Four to Three

Submitted into Contest #205 in response to: Make your protagonist go through a rite of passage.... view prompt

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Contemporary Fiction Inspirational

I screamed as furiously as the capacity of my lungs would allow but the words refused to travel the distance. My eyes, bursting with dread and horror, scanned the whereabouts of my new abode. I was hemmed in by some brownish material that felt hard and soft at the same time. I lay in a narrow, confined place that was just enough to house the length of my frame with the tip of my toe struggling to contain itself within the boundaries. A piece of white cloth was wrapped around my body and I could not breathe at all. I feared for my death out of suffocation but here the laws of life did not apply much. Somehow, I continued to breathe despite having no space to inhale. I was all alone without a single companion to sense or share the travails that my so called 'body' was going through. I scrabbled here and there but my limbs were lifeless and any kind of mobility had been extracted away. This state of affairs terrified me and a nagging fear over came the remains of my senses. I kept staring at the structure of my house but could not make any head or tale of it as it was submerged in total darkness.

As time went by, I began to make some sense of my condition. One thing was certain, this was a completely different place from the one that I was used to living in and I was certainly in another dimension. As I was wondering about the limited choices that I had, I was shaken by a booming voice that alerted even my numbest limbs. "Welcome to your new home, my friend. You are going to live the rest of your life here." My breath which was already acting mysteriously hung in the middle of nowhere and I listened to his words in despair.

"Here, the rules of life that you have lived do not apply. There will only be justice and fair play. Any cheating on your part will be exposed right at the moment of execution." The voice continued.

"But where am I and what did I do to deserve all this?"

There was a sarcastic laughter in response. It started and took some time to wind down to an absolute stop. This unexplained laughter further baffled me.

"How disingenuous you are or just pretending to be! you remember how you treated your sister when she needed you the most. Your life that was going to pieces was stitched together by her but in return you left her in the lurch after her divorce."

" But I did give her some financial support and I had my own life to govern as well." As soon as he uttered these words, he was pinched in the arm by a piercing needle-like object and he exclaimed dreadfully.

"Did you notice the spontaneity of the response. I am true to my word unlike your worldly dwellers who speak less and double speak more."

I was now convinced about the purity of the justice system that my newly found companion had established. It would reward and punish instantly without the possibility of any manipulation that is taken for granted in our kangaroo courts.

" Let me regale you now with the details of a beautiful act of yours. Do you remember handing over 1000 rupees to a toilet cleaner without any prompting? You tried to keep it under wraps even after depositing it in his palms and furtively proceeded to another spot in the mall."

This disclosure drew a whiff of fragrance from the side of my earthy bed. I was surprised by its production since there was no space for its emergence but it energized my frame that was being slowly drained by the extraordinary presence of my interlocutor.

" Then, I observed you in the classroom. You were a teacher and trying to console a student who had flunked his final exam. Everybody discouraged him but you put your affectionate hand over his shoulders that diminished the fading glint in his eyes."

This statement semi-released my half frozen legs and I began to move them a fraction. I was delighted to see this effect and it brought back some hope that was rapidly depleting by the riot act read by my strange companion who was in control of things. But this was only the start with a long way to go. It was a competition between my deeds and misdeeds and I was scared about the result. I refused to give myself a clean chit and even the slightest tilt towards the evil side would give the verdict against me. This very thought stifled me and the little energy that had been restored again departed to unknown territory. My companion was noticing the contortions of my face. Even in this condition I was not able to hide the expression of my heart from my face and gave it away despite making awkward attempts at concealment. "And this adds another cap to your feather. The voice continued. " "Despite having your share of wickedness in your interaction with your comrades, you were never really good at masking your impressions." With this admission on the part of the stately voice, I began to feel an expansion of space holding my frame. Suddenly I could see some release of taut body nerves and relaxation of my clenched organs as they found some elbow room.

The voice then read out the next installment of accusation or acquittal (hard to tell what was in store) without revealing its features.

"Then, one day you remember, while on your way to your office within the precincts of the place where you worked, you shook hands with all your colleagues that you met but when you bumped into the gardener, you refused to shake hands with him. If only you could see the wistfulness in his eyes, you have thought twice before acting so uncompassionately." With the utterance of these words, something bit the tip of his forehead so sharply that he cringed in pain.

"Also, remember the time when you had recently published an article in a leading newspaper and bragged about your intellectual gift. But the other occupants of that gathering were all deprived of education not because of any fault on their part but because of the poverty of their circumstances. But your stiff demenaour belittled them further and they felt whittled down to small fragments. With this shocking revelation I saw a frightful snake appear right in front of me and biting me viciously in my stomach. I screeched in agony and could not say a word for some time.

" Your friends in the world feel as if they will get away with all their aberrations and yet stake a claim in the VIP compartment. It is not so easy. You have to earn it with the purity of intent, discipline of execution and exhibition of restraint against temptation."

I was speechless. All along my journey in life I always had a feeling of getting away with the little discrepancies that it offered but this was my moment of truth. Even a marginal dominance of my wicked side would condemn me to damnation for ever.

"What is your score so far?" the voice tauntingly asked him.

"I don't seem to remember." I mumbled a response.

"Ok i will help you, it is 3 to 3." The voiced smiled meaningfully. This one will clinch the deal for you.

"You remember how you broke the heart of your wife by sitting as a group in the lounge of your house and not bothering to invite her over to be a part. She wept silently over this torture but didn't protest even marginally." with this I felt a burning sensation over my body that seared my feet and made me so thirsty as if I hadn't gulped down water for days. I was now convinced of my conviction. The ruling was 4:3 in favour of the wicked side. I waited with bated breath to be thrown into hell fire. Any moment I would be attacked by deadly creatures who would bite me savagely. I could not even visualize the extent of the torture that I was about to undergo. But nothing happened even after the passage of 5 minutes. after that I slowly opened my eyes and felt a gentle breeze blowing under my feet, providing a cool shade in this oxygen less place. I also noticed a small plantation inhabiting some pretty flowers. I plucked a flower and sniffed it indulgently. The score of 4:3 had been made 3:4 and it brought a smile on my face even under these harrowing conditions. The mercy of nature is much stronger than its punishing impulse!

July 05, 2023 19:36

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10 comments

Lynel Black
08:17 Jul 11, 2023

Nice build up Shahzad. You touched on a theme that easily inspires other writers so maybe many of them are like me already contemplating writing a short story inspired by yours. Possibly the highest compliment a writer could get. I am now jealous! Heehee

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Shahzad Ahmad
09:47 Jul 11, 2023

Dear Lynel. Your comment is so motivating and uplifting and makes me so happy. Thank you for such a lovely message. I hope your stories also get the same inspirational treatment.

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Shannon C.
22:48 Jul 09, 2023

The scales of judgement before our eternity has always been an underlying fear of mine. Being wrapped up and unable to breath is so unnerving. Mercy prevailed. This was a great read!

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Shahzad Ahmad
07:10 Jul 10, 2023

Thanks Shannon for appreciating my story. It adds to my motivation. Good luck with your stories.

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Mary Bendickson
15:07 Jul 06, 2023

Naturally nature wins.🌻 See you have been reading and liking a few of my stories. Thank you Thanks for liking But first...tacos

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Shahzad Ahmad
18:41 Jul 06, 2023

Thanks Mary for your comment. It means a lot to me.

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Kevin Logue
11:44 Jul 12, 2023

Tense and suspenseful Shahzad, some very nice prose here too. Well done and good luck this week. The POV shift caught me off guard but still readable.

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Shahzad Ahmad
12:13 Jul 12, 2023

Thanks Kevin for your kind words. Good luck with all your stories too.

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Mike Panasitti
14:16 Jul 11, 2023

Except for some odd shifts in point of view from first to third person, this is very well written. The first paragraph hooked me and reminded me somewhat of Mohsin Hamid's style, but devoid of the gritty, realist subject matter. Nicely done and thanks for sharing.

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Shahzad Ahmad
14:35 Jul 11, 2023

Thanks Mike, it is a great compliment to compare me temporarily with Mohsin Hamid. I believe I should have stayed with first person but may have unwittingly slipped. I hope your stories also get a great treatment.

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