Category Archives: New Writing

Designed for Chapters, Scenes, or short stories to be shared

Game Time

                  GAME TIME
He recalled the click of safety catches.

Auric Keller was at a niche Kensington bistro and then he wasn’t.He’d gone to the bathroom just before the dessert course and then he wasn’t in the bathroom.

Shards of short term memories ripped across his mind.The unmistakable visceral odour of a cloth pressed against his mouth, the clumsy way he hit his forehead against the pristine marble washbasin as he tumbled into unconsciousness and the vice like grip of his abductors’ hands propping him up.And that clicking of safety catches.


And then.. “Deus Irae” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” hoisted him abruptly back into the world.There was his Iphone on the ground next to his throbbing head.On the ground?The cold from the rough,uneven earth seemed to seep into his very bones as he shook and shivered awake and squinted at the phone’s screen.”Caller Unknown”.


Auric Keller gave out a primeval groan,part anger,frustration and fear.Mostly fear.Still wearing, albeit terminally splattered and dishevelled,his casual suit from the dinner date he got unsteadily to his feet and scooped up the phone and swiped accept.
“Talk to me,whoever you are,tell me I’m dreaming”.

“Mr.Keller? good morning to you,and you know you’re not dreaming when you wake up in the middle of field and have no idea how you get there;am I right Mr Keller?”

Auric Keller Head of Global Investment Acquisitions at JamesonCorp had very little time for fools or the cliched dialogue so fond of Hollywood screenplay hacks.
“Listen whoever you are,just give me the bottom line and spare me the existential drama.How much,where and when.”
Did Keller detect a barely suppressed chuckle at the other end?

“Oh Mr.Keller you’re obviously labouring under a misapprehension,allow me to enlighten you,put you straight as it were”
Auric Keller by this time was taking in his immediate physical environment,making mental notes,assessing his own condition and surroundings.A field about a hundred yards long,unremarkable countryside,weather fine,possible distant traffic noises?
“What was that?” he said absentmindedly.

“Please do pay attention Mr.Keller ,the exercise begins in a just a few minutes,you must concentrate;honestly you corporate bosses are all the same”.
He couldn’t see anyone else in the vicinity.It was just him all on his lonesome in the middle of a field.His phone told him that it was 8:57 am.That meant he’d been out cold for the best part of 10 hours.So why no hypothermia? Because they-whoever they were- had kept him indoors and dumped him here maybe an hour ago or less.


“I see you’re orienting yourself Mr.Keller just like the good ex- Special Forces officer they obviously trained you to be.Figuring out why you hadn’t succumbed to the privations of hypothermia no doubt..”
“See? you just said I see,figure of speech or close by”.That chuckle again,”Good heavens no; there’s a drone if you look up and to your three o’clock”.And there was. 
“You still haven’t addressed my request”.”The how much,where and when?”

“You got it pal,well?”

“Well as I was attempting to tell you there ain’t no how much or where or even when, you’re not being held for ransom”.
Despite his Officer training and undeniable reasoning and analytical skillset, Auric Keller found non-sequiturs unsettling.
“In that case what am I doing here and just exactly what is your game?”

“Now that’s the first sensible utterance to come from your lips thus far Mr.Keller,I stress thus far,you’ve still got some way go and we haven’t even started the game yet”.As the voice was blathering in his ear,Keller had visually reconnoitred more of his surroundings.An outhouse of sorts,part of its roof missing,an industrial type refuse skip,bags of cement,wheelbarrows,ladders,shovels..
“I can tell you’re casting your gaze toward the farm outbuilding,why don’t you go over there.You’ll not get the chance later on once we’ve started”.
Keller ambled over toward the outbuilding.Game and starting,he carefully evaluated those words as he spun round and looking in the direction of the drone.


” ‘We’ are not starting any ‘game’,what’s about to happen is I’m putting a stop to it right now” and with that he exaggerartedly pressed 9-1-1.
Nothing.Of course he was in England,had been for the past 72 hours,for the board meeting and that intimate dinner date.9-9-9.

Even as he spoke with what he imagined as being in a cool,calm and collected manner it wouldn’t sound like that to the person answering;he knew all too well the outcome.Can you me give your location-no-but you guys can you do GPS tracking,depends on what you’re calling us about,kidnapped?when?have you managed to escape your abductors?no? where are you phoning from-the field in which you woke up and is anyone standing next to you or threatening your life right now?And so Keller hung up.


“Caller Unknown” rang:”Well Mr.Keller that was rather pointless don’t you think;our emegency services do so hate crank calls;now with time running out please make use of what’s left of it;it’s for your benefit”.the call ended again with the muffled chuckle.

 Thirty seconds elapsed,”There you are Mr.Keller back to your best,our apologies it might be that we overdid the chloroform and that’s slowed you down ;so paying attention?”.Keller grunted and nodded.”The game space – ie.the farmer’s field has been mined with IEDs which at the commencement of the proceedings will be remotely activated.Your game mission is to get yourself across the field alive in the allotted time.In 60 minutes an unmarked white Bedford van will appear at the far gate where the driver will wait to pick you up and bring you in and the game will be officially ended”.


Keller wasn’t sure what to think,”Are you out of your mind? A game that involves me crossing a frickin minefield?”
“That is indeed the nature of the competitve challenge”.

“Well, I’ve news for you pal no-one is crossing this field,mined or otherwise”.

“But Mr.Keller we are contractually obligated to facilitate this psychometric evaluation exercise”
The proverbial penny seemingly began to drop for Auric Keller as he gathered his wits and began scrutinising the horizon for an alternate point of exit from the field – the game space?The voice at the other end took on an air of exasperation- real or feigned,Keller wasn’t sure.
“We’re really sorry Mr.Keller but on 3,2,1, now! we have remotely armed the IEDs.You know as well as anyone Old man Jameson’s aphorisms,you’ve been in his employ long enough to understand just how he gets people to do his bidding in order to get the things he wants,done”.
Now That surprised Keller.”Corporate are paying for all this shennanigans?To have me abducted from a restaurant,held hostage and dumped into a field?That’s insane”.
“Sorry to hear that coming from you Mr.Keller but the clock is running and I’m afraid I’m at the limits of what I’m able to legally share on sensitive corporate contract details with you,despite your position and of course your ambitions to be the next Veep”.
“Whoa their pilgrim just take a step back..”

“How can I Mr.Keller I’m sat in front of a control panel”

“Is that your idea of a lame joke?”He heard that muted chuckle.
“We’re merely facilitators and I may say amongst the market’s leading brands in providing such experiences.” Keller had made the 90 or so feet over to the hodge -podge of idling equipment and materials by the outbuilding.
“You’ll be familiar with the ZenithCorp scandal Mr.Keller,last Fall?c’mon you must be”.
Keller was uncomfortable at the mention of a corporate escape-room task evaluation exercise by one of JamesonCorp’s biggest market rivals.Five of their up and coming executives had been designated an escape-room weekend which they thought involved a mock up flight simulation in a customised hangar.The idea being to see how they would react to being in an aircraft falling out of the sky.Except there was no hangar.And when they showed up at their exercise venue there was a real private jet waiting for them.
“They survived all of them more else,one of them is permanently in a wheelchair”

“Oh that wasn’t us that was a competitor outfit.The point is,the lady in the wheelchair got the top job after a corporate merger and the exercise was deemed a success,she was the one who landed the aircraft.But it was real Mr.Keller,a flight simulator and an entire weekend to work out the clues all with no actual jeopardy that doesn’t tell you anything about character”.
Keller demurred,”Oh it sure does”.

“I’m glad you agree”.

“Yeah it shows that whoever set it up is a complete raving psychopath,so count the minutes down,I’m staying put and you’ll have to explain to Corporate why the exercise didn’t happen”.
“As you wish Mr.Keller,but did I forget to mention a really important clause in the contract?”
“Which is..?””Oh,here it is..that once the 60 minutes of scheduled evaluation exercise time has elapsed all IEDs are to be remotely detonated..in order to avoid any unforseen liabilities once we’ve disengaged from the venue”.


And that point,Keller’s attention was caught by a scurrying motion just in front of his feet,a field mouse burst out from under an partially upturned bucket and headed away from him.A screeching sound made him jump as a goshawk elegantly divebombed onto the mouse some thirty feet away now.And then..


He groaned a little,checked his limbs for injuries,felt the back of his neck.All good.”Mr.Keller,Mr.Keller,you there? You Okay?hello,Keller”.Amazingly he had kept a firm grip on his IPhone.

” Yah,I’m okay, thanks for your concern and I get it.It’s a live fire exercise;well let me tell you you worthless piece of crap,I’ve done live fire exercises and run them too so I’ll deal with you afterwards.Now,how much time I got left?”
“48 minutes..” Keller pressed the mute button and went to over to the stockpile of materials.
“Improvise,improvise” he spoke aloud to himself,repeating his own Special Forces training mantra…
When he looked at his phone screen again,his countdown clock was showing 37 minutes of gametime remaining.

He had retrieved an elongated barrow,mounted an odd assortment of long handled,long reach implements hanging down from the front and bound them as securely as he could with ropes and spare wire he had dilligently scrounged from the pile.
He took a long,deliberate look toward the wide farm gate – he figured about 80 yards or so distant – and off he set trundling the precarious wheelbarrow with its accoutrements over the field with as much confidence and optimism as a Heath-Robinson minesweeper might inspire.


He’d gotten about 20 yards when a voice interrupted his operating theatre concentration.
“Oi,I said oi you there where’d you think you’re going with all that gear?” Keller kept going.”Not now”,he muttered to himself,”not now”.But he did have to pause,turn his head round and look.A farm labourer, rough and mean and meaner looking with every stride he took.”You can’t go thieving just because we leave stuff unattended,take it back right now!”Keller shouted for the man to stop,the potential horror was too much; “And I’m telling you so you’d better listen,stop where you are,don’t take one more step this way”.

“What you talking about mate?”

“Just believe me when I tell you ,you’re endangering your own life by coming after me”.

“You threatening me?” he queried continuing his advance to where Keller stood immobile.”I’m not threatening you,in fact once I reach the gate down there I’m going to leave all this stuff for you to take back”.The labourer kept coming albeit with diminished fervour.”There’s too much to explain,look some people have planted landmines in this field and..”

“Mines,landmines,you think I’m stupid?”
Keller was conscious of the clock running down and he wasn’t making any progress.”Just please go back the way you came!”pleaded Keller.

“Why you bloody cheeky..” the man strode purposefully forward,except that he never got to complete his stride.

Keller didn’t look back to check,he never did on the field of battle and the blast and ensuing clouds of raspberry coloured particles pushed Keller and his trundling wheelbarrow out of their lethargy.

24 minutes left.The Heath-Robinson contraption aka minesweeper trundled on with Keller immersed in a virtually hermetic bubble of fevered concentration.The yards got harder,the terrain rougher and more uneven.Somebody’s going to get their lights punched out when I get back to Corporate after this.


11 minutes left.The physical strain was telling on Keller.The years of soft Corporate life were a Wind he had sown and now it felt like he was reaping the whirlwind.


His phone rang.
“Before you say anything else,let me say this,you’d better explain yourself to me really well when you see me next;now what do you want?”

“Everything shall be explained entirely to your satisfaction Mr.Keller of that I can assure you;now your gametime is showing 5 minutes..”A wave of nausea passed through Keller.”What? No way there’s 10 minutes at least,I set my phone”.
“We are sole adjudicators in matters of contractual dispute Mr.Keller the unmarked Bedford van will be pulling up in 5 ,hope the driver won’t be coming back passengerless”.And there was that irritating barely suppressed chuckle again.


Taking a deep breath,Keller parked the barrow and let it flop onto its side and took a long look toward the gate.He was actually closer,a lot closer than he at first imagined.He noticed a semi-circle of gravel this side of the gate marking the boundary where the field itself ended and began.
The unexpected when you least expected it.Another one of his military aphorisms that he loved to impart to the rookies out on their first mission.
Only two mines had been detonated and for an entire field to have been mined that seemed more than just a little fortuitous.He’d covered some eighty odd yards with the Heath-Robinson minesweeper contraption.Which had hit nothing.


That told him they were saving their best to last.The entire broadsweep fieldside of the gravel semicircle in front of the gate.That’s where I would sow a lot of mines.Obvious.
He half-heard a van coming down the farm track.2 minutes he guessed.Picking up and righting the minesweeper he moved 5 yards then stopped again.The van had come to a halt and the driver’s door slid slowly open.


Keller was maybe 15 feet short of the gravel arc.Time to see just how fit he still was.He carefully disrobed himself of his suit leaving only his boxers on.He bundled up his clothes with spare rope and heaved the bundle airwards and they landed smack next to the gate.And now,he made a mental note of his mark and paced back ten yards for a run up.The van driver looked at his watch.Keller set off.His long jump sent him crashing into the gate itself.

On their way to the control room,which as it turned out was at the actual main farm house not quarter of a mile away; the driver kept half his attention on Keller,”Man that was crazy! just plain out of this world crazy.I bet they didn’t see that one coming”.
Keller let the man talk.A flunkey, a hired hand who probably wasn’t shown the full set up anyway.He had a severe talking to give but not to this guy.They pulled up outside the 18th century renovated,modernised farm house.He was of course expected and to go straight in and see the boss.

The control room was all blue screens and had an air of “This is Houston” about it.They showed him the screens,all the screens and the recordings.And they explained things and answered his questions.Keller was dumbfounded.”If you look closely at the man on screen 1 he’s in what we call our studio barn.His image is projected as a CGI hologram on screen 2 that’s him talking to you.”

“And the mouse?”

“Nope that was a real mouse and a real goshawk but with a micro explosive attached giving you the required impression of a mine going off”.

“So nobody got killed and there were no actual mines”

“And we made a donation to the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as well!”.
Someone behind Keller let out a chuckle.

“Well it seems all you guys need do is send the exercise evaluation report to old Jameson,huh?”

“Poor old Jameson a corporate Titan and 89 years old and unable for the last 15 to even remember his own name”.

Keller laughed,” Back there on the field I thought I was at the mercy of a bunch of evil,sadistic psychopaths who kidnap,torture and would kill for fun”.

There was that chuckle again.Keller spun round to see who it was.
“You!”

“Hi Keller,I’m sorry that we didn’t get to finish our dinner date but what were saying just now?”
“Oh nothing,I thought you might’ve been a bunch of evil,sadistic psychopaths..”

“Really?” she smiled back at Keller,”and who said that we weren’t?”
And just as Keller understood things at last, he heard the clicking of safety catches.

A Quiet Night

                  A QUIET NIGHT


They certainly had a sense of humour.Christening their product with an acronym which also meant ” Die ” in German.

And here he was,stood next to the STERB ( Self-Termination Booth )the only one still in working order in his neighbourhood,at 4 in the morning.


Good thing was he’d remembered to renew his annual registration only the other day.You don’t access a STERB without all  the bureaucratic necessities taken care of.

And despite all the official media denials,there was an uptick recently in the informal practice,which of course was not only frowned upon by society but also crucially denied revenue to VIVAT,the makers and operators of STERB.

For avowed libertarians they sure didn’t mind regulation by the quasi-state when it suited their pockets.

Anyhow, 4 in the morning on the Sunshine Estate and the STERB resplendent in all its diffident,opaque utilitarian glory inviting him to partake of the ultimate eucharist.

Earth,pardon me we’re supposed to spell it Erth to promote the sacred tenet of Inclusion, anyhow this cosmic dirtball we’re all stood on is way past its Happy Hour.

Not that a solid century- and- a half of Degenderisation hadn’t put the brakes on in a way that Malthus wouldn’t have approved of.But 19 Billion? Really?and the off – world colonies were taking fewer every day.

But even just the idea of genomic reconfiguration & physio-reconstruction was simply too big a leap for too many even for those with low socio-economic ratings such as him.


Seriously who’ d want an extended “life”- presence on an alien world as a diamond miner- 5 feet tall weighing 350 pounds in order to adapt and cope to an alien gravity?But hell,apart from that, the job prospects were always good.


The DNA interface clicked and the booth opened its maw.


Soft lighting,ambient music- JS Bach he guessed- welcomed him as he sat on the facsimile classic barbers chair. In that regard,VIVAT the makers and operators of STERB didn’t spare any of the proverbial expense.
The handy data lonzenge swiped over the screen array; a flow of easy-to-comprehend numeric indices glared back at him.
A synth-voice cooing in all 9 official languages, asked whether he wanted to proceed.


He was momentarily distracted from his induced reverie by a violent banging coming from the outside of the booth.
A muffled, distant voice exclaiming ,”Hey you in there,you gonna be much longer,some of us ain’t got all day you know!”

That wasn’t supposed to be part of the advertised “Termination Experience” , but what can you expect with this being the only STERB in working order on the whole damn estate?
He could of course change his mind even now and go back to his apartment on subterranean level Minus372 and prep for Communal productive activity later this morning.But it wouldn’t count diddly squat toward his ratings and that really was the thing.The thing that mattered.


The dormant booth AI voiced a prompt ,could he please choose an option and initiate the connecting nano-probes?
And then there it was.The giant red numerals commencing at Six – Zero.


It was that attention to detail and responsiveness to user demand and preference that led VIVAT marketing to go with the now iconic 60 seconds visual countdown thereby enhancing the Termination Experience.


He didn’t mind one way or the other.


Was that nongender specific citzen outside the booth still exclaiming about having to wait so long to use the booth still there?


He didn’t mind.


Beats being reshaped as a five foot human gorilla to go exist on an alien world even with a guaranteed additional longevity and enhanced ratings.


He..he didn’t..mind..


And as he exuded his last gasp of air he heard the AI synth-voice pronounce the sacramental blessing: 


VIVAT thanks you for choosing STERB for your Termination Experience.

The Protest Singer

Fiction

THE PROTEST SINGER

It was a cold morning but Mitthoo was in high spirits . His friend Harinder was reading the newspaper while Satinder was tying his turban . “ The temperature will fall to 4 degrees Celsius tonight .They say this is the coldest winter in 70 years in Delhi, “ said Satinder . “ I know the cure for that . Let us have some tea and begin our singing. I wrote 10 songs for this very event in the past two months since the troubles began , “ said Mitthoo , and he was as good as his word .

He had been singing at the top of his voice to the rhythmic accompaniment of his old tambourine , with thousands around him listening :

“ We are here to win
We will return only when
Victory crowns our heads
Tell that to those
Who plan to resist us “

His listeners nodded , clapped and sang the chorus with him . Everyone was in high spirits .Mitthoo was one of the best motivational singers in the entire historic protest camp of nearly 200000 people . This tent was for people of his region and he sang in the regional language forming an instant bond with his listeners and lifting their mood as they sat on the freezing roads hundreds of miles from home . He reinforced their faith in the justness of their cause . As it noon struck , the call for the community lunch came , and the sitting broke up .

“ Come along , Mitthoo , let’s have some of this lovely hot cauliflower and potato curry , before it gets cold “ said his friend Harinder . Satinder came over as well and the three friends joined the queue at one of the food tents where free food for the protestors in their thousands was being served . As they ate their chapatis and vegetables with relish , they chatted about the children and womenfolk back at home and how they were managing the wheat crop without the men who were miles away at the protest site .

All afternoon and evening Mitthoo sang with his fellow singers or by himself raising the morale of the protestors . The leaders came back from high level meetings with hopeful news . Mitthoo and Harinder sang songs of victory , had dinner and found a warm spot with blankets to sleep in inside the Khalsa Aid Tent , though the ground cover of a simple durree could not shut out the cold from the Tarmac road below . Tired , the friends fell asleep immediately.

At 7 am the tea server Tanjeet came carrying a big aluminium pot of hot sweet tea and some glass tumblers asking the sleepers to wake up . Harinder got up , took a glass and held it up while Tanjeet poured tea into it . Satinder sat up as well . “ God is Great, Brother ! “ they said to one another .

But why was Mitthoo not getting up ? Satinder poked him with his elbow but there was no response . Tanjeet and Mitthoo called to him and shook him but he was stiff and cold , eyes shut and not breathing . Alarmed , they raised an alarm and the tent chief rushed for the camp doctor .

By 7.30 am it was confirmed : Mitthoo had died of a stroke in the cold . The Protest had claimed its first Martyr . The newspaper said the temperature had fallen to 2 degrees Celsius the previous night .

( ASA )

Birthday

Somebody sends you a card and you feel happy . Somebody bakes you a cake and you feel happy . Somebody offers you a bouquet of flowers and you feel happy . Somebody throws a party for you – in actual fact or on Zoom -and you feel happy . Some people sing a song and you feel happy . You go to offer special prayers - what devotion ! – and you feel happy . People greet you on the phone by making calls or sending you messages on WhatsApp or otherwise , or on Facebook , or Messenger , or Skype , and you feel happy . Somebody takes you out for dinner and you feel happy . Somebody gives you a chocolate or a gift and you feel happy .

But do you really feel happy ? And for how many was this an unavoidable chore .

O yes , you are supposed to be happy . You may even think or persuade yourself that you are happy .

But are you ? What is there to be happy about ?

There goes one more year out of limited number of years in your life . You have one less year left to live .

But does that really matter ?

Can you stop time passing ? Can you help the fact that you were born ? What is the great fuss all about ?

On reflection , she decided to cancel her birthday .

But then she realised even that was not in her hands .

She thought : you may even delude yourself into believing that all the people who remember your birthday – nudged by Facebook or LinkedIn or some other algorithm or the Civil List or a calendar or maybe a personal reference point like their own or a child’s birthday or wedding anniversary – do not think it is a chore to have to do something about it , that they really care about you and want to show their appreciation and make you happy , but you would have to be pretty good at self -hypnotism to do so .

She wanted to hold herself close , the instinct was to hide . She cringed when she thought about all the people who were being pushed by the algorithms on social media to greet her when they were busy trying to do other things or otherwise going about their own business – how intrusive , she thought , and wished she could end this banal brashness in as much as it was practised on her behalf . She wondered if it was possible to remove her date of birth from everything . Probably not, and she did not want to wrestle with technical issues anyway .

So she just switched off her phones , and computers , and the WiFi , shut her doors , went to bed and refused to budge for the next twenty four hours . She slept much of the time and spent the rest of it thinking random thoughts . The poor Birthday came , hung around for its allotted time , and then left , as it was destined to do .

Slowly , cautiously , she emerged from under the covers . The world looked the same as before . What a relief !

She got up , lit the gas stove , made herself a cup of tea , exactly as she liked it , and sipped it at her leisure , with real enjoyment .

( Amita Sarjit Ahluwalia )

Ricebag Favour

( Flash Fiction – Mini Story )

It was an unexpected but not unpredictable offer – a twenty- five kilo bag of parboiled rice . It was hard to say no without being impolite : the offer was so spontaneously made . Last year , too , after the rice harvest , the bag had arrived . It was good rice , and useful , but far too much for a wheat – eating or basmati – savouring household of one . In the end more than half had to be thrown away , since it got worm infested. When the new bag arrived , however , and was about to be torn open , qualms of conscience at last year’s wastage struck hard . A polite phone call , a one kilo steel box sent for being filled out of a bag already being used , and a promise to collect more when needed, did the trick , though not without some pushback , which was even more politely countered .

“ Would you be able to spare fifty – thousand rupees for ten days ? Just ten days , I’ll return it on the 30th .” The second call was unexpected . Banks were closed for three days and cash in hand was limited . The ability to refuse was a relief . Nevertheless , a thought refused to go away : “ What have we done to our farmers, even the comparatively better-off ones ? “

( Amita Sarjit Singh Ahluwalia)

20 November 2020

The Guide To Being A Better Assassin

The Guide To Being A Better Assassin


The stream of red figures scrolled along the bottom of the screen, their instantaneous updates reassuring his last minute nerves.He’d certainly come a long way, a very long way in such a short span of time.And here he was barely a minute away from his greatest success, a career defining achievement even by the impossibly high standards set by the mysterious body known collquially as ” The Quorum”.This was going to be spectacular.

Anchored some 500 yards-the telemetry said 504.33- from the beach front of the secluded luxury holiday villa, this hired yacht was just one of five visible dots to the villa resident were he to casually cast his gaze out toward the Adriatic.
” Porax-3000 :Helping You Solve Tomorrow’s Problems Today”.had caught his febrile imagination the moment he’d seen it on the darkweb.Where do professional hitmen,international assassins go when they require tools to ply their trade?Well,like everyone else they go shopping online,they go Click & Collect.

Since Libertarian governments in most parts of the globe had finally enacted their legislative piece-de-resistance and de-criminalised murder,the activity,in its higher end form was regulated and made as routine a market oriented business transaction as sending christmas baubles from atheist China to Catholic Europe.
The stream of red figures had begun slowing down from their earlier frantic scrolling, final preparation time was nearly up.
The Porax-3000, a singularly handtooled instrument of vengeance and retribution; or as any user would have it, The Mother of all rifles.He finessed a couple of minor adjustments to the tripod legs on which it rested.Blew away some imaginary Adriatic sand.The main screen was now showing two red bands,top and bottom.Final Target Acquisition.
He’d tendered this job at 30 millions,submitted all the requisite bona fides,breakdown of costs etc.He figured he stood to clear north of 20.The Porax-3000 Killing machine coming in at 1.75 mill;the week long hire of the luxury yacht etc to establish a non-threatening background presence that was another 2.Anyway who’s counting?
The Quorum put out this job to tender;the prelim prospectus id’ed this media mogul philanthropist about to switch his financing to a Movement on the cusp of a predicted electoral earthquake that would shift the balance of power across the continent.Except since the tendering process ended,bids evaluated and contract awarded none of it would now eventuate.
What had sold him on this Kiling machine was the added filip of “Complimentary Micro-Drone” included in the price.Wow!And now 504.33 yards away onshore on the veranda to be precise and some 100 feet somewhere up in the atmosphere the micro-drone in geo-stationary orbit was feeding back micron exact telemetry to the gun mounted on the tripod.The bullet incorporated nano-GPS and was linked to the micro-drone system.A sudden gust of wind,squall of rain whatever would be circumvented by the nano GPS.The darkweb sales pitch boasted that a blind man could score a perfect hit with this.But he appreciated that the apparatus had a manual operation override feature which he felt was not merely aesthetic,but also recognised and validated the user- the hitman ,The Jackal as he thought of himself,as a consummate,dispassionate artist of annihilation,turning the page of history.
  Out pottered the squat obese figure of the philanthropist for his regular 45 minute post lunch deckchair nap on the veranda.The Assassin hunkered down and put his eye to the scope,like the advert said,a blind man could do this ,it was all in the feel and touch of his finger on the trigger that would initiate the release of the projectile which could never miss..And there it was,504.33 yards away,a head exploded silently in a plume of blood and brains and all captured on the screen at his side by the micro-drone.As he sat back in his deckchair,uncorked the bottle of antique champagne,supposedly from Napoleon’s own cellar and began toasting his own success, it never occurred him that if his recently deceased target had no inkling of a micro-drone relaying targetting telemetry from over his head,then how could he?

And as the 2 distant figures got back into their anonymous looking hire car,having dismantled a tripod and its rifle and re-boxed a returned micro-done.One of the figures thought he’d heard his partner say, “Welcome to The Big Leagues,Sonny”. But he could’ve been mistaken,after all they were both professionals…

Gowli Shasthram (Lizard Science)

The Lizard Science of Prediction – a short story based on TSL’s Pandorathon prompt given by Santosh Bakaya May 30th.

A light romp of a story in Indian English.

Part 1

In the Puranas we were considered to be something big. There had once been a time when we ruled the earth as dinosaurs, as you all know, but we had dwindled away to being amongst the smallest creatures on earth more or less, lucky that even a few of us had survived. We were decimated by a meteor. We were given obnoxious names like Freddy in places like the UK but in my house, the humans just called me Gowli. I always had a view from the top as I lived on the ceiling and they lived down there, as the inferior beings they were. They said it belonged to them and I would go “tmirk tmrik tmirk” and the foolish things would think I was seconding them, and go “sathyam, sathyam, sathyam” (truth, truth, truth), when I was actually laughing at them.

There were only two occupants there – a Lizzie (yes, laugh) and her husband whose name was Peter or John or some such equally funny name. Lizzie was horribly attractive, I was probably her lover in her past life or mine; but the problem was in this one she was terribly afraid of lizards. Here was I madly in love with her and peeking down her blouse every chance I got, from above, and there was she going Eek and Screech, and making other ungainly sounds, and doing strange calisthenics with her body every time she saw me, especially in the bathroom, which only made her more attractive to me.

They had a whole lot of beliefs about us which was helpful to me. They believed if I fell on her right cheek she would be widowed. So I did that one day. Apart from almost getting me killed, by A Hefty Swipe from her to free herself of me, that threw me twelve feet across the room to the floor with a thud leaving me immobilized for an hour, nothing happened to her Peter, or John. The karmic-bond husband was the one who would get killed, probably. And that was, probably: Poor Me!

Now, fortunately, due to some ill-luck in his office, Peter, wanting an upswing in FORTUNES, turned to gowli shasthram (the lizard science of prediction). Since they considered me a necessary nuisance in their dwelling, they now turned to me for ways to make it good.

“സ്ത്രീയുടെ ശിരസ്സില്‍ ഗൗളി പതിക്കുന്നത് ഐശ്വര്യമാണ്…. “
(If a lizard touches a woman’s body it is auspicious.)

“സ്ത്രീയുടെ വലത് ചെവിയിൽ സ്പർശിച്ചാൽ ദീർഘായുസ്സും ഫലം. ഇടതുചെവിയിൽ സ്വർണ്ണലാഭം, ധനലാഭം,…”
(If it touches her right ear long life for her follows and if the left ear gold profit, wealth profit…)

“രണ്ടു തോളിലും വീണാൽ ഭർത്തൃസുഖം, സുഖാനുഭവങ്ങൾ, …”
(If it falls on both shoulders pleasure from/for husband and other pleasures follow.)

“കൈയുടെ പുറത്ത് വിരലിൽ വീഴുന്നത് ആഭരണലാഭത്തെ സൂചിപ്പിക്കുന്നു.”
(If it falls on the finger it will bring ornaments.)

“കാൽവിരലിൽ ഗൗളി സ്പര്‍ശമുണ്ടായാൽ സന്താനലാഭവും ധനലാഭവും…”
(If it touches the toe of any foot you will get security for your wealth and/or your children’s.)

Excited by reading all this Peter, or John, decided the only way to become well off in life, and lucky, was to make Lizzie and I become fast friends. The only problem was that while I was eager to touch her on all parts of her body, being a white lizard with spots, the kind they considered a Brahmin lizard (!!!!!!!), such fools these mortals be, Lizzie was mortally afraid of me. There was also a matter of the right day, and time, in gowli shastram. It is all fucking complicated and crazy, let me tell you!

Peter got more and more lost in studying these matters and praying to all the gods that I would fall all over Lizzie in all the right places. He was slowly going mad, seeing me run overhead, seeing her move around underneath, and seeing no congress happening immediately, or over several days, to change his luck. Never saw a husband before so eager for infidelity.

Finally, in desperation, he got some sleeping powder and mixed it in her drink. Nowhere was it said that the lizard was meant to fall on her head voluntarily, though it was understood. His plan was to catch me while she slept and make me touch her wherever he wanted.

He called her to the dining table one night and said, “Lizzie, drink this orange juice I made just for you.”
“You? Made Orange Juice? For Me?!!!!!” Lizzie was flabbergasted.
“Tmirk Tmrik Tmirk”, I went, overhead.
“He’s just jealous”, she told Peter, offhand, with no rhyme and reason. Peter looked bemused
“You shut up, you Gowli”, said Lizzie, looking up.
She simpered at Peter and said, “Thanks, darling”. How obnoxious!
Five minutes later she was out cold. He put her on their bed and came looking for me.
Then Peter climbed up on chairs and tables trying to catch me. I gave him a merry chase. A run for his money. Just for the heck of it.

All night long.

Part II

Lizzie woke up with a sudden start. Why was Peter shouting in the morning? She had a headache and could not fathom why but she went to look in the dining room.

“How dare you !!!!” His words rolled out spasmodically, eyes riveted on a tailless lizard hanging from the ceiling. Gowli’s tail was in his hand, and Peter was at his wit’s end. Gowli looked at her, and Lizzie could have sworn it tmirked timrked at her, and winked.


References to Gowli Shasthram taken from here: https://www.manoramaonline.com/astrology/astro-news/2017/04/22/gauli-shastra-astrology-prediction-signs.html

A Story from Aithihyamala translated from Malayalam by Dr. Koshy AV

May 23rd prompt TSL’s Pandorathon: Exorcist/Exorcism – given by Santosh Bakaya

“There is a very ancient church located in Kadamattom near Kolenchery, Moovattupuzha, The church was made famous through the stories on Kadamattathu Kathanar, a priest who was believed to have possessed supernatural powers and was an exorcist. The church is well maintained and very picturesque. You can also see the well associated with the Kathanar stories.” The stories appear in Ithihyamala – which means necklace or garland of stories that are local legends.

This exorcism story is a free translation from Malayalam done by me, a humble attempt.

Once Kadamattathu Kathanar (the priest) and Shemashan (apprentice priest) were about to go the church for the evening service. Then the kapiyar ( priest’s helper, bell ringer etc.,) came running and told them: “the church is full of demons, Father (acho). They are each as tall as coconut trees and broad as the size of several plantain trees tied together and have evil scowling faces as black as thunder. I can’t go in or ring the bell. What will we do?”

“Don’t be afraid, son,” said the Shemashan. “Let us go there anyway and see what we can do.”

When they went they understood that the kapiyar was not lying or hallucinating, the church actually was full of these huge giant-like demons who looked like legendary tribals from the jungles but clearly were something more as they had supernatural powers. They were there to stop the worship of God.

The Shemashan went on calmly, unafraid, while Kathanar and Kapiyar stood rooted to the spot.

“Will you go in peace, leave here and return to where you came from or will you resist?” asked the Shemashan.

“We resist you,” said the leader of the demons.

In front of the fascinated eyes of the Kathanar and kapiyar Shemashan did a magic trick, a vidya, and all the demons fell down as if dead on the floor,

Then the kapiyar went in and rang the bell.

That evening the service was not only full of people but the church overflowed as they came in huge numbers to see the demons lying there unable to move, looking like giants, as well as the Shemashan who had conquered them.

After the service, the Kathanar asked, “what shall we do with these bodies? Are they dead or alive? If they remain here they will trouble us. But how to remove them from here?”

Shemashan replied, “they are not dead, only put in a trance to keep them from doing any harm, if you want I can kill them or wake them up.”

Kathanar said, “no, don’t kill them, they must be made to return to where they come from and promise us not to come here to trouble us again. That is all.”

Shemashan woke the demons up from the deep slumber they had fallen into and asked them ” do you want peace or more imprisonment from me? Will you go back where you came from peacefully and never come back to trouble us again or resist?”

“Ayyo, we will not resist,” the leader said. We will go back and never return.” Then they fled back to where they came from never to return to that place.

“You are a mighty exorcist, sorcerer, and magician,” Kathanar told Shemashan.

“No, no, ” said Shemashan, “it is all God’s grace, power, might, and glory. Which man can do anything by himself or in his own strength? It is all done by God in and through me. Give God the glory.”

“Yes, true, to God be the glory, great things he has done today in our presence,” said Kathanar and the kapiyar in the same breath.

“Amen,” said Poulose, the Shemashan.

Aithihyamala or Ithihyamala (Malayalam: ഐതിഹ്യമാല) (Garland of Legends) is a collection of century-old stories from Kerala that cover a vast spectrum of life, famous persons and events. It is a collection of legends numbering over a hundred, about magicians and yakshis, feudal rulers and conceited poets, kalari or Kalaripayattu experts, practitioners of Ayurveda and courtiers; elephants and their mahouts, tantric experts.

Kottarathil Sankunni (23 March 1855 – 22 July 1937), a Sanskrit-Malayalam scholar who was born in Kottayam in present-day Kerala, started documenting these stories in 1909. They were published in the Malayalam literary magazine, the Bhashaposhini, and were collected in eight volumes and published in the early 20th century.

It includes popular tales such as about the twelve children of Vararuchi and Parayi (a woman of Paraiyar caste), Kayamkulam KochunniKadamattathu Kathanar among many others. The story of 12 children is popularly known as Parayi petta panthirukulam.” (Wikipedia)

The church shown below is the famous St. George church in Kadammattom, Kerala, where these miracles took place. It is still there.

The inside of the church

The Acts of the Apostle St. Thomas in South India

Historical fiction. May 15 TSL Pandorathon Prompt given by Nikhat Mahmood

The Acts of the Apostle St. Thomas.

Around 2000 years back roughly, a man had been washed ashore on a beach in India, after a shipwreck. In Tamil Nadu, to be exact. Or he came there on a ship or in a boat or swimming. His arrival is known but not the exact method. What is important to note is that he came alone. His name was Thomas and he was a carpenter. his second name was Didymus and it meant “twin,” but it was not immediately clear who he was the twin of.

In the morning seven Brahmins came there to worship the sun, do surya namaskar as it was their usual ritual or wont or habit. The man came up to them and asked them, surprisingly making himself understood, having the gift of tongues, who they were worshipping.

“The sun,” one replied, “isn’t it obvious?”
He said, “Don’t worship the sun, but the One who made the sun.”
They laughed.
“Show him to us and we shall,” one said.
“No man has seen him at any time, but I have come to show you his power and declare him unto you,” he said. “Take these drops of water from the ocean and throw them up, and you will see they naturally fall down. But if I throw them up, as I pray to the God of the Universe and actually know him, it will stay up.”
“Show us, then,” another said, still laughing, but also astounded, at his claim.
He said, “you pray and throw up the water first.”
They did it and it fell down, the power that had once dwelt in them of knowing the true God has long since departed into mere ritualistic actions and story, though they still were priests and enjoyed all the privileges and their prayers had no effect.

Then this man, who had long brown hair and a thick beard and a thick mustache and was dressed in a simple brown robe took water in his hands and threw it up to the sun praying:

“Lord, I ask you to hear my humble prayer to prove to these my brothers that they should worship you and not the works of your hands and make these drops of water stay up in the air. Do this simple miracle for me, you for whom all things are possible. In Yeshua’s name, I pray.”

Who is this Yeshua, they wondered.

The drops of water remained in the air, glittering and sending out rainbows as they caught the sun.

The astounded men gathered around him and said: “we will follow you, teach us how to be connected once again to God whom we no longer know, but you still do.”

Seven families were converted that day by St. Thomas the Apostle, who had wandered all the way to India to preach the gospel. The others turned against them and they had to leave their home, but on going away cursed it for persecuting them and even today it is called Chavakad.

Thomas wrote a gospel.

Thomas became the friend of a king ruling in India then called Gondoriferus who saw his honesty and gave him a huge treasure as he was a carpenter to make a huge palace for the king like the ones in the land he had come from. Thomas went around giving away all the money to the poor, healing the sick etc., and the angry king coming to hear of it ordered that he be brought to him and told him that he would be killed for his treachery of using the money in the king’s treasury for something other than what he was asked to do.

Thomas laughed, it is said, and told the king: “But I have indeed made a palace for you with your money.”

The king asked, still angry: “How?”

“You foolish king,” Thomas said, ” your palace is now in the hearts of your people who love you as I have made them love you through these good deeds done to them in your name.”

Then he, it is said, tore open the sky to show Gondoriferus heaven, and there the king saw a magnificent palace made and kept for him for eternity with his name written on it.

As Thomas grew in power, name, and fame, the people grew jealous as the new faith was increasing with more believers and Thomas gained two disciples who were with him all the time.

A king, perhaps the same foolish one, angry with him for all this, and other things, like the report that Thomas had attacked a temple to show idolatry was not the way to God, like Buddha too used to preach, decided to kill him.

Knowing that he prayed in a cave he sent soldiers there, but Thomas came out and said: “don’t you know that you cannot kill me, unless God permits you.”

Twice the soldiers fell to the ground before him, as he was shielded by the power of prayer. Then he said, “now you can kill me, now that you have understood God’s power. But let my two disciples go free.”

They killed him, then. Like all the other apostles, after being conformed to the exact image of Yeshua his master, he too became a martyr for the faith. He, Thomas Judas Didymus, had indeed become the twin of none other than his master Jesus/Yeshua and not, anymore, the doubter of Yeshua. Though separated from all his other disciples and friends and isolated, he had fought the good fight, run the race, and won the crown.

His martyrdom is commemorated in St. Thomas Mount in Chennai. Many pilgrims flock there in memory of the man who came alone to India from Israel to spread the faith of his master Yeshua and it is said that prayers there are still answered miraculously.

The gospel of Thomas is different from the other gospels as it is made up of 114 sayings of Jesus and not of his life. Written away from the mainstream it also seems to take into account the philosophy of the place he had come to, to make it clearer to them. Thomas’s followers were unable to get rid of casteism. Many centuries later when the Bible came the British were surprised to find a form of Christianity already in India stretching back 2000 years as well as having meanwhile already made connections to the churches in Antioch and Syria, and having adopted much of their customs and liturgy.

Here are examples from the gospel of St. Thomas: “(1) His disciples said to him: “The kingdom — on what day will it come?”
(2) “It will not come by watching (and waiting for) it.
(3) They will not say: ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’
(4) Rather, the kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.”

(66) Jesus says:

“Show me the stone that the builders have rejected. It is the cornerstone.”
(67) Jesus says:

“Whoever knows all, if he is lacking one thing, he is (already) lacking everything.”
(68) Jesus says:

(1) “Blessed are you when(ever) they hate you (and) persecute you.
(2) But they (themselves) will find no place there where they have persecuted you.”
(69) Jesus says:

(1) “Blessed are those who have been persecuted in their heart.
They are the ones who have truly come to know the Father.”

(70)(1) “If you bring it into being within you, (then) that which you have will save you.
(2) If you do not have it within you, (then) that which you do not have within you [will] kill you.”

Note: The early Christians may have been from Kerala or Tamil Nadu but Malayalis claim they were the seven and Chavakad is presently in Trishur in Kerala, though the place of Thomas’s martyrdom is, as I have stated, in Tamil Nadu. What is historically relevant and indisputable is that St. Thomas did indeed come to South India and Brahmins were converted first and he was martyred in the South.

Visible (by Jade Thomas)

Visible

And he said it never happened…

However, she still felt a sharp pinch in the pit of her stomach, her pupils widened. The back of her neck began to sweat.Thoughts consumed her entire body and for once, her memories of another women enlarged.

How could she forget? How could she forgive?The love of her life could not cause her any pain. She knew he was dedicated to his work as much as he was to her. He amended his past and gave her anything her heart desired.

So why did he glance more than once that summer’s day and patted the neighbour’s pretty shoulder when she came home claiming she had been fired?

How could she have been so visionless? How could she have been gullible?

Are these thoughts all a coincidence or now has she become more visible?

He made a beautiful vow, her husband caressed her into his arms, the same places she always felt protected. “She is jealous”! He justified.

She stared with her blue eyes at the sparkle in her wedding ring, she felt disconnected.Her hopes and dreams shattered into a million pieces while she felt their first kiss on her lips. Once again the magical power of feeling in love.

She could still hear his voice through the pounding of her heartbeat. His declaration of undying love would always be with her but now would never be enough.

Suddenly, her mind was screaming aloud and nothing in the entire world mattered anymore. Unforgiving images came flooding into her perfect life.

She could not handle the pressure of her soul darkening; she clenched the sharpest kitchen blade that hung down symmetrically to their family portrait.

She was no longer a person with a conscience or even a human being; she was no longer a beloved wife.