Vedant was tired to the bone and the heat was only adding fuel to the fire, both literally and figuratively. He stretched out and sighed after a long day of work. He had a sudden urge to finish off the tub of butterscotch ice-cream he had safely tucked deep into the freezer the previous night. When he opened the refrigerator, he was shocked. There was a letter on the ice-cream tub that read – “Vedant, are you alone at home? I am on my way – GET READY. Actually, I have eaten half of our favourite butterscotch ice-cream. Hope you are not too mad at me for this. I feel you are still connected to our memories. I will be right in front of you in just a few minutes. A surprise for you! – Yours Vedhansha.”
Vedant was dumbfounded, yet emotional. His mind swirled back to those bitter and beautiful memories. It was a rainy day when a beautiful girl with an umbrella had come near him.
When had they first met?
A rainy evening years ago. It had been pouring cats and dogs. He was soaked to the skin and cursing his luck.
Someone yelled, “Did you forget your umbrella?”
He turned abruptly, determined to ask them to mind their business. That’s when he saw her. An Elfin girl with doe-shaped eyes, and a ridiculously large umbrella, gesturing to him to join her.
The melting butterscotch awakened him from his reverie. He looked out of the window. The clouds had darkened suddenly, promising respite from the heat.
Of course. As always, Vedhansha brought the rain with her.
Rains had brought them together on more than one occasion.
The canteen was dimly lit, with a sole bulb suspended from the ceiling by a long wire over Raju Chacha’s head, as he fished out another batch of bhajiyas from the skillet. He was the only one polishing off an ice-cream cone, while the world surrendered to piping hot tea. But then it was no surprise – he was always the odd one out. But what was that? The doe-eyed girl with the umbrella settled on the opposite chair, with an ice-cream cone in hand. As usual, she spoke before he could – “Butterscotch?”
Vedant recalled vividly, how the doe-eyed girl used to wait eagerly with the ice-cream cone in her hand, when he entered the canteen during the first few days of joining college.
He stood near the freezer to have his favourite ice-cream.
“But how do you know that Butterscotch ice-cream happens to be my favourite?”, Vedant asked Vedansha, feeling curious.
Vedansha grinned at him before replying.
“I have read the poem ‘The Butterscotch Booster’ written by you. I fell in love with it instantly. So, I know it’s your favourite flavour.”
Out of his own accord, Vedant started to hum.
“Raindrops go pitter-patter,
To pieces my dreams shatter.”
His rants about unrequited love had been good enough to get published in his school magazine. Friends used to whistle at him. “Look, our Wordsworth is here.”
Vedant chuckled. Just stringing some random words and forcing them to rhyme was not poetry. But somehow it appealed to all, including Vedhansha.
He always wondered how she had gotten hold of the school magazine. She had shrugged aside his doubt with a ‘You never know how the world works mysteriously, Vedant.’
The weather was becoming sweltering now, in spite of the lashing rains. Vedant suddenly got a call. When he picked up the call, a woman’s sexy voice said, “Hi butterscotch! Come am melting.”
Vedant asked, “Who is this?”.
She laughed and said, “Room number 492, Taj Westend. See you at 9 pm today”. Curiosity got the better of him. Vedant got ready in a dapper suit and drove to the hotel. As he entered the room, he realised that the door was ajar. The table had bottles, wine and a tub of ice-cream; and on the floor lying was a half-dressed woman soaked in blood.
Vedant stopped dead in his tracks, stunned! The woman was lying face down with a dagger sticking out of her back. It had an ornamental handle, almost exotic looking. Something stirred his memory but it was quickly blurred by the sight of blood still trickling around her. It seemed like this horrendous act wasn’t committed too long ago.
Was she Vedansha?
He needed to alert the hotel staff and then of course the endless interrogation with the cops was inevitable!
I should have stayed put. Do I need this unnecessary attention right now? What a mess!
He peeked out of the door and quietly sneaked out.
I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it. I need to brace myself first before facing interrogation. Right now, is not the right time.
Did I do the right thing? Should I have at least seen who the poor woman was? Was she still alive? What if it was Vedansha? Why did the dagger look so familiar?
The array of questions in his mind refused to die. Was it real or was he hallucinating?
The number from which he had received the call was switched off. He was in a dilemma. Guilt weighing heavily on his conscience, he went to a PCO and tipped the police anonymously about the gruesome murder he had witnessed.
Little did he know about the shadow tailing his every move.
It started lashing down heavily yet again as Vedant hastily drove back home. He was nervous; the only thing that could calm him was the half-eaten tub of butterscotch ice-cream left behind in the freezer by Vedansha.
While he was expecting her to surprise him, this was, by no means the result he was anticipating. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead as he gulped spoonfuls of the ice-cream. Tears oozed ceaselessly and his heart wrenched in pain.
Abruptly, he remembered that their best friend, Vishal, had once flaunted the exact ornamental dagger as seen at the scene of crime.
Amid the copious tears, and the thought of the ornamental dagger, gradually, Vedant drifted to a subconscious state. The dancing elfin appeared in rainbow colors.
With a mouthful of butterscotch scoops, Vedant mumbled, “Who are you? Are you Vedansha? What do you want from me? What happened to you?”
She smiled and sang before she vanished.
Red reveals the true hues of life
It flows from the heart to the knife
Enshrouded in blackness, Vedant struggled with the signs. Did someone or Vedansha want closure from something? Why did she choose me? Was butterscotch the link? Or the ornamental dagger?
Vedant could no longer distinguish reality from illusion. In flashes, he saw himself inside Vishal’s home, then with a dagger in hotel corridor and then a woman in a pool of blood with the dagger in her back.
Vedant was now drenched in his own sweat. He put down the ice cream, quickly went to the bedside table, yanked open the drawer, took out the bottle and popped in a few pills.
The white paper was still there, next to his antipsychotic medication. He pushed in the drawer. He did not want to see that doctor’s prescription again to be reminded of his schizophrenic condition.
The pills took control of the hysterical condition that Vedant was enduring. Leaning back into the feathery pillow, he closed his eyes. Once again, the dancing elfin appeared. “Hello! Remember what I said.” A hysterical laugh followed as she shouted, “You never know how the world works ……. mysteriously at times dear Vedant.”
“Is that some clue? Was a body even there in the hotel room? Am I imagining the dagger?” The endless questions pounded his head as his sweat drenched, quivering frame shifted nervously.
He decided to go back to the hotel. The intense coffee had enlivened his senses.
‘Can you check again?’ Vedant pleaded.
‘Sir, I did. There is no room 492 in our hotel.’ The receptionist declared irritably.
How can that be?
The name on the screen interrupted his thoughts.
Squirming, he said, ‘Hello!’
‘I’m home. Where are you?’
‘Vedansha. You’re alive?’
‘But the body. Hotel. Police’ Vedant blabbered.
‘Police! Calm down’ Vedansha feared the worst.
‘Did you take your pill?’ She asked hurriedly.
‘You ought to believe me, Vedansha,’ he cried.
‘Of course. Where are you? I’m coming.’ she announced.
Dialling rapidly, she spoke, ‘Hello, Dr. Krishnan. I guess Vedant had a relapse.’
“I’m aware, Vedansha. He’s not been regular with his pills. I’d spoken to him on Monday and asked him to meet me at my clinic, but he didn’t show up. I had to have him followed. I didn’t want my friend to fall into trouble again,” replied Dr. Krishnan.
“He talks about some murder and has even tipped the police, Doctor.” Vedansha shivered.
“Don’t worry. I’ve informed the police about his condition. Bring him to my clinic right away,” said Dr. Krishnan and hung up.
Vedansha believed that Vedant would recuperate soon if she chose not to leave this time and stay by his side forever.
As Vedansha reached the hotel lobby, she ran and embraced Vedant, who was still in a state of shock and fumbling for words. He kept pleading with her that she should never desert him, while Vedansha’s comforting words gave him the much-needed reassurance.
Both of them finally reached Dr Krishnan’s clinic and as he entered the chamber, a shiver ran down his spine. He could understand what had gone wrong and was speechless for some time. He broke down in front of Vedansha, realizing how painful it would be for her to accept him with his current ailment, for the rest of their lives together.
Beyond the Box is the first platform in India to have conducted an Online Write-A-Thon which encourages collaborative story writing. In the month of July 2022, 72 participants created history by being a part of Season 2 of this exciting event. They were divided into 5 groups and each participant in the group contributed to the ongoing story in 100 words approximately. The 15 writers of Group 2 (Adults) who came up with this story are: (Names mentioned in the sequence allotted to them for the Write-A-Thon. A line has been used in the story to indicate change in the writer. This group was adjudged the winner of the title ‘Most Seamless Story’ by our esteemed jury.)
|Sequence Number||Group 2|
|1||Oleiti Likhitha Madhuri|
|5||Narayani V Manapadam|
|15||Abhisikta Dey Ghosh|