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The Night at the Cottage

I have never been able to remember even a single situation where I may have felt scared. I could not even imagine what fear felt like until I visited that unfortunate place on that fateful day. So many years have passed still the series of incidents that took place that night haunt me till this present day.

It happened at a time when monsoon was on its way out and autumn was moving in. It used to get cold in the evenings but the showers had not stopped entirely. My girlfriend, after weeks of nagging, was finally able to make me take a break from work to take a trip with her to somewhere calm and quiet, away from the noise of the city. I had found this cottage for short term rent in the coastal town close to our city. It was off season which meant less number of visitors and we liked it that way. Both of us preferred avoiding crowded places . I booked the cottage for that weekend. We didn’t know back then that staying there for one night would become a lifelong burden for us.

We started early in the morning and reached the place before noon. The cottage sat right amidst trees and shrubs which gave a green hue to the surroundings and the blue from the sea made our journey absolutely worth it. I called the caretaker who fortunately for us was nearby. He came quickly and welcomed us inside. The cottage had its own kitchen, two bedrooms each with an attached bathroom, a drawing cum dining room and a guest washroom. The back of the cottage opened up to a narrow stretch bounded by green shrubs and other flowering plants, the path leading up to a deserted part of the beach. It was simply beautiful.

The caretaker was supposed to cook the food for us and leave for the day. Everything looked nice but there was something that distressed me. The moment we entered the house, I felt something was watching us and not in a good way. I felt uneasy and disturbed.

We went to the beach after freshening up. I hadn’t noticed earlier there was a tall and thick dead tree at the end of the path. There were no leaves or flowers on its branches but still they looked laden under some invisible weight.

The feeling of being watched stopped as soon as we crossed that tree overlooking the beach. It felt as if an immense burden was suddenly lifted off my chest. I didn’t understand what happened then or before. I confessed about the uncomfortable feeling to my partner and she admitted even she felt it. We brushed that thought aside and spent some quality time with each other. Soon, we forgot about that dreadful feeling altogether. We returned to the cottage after a little while. I started feeling the weight on my chest as soon as we crossed that tree. I even stopped to have a good look at it but couldn’t gather anything.

The caretaker had prepared our meals for the day and left. We had our lunch and felt this need to take a nap. The weight was wearing us down. It was almost sundown when my sleep was broken by a sudden noise. As I regained my senses and sat up, the sound seemed to be of someone running about inside the house. It was absurd as there were no localities around. I thought maybe it was the caretaker’s kid and as I turned my head to look at the time I saw a pair of eyes looking at us. Those eyes belonged to a painting sitting on the wall facing the bed. As soon as I laid my eyes on the painting, the pair of eyes on it went dead. I was trying to understand if I was still dreaming when I heard the sound of running feet again. I got out of the bed and walked towards the door. As soon as I peeked out of the door, I saw a pair of small feet disappearing into the backdoor. It had to be a little kid. I ran after them only to find myself outside, absolutely alone. I could still hear laughter coming from the direction of the beach. I ran towards it but I couldn’t see anything. Silence engulfed that area as soon as I reached that tree. I had an uncanny feeling of being watched by invisible entities all around me. The branches looked even more weighed down than before.

The sense of vulnerability was overwhelming and I almost ran back to the house. It was dark inside, darker than it was supposed to be. I went to the bedroom to wake my girl up and the scene in there struck horror deep inside me. A dark shadow was floating just over her and had almost engulfed her in a shroud. It did not have any describable shape, hovering in the air like a black tattered bedsheet. I stood there, numb, trying to figure out my next step. My mind had gone totally blank, like a baby drowning in a pond. Out of instinct, I ran towards her and snatched her out of the bed. She was limp, in a semiconscious state, murmuring something which I couldn’t understand. I had to carry her on my shoulders. The shadow let out a shriek which felt as if it pierced my ears. I was about to pass out from the pain but I didn’t. I knew I couldn’t not give up till I took her to safety.

The shadow glided towards us, darkening everything in its path. Everything seemed to get charred or wilted in its path as it closed in on us. I could feel my senses leaving me. I felt my knees give away and the floor seemed to move up towards me. I think I was falling. The lights grew dimmer and my surroundings seemed to grow darker. I thought I saw a kid dancing just under the shadow but I must have been delirious, there couldn’t be any kid but still there was. Then the kid looked straight at me and his gaze froze me to my very core. His eyes were hollowed out and blood oozed out from where his eyes should have been, the skin on his face rotting away. He was grinning and the grin became wider as the shadow moved closer. The sound of feet tapping on the floor grew louder. I was slowly losing my consciousness when suddenly something struck me from inside, my survival instinct. I pulled myself up and ran out or at least I think that I ran out. The tree at the back looked much larger now, it’s branches swaying wildly although there was no wind. I moved towards the beach as fast as I could but something was pulling me from behind. My feet felt heavy and that narrow stretch seemed to take forever to cross. I looked up at the tree but it looked somewhat different now. There were bodies hanging from its branches and they were moving. The tree still looked dead but now it looked vast, covering the whole sky. Moonlight could barely escape through its dead branches. I looked back towards the cottage but it had disappeared and in its place stood an old church, burnt to the ground except its charred beams and rafters still standing, like a huge skeleton. I couldn’t see the shadow anymore and that gave me little strength. My partner was still unconscious.

I placed her down on the ground. She looked pale, as if all blood had been sucked from her body. I shook her trying to revive her, but she didn’t move. Her body was getting colder as if life was being sucked out of her each passing moment. I knew I had to get out of that place but I didn’t know where to go. Everything around me looked different, the stretch leading to the beach was now bounded by thorny bushes. Something dark was oozing out of each thorn, leaf and branch of those bushes. Even though they didn’t move but it felt as if I was being strangled by those branches, my throat being pierced by their thorns.

I couldn’t wait any longer, she didn’t have much time. I put her back on my shoulders and tried to walk fast, but I couldn’t, my body felt heavier than before, I was losing strength. I moved as fast as I could but I was getting slower with each step, my legs getting heavier each passing moment, my shoulders getting weaker. I felt as if I was fighting a lost battle with an invisible foe but I wasn’t ready to give up, I wasn’t built to give up. I moved ahead and then I saw something that makes me sweat even to this day. It was the kid, sitting below the dead dark tree, bodies still hanging from its branches. He was oblivious to my presence, calmly playing with something round and humming an old nursery rhyme. I thought, this was a good chance to escape but he just sat there, between me and the beach. I moved slowly and silently, not taking my eyes off him, planning to get past without being noticed. As I moved, the image became clearer and what I saw, made me feel something I had never felt before. I felt numb, unable to decide what to do. The kid was not playing with a ball, it was the decapitated head of my girlfriend, whose body I had been carrying on my shoulders. I just stood still, I couldn’t dare to look back at what I was carrying and then he looked at me, his hollowed sockets fixed on me with a malicious grin on his partially melted face. I looked at her head on the ground and it was staring at me, eyes wide open and a sad smile between the lips. I was on the verge of breaking down, tears filled my eyes as the pain built up in my chest but I didn’t fall. I looked up only to see the hanging bodies looking straight at me. I looked down again but the kid had disappeared along with my partner’s head. My trance was broken by a sudden screech and I looked back. Darkness was creeping up on us, engulfing everything in its way. I could feel the bushes burning, embers flying about, the smoke burning my eyes. The church at the back now bore a malicious incandescent red glow, as if the church was alive and burning from inside. I had to run, somehow, with whatever strength remained within me. I ran, with her body on my shoulders which I presumed was dead. As I progressed towards the beach, the darkness moved faster, the hanging bodies started screaming together. I wanted this to get over, as soon as possible, even if I had to die.

Finally, I was able to reach the end of the path, the threshold set by the dead tree. As soon I did so, there was a sudden gush of wind which almost knocked me over but I hunkered down and kept my ground. I continued moving towards the beach and after a while my hands touched the partially wet sand. I felt relief build inside me and I burst into a run. No sooner that I went past the edge of the tree, everything stopped. There was no rushing wind trying to knock me over, there was no shadow trying to seize me inside the darkness, the tree looked similar to what it looked like during the daytime, there were no dead bodies hanging from its branches or any kid playing with a head underneath.

A cool breeze touched my face and my body gave away. I fell on my knees, placed her on the sand and myself crashed besides her. I think I passed out. It was almost dawn when I regained my senses. I opened my eyes and turned my head to look at her. I was half prepared to look at a headless body but it was not. She was lying there, the whole of her, breathing slowly. I was elated, couldn’t hold back my tears and I held her close to me, as tightly as possible. She woke up to the sounds of my weeping. She was shocked to see me that way and that too on the beach at sunrise. She had absolutely no recollection of what transpired between the previous evening and the present time. I told her of the events, what I saw and experienced, the darkness creeping upon us, the little boy with hollowed eyes and rotting face, how I saw her lifeless head being rolled about like a ball, the slowly burning church, everything. She was aghast, upon listening to my narration. She held me closely and said she had experienced everything but she imagined it only to be a dream.

We decided to stay on the beach till it was morning and the caretaker arrived. We sat down, in each other’s arms and watched the sun coming up from the horizon as it filled the sky with a reddish glow, it was soothing this time.

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The Hunt for Unzen’s kill

 

I had just sat down with my morning coffee in the patio. It was only yesterday that I returned from my business meeting and longed to relish the cool autumn breeze and the plethora of colours on the trees. The aroma of freshly ground coffee made the whole affair even more pleasing but it all turned out to be momentary. A loud noise indicating the arrival of a powerful motorcycle squashed my plans for some leisure time.

The rider clad in leathers stopped just in front of the patio and from beneath the helmet emerged a well known smiling face which I hated right now. It was John or Long John as we liked to call him both because of his height and his womanising habits. I wasn’t particularly fond of the latter though. While climbing up the stairs he asked, “hey Leo, what do you know about Kyushu in late 18th century?”

“Not much”, I replied, “It was a busy port and served as a gateway of trade to European nations. As far as I can remember, Mt. Unzen erupted in 1792 and killed a lot of people. Tokugawa Lenari was the shogun during that period I think.”

John said, “Wow!! That is more than I expected out of you. Are you sure about you being a human?”

I answered in a dry tone,”No, I’m a cyborg and I am holding coffee flavoured engine oil in this cup. Now, tell me the reason for ruining my cup of coffee and my peace of mind.”

John jumped with excitement and started,”you will forget your coffee when you hear this. I’ve been waiting to tell you since I got my hands on this” and he brought out a green leather bound notebook which could only be described as ancient. The green cover had cracks all over it. Amidst those cracks was shining a golden insignia which didn’t match any of the symbols I knew about. It was two dragons wound around a samurai sword and the hilt bore Japanese letters. The pages inside also seemed to be made of leather but of softer kind. The content of the notebook seemed to be written in old form of Japanese. I could read up on it and try to decipher but the look on  John’s face told me I didn’t have to.

Just as I had opened my mouth to express my lack of knowledge John started again with even more excitement, “I bet you can’t recognise the insignia. It’s because the symbol was used only twice in history of civilisation. First was on a document recognising the existence of an ultra secret organisation and you can see the second instance. And how do I know for sure? I read the whole damn thing. Man, I had to cancel two dates and just because of my sacrifice, you should pay me 10% more than the others this time.”

I said,”I don’t have any problem till you can convince Nutter and Bison. Wasn’t it Nutter who twisted your arm and held it like that till you cried like a baby?”

John fumed,”alright alright, you don’t have to remind me that.”

“So, what else do you have?”

“Well, it gets more interesting. The notebook you are holding is a record of activities of that organisation. It would have been the first yakuza type syndicate if it hadn’t gotten decimated on its maiden voyage to set up a secret base.”

“Hold on. You are excited over a mafia organisation that got destroyed before it could do anything. Have you met me?”

“Even a snake shows more patience before biting someone. If you interrupt again I will use your cup to make your hair smell like coffee beans. Now listen carefully.

As per the record these people tried progressing methodically. The leader who was actually an opium smuggler had taken over a small faction near Kyushu. The daimyo who was actually in charge had been put into voluntary retirement by this leader. His signature says his name was Han Choi. He had amassed a fortune by selling opium and got it converted into gold. The shogun got a whiff of it and tried to extort from Han who had plans of his own. Apparently he had a small group of mercenaries under his command. Some of those mercenaries had been overseeing an excavation in the burial grounds of Kofun period aristocrats. I hope you know about the Kofun.”

I nodded affirmatively. Kofun period dated back to 400AD and provided the first record aristocracy in Japan. However, the records were not something I’d call complete. I sensed Jean, my trusted butler was waiting for instructions. I asked him to bring us some food.

John went on,”Han had been led to the knowledge of the presence of some artefacts. He believed they had some innate abilities and could be used to establish his influence over Japan. He wanted to make Japan a hub for criminal activities. He would have succeeded if he had not sailed that fateful night. He had planned to set up a base on an island near Kyushu to counter the shogunate. He started on the same day on which Mt. Unzen erupted killing thousands and giving rise to a tsunami. Han’s ship sank in that tsunami. The last part is an extrapolation based on Han’s account. He mentioned the eruption which seemed to shake the world around him and an extremely tall wave approaching the ship. The record ends here.”

“And the catch is the wreckage can be anywhere in the ring of fire. That ring which contains 75% of the world’s active volcanoes. Sounds doable. Get Nutter and Bison, I’ll devise a plan till then. Also, do remember not to get cheeky with Nutter. You do remember what happened last time, right?”

Bison was our team muscle and did most of the heavy lifting. We didn’t rely on him for bright ideas for obvious reasons but he was good at what he did, fighting.

Nutter or Natalia was the designated pilot and the only female member of our team. However, she was female only technically. Her behaviour would shame even the most notorious dock workers. She used be a national level gymnastics champion when one fine day which happened to be her selection day, she fell down a flight of stairs and broke her ankle resulting in an end to the career in gymnastics. She went nearly crazy, became an alcoholic and then took up a job on a fishing boat. I found her on the docks one evening totally drunk and beating a sailor black and blue. Later I came to know she was the best helmsman around even including the large boats. I decided to hire her as the pilot of my sub.

Since, I had not mentioned it before, my team hunts treasures below the surface of the sea. We procure information about old sunken ships and then search through the wreckage to acquire antiquities which are sold at auctions. Yes, we are filthy rich and this hobby of ours helps a lot.

John left after having a few sandwiches and I got down to planning.

First, I sent word to the docks to prep the submarine. The sub was my pride. I had named it the Atlas after its ability to withstand enormous hydrostatic pressure and thus, could be taken to large depths. It had a maximum speed of 25 knots which was decent. Even though it was not very large in size it could house 6 people comfortably. Six robotic arms had been attached for  grabbing stuff and also to provide a stable landing on the seabed. Since it was a civilian ship I hadn’t installed any weapons on it. However there were some self defence mechanism in case of an attack. The arms were enough to fend off sea animals.

The travelling part was simple. We were to go directly to Kyushu. The submarine would have been shipped by air and we would continue in the sub after that. The region inside the ring of fire was in continuous turmoil and thus finding a 200 year old ship was going to be difficult. It was similar to finding a needle in a haystack which was also moving. Luckily, we knew the island that the ship was headed to and had some loose records of the tsunami that resulted after the volcanic eruption.

We started two days after my morning tryst with John. Jean and Bob accompanied my team as was customary. In case the readers are wondering, Bob is my partner in crime, a German Shepherd. The journey to Kyushu was uneventful except the regular arguments between Nutter and Long John. Somehow they didn’t get tired of it. Trouble found us when we landed in Kyushu. A hurricane greeted us with malicious laughter or so it seemed. We would have gone ahead and started our search but the workers on the Kyushu docks were not willing to allow us to risk our lives. We decided to wait for the storm to subside. It gave me sometime to finetune my plans.

The storm subsided after 36 hours and we commenced our journey within 2 hours of its decline. According to the record, Han had planned to setup his base on an island near the Bonin islands adjacent to a seemingly dormant volcano. We moved along his course scanning the sea floor simultaneously. The hurricane had visible effects even beneath the sea surface. We could see destroyed marine life and wreckage of a few boats that failed to survive the storm. The depth of search increased as we moved forward. We had packed enough food to last 10 days. After that we would have to return back to shore.

It was the first time that we had started a hunt near Japanese soil. The terrain was totally new dotted with colourful marine life. Bob didn’t move from the window till we reached depths where light couldn’t reach. Eventually,we  reached the point where Han’s ship was struck by the sea due to the tsunami. As expected we didn’t find any piece of wreckage nearby. Extrapolating from the epicentre and the direction of resulting tsunami, it was probable that the ship was carried by the wave and hit some landmass, most probably an island.

We moved along the new calculated path. As we progressed, the sub registered vibrations coming at more or less regular intervals. The epicentre was a nearby island, adjacent to the island we were headed to. We didn’t have any record of this island which meant it had surfaced only a few years back. The journey continued with periodic searches on the seafloor using the robotic arms. As we progressed towards our target, the vibrations became more frequent. It felt as if the earth around us was moving. We could see sea animals rushing in our opposite direction. It was as if they were running from a wildfire. We decided to go up to observe. There was nothing for miles across. Not even a bird. We could see smoke rising from the direction of the newborn island. I had a feeling that we would find the ship on the old island.

We were not strangers to such incidents. This little hobby of ours had put us in dangerous situations more number of times than a man could hope for. However, it was also not going to be a surprise if there was a sudden volcanic eruption. It would have been beneficial if we could move faster but combing the sea was what we were here for. Given the frequency of rumbling I figured we had at least a few hours in hand. As we neared the island, the robotic arms picked up a few pieces belonging to an old ship. The contours around the surface and its curvature told us it was Japanese.

The news brought signs of relief on everyone’s faces except Nutter. Nutter always maintained a stoic expression. John started dancing with my butler and Bison hugged Bob so tightly that he almost crushed his lungs. It was indeed a favourable find but it also meant our work had just began. As I understood the tides had moved some pieces away from the shore of the island or maybe from further inside. Parts of the wreckage pointed in the general direction of the two islands. Given, one of them had recently formed we approached the other one. We continued underwater in case we could find any new clues. The clues  we found were the ones we already knew except one which strangely enough was found by Bison. I didn’t know he used his eyes to observe anything other than food and rivals in fights. He saw bubbles rising from the base of the younger island. It felt a little odd and it got me pondered. Unfortunately, the realization of what was happening struck me a bit too late. We moved on and finally, we reached the island following the strewn about broken pieces from the ship.

We took the sub up to the beach using its arms as legs. The island was a natural marvel. The whole island was covered in green except at one side where a mountain rose kissing the clouds in the sky. I expected the rest of the wreckage to be perched somewhere on the mountain. We had our climbing gear with us and we started ascending without wasting any time. Bison was in the lead and he was the first to spot it. The wreckage was not in a position we had expected it to be in. From a scale of one to ten of expected results, ten being the most expected and one being the least, our find was a minus five. The wreckage was on the young island, settled on what seemed to be a sort of depression. After looking a bit more carefully I saw small amounts of smoke rising from the sides of the wrecked ship. Something was wrong with the whole island and I could feel it.

We had lost a lot of time and moved quickly to the other island. This island was completely different from what we perceive as an island. It had a rocky shore littered with dead barnacles and skeletons of other sea creatures. The surface felt warm as if something was cooking below. As we moved forward, the surface started sloping upwards. It felt like we were walking on the top of a dome. Narrow fissures ran across the surface which spewed yellowish smoke, most probably sulphur. I had a feeling that we were walking on the top of a volcano trying to wake up. The ground was rumbling every now and then. Everything pointed towards something frightening but I was not able to gauge exactly what.

Eventually, we reached the wreckage which sat on a crater or so it seemed. Even deeper fissures were scattered around the wreckage. The smoke here had a more pungent odour. Everything looked out of place. It was absurd that the boat was stuck in a depression instead of the mountain. These observations led me to believe that the thing we thought to be an island used to be a mountain but due to frequent earthquakes had sunk down. The fissures spewing out smoke suggested the terrible, it indeed was a volcano and something had woken it up. Suddenly, it struck me. The bubbles that Bison observed were water vapour rising due to the heating up of sea water. The recent hurricane had somehow opened a crack at the base of the mountain and sea water was seeping in. If enough water seeped in, the extreme heat would boil it instantly converting it into huge amount of water vapour. If it indeed was a volcano, it meant we were sitting on the top of a boiler about to burst open. Immediately, I asked the crew to stop and modified the plan. The existence of the fissures meant the surface beneath the wreckage was unstable and we need to move carefully. I sent Bison, Bob and Nutter to prep the sub. Jean was to stay outside to warn us if there was any sudden change in the environment. Me and John proceeded towards the wreckage. The ship had broken in half making it easy for us to climb aboard. Dead seaweed hung from the broken mast and railings. This ship was a plain transport ship most probably chosen to hide from the prying eyes of the shogun. The sails had been eroded away ages ago. There were dead sea shells and barnacles all over the sea eaten wooden walls. I decided to search the stern and John proceeded to the bow of the boat. I expected the chest of gold to be hidden in some cellar. After carefully searching various compartments we could find no sign of the chest. I went to the captain’s quarters on a hunch. As I stepped in the moss covered room, my eyes landed on what looked like a leather wall hanging. It’s sides had been eaten away but the central part was intact. A few half erased figures told me it was a map of areas around Japan. As I was looking for clues, I saw a square shaped hole on the floor. I peered into the hole and discovered a large metal safe sitting in a small chamber which I had somehow slipped during my search. I instructed John to move towards the cellar. And then it happened. I was hurrying down the ship and it felt as if the ground crumbled beneath us. I radioed Jean to find out if he witnessed anything from the outside. He replied in a calm voice,”Sir, a section under the ship has given away. As I can see the fissures are expanding. I would strongly suggest that you make haste.”

I could never understand how that man always spoke in the same calm tone. It was true that under the given circumstances he had no other choice. Me and John ran and jumped to reach the hidden chamber. With every step it felt as if we were moving down bit by bit. I could see smoke coming from the bottom of the hull. The rotten wood was getting toasted slowly. I understood why I couldn’t find the chamber before. It was not built to be found by strangers. The whole chamber was lined with iron and the chest I saw from above was resting on a larger chest. Evidently, the chamber was made to hide the second chest.

What we faced now was a huge challenge. Firstly, the chest was locked and the lock was ancient. I had absolutely no idea how to open it. I was brainstorming on how to break the lock when John dropped a bombshell. He said in a very sweet voice,” Boss, I forgot to mention one thing. The chest can’t be opened without its key and the key is not here.”

I asked with irritation, “What if we blow up the door? Also, why am I getting to know about it now?”

“There will be two problems. 1. The pressure of the blast can destroy the hull and we would turn up as petroleum at the bottom of the volcano after a few million years. 2. The door has a lockdown mechanism. It can’t be broken down by just explosives.”

I was in a quandary. The chest was too heavy to be carried to the sub by just two people. In the meantime, the radio crackled. It was Jean. The situation outside had become even more critical. The island was moving down. Water level was rising and if the water poured down the fissures around the wreckage, the island would blow within minutes like a ruptured boiler. Suddenly, I got an idea.

I asked Jean to go back to the sub and tell Nutter to bring it near the wreckage as the water level rises. I asked John to give me a hand to drag the chest towards the broken deck. I secretly wished that I had a bionic arm at that time. The gold in the chest had to weigh at least 500 kg and taking it towards the deck was not a two man job either. Then a lightbulb blinked. We had to proceed like the Egyptians building the pyramids. They used wet sand to reduce the surface friction and pulled heavy rocks over it.

We ran out as fast as we could with our haversacks, filled them with whatever wet sand we could find and laid it along the path we wished to follow. Time was running out and we were getting tired. We lifted the chest from one side and made it stand sideways. We poured the sand and placed the safe on it. My idea worked. We could pull the chest now but we were not fast enough. As we were struggling to move the chest, it started moving little faster all of a sudden. As I looked up, I saw Bison had come to our rescue. He was pulling the box alongside John. John remarked, “This is the first time your show of strength doesn’t scare me.” Bison smirked which sounded more like a grunt.

In the meantime the island had started shaking more violently. As we neared the deck, I saw the sub slowly approaching us partially floating and partially walking on its arms. The sub was turning around to face the sea. We had to wait a little for the water to rise so that the sub could support itself on the first four legs only. Suddenly, a part of the crater burst open behind us. It was time to move, we couldn’t wait any longer. The sub extended its two arms and grabbed the chest. With a jolt it started pulling the chest towards itself. The increased water level helped a bit in decreasing the load. A few seconds later it was able to put the chest onboard. Me and John hurried inside as another piece blew past us. The island was going to blow up any second.

John moved to his position and Nutter sped away from the island. When I looked behind, I saw the wreckage blow up into pieces and some lava shot upwards vaporising the water around it into a thick white smoke. I shuddered a little. We had just made it in time. I hadn’t realised the ordeal wasn’t over. As we moved ahead I watched the island blow up like a watermelon being battered by a sledgehammer. We dove as pieces of rock flew towards us. The sub was moving as fast as possible. Only a few seconds had passed when the sensors indicated an underwater shockwave was approaching us. If the shockwave hit the ship, there was high probability that our sub would break into smithereens or may get flung towards one of the many undersea mountains. Rising towards the surface couldn’t have reduced the risk. I told Nutter to go under the shockwave. This way was not free of risks either.  Just that it gave a higher probability of survival. The plan was to drop to a greater depth so as to get away from the path of the wave but greater depth meant greater hydrostatic pressure which could crack the fibre windows of the sub. The best course of action was to go deep and then rise as soon as the wave had passed.

Nutter acted according to the plan. We went deep enough to escape the wave but it was bit too deep for the sub. The fibre panels had started cracking by the time the wave passed us. Salty water was seeping in through the cracks. I didn’t know if we were going to survive this one but we had to try our best. The ballast tanks started to be evacuated as soon as we were away from the danger zone. The sub was almost flooded by that time making it harder to rise up. We were alarmingly close to the point of no return. I had to do something but I didn’t know what. There was no way to compartmentalize the damage. I stumbled upon an idea. If I used quick setting sealant on the cracks, it would slow the downpour. I did that and asked John and Bison to connect a suction pump to the trash chute. I asked Jean to keep the other end in contact with the accumulated water. My plan worked. Within moments of pushing the trash ejection button the sub became lighter and we started rising rapidly. We cracked the surface of water in a short amount of time. The submarine’s cracked condition prevented us from diving again but at least we were alive.

I looked back and saw the sun going down where the island stood not even an hour ago. It was time for us to go back home.

I couldn’t remember my car crash

It was a usual January morning in a suburban area near Kolkata. I was sitting on a small wooden bench in front of a small shack that sold tea and other tidbits. I could see people wrapped in their woollens hurrying about with their daily activities. Their queer antics were amusing as always. After realising that my glass of tea was empty, I got up, paid the bill and left the place.
I continued walking along the canal as the morning breeze blew upon my face. Weirdly it didn’t feel cold. I thought it must be a continuing effect of the scotch I had last night.
Last night was one of the best I had spent except one little incident. I had been invited to a close friend’s birthday. The arrangement was beyond expectations, overflowing with booze and food. The deejay had quite a collection which made everyone dance as if there was no tomorrow. I am no dancer but even I couldn’t stop myself last night. The party ended almost at dawn today.
I was a long way from home but the scotch forbid me from realizing it. I started in my car just before sun started to rise. It was open road, I was driving fast and it happened. A calf came out of nowhere. I swerved my car to save it and the rest is kind of hazy. That reminded me, where the hell is my car. And why am I walking? Where am I exactly?
Then I looked down and I realized I wasn’t exactly walking. I was floating over the ground. I wanted to find my way back to the highway. The car had to be somewhere on the way. As I neared the highway I could hear ambulance sirens and loud chatter on police radio. I followed the sound. In a short amount of time I reached the source of the noise. There was a car crash. I heard someone say it was a case of drunken driving. I moved ahead oblivious of the surroundings.
Then I saw my car, crashed into a tree and me on the driver’s seat behind a shattered windshield, a branch impaled in my chest.