This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
The cool evening breeze was blowing in my hair and on my face. As I sat staring at the 14 storied office building in front of me I was happy that I had taken the right decision to take up this job in Mumbai. In a way I felt proud to be associated with my new company which was on the 10th floor. My thoughts had barely drifted to my small village where my family and relatives were dissuading me against moving to Mumbai that I heard a loud explosion.
I sat stunned as I saw the swanky building crashing down and being reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds. Soon there was a chain reaction as other buildings in the vicinity followed suit. Shards of glass flew all around. I was too shocked to even move. Then I saw people screaming, running and scrambling for a shelter. At first I thought it was another terrorist mission that had been accomplished. Tomorrow it would make the headlines and my family would say,
“See, didn’t we tell you that Mumbai is not a safe place!”
I recovered from my stupor and started running from the site. As I ran I noticed that the ground opened up and swallowed cars, houses, people and whatever was on its way. Then my mind said,
“This is not a terrorist attack. This is an earthquake”.
I started running faster. But the faster I ran the ground opened up in double speed. I had no idea what on earth was happening. Everything caved into the depths of the earth.
Soon I heard the sound of raging water behind me. I turned around to see and the sight was unfathomable. A giant wave had washed ashore from the Arabian Sea into the mainland and was now devouring everything.
“God, what is happening?”
I wondered to myself. It looked like nature was seeking vengeance in all forms. Strong gusts of wind were uprooting the trees and tossing houses like paper. Men, women and children were all being consumed by the monstrous waves.
I heard somebody screaming, “Run! The world is coming to an end”.
“What?” I said.
Was the world really coming to end? If this was the end then I was sure that I would also die and I thought it was no use running. So I stopped running and sat down with my face buried in my arms waiting for my turn. I could hear my heartbeat loud and clear. Now! Any moment I would be dead.
Suddenly in a matter of seconds all the commotion came to a standstill. I thought I had died and reached hell or heaven, of which neither was acceptable to me at this juncture of my life. I had just started my career and had not lived a full life also. I don’t know how long I lay still in this position. Gradually I raised my head to see whether I was in the pits of hell or amongst the dancing angels.
The entire place looked like a bloody battlefield. Dead bodies were strewn all around. The sky which was clear now had become grey and menacing. I was straining to hear some cries for help but not a single sound was to be heard. No whimpering. No whispering. There was a deathly silence. I stood up wondering what happened and what to do now.
I couldn’t understand which direction to take. I thought perhaps this is not the end of the world because I was still alive. Maybe there were some more like me who had survived this nightmare. But I guess I had spoken too soon. For, a dense screen of colorful smoke appeared from nowhere and moved at a great speed towards me.
“Oh no! Perhaps it really is the end of the world. I am going to die definitely” I thought.
Soon I was enveloped into the vortex of this thick smoke. My eyes, nose and mouth was filled with the powerfully pungent smell. I could not breathe. I felt as if somebody had shoved a handful of cacti down my throat. I could not scream. My lungs were unable to bear the battering. My eyes stung and watered, and I could barely keep them open. I started collapsing on the ground holding my throat with my hands.
My mind screamed “Somebody, help! Please.”
A jet of water was splashed on my face. The force was so intense that I gasped and sat up. I opened my eyes to see my sister Ankita standing with an empty bucket in her hand. I was soaked from head to toe.
“Wake up, you jerk” said my sister.
“Wh-what the hell? Where am I? How come you are alive? Didn’t the world just end?” I said choked with emotion.
“Have you lost your mind?” Ankita said in a berating tone. “You were stoned and have been out all evening on the terrace. Didn’t I warn you to stay away from those glasses of thandai? Ayush (our mischievous cousin) had mixed bhang in them. And you were drinking it like a fish. Now take a shower and come down soon. Ma is calling you for dinner” she said and walked away.