Now I must go – Short Story

NOW, I MUST GO

Flowers, wreaths and incense candles were employed to defeat the reek of death. And they seemed to serve their purpose well by masking the nauseating stench of formaldehyde and muffling the ominous smell of blood. All faces suggested gloom and despair save for the two bodies that lay beside the lamp: two serene looking faces draped in white sheets, their eyes closed, lying motionless amid a bunch of wreaths and flowers.
The mourners who had gathered to pay respect to the late Mr and Mrs Dutta stood with questioning faces wondering as to why the lovely couple did such a terrible thing.
“Did they find a note?” asked one among them.
“The cops are still looking for it,” said another.
“But how could Mr. Dutta do such a terrible thing?” exclaimed the third one. “I spoke to him last evening and he sounded very happy. He told to me that he had found a way to solve all his problems. And I was under the impression that he had won the land which was under litigation and could alas sell it and clear all his debts. But little did I know that this was the kind of solution he was implying to. “
“Mr. Dutta was a man of honor. He wouldn’t dare to do such a thing! And I don’t think that this is a suicide.” opined another.
“Honor: that was the only thing poor Mr. Dutta was left with. He had lost his job, went bankrupt and his house was kept mortgage. And to make matters worse, he confided in me that his daughter was secretly loving someone and planning to elope with him. Perhaps death was the only way he could save himself from the dishonor.”
“I have heard that Mr. Dutta had two daughters. What happened to the elder one?”
“She was killed in an accident a couple of years ago.”
“It would have been so hard on poor Mr. Dutta!”
I looked around and our eyes met. A knot was formed in my stomach as she stared at me. My heart leapt out for her. She was squatted on the floor, with her back leaning against the wall. Happiness was washed away from her and was replaced with a sense of paranoia. Intense angelic eyes that pierced through the hearts of the boys in the neighborhood were puffy with shades of dark around them. Her soft hair was disheveled. Her round face was pale and her cheeks were stained with the trails of tears that ran down all night long. Her shapely frame had become gauntly. The mourners did not seem to care about a girl who had lost both her parents. They were busy talking among themselves, none wanted to console her. Perhaps, they disregarded the girl who had not stayed loyal to her parents. She smiled at me, and I reassured her that everything was going to be alright. After all, she is my sweet heart.
She walked towards me with her arms outstretched. And on her slender palm sat a small bottle of opium.
“I did as you told me,” she said. “But I added a few drops extra,” she giggled.
“This is not what I asked you to do!” I screamed, later gathered myself together to save myself from the stares of the mourners. “I asked you to put them to sleep… not…”
“KILL THEM?” she exclaimed. I was only glad that no one heard her. I put my head down in exasperation. She held me by my chin and looked into my eyes. “Darling, they only got what they deserve. If I hadn’t done this I would have met the same fate as my elder sister. All she did was fall in love. She pleaded them to accept their relationship, but they just didn’t. They were too stubborn. And so my sister eloped along with her lover. But my dad and his brothers hunted them down, beat my poor sister to pulp and killed her lover right before her eyes. The horrific sight of her lover dying before her made her paranoid. And, unable to curb the depression, she ended her life, leaving behind nothing but the truth written on a piece of paper. The police found her suicide note and issued a warrant against Dad. And to silence the cops, lawyers, judges, politicians and the press he had to pay heavy sums as bribe. Unable to bear the expenses, my Dad exhausted all his savings and had to give this house as mortgage. I thought he would change. He ruined the entire family and I thought he had learnt from his faults. But he hadn’t. That old satan! When I told him that I am in love with you and I wanted to marry you, he just wouldn’t agree. He threatened to kill us too. And I don’t want to die. If we run away, he will come searching for us to the ends of the world and he will kill us, just like he killed her! I don’t want that to happen. And so I killed them. I just did what was necessary for our love and for our dreams true.” She stared into my eyes. I saw a glitter, not of love but of paranoia. “I love you,” she said. “Come, it is not too late. Let us go far away from this wretched world. Just you and me. And all our dreams. Nothing else.”
I cast my head low, I could not bear to look her in the eye for I saw the souls of her mother and father within them. They were dying, taking their last breathe, struggling. I surge of guilt rushed through me. I was indirectly responsible for the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Dutta. Oh what have I done! I held her hand and ran out of the house like a mad man.
I know she had her reasons, but how will I be able to marry a girl who killed her own father and mother? And how will I ever cope up with the guilt of being involved in it. I was no monster like her. I needed peace of mind. I could not live with that kind of guilt. And so I thought of going to the cops and confessing everything. After all, I am a man of values. A constable was smoking outside the gates of the house.
“Sir, may I have a word with you?”
“What do you want, son?” he asked, drawing the smoke in.
“Sir, I , er… have some information about the death of Mr. and Mrs. Dutta,” I said. Beads of sweat ran down my forehead. I felt her struggling within my grasp. “NO!” she screamed. “Leave me, you are making a mistake!”
The cop didn’t seem to mind her at all. He casually threw the cigarette away and looked at me. “Go on, I’m listening.” he said, taking out another cigarette from his pack.
“It was not a suicide, but a murder. And I know who did it!”
“Who?”
“It’s her,” I said pointing at her. “Mr. Dutta’s daughter, she did it.”
“YOU BETRAYER!” she yelled. I had held her tightly.
Rings of smoke belched out of his mouth. He didn’t seem to care.
“Sir, arrest her!” I screamed.
The cop laughed, jingling his belly. “And where do I find her?”
“She is right here,” I pushed her towards him. “There, arrest her.”
“How could you do this to me?” she whispered, sobbing.
The cop kept laughing.
“Sir, Go ahead, arrest her.” I said, pointing at her.
He laughed again. “I have seen many mental cases. But this is the worst one I have seen all my life!”
“Sir, have you lost it? She is standing right next to you. Arrest her!”
The sound of his laughter was overpowered by the wails of an ambulance. It screeched to a halt and its back doors opened materializing two compounders carrying a stretcher out of it. And upon the stretcher lay another white bundle: a corpse.
“You mean to say that she killed Mr. and Mrs. Dutta?” he asked, pointing at the corpse. I moved towards the white bundle. And then, I don’t know. Everything went blank. The world began to swirl. But before I passed out, I swear I saw her face amid the bundle of cloth: the face of my lover. The corpse resembled her.
***
It has been three weeks since I ate. She is behind me ever since that wretched day. She doesn’t let me eat neither does she let me sleep. I don’t get out of my room. People come knocking at my door but she does not let me answer them.
The newspapers say that Mr. Dutta and his family were murdered by her daughter, who only wanted to sedate her parents and run away with her lover. The young girl who accidently gave them an overdose of opium was shaken by the death of her parents and committed suicide. The police have also recovered her suicide note that explains everything.
The case is closed.
But they are all liars. Only I know the truth. And the truth is that she is not dead. And that she is sitting right before me: Mr. Dutta’s young daughter, my lover. She has changed a lot and has become so mean. She says she loves me but she tortures me each day. She doesn’t let me eat neither does she let me sleep. It’s been three weeks since I got out of my room. And I have become very gaunt and tired.
Right now, as I write this, she is saying that I finally have her permission to sleep. She handed me a bottle of opium and said that she will let me out of my room if I drink it. And then, we can go somewhere far away, where we will be together forever.
Now, I must go.
–Anil Antony

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