May 16, 2008

Blood Red - Drop 1

Welcome to my latest crackpot attempt at keeping up consistent output. From today onwards, I'm going to write 1 A4 sheet's worth of story and post it here. I know what my hordes of loyal and faithful readers are wondering: Why not chapterize? Why just 1 sheet? Do you actually think you will get off your metaphorical ass (or stay on your physical one) long enough to actually complete this? Well, I have a few answers to those questions:
Because fuck you. Because that's just the sort of random and arbitrary milestone I like to complete, and because fuck you. And, last but not least, fuck you. So, having completely alienated the 3 readers who constitute 90% of my fanbase (yes isn't it creepy? My remaining reader is only 1/3rd of a person!) and without any further ado, I introduce to you, the first instalment of Blood Red.

Blood Red - Drop 1

The girl's face peered up from beyond the murk of the city. Her eyes stared blankly ahead, her right arm outstretched in a gesture of supplication, her mouth slightly open. Behind her, a Mercedes waited for the traffic light, the sunlight catching its polished silvery hood emblem. Though the girl could be no older than eleven, her blank eyes seemed to hold some sort of portent. The light, shining as it did, shadowed the bottom of her forehead, plunging her eyes into gloomy pits from which little could be seen. Her ragged clothes resembled the vestments of some ancient oracle, as the chill wind flowed through the holes in her garments, billowing them in the wind like the wings of a grounded, recently roadkilled bat. As she stared balefully out at the world, her aspect seemed to morph the surroundings around her, turning the dull grey gravel of the roads into a wall of black and the flyover underpass into a cavernous mouth, waiting to receive prey. Vaguely discernible against the mouth of the underpass was a family. A child sat at the lip, staring blankly ahead at the motorcycle passing it by, as the father sat on the pavement of the road, his arm raised in a half-hearted gesture, his eyes jaded into dull grey orbs of resignation. The mother sat nearby, suckling a vague baby shaped blob at her breast. The Mercedes continued to shine smugly, its silvery emblem emitting a white hot light just behind the girl.

Suhan blinked his eyes and turned away. His face reflected his inner turmoil as he looked up. “I don't know how you take these”, he said. He passed the photograph back to Samrat, who knew too well how he took it. He had been standing at the crossing, waiting for the light to change, when the girl had approached him. The moment he saw her, saw the scene around her, the white light had flashed in his eyes. Mindlessly he reached for the camera, paused for a second to adjust focus and ISO, looked up into her pleading face and pulled the trigger. In the second he had taken to make his adjustments, her expression had set into the one staring from the photograph. He had driven away from the scene without giving her even a fifty paisa coin.

“Just lucky. So, what do you think? Do you think you can use it for your story?”

Suhan looked up from the picture, looked at Samrat, then turned away, eyes staring abstractedly into the wall clock. “It's a classic picture man. But I don't think I can use it. It's too dark, too frightening. Look at what you did to that little girl. She looks like someone from a horror movie. This sort of picture won't pull heartstrings.”

“Fuck, that's what she looks like yaar. You think she can afford to pretty herself up for the picture? She's starving on the street, trying to avoid getting raped, and probably hasn't seen clean water for a long, long time. What do you want her to look like?”

Suhan sighed. “Look Samrat, I understand. And I know what I'm looking at. But think of the goddamned readers. They need to see something they can feel pity and sympathy for. Not some sort of demon child, pointing some sort of blank accusing finger at them like they're going to hell. I need to find a picture that will pull at their heartstrings. Not something that will wake them up sweating in the night.”

Samrat opened his mouth to say something, then shrugged and put the photograph into his folder. “Fine yaar, if that's the way it is.”

“Listen, don't misunderstand me. I think the picture is classic. You need to submit it in a competition or something. It's just that I can't use it here man. Look, Mukherjee International is coming up. Why don't you submit it there?”

Samrat pulled the picture out, then shuddered. He recalled the act of taking the picture. He recalled riding away from the scene, and the guilt he had felt, exploiting a human being for the sake of a mention in a national daily. He shook his head sadly. “No yaar, I don't like competitions”. As he pulled out his duffel bag and put his things inside. “Anyway, best of luck getting the story through.” “Thanks man, I don't know how Saikat will feel about this. He likes upbeat, and I don't know if this will come through.” he grabbed the scrap of paper that represented his story, then headed towards the editor's office.

Samrat sat back, staring from his desk. It wasn't really his but that didn't matter. In the newspaper business, you can always find a free desk, just never the same one. He watched Suhan disappear into the cubicle, and listened. Scraps of conversation floated through the thin formica walls.

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