Thursday, 1 September 2016

Short Story 2016 Longlist S Karthick

Better Luck Next Life

A prosperous merchant who had great reputation for his hard work, lived in a village. People in his neighbourhood often wondered about his wealth because he was not as rich as he is now. At one stage of his life, he even struggled to meet his daily needs. But his wealth now made all his neighbours to astonish. He was reluctant to reveal the secret about his tremendous growth to anyone. But he didn’t want that secret to be hidden inside him either. So, one day when his eldest son Edward turned thirty, he made up his mind to disclose to his two sons about the precious stuff which turned out his awful life.

The merchant took his sons Edward and Robin to prayer room. He stood in front of a painting and stared at it. He dislocated the painting from wall. The removal of the painting, exposed the presence of a petite circular cupboard painted in red. He unlocked the tiny cupboard. He gently moved his hand inside the cupboard and brought back his hand cautiously with his fingers folded. Edward and his younger brother Robin focused attentively at their father’s palm. The merchant unfolded his fingers gently. The shining stuff remained on his palm was a red diamond. Edward stared at the diamond admiringly. He couldn’t take his eyes off the diamond. He took the precious diamond from his father’s palm and brought it straight to his eyes.

The diamond merchant annotated his sons “I had been childless for five years of my wedding. One day, when I was in our shop, three strangers brought this diamond to me for sale. I begot it and paid them the money which the diamond deserved. Soon after they left our shop, those three strangers died of an accident while crossing the road. It was on that day, your mother conceived you. I firmly believed that she conceived because of the diamond’s fortune. Moreover, the three strangers died once they were not in possession of the diamond. So I decided not to sell it for any price in any circumstances. Now it is your responsibility to preserve it after me”.

Edward underwent a sensation as if he had seen the diamond earlier. But he couldn’t remember when and where exactly had he seen it. He spent the whole day staring the diamond since he saw it for the first time.
Edward invited his friend Josh to his house. They both sat near a table facing opposite to one another. Edward asked Josh if he believes in reincarnation. Surprised by the sudden question of Edward about reincarnation, he stared at him for a while. He displayed the expression from which it was clear that he didn’t believe it and seemed uninterested to chat about that topic. But Edward was very curious to chat about reincarnation.

Edward leaned forward from his chair, lowered his voice and said “Josh, I am reincarnated.”
Hearing this, Josh remained quiet and immobile. He stared Edward divinely. Abruptly he burst out laughing. Edward was not highly frustrated at the reaction of his friend as he already knew that Josh wouldn’t believe such a superstitious matter. He leaned back to his chair.
Edward expounded “You believe it or not, in my preceding life, I was named as Jefferson. I was the most prosperous man in the village. I was gifted with my friends Adams and Scott to stand by my side in any circumstances. I lost my parents to a road accident when I was twenty.

I had a precious treasure to preserve which was left to me by my parents. The treasure box consisted of a most valuable golden statue of a woman in it. The treasure box possessed a weird attribute of being unbreakable by any weapon in the world. To unlock the treasure box, this diamond key must be thrust into the cavity found on the top portion of the treasure.

The treasure box was located in prayer room of my house. The existence of the statue was highly confidential that even my security guard standing outside my home didn’t know that he was appointed for protecting the statue. Other than me, only my close friends Scott and Adams knew about the statue. I and my friends had been preserving the statue since my parents’ death.
One day, Scott, a friend of mine vanished from the village. He didn’t even reveal to me or Adams about his departure. Adams and I searched the entire village hoping to find Scott. But we couldn’t succeed. No one in the village knew about his sudden disappearance from the village.
When I and Adams were pondering about the absence of Scott, my security guard called me furtively and informed me that he heard voice of a man intending to steal the golden statue but he couldn’t see his face. That left me appalling as I had thought that the security guard didn’t even know about the existence of the statue before. So, I made up my mind to conceal the statue in a secret location. Although Adams played a vital role in conserving the treasure since my parents’ death, I didn’t want him to know the secret place where I was going to conceal it.

Soon after Adams left my home, I took a look at the golden statue and admired its beauty. Then I placed it inside the treasure box and closed it. I took the treasure box consisting the statue and a spade from my house and drove the car to a land which I owned. I parked my car near my land. I took the spade from my car and locked the car’s doors tightly and checked it twice as the treasure was inside the car. I walked to the land with the spade. I dug a deep pit in my land using spade. I made sure that no eyes were watching me. I went back to my car, unlocked the door, took the treasure box from it and buried it in the pit I had dug. I went home with the satisfaction of safeguarding the statue.
I shifted my security guard to my land where I hid the treasure box. I didn’t even let him know that he was protecting the treasure box. I had just instructed him not to let anyone inside the land. I was the only person to know about the new location of the statue then.

I no longer wanted to hide anything from Adams. I decided to reveal the secret location to Adams. Suddenly, three men broke into my home and robbed the diamond key from my pocket. They stabbed me with knife to death. Even at the last minute of my life, I couldn’t disclose the secret location of the treasure box to Adams.

Now I understood that the three men from whom my father bought the diamond were the three robbers who killed me in my past life. And now the diamond key is back to my hands through my father in my present life.

But, I still don’t know what happened to Scott and why didn’t he say even a word to me or Adams about his departure from the village. And also who was the stranger intending to steal the treasure. My security guard hadn’t seen the face of that stranger but had heard only his voice.”
Josh still didn’t seem to believe the past life story narrated by Edward. Edward wanted to let Josh believe that he was not lying. So, he decided to prove Josh by digging back the treasure. Edward’s brother Robin overheard the conversation hiding stealthily near the room. He decided to follow them secretly on their journey to treasure hunt.

Edward and Josh went to the village where Jefferson lived. They dug the ground where Jefferson had buried the treasure. As expected they found the treasure and took it out of the pit. Unable to wait anymore, Edward inserted the diamond key into the key hole of the treasure. But he couldn’t unlock it. He took back the diamond and reinserted it. He failed again. He couldn’t guess why the treasure was not opening. Josh bought the diamond from Edward and tried to unlock. Again the same result. Edward tried several times to unlock the treasure ending up with frustration. Irritated with the treasure, he threw it over a tree with intense anger. He was shocked to see the box opened. Because the treasure box cannot be broken by any weapon in the world. He peeped into the treasure box and found there was no statue inside the box. Instead, the box was filled with mere stones.
Frustrated Edward wailed to himself “Someone has dug the ground, stolen the treasure and replaced it with a fake treasure. But, if a robber had stolen the treasure, he would have run away with it. What is the need for a robber to bury a fake treasure after stealing the real treasure? So, the robber must have replaced the real treasure with a fake one before even I buried it. That means the treasure which I buried itself is a fake treasure.

Only after admiring the statue when I was at home, I took it to my car and buried it here. Then how could anyone have replaced it? Even my security guard was not there when I was burying it.”
Edward suddenly found someone behind him was holding a knife around his neck. He turned back his head slightly and filled with terror. The knife holder was none other than his friend Josh. Bewildered Edward couldn’t guess the reason for Josh’s sudden change in behavior.
“Josh, what are you doing?” asked Edward.

Josh narrated “Josh is my present life name. People used to call me Adams in my past life. I am reborn in the name of Josh. In my past life, I wanted the whole treasure for myself. I asked help from our friend Scott to steal the treasure from you. But, he refused. He was going to spoil my entire plan by informing you that I wanted to steal the treasure. Since I had no other option left, I killed him and buried him. I made the whole village believe that he just vanished from the village.
I realized that I can’t steal the treasure until it was in your home, as you were protecting it with a security guard in your home. So, I decided to make you bring the treasure out of your home. So I hid from the eyes of your security guard and talked to myself about stealing the treasure. I made sure that he could only hear my voice and could not see me. He informed you that someone was intending to steal the treasure from you. As per my plan, you brought the treasure out of your home by car for burying it here. I followed your car by my car. You parked the car near this land. You laid the treasure inside your car and locked it. But I opened the car’s door using a fake key which I stole from your home. I replaced the original treasure with a fake treasure stealthily while you were busy digging the pit for burying the treasure.

As I had all the dimension details and pictures of the treasure box, it was easy for me to make an order to manufacture a fake treasure box looking more similar to the real treasure box. I could have taken the real treasure and run away with it. But, if I had not replaced the real treasure with a fake treasure, I wouldn’t have comfortably taken the real treasure to my destination because you would’ve shouted in frustration on not finding the treasure and have caught me easily.
I buried the real treasure outside my house entrance. I knew that the treasure could not be opened unless the diamond key is thrust into the hole. So I ordered three men to rob the diamond from you and kill you. As you shifted your security guard from your house to the land to protect the fake treasure box, they killed you easily. But they ran away with the diamond without knowing that it was a key for a precious treasure. Then one day I saw them. I asked them for the diamond key and fought. Consequently, they stabbed me to death. That’s how it ended.
Now, I need the whole treasure for myself. So it’s time for you to pass away. Good bye Edward alias Jefferson. Better luck next life.”
           
Saying so, Josh began to slit Edward’s throat by bringing the knife closer to Edward’s throat. But just before he proceeded with his knife, Josh received a hard blow on his head from behind. He fell down as he lost his balance. Edward felt a moment of relief and surprise. He turned back to see his brother, Robin standing with an iron rod.

Robin spoke, “Robin is my present life name. I am Scott, a true friend of you. When Adams sought my help for stealing the treasure from you, I wanted to disclose the truth about Adams to you. But I couldn’t survive. I couldn’t help you as a friend in my past life. But now I can help you as a brother.”
Robin turned to Josh, “You tried hard to possess the treasure. But you couldn’t possess it this time either. Better luck next life.”

Furious Robin moved towards Josh, raised the iron rod over his head aiming at Josh’s head. But Edward dragged Robin away from Josh. He plucked the rod from Robin and threw it on the ground. Robin stared at Edward, sighed and reluctantly made up his mind to leave Josh alive. They both left him alone to the ground and left the place. As soon as they left, three robbers arrived at the spot, robbed money from Josh and stabbed him to death. At the time of death, he realized that the three robbers are none other than the three men who killed him in his past life.
           
Edwin and Robin excavated the treasure from the entrance of Adams’s home and delighted to lift the golden statue from the box. They took it happily to their home. 

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