He stood up. “This has to be done” he thought to himself. He was thinking out so loud that it felt like he was talking to himself.
“I have to do it if I want to move ahead with my life.” He continued. “Until I get rid of them all, it’s never going to happen. I’ll never be able to succeed in life. They will keep pulling me down. They are roadblocks, slowing me down, diverting me from the reality and making me follow them everywhere.” “It’s a wonder how the things that you have always wanted in your life, on which you have spent your wishes can become the things that you hate the most. If I continue to pursue my wishes, I know that one day I’ll get them. But it’s about what I am putting at stake for these things. It’s too much a cost. I think I wished the wrong wishes. I could have wished for family or friends. These wishes are making me fail.”
He had already made up his mind, maybe he was just trying to console himself. It seemed like he was having an argument with his heart. The heart wasn’t talking at all. It (the heart) knew this was bound to happen. So there was no point arguing about it. But still he went on to say it all, trying to convince the heart, trying to get it to understand why they had to do it.
“This seems to have become the only thing that I do now, even when I know that they don’t care about me. They never cared. I don’t want to end my life in love of the wishes that have no certainty of being fulfilled. It’s only because of my love to them that I am here, today, in this infinite dimension of nowhere.”
The heart had stopped listening a long time ago and had started preparing itself for what was to come. “I need to get out of here and that will not be possible unless I stop thinking about them. All of them, even her. Especially her”. It felt like for the first time the heart had raised his head to look at him then. He made eye contact with the heart and saw the desire which was way too much strong then his own thoughts. He quickly looked away in fear of defeat. He knew of only one thing that could diminish this desire and he went on to mention that. “It’s because of her that I have been losing people who really, actually care for me and love me”.
That broke the heart. It looked down again as he continued with a sense of victory, “I am losing true friends, even myself to these worthless beings. I can’t let it happen. I need to get rid of these wishes. I need to kill them. All of them, tonight.” and he began formulating a plan ignoring the heart altogether.
It didn’t take him long to come up with a plan. He had this, rat poison in the house for like forever. He thought, this is the way. “I can call them all here and then make them drink it. I can easily mix it in their drinks.” He could not think of a better use for the poison which has been bought to get rid of the only mouse in the house around six months ago and never been used. As he picked up the bottle, he remembered, she had a good laugh when she found out that he didn’t know how to kill a rat with rat poison.
But he now sure as hell knew how to kill people with it. I guess he watched a lot of Bollywood. He put the poison in a part of kitchen which was not visible from the room, where no one would notice it. Next, he needed to call them to his house. He took a piece of pen and paper and thought of making the list. List of the things that he wanted the most in his life and also hated the most. “Writing down their names will be enough for them to know that I want them here. After all, they all are my wishes.”
He moved around the square shaped room in which the study table and the one chair that he had bought from an auction at half its price were among the few things which occupied space in his one room kitchen set. There were mattress folded and stacked up in one corner of the room, which besides its usual purpose also served as a low sofa during the day. An Almirah in the other, which was a jumble of clothes and his empty suitcases. Attached to the room was kitchen, a small part of which could be seen from the front door itself.
Even before picking up the pen and the paper, he had known that the first name in his list should be hers. It has to be hers. She was the main hurdle in his life. She was like a milestone on a circular track, no matter how hard he ran, he kept coming back to the same point. He needed to get rid of her and her thoughts above everything else. That is what his mind had been telling his heart all this time.
Our mind and our heart work in very different ways. The mind is like a scholar, putting logic above everything else, trying to rationalise everything, look for the pros and the con’s, calculating probability in each case and making a decision accordingly. But the heart, it wants what it wants. It knows everything that the brain knows, all the probability and facts and statistics stuff, but it still does what it wants. It may know that it will never succeed but it goes on anyway. The common thing between them is that both of them want the same thing, to make him (The man) happy. In heart’s efforts to reach the unreachable is also his happiness. Whatever mind does, it has a strong background information and facts supporting it but our brain is sometimes too logical. It knows what is good for us, for our future, for our life but it isn’t always necessarily the same thing that we want. Heart knows us better, knows what we want. It rarely speaks but when it does, it demands to be listened. Heart had just been a listener up to this point but when it came to her, the heart behaved rebelliously. And once the heart has decided on something, then there is no point trying to convince it otherwise.
By the time he touched the ball point of the pen to the paper, his heart had decided otherwise. He had no other choice but to listen to the heart. He skipped her name and instead named the other one whom he loved and desired so wholeheartedly. “Money” he wrote down as the first name. He remembered how he had always dreamed of having loads and loads of money. How he wanted the leather boots when he was 13 and the new adidas at 21. He always wanted a bicycle when he was a kid and when he got it, it didn’t take even 6 months to get bored of it and how he had wished for a bike then. He always wanted expensive cloths, a wardrobe full like they showed it in the movies. A big new LCD TV and the latest Playstation and Xbox. He wanted his own place instead of this one bedroom kitchen, which he had to share with others at times. He wanted money, lots of it. He had been following money wherever it went but was never able to get enough of it. Every time he had a little more, his definition of “Enough” changed and he desired a little more. This constant running around had made him tired. It had turn him into a depressed soul. He would stay home on weekends, skip on parties and picnics. He wanted to kill money or at least his desire of it, so that he can be at peace and be satisfied with what he had.
While writing, he was at all times thinking of her, feeling a bit relieved knowing that she didn’t had to die and also becoming more and more confused about the purpose of all this if he didn’t include her name in the list but the feeling of relieve was greater than the confusion and made him to ignore the subject and move to the task at hand.
As soon as he wrote down “Money” on the paper, he heard his doorbell ringing. It was a simple Ding Dong followed by an electronic feminine voice saying “please open the door”. He got nervous at first thinking that his plan had been revealed but he had to keep his senses in control, never losing focus. He put the pen and paper in the drawer in a flash and locked it. He instantly looked all over the room for anything that will arouse suspicion and could not find anything. He went up to the mirror and quickly washed his face and set his hair. He felt a bit proud of himself at the thought of him showing such professionalism in his first kill itself. Till then the doorbell had rung twice. He shouted from the room itself,” Who is it”? A heavy, and purposely made robotic voice of a male said,” Please open the door” trying to mimic to doorbell. He instantly knew who it was. It was his first kill. It was money at the door.
He raced to the front door which actually were two doors. First one from the inside was a wooden door. It was in a bad shape, the ply was coming out at places, and hinges were lose. It looked like a door to a haunted house but didn’t made a screeching voice. He opened it in a swing and could see money standing outside. He looked like a normal person, not so rich but swaggy in his baggy brown coloured trousers and a pullover with a newspaper like print on it and a hoodie, and also a denim baseball hat which he wore sideways.
“Hey buddy, how are you?” He said opening the second door which was of wooden frame and had a metal screen for the rest of it.
“I am good if you have got something strong to drink in the house. It is freezing tonight.” Money said blowing in his hands.
“I sure do. Come on in” he said with a smile on his face.
As soon as they got in, he ran to the kitchen to get some whiskey for money. Money looked at him for a second and then found himself the only chair in the room.
“Is this the same chair we bought from that auction?” money shouted even though he wasn’t sitting very far from the kitchen.
“Yes. It is.” He answered in the same frequency from the kitchen mixing Jack denials with the poison. “Water or cola?”
“Nothing”. “It’s going antique. Why don’t you sell it? We will go buy a new one. It is an office chair anyway. It doesn’t belong here.”
He had the drinks ready by then and was coming to the room when he heard it. He decided to go back and add some more poison in his (Money’s) drink.
“Here” He said extending the glass half full to money and continued, “I like this chair. I can just drag myself around the house and I don’t ever need to get up except whenever I have to shit”. They both laughed a good laugh.
“Where is your glass?” money asked taking a large sip to get rid of his cold.
“It’s Tuesday.” He replied.
“Oh yes. It is. You are strangely religious. But why did you call me if not for a party?”
“I need to talk to you.”
“Okay.” By this time, money had finished his drink.
“We can’t be friends anymore. We actually were never friends. You were just pretending to like me, like you are a childhood friend of mine but we never were friends. I craved for you when I was a child. I used to swear to God that you and I will be great friends when I grow up, but it was a child’s wishes and childish wishes. Now I know that the most important thing in my life is not you but my friends. The true friends, actual humans. Not you, not just some desire of my mind and creation of my imagination. I needed to kill the desire to have you. I had to kill you.”
“By mixing rat poison in my drink?” money said. He looked at him (money) in surprise and horror, like a thief who has been caught while actually thieving. He could say nothing. His mind went blank. He could think nothing.
“It’s ok. Don’t be afraid. You are not the first one to do this? In fact I have had this rat poison so many times with so many different people that I can now recognise which brand of poison have been used in the drink. I could tell by the smell of it.” Money kept saying, his voice raising and getting slurry. “And you were right in saying that I am not your real friend. We, both of us, have been playing this game of make pretend for a long time. But do you know why we aren’t friends? It’s because of your desires. You wanted my friendship to serve your own interests. It was you, who was being selfish. You were trying to deceive me. How can you expect our friendship to be real then? I went on and encouraged you because I wanted to know if you would ever have the courage to confront your desires. And you do. This proves that you are a good person. Maybe we can be friends now?” He rose from the old office chair that he had sunk in to shake hands with him and collapsed on the floor.
Money was dead and so was his (killer’s) desire to own money. He was almost in shock and absolutely in panic. He wanted to shout out but he stopped himself. He knew that this is not going to help. If anything, a neighbour or two might come to ask what happened. So he remained quiet but he was still trembling. Even then it was amazing to see how wonderfully he was handling himself after committing his first murder. He was figuring out his next move. He took out his clothes and the empty suitcases out and put money’s body in the almirah. Then he arranged all the clothes in the suitcases except the grey hoodie which he wore to stop the shivering. He put the suitcases on top of the almirah so that nobody would notice. In just a few minutes, he had cleared up all traces on money from his house except of course the dead-body in the almirah. He then sat down thinking over the course of events that night and made sure that he had made no mistake. He actually was feeling a little less heavy in his heart. Soon he had fully recovered from the shock and had the pen and the paper ready for another kill.
He remembered how he wanted to become an actor when he was younger. Not because he had the necessary skills but because he wanted to be famous. He loved how actors made trends. Whatever they wore their fans followed. Their hairstyles were copied immediately and how the girls went crazy just at listening the name of their favourite actor. Plus an added advantage would be that he would have a lot of money if he is famous. He never thought about becoming master at a sport or joining politics because both of these required a lot of practice and time before gaining anything. But fame through acting comes without much initial efforts. “It’s all about a good face and some skills”, he used to think. He used to read interviews of celebrities and daydream about his own movies. Sometimes, he would try different dialogues and action sequences and felt proud of his abilities but he rarely made any attempts to become an actor. He never even participated in drama in school or graduation. I guess he was waiting for some miracle to happen where a director would spot him in the crowd and sign him to be the hero in his next movie, or something like that.
“Fame” he wrote down on the paper and quickly put the paper back in the drawer of his study-table.
Five minutes later, when Fame had not yet come, he took the paper from the drawer and checked the spelling. It was correct. He put the paper back in the drawer. He decided to wait for a while longer. “She must be busy”, he tried to calm himself.
It had been 10 more minutes before Fame knocked the front door. He went to the door and confirmed from the behind the screened door that it’s Fame, He opened the door. She was wearing a denim beanie hat, and a matching pea jacket. Her wayfarers were hanging out by one of her pockets.
“You are always wearing the best of dresses.” for a moment he forgot that he was going to kill her and was genuinely smiling.
“I have to look my best every day. I meet so many people.” she argued as she leaned towards him for a hug.
As soon as she got in the house, she looked at the chair and said, “Aha, the antique chair from the time of British. Which English lord did it belong to again?”
“It’s either this or the low sofa. Your choice.” He replied pointing towards the mattress folded into one corner of the room. He was back on his killing track again just in a moment and asked, “Care for a drink?”
“Nah, not tonight. I have got this promotion thing.” She said, still deciding on whether to sit on the chair or not.
“Some coffee then? It is cold and you have to be up till midnight I suppose.” he was now getting desperate. If she refuses for coffee than what would he do? How would he kill her?
She looked in his eyes like she was trying to read his mind and said after a few minutes “Coffee sounds good.”
He immediately went off to the kitchen, fearful to face her and maybe trying to get it over with as soon as possible. It didn’t take him much time to make the poisoned coffee, this time he had made sure that there is no smell of rat poison but just of coffee. When he handed the cup to her, she took it with a “Thank you”.
“Drink. It’ll get cold.” He said moving back to the table. He noticed that she hadn’t taken a sip out of the cup. When he looked at her, she said, “So, this is it? You don’t want any of us here?” This time he was not surprised. He kept a straight face and kept staring at her.
“I know what you are thinking. We all know. Money knew. But I think he didn’t tell you. He knew all this even before coming down to your place. He knew even before he came here that he was going to die. I knew it as soon as you had remembered me and wrote my name on that list. You have to understand, we are part of your imagination, and we were born in your brain. We know each and everything that you are thinking about, especially when it’s about us.”
“Then why did you come here? If you knew you were going to get killed.”
“Murdered.” She corrected him. “And I have already answered that. I came here because I am a part of you. We are all parts of you. We have to do what you think, what you want us to do. If not, would writing down names on a piece of paper be enough to call us? It’s not a choice for us and we have learned to embrace it that way. But you must know something else too. Killing us won’t gain anything. You see, we are hypothetical in nature. We don’t exist in reality. It’s not possible to kill us but we will go away from your thoughts. Our imaginary nature is true to the extent that you can put money’s dead body out here in the open instead of your almirah and no living thing will notice it. It will only decay here as it decays in your mind. Our death will only hold to be true till you want us to be dead. The moment you think of us as necessities, we will rise again. You can kill us a thousand times if you want. But you see, it won’t help us to become true friends. We can’t be friends with you until you make some real effort towards our friendship. And that won’t happen until you stop dreaming about us instead of taking real steps towards us. It doesn’t matter how slow you are going but you must move, you must make an effort. Then only we can be friends.”
The coffee had already gone cold by then. She gulped the whole cup in one go.
He kept writing names and killing the desires. After a while when he thought had finished, he sat down on the low sofa and instantly went to sleep.
He woke up to another ring on the door. He had not written any names this time. With this realisation, he instantly came to his senses and looked around in the room if anything looked suspicious. Once he was sure, he opened the door.
“Hi Ashu.” She said in her soft and tinder voice with a smile that always made his eyes shine. It was her. The love of his life. The biggest wish of all. The one for he had wept in the rain, in his dreams, whenever he was drunk and when he wasn’t.
“Hi”. He had his mouth open in surprise. He had never expected her here. And he was sure that he had skipped her name. “What are you doing here?”
“What do you think? You were thinking about me. Did you think that I wouldn’t know? Come on. I am not as dull as you are.” She said getting inside.
“I am not dull“. He had forgotten the frustration, the planning, the list, the rat poison and the killings too. He was just trying to do his best in humour.
“Yes you are.” She said laughing and hugged me in a way that was very different than that of fame’s hug. Fame’s hug was from a distance, with only one hand being around his shoulder. But when she hugged me, there was no distance, no formal feelings. Her cheeks were touching his, and she had both her hands wrapped around his back. She held him tight until his own hands rose and wrapped around her. It was a feeling that he had forgotten about. It was then that he realised that how much he missed her. He felt like melting in her arms. He felt his legs giving up on him like his blood had stopped running and his heart had stopped beating. It had been years since he last saw her but he had never stopped loving her. He had waited every day for this. And every night when he slept, he had cried in disappointment. She had made him realise how emotional he was back in the days in just a few seconds since they met. They had been like that for a few seconds before she whispered in his ear,” I missed you too”.
He smiled. It meant him his world to hear those words from the girl that he had loved his whole life. He let go of his grip around her and invited her in.
As soon as she got in, she said,” I love this chair. It will go a long way. This chair is a keeper.”
“No, I am a keeper. I have taken care of it for so long”. He tried to boast.
“You are not a keeper.” She said jokingly with a mix of sarcasm.
He knew what she meant. He also knew that it was a joke. He didn’t try to explain himself but replied, “No, you are not a keeper.” To which she smiled.
He realised what he had said and quickly tried to change the subject,” But I have always liked this sofa better. It’s just perfect height and everything”. Hearing this she moved to the sofa and sat on ii with a little hop.
“Do you have any coke? I would kill for some coke right now” She said after a while.
“But it’s freezing. You would get cold.” He said with genuine concern.
“So what? Would that stop you from kissing me?”
At this point his smile faded. He now realised that she was also pretending to like him. That she also was nothing but a wish. For a second he was furious. He knew that she was only behaving like he would have wanted her to. “Not at all.” He said going back in the kitchen where he mixed all the remaining rat poison with the coke.
She heard the clinking of glasses. “Forget about glasses, I’ll drink from the bottle itself. You won’t have any clean glasses anyway.” She laughed with the last sentence.
His anger went away in a breath hearing that laugh. It was the same as he had remembered. She would put her hand on her wide open mouth while laughing. Her eyes almost closed. It was the laugh to die for. He had already mixed the rat poison in one of the glasses of coke by then. He turned around to say something to her but he found her standing on the kitchen door and staring at him. He had already thrown the empty bottle of rat poison in the dustbin. He kept staring at her keeping a straight face.
She said,” I love you even more when you work in the kitchen”.
“No“. He said firmly.
“What?” She was surprised at hearing this.
“No, you don’t love me. And you didn’t miss me. If you would have you would have tried to contact me. You would have at least talked to me once a while. You don’t love me at all.” He fought hard with his tears.
“You are wrong. I do love you and I did miss you. But you are forgetting something. Didn’t fame tell you all this just now? I am a part of your imagination. I am not the real her. I am just her abstract. I am whatever is remaining of her in your mind, in your memory. I love you because you remember her loving you. I miss you because you think that she misses you. I am everything that you think she is or she was. I am not the real her but that doesn’t mean that my feelings are not real.”
He couldn’t say anything to that. It was the harsh reality that he had to face. He made a strong face and said, “I am sorry. Go on. I am bringing the drinks.”
She turned around and went back to the sofa. He brought in two glasses of the Coke that remained since last week’s pizza. He offered her a glass. He took support from the table with the other glass. She sipped from her glass while he was taking large gulps. She saw that and said,” You aren’t getting any from mine”.
He said nothing to that but smiled at her. He got off of the support as he prepared himself for his speech.
He started, “You say, you are not the real her but just an abstract. I don’t love the real her. I haven’t loved the real her for long now. I have loved you.” She looked down as her cheeks wore the shades of red, just as he had remembered her being shy.
He smiled and continued,” Whatever memories that I have, I have with you, not with her. Whenever I imagined my future, I imagined it with you, not with her. Whenever I cried, it was you who came to console me, not her. You always understood me, she never did. She has faded in my memory but you are becoming clearer as the day with every thought. You are with me every second, every moment. I cannot imagine my life without you. That is how much I need you. That is how much I love you“.
All of a sudden his hands started shaking and he couldn’t hold on to his empty glass anymore. It fell on the ground. Hearing the shattering sound of the glass, she looked up and saw him falling down. In a moment she realised what had happened. She caught his hand mid-air but his weight was too much and she couldn’t hold on. As he fell back his head hit the sharp corner of the table first and the floor next. The blood drops splashed all over the floor. She sat down and took his head in her lap. She started crying.
“Why? Why did you do it? You knew I am not real. Why didn’t you let me die then?”
He raised his hand and touched her cheeks still as soft as he had remembered. “I know you are not real but you are mine. I didn’t want the reality, I wanted you. Now that you are here, I couldn’t possibly think of letting you go again.” He looked in her eyes. “I love you and I missed you a lot.” This is all he could say. After that his mouth started foaming and his throat chocked. He wanted to say a lot of things but he couldn’t. His senses had started betraying him. His vision got blurred. He struggled hard to find her in all this blur but all he could see was and abstract. He had remembered this from the countless times when he woken up in the shade of her hairs and the brightness of her face. The memory brought a smile on his face and slowly he drifted towards death.
In the end, he could only hear her moaning and crying. Why was she crying? Because she truly loved him and this is what he wanted. To be loved by her till he died. His last wish was fulfilled.