Not another feel-good post

After I decided to write a post everyday, the first post I wrote took me about two hours, the second a little over an hour, and all following posts took somewhere around half an hour. I also notice that except the first post, they all follow the same theme. All these posts have been short two-minute bites that give you a little to think about and then leave you feeling good. Those are the kind of posts I love writing most but I think that since I have over twenty posts still to write, I should try different things. Sadly it’s 11:40 right now and that means that I’ll have to wrap this post up in under twenty minutes if I have to put up a post for the Fifth of December. I think I’ll be a little lenient about that and cheat and set the time of this post as 11:59 no matter what happens. Because it’ll make me feel good, but mostly just because I can. Let’s begin.

The following post is entirely a work of fiction.

I am running as fast as I possibly can. There is only one direction to run which means I have little hope of getting away. If I can just make it to the first house or to keep away from him until a car comes down the road I’ll be fine. The insides of my abdomen feel like they have been replaced by a large heavy stone and my legs felt like they are rusted parts of a machine that will grind to a halt any moment. My lungs have given up trying to fulfill my body’s requirement for air quite some time ago. If I stop running, he’ll catch me. He’ll catch me and make me pay. He will multiply all the inconvenience I have caused him by ten and serve it back to me. Wait, why am I slowing down? Stop thinking about getting caught! Don’t look back! Just focus on running. Sprint!

I see silhouettes of trees beyond the wall on my right blur past the moon. Now a road sign blurs by. I’m not sure if it’s because of how fast I’m running or because my brain isn’t getting enough oxygen. I see red spots when I keep my eyes closed for too long. But that doesn’t matter, I don’t need perfect vision right now, I just need to make sure that my legs are pushing the ground back as hard as they can. This is very likely to be a matter of life and death. Run. Run. Run. Left, right, left, right, inhale-left, exhale-right, inhale-left, exhale-right. Inhale-left-throbb! Exhale-right-throbb! My heart feels like it’s going to explode. And that’s when I first hear it.

I wonder for a second if I can be imagining the sound. I’m exhausted enough for my hearing to be acting up. But as the sound grows louder it’s unmistakable. I can’t even hope that it’s the engine of another car driving up behind me. I know it’s his car. I know it’s him. I don’t turn to look. I continue running. I know it’s hopeless to run now but it seems like running is all I know how to do at the moment. What am I supposed to do? Stop, turn around and greet him with open arms? Lie down and play dead? I look on both sides of the road but there’s concrete walls at least ten feet high on both sides with barbed wires on top as far as I can see. Why didn’t you see this when coming in? How did you get yourself into this mess? Did you think you could piss off a man with such a violent history and run off into the night? The sound of the engine is deafening now and my shadow in the headlight is as sharp as it will ever be. I feel the push on the left side of my hip.

The car must have not hit me that hard because it didn’t hurt. The push was hard enough to throw me of my feet. I cover my face with my arms as I roll over in the gravel. I look back and see him getting out of the car. I clutch the gravel and try to get up but my head is spinning. He’s walking toward me now. I can see only his silhouette against the headlights. I can see a pistol in his hand. Don’t give up now. DO NOT give up. He will not have mercy. I clutch the gravel again and I feel a large stone in my right hand. I swing my arm as hard as I can and throw it at his head. Surprisingly, I don’t miss despite how dazed I am. He clutches the open car door with one hand for support while he holds his head with the other. I force myself off the ground and on instinct, I’m tempted to start running again but against all the odds I manage to think straight in the second that it takes for me to get back to my feet. If I run, he’ll get back in the car and he’ll catch me. I really only have one option here. As I lunge toward him I realise that the gun isn’t in his hand anymore. When he starts bending down I look and see the gun by his feet. I dive for it only to get two fistfuls of gravel as he picks it up just in time. I push the ground down and try to scurry behind the car for cover with whatever momentum I have left but he kicks me and once again I’m scrambling in the gravel.

I roll over and look up. This time I can see his face. I can see the blood from his temple dripping down his nose. He points the gun straight at my head. His cool and composed countenance gives way and just for a fraction of a second, I can see the wrath behind it. That wrath gives me hope that he’ll pull the trigger, that the bullet in my head will be the final full stop to all the crazy that’s happened over the past four days. It would be the simplest and quickest end to everything. I close my eyes. As the seconds pass, I begin to lose that little hope as well. I should know better than anyone, that life never works out to be that simple.

Chicken Lollipops

My friend told me a story around a year and a half ago. I knew right then that it would make a good blog post. I never tried writing it until now but luckily I think I still remember most of it in vivid detail. We were two engineering graduates sitting in a cheap bar in Lokhandwala talking about what our lives had become after working for six to eight months. It was past 11pm on either a Wednesday or Thursday night but we had jobs that began in the afternoon and went on till 9-10pm. Spending the whole of five days a week only in an office and at home is hard, especially when you’re used college life where you have everything after 6pm to yourself even if you attend as much as you’re supposed to. This, of course, excludes the two to three months a year when we would finish all the work we had to do for the entire year and study for exams. It was around this time that I came to the conclusion that I should do something fun (fun being a minimum of meeting friends for drinks) every Tuesday or Wednesday night in order to survive corporate life without slipping into depression.

While we were sipping Old Monk and Thums Up, he told me his story which went like this (I may have forgotten some of the details and made up random ones but oh, well, there’s only one person in the world who’ll know.):-

Dude! I have to tell you what happened at work today. First, let me tell you about my team. Okay, so we’re all major foodies. We love food. If you look at them, you won’t find that hard to believe. There’s a trend that’s been observed amongst us, which is that we gain ten kgs in every two years that we work here. And it’s true, I’m getting there myself. So since we all love food so much and since it’s one of the things we all have in common to talk about, it makes up a very large part of our everyday conversation. Everyday before we head to the canteen for dinner, one of us will go scout the food counter and come back to report to the rest of us about the day’s food. If it’s good then we’ll all get excited about it.

Another thing about the canteen food is the chicken lollipops. My canteen always has chicken lolipops. These lollipops are legendary and we only have them on special days when we really feel like we need or deserve them. It’s almost a daily ritual where one of us will go and check out the lollipop tray before dinner and comment how good they look. He’ll say “Aaj khana hai kya?” (Should we eat them today) and another one of us will usually reply saying “Nahi, aaj nahi. Kal khaate hain.” (No, not today. Let’s eat them tomorrow.) As I said, we eat them only on days where we feel we really need or deserve them. If we have them too often then they’ll lose their charm and then it won’t feel as good on the days that we eat them.

There’s more to these lollipops. It’s believed throughout my office that if you eat too many, your stomach is going to be fucked the next day. This belief is so strong that it’s actually an acceptable excuse for missing work to say that you ate too many lollipops the previous day. They’ll just call and say “Sorry yaar. I’m not feeling well. Kal bahut lollipops khaye the.” (I ate too many lollipops yesterday.) I’ve used this excuse twice myself. So today, we go about this same ritual before dinner. My friend goes up to the lollipop tray and I follow him. He says, “Lollipops bahut achhe dikh rahe hain. Aaj khaana hai kya?” I look over his shoulder and agree that the lollipops look delicious. I’m just about to tell him that we should save them for a better day when we see one big cockroach followed by two little cockroaches walk across the tray. That was it. We both made disgusted faces, said “Oh, shit!” and walked away to get our food. That one moment when those cockroaches walked across the tray destroyed the grand illusion that we had built around those lollipops over the months. We can never contemplate getting chicken lollipops with our dinner again.

21 Minutes

For the very, very, very few of you that check this blog, my story won the second prize at TheScian’s science fiction short story writing competition 2008. Here’s the link:
What really surprised me though was that the second prize is Rs. 7500. =D

Here’s the story.

21 Minutes

Phillip felt sick in the stomach. But this was it. This was the moment he’d been working toward for the past two months. It seemed quite futile, looking at it that way. Nothing could happen in the next twenty-one minutes that would be worth all the effort. Just a short conversation with an old man. A brilliant old man, but that didn’t make too much of a difference. It was just co-incidence that he happened to be visiting this particular old man. Lately though, Phillip began believing less in co-incidences, and more in destiny. He would rather be visiting this old man than anyone else. However, Phillip would have done all this to be visiting any old man, or young man, or woman, for that matter. It was more about what he was doing.

Phillip decided he had spent enough time standing on the porch and staring at the door. He looked at his watch again. 20:49…20:48…20:47, counting down. Time was so limited right now. Ironically, it might never be a constraint again. It was raining outside. Phillip stepped outside the porch, into the rain for a while. His shoes got muddy, and his coat wet. He looked down the street. It was as motionless as a grave. He stepped back onto the porch, pulled his hood back, took a deep breath, and finally rang the doorbell. He began to carefully wipe his shoes on the doormat.

20:19; the door was opened by the only resident of the house. Phillip had only seen him in a picture. He was a lot younger in it. Phillip was tongue tied for a moment as he got a sudden hint of the unnaturalness of the situation. Phillip finally spoke when he realised that he should respond to the “What do you want at this time of the night?” look coming from the man standing before him.

“Mr. Eric Goldberg?”
“I’m Phillip Kantor, from Surge Research Laboratories. I would like to talk to you about this paper you wrote around twelve years ago,” he said while pulling out a bunch of papers from one of his inner coat pockets and handing them to Eric. It took a while for Eric to get over his surprise.
“It’s 10 O Clock at night Mr. Kantor. Perhaps we should discuss this in the morning.”
“I apologize Mr. Goldberg, but it is urgent. I would not bother you at this hour otherwise.”
Eric took the papers, barely even glancing at them, and gave his visitor a confused stare. “Let’s begin with you telling me why you’re here at this hour, wanting to talk about some papers I wrote twelve years ago. And what the hell is Surge Laboratories anyway? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Surge Research Laboratories is located in Berlin, Sir. We’re mostly concerned with research on subatomic particles. But that’s not of any importance. I’m here because I’ve based a rather remarkable theory on this paper of yours, and I’d like to talk to you about it.”
Eric contemplated this for only a short moment. He was never the kind to refuse any chance of adventure.
“Alright, come in.”

Eric walked back, and sat in a chair in the corner of the living room. Phillip entered the house, and looked at the top right corner of the room. He was almost expecting to not find the tiny camera camouflaged with the wall, but there it was, staring right back at him. He took off his coat, and hung it beside the door. “Make yourself comfortable,” Eric said as he picked up the glass of whisky he had left on the armrest of his chair. “I know it isn’t much, but I don’t usually
have visitors, even during the day,” he continued, as Phillip walked toward the only other chair in the room, and sat down directly across from Eric.

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” Eric asked. “Well, I have this experiment that I have to get back to,” Phillip replied, looking at his watch again. ..18:50..
“In Berlin?”
“Yes, I have a flight to catch.”
“What time?”
“Midnight,” Phillip replied, after a pause.
“Alright, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Do you remember what you wrote in that paper, Mr. Goldberg?” He asked, pointing to the document in Eric’s hand.
“Yes, most certainly,” Eric replied, going through the pages.
“Then I’d like you to go look at the four pages I added at the end of it.”
Eric quickly went over each page until he got to the last four. ..17:54..

Phillip sat silently, and analysed the expressions on Eric’s face as he read the document. He was first expressionless, and then he developed wrinkles on his forehead, then looked at the paper questioningly for a while, and then showed a slightly confused look as he used his finger to trace his way around the page. Phillip looked at his watch again, 13:51. He looked back up to find Eric looking at him.
“I don’t see the point of it…,” Eric began.
“Well, yes, I haven’t really given it a proper conclusion,” Phillip said before he could continue.
Phillip barely allowed his words enough time to escape from his mouth.
“What is the conclusion then?”
“Don’t you see it?” Phillip asked excitedly.
Eric looked back at the document and said “Most of the math seems to be going nowhere…”
“Well, I guess it is too much to expect you to get it in a few minutes, but I don’t know how no one figured this out over all these years.” Eric raised an eyebrow.
“It shows the definite possibility of time travel,” Phillip continued.

Eric wasn’t sure if the man sitting in front of him was crazy, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Into the past at least,” Phillip continued. “The future is a completely different concept.”
Eric went back to the document, holding it much closer to his face this time.
“It even hints at the method of achieving this.” Phillip was oblivious to the fact that Eric wasn’t paying much attention to him anymore.

The pieces were all suddenly falling into place for Eric. Of course, Time travel! And it was so simple that there couldn’t be anything wrong with it. He had a feeling that something had to be wrong with it though. It was too simple. It was an intuitive feeling, but there was logic to back it up. If it was this simple, then how come no one had ever come across it before? He even wondered why he didn’t see this when he first looked at the paper. The way in which it was
done was a bit unconventional, but that’s all. It was so simple.

Phillip had stopped talking by now. “Have you shown this to anyone else?” Eric asked.
“So what do you plan to do with it?”
“What would you do?”
“Show it to someone who might be able to understand it better, get their opinion, and then…”
Eric took a short pause, and Phillip decided to complete his sentence, “Put it to test?”
“No. Don’t be naive. Not until the theory is perfected. Not until we fully understand the concept. It’s not even imaginable as of now.”
“I don’t think this can ever be publicly disclosed. Just think of what the consequences might be! Everyone would want to go back in time.”
“That’s true. Maybe that’s why we’ve never heard of this before; it’s far too unlikely that
nobody’s come across it so far. I’m even thinking that it’s so simple, it could be wrong.”
Phillip contemplated playing his trump card here. “It’s not wrong.”
“And what makes you so sure?”
“I’ve researched enough to convince myself.”
“What did your research involve, Mr. Kantor?”
“I‘ve managed to send some very small objects back in time for a short duration. Like video cameras. I have proof of the success of my experiments.”

“Alright, let’s say it’s right. How come nobody’s ever come across this before Mr. Kantor?” Eric already had a few answers in his head, but asked the question anyway.
“Well, as I said, this can never be disclosed publicly. So even if someone did figure this out, we wouldn’t know about it.”
“Based on how simple it is, I’d say a lot of people should have figured it out.”
“You never did.”
“So, what does that prove?”
“You should have, I worked it out starting with your theory.” Phillip waited for a response, but went on when it didn’t seem like he was going to get one.
“You have to admit, the logic I used in there would have seemed a bit…” Phillip paused to find the right word, “Unconventional, to you.”

Eric resumed his glass of whisky, which he seemed to have forgotten about until now.
“I had to spell it out for you before you saw that it was showing the possibility of time travel.
The paper is screaming it out, but you didn’t see it.” Eric looked back at the paper in his hand. It did seem to be screaming it out now. “I, myself, came across it purely by accident,” Phillip said, sinking back into his chair.
“So, you think it’s our conventional way of thinking that’s prevented people from coming across this theory?” Eric asked, calmly sipping on his whisky.
“No. I’m saying that someone has already discovered this, and that they’re actively trying to make sure it stays secret.”
“By changing everyone’s way of thinking?”
“Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone had access to time travel?”

Just thinking about it, Eric knew that it wasn’t possible. It was as basically impossible as two negative charges attracting each other. If changes made in the past were reflected in the future, and everyone made changes in the past they would begin to cancel each other out. There would be no state of rest, or equilibrium for the present. Everyone would incessantly make changes in the past. The present itself, would be unstable…

“People would do anything in their power to prevent that from happening,” Phillip interrupted his chain of thought. “They would divert research away from it. They could make sure no one finds out, and fix it if someone does.”
“Some small time researcher like you would have discovered it then,” Eric replied.
“They most likely have access to time travel to prevent others from discovering it. That’s what I meant when I said ‘they could fix it if someone does.’”
This was all happening too fast for Eric to keep up with. He couldn’t think of the obvious consequences of time travel being available. Phillip, on the other hand, had thought about this for a while.
“So, you expect people in black jumpsuits from the future coming to stop you from spreading the information about time travel?” Eric smiled.
“Actually, they should have come long ago, and prevented me from discovering it in the first place.”
“What if you really are the first one to discover it?”
“The basis of assuming that I’m not the first is that it’s quite impossible that nobody before me
managed to figure out something so simple, isn’t it?”
Eric wasn’t able to keep up with the conversation. He put down his glass of whisky.

Phillip quickly looked at his watch, realising he had forgotten about it all this while. ..9:52..
“Yes,” Eric finally said.
“Have you even thought of the consequences of going back in time?” Eric asked. He had something to say that eluded him right now. He was trying really hard to get back to it.
“Yes, of course. Come to think of it, people have been thinking about it for a very long time.”
“Not seriously enough… Not scientifically enough.”
“I guess. But what more could they do? Without figuring this theory all they could do is fantasize about it. It is a very captivating concept.”
Eric appeared to be in deep thought. Phillip noticed the same expression on his face as when he was trying to interpret the theory. His index finger was even tracing its way along an imaginary page on the armrest of his chair.
“I guess it was meant to be,” Phillip broke the silence.
“What?” Eric asked, almost unconsciously.
“I guess people were meant to spend so much time thinking about the consequences of time travel before they actually discovered it.”

And once again, Eric was experiencing what it feels like when everything falls perfectly into place. The theory was right, and it didn’t need any explanations that required stretching the
imagination to explain why it hadn’t been discovered so far. Like men from the future in black jumpsuits.

Phillip was looking at his watch a lot more frequently now. ..9:05..
“So you believe that things are meant to be, and you also believe in time travel?” Eric was laying the groundwork before making his point.
“They don’t have to contradict each other, you know. Maybe time travel was also meant to be. Besides, some things are just too farfetched to be called co-incidences. I think I believe in destiny.”
“So travelling back in time doesn’t change your destiny?”
“Well, the travelling back in time was also destined. It, in fact, fortifies my belief in something being destined to happen. It might not really make sense for something to just be meant to happen, but when you know that someone will go back in time if something doesn’t happen, and make sure it happens, it makes a lot more sense. There’s someone to go back to every point in time to make things right. It’s just that instead of thinking of time as a straight line, it’ll have loops where someone jumps from one point to another.”

“Well Mr. Kantor, it’s an interesting theory but I honestly don’t believe that there’s more than one thing that’s ‘meant to be’ based on that theory, but coincidentally, that one thing is just the thing you said is meant to be.”
The way that sentence came out, it sounded confusing to Eric himself. He decided to explain quickly before Phillip went through any more of the torture his countenance was showing.
“I can explain why nobody’s discovered your theory of time travel yet.” ..7:51..

“Now, if the theory of time travel is discovered, and the technology developed, sooner or later, someone will travel back in time, significantly before the discovery of time travel. And he,either voluntarily or involuntarily will change something then. And then, you know about the butterfly effect right?”
“Not exactly”
“Okay, let’s say our time traveller goes back in time and changes something small, like moving someone’s teacup from its regular place. That person would spend more time, say about fifteen seconds, looking for his teacup next morning. So now this person would be fifteen seconds late for doing everything else. Maybe he just misses a traffic light, goes through anyway, and gets pulled over and gets a ticket, which he wouldn’t have got otherwise. This person then goes to work, about five minutes later than he originally would have, and to add to it, he’s in a bad mood. This affects everyone around him. That’s just an example, but the point is that if you make even one change, no matter how small it is, it will trigger other changes. So now there will be more changes, and they’ll each trigger still more changes. Hence, the amount of change from the way things originally were will increase exponentially as time passes. And after a significant amount of time, moving that man’s teacup could just start a world war. And I’m not really exaggerating.

“Now, if this time traveller goes back significantly before the discovery of time travel, the changes he makes will snowball until the moment when time travel was discovered. The farther back he goes, the greater the change is likely to be.”
“Let me finish,” Eric said, cutting Phillip off before he even began.
“I never thought of time to be a straight line to begin with, Mr. Kantor. I see it as a line that splits up every time the outcome of something is uncertain. So there’s a lot of lines, infinite, almost. Parallel realities. This is just one of them. So in every reality where time travel is discovered, someone goes back in time, and changes something, it alters that reality. And however many new realities originate from after that point in time. Now in the altered reality, time travel may be discovered, or it may not be discovered. If, however, time travel is discovered, then the same process takes place again. So every reality which has discovered time travel becomes unstable after that point. This is why the only realities that have any hope of a future are those in which time travel is not discovered.”

Eric took a breath, something he had forgotten to do for a while, in all his excitement. For once, it was Phillip who had something to think about.
“That’s just one way of looking at it,” Phillip said.
“Of course, I’m not denying that. But it does explain everything, doesn’t it?”

“So every time someone travels back in time, he kills his reality,” Phillip said, in a somewhat questioning manner.
“Yes. When he makes a jump in time, there’s a loop, as you said. But the timeline takes a different path from the point he goes back to. What do you think would happen if someone went back in time?”
“For a theory, I suppose that fits. But what will happen to the time traveller once his reality ceases to exist? Shouldn’t he disappear with it?”
“There’s a dozen possibilities you can think of Mr. Kantor, and a few hundred more that you can’t. You can’t say which one will happen without doing some more research. I only like this theory so much because it explains everything…”
“It doesn’t really explain everything…”

“Everything we talked about so far. It explains why time travel hasn’t been discovered so far, and it explains it more naturally than having to incorporate people from the future coming back with the intention of preventing the discovery of time travel. They do it anyway, without knowing it. It also explains why the logic behind this theory of time travel appears to be unconventional. We could never have got to it conventionally. In all these different realities, which start to branch out from the beginning of time itself, people have developed different ways of thinking, invented and discovered different things, witnessed different natural phenomena, evolved differently, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty where man never evolved at all. And those realities which are least likely to develop time travel, survive the longest.”
Phillip let out a small laugh. “So I just killed my world, this … reality?”
“Probably. Our reality still exists this far. It’s just that we may not have a future. Although that’s only if what I said is right. ”

“But don’t you think that when man reaches a certain level of intelligence, it’s inevitable that he will develop time travel?”
“Not inevitable,” Eric said, suggestively.
“If it were, then man cannot exist beyond a certain point in time.”
Eric stayed silent.
“And the cause of man’s extinction will be that he discovered time travel?” Phillip asked.
“Man will never be extinct, as such. Because there won’t exist a world where he used to exist, but doesn’t anymore. It’s just that all the worlds where man existed don’t exist beyond a certain point in time. And I don’t even think that’s possible. Because unless someone goes back in time and changes something that prevents the evolution of man itself, there will always be realities in which Man exists.”
“But they all end in loops.”
“They don’t end in loops Mr. Kantor. A new path is formed at the beginning of every loop. And there can be an infinite number of possibilities. At least one would have to exist where he finds a way past it.”

“Possibly by not travelling back in time before the discovery of time travel.”
“You’re the one who said someone eventually will.” ..2:12..
“I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it. I still haven’t. But tell me, wouldn’t you think twice before letting anyone travel back in time after hearing that”
“That’s true, but there may be other ways out.”
“Such as?”
“It may be possible to make sure that the changes the time traveller makes in the past are small enough to not affect the discovery of time travel. Maybe someday we’ll be able to predict quite accurately the results of changing something in the past.”

Phillip looked at his watch again. 1:40; this was about the right time.
He spoke, “Mr. Goldberg, what if I told you that I am from the future, that I built a working time machine, and after doing enough tests decided that it was safe to test it with myself?”
“Then I would be flattered that you risked all this to come to visit me.” Eric said with a smile.
The look on Phillip’s face clearly conveyed that he was telling the truth.
Eric’s smile slowly faded away. ..1:18..
“And,” Phillip continued, “Since I’m still sitting here, I don’t think my reality ceased to exist after all.”
“That doesn’t make sense. When are you from?” ..1:06..
“Fifteen years, six months and a little less than twenty-one days from now.”

Eric stared at him for a while.
“You’ve got your ticket back?”
“Yes, in exactly 56 seconds.”
“So my theory is completely wrong? You’ve made a drastic change by talking to me.”
“No Mr. Goldberg, your theory is right as far as I can tell. I don’t have time to explain, but look up there.” Phillip pointed at the top right corner of the room. “See that black object? It’s one of my video cameras from my lab. I’ve been monitoring you for quite a while before I decided on the twenty-one minutes that would be inconsequential enough for me to come and visit you.”
“How can it be inconsequential enough? My knowing this will make drastic changes!”

It was when Eric began to get up to examine the camera that Phillip realised the mistake he’d made.
“Don’t get up Mr. Goldberg. I really don’t have time to explain. I would like to congratulate you for the amazing work that you did. You’re one of my idols. As you said, the fact that I came to visit you is enough to explain it. It’s a pity that the potential of your work isn’t recognised until long after your time. It was a pleasure meeting you” ..0:04..

The alarm on Phillip’s wristwatch went off. Eric stared at him with his mouth open. He turned to the window to look at where there was suddenly a loud noise coming from. The bright lights hit him straight in the face and he could identify the roar of a truck engine along with the screeching of tires on the wet tar road. He looked back at Phillip, only to find that he was alone in the room again.

Eric experienced, for the third time that night, the feeling of everything suddenly falling into place. Kantor knew this was going to happen. He knew exactly when it was going to happen. Eric realised how the past twenty-one minutes would be inconsequential to the rest of the world. Eric didn’t try to get up from his chair. He knew what was coming. He knew it was inevitable. The roar of the engine was now accompanied by the smashing of glass, the tearing of steel and the crushing of a concrete wall. Eric held his glass of whisky tightly. Was any man ever this sure that he was going to die?

His life did not flash before his eyes. There was only the exhilarating feeling of having figured everything out. His thoughts wandered to Kantor and what kind of a person he was, to leave Eric to die like this. On the other hand, Phillip would have to risk his own existence and that of his entire world as it will be to save him. Phillip would see his death as something of a history book. He was meant to die here.

He wondered if his life had been meaningful enough. Had he lived well enough? His answers were satisfying. His only regret was writing that one paper. Suddenly it terrified him, the uncertainty of the future. It shouldn’t. The affairs of this world would no longer concern him. His thoughts went back to those days he spent researching, the day he presented that paper. He could never have known. The lights were blinding now and all he could see was white. So this is what that deer must have felt like when he ran into it on highway 17.


Phillip felt sick again. He grabbed a bag from the table and threw up in it. It took a while before he could orient himself. He was in his lab. The alarm on his wristwatch was still ringing. He looked at the news article pinned on his wall. “52 year old scientist dies as truck drives into his house” It still had a picture of Eric’s house, smashed, with a truck in his living room. The article below it was the same, down to every word. Phillip felt like he could breathe again. His eyes wandered to the other articles around it. Nine other people who died unnaturally. Ten different people in different parts of the world. The only thing common to all of them was that very little of their surroundings remained after their death.

He looked at the five tiny cameras lying next to him. They had captured everything. The thought of watching the recording made him feel sick again. He disabled all the apparatus and locked it up in the store. He had succeeded in his work but he did not want to think about what to do next for a long time to come. Maybe the journey in time had disoriented him.


He looked on as the sun set. The same image that backdropped innumerable memories. His gaze wandered around the three walled shack. This was their favourite place. Isolated, and overlooking most of the world they knew. They would wait until the sun set, and then climb back down to the city. The orange light was slowly fading away. He couldn’t remember the last time they had decided to meet here this late. There would definitely be something important she wanted to say.

He looked back at the sun. It was seconds away from sinking below the horizon. He reached his hand out, as if to catch it. To hold it there until she comes, just so she can watch it, even if it would be for the thousandth time. He noticed it was drizzling. It felt like a cool layer of morning dew forming over his hand. He waited in daydream, until the stars began to appear in the sky, along with the city lights below.

Just when he began to wonder if he should worry about her, she walked up to the door. Greetings that could not be said in words were exchanged as she waited there. He could tell from when he first saw her that something was different. Her face seemed naked without the smile that he was used to seeing. And as most other things, it was more beautiful that way.

He stood up, and broke the silence, without ever breaking eye contact.
“What took you so long?”
“Long story.”
Anxious, though he was, he would have to wait for her to tell him her way.
She walked up to him and said, “It’s not what you think.”
“You’re so sure you know what I think?”
“Maybe I don’t. But I’m sure I know the things you won’t think, and this is one of them.”
She turned toward the window, and said “I like the night better, don’t you? It brings out our true characters. We can be just who we want to be, and there’s no one around to bother us. Night is for those who are different, and some of those who want to be.” He didn’t say anything, knowing that she would then get to the point faster.

She turned to face him again. And then she kissed him. And even that was different. So different that he couldn’t even begin to identify what was different about it. It wasn’t warm; it reminded him of the drizzle outside. Like cool morning dew. He could still unmistakably identify her though, and that was definitely a good thing.

“You love me.” He was tempted to answer, but he knew it wasn’t a question.
“We swore that we’ll stay together, whatever it takes. But I’m not gonna hold you to that.” she continued. He opened his mouth, but she didn’t give him enough time to realise that he hadn’t found words yet. “My life changed completely yesterday. More than I could ever imagine. And now, you’re going to have to make a choice. If you chose to stay with me, you’ll have to let go of everything else you have, and everything you know. We’ll have to leave this place, leave everyone you know behind. Leave behind your life, your dreams, your whole world. And you will most probably also end up leaving behind who you are.

“So, you can leave yourself, or …” He had already completed the sentence. “I’m not leaving you. I’d like to stick to every promise I made. I meant all that I said. I’m prepared to let go of everything you need me to, as long as I understand the reasons why I must.” She moved closer, and said almost in his ear, “And that, I promise, you will.” ending in just a whisper.

She kissed him again. This time, he couldn’t even identify her. As he was trying to figure out how she changed so suddenly, who she was now, and where she might want him to go, she moved down to his neck, and bit so hard that he gasped and opened his eyes. He tried to jerk himself away, but her grip was too strong. He noticed how fast he was breathing, and then suddenly noticed that she wasn’t breathing at all. He made sense of it now, the choice he had just made. His heart was racing, but he knew hers wouldn’t be beating at all. Now that he knew what she was doing, he could feel the life being sucked out of him.
The world around him slowly faded away, until all he could see was black. Had life already left him? He must have thought out loud, because he heard her say: “Life will leave, but death won’t come.”

He couldn’t move, and he couldn’t see, but he could still hear her, and he could still talk in whispers. “You lied to me.”, he said.
“Did I?”
“You said I would understand…..”
“And you will. Besides, if I had told you everything, you still wouldn’t have chosen any differently.”
“What makes … you so sure?”
“Because the only other option you had…” She moved closer to finish the sentence. “..was death.”
He was suddenly afraid. Afraid of her, of the world, of being so helpless right now. But fear too, was fading away along with his consciousness.
“How do you know I wouldn’t have chosen to die?” he asked, and he meant it.
“Because you fear death more than anything else. Because you don’t believe in heaven.” She paused. “And even if you would have chosen death, you won’t want to choose it anymore. And if you do, death is always an option. You’re only immortal.” She was right. He wouldn’t choose to die now, if given the choice. Maybe he was already changing. She spoke again: “Trust me. Go to sleep. When you wake up, you won’t be thinking about it anymore. You’ll look at the whole world differently.”
“When will I…..” he realised he couldn’t talk anymore.
And then she sang him a lullaby.