She sat just two rows ahead of him. Her thick, long brown hair was all he could see from his seat. Her hair covered her petite body and he could see no part of her. Many considered her silky hair to be her best feature. But he was never able to comprehend why. Even her hair repelled him.
“Dhruv is a nice guy” is how everyone who knew him described him. He believed them. He was indeed a nice guy.
He had never done anything bad in his life. Yes he had “got rid” of a few wild cats in the locality, but that was only because they were being a nuisance to the neighbourhood. He was simply doing his neighbours a favour. He clearly remembered the smile on old Mr. Khanna’s face when he had happily told his parents that he could finally get a good night’s sleep after a long time because the constant, unpleasant mewing wasn’t there to disturb him every night anymore.
Of course, he was a nice guy.
But he knew being a nice guy wasn’t easy. He constantly needed to please people. The biggest hurdle, however, was to refrain from hating anyone. He knew nice people don’t hate others. Nice people are allowed to dislike others, true, but hate is too strong and negative an emotion for a nice person to feel. He disliked very few people, hated none. Well, atleast until the previous month. She had managed make him feel an emotion he knew was much stronger than the dislike he felt for other people.
He often tries not to intentionally derive sadistic pleasure out of the sufferings of others. But he could not help but smile and feel a sense of satisfaction when the last guy he disliked tripped and fell from a flight of stairs. He had pictured the exact scene several times in his head, but he felt an even greater sense of contentment when it actually happened.
He rushed to the falling boy’s safety when he finally stopped rolling and landed face-down at the bottom of the stairs; blood flowing from his forehead and elbow. Everyone else who were present in the vicinity, too shocked to react at first, soon rushed to the boy’s aid too, but Dhruv was the first one to volunteer to take him to the school nurse and got his dressing done. The guy later thanked him and reinstated that he was a nice guy. He enjoyed the fact that he was a “nice guy”. Mostly because even when he wanted someone to get hurt, he could still remain a hero. He loved that feeling.
The staircase incident wasn’t the first time he realized that he had a “power”. He first realized it four years ago.
Aakash, the school cricket team’s captain, had excluded him from the team arbitrarily. While he sat on a bench watching the cricket match he could have been a part of, from a distance, Dhruv imagined the ball hitting Aakash’s head and knocking him out, several times. He didn’t even have to wait for too long, for he immediately heard hue and cry and saw the boys in the field running towards Aakash. The ball had hit him right at the centre of his head and his unconscious body was quickly surrounded by a group of confused 15 year olds who had no clue as to how to react.
After enjoying few seconds of satisfaction, Dhruv rushed towards the phone in the stadium and called the nearest hospital. The ambulance came within 10 minutes and Aakash was saved from a severe concussion. The next day, every member of the cricket team elected Dhruv to take Aakash’s place in the team, till he recovered fully. To top it all, Dhruv was also treated to a lavish dinner by Aakash’s parents at the town’s best restaurant. He was hailed as a “hero” for the first time that day.
Since then, he was a “hero” to the guy who had accidentally broken his laptop, for raising an alarm first when he got hit by a car; to that school bully who used to steal his tiffin, when he helped him spit out the splinter that he had accidentally swallowed; to the girl who had called him “ugly”, when he took her to the hospital, on time, after a fast moving football broke her nose in the playground; and to so many others that he had lost count.
Now that he looked at her thick brown hair, he didn’t want to be a “hero” anymore. He loathed her with all his heart. He wanted her to suffer and not be there to save her. He knew only HE could save her.
Someone sitting behind her called her name. She turned and he could see her face. She was pretty, beyond doubt. The exquisite looking peacock feather earring and the white kurti that she wore made her look radiant. She smiled and he knew her smile could have made him go weak in his knees had he not known the evil in her.
For once, he tried to forget how evil she was and caught himself appreciating her beauty. He felt his heart beat accelerating and suddenly felt hot. He started sweating. God, she was beautiful! He felt the urge to own her; to touch her; cherish her.
He didn’t realise he was staring until she caught him and made a face that reflected disgust. He realized that the evilness in her was back. It would remain till she lived.
He imagined how her beauty would be enchanting if the evilness left her; drained off her. He saw her drowning, gasping for breath and then letting go off her evil soul, leaving behind her pure body. She looked ravishing.
After the class ended, he went home, still wondering about her.
In the evening, he went out for his daily run through the woods. He had a mild feeling that the little lake in the middle of the woods was calling out to him. He went towards it, feeling a strange kind of anxiety. He moved ahead, taking three steps at a time. He realized he was not alone at the lakeside when he reached 5 minutes later. As he grew closer to the lake, he heard her scream for help getting fainter. He hid behind a tree and waited till that familiar head with brown hair, now wet, was totally out of sight.
He didn’t have to wait for too long. He came out of hiding and moved closer to the lake to check if he could hear her voice again. The croaks of the frogs, eager to mate, were all he could hear.
He jumped into the lake. He took little time to find her body as he knew exactly where she had submerged. He pulled her out of the water and laid her body on the marsh. Lying unconscious, she looked as ravishing as he had imagined she would, if not more. He marvelled at her perfectly sharp nose, the sensuously curved lips and those exquisitely long eyelashes. Her complexion was several shades lighter and the paleness of her skin gave her a divine character. She finally looked pure. Like an angel.
She was breathing faintly. For once, he wanted to preserve her purity. He contemplated about running away and never coming back. He bowed down to give her one last kiss. Her lips were cold, and he liked that.
He looked at her angelic face again. Something in him did not allow him to run away from it. He felt a sudden, strong urge to make that angel know that he was a “hero”.
He placed his lips on her again; this time, in an effort to increase the rate of her heart-beat. He used all the skills he had learnt in a summer camp, to revive her. He finally managed to help her choke out all the water from her lungs. She gained consciousness and looked at her saviour. “Dhruv….Dhruv…. thank you….you… saved…my lii..ife” she faintly muttered through the intervals between gasping for air.
He covered her with his jacket and helped her to Dr. Pathak’s house, for he lived closest to the woods.
He smiled as he made his way back home after leaving her at the doctor’s, ensuring that she would be fine. He knew he was a nice guy. He knew he could never hurt anyone.
But above, all he was sure he was a HERO.