Posted in 2021 short story challenge, short, story

May Story: Good or Bad?

Goodness sprouts in the most unexpected of places. When the city life bustled with greed and deceit, a tiny bit of innocence was born in the slum outskirts of the city, in the form of eight year old Biju.

Biju’s family barely managed to survive on their meagre resources. They lived in a tiny ‘house’, if it could be called so, with a tin roof. His lived with his parents, an elder brother and a little sister who hadn’t yet turned one. The whole family contributed in making money for the house. But Biju wasn’t really happy with their ways.

His parents were pickpockets. Often, it started with an act of begging, and his mother would use his baby sister as a way to invite pity. And then they would steal someone’s wallet or snatch away jewellery. His father was fired from the factory he worked in once, and since then he hadn’t been able to find a job, and found it easier to steal, since it required no qualification. They had expected their kids to do the same. And so they did, at least his brother, but Biju was a rebel. He wasn’t going to do all of that.

His parents would force him to go out in the streets, and he would, but never steal. But in the evening, he would present the family with quite a humble sum of money, surely not a lot, but some. Where did he get this money from?

Well, it seems God had gifted him with both morality and creativity. He would roam around the streets and collect any small pieces of plastic, bottle caps, and bits of metal that he could find. He would then settle near the lake and join those bits and pieces together to create toys – yes, toys – small, dynamic toys. He once created a tiny car that actually ran, and a monkey that jumped and a little drum that banged itself when it was spun. He made all sorts of toys, all different. He then sold those for a sum of five or ten Rupees each.

One night, he returned home to find himself in a quarrel that took place almost every few days.

“I don’t like what you do,” he would say.

“Then you don’t have to live here,” his father would say.

“Please, he’s just a kid,” his mother would say.

“It’s alright Ma, you all will never understand,” he would say, and go to bed hungry. It was like a routine, but Biju was now fed up with it.

The next day he woke up fully determined to do something big. He worked twice as hard to collect all the stuff that he could and went by the lake to build something. Surprisingly, he couldn’t think of any ideas today. It was getting late, so he picked his stuff and went by the road to sell the toys he had made the other day.

He got a few customers, most of whom were accompanied by stubborn little kids who just wanted that one toy. Others were people who admired his skills.

Evening had fallen. He hadn’t made a really good business today. Just as much as he earned every other day, perhaps a bit less. He had started to pack his stuff when suddenly a black car stopped in front of him. He looked up at the car and it’s passengers curiously. It was obvious that they had come to buy his toys, but he wasn’t really sure, since it wasn’t the usual type of vehicle that came to buy his stuff. It was much, much bigger.

A man in a black suit stepped out of the car. He bent down, removed his glasses and studied Biju’s toys intently.

“Are you Biju?” he asked.

“Y-yes, sir,” Biju replied, surprised that someone just called him by his name.

“Did you make these toys yourself?” he asked again.

“Yes sir, all of them.”

“Where did you get these designs? Did you copy them off from somewhere?”

“No, sir. They are all my own.”

The man studied the toys once again.

“How much do you earn in a day?”

“About 80 to 100 rupees.”

“You are a really talented boy. I want you to come with me,” the man finally said. “You make these toys and I’ll sell them. I have a very big company. We’ll earn a lot together.”

“Really?” Biju asked in surprise, hopes rising to the sky. “How much money will I get?”

“Enough for you to live like a king. You’ll have a very big room, all to yourself, and new clothes and good food. You can even go to school if you want.”

“And my family?”

“You’re coming alone. This offer is just for you. You have the talent. And only talent sells. Now tell me, will you come with me?”

Biju ran the things over in his mind. Go with him, a voice said. It’s all for your own good, away from poverty, away from all struggle, away from all evil. That’s right, he thought. Good food, good clothes, education… and money, all from his own talent.

But what will he do with the money? Who’ll he earn the money for if his family’s not with him? Don’t go, a second voice said. You can’t just leave your family alone.

What will he do then? the first voice said. Go back into all the evil? Live with a family of crooks? Of course not! He’s got a whole life ahead of him.

Biju heard the two voices in silence, the voices of his conscience. Going back home was what he should do. But wouldn’t he be supporting the bad by doing that? So obviously it was better to go with the man and live a life of honesty. But wouldn’t it be bad to leave his family all alone and enjoy all the luxury alone? What was good, what was bad?

It’s not about good or bad, a third voice said, calmer and firmer than the first two. It’s about love. Good doesn’t always win, bad never should. But love always must.

***

It was 10:30 in the night. But Biju hadn’t yet returned home. His parents were pacing through the house, half angry, half worried. His brother was out looking for him in the streets. He couldn’t find him anywhere.

A while later, there was a knock on the door and Biju entered the house. His father burst on him instantly. He screamed and screamed, but Biju didn’t say a word. After he left, Biju ran to his mother and hugged her tight.

“Why didn’t you go?” she asked.

“How do you know about it?”

“Perhaps I can read your mind. Because I love you.”

“Which is why I didn’t go.”

Posted in 2021 short story challenge, short, story

April Story: The Tree House

And this morning I fed the squirrels the remaining nuts. And then I returned to my tree house in the middle of the jungle. It’s the best home I could ever have.

It doesn’t look big from the outside, but inside, it’s a complete heaven! And did I tell you about Poinky? He’s my pet monkey and my best friend. He loves me a lot! He always stays with me, never leaves me alone. He even talks to me. He’s my only family…

Family. Where’s my real family? I don’t know. I have no mum, no dad. But it doesn’t matter, does it? I have the whole jungle to myself. And that just reminded me of the Happy Tree!

Yes, the Happy Tree. I named it so because it always makes me happy. Whenever I feel sad, I just go sit under that tree. The cool air that blows through it always makes me smile. And then I climb on it and pluck the fruits that grow on it, and then I enjoy those fruits while watching the sunlight pour through the leaves of the Happy Tree and make funny patterns on the ground.

Then sometimes Poinky and I race to the Mirror Lake. The water in it is so cool and sweet and so clear! Just like a mirror. I can even see my face in it. And there are butterflies all around it.

It’s also so much fun riding Roarey’s back. The way he sprints all through the jungle, around the lake and through the trees.. it’s amazing! You don’t know Roarey? He’s a tiger. Scared? Haha, don’t worry, he’s my friend. If you ever come to visit me, I’ll let you have a ride too.

And then in the evening I go to the Happy Tree again. There’re hundreds of birds up there. But only in the evening. And they all sing together in such a melodious voice.. oh! And when I whistle to them, they all circle me and even do a little dance!

And you know, when you climb on my tree house’s roof at night, you can see thousands of stars in the dark sky. They are always in so many different shapes and you can spend the entire night watching them. Such a lovely home I have…

But then sometimes I slip into a dream. I feel like I get trapped in it. I don’t live in my tree house in the dream. I live in some apartment at almost the same height as my tree house, but in a tall building.. skyscraper, they call it.

And there are people all around me. I feel very scared when anyone’s near me. And then two humans call themselves my ‘parents’, my ‘family’. How could that be possible! I say they are lying, I try so much to keep them away. But they don’t listen to me. I don’t care much, it’s just a dream anyway, right?

And you know, even Poinky doesn’t talk to me in the dream! And that’s the worst part of it. He just sits there. Doesn’t blink, doesn’t move, doesn’t eat, doesn’t breathe. I hate when that happens. And when I tell those ‘parents’ of mine that Poinky isn’t eating something, they tell me he can’t eat or move! But he can, right?

And there are more people there than I’ve ever seen anywhere. They come to me, talk to me, and when I tell them anything about my tree house, they see me like there’s something wrong with me! I feel like crying, like running away from there. They don’t believe anything I say. No one does. But you do, right?

And they all talk behind my back. They think that I don’t know anything, but I hear everything they say. Just last week I heard them saying that I was ‘diagnosed with schizophrenia’. I don’t even know what that means. Is it like a bad word? Are they cursing me? I’ll tell Roarey about it, he’ll teach them a lesson. These people, they say that the jungle isn’t real! That my tree house doesn’t exist! But I’ve seen it! I live in it! It’s my home!

It’s real, right? My home, the jungle, it’s all real, right? Right?

***

And with yesterday’s post, I completed a total of 50 posts on this blog! It’s been an incredible journey till here… cheers to the many more miles to come!

© 2021 Oddball Thinks

Posted in 2021 short story challenge, short, story

February Story: Forever Home

Mr. Kensley had wanted to own the mansion for a very long time. He almost fell in love with it the first time he saw it. For some reason, no one else seemed to be interested in purchasing such a good property. Money wasn’t an issue either. So he bought it as soon as he could. He sent a bunch of people beforehand to clean and furnish the place. Today was the shifting day. He started off in a good mood, but something or the other kept going wrong.

It started with a broken vase, then a shattered gold picture frame, then his sprained ankle. His wagon seemed to be in a bad mood too. It broke down thrice in a two-hour ride. It seemed odd for so many bad things to happen on such a bright day. But nothing could stop him today.

More than a bit off-schedule, he finally reached the Mansion of Spectre.

“Ah, no,” said Mr. Kensley for the hundredth time, “Don’t go by the name, it has nothing to do with any sort of ghosts.”

He had been asked this question since the day he bought the mansion.

“I prefer to call it the Snow Palace though,” he would say. “My Snow Palace.”

He entered the mansion with a whole procession of servants handling his stuff and looked around in admiration. His Snow Palace. The house of his dreams. He walked around surveying the crystal floor, the marble statues, the diamond hangings and the velvet carpets. The place really was beautiful. It seemed like a piece of heaven. Too beautiful to be true, as if it were just an illusion. Just so perfect that it was almost creepy.

“I hope my room is ready.” His tone suggested that if it wasn’t, then someone might as well be prepared to lose his job. He didn’t have any shortage of servants anyhow.

He climbed the marble stairs that led to the first floor and took a stroll around. He opened each and every one of the rooms and admired their beauty. At last he reached his own room, the biggest one in the whole mansion, and pushed open the doors.

“WHAT THE HELL?!”

The servants came running hearing their master’s scream.

“W-what is it sir?”

“YOU TELL ME!”

The servants peeped inside the room and stared in horror. Inside, everything was in ruins. The furniture was rotting. The ceilings were covered in cobwebs. A blanket of dust covered the room. But the worst of all – there was something right in the centre of the room that shouldn’t be there.

“B-b-blood.”

***

“Sir, we should have told you this earlier. But, but you see sir… there’s something, I mean, someone who’s… who’s here… I mean…”

“I very well know what you mean. And I’ve told you a thousand times that THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GHOST!”

“S-sir, we know you don’t believe in this. But they don’t call it the Mansion of Spectre for nothing.”

“I don’t care. Shift my stuff to a different room. And I want my room back in place by tomorrow, get it?”

The servants nodded and Mr. Kensley set off in rage. Whosoever had done this, spoiled his beautiful room, would have to pay for it.

Just when he was turning towards his room, his eyes caught something he hadn’t noticed earlier. Another room, at the far end of the corridor. But there was something different about it. It didn’t have carved doors with silver handles like the others. Instead. it had an old shabby door with a large rusty padlock.

Servants were called again and he made them open the lock despite their constant pleading. But the door wouldn’t budge.

“This door hasn’t been opened in hundred years,” the servants said. “This is where the girl died. They say that her sprit still lives here. She loved the house very much and doesn’t let anyone enter here.”

“Rubbish,” said Mr. Kensley.

After several attempts of opening the door, he finally gave up. He locked the door again and went to a different room to sleep.

Somehow, he couldn’t sleep. He kept tossing and finally stepped out of the room. Outside, darkness covered the entire mansion. He walked towards the ‘mystery’ door again and stood there staring for a long time. Then he shook his head and turned back. But just as suddenly he turned again. The lock was missing.

He could swear he had locked the door. He did it himself. He even had the keys with him. He slowly walked towards the door and gave it a gentle push. This time it opened with a creak. He peered into the room.

Inside was just a different world. The room was just perfect. Gleaming perfect. Not even a particle of dust. The walls were lined with a pink wallpaper and the shelves were filled with toys. There was a fluffy bed in the centre and a cartoon-drawn writing table opposite to it. It looked like a kid’s room. He entered the room.

THUD

The door closed behind him. He shuffled in his pocket and pulled out a tiny torch. A toy train track was lying on the bed as if – as much as he hated to admit it – someone had just set it up. He shuddered at the thought and walked back to the door. He tried to pull it open, but it wouldn’t budge.

“Hi there.”

He jumped at the voice. “Wh-who’s it?”

“Me? I’m your friend.”

“What friend? Who’s it?”

The voice laughed.

“Just stop this right now! Who’s there?”

“You guess. Come, find me. I’m just here.”

He slowly walked towards the voice. It was coming from somewhere near the bed. He crept towards the edge of the bed. He couldn’t see anyone there. And then he saw where it was coming from. He frowned at the cassette player.

“Ha! Fooled ya!”

He shut it off. “Might’ve knocked it off when I came here,” he mumbled to himself. Somehow, the prank cassette didn’t make the room any less creepy. Much to his surprise, the door was wide open. Without wasting a single moment, he rushed out into his own room.

The next morning, Mr. Kensley woke up to sounds of loud thudding and drilling.

“What is it?” He asked one of his servants, who was standing there with his bed tea.

“It’s the door, sir. It was jammed. You wanted it opened, so we called someone to do the job. It will be done any moment now.”

“What are you talking about? I opened it myself last night.”

“No sir, that’s not possible. It was still jammed this morning.”

Mr. Kensley hurriedly got off his bed and ran towards the other end of the corridor. They had just managed to open the door.

He pushed his way to the room. He stopped at the edge of the room and stared inside white-faced. The room was nothing like what he saw last night. It really did look like it hadn’t been opened in 100 years. It was covered with dust and cobwebs all around, just like the room that was supposed to be his. But the shelves were still filled with toys and there was still a train track on the bed, except this time it didn’t seem like it had just been set up.

Shuddering and shivering, with goosebumps all over him, he stepped into the room. There was a cassette player lying in one corner of the room, like someone had knocked it off – a hundred years ago.

A piece of paper lay on the writing table- the only thing he didn’t see the night before. Somehow, it seemed to pull him towards itself. It had something written on it in a handwriting that seemed to belong to a small child:

“I love my house. It’s white as snow and I love it. It’s forever mine. I won’t ever leave my house, even after I die. It’s my home, and I and only I can live in it. Everything in my house belongs to me and everything that comes into my house is mine. Nothing ever goes out of my house, and anything that comes inside, never goes out ever again.

P.S.: Trespassers shall be punished.”

***

It’s evening. The moon has come up and the mansion is glimmering in its light. A feast is going on inside. The party is in full swing. But it isn’t Mr. Kensley who’s celebrating. Somehow, he doesn’t seem to be anywhere around.

“And you should’ve seen his face,” says Manny, “He was barely able to make a sound! Poor fellow,” he says, laughing so hard that he’s barely able to get the words out of his mouth.

“And that ‘anything coming inside the house and never leaving again’ line really worked,” says Sarah. “He didn’t dare take any of his stuff with him. He literally ran out barefooted!”

“Silly fellow! And the way his army of servants followed behind him,” says Olive, hands holding his belly.

“He left quite a treasure behind. We’ll be feasting for the rest of our lives!”

“Hey look! We’re in the papers,” says Peck. “The cops are behind us again.”

“Let them be. They’ll never find us.”

“What if someone hints them our location?”

“Even if they do,” says Manny, “Who’ll dare to enter the ‘Mansion of Spectre’?”

Posted in 2021 short story challenge, story

January Story: Home Away From Home

The cold months of winter. The countryside was covered in a blanket of white. Children and adults alike seemed to enjoy the snow.

In the main city, the Space Agency was buzzing with people. The main entrance was blocked by people from news agencies, while preparations for a major announcement were in place in the conference hall. There was an equal chance of the news being terribly good or terribly bad.

Mr. Capps rushed towards the Control Centre. He didn’t quite believe in God, but for the first time ever, he actually clasped his hands together and muttered a quick prayer while he stepped out of the elevator. He dashed through the doors and stopped before a large screen surrounded by hundreds of people.

“What is it, Maria?” he asked the Head.

She looked at him, almost teary eyed, and nodded her head in denial. A striking silence spread in the room. This couldn’t be good.

Millions of miles away from Earth, was the spacecraft of the highly ambitious manned mission. The mission was going well since two years, until now at least. But as it turns out, all wasn’t good inside the craft.

“So you are just going to do what you want, huh?”

“I am the Captain. And it’s my duty to lead us the right way,” Anne said.

“Captain?” Rob smirked. “More like a dictator.”

“Stop it you two!” Zack said.

“She started it. Ms. Anne ‘know-it-all’.”

“Rob, please,” Zack sighed. “Can you at least try behaving like an adult?”

“Oh sure. Why not. It’s all my fault anyway, right?”

“Zack, please take control of the craft. I need some rest,” Anne said, pretending to ignore Rob.

While Zack seated himself in front of the control panel, Anne drifted towards one of the inner compartments. For a while, there seemed to be peace at last. It didn’t last long though.

“Zack! I thought I told you to not touch my belongings,” Anne came screaming.

“And I didn’t,” he said.

“Don’t lie. My whole stuff is scattered. And you did it.”

“Did I now? Fine. I was searching for my books.”

“And what would your books be doing in my stuff!”

“I don’t know! I was just searching in all possible places.”

“Possible places? My space is a possible place for finding your belongings?”

“Could be,” he shrugged. “Might have drifted off.”

“Or she might have taken it,” Rob said. “After all, we all know where she comes from.”

A silence overtook the craft. This had gone too far. Anne stood there stunned, then drifted back into her compartment.

“You shouldn’t have said that,” Zack said.

“It’s funny how you always have to take her side, no?”

Zack sighed. It was no use talking to him.

For a brief while, there was silence again. It too didn’t last long though. This time it was Zack who spoke up.

“Something’s wrong,” he said. “Hey Rob, take a look.”

Rob peered into the screen and stared, wide eyed. “This can’t be possible.”

“Anne,” Zack called. “Anne!”

A moment later, there was a tense air in the craft. Anne kept looking at the controllers and then at the readings on the pad. She pushed buttons and sent messages to the Control Centre. “No, no, no, this can’t be happening,” she kept saying.

“What’s happening, Anne? What’s wrong?”

They had never seen Anne panicking. If she was, it meant something was definitely wrong.

She looked at the two of them and struggled for words. She gulped and firmed herself.

 “We have lost contact with the Earth.”

A painful silence followed. Anne tried her best to act brave and opened a manual and kept doing her work.

“We have to land,” she said.

“What? Are you crazy!” Rob said.

“That’s the only chance we have. If we don’t do it now, we might miss it and end up wandering in space forever.”

“But where are we going to land?” Zack asked.

“I don’t know what this place is. But I’m positive it’s safe to land,” Anne said.

“This woman’s going mad,” Rob said.

“Look, we’re going to die either way,” she said. “But if we land, there’s a greater chance of us being saved.”

***

They landed safely in a strange place. It wasn’t a good enough reason to celebrate though. They were alive, but weren’t sure how long they would be. They sat in the common compartment, going through their stuff. For the first time ever in two years, they weren’t quarrelling.

Anne sat in a corner with a picture in her hand.

“Your daughter’s beautiful,” Zack said.

Anne smiled. “She must be six now.”

Rob sat down beside them.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Rob said. “I said too much back then.”

“It’s fine,” Anne said, wiping a tear. “I’ll have to endure you for the rest of my life now, anyway.”

Rob chuckled. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Hey, I just found my music player,” Zack said and played Summer Flowers.

“That song,” Rob said.

“Yeah, that’s my favorite song,” Zack said.

“Wow. My brother used to love that song too,” Rob said. “I miss my brother.”

“I miss my home,” Zack said.

“Hey,” Anne said. “I might not have taken your book, but I did peek into it once. And I came across something wonderful.”

“And what’s that?”

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling,” she said.

“True that, Captain!” Rob chuckled.

“We’re gonna be together till we die,” Anne said. “Or until we find a way back.”

“And I feel more at home than ever.”

***

Mr. Capps made the long-awaited announcement. He informed that they had lost all contact with the spacecraft. “Although we are trying our best to bring them back home, there seems not much hope.”

There was an unforeseen weather change in the countryside. Winter was wearing off in its peak months. Spring was approaching.

(When Katie posted about the short story challenge, I was absolutely excited and my brain was literally flooding with ideas. But then I had to take a while off (I had to complete my notes) and by the time I came back, all ideas had disappeared. I had to start all over again… and this is my story for January! I hope to continue with this challenge all through the year!)