The Paso to Remember

Short Story by Akanksha Rao (Entry No. 5)

Present time….


It was the dancer awards going on and the best Latin dance Paso Doble award was to be announced, everyone held their breath and the winners were Lorenzo Alvares and Alexia Treu. They both beamed with confidence and received the award. Later on, in the Spanish Art and Culture talk show, they were asked how did they come up with their award-winning choreography? Alexia said that it was after a tiff. The anchor got intrigued and asked more, that Enzo smilingly first looking at Alexia and then the anchor said “First she said an Ole! Then I made her say a Muerte! And it happened.”

The day of that Paso…


It was a bright day and in the afternoon 1 pm in Valencia Spain, “Tougher! Pull yourself up!” said the dance instructor Marcus in the La Danza school of dance to the young couple on the floor performing a strong Paso Doble or the Spanish Gypsy Dance which depicts a bull-fight. As the fierce guitar music was playing in the background both tapped their feet so much with strength that it felt like a stab. While the two dancers Lorenzo and Alexia performed the whole crowd was watching them with awe and the jaws of several dropped to see the lady Alexia’s grace. The music and their moves caused everyone to get transported to a bull-fighting arena where Lorenzo stood like a brave matador and Alexia his cape. As their performance ended they went to Marcus and he just said that there was a lack of intensity in their moves and he felt it was very mechanical. They both were so good that normal people couldn’t find their flaws, it was only that the expert Latin dancers like Marcus could figure their flaws out. Lorenzo narrowed his eyes and looked at Alexia from the corner of his eye but kept listening in silence. Alexia, on the other hand, seemed to listen to Marcus rather halfheartedly, as Marcus finished they both left but this time Lorenzo wasn’t in a good mood because he hadn’t heard anything like that before and dancing was his passion besides Alexia was silent. Lorenzo looked at her and asked that why was she silent like that, she just looked at Enzo in his eyes and looked with a look that combined angst, disgust, confusion all emotions at once and uttered just one thing before she left “have you ever seen me as Alexia? Because it always feels like you are treating me like your former partner Liz, I am not Liz.” She left and that left Enzo pondering that, “was Alexia right?”. Enzo was in the thought that why did she mention Liz? Liz was his former dance partner and he was paired up with her and Enzo as being more creative and a perfectionist by nature he took the lead and Liz just followed him without question besides Enzo was the one to improvise a lot and she kept up with him but one day she said Enzo that she was dating Trent and wanted to be partnered with him and since then Trent’s partner Alexia was paired up with Enzo. Since then Alexia and Enzo were one of the best pairs but Enzo got more recognition as in ballroom dancing the man is the lead and the pair is recognized by a leader’s ability.


Alexia was glum and disgruntled at Marcus’s words as she was one of the best dancers and a weird kind of angst-filled her when Enzo treated her the same way as Liz. Enzo gave the choreographies his own spin which she liked but he didn’t like it when she suggested something as for him, his routines were the best suited to the rhythm and Alexia felt disvalued. There was one thing Alexia wanted to always express but she couldn’t and that frustrated her, will be common if directly told love, yes it was but it will be accurate to say that it was attraction, awe, fascination, infatuation and a desire for him ever since she laid eyes on him but as free-spirited and independent as she was, she didn’t accept to be commanded or subdued and wanted everything equal and fair and the fact the Enzo her fascination or her love interest treated her this way caused her to grimace. She came back and was resting with some Lo-fi music plugged in her ears that she heard the doorbell of her apartment rang. She paced towards it and much to her surprise she saw it was Enzo. Enzo stepped in and looked at her and said “I never treated you like Liz, I just counted on you to catch up with me as you were better and besides I wanted you to admire me, my routines as I feel you are unparalleled”. Alexia froze as Enzo never spoke such words to her and in fact except dancing he never looked into her eyes and spoke. “Alexia, today as Marcus said that I felt bad and I felt that my routine didn’t hit right enough and you too didn’t say anything that caused more disgust to me,” he said looking into her eyes intently. Alexia just felt good for a moment that Lorenzo admires her this much but she asked if he admired her so much then why didn’t he let her do some changes in the routine rather roughly.

He looked away for a bit and said in a low breath “Envy… I was envious of your ability and if you would choreograph I am sure I wouldn’t be able to match it and wouldn’t have admired me.” He was telling the truth, it reflected in his eyes. Lexi asked him with curiosity and at the same time confusion “why do you want me to admire you so much?” Enzo didn’t speak a word, he just stepped closer to her by one step at a time and held her hand and her by her waist with just inches away from her face “Because won over my heart by being an amazing person, I am sorry I made you feel low and subdued but I didn’t know how to tell you this and was always doubting myself that do you find me worthy enough or not, not being able to say I channelled my passion in our dance. Alexia, I really love you” Lexi was wonderstruck to know that he too felt the same for her. She spoke that she doesn’t have words to say, she waited for some brief moments and all of a sudden she plunged into a kiss with him. He didn’t have time to process and be happy that Alexia loved him too but was feeling the kiss at that time. A few moments later as they broke the kiss off Enzo asked “Alexia? Really?” With a bright smile.

She nodded and said it was since the beginning of the time. Enzo came closer for another kiss that Alexia said “I can’t take that behaviour of you if you love me, I want to be treated equally and in no condition, I want to feel lowly” Enzo agreed and hugged her. Minutes passed as they held each other. Alexia asked “is this what you came for here?” With a slight smile. He said not just this but also to practice the routine so that Marcus won’t say like that to them again. “Alexia, herein I have something new to spice up the intensity, take your position as the cape” Alexia took his hand and smirkingly glared at him saying “I don’t want to be a cape, I want to be fierce bull which challenges you if you know what intensity is then unleash it Enzo” Being sly and playful she came very close to him and ran a finger over his heart kissing his neck and whispering in Spanish “Ole Torero” which is an encouragement to the matador but here she wanted her matador not only make her dance but also ravish her. Enzo breathed deep and said “won’t it be too early Lexi?” She just said “Afraid of the bull, Mr Matador?” and took her position as a bull. Enzo put the music on his phone and stood like a matador and at once stood very near her face grabbing her by her waist and she held him tough.

He then whispered “if the intensity is what you want, let me show you”, placing a hand on her nape he brought her face near his while being in appel pose of the dance and bent over her to kiss her that she went back and put both her hands on his chest and pushed him a little away. She cried out an “ole” and there Enzo smoothly moving with grace caught hold of her from behind buried his lips in her shoulder and kissed her neck and ears while his hands which were on her belly were sensually ascending towards her chest that she escaped his grip swiftly and stood in front of him smirking. While the music in the background continued their Paso Doble went on but it wasn’t just a dance, it was blazing seduction. That Enzo didn’t hold back and got her at once pushing her against the wall with her hands pinned above her head and pushed her top over her head and cupped her breasts causing her to whimper. He undid her clothing on the top according to the rhythm of the song, there she stood bare naked on the top, her full breasts spilt out and her feminine beauty was visible to his eyes.

She took no time to expose him and the next thing that happened was that Enzo’s lips landed on her bosom and his hands played softly with her breasts kneading them, causing her to moan and her hands wandered his back like a lost traveller in some foreign land. Her skin was warm and flushed and as his hands sinfully unveiled her bottom only to find out that she was soaked downstairs. She boldly got her hands inside his pants and saw that he was already too much into the mood. Her caresses just made his manhood come alive to its full length that he stripped out of his bottoms. She saw that he didn’t just have a handsome face with defined features and brown eyes, he was magnificent and beautiful downstairs either. Already he was very much aroused and she was driving him wild. The music ended and Alexia asked “what about your routine Enzo?” with a wink. Enzo said he will take care of it and said that only one thing is left to do. Alexia slyly asked playing with his erection, pushing him to the edge and he at once put her on her back from being above him to now being beneath him. He says “To ravish my bull” and went down on her till she spasmed in ecstasy while an orgasm hit her.

He roamed his hands over her bosom, her toned butt and her supple skin and teased her mercilessly to the point she said that she couldn’t take anymore and blurted “within me now! Matador” grabbing him by his shoulders tight she moaned as his large manhood invaded her and she was losing herself as the feeling of being united engulfed her, wrapping herself more and more around his girthy length as he rhythmically thrust in and out of her. His groans intensified and he kissed her passionately holding her captive. Moments later they experienced euphoria as they climaxed together and Lexi said out “Muerte” which is Spanish for dead but here she meant ravished. Enzo smiled like a matador after winning a bullfight. They cuddled a little and Enzo asked “wasn’t this too fast? I mean today itself we told each other we love each other and this?”

Alexia just laughed and said that it didn’t matter to her as she wanted to do this for a very long time with him. All her pent up frustration was out and she told him that she wants to improvise either and Enzo smilingly complied with her but he asked her “why didn’t you ever tell me that before?” She said she wanted to but his behaviour kinda irritated her a little so she didn’t tell him then. He then asked her “you now know right why I did what I did? Can you please forgive me and give me a chance and us a chance?” Alexia nodded and said a yes. Days followed and their dance metamorphosed into a masterpiece combining improvisation, intensity, strength and passion all at once and Lexi was as fierce as Enzo and he caught up with her at perfect times and lead her amazingly so much that even Marcus couldn’t believe his eyes. ….

To present time…
Mr Lorenzo that was quite a story quite a different one! The anchor said and they both smiled at each other looking happy.

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Scent of the rain

Short Story by Akansha Bhardwaj (Entry No. 4)

Strong winds blow my hair from my face, soothing my body. Giving me the feeling of someone being there, patting my head as if saying: “it’s okay”, “you’re okay”. Being in the rain, staring at the clouds, brings back the memories of those days where I used to slide across the rooftop with my brother, carefree and spirited. The scent of rain used to reach us way before the rain ever did. The excited giggles that used to fill up our home, the loud footsteps and shrieking, betting on who would reach the rooftop first, are now mere memories I look back on.

Were those the good days? I wonder, now standing on the very same rooftop with the absence of those footsteps and a presence of silence that defines my closed-off relationship with my brother, the same scent of rain brings me solace as if telling me to let go. And so, I step into the pouring rain. It feels nice, cold and warm at the same time.

My clothes stick to my body, and then I laugh. I laugh as I feel the rain around me, making me wish I was a child again. The rain does this to me, making me feel whole. I question myself did I change or was it, my brother, that now we won’t even look at each other? Did we finally grow up? Was this how growing up feels like? Is it time to let go of my childish wish for my brother to once again push me across this rooftop that now I stand on? The rain hits me hard this time, bringing me back to reality, me standing alone in the middle of my rooftop. I lay down and close my eyes, letting the rain and its scent make me feel safe again. That’s where I am now: a safe place, lying with my eyes closed with no worries about what tomorrow brings with it, where I can cry and blame it upon the rain. Ah, I think to myself, “if I could stop the time, now would be the perfect timing”. It feels ticklish, though now that I’m laying down facing those dark clouds, afraid of the thunders that are sure to come by any second now. I think to myself, “I better get up and head downstairs”.


“Are you planning on staying there forever?” I hear.


Keeping my eyes closed, I smile to myself, recognizing that irritating voice. If I open my eyes now, would he know that I had cried or would he too pretend to blame the rain? I hear footsteps. Not long after, I feel the warmth of a body lying down beside me. I turn my head and look at him. He sure did grow a lot, looking tired from the last time I met him. I feel him grabbing my hand and squeezing it.


“How did we end up like this?” he said.
We stayed like that for a long time until we could hear our parents shouting for us to come down.
We laugh hearing those familiar words.


“It feels nice,” he says, and hearing him say this, I could feel the melancholy leaving my body just like that.
“It sure does,” I reply, and as the thunder starts to hit, we get up to leave.
I turn back and look up at the skies and think, “maybe not that much has changed” the feeling of a hand squeezing mine, I turn back to look at my brother looking down at me with warmth in his eyes, and I smile back.
The scent of rain that lingers after the rain now holds memories of my home feeling whole once again.

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MELISSA’S CRAFT

Short Story by Sana Shaikh (Entry No. 3)

CONTENT WARNING : MENTION OF BLOOD AND GORE

Walking into her secret room, she always felt at peace, away from the chaos and full of quite, she would just sit there and soak in the silence after a hard day’s work, working as florist meant she had to socialize all day with different kinds of people, which left her so drained at the end, but at the end of it she could just come back and sit in her secret room and forget all about it and work on her hobbies, her secret room was just the attic in her house, it was her parents’ house but they died years ago and she had no siblings so she inherited the home to herself and turned the attic into her workshop where she worked with leather and made beautiful purses , belts ,keychains as it was her father’s trade for his entire life, she had learned this art from her father who used to work as a leather worker at a shop owned by his friend and she wanted to keep his legacy alive, but the workshop wasn’t boring at all, she decorated it with beautiful indoor plants and lots of fairy lights all around the room, the walls were painted pastel pink and had a layer of glitter to them, the wooden floor was painted in a dark shade of pink, she did it all by herself she loved her floral shimmery aesthetic and her room, her workshop, her kitchen depicted her aesthetic, she only loved two things, creating new items with leather and growing new plants.


Melissa was an unusual girl ever since she was a child and everybody made fun of her but she never let it get to her, she kept doing whatever she liked always, she dropped out of college because the college system was too much stress for her to handle and she had no interest in gaining a degree whatsoever, and her parents were okay with her decision as no one in their family had a college degree so it wasn’t new to them and , so they let her pursue her whatever she wanted. Melissa chose her own path, she loved beautiful perfect things, so she started her own flower shop and it was going better than expected, her extensive knowledge in plants made her very good at her job and her warm and welcoming demeanor attracted more and more customers. As a child her father forced her to learn to work with leather as he wanted to keep this legacy alive in his children, “you must learn the art and pass it on to your children, i wanted a son as this is not a girl’s play but I will teach you anyway”, these words were always stuck in melissa’s head, wondering that if she was boy maybe her father would’ve loved her more, being forced to learn at an young age was tough but slowly she took a liking to working with animal hides and rendering it to perfection. her father was strict as a mentor and even more strict as a parent.


But she still wanted to create something so perfect that it would make her an even better leather worker than her father was, melissa did not have a good relationship with her mother and was detached from her since a very young age yet she still remembered her teachings and beatings, as there were still scars on her body. Melissa loved wearing dresses that had flowers on them, bright colorful dresses, high heels and heavy makeup, she dressed up everyday as it made her so happy, the neighbors would talk about her and her eccentric way of life yet she did not care, she wanted to be herself in everyway possible and to create beautiful things, that’s what her motto was and nobody could get in her way.


“Hey mrs.smith, yesterday your mail was delivered to my home, so I came to return it to you”, said melissa with a warm smile, while handing the mail to her neighbor mrs.smith a woman in her late 40s, “thank you melissa, I love your bright yellow dress with giant red flowers and your chunky heels, and offcourse who could miss that giant bag you carry”, said mrs.smith in a demeaning tone, it wasn’t unusual for her neighbors to make fun of the way she dressed, hearing this melissa immediately stopped smiling and walked away, mrs. smith’s taunts always reminded her of her mother, “you will always be a clown, you are stupid, learn to act like a lady”, her mother’s word kept echoing in her ears as she walked towards her flower shop, a tear fell from her eyes but she immediately wiped it off her face and put a bright smile on her face and walked into her shop ready to face the day.


“one day i will act like a lady and one day I will create the best leather item dad has ever seen and prove to them i am so much better” , that’s one thought she had everyday, while she was reminiscing about her mother’s bitter words, Layla walked upto her, Layla was a teenage girl who worked at the flower shop with melissa, “good morning miss melissa, here is an ointment I found yesterday for myself”, she said showing her a tube, “ointment for what, dear?” asked melissa, “for my acne scars, my mom told me I needed to fix my face so I did some googling and bought this, look, you can use it if you want”, said Layla, “Layla honey, why do you want to fix something that is not broken?, you don’t need fixing darling you need to focus on your goals”, she said to Layla patting her on the head, “but people make fun of my scars”, said Layla in a low voice, “and people are going to always find more reasons to make fun of you, but you cannot change a part of yourself, everytime somebody says something, if you want to change something about yourself, do it for you, not your mom, humans cannot be perfect only things can be perfect”, she explained to Layla, melissa was well aware of the challenges that came with being a young girl, often ridiculed by people for not being perfect and their challenges undermined, melissa knew what it felt like when your own mother tore you apart in name of certain perfection that girls are supposed to display she often saw herself in layla. Her mother often hit her when she didn’t act or dress in a certain manner, her mother made her wear neutral colors to not attract any attention, she wasn’t allowed to laugh too loudly or talk too much so ever since their passing she broke free from all those rules and lived loudly.


Everyday she dealt with all sorts of customers but she was always kind, she was always wondering if she should put up her leather products for sale online, but she never had enough confidence to actually go through with it, she just opened the ecommerce website and closed it everyday, Layla tried to tell her to just do it but melissa wouldn’t listen, Layla used a leather purse melissa had gifted her and she assured her that her quality was amazing and there was nothing to be afraid of.


At the end of everyday, melissa would go home and her neighbors would stare at her like an insect but she never let it bother her, the neighbourhood was full of people like her parents who couldn’t bear to see others live how they want, without being confined to the rules and limitations of societal norms.

Melissa started her day by feeding the birds, she fed the sparrows with seeds and the crows with scraps of leftovers meat , every morning and evening she fed them like they were her own never expecting anything in return, truly a woman to take note of.


In the evening sometimes her boyfriend, john would visit her, he was a peculiar man, he did not have a job and his past was questionable, he sometimes sold illegal substances and other times he was in jail, despite being aware of everything melissa still loved him, john was the kind of guy her parents would never approve of, maybe that’s why she loved him, the uncontrollable want of doing the very opposite of what your parents would’ve wanted, maybe melissa just wanted to feel free, maybe the freedom to date anyone was why she thought she loved john.
Their relationship was questionable as john was manipulative but it all felt normal to melissa, she couldn’t tell the difference between nice and manipulative, she was just happy to be able to do whatever she wanted.

“I don’t care about people, john”, said melissa sitting down next to him on the couch, “yea me neither, so what”, replied john while lighting a cigarette, “but I am good at pretending and you’re not”, replied melissa, reclining further on the couch, “yea you’re crazy”, he said taking a puff of his cigarette, “no I am not crazy, I just don’t care about people but I still want them to like me”, she replied, “so you’re saying you don’t care about anyone, not even me?”, asked john, “I don’t know, but if you died somehow I’ll go and find somebody else rather quickly”, she replied with a serious face, john looked at her putting down the cigarette in his hand, “oh I am kidding”, she said loudly while laughing, “offcourse I care for you, I love you”, she continued.


John was a simple guy, he wanted food and sex and melissa provided both without question so their bond was just really built on deeply rooted psychological issues that they called love.


The next day, melissa baked a nice lemon cake with the lemons she grew herself in her home, it was her mother’s recipe and she hoped to give it to mrs.smith as a peace offering, her mother had thought her to always bend in order to keep the peace no matter who it is, her mother had taught her to be liked by others no matter what, so she took it to her, “mrs. smith, I made this for you”, said melissa kindly, “thank you, but I don’t want it”, replied mrs.smith in a cold tone, “this is my mother’s recipe, mrs.smith I am sure you would like this”, mrs.smith took a good look at her cake and decided to accept it as she knew her mother very well, she snatched the dish and closed the door quickly on her face.

She went back home and fed the birds and went about her day as usual, Layla was already at the shop when she reached, “oh hey Layla, how are you today?”, asked melissa walking through the door, “everything is good and after a lot of thought I have decided to love myself, and I am going to stop looking at models too”, she said taking a deep breath, “As you should, you deserve to love yourself”, she replied as she continued to work, melissa had this deep need to be liked by everyone despite constantly feeling this hallow feeling within her she continued to behave in a way that everybody would approve of, she felt no need within herself to be a good person or to be kind, she just felt empty completely, but she would act in a way that made her look like a kind person, her words were rather calculated than kind.

She would often drain herself with physical labor of beating the leather, cutting it, shaping it, rendering it to perfection, “if your work isn’t perfect you might as well set it on fire”, that’s what her father had taught her, he would throw away the entire thing she would make if she happened to make even one mistake, there was no place for mistakes in art, that’s what she knew and that’s what she did, it took her days to complete even the smallest of things, “the want of perfection within art is a mark of genius”, was a quote she lived by, her father never forgave any of her mistakes, for him leather was the holy grail and any mistake would often lead to Melissa being subjected to being punished.

Working in her workshop was the only time the hallow feeling inside of her went away, the thrill of creation was her driving force.

Few days later news came that mrs.smith’s husband had gone missing after his work, she had reported it to the police, most of people of their neighborhood just made jokes about it saying he hated his wife so much that he ran away, only melissa was kind enough to pay her a visit, for the first time ever since her parent’s passing mrs.smith allowed melissa into her home, she was alone and nobody was by her side so she let her in, “mrs.smith I am truly sorry for what happened, I hope the police find him”, she said sitting down on the sofa, “yes melissa, I am worried”, she replied as she broke down in tears sitting next to melissa, melissa hugged her and told her everything is going to be ok, mrs.smith appreciated her support and even asked her to stay with her overnight as she felt scared alone, she kindly accepted.
Melissa stayed by her side the entire night, “maybe she likes me now”, thought melissa to herself as she slept next to mrs.smith.


The next morning police came to mrs.smith’s house, the commotion in the living room woke up melissa from her deep sleep, she walked out to see what’s happening, a police officer was sitting next to mrs.smith, the officer was young and handsome, melissa was instantly attracted to him so she fixed her hair and went into the living room and sat next to mrs.smith who was crying already, “what has happened officer, why is she crying?”, asked melissa in soft voice, “and who are you miss?”, asked the officer suspiciously, “I am her neighbour melissa, I stayed over to give her company”, she replied, “Well mrs.smith are you comfortable with sharing the sensitive information with your neighbour?” he asked looking to mrs.smith, she nodded, “well miss.melissa, somebody found a small piece of meat that fell on him and it happened to be human flesh and after DNA testing, it is confirmed to be mrs.smith’s husband”, he replied, melissa made a disgusted face, “fell on him? what does that mean “, melissa enquired, “a bird happened to drop it on him”, he replied, “ew”, she muttered, “how did that person come to know it was human flesh?, shouldn’t you be questioning him?” asked mrs.smith, “yes he is under custody, but still that’s all we have for now”, he replied as he got up to leave.

Melissa stayed by mrs.smith’s side for a while, she made breakfast for her before leaving, “thank you melissa for being there, I am sorry for the way I treated you before”, apologized mrs.smith as melissa was leaving, “its alright mrs.smith, please take care I’ll come to check in on you after work”, she replied.


When melissa returned home, john was laying on the couch watching TV, “isn’t it too early to watch TV?” asked melissa as she walked in and sat on the chair near the couch, john did not pay attention, “did you atleast feed the birds john?”, she asked in a frustrated tone, “yes I did, you couldn’t even wash the meat properly, that meat still had blood in it like you killed that goddamn animal just a few minutes ago”, he replied in a angry tone, “they’re crows john, they don’t care about the blood okay”, she said as she got up and peeped out of the window, “oh shit, that detective peter gomez is coming towards our house”, she said in a frenzy, peter gomez was their local detective, he had arrested john multiple times, hearing his name made john get up from the couch and freak out, “shit, where do I hide now, he is definitely looking for me”, he replied while freaking out, “what did you do this time, you idiot?”, asked melissa, john didn’t reply anything. Melissa took him upstairs and hid him in her parents room, it was an unused room of their house ever since her parents passed away, she kept it locked but she allowed john to hide there, it was directly below the attic and was the biggest master bedroom in the house.


“this is a nice room, such a shame melissa keeps it locked”, thought john to himself as he looked around the room. while downstairs, melissa was left to face peter Gomez who was growing tired of john’s actions everyday, “melissa you need stop defending that thug and tell me where he is right now”, he asked in a frustrated tone, “I have no idea officer, what did he do?”, she asked casually, melissa was very good at lying and she was used to lying confidently, she made it believable every single time, “he stole a rolex from this one man and john is also accused of illegal drug abuse miss, tell me where he is?”, asked peter, “peter I would’ve told you if I knew okay, he barely visits me anymore, I will bring him to you if I see him”, she said in a sad tone, the expressions on her face made peter feel bad for the poor girl, so peter had no choice but to believe her.


John was checking the cupboards and drawers of the room while he waited for peter to leave, he saw unusual things like hide of a deer, daggers, belts and syringes “her dad was a freak”, he thought to himself but he wasn’t shocked, he had seen worse things, but suddenly he felt something drip on his head, he touches his head and looks up to see, it was blood dripping from the wooden ceiling from the attic, he froze there, just looking at the blood dripping on his head.


In the same moment, melissa walks upstairs once peter had left, angry at john, “why did he steal a rolex, I am going to kill this idiot man”, she said to herself as she walked upstairs, and as she walks into the room, john was just standing there looking at the blood from ceiling as it dripped on him, melissa looked surprised, they both looked at one another in shock, “what the hell melissa?”, enquired john in a low voice, “i- I am sorry, the blood was supposed to be collected in the bucket, the bucket must’ve fell on the floor, all the blood is now wasted, it was to fertilize my plants not your dumb head”, she said with a sad voice and remorse in her eyes, john couldn’t believe his ears, his eyes widened like they were going to fall out from his head while melissa kept looking at the blood and the blood stained ceiling, “what blood?, who’s blood melissa?”, asked john with fear in eyes and crack in his voice, “mr.smith is up there”, she replied with her eyes fixed on the ceiling, john was horrified, “w-why?”, was the only word he could mutter slowly, “leather”, she replied with a frown on her face while still staring at the ceiling as the blood dripped down drop by drop.

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Tham …. Khali ek do

Short Story by ARNAB PATRA (Entry No. 2)

Not words or commands they are emotions which resonate with every fortunate individual who has got the chance to serve his/her country wearing the coveted uniform.
The uniform : some see it as the shroud of death while some wear it as the turban of pride.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is infront of him….”
Ashok was reading the book of quotes when suddenly the bell rung and the class dispersed for the lunch break..
But Ashok’s tender malleable mind was firmly imprinted by those words spoken by GK Chesterton a century back.
“Hey what’s up? Won’t you have lunch?” Rahul intervened and broke Ashok’s chain of thoughts.
“Just a moment….here look such a nice quote “
“Oh leave it…come let’s go and eat”

******************************

30 years down the memory lane Rahul was reflecting on his friend….
Now he was a serving Major in the Indian Army and was commanding a battalion in the Kupwara region of Kashmir.
His senior Col Suresh had called him up in the morning and given him lead about the terrorists. He had a deadline till midnight to nab them…..

(15 years ago)

Rahul and Ashok had put on their best outfits for the SSB interview for the National Defence Academy.
Born and brought up in Kashmir they had witnessed wars which tore across the territory. They both felt this was the best opportunity to give it back to the nefarious anti-socials who were responsible for unrest and bloodshed against their motherland. At NDA, their training started at the stroke of sunshine with routine PT followed by parade drills which ended with
‘Tham…Khali..ek do..’
These words had now got engrained in their minds over the years at the academy as this signalled a break from the rigours of life.
Later they went to IMA and joined the Indian Army as young Lieutenants in the Spring of 2006.

( 15th Jan , 2021)

Chilly wind gushed through the valley freezing every soul in its path…
The troops marched across braving the chill towards the target which had been ambushed by the militants.

(15th Jan , 2016)

Terrorists were hiding in the abandoned hut and it had been surrounded by 2 sides : One end by Captain Ashok another by Capt Rahul..
Guns blazed in the dead of night and the night sky was filled with flashes of the bombs hurled from both sides .
That night saw the dissipation of a brave son of this motherland ….No trace whatsoever … Terrorists killed but that one casualty kept hurting Capt Rahul giving him nightmares upto this day …

(Back to present)

The terrorists were surrounded…careful planning and strategies had helped the Army gain an upper hand over their enemies under the command of their acclaimed leader Maj Rahul.
Pounce fire and attack but it was met with an unexpected counter attack ..
In the brief flashes Maj Rahul saw something which traumatized him beyond repair …
His best friend and coursemate was on the returning line of fire ..
A dead soldier reincarnated as a dreaded terrorist …
This sight gave him pain but that’s the way of life he felt and kept firing …
The militants ran out of ammunition and were killed one by one …
A single soul managed to run away from the deserted shed into the dead of night ..
Maj Rahul knowing well who it was gave command not to pursue him while he himself ran vigorously towards the enemy of Mother India….
A shout “Tham!” stopped the militant dead in his tracks …
“Khali…ek do!” He responded
“Boom” the muzzle rang twice in quick succession
The enemy infront of him was conquered ….
Maj Rahul now rushed towards his dear friend Ashok who was bleeding profusely….
On seeing Maj Rahul he said “I am proud of you brother …you might be surprised as to how I am alive….”

“Shut up (expletives)….why did to commit the act of treason against our mother to defend whom had thy taken an oath years ago…”

“I was doing just the same brother.. just not the way you do….
I was saved by the locals after rolling down the cliff that fateful night….
The next day I saw reports that said I was martyred in the encounter which meant I couldn’t join the services again…
But patriotism being engrained in me to the core …I formed a guerilla troop with the local youth to fight militants …
Sometimes we attacked army camps to get ammunitions but never killed a single soul devoted to our holy land…
Even now before you came I and my troop killed the militants hiding here…
And before we could escape …you attacked us from all sides and we had no other option but to fire to defend.”
Saying this he died in the lap of his comrade who by now was sobbing bitterly at the loss of a valiant child of the country.
In death thou remember the thing associated with that person the most
And for Ashok it was the quote :
“A true soldier fights not because he hates what is infront of him but because he loves what is behind him”
(Maj Ashok was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his valour and patriotism)

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” बेटी पढ़ाओं बेटी बचाओं “.

Short Story by – Anamika Singh(Entry No. 1)

शहर से काफी दूर तोधकपुर नामक गांव में शोभाराम अपनी पत्नी के साथ रहते थे , शोभाराम भट्टे पर काम करते थे जहाँ ईट बनती थी इसलिए वो पूरा दिन काम में व्यस्त रहते रहते शोभाराम के घर कोई सन्तान नहीं थी इस बात से दोनों बड़े उदास रहते थे |
एक दिन शोभाराम आये तभी उसकी पत्नी बोली अजी एक बात कहनी है शोभाराम ने उत्तर दिया बोलो , क्या बात है तभी नीलम बोली बोली की आप पिताजी बनने वाले है ,
ये सुनकर शोभाराम खुशी से झूम उठा और बोला की मुझे
तो बेटा चाहिए |


ये सुनकर नीलम बड़ी दुःखी हो गई और चूप हो कर चली गई ,कुछ दिनों बाद शोभाराम नीलम से बोला की मैं अपने बेटे का नाम उसके दादा के नाम पर रखूंगा और उसे उसके दादा के जैसे मास्टर बनाऊंगा |
नीलम चूप थी और फिर रसोई घर में खाना बनाने लगी
और मन ही मन ही सोच रही थी की अगर लड़की हुई तो क्या होगा बस यही चिन्ता उसे अंदर ही अंदर खाये जा रही थी |
आखिर वो दिन आ ही गया जब उसने प्यारे से बच्चें को जन्म दिया ,सब बहुत खुश थे, मगर जब अंदर से आवाज आयी की नीलम ने एक बेटी को जन्म दिया है, तो शोभाराम के चहेरे की हंसी ही गायब हो गई और चिन्ता दिखने लगी और चहेरे पर मायूसी छा गई |
नीलम ने घर में पूजा रखी और अपनी बिटिया का नाम करण करवाया , पंडित जी ने बिटिया का नाम वन्दना रखा और बोला की आपकी बिटिया बहुत ही किस्मत वाली है ये बड़ी होकर अपने माँ बाप का नाम रौशन करेगी ये सुनकर नीलम बहुत खुश हुई , मगर शोभाराम अभी भी उदास थे |


कुछ दिनों बाद जब शोभाराम काम पर जा रहे थे तभी गाँव के मुखिया ने रोका और बोला क्या बात है शोभाराम आज कल दिखाई नहीं पड़ रहे हो तुम कल गिरीश की बेटी की शादी में भी नहीं दिखे ,लगता है बहुत मेहनत कर रहे हो ,” अब करो भी तो क्या करो” बेटी जो घर आयी है शादी की जो चिन्ता होगी ,शोभाराम चूप थे और घर वापस लौट आये |
और नीलम से बोले की काश तुमने लड़के को जन्म दिया होता तो आज इतनी चिन्ता ना होती जो हो रही है उस दिन
किसी ने घर में खाना नहीं खाया |
अगले सुबह
शोभाराम पहले की तरह फिर से काम पर चले गये ,और नीलम घर में अपनी बेटी को बोल रही थी की तू बड़ी होकर खूब पढ़ना और मास्टरनी बनना ,और अपने पापा का सपना पूरा करना |
समय बीता गया और वन्दना अब पाँच साल की हो गई थी तो नीलम ने सोचा की अब मेरी बिटिया पढ़ने जायेगी और
यही सोचकर नीलम ने शोभाराम से बोला – की ओ वन्दना के पापा अब हमारी बिटिया बड़ी हो गई है उसका स्कूल में दाखिला करवा दीजिए तभी शोभाराम ने जबाब दिया अच्छा अब लड़की को भी पढ़ाऊं लड़का होता तो पढ़ाई करवाता ये पढ़ कर क्या करेगी |
तुम इसकी पढ़ाई की नहीं शादी की चिन्ता करो , ये सुन कर नीलम बड़ी उदास हुई और फिर कमरे में चली गई वन्दना ने
अपने पापा की बात सुनी तो रोने लगी और माँ से बोली की मुझे पढ़ाई करनी है माँ देखो ना वो पिंकी भी तो स्कूल जाती है तो मैं क्यों नहीं जा सकती हूँ |
वन्दना हर रोज पिंकी को स्कूल जाते देखती और सोचती की काश में भी पढ़ने जाती तभी माँ ने देखा की वन्दना बहुत उदास है तो उसने सोचा की क्यों ना वन्दना के पापा को बिन बताये स्कूल में दाखिला करा दूं यही सोच कर उसने दूसरे ही दिन वन्दना का दाखिला करा दिया और वन्दना स्कूल जाने लगी और बहुत खुश रहने लगी और मन में यही सोचती की मैं बड़ी होकर अध्यापिका बनूंगी और पापा का सपना पूरा करूंगी |
पूरे स्कूल में वन्दना टाॕप करती थी और परीक्षा में भी फस्ट आती थी इस बात से स्कूल के मास्टरजी उसको बहुत मानते थे ,और उसकी पढ़ाई पर ध्यान देते थे|


कुछ दिनों तक सब ठीक चलता रहा एक दिन शोभाराम की तबीयत खराब हो गई और वो काफी दिन तक काम पर नहीं गया ,इधर वन्दना स्कूल नहीं जा रही थी तो स्कूल के मास्टरजी ने सोचा क्यों वन्दना स्कूल नहीं आ रही है यही सोचकर मास्टरजी वन्दना के घर आ गये और शोभाराम से पूछा की आपकी बिटिया स्कूल नहीं जा रही है सब ठीक तो है ना , शोभाराम ने जब ये सुना तो आश्र्चय॔ चकीत रह गये और बोले अरे मास्टरजी मेरी बेटी पढ़ने नहीं जाती है आपको कोई गलतफहमी हो गई है , तो मास्टरजी ने हँस कर बोला मुझे कोई गलतफहमी नहीं है वन्दना आपकी बेटी है ना आपको तो उस पर गव॔ होना चाहिए की आपकी बेटी इतनी होनहार है पूरे स्कूल में टाॕप करती है | हम तो कहते है की आपकी बिटिया जैसी मेरी भी एक बेटी होती तो मैं उसे अपनी तरह मास्टर बनाता |
ये सुन कर शोभाराम की आँखों में आँसू आ गये और रोने लगे और बोले मैं अपनी बिटिया को और आगे पढ़ाऊंगा और मास्टर बनाऊंगा ये बोलते हुए शोभाराम ने वन्दना को गले से लगा लिया |
और दूसरे दिन बाजार जा कर किताबें और बिटिया के लिए
स्कूल की डेॢस ले आया और खुद स्कूल छोड़ने जाने लगे |
वन्दना बहुत खुश थी वो और मेहनत लगन से पढ़ने लगी ,
देखते देखते दिन बीतते गये वन्दना स्कूल से महाविद्यालय में भी टॉप करने लगी और फिर ,एक दिन उसना अपना सपना पूरा किया …..|
वन्दना ने स्कूल बनवाया और खुद स्कूल में पढ़ाने लगी और हर घर में जाकर ,”बेटी बचाओ और बेटी पढ़ाओ ” का नारा देने लगी |
ये सब देख शोभाराम रोने लगे और नीलम से बोले की तुमने बेटी को जन्म नहीं दिया तुमने लक्ष्मी को जन्म दिया है , और भगवान से प्राथ॔ना करने लगे की हर जन्म में मुझे बेटी ही दे ||||

Anamika Singh…….

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