Friday, August 24, 2012

A Twist Of Fate

The Old Man sat, prodding the timber into the fire, with a smile playing on his dry discolored lips. He was old and looked ancient with his tattered blanket and dirty turban. His wrinkled ebony colored skin glistened against the fire. He stroked his grey beard and looked at the children sitting around him in a rough semi-circle. Their eyes filled with excitement and fear. The excitement of being in a deserted cottage with an old man for company .The fear of the dark jungle around them and the creatures that lurked in them – ones that can be seen and more than that the ones that cannot be seen.


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The “children” as the old man thought were a group of youngsters who worked in the same office. They had planned a road trip to Coorg. The lovely little town of India nestled in the lap of hills where leaves glowed like emerald and Kaveri flowed with vigor. The coffee from Coorg kept the soldiers of the Empire awake during the cold of the First World War. A picturesque little town of orchards, coffee, nature and bliss.

Unfortunately, late into the afternoon, their jeep broke down in the middle of nowhere. They had walked through the jungle paths to the deserted cottage as the last light of the day gave way to dusk. Now they sat ,satiated by strong Coorg coffee and the reassurance of a warm bed for the night, hanging onto the words pouring out of the Old Man about this land and it’s legends.


The girl with lanky brown hair and lovely black eyes 
hiding behind the ugly black frame of a spectacle had asked the Old Man about his story. He smiled and said,” I was born here; behind this cottage in a one room lime-washed servant quarters. I grew up elsewhere. In many cities with many guardians. By the time I was seventeen I could speak eight languages and became a con man. Money from bluffing people and pick –pocketing was just enough to make ends meet. I was destined for bigger crimes. I had the face and body of a hero.” The Old Man paused for the children to finish sniggling,” I am old now. Nevertheless, those days I was a real Dharmendra. With my face and my glib tongue rolling in the multitude of languages I made the perfect assassin. I killed people.For money”
He smiled at the unanimous gasp that surged from the semi-circle around him and waited for the knowledge to sink in. He watched them, as they looked at each other, wary and puzzled.

“I killed for money. A name, a location, and a price. That was all that mattered to me. Along the way, the price became of no consequence. It was the killing. The fear in the eyes of my victim as death loomed in front of them and the sheer smell of blood. I worshipped death.” He stopped to prod the embers in to the fire.

“More Coffee anyone?” the Old Man asked lifting the kettle.” No” they shook their head;eager to listen to the rest of the story.
“Anyways, pride goes before the fall.Fortantely for the police, they caught me after the assassination of a local politician. There was no mercy and I did not ask for any. The court judged that I should be hanged to death.”

“And?” the children asked in unison.

“And? They carried out the sentence on 21st July 1984!” He simply stated.

There was a moment of silence followed by a scream so shrilly from one of the girls that the Old Man thought he would become deaf. He raised his head to see the children running away like a flock of birds and only the lanky brown haired girl remaining, her black eyes piercing into him.

The Old Man continued as if nothing happened” That morning just when the noose tightened around my neck, the entire podium along with me, rope and the executioner fell to ground. Loose planks somewhere I believe. You see Indian law does not allow one person to be hanged twice. Twist of fate!” The Old Man smiled at her.

She let out a breath of relief and collapsed to the ground. She laughed thinking about her scaredy-cat friends. She removed her spectacles, cleaned them, and perched them precariously on her nose,” May I have some more coffee”

Heavy pregnant silence met her. The Old Man, the kettle, and the bon fire were all gone. She was alone in front of the deserted cottage with only the unnatural disturbing silence of the night.

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What the Old Man forgot to mention was that on 21st July 1984 when the podium collapsed the prisoner had died of a broken neck just as he would’ve if he had been hung. The executioner escaped with minor scrapes. What a cruel twist of fate!

14 comments:

  1. oho!! the twist was superb! Both the times! Nice.

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  2. Loved the lead up to the twist and not to forget - the twist in itself was superb.

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  3. What a flow!!!! an the twist was...soo soo unexpected!!!

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    1. Thank you my dear..How have you been?

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  4. But you are a superb story-teller, my dear Lotus! Loved the suspense and the denouement :)

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    1. Thank you Chithi...I have always loved stories...

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