"Go to hell"
He kept driving into nothingness, feeling suffocated.
"with your sorry thinking."
Threw off his helmet, which bounced 5 or 6 times in the middle of the road.
"I can't stay here any more"
Tore off his shirt, which followed him with the wind.
"Priya, wait! Will you tell me what happened?"
It began to drizzle
"Where are you going?"
and a thousand arrows pierced his skin
"Wherever. And listen Akshay. Never try to call me."
The words reverberated in his head and he didn't realize he was already forty kilometres off the city.
The tank dried before he did. He abandoned the bike and looked around in the dark. There wasn't a single gleam across miles. After his eyes settled he saw the road ahead ascending onto a hill. He stood numb and blank. A rattle of nocturnal insects broke the silence. He glanced back at his lifeless bike and decided to move on.
It was cold. He must have hiked for half an hour when he started feeling shaky and thirsty. He kept looking traverse in hope of finding a hut or house. Nothing. He crouched against the trunk of a tree and checked his cellphone. No tower. "Great!" he murmured. He looked straight into the crescent of moon, counted the few stars in the sky and went blank. In a few moments he slept.
A passing noise of a vehicle broke his sleep. He jumped and yelled only to see the tail-light disappear. He sat again. "It descended" he thought and started moving uphill again.
Following the twists and turns he reached a small plateau region, though not the top. In the middle of the field he saw a bonfire, "Ahh finally" he exclaimed within. He ran towards it, finding tyre marks in the way. He reached the bonfire and inspected the area. No one. He sat beside it anyway to catch some warmth.
"Hello!" "Hello!" an electronic voice erupted from behind. He looked back with a shiver.
He followed the voice and found a gadget.
"Anyone there?" it cried.
Akshay picked it up.
"Hello, somebody answer please" It sounded female.
After a thought he pressed the only button and answered "Hello?" He didn't know what was he up to.
"Hello Harshit? Thank god. help me please" she urged.
"No. I'm not Harshit. My name is Akshay"
"I found this walkie-talkie lying here beside the bonfire. Who are you?" he asked.
"Sheetal" she replied.
"Ok Sheetal. Tell me where you are and what happened?"
"I don't know. I'm stuck in this pit and I’m hurt. Please help me out. Please" she wept.
"Listen. I'll help you but I need to know where you are. You need to stay calm" He felt adventurous.
"Okay" she whispered.
"What is the range of this walkie talkie?" he asked
"600 metres" she replied
"How did you land up there?"
"I don't know. Last I remember I was lying beside the bonfire with my friends" she clarified.
"Were you drunk?"
"Were you drunk or doped? Someone must have tricked you". His mind was racing.
"No. I.. I just ate a sandwich and ... and.. "
"Lime juice?" he asked while nosing at an empty bottle in his hand.
"Yes. how do you know?"
"Nevermind. Listen I'll shout from here. If you can listen, reply in the talkie with a yes. Ok?"
"Okay but what will you shout?"
"Priya?" she enquired.
"Priya has more range than Sheetal. Ok here I go.."
He released the button and shouted uphill with all his might "Priyaaaaaaaaa"
He shouted again through folded palms in another direction "Priyaaaaaaaaaa"
"Did you shout?" the gadget asked.
"Yes. I guess you are further up the hill"
"How would you know?" she enquired.
"I came from down this hill. If anything happened I must have saw something. Moreover if someone planned to strand you into a pit, then there is no better place than up above"
"I hope you're right. Akshay, do you have a cellphone?"
"Yeah but no network." he replied.
"I'm coming up now. We'll continue talking. Ok?" He assured her.
He switched on the torch of his cellphone and strolled around the perimeter of the plateau looking for a way up.
"Tell me something about yourself?" he asked while he glanced around with squinted eyes.
"I work in an IT company in Pune" she said.
"What about your friends who came here with you. Do they also work with you?" He saw a narrow clearing between the bushes swivelling upwards and followed it.
"I see. And you came here for picnic?" He was running and felt a resurgence of energy within.
"Yeah but the plan was to return before 11 O clock"
"I understand. Sheetal, I've come further up. Now I'll shout again. Ok?"
"What .. Priya?"
"Yes" He stood atop a crest and looked around.
"Is she your girlfriend." she sounded inquisitive.
"Was. Ok I'll shout now. Listen properly" With folded palms he shouted "Priyaaaaa" in four directions. The trees rattled in a breeze.
"Did you hear anything?" He asked
"No. God!" she sobbed.
"Sheetal, how deep and how wide is the pit?" He asked.
"It's around ...three times my height and....... more than a metre in diameter" she said in between sobs.
"Can you see the stars?" he asked
"Just answer me. Can you see any of the stars?" He demanded.
"Yes I can" she exclaimed
He laid on his back and tried to emulate her sight. He thought for a minute and said "Can you see the clouds travelling under the moon?"
"Yes. Oh I understand what you are doing!" her voice jumped
"Yeah. Now do as I tell. Lie down on your back in the direction the clouds are travelling with your legs toward the star beside the moon."
"Yeah I did." she said after a few moments
"Now close your left eye and count the no. of stars in the right half of the sky" he sounded relaxed.
"Six" she said.
"Now close the right eye and... "
"Three" she was quick.
"Great! Wait a minute" he said and after much thought he said "I think you're on the other side of the hill"
The clouds gurgled.
"Oh god it's going to rain. Akshay come fast please" she yelled and cried.
"Don't worry. I'm on the way"
He felt his heart pounding now. All his numbness had gone. He ran like he never did criss-crossing between the trees and bushes. It started drizzling. He ran faster, slipped, fell and ran again. In two or three minutes he reached the other side and shouted..
He ran haywire and shouted again "Sheetal"
"I'm here" came a feeble voice "Here. Akshay. Akshay"
He ran in the direction of the voice and found the pit.
"Sheetal" he exclaimed and peeped inside.
The pit was quite deep and dark inside. He saw a girl dressed in black and completely drenched in rain, simultaneously crying and smiling towards him.
"Akshay. Oh thank god." she sobbed "Take me out”
“Wait I need to find something to pull you out. I’ll be back” he yelled over the noise of rain.
He looked around and found a dead branch of a tree hanging down from it. He broke it off, ran back and offered her to hold the other end. She did and he pulled her out. She was limping.
“Ahh ” she cried in pain and fell on the ground.
He sat beside her. A lightning struck and brightened their faces. “You’re beautiful” he said wondering over the turn of fate.
She couldn’t stop a blush. “What were you doing here? And why did you help me?” she enquired.
“Look I love adventures." He manipulated. "Tonight, I decided to cut loose with my bike and I'm here. Hey, you can trust me” he assured her with a smile.
She stared at him for a few moments and said “Oh, how will I be able to thank you”.
Another lightning struck and the rain got heavier.
“We must go now” he said.
He helped her move up the hill and towards the plateau. They crossed over to the other side and while they were descending through the bushes, a Safari whizzed into the field.
“You came in that car?” he whispered.
She nodded. It stopped beside the extinguished bonfire.
“But why would they come back?” he asked.
Two boys and a girl came out and started patrolling the area with flashlights.
“May be because of this” she poked at the walkie-talkie in his pocket.
“Oh. You’re right. They must have found my bike lying on the road” he exclaimed. “And I think they are armed”
“Armed? How do you know?” she asked
“Because right now they are looking for a stranger who probably now has the talkie” he answered. “And soon they’ll ..”
“…check for me.” she completed with a tremble. “And I can’t even run.” She cried.
Just then two silhouettes rushed towards the pit and one waited inside the car.
“We need that car.” He said.
“I have a plan. Do you have the talkie with you?”
She nodded and gave it to him.
“What’s this guy’s name?”
“Ok. You just wait here and don’t move” he told her while crouching behind the bushes.
He quickly moved along the perimeter and threw one of the gadgets under the car from the bushes and spoke with pressed voice into the other “Hello ! Hello!”
The boy came out of the car and looked around.
He followed the sound and saw the gadget lying under the car.
“Anyone there?” it said.
He glanced around again, picked it up and pressed the button.
“Who are you?” asked Vicky.
"Vicky is that you?"
“How do you know me?”
"Can't you recognize me? Harshit here." said Akshay
“Harshit? Did you find Sheetal?"
"Yeah she is still inside the pit."
"So shoot her and come back fast. We don't have time” Vicky said.
"I dropped my gun. Need yours." came the voice.
"What the hell. We have only one gun and you know that." Vicky retaliated.
As soon as he heard that, Akshay released the button, jumped out of the bushes and pounced on Vicky. He landed three or four big blows on his face and laid him unconscious. He quickly investigated the car. The keys hung inside. He signalled Sheetal to come out. She ran towards the car and jumped in. Akshay turned the key, the engine sizzled and the Safari spiralled downhill.
The car just just reached the foot of the hill. Sheetal was looking at Akshay with eyes full of love and admiration. She caressed his hair as she felt the wave of emotions swinging. She tried to keep herself from erupting it out and it became harder with every passing moment. She then looked straight towards the road and felt Akshay looking at her face with the same emotions. And she said "Akshay, I love you".
The car jolted with a huge deceleration, shuddered and stopped. Sheetal looked right with widened shocked eyes. The driver's seat was empty. Her heart came into her mouth and she cried as loud as she could. Maddened, she flung open the door and ran straight on the road, limping and limping away from the car. She was crying, weeping and yelling fraught with horror.
She must have run two hundred metres when she saw a bike lying beside the road. Something occurred to her and she stopped and looked around. She found a cellphone lying under a tree. With trembling hands and mustered gut she picked it up and flung it open. There opened a message thread in the name of Priya with the last conversation as "Priya, come back. We'll sort it out." & "Go to hell. No one can ever love you"
Her mind flew. With tearful eyes she held the trunk of the tree with one hand and peeped down. Akshay was looking at her with forever opened eyes.