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Fiction Speculative Suspense

June, 2036

Loneliness bites harder than any other thing in the world. Till we are kids it is a generic word from Oxford dictionary, but once we are adults, it becomes the only word that is source of all our miseries.”

 

Those were the opening lines of Samantha’s diary. Though I didn't know who Samantha is, still I felt her pain flowing through my veins. Each word of her diary was laced with so much sorrow and pain that even the coldest of people would be forced to shed tears after reading.

 

The girl had poured her heart out. That day I felt that words are powerful beyond imagination. Though, they look like dead pieces scarred all over paper, but once they touch eyes of the readers, they are no less than a living creature.

I wanted to read further, but my wife wanted my help for some work. And no man on this planet can say no to the woman he loves, because you only live once……. Jokes apart, actually, we had loads of work to be done before the week would take a round turn to Monday.

*****

I am Rohan. I moved to Kolkata, India with my wife, Anjali, to handle some office work on 25th June, 2036. It was basically a shift made out of choice; my company was looking for a volunteer who would love to visit the city of joy for three months. I spent almost 10 years of life in this city. My father was an employee of a Kolkata based organization, so I was born here and was brought up till I turned 10 yrs old. Then we moved to Delhi and rest is the history. When my boss announced this news of temporary posting, I raised my arm as high as I could. I wanted to feel the warmth of this city and the lovely culture.

With the help of a broker, we took a 2 BHK flat on rent. The flat owner was a kind man. When we heard from him that the flat was lying vacant without any tenant from past four year, we imagined a worst possible scenario – walls decorated with spiders’ webs and lizards, dusty furniture, choked kitchen sink, etc. But the reality did not harmonize with our imagination. The owner did a great work of maintaining his flat, each wall was shining brighter and the furniture was squeaky clean as if they were polished just before we entered the building and the kitchen sink was in perfect state. Perhaps, the owner had spruced up the flat with a fresh coat of paint, as he wanted us to feel home. Anyways, me and my wife arranged all our stuff and it took us almost six hours. After this longest drill, Anjali drifted off in the living room on couch within seconds. Being alone and fresh, I started to dig every nook and corner of the house. While doing this useless job, I stumbled upon a small store room like wall mounted cabinet, which was located at farthest corners of our living room. Luckily, it was unlocked.

I rummaged through the cabinet and it was structured like a small tunnel. I crawled inside it with a torch. It had accumulated years of dust and dirt, there were few broken things dispersed all over. Wait! a diary! I crawled back from the cabinet along with the diary. It looked old. Its pages had turned yellowish, and the hard cover had been eaten away by mould.

I prepared some tea for myself and sat down on the dining table with the diary, which I was dying to read. Its first page had some scribbling on it. It’s the writer’s name along with a self-made quote on loneliness, perhaps she tried calligraphy for the first time. With great effort, I finally concluded that the writer is a female with name Samantha. I took a superficial look of the diary, and it appeared that Samantha did not have the habit of putting date for every entry. She had merged all events from one month under a single date.

*****

The Diary

March, 2020

I have never written diary in my life so far, as I used to believe that it is a useless hobby that is adopted by some maniacs. But who knew that one day I would also fall in this category – MANIAC.

It is that time of the year when Kolkata looks most beautiful. The weather stays pleasant and rainfall delays its arrival till month of June. Therefore, the killer humidity stays at bay.

I came to this city of joy last year only to join my first Company. I decided to put up in a 2BHK flat- in case my parents or siblings decide to visit me, otherwise 1 BHK flat would have been suitable for single girls like me- near the biggest mall. By the way, I am a software engineer and I love reading books. During this period of one year in Kolkata, I met a sweet boy – Anil. We enjoyed our relationship in every possible way, sometimes he even spent nights at my flat and we watched thriller or horror series on Netflix along with some red sauce past – my favorite.

But after sometime, we broke up. He is a Hindu and I am a Christian. The match was not suitable for our society. After our break-up, I became alone, I had no one to talk to. So, I started to spend maximum time of the day in my office and after office hours I used to do heavy workout to tire myself off, which helped me sleep like a baby. Whenever I skipped gym, I spent entire night like an owl and attended office next day like a Zombie.

One day, one of my colleagues- George- approached me and asked if he could buy dinner for me the next day – the weekend. He is one of my favorite person from the office. He does not talk much; he is a bit reticent. I don’t dislike people who are less talkative. Actually, I love them for it gives me an opportunity to display an art of excessive talking.

Without any hesitation or thinking, I blurted out “yes”. Ohh! God! even today when I recall that scene, I feel so ashamed of myself – almost mortified. I must have sounded desperate. But it appeared that the boy accepted my response whole-heartedly.

 

After I came back from office, I turned on TV after a long time as I felt like watching news. Reporters on every news channel were discussing a Virus, which was spreading with breakneck speed and was responsible for causing a contagious disease. They said, “The virus has caused many deaths so far in other countries and is solidifying its grip on India, too. The government has strictly advised everyone to use masks to prevent the spread.” The news did not appear very important to me, so I took a long pause and changed the channel to listen to some soothing music.

Who wants to get depressed over something which is not in control.

I picked my brand-new red dress and ironed it. Generally, I would watch a movie before the weekend, but since I had to look fresh like a morning dew for the date night, I worked out and slept like a log.

The next day, the date night – nothing happened.

On 22nd March, 2020, the government declared Countrywide Lockdown to be observed for one day to contain the spread of the virus. I felt bad for I knew that now the plan for dinner would be cancelled. Then I thought that we could keep it at abeyance till Monday, perhaps the lockdown would be lifted by then. The same evening, I received a call from George, he informed me that he left the city last night itself. He received some insider news from one of his friends working in Government Department that the whole country may shut down for at least a month. I shrugged off the false news of shut down for a month, for it had never happened before. I also got a bit angry over him for not informing earlier.

I wasn’t actually upset over his abrupt departure from the city. I was scared of being lonely, of being without company.

The next day – The mighty Monday- happened. The state of Country remained unchanged. All services, offices remained shut except for essential services. The depressing news was that the lockdown was imposed for one month with a probability of extension based on the situation. With the lockdown, all means of transportation were suspended and people were stranded in their present location. I was planning to go home – this plan also got cancelled.

I received calls from my parents and they expressed their sorrow over my situation. They were very upset. They asked me to stay indoors and to order food online. My mother got so anxious that she called me at least 10 times a day, just to remind me to sanitize everything; then, with time her anxiety petered out.

Every day, after waking up, I sanitized the entire flat. With little know about this virus, all we could do was to stay indoors and careful.

At the outset, it seemed possible to stay indoors and pass time. I kept myself engaged by binge watching TV serials. But with each passing day it became difficult. I felt as if I was not living, but trudging through a powerful storm and not able to move.

For the first time in life, I missed my office, my desk and the warm cup of coffee, which was served exactly at 10:30 am. 

The virus had become a celebrity by now, on every social media platform and on every news channel, everyone was having an everlasting debate over its seriousness and treatment. Since, it was a trying time for everyone, I felt that staying connected was the only best option. I called up few of my colleagues to check on them and extended my wishes to their family members.

Above all, every night when I went to bed, I just asked for one thing – God, please keep my parents and family safe.

April, 2020

The lockdown had been extended by one more month, till 30th April, 2020.

Somehow, I lived through every single day from the month of March, 2020. I had exhausted every source of entertainment. Now, the only things which I did to pass my time were – placing online order for food items and vegetable, cooking meals, washing clothes, doing workout (if I was in mood), sweeping the floor and dusting the furniture. I used to do these things earlier also, but I always loathed cooking, I never cooked a meal in life until now. In normal situation, I would either order food online or sleep on an empty stomach.

In last one month, I had not stepped out of my flat. My only source of connection to the outside world was the window in my bedroom, for which I am very thankful to My Flat owner. Every morning, I would prepare coffee and toasts for myself. I would sit by the side of the window and place my coffee cup on the window sill and enjoy every sip by looking outside. I would fix stare on the bulky tree planted in front of the window and observe the movement of the birds – specially crows- I found them fascinating. Rarely, I saw humans loitering around on roads with masks on. Occasionally, I witnessed police beating up people who broke law and moved outside without masks.

When it became almost unbearable, I started making video calls to my siblings and parents. Every evening, I would get video call from them and it would continue till I was asleep. But sometimes, it wasn’t possible for them to call me for many reasons; and on those days, I would look outside from the window like a lone caged bird.

One night, around midnight, When I was sitting by the side of the window, I saw someone move past through the window, in the opposite building.

Sorry! I forgot to mention that there is one more building built adjacent to mine and  windows from every flat of that building face mine.

I watched the retreating figure desperately and wished for its attention. Then again, it came back and sat by the side of her window just like me. it’s a young woman. We both were holding coffee mugs. At the stroke of serendipity, our eyes met and we passed inviting smile to each other.

Finally! I was no longer alone. I had a company. Above all, one thing was settled that we could talk because distance was the least, her name was Seenam. I got to know that she was performing all official tasks from home, so she generally got free after 9 pm. I was also working from home, but my working hours were flexible.

On the weekend, I sat by the side of the window at around 11:11 pm. I saw Seenam praying with folded hands. Her lips were moving softly and eyes were shut tight. Once she was done with the prayer, I asked her the reason for doing it at night. She told me about angel number 11:11. From her I got to know that whenever angel number appear on digital display or anywhere, one must make a wish and it comes true.

I heard Seenam with full attention, and I felt like giving it a try. The next day, exactly at 11:11, I made a wish – “Dear God, if you can hear me, please keep my family safe and please make everything normal. I don’t want to wear mask – it is suffocating. I want to see my parents and siblings. Please take care of everyone.” I made it a routine to check my clock and make a wish when clock struck 11:11.

During our one such daily conversation, we also exchanged our mobile numbers, in case any one of us felt lonely, one could make a call to the other one.

 

May, 2020

Since the cases of people getting infected from the virus did not reduce, government was forced to keep the lockdown in place for one more month, till 31st May, 2020.

With the arrival of month of May, the weather became sultry. It was the time of sweltering Indian summer.

At this time of the year, everyone needs air conditioner. It is kind of mandatory if you want to survive or else you will be slowly killed by the humidity. I checked my AC and turned it on, it made some high-pitched noise and then stopped. After that, I had to spend the entire day covered in sweat.

Next morning, I got a video call from my mother, she told me to clean the filters of Air Conditioner. I followed her instructions. Fortunately, it worked.

Thank God!

With the hue and cry everywhere, government had made the interstate travel possible by introducing the provision of e-pass. Everyone who wanted to travel inter-state had to download e-pass by filling up some required information.

I was planning to share the news with Seenam, but she did not sit by the window that day and the day after that. Perhaps, she had already left.

I became lonely again- A caged bird.

I wanted to download e-pass to travel to my home town, Delhi, but it was thwarted by my deteriorating health. I started to show some symptoms of the disease spreading worldwide. I had fever and running nose. Deep down I was convinced that my ailing health had nothing to do with the virus. But at the airports there was a team of practitioners who were examining body temperature and other symptoms. So, my travel was delayed till my recovery.

June, 2020

The nation is slowly lumbering back to normalcy. Now, there are few cases of virus reported on daily basis and very few people are dying from it. Hopefully, our medical experts will soon find its treatment.

Finally! The day arrived. I am going home. I also have e-pass with me. And luckily, my office has sanctioned me two weeks of leave.

Thank you, diary, for being my only friend. Thank you for giving me the hope and the chance to confide in you. 

*****

 

When the alarm started ringing at 6:00 am, I found myself lying on bed with the diary by my side. I immediately went to the other room, which Samantha mentioned as her bed room, to see the window. I could only find a square shaped bulging boundary of putty. There was no window. Though Samantha was hopeful that with time situation will normalize, the situation did normalize but in its own way. People have found the new normal. And, there is no window in any house. Outside air is still infectious and we hardly step outside. Masks have now become part of our lives.

My wife called out my name, and I rushed to the kitchen. I was actually assigned the task for getting vegetables from the market. I covered my body with breathable full sleeved costume and put a mask to cover my nose. With full preparation, I step outside like a warrior.

I don't know why, but I felt that Samantha might be alive and might be writing one more diary somewhere, but this time about something colorful and brilliant.

******


June 09, 2021 16:34

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