Saturday, 18 June 2016

Goodbye Summer

“Is there any way for you stay?” Sakhi broke the silence that had engulfed her and her best friend Aakriti as they walked up the stairs to their college library. Aakriti carried a pile of books that she had to return before she left. She was moving to a different city because of her mom’s job and it was her last day at college.

“Honey, there are plenty of ways for me to stay; I just am not,” Aakriti answered, adding a stray piece of jet black hair to the pile on the top of her head. She was touched by the implications of Sakhi’s statement; it was unlike her friend to express emotions that might cause inconvenience. That’s how she was – logical, calculating; some might even call her cold. But Aakriti knew her; time had taught her to search within the undertones of what she said and to read her with fluency.

“Right, okay,” Sakhi muttered, “because...” she let her sentence trail off as she returned a book back to it place. She was taller than Aakriti and so it was easier for her to reach the higher shelves; one of the few things where she trumped Aakriti. For the most part, Aakriti shone at everything.  She had excellent conversational skills matched with the brains that contributed to said conversations. She had the answer to everything. Sakhi didn’t mind, or believe in self pity.

“I am not leaving my mom Sakhi, we’ve been over this before,” Aakriti replied, placing the last book back at its designated place.

“But leaving mid semester is - ” Sakhi started to argue.


Aakriti ducked behind a book shelf, dragging Sakhi along. “Harsh,” she said in a manner of explanation. Harsh was a boy in their year and was just as nice as he was irritating. He had a knack for turning up where he wasn’t welcome and an incredibly oblivious nature. As luck would have it, more often than not, his victim was Aakriti.

Sakhi rolled her eyes, “Honestly, he’s not that bad. Sure, he talks a lot but-”

“‘He talks a lot’ is the understatement of the year,” muttered Aakriti.

“Oh boy, big fans of hyperbole, aren’t we?”

Ignoring Sakhi, Aakriti peeked around to check if the coast was clear.

“Hey Aakriti,” Sakhi called for her attention, “Isn’t the computer section supposed to be closed off?”

Aakriti turned around, looking in the direction Sakhi was indicating towards. The computer room was behind them. The students usually had open access to the desktops but last week the department was closed off for repair and maintenance purposes. Except right then, a light was shining through from the room and the door was pushed open.

“Perhaps the reparation is done” Aakriti offered with a telltale shrug. “What do you care anyway?”

“Well, if you have your pen drive, I could retrieve the research my team did for Richa ma’am’s project.”

“Alright,” Aakriti said, pushing her hands forward, indicating Sakhi to go in first.

 “What the -”

A man dressed in a suit was standing in the middle of the room as they entered, with his face fully covered in a mask.

“Hey, who are you?”

Even before the question had left Aakriti’s lips, he dashed out the side door. Aakriti and Sakhi made an instinctual dash for him.

“Where. did. he. go?” Sakhi asked between gasps of breath. They were inside a classroom at the end of the corridor which was visibly missing any one in a coat or a mask.

“There are just sleeping students in here.” Aakriti pointed out.

“...without a teacher to put them to sleep,” Sakhi added. “There’s something fishy here. How can everyone fall asleep at the same time?”

“This classroom has an AC, it’s probably in the air.” Aakriti answered, walking towards an air conditioning unit.

“Aakriti,”

“Yeah, hang on, I want to check the vents,”

“Aakriti, do you mean the air we are breathing right now is infected?”

“Oh shit.” Aakriti turned around slowly to face Sakhi.

“You know how in cartoons, the coyote never realises he is mid-air till he looks down?” asked Aakriti

“Yeah...” Sakhi muttered slowly making her way to the nearest bench.

“Yeah, I think I have the same syndrome.” Aakriti said, tentatively bringing her fingers to her temple.

Sakhi opened her eyes slowly, her vision spinning. Black spots vanished from her eyes as she got up. Aakriti followed suite minutes later.

“Where are we?”

“Haven’t got the faintest,” Sakhi answered.

“Can you see anything?”

“Nope”

The room was engulfed in the dark, with a bright spotlight shining down the centre. It wasn’t shining down on anything but certainly did make it difficult to see anything else.

“Do you hear footsteps?” Sakhi asked, facing the direction she thought she heard the noise from.

Before Aakriti could get in a word edgewise, a door burst open illuminating the room. Two men entered the room. It was the masked man and in front of him, shuffling slowly was another man.

“Girls, please - help me.”

“Sundaram sir! Aakriti, it’s Sundaram sir.” Sakhi recognised the other man as her anatomy teacher.
She would recognise that whiny tone anywhere. Utterly incompetent with a nasal voice put him right at the top of her list of teachers-she-despised in the college.

“The one who needs a lesson in anatomy before he tries to teach you lot,” Aakriti replied.

“The one and only.” Sakhi muttered back.

“What’s wrong sir?” Aakriti asked just as Sakhi gave an audible gasp. She nudged Aakriti, pointing
towards the masked man. The pair was walking towards the centre of the room and light fell on his hand in the process. He had a gun pointed to back of Sundaram sir’s head. They were almost towards the other end of the room where Aakriti guessed was an exit.

“Hey!”

With an exclamation and the intent to stop him from escaping, she tackled them. A shot rang out followed by deafening silence. Aakriti’s scream had taken the masked man by surprise. Mr. Sundaram fell to the ground in a heap.

Sakhi rushed towards him while Aakriti had the masked man pined underneath her.

 “Shit, Sundaram sir’s been shot. He’s going to die,” Sakhi said, a hint of hysteria creeping into her
voice.

“Well, just last week you wanted him to die.” Aakriti snapped, struggling to get the gun out of the
masked man’s grip.

“Yeah, well I didn’t really mean it, you idiot.” Sakhi shot back as she fumbled to get his bleeding under control.

“A little help,” Aakriti replied, her voice cracking. “Please”

Abandoning her teacher, Sakhi made her way to her friend just as she knocked the gun out of the way, overpowering the man at last.

“So, who are you?” Aakriti asked aloud, reaching out to pull of his mask. But instead of a face appearing beneath, there was nothing. The man had vanished, leaving a kneeling Aakriti in his wake. The light in the centre of the room started to flicker.

“Aakriti,” Sakhi reached out softly. Her friend stood up to face her. “Would now be a good time to hold hands?” Sakhi continued, offering her hand. Fear evident on her face, Aakriti nodded and grabbed hold as everything around them swirled together almost as if it were...

“Like a dream,” Whispered Sakhi.

“What!”

“Everything looks like a dream, like in movies when everything swirls together.” Sakhi explained.

“Here’s to waking up alive.”

“Hello,” Sakhi said, waving her hand in front of Aakriti, stretching out the syllables. “Heeelllooo!”

“Huh, what’s going on?” Aakriti answered, blinking rapidly. She was leaning against a book shelf in
the library. She frowned slightly at the computer room behind Sakhi, feeling slightly unsettled.

“Well, let’s see, I’ve been going on and on about how much I’ll miss you and you had better visit me
once a month while you were day dreaming.”

“Oh! Right,” Aakriti replied, “sorry, must’ve zoned out.”

“Has Harsh left yet? I’ve got a lecture soon,” Sakhi said, suggesting they leave the library.

“He’s gone. Come on, Sakhi, skip your lecture. Let’s grab one last sandwich together.”

She looked hesitant but caved in with a smile. “Alright, god knows when we’ll get the chance again.”
Aakriti grinned in response as the duo made their way through the library. 

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