Short Story: The Strangest Thing
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“The Strangest Thing”
- Aniesha Brahma
Strange things have happened, but seldom does it happen.
- Henry Bliss
- Henry Bliss
Roshni had waited patiently all night for Dev to wake up. She had been delighted at how effortless it had been to sneak into his room. It was their anniversary of being together for a year today and the first thing she wanted him to see in the morning was her face. She stole impatient glances at the watch on his bedside table.
“I wonder if the boy ever cleans up his room,” she thought to herself, eyeing the cluttered table. Everything had been placed pell-mell on it.
His bed was placed at the center of his room, overlooking a jumbo sized window. Everything looked cheerful and nice to Roshni.
“Oh just wake up, already,” she groaned. But Dev slept on, oblivious to his girlfriend’s presence.
When the Sun rose, the first rays fell across Dev’s room, and rested on his face. He stirred a little, and Roshni immediately jumped up from her perch.
“Happy Anniversary, dear!” she shouted joyfully.
But he merely grunted in his sleep. Dev pulled the covers to hide his face and went back to sleep. No amount of prodding or shaking would get him to abandon his sweet slumber.
When he did wake up, almost two hours later, Dev still did not say a word to Roshni. He was ignoring her. And the girl was nearly beside herself with anger and frustration, wondering how to fix things with Dev and racking her brains to remember what had gone wrong previously.
“Are you mad at me because we got into a fight?” she asked him, softly.
There was no reply. Dev went through his morning routine of cleaning up and dressing up, and Roshni sulked by herself in a corner. Half an hour later, without so much as acknowledging her, he went out of his room.
“Hey Marlowe! Haven’t seen you all night, buddy. Where have you been?”
Roshni could hear Dev talk to his pet cat. She could almost hear him fondle that stupid animal of his. So he had all the time in the world to cuddle the cat and not a second to say ‘hi’ to her? She had half a mind to storm out of his room at this very minute and shout at him. But fearing the racket might awaken his parents, she decided against it.
“I kept the food aside for you in my room, go get it,” Dev said, “I’ll go out for a bit now. Okay? Be good.”
“Meow,” said Marlowe.
Roshni flopped down on the bed, and waited for the cat to enter the room. He did so in style, pushing the rest of the door open with one paw. His ears went backwards, and his nose wouldn’t stop moving. He was desperately trying to locate what was making his owner’s room stink so badly.
“Oh my,” said Marlowe, when his round green eyes were fixated on Roshni, “It’s you is it?”
And you could’ve knocked Roshni down with a feather. Never in her life had she seen a talking cat. Not in the world she lived in anyway.
“Oh my God,” she exclaimed, “You’re a talking cat! Marlowe…I thought you only meowed.”
“Well, I reserve my talents,” said Marlowe, shaking his head from one side to another, “But that is rather rich, coming from a walking dead girl!”
“Excuse me?” shrieked Roshni, almost leaping up from the bed, as though she’d been electrified, “Dead? I am not dead. I’m sure Dev was just ignoring me.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” purred Marlowe, “And you’re probably having a terrible nightmare where a cat Dev had rescued just happens to talk. Isn’t it?”
She screwed her eyes shut tightly and opened them again. Marlowe was still in front of her, in all his white and brown patched glory. He was giving her a very questioning look.
“What?” she snapped at him.
“Aren’t ghosts supposed to roam around in those white gowns?” he asked, tilting his head to one side.
“I am NOT a ghost,” Roshni screamed at him.
“Oh face it, honey,” said Marlowe, on squatting down on his hind paws, and licking his left front paw, “You’re just in denial.”
Much against her will, Roshni stood in front of the mirror in Dev’s room. Sure enough, she couldn’t see herself in it. She didn’t have a reflection. But more than wanting to know that she’s dead, Roshni wanted to know how she’d died in the first place.
“Marlowe,” she said, turning to the cat, who was now following her with his eyes, “Do you know how I died?”
“Car accident, they said,” Marlowe said, indifferently, “I didn’t really pay attention to it. Till I sensed Dev was sinking into depression.”
“Dev? Oh my god, where did he go off to?” asked Roshni, alarmed.
“The usual,” Marlowe said, nonchalantly, “He went off to the damn park to run. He is always doing that these days.”
“He’s up to no good this morning,” said Roshni, urgently going towards the door, “I know it in my heart.”
“Dead hearts can feel?” asked Marlowe, getting up and following Roshni, swishing his tail behind him.
“One more word from you and I’ll pull your tail.”
“You cannot touch material things, lady. You’re dead.”
“And you’re immaterial.” Roshni muttered.
Nevertheless they both ran to the park where Dev had started going for his morning jogs. When they arrived there, they saw him darting around the park, almost bursting for air, but not giving up. Finally, he just fell down on the grass, crumpling up.
“Oh dear God,” said Roshni, darting towards him, with Marlowe at her heels.
“So ghosts believe in God now?”
“Just shut up.”
Dev was lying there, face buried in the grass, trying to breathe easy. Roshni placed a hand on his head. He jumped and looked violently around.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he muttered, “I’m so sorry.”
“Why’s he sorry, Marlowe?” asked Roshni, curiously.
“I’m sorry I made you a promise I couldn’t keep,” Dev went on, bitterly, “I didn’t know things would get so bad.”
“What the hell is he talking about Marlowe?” asked Roshni, surprised.
“Meow,” said Marlowe.
“What the hell…talk human, you stupid cat…tell me what’s wrong!”
“Roshni, I meant to come on time. I meant to come and pick you up…but I got delayed. And you…why did you take the damn auto?” he wailed, “I would’ve been there in five minutes.”
He started up. Roshni wondered whether he’d finally been able to hear her voice. But she was disappointed to see, another girl walking up to him.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Another of your cramps?” she asked, kneeling down beside him.
She touched his head lightly, pushing his sweaty hair back. Dev refused to look at her. He wouldn’t look into the eyes of his fellow jogger.
“It’s not another one of my cramps,” he grumbled, “And didn’t I tell you not to bother me. I really don’t feel up to socializing.”
“You weren’t in this mood two nights ago when…” she began angrily.
“Shut up, Keya. Why don’t you?”
The girl got up, her anger matching his. “Don’t pretend, Dev. Just don’t. I wonder what your precious Roshni would say if she ever found out…”
“Don’t even go there!”
“…that the last thing her boyfriend did before she died in a freak accident was cheat on her!” she screamed as loudly as she could.
“What?” asked Roshni, softly, “Why would you do that?”
She knew her heart wasn’t beating anymore. But whatever was left of that dead organ seemed to be crumbling into pieces.
“I’ll repeat this to you one last time: go away.” Dev said, through gritted teeth.
“Why isn’t he denying it? Why isn’t he slapping her? Marlowe, why is he quiet?” Roshni asked, sounding close to hysteria.
Marlowe tilted his head to one side and said, “I think it’s probably because it’s true.”
Roshni flopped down on the grass beside Dev, who was already torn in anguish. Then, looking at him, she said, slowly, “I don’t think I want to live anymore.”
“Well, honey,” said Marlowe, “You already got that wish. You see, you’re really dead.”
This story was first published in Fablery's very first newsletter.