|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|SETTING||Railway platform OR Inside Train|
|OBJECT||Any Jewellery – Necklace, Ring…|
Unusual Short Story – The Lone Bangle
“Ticket, please..” said the thin, wasp-waisted ticket collector in his maudlin voice, producing from his left pocket a wooden stamp and from the other a black ink-pad. He was a man of business. A man who loved his job.
“I don’t have one..”said the blue eyed man, with a quiver in his voice.
“You don’t have one..? How can’t you have one..? How then, you plan to continue your journey, Sir..?”
“With your mercy, Sir. Please allow me on this train. I will get out as soon as the rain stops. I do not have anything to give. I didn’t even have the money to feed myself let alone buy a ticket..” pleaded the man, trying hard not to cry..
“Hm..Hmm..This is some sticky situation we are in..” implored the thin ticket collector. He looked at the window, the rain drops were falling like little pointed arrows; some great archers assigned in heaven to fight against one magnificent iron serpent.
“Hm..Can’t throw you out, you will die as soon as you set your foot out in such bone-crushing cold..Can’t permit you to stay without the ticket..What should I do..? What should I do..?”
The thin man was confused. He turned his head towards the golden, richly embroidered drapings, the maroon, fluffy seats, the ever luminous candelabra, with its branches illuminating every nook and corner of the splendid coach, as if looking for an answer or a hint of some sorts. Defeated, he asked the blue-eyed man-
“Are you sure you don’t have anything to give..?”
“Yes, Sir..I have nothing..” he began to cry.
“Don’t cry..No one cries on this train..You see, this is our speciality..We deal in spreading happiness, taking people there, where they crave to go..Don’t worry if you do not have ticket, we’ll arrange something for you..After all you are in the best train in the world. It never dissapoints..!”
He was exuberant. He had spent all his life on this train, taking people where they ‘craved to go’. He loved this train. In fact, all of them..
“But, you have to give me something, anything, after all I can’t let you in for free..It’s against the rules..!” stated the thin man.
“I have these bangles I bought for my daughter..” the man produced bangles wrapped in a paper, from his muddy brown, lacerated overcoat. Like everything they must go too, he thought.
The ticket collector was astonished to see such a fine piece of jewellery. He rapidly took the bangles from the man and brought them close to his face. He took off his gloves and touched it’s round sumptuous curve (as if wheel of a magnificent golden train) and delicate decorations with his naked hands. He smelt them. They reminded him of the wet iron doors of the train. He must have them. They were for him. He wasn’t being unscrupulous if he took them. There was nothing wrong in it..
“It will do. Come with me, I’ll take you to your coach..”
“I can’t sit here..?”
“No, you can’t..”
He was tired, his blue eyes weary, his soul stinking of despair and guilt. He was sitting at the far end of the iron carriage. A solitary neglected carriage, which noisily crawled ahead, attached with the otherwise brilliant train. It was dark in there- fairly regular thunderbolts the only light source. The man tried to shield himself from the rain, rushing in from the broken glass windows. The carriage was empty, except for a little girl sitting at the other end. She looked beautiful, dressed in maroon, her face steady, yielding nothing, her eyes busy, her lips reciting a poem she loved.
Oh tides, brimming with love,
Joy and hope for tomorrow.
Crushing away the curse of grief,
The ghosts of fear and sorrow.
The man saw her. She reminded him of his daughter. He wanted to sit beside her, talk to her, hold her, close to his heart, never letting her go. His anger for being deserted in that derelict carriage thawed with the glowing warmth of her beautiful face.
He stood from his place and decided to go to her. She seemed the answer to all his miseries, his gnawing past; an angel sent by the Gods themselves to take him to their abode. He paced ahead with difficulty- the spirited train making it impossible to stand, let alone walk. The girl didn’t seem to have noticed him. She was busy chanting, looking curiously at her hands as if solving a puzzle.
“What is your name..?” He didn’t have anything better to start a conversation. The girl stopped singing. The train did not. It was still drunk on rain- a minstrel singing songs one has never heard before. Lightning was still the only source of light, ephemeral, yet sufficient to bare souls.
“I had a daughter..Your age probably..She looked like you only..Her hair, like yours, maybe longer..She was beautiful..Like you..She..She loved wearing beautiful dresses..She had one like yours..I brought it for her..She loved wearing necklaces, rings, bangles..I brought her bangles too..Gold bangles..I could never give them to her..But she is to blame..She is..Why did she never come back..It has been two years now..Two years..No one, no one remains angry for two years..Two years, I have looked for her..No one behaves like this..” The tears seemed to burn his lashes. He was on his knees, holding hands of the little girl, resting his head on her lap.
The train lurched ahead onto a rocky terrain, which then led on to the gushing waters. The river, tried to break free, fearing not even the magnificent mountains. The huge iron framework, blackened by smoke, stood alone, braving boisterous winds and cruel rain. It never stopped raining there, the raindrops incessantly clinking on the bridge, the monotony so in contrast with the eventful fight beneath, between the river and the mountain.The girl again started humming the soothing melody, though feebly. He looked up towards her. Lightning made her face look whiter than ever, and her clothes, red. Blood red. Now came the horrid realization.
“Is this blood..? Is this blood on your clothes..? Oh no..No..This cant be true..”, he was appalled.
But it was blood. It mingled with the rain water on the dirty floor, rushed towards the iron door, anxious to meet the benevolent river beneath. The girl, calm as ever. The man sat beside her, placed her head on his lap, his hands repeatedly caressing her damp hair. He was unable to stop this from happening. He wished it was all unreal, just a bad dream, from which he would wake up any moment, and everything would be fine again.
“You know..”, her voice was broken, “I love bangles too..” He was wailing vehemently. He gave away the bangles. It was his chance to make amends and he lost it. Forever.
“I wish I had them..That wicked man..Oh, God..I have lost everything..Everything..”
“You haven’t..” the girl held his hand and took it towards the pocket of his rugged overcoat.There it was, wet, cold, delicately crafted, beautiful, but, alone. Like the wheels of a magnificent golden train. He was bewildered. But there wasn’t time for frivolous emotions. He rapidly took her soft hand, cold and still, and placed the lone bangle in her wrist.
“It is so beautiful..”
The last words sounded like an elegy. He caressed her forehead, her cheeks, her lips. Her eyes must have closed. There was no light. The rain stopped. There was no lightning.