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Bound By Darkness

by:Joshua

T’was the eve of Halloween, the sky was covered with clouds, blocking out the crescent moon. The trees had shed all their leaves, standing bare against the cold wind. The yellow streetlights had cast their gaze around the silent street, leaving the shadows of the autumn trees to look like hands emerging from the depths of hades, waiting for an opportunity to drag you with them. The clouds began to rumble and the wind wailed like a banshee. At that moment, the sky split as lightning tore across it. Devilish thunder accompanied the lightning just seconds later. 

Damien who was asleep in his bed, jerked awake as the thunder rumbled in the night sky. His heart, pounding so hard he could feel the pulse in his throat. He sat upright in a cold sweat and reached for the bottle on his nightstand. As he quenched his thirst, his phone began vibrating viciously. It was his girlfriend Anna calling him. They had been dating for a while now but had known each other since they were children. As the light from the phone hit his eyes, he squinted. The darkness had not yet left his eyes. He picked up the phone and her soothing voice calmed him down instantaneously. She asked him if he had left home yet. They had planned to roam around together on Halloween eve, as it would be one of the few chances they would get to spend together before they left for college in the summer. He replied with his rough but gentle voice, “Sorry, I fell asleep. I’ll be there to pick you up in 10 minutes”. He told her he loved her and got up to get dressed. 

He placed his feet onto the cold floor and stood up. The wood underneath creaked eerily. The rains had turned the entire house into a creaking wonderland and the sound always made him uncomfortable. Switching on the lamp by the corner, he stood in front of the dusky framed mirror and fixed his dark brown hair. His purple eyes gleamed through the dull light the lamp gave off. He put on a pair of torn jeans and wore the T-shirt that Anna had given him for his birthday. Leaving the room, he pulled his leather jacket off the back of the door and snuck out of the creaking house, and made his way towards Anna’s house. She lived few blocks away, in a small and dingy-looking house. It was just her and her dad. 

Damien walked to her front door and before he could knock, she had opened the door and flung herself into his arms. The cold weather made his warmth more prominent and comfortable. He was happy to see her. He looked into her blue-ish green eyes and saw her soul. Her golden-brown hair fell back as she looked up to see his face, revealing her captivating smile. She was everything he was not. She was clumsy and always had a smile on her face, even through the tough times. Her laugh was beautiful and she danced her worries away, like a graceful swan surrounded by a multitude of lotuses. But alas, this would be the last time he felt her happiness, for the night ahead was not going to be a pleasant one.

They began to walk down the street towards the lake, where they always sat down and stared at the sky while talking about nothing and everything. The cold wind pushed them closer to each other. The wind had an uncomfortable feel to it, like as if it had a presence of its own. The yellow-lit streetlight had begun to flicker and slowly take a reddish hue. The feeling of being watched only grew more intense as time passed. Carved pumpkins, that were placed outside the doors of the many houses on the street began to turn towards our young couple. The carvings on the pumpkins lit up as if they were on fire but they weren’t burning. Damien held Anna’s hand firmly and they started running towards his house. The ominous presence seemed to follow them or rather, it never left them. 

The thing about Damien was that he always felt out of place. Like every other teenager, he felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with him. Every Halloween, he felt like there was something inside him. No, he knew there was something that was trying to come outside and every year, the presence only grew stronger. He would call Anna up and listen to her melodious voice, which calmed him down to a point where his fears could no longer reach him…

As they ran for his house, the blood-red lights went off. The darkness of the night had surrounded them and all the pumpkins were facing them. One by one, all the pumpkins simmered down. Damien knew that this time, nothing was going to stop the presence, it overpowered him…

It took over his will while Anna took few steps back in fear… She could hear whispers around her, like an enchantment, slowly growing louder and louder until it was unbearable. She fell to the ground, holding her hands against her ears to keep them from bursting.

The whispers suddenly stopped, Damien started walking towards her and picked her up, and waited until she could steady herself. The crescent moon began to peek through the clouds, shining onto our couple. Damien moved his hand upwards slowly like he was making for her cheek but at that moment, he stabbed her through the chest, his hand emerging from her back, with her beating heart in his palm. Anna was losing her strength and as the moonlight fell on Damien’s face, she looked into his eyes, but they weren’t purple anymore. It was as if there had never been any eyes in there, empty, hollow… 

Damien pulled his hand out of her writhing body and watched her fall onto the ground. Her heart was still in his palm. Blood spurted out of the slowly beating heart and onto his clothes. The T-shirt she had gifted him, was now covered in her blood. Her now lifeless body started going pale as she bled out all over the moon-lit street. Her golden-brown hair, covered with her blood now had a crimson glow. Even though it was Anna who died, it was Damien who lost his heart… The clouds began to cover the night sky, hiding the crescent witness. The street lights began to glow yellow again. The presence had left him, all alone… Seeing what he had done he broke down into tears and wailed loudly. His pain was immeasurable. At that moment, the sky split as lightning tore across it and Damien woke up in his bed in a cold sweat. He looked at his hands and found no blood. He was relieved that it was all a dream and went back to sleep but… his shadow moved across the wall and onto the ceiling, covering it in its darkness and staring at Damien with a devilish grin…

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A Different Mission (Part 2)

Author: Nishkarsh Gautam

“What would you choose, a pen or a sword?” These words by the great poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar were on everyone’s tongue. A child was asked the same question by his teacher. The child firmly replied,“I would take both.” Unsuccessful attempts were made by the teacher to convince him that it was not possible and that he had to choose one, but the child remained adamant and said, “I will make it possible.”

He later joined the Border Security Force and earned his sword. He served on the frontiers of the nation; his dream of bearing a sword fulfilled. But the profession he had chosen had very little scope for the pen. He was performing well with the gun, but his wish to bear the pen unlocked new chapters in his life. During his posting at the Attari-Wagah border, the principal of a nearby DAV school had expressed his concerns about being the last school in India. “If you see from the perspective of the world, you are the first school in India”, these words of the officer had a profound impact on the principal. He requested the officer to visit the school. Upon the principal’s request, he went to the school and interacted with the students with a chalk in his hand and pistol on the waist. This was his first engagement with the pen. He educated them about the broader perspective through different activities. The students were curious and asked many questions, and he loved answering their queries. After that, it became his routine. Whenever he would get free time, he would visit different schools.

During his leaves, people would often asked him to motivate their children with the magical formula to be successful in five minutes. Certainly, no one could do that. He interacted with thousands of students, which enriched him with lots of new ideas and solutions. He wrote down his valuable experiences from various walks of life and published a book under the title “Shortcut to Success”. Now, if someone requests him to inspire their children in five minutes, he gives them the book.

He got posted at Air Base Ranchi, where helicopters were positioned for Anti-Naxal operations. It was the city he had graduated from. There he met the Vice-Chancellor of his university. The vice chancellor was happy to see his student at that position; he was pretty impressed by the officer’s thoughts in the book and promoted it in the university. The officer used to guide the students about tricks for competitive examinations and interview techniques in schools and colleges around the state. He visited the government schools in the interior villages of Jharkhand, which were Maoist infested, and taught the students about the nation and the outside world. These interactions helped the children to explore various career opportunities, armed forces being one of them.

His book became quite popular and received the media’s attention. Several newspapers published book reviews, and news channels covered the story about a soldier writing a book. Consequently, The National Book Trust invited him to deliver a lecture for a book publishing course under the Skill India program. Five editions of the book were published, and over 27,000 copies were sold. The University Grants Commission (UGC) invited him as a Resource Person in the “Summer School” and the “Winter School”, which are mandatory promotional training programs for professors from pan India. A soldier was performing the tasks of the professors.

Today, he continues his mission to inspire students to serve the nation in different dimensions and shaping their future. He is none other than my father, Deputy Commandant Sanjay Kumar.

I’m proud of you, Papa.

Please follow this link to read A Different Mission (Part 1):