What would you do, if you knew that you could not fail?
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This is my first real attempt at a regular short story (upwards of 1800 words).
I most humbly request you to kindly read it and give your most valuable feedback so that it helps me go forth and write more such ‘longer’ short stories.
I eagerly await your positive comments.
Neel Anil Panicker
THE GAME CHANGER
By Neel Anil Panicker
It could have been ages but Nikhil had no inkling of time as his eyes lay transfixed onto the object in front of him.
Ensconced between a row of shelves, wedged between two thick books on the top shelf of the Non-Fiction section lay his object of attention: a brand new mobile phone.
Nikhil’s pulse rates skyrocketed, and he broke out in beads of sweat.
Gingerly, he looked around himself, first to his left, towards the common reading area, and then to his right, where the long passageway led to the Front Desk, and beyond to the glass fronted single door entrance.
Barring a few bookworms immersed in their books, or peering passionately into one or the other international multi-genre magazines that the library was famous for stocking, Nikhil didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary; a typical lazy late afternoon in what was the most well known library of Kolkata_ The National Library.
His eyes went back to the mobile phone.
The object stared back at him, its metallic body, black and gleaming, shaped to perfection, beckoning him with a half-lit emission that originated from its belly onto which was inscribed the insignia of an half eaten apple, the calling card of the most famous cell phone brand in the world.
Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride. Who would leave such a desirable object of pleasure lying unattended among books?
And more importantly, why?
The second provided him with a plausible answer. Perhaps a reader may have left his or her phone there whilst rifling through the books and later forgotten to pick it up.
If so, who could be that person, and if so, why hadn’t he or she come back to retrieve it?
Nikhil’s battled such questions but that did not stop him from unhooking his eyes from off the phone.
The rectangular object seemed to have a magnetic pull that attracted him no end.
His mind conjured up visions of him clasping the edges of the phone, as if gently nudging it to life, probing, examining, even delving and diving, already dreaming of partaking of the infinite pleasures that it held into its soft underbelly.
A sudden vibrating sound broke his thoughts.
It took him a moment before his momentarily paralysed recoiled back to life.
He felt an izzy feeling in his trousers.
His hands slowly went inside his pocket.
It was his damn phone; the same colourless and cheap featureless phone that he carried; the one his father had given him and that too after much cajoling, and that too only after he had fulfilled his promise to them by securing a very demanding seat in a prized Engineering college.
He was so ashamed of the cheap contraption that was thrust his way that he hadn’t even disclosed to anyone that he had a phone (his friends all bought into his preposterous story that he was allergic to high end electronic gadgets as per his doctor’s advice).
In furtherance of this grand charade, he would perennially keep the rather banal phone in vibration mode, carefully tucked away deep inside his inner trouser pockets, careful not to extricate it in public, especially when among friends, lest he end up as a laughing stock.
Where are you? It’s getting late for your classes.
Damnt it. That was his mother. Ever nagging him, forever hammering away at him to study as if that were the only worthwhile thing to do in life. Left to herself, she would want him to do nothing but study all life.
A look of irritation creased Nikhil’s face.
He needed to do something, or else the next thing she would do is call him.
Quickly he cupped the phone in his hands and stabbed the words, Yes, am on way. Will be there in fifteen.
He might as well have added, And stop calling me every ten minutes as if I were a little baby.
A man nudged past him forcing him to edge closer to the steel book stand. Momentarily off balanced, his hands rested on the edges of the stand, the fingertips involuntarily touching the phone, the phone that had so enslaved his attention for so long.
A stab of desire rushed through his heart; he felt his blood warm up as his face lighted up like a 100 watt bulb.
Seconds slipped by. He had to take a decision__either steal the phone that was clearly not his, or leave it where it was and head for phone.
For one agonising moment that seemed to stretch to eternity he mulled the options.
Finally, he succumbed to temptation.
Stealthily, he looked all around and forked his right hand and palmed the IPhone, safely tucking it in his trouser pockets.
In a flash he had strode past the reception area manned by a lone old man with his face buried inside a thick dog eared book, and hit the granite steps that led out to the main road.
Kolkata, though still early February, was baking hot.
Unmindful of the sweat and the grime, and the non-stop honking and clanking of heavy duty vehicles that symbolized quotidian big city life, Nikhil walked on, not for once breaking his long strides until he reached home.
There, inside the cocooned comfort of his room, and only after expending a good twenty minutes catching his breath, did he extricate the phone from inside his trouser pocket.
In near frenzy and with a palpitating heart, he stabbed the On button.
In a flash the phone buzzed to life; the screen came alive with the ubiquitous half-eaten apple insignia of the branded phone.
His back against the wall, head resting on the pillow, Nikhil waited with anticipated breath, ready to savour the charms of his fantasy phone, the one that he had seen in the hands of countless of his college friends, the very one he had lusted for all his life.
As the screen came alive, the first thing that cropped up in his mind was to remove the Sim card and replace it with his own.
As he flipped through phone’s myriad features, and was about to open it’s back over, a message that had sprung up on the screen caught his attention.
His curiosity aroused, he read it’s contents:
Dear Mom and Dad, I am about to end my life. By the time you read this I will be no more. I am sorry to have disappointed you. No one is to be blamed for my death. Hope you will forgive me. Yours loving son, Abhi.
Nikhil felt as if someone had smashed a ten tonne iron ball onto his head, smashing it into smithereens.
He bolted upright as his head began to swirl; his mind a mad medley of conflicting emotions that reeled against him with the force of a massive tornado.
By the time he came back to his senses, he was a sorry sight; his entire shaking and convulsing, copious sweat pouring out like a drain let loose of all dirt and grime, filling its surroundings with all manner of filth.
Filthy it was what he felt, as he sat there, all alone in his room, in his bed, reading the last dying message of a person to his parents informing them of his impending death.
For a long time, Nikhil stared into the phone, reading and rereading what was purportedly a suicide note, and as he did so he was doused in guilt.
How could he steal a phone that did not belong to him; worse, that belonged to someone who had decided to end his life?
How could he be so callous?
For the next few minutes, a melange of conflicting emotions raged his battered mind.
Later, much later, as his mind steadied, in the stillness of the hour, realisation dawned.
Whoever it was, the young man, and it was a boy for sure, was ending his life, and he needed to do something about it.
But what could he do? There was no one to turn to, no one who he could call, no one who he could inform about the impending suicide. Or was there?
He mulled over this for a while. Why would this person otherwise leave his phone, and that too at a public place, a place frequented by all, especially youngsters?
Maybe, he wanted to be found? Maybe it was his way of asking for help; maybe he had deliberately left his phone at the library so that it be found and his suicide message be read?
Maybe it was the cry of an anguished soul, a person depressed enough to contemplate suicide but still wanting help, looking out for someone to stop him from ending his life?
If so shouldn’t he do something before it is too late?
Nikhil sat bolt upright and thought about all this.
It was a good hour before had had ‘discovered’ the phone. Perhaps, the phone was lying there for an hour earlier than that.
Two hours? Wasn’t two hours too long a period for someone hell bent on taking his life?
Or, was it?
Nikhil was caught in the horns of a dilemma. Should he call up 100, inform the police, and risk exposing himself. What if they questioned him as to how he had come to acquire the phone? He couldn’t simply tell them that he had found it lying on the road, picked it up thinking he would return it to the rightful owner and chanced upon the fatal suicide note?
Or, could he?
This was no time to think over the consequences. He needed to inform someone, anyone who would be able to help save the boy’s life. His father, mother, a friend, or the police?
He decided it was best to call the police as time was running short.
It was the time to act, and act fast so that an innocent life could be saved.
So acknowledging, he got up from bed, extricated his phone, and dialled 100.
The Kolkata Police today managed to save the life of a young man, a 20 year old second year engineering student just when he was about to jump into the swollen Hooghly River.
The police are treating this as a suicide attempt and have found the tell tale signs of the infamous Blue Whale Challenge, the insignia of a bleached whale carved with a knife onto the left wrist of the young man. The name of the student is being withheld on the request of his parents.
The police were largely aided in their efforts by an unnamed person whose timely action, they say, prevented what could have been yet another statistic to the already burgeoning list of over 500 victims of the deadly life extinguishing game video that has gone viral all over the world.
Six months later…
“Our Nikhil has changed drastically, hasn’t he. I mean nowadays he simply listens to all that I tell him. On Sundays, he even helps me in the kitchen, cutting and chopping vegetables et al.”
‘Very true. Even I too have noticed the same. He sits with me and discusses about important world matters, even adding or clarifying things that I bet he wasn’t even aware of earlier.
“Let me go to the temple and pray.”
‘Yes, I may also join you. After all this is the age of miracles’.
©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #1891words