Posted in Donald Trump, Humor - General, Short Story

The 100th Day

In the altar with Cardinal Daimonald Kertrump

                                                    Sketch By Ganpy

All days had been terrific till now. Hadn’t they been? Well, to be precise, there were rather many that were terrific till about 99 days ago. But there has not been a single terrific day since.

Today is the 100th day.

May be today is going to be different. At least, Daimonald Kertrump, the man at the helm is hoping it would be.

He calls his bird assistant and asks him to summon Prickly Reapus to the quad altar immediately. Then, he swiftly wears his orange mitre on his head, leaves the Bishops’ robes room and heads to the altar.

As Reapus enters the west nave, he starts walking towards the quad altar and when he is about 5 feet away, he notices that Bacchanal Sturanus, the Archbishop of White Supremacy is standing right behind Kertrump, holding the altar rail, trying hard not to make his state of stupor so obvious. His eyes are bloodshot red.

“I am so sorry”, says Reapus.

“Well, you should be..”, Kertrump.

“I didn’t know I was stepping on Mr. Jagged Koalemoshner’s toes. But, in my defense, My Lord, the Most Esteemed Cardinal, If I may say so, Mr. Koalemoshner’s toes seem to be everywhere. I mean, literally everywhere. May I ask, if it is even humanly possible? I would’ve asked him directly if only he could speak..”, Reapus trying to defend his actions.

“Didn’t follow a word of what you said. Before we speak on an important matter, I am gonna get me that caramelized drink from the south. Whatchamacallit? Hmm..Hey Reapus! Have you seen this? Look at this..I love this red button..”, Kertrump, with a childlike enthusiasm pushes the button.

Before Reapus gets ready to ask what that button is all about, he hears a loud groan of the slumping Bacchanal from behind.

“Bacchanal, You are so fat that you are casting your shadow all over me. Move away from the light. I don’t know which button I pressed…”, Kertrump, trying to locate the right red button.

“Where was I? Yes. It’s about that little boy Jagged. He is like my son. So, be careful what you want to bring to me about him Reap. It better have some real merit in it..”, Kertrump.

“Your Holiness, I have an urgent business to attend to in 15 minutes. If you’d let me, I will cancel that meeting, in the event, your eminence’s reason for summoning me here far exceeds the urgency of that of my oily conversation with one Mr. Trex..”, Reapus holding a palm sized device in his right hand.

“Yes. Of course. But we will be done soon..”, Kertrump continues.

“You know today marks the 100th day since I took charge of this Archdiocese. Before me, these churches were in a terrible shape. The congregation didn’t have proper seats to sit, the candles were half broken and people had brought candles from other places that shouldn’t belong here in the churches, the ceilings were so high, there were too many colors on the window panes instead of what God would’ve wanted — just white window panels, etc. etc. You know all that..?”

“Yes of course, Your Holiness..”, Reapus.

“Look at this church now. Isn’t it beautiful? Everything has changed..for the better..”, Kertrump’s gloating continues.

“Yes. You would be very right My Lord Cardinal. I will ignore the size of the congregation before you took over and what it is these days..”, Reapus.

“C’mon Reapus! I have had bigger congregations. When you walk out of the west nave, you should check out the pictures on the wall. But what I really want to know is why the Pope is so unimpressed with me? Why is the clergy not praising me?”, Kertrump’s voice shifts to a slightly sombre tone.

“My Lord! It must be the crooked path that connects the Vatican walls to the Basilica.. You should read the latest edition of the Vatican Journal..”, Reapus.

“When you say things like that Reap, I don’t know what to tell you or what to do with you. Do I look like I read? You know this is when I feel like I should say YES to Bacchana’s proposal. I won’t tell ya what it is…”, Kertrumper winks with difficulty.

“Well. My Eminent Cardinal, all I am saying is that the Vatican security has been infiltrated by fake sentinels and they are not letting real news reach the Pope..”, Reapus.

“That explains it. That explains it all. We can change that I think. We can kill those fake sentinels soon. But here is why I called you now. Since you are a magic man with words, tell me what is the one thing I can do on my 100th day that would make people forget everything that happened till now and they start talking about what happens today. In other words, what media considers as our 100 day achievements (as ridiculous as they sound), can easily be manipulated by this one thing I am going to do today. Or two things. I want to control their narraive. Like always..”, Kertrumper takes a sip of that caramelized sugar drink.

“Most Eminent Cardinal, I have a thought. Been thinking about it for a while. Here..”, Reapus, opening his phone.

All of a sudden, they hear a loud noise echoing through the high walls of the chamber all the way to the ceiling. It gets louder and louder as the bird assistant gets closer to the altar with a white phone in his hand. He is visibly panicking.

“Your Eminence, You must see this..”, the bird assistant stutters.

“Oh Shit..The wrong button..!!”, Kertrump starts trembling, as he brings his petite sweaty palms together and clasps himself tightly.

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Posted in Short Story

Revisiting “33 Minutes”

There was this short story I wrote almost 7 years ago. The title of the story was “33 minutes” and I had called it thus because the sequence of events that form the crux of that short story happen in 33 minutes. (I am sure you have guessed that reason even without reading the story.). Here it is..

A good friend of mine reminded me earlier today that yesterday was Authors’ Day (Or International Authors’ Day) and that reminded me of this story I had written. As I was reading it again this morning, several memories flashed through. Firstly, I was amused with myself  for having imagined to write a story like this. Then I was surprised with myself for having the clarity I seemed to have had then about the characters. Being a short story, I didn’t delve into a lot of details. But I could recollect many of the details that went unwritten (but stay fresh in my mind even today) about the characters, events, etc. So, I thought I would quickly pen down some of those details without specifically going into the details..Know what I mean?

1) Mayan Bloodletting Ceremony – There is enough reading material out there but this was a real ceremony that was common in Mesoamericas. I definitely took some artistic liberty in imagining the ceremony in my own way. Here is a publication worth reading on this topic.
2) Vision Serpent – Again this was a real symbol from the pre-columbian Mayan era. The symbol on the package  was manually created by me keeping the vision serpent in the center. And I had a specific reason to create the symbol thus.
3) If it is not clear in the story (it is intentional) Chief Shirley is a single mom with 2 kids. Amber (13 year old girl) and Timothy (9 year old boy). There is a back story for Chief Shirley that I didn’t fully develop but had sketches of what it would be like.
4) Backstories of Sergeants Kimberly and Sam. What is their relationship?
5) Time period. Which time period is this story set in? I had deliberately left it ambiguous. Gives an opportunity to the readers to let their imagination do the trick.
6) And finally the town of Hemsville – I had imagined it to be in a certain way. There are many characters who are the citizens of Hemsville that are waiting to be developed in a more detailed manner. So many side stories to build on. For example the three other characters who briefly get a mention in this story – Himler (the deliveryman), the unnamed Hemsville Police Department (HPD) night shift clerk and the Security Guard.

While I was revisiting this story this morning (as I was walking my dog out on a mildly chilly Autumn morning), I had a flash of an idea. An idea that I believe would be simply awesome for a short film. I even had the sequence of the scenes built in my mind in a few minutes. But then making a short film is going to be that much more difficult for now.

So for now, I have decided to take up the challenge of converting that film idea into a short story first. I say challenging because…because..hmmm..you will know when I actually publish it here.

Posted in Cricket, Humor - General, Short Story

A different ball game all together…

It was a windy March morning. The colors in the air had just settled down. Not far off from Hyderabad City, (to be precise 13 Kms.), at a forted enclosure which sprawls over seventy acres, about three dozen strange people had assembled. Most of them were very much in their liveries and some, perhaps for the first time ever, given their awkward postures. At one corner of their point of assembly, if one would have to fathom a guess, as I am doing right now, some of them were in a state of contortion, in an attempt to stretch (‘try to’ would be more precise) their bodies, much to the disgust of the group of onlookers, which mostly included a few critters and crows. This was neither a political conglomeration nor any religious gathering.   Yes. The craziest ball was about to be played here at Gachibowli CMC cricket grounds.

The team captains, the managers, the umpires, the match referee, the mostly overrated press folks (including yours amicably) were all waiting for the chief guest. There were many heads looking at their and their neighbors’ watches rather impatiently.

The formalities waiting to happen in the next 30 minutes, i.e. till 09:40 hours, before the the first ball of the match was to be bowled went like this:  

  • Introduction of the team members to the chief guest the Chairman of CMCCOM Mr. K, by the respective team managers
  • Mr. K’s inaugural speech
  • Official commencement of the game by the chief guest and
  • “tossing the coin” in the presence of the umpires Messrs. V, Messrs. R, the third umpire Messers. M, and the match referee Mr. A.

Rajaram, who was leading his team SLAZENGERS was seen composed and cool, chatting with his team members, sitting on choir chairs, while his rival team FLABBERGASTERS’ skipper Chandrashekar was not to be left behind as far as the coolness and composure go. He was as much relaxed as his counterpart, but the difference being that he was sitting alone, away from his team members unlike his counterpart. The Slazengers (from hereon referred to as the Sleazy Asses), it seemed obvious, had done quite a lot of homework. After all, their think-tank includes not one but two brains. The incumbent manager Kameshwari, as well as the future taker of the job Bhuvaneshwari, had spent more than a week charting out strategies to tackle Chandroo & co. Despite her deceptive sluggish appearance, Kamesh was out wholesomely throwing out ideas from her early days’ experiences with Enid Blyton to her recent gambling experiences with Jeffrey Archer.  In fact, Guzpacho, being one privileged magazine in the circuit and I being the reporter of it, had an easy access to one of the practice sessions of the Sleazy Asses and the Flabs (The Flabbergasters).  By getting herself associated with the team so early in her career, Bhuvana has already started looking fit to take over the onus from Kamesh smoothly. You have to accept this truth that this lady has got a different approach totally, as compared to her predecessor. By repeatedly playing the opposite team’s match video clippings, she analyzes critical data.  I heard a sudden shriek, “I found it”.  She had just spotted an object and it was just the starting point for her to encapsulate things etc., so that coding can be done at a later stage. She carries a laptop computer with her always, anything and everything, she is only too quick to use it. The Woolmer way!

Quite contrasting was the other camp, where things were going on at a drudging pace. But the Flabs’ manager, Umitha was blasting out in her usual style. She was optimistic of doing things “Right” on that day but the only nagging worry to her was that she was not sure whether her members (including herself) would actually make it to the ground on match day.

The three commentators (English – Ambika, Telugu – Sarada and Hindi – Santhi), who were supposed to run the proceedings from the chief guest’s arrival, were yet to be spotted in the ground.  It was 09:15 AM (According to the last reports received they were having their breakfast).

The line-up for this exciting clash:

FLABBERGASTERS

Rajaram (C, WK)

Rama Gopal

Chalapathy

Andrews

Sudhakar

Gowd

Chikka

Naweed

Prasad

UmRao

Ramana

Sateesh (12th man)

SLAZENGERS

Chandrashekar (C)

Giridhar

Ramesh

Brijesh (WK)

Murthy

Ravikanth

Sai Gopal

Hareesh

Ranganathan

Lakshmi Narasimhan

Prakash

Sitaramasamy (12th man)

09:20 AM. The Sleazy Asses Dressing Room.

“Hey! the Chief Guest has come..Wake up Ramgo!”.

A biting of his ears and a gentle punch on his shoulders by Chalps got Ramgo out of his dream world nevertheless.

Mr.K was received by the 3 umpires, match referee and the managers. He quite uncharacteristically apologized for his late arrival and went straight to the Sleazy Asses.

Kamesh, “This is Raja, our captain as well as keeper..”.

“..Entra idhi? only 11 members are there ..!”, a surprised Sudhakar gaped and asked his neighbor.

Just when all the 11 available Sleazy Asses (from hereon referred to as Slazs) got introduced to Mr. K and just when the Slazs started showing some tense nerves on their faces, Gowd joined the team with an, “..Err..Excuse Me.  I am Gowd..”.

A sigh of relief in Kamesh’s face.

Then Umitha took over. “This is Chandroo…..”.

The skippers walked to the center of the pitch with the umpires Messrs. R and Messrs. M. The official inauguration was over.

“Are you sure that the commentators will make it? I have a doubt..”

“No..No..I saw them this morning..”

“Head wins…”.

Actually Head lost and so did Raja in his toss. Chandroo was too quick in making his decision as if he was waiting for it. “You bat!”.

So just like that, the warmth and cordiality of the initial pointless exercises & rituals of the morning had paved way for some fierce competitive loathing and dirty talking, as the fielders started taking their positions. The batsmen too soon had.

Brijesh behind the wickets, Ranga and Ravi the two slips, in that order, Ramesh at the bowler’s end with the glossy red cherry. UmRao was at the striker’s end and Prasad at the non-striker’s. Prasad, known for his Romesh Kaluwitharane kind of approach always prefers not to play the first ball.

“I am not trying to threaten you or something of that kind…But you people should maintain some decorum..You are just out of colleges and you should not behave like ‘gully’ cricketers…This is a different atmosphere…”, Messers. R’s discourse reached all the ears (both covered and uncovered) on the field.  It certainly was a word of warning from the umpire.

In came Ramesh.

What a deadly swinger!! The ball was back with Ramesh in no time, as he walked back to his run-up for the next delivery. The first ball had just missed the off-stump by a whisker.

UmRao walked towards Prasad. “What just happened?”, an element of doubt had shaded his face.

“Man..That’s exactly why I’ve been asking you to buy a new pair of specs.  Gosh! How are you going to play?”, Prasad was all concerned for his partner.

Prasad slapped on his head with his own hands. Ramesh ran towards the stumps five more times in that over. By the end of that over, UmRao got to know when the balls were delivered but not how they were, till after the fact and mostly through hearsay.

Hareesh shared the new ball from the other end. A wide spread out field. “Ennada, Oralavukku Nalla Potta Podhum Illa?”, Ranga chatting with Ravi , who was nodding his head more than what he usually does as if he had understood what Ranga had said. The dialogue continued. The nodding too. A catch at chest level between between the 2 slip fielders at a leisurely pace was left unattempted. First runs on the board.

4/0.

“Try not to speak. If you can’t try, then at least speak in a language that I can understand,” Ravi quipped as he was clearly annoyed at having missed a chance to send Prasad packing home.
“Maa ball vochindi..Meeku adichu endha…pochu…vandhu…theesko…grrr…”.

8/0.

Ranga was now moved to thirdman.

The first ball of over number 3 touched UmRao’s bat on its own, took its edge and flew towards the first slip, where it was picked up rather uncomfortably by Ravi.

In the Slazs Dressing Room. “Pad up, Andrews..”

“I don’t know how to play Hareesh. I haven’t practiced anything. I have not played against Ravi, Ramesh et al., you know..??”.

The manager is pretty authoritative in this dressing room.

 “Andy, Are you going in or shall I ask Sudhakar to pad up?”, Kamesh.

Andrews went in at one drop.

Score: 5 overs. 13/1. Prasad – 12*, Andy – 0*, Extras – 1.

Bowling change at the far end. Lakshmi in action. A slow ball. Prasad got it on his pads.

“HOWZATT???”
A crack or two were visible in the Stand B gallery walls, after that thunderous vociferous appeal by Lakshmi.
“This is too much..I am gone deaf..O.K. This is warning 1. O.K…Be careful O. K..Don’t appeal into my ears..O.K..”, umpire V.

The next ball was a replica of the previous delivery. So was Lakshmi’s appeal. The Commentators’ box had come thrashing down. It was probable that the commentators were yet to arrive because they had anticipated such a disaster. As soon as they arrived (a few minutes after the commentators box disaster), they were made to sit in the gallery among the crowd. Talking about the crowd, I must confess that the galleries were practically empty, but most of the seats were occupied, There were 15 seats in total. Getting into the stadium was not all that easy on that day due to the security checks, which were stronger than norm. Even if the Id-cards had not been pinned properly, the enthusiastic spectators were sent out. Saivasu who mysteriously absconded from the Flabs’ training camp, could not enter the stadium for this reason. Poor Vasu!

Score: 39/4                Ramgo – 1*, Chalps – 2*, Overs -12.

The ball was given to Ravi. A classical spinner he is, he was setting his field meticulously.

“Murthy, How much did Chalps score against Club Sahara in the 1995 final?”.

“C’mon Ravi! This is not the time to ask such questions…. I think 30.”,  Murthy replied politely.

Score: 49/4                 Ramgo – 1*, Chalps – 2*, Overs -16.

Murthy at long-on, was getting bored. He had plucked enough grasses and had torn enough papers that were found near the fence. The only thing he could still do was collect those plastic water bottles and throw them into a recycle container.

Drinks interval.

Sitaramsamy and Sateesh were seen coming with the drinks trolley, which actually resembled a discarded 486 machine on wheels. Sateesh had been left out of the team for some strange reasons. It seems he can bat or bowl or field like anyone else. He is so adept in imitating others’ styles that he does not have his own style of game. So under different circumstances, someone has to keep giving cues to him.

“Play this ball like Viv Richards”

“Bowl this ball like Kapil..”

“Field this ball like Hitesh..”, etc.

Now this becomes a bit of a nuisance, since he needs a perpetual cuist assigned to him and one who can be with him on the field. The CMCCOM rules don’t allow such cuists being on the field and there was his bad luck. The non-inclusion of Sirasa was to include Brijesh , who was was doing the keeper’s job because of the regular keeper Murthy’s inability to keep that day.

Score: 76/7                     Sudhakar – 1*, Gowd – 0*, Overs – 26.

The fielding team captain brought back Ramesh into the attack. And the ball was a full toss. Played all along the ground to short thirdman. Ranga physically forced himself towards the ball and of course all he wanted to do was to just stop it. He skidded and rolled over the ball. An utter chaos ensued.

“Where is the ball yaar?”.

“Are you OK Ranga?”.

Giridhar was as alert as ever. He spotted the ball immediately.  About 2 inches away from where Ranga’s nose was buried, there was this spot where Ranga’s outreaching right arm and his belly had intersected as Ranga skidded and rolled over. Giri was able to spot the ball right about there and the ball was about 80% submerged into the ground.

Now, Sudhakar and Gowd are two of the the best runners between wickets the game has ever seen. But the biggest drawback the batting team has when both of them are together in the middle is that, they both try to help each other, no matter what.

The ball was played hard by Gowd. Seeing Sudhakar coming out of his crease and seeing the ball being fielded clearly, Gowd in order to push Sudhakar back into his crease, started running towards the other side. Seeing Gowd coming out and noticing that the fielder having picked the ball up, Sudhakar started moving further towards Gowd’s crease, this time to push Gowd safe into his crease. In the end, both of them as one would expect, crammed into each other, in the process strained their legs and even got bruised.

Mrs. V and Mr. R, the two umpires, felt like they had all the problems in the cricketing world to be solved at that moment, because there was no way to judge one of them out. Both batsmen were reluctant to walk out. In the end, Chandroo had to make Gowd go out.

Enter Ghanshyam, the charismatic Physio around. He raced towards he pitch with his first-aid kit and started nursing Sudhakar in a flash.
“Arey yaar! Kya Kara Thu? Thu aisa math karana yaar..!”.

If you thought he was a physio just for his looks (read it as physical appearance), then you are wrong. He is the best person around in the field. Ask Sudhakar.

End of 40 overs.
Score – 136/9                    Naweed – 38*, Rajaram – 0*.

What the Flabs’ think-tank got to do now was to chalk out the batting order which was not done till then.

Meanwhile, in the commentary box..

“I have a question. How can the umpire rule a batsman out just because the rival captain asked to do so?”, Ambika was restless.
Santhi was busy tallying her accounts for the used Travelers’ checks and the unused ones. While Sarada’s immersion in her thoughts was so deep that she did not even listen to Ambika’s question.

Ramana’s white flannels had already become red. It was Ramana with the new ball. Ramgo at the first slip. Chandroo and Murthy are the openers.

In the Flabs’ dressing room.

“I’m going only 9 down..Right?”..

“Right” and so Prakash was back with his wolf (a video game) and was not to be seen till the bails were off later on that evening.

Over number one from Ramana had a lot of variations like pop-ups and pull-downs. He, being a very experienced bowler knows the kernel of the ball very well. He swings the ball both ways perfection that only those batsmen who can adjust to Ramana’s shell can play him with ease.

Disaster…!

An edge from Chandroo had gone over the 2nd slip. Ramgo, the little master was a bit too slow to dive to his right. Realizing that the ball was beyond his reach, he was cursing himself as the ball was the about to fall on the ground. He saw a hand moving across his face to grab the ball. Ramgo is yet to get back to normal.

Rajaram, the Walsh look-alike keeper, is rather uncharacteristic to fit into a wicket keeper’s job (based on his physical appearance). This has been the tabloid view. I am sure that all those who shared this view would regret having done so. Chandroo walked back to the pavilion. No one had padded up.

It was Giridhar who was supposed to bat at Number 3.

“C’mon Giri! Go!”.

“No. Let Ramesh come..!”.

“Don’t be stupid. Only one batsman has got out. So, as per rules, only one new batsman has to go in..”

“No. No. Let Ramesh come..”

No budging. A specially arranged messenger came running to the field.

Saig it was.

“Raja! I mean there is a problem…”.
“It’s impossible”.

So finally, Saig padded up and by the time he went in, the umpire had already ruled him out. Saig had taken 12 minutes to come in after the fall of the last wicket. That was the reason.

Yet another dramatic incident in the match. This is becoming sullen and somber. Zero balls faced and out (timed out they say). As one STPite would expect, Saig was as cool as ‘Tharbooz and he took that heavy beating rather coolly in his strides, full of smiles and he got back to his dressing room, plugged on his earphones and went to the dream world which was “seal”ed.

The Flabs manager had all sorts of hindrances on that day. Convincing Giridhar to go to bat without Ramesh, changing the batting order, searching for Prakash  (who incidentally had entered the 6th level of the 9th group in wolf..or the other way around, I never know. Pardon me wolf-buffs!), keeping Lakshmi’s decibel level down, (which rather drastically had reached a level at some point that Mr. A, the match referee had to warn Umitha that another incident of that nature would make the authorities debar the team from the tourney) and many more.

The cause of worries did not end there.

Overs – 26                                                                                                                                                            

Score 66/9                   Ramesh – 12*, Hareesh – 2*.

Lord Indira, who in this part of this world is often believed to be the man who turns the shower on from the skies, mistaken identity if you ask me,  is not a light-hearted fellow. On this occasion though, he was on the Flabs’ side. Showers, downpour and a streak of million watt flashings – All these staged a drama in the sky for 10 minutes. The ground, at the end of the rains, looked like a pool ideal for water buffalos to play water polo.

Rajaram was seen arguing with Messrs. R.

“You see the run rate, you take the wickets lost, you consider the number of injuries, anything…You consider anything at all – We win the match hands down…”

Messrs. R was non-committal as ever.

“You got to grant the match to us..”

“See, I have nothing to say in this matter. Things have gone past my hands. All the way up to the CMCCOM to decide the result of this match…”.

The chairman of CMCCOM, Mr.K came out with the announcement.

“Friends, we declare both Slazengers, and Flabbergasters as joint winners..!”.

There were not many to applaud the winners in that soggy field, where the prizes were getting distributed.

“I invite the winning teams’ captains to come over to the center to receive the checks…”.

The captains received the checks and turned back towards the dressing room (which surprisingly is one of CMC’s pantries, which had been converted temporarily). They saw a huge crowd making a rush towards the place. 

Perplexity in everyone’s eyes. “Why is there a mad rush to watch the final proceedings…”!

Even I wondered.

“It’s evening snacks time in the office”, someone whispered at the back of my ears.

I looked at my watch. It was 17:25 hours.

Though the match never was an exciting or an enthralling one on that day (To be reasonably honest, it never even resembled a cricket match except for the willows, the red leather and those six stumps), there never was a dull moment throughout the day’s proceedings. I had my time’s worth watching the hilarious show enacted by our own amateurs.  

“The Man of the Match is….”

Before I could make note of who the man was, the name got dissolved in the heavy hubbub generated by the clinging of tea cups, porcelain wares, spoons, snack munching mouths and many garrulous tongues.

A Neville Cardus or a Peter Roebock would have refused reporting this match even for a top rated sports journal. I did not.

My day it was. Wasn’t it?

**The above is a fictional story I wrote for a company newsletter. Originally published on March 8, 1996. Has been reproduced/retyped here, almost word by word, barring ‘Americanization’ of a few words**

 

Posted in Short Story

33 Minutes

[Note: This short story was written as part of a contest. The first and last lines (in bold) were provided & we had to construct our stories between those.]

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The eyes were wide open as if staring into her soul. The arctic cold front reinforced the already firm icy silver lining on the black vinyl siding of the old building. It resembled a thin stray of lightning in a dark night, from a distance, as it glittered brightly under moonlight. And that night, it literally was the only silver lining anyone could find in that sleepy town. That is, if anyone really cared to look for one.

Glum and Doom are the only two ways one could summarize the mood that prevailed in Hemsville that evening. It certainly was not the typical cheerful December evening the town had come to be known for in its 139 years of existence. It certainly was not the best day to be working at the Hemsville Police Department, where the need for an officer’s presence in its main office building after 6 PM, never existed till that day. An HPD clerk and a security guard normally took charge of their third shift duties exactly at 5:45 PM, by conveniently getting settled to catch up on prime time television sitcoms and late night talk shows, after all the officers leave between 5:30 PM and 6:00 PM.

Chief Shirley had been looking through the window for about 10 minutes in complete darkness created out of necessity, just like an animal waiting for its prey in the jungle, with a fear that its predator could also be looking for its prey. Her gun was out of its holster, while it looked like she was in a sprint start position, fully bent below the main window of the reception area. Between Shirley and the reception desk, laid the body of Sergeant Kimberly who had just come in for her third shift duty. Her eyes were wide open and to Shirley it felt like they were staring into her own soul because it very well could have been her turn that night. Those 18 minutes after the first shot was fired inside the HPD office building could not have been any different from a crime scene involving a killer on the loose.

Earlier, as Shirley was getting ready to leave for the day at 5:42 PM, she received a package, delivered to her by the town’s deliveryman Himler. With only four more days to go for Christmas, Shirley was not surprised to get a package, which she assumed was addressed to her, at her office. She was about to open the package when her cell phone rang. It was her daughter Amber.

“Timothy wouldn’t let me watch my channels on TV mom! He has been watching Pokemon-Shokemon for 2 hours..”

“Honey..Amber..can you be patient with your baby brother for a little while?. Mom will be home in 15 minutes..I will talk to him after I get home….If you are hungry, there is some leftovers from last night’s dinner…you can check…I will fix your favorite dinner as soon as I get home..Ok..dear?”

“But Mom..”

“Honey, Please..Mom has had a long day..Please..”

“Alright..whatever..but will you promise me to take me to Mexico for my history project?”

“…Hey listen Amber….I will take you to Mexico next summer. It’s a promise..Ok?”

“Ok”

“Bye..Honey”

5:45 PM. Kimberly had just settled at her desk when she noticed the silhouette outside the main window. It was a full moon night, and with snow flurries drifting, the visibility outside was not bad at all for a winter night. The figure that caught Kimberly’s eyes was that of a man in a long trench coat, but it was too brief, yet anyone else in her position probably would have raised an alarm. It was not unusual to see passers by on the sidewalk outside the office building, but not this close to the main window, which was really perpendicular to the building’s only parking lot.

5:46 PM. When Shirley disconnected her call with her daughter and was about to turn around to walk towards the coat stand, she noticed through the corner of her eyes that the package she had just received had a rather odd looking symbol on the top left hand corner where one normally expects to see the sender’s information. The symbol at a quick glance was very catchy because of its red color. But it also seemed handmade and not machine made even for a well-trained pair of eyes. Shirley took a moment to see what that symbol was. What she saw horrified her instantaneously. After a few seconds of trying to place that symbol which seemed very familiar to her, she got distracted. There was a scream followed by a sound of 2 gunshots, with the latter shot almost sounding like an echo of the former one. She had to literally throw the package on the floor and run behind the wall that separated her office room from the reception area. There was an eerie bit of silence for the next few minutes. Only the noises of painful moaning and footsteps filled the air.

The feeble words coming out of the reception area confirmed to Shirley that Kimberly was the victim. And she could hear her say in a very peaceful tone..

“I love you Sam. I will see you soon..”

5:54 PM. Shirley had noticed that the moaning sound had stopped.

“Poor Kimberly”, Shirley thought. “She didn’t deserve to die like this”. Shirley didn’t want to run into trouble voluntarily, but she knew there were not too many choices left for her at that moment. The security guard on duty that night either had already been shot dead outside or had left the premises. So unless Shirley stepped outside the room to look at the scene, she would never be able to catch the criminal on loose, however remote the chances were. So she started crawling on the floor with the gun pulled out and moved outside her office towards the reception desk. What under normal circumstances would take her 5 seconds, took almost 3 minutes. Shirley quickly rolled over to the other side of the desk and hit the main power button, which was hidden under the desk. The building became dark. Except for the lights coming through the windows from outside, it was pitch black. Shirley tried very hard not to breathe so that the silence in the air could remain unpolluted. She hardly heard any noise from within the building.

“Does the package have anything to do with the killing?”, Shirley wondered. Then a chill went through her spine when the thought crossed her mind – “The killer is really looking for me”. “But Why?”.

She decided to wait by the window to ensure she had a better chance of going after the killer should he or she walk out now.

6:04 PM. Shirley heard the footsteps again. She became alert and got back to her sprint start position. Then she heard some heavy noise created by tossing and turning of paper work across the many office desks & it felt like the noise was approaching her. She could actually sense the person getting closer now. The raw smell of salt and snow & the crunchy sound of the salt getting crushed between the boots and the carpet made her even more alert. Because of the overall darkness, the person approaching the reception desk did not have a particularly clear vision of the layout of the office, hence fumbled along till he tripped over Kimberly’s body. Shirley seized the moment.

In no time, she was on top of the person, wringing his neck while positioning her knees in his crotch area after delivering a quick blow there, immediately followed by swinging the gun onto his temple pointedly. She did not have much time to deliberate over what her next actions should be, because with a 6 feet and 180 lb. frame figure lying on the floor, she was no match to the physical strength of the man who could make her choke with just 2 fingers. Shirley used her knees again and this time with more power. She could hear him scream. “Jesus”. Then she quickly rolled over to turn the lights on while the man on he floor was writhing in pain and potentially in no position to stand straight for a few more minutes. As soon as the room was lit up, Shirley looked at the man suffering with some pain and recognized him immediately.

“Sam! You?”“What the hell is going on?”

“Ha.ha..it’s me Chief..yes..”

“You killed Kimberly?”

“Killed..?? No..”

“Look at her lying on the floor next to you..” “I have to charge you on several counts Sam..”

“It is not what it looks like..”

 

“What is not?”

“Look at her bleeding Sam..She is dead..”

 

“I am here looking for a package Chief. It was supposed to have been delivered to Kimberly today..and what you see here..what you see her now..she is not really dead..This is a ceremony Chief. You won’t understand. It is not what it looks like..”

 

“”What?…Ceremony..? Crazy?”

 

“Bloodletting. An ancient Mayan ceremony. Makes us connect with the God. You won’t understand it Chief. I need to know where Kimberly has the package..”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because it has instructions on the next steps of the ceremony. I need to act fast…else Kimberly will be really dead…”

 

6:13 PM. Shirley moved stealthily towards Sam and used her pointed boots this time to ensure Sam could suffer a little longer with a torturous pain in the groin area, while she brought the package to Sam. It was clear now that Himler had delivered the package to the wrong person.

He quickly opened the package and grabbed a sheet of paper on which Shirley could see some kind of instructions written. Sam pulled out a syringe from the box inside the package, opened a bottle of some liquid, and mixed some powder from another packet before sucking all of them in using the syringe and injecting it onto Kimberly’s temple area.

I had to make sure she bleeds in her brain….so she could make the connection. Her eyes are open. That’s a good sign…This liquid shot is supposed to stop the bleeding..and once it does, she …”

 

“Sam..!”

 

“Kimberly..you are back”..

 

“Sam, it was a great experience…I was….”

6:16 PM. Shirley was still recovering from the shock. The last few minutes were a roller coaster ride for her. She had no idea what was unfolding in front of her eyes. But she was glad that Kimberly was not dead. She wanted to sort everything out quickly and get out of the place to be home with her children.

“Kimberly, before the blood dries up we need to take your palm prints on these papers..”, said Sam.

As Sam moved the wrapper around, to get what looked like some special tracing paper sheets, the symbol caught Shirley’s eyes again. This time she paid closer attention to it.

Symbol on the Package

“Wow..Isn’t that the Vision Serpent?”

 

“How do you know about this?”, said Sam, as he put down all the sheets in front of Kimberly who now was able to sit on the floor..

 

“Amber’s History project….Never knew…it would come handy…Ha….But I always thought that was just history..”

 

“Not for us..”

“We have to send these papers to get anointed….”

 

6:18 PM. Kimberly continued to press both her hands on the floor where her own blood had formed a pool, as she got ready to imprint her palms on the special trace paper sheets.

She scrubbed and scrubbed her hands till they were red.