Short Story: The Sign

“Yes mom, I’m coming home, I’ve taken a week’s off. So I’ll stay there, Yes…OK. See ya” I pressed the End-Call button. After a long time, I’m going back home. Work has ruined my personal life badly. I never found time for any other activity apart from slouching in front of the monitor staring at the chunks of codes. I had informed my manager about my leave. I packed my bags and started towards the station.

I did not book the train tickets, so I had to leave for hometown in the unreserved compartment. The worst part is I have to switch two trains to reach my place. I was wondering if I’ve to go for such an option. I could have very booked the tickets later, but I was so desperate to go home.

I reached the station at 9.30 PM. The station was still crowded. The people are swarming here and there. The train had already arrived. The announcement said that the train number 6203 Mumbai superfast express is going to depart in another 15 minutes.

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“Shit. I’m quite late, fifteen more minutes for me to catch the train. I hit the ticket counter and got an unreserved ticket and rushed towards the platform in a presumption that I may get an area for my bums to comfortably occupy.

●●●

The train was sparsely crowded. I was very much comfortable. Only two people were sitting in three seater chair-car, where in 5 people accommodate themselves normally on a crowded day. But today I was lucky enough. I settled myself and checked my bag to ensure that I’ve taken with me, all the required accessories for spending a week @ home – Mobile, charger, headset, iPod, Pen drive, External hard disk and most importantly “The Sign” written by Ashutosh Gosh, a famous horror novel writer. The train had started moving and caught good speed.

I took out the Fanta bottle and put it upside down to flow down the contents into my mouth. After few milliliters of Fanta had gone inside, I let out a gassy belch which made me smirk as the gases were getting released through my nostrils too. I had to get down in Ghomulpur which is 3 hours from my current location where I stay. It took me into deep thinking on why did I take the risk of switching trains in these wee hours. But I had no other go. There will be train from Ghomulpur at around 2.00 AM which will take to my hometown in the morning.

Gosh was a famous writer who inspired me to write stories. I had started blogging few months back. We have an internal blog on our office. Many of them used to write and that persuaded me to start writing something. Eventually, I started writing stories. I had read his previous books and was surprised to know that he is using twitter. The most interesting part was he had never revealed his face to the public. He liked to be an anonymous writer. Among the Indian authors, he was not as famous as others who just emerged recently and was persuading Indian audience to hog on his books. He belonged to my native. That brought an interest in his novels. I never miss any of his novels. This time I wanted to complete reading the book during this leave period.

●●●

The train came to a jerking halt. I woke up from the half sleep state and peered out of the window to look at the station name. GHOMULPUR was inscribed in three languages in the yellow cement wall which was erected in the platform.

It was 1.00 AM. The train has arrived in correct time to Ghomulpur Station. I quickly picked my backpack, which was given to us in our company, as a part of second anniversary celebrations. The train for my native is scheduled at 2.00 AM. I do not know how drivers stay awake in the engine in these odd hours.

Within few minutes, the train had started to move away from the platform. Gathering speed gradually, it disappeared from my vision. As I had read many horror stories, the station gave an eerie feeling which sent chilling pulses through my spines. I always wondered why writers prefer to portray railway stations as something very uncanny place at night. I’m standing in such a situation. But I never wanted to imagine any such paranormal activities to happen right in front of my eyes.

I walked to the nearest cement bench and settled myself comfortably to spend another 1 hour alone in this deserted station. I was looking around to see if anyone is present in this place apart from me. Ahh…there sits a man in his middle age in his Kurta and Pyjama.

I started contemplating on things around me. What this man has to do in this place, alone sitting in the bench. Well, I was more than happy than afraid as I got a companion to spend this one hour

●●●

“Hello Sir, err…I,” I stammered, “…wanted to catch the next 2.00 AM train, are you waiting for the same?” I tried to strike a conversation.

The man turned his head towards to me to have a look at my face. His face was glowing white and had the maturity of a 32 year old male. He had slight wrinkles on his forehead with shaved cheeks and jaws. He looked at me & I looked at him. I did not initiate a conversation with some girl, but with a man. But I do not know why we are staring at each other like this.

“Hello, what are you doing here right at this place?” asked the man.

“Err…I was going to my native. I have to break journey for catching this train at 2.00 AM. So I had to get down here.” I completed in one stretch.

“I see……..” I was not comfortable with this two word reply. So I continued.

“So, how about you? Are you waiting for 2.00 AM train?”

He let out a dry smile and answered, “I have to catch the 2.30 train”

I wondered, do we have train at 2.30? Hmmm… something wrong about him. I was cursing as to why I came to this man.

“I’m a software engineer leaving for home on leave.”

“I see. So you deal with the computers and stuffs like this?”

“Yea, exactly” I said.

“What else do you have to say?” he wondered. I did not understand his question. What I have to say? Since I had no other go, I continued.

“I read books, write blogs, hope you know blogging. I play basketball and do a bit of coding.”

“You read books? What kind of books you read?” he asked. Well I was more than satisfactory to invite such a question from him.

“I read Ashutosh Gosh’s books. I’m an ardent fan of his writings. I have read all his books and like the genre of stories he writes. I’m just mad on his writings.”

“Oh….have you seen him?”

“No, actually, I’ve not seen him yet. I came to know that, he is in Twitter and Facebook. I should have a look into this profile. Atleast, he should upload his photos there. I want to get an autograph too.”

“Is it? that’s a good news for him. Someone is willing to look at his face.” He smiled.

“Yea…I’ll check out his photos and posts when I reach home.”

I was bit afraid to talk to this guy. I looked down to check if he has legs. Then I looked at him in affirmation that he is not a soul wandering in the night. After all the authentication, I felt thirsty. I took out the bottle from the bag without noticing the book which had also come out with the bottle and the novel fell down.

I bent down to pick it up, but before I could do it, the man took the novel in his hands and so I continued to drink the water putting the bottle’s opening close to my lips and gulping down the water which made my inner parts of throat wet and made my uncomforting esophagus  clear.

There was a loud horn which I could hear from a distance. I stood up to look in the direction. I could see the headlight of the engine approaching the platform. I quickly realized that it was 1.59 AM. We haven’t noticed the time running. I turned back to pick my bag.

“Here is my book…err…sorry your book.” He returned back my novel which he had picked up when it fell down.

I took the book from his hand and along with that book he handed over a card, “This is my card” He said. The train had approached us and I was in a hurry.

“Thank you…err…Sir. Nice talking to you. We’ll meet sometimes later” I said and hurried to get into the train preserving the card in the same novel bidding him adieu.

“We can’t” he said & walked away.

I was in no mood to ask him back about his statement. I entered the compartment and found that many of the seats were empty, in an unreserved compartment like this. I comfortably spread myself into one of the seat and started dozing off to pass the remaining hours of the morning

●●●

It was 7.30 AM by the time I reached my place. The sun has slowly started showering its morning rays on the earth. I walked in the empty streets and reached my house. I felt good to be at home after a long time. Mom was sleeping. Dad was the one who opened the door. I quickly changed to my shorts and Tees and hit the bed for a quick nap. Dad assured me to wake me up by 8.30 AM

“Rahul, get up. It is 10.00” I could hear from inside the blanket, mom calling me. I woke up from the sleep, compensating the tiring journey. I quickly brushed my teeth, took a shower and entered the kitchen for a cup of filter coffee.

Dad came into the kitchen and enquired about my work and health. It was good to talk with all of them.

“Rahul, did you see the last week’s newspaper? You’ll be disappointed to hear this news” dad spoke as I was looking into the sports column of the morning newspaper along with the breakfast.

“What? What’s the news about and what it has to do with me getting disappointed?” I asked him confused.

“See the third page”

I quickly kept the plate containing hot white Idlies and coconut chutney aside and turned to the third page.

“See the bottom right corner” my dad guided me.

The headline read – Ashutosh Gosh passes away in Train accident (dated a week back)

There in the bottom of the news was a photo with the black outline in the obituary column with the family members passing condolences for his untimely demise. I was actually depressed as my dreams of getting his autograph and photograph was ruined. I actually wanted to meet him once, as he stayed in our locality. I never thought that his writing will come to such an end with his end.

I cursed myself to have missed him badly being an ardent fan of his writings. I kept the paper aside and finished the remaining Idlies.

Mom had planned to visit some temple some kilometers away from home. We had to arrange for a Call Taxi to visit the place. I looked into the telephone directory and dialed the number of one of the famous Call Taxi services in the city.

●●●

By the time we reached home, it was dusk. My mobile showed 7.00 PM in the display. I had to put the clothes for washing and had to catch up with few activities at home. By the time I hit the bed after dinner, it was 9.30 PM

I opened my bag to read the remaining pages of “The Sign”. When I was about to reach the page in which I had placed a bookmark, a card fell down.

I remembered the man whom I met early in the morning in the Ghomulpur station. I picked up the card to look what is there in that. To my bewilderment, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. My eyes went wide and my jaws dropped. My hands loosened and the book fell beside me on the bed and the card lay over it slipping from my hands.

The card read in his scribbled handwriting with his sign in the end…

Hope I made your day and your wish came true. Thanks for being an avid reader and fan. Signing off for ever

-Ashutosh Gosh

●●●

~THE END~

2 thoughts on “Short Story: The Sign

  1. Another fab post, thanks, I love coming again to browse your blog via your twitter updates. If you are looking to give your blog more exposure and improve your ranking in the search engines you should take a look through my Web 2 Mayhem Review.

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