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Srishti-2019   >>  Short Story - English   >>  Undercover

Undercover

Written By: Anand Amarnath
Company: Aptara Learning Private limited

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A few things good about riding late at night include less pollution and traffic, ravishing neon lights, unforced thought processes, and above all, the freewill to ride at my own pace. Even after countless late-night rides, most of the spooky stuff that people tell, like shadows, orbs, and haloes crossing the road—has never happened in my life and I don’t think they ever will, though I would love to see one, even if it makes me shit in my pants. Over all these years, there is this… pair of events that shook me a bit. I had stopped reading newspapers a long time ago. And I don’t think I would in near future. But one of the events that took place the other night made me read them for a few days… like a madman…

Event #1: A few years back, I was making my way home one usual midnight; I was halfway through and the road was more or less empty. Around forty meters ahead of me, I could see a filled plastic cover on the road; nothing special about it. I mean people take out their garbage and throw it on the road during midnight hours. I evaded this black cover and a few seconds after crossing it, I looked at my mirror… I stopped and turned my head around as it seemed to me like the cover was moving but I was not sure. I waited a few more seconds with my motorbike still switched on. Was it just a wind? Not sure … I came home. I knew my mother was throbbing me with usual clichés like “Why are you so late?” “You would have eaten something, right?” Though she was standing right next to me, I felt her voice echoing from a distance, like I was in some lone valley or something. After washing my face, I remember staring at the mirror for minutes. I mean I was caught up in this strange series of thoughts… What the heck could have been moving in that cover? A cat was my first thought… The second thought was that of a snake. Then the thoughts went deep and wild. What if it was a new-born child, an infant…? I was sleepless that night. I couldn’t eat or sleep properly. After a couple of hours of nap, I woke up at around four in the morning, and I went back to the same spot. Everything else was the same. The same neon lights, the same calmness, but the cover was missing. Maybe someone else stopped by and took care of business, or maybe whatever was in it, just got out and walked/crawled away. The next few days, I surrounded myself with newspapers, and searched for anything related, but found nothing.

Event #2: It has been a couple of years since the first event, and everything went quiet. And then, out of nowhere, something happened that made me draw parallels with the first one. Recently, during another casual night drive, I saw a flipped auto-rickshaw. People gathered around and the driver was still inside, lying upside down. The guy was taken out and made to sit on the pavement on the side. I don’t think he had any serious injuries may be except for an appreciable abrasion on his right arm. People were asking him all sorts of questions. “What’s your name?”, “Where do you live?”, “Do you have any number to contact?”, and the list went on… The first thing he ever said after the initial trauma was “there is a passenger in the vehicle, please get her out.” But I was there when the rickshaw was flipped back to normal. There was no one except him. Maybe he was in shock as he wasn’t drugged or drunk, for sure. I could sense some honesty through the frail vigor with which he spoke. But none of us saw anyone leaving the rickshaw. I got curious and made my own plans: I took the guy’s phone number that night. A few days after the accident, I called him, partially pretending to enquire his health. The guy didn’t remember me but seemed to be very happy to talk. After a few minutes of random talk, I asked him “the gear jammed, and that’s how you lost control, right?” Here, he waited for around five seconds and replied “No! it was that woman [passenger]. Don’t know what happened to her during the accident… She must have run away…” I was in a “turbo” mode of thinking… I was witness to whatever happened moments after the accident and there was no freaking passenger. The guy still seemed so certain… I managed to keep my voice still, showing no signs of getting taunt, and asked him:

“Oh… the woman I see... She must have been pretty swift then…huh [laughing]?”

“Obviously… She distracted me in the first place, leading to the accident… such a whore!”

“Really? What about her got you distracted?”

“In my mirror, I could see her holding onto a black cover and something was moving around in it. That… got me distracted.”

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