A Mysterious Short Story
It was three in the morning. The wind flowing through the window made the curtain move in waves. Along with the wind came the sweet aroma of petrichor. The smell woke up Ajay.
"Priya! Priya! Wake up!" he whispered to his wife, gently patting her back.
"Wha... what is it?" replied Priya, daring not to open her eyes.
"It's raining!" Ajay said, "Want to go for a drive?"
"Now?" Priya said as she fiddled with her smartphone, "It's three. No, I want to sleep."
"But it's so beautiful outside. You can't afford to miss this golden opportunity."
"I have to wake up at 5:30. I want to sleep." Priya covered herself with her blanket.
The smile on Ajay's face vanished. He felt like a puppy who's stopped from playing.
"But you go if you want to," said Priya, "Why should you miss out because of me?"
Excited, Ajay asked, "Really?"
"Yeah. Go," Priya replied from under the blanket.
"Alright then," said Ajay and jumped out of bed.
Putting his wallet and phone in his pockets, he picked up the keys and said, "I'll be back in an hour," and made his way out of his bedroom.
Priya called out, "Lock the door properly and drive safely."
"Okay," Ajay shouted from the main door and locked the door behind him.
Though it was more of a drizzle, Ajay ran towards his car. He positioned himself behind the steering wheel and turned on the engine, and the radio came along. Hindi music legend Kishore Kumar came in singing Rhim Jhim Gire Sawan. Ajay's heart skipped a beat.
Such a perfect song for the moment, Ajay thought, and Priya's missing out on her favourite song.
"Her loss," Ajay smirked and drove out.
Old romantic songs kept on pouring out from the radio. It made Ajay believe the radio jockey was a mind reader. Unlike other times, where Ajay used the artificial way to cool the car, he rolled down the windows and let nature do its thing.
The slow drive through the deserted city road in the rain made Ajay's heart grow a size. Having shifted to this new city a couple of years ago, Ajay was so occupied with work that he never got to catch up with the city. This rain and this drive allowed him to be closer to the town. The town that was his home for the foreseeable future. He was so mesmerized by the quiet night that he lost track of time and space. All he could feel was peace.
Ajay took a left and drove down Commercial Road. This road was where most offices were based, most of them being call centres. Ajay came back to reality when he noticed someone with an umbrella. As the car drew closer, he realized it was a woman.
Ajay's brain told him to keep driving, but his heart said to stop and ask the woman if she needed a lift. In Ajay's case, the heart always won the debate.
He slowed down the car and stopped near the woman. Turning down the volume of the radio, Ajay looked out.
"Excuse me, do you need a lift?" Ajay asked.
"No, thank you," the woman replied politely, "I am waiting for the company taxi. It should be here any moment, though the driver isn't picking up his phone."
"I don't think he'll come now, in this rain," Ajay explained, "Where do you have to go?"
"M.G. Road," the woman replied.
"That falls on my way back home. I could drop you."
The woman thought for a moment and said, "Okay, thank you," and joined Ajay.
It was still raining, and the radio was still singing. Ajay concentrated on his driving, but he stole a glance of his passenger every once in a while. She was a simple-looking woman, dressed in a formal blue shirt and black trousers. Fair toned with black hair tied in a braid. A slim black watch on her right wrist and no other accessory to adorn her. Her most striking feature was her eyes. Big, round and brown. The woman had one of those eyes which spoke louder than the words. They were as deep as a soul could go.
"I am Ajay."
"Durga," the woman replied.
Are you a Bengali, Durga?" Ajay asked.
"Yes, I am," Durga replied, "How did you guess?"
"You have beautiful eyes," replied Ajay, smiling.
"Oh," Durga blushed, "Thank you."
They sat in silence for a couple of moments before Durga broke it.
"What do you do for a living, Ajay?"
"I am the branch manager of Union Bank at Saraswati Marj," Ajay replied, "What about you?"
"I work at the All International Call Centre. And during the day, I also take Maths tuitions for 12the graders."
Just then, Kishore Kumar came back on the radio singing Rhim Jhim Gire Sawan.
"Oh!" Durga jumped, "That's my favourite song."
"Yours too?" Ajay smiled, "Even my wife and I love this song?"
"Wife? You're married?"
"Yes," Ajay chuckled, "Five years now. Want to see her picture?"
"Sure," Durga replied.
Ajay took out his wallet and opened it to show Priya's picture under the plastic sleeve.
"She's beautiful," Durga replied, "Is yours a love marriage?"
"Yes, a college crush." Ajay felt his cheeks warm up.
"That's so sweet," Durga exclaimed, "Good for you!"
"Thanks," Ajay replied.
The car took another left and entered M.G. Road.
"Ajay, you can cross that hotel there on the left and stop."
"Okay," said Ajay and slowed the car to a stop.
On the other side of the road, Ajay noticed the cemetery's gate were open.
"That's strange," he said to himself.
"What's strange? Durga asked.
"Shouldn't that gate be closed at this time?"
"Isn't it five already? It must be the caretaker. That's his usual time."
"Maybe," Ajay replied, "So this is it, I suppose."
"Yes, it is," Durga smiled, "Thank you for helping me."
"No problem, anyone would have done the same," Ajay replied.
Durga's face hardened up. "No, Ajay. Not everyone's like you."
Ajay sensed the change in Durga's demeanour. He didn't know how to reply to that statement. "See you around then," he managed.
Durga's lips curved into a smile before she opened the door. She straightened out her umbrella and stepped out of the car. Closing the door, she looked back in.
"Bye, Ajay," she said, "You're a good man."
"Bye, Durga," said Ajay, forcing a smile. He peddled the accelerator and moved forward.
Durga continued looking at Ajay's car until it took a right and went out of sight. Feeling content and safe, she crossed the road.
The rain had now stopped, and the radio was singing devotional songs. But Ajay didn't notice the change. He was somewhere else, thinking about Durga.
It was a completely comfortable ride. Nothing unpleasant happened, and yet Ajay wasn't at ease. Things did change a bit towards the end, but Ajay couldn't put the finger on the reason.
Out of habit, Ajay's eyes went on the digital clock.
"5:13! Priya will wake up soon and find me missing."
Ajay rushed back home in time. He picked up the newspaper and milk pouches and entered his home.
"Mission accomplished," he said and took a deep breath.
Priya came out of the bedroom. "You just came back? What took you so long?"
"I'll tell you over a cup of coffee," Ajay said and handed her the milk.
Priya headed towards the kitchen while Ajay went for the sofa.
Cosying up on the sofa, Ajay started skimming through the newspaper. He's not a newspaper, it was Priya's domain, but Ajay still wanted to stay in the loop of what's happening in the world. It was page three that made Ajay stop in his tracks. He wouldn't have stopped if he didn't find Durga staring back at her. Confused, Ajay looked up at the headline.
Ten Years of Durga Rape Case
What Ajay grasped from the article made a chill run down his spine.
Durga Rozario was a 24-year-old who worked the night shift at a call centre. Ten years ago, she made the mistake of taking a lift from two men. They raped her and buried her alive at the cemetery on M.G. Road. The culprits were caught through the CCTV footage, but soon enough, they were out on bail. Two days later, the men were found dead on the M.G. Road. The cemetery's caretaker believes it was Durga's ghost who had avenged herself. Over the past ten years, reports have been made on this same day today of seeing a mysterious woman asking for a lift to M.G. Road. Over five men have been mysteriously found dead on that road.
"It's Durga herself," said Ratan Lal, the cemetery's caretaker. "She makes sure no bad man hurts a woman again."
"Here's your coffee," Priya walked in, "Now tell me where you all this time."
Priya looked up at Ajay. The colour of his face was white as ash.
"Ajay! What's wrong?"
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