31 seconds by Soumith V

A Raising wave from the ocean began to follow our rushing car. This wave, unlike every other wave, wasn’t intermittently ebbing away rather was persistently storming towards our car. Raging wave no longer was languidly carrying blueness of the water but had been transforming into a, fire wave. The fire wave was unceasingly growing against the blueness of the sky. I found, bewildered myself sitting in the front seat of the car, engulfed by the horror of it and yet my eyes fixed on the fire wave. Wait! Why was the ocean burning? Why am I in the middle of this chaos? How did I reach here in the first place? A comforting hand touched on my shoulder was my Susan; my Love of life had already been restless on the back seat of the car. And behind the wheel, to my amazement, trying to drive us away from the terror of death was my grandmother. Does she know how to drive? Her tight lips had gently unfastened for a smile while her hands on the wheels had been agile, in turning, us away when I thought, we were about to be eaten and beaten by the fire waves. Suddenly through the open window, a drop of fire flew inside our car, that single drop had squarely smitten and scalded my eyes. Abruptly, the white car and the fire wave had vanished; my Susan and my grandmother had disappeared, and finally, my nightmare was dissolving in my sleep. My not yet conscious mind, living through the entire nightmare alone had been alarmed, had hauled me out, from my dozy disarrayed state of sleep into the awareness of November morning. Nevertheless, it took few seconds for my conscious mind to get information about the reality of the nightmare when it did my panicked mind was trying to calm me down but my lungs had refused to slow down. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, now I could hear my blood thudding, inside my brain like the drum beating.

If this nightmare had occurred three months ago, then I would have considered the nightmare as an ominous sign of bad luck, as a sign of something, so frightening. The thought of the premonition eventually would betide had been so scary to carry around at that time. This fear about the nightmare had been a misery until last Aghast. Then I decide to confront the fear of mine by reading the legend of Fraud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, now in the November, I know that it was not wise to worry about the future, rather dreams were just the fulfilment of unfulfilled and unnoticed wishes of the past days. But What was this nightmare really trying to say to me? What kind of unfulfilled wish was hiding in the darkness of my mind? Was it about the last night movie San Andres? I had to admit, at some point in time, when I had been watching that movie the day before (not only that movie any movie for that matter, with a hero and the disaster) deep down somewhere in my mind I had felt a strong desire to take part in a disaster. Like a hero, saving everyone from the heart of disaster was growing as desire inside me. But in the nightmare hero was my grandmother. Perhaps, the unfulfilled wish was relate to my lovely grandmother. It was strange, that, for the first time in what must have been months, if not years, I am thinking about her. In the past, I always explicitly expressed my love for my grandmother, but really adored her when she was turning into a child, achingly adored he when her wisdom had been drowning in the old age senility. It had been almost one year since she went for resting in the cemetery. Since then I never once visited her. When I realised the days had gone by without a thought about my grandmother, I made a promise to myself, whatever happens today, I would visit her in her grave.
 

                                                On 13th Friday morning when I was starting my car, my overwhelmed mind had been confusing me with the choices in front of me. As usual, I didn't turn my car to the rue chomel street, thinking about my grandmother and the cemetery and the promise I became entangled by the choice of roads in front of me. I turned my car to the saint chapel road, not only where the cemetery was located but also notoriously known as snail pace road of Paris because of the slow movement of traffic. Not that I was unaware about being late, it was when I relate being late with the potential clients waiting for me in the office sparked a second thought, I had stopped the car and again turned to the everyday road, normally a hustle free road. I told to myself. My empathetic grandmother don’t mind waiting, in the grave until this evening, But the lively client in the office would go to another company if they think I am not punctual. That was how I decided to take hustle free rue chomel road and found myself tangled in the battle of traffic, due to an unprecedented incident of one single girder of the metro bridge had buckled and crumpled into the road. When I had reached my office after three hours of the detour, the clients were already gone. I imagined, If I had taken the snail pace road this morning I could have gone to the church at least, perhaps if I was lucky I could have been caught up with the clients as well. 

                                                    When I was returning from office, as I had promised myself before, I parked my car in the cemeteries’ parking lot, located on the slope and descended the cobbled stone pathway climbing down through the meticulously manicured ground of trimmed grass. From the incline I was standing then, I could clearly see but couldn’t possibly read my grandmother’s name scribbled on the granite stone, located on the top of another slope. Then on, rather than continue through the cobbled pathway, with the hope of saving my draining energy, I decided to take a shortcut, I lead myself down through the trimmed grass slant, at the bottom, there was an open 6-foot long grave. If I was careless enough to not to look downward I would have fallen in the grave, why they were not covering the deadly pit? ‘Someone would fall in that for sure’ I thought and had dodged the dangerous hole carefully. Then I clambered the upward slat and on my knee was praying on my grandmother’s memorial. I said sorry to her for not visiting her for a long time and it may sound silly I had told her in future even if I was little late coming here don’t try to scare me coming in my nightmares like you did today morning. I stood there for a while, was listening to my own inner voice and a phone beep had interrupted the voice. It was my Susan on the other end, instantly I remembered my date with her, As per her plan first we would go to the concert hall, her favourite band The Eagles of Death metal was playing for the first time in Paris and After the concert, dinner at Diners shot. I assured her I would be there on time. The sky tinted with golden rays, the atmosphere was getting darker, but enough light was there to see a baldhead approaching in the direction of an open grave, all of a sudden, the baldhead disappeared into the grave. I ran towards the grave and helped him to get out of the pit. When I was looking at the man’s face the first thing, I noticed was not his round face or blue eyes rather I was searching to find out the oddity of this man’s face. It took few more seconds for me to realize that this man hadn't had any hair not only on his head but also not on his brow or forehead. That was not the only strange thing about the bald man after I had given a hand of help the bald man had left the place without saying a ‘thank you’ or any kind of courtesy, not that I was expecting one, but my instinct was trying to underline the peculiarities of the bald man. Parisians always say thanks to even to the most trivial things in life. This man might be from another place, perhaps an immigrant or perhaps not, who knows, and my thoughts had gone, on and on, off to something that I couldn’t keep track off.
                        
When I was on the car driving as fast as I could to avoid a scenario of sorry when I am in the concert hall, I don’t want our conversation to begin with a sorry for being late, I always thought I should be the one waiting for my Susan where ever we were. But when her name again popped up on my phone I realized she already had reached concert hall. I picked up the phone and when I was about to say sorry, her anxious voice cut me off and said ‘listen to me’ I stopped the car.

What happened?

There was the sound of gunshots all over this place… Stay where you are don’t come anywhere near the concert hall…don’t worry about me I am safe and hiding under the table…I love…the phone cut off abruptly. 

Panicked me accelerated my car, it was not the fascination of being in the middle of a tragedy or gunfight was driving me to cross the speed limit, but my care and love for my Susan were driving me crazy. The desperate urge for knowing more about her state of mind was driving me crazy, knowing that she was staying safe from the gunshot was the only news I wanted to here. I conquered my urge to call her back, fearing, if she had disconnected by herself seeing the gunman, my call would be a death ring for her. What if someone else called her, was her phone on silent mode? My head was bursting with foreboding thoughts.
When I reached the Rue Albert Road, abandoned cars had blocked my car. Without closing the door of my car, I ran through the desolate street. No sign of any human life on the street except few fractured cars. I was passing, three cars decorated by bullet holes and two cars with the shredded windshield, and finally three other upended cars, then my mind had enveloped by the striking and shocking silence pervaded in the air. Suddenly the silence had shattered by the recurring gunshots. I ran through the surreal street carrying the dread of danger in my mind and had trespassed the police, and police barricade. I could hear from behind someone was saying one more gunman was there inside, but nothing could stop me entering the Concert Hall. No panic face rushing out of the door could stop me when Susan was vulnerable to the gunshots blaring inside the concert hall. It was an aching gut feeling for being with her was surging my adrenaline to penetrate the impassable crowd rushing out. When I was inside the concert hall, the gunshot ceased. I didn’t know then, the gunman had died or the gun in his hand had died. It proved after few seconds neither the gun nor gunman had died. 20 feet away I could see my Susan was crawling under a table in the hallway, I pursed my lips when an intruder, with a bald head and a gun in his hand, was blocking my view of my girlfriend. Carrying a bulletproof vest on his body, he was walking in the direction of my girlfriend. My sudden intuition was to call him, to distract him from shooting my girlfriend, I didn’t think about my life, then saving Susan’s life was far important than saving my own life. When I did call him, abruptly he faced me. And, I couldn't help noticing the bald and hairless forehead of the man, I couldn’t help relating my memory of giving a hand to this same man from the open grave few hours ago. I could read from his frowned face, that same process of linking the broken pieces of memory might be going on his head as well. Because already he stood frozen looking at me without shooting me for about thirty seconds and then after 31 seconds he was pointing his gun at me, I closed my eyes and was about to get ready to die. Then I heard the gunshot, did I get shot I checked everywhere on my body, no, the shots were fired from the police gun. The bald man had dropped his gun and his body was withering in shock of receiving a bullet on the back of his head. When he was buckling down in front of me when he was breathing his last breath he had been looking into my eyes as if I am the one who shot him. I pointed my fingers to the police behind and told him silently, my friend even if you didn't wait for that 31 precious second you would wound up dead one day because you already had chosen your destiny. Perhaps a long ago, perhaps a hidden hatred emanated because of a trivial reason, now made you travel a long distance, it was your bad luck that the hatred had grown enormously inside you and had lured you to wipe out the human life. Sorry, buddy see you somewhere in hell or perhaps we won’t see no more if I am going to heaven. Then I imagined about my grandmother sitting in the heaven, her tight lips unfasten for smile , and telling me your time was not up, yet, boy. Suddenly everything seemed to be connecting her coming on my nightmare of fire wave. If she never  had appeared on the front seat of the nightmare I would never had thought of her that day, it was her image on my head, had pushed me to go to church and had ended up meeting my future killer buddy in that open graveyard and imprinted my face on his memory.    A word of appreciation was not enough for my grandmother for coming in my nightmare, rather I would make her live in my mind; perhaps, she might want to live in my memories that must be the reason why she had saved my happy life.

                                                          Susan ran towards me and her hands wrapped around me. I heard her saying thank you for coming in the time of danger. I didn’t tell her about the nightmare or my grandmother coming on my dream and saving me in the time of danger. Probably because I don’t want her to think I am insane. So I told her to Thank, the God, the unknown.
 
                               On that night, on 13th Friday, November of 2015, in Paris 130 innocent people lost their lives and 400 injured. It could have been Susan or me. From that day onwards, I started to believe that there is an unknown force driving away from death when it is not my time to die. When it is my time, the same force through my thought would push me into the disaster of suffering, into the disaster of hatred. And burn me in the flames of hatred.


-ArtoonsInn UnEdited version -Cover by: Mithru Rachamalla

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