Friday 15 September 2017

Short Story 2017 Longlist, Anusha Agarwal


“But I love him”, said a feeble voice inside my head, as I sat in my room, devoid of light at this odd hour. What I had witnessed earlier that morning left me wondering if everything I had ever experienced was but, an illusion. I found myself questioning my faith, my love, my very existence.

Tears sprang to my eyes as that scene played on in my mind, on repeat. Sam, my Sam, staring down at the battered body of an achingly beautiful woman. I‘m almost certain I saw a flash of fear in his deep, dark eyes, just before a flash of recognition crept in. I looked at him in disgust as he stared down at the half-naked body, his lips curled into a chilling sneer. “Help me throw it away”, he demanded, not a glimpse of guilt on his face. Seeing him refer to the woman he had violated, as an object broke my heart. “Women are created to be played with”, I recalled him saying a long time ago.                    
I silently helped Sam stuff the body into a gunny sack and hurl it into a trench. I didn’t know how I felt anymore. “He is not a bad person. He is not!”,  I protested in self consolation, as I cried myself to sleep.

“Manhunt for Monster”, read the front page of the newspaper. The woman’s body had been found. The nation was shocked at the brutality with which this heinous crime had been committed. This case had become the talk of the town. “I am one of the suspects”, declared Sam as he barged into the room. Clean shaven, with his best clothes on, he looked like a celebrity out of a TV show. “That” incident was evidently not on the top of his priority list. “You are my alibi. Now get out of your rags and put this on”, he commanded, handing me a formal, black dress.                                                                             

The police had rounded up five suspects, based on the testimony of residents of that area. Sam was one of the men who had been seen in that locality on that fateful day.                           
We drove to the court in silence. My body felt numb. I did not want to be a part of this shameful act. Yet, I knew that I would be. I did not have the courage to stand up to Sam. I was a coward. I knew that I would support him, and so did he. The court room was buzzing with enthusiastic journalists, grieving relatives and inquisitive onlookers. To the left, sat four burly men. They were innocent, I could feel it, or rather, I knew it.                                                                                                                                            
The proceeding began without much ado. Very soon, Sam was called to the witness box. He looked the epitome of confidence. He stated that he has an alibi for the night of the felony. “Ms Susan”, they were calling out to me. I woke up from a trance and walked into the witness box. I knew what I had to say.         
“Sam was with me on the night of 8th December. We had gone to watch a movie together”, I said, handing over the tickets Sam had acquired from a friend. Words tumbled out of my mouth one after the other. I did not know what I was saying. I felt possessed. This was not me speaking. I felt dead.

Sam was acquitted and we were allowed to leave the court room. He smiled brightly as we walked out, hand in hand. “Good job”, he said, squeezing my palm. Three days have passed since we returned from the court. I haven’t slept a wink. I feel better today though, I feel more alive. I walk down the road, in a daze. I’m not sure where I am going.  I find myself standing right in front of my favourite coffee shop. I order my regular coffee. It has a different taste to it today. It feels more… energizing. My hands are clutching my neck. My head falls to the table. Pale white liquid is oozing out of my mouth. There is darkness all around. All I can see is Sam, sitting at the opposite table, his lips curled into a chilling sneer.

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