“NOOOOOO!!” wobbled Vicky, as a horrible nightmare woke him up. Shivers ran all over his body and drenched his clothing with cold sweat. His handsome face marked with worry while his mind recollected the dream only to realize that it was the same damned thing again! A dark night, the large gate, antiquated structures, the seismic tremor, shouts of helpless people and their amber eyes. Vicky grew up having this dream. He was twelve when he first had this dream. As time passed, it continued detailing itself like an idea forming into a script of a sensational motion picture. Sometimes, he saw himself in it, running alongside the hapless group as though he was attempting to spare himself from a catastrophe. At that point, a splendid flash of a brilliant light, the brightest one that could be envisioned, attacked his eyes and break his dream…
At first, his parents didn’t take this seriously. But one night, Vicky started sleepwalking while also uttering something that did not make any sense. Doubting a mental sickness, his parents took him to a physiatrist. The medical analysis concluded that Vicky was a victim of a severe mental trauma, the result of witnessing a visual that left a permanent scar on his memories. Whatever the doctors said, Vicky had a feeling that it was something else. His problem was beyond the reach of the fancy machines made by humans, he understood that it was something that needs a careful decoding.
At first, Vicky made notes of his observations, he drew the faces of people he saw in his dream, he recorded their characteristics and did his best to find people he knew in the real world that could match the ones he dreamt of…but, his attempts did not cover much ground. His wired conduct conflicted with the desires of his parents; the result, he started living alone as soon as he graduated from the college of Arts. Teaming up with his best pals, he co-founded a start-up company. While his life was as he wanted it to be, when asleep, Vicky was a stranger to himself, his dreams did not make any sense to him. Well, at least till that day.
The latest episode of his dream went beyond the brilliant flash of light. The newest entrant in this script was a frightening, deep-green eyed person who supposedly snatched the light out his eyes, causing him immense pain and thus filling his life with an unending darkness.
“Ting-Tong—- Ting-Tong-Ting-Tong- Ting-Tong—-” the doorbell rang interminably and brought Vicky back to the present world.
“Heyyyy Viiiiikk!!! Come out you…” hollered a familiar voice.
Vicky peeped out of the window to check on the visitors. There were his friends Saleem and Gogo. Saleem childishly kept his finger pressed on the switch of the bell to leave it ringing continuously and Gogo carried a gift wrap with him. Both giggled at their own behavior.
“Happy Birthday to you !!!” on seeing Vicky peeping from the window, they both sang so anyone might hear.
To the world, Vicky was a normal person, a bit of an introvert, owning a decent start-up business, having his own little aspirations, a small circle of friends. Well, to be honest, Saleem and Gogo were the only two friends he had. They were his college-mates and also worked together on the start-up idea. They had hints of a stranger thing in Vicky, but their doubts never surmounted their opinions about him.
“Happy birthday to you…” the song went on until Vicky opened the door for them.
“So, 25 Finally!” Saleem hugged him and congratulated on reaching the quarter century milestone in life.
“Get ready soon…the salesgirl at the showroom must be waiting for us!!”, said Gogo while nearly neglecting to wish him.
The day had another significance. Vicky was purchasing his first Car.
“Ford, EcoSport….zoooooooommmm, we will go on a long drive!” The friendly Duo was also equally excited as Vicky. It was already afternoon until Vicky was handed over the keys to his new car. The absence of the salesgirl came somewhat of a disappointment to Gogo but he was fine when Saleem promised him an extra Beer…
The three then started off to celebrate the day.
“Let us have a quick lunch and then go for an enthralling ‘Long drive’ friends”, squealed Saleem, out of excitement and they drove towards a Hotel
“Ok now” started Gogo, “let’s go towards the Highway and let our feet rest on the escalator. Saleem, you drive first and afterward we will trade the driver’s seat”, He Suggested.
But Vicky and Saleem had different a plan. Saleem grinned at Gogo and propounded, “This is a SPORTS CAR man! Speed is among the features of just any other Car…Let’s see how it does on a wacky and an inhumane path, let’s just go where the road takes us…I propose we drive it to the Ratnagiri terrain…”
After the lunch they drove the mint-conditioned vehicle, far from the city, taking a diversion from the Highway, towards a deserted route that they thought led them to Ratnagiri. Saleem conquered the driver’s seat and started to enjoyed the ride.
“The car is doing quite well Fella’s… it’s really made of hard Iron” supplemented Saleem and drove it with a faster speed.
“Aye, this car has something called a Radio too… and I feel it can be switched on for some entertainment.” Shouted Gogo in an irritated tone and switched on the Radio.
“Dil Chahata Hai…..Kabhi na Beety….” The radio went on, joined by the not so good chorus of the three. All three immersed in singing with the radio. Miles started spinning away with the wheels of the car and then something really went wrong.
It was Gogo who first realized, the Sun, that was shining so bright, had disappeared under thick dark clouds. Taking it casually, He thought of scaring the company and…”Friends, Something’s Wrong…TERRIBLY WRONG!” he uttered in an unfriendly tone. As if his words turned into a wicked spell, The Radio started missing signals and finally stopped. The wind blew ghastly producing a howling sound. The climate outside turned dark, sufficiently dark for the headlights to be turned on.
Vicky peeped out of the window with eyes wide open. Amidst the luminosity of the head lights He could see that they were far from the civilization. The land, they were driving on, was turning more and more barren. The leftovers of trees looked like standing brown skeletons. Clouds of confusion marked on everybody’s face. Gogo broke the silence. “Boss, It is better we drive back, this seems to be a No Man’s Land…”
“But, do you know the way back? I guess, I am lost!” said Saleem. Making his intuition as the judge, Gogo asked Saleem to drive along…
As Saleem drove through the darkness, they were soon near a structure, which looked like a huge gate. Their optimism made them take a sigh of relief, but something else was meant to be the order of the day.
As they drove a few meters through the gate, Vicky saw figure that resembled a human. Tearing the darkness with his eyes, he could make out that it was a woman. The actions, as he could understand, resembled sweeping in a very wired style. The woman threw all her weight on the broom, bent over the ground, and with all her might, she swept it. Within no time, the woman walked right in front of the car…her eyes flashed as the radiance of the headlights fell on her face. Vicky shouted…
“Saleem, Break Maaaaar!!!!”
Before Saleem could react, the car hit the woman. The impact made her fall on the bonnet of the car with her face on the windscreen. The charred face of the women terrified the trio to death. Owing to fear and confusion, Saleem mistook escalator to break and stepped hard on it. The engine roared and stopped with a jerk making the woman fall back on the ground.
It was the past moment that played itself again and again in everyone’s memory. The woman, her face, her eyes, all looked so cold as if she was dead already. Then suddenly the woman rose from the ground. Picked up her broom and started sweeping in the same bizarre manner. It took a few seconds for the guys to realize that it wasn’t a dream. Vicky swiftly got down the car to reaffirm that it was not his dream. As he turned his head around, all that he saw was exactly as he dreamt. He found himself in the middle of a town like place. Collapsed buildings and shattered households had filled the sight of the town. It looked as if an earthquake had struck. But the strangest part was, at the entrance of each house, there was an earthen lamp. Men, Women and children surrounded the lamp. Each of them looked cold and dead, BUT the eyes…. The eyes were filled with amber. Suggesting that they were alive only by the sight.
In a split of a second, suddenly, each of them started rising to their feet. Before long the entire town was standing. The population started walking towards the car. Sensing danger, Saleem quickly pulled the reverse gear…Vicky was puzzled, Gogo pulled him into the car and they drove backwards, trying to get out of the gate. But Saleem lost his control over the wheel and banged the car heavily against a strong tree trunk. The impact injured them badly and they all fell unconscious.
A little while later, Gogo regained consciousness. He shook Saleem, who was also reviving back. They found themselves outside the gate. Vicky sat on the driver’s, Intact and profoundly submerged in thoughts. Saleem adjusted his throat and said, “Oh, thanks Vicky. You saved us today. Hope you are ok…“
Overlooking the worry of his friend, Vicky spoke in a strange voice,
“There are things, my friends, which are strange, but for a few that happen, the word strange is just not enough.”
Quickly turning his face at Gogo, Vicky said eerily, “aren’t you interested to know what had happened back there?”
To be continued in Part 2