Rahul found himself on familiar stairs. There was a light bulb hanging from above and it threw shadows wherever it reached. He recognized the place as his old house. The house they were forced to leave because of the accident.
Rahul looked around him and saw two little boys playing. The shorter boy was saying something to the other boy. It seemed a too serious talk for a boy so small. In the next instant, he saw the shorter boy on the ground, his hand bent at an unnatural angle.
The bulb illuminated the the taller boy’s back and his shadow fell on the fallen boy, like it was trying to drown him in darkness. But there was something unnatural about the whole scene.
Before Rahul could point out what it was that was wrong, the scene shifted. He was in his home, sitting on the sofa. There was the white rug his mother had loved. He felt relief at this sight. All is well, it was all a dream, he thought. But it was not to be. He watched as the rug turned crimson red and looked up to see a man sitting on the chair. His neck was cut open. Rahul gasped and put his hands up to save himself from the sight. Something warm touched his cheek. It was a knife, dripping blood. He immediately let go of it.
“YOU KILLED ME!” the man shouted. The force of his shout made his neck spurt more blood at a more rapid rate. The dying man raised his hand to strangle Rahul. His hands closed around Rahul’s neck.
But the man was dying and he had very little strength left. Rahul easily pulled the hands off of him. There was a wet feeling around his neck. He saw that his neck was covered with blood on one side.But there was no cut. He pushed the dying man.
“NO! YOU WERE GOING TO KILL ME AND MY DAD! I JUST SAVED MYSELF!!” he cried back.
“WAS I? WAS I??”
Rahul felt cold sweat form on his brow. It was not the man’s voice. It was another voice which was coming through his mouth, a voice which was familiar. Where had he heard it before?
“I’LL KILL YOU!!” The cry broke his thoughts. Rahul saw the chair but it was empty now. The room was clean. The voice had come through the front door. He looked at the doorway and saw another man standing there, who looked a little like the man who died.
It was Bharadwaj, the second salesman. He had a big gun in his hand. Beside him was Charan, the man whom he thought of as his father. He was lying on the floor with a bullet wound in his head.
“I’LL KILL YOU!” Bharadwaj shouted again and raised the gun.
Rahul covered his eyes in fear. There was a gunshot but he felt no pain. He slowly opened his eyes. Bharadwaj was still standing there with the gun raised. Then he slowly toppled over.
Standing behind was his dad, his original dad. He had a gun in his hand and it was smoking. There was a sob and Rahul looked towards the fallen body of Charan. There was a woman beside him who was crying. But it did not seem like she was crying for him.
His mother looked at Rahul with an expression of pain and betrayal. His felt his heart twist inside his chest. He was crying now. He wanted to yell that he was sorry. He wanted her to say that she forgave him. He wanted her to accept him once more.
But all words got stuck in his throat. He looked closely at his mother’s face. There was not one accusation written on her face. It felt that the pain she felt was not because of him but it was for him. And the betrayal…?
Then the world shattered. Everything broke into a million pieces. He felt as if he was in a vortex and all the faces of people he knew were rampaging around him. He saw his mother, his father, the little boy, his neighbours, the salesmen, the police, Charan and someone else. They were all moving, moving, moving. Some overlapped and some disappeared. Whatever remained was trying to fall, fall and make a bigger picture.
And after sometime, it did. And Rahul screamed.
Rahul woke up covered with sweat. He felt terrified, terrified at what he dreamt. But it was already disappearing, the fragments which formed the horrific picture blinking out of existence. But there was enough of it fresh in his memory through which he could grasp the whole picture.
He shook his head to make it disappear. But it did not. He could not just forget what he saw.
“Finally awake huh, boy?” The voice was a welcome to Rahul. Anything to distract him from himself.
He turned towards it and saw a police officer looking at him. He was tall, clean shaven with muscled arms screaming to let loose from his tight khaki uniform.
Rahul said nothing.
“About time too! We were starting to think we would lose you to coma too. It seems like you were just sleeping, huh. Though what man sleeps for 12 days I don’t know.”
12 days? It felt as if he just slept for a night. And coma? He looked down and saw wires protruding from his arms. He was in a hospital, he realized. There was a bandage around his shoulder. So it was not a dream. And his dream too may not be a dream. But he wanted to confirm it one last time.
“Wh-why am I here?” his own voice felt raspy to him. His throat was dry. He looked for water. The inspector poured some water into the glass which was beside Rahul’s bed and gave it to him.
“You still don’t remember, huh? Or do you remember and are you trying to act like you don’t? It doesn’t matter. It will all come out anyway. You’re here because a person stabbed you and you stabbed him back. The difference is, luckily or unluckily, he went into a coma. And again, luckily or unluckily, you’re alive! Irony, huh? The hunter becomes the prey!”
Rahul wore a blank expression upon hearing this. He needed time to think. So he quietly lay down on the bed and covered himself up with a blanket.
“Not going to say anything, huh?” His ‘huhs’ were seriously starting to irritate Rahul. “Oh well, go on. Go on and continue your beauty sleep. But remember it may not be the prince Charming that comes to wake you up. Oh no, it will be different. Someone very different!”
It was two days later. Rahul was placed in a detention center. His one stop before going to court. Again. He now remembered everything. And he almost believed everything. But those words always came back to him. It was Charan’s words and he said them during the very beginning of his time in the countryside.
It was during the first or second interview, he couldn’t remember which.
“You always try to believe something which suits you the most. It’s not just you. It’s human instinct. It’s one way a man protects himself; by making himself believe the lie which comforts him. But only he believes it. In the end the truth remains unchanged. And you have to face this truth. However harsh it maybe, you must have the courage to face it. Because you must always know who you were to change who you are. I’m not telling to accept what I’m saying. I’m saying just consider it.”
It seemed they were more relevant now than then. He kept saying that the salesman was going to kill him and never considered another person’s views. And he got by.
But this time, it was different. He must consider what he knows and what others say. He must consider it all. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not find one way of looking at things which did not destroy something of him.
He finally resolved himself. When all the paths he’s facing were bad, he just has to choose the path which does not make him regret choosing it. The one path, which when travelled to the end, destroys all the other paths.
For this he has to make people believe he reverted back to his old self. The self which drowned itself in delusions. And he has to start this with the man now standing in front of him, on the other side of the bars.
He looked Charan straight in the eyes and said,
END OF BOOK 1