced behind then looked in front. Now the only way forward was through the cracks of the mountain. It was only a matter of time before people from his village caught up and dealt down justice on him.
So he ran through. The wall on both sides was nothing but jutting jags of mud and rocks. There was enough space for a person to walk through. The path was winding all about. Sage never knew if it would end but he had to keep walking forward. The villagers would never catch him here because they dare not walk through the cracks of the mountain.
The afternoon turned to evening and the lights slowly began to recede from the mountain crack. A chill wind passed through and Sage quickened his page. The mountain path took him to an entrance inside the mountain wall. Above the wall was written, “Only those who seek their fortune may enter.” Sage did not pay much attention to it. I have to get out of here as soon as possible. Even though the villages would not follow him, he did not want to get stuck here. The tunnel was a straight path so all Sage did was march forward. His bag was beginning to feel heavy, but he didn’t mind it. The bag contained a bloody knife, a skin bottle of water and a heavy pouch containing the most important items for Sage – granules of gold.
Finally the tunnel ended and Sage was in a cave. He took a drink of water and continued on his way. Sage was just thinking, it’s not my fault. Damn those villagers, Gren, Ben, Ankit, damn them. All I wanted was a little bit more.
Uncle said that the mountain of gold does not exist but this path must lead somewhere.
A painting on the cave wall grabbed his attention. He held the torch in the front, the painting was of stick figures, it glittered and shined, and it seemed to be telling a tale. Sage did not have the time to linger. The reason no villager would enter the mountain crack was because all who go in search of the mountain of gold never return. Sage wished to believe that they were alive somewhere, they must be.
Through the winding path of the cave, he went down and then up. Sage’s thoughts drifted to Jharna. He didn’t mean to hurt her, but he had to get the granules of gold and she wouldn’t let him. His knife was still stained with her blood.
In the distance, he saw light pouring in. Sage felt excitement and relief. He reached the end, he just knew it. There was last painting in the cave. A large golden stick figure and besides that a golden mountain, underneath it was written – Midas. He didn’t know what to make of that. He was rushing to the exit and he then stepped out of the cave. Moonlight spread across the sky and he saw it.
It can’t be true.
A tsunami of thoughts hit him. The legends were true.
I found it, I’m rich, after this I can have everything I ever wanted. Damn the village.
With renewed vigour, he sprinted to the mountain of gold. The mountain rose high in the air, moonlight glinted off it. It was a solid triangular mass of gold. The prosperity of Sage’s village depended on the granules of gold that came down from the river. Everyone scoured through the river to find the granules of gold and the gold was collect together for the prosperity of the village. Sage decided that he deserved a little more, especially since he collected the most granule, but the elders refused him. That’s why he did what he did. Jharna didn’t give him the gold he deserved, which he worked hard to find!
Even though the mountain was 200 meters away, not for a moment did his sprinting slow down. A river appeared in his path and he did not stop. He dived into the river and swam across. Sage fought against the mighty river, he lost the bag and the gold he had rightfully taken. It did not matter, there was so much more gold to be had at the mountain.
When he crossed the river, things became weird. Animals, trees and human statues all stood across the land - frozen golden statues! A single gold statue would make Sage a rich man, but he had eyes only for the mountain. It was of vast riches. He reached the base of the mountain and there sat an old man on a grand golden chair.
“You seek the riches of this mountain?” the old man asked.
Sage was heaving in air and recovering his strength from the sprint.
Sage did not reply. He was walking towards the mountain. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A block of hard, metallic gold – the riches of the world.
“I will grant you riches of the world, just answer my riddle”, the old man said, but Sage had already passed him. He did not care for this strange old man and his riddle. All the old man had to do was reach out and touch Sage.
A hardness spread through his hand, then he couldn’t walk. Sage looked at his arm, and then he felt horror. A golden colour was spreading across his arm.

“My riddle is this”, the old man said, “What will you do with the riches of the world?”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Beautiful Nose


Betty should have noticed it when she was washing up in front of the mirror. But, she was late. When you’re late, you don’t spending time admiring your face in the mirror. So Betty didn’t. She was always late to office, but for the past week she was managing to reach on time. Today is not going to be the day where I reach late.  She dressed up in jiffy and was out the door.

Betty was in hurry. Her feet clacked on the street, step after the step. People instinctively parted way to let her through.  She jumped into the metro and was on her away. That’s when she noticed - the stares that came her way. She glanced behind. It can’t be me, must be someone behind. The train slowed down and came to a stop at the station. She rushed out with a group of people who all had to get off at the station.

From there, she went to the office. A quick turn of the wrist, a quick glance at the watch underneath, she had just made in time. Yes! If I keep this up, I would have been coming to the office on time for the whole week!

People were still getting settled in. A few people were gathered at one cubicle and having a laugh. Other people were getting settled in their cubicles and switching on their computer systems. Betty gave a quick nod to some of the folks she knew. If I can get a head start, I can leave early. She sat down, placed her bag on the ground, flicked a switch and waited for her system to come on. Two friends came over to greet her, but there was something odd, they had wide grins on their face. Then, each and every other person came over to greet her. For some reason, they too had wide grins on their face.

Is there something wrong with me?  Betty’s system finally booted up and she dived into her work. Her worries temporarily faded into background.

“Betty, you need to come with me”, her boss was standing above her cubicle.

“Roger, did something happen? I’m already half way through the first document”, Betty looked up and said.

“Come on”, her boss turned around and walked away. Quickly Betty got up and entered his office. “I don’t know how you haven’t noticed it, but have you looked at your face all morning?” He asked.

Betty nervously replied, ‘Not really… Is there something on my face?”

Roger passed over a hand-held mirror. Becky held it up and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her hair, forehead, eye brows all looked fine. Then she saw her nose. It was completely straight… with some kind of bone running in the middle. “Ahhhhhhhhh”, a scream escaped her lips.

Everything else was a blur. Weakness hit her legs and collapsed to the ground.


“I have a straight nose. How did this happen?” Betty was in the hospital and in front of her was the doctor. Her fingers kept rubbing her nose, up and down, as if to check if it really did happen.

That’s why everyone was staring at me, that’s why everyone was laughing at me. Oooh, why did this happen?

“It seems that you suffer from a rare disorder. This is something that has been developing, but you never really noticed it till now”, the doctor commented. The doctor and everyone else in this world had a crooked nose. A crooked nose is a beautiful nose.

Betty looked across the mirror behind the doctor and saw her reflection with the straight nose. I look so ugly.

“What can I do doctor? I can’t go on with my life with a straight nose”, she pleaded.

“What you have is treatable. You just have to go in for an operation and we’ll set your nose right”, the doctor suggested.

“I’ll do. I’ll go in for this operation.”

The doctor nodded.


“Cherrrs”, they all cried out as their glasses clanged against each other.

Betty retracted her hand and took a deep sip from the mug. The cold beer beverage slid down her throat.

It was good to be back among friends. It was good to be back among people she knew and loved. None of them gave her weird stares, none laughed at her. Her nose was set right. She ran a finger on her nose’s bridge and felt the crookedness. I look beautiful with the rest of them. Betty’s fingers rub against her nose and felt the beautiful crookedness. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Regretting Hell

Have you ever smelled thousands of burning bodies? Have you ever heard the death cries of a thousand dying people? That’s where I was. The pain… the pain was unbearable. I had to pluck out my own eyes because the sight was too terrible to bear. I was in hell.

The screams were like an eerie thunder, you ever heard eerie thunder? Of course not, you’re not where I am. Even though I had gouged out my own eyes, the visual imprint was still stuck in my memory. Hundreds, thousands, millions of us just hanging on meat hooks, all above a  vat of fire. I can’t feel my feet anymore. I think they’re charred to burnt, crisp black.

“Yahoooooo”, a scream erupts in front of me. The demon torturer is back. Then comes the pain as the blade is stuck between my ribs, and then comes the twist, the agony. As the blade turns about, it scrapes against my bones. I grit my teeth and the usual and pathetic thoughts flash through my mind, again. Why am I here? What did I do? I don’t deserve to be here.

All those pathetic thoughts, because the honest truth is that I deserve to be here. The blade jerked out and the demon torturer slashes me a few times before moving on.

"To do the right thing, you have to do the wrong thing. Such is the world of grey. I sold my soul to the devil, what did you do?" a voice from the side came. With great strain, I turned my head to the right, there was another person, and like me he also hung on from meat hooks above a vat of fire.

“Me?” I said. If I could, I’d shrug my shoulders, but that’s not possible with hooks dug deep into the back of your skin. “Killed a few people, hurt some loved ones. Nothing that I regret.”

“Nothing that you regret. Ah… you are a good liar. Anyone who is here, hanging by meat hooks, with hot flames burning underneath and the constant pain given by the demons… what’s there to regret except you are going to be here for the rest of eternity”, he said.

“Bah, you’re foolish, if you think that I’m going to hang here for the rest of this life”, I proclaimed, “I’m going to get down from here and then, I’ll give pain, I’ll be pain”. I don’t know if he could see me, but I let out a big smile. Those thoughts sent a shiver of excitement through me. Such foolish thoughts.  “I don’t regret anything” I continued speaking, “not in the least bit. Unlike you, unlike most of the souls here, I chose to be here. I sold my soul to the devil. When faced with death, you can at least make your life matter and grant someone riches to a loved one.”

Silence reigned between us and I hoped he stopped talking. “Wh-at a-am I talking ab-about”, he wailed out, “I ha-hate th-is. I reall-y do! Urrrrgggghhh”. I glanced to the side. He was in a pain as a demon shoved a spear into his throat.

“Shut your stinking mouth”, the demon cut in. The next thing I heard was my neighbour was screaming out his lungs.

I, honestly, regret nothing. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Giving to yourself

The old man waved his hand in the air. He was performing a skit from none other than Shakespeare. This was a time before now - it’s called the past. You must understand, at that time, I was enthralled with acting. In this past of mine, I imagined my future - I would be - “the Great Orator” and great applauses would sound out everywhere. In this past, I had no idea that I would make a different choice in the future.

“You have to put everything into the role you’re playing. The very essence of your soul must believe that you are this character.” The old man was speaking now. What does it take to be a great actor? Was that the answer - The very essence of your soul must believe that you are this character?

That was then, this is now - now I’m old, married, have children who are married off to and I… and I have dedicated my life to the cause of others - an NGO worker for those in need. The phone is vibrating over and over. It has been so for the last hour, constantly buzzing on and off. I’m not going to pick it up. But, what if he kills himself?

‘How much do you give of yourself when you’re a social worker?’

“Let’s cut the cake”, my wife declares. I’m standing in the living room. She’s standing there too holding a cake. It’s my birthday.

“Get the candle”, she orders. So, I head into the kitchen, my phone starts to ring again, I ignore.

I enter back into the room, “Give it here”, she grabs the candles from me. Swiftly she places them into the cake and lights them with a matchbox. I look around, it’s just my wife and me. One child is in the States, another is in the Gulf. It’s just her and me.

“Happppppy birthhdddddddaay”, she starts to sing.

I join in, “Happpppy birtttthhhday to me”.

In the background, the phone is vibrating and buzzing. What if Ritesh kills himself?

I’m lost in thought, my wife shoves a cake piece into my mouth. It’s soft, tasty, delicious, I can taste the secret ingredient called love. No cake could taste better.

I want to relax today, no… I am going to relax today. I can only keep giving if I have the strength to give. I just can’t help any today. No one, not Ritesh.

Today, I don’t have the strength to give, the cup must replenish itself. If… if Ritesh kills himself, I’ll have to live with it. I wait for the ringing to stop, then I switch the phone off.  Today, I just don’t have anymore of my soul to give.

I want to be with my wife.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Essence of Development

Cranes, claws and destruction of tin foil houses. Development had finally come to their door step. Insufficient jobs in their own hometowns had set them on a path of migration to Mumbai. The land of dreamers, the land of milk and honey for an underdeveloped rural country. Over 70% of the population is rural , yet, the job opportunities were sparse.

The claw crushed down on the tin foil homes and bit into the sand. A father, a mother, children and an old man cringed as they watched the sight. Perhaps this was their home. The claw retracted, pulling with it mud, wrecked metal and a destroyed home. The claw rose up again and came down. It crushed another tinfoil home into bits. The claw retracted dragging with it mud and twisted metal.
Real estate prices sky-rocket in Mumbai, just like its sky-rocketing skyline. A small community of over 20 slums had claimed this piece of land as their own; their own little home in the vast, uncaring sprawl of Mumbai. The alternative was sleeping on the streets. Their small community cautiously grew. They had a roof over their head in this sprawling city. Now, one by one, each tinfoil home was being cleared away. Development had come to their door step.
On the first day, all their homes were first cleared.
Then second day, the digging started. The was debris cleared and the claw dug deep into the ground and began moving earth. The families had gone away to earn their daily wages. Development had come to their doorstep. They were not happy, but they could do nothing to stop it. The claws dug large holes in the ground for foundation.
Then, the large pipes were brought. The pipes would help improve the city’s ailing sewer system for the residential and business homes in the region. The pipes were buried in the ground where their homes once were.
Development had come to their doorstep, but it was not for the people who lived there. Their homes, their community were destroyed.