Strings of Fate
Version A –
A giant billboard on the crossroad came alive with ghastly images. Confusion, panic and fear engulfed the terror- struck people. Kabir let out a gut-wrenching wail as the surrounding mayhem transported him miles away. He clasped his eyes shut, recalling the events.
The much-anticipated call had come last week. After years of waiting, he had been activated. The instructions were simple. He had to reach Chowpatty before sunset and pick up a cellphone from a bin near Sonu’s vada pav stall.
“Where are you going?” Noor had called out, “the skies are threatening to burst anytime.” Her kind eyes always brought a smile to his face. “I’ll be back before dinner.” Kabir ruffled little Saba’s curls before stepping out.
A heavy downpour had greeted Kabir as he had alighted from the bus and made it to Chowpatty, which was now bereft of crowds. Once satisfied that he wasn’t being watched, he had approached the stall and collected the package.
This morning, a low beep had stirred him awake. It was time. His sacrifice would not be in vain.
He kissed a sleeping Saba and Noor one last time, and stepped out into the oblivion carrying a bag.
The city was about to wake up, but dark clouds engulfed the skies. As instructed, he traveled on three trains and two buses before reaching his destination. The tall building stood miles away from his home. He took consolation from the fact that his family was safe from the impending doom.
A wave of terror tingled his spine as he ransacked the bag – the phone was missing! His handler would call anytime now. He felt the ground beneath him shake as he tried recalling where he could have lost the phone.
The sudden commotion sucked life out of him. He collapsed onto the ground as he found the answer on the giant screen. In place of his erstwhile home, now stood a mound of rubble.
Everything had gone as per plan, except for one slip. The slip had cost him everything.
Version B –
Noor hid behind the curtain, trying to overhear, as Kabir whispered into the phone. He had been acting strange for a few days now. She stepped into the living room as he called, “Noor, I am going out, will be back in a while.”
“Where are you going? The skies are threatening to burst anytime.”
She found it strange when he ignored her, but ruffled little Saba’s hair and left. Noor paced the room and gazed at their family picture.
Cradling Saba in her arms, Noor’s thoughts drifted to the carefree days when she had met Kabir. From friends, they had become lovers in no time. ‘Is he in love with someone else?’ a teardrop trickled from her eye at the thought of an extramarital affair.
Kabir was a loving husband and father. Noor never questioned him, but lately, she suspected his hushed phone conversations.
Noor’s suspicion didn’t subside, despite his repeated assurances.
One night, Noor stealthily rifled through his wardrobe. She checked all the drawers, hoping to find some answers. Her gaze settled on an unfamiliar bag. Just as she was about to pick it up, Kabir stirred. A panicked Noor rushed to her side of the bed and huddled under the sheets.
Noor shut her eyes tight. After what felt like ages, she heard the door opening and closing noiselessly. Kabir had gone out.
The morning sky was full of dark and ragged clouds; a thunder jolted the duo wide awake. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she realized Kabir’s absence. For some strange reason, her head pounded with tension and lines of stress formed on her forehead.
Tring Tring…. An unfamiliar tone rang and shook her reverie. Noor couldn’t locate it, but little Saba had found it. Before Noor could get hold of the phone, BOOM… an ear-splitting explosion echoed.
Several things in the house clattered; deep red flames licked the walls, swept across the walls, and engulfed the house from all sides as if a fire-breathing dragon was inside the house.
(This story won Runner-Up prize in a contest held by Beyond the Box. )