As a part of a blog tag contest (details are at the end of this post) I am penning this chapter to complete a story that was started by good friend, Dhivya Balaji. To understand this chapter, you need to read these:
Thanks for the tag, Kishor LN.
The family huddled together as Ashok turned his gaze back to the wall like he always does when he narrates a story.
“Your mom and I were in the same college. I liked her the very first time I saw her. However, I was really scared to ask her out,” said Ashok with a sigh.
“Why?” Priya blurted the question out of inquisitiveness.
“You are such a Pochemuchka, aren’t you, Priya?” asked her dad and Priya nodded smiling.Swetha threw a questioning look towards the father-daughter duo. Priya, however, repeated, “Why? Why was he scared, mom?”
“Why wouldn’t he be? After all, I was his senior in the college,” giggled Swetha.
Priya’s eyes widened with excitement and curiosity.
“Yes, yes. Good ol’ days,” Ashok continued, “Finally, I did bring up the courage to ask her out right before her farewell.”
“Your dad used to have a car. In fact, he was one of the very few students who came in car to the college, those days.”
“Mom, everyone comes in car these days even to school,” Priya pointed out.
“That’s why I said, ‘Good ol’ days’, Priya,” her father said stroking his beard.
“Seeing him waiting near the college gate was enough for me to be swept off my feet. I liked your dad too, since the time I first met him. I was indeed waiting for him to ask me out first,” said Swetha.
“If it was me, I would have asked out the guy I like by myself. I won’t wait,” Priya said in her sweet voice.
“*Achacho! Ithuku than naan sonnen, kozhandhaiku kanda kadhaya sollatheengo nu. You have told her various romantic novel ideas that you have in your mind, and now see her,” she chided her husband.
“*Acchu bicchu nu pesama poi thoongu di, Priya,” she turned towards their daughter and chided her too.
“No, Mom! I want to listen to the story,” said Priya.
“Ya, at least, let’s tell her that car breakdown story,” Ashok asked.
One stern look from Swetha, Priya tucked herself tightly in the bed, and Ashok moved to his room.
Swetha kissed her daughter and said, “Sleep tight!”
“What if someone from the Illuminati tries to kill me?” asked Priya.
“*Offo! Your dad thinks himself to be Dan Brown. Today, he narrated you his thoughts on Illuminati, huh?”
“Yes, and he also said…”
After putting the lights out, the family slept peacefully.
*19 Years Later*
Priya’s father did write his story “Warped” that he narrated to his daughter when she was six. However, he couldn’t complete it. While he was vigorously penning the chapter 9 of his story, he died of a sudden and massive cardiac arrest. That’s what the doctors said, when Swetha and Priya rushed him to the hospital.
It has been 8 years. Priya was convinced that the book, the story, and the alien world have got something to do with her dad’s death. Level-headed and practical Swetha brushed it off as a mere, false notion. Whenever Priya reads her dad’s book, she faintly recollects her dad’s narration of the story. Ashok has also illustrated the various characters of the book in his own way. Seeing Priya being disturbed, Swetha made sure that every memory of her husband was stashed in the cupboard under the stairs. However, every night after her mom sleeps, Priya goes into that cupboard, and reads his various works, to find something that would explain his death.
Doctors called it PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her psychologist recommended mild to moderate exercise as a way to distract herself from disturbing emotions and increase feelings of being in control again. Swetha suggested her daughter to go for morning jogs or walks by the Marina Beach. Little did she know of the beach’s connection with the story that was disturbing Priya in the first place.
After a week of walking, on one fine Sunday, the bright blue sky was cloudless. It was a perfect spring day. Walking briskly along the promenade, Priya wondered how even the grass seemed greener than usual. In the distance, the waves crashed against each other, their journey to the shore mostly futile, as they lost velocity and silently crept back into the sea. Her eyes lingered for more than a few seconds on the frothy waves, perfectly forming into shapes and crashing onto the shore in synchronized, even movements.
Her stride evolved into a jog as she changed track and quickly ran towards the sand and the waves. Her feet sunk deeper and deeper into the pliant sand with every step she took. Halfway through, she panted, hearing a steady roar in her ears. She stopped, bent almost double, with her hands on her knees. Her breathing grew heavier and she raised a hand to wipe off her sweat. Her hand swiped on her dry forehead. Confused, she wiped again, her hands coming away clean.
The feeling of déjà vu was overwhelming. Similar to *Abhimanyu from the Mahabaratham, she knew that she had entered the *Padmavyuham without knowing how to exit it.
*Achacho! Ithuku than naan sonnen, kozhandhaiku kanda kadhaya sollatheengo nu. – Oops! This is why I told, don’t tell random tales to the kid.
*Acchu bicchu nu pesama poi thoongu di, Priya – Don’t speak nonsense. Sleep, Priya.*Offo – Oh God/Oh Man!
*Abhimanyu – one of the characters in the epic Mahabarath(am).
*Padmavyuha(m) – A military formation technique used in the Kurukshetra war in the epic Mahabarath(am).
P.S: Overall word count is 1066. However, my story is approximately 600-650 words. The parts that are highlighted in teal color are references from the other chapters.
Kaarthika’s book is about to be released on May 29. Preorders open on Amazon.
There is another team participating in this contest with a completely different story line. Read their first chapter here.