I came across her wandering in an alley, drunk and staggering, partly carried by her man in his arms. The giggle was continuous, like the sound of cascades running under the moonlight. The frustration and irritation was evident on the man’s face, drunk himself, tired of carrying her weight when carrying his own was a struggle.
As I watched from above, they came on a wide street and the man carried her to the house. They halted outside. He took a deep breath of relief, letting her lean against the wall while he fumbled with her keys to open the lock. After trying five times, his patience paid off when he heard the click of the lock getting opened. As they entered the door, I entered the window of the room on the first floor.
The sound of stumbles and staggers was loud enough for me to see them climbing up the stairs, one at a time. I sat on the desk, waiting, my patience wearing away, ready to do what I wanted to for so long. Another fumble, a giggle, a click – and the door opened.
Once, I was a normal man. An accountant, working for a mid-level firm, I led a happy life with my wife and two kids. Until the day of the fateful accident, the day of my son’s 16th birthday.
Agastya had always been a nerd, piling his room with the latest issues of Batman and the other superheroes. While other kids went for e-comics, Roman always went old school, buying paperbacks from Mr. Sharma’s store. I remember him getting excited to buy the latest issue of Batman, and Naina, 5 year old then, equally excited to see him so.
I led them to the corner of the street to buy Agastya his gift. As he became busy searching for the issue, I started looking around for Top Gear. Superheroes were Agastya’s rush, cars were mine. As I flipped around the latest issue, the corner of my eyes caught a little figure crossing the street, chasing a butterfly.
Naina! I flung the magazine away and saw my son do the same. Lunging towards the road neck by neck, we saw in horror as a Mercedes swerved the corner at high speed, clearly out of control. I laid one hand on Agastya’s back and pushed him ahead. He crashed into Naina as both hurtled on the floor, just as I turned and looked into the eyes of the monster driving the car.
One moment, I am seeing the face of the monster behind the wheel, the next, I am standing on the street, looking at a crowd of people gathered together. As the crowd cleared I saw a scene that shook me to the core. Naina was standing in the middle with two men lying on either side of her. I turn towards Agastya, who is lying still, taking shallow breaths, his eyes out of focus. Then I turn around and see myself, lying in a pool of blood, my face unrecognizable, meat and blood mixed in a common paste oozing on the street. I see an ambulance tearing through the traffic, I see my wife running madly towards us, I see her crashing down on the street, grabbing our daughter, weeping tears of sorrow at the sight of my mangled body, but I see no sign on the Mercedes.
For years, I searched for the man, the pitch black eyes that robbed me and my family of our happiness on that day. My daughter mostly had a normal life, going to school, completing her studies and becoming a lawyer. My wife, and I, for that matter, couldn’t be more proud. My son, on the other hand, was another tragedy. Despite my best attempt to get him out of harm’s way, the car had hit his head severely. He had gone into a coma, and had been that way for the past 20 years. My wife was trying her best to cope with all of it and be happy for our daughter, but sometimes, it became too much. I could see her crying alone in her room, not a soul to hold her, Naina out celebrating her success with her friends, oblivious to her mother’s pain.
All this made my anger insatiable until I found him tonight, with his woman, stumbling through the street, taking her home to feel lucky. But I was there, sitting on his desk, ready to show him how unlucky he really was.
As he opened the door and looked at me, realization dawned on his face. He pushed the woman out the door and stood there, looking at me. He didn’t attempt to run. Instead, he closed the door, locking himself with me inside.
I was too consumed by my anger to see the resignation on his face. I lunged at him and without any thought coming into my mind, I devoured him. I mangled his body the same way his car had mangled mine. Blood splattered on the floor, the walls, the ceiling. When I was done, the only thing left in the floor was a pair of pitch black eyes.
I am standing in a room? A hall? A stadium? Somewhere. It’s all white, there is nothing else to see. I ask, “Where am I?”
A voice speaks, “You are at the door to salvation, my friend.”
“Why am I here? Why am I not inside?”
“Because you have to see the repercussions of your deeds.”
“What deeds? What repercussions?”
“20 years ago, a man killed you and put your son into a coma. Then he fled the scene and had been atoning for his sins since. Until you found him. You found him and you killed him, in revenge for what he did to you and your family. In the blind thirst of revenge, you forgot one simple rule, no one gave you the right to take someone’s life. And if you do, you atone for what you did. This is your atonement, which you have to realize before you step in.”
I heard all this in horror, and the horror increased in intensity as, wide-eyed, I turned around on hearing a single word.