Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Table for four


Krishan sat on his chair near the window, smacking his lips and rocking his chair back and forth. A cool breeze flew in and ruffled whatever precious little was left of his hair. His hands shook on the armest, more in fatigue than in cold. He couldn't sleep, hadn't for days. It was hard to sleep when you had nothing to tire you out except the mind-numbing monotony of every single day, and only the company of an empty house and a wife who hadn't spoken a word in the last five years.

The years had taken their toll on Krishan Lal Chopra and his wife. Life in a small house in the outskirts, that was what they'd always wanted. It was Krishan's dream. "One day", he'd tell his colleagues at the firm "I'll buy a nice little house for myself, away from all this madness, and live my days out in peace with the wife". All they'd do was smile and nod, they didn't really care, but to Krishan Lal, that was what kept him sane during the most horrible years of his life, working in the accounts department of Gupta, Gupta and Dalal.

But even those endless hours of slavery seemed like a godsend. Every living second he craved for someone to walk in through the door and end their misery. There wasn't a morsel to eat in the house, not a penny in their savings.

A joke his friends told him once rang in his head over and over again. "Investing in a pension plan doesn't guarantee you a pension, that would be simplistic and naive". It was funny then, not so much now, when the emptiness in his belly forced a 69 year old man to tie his pajama twice as tightly just to be able to get some sleep at night. Retirement age was supposed to help the elderly enjoy their later years, not merely attempt to survive through them.

Durga sat on her bed, a four poster that came with the house, though it no longer had the magnificence it once shone with. The whole house had lost its charm to the years of rot and decay, and with it, his life had lost its glory as well. Durga knew that too. She hadn't spoken a word since she had her first heart attack six years ago, but he could see it in her eyes. The hunger, boredom and loneliness that haunted him was a part of her life as well, and he hated himself for not being able to provide the means to make it go away.

The sound of a car pulling up in the driveway broke the silence that had made nest in house for longer than he could remember. Nothing fancy, he saw from the window, an ordinary Santro. It was so rare that one got to see a fancy car roll by. A young man stepped out of the car, a lean, short man in jeans and a blue t-shirt. Huge aviators covered most of his face, but Krishan could make a moustache out, rare in young men these days.

A young woman, no older than 25, stepped out the other door. Her hair tied in a plait, dressed in a blue kurta and jeans, a calm and composed expression on her face, obviously the sanity in the relationship.

Krishan couldn't help but be reminded of Durga and himself, not much older than the couple he looked at now, when he moved into this house.

He got up, opened the door, and welcomed his guests in.

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"The dinner looks delicious, aunty", Vikram remarked as he helped himself to some aromatic homemade chicken.

"She couldn't have made it without you kids. I can't thank you enough for driving up all the way to the store to buy dailies for a poor, old couple", Krishan responded, a smile upon his face.

"Don't say that Uncle, you gave us a placce to stay for the night. It was the least we could do", Jasmeet said as she poured herself another glass of water.

"Of course, we leave first thing in the morning, we wouldn't want to impose. I have some friends on the other side of the city we can stay with, except they weren't in town tonight"

"Don't be silly, Vikram", Krishan snapped back. "You must stay a little while longer, I insist"

Durga stared at the both of them with a wide grin upon her face.

"You haven't eaten a morsel, either of you. Don't let us hog all the good stuff, please, allow me to serve you", Jasmeet exclaimed.

"Oh no, child. Me and durga, we prefer eating by ourselves in the comfort of our room, its an old habit, you must forgive us for our age old insanities."

"I think it's lovely, you're quite the couple, the both of you", Vikram remarked.

"Oh, I do believe you have us all wrong, you judge too soon" said Krishan.

"What do you mean?"

There was no response, Krishan shook his head and walked over to his chair by the window.

Durga continued to stare and smile.

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Vikram spread the sheets out over the mattress the old couple had laid out for them, what a nice gesture.

He thought about how the old man and his wife stayed in the old house, all alone, eating meals by each other's side, not a worry in the world. It was very endearing. He didn't think it possible, for a love to last that long.

He smiled to himself for a second. For a second, he almost felt happy.

As he lay in bed that night, next to his wife, he thought about everything he'd gotten himself into. He wasn't ready for marriage. Not to her, she was too nice to him. So innocent, so naive. He didn't want to deceive her any longer. He would leave in the night, when the whole house'd be asleep. No one would know, and she could live out the rest of her days happily, with someone else.

"Besides", he'd convinced himself, "I can do better for myself. Someone actually worthy".

As he thought this, he started to fall asleep. A few good hours of rest would be perfect before his great escape.

That was when he felt the pain in his leg.

It was unlike anything he'd ever heard before. He could feel the warmth of the old man's breath on his thigh. He could also feel the blood trickle down his leg. Lastly, to his horror, he could feel Krishan's tongue lick the blood off of him like chocolate.

He could hear Jasmeet screaming in the background, out of the corner of his eye he could see Durga pinning her to the ground and, for some reason, running large pieces of metal through her limbs and into the wooden floor.

That was when it hit him. They weren't being stabbed to death, they were being nailed to the ground. It was going to be a long, slow, painful death.

Moments later, overpowered by a weak old man and his mute wife, Vikram and Jasmeet lay nailed to the floor, shaking and withering in pain, unable to scream, unable to move. Helpless, defenseless and shaken to the core.

Kishan stood up tall, the blood stains so clearly visible on his vest and White pajama. He smiled and licked his lips.

"Just lie still and let us finish up, it'll be easier for you if you do", he said as he inched closer.

The blood choked Vikram's throat as he tried to scream.

The old man and his wife were about to enjoy another lovely, romantic dinner together.

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Krishan sat at his chair in front of the window, pieces of meat stuck in his teeth. He ran his tongue over one of them, managed to force the meat out into his mouth. It tasted good. It still tasted fresh.

"Make sure all the blood is off the floor. I hadd to practically run to throw the mattress over the stains before they went up to the room", he snapped at Durga.

She was a good wife, she'd stayed with him through thick and thin.

Krishan stared out the window and smacked his lips.

A black esteem pulled into where the Santro stood last night.

"Ah, company", Krishan thought to himself.

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