A Better Place

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Review Chain
Two friends, oddballs of their class share a special relationship. Their town is under a constant threat being close to war zone while they are in search of a better place.

Submitted: May 16, 2017

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Submitted: May 16, 2017

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“Rahul talks a lot,” A girl in her early teens said. “Most of what he says doesn’t even make sense”.

“He has always been that kind of a guy, kind of a blabbermouth. Did you hear the new story?” A fat girl sitting across the desk said with a mouthful of sandwich.

“Ya, in which he found a pair of eyes glaring at him from the ashes of waste” Replied the first girl.

“Yes that one. It’s hilarious. I was holding myself really hard from bursting into laughter”.

“The way you are holding yourself from choking to death from that huge bite of sandwich,” Interrupted another girl, sitting at adjacent table. Her name was Riya, a new girl in the class. Black short hair, brown asian eyes with a cluster of pimples on her cheeks. She was petite but carried mean look on her face. Not sure if it were those no nonsense eyes of her, the lack of smile or her fixed facial expression. “Riya, right...” The first girl asked. Riya continued to have her cookie. “You better learn to mind your own business. It can get tough for newbies around here”.

“No, it cannot. It cannot get any tougher for me. Thanks for the free advice anyway.” Riya packed her lunch box and shifted to the last table of the class. Rahul was standing by the class window along with three other boys. He seemed to be telling another ‘true’ story to the boys and they surely didn’t want to miss yet another chance to make fun of him behind his back. Riya was noticing him and then her eyes met his. With her stern look she kept staring at him as if conveying what a fool he is.

 * * * *

“You know I get really scared with those looks of yours,” Said Rahul while walking down the street in school uniform alongside Riya. He was a short and fair boy. He wore round rimmed spectacles with thick lenses that magnified his eyes considerably and helped him cover some of his thick eye brows.

“Why do you have to tell stories to everybody, you know what other guys think of you?”  Riya replied with exasperation.

“Yes I know. You have never missed a chance to let me know. But it’s great when people come to listen to you and...”

“Make fun of you” Interrupted Riya.

“No, just talk and laugh; Even if they laugh at me behind my back. At least they notice me. You haven’t seen me in my early days. Nobody ever noticed me. The closest I ever got to getting noticed was during attendance roll call.”

“Roll number 33... Rahul Singh”, continued Rahul mocking his teacher’s voice. Riya let that little chuckle out which she always manages to hold in. “See that’s what I am talking about” Said Rahul while smiling ear to ear. Riya held his hand rested her head on his shoulder while they walked down the street.

* * * *

Riya’s face was covered in sweat. She was uncomfortably asleep turning from side to side. A rumbling sound from the street in front of her house woke her up. The room was dark. Not even her night lamp was lit. She checked her phone, it showed 4.40 A.M and a miss call from Rahul. She took her phone and turned on the flash light. She picked up a woollen jacket hung behind her room door, climbed down the stairs and came out of the house. Military trucks were rolling on the street. It was dark; the neighbourhood was shining in silver and blue from the moonlight. She could see dozens of soldiers sitting in the trucks holding their icy cold guns between their legs while they passed. There were young men and even boys, some of them as young as her. She pulled over her jacket and started walking on the street hurriedly.

She stopped by an incomplete construction site and looked up. She could see feet dangling from the 4th floor. She waved her hand and climbed her way to the top quickly even in such darkness, just like the way you can walk through your home with your eyes shut.

“When did the lights go out?” Asked Riya

“Around 1, I guess,” Rahul replied while looking at the city covered in the darkness, listening to rumbles of military trucks echoing through the whistling cold winds. Riya came close to him and sat besides.

“You just called once.”

“Yes... Didn’t want to disturb you. It’s getting harder to get any sleep by the passing days.” He took out the hand rolled cigarettes from his pocket and offered to Riya. “Here, I’ve made them.”

“You met him?”

“Yes”

“You promised me you were going to take me along.”

“He was in a hurry. He just handed me the packet and left.” He took out a small transparent packet from his bag. It was full of mud coloured powder. “See, that’s a lot.”

“That’s enough for a week. Did you talk to him about me?”

“Yes. The same reply. He will meet you when the time is right. I asked him when I will be able to leave. Same reply... When the time is right.” Rahul said disappointedly. “Don’t know when that time will come.”

“You look upset.” Riya said while looking at Rahul with her rare mellowed down and concerned look.

“I hate wars... Yesterday at the dinner table, again dad was saying. He brought an application form. He wants it filled by tomorrow. The thought of guns, bombs, men dying, blood... I just can’t handle it.”

“So you are waiting for the ship to a better place” smiled Riya while mocking him.

“You don’t believe me?” Rahul asked and lit his cigarette. “You will when I will take you along. He says it’s more beautiful than what our town used to be.”

“There’s no beautiful place left. My father died thinking that he is saving his beautiful country... Huh... The day he died I was wondering why his coffin is so light. Later found out he messily stained his beautiful country with his blood and all of his inside while thinking that he was painting a bright future... There’s no beautiful place left on earth.” Riya said, blowing puffs of smoke in the icy wind.

“High already...? You know, after a few drags you talk about a lot of things I don’t really understand.”

“Oh you will. When you go there among them and as it is you are. You will understand best. You will paint our future bright and red.” Riya mocked him. Rahul looked at her and in a spur of moment pushed himself off the edge. Riya watched down in disbelief and rushed down the staircase thinking it’s not that high, he must not have died. She reached down short of breath and saw him lying. She rushed towards him. Lifted his head and placed it on her laps. Rahul was very still. She placed her head on his chest to check his heart beats and suddenly Rahul chuckled as he let his long held breath go. Riya looked at his face, he was holding his laughter. As she stared his face, he started laughing and got up like nothing happened. He limped a bit and had a few scratches here and there but he was fine, a fine asshole. Riya, noticed he landed on a huge mountain like heap of sand and slid down. The pimples on her face started disappearing as she got red in anger. She started walking towards the street. Rahul followed her.

“I’m sorry... Listen... It was just a joke,” Riya kept walking while Rahul tried to catch up. “Wait or I won’t take you along tomorrow.”

Riya stopped and turned. “You said he has asked to wait for the right time”

“I lied. You are meeting him tomorrow.”

Riya tried hard to hide her joy, but couldn’t hold for long and a flash of faint smile appeared on her face for a split second. Rahul knew this was the best reaction he could have got, given the situation.

“Get your specs asshole” Riya said noticing his deep grey eyes sparkling directly in the moon light. She had never realized how enchanting his eyes were behind those specs and under those bushy brows. They walked towards the heap and started looking for specs.

“My dad is gonna kill me if I don’t find it.”

“He will in a way. But he won’t be charged of a murder by his way.”

“It’s not funny Riya’’  

* * * *

The next night Riya and Rahul cycled to far edge of the town after blackout. They stopped by an old TV tower in ruins which was unpopular for being possessed by the dead characters of daily soap operas, at least school kids strongly believed in it after the war started and TV channels went out. They parked their cycles and looked around a bit.

“I think he is not here yet,” Said Rahul while taking out cigarette box from his bag. He offered it to Riya. Shivering with cold she picked one. They were looking at the road leading to tower in anticipation while they smoked.

“He said he would be here after blackout.” Rahul said as Riya was getting done with her smoke.

“After knowing your reputation sometimes I wonder how I even started to believe all your stories to be true” Said Riya.

“Cause they are... Just wait for a while... Here, have another” He offered another hand rolled cigarette to her.

“Filled the form...? How I wish to see you die serving in army. Or better... see you die of dehydration, pissing your pants in the war... That will make one hell of a story, just the kinds you like to make.”

They waited for more than two hours, mostly over anticipation rapped in silence, A box of smokes and a few reassuring lines by Rahul. And just when Riya was sure of Rahul to be a blabbermouth and a faker like those girls from her class, like the senior bullies who picked on him, his friends, juniors, teachers and every person alive who knew Rahul, they saw dark shadow of a man riding bicycle getting bigger as it approached them. Ironically they looked at it like they were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Yes... it’s him” Said Rahul after observing for long enough; by that time the man on the bicycle was just a few meters away. Riya was delighted. When she smiled it definitely meant she was, more than any other normal smiling person Rahul knew.

“You have to follow me” The man said in dull, sleepy, expressionless and disinterested voice while Riya was noticing his face, half covered in red and blue tribal tattoo. He was a middle aged man, thin and frail. He had blue protruding eyes and they looked more so because of his pale skin. He was all dressed in black leather. He was everything Riya had wished for except that he rode a bicycle instead of a chopper with rear fat tyre.

“This is Riya... You had asked for her” Said Rahul enthusiastically.

“I Know... Please follow me now” Man replied

“Am I being taken to the better place?”

“Yes” The man replied as he parked his cycle and started heading towards the tower. Rahul’s face lit up with a grin. Riya knew he was happy and so was she for him. They reached the edge of the tower. The man looked at Rahul and said, “You follow”. He pointed at Riya, “You stay here”.

Riya could see Rahul following the man to the centre of the tower which looked like a rusted, ruined and dwarf brother of Eiffel Tower. There was a deafening sound and a huge rim of light appeared at the centre. She held her head, shutting her ears with her palms. The light started to grow brighter and almost blinding. She saw Rahul being instructed by the man. He turned around with a wide smile; the one Riya loved to see on his face but never had a chance to tell him. He waved his hand and she knew it was a goodbye. She waved him back with the liveliest smile Rahul had ever seen on her face. A picture started to appear at the centre of the rim. She could see a glimpse of green grassland with trees and flowers in the picture. Riya thought to herself that Rahul was right all along, ‘A Better Place’ exists and it’s almost like heaven. The light around the rim grew brighter until Rahul got drowned in it and in a second everything got sucked into thin air. Everything disappeared into darkness except the man who was walking towards her.

“Make a friend and you too can go there” The man said in same dull, sleepy, expressionless and disinterested voice.

“What about the packet...”

“First... Make a friend” The man interrupted.

The man left while Riya looked at the centre of the tower already starting to miss the only friend she had. She looked in the sky and wondered Rahul always said there was a ship to a better place but she didn’t see any.

* * * *

The next morning Riya was walking to her school. She looked in her cigarette box to find out there were none left. She was thinking to herself how everything she experienced was so unreal with Rahul; The portal, the better place, the tattooed man and even his fall from the fourth floor; who could have survived that. From the happy memories with Rahul, her mind shifted to current reality. She had to make new friends if she wanted to meet Rahul again... if she wanted to smoke that brown muddy thing again but how. She was passing by the dumping ground and she noticed something that made her stop. Her eyes were fixated at something. She went closer and saw a pair of eyes gazing at her from the ashes; those enchanting deep grey eyes that sparkled in the moonlight at nights.

END


© Copyright 2017 Bali. All rights reserved.

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