This short story is selected as Story of the Month Mar’2013 and won INR 1000 (US $20)
This story with moral lesson is selected as Editor’s Choice
For all I know, I wasn’t drunk that night. Not that drunk.
I stumbled out of the building, angry and upset. It was too much. I had just lost my job and now my landlord was going to throw me out. There was some argument, some more of breaking things and a few papers on the floor. I might’ve been drinking some, yes, but I clearly was not blurred. Or was I?
I awoke to the cream-coloured ceiling and the pinch of IV. My head felt heavy and I was pinned down by wires. It took me while to realize but the awful smell of saline and sterile made it clear that I was in a hospital.
I tried to move my head but all I could feel was pain. I did not know why I awoke to the thoughts of my last known state of consciousness. The sunlight crept through the slightly opened curtains and brought a serene light into the room. While circling the room- from the windows to the pale-green painting on the wall and then to my bed and then to the door- I noticed no one. There was no one by my bedside and I wondered who had brought me here. But during my examination, I failed to notice a wimpy shadow by the high ends of the bed.
“Hey, who is there?” I called out. And out came a sad little figure of a boy with a plastered left hand and an ugly gash to the forehead.
He just stood there and looked at me, with emotionless eyes and stony face.
“Hey, boy, what are you doing here? Do I know you?” I asked but he just stood there, silent.
So I stared at him too.
We just stayed there, silent, in a sort of staring contest, hoping the other would break first.
He quietly walked out of the room, without breaking the stare or the silence.
I fell back into my engulfing pillow, thinking what brought me here.
As much as I tried, I got to nowhere and in the end, I fell into deep slumber, only to be awoke by the boy without a voice.
Only that, he did speak.
“Hello, mister,” he said.
“Hey, boy. Looks like you broke first,” I joked.
He fell silent again, while I laughed and found something else to say.
“What are you doing here? In the hospital?”
“My mom is here. She had an accident. She is lying very cold and she has been sleeping.”
“Oh,” I said and realized she was not doing very well.
“The doctors say she is brain-dead.”
“Don’t say that. Doctors mumble a lot. Most of the time, it’s just a guessing game. She’ll get well.”
Sensing the seriousness of the conversation, I realized the banality of my words and the weight of his silence.
He said a few words and took leave. I told him to come again soon.
After he left, a few people came in and told me of my state. I was in my current ways because I had had a car accident that vague night and my car would be covered by insurance. I honestly did not care and the least of my worries was a trashed car.
I wondered if the boy would come again, because the room was very lonely and nobody ever came to visit.
And like water, the day flew by yet he did not come all day.
It was late that night and I was resting when he came around.
“You look like you are ready to leave,” I said, judging by the substitution of his patient gown with a pair of jeans and a shirt. “Why didn’t you come all day?”
“I couldn’t. My mom was put off the machines today.”
“I am so sorry for your loss, buddy.”
He tilted his head and looked at me with aghast eyes.
“How can you be sorry?” he asked me.
“I do not understand you.”
“You don’t even know why you’re sorry, do you?”
“I just think it is good manners to say that.”
“You should be.”
“Sorry. You should be sorry.” He said, very plainly, very bluntly, very strongly.
I just stared at him, trying to understand.
“You should be sorry. Because you killed my mom.”
The little boy left the room to an awful silence, a bitter facing and me to my morbid soul. I, the drunk driver. I, the murderer. I imagined the boy’s figure from a few seconds ago, when he was just a little boy and I was just a victim of road mishap. But in real-time, the room felt colder than ever, the weight of the world on me and the light in the room never felt more macabre.
And I never felt more dead.