For context, you may want to read about the incident here. ( Warning-Graphic Content.)
He hated waiting at the bus stop. It was Christmas eve, something which he was being constantly reminded of by all the shops around him with their decorations of baubles and wreaths, some had even put up wishes for New year 2023. He should be home with her, not sitting on this hard metal seat waiting for a bus to show up. He looked over and saw that a new Ang Lee movie was playing in the theatres. The poster said ‘From the Director of Life of Pi‘. The memory of that night and feeling of dread came rushing to his mind. The bus stop, that movie and that night.
A movie reel started rolling in his mind. He remembered them walking out into the crisp night air after the movie ten years ago. He reached out for her hand. She always got too cold in air-conditioned rooms and he knew her hands would be as cold as death but by holding it in his, the warmth would soon be back. The night sky was inky blackness, any hint of stars all wiped away by the glaring street lights. The darkness was kept at bay by the lights and looked like a solid mass just waiting to rush in. They walked on in a comfortable silence. They could have hailed a taxi but she wanted to walk a bit and stretch her legs because according to her, sitting through a three-hour movie is torture for the restless kind.
The bus stop came into view. “Let’s take the bus.” she said and he agreed. They talked while waiting, she talked and he listened. He knew from experience that it was better to let her say all she had and that all that was required from him was the appropriate replies when she paused. He saw a bus coming and moved towards the road to signal the driver. They were just five people on it apart from the driver. The young guy in the front was egging them on to board the bus quickly. He looked back at her and saw her smile. He put his foot on the first step and pulled himself up. His head turned just a little as he climbed and he froze.
Five pairs of eyes were trained on her. Just her. He saw the gaze in their eyes, the street light made it look more menacing, giving it a steely glow. It was how a predator looked at prey, a look of hunger and a wish to tear someone apart. In that moment a cold dread clutched his heart. She was just about to climb in after him. He stopped her and climbed down. She protested, as always not aware of things around her. He took her hand and pulled her back towards the stop signalling to the driver that they won’t be getting on. The guy on the bus kept calling them back, his language turning from smooth to rough. His face showing anger at being denied what he wanted.
He knew what they wanted, it was Her. He held on to her hand and started walking away. He hailed down an autorickshaw that was rushing past them and told her to get in. The bus driver honked the horn but they did not look back. She kept saying they should have taken the bus and not wasted the extra amount on the rickshaw. He kept quiet and knew it was better to tell her about his reasons when she was finished with her rant. When her home came into view he breathed a sigh of relief. They were safe. She was safe.
He said good night. She still looked annoyed about his silence but said her usual good night wish “sweet dreams”. He went to bed thinking of the hungry look he saw in those eyes and the dread that crept through him. The next morning the sun woke him as usual. He woke up and made his coffee and picked up his newspaper. The first page was news about politics and politicians, the usual drama. He turned the page and blood froze in his veins. There they were, the six men on the bus. The headline read that they had kidnaped some girl but a police cruiser was passing by and caught them at the right time before they could do much more to harm her.
His hands would not stop shaking. Fate had dealt him a favourable hand that night or it could have been them that they took. He couldn’t stop trembling thinking about what would have happened had they got on that bus. His life was hers, their friendship had evolved into love. They had a life he had always dreamed of having. She adored their little boy and he could not imagine a life without her and their child. All of that could have been a lost in a minute had they got on that bus that night. A loud horn broke his trance. The bus was waiting for him. He got on, knowing this one was taking him home, to her.
About the Author
An alternative course of the events that became a case that shocked
our country where had fate transpired as it does in the story, a soul
that was lost would still be with us.
Sunita Menon is a twenty-five-year-old Keralite.An avid reader with interests in photography and writing short stories and poems. All of which she manages in between her work in a PSU and writing on her blog (Second Time Blogger(WordPress site)). She has lived in a lot of different places and currently calls Mumbai as her place of residence.
About the Illustrator
Aditi Mittal is a 19-year-old who resides in the city of Chandigarh where she goes by the name of Maditiss cause Mad-it-is. You can find her at an archaeological site or at her desk; painting her next masterpiece. You can find her artworks here and follow her on Instagram.
Memory of Fate is one of the many amazing submissions we have received for the third edition of the literary collection The Machinery.
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