Peristalsis- Part 1

Submitted into Contest #55 in response to: Write a story about a meeting of a secret society.... view prompt

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Mystery

Author's note: Hey, guys! Just wanted to say that this story actually has nothing to do with the prompt. It's part of a slightly long story I've written and I just wanted some feedback.

It mostly won't be approved, as it is unrelated, but hopefully you'll enjoy it. So, Judges, unless you're looking for a fun read, please ignore this. It doesn't relate.

Part 2 will come out later this week. Thanks!

P.S. Sorry for the awkward separations.


On a bright, sunny Thursday morning, I received a letter. I walked over to the mailbox and struggled with the latch for a while, to no avail. I cursed and struck it strongly with the palm of my hand, but that just led to my palm hurting and becoming an angry shade of pink.

In the end, I pried it open with a rusty crowbar, that promptly split in half the moment I got the mailbox open. Luckily, it didn’t split before.

The letter was from an unknown address. I was intrigued; I mostly got mail from my parents from their retirement vacation in Barcelona or from my firm.

This must be some advertisement, I thought to myself. I went back inside the house, looking for a knife. My dog, a young golden retriever, barked and nosed at the letter.

“Down, boy,” I ordered. Being a very disciplined dog, it sat immediately, only letting out a short bark.

I jogged to the kitchen and slit the envelope open. The letter was short, and ran as follows:

Dear Abhishek,

How are you, my old friend? I hope your parents are doing well too.

I am writing this letter as a formal invitation to the grand opening of my new vineyard of the brewery I run. This wonderful occasion will be held on the twenty-ninth of June. Please do try and attend. The address and exact time are given at the back. My family and I await your presence.

Thank you and regards,

Ranchod Sharma

“Well, I’ll be damned!” I exclaimed. “It’s old Ranchod!”

Ranchod Sharma was a college mate of mine. He was two years my senior and a clever little fellow. We had first met in the college washroom, where he and his cronies used to bully any freshman. Unfortunately, that included me.

On our first meeting, he had taken my watch, which was a gift from my uncle, for getting into a prestigious college. The professors loved him, so I didn’t complain. The next time he tried to bully me, I stood up for myself. He must have liked that, for he stopped bullying me after. I think he stopped bullying anyone after.

We became friendly after that, but not too close. And after he graduated, we lost contact completely. I heard about him on the news just once, something about a progressive education programme, but that’s it.

That must have been, what, twenty, almost twenty-five years ago. But here he was, out of the blue, sending me an invitation to his vineyard opening, while I barely remember how he looked.

The whole of the next day, I pondered over the letter. Should I attend? But it might be a bit awkward. There had been just a single college reunion before, and I hadn’t attended that because of work. Would I recognize anyone? What if I misidentify someone? Heck, what if I misidentify Ranchod? That would be the worst shame.

In the end, I thought, what the hell? It couldn’t do me any harm, and meeting my old college mates would probably just be good for me. I decided to go.


The morning of twenty ninth was cold and cloudy, in complete contrast to the week before. I woke up early and took extra care to get ready. I searched for something formal to wear, but couldn’t find any, so I had to borrow my neighbour’s tuxedo.

It was a black one, like most others, with a red bowtie. The trousers were a little short, but I could probably manage. I emptied what was left of the cologne bottle on me (which was more than I thought) and oiled and combed my wild mane with a neat side partition.

I was due at the vineyard in about two hours and it would take me just half to get there. So I thought I’d check up about Ranchod and some of my other college mates on social media.

Ranchod was very active on social media. He posted pictures of himself everywhere he went. I got to know that after graduating from college, he went to do his Masters at a prestigious and exorbitant university abroad. Then he started a very successful data protection company. He also bought a summer house (mansion) in France, beside which he bought some fifty acres of land for his vineyard.

He travelled all over the world in his private jet. There were pictures from Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Australia… The list was endless.

He met Elena Ivanova in Russia and they got married two years later. Elena’s supermarket franchise was now run by both of them jointly, and they had an almost equal partnership in his data corporation and other ventures.

In short, he lived a dream life. But after some years, he quit social media completely. He hadn’t specified why.

I glanced at my watch and cursed. I was so engrossed in looking up Ranchod and the others that I didn’t even realize that I should have left half an hour ago. I quickly checked myself in the mirror one last time, grabbed my flower bouquet and ran outside, searching for a taxi. No luck. Why is it that something disappears just when you want it?

I finally found a taxi after fifteen minutes of running and was at the vineyard twenty minutes late.

I smoothed my hair, wiped my face thoroughly with a handkerchief and got out. I adjusted my pants and coat and walked inside the tall, golden gates.

The vineyard was sprawled over an extremely large area. It was lined with tall thick bushes at the perimeter. Once inside, some area of lawn was left open, and beyond was the actual vineyard. Towards the right, in the distance through a stone path, was a large building, presumably to store, process and package the wines. One could vaguely make out a smaller glass building next to that; most probably a small outlet of Ranchod’s own private brand.

The open area was where all the guests were converging. Some of them had strayed a little into the vineyard. A large temporary pavilion was set up, which housed beautiful arrangements of wine crates and bottles. At the centre was a stage with an ornate marble pedestal. On it, stood a glass case with a wine bottle inside. The stage was currently occupied by a string quartet and a piano playing a Russian folk song.

I walked in, sweating slightly, despite the distinct chill. Most of the guests were forming little groups and chatting animatedly. I was feeling a little left out, when I spotted Ranchod. He was hanging around near the stage with two or three other people, laughing and talking.

The first thing I noticed about him was how fat he had become since his last post. He must have put on thirty kilograms at least. I walked up to his clique, with the bouquet in my hand and squeezed my way past two gentlemen into the little circle Ranchod and his friends had formed.

He looked at me a little puzzled, at first, then he recognized me. “Abhishek, my dear boy!” He strode forward, a trifle unsteadily and crushed me in a fierce embrace. The stench of smoke hit me hard and it was all I could do to keep my nose from seizing and dying.

“How have you been? Let me look at you. Ai, ai,” He made a tutting noise, “You have become so thin.” He turned to his friends, “This is my old college friend, Abhishek. Abhishek, this is Mohan, one of my biggest investors, and this you probably remember, is Ranjith from college.”

I nodded, vaguely recalling him from college. He was in Ranchod’s class, and always used to hang around with him.

“Hello,” Mohan said brightly.

Ranjith nodded at my way. He was dressed in a grey suit, with pointed black shoes. His small, dark eyes darted this way and that, never stopping, drinking in every detail about everyone and everything. He had neatly combed his hair, which was streaked with grey occasionally, and he had a salt-and-pepper beard that lent about him a distinguished air that superseded even our generous host’s; although not much can be expected of a smoking drunk, however wealthy.

“… and he now works as a very well-known food critic abroad…” Ranchod was saying about Ranjith.

“Oh, really?” I asked. “I’m quite a food lover myself.”

Ranchod stopped, looking a little confused, then his face broke into a genial smile. “Yes, how could I forget? This man here has a gift of the tongue. He cooks very, very well, and can tell without the slightest hesitation what most of the ingredients are in a dish, having tasted it only once.”

“Ah, that’s a little too much,” I said, my cheeks turning a deep pink.

“Oh, no,” Ranjith spoke for the first time. His dark eyes finally froze and bore straight into mine, and despite myself, I cowered (not visibly, though). “There’s no point in being modest here, is there?”

His voice was slightly different than I remembered it to be (not, I must add, that I remembered much). He spoke softly, but his voice resonated, washing over the whole group, even though we were outdoors. He spoke with a slight European accent. Spanish, maybe? No, more east, maybe French? German? I couldn’t say for sure; I’m not very good with foreign accents.

A waiter arrived with glasses of wine and cigarettes.

“No, thanks,” I said, grabbing just a glass. “I don’t smoke.”

Ranchod looked at me concernedly, “Oh, no, I hope you don’t mind if we smoke ours! Gentlemen, I’m afraid we’ll have to put aside our insatiable desire for the tobacco for a little while.”

“Absolutely not, my dear Ranchod, you and your friends may do as you please. It’s perfectly fine.” I said, against all my instincts; I’m a polite person.

“No, no. It’s fine if we don’t smoke for a little while. Anyway,” he laughed, “I think we’ve had a tad too much, haven’t we?”

It was quite evident from his breath that wafted over me.

Mohan took a glass and raised it. “To this vineyard!” he said, slurring his words.

“Not now, Mohan,” reprimanded Ranchod, “That happens when I crack open the first bottle of this vineyard!”

Mohan nodded sheepishly, a strange smile on his face. Then a tall, thin woman joined us, whom I recognized as Elena. She was much taller than I thought; she towered over everyone else, and while I don’t claim to be a Goliath, she rose a good two inches over Ranjith too, who was no joke.

“Darling,” she said, brushing her lips against Ranchod’s cheek. Then her voice turned sharp, “I told you not to get drunk today! And stop smoking those filthy cigarettes. They’ll kill you before you open this vineyard!”

“I haven’t drunk much today, Elena, don’t worry. Only maybe,” he frowned as he tried to remember, “What comes after eleven?”

“Ranchod!”

“I’m joking, my dear, only joking.”

Elena’s eyes settle on me. “Ranchod, you didn’t tell me you have guests with such fine taste. I told you, you should have worn a tuxedo. Look how smart he looks.”

I coloured for the second time that day. “You are too kind, Ms. Ivanova.”

She looked at Ranchod in surprise. “You have introduced me already?”’

“No,” he said, looking just as puzzled. I hastened to explain, “I remember seeing your photograph on Ranjith’s social media a few years ago.”

She nodded. “Well,” she said, waving a fair, bejewelled hand, “make yourself at home. We have, obviously plenty of drinks. The actual ceremony will start shortly.”

I nodded. Then she whispered something to Ranchod, who made a face and shook his head. Then she gave us one last smile, and walked away.

“That was my lovely wife, Elena,” Ranchod said, smiling.

“Yes, we know,” said Ranjith, who was starting to seem more and more like a caretaker for Ranchod.

We sipped our drinks quietly for a while, then Mohan excused himself to go have a smoke. Ranchod glanced at his wristwatch, and gasped. “Oh, God! I’m late!”

“Well, that makes two of us,” I muttered into my drink.

“Sorry?” said Ranjith.

“Nothing,” I replied, a little too hurriedly. Ranchod continued, oblivious to the interruption, “I was supposed to be at the factory ten minutes ago, you see, so if you will excuse me, gentlemen. Feel free to have as many drinks as you like. The tour will commence in a moment.”

He left, and soon afterwards, I did too. I didn’t feel like hanging around Ranjith; the man gave me the creeps.



August 17, 2020 05:06

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20 comments

Rambling Beth
10:52 Aug 17, 2020

I thought this was really engaging. I particularly liked Ranchod and Elena, there seems to be a story there! Elena doesn't seem too fond of him, and Ranchod seems far too content with his life to strike me as truly happy with his marriage. I liked your main narrator, he was likeable (always important) and quite funny at points. The awkwardness with Elena springs to mind. I'm very curious to see where this story will go! :)

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Nandan Prasad
12:11 Aug 17, 2020

Thanks so much! Your comment means a lot.

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Nandan Prasad
11:23 Aug 20, 2020

Hey, just wanted to let you know that Part 2 is out, if you want to read it. Thanks!

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Anthony David M
05:14 Aug 29, 2020

The story is engaging and I want to read more

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Nandan Prasad
05:58 Aug 29, 2020

Thanks! You can find Parts 2 and 3 in my Stories page. Like if you enjoyed!

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17:22 Aug 23, 2020

P.S. would you mind reading my recent, '?"How's Breakfast daring?" And "Strange Inmate 2" THANKS! Wonderful story once again!

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Nandan Prasad
01:56 Aug 24, 2020

Sure, I'll definitely get around to it soon!

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06:41 Aug 24, 2020

:D

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17:20 Aug 23, 2020

I enjoyed this story Nandan! Every bit if it!☺️ It was quite INTERESTING! And I really loved your descriptions, I imagined every single scene! I loved this so much. Keep it up!

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Nandan Prasad
01:56 Aug 24, 2020

Thanks so much!

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Juhi Garg
11:46 Aug 19, 2020

This is written very well. felt like a fly on the wall. It was simple, yet interesting. A prime example of the fact, that Good writing needs no shenanigans and stunts to keep the readers engaged. Looking forward for the rest.

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Nandan Prasad
11:57 Aug 19, 2020

Thanks so much!

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Nandan Prasad
11:23 Aug 20, 2020

Hey, just wanted to let you know that Part 2 is out, if you want to read it. Thanks!

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J.L. Schuhle
18:39 Aug 18, 2020

You painted a very detailed visual of the scenery, well done! The ending has me wanting more, I’m excited for the next installment!

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Nandan Prasad
01:55 Aug 19, 2020

Thanks so much!

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Nandan Prasad
11:23 Aug 20, 2020

Hey, just wanted to let you know that Part 2 is out, if you want to read it. Thanks!

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👏👏👏

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Nandan Prasad
12:11 Aug 17, 2020

Thanks a lot!

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Nandan Prasad
15:18 Aug 20, 2020

Hey, just wanted to let you know that Part 2 is out, if you want to read it. Thanks!

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Okay!

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