The red brick house


Warning: a little amateurish

“You are invited. You must come.” The loud comment made in my general direction by that old man in a crushed kurta pyjama, silver hair matching it, broke my train of thoughts as I stared out of the balcony. “Yes uncle.” My sister managed to stutter, as I looked at her in despair. How could I tell him that I was not willing to. He would just brush aside my unfounded fears, so unexpected of someone educated. If I repeated the fact that years ago an old lady was murdered here in the kitchen, her throat slit, her body decaying when found, and that this repulsed me enough to never enter that house again, he would just give me a ‘you know better than to be scared of an unfortunate incident of the past’ look. But I couldn’t help it.

“There would be so many people around. Ghosts don’t lurk in crowds”, I chided myself. “It’s a moment of festivity and I must go”, I reasoned with myself, looking at the string of lights that decorated the ‘shaadi wala ghar’ right opposite my balcony. The vision of an old red brick house surrounded by complete darkness, with just one torch light bobbing up and down the kitchen, made me break into cold sweat. “I must replace that old vision with this new one. See the festive look, the gaiety, and the cheer. That episode is all over now.” I felt a little comforted.

The d-day came and I, trying to suppress my unfounded fears, put on a gorgeous lehenga and a plastic smile to go with it. I was welcomed to the sound of ladies sangeet with a dholak, all of them sitting on the floor. I was given a spot on the duree. Just when I was getting a little comfortable with the feeling that there was no ghost bursting through the roof, I realised to my horror that I was sitting at the spot at which the body had been found. The kitchen had long ago been refurbished and made a part of the sitting room. With an instant jerk, I got up and excused myself to go to the toilet. “Relax. Just stay for half an hour and discreetly pop in back to your house. After all it’s right opposite.” I looked at my own house out of the window and pictured a little girl, scared stiff – me about 20 years ago, looking at the murder spot with horror.

As I opened the tap to splash some cool water on my perspiring brow, I deliberated with myself, “Enough, for how long can you fool yourself. It’s high time this place got some justice.”
I walked purposefully to the pooja room where uncle was now doing his final prayers before coming out to join the ladies. It wasn’t everyday that his daughter got married.

I stealthily tiptoed from behind and shaping my dupatta like a noose, tightened it around his neck. My hand covered his nose and mouth, blocking a scream as well as the air his lungs screamed for. When I felt his body going limp, I let go. I walked out coolly as if nothing had happened, having sought vengeance at last.

With satisfaction I watched as the scene changed from celebration to mourning. No one could understand how the old man got asphyxiated.

“He met his deserved death if what we heard was true”, whispered one visitor to another. “It is believed that he murdered his old mother for the property. Curiously enough, even a little girl aged 6 in the opposite house was also found dead. The police were speculating that she might have been a sole witness to the incident from her balcony. Till date no one could prove anything against him.”


That’s the way it is 1


“I Love You”, he said with all the courage he could muster, his heart pounding so loud that he imagined his words to be lost in the thumping sound.

“What????!!!!”, she said. Her reaction wasn’t quite unexpected.

“I am not expecting anything in return…I just wanted to let you know of my feelings.”, he blurted.

“Forget expecting or not expecting you even *know* what you just said? How can you even *say* that to me!!! Just how long has it been since you have known me?”, she asked.

“Errr.. not even a month”.


“Do you even *know* what love is?”, she asked rhetorically.

“Have *you* experienced it?”, he volleyed.

“What do you think I am talking abt then?”. His sinking feeling sank even further. He knew he couldn’t expect her to love back. He knew that she was never to be his. But for her to have loved and been loved by someone else was more painful than he had imagined.

“Well, I think of you all the time. You are on my mind whatever I may try to think of and I can just not let you out of my system, however hard I have tried.”.

“Oh! So that’s what you think love is? That’s called infatuation for your kind information. Go take a vacation for a month and let see if you still remember me when you come back”.

“No, it’s NOT infatuation”, he vehemently added..steaming up a little. “I know that it *is* love. And it is unconditional even if it is unrequited”.

“If I could, I would have married you”, he added.

“Whaaaaat??????!!!!!!”. Her reaction was again not unexpected at all.

“Marriage? My GOD! You have really gone far in this imaginary world of yours.. haven’t you?”

“Well to tell you the truth.. I even thought about the kids…”, he added sheepishly as he saw her almost choke and her eyes pop out in reaction.

“Gosh!! Please stop it! I have had more than the-number-of-shocks-I-can-take-in-a-day”, she spluttered.

And they both laughed. It had lightened the obvious tension a little.

“But seriously.. what’s wrong with you? Have you forgotten that I am at least two years elder to you?”, she came back to the point soon. “What is this that you have suddenly started. Ok, the joke was funny.. now can we get back to work. This has been one hell of a tea break!”

“The age difference doesn’t matter to me.”, he justified. “I know what love is. It is *me* who has been experiencing it so strongly. I can do anything for you. You can try me. Go ahead”, he added.

“Oh please! Stop being filmy and all that. What you feel is simply infatuation. Mark my words. Grow up. And to reiterate, had you really been in “love”, you wouldn’t have made these silly claims of doing *anything* etc.”. She was beginning to lose her patience. Seeing his pained expression she added hurriedly, “Look.. ok.. I know how it feels.. I have been through it’s not as helpless as you seem to think.. not being able to think of anything else except me.. believe me I am not half as nice as what you are imagining me to be. You are looking at me through rose tinted glasses. Wake up to reality and it won’t be so difficult any more. That’s the way it is.”

“Well, to me you seem as nice as what I think. Anyway I am not forcing myself on you or anything. Just wanted to express myself and I did”.


“Why are you smiling to yourself?”, she heard her husband asking. It broke her reverie and she tried to disguise the startle as her own movement.

“Oh…err.. nothing.. just that someone looked familiar…”, her voice trailed off as she saw that guy from her yesteryears going with a lady, a possessive arm around her and a sprightly looking kid prancing around them.


Waiting to Inhale


As I made my way through the bustling city peak hour traffic in my new swanky ferrous coloured rocket wagon, my audio perceptron tuned into a painful cry. What was so noticeable about it was the excruciatingly painful manner of it. I tried to make out the source of such agony, using my audio digital locator binoculars, (capable of focussing automatically on a sound source, if pointed in the general direction), and I noticed in the view panel that the usual barren and vast Geological Pathway – 8 had lush green things on its either sides.
It was an amazing sight, not having seen so much green together in a bunch my entire living period. The word ‘trees’ was flashing on the holographic panel inside my wagon. ‘Of course! That’s what they are! I must pay more attention to my primitive-history lessons’. I also noticed that the ride had become unusually bumpy. I decided to check whether the bottom panels showed any signs of rust as even the slightest fleck of dirt on the panels could hamper the smooth aerodynamics of my rocket wagon. After all it was supposed to glide on a water path. The ‘fluid amplifier’ seemed to be non-functional. As I peered down at X069, I uttered a cry of surprise for there was no water under my wagon but I was actually hovering over hard, tangible earthly surface instead of fluidic surfaces like I had always been! No wonder the air cushion wasn’t uniform. It didn’t even look algaec or slushy as a result of being under water. Rather it looked very different and sunkissed. Till now the DA322I dial was not reporting anything intelligible on a quick reconnaissance of orbital data. Slowly but surely, my audio binoculars showed me from that hovering height, where the cry had come from.

Some creatures that looked like people from some ancient epoch were standing near those things called ‘trees’. They looked pretty outdated. For one, their hair was mostly the same color – brown or black. They were also holding some outdated contraption – it looked like an electric saw of yesteryears that we had read about in our online lesson of primitive-history just the other day. They were not using any mechanism, which supplied oxygenated air to their respiratory tract. What was surprising was that the pitiful cries of the trees failed to make any impact on those outdated people I saw. I wondered if they could even hear the cries. I guessed not, since they anyway looked so primordial, it was quite probable that they had never set their eyes on the extra sensory auditory nerve chip, forget getting it embedded in their ear for that extra range of frequencies.

I pressed the button labeled ‘transparent’ and my wagon soon turned into a gust of wind, with me cocooned inside it. I could have pressed ‘smell’, ‘fire’ etc too but decided not to take the risk. After all I had to observe what was going on. My aeriform wagon now made its way to the tree that my audio binoculars had zeroed in on. The tree tried flapping its limbs in a last bid to save itself from those people but probably the last of life had seeped out of it and its massive body fell with a big thud on the pile of its already mutilated limbs. The atmosphere seemed sombre and grieving as I witnessed the murder. The looked up info had shown that the trees had life in them. So this was nothing short of cold blooded murder! The other trees seemed to be mourning the death of this mate of theirs who had stood with them through sun and storm alike for so many years. I could see them shed leaves probably the same way a human being sheds tears, all the while knowing that the next one in line could be anyone of them. I noticed some ‘X’ like red marking on the trees. It looked like blood oozing out of trees. I checked up again – ‘trees don’t have haemolymph’. Then I saw one of the people marking all the trees with the ‘Red Cross’. Ironically this Red Cross was earmarking them for impending death.

The air was becoming thick with the screams of massacre and was getting unbearable. It was worse than any cataclasm that I had ever heard. I wondered how those people could be that callous. Suddenly the rocket wagon gave a lurch (or so I thought) and I found myself toppled from the couch I was resting on. Realization dawned on me as I stared at one of the screens on the video panel, my online lesson on primitive history was showing me the text ‘Trees – now extinct’. I looked at panel XO2 displaying the outside view. I could again see the familiar Geological Pathway – 8, barren and vast. My wagon was smoothly cruising on a bed of water. As usual, I was on my way, through the bustling city peak hour traffic.

PS. Note from the writer :
Hope you liked this amateurish attempt at sci-fi. If so, another one can be read here. This was written much before the Mars rovers actually landed on Mars


A Date with Mars


Whoosh.. bump.. screech.. ow.. ow… ow.. glide.. phew.. there..managed a safe landing.. Hi Folks, I am back from my date with Mars and boy… was it heavenly!! As I had said I would be reporting about my adventures soon.. so here I am. So let me get straight to the point..On 27th night, I was watching Mars intently, waiting for an indication.. to be beamed over. I sat concentrating on the red dot in the sky.. till the time I could see nothing else but the red dot..(Something like Arjuna) With time I started hearing some inviting beeps and blips and suddenly felt as light as a feather.. I realised I was being *beamed* over to Mars!! From a distance, everything there, seemed to be bathed in red. On actually landing on Mars, I realised that it was very much like our planet, in terms of geographical surroundings. I mean there was *land* that I could feel and not a mass of gases or molten lava or anything like that. I could breathe easy.. and I suddenly felt an unexplainable calm descend over me. I wasn’t apprehensive about the idea of being on Mars anymore. I decided to get a li’l more adventurous and explore the vast expanse of land in front of me. All around me, I could just see just land and no inhabitation. Seemed weird, .. since I had been beamed there, someone must have been doing it! But there was no sign of anyone.
Suddenly realisation of various other differences in our planet and this planet on which I was a guest, dawned on me. The land didn’t have any greenery! There were no trees and no grass..It seemed to be night there but it wasn’t absolutely dark. There was a reddish hue to everything. I couldn’t see water anywhere and set out to find something to quench my thirst with. Almost as if someone could read my mind, I spotted something that looked like icicles hanging from a rock. Albeit my apprehensions, something made me decide that I should try it as a substitute for water..In fact I could almost hear a voice in my head urging me to try it. Weird again, I *dont* hear voices in my head but this time I was sure I did!!
So try I did, and it turned out to be cool ice after all. By now, I started wondering about why or how Mars was the way it is and what made it so barren, yet not unwelcoming. Maybe, there was life on the planet at some point of time..but signs of existing life were definitely not there. Maybe long before the Earth got inhabited, there did exist a whole spatial colony out there, and maybe because of the heat of the Sun dwindling down, the conditions were not favourable enough for life on it any longer. But then, since someone had beamed me up there, there must be someone controlling the whole episode. As I thought about this, again a voice popped into my head and gave me an affirmative indication! I swirled around but there was no one I could attribute the voice to. I looked up and saw the same familiar stars that I could see from my balcony every night.
It was time to be getting back to bed. And just as I thought about it, I heard another voice bidding me adieu. Again, no one! I went back to where I had landed and I could see a tunnel of reddish light extending up in the sky. As I stepped closer to it, somehow I seemed to have the answers to all that I was wondering about. Men are from Mars… that just explained the absence of intelligent life on the planet 🙂