Daily Prompt: Unseen Hero (Fiction)


‘How could no one seen a thing?!’ Lieutenant Copper exploded.

The two sergeants in front of Copper had never heard their lieutenant speak like this. Copper was a nimble man, full of courtesy and diplomacy. No other man had stayed in charge for as long as Copper has and that is because of how he speaks. The masked surface was under attack now as there was a new kind of trouble on the streets.

According to him at least there is a new trouble.

‘Tell me what do the witnesses tell us?’ Copper asked again, regaining some of his cool demeanor back.

‘Sir, most of the victims or witnesses, as you put it, say that the train was under attack. There was a metal-tentacled man who killed off the driver and then screwed up the controls. They say they don’t know how the vigilante stopped the train but they are glad that he did.’ Sergent Jones iterated.

Copper nodded, his face focused on the statement. He wanted to find a flaw in the witness statement but there was none. Sargent Jones and Sargent Hunter have been over the witness statements a couple of times.

No one said anything out of the ordinary. No one had seen or heard anything to further their investigation about the vigilante. This troubled Copper, this vigilante’s face was one of the most sought after thing currently in the city.

Never mind the metal tentacled man, or his predecessor the green suited-air gliding man or any of the other menace lurking in the city. Copper’s concern was to stop the vigilannte first and then worry about the other menace.

No lone ranger in my city

The entire thing was bizarre enough until a couple of months ago a witness said they had seen this vigilante. The witness hadn’t seen the face properly but he was sure of one thing: this vigilante did not wear a mask.

No mask! The vigilante was saving the city for months now and yet no one had come forward with any information as to what this vigilante looked like? Was he a blonde? A Caucasian guy or an African-American guy?

The answers were out there, amongst the people he had saved but no one ever ventured any information about this vigilante. The train attack was the biggest break the police ever had with the vigilante.

Yet no one has seen his face.

‘Alright, go out again. I want you to canvas the area, find me someone who can tell me if this vigilante is a kid, an adult or a 70 year old veteran. Find me something until I call the Mayor and ask him a favor.’ Copper paused contemplating telling his sargents about the favor. He decided he could trust them both.

‘I would beg him to declare a reward on testimonials about this vigilante. He cannot be unseen after doing so many things.’


 

Thank you for reading, let me know what you think about it.

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Fiction: At the races


Chris sat at the stall, waiting for Selena to show up. The race was about to start and she was nowhere to be seen, it was her idea to spend the Sunday on a racetrack. They arrived at the scene together but then she said she needed to use the loo. Now, half hour later, the horses were all lined up and it has to be only a couple of minutes before the whistle is blown and the race starts.

The excitement of the race was enough for Chris to forget about Selena, even if he didn’t want to. Selena had warned him that races are addictive and from the moment they are lined up, the adrenaline high he felt was indescribable. Chris could no longer disagree with it, he was skeptical about it at first. All around him he could see people cheering on, screaming for the race to start. Some were already a little tipsy, after all the bar was open for significant time. Now, the bets have all been made and the bookies are all waiting for the results to be out. Many people will leave the race with money enough to party all night long in London and others will go home, get drunk and curse their misfortune.

For Chris, caution and self control was the key. Before the excitement had surged, he had already made modest bets on horse number 7. Because of this, he wasn’t worried about losing a lot of money, neither was he anticipating good profits. The bets were more of ‘When in Rome, do it like the Romans do’ kind of an act. However, now he had to control his impulses to just go and make a few bets.

Where is Selena? he thought. His heart was pumping and he could feel sweat budding on his forehead. He used his napkin to wipe the sweat but there was nothing more he could do for his heart. Except drink more ale.

As he took a sip, the whistle was blown and Selena was nowhere to be seen.


 

Selena threw her knife at the copper’s chest and it him right in the middle. She didn’t stop to check whether or not he was dead, she just rolled over to be away from the other coppers’ line of fire. This was a disaster, she thought as she exhaled a mouthful of air.

Chris would not have ever guessed why she wanted to come for the races. Now, her elaborate plan had been shattered to pieces and all she could think of is his safety. What has happened to her?

A shot was fired and it hit the wooden panel to the left of her head. She whipped her head around to see more coppers coming in the tent, one of them with an automatic weapon.

Damn! she cursed her stupidity. The henchmen now know who she is and also would find out who she came here with. There is no going back to anonymity after what has happened here and they will keep hunting her. Screw it, she thought as she tore away the bulky dress and freed her legs for more agility. Underneath the dress she had an arsenal of weapons: knives, shooting stars and one revolver. The revolver was for desperate measures only as it had only 6 shots and she didn’t bring in a lot of bullets.

She glanced back from the hole in the panel and counted. 10, 11… 12 coppers she could see out there. This was not going to be easy but she has done this kind of thing before too. If all goes well, then she should be able to escape with a couple of broken ribs and maybe one gunshot wound. If all goes well..

No time to waste now, she thought as she grabbed a couple of throwing knives, removed her heels and held them both in different hands. The knives were the main weapons, heels were for close combat.

She brought mayhem to the tent as she threw her knife at the pole holding the structure and the canvas barred her opponents vision.


 

The chorus of men, women screaming as soon as the whistle blew was deafening. Chris was jolted and he added his voice to the crowd, swept along with the flow.

He could see the horses running fast and faster, already covered up a quarter of the track within seconds. His number 7 was not in the lead but he could hear someone screaming ‘Yes’ for the lead horse, number 9.

Chris had an growing urge to just hit the guy whose horse was in the lead. He turned around to see who it was and saw and elderly man with binoculars to his eyes. The elderly man had not noticed Chris yet but Chris noticed the man’s companion.

Clearly 30 years younger than him, the companion was someone Chris had seen a while ago. He remembered going to a party along with Selena and the girl was either the hostess of the party or another guest. He had never seen the elderly man before.

The girl was an anomaly in the crowd. While everyone else was screaming their lungs out over the horses, the girl sat mute and composed. She noticed his attention and he quickly looked away.

Looking at the girl made him realize that Selena was not here yet and she was still missing out on the race. It was her idea damn it!


 

4 dead and 8 more to go. As soon as the canvas had fallen down, Selena moved with the grace that would have made snakes piss. Within seconds she had slashed three coppers’ throats and had stabbed the fourth. However, the time spent on killing the four was enough for the other’s to come within sight of her. One of them opened fire and he felt a stab of pain in her left calf.

From experience, she knew what a gunshot wound felt like. This pain that she felt was nothing close to that pain meaning that the shooter had missed. Well, she will not miss. She turned in a circle and aimed, used her momentum and drove her knife at the copper’s head. She was moving before he dropped to the ground.

Two more in front of her and she had no knives in her hand anymore. She had heels nonetheless and it was time that men knew how much heels hurt. With her right hand she hit the copper’s gun away and her left hand uppercut the other with the heel. There was a spray of blood on her face but she didn’t stop. She brought in her left towards the head of the copper and the right towards the stomach. He dodged her left but her right lodged in his stomach. She left her heel in his stomach and moved on, leaving him to his slow agonizing death.

No more knives but she still had the gun and there were only 6 left. There were also some other guns lying around and now she picked them up. Halfway through with this, she was struggling to believe that there hardly any damage to her when the automatic opened fire.

Something like a truck hit her shoulder and she fell to the ground by the force. She lost the gun from her hand but it was still within reach. She could see she was surrounded and the automatic gunman was still active.

Well, it was a long shot anyway.


 

The race finished and Chris had never been this high. He had not won his bet but he still had an amazing experience. The elderly man was more excited as he had just won the bet.

The girl had finally moved and now was standing just above him. She whispered, ‘We always win’ just as she stabbed him in the back.


Inspiration: Peaky Blinders Season 2 Episode 6

Fiction: Waiting for a Train


‘He will be here, his letter said so.’ Maduram said. Sindhu, the station master observed Maduram sceptically. Madhuram was old, looked frail, he should not be out on a cold night without any warm clothes. His threadbare kurti and lungi could scarcely provide warmth, his shawl looked older than Madhuram. Regardless Maduram was here waiting for an rich American traveler. Sindhu was afraid that this was a case of delirium, old people do have a tendency to go a little nuts.

Sindhu knew Madhuram, they have spoken before and he was also aware of why everyone in the village were so found of Madhuram. Sindhu, a born cynic and skeptic trusted Madhuram! Sindhu had been the station master for 15 long and hot years. He had seen travelers coming to the village to visit the iconic Kali Mandir, he had witnessed teary goodbyes from mothers to their sons as they left for Mumbai, the city of dreams. In 15 years multitude things changed, a few didn’t. The tea stall outside the station still made disgusting tea, it had more water than milk. The wages Sindhu received still hadn’t changed much, while the town grew his salary crawled. Lastly, Madhuram was always outside the station greeting customers as if a mother greets her sons. No wonder people who returned always asked for Madhuram.

Madhuram was older than 70, he looked 80 years old. His teeth have started to fall off and whenever he smiled now, Sindhu was terrified a little. But as Madhuram spoke, the apprehension vanished and a familiar sense of comfort replaced it. Over the years, Madhuram never stopped driving around his rickshaw. There were better rickshaws available in the market but Madhuram never sold his old vehicle. Sindhu never asked why, he still had his first bicycle.

It hurt Sindhu, for he was looking at someone who was as close as a friend, start slowly loose his mind. Sindhu knew nothing about Madhuram’s family and he couldn’t leave Madhuram alone on the station like this. So he just sat there and listened to Madhuram talk about his English friend. Other rickshaw drivers conned travelers but Sindhu opened his heart to them. Maduram had the heart & wealth of a saint. He would never con, he would never bicker with anyone. He has been like that, as far as Sindhu can tell, he would die with a heart that doesn’t belong in this world. The least Sindhu could do was to listen as one of the best people he knew prattle.

 


 

25 years ago, Maduram saw a firangi (foreigner) depart the train. Every rickshaw driver knew that this meant dollars. Luckily for him that day, he was the only rickshaw driver. Pankaj had gone off for lunch and so Maduram approached the firangi. Madhuram knew that the firangi was lost, frustrated and a little angry just by looking at him. Madhuram did something that he hardly ever did: he smiled and greeted the firangi. The tension evaporated from firangi’s stature and he said “Maandir?”

Firangi trying to speak hindi was hilarious incident for Madhuram.  He drove the firangi, who said his name was Peter, to the temple of Kali. One the way they both spoke, Madhuram slowly reminiscing his time in Mumbai. He had learned some English when he was in Mumbai, when he was young and stupid. So they spoke in broken languages of one another and somehow the two wrongs made right and a bond was born, stronger than anything Madhuram had ever known before. The entire day Madhuram drove Peter around, first to the temple, then to the river where all the village wives washed clothes and then to the old film set where Amitabh Bachan had shot his first movie. All of the places had no tourists, they were all places where Madhuram had spent his youth in; where he had decided that it was time he became something like Amitabh himself.

As night fell, Madhuram invited Peter to their home. Peter accepted and as they reached home, Peter was shocked and Madhuram abashed. The ‘home’ of Madhuram’s family was nothing more than a small shed where he lived with his wife and son. But Madhuram didn’t relent and treated Peter more like a brother than a guest. Peter was an Englishman visiting India as he wanted to experience what his ancestors did. Peter wanted to know what made his grandfather love this country so much. Peter also said that his experience so far had contradicted everything his grandfather had told him.

Madhuram however, was excited and apprehensive at the same time. He had met some firangi when he was a young man, living in Mumbai with wide eyed dreams of making it to the big screen just like Amitabh Bachan or Dharmender. He never could become great, and he was too straight for the crooked lifestyle. Everyone in the village kept asking him about the life in Mumbai and he narrated the story. However his story made more naive youngsters leave the village chasing the same dreams.

Peter enjoyed the tour around the places in the village. He was comfortable in the tiny abode of Madhuram’s. Madhuram’s wife Sita blushed whenever Madhuram complimented her food. His son, Dhanu kept looking at Peter as if he was alien, got a scolding from Madhuram as soon as he noticed. It was astonishing for Peter to see how such a family of three can live in a small house, but nevertheless the hospitality offered was better than the best hotel. The food was another paradise perfectly crafted in a small ceramic plate, which was different from the metal plates the family ate in. Sita didn’t speak at all, she couldn’t speak English. Dhanu knew English than Madhuram and Madhuram was proud.

‘I learnt English Bombay, I learn English Dhanu’ Madhuram proudly stated.

Peter laughed at the statement, a simple statement that had was medley of pride, joy and sorrow rolled in one. He was taken back by the emotions packed. The family was in itself complete regardless of the materialistic lacking. They kept asking Peter to stay in their house even before the dinner was done. Peter never said yes but they insisted and Dhanu ran outside to fetch a better mattress. Madhuram had not yet even taken fare from Peter.

 


 

Postal addresses were exchanged before Peter departed. Sita and Dhanu stayed back home while Madhuram drove Peter to the station. Madhuram refused Peter’s money.

‘Money from bhai?’ Madhuram asked refusing Peters’ insistence.

Peter never knew what bhai meant, but the word stayed with him. A month after Peter left, Dhanu came home gleefully. Turns out there was a letter in Madhuram’s name at the post office near the school. Madhuram couldn’t read the letter but Dhanu could. Somehow, Peter had tracked a person in London who could write in Hindi as well and there was a two paged letter, one in English and other in Hindi. Peter mentioned his family, his grandfather and his girlfriend. Madhuram didn’t know what girlfriend meant but Dhanu grinned embarrassingly.

The letter was signed off with ‘Bhai, Peter’.

Over the months that followed Dhanu kept coming home with similar letters and he kept sending more letters out of the country. Madhuram spent a days’ wages on the letters and eventually he didn’t need Dhanu to read the letters. 3 years passed this way but suddenly the letters stopped. Madhuram got worried as he knew that on 20th of every month a letter would arrive. It was 30th and still no letter. He went to the post office daily to check but still no letter. He sent more letters asking what had happened but no reply. Years passed and Dhanu went to the city for study. Sita got pregnant but she couldn’t survive childbirth and the girl was stillborn. While Dhanu tried to make his studies and a grieving father priorities, Madhuram sent him back to the city to complete his studies. Madhuram grew distant, and he sent another letter to a bhai across the globe. No reply.

He never invited anyone to his home anymore, he had no home other than a shed. He treated everyone the same way he treated Peter and showed them all the temples, the rivers and the film locations. Some were happy, most were annoyed. Most just thought he was cheating them for more fare. His son was gone, making money and name for himself, Madhuram was proud of him, but he hardly got time to visit his village anymore. Madhuram wrote another letter.

One day Dhanu came home unexpectedly and he had a letter with him.

 


 

Sindhu couldn’t believe it. Friends, one English and the other an ordinary rickshaw driver. They didn’t share a language, they didn’t share any cultural background but they shared bond stronger than any he had ever known. Sindhu’s father had mentioned Madhuram, he had said Madhuram is one of the very souls which could imbue loyalty from a thief. Sindhu however was never aware of the hardships Madhuram had suffered. It is one thing to hear about someone’s loss. It is even more devastating to listen to the person narrate his loss.

The train horned distantly and Sindhu looked away from Madhuram, conscious that tears might fall. He knew he would be at the station when the two friends reunited. He hoped he would be strong enough to witness it. Moreover he hoped that Peter actually shows up.

When the train finally stopped, Madhuram bolted upright, his moderately strong vision scanning the crowd in light of a few bulbs. Sindhu scanned the crowd as well, how hard can it be to spot one white among so many colors. He spotted an old white man soon enough and directed Madhuram towards him.

Peter looked worse than Madhuram, there was some problem with him. Sindhu almost flinched when he saw Peter, he resembled a leper. But Madhuram, he was overjoyed. Tears rushing from his eyes as waterfalls and ran to embrace his friend. It was out worldly to witness this, an ordinary old man hugging a diseased white man.

Sindhu, for the first time in years cried seeing them. The onlookers were damned, he knew he was changed forever. Madhuram tried to speak but his throat was rocked with sobs, his old body shivering. Peter, he never knew he could ever know peace like this ever again, especially when he knew he had only weeks to live.

 


 

The story was inspired by Pico Iyer’s personal essay I had read in ‘Burn This Book’. Short story plucked all the heartstrings.

Fiction: What is Success?


(The following piece is inspired by a conversation I had with a couple of friends)

The restaurant is pretty busy. There is long queue of people who are waiting to dine in here but those who are having their dinners here do not want to vacate their tables even after they are done. The tiny restaurant is hardly 5 years old but is already more popular than most others along the Mount Eden Road stretch in Auckland. In one of the tables sat two families with children of the similar ages. The fathers are talking about the latest business deal they had closed while the mothers are chatting about the latest gossips. The kids are however busy with something else.

“Oo I caught a Charmandar!” Rick exclaimed.

“Wow” exclaims Jeremiah agog. Their fathers shake their heads at the early addiction signs of the game and resume their conversation. While Pokemon is a game based on a TV show from the time when the fathers were young, now they do not have the time to relive the young memories, the nostalgia. They are busy chasing one benchmark after another. Just like the owner of the restaurant who is trying every trick in the book to be a perfect gourmet.

“So you have a Charmandar, what do we do now?” asks Jeremiah more interested in the game than the conversation his parents are having. His mother looks towards him, thinking about how materialistic her son is becoming. She remembers her own childhood when she would be happy if she had just a Barbie or a teddy. But Jeremiah wants more so her husband works more hours. What is happening to her perfect life she wonders.

“I don’t know. But  I think I am going to battle the gym leader, beat him.” Rick explains. “If I am successful, then I will be in control of the gym for my team.”

Jeremiah picks up a word from the conversation his father is having, something about the youth not knowing what success is. Jeremiah shouts suddenly.

“Dad I know what success is!”

(image credits: Mind Protein)