Rahul was close to pissing his pants, very close.
The lunatic salesman was going to bear him down with the 10 inch long knife which gleaned wickedly in the morning light. The world felt as if it was in slow motion. He could see the face of the salesman, twisted with anger and full of knowledge of what he was about to do. Rahul could not move a muscle under the rage emancipating from him.He would have been skewered then and there if not for the chair.
Rahul was standing behind the chair in the hallway and Bharadwaj had to sidestep to reach him. Had he gone in from the left, it would have all ended. But he misjudged and charged through the right. The small gap between the chair and tea-pai was not enough for his running legs to go unhindered. His right leg hit the furthest leg of the tea-pai and he buckled under the impact.
In this moment of stumbling, Rahul truly understood what was going to happen to him. He stopped thinking on why he was trying to be killed. It can be left for later, if he survived this. He forced his limbs into action. Bharadwaj had recovered from the pain and blindly thrust the knife in Rahul’s direction. But the momentum was lost and Rahul dodged it easily. He ran towards his room and got behind the door.
The moment he tried to bolt the door it flew upon and Rahul was thrown backwards. Bharadwaj rushed in and seeing an out of balance Rahul, thrust the knife towards his chest.
But the off-balance saved him. He swayed to the right and the knife passed through his shoulder instead of his chest. There was no pain at the beginning and in this moment he saw Bharadwaj’s face. It was full of shock as if he did not believe he stabbed a human. This moment of indecision decided the fight. Rahul used all his remaining power and pushed Bharadwaj outside of the room. Bharadwaj fell backwards, his hand slipping off of the knife still stuck in Rahul’s shoulder. Rahul bolted the door and pushed his back against it.
The onslaught of pain was slow. It was just an irritation at first, a one he had to scratch. Then it became more and more until he felt as if his shoulder was on fire. There was very little blood, maybe because the knife was stopping it from coming out. Tears came freely into his eyes but he reined them in. He controlled his low sobs of pain, threatening to spill out from his chest.
The door budged in front of the slam of shoulder. Rahul’s head, which was resting against the door, shook under the force. Bharadwaj was trying to force his way in. Rahul forced his good shoulder against the door but without the use of the other shoulder, it was a futile effort. He understood it in the next slam.
Holding his shoulder and whimpering in pain, he moved towards the bed with the intention to bar it against the door. But he understood instinctively that there would be no time. There was only one thing left to do. Rahul gritted his teeth and took hold of the knife’s handle. He knew that the slower the removal the longer and greater would be the pain. So in one swift move he yanked it out.
He nearly passed out from the pain. It was unlike anything he experienced before. It was as if his shoulder was being bitten by a million ants. His head was throbbing, his brain was on fire. It was excruciating. He screamed.
The door was very close to unhinging now. The nails with which the bolt was secured was giving way. Rahul’s nerves screamed for mercy as he stood up and moved slowly towards the door.
“In a minute. You can rest all you want in a minute,” he told them and stood with the knife held in his hand, beside the door.
The next slam blasted the door open. Bharadwaj rushed in along with the momentum and in the next moment, he felt a tiny push in his abdomen. He stopped, looked down and saw the knife he bought protruding from his stomach. It then vanished and in its place, a stream of blood gushed out. He felt light-headed but he managed to spin around. Rahul was standing there with the knife in his hand, ready to stab him another time if he rushed him.
“Damn. It was supposed to be me stabbing him dead. But it’s the same again,” were Bharadwaj’s final thoughts.
Rahul came out of the room slowly. The pain in his shoulder was now a dull throbbing. He had quickly tied the knife wound with a handkerchief and so reduced the loss of blood. He did not give a thought to the salesman lying on the floor, either unconscious or dead. He sat himself down into the sofa in the hall. His eyes went onto the cell phone on the tea-pai.
“I should call someone. The police, the ambulance, someone…” he thought.
He felt his mind slowly shutting down. “It must be the shock,” he mumbled to himself. “But why did he attack me? I don’t even know him and I can’t know his reasons as he may already be dead.”
But the look of rage on his, the attacker’s face said otherwise. “I may not know him but I think he knows me, at least that’s what it looked like.”
His blood dripped onto the floor, drop by drop. He felt like he was under water now. He was slowly losing conscious now. He saw the drops of red and subconsciously thought,
“Haha, musn’t let it drip any further. Mother will be angry if spoil her white rug. How fanatically she loves that. She-”
It was as if a jolt of electricity passed through him. Rahul was wide awake now. What was it that he thought again? White rug? But he remembered thinking when he first came into the house that-
He heard a ringing and looked towards the cell on the tea-pai, thus interrupting his thoughts from going any further. He picked up the phone with sweating hands. And the sweat was not due to the pain. It was due to fear. He was afraid of what he just remembered. It must be his fault surely. He might have been mistaken. But even as he thought that, he knew there was no mistake. The memory was very clear in his brain, as vivid as it was yesterday. He forced himself off the thought and answered the phone.
“Rahul?” The voice reverberated in his head.
“Mo-Mom? Mom! Mom!!” Hearing that voice once again, after 2 weeks precisely, Rahul finally let the tension, fear and pain get to him. He broke down in tears.
“Mom! Mom, I’m at our old home, mom! Da-Dad and I came here yesterday. But someone came and hi-hit dad and now he’s ble-bleeding! Mom, save him! Save me!!” he continued crying. He did not realize that he used the word Dad subconsciously. He left all his reservations and just cried.
The familiar loud sound came again. Rahul was terrified for a moment. He thought that the salesman had woken up. But no, he did not lock that door and the sound was coming from the front door. A sudden horrible thought struck him.
“MOM! He has someone waiting for him outside, Mom!! He’s trying to break open the door! Mom!”
The banging continued. The door shook and the bolt threatened to come loose. Rahul continued speaking into the phone.
“Mom, I think I killed the first guy, Mom! I’m hurt and I can’t fight again! Mom please call someone! Help me! Save me!”
The door flew open. Rahul instinctively shielded his eyes from the sudden morning light the door let through.
“Mom, he broke open the door! Mom!” he continued whispering in the phone.
No blow fell on him. He slowly lowered his hand and saw through the door. There were some people gathered around the front door.
“Of course!” Rahul thought with relief. “Screaming is one thing, but doors banging and breaking, neighbours have got to know what’s the cause of that!”
“Mom, it’s just the neighbours!” he said with relief into the phone. “They-“
He stopped short. There was a boy outside the door. He had tears in his eyes and a horror-stricken look on his face. That boy was Naveen.
Rahul felt déjà-vu. He saw this same scene, a year ago. He felt like he was in a trance. His head started aching. There was a dull throb beginning. It was like his brain was desperately trying to hold in something which was dangerously close to spilling out.
Two people broke off from the crowd and came in through the door. One was a man and the other a woman. People tried to follow them, but the man held them off.
“Mom, two people just came in. I think I’m safe now. They-“Rahul cut off.
It was because he recognized their clothes. They were the people sitting in the car in the visitor area. The woman bent near the unconscious body of Charan and started checking his heartbeat. He saw her face and all his breath left him.
“Mom?” he called out.
His mom looked at him. He did not know what to think. He moved the phone away from his ear and looked at the screen. There was no call. He suddenly remembered all the times his mother spoke to him but how she never talked to Charan. And all those strange looks Charan gave to him when he said mother was on the phone. It can’t be-?
The throb in his head was increasing now. It changed from dull to insistent. He could literally feel the cracks appearing on whatever dam was inside his brain.
He felt the phone being taken from his hands. He saw the man with whom his mother entered. The man was looking at him with a mixture of pain and love. He seemed familiar to Rahul. He felt he saw the nose and eyes daily. And with a chill he realized where he had seen them. On himself! With utter incomprehension, he looked towards the unconscious body of Charan on the floor and then at the man beside him and said a single word.
And with that, the dam burst and everything shattered.