Category Archives: Short Story

What is Music?

A guitar solo unleashed. A raag that has the power to summon rain itself. A collection of electronic impulses that travel from a jack to an earpiece, providing deliverance from worldly meanderings. A chorus that unites thousands of attendees into a coalesced whole, singing along with the demigod on stage, guiding their souls into ecstasy. A thudding percussion divulging the beats of the universe. The power to revoke memories that didn’t exist. A connection to another world. A portal to the language of love. To pangs of longing, regrets, and desires .Reconciliations, remembrances, and romances. Eulogies to the past. Dreams of the future. Conversations long forgotten. Moments that fleeted by. Hopes rekindled. Fires sparked back to life. Darkness surrendering to belief.

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Ghosts-Part Two.

To read Ghosts-Part One, click here!

THE HIT SQUAD

Mumbai

February 14, 2016

4:30 pm

“That son of a bitch got away,” thought Ranjit. His earlier conversation with Rohit was still playing in his mind. Two of his former colleagues were dead.  He, along with the only other surviving member of The Hit Squad, was now the target of a dormant monster from their past that had risen up to devour them whole.

He remembered that day as if it had been yesterday. The bullets. The bodies. The blood.

 Five Years Ago

They called themselves ‘The Hit Squad’. A generic title which left no doubts about what they were meant to do. Officially, they didn’t exist. They specialised in black operations, which meant doing the dirty work for the government.

Rohit Singh. Ranjit Gill. Vikram Mehta. Sagar Dhawan.

Despite their non-existence on paper, tales of their conquests were spread far and wide, treated with respect from the intelligence community, and fear by those on the wrong side of the law.

A notorious drug kingpin.  A mass-murdering terrorist. The head of an organised crime syndicate. All were taken out with sheer perfection and ruthlessness by The Hit Squad.

No member of The Hit Squad had any qualms about the work they did. They were willing to delve into dirt that no-one else, in Ranjit’s words, “had the balls to touch.”

__________________________________________________________________________

Vikram was staring through his binoculars at the empty road. According to the intelligence they had received, a car would be coming down this road within the coming minutes. In it, would be the head of the biggest crime syndicate in the country. A man who had eluded capture for decades. Intelligence had finally turned up a solid piece that provided a golden opportunity to cripple the syndicate, and the government didn’t want to take any chances, hence had sent their very best to finish the job.

According to the report, the Don, as he was called, would be accompanied by three of his bodyguards. The plan was to ambush them on the deserted road. On Vikram’s signal, Rohit would drive a truck into the path of the moving car from a sidestreet.  Ranjit and Sagar, on the back of the truck, would open fire on the car, with Vikram providing support from behind. The stakes were higher than ever. If this attempt were to fail, the Don would vanish into the smoke, never to be seen again.

Vikram noticed movement. He zoomed in, but what he saw sent shivers down his spine. He picked up the radio.

“Bravo, this is Alpha, come in.”

“This is Bravo,” replied Rohit from the other end.

“Three cars. Black. SUVs. Will reach Point Delta in 5.”

“Fuck! Three! We were told there would be one! I bet the other cars are filled with bodyguards. Four of us against twelve.”

“Your call, Bravo.”

Ranjit chimed in on the radio,” This is Tango One. I say let’s get ‘em. The more, the merrier.”

Sagar said,” Hells yeah. Three of them for every one of us. Ranjit will probably kill them all in a jiffy, stud that he is. Leave some for us, bro.”

“Sure, mate, if you’re fast enough” replied Ranjit.

“We’ll see.”

“Shut the fuck up, you two,” said Vikram.

Ranjit said,” I ain’t joking, man. This is a golden chance. The bastard might not surface for another ten years if we let this go. Three of them for one of us? I say, bring it on!”

“Hells yeah!” exclaimed Sagar.

“ETA Two minutes!” said Vikram.

Rohit hesitated. Then spoke,” All right. Let’s give them some love.”

“T-Minus Twenty Seconds,” shouted Vikram into the radio.

Rohit revved up the truck engine. It was a monstrosity, twenty feet long.

“Here we go!”

He drove the truck onto the road. The foremost car rammed into the side of the truck.

Ranjit and Sagar opened fire on the foremost vehicle with their sub-machine guns. Blood splattered on the shattered windscreen. Vikram was coming approaching from the opposite end of the road, opening fire on the rear vehicle, while Rohit got out of the truck and joined the firing.

Just then, the door of the middle car opened. A glance passed between Ranjit and Sagar, echoing the innumerable missions they had taken together. They nodded to each other.

Sagar opened fire on the windscreen of the middle car, while Ranjit aimed at the open door. The windscreen turned red, but Ranjit’s bullets were only able to hit the door, and not who was hiding beyond.

Then the crack of a pistol was heard amid the barrage of gunfire. Vikram collapsed to the ground, clutching his leg.

The firing stopped at once. A new voice was heard, this one coming from the behind the door.

“All right. Nice and easy. I’ve got my pistol pointed at your idiot friend’s forehead, so drop your guns if you want to see him alive.”

“Damn you! Kill me, asshole. Look me in the eye if you have the guts, and pull the goddamn trigger,” replied Vikram.

“So we have a patriot here. Good. I’m counting to five. You all know what you have to do.”

Sagar, Rohit and Ranjit exchanged glances. They were thinking the same thing. No, Vikram didn’t deserve to die at the hands of this maniac.

“Okay, we’re dropping the guns now!” shouted Ranjiit, throwing his gun to the ground. Rohit and Sagar followed suit.

“Damn it! What the-” began Vikram, but he was cut off by the Don.

“So here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m going to get into this car, my gun pointed at your fallen friend. I’ll drive away. But you better hide yourselves in the deepest hole you can find, because when I come back, I won’t let you die so quickly.”

The Present Day

Ranjit remembered how he had felt that day, the moment he had dropped his gun. Powerless. Angry. The scene had been bloody. The windshields of the cars were peppered broken and red. Bodies laden with bullets lay still on the seats, drenched in blood.

The Don had climbed into the car and driven away.

It had been the first operation the Squad had failed at. The Don had disappeared from The Grid, as it was called. The tale of the operation had spread far and wide, on both sides of the law.

The Hit Squad had disbanded after that. It had been a mutual decision. They had decided never to contact each other again.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts

PART ONE

THE HUNTER

Greater Noida, NCR Region

February 13, 2016

9:00 PM

The sky, a thin veil separating life from the infinite expanse, was giving way to the unbounded darkness that lay beyond. The setting sun was casting long shadows, engulfing the world in a reddish glow.

The Assassin was lying on his stomach and gazing with his right eye into the scope of his rifle, trying to focus on The Target, which was in its apartment in the opposite building. The Assassin had a lithe, muscular figure, his arms slowly directing his rifle, his index finger on the trigger.

He could see The Target now. It was playing with a small Expendable, which could not have been more than 6 years old. It was laughing aloud, making the action figures enact various fantasies, as the Target looked on in amusement.

“Patience,” thought the Assassin.

Just then, another Expendable came into the room, brandishing a notebook. The smaller Expendable began to cry, and after a lot of struggle, quietly took the notebook and went into the other room.

The Assassin knew this was his moment. He drew a deep breath, his hands now holding the rifle steady, the crosshairs focused on the Target’s forehead. Holding his breath, he pulled the trigger. The Target collapsed, its blood splattering on the wall behind. The Expendable began to scream.

The Assassin allowed himself a rare smile. It had been a perfect shot, and for a moment he thought whether he could make two perfect shots in a row. His trigger finger was itching, his scope now focused on the Expendable. However, he would be paid only for one kill anyway. He relaxed his arms and stood up. Pulling out a cellphone from his pocket, he typed a message.

“1/4. Wire payment. Update on No.2 tomorrow”

Chandigarh, Punjab

February 14, 2016

8:00 am

He didn’t need a rifle to eliminate this Target. It lived alone, so there would be no collateral damage. His disguise was that of delivery man, and he had added a dense moustache and beard to make sure there were no loose ends. The nameplate read ‘Rohit Singh’.

He rang the bell.

“Who is it?” asked a loud voice from inside the apartment.

“Courier, sir. Carrying your phone bill.”

“Be there in a minute!” came the reply.

This was almost too easy. This Target had let his guard down, something that the Assassin never did himself. He pulled out the silencer-equipped Berretta .32 caliber from its holster, and waited. He heard the sound of footsteps, and saw a shadow fall over the peephole. Raising his gun to the peephole, he pulled the trigger, and heard a scream. He stepped back and emptied the entire magazine on the door. He then slipped away and hailed a taxi, and typed another message on his cellphone.

“2/4. Wire payment. Update on No.3 at evening today.”

Mumbai

February 14, 2016

4:00 pm

The flights from Delhi to Amritsar,  and Amritsar to Mumbai would have tired out a normal person, but the Assassin was anything but normal.

This Target was similar to the previous one. It lived alone in one of the several high rises in the city suburbs. He had been warned about this one. It was the best of the lot, as dangerous as the Assassin himself.

The nameplate read ‘Ranjit Gill’.His disguise this time was that of a pizza delivery guy. He would take special care of this one. He rang the bell.

“Who is it?” asked a deep voice.

“Pizza, sir.”

“Didn’t order any pizza, mate.”

“I’m sorry sir. My bad. Could you please help me locate the address given?”

“And get my eye shot off? No, thanks. Your game is up, asshole!”

The Assassin felt a chill that had nothing to do with the wintry air.

“Sir, what are you-”

“Shut the fuck up and listen to me very carefully. See the peephole in front of you? You can’t shoot me from there, because yours truly is always aware of what assholes like you are capable of. It’s a security camera that focused on you, newbie. I currently have a very beautiful shotgun in my hand pointed at the door, so take out your gun and set it down in the floor if you don’t want me to blow a large hole in your body. You have five seconds. I assume you can count.”

This was an unprecedented hindrance for the Assassin. His brain was racing, calculating the possible permutations. He could take out his gun and set it on the floor, accepting defeat. Or he could take a shot at outwitting the Target.

He had never accepted defeat before in his career. It was a point of pride. He could not accept it now. There was only one way.

He took out the gun and feinted downward motion, changing track at the last moment and firing at the door.

He could fire only one bullet before he heard a loud bang. His shoulder was on fire and his shirt was now turning red. The pain was excruciating, one that he had never felt before.

He did something he had never done before. He ran.

Mumbai

8 hours ago

Ranjit was woken up from his deep sleep by the ringing of his cell phone. The caller ID displayed the name of a person he had thought he would never contact again.

He hesitated for a moment. Why would Rohit be calling him? Had he forgotten the pact? Had he forgotten what had happened that had made them agree to the pact? Or had the ghosts of their past finally caught up with them?

Curiosity got the better of him, and he picked the call.

“Roh-”

“Listen to me, Ranjit. They got me. I don’t have much time, so listen to me very carefully. ” The voice was strained, as if coming from the wrong end of a speaker.

“God damn, Rohit. What do you mea-”

“Shut up and listen. They’re coming for us. I tried to call Vikram. He’s dead. Call up Karan and warn him as well. They are coming.

“Tell me what happened, goddamit!”

“Rookie mistake on my part. Let my guard down. Son of a bitch shot me through the peephole and then emptied an entire magazine on me.”

“Fuck! I’ll call an ambu-”

“No. My time has come. Run.Save yourself. Save Karan. It’s them.”

“Who’s them?”

“You know who. I’ve held on for long as I could. Goodbye, Ranjit.”

“Talk to me, Rohit! Goddamn!”

“They…they are coming,” said Rohit, as the last vestiges of his life left him.

“Rohit? Rohit? Answer, damn you! Rohit!!”

There was no reply.

Ranjit’s fingers were numb. The wall between his past and present had disappeared. His old colleagues were dead. He was next in line.

Rohit had told him to run and save himself and Karan. However, running away went against his every instinct. There was something going on that he simply couldn’t escape from. He wouldn’t rest until he got to the bottom of this.

It’s them,” Rohit had said. Ranjit knew perfectly well who he meant.

TO BE CONTINUED….

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bluff

Part One

London

“I’m not going to let my company be taken over!“said Adam.

“Be realistic. It is time to cut your losses. They’re offering fifteen million for a company that has not shown a profit for the past two years! You wouldn’t find a better offer anywhere! ”said John.

“The control of the company has stayed within my family for three generations, and I intend to keep up the tradition, ”retorted Adam.

“To hell with that.”

“You’re not a part of the family. You’ll never understand these things,” replied Adam. That was the alcohol talking.

“I’m only offering some friendly advice. Accept the offer, or you’ll be regretting it for the rest of your life.”

“Get the hell out of here. I’m sick of your pestering, you bastard.”The alcohol was in full flow.

John got up, and angrily replied,”Fine! Go bankrupt,for all I care.I’ll see you at Sotheby’s tomorrow. Don’t expect any mercy from me.”

“Ha!You’ll be the one begging for my forgiveness tomorrow!The painting is mine!”,shouted Adam.

John slammed the door behind him.

 

 

Part Two

 Established on 11th March 1744 in London, Sotheby’s is the fourth oldest auction house in the world, and is now a multinational corporation.It is the world’s largest art business. As John entered the auction house, his mind went back to the altercation he had had with Adam. Adam had taken control of his company two years ago, after his father had retired. When his father had stepped down,the company’s stocks were soaring high. Twelve months later, the stocks were at an all time low, mainly due to Adam’s inept management.

Adam and John had been on friendly terms since childhood, but as they grew up, so did their rivalry. Their most brutal battles had been fought at art auctions, as both of them were connoisseurs. Their rivalry had never impeded their relationship, until Adam had taken over the company. The frequent losses had turned him into a bitter man, and he had taken to the bottle. He ended up getting divorced and losing custody of his children. John had tried to talk some sense into him, but it fell on deaf ears.

The painting on auction that day was a van Gogh, who coincidentally, was their favourite artist. “I have an opening bid for six million pounds,” announced the auctioneer.

The final price was expected to be much higher. Adam had about fifteen million pounds in his bank account.He signalled to the auctioneer, who said,”I now have a bid for six million, five hundred thousand pounds.”

John accepted the challenge, and pitched a new bid.”I have a bid for seven million, ”said the auctioneer.

Adam wasn’t going to back down.”Seven million,five hundred thousand pounds.”

The bidding continued.A few others placed their bids, but by the time the price reached fifteen million, John and Adam were the only bidders left.

“Time to lay the bait ”,thought John. He made a bid for sixteen million pounds.

“He’s doesn’t know I’m bluffing ,” thought Adam. By the time the bidding had reached twelve million Adam had accepted that he painting was out of reach,if he wanted to stay solvent. His only purpose now was to make sure that John ended up paying much more than expected. He made a bid for sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds.

“And now we call the bluff,”thought John.

“The bid is at sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds.Are there any more bidders?”announced the auctioneer.”Then I’m offering the van Gogh at sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds for the second time.”Adam looked expectantly at John, who didn’t bid further.

”Then it’s sold for sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds to Mr.Adam Hart.”

A broad smile graced John’s face, as Adam looked on in horror.

 

Part Three

The van Gogh adorned his conference room, as Adam signed over the documents that finalised the takeover of Hart Associates by the United Corporation. They had unexpectedly scaled down their offer to five million, but Adam had to accept in order to save face. Had word spread out that he couldn’t pay what he had bid for the van Gogh, his reputation would have take the plunge. However, he was unaware that United Corporation was only a front for a third party takeover, the owner of which was John Hart, his step brother.

The seeds of the hostile takeover had been planted long before Adam had taken over the company. Adam’s father ,Robert Hart, had lost his first wife to a long term illness. He had then married John’s mother, Tracy Stuart.Robert lavished Adam with gifts,while John was always treated as an outsider. Adam was a dunce at school, while John was always top of his class. John believed it would endear him to his step father, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. His mother was blinded by her love for Robert, and turned a deaf ear to his worries. He established a friendship with Adam, but the wall between them was impenetrable.

When Robert decided to hand over his company to Adam, John had decided that the time had come to take the game to the Harts. He was well aware of Adam’s business sense, and knew it was only a matter of time before the company went down. He was also aware of an upcoming auction of a priceless van Gogh. He kept on pestering him, as he liked to call it, to let the company be taken over, and delivered the punch the day before the auction, and the trap was set. He was well aware that Adam would not splurge on the painting if he went into overdraft, and make it his objective to drag John down and burn a hole in his pocket. All that was left was to call the bluff and deliver the knockout blow.

 

b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trial

The court of the local magistrate of that little town was seldom as crowded as it was that day. However, this rare occurrence was justified, seeing as the trial scheduled to take place that morning revolved around cold blooded murder.

His Honour Judge Karan Singhania was presiding over the case. He was ambitious, and probably one of the youngest judges in the state .He was quickly gaining a reputation as a man with a no- nonsense brand of justice. His hearings were quick, and to the point. The son of the former Governor of the state, he was tipped by several of his peers to join the High Court. The accused was Mr. Nitin Sutaria, who had chosen Advocate Nikhil Arora to represent him , while the state was represented by Advocate Anuj Mehta. Mr. Sutaria had pled not guilty.

 

The trial had begun. The opening statements were made by the lawyers. Mr. Rohan Khanna was the first person to be summoned to the witness box. Advocate Anuj Mehta began,”Mr.Khanna, where were you between 8 and 9 P.M. on the 30th of September?”

“I was at a friend’s place, for my weekly game of poker.”

His alibi was confirmed, and his questioning resumed.

Advocate Mehta asked,”At what time did you leave?”

“Around 8:45”

“Could you describe the sequence of events that occurred after you left? ”

“As I was walking towards my car, I saw a man emerge from the bungalow across the street. I recognized him as Abhishek Sharma, the anti-corruption crusader who has been in the news for his protest rallies. He is a friend of mine, and he must have been out for his post-dinner walk. The moment he stepped out, I saw a car start up from the far end of the street. The car was moving in our direction, and was accelerating quickly. Before I could realise what was going on, the car was upon us. It was headed toward Mr. Sharma, and it made contact with him, sending him flying through 20 feet ,and he landed with a sickening crunch. The car sped by, and I rushed toward my friend, and took him to the hospital. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t take down the license plate number of the car, as I worried about him.”

“Were you able to get a clear look at the driver of the car?”

“Yes,sir. As the car sped by, the light from a nearby lamp post hit him in the face. I recognized him as Mr. Sutaria, the dean of the local  medical college, who is also the accused in this case.”

Murmurs broke through the crowd. As far as they were concerned,this case was all but over. However, the defense lawyer, Advocate Arora was unperturbed, as he still had his trump card to play. He refused to question the witness,taking everyone by surprise. and the next witness ,Mrs. Indira Singh was summoned .

Mr. Anuj Mehta began,”What can you tell us, Mrs. Singh?”

She said, ”Sir, I am a lecturer at the local medical college.A few days before the accident, I was waiting outside the dean’s office for a meeting, when I saw Abhishek Sharma barge into his office. They were arguing, and the argument was a heated one. From what I could make out, Mr. Sharma was accusing the dean of accepting bribes in exchange for admissions. He left after a while, and the dean emerged from his office, looking flustered, and uttered some disgusting cuss words.”

Advocate Arora again refused to question the witness, and was looking unquestionably calm.

Advocate Mehta addressed the judge,” Your Honour, after hearing the testimonies of these two witnesses, it is fair to say that this is a clear case of premeditated murder. Mr .Sutaria, fearing prosecution and a loss of reputation at the hands of Mr. Sharma, chose to take his life.”

Everybody in the court was whispering among themselves,and the judge was nodding. Finally, it was time to call upon the last witness, Mrs. Anjali Sutaria, the wife of the accused. Advocate Arora had been waiting for this moment. The day before, Mrs. Sutaria had agreed to testify that her husband was at home with her at the time of the murder.  Her testimony would bring the case to a standstill, and the court would be adjourned. The case would be added to the enormous backlog, and would soon fade from public memory.

Mrs. Sutaria was summoned, and took her place in the witness box.

Advocate Mehta asked,”Mrs. Sutaria , was your husband with you at the time of the murder?”

The crowd held its breath, and Mr. Sutaria leaned forward in anticipation.

“No, he wasn’t”.

 

The sentencing was quick. Mr. Sutaria was sentenced to a life term, and was dragged away from court, all the time screaming,” She’s lying! I’m innocent!”The lawyers shook hands, both utterly perplexed at the turn of events.

 

Later that day, the first witness, Rohan Khanna was on the phone with someone.

“Didn’t I say we could pull this off?”,Khanna said.

“I was scared, man. Though you did great. I have wired the money to your account. Poor Sutaria, sentenced to life imprisonment.Can’t feel too sorry for him, though. It was my career on the line.Sharma had found evidence that I rigged judgements in exchange for bribes.  It was necessary to kill Sharma, for the headline”Judge Karan Singhania convicted of bribery” wasn’t particularly enticing.”

Khanna  said,” Just one question. How did you get his wife to change her testimony at the last moment?”

“Well, my friends don’t call me ‘The Tiger’ for nothing, you know.”
 

 

 

 

The Island

Dawn is about to break in the City of Seven Islands. A lone man strolls along the Queen’s necklace. Alone, dejected and forgotten by those who once loved him, he absorbs the scene around him .A group of friends sharing a laugh, two lovers walking with their hands entwined, and a group of homeless children running around, completely oblivious to their surroundings. The man looks towards the west, where the sun is gradually emerging, crushing the darkness, and signalling a fresh start.

On a different day, in the opposite corner of the world, Times Square is abuzz with activity, packed with people, for it is time to usher in the New Year. The crowd chants in unison,” Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! -”.A young woman watches the scene unfold on her television set, reminiscing about the same day one year ago, when she had attended her husband’s funeral.

“Three! Two! One! ” The whole place erupts in cheering. A thousand hearts beat as one, in anticipation of the unknown adventures that lie ahead, while glittering fireworks herald a new beginning.

Five months later, in another part of the world, it has come down to the last penalty kick in the tournament final. As the player steps up to take the decisive shot, his entire life flashes before him-growing up in an orphanage, bullied by his dorm-mates, and without any friends. He runs up to the ball and swings his foot at it, driving it into the top right corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. The stadium erupts, and his teammates lift him on their shoulders, parading him across the ground. Fans invade the pitch, just to get closer to the match winner. The town hails him as a hero, and he is loved by all, alone no more.

What binds these completely separate incidents together?

In the vast ocean of humanity, Fate, the wily temptress, can plot to bring even the strongest of the lot to their knees. It is in these very moments, that mankind, in all its beauty, can conspire to make them rise again. In the tumultuous journey of life, one runs across the various faces of mankind-friends and foes, lovers and haters, good and bad. While some faces symbolise everlasting memories, others impart invaluable lessons.

There comes a time, when one loses his bearings in the sea of faces. The once endearing expanse of blue turns a dour shade of grey. The waves lose their vigour, and the sea looks familiar no more. Washed ashore on the island called Loneliness, marooned and desolate, he travels further inland, escaping from the call of the sea, for it seems enticing no more.

The waves lap up on the shore, lying in wait of the prodigal son. The loner erects massive walls to drown the noise, and makes a settlement deep within the island, at last convinced that he belongs there. He spends his days aimlessly wandering around, looking for a voice, one which can guide him, one only he himself can find.

One day, he hears a voice. Recognizing the voice as that of the ocean, he travels to the wall, to find the chink in his armour. However, the wall is sturdy as ever, and the voice still seems far away. Looking for the voice, he travels further inland, but he does not stop at his settlement. He keeps on going until he reaches the other side of the island. It was the ocean speaking to him, all along. However, the ocean seems different on this side. It is an endless expanse of blue, the waves crashing with untamed ferocity on the shore. It is then that he realises, that the voice was speaking from within himself, guiding him towards the ocean. Savouring the moment, he starts walking towards the expanse, letting it embrace him.

The Last Conversation

He would leave for the front tomorrow. His division, the 50th Infantry, had been assigned to fight Erwin Rommels’ Afrika Corps in Gazala, Libya. The ballroom was filled with his fellow officers and their partners, all trying to ignore the stark reality, that several of the men might not come back.

He looked into her eyes, and whispered ,”Darling , I might not come back from this . ” She replied,”Sure, Johnny. But know this-I will wait till the end of time if I have to. You’re not getting away from me that easily.”

“Neither will I ever let you go” ,he said. They locked in a passionate embrace, treasuring the few moments they had together.

1st July,1941

The 50th Infantry division was held in reserve during the ensuing First Battle of El Alamein, due to the severe casualties it had suffered in the Battle of Gazala. First Lieutenant John Kendrick was one of the lucky few to have made it alive. The horrors he had witnessed in Gazala seemed to be right out of the pits of hell. The continous barrage of gunfire, shelling and grenades made him wonder what God would allow humanity to descend to such madness. He watched his fellow comrades die. He watched them lose their limbs. He watched their bodies blown apart by grenades. Deep down, he knew that his time would also come. He only wanted to take down as many of the Krauts as he could, before that inevitable bullet found him. He was lying on his bunk, staring at the letter in his hand. It was from Alice.

Dear John,

I hope this letter finds you alive and well.I’m counting down the days to your return. Things are in a precarious state at home.Maisie was just informed that her husband was killed in action in Lebanon.No amount of words can comfort her.She refuses to accept he is dead. Meanwhile, its all chaos in London. The Blitz is on song, and is causing destruction around here. Give those Germans my love, won’t you?  Remember,I’m waiting for you.

Love,Alice.

John wanted to leave all this behind, and dash back to London that very instant. His mind went back to what Alice had written about her friend,Maisie. If he were to die, could he allow Alice to go through the same trauma? He couldn’t bear the thought of his Alice living her life as a shadow of herself.He knew what he had to do.

6 June,1944

They were preparing to land at Gold Beach,Normandy in the Universal Carrier, an amphibious craft . The beach was in sight. John’s mind flashed back to the past few years,and the battles he had fought in Central Africa and Sicily.He thought about the brothers he had lost .He thought about Alice. He had not replied to her letter, nor the ones after that. Her letters regularly found him, but he never wrote back. He wanted her to forget him.He wanted her to hate him. He hoped that when the news of his inevitable death reached her, he would be long forgotten in some deep recess of her mind, and she would not go through what millions of other women had suffered in this tragic war.

As the beach drew ever closer, John looked sideways at his comrade and friend, Second Lieutenant Gary Bates. Over the numerous battles they had fought together, they had saved each others’ life several times. They had developed a close friendship.

“Gary”,said John.

“Fire away,old chap.”

“In case I die today, there’s something I want you to do.”

“We’re going to make it. We didn’t fight all those battles for nothing, you know.So why don’t we decide how many of those Germans are we going to kill-”

“Listen to me! There’s a bullet out there with my name on it.Its only a matter of time before it finds me. If I die, promise me that you’ll check on Alice. Make sure she is doing well. Don’t tell her that I sent you.”

“I still think you should have replied to her letters”, said Gary.

“Clear the ramp!Sixty seconds!”,came the cry from the Captain.”God be with you gentlemen!”

The men readied their rifles, anticipating what lay ahead.

7th June,1944

Gary was looking at the carnage around him. His division had suffered over 400 casualties in the brutal battle at the beach. However, the beach had been secured, which enabled the Allies to establish a foothold in France. Gary found what he had been looking for. John lay on the ground, motionless.

Right after they had landed on the beach, John had taken a bullet to the stomach, and crumpled to the ground. As Gary had bent over to pick him up, John said,”Go!Don’t wait for me!I know what I signed up for!”

“I’m not leaving you like this!”,exclaimed Gary.

“You’ll get yourself killed, you idiot! Just remember to check on Ali- ”

Right then, a bullet went through John’s forehead, and he collapsed.

Gary turned towards the Germans, and shouted,”I’m coming for you, you bastards!”

Gary had killed over 20 Germans. But John still lay motionless. He stooped down, and opened John’s haversack, expecting to find the letters from Alice. He would keep them preserved, and would one day tell his children about his selfless moron of a friend.

However, when he opened the bag , he only found a single letter.It was from John’s mother.

Dear Son,

I am deeply disheartened to be the bearer of this news.Alice was killed last night during the German air raids. I know how much you two loved each other, and that no amount of words can comfort you.Just know that we love you, and are counting down the days to your return.

Love,Mother.

Gary was shocked. The letter was dated  May 1941. Had John being imagining things? Then he remembered what John had told him about his last conversation with Alice.Then it dawned on him.

John had never let her go.