She came home drenched that evening. The summer sun had suddenly given way to rain clouds and she had been caught in the deluge unexpectedly. As she stepped home, she was not surprised to see that the power had been cut as the transformer had blown. ‘Where is Satish? How many times have I told him to get the inverter repaired, but he always forgets,’ she entered the bathroom muttering to herself. She changed out of her wet clothes in the dark bathroom and pulled on a bathrobe. She stepped into the bedroom to look for a set of dry clothes to pull on. In the light streaming through the windows, she was a little surprised to see her favorite cotton dress arranged neatly on the bed. “Satish? Are you here? When did you get home? I thought you are still stuck in office!” she called. Receiving no reply, she assumed he must be in the living room or out in their covered terrace. Feeling a little better, she went into the kitchen to make tea. Normally, she did not have tea at this hour, but the soaking rains had made her wish for tea. As she entered the kitchen, she opened the drawers and took out a few candles. As she lit them, she was surprised to see a cup of hot tea kept on the kitchen platform. ‘Wow! How sweet of Satish to make me this tea!’ she thought as she sipped the soothing warm liquid.
She then began to think about what to make for dinner. She was feeling a little tired that evening and did not have much energy to cook. ‘I’ll make some pulao! That should be filling and I won’t have to spend too long standing in the kitchen,’ she decided. She went to the refrigerator to pick out the vegetables for the dish, but the doors wouldn’t open. She tried once again, but they didn’t budge. ‘Huh? Now what is wrong with this old thing? Why won’t it open?’ she fumed. “Satish! Please come into the kitchen! I need your help! I cannot open the fridge!” she called. Still no response. “Satish?! Can you hear me?” she shouted. Finally, feeling frustrated, she headed towards the terrace to tell him in person. Knowing her way around her home, she didn’t even feel the need to pick up a candle. Just as she was to reach the kitchen entry, she banged against someone. “Thank God you heard me Satish! I am feeling very tired already and this refrigerator is acting funny. We need to call the service guys to fix the door again. It acts funny every time the power goes out,” she said and turned back into the kitchen to set the cooker on the gas stove. She measured out the rice and washed it thoroughly. She turned her head at a sound and was glad to see the basket of vegetables on the counter next to her. “Thanks Satish. You go on ahead to the terrace. I’ll join you as soon as I set the pulao in this cooker,” she said without turning to look at him. It took her a few minutes to chop the vegetables the way she liked them for the pulao and took care to add some dry fruits just the way Satish liked them. She set the cooker and thought, ‘I’ll enjoy a nice cool evening watching the rains with Satish. We can gaze at each other in the candle light and chat to our heart’s content. No phones and TV to distract us today.’
So she lit up a tea light and placed it in its holder. As she made her way through the living room towards the terrace, the tea light whiffed off even though it was covered. ‘Oh no! No one makes any quality goods these days! Even the wax seems to be defective.’ she grumbled. Wanting the much needed romantic evening, she made to go back to the kitchen to light it again. ‘I’ll carry two tea lights now,’ she thought to herself. She again slammed into someone. “Satish! Stop walking into me. One of these days I am going to fall from being walked into so much,” she smiled. But she didn’t know what to think when she was able to just suddenly walk through without feeling Satish make way for her. And why wasn’t he saying anything? She went into the kitchen, but was shocked to see that the gas flame under the cooker was off and try as she might, she could find neither the matches nor the gas lighter. ‘I am sure I had switched the gas on for the cooker. Or did I think I did and just forgot?’ she wondered. Anyway, now let it be. We can order something from outside and eat in the terrace,’ she thought. “Satish! Please call up the nearby restaurant and order something hot and spicy for us!” she called. “Or do you want to go out for dinner? We can take the car,” she suggested. A pair of hands gripped her arms from behind. “Oh! So the rains have brought out the romantic mood in my husband?” she teased. But she felt uncomfortable. Was it her imagination or were the hands gripping her so cold? And did they feel much rougher and larger than those of her husband’s? She tried to turn around, but the hands held her firmly in place.
“Please let me go Satish. I need to check the milk in the fridge,” she said. The hands released her immediately and she went to the fridge. From the corner of her eye, she saw light streaming from under the main door. ‘Oh, the power is back up. She flipped the light switch but no lights came on in the house.’ Now she was really scared. She ran towards the main door to escape, but the door wouldn’t open. She checked, but was shocked to feel all the locks and latches were unlocked, and yet, the door didn’t give an inch. “Help! Somebody help!” she began to shout. Just then, the same cold large hands covered her mouth and stopped her mid scream. Her throat went dry with fear and she didn’t know what to do. Just then, she saw something gleaming in the corner. She realized it was Satish’s cigarette lighter. She stopped fighting and her assailant loosened his grip. She inched her way towards the lighter and closed her hands around it. She quickly brought it up to her face and switched it on. He blew it off even as she was lighting but not before she caught a quick glimpse of his face. Her scream caught in her throat and she recoiled in horror.
He looked like something that had walked straight out of a horror movie. His face was distorted and his hands were huge. As he edged towards her, she saw that his legs were bow shaped. He walked with a slight limp. His hair looked dirty and disheveled and his eyes… oh my God! His eyes were blood red! She wanted to shout for help, she wanted to run, but she was frozen in place with fear. Her brain had ceased to function and she couldn’t think. She felt around for anything that she could use to her aid, but everything seemed so far away. Her brain finally kicked into gear and she managed to stand up. ‘He doesn’t want to kill me. I am sure he would have killed me ten times over by now had he felt the desire to. He even helped me by bringing out my clothes, fetched me the vegetables from the fridge… he was here all along. Why didn’t he harm me then? And what does this monster want from me?’ she wondered. She tried to look all calm and relaxed her tense shoulders. She even mustered up a smile for the looming monster and said, “I am sorry I screamed. But as you must already be aware, I was scared by the presence of an unknown person in the house.” At her words, the monster stopped in his tracks and looked at her. He raised both his hands as if in surrender. She relaxed when she saw him go easy. And then… he lunged. She screamed. There was no sound at all for a few minutes and then, she opened her eyes. The monster was getting off the floor and held a bloodied knife in his hands. She could see a pair of legs on the floor. “Who have you killed? Let me see!” she shouted. He pushed her back and stood in her way. She tried to look around him but could not see anything beyond the legs.
With her heart trying to jump out of her throat, she moved back into the passage. The monster guided her towards the bedroom. He pushed her to sit on the bed and went out and locked the door. She was completely off balance by now and had no idea how to react. She just sat there like a stone and trembled over the past hour. In just a few short minutes, she heard a scrape at the door of her bedroom. She turned around, fearful of what might come next. The door opened and she nearly fell off her bed in shock. Satish walked in nonchalantly and asked, “Why are you sitting alone in the dark? Why have you not switched on the lights?” Before she could reply, he flipped on the light switch and the room shone with brightness. She was shocked. She could not form coherent thoughts. He walked towards her and she flinched fearing that the monster might leap out any moment and kill Satish. ‘But why was Satish so calm? Hadn’t he seen the body lying on the living room floor? And how had he gotten in? The door had not moved when she had tried.’
“Satish? When did you come home?” she asked placidly. He went to her and replied, “I have just come home. And I am very hungry.” She suddenly remembered the pulao and said, “Oh! I am so sorry. You freshen up and get changed. I’ll serve you dinner in a few minutes,” and rushed out of the bedroom. She was completely in a daze and could not understand the events of the past hour. As she stepped out of their bedroom and made to go towards the kitchen, the monster came out of the living room. Now she was really worried. She didn’t want the monster to see Satish or harm him. So she went to him thinking she would reason with him. But before she could say a word, the monster pulled her into the living room and she stumbled with the force of his grip.
It took her a moment to regain her bearings and as she looked up, she broke into a huge smile. The entire living room was decorated with flowers and all her friends and family had gathered there. A huge placard on one of the walls read, “Happy Birthday”. Satish walked in carrying a huge birthday cake. But wait, why was the monster heading towards her husband? Much to her shock, the monster and her husband exchanged a high five and the monster in all his scary gory look, turned towards her and sang “Happy birthday to you” in the most gruesome voice. Unable to bear it any longer, she went to him and took off his mask. Her squeal of delight could be heard five stories down… it was her son who lived in the United States. He had come back to surprise her on her fiftieth birthday! And the legs and the bloodied knife? Well, they were all an act to scare her!
The birthday party was a rocking success and she was elated to have been in the midst of family and friends to celebrate her special day. The presence of her son was the best gift she could imagine. Later in the night, once everyone had left, and it was just the three of them, she thanked her husband and son once again for such a special treat. “I am glad you have finally learnt to brew a good tea!” she smiled to her son. “No ma, I am still very much a coffee drinker and have no desire to learn to make tea,” he replied confused. She turned to her husband, “Since when have you mastered tea making?” she asked. “No, I am still very lazy in that department,” he replied. “Then who had made that tea?” she asked. “What tea are you going on about?” questioned both the men in her life in unison. “The cup of hot tea that was ready and waiting for me when I came into the kitchen after freshening up. Who else but you both know that I like to drink tea on a rainy day? And nobody else even knows about my cotton dress!” she exclaimed. “What are you talking about Rajani? I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for your dresses in your messy wardrobe!” said Satish in exasperation. “But this is impossible. Rahul, did you not walk into me twice this evening?” she now asked warily. “No mom. We slammed against each other just once,” replied her son. Now Rajani was really worried. She had definitely not dreamt the incidents and here were her husband and son claiming they had had no part to play in them! ‘Wait a minute! Let me check the cup I drank the tea in.’ Rajani rushed to the kitchen to check on the utensils. But the birthday guests had been served cake and food and too many utensils had been used in the process. The dustbin was almost full and there was no way of checking for used tea leaves.
As Rajani made to head out of the kitchen, an unusual sight caught her eye… her tea strainer was lying in the kitchen sink. ‘Aha! I was right! I was not dreaming!’ she thought to herself and walked back to her bedroom. She lay on her bed thinking about the incidents of the evening and made herself believe that Satish and Rahul were simply playing a prank on her. ‘One of them must have brewed my tea and readied my dress,’ she reasoned. Thinking so, she closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but sleep was not easy to come by tonight. Something kept nagging at her. She must have fallen asleep, for sometime in the wee hours of morning, Rajani woke up with a start. ‘Rahul was speaking the truth! He walked into me only once!’ she realized. The first time that she had walked into someone, the person had seemed stouter and taller than both Rahul and Satish. So it could not have been either of them. ‘Then who was it? And how did he or she get into my wardrobe and know which dress to prepare?’ she wondered. Sleep was by now a forgotten hope and Rajani walked out onto the terrace to think clearly. In her mind she was back-tracking the events of the previous evening. Finally, unable to arrive at any answers, she reasoned it must have been one of the guests arrived early. Maybe it was her brother or some friend who had played an extended prank on her to bide time till Rahul started his monster trick.
‘Time to get ready and head to work,’ she thought to herself. As she made to turn around and head back inside the house, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. A prickling sensation all over her hands and feet warned her that someone was near… very near… someone who was not Satish. She whirled around and almost fell off the balcony in shock. “You? This can’t be! You can’t be he! He can’t be you!” she screamed. He advanced and she took a step back. It brought her closer to the edge of her prized terrace. “I am hallucinating. This is all a dream… a bad dream!” she exclaimed. He took one more step further. She was now balanced precariously on the edge. “Hello Rajani, how are you?” he smiled. At the sound of his voice, she lost all control and slipped off the ledge. He caught her wrist at the last moment and held her dangling from her sixth floor apartment. “You are real? But how?” she asked. His smile turned grim as he replied, “I was always real Rajjo. You are the one who refused to see me. I was real when you broke your promise. I was real then and I am real now.” “But I saw you die. I saw you being carried away. I was even there when they performed your last rites!” she stuttered! “You saw what the others were supposed to see. I had promised you I would come back for you. And you had promised me you would wait. You forgot your promise, but I didn’t,” he grunted as he pulled her up and back from the edge of the terrace. The two went into the living room and sat. “No! No! No! This can’t be real!” she said again. “You should have known it was me by the first sip of the tea you drank yesterday, the dress I kept on your bed – don’t you remember I always said yellow looks good on you? How could you forget it? How could you forget us?” he asked. “I honestly thought you were no more. I grieved over you and I lost my senses. My parents let me mope for a while, but when I showed no signs of coming out of my depression, they carted me to this town and took me to a psychiatrist to help me. I met a very nice man on one of my visits there and we got married. But what I don’t understand is, why now? Why today? I have been married for twenty five years – where were you all this time?” she asked. “I was right here Rajjo. I was right in front of you all this time!” he answered. “Then why didn’t I see you? You didn’t show yourself when I needed you. Then why now?” she demanded once again. “Because it wasn’t time then; it is now.” was his curt reply. She looked up at him, but her eyes met thin air. Then where was his voice coming from? And why had Satish and Rahul not come running when she had screamed?
She woke up in her bedroom drenched in sweat. The sun had risen high in the sky and her table clock showed the time to be almost noon. ‘What? How can this be possible? What happened early this morning?’ she wondered to herself. She looked at her phone and saw that she had not missed any calls or messages from office. ‘How did this happen? Why is nobody at work looking for me? And why didn’t Satish wake me up?’ She dialed him but his call was not reachable. She got up from her bed in a panic to get ready and rush to office, all the while working up possible excuses to provide for her tardiness. Suddenly, a movement near the window caught her eye and she whirled around to see it. And she was shocked. Her bedroom, or what she thought it was, was not in her house anymore… she was in her bedroom, but in the sky, higher up than the clouds! What she had seen was an eagle! ‘What in the world is happening? And how did I get so high up here? That too, along with my room?!’ Now she was really scared. Hearing a sound at the door to her room, she turned around, and saw… HIM. “What are you doing here? What have you done?” she asked! “Calm down Rajjo! I’ll explain everything!” he replied. She sat back down on her bed and held her head in her hands.
He began his tale, “You remember I had asked you to wait for me? And I did come back Rajjo, I had come back for you in a month. But I couldn’t find you anywhere. I looked everywhere, asked everyone we knew, but nobody seemed to know where you had gone. It was as if you had disappeared off the face of this planet! Then, after a few minutes, my boss called me back to the workplace. We had built a tele-bridge between pseurtd and earth. They wanted me to lead the team heading there. Duty beckoned and I had to follow my boss’s orders – I had sworn to follow them until death.” “Wait a minute,” she interrupted, “let’s backtrack a little bit Vsijsay. What is ‘Pseurtd’?” He smiled at her tenderly, “I am coming to that. Please allow me to finish the tale my darling Ransjostnee. Anyway, so I followed his orders and traveled to earth using the telebridge. After landing here, our orders were to simply observe the earthlings and meld in with them. We were under strict orders not to reveal our true identities for fear of being captured. Pseurtd is a planet parallel to earth and we look exactly like earthlings. The moment I landed on earth, I was stupefied to see you here. I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would find you on a planet far away from Pseurtd and that too so quickly.” By now Rajani was in a daze. “So you are telling me that I am a Pseurtdling and that my life on earth, my family is all a sham? And if you found me within minutes of losing me, why did you wait for twenty-five years to reach out to me?” she questioned. “Rajjo, Rajjo, Rajjo, you have always been too courageous. My love, it had been only twenty five minutes since we lost each other that I found you and reached out to you. But in those twenty-five minutes, you seemed to have gotten married, raised a family and even borne a son!” “Now you are truly talking nonsense Vsijsay! You are saying twenty-five years of my life have happened in just twenty-five minutes? You must be truly mad then! I am leaving this madhouse right now,” so saying, she went to exit the bedroom. But she stopped as soon as she opened the door. There was nothing outside the bedroom door. She would be stepping out on thin air! “What is the meaning of all this?! Take me home right now!” she shrieked. “You still haven’t understood Ransjostnee. This IS home. I have been in the research lab trying to understand the weirdness of the situation. One of the scientists told me that time on earth moves much faster than time on Pseurtd. One minute on Pseurtd is one year on earth Ransjostnee. That is why, while I was wasting precious time looking for you here, you had landed up on earth with all the earthly trappings! But what I don’t understand is why you could not remember me in all this time. I met your father and he told me that one of the anti-depressants they gave you to help you with your depression, was too strong and caused memory loss! After that you just disappeared and your parents had no idea where you had gone to. All their search attempts had proven futile!” “But I have a home on earth Vsijsay. I have a husband who I love very much, a son who is my life, my adoptive parents who have given more love than I can imagine. I cannot live without them now,” she cried.
“Think well before you choose Ransjostnee. Here, you are in the land of women power. Your wish is my command. I will be your husband and your servant all life long. Moreover, since time here on Pseurtd runs much slower than that on earth, you will again revert back to your young age and get to enjoy a long long life. If you now choose to go to earth, you will revoke all your relationships and powers that a Pseurtdling enjoys,” said Vsijsay. Rajani took not one moment to decide. “No Vsijsay, it was my destiny to fall away from you. I am destined to be an earthling and that is what I wish to be. I have lived twenty five years with you on this planet, but forgot everything in one dose of a medicine, but the twenty five years that I have spent on earth, are etched on my heart. I choose to be with them. May God grant you Pseurtdlings all the happiness that you deserve, I bid you no hard feelings,” she chose. “Ok then. You shall be back on earth in a few moments and all your memories of this place shall be wiped off. May God be with you Rajani. Take care,” he wished her.
The next moment, Vsijsay was nowhere to be seen and Rajani’s phone was flooded with messages from her colleagues at office asking her where she was. A note on the side table in Satish’s writing said, ‘You looked tired and pale this morning. So I switched off your alarm and sent a text to your boss stating that you are unwell and might come in late or not at all.’ Rajani smiled to herself and kept back the note lovingly. She replied to the texts saying she was feeling a little tired and would not be coming to office today. ‘Why not make the most of this unexpected holiday?’ she decided and called up Satish. The two went on a lunch date and had a nice time that evening strolling in the park. It was raining, and they got wet. While enjoying a cob of corn and a cup of hot steaming ‘chai’, “I love you Rajani,” said her husband of twenty five years.