BY NEEL ANIL PANICKER
Raghav craned his neck upwards, his once determined eyes, now sunken enough to expose all but its sockets.
And as the single strobe of light hit his near fading eyes, he searched maniacally for a way out knowing fully well that every single moment that he lay in this bottomless pit was but a step closer to death.
How many weeks, or is that months, had it been? One, two, or is it more?
How would he know? He only knew that the slit above was but a narrow beam through which was fed some strands of sunlight; and food and water. They were kind or, so he thought.
They didn’t let him die. Generous as they were with food, so what if it was just a few crumbs of bread and water in a dirty plastic glass that his abductors sent via the pipe.
When and for how long this arrangement would continue was something he just did not know or even had any means of knowing.
Dejected, he looked around but knew that was a wasteful exercise. I mean, what can you see around a pitch dark dungeon embedded deep inside the earth? What was there to see besides an army of deadly insects and maggots that scurried around, moving in and out of his near torn trousers, seeping and peeping inside every imaginable body opening; leaving him in a state of perpetual state of anxiety, fear and revulsion that lead him to just pray for an early release to this madness__either by freedom or by death.
But even death was not so easy, especially when one happens to be the central character in a multi-state kidnapping that could fetch his abductors some serious money.
How much? Raghav had no means of knowing that except that he knew that he was worth at least a hundred crores.
Not everyday does a gang of hard core, trigger happy kidnappers get a catch such as him.
This much he knew. That told for all this secretiveness. His being buried several feet inside the earth in the middle of nowhere (ever since he was pushed, rather roughly, his head tightly secured in a stifling, black hood) after a horrendous near endless journey by God knows what, was proof enough of not just the sheer bravado and resolve of the kidnappers but also pointed to the clandestine nature of their operation.
His thoughts trailed off as a sudden rush of cold air shrouded the cave like structure. It smashed against the red stoned walls and blanketing his frail frame in an icy embrace.
He felt a horrifying pain reach out from behind as he shifted his back away from the wall; the resultant sound of bones collapsing and contracting shot a miasma of pain through his legs that rushed past his veins and rapidly shot up to his chest.
He tried to move hands up but found they had long before lost hope, lying limp as they were beside his torso; his plight not unlike that of a man about to be sent to the gallows___his arms and feet properly secured, as if he might escape otherwise.
But here, in this dark as hell pit and located several miles away from civilastion, escape was the last thing that was on his mind.
Escape from here: never; escape from this living hell into the waiting arms of death: possible, but as as to when, why, and how__ all questions to which he had no answers.
It was then that he heard it. The first, slightly faint, and then the second, clear and even loud.
What was it? The sound of a gun… a gun shot?
Where, when, why, how ? … a glimpse of hope lit his haggard face.
Expectantly, his body arched upwards towards the slit.