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6 AM

6 AM

7 mins 131 7 mins 131

 It was the coldest, gloomiest morning the month had seen yet. A roaring wind jostled the trees, making them sway from side to side.

But for Shiva, all that mattered was that his bicycle was stuck. “What’s wrong with this damn bicycle?!” Shiva exclaimed. No matter how hard he pushed, his cycle wasn’t going forward. He grunted, forcefully trying to push the pedal downwards. As he cursed and struggled, he thought he heard a faint cry from somewhere far away. He wasn’t paying much attention, but to his peripheral hearing, it sounded like, “Look… behind…” Ignoring it, Shiva continued his struggle to move the stubborn bicycle,


mustering all his strength. After a while and much effort, it happened. The cycle moved and Shiva leaned forward to check. Feeling hopeful, he pushed again with greater force when he heard an earsplitting sound. In an instant, he realized that it was a tire screeching to a halt. Instinctively, he looked behind. A massive truck was speeding towards him – it was just inches away. Shiva froze; his eyes wide open. He tried to move but couldn’t. He shut his eyes and braced for impact.

***

Beep beep… beep beep… beep beep… Shiva opened his heavy eyelids and turned his head towards the source of the sound. It was the clock on his bedside table. It showed 6:00 AM. Feeling strange and sluggish, he reached for the clock and turned off the alarm.


“The truck!” he thought, “That felt real.” Shiva turned his head to look up at the ceiling and mulled over the dream he had just had. “My bicycle,” he thought. He turned his attention towards the right corner of his bedroom and saw the cycle leaning against the wall as usual. The sun was pouring into the room through a window next to his study table - the faint, golden rays illuminating the dust particles afloat in the air.


Sitting up, Shiva rubbed his eyes. He checked his phone, noting a reminder for Monday meeting with the team. He put down the phone, got out of bed and headed towards the window. Taking a deep breath, he stretched his hand towards the sunlight, trying to absorb its warmth. For a moment, he thought he saw his fingers shimmer; he blinked, rubbing his eyes again. “Should have gotten more sleep last night,” he thought groggily.

 

-- An hour later --

 

“Maa, would you like some tea?” Shiva shouted from the kitchen. There was no answer. “Hmm, she must be still asleep. Will ask her later,” he thought. He made himself a cup of black tea, got some biscuits and sat at the small, wooden dinner table to read the newspaper. Pollution Levels Increasing. “Well, no surprises there,” he mumbled, munching a biscuit. Good News for Tigers! A Steady Increase in the Population. “Brilliant!” He exclaimed. He skimmed the first page and while turning to the next, he read “A gruesome accident! Victim di…”

 

Beep beep… beep beep… beep beep… “What is wrong with that damn clock?!” Shiva said, annoyed. He folded the paper and went to his bedroom. As he turned off the alarm and made his way back to the kitchen, he realized that something seemed wrong. He turned back to the clock. Frowning, he noticed that it still read 6:00 AM.

“Eh?! I shouldn’t have bought this from that shady website. Frauds!” He exclaimed with an air of irritation.

 

“Maa, I have a big meeting today. Have to rush. I will order breakfast for you. OK?” he shouted. Still no answer. Rather worried, Shiva went to his mother’s bedroom to check on her and found her sleeping. She had her back towards him. “Good thing she’s getting some sleep after that terrible bout of fever,” he mused as he went back to his room, ordered some food online and headed to the bathroom for a shower.

 

-- Half an hour later --

 

Shiva slid open the door of his cupboard and found some freshly laundered shirts hanging in a row. “Hmm, black?” he wondered. “Nah, should wear something bright for the meeting,” he said to himself, “Navy blue maybe? Yeah, not too bright and looks more professional.” He put on a shirt and a pair of charcoal black formal trousers. While tying a burgundy tie around his neck, he turned towards the full-length mirror placed next to the cupboard. He frowned. “When did this mirror get so cloudy? Can’t see a thing!” He hastily tried to wipe its surface with a towel but it didn’t help. “I’ll just use my car’s mirror. Getting late as it is!” he thought.


“Maa, are you awake? I am leaving. Wish me luck!” Shiva shouted again while tying the laces of his shoes. He slid two folders inside his leather bag, placing it over his right shoulder. He took his phone from his table, his car keys and went up to his mother’s bedroom. “Maa?! “Maa!” he called twice, standing near the door.


Perhaps the room was so still, so utterly silent that Shiva thought he heard his mother sobbing, still with her back turned towards him. “Thinking about Dad, maybe,” he thought empathetically, “I will tell her about my meeting and my chances of getting a big promotion. Yes, that will cheer her up!”


Walking towards his mother, he said with a smile, “Maa, listen. When I come home tonight, you may be looking at the new Senior Manager of my company.” But, she didn’t turn nor respond. He put his hands over hers and bent to look at her.

Her eyes were a dreary red, swollen and devoid of expression. She was sobbing silently, tears rolling down her cheeks. Her chest was vibrating so violently that she was having trouble breathing. “Maa! What happened? What happened?” Shiva cried, putting his bag down. She said nothing. “Maa!” “Maa!” he cried again. She didn’t react, but the sobs seemed to grow in bitterness and sorrow.


Shiva went down on his knees, now facing his mother who was still lying on her bed. Her eyes met his but it was as though she wasn’t looking at him at all, but at something at the far end of the room - with a vacant expression. He couldn’t understand what was going on. His heart started beating fast with worry, his throat tightening. “Why is she acting in such a way?” he wondered.


He ran his hand over her cheeks – warm and drenched in tears. She didn’t react. “Maa! Are you okay?” he said in a loud voice. “Maa! Can you…” Shiva suddenly noticed that his mother was clutching a piece of paper covering it with both her arms – a bit of its top exposed. Shiva squinted to read better. It looked like a section from a newspaper that was a week old; dated Monday, December 9, 2019. The headline, in bold and large letters, read


A gruesome accident! Victim dies on the spot. Frowning, he tried reading the next paragraph.


In the early hours of Sunday, December 8, 2019, at 6:00 AM, Shiva Rastogi, aged 32, died in a horrible accident! Witnesses say he was on his bicycle when a truck rammed into him, hurling him and his cycle to the other side of the road. Shiva succumbed to his injuries and died on the spot before medical help reached him. The police are investigating the…


The room seemed to shrink around Shiva. He felt as though he had suddenly been thrown into a large container of water and the only sound he could hear was that of his heart pumping so furiously that it could burst out of his chest at any moment! Coming out of this daze, he darted towards the kitchen and looked over the half-read newspaper.


The date read Monday, December 9, 2019, and turned his gaze to the second page. He read the headline and the paragraph below it – it was the same news - word for word – that he had read a minute ago. Horror coiled around him like a snake. He felt as if a hammer was pounding his brain from the inside and will crack open his skull into pieces!


He dashed back to his mother’s room and screamed as he had never screamed before in his entire life. “Maa!” “Maa!” “Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” He screamed and screamed and screamed till his throat grew sore, his voice gave way and he could scream no more. But, his mother never responded. She was still sobbing, her eyes blank, swollen and bloodshot; the piece of paper clutched close to her chest, like the baby she had held in her sweaty, shivering arms ever so gently, 32 years ago.


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