One After Another

1

‘Here we go, one by one, one after another, always in a queue. I ahead and my buddy at your tail. Together, we move. No matter what guys, never, I repeat never go ahead of me.’ The lead guide shouted at the top of his voice in front of the hundred first-time trekkers gathered in front of him. It is pitch dark and he can hardly differentiate one face from another.

‘If we’re ready, switch on your headlights or mobile flashlights for the ignorant ones.’ Another guide waves his arms to get attention. A hundred lights switch on simultaneously. There are men and women without their children. Children below fourteen not allowed, the policy said.

‘This is the final call. If anyone wants to chicken…Back out, please be my guest. Another thing, once we cross two miles, there’s no turning back. You’ll have to carry on and on.’ The lead guide flexed his wrists and punched in the air alarming everyone with a loud ‘Let’s march’ signal.

Mary and John are not quite sure about this. They are holding each other tightly and looking in each other’s eyes with dread.

‘You sure, honey. You’ve always been afraid of the dark,’ John said.

‘Fuck it. I’m doing it for my Lou. I promised her this. I’m not backing out now. It’s ‘do time’ for me. I can’t let her down again.’ Mary marches ahead alongside her husband. She is supposed to be celebrating her one year of marriage at a weekend getaway. Instead, she makes her husband toil in the dark. Thirteen hills, they said. Thirteen ups and downs. For what it’s worth, Mary is determined not to deviate from the resolution to her dead sister.

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One More Breath

2

The first time she performed an act was in haste. It was an accident. She was overwhelmed with jealousy. Her teeth tightened, fists clenched, and eyes went wild. She grabbed an arm, placed a knife in it and forced it against the neck. It was a slow, painful process. She had time, but not her victim.

She admired the girl’s beauty, wept for her and wiped her tears. She held her left arm and offered prayers. She gave a goodbye kiss on her lips and bit it hard. She liked the blood seeping in her mouth. It took some time to get her mouth filled with victory. She conquered one of them.

The incident played for days on her mind. She felt aroused every time she thought about it. Her peers talk about guys making them hot and the things they do to them. She wouldn’t know. She never gets them. She is out of experience. They say a boyfriend is all she needs. Otherwise, she would never get it. It’s all right, she thought. She’s getting something more arousing. This excitement is paramount. It beats all other things in life. It makes copulation a trifle. They, a whole lot of bitches, need to be taught a lesson.

I will be their teacher for one last time,

Spank them hard and beat them for their crime.

She goes on a path of personal vendetta against girls her age. After having two lives put to rest, she seeks more blood. She has lost her appetite and ten pounds in a couple of weeks. She sleeps well only after the act. She wants to sleep peacefully every night. It’s a tough ask for a girl her age. She wonders what her parents might say. She wonders what the parents of her victims might say.

One More Breath

1

One more breath would make you whole,

My name spells trouble I ain’t no drôle.

Let this act be the one to fill the hole

That engulfs my heart and my soul.

She caresses the cheeks and pulls at the lips. Her palm, covered in red, is accentuated by the smear of the darker lipstick. She takes in the aftershave aroma and fills her lungs with it. It excites her, the musk odor. She’s always attracted to it. It pulls her like a magnet. She is completely unlike herself and gives way to the animalistic desires. But another desire overshadows it. It’s sinister and something out of her reach. She has racked her brains a zillion times but couldn’t get to the bottom of it. It controls her and she becomes a puppet in its arms. She lets it control her movements. The result is always apocalyptic.

She always wanted to be like the girls at school. The force to gel in with her peers was tantalizing. It made her shiver in her sleep. She would often get up, look in the mirror, make a wish and go back to bed again. She would wish for a miracle each night. But the things remained the same the more she wanted it to change. She gets that she’s cute because she looks like a little girl. She gets that she is a nice enough girl to be mocked at. But she doesn’t get the feeling that bothers her when she looks at her peers. They look like they have got it. The things which make them happy: perfect boyfriends, perfect homes, perfect families, perfect money to buy whatever the heck they want in life. She feels a hole which needs to be filled and her peers are driving her crazy. They, a whole lot of bitches, make her blow herself up in tatters just to find a peace of mind.

Coming back to the present moment, she hits the eyes and then the ears with the flick of her index finger. She enjoys ruffling the hair and pulling at them.

She speaks to herself: it’s time. She gets up and leaves as if nothing happened. She leaves behind a girl her age after making sure she looks ugly.

Tim Says No

4

Tim says good to go. This phrase has lost its shine. Earlier, it meant a green signal, a go-ahead, a gentle nod of the head. Now, it goes for everything. Last week, our baby fell down and bruised his arms. I wanted to rush to a nearby help. But Tim says it’s all right, let him be, he’s good to go. That’s right, Tim. The bruises will vanish in a jiffy and the baby will stop crying, isn’t it so? Quite a solution, I say. Oh, Timmy! Life’s life, not a fairy tale. Things don’t become okay in a moment. Time’s a bitch, and now it’s you, Tim. You act like a moron. Tim says how dare you say that. I say why not, love.

There was a Tim I knew once who found good in everything. He saw the best in little things in life. His appreciation for someone’s pet was candid. His comments about someone’s child made that someone glad to have one. He saw through all the noise and found something useful. He was a man every man wanted. I bet my life on this. But I can’t say about women. I don’t know how they see men. Their needs and wants are different. When biological phenomena take priority, it is what it is. There’s no denying that. To hell with it, I say. This doesn’t apply to me. Let them, folks say what they want to. Why would I consider what not directly affects me? My man is my game and I rock the boat with him. I play games. Well, I did. They were lovely. Night after night, we gained traction and became pros at a few of them. There’s no stopping when you are in love. Games become a part of life which is usually dull. Tim says life’s never dull, it’s full of colors. It was, but the colors have faded now.

Tim Says No

3

I wonder where the yes-saying Tim has gone. The No man is here for now and he’s disturbing the harmony in our home. Now, I’m afraid to have him from behind. He’s too big for me and still, he complains of my losing interest in him. Tim says there are other fat men and women out there. I see his point but not his joint. It’s easy to complain than act it out. I told him to show me how. Tim says so you want me to demonstrate with another man. This can be said with a straight enough face, I didn’t know. I could say he was serious. He always is, nowadays and that’s the pain point. It’s small, yet painful.

I’m drawn to other men in the market. This is Tim’s doing. I was never like this. But the bastard made life too difficult. I was unable to handle all the fuss and no love. Tim says you have to adjust with the changing times. Yes, again easy for him to say. I say he’s doing quite well – unable to tie his shoes, lift his kid in his arms, perform household chores, and don’t even bother to ask me what else. The list has no end. It runs like a river into the ocean, originating from the mountains and running for hundreds of miles only to run into a bigger space.

Tim Says No

2

Tim says no to cola when everyone seems to be enjoying it. He says yes to cocoa. Hot chocolate is his favorite drink. It’s a no-brainer when you speak to him about drinks now. There’s nothing else on his mind. His performance at work has taken a sharp downturn. He lost his previous respectable position in the company and was demoted. He says there’s a first for everything, even demotion. He’s clearly not bothered by it. But it has affected our standard of living. Our son went from having a bucket full of toys to no addition within a year. He kept crying on his birthday for the newest toy in town. But we didn’t get it. Tim says it’s not worth burning a hole in our pockets. And let the boy cry his guts out? Tim says give him a lolly, put it in his mouth, and sing a lullaby. So, I gave him a lolly, placed it abruptly in his mouth, and started singing. The next thing I noticed the lolly mounted on his fist went against my eyes. This made Tim laugh for the first time in months. At least, it did something good after all.

One day, out of nowhere, Tim says to throw away the comics or better yet sell them as vintages or collectibles. Those were his treasures. He has been collecting the first editions of the Disaster series over a span of a decade. Now, he wants them gone.

I’m not sure about this. Does a change in physical dimension affect you as a person? I sure believe so. I’ve experienced it first hand and also experienced it second hand from Tim. Oh! Timmy, why have you changed so much? You’ve morphed into this stranger. How can I get you back? But who am I to complain? Haven’t I changed myself? I went from – caring, sharing, loving, and developing to – rueful, demanding, disbelieving, and disingenuous.

I must demand change in myself before I demand a change in you. I trust I must.

Tim Says No

1

Tim says to do this. Tim says to do that. Tim always keeps saying things which have stopped making sense. They are like the buzz of a honeybee to my ears ringing profusely every bloody time I interact with him. What a bore! To add to the pain, his fat arse stinks of marshmallows and burnt cocoa. He reeks of his sweat. Why did he stop taking bath each day? This once a week routine will stifle me and crush my lungs. It’s more dreadful than the smoke from a chimney where I used to work as my day job. Tim says everyone has it, but I beg to differ. I beg him to stop this torture he puts me through.

No matter what, I still love him. We’ve been married for ten years, that’s a decade. A decade full of loathsome stare from people around us. It’s been a year since we became the Laurel and Hardy couple. I don’t see the significance other than the size difference between us. After marriage, it happened gradually. Tim kept on getting bigger and I kept on getting smaller.

He’s a control freak now, and I can swear it on my baby. But he wasn’t always like this. The reason I fell in love with him was his volunteering to help people on weekends. I met him at one of such events organized by a friend. Tim’s dedication and caring nature made me fall in love with him. He was a nice chap who went from super active to super lazy in a span of a decade. Tim says body fat is to be blamed for this. But I say it’s his fault.