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Ammi Was Right

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I knew the basics of survival. My mother had already given up on trying to confine my unmanageable bouts of adventure and had resigned instead to teaching me a few life hacks in the hope of preventing my untimely death. Or that is how she used to put it in order to emphasize on the gravity of the situation. To her, there was no transition from normal health to injury and from injury to demise. For her, every day was perfectly radiant until a demon pounced on me and gobbled me up for good.

So, when the faint snap of a twig ascended from the ground in my vicinity, my ears shot up like a rabbit's and I froze midway in my gallop. It did not take long for the slivers of sunlight to tear through the high canopy and reflect off the skin of a dark, glistening mass, slowly emerging from the shadows of a concealed bush. I shut my eyes in reflex, in accordance with my mother's lessons and began humming in the tone of a pious devotee,
"If anything moves that isn't wind, hold your ground and stand still."

Having chanted it five times, I began opening my eyes at a snail's pace. The blurred sight of my nemesis began to cleanse itself and by the time my eyes were wide open, I could see my reflection in hers. I watched her arch back slowly, lower itself but maintaining her glare all the while. She eventually turned around and left in the same sinuous grace with which she had arrived.

The snake was gone.

Ammi was right, I recalled while panting at the door of our bungalow,
"Innocence and honesty are immune to evil."

This incident happened a week ago. Seven days hence, seated at the breakfast table, I watched something change in my Ammi's demeanor. "Finish your cereals", she nudged me with an uncharacteristic urgency in her voice.

"We're going someplace today. I've built you a home in the woods like you always wanted!", she finished with a feigned smile.

Even though I've always behaved to the contrary, I do not blame her for having tried to convert me into a hermit. Because our house and its surroundings did not essentially exude an assurance of security, Ammi was right in her concern for my wellbeing. Our bungalow was a withering mass of dilapidated woods, entrenched within miles and miles of unforgiving woods. Presently, it housed my father, Colonel Debdut Banerjee, now retired after having served twenty years as an Army Doctor, my mother Asifa Hameed and me, their seven-year-old runt. My father still practised in private and operated within those walls on anyone who came to him in need.

He was pacing in his study when Ammi took me by my hand a went back around the house to a little enclosure behind the Peepal trees. At first, I could not figure out what I was looking at. It was only when she pointed out that I realized how she'd dug a hole in the ground and covered it with branches and twigs and a little opening that was barely enough for me to glide through. She kissed me on my forehead and asked me to remember everything she had taught.

"If you come out in the light, you lose, okay? Stay put." And she left.

I sat there hunched and restless, staring through the only slit my mother had allowed in the nest at my fervent requests. Half an hour later, I heard leaves rustling all around me on a day that had so far been unusually still.

"If anything moves that isn't wind...", I froze on my spot, like I had practiced a million times before. This time too, the Sun extended its fingers through the dense canopy, to shed light on a swarm of creatures crawling up the slope towards my house. The metal on their bodies glistened as they gesticulated to each other in coordinated signals and braced themselves at the threshold of the bungalow.

"Innocence and honesty are immune to evil", I assured myself as I watched the men in masks beaming with the foresight of an assured victory.

I was calm because I knew my parents were praying the same and no harm could befall them. Ammi is never wrong, I had promised myself. I had seen it, felt it in my bones barely a week ago.

What resultantly ensued, ensued in a haze and noise whose limits I was hitherto unused to. My mind swam through a torrent of words like 'betrayal', 'pig', 'religion', 'scum', 'cow', 'Hindu', 'shame', none of which made sense to me no matter what order I put them in. They eventually exited the house; men in saffron huddled in one corner of the courtyard and men with beards in the other. They raised their fire torches in unison and lit up what was left of those dying wooden panels and of the tattered humans inside.

It was then that I realized that the lines around the game were starting to blur. Something did not seem right. I was not allowed to get up, I was not allowed to scream. Ammi was still asking me to believe in her, to follow what she had taught me for so long. The most I could do without betraying her was to prise my fingers at the end of an outstretched arm that was making its way through the slit in the nest in an effort to hold onto anything but oblivion.

And then it went dark.

I woke up, God knows how many hours later, to a fetid smell of ash and charred remains. The blur of my nemesis was slowly cleansing itself into a clearer picture. By the time my eyes were wide open, all I could see was the moon dancing off the shimmer of the snake's eyes. There was no more light, just like Ammi had promised.

It was time to come out.


Author

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Sarba Roy


Sarba Roy is a graduate in Economics from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, currently wading his way through various career options. He has been published in Project Fuel and Spark Magazine. His first book which is a collection of poems, is to be published by WritersWorkshopIndia by the end of this year. He wants to change the world through his writing. And his works are centred around one consistent question: "Do my words make a difference?"


Stories

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Ammi Was Right New

I knew the basics of survival. My mother had already given up on trying to confine my unmanageable bouts of adventure and had resigned instead to teaching me a few life hacks in the hope of preventing my untimely death.

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The Small Big Thing

Ahiliya, the beautiful princess of Magadha, was sitting on the balcony of her palace brooding over her loneliness. She had a score of girls to keep company though. Yet, everything looked so lacklustre.

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Luck and Patience

"There are two lives that can be lived," said Mother Cat to her kittens, "the one you have with me safe at home, nestled in comfort... or ..."

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INGENUITY

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Derailed

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Child's Unfulfilled Wishes

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Chance Meeting

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The Epitome of Love

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The Clock

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Wise Yenzi

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Wrong Turn

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Tom and Molly

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Eddie To The Rescue

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The Missing Person

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Our Story

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The Wolves

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Messenger of Chance

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Lucky Strike

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The Docks

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Magic

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Little Jackie Pete

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The Dragons Of Drakonfell

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Joy

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Gratitude

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The Release

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A New Dawning

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My Fair-weather Friends

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Maisy

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The Hitchhiker

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The Final Stand

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Sitting By The Lake

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Lost People

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Mirage

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Fly Away

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Jake's Story

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Color Blind

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The Dig

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Hide And Seek

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Differences

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The Devil's in the Details

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A Wannabe Voyager

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The Trail of Two Brothers

"You came all this way just for college?" Cody said to his little brother. Cody looked around himself.

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A Day By The Lake

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Life Goes On

"Sometimes it is not the person we miss; it is the feeling you had when you were with them."

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The Message

My romantic nature pondered whether the 'special something' he wanted to buy me would be an engagement ring.

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Swirls

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The Distress of Our Planet

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The Text

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A True Friend Indeed

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Incurable

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A Father's Treasure

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Crossing Over

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Picture Of A Man That Couldn't

My fingers caressing its strings like they once caressed the only woman's skin that I have ever loved.

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The Fall

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Gateway To Getaway

If I tell you, 'I've made this bridge', you will laugh at me; because you know me. I have never done anything constructive.

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My Superhero!

I am here at the park; taking a stroll with the person I love the most, My Dad!

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An Everlasting Love

This love started many years ago when they lived in the same neighborhood, a couple of houses away from each other.

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And It Rained

Croaka was pensive as he sat down on the slimy stone near a puddle formed by a steady stream at a corner of Mughal Gardens.

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Follow The Money

It was just past midnight when she arrived at the cordoned off station. There was a yellow Ka parked by the front.

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Long Road Home

Not sure who took that picture, but it's me hitching a ride, my backside anyway, age 17, running away from home.

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The Unfinished Coffee

I am Wahid. I came here nearly 40 years ago. I live in the next street. Are you here with your family?", the old man asked.

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A Fine Evening

It is a typical evening; a cool breeze surrounds the insides of the subway. Never do they notice the intentions of each other.

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Strange Obsession

The cold winter air stung his nostrils as Stephan walked along the brick covered sidewalk next to the tracks.

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The Café

It had started innocently enough; the place had been packed, he had asked if he could share my table. The hour flew by as we started talking.

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My Thumb Leads The Way

Sam was on that lonely stretch of road and he had his thumb leading the way. He was out there all morning.

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Sarah Disappears

What if all the books were worlds, and when she opened one, she opened a door to that world that she could go through? Wouldn't that be awesome?

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Take My Hand

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A Penny For Your Thoughts

Pete was at a cross roads and he had to make a decision fast or else he was going to lose everything.

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Memories For A Lifetime

The narrow road at the corner is the way to the blissful nature, where one will find true bliss.

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Scars Of A Rose

The fight is over forever. It is all numb now. There is no more pain. Life is setting me free. Let me fly...float in the clouds and forget my wounds.

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What do I have Left?

Marty's number was called and he had to report to Parris Island, South Carolina for 12 weeks of basic training.

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Bruno's Howl

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Keeper Of The Logs

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A Newer Dawn

Lake Kaka is one of the nicest as you can see here. It's not large, but beautiful; Miss Caroline calls it 'serene'.

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