Trip

I squeezed into my seat along with my friend into the auditorium. We were both out of breath because we came in running. This was a movie we had both been waiting for a long time, and didn’t want to miss even a single second. We leaned back into our chairs and took deep breaths. The movie hadn’t started yet.

“Thank god we made it on time”, I said.

“I know right! I would have been so disappointed otherwise..”

I nodded and looked ahead. Trailers were going on. The theatre lights were still on, I wondered why that was. They should have been off by now. I looked around. No one else seemed to notice. They were all busy munching on popcorn, which reminded me that needed to get popcorn too.

“Hey, I’ll go get some popcorn, okay?”, I told my friend. She simply nodded. I squeezed out of the row and walked out through the gate. The snacks area was huge. It was probably as big as the theatre itself. The snacks counter itself, however, was quite small in proportion. As I walked towards the counter, I thought about why someone would deliberately make such a mistake in internal design.

As I reached the counter, I realized that there was no one there. Popcorn was continually bursting out of the popcorn machine into the popcorn collecting space. Hot dogs were rolling in the warmer. The cold drink vending machine was on. That’s weird, I thought to myself. How could all this equipment be working with no one to look over?

“Hello? Is someone there?”, I called out. There was no response. After waiting for about 10 seconds, I called out again. No one answered. It truly seemed as though the place was deserted. After a while, I decided to go back into the theatre. I’ll come back later.

I opened the door and walked back in. I halted in my footsteps and gasped. The entire theatre was empty. The lights were on, but the movie was still going on. Panic started to rise up within my chest as I frantically looked around for my friend or anyone else. I strode forwards and called out her name. Something, however, told me that I would not get a reply. I combed through all the rows to find someone, but ultimately had to accept that I was alone.

Fear began to bubble in my stomach as I slowly inched towards the exit door. When I was very close to it, I broke into a sprint and dashed out. I immediately closed my eyes and held up my hand as I was engulfed by blinding light. When my eyes had adjusted themselves to the excessive light, I slowly opened them and looked around. I didn’t know where I was. This wasn’t the place I was in before I entered the theatre. I was standing in the middle of a two way road which was bustling with traffic. There were big 5 star hotels on either side of the road. My breath was now coming in gasps and sweat was trickling down my face.

What is happening here? Where am I? This is unreal. I could simply not process the turn of events. My senses could not let in the bizarre situation that I had landed myself in. For a long moment, I stood rooted to my spot in the middle of the road, not knowing what to do or where to go. But then, I saw a man standing at the entrance of one of the 5 star hotels beckoning me with two fingers. At first I looked behind me to check if he was signalling someone else, but then realized that it was indeed me that he was calling.

I started walking towards him without giving it much thought. I was in a complete mess anyway. When I reached, he silently took my hand and led me inside the hotel. At the reception, he simply signalled the receptionist to give me a pair of keys. He swiftly handed me over a pair of keys that had the label ‘667’ tagged to them.

“12th floor”, he said.

I looked at the receptionist and then at the man who had beckoned me. I had no idea what this was all about. So many questions swam in my head. Why had he called me? Why was I supposed to go into this room? How did they know me?

“Look, I don’t know what’s happening here..I was in a theatre with my friend and -”

I was cut off by the man who brought me in as he gave me a slight shove towards the lift, “Go”, he said.

Feeling totally lost, I started walking towards the lift. The doors slid open instantly. I walked in and looked around. The lift was circular in shape, with very little space to stand but very high in proportion. It seemed to have been made with the sole purpose of making someone feel claustrophobic. I pressed the button with ’12’ written on it, and the lift shot upwards with so much force that I fell down on the surface. As I got up, I started experiencing the same swooping sensation in my stomach that one usually does in a lift, only it was amplified by 10 times. It was moving at such speed that my surroundings had become a blur. My eyes could not take in anything and had started watering. I wanted to hold on to something for support but found nothing. After what seemed like an eternity, the lift finally came to abrupt halt, which literally lifted me off my feet.

The doors slid open. To my extreme shock, my room stood in front of me, looking the same as ever. My bed was as messy as ever, my study table was scattered with notes and biscuit wrappers, my laptop was still on and my windows were open. Feeling a mixture of relief, happiness and safety, I stepped inside.

The moment the lift doors shut, my eyes shot open and I sat up in my bed. Hastily looking around, I took in my surroundings and saw that my room looked exactly the same. I stared at the spot that I was supposedly standing a moment ago, and thought of my shadow slowly vanishing into thin air.

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I wrote this story for a college project this year. Pun is intended in the title. Hope you like it. Feedback appreciated.

Binge Living

Hair roughly tied back in a loose bun and mascara running down her cheeks, Swati looked around the room. The state of her house reflected her inner state – broken. Her life was empty. She had nothing.

Her mind suddenly started reeling back in her past. The only good years of her childhood were the years she spent with her parents. When she was 5, they died in a car accident. They were both driving under influence (DUI), something that Swati was completely unaware of. Alcoholism lived in her house – day in and day out. Her thoughts shifted to the time spent in an orphanage. Those were probably the worst years of her life. She preferred not to recall them, so her mind sped through those memories and paused at one day. The day she ran away from the orphanage.

While she was in the orphanage, Swati had discovered a deep love for music – that was perhaps the only good thing to have happened to her in that place. Her love and passion for music drove her to construct a plan to run away. She knew she had to learn music.

A small bittersweet smile touched upon her lips as she recalled the wild times she spent outside the orphanage – Struggle for work, money and survival, small and petty jobs, endless drinking and endless music. She finally managed to collect enough money to enroll in a music academy.

Music academy. Her mind stopped there. From there on, it was as if she had had a re-birth. That she wasn’t Swati Gupta. She looked around her house once again, and this time she noticed the broken photo frames.

Armaan came into her life when she stepped into that academy. They hit it off almost instantly and before she knew it, they were in love. Swati could speed past 20 years of her life, but each moment that she spent with Armaan was engraved in her mind like a tattoo. She knew that he was the one. Still did.

After graduating from the academy, Armaan, Swati and a two of their common friends decided to form an Indian pop band. That was the highest of all the highs – their band. Her world was full of music, lyrics, tunes, notes, instruments, voices..everything music. Their band was an instant success. They were on the top for 5 straight years. But as they say, nothing lasts forever. And then Swati Gupta became Swati Gupta once again.

Armaan had a drinking problem. His drinking increased when early success struck them. With each passing concert, his addiction became worse. When the media sniffed this, the tabloid papers went into a frenzy. It created a rift between their band members. And just as they had shot up to fame in 5 seconds, they were pulled down in 2.5.

Swati stood up for Armaan wherever necessary. They moved in together. Lack of music was like lack of air. Armaan indulged himself into alcohol, and it increased her resentment. Not long after their fall from grace, she discovered that she was addicted to music and the audience. Her craving to play the guitar just once again increased day by day. To get rid of the anxiety, she played in small bars and restaurants. One day, when things got too out of hand, she confronted Armaan. Their fight culminated in them breaking up.

Her mind zapped back to the present. Words from that conversation still echoed in her brain.

“I can’t do this anymore Armaan”

“Then don’t”

“You really mean that?”

6 months. It had been 6 months. She moved out and found another flat. With Armaan gone, she was completely hollow from inside. She tried to get her mind away from him by working endlessly, but it didn’t work. Each day was like a restricted breath. When it got too much to handle, she turned to the only way she could find – drugs.

They opened a new world for her – momentary happiness. It was like flying in heaven for those few moments. She forgot all about her failure, and about Armaan for those few moments. It was like being back to her mother’s welcoming arms. Her dependency increased everyday, to the point that she was working only to be able to buy enough for one day. She had no permanent house, and moved from one flat to the other as frequently as changing clothes. Her previous cleanliness ‘freak’ attitude had been turned into complete disregard of her surroundings. She lost her appetite, wore the same clothes for numerous days, stopped caring for her health and her veins were beginning to weaken.

But she kept using. She didn’t know what had become of her life. ‘Living’ was now an alien word. Slowly and gradually, her world started revolving around drugs, and one day, she had no work. And now, she was here.

She blinked fresh tears and looked down at the syringe. The only object that offered her some solace. Without thinking, she shot it up her arm and closed her eyes.

She was in a vast white room. She was wearing nothing except of a small necklace, with a guitar in her hand. A smile adorned her face as she started playing. In the distance, she could hear a melodious voice singing. Turning around, she saw that it was Armaan, and he too, was smiling at her.

But his face faded into nothingness as the immediate euphoric rush ended. She felt herself slipping into a state of drowsiness. Armaan’s smiling face still lingered in her mind. Suddenly, she doubled over and vomited out blood. Her pupils began to dilate and her temperature suddenly dropped. She lifted her shivering hands and saw that they were blue. Weakness took over her and she began to lean sideways towards the ground. As her head touched the ground, her breathing became shallow.

Her mind once again sped past all memories, and the last thought before she closed her eyes was of Armaan waiting for her in the white room with his arms open.

 

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Armaan tried to control his shivering hands as he ran then through his hair. Being put into a rehab was nothing short of hell. 3 days in this place – and he already wanted to end his life. The withdrawal symptoms were getting too much to handle. It seemed as though he had run into a dead end, and there was no way out.

He got up from his bed and started pacing to ease the anxiety. After Swati left, he had nothing left in life worth living for. He lived off his previous earning and occasionally sang when he ran out of funds. His day began with a can of beer and ended with whisky. It was not until he rammed into an old lady while drunk driving that the police put him in a rehab.

His heart craved for her presence every day. He knew he had ruined their relationship, but Swati’s sudden break down hadn’t helped his already guilt ridden conscious. It wasn’t something he could help – he was addicted. He tried to find her countless number of times, but never managed to find her. She kept moving from one place to the other. At times, he didn’t realize when his tears started getting mixed with alcohol. He tried and tried until he stopped controlling alcohol and alcohol started controlling him.

“Armaan”

He heard an angelic voice coming from the window. He turned to see Swati standing there, smiling at him. He couldn’t believe what he saw, “Swati?”

She just widened her smile and nodded. He was still shocked, he asked again, “Swati?”

He slowly walked towards her. Tears brimmed in his eyes as he outstretched his hand to touch her cheek. She leaned into his touch and said, “I can’t live without you Armaan”

“Neither can I”, said Armaan in a voice full of raw emotion.

But then she slowly moving backward towards the window. Armaan began to shake his head, “Swati, don’t leave me again, please, please, Swati..” tears were now freely rolling down his cheeks. His outstretched arm still lingered in the air as he tried to stop her. With horror, he realized that Swati was too close to the window and might slip.

“No Swati, no, stop!”, he yelled, but to no avail. In the wink of an eye, Swati slipped, the smile on her face still intact.

“NO!”, the scream left Armaan’s throat before he knew it. The door to his room burst open and his roommate came rushing to him. Turning a frantic Armaan around by the shoulders, he said “Armaan! What happened? Are you okay?”

“Anuj, Anuj, Swati was here. She-She fell down. We need to go down. I have to save her. She was here. I-”

“Armaan…Armaan!”, shouted Anuj when he kept on rambling, “Listen. There’s no one here. You were hallucinating”, he started rubbing Armaan’s arms, and said softly, “It happens. Okay? Hallucination is common amongst alcohol withdrawals”

Armaan, too dazed and shocked to respond, just mumbled, “B-But I saw h-her..How..”, and trailed off. Anuj’s heart broke at the sight of his roommate. He was not just an addict, he was shattered. Hollow.

Seeing that Armaan was in no state to think properly, he softly said, “C’mon, we need to attend the evening meeting”. He didn’t know whether he heard it or not, he simply held his hand and pulled him towards the door.

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Feedback will be highly appreciated. I’d written this long time back, and recently came across it again when I was browsing through my documents. Used to be an avid writer before.