Passer-By is a fictional short story that was written with a background of a social crisis - women violence.


Crime / Suspense / Mystery / Thriller


Abinaya Natesan (India)

I am late. Just 30 minutes behind my regular schedule. Its 10.00 pm. I am walking towards my PG. The glistening of hoardings catches my eye. I wonder how those girls look so perfect. My thoughts drift away. A metallic grey Duster is patiently waiting for the traffic signal to glow green. The baby inside the Duster stares at me. I wink and smile; she thinks for a while, and then gives me a wavering smile back. My tired mind relaxes a wee bit. I take the right turn and walk forward. I have to go through four lamp posts and turn on the next left to reach my home. I had been lethargic in calculating the distance to my place in yards or meters. I had always said the relative distances only, and had never got the idea of calculating the approximate numbers. It’s just a few yards away, I reassure myself. I am thinking of my dinner. It is late and I could not afford loosing time in buying some food. I have to prepare something that doesn’t affect my dieting. But my tired and exhaustive day stirs the craving for tasty food. From childhood, the thought of food had always been a delightful thing that gives me all the energy to prepare the food I wanted.
I suddenly notice that there is something strange today. Yes, two of the four lamps had gone out. The street is half dark. I am glad that the final lamp post near the left turn is pouring light on my street. I had been fond of the white lights and hated the recent changes of employing sodium vapour lamps. Sometimes, knowledge and desire works in contrary, so that the decisions we take become biased on one side. Likewise, our childhood wishes and knowledge of science make us take sides, depending on the magnitude of the situation. I relish my childhood memories those in which I have wished for the white glow of mercury lights, the lights that have always cupped me in the darkness telling me that the night is not so dark.
The recent happenings about gang rapes & women violence are consuming my thoughts. My super sensors start working; I realize that today has been a holiday and I was one of the very few to have gone for work. The traffic was less and the movements in the street were also limited. I am speeding up my pace. I search for the little foldable knife my mom has given me. It has turned out to be rusty since I hadn’t taken it out for a very long time. I might be over-reacting. A motor-bike passes by. An adolescent boy is leaving home after his tuitions in his bicycle. I should get a two wheeler, probably a Vespa. In my next appraisal, I am planning to get one.
Two dark figures are coming from the third lamp post towards me. I have a very mild nyctalopia. My vision in dark is poorer than a normal being. I am unable to recognize the features. Just two middle aged-men. One is walking steadily and the other doesn’t seem to have balance. The steady one is supporting the second by his shoulder. I have been thinking of undergoing a mild vision correction. Assessing the situation, I think I should do it quicker. My eyes are focused with strain.
Suddenly the two walk apart, the less conscious one pushing the other. I have reached the second lamp post. The steady one walks towards me. My intuitions ask me to take my mobile-phone and contact someone. I call my mom. Call waiting. I am trying not to panic or look nervous. I pretend to text someone. I dial my mom again. Network is busy. The desperation and fear is consuming my courage. My heart beats increase. Sweat beads appear in spite of the cool breeze that touches my cheeks. I have switched off my media player long back, but the ear phones remain intact in my ears. I think of my physical abilities of defense – doesn’t help. My feminist arguments and lectures don’t help either. I am still unable to see him. But I clearly know that the steady figure is going to approach me. I am clasping my mobile hard enough that it might break in few seconds. I am dialing my mom again. I am weighing the possibilities of screaming or running. I notice a small shop; the owner is speaking in phone – probably to his wife. The steady man is just two steps away. My phone rings. I sense a feel of relief. I attend the call and speak to my mom casually, wearing a disguise of a strong woman.
Yet all my super sensors are still being active. He is calling me - “Madam”. I pretend like I haven’t heard. He again calls me. I walk past him. He shouts, “Madam, please tell me where is the near-by hospital located – my friend is in need of medical treatment”. I am walking fast, explaining the situation to my mom. And suddenly, I think I could shout at him. What if he really needs help?! What the unsteady man is the sick one?! My thoughts are so loud that I couldn’t hear my mom speaking. Asking my mom to wait, I turn around to shout at him without nearing him. I open my lips and start, “Anna…” I could not finish the sentence – I sense a sharp pain in my throat. I couldn’t see the object. I could see a pair of red eyes holding the object and a strong stench of alcohol. A viscous liquid drops from the man’s object – a sharp foldable knife. I open my lips, I could not scream. Somebody is holding my hip, dragging me along. The vision of my mom and my little brother playing hide and seek flashes before my eyes. I collapse – I see darkness all around – its pitch black – everything is!

Competition: June 2015 Pen Factor, Round 1



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