I first heard the voice when I looked into the eyes of that beggar.
He was a regular beggar. Shabby. Half starved. One of the thousands you see on the roads of my city. He sits at the corner of the lane, which joins the main road, and begs for a rupee or two from the passing traffic. To the left of the lane, there is this huge apartment which is my home. I live there with my parents.
That day, I was returning home as usual from my college. The beggar was there
doing his job as usual. The man on the motorcycle, who was the target, just ignored him and looked straight ahead. A woman came out from my apartments and gave a packet of bread to the beggar. I guess it was past its expiry date. The beggar took it carefully and tucked it inside his blanket.
He saw me approaching him, and put both his palms in a begging motion. I always look towards the beggars and shake my head. That day was no different from any other. I looked towards him and our eyes met.
The voice was as clear as my own and seemed to speak directly into my head. At the same time, I felt a strange sensation. I looked around.
Arun was there with his hand raised, aimed at my head.
“Tch! You turned around. Lucky bastard!” he laughed and ran away. “Catch you later. Tuition!”
Arun is my childhood friend. One year younger than me. By this time, we’re inseparable I guess.
Shaking my head, I looked back at the beggar. He sat there looking at me expectantly. I wanted to ask him if he heard anything but it would be silly and totally weird to do so. So shaking my head again, I strode on towards home.
The number remained in my head. It was involuntary. Something about that voice bugged me but I soon forgot about it.
The next day I went to college as usual. While returning home, I saw that the beggar was not there in his usual spot. I saw nothing unusual then. But I did not see him again the next day too. So, I casually asked my security guard if the beggar moved somewhere else.
‘He’s dead,’ the security guard replied bluntly. It would be an exaggeration to say that I was shocked, but I was a little surprised.
‘How? When did he die?’ I asked.
‘The day before yesterday. In the evening,’ he said shortly. The guard was a man of few words.
‘How?’ I repeated.
The guard sighed.
‘He choked on some bread. The ma’am from 402 gave it to him, I think. He swallowed the whole bunch at once and it got stuck in his throat. He choked on it and died.’
Seeing from his expression, he looked like he said all that he would. But I probed just a little further.
‘At what time did this happen?’
‘Around 7.10.’ The guard had a little edge to his voice now. So I eased off and climbed the stairs to my home.
7.10 p.m. That would be around half an hour after I returned home. To think a man whom I saw 30-40 minutes previously would be dead! I shuddered a little and pushed the matter out of my brain.
The number popped into my head. I frowned a little and shrugged it off.
I would understand its significance soon.
Well, here I am with another novella. Again I regret my incapability to manage my studies and passion simultaneously. My external examinations are still going on but I have received a week off as preparation holidays.
Anyway, this new novella, ‘The Boy who Heard Death’, is the second one I’m publishing but it is not the second one I’ve written. I’ve nearly completed the Book 2 of ‘The Return’ which you can read here.
Also Cell Novels will be one chapter ahead when compared to this site. After all, it is my primary site for stories. You can also explore other stories which are published there.
Hope you like them.