I am uploading a short story which I had submitted for TOI Write India Contest.
Passage was given by Author Ashwin Sanghi.
I am uploading a short story which I had submitted for TOI Write India Contest.
Passage was given by Author Ashwin Sanghi.
Passage by Ashwin Sanghi
I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven..."
Rules by the Author
1. All interpretations of the opening passage are fair game 2. You could choose to write the rest of the story in ANY genre... surprise me 3. The story MUST be written in the first person 4. Be imaginative and have lots of fun 5. I am less concerned about words and much more about the story... simply spin a great yarn
Story starts now...
Shot To Fame
I tried to keep my cool amidst the sharp cries emerging from strangers dumped along with me. Searing pain from the wound submerged under the oozing blood was unbearable. I tried to touch my wound but my hands landed up on someone else’s bleeding limb. Wailing sound of the siren of the ambulance in which I was travelling to an unknown destination interrupted my subconscious thoughts. Somewhere in a corner of my mind, a journalist stuffed a microphone in my mouth and asked me, “How are you feeling now?”
I don’t want to die…I want to live!...
I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. "Ten, nine, eight, seven... three, two, one…zero”, I pounced on him, shoved his hand holding AK 47 which was spitting bullets incessantly, but he dodged my assault and knocked me with the butt of the rifle. I tumbled to the ground, in a trice he pointed the flash suppressor of the rifle to my forehead, and bullet was ready to exit from the muzzle. A wicked smile shone on his face on seeing my helplessness. He was about to pull the trigger…suddenly the door opened, an army man entered and fired at the terrorist. Terrorist collapsed to the ground but not without injuring me. One of the stray bullets hit my torso and blood started trickling from the wound. Army commando lifted me with his hands…
“Cut!” Director Yash shouted in a high-pitched voice.
“Wow! Arjit, you rock!” He hugged the commando aka Arjit Kapoor, the latest bollywood sensation.
He entered in the last scene and garnering appreciation for nothing. Hypocrisy rules!
My terrorist friend Vijay could hear my mind-voice. He gave me a soft smile while rubbing the bruises on his hands which were caused by the stunts.
He came near me and slowly muttered in my ears, “Good Job Sameer, Not bad for a first timer!” and hugged me.
I bagged this petty role through Vijay who was a friend of Prithviraj, one of the Assistant directors working in this film. After coming to Mumbai, haunting failures pushed me to the brim of life before I met my School friend Vijay who shared my aspirations.
Vijay went to Prithviraj. “Dude, Shall I leave now? “
“Yes, But ask your friend to stay back. They may shoot a continuity scene in the main porch. Arjit has to carry him up to the ambulance. Hero has to be compassionate.” He winked at Vijay.
A fair, thin figure jumped over the crisscrossing wires and came running towards Arjit. Arjit hugged her and kissed on her cheeks. It was heroine Ruby Khanna. She was almost inching towards Size 00, in that attempt she had lost her feminine curves and was looking like a teenage boy. She was playing the role of a journalist in this movie.
“I hate anorexic females and… I think kissing a female painted with multiple layers of makeup is highly unromantic” I whispered into Vijay’s ears.
“Nobody asked your opinion here!”Vijay quipped.
“Ruby dear, you look fabulous after shedding those flabs” Director Yash hugged her.
“Thank you! Now allow us to spend some time together.” swayed Ruby and smiled at Arjit with twinkling eyes.” Let us go to the Lounge!”
Arjit turned to Yash.”Meet you at 3 o clock dude.” and started walking towards the lift with clinging Ruby. He gave a cold look at me when he went past me.
“Pack Up! Will meet you in the porch after 3 o clock!” Director took the stairs to study the location of afternoon shooting.
Owner of this luxurious five star property was a close friend of the film producer, so he had given his hotel for shooting some sequences of the film.
I had never been to such an opulent place before in my lifetime. Curiosity mounted within me to see how rich people spent their bucks in luxury when I struggled to pay my rent. I opened the door of the mini conference hall in which shooting was taking place and walked along the huge hallway .There were many conference halls, Mini Bars, and a lounge to sit back for cracking deals. Exquisite art works, antiques and paintings adorned the entire structure. There was a mirror with ornate border on the wall. My reflection stared at me.
No wonder Arjit doesn’t like me! I am a handsome guy with sharp features and my six packs are real, not a steroid induced one! I cursed my luck and walked further.
Every nook and corner reflected grandeur. Will I ever be able to become rich and enjoy this luxury?
I sighed with deep self-pity and started feeling uncomfortable by the inquisitive looks of the staff.
I am a complete misfit in this place!
To my relief, I reached an empty terrace which was partially glass walled and the other part open under the sky.
I stood near the crystal clear glass wall. View of Arabian Sea was breathtaking.
All of a sudden there was a huge explosion, the vibrations shook the ground beneath me and to my utter shock, a part of the glass wall shattered and shards of glass scattered all over. Jolted by the deafening noise I stepped back to take cover in a safe place.
Tremors! Is it an earthquake? Before I could think further, stream of people purged out of different exits, a mixture of muffled screams and loud cries hovered around. It was a complete mayhem.
Numbed by unforeseen turn of events, I started moving along with the crowd. Old people and children were struggling to cope up with the stampede like situation. Hotel staff tried to discipline the crowds which were rushing to the stairs.
One of them requested, “Please! Two at a time!” Staircase was quite narrow. They started getting down slowly. Staff was talking in hush-hush tone. Maybe they were also equally tensed. Evacuation had just started and two more explosions rocked with high decibel sound. One from the top and another from the ground! All I could see was expressions of horror and fear of death written over the faces.
“Please sit on the floor!” one of the staff ordered in a hushed tone.
I started wondering at the turn of events. One attack was for reel and this was real.
“It is a terrorist attack!”A bald man said in an alarming voice.
“How many terrorists?” asked a woman.
There was no answer. Only frozen looks!
Another stream of people rushed down from upstairs and filled the huge hallway. They had seen the terrorists and were escaping from them.
Loud screams and gunshots could be heard from the top floors. Another explosion rocked and some glass panes broke because of the impact.
Next half an hour witnessed the most unbelievable things happening in the history of the hotel. The rich and mighty of the city were crawling on the floor even to use washrooms. All of us knew that we were vulnerable from both sides. So, no one wanted to attract attention. Two hotel staff talking on their mobiles weaved through the crowd and zeroed in on a painting. It seemed that they were taking instructions from the other end of the mobile. It was a huge painting of Raja Ravi Varma. Damayanti and swan messenger! They talked to themselves for few seconds and slid the heavy wooden frame along the direction of the wall. After sliding it, they opened the camouflaged door which was behind the painting. They pushed open the door with force. Crowd got restless and got up as they saw a ray of hope to live. Hotel staff tried to silence them.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is not safe over here. We want to evacuate you all to a secure place. Please cooperate with us.”
Everyone jostled to be the first in the queue and evacuation started. I decided to wait till all the children and aged were evacuated.
It took almost 30 minutes to evacuate everyone. Gunshots were approaching fast near our floor. Terrorists can barge in anytime. Only staff and I were standing outside.
“Sir, Please! “ One of them politely asked me to enter the secret exit. I peeped inside. In dim illumination, I could see numerous heads jostling down the series of stairs descending to the basement.
I was about to enter, but a thought crossed my mind.
“Who will close the door behind us? It is easy for the terrorists to spot this exit if not hidden by the painting frame. Lots of lives are at stake.” I told them.
They were about to reply, but the exponential increase of the sound of heavy gunfire warned about the impending danger to many lives, I decided my fate in a flash, pushed them into the secret exit, pulled the door and shut it. It was a herculean task to slide the painting frame back to its original position single handedly, I paused to ensure that door was not visible and rushed to take cover from the gun fire. I hardly ducked behind a massive table, thumping sound of the running shoes sent chills down my spine.
How many terrorists? two, three…?I turned back to see the sky through the broken glass panes.
My soul will be roaming in the vast expanse of the sky before the day ends. My mother’s loving face came to my mind. She will be the one who will miss me. Tears welled up at the thought of my mother. She may not be aware that I am here in Ground zero.
Deafening salvo of shots was fired and bullets were flying in all the directions. Sound of the smashed splinters pierced my eardrum.
“Open all the doors to check if anyone is alive and kill all the Indian bastards,” shouted one of them in a different dialect of Hindi. Thudding sounds of yanking doors and dragging the tables to search for hiding persons pounded my heart out of the chest.
They will find me in no time! I have to escape! Did I make the mistake of not escaping through the secret exit? A ray of regret seeped in my mind.
If I had not concealed the door behind the frame, it would have been a bloody massacre by now! Many would have got killed!
Taking cover behind the huge antic teak furniture, I started crawling in the opposite direction from which gunshots came. I was like a blindfolded person walking on a rope. I didn’t know the plan of this hotel.
At the end of the furniture, to the left, there was a small corridor leading to a very narrow staircase, possibly meant for the staff, I rushed towards it and dashed down the stairs. On each landing, there were multiple exits leading to different rooms. I heard someone running down the stairs behind me. I took a turn into a narrow lane and entered a room which was full of linen and uniforms, I took cover of the clothes and uniforms hanging all around. My heart resumed its normal functioning once the sound of the steps receded. It was stuffy and hot in the Linen room, so I slowly sneaked into the Laundry room. Laundry was quite spacious with pile of clothes heaped, I noticed a movement behind a pile and slowly peeped to see, Arjit Kapoor, hero of the film was crouching down behind a pile of clothes. I tried to smile at him. He was expressionless. Perhaps he didn’t like me catching him in an awkward situation like this.
I tried to find a place to sit near him and settle for few minutes because I was extremely tired. I stretched my limbs to relax my muscles a bit and whispered, “Where are the other crew members? Are they safe? “
“How do I know?” He snapped with irked voice.
“You were with Ruby! What happened to her? She is not seen anywhere nearby…” -I searched for a size00 figure.
“May be…She has eloped with one of the terrorist!”He smirked.
Is this supposed to be a joke? But…a cruel one!
Another powerful blast rocked. Vibrations lasted for few minutes and few burning splinters fell in the Laundry room. Entire room will be in flames in minutes.
“Arjit,Run!” I scurried out of the room, Next few minutes both of us were running in a labyrinth of corridors and staircases leading to the ground because top floors were in flames. Whenever gunshots were heard, I chose the opposite direction to escape. Door of a restaurant was open but the condition of tables, chairs, bags and sandals strewn all over clearly indicated that people had fled this place. Arjit was still behind me. Gunshots started approaching us once again.
Terrorists have found us! Shit! Hero Arjit Kapoor can be a trophy catch for them to boast!
I dashed across the restaurant, opened the door and found a wooden, spiral staircase leading to the ground. I pulled Arjit and hurried down the stairs. It was dark over there. A semi circular black granite table was behind the staircase. We hunched down under the counter. Door on the mezzanine opened and bullets flew everywhere. Thudding sound of the footsteps increased .Someone is getting down the stairs! Hiding place seemed to be perfect until Arjit’s mobile started ringing. A volley of bullets showered on the counter. I grabbed the mobile and threw it away, next second it turned into ash as it was hit by a bullet.
It is not safe here anymore. I shook Arjit’s shoulders. He had passed out of fear.
What an irony? Arjit was supposed to rescue me according to the script of the film!
I inched a little and saw the glimmer of light from an exit.
I cannot leave him here to die! I lifted him and started walking softly in the dark towards the exit hoping not to be spotted. I stumbled upon something and a clinking noise exposed us to the terrorist and he started firing blindly. Suddenly few commandos barged into the staircase from mezzanine and fired at the terrorist, one of the bullets knocked his rifle and others pierced his body. A stray bullet fired from terrorist’s rifle hit me in my torso and I collapsed to the floor along with Arjit. Army commandos lifted us and walked towards the Ambulance…
I sat propped up in my hospital bed after seeing Vijay and Director Yash coming with a bouquet.
Yash smiled at me. “Get well soon Sameer! In my next film I want you to play the role of…” he paused. I looked at him anxiously.
“A villain!” He gave me the bouquet with a broad smile.