Sneak Peek Into
Behind That Closed Door
- 6 Kickass Thriller Stories
Taste The Thrill Here
behind That Closed Door
- 6 Kickass Thriller Stories
The Man In A Blue Shirt
When the last moments approached and death was at arm’s length, a strange man tells a stranger, one of the most mysterious stories the stranger has ever heard.
“Don’t be so worried. When death comes, you would die in a fraction of a second… There is simply not enough time to feel anything…”
The ‘A’ lounge in the airport was a bit too crowded that day with hundreds of waiting passengers. There was an air of perceptible uneasiness. It being a weekday, most of the people were travelling on business and the wait was weighing too heavy on them. Everyone in that lounge had everything he perhaps needed, except time. This perception of time breeds impatience.
Suddenly, the invisible speakers came to life. At first, the voice of the female announcer was barely audible in the heavy hum of the crowd’s chatter but then people slowly fell silent to listen. The flight that was supposed to take off to Switzerland about fifteen minutes ago, will be running a couple of hours late due to a technical glitch. While the lady on the microphone expressed how sorry she was in an ironically flat tone, the lounge burst out into sounds of protest and disapproval…
‘As if making those sounds would turn things around… Huh! People are strange…’ thought Vakeel to himself, shaking his head sideways, as he kept working on his laptop. Vakeel was a hefty man, one hundred and twelve kilograms in weight and six feet two in height. He was really not affected by this ‘unforeseen’ delay. ‘If you cannot swim, better drown peacefully’ is his kind, he always told himself. He shifted his gaze from his laptop and looked around at all the others in the room with a condescending gesture of head. Just then, his eyes fell upon a man in a blue shirt, seated opposite him.
Vakeel had been watching this ‘man in blue’ for a while now, secretly!
Wait! Now, don’t start imagining that this Vakeel guy, is a spy on a mission to nab an international criminal. Get a hold please… the author of this story is not Robert Ludlum J
It is just that, somehow, this man in a blue shirt aroused Vakeel’s curiosity. There was something about this man that made Vakeel return his prying gaze at him. This man’s face reflected a deep-rooted anxiety in him. Yet his eyes were ice-cold. And for a person who nurses anxiety, this man is too agile, with quick & alert eye-and-body-movements. This, Vakeel thought, was a contradiction. A person who is anxious is either in the future or in the past, mentally; and is generally disconnected with the present. But not this man…
When the delay in the flight schedule was announced, the man in the blue shirt frowned a bit and mumbled something to himself. Vakeel observed this and made a mental note, saying to himself ‘note this point, your honor’.
Vakeel and the man in the blue shirt waited to board the flight to Switzerland… At the moment, both of them did not know that they would find themselves inches away from death, very soon!
★ ★ ★
As the ‘expected’ two-hour wait turned a little less than threehours, the speakers came to life again. The female announcer informed that she was happy that the technical problems were now resolved and passengers travelling to Switzerland, should kindly board the flight. People bee-lined to the tunnel-like entrances towards the flight.
Vakeel and the man in the blue shirt had their seats just next to each other. Well, it was really too tempting to say that… but isn’t that too convenient? Just because the central characters of our story happen to be these two men, it would be too much of a coincidence that their seats should be next to each other.
Actually, the man in the blue shirt had nobody seated next to him. It was a working day, remember? The airlines would normally have unsold seats on weekdays, as you probably know. And Mr Vakeel was seated five rows behind the man in the blue shirt.
The international flight was quite comfortable. It had blue and pink interiors. The seats were in a boring sky blue and the headrests were covered in pink sheets. The plane was spacious with larger seats towards the front. It was indeed a bit packed towards the rear, marked the economy class. Of course it was so, why mention that? Well, that was just an attempt to paint a picture of the interior of the plane in your mind. To continue the description, there were beautiful women dressed in pink, moving around the blue and pink interiors of the plane.
A lot of women passengers were stealing looks at the female flight attendants. This airline is particularly popular for their pick of airhostesses with gorgeous looks. The female passengers were looking at the airhostess’s hair-do, their figure and as such. Meanwhile, almost all of the men were devouring them with their eyes. If eyes had hands, the men were almost feeling them. It’s a strange psychological fact that most men feel that nurses in hospitals and airhostesses in airplanes, were somehow public property and they could do anything to them, if such a chance should arise.
Now, what is Mr Vakeel doing at this moment? He was not blinking… watching the beauty who was standing in the aisle, demonstrating how belts are tied, how oxygen masks were put on and which doors to kick open in times of emergency. ‘Why doesn’t my wife have such a perfect figure? Look at that waistline, man…’ was what was precisely going on in his head.
The flight was about to take off now, and the passengers were requested to tie their seat belts. A middle aged European woman with a slightly heavy chest, approached Vakeel, gave a huge plastic smile showing about twelve of her perfect teeth. Not that the remaining teeth were not perfect or white, they were. Just meant to say that the rest of the teeth were hidden inside her mouth while she smiled J
She reminded him politely to tie his seat belt. Vakeel told her that he had done so already. The airhostess casually bent forward to check his seat belt. He could feel her too close to his chest as the fragrance of her hair filled his lungs. At that moment, Vakeel felt that life was really beautiful… ‘Oh! Life… you could be so bloody interesting at times!’ he thought to himself.
The airhostess straightened herself up and declared the result of her investigations. The belt was tied, for real. But the sign was not showing. There could be some problem. “Could you kindly move to another seat, Mr.?” she asked. “Only if you promise that you will tie my seat belt, again…” he said, with a naughty grin. This time, the European lady gave a natural and beautiful laugh. No data was available on the count of her teeth, though J
Vakeel shifted his seat. The flight started pacing on the runway… and the next moment it was in the air and then it was adrift the pale blue sky…
★ ★ ★
Now, Vakeel found himself next to the man in the blue shirt. And suddenly, hispent-up curiosity pounced out of him. He decided to find out more about this strange guy, now that they were sitting juxtaposed and had plenty of time.
As a chick synthetic smile emerged on his lips, Vakeel shot his right hand towards the man in the blue shirt. But the man in blue did not move an inch. He did not as much as shift his gaze to look at his new neighbor. He just sat with a straight back, sporting a stoic expression and staring straight ahead of him. If it hadn’t been for the profession he was in, it would have been a very awkward situation for Mr Vakeel. Feeling only slightly offended, Vakeel took his hand back thinking ‘Well, this man probably does not enjoy the company of human beings around. Fine…’ and shrugged.
Another ten minutes passed. And so did the feeling of being offended. The more difficult it was getting to make this man talk, the more intense grew his curiosity. So then, he gave it another try…
“Hey, I guess you’re on a business trip to Switzerland. Hi, I am Vakeel. And I am an attorney by profession. The profession and the name are a perfect match. That’s a sure rare thing, I bet. I am going to this place to collect crucial evidence regarding a case. Trust the juniors, these days and you would have to close down shop and sell tea in bus terminals. I am a busy man you see, I rarely place myself on such ordinary chores. But this time it had to be me… Gosh… I am going on about myself… what about you? You on to something?” he said as casually as possible.
It was the same erect posture, same stare, straight ahead into nothingness. The man in the blue shirt did not even seem to hear what Vakeel just said.
Yet, after sixty-one seconds passed, just when Vakeel gave up and decided to immerse himself into the little television screen set before him… there was movement! The man in the blue shirt, like the slow motion visual they show in cricket matches on television, turned his head very slowly and looked at Vakeel.
‘And then he spoke’ you must be thinking. No, absolutely not! He simply turned his head back slowly and resumed his ‘stare straight ahead into nothingness’ posture. Well, that was at least something!
But when the blue shirt guy was turning his head away, Vakeel’s eyes met his eyes… And, Vakeel felt a stab of pain in his heart. It was a feeling of fear mixed with utter sadness. Vakeel had become sensitive inside, after he practiced this secret yoga he learnt from a genuine Guru. He could ‘sense’ the other’s ‘vibes’ now, somehow.
‘Why is this guy giving me this feeling? What could be his story?’ thought Vakeel. And that… he would find out soon enough.
★ ★ ★
Another half an hour passed slowly. Vakeel stopped his escapades and started watching what was playing on the television fixed to the back of the seat before him. He put on his headphones, connected them to the mini television and started watching a film called ‘Dilwale’. Vakeel fondly remembered that he watched this Bollywood flick Dilwale, in Sapna Theatre with a packed crowd. Nadeem Shravan’s music and Kumar Sanu’s rendition was a rage and is legendry. His heart was in sync with the same feelings that he had in the days of the past… He remembered that he had tears in his eyes listening to the song ‘Ek Aisi Ladki Thi’.
Just at that very moment, he felt as if he heard a sound from the direction of the adjacent seat. He took his headphones off and looked at the blue shirt guy. But the strange man was in the same position as when Vakeel last paid him attention.
“Excuse me, I thought I heard something. Did you happen to say something to me?” asked Vakeel anyway. There was but no answer. ‘Probably I’d been mistaken’ thought Vakeel as he got back to watching his movie. But just as he was about to put his head set on, the man beside him talked!
“Sorry, I do not have a right arm” he said… still looking straight into nothingness. At that moment, Vakeel dropped his gaze to look at his hand. Yes! The long sleeve on his right, was completely empty! My God! How did I miss THAT?’ thought Vakeel. ‘Poor guy… Aah! That’s what kept him from shaking hands with me, then… hmmm…’ he thought.
And if you thought that this is the time, they actually started conversing, you are wrong. The man in the blue shirt simply went back to his favorite ‘silently looking forward into nothingness’ posture.
★ ★ ★
And then, in the next half hour, all hell broke loose in that pink and sky-blue plane. Suddenly, the aircraft tilted 30 degrees to its left and started to make weird noises like the rattling of stones in a big tin box!
At first, nobody paid much attention… these things keep happening in airplanes, don’t they? They eventually subside in a while, anyway… thought the passengers. But one, two… ten minutes passed and there was not a single indication that the noise or the tilt would subside.
Slowly, there began a sort of unrest in the people. Someone who became just anxious enough called one attendant and asked what was going on. And then another enquiry… and then followed the others… Soon there was a huge commotion in the plane. The attendants were having a tough time, trying to act normal, assuring the people that nothing can possibly go wrong…
A moment later, the pilot’s voice boomed on the speakers!
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry for the inconvenience the tilt and the noise is creating, but there is nothing to worry in deed. One of the engines has stopped functioning. It is just a little technical glitch, kind of happens all the time. I request you to stay calm. We are running fine even without the faulty engine… and we will be landing in a nearby airport in an hour’s time. We would get the engine repaired quicklyand we’d be good to go in no time. Your safety is our most important priority. Thank you for your cooperation” said the pilot in a very assuring tone.
Vakeel’s heart skipped a beat. It is one thing to create a cool image in people about oneself… it was easy to go around telling people ‘If you cannot swim, better drown peacefully’… but it’s a another thing altogether when you face a probable death situation. ‘Nothing to worry in deed said the captain… probably there is nothing to worry’ he tried to console his pounding heart, unsuccessfully.
But the blue shirt guy was simply undisturbed. He looked unperturbed like he was sitting on a warm summer evening on a park bench. Looking at him, Vakeel felt a welling suspicion inside him for the first time. ‘This guy must be deaf!’ he thought, ‘Ah, now! That explains it all! He is deaf, by God! Anyway, ignorance is bliss, they say. Good for him’… he told himself.
For the next fifteen minutes the tilt and the sound continued in the airplane. As everybody in the plane sat in tense silence with pent up anxiety, something even more terrifying happened! All of a sudden, the aircraft went silent for exactly ten seconds. At the end of the tenth second, it made a bigger notice and tilted to it’s right now!
The captain’s voice started off without a warning… “My apologies for what happened, but the second engine has just developed a technical problem. I assure you that this is still manageable. We have identified an airport nearer to where we are now. If we could manage to fly for the next fifteen minutes, we would be able to land there, safely. May the Almighty protect us”…And the speakers fell silent.
Vakeel was perspiring now. He could hear his own heart beat like exploding landmines inside him. Never in his life did he look at death in such proximity. ‘What if we cannot ‘’manage to fly for the next fifteen minutes’’?’ he thought in horror… ‘What if the Almighty suddenly gets a phone call right at the time he is supposed to save us?’ He yelled at his overtly anxious mind.
“Don’t be so worried. When death comes, you would die in a fraction of a second. In these kinds of accidents that are accompanied by huge blasts, the casualties do not feel pain at all. There is simply not enough time to feel anything. And if we die, we die. We would not have to worry about things of this world anymore, anyway. We simply go blank. Cluck. Disconnected. So, obviously there is noting to worry for something that’s not painful… for something that we can’t help but sit and wait…”
As he heard the deep tone that spoke these words, Vakeel turned his head sharply and looked at his fellow traveller. The one handed man in the blue shirt, is now looking straight at Vakeel as he continued…
“If these were to be my last moments, I would want to tell my story to you, a stranger” he said. Vakeel somehow felt a great relief and something akin to peace while he listened to the deep soothing tone of this strange man about who he had been curious all this while. His curiosity returned, diverting him from the threat on hand.
Vakeel thought, ‘this man’s hand was completely amputated. What grotesque things might have possibly happened this poor soul?’…
“My name is Rajan…” said the man in the blue shirt, in a serious tone with abysmal intensity… Vakeel started listening to him, mesmerized by his narration…All that the man said, in his own words for you...
★ ★ ★
“Trust me, I have not revealed my past to anybody, until this day…
I was a sharp shooter. That is, I was a specialized and crafted rifleman, who maintained a close visual contact with the enemy and shoot them from concealed positions or incredible distances so that the enemy personnel could not detect me. I am what you call a sniper. I worked with the Indian Army as their commander for several important covet operations.
This was a year ago in Afghanistan, when my troop was stationed twenty-five kilometers from Kabul, in a village surrounded by the most hideous rocks and arduous hills one could find on this planet.
Not going into the secret details, it so happened that my entire team had been completely annihilated because of a mistake. My mistake. All of them died, but I. I was captured by the Taliban militants and put in a dark room that had iron sheets for its roof. For two weeks, I was subjected to the most heinous of tortures in the hands of the barbarians. Yet I divulged nothing, absolutely.
Two weeks! I had to endure fourteen full days and nights of pure hell in that dark god-forsaken shackle.
But as the 15th day dawned, the strangest of things started happening… something that perhaps nobody would ever witness! Let me tell what exactly took place, then…
On the 15th day of my capture, a man that looked like a huge white camel with bulging eyes came into the dark room where I was kept captive and promptly started crushing my toe nails, one by one. He chose a blunt and flat stone for the purpose. He interrogated me for six hours without the slightest sign of fatigue. I was simply silent and never divulged any of our country’s secrets. And then he left. I saw that man walking out of the shackle’s door and locking it.
After this huge white camel like guy with bulging eyes went home, he found his wife terribly sick. She was all right till that evening but apparently she fell ill suddenly and within an hour’s of this guy’s reaching home, she was dead!
The next day, a very short Taliban who looked more like a toad than a human, took on to himself the task of getting me to talk. For several hours, he started plucking off hair from my head and beard, asking the same questions, again and again. I endured all the pain, diverting my mind from it… and used the techniques they taught us while in training. The toad-like Taliban became bored and walked out of the dark room, shutting it close behind him. And then, again, something bizarre happened!
That same night, the toad-man’s mother, father, both his wives and all his eight children were killed in a single stroke of fate. It was an American airstrike, I guess, that took all of their lives!
Of course, I knew of all these details later on… and not while I was tied tight in that dark room with a tin roof.
I was always alert and tried to listen to and pick up any information I could, even as I suffered the pain of the cruelest torture that I was ever subjected to. And anyway, I had nothing else to pass my time with, than listening to the sounds and chatter of people outside.
I could somehow gather that something strange was happening since two days and that there was a very disquieted vibe, on the other side of the closed doors of the tin shaft. There was a lot of talking and discussing that went on and I strained my ears to try and comprehend what was up exactly.
The third day after the first fourteen days, which means the day after the American airstrike dealt that deathly blow to the ‘toad-ish’ Taliban’s family… in came the leader of the Taliban.
By far, he was the most inhuman of the lot, judging by his techniques of interrogation, of course. He came in precisely to prove a point. He wanted to banish fear and re-instill the now waning confidence in his companions! The strange thing is that, after he left, nothing happened to him… at least not until the wee hours, anyway.
That night after he left… at about 4 am in the morning, this leader of the Taliban outfit had a massive heart attack! His right hand and right leg got completely paralyzed!
As I narrate this to you today, I feel chills up my spine… The happenings were so queer and unsettling that they still give me nightmares.
Anyway… after these three incidents, no one came in. The door to my dark torture room was rarely opened except the times when they gave me food. None dared to venture in, I guess…
When a week had passed, two people who were dressed differently than the Taliban, walked into my room. But they did not interrogate me. All they asked me was, ‘Why are these deaths happening?’ I shrugged and said that I did not have a clue. Strangely, they just left, without another word.
Six hours had passed. The night had set in. I was tied down to a chair at that time and was in a slumber when my nostrils caught a strange smell that shook me out of sleep. Undoubtedly, it was the smell of petrol! Somebody was drenching the shack with petrol. ‘So, they have decided to torch me alive’, I thought.
I tried hard to wriggle myself out of my shackles. I must have tried doing thatfor about six or seven minutes, when I suddenly stopped my activity. ‘They should have thrown a burning matchstick on tin shack by now! But no such thing happened. I strained my ears to see if I could get a clue. But I could hear nothing!
As I already understood that it was impossible to free myself from the ropes that tied me, I waited patiently and rather peacefully for the sound of the matchstick being struck. Instead, I heard a sudden commotion from outside that made me sit erect.
There was chaos and a lot of shouting happening outside. And then happened something… something I never expected!
The doors opened. I turned my head in that direction wondering what would happen next. One lone Taliban stepped inside… and then he ran towards me… he untied me quickly and ran back to the doors! He stood as far as possible from me and signaled me to ‘go away’… get lost.
But I am a difficult man, you know… I did not so much as move an inch from my chair. I yelled back at him and told him that I will not go until he tells me what happened.
The Taliban guy looked at me with horror and disgust. Right from where he stood, that’s at the door, far off from me… he told me in broken language, what actually happened. The two ‘differently dressed’ gentlemen who talked to me earlier, were their religious leaders. They came here to confirm if I was a sorcerer of some kind, and was responsible for what all was happening. After they spoke to me, they gathered all the Taliban men in a meeting and advised them not to go near me. They asked them to simply torch the shack and kill me. And then they received startling information. It had been five hours since they left this place but the two gentlemen had still not reached home! So, panic stricken, they finally decided to get rid of me by asking me to leave.
With a lot of difficulty, I came back to India. I resigned my job and started off with an Import-Export business and that is pretty much what happened.
★ ★ ★
As the narration ended, Vakeel sat there like a statue… unmoving, not blinking and unable to think… Two minutes passed before he could bring himself back to his senses.
And then he said, “My God! That is the strangest narrative I had ever listened to all my life, in spite of being an advocate. Tell me, Mr Rajan, all those who talked to you died or got harmed… or their families died. Why did such a thing happen?”
The ex-sniper replied with a philosophical smile. “My friend, in life, we find answers but to just a very few questions… the rest are never answered. Life is a mystery, I guess… never to be solved, only to be lived… Personally, I asked myself the same question several times… but the answer eluded me, honestly!”
Vakeel and Rajan had completely forgotten their surroundings. They were in a plane that was about to crash, if the Almighty would not choose to intervene… yet they had lost all sense of it. The rattling sounds of the airplane have increased in volume now! And at that moment, it struck Vakeel…
“Mr Rajan, how did you loose your hand? Your story never raveled that!” cried Vakeel.
“Oh, that… that’s nothing, my friend. Three months back, I was driving my car, fully drunk. The right indicator was not working fine and so I stuck my hand out of the window to indicate that I was turning right… didn’t know that a speeding truck was overtaking my car at the very moment. The truck whizzed past my car and so did my poor hand. Tch…” said Rajan.
Vakeel’s mouth fell wide open.
The weird sounds in the plane died down.
The pilot was announcing that they have landed safely now, the peril has been averted.
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