The Damsel In Distress
I can’t remember the last time I saw sunrise, it was beautiful. The sky above broke bright and clear, clouds looked like beds in heaven, almost a work of art but like everything in life it had a flaw too. The city skyline was grey and the empty roads were almost translucent under smog, which only made it more believable and so joyful I knew I wasn’t hallucinating that. The lone drive back to the school building made me feel like I wouldn’t see the golden hour ever again. I was driving back to my gallows. It was a stupid plan and I didn’t have the reputation for being a brainy anyway.
They were all waiting for me. I parked my van far from the building, went on the roof of another building across it and watched their positions. Two armed men at the main gate, few snipers on roofs and more guards patrolling and waiting to deliver me to the woman I made a deal with over walkie-talkie. I didn’t trust the woman to keep her side of the deal but I sure was going to get Shreya out at any cost. Learning from what she did to save me and Komal I decided to use stealth before assault.
My best chance to sneak in was the roof of the canteen which was high enough for me to jump on it from the roof of a building sharing wall with it. I went down, strafed along the wall of the school in left and I got behind the edge, I vaulted over the gate of the other building and reached to the roof. I unpinned a grenade and threw it far in right. Within five seconds it exploded with a loud bang that could have woken up the sleeping beauty. I crouched and waited till most of the soldiers left to check out what caused the explosion. I jumped down and again and hid inside the canteen.
Few minutes later a soldier walked in with quick steps, I picked a fork and jabbed it in his neck. I took his silenced 9mm and shot him in the head. I put on his gas mask. I already had the soldier’s uniform I killed earlier on me, so blending wasn’t hard but it was hard to get past unnoticed. I got out and pretended like I was patrolling the canteen area, few soldiers looked into my eyes and didn’t react. I slipped in right side of the area to go around the building in center and get inside it through the hallway. That was a basketball ground; soldiers there seemed to be more frowned by the explosion. Those guys stayed on their positions with cigarette butt in their mouths, sweating till their cracks as the hot sunlight fell in indifferently on us. I took the stairs in my left and got in the computers room.
Something told me that these soldiers were too heavily armed for pharmaceutical company workers. Whatever they were doing behind the cover of Laughing Gas Syndrome was bad and the world outside wasn’t aware of it. I turned on one of the computers which had a webcam. I started the cam and recorded my video. I didn’t remove my mask though.
“I, uh. . .am a worker in this spread corp which supposedly is officially working on to undo the effects of laughing gas and synthetic hallucinogens escaped in explosion in a factory, illegal factory. People aren’t dying if exposed to them; gases are minimal in quantity, enough for the chaos. I am recording this video for everyone who sees it to know that something is very wrong with what this research is about. Inform police that many innocent were killed and this has to stop. Help”
I uploaded the video and deleted it from the hard drive. Hardly had I left the seat trouble found me. A soldier came in the room and asked me what I was doing.
“I was watching porn” I lied.
“Video? Quit wasting your time and energy fool! Did you forget the oath you took in the army?!” he yelled.
“I took oath to kill an innocent, burn his body and fix myself a nice tea on its fire” I said.
“What is your tag cadet?”
“Tag back” I said and tried to press his neck with my bare hands.
My father would’ve been about his age, if dad was alive. He had old dry skin which was hard and scaled after the long hours in the sun, grey hair, and reddened eyes and he was little shorter than me but he was stronger. He pushed my arms away and kicked me in stomach. He aimed his handgun between my brows. I pulled a chair by its leg and hit his hand; I removed my gun and shot him in chest.
“Where is she?!” I pulled his collar and asked him.
“Who?” he asked.
“The girl you have hostage”
“What difference does it make? You are a dead man walking”
“Tell me or I will make sure you feel your death come every second”
“Not in this life” he said that and unpinned a grenade on his vest.
I picked myself and jumped out of the room. The room exploded alarming every soldier, its flames escaped from door behind me and broke every window and burned everything inside the room. The force threw me on the wall across and my left arm was aflame. I put it out and barely ran to hide from the triad of soldiers coming toward the room.
I held my AK-52 rifle and ran upstairs shooting down and tossed my last grenade at the soldiers following me. On the second floor I cut right and ran across the hallway to get to the balcony in other side of the building, the soldiers on the playground spotted me and so did the sniper in balcony of a building in north. They started firing bullets all over me which sounded as if it suddenly got stormy on a cozy summer weekend.
I crouched behind the wall, confused and scared of hell. The soldiers were a foot from the hallway and behind me was two stories drop to a sudden stop. Then the speakers started making noises that sounded like an old woman crazed searching her insurance papers. “Stop shooting all you sonowabitches!! I want that boy alive!” She yelled out with every bit of strength and agony in her. Then the gunfire stopped, I peeked over the balcony wall and saw everyone just stood where they were and gazed at me like hungry dogs.
“Are you out of your effing mind Rahul!? I thought we had a deal. If you show up blowing and shooting things up then my dogs are left with no choice than blowing your head off you psycho! Do you know how much money I have dumped in this stupid research just so that I could save my million shares already put in this company? So, do yourself and us a favor and come back to me or I will shoot this little damsel!”
“I don’t know if you can hear me but I don’t trust you” I said.
I sat there thinking over whether I should give myself up as stipulated or just fight back until last bullet. Few soldiers finally caught up and came in the hallway running to capture me. I took aim at them and on second thought I dropped my rifle. I stood up with my hands behind my head. One of them threw a punch on my face. “Hard to knock out huh?!” he said. “For the first time my conscious is clear” I replied.
They grabbed my hands and pushed me through crowd of the soldiers insulting me. In the principal’s office I met her, the woman. She sat on a rotating chair behind the huge desk, the wall paint had faded orange color, and the wall behind her had certificates and pictures of the schools’ lady principal. The left wall had more pictures of some sport events arranged around a shut door and the right one had a couch pushed against it and Shreya lay unconscious and tied up on it. The woman put her laptop down to finally show her face to me and first thing I thought was ‘fake’. She looked younger than she sounded; one could tell that she was above forty by looking at her. Her surgeon didn’t do best at lifting her loosened cheeks either. She wore black business women suit and a skirt just above her knee.
One of the soldiers brought a chair from the room in left and made me sit on it and another one tied my hands with zip-ties to each of its arms.
“Leave” she ordered the soldiers then walked to me and slapped me hard.
“I understand you are upset about why didn’t you go to the other cosmetic surgeon but that doesn’t mean you could hit me” I said.
She resumed her seat and replied “Funny huh? The joke is on you. Why are you here? You thought this is the fable of Damsel In Distress where you save this girl she’ll be impressed and marry you? I knew you are delirious but you don’t even live in reality”
“Those must be the side effects”
“Let me tell you why she is here. Right after I talked to you over radio my dogs brought her to me and she offered to honeypot you for me if I let her and her sister go. She said that you were a mad man who wouldn’t know wrong or right and had high expectations for yourself. Seriously? and you almost risked your life to save her. Did she tell you that she was one of us?”
“What? I hardly knew her. Stop making this all up”
“I am not surprised. She was with us till we blew up our factory, she went rogue after she found out we were buying inpatients from Ana and Archie Mental Institute. She started searching for her sister. We found her in the asylum and then you happened. Because of you she got away from the asylum but the mad doctor who took your blood sample mailed me that you might be our first surviving subject and he was right”
“I am pretty dumb, aren’t I?”
“I told them to get rid of any evidences from our last trials and thank god they didn’t get rid of you. Now let’s talk business. Where do you want it? In the head? Or my favorite, the heart?” she said taking her pistol out of a drawer in the desk.
“I thought you need me” I said.
“This is not for you. Sorry Dhalia, the girl will have to die”
“No! I will kill her!” Shreya woke up and screamed looking at someone behind me.
A soldier came bursting inside the room. He drew his pistol at the old woman and shot her in leg. The woman fell on the floor clutching her leg and moaned in pain. The soldier undid Shreya’s ligature and handed her his rifle. She went to the woman and stepped on her hand.
“Madame Douglas, pleased to find you under my shoe. Do you know Dheeraj? I do, and the moment I met him in Red Light city I shot him. He told me about you. Let me refresh your memory, he made money by prostituting Anarchy Asylum’s female inpatients. The asylum was funded by your company. He ran many errands for you. And you both thought whatever evil you’ve done won’t come back to you? Komal is my sister you bi#ch!” Shreya said pointing the rifle on the fallen woman.
“I don’t know what you are talking about” Douglas said.
“You draw the first blood and your blood will be drawn in the end. It’s a looping rill of blood” She said and shot every bullet in the rifle’s clip at her and killed her. The soldier removed his mask and Shreya kissed him. I was getting uncomfortable watching them.
“Excuse me, what is happening?” I asked.
Shreya aimed her rifle at me and asked where I hid her sister. I gestured her to untie my zip-ties but she didn’t. I told her she could find her sister only if she answered my questions. She threatened to kill me and I welcomed her to do so. Her boyfriend suggested we ought to talk on our way outside and he freed me from the chair. He and Shreya walked out of the room without looking back at me and I followed them.
“Stay here!” Shreya’s boyfriend ordered us and went out while we hid near the door.
“How’d you know Komal was here?” I asked her.
“I am not the only one who hates spread corp. Few more soldiers joined me when I left this propaganda. They are dead. Only I and Kushal are alive. He helped me” She surprisingly answered me.
“Kushal is you boyfr-okay. What do you know about me, my parents, where I come from? Why I had visions of Priya and Dhalia?” I asked her. I wanted to tell her that her father was dead but I thought it might upset her and hinder her pace and judgments. I decided to tell her after we get out of there or if we couldn’t escape.
Before she could reply we heard gunfire exchange in the hallway and Shreya ran to help Kushal. We saw Kushal was shooting down the spread’s soldiers coming our way. Shreya turned around and went shooting the other side. I stole Kushal’s dagger and ran with her. Like a madman I punched and jabbed with my dagger and killed one soldier. Shreya kept shooting till the other side was clear. Apparently, we were yet outnumbered.
“Did you plan the end of this ahead?” I asked her.
“It was to hide and escape but the plan B is to shoot our way out” she said.
We ran upstairs. On our way up I told Kushal that earlier I heard an helicopter land on the building’s roof, it might have been Douglas’s ride which we could borrow for a while. We got to the roof of the building chased by more of the spread’s soldiers. The helicopter was on roof adjacent to the building we were on.
I locked the door on the roof which barred the soldiers, not for long though. I told them to split up; it was our best chance to create a distraction while they made to the helicopter.
“Go!” I screamed.
“What will you do?” Shreya asked me.
“Go! They will break the door any minute now”
The soldiers broke the door and came to the roof. I took Shreya’s rifle, reloaded it and started shooting at them. Kushal pulled Shreya “We only have one rifle. He will hold them off while we get to the chopper. We will fly round and pick him. Come on!” he said.
“Wait, where’s Komal?” Shreya asked.
“Your family’s old home. Just leave!” I screamed again shooting bullets off the last clip I had.
I was worried that I didn’t get to tell her about her father’s death. I hoped they would fly around to catch me. The soldiers came pushing through the door and I didn’t let go of the trigger killing most of them down but missed the one who shot me. The bullet went into my chest too close to my heart. I still was able to feel the trigger against my finger. Shreya and Kushal climbed on the water house and jumped over the roof of the other building. I didn’t know how they got the helicopter running but the sound of its blades tearing air was music to my ears.
The bullet in my chest felt like the memory I had buried deep in me, painful. My legs felt numb again and I bent my back to left. I wobbled backward still shooting at them and another bullet hit me in the leg which pushed me off the edge. I heard the helicopter fly toward me; the soldiers rushed and held my hand. They didn’t want me to die. I was the only key to continue their research. The soldiers fired at the helicopter not making it any easy for Kushal to fly.
“Dhalia!” Shreya screamed.
I remembered the nightmare in which I was five stories above in air, moments from becoming a gooey decomposing thing on the ground but a hand reached out and grabbed me.
The nightmare had come true.
I looked up and saw Shreya in the helicopter. I drained everything I saw earlier and took time hung in midair, making an illustration in my mind of her moist eyes, her shiny hair, her ivory glowing face and every little unreal detail around us. Then I saw Dhalia was holding my hand. He didn’t have any clothes on. I felt his rough grip clenched in mine pulling me toward him. He was still alive; everything I did to kill him had failed. According to the nightmare, that was the part where Shreya tries to save me and Dhalia appears from behind shooting his shotgun at me. But he was saving me and was smiling at me.
A part of me didn’t want to live anymore. I thought the only way to defeat Dhalia was to let me live my nightmare. Dhalia kept pulling me toward him; the joker grin on his pale face mocked me to death. I grabbed his hair and pushed off the roof’s edge. Finally I was free, falling five stories down.
That was the part where Shreya was going to call out the name.
Four stories above ground.
I didn’t regret failing to tell Shreya that Dougay died. I always had a hint that she hated him anyway.
Three stories above ground.
I wondered what could have been answers to the questions I never asked. But after death, I didn’t have to give a damn about them anymore.
Two stories above ground.
I looked around and didn’t find Dhalia falling with me.
One story above ground.
That was the part where Shreya was supposed to call out the name.
I crashed on the ground and broke my arm and a leg. My face stuck on one side and my body bled from bullet holes and cracks, the blood flowing down like a good scotch spilled and wasted wildly by a drunk.
I heard the helicopter buzz away in air. Shreya didn’t call out the name which was inconsistent with the nightmare. She and Kushal flew away.
I feared I failed again. My vision started fading out and I didn’t feel any pain any more. But I was hearing voices in my head.
“Be a good boy now, momma and dad are gonna talk, okay?”
I thought I succeeded. I thought I have ended the nightmare. I thought I was dying.
“I name him Rahul Rai and he will kill you all!”
I was dead but a part of me didn’t want to die.
Dhalia whispered to me “I am still alive”
(continued in second part.)