“The number you are calling, is not answering, please try again later”, his cell phone still glued to his ears, his eyes fixated upon the wall in front of him and his thoughts colliding over each other like a thunderstorm. He is in his early 20s, built thin and lean, fair skin and dark brown hair, he wore plain black t-shirt with the line “Left my heart at the Sierra Madre”, custom printed on it. He nods abstractly while still looking at the wall as if trying to convince himself and then gets up hurriedly. “It’s ok Mukesh” he said to himself, “We’ll work it out, right? right?”. He opens the drawer and takes out his earphones and a pair of fresh socks. Stretching the cotton to its full potential, he wears the socks and then puts his covered feet into his sandals to further proceed to turn off the lights. With every step now his feet increasing their pace through the damp corridors of the hostel which was plagued with the smell of omelettes and momos. “Bhai dinner kiya?” interrupts one of his friends on his way to which he replies, “Nahi”. “Kab karega?”, he didn’t get any reply. There was a light drizzle outside, he had seen that before leaving and intentionally left the umbrella. His walk looked stranded although he knew the campus like the back of his hand. Stepping on the wet tarmac his walk directed him straight to the isolated dimly lit path, often frequented by budding romances or rekindling old flames. Approaching it the rain hastened and the wind felt cold, the rustle of the leaves shed a few dew drops that fell on his ear, drawing a chill down his spine. In front of him lay a slightly curved path, void of any conscious presence. He’d been there before, still that day, everything felt strangely calm. Putting his feet firm, he moved forward, looking around to the trees and the uprooted plants on his way and consciously counting his breath. Almost midway he saw someone coming from the opposite direction, it was dark so he couldn’t figure who it was, just a perky shadowy figure carrying an umbrella. As he moved forward the figure kept getting clearer. A few meters ahead, there was a lamp post shedding a muddled ray of light, to which both of them were equidistant. As the guy with the umbrella grew closer, Mukesh saw the person’s face and his heart skipped a beat. The person who came from the other way was none other than Mukesh himself, he wore the same t-shirt. Mukesh couldn’t move his arms and legs, his eyes wide as the horizon, shaking. The person looked at Mukesh in the eye and ignored him as he walked past. Mukesh still standing there, unable to move. “They don’t talk” a soft voice came from the bench near the road, “Or acknowledge your presence, one of the nuances of this… this thing” she said. Mukesh hastily looked there, he saw a girl in her late 20s, wore a bright purple kurti, she wore specs, her skin shone even in the dim light and her smile dazzled his spooked eyes. “Who… was that?” he said softly as his throat blotched. “Well I think you already know an answer to that”. The look on his face still terrified. “Have a seat”, she said pointing towards the red marble and tiles bench. He didn’t move. “Mukesh, trust me, the sooner you comply the quicker you’ll be done with. He subconsciously proceeded to sit on the bench. “How do you know my name? I’m sure this is just a dream or I’m hallucinating, yes”. “Oh! abso-fucking-lutely NOT, this is anything but a dream”, “Now SSHhh.. here come my favourite part”, she says as she lays back on the bench and looks at the studio block, A Huge thud sound comes that breaks the silence of the night. “Let’s take a walk now” she gets up and starts walking towards the group of people accumulated at the hostel where the sound came from. He follows. There’s a huge group of people surrounding something. “And, they can’t see you, so just move past” she tells Mukesh as she moves through the crowd, he too goes through and then suddenly loses his sense when he sees a body and its insides plastered on the ground. He sees a dead body, upside down, mutilated to the extent it became unrecognizable. Mukesh however caught a glance of the t-shirt and then looked at his own t-shirt. “Is that Mukesh?” exclaimed one of the people standing in the crowd. Mukesh looked at the person, his eyes turned red. He rushed out of the crowd and ran back to his hostel, closed the room and as soon as he proceeded, he saw the same dimly-lit road and not his room. On the road he saw the same bench and the same girl. She sat on the bench smiling “You don’t learn, do you?” she smiled.

“Alright you tell me what the fuck is going on, who was that guy on the floor, and who passed me, and who are you?” he shouted with a frail tint in his voice. “Fair enough, have a seat and I promise I’ll answer, ok?”, he stood still for a while looking at her and then cautiously proceeded to sit on the bench, sitting on the extreme end. “That guy you saw pass by you was you, that guy you saw who committed suicide and jumped, was you too. The Scar on your right hand now, above the arteries and veins that you didn’t have before are actually yours. This entire thing, this is what can be. See life is filled with choices and their endless possibilities, the choice you might’ve made while you were say in 10th grade, might influence what choice you make today. And What you saw are these possibilities, things that might happen had it been slightly different, and it’s my job to make you realize how important these choices are”, both of them sat quite for a while, the girl looked at the nearby tree and touched it moist branches ignoring the leaves. “Which brings me to your next question,

who am I?”, she continued as he looked at her, the wrinkled on his forehead now releasing, “Who am I, 2003, they found a body of a girl hanging in her room through the fan, she used her dupatta to do so, in her room they saw torn pieces of applications she filled for the companies and a neat letter kept on the table, the name of the girl was ‘Ketki Gandhi’ and you came assume that is me, I sometimes come back to this road, not bothering people walking hand-in-hand, minding their own business but once a while I come across someone like you, in whom I see myself and the stupid choice I might make, so it’s my job to make you know, not understand but just ‘know’.

“You ok?” she said. “I don’t know. “Good enough”. He closed his eyes and when he opened, he saw the same path in front of him. The bench was there but the girl wasn’t, neither was someone coming from the other side. He proceeded to walk and went back to his room. He didn’t sleep that night. Laying on one side he kept thinking. By 5:00 am he got up and opened his laptop, he searched the name ‘Ketki Gandhi’ in the archives of 2003 batch, there was no match. He removed the filters and tried once again, still there was no match. There hadn’t been any suicide at XAVIERS. He was reading all this while not betraying a single emotion on his face. It turns out that the story he heard was not true yet for him this wasn’t the worry. As the night came the next day, he wore his favourite shirt, combed his wet hair and put on some deodorant. This time he did take an umbrella and walked towards the same road. Not minding the surroundings, he went straight to the bench and sat there, again on an extreme end, looking ahead and smiling.


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