The final episode.

It was a busy Friday afternoon, sure the weather wasn’t exactly warm but the winter sun still shines somewhat bright. The studio area was buzzing with crews, personnels and executives, all of them barking details over intercoms. The cacophony of this chatter was the root of the symphonies that aired every night, filling time slots, flowing out of television sets and dyeing the mundane life of run of the mill people with amusement. Years and years passed, the telly industry still tries to outsmart the audience using the idiot box. In a well lit and furnished makeup room Ed Greene, the showrunner of “The Late Night Show”, slouched over his recliner. The show had smashed record viewership figures and dominated all the demos for an era but now that era was waning. Ed sat, combing his thin, newly grown mustache with his frail fingers, waiting for his routine latte before the show. Staring at the pictures and awards that hung over his wall, Ed sat pondering about his contract with the network, the contract that would decide the fate of his show. He knew he’d have to smash it out of the park if he wanted to clasp the big money contract. He had smashed it out of the park many times before but it isn’t the same anymore. Ed’s letterbox which was filled with fan mail a couple of years back was now filled with reports from the network about dwindling ratings and complaints embarrassing the interviews and skits he performed by declaring them out of touch. Maybe he failed to click with the newer, younger stars or perhaps he was too out of touch with the common audience who used to cement themselves before their TV screens during his show timings. A thought consumed Ed was interrupted by Kris, Ed’s manager, assistant and real life sidekick. If Ed was the showrunner, Kris was the guy who made sure Ed could run smoothly. Kris came in the room with the coffee mug, handed it to Ed and gasped. He asked Ed,” What’s with the stache boss? You auditioning for some movie after shooting or something”. Ed moved two fingers across his curled up forehead and said in a dejected tone, “ I think the new look will be the talk of the tinseltown, who knows it might bump the ratings for the next two episodes”.  Kris waved his hand disapprovingly and said,“ Nah boss, we don’t do this kinda vanity very well. I’d suggest, get it shaven and we’ll be rolling in 15, so get ready for it”. Ed rubbed his knuckles and gave Kris a heavy hearted look, both of them knew that Ed had lost his magic and the show lined up could very easily be the generic crap they had been doing for quite sometime now. Kris said with a smug look,” Boss we got Linda Carter this evening, she’s the new face of the Mcnulty Movies. People will be tuning in, all you gotta do is the trademark Ed Greene straight shooting and smooth talking”. Ed sipped his coffee and murmured,”The trademarks haven’t been working for a while now, Kris, have they?”. Kris replied in a protesting tone,” C’mon boss, You’re the King of late night talk show hosts, what is the channel gonna do if ya think about leaving them huh?”. Ed spoke in a dry tone,” We ain’t got the network locked up like the old time, pal. Tell’em I’ll be on the stage in five”. Kris left Ed who was finishing his coffee while dangling in his chair. The cameras rolled and the spotlight was on Ed, he tried to light the screen with his charm and launched all the witty comebacks he got from his script writers. The curtain fell and Ed returned back to his makeup room. Kris came tip toeing and raised his thumb to Ed, claiming,” Boss, it was straight fire. I told you long live the king. Alright I got ourselves the evening snack” Ed asked Kris with a disinterested voice,” Do you think we’ll get renewed contracts after current one’s expire?”. Kris answered with a stuffed mouth, “Of course Boss, honestly all you gotta do is fill the next two episodes and then we can ask for sometime off the air. Maybe you can take a vacation and refreshen the mood. Then we’ll be back on the public’s screen jumping up and down”.  Ed responded,”Yeah, maybe absence will make their heart grow fonder”. Ed opened his culinary parcel and globules of taste laden curry fell on his bespoke suit. Ed Greene sat in his recliner with a curry tinged suit on and an inconvenienced look while Kris sat opposite to him trying to hide his instinctive smile. Ed asked Kris to go and fetch him some clothes from the props department. Kris returned moments later with a scarf , an overcoat, a cap and pair of trousers. Ed was amused by the total mismatched wardrobe collection Kris was handing him. He went to the changing room and appeared in his new clothes, looking like everyday joe, a face in the crowd rather than the famous Ed Greene. Kris remarked,” Boss, that’s how you gonna dress, if the network doesn’t offer the contract” and started chuckling. Ed spoke in a rebutting tone,” Kris, if I dress in these garments , you better get ready for the rags and tatters” and laughed it off. Kris in a recalling tone mentioned,” Boss, remember we planned on this skit, one day you can put on a disguise and interview common folk and then freak them out by revealing yourself”. Ed smirked,”Good old days, Kris. Hey wait a minute! We can parody that skit on the next episode. Inform my driver that I’ll be taking the bus to my apartments today, like a common man, working hard with his hands”. Kris laughed and complied with Ed’s instructions. This was gonna be a new adventure for Ed, stepping foot amidst his crew and his viewers. Wrapping the muffler around his ears and face, Ed walked towards the bus station at the edge of studios. He was jittering yet excited for this minuscule prank he would be playing on absolute strangers. He felt late evening winter gusts running across him and little drizzle, wetting the shoulder pads of his newly acquired second hand overcoat. A bus came to the stop and Ed boarded it. As he was about to sit beside the window, a husky yet feminine voice asked him,” Mister can I sit by the window if you don’t mind”. Ed turned and saw a scruffy short heighted lady, in her later sixties or early seventies standing there. Very politely Ed replied,”By all means madam, be my guest”. She sat on the seat and thanked Ed. Ed tried to start a small talk by saying,” Madam you’re a tourist or do you work at these studios”. The old lady replied,”No mister, neither I was here to meet a few of my old friends, in the diner next to the studio”. Ed said,”The Night Owl Diner used to be a pretty neat place back in it’s day”. Old lady replied,”Yeah, back in our day it used to be up and running, but even now they serve decent donuts and confectionaries”. Ed furthered the conversation by saying,”Is that so, I’ll have one tomorrow at lunch break. I work at “The Late NIght Show”. The old lady exclaimed with a mild amount of excitement,” You work in the ‘Ed Greene Show’. You got some on stage role or what? ”. Ed answered,”Nah Ma’am, I’m just a backstage script writer, complete pencil pushing job nothing on camera”. Lady asked further with more curiosity,”You must have met Mr. Greene at least ? ” Ed replied,” Yeah obviously, I have had the pleasure of meeting him time and again”.

Lady further questioned,” Is he a gentleman backstage or is it a gimmick for TV ?”. Ed replied,” He’s a pretty good guy, not as funny or good as he seems on TV but yeah he’s still a great person. Although he is quite stringent with off days.” Lady exclaimed,”Well he’d let you have an off for anniversaries , funerals etc.” Ed told her,” Never needed an anniversary off, madam. Still looking for the one.” Ed spoke this and smiled sheepishly. This statement rang a bell in Ed’s mind, after around a dozen on screen romances and for the frame flirtations, he never found someone he could actually spend time with. The lady commented,” Get yourself a puppy by the time you find someone suitable, dogs are nice to have around when you’re lonely”.

 The Lady somehow hoped to ask this question,”So is Ed Greene actually the lady’s man or is that on screen only?”. Ed absentmindedly answered,” Don’t know madam, Mr. Greene is pretty quiet about his personal life, the man vanishes after the shows”. The lady seemed to be a chatterbox and Ed seemed to enjoy her company. Both of these merry souls sat discussing and reminiscing their yester years. How the lady met her deceased husband in the Diner or how once in his Starting years Ed was refused for a writing contract payment while he had cancelled a few dates to complete his end. By the time they were finished laughing, Ed realised his stop was next on route. He asked the kind lady,” Madam, I’d like to invite you to the diner, perhaps next saturday at one. We’ll have some of those decent donuts and cups of coffee.” The lady replied,” That’s very nice of you Mister, but I’ll have to politely decline this”. Ed in a gentle voice spoke,” Well no problems, it was lovely chit chatting with you madam”. Ed stepped out of the bus and started to plod towards his residence. He reached his house, unlocked his doors and changed back into his own self. Stripping the garments and the faux identity he had dressed himself in. With a smile he went to his bed and slept. Next day he woke up and called Kris and said,”How’s the morning sunshine” and laughed it off. Kris picked his ringing phone and replied,” I’m doing fine boss, how about you, how did the bus trip go?”. Ed replied,” Nothing special, man. I dozed off half way through. Alright Kris gotta tell you something real important”. Kris with a sincere tone asked,” yeah Boss”. Ed told Kris,” Tell the network executives, we’re discontinuing and the last two episodes can be memorials from past years or something. Tell them that Greene’s real sick and won’t be able to make it.” Kris inquired in a puzzled tone,” Everything alright boss, you doing good?”. Ed replied jovially,” Never been better, old friend, one more thing send me the numbers of a few pet shops. I gotta get myself a dog”. Kris was partly confused, parts happy, his friend Ed had finally snapped out of the gloom and sounded like old days. 

Judgement

As the sentient species of this world and conceivers of the idea of religion and culture, we are united more by similarities than alienated by differences. Almost all cultures from all around the globe have this idea of a fiery pit where sinners are flailed and purified of their vices. With variety of torture and range of punishments the evil beings here are presented with what they deserve. The atheists, realists, all the practical thinkers who deny this hell and heaven bullshit are almost certain that this nothing more than a gag concocted by the so called virtuous to scare the Heathen’s miserable and to keep the society stable. The judgement day is a hoax created to soothe the good Samaritans and nag the hustlers of society. The mighty are invincible in the world of living and so they remain after their demise. But what if God actually made a sin bin and souls are recyclable goods. Now folks lean back on your sofa and listen carefully to this modern lore of hell and its inhabitants.

The tale opens with an ashen sky and chilly weather which in an unlikely manner compliments the aimless journey of an unfulfilling life. Unfulfilling lives that often take solace in hedonistic acts to fill their neural cavities faux delight. Our protagonist or antagonist depending on what point of view the audience fancy is named Kevin and is the unsatisfied owner of a buzzing club in a posh area. The club fetches Kevin more than enough currency to live a stellar life but Kevin in his hedonistic pursuit looks for those underhand income sources. His secondary income is obtained by being a purveyor of illegal narcs to adults and pretending to be adults alike. But there is no honour among thieves, Kevin has tried to get his extra earnings by swindling multiple suppliers which has often resulted in him being the lynch pin to start turf wars. Everyone has their comeuppance served sometime or other, in one such attempt to swindle multiple parties, Kevin annoyed someone so much that he ended with three bullets in his body. Profusely bleeding in the dirt of his parking lot, Kevin could barely lift a finger and all he could focus was on endless and excruciating pain. Fading to eternal obsidian, Kevin opened his eyes in an enclosed surrounding with a dim source of light. Sitting face to face with a thin old man with spectacles on his face. Kevin was part terrified and parts perplexed, the old man wearing a vintage spectacle and what seemed like an old suit was the source of his terror but why he sure was pale and unsettling but not frightening. somehow Kevin gathered his wits and asked for a glass of water in his raspy voice. The old man replied your mortal needs are no longer required to be fulfilled. You shall be presented with what you’ve sown all your life son. Kevin was able to figure out where he was and without a change of expression accepted what old man  was about to present. In his unsettling voice the frail elderly gentlemen started with Kevin’s complete name , his address , occupation. Then he started counting Kevin’s sins and with each declaration a whip from out of nowhere stung Kevin right on his back. Every detail the old man presented Kevin equated to another whip. After completion the old man said to a petrified Kevin, some deeds that you’ve committed are appreciated here, all those innocent souls you tainted with poison you sell up there, we applaud your efforts to boost our economy. We now have an intresting proposition for you Kevin what would you accept an eternity of torture here and now or being back to earth and rectify your deeds. A tense looking kevin pleaded  to be taken back and  assured to live his life the right way. A coughing Kevin then woke up from post-surgery trauma in a hospital room. After that what Kevin made of his life depended on his free will.             

That smile. That damned smile!

 On a cold winter morning, I saw her while I was waiting for the bus to drop me at my school. Walking steadily, her hair strangling and coming on her beautiful face like waves on a beach. Wearing a printed flounce georgette suit with a mock turtle-neck   cardigan, lugging a heavy canister in her hand, probably for carrying milk or something.

 She glanced at me footing as a prop and then smiled at me like she knew me and I as a kid smiled back at her as well, pondering who’s she? It was a teeny-weeny jiff of a nice stranger smiling. It felt like she wanted to apprise me about how heavy that canister in her hand was or how cold it was that time or how unkind this world has truly been to this lovely-pleasing smile she just gave to me. It felt like she’s a friend standing by to happen.

Me and her were nothing but two people casually crossing paths yet I had a yearning to wish her a great morning and tell her how contagious her as pretty as a picture, smile really is. I didn’t know how to deal with the fact that we were just strangers passing by and when will our stars align and we’ll cross each other’s paths again because that smile made me feel like home. Maybe, a home is nothing but a warm-welcoming smile.

Sometimes, a stranger can bring a significant meaning to your life. I hope she’s genuinely contented even now wherever she is and smiling at another stranger from the middle of her heart authentically. From adoring her covertly as a stranger to writing about her as a casual writer, I remain your secret admirer. I hope that I see you again someday and if I do, this is all I’ll say.

 I looked at you longingly because you warmed my heart. I really hope that you never get exhausted with the weight of the world when you’ve to carry it all on your shoulders heartily and strongly. I hope you don’t fear but fight and come off strong and vigorous and never ever give up on life because someone out there is an absolute fan of your smile. Your smile is a curve that sets everything straight. Your smile not only warms someone’s heart but also has the power to warm that cold winter morning. Your smile reminds people that they’re loved. So, your smile is precious to someone. There’s someone who’s really glad of your existence. There’s someone who adores you and admires you from far. So, please keep that smile on and never ever give up on it. Also, remember that you’ll always move through the struggle, times may be tough but you can and you always will push through.

 “Even after the worst storms, the sun will shine again.” So, never ever give up on your life . You really are highly important because you’ve given people thousands of smiles and laughs, because you give your friends and parents a reason to be happy, because someone can see something or hear a song that reminds you of them and smile, because people will never forget the words you said to them that changed their life for the better, because you’re the highlight of someone’s day, because something won’t exist if it weren’t for you, because the world is a better place with you.

Stuck in the Elevator

It all started with that stupid project . Presenting a project with a stringent deadline is a bad idea.  A disaster management project with a deadline of two days is a disaster itself . I was together with her in it, just like Adam and Eve, a pair completely unaware of surroundings not to mention one with snakes . It was six in the evening , the loutish professors had left, school was completely silent . It took only few minutes to turn to eerie . A non seasonal rain started to pour , the weather was ominous. Another round of labor and copying fused with her constant plea to God for ending work and my constant sarcasm finally finished a chunk of work we had to share , the last column in to do list was fetch a couple of guide books from library on fourth floor . The only fair means to decide was stone paper scissors ,my luck favored me . She sulkily went , cursing me and her luck which was about to get worse. She climbed staircase step by step, as she went away, I thought about us rather than I and her. Were we supposed to be a couple, I was a short, thick rimmed glasses wearing , nerd and she was cute , bubbly, innocent girl. There was no match between cupcakes and black pepper . In moment of loneliness I texted her.

I –  Did you get them .

She – Package procured.

I – Cadet you have got nothing more than a couple of minutes to return

She – Dude , I’m on fourth floor, shortest way down is jumping right from the balcony.

I – Get down quickly.

She – I’ll use the staff elevator.

I –  Do it at your own risk .

She – Got it.

So now I was expecting her arrival but she didn’t appear , I checked the ping on my phone

She had texted me , the elevator had stuck.

I – congratulations

She – Get here quick , I’m claustrophobic.

I- On my way , btw which floor any idea.

She – third 

I – I wish you said first.

She – Move it , before I cry.

I – Press emergency button

She – I tried everything, stupid.

I – I’m almost there where is elevator supposed to be 

She – Adjacent to the washroom near CS lab

I – Do you hear the thud on door

She – Is that you 

I – Its supposed to be chairman’ s ghost.

She – your really stupid

I – heard that quite few times frankly

She – Get me out .

I – ya , once I get angry enough I’ll turn green and tear the door

She – you could just have referred superman rather than hulk

I – on a serious note , should I call cops 

She – go call watchman

I – Ms. Claustrophobic, you interested in sending me away forever

She – Dont go, don’t go pls

I – lets wait till electricity comes back and lift restarts

She – I got a better idea 

I – No we’re not playing truth and dare.

She – forget it

I – I should forget you maybe

She – if I die you ‘ll be haunted for rest of your life

I – girls never let me go , always sticking by me , even in afterlife

She – look dude, do something I’m getting uncomfortable

I – like what 

She – wait I heard something hitting the roof

I – is it the chairman’s ghost

She – I’m serious, I have started to sob

I – look , don’t worry

She – it’s trying to get in .

I- the metal is too thick.

She- I’ll die ,you go 

I – look if you’re about to die , let me confess something , I love you

She – it’s no time for a joke

I – believe me , I have loved you since the day I saw you

She – stop lying

I – you gotta believe me

She – are you serious

I- damn yes

I- first day when you sat with your friends, wearing a purple hairband . I sat parallel to you.

You never noticed me staring you . I got lost in your beauty. You were incomparable to any beauty I had ever known.

She – you still remember, tell me more

I – before exams when we were first introduced , you helped me with chemistry and I solved few of your maths sums. I did that so , we could have an interaction. First time in life , I felt shy.

She – How many more moments have you kept alive in your heart.

I – almost all.

She – they give me hope share some more.

I- I lost my heart again to you on trip , seeing you open haired and jubilant. Before that I might had a chance of  exit , but now there wasn’t one . The specks of earthy gold sliding across your hair and that scenery, I still live that moment again and again.

She – why did you never confess it earlier

I- I knew you had a crush on someone else

She – so

I – why did you not confess

She – same reason, it’s no use now , I have been locked here for like an hour now.

I – I m not going even if it’s one lifetime.

Suddenly lights switched on , elevators door opened in slow motion  . She came out having marks of tears rolling down her cheeks and hugged me and said we would never part our ways. I separated her from me and told her it was nothing more than a psychological trick to deviate her attention, I meant nothing of it and typing made it more easy  , no facial expressions, no emotions. She cleared her throat and thanked me , we left premises and I dropped her at her residence, we bid farewell.

I could never stand up to my real emotions , masking them with insecurities and hiding insecurities with false confidence. I have no rational explanation for this , these are the moments when line between fiction and reality blurs 

Night Owl Diner

It’s the usual night in the city, dogs howling and whimpering because of cold, hunger, maybe loneliness, who knows maybe boredom. Cruising across these lonely streets was a beat cop, driving his issued station wagon. The night was cold and still, anyone and everyone who had a roof was deep in slumber. For the officer, it was his usual shift, along with his usual sorrows. An ageing career that hardly saw any peaks of success followed by a weak pension, not enough for his medical bills. The wagon passed by stores, closed at the midnight hours, these joints bustling with run of the mill consumers shelling bucks right, left and centre at anything advertised. Officer liked it old school, bucks for needs and dreams for wants. At this point, the officer felt the need for a cup of warm coffee. He remembered a nice cosy late-night diner on his route. He liked diners, they were as old school as it gets. He had never been to this diner for as long as he could remember. By the time, he processed this information, his wagon stood in front of the diner. The old rusty board read “Night Owl Diner”, written in bright red colour with a little owl painted next to it. The board had been through many rains, it was tough to distinguish between the rust and paint. He pushed the door ajar, to enter the place. As he stepped into the diner, the wafting fragrance of coffee and tear-jerking nostalgia hit him. He politely greeted the owner, who stood behind a vintage metallic counter, wrapped in a white apron. The owner asked him,” What can I get you, officer”. The officer replied,” A nice cup of Coffee”. The owner asked, ” would you fancy something accompanying your coffee, perhaps some sweet confectionary item”. The officer thought for a moment and said, ” Add two doughnuts with the coffee”. The owner replied very well and turned towards the retro coffee maker. Officer glanced all around him and saw the pleasant antiquated decor. The decor, complete with a row of bar stools, adjacent to the rexine padded parlour sofa seats facing each other. As he turned towards his server, a smoking cup of coffee along with two chocolate-dipped doughnuts lay in his wait. He did like the look of his meal even though he knew cops get mocked for having doughnuts, he did appreciate the high on sugar and cholesterol dessert once in a while. While having these satisfying edibles, he stroked a conversation with the owner. Carefully wiping the corners of his mouth he asked,” How’s the business going?”. The owner replied briefly,” It’s going mild, I used to have a stampede back in the day”. The officer further asked in a casual way, ” you must have seen quite a few first dates right here, lads and missiles, all prim and prom trying to woo each other”. The owner said,” Sure”, while the Officer continued,” You see I met my missus in one such fine diner, 23 years back”. The owner spoke in reply, ” I’m sure some couples can claim the same for my joint”, while the officer nodded in acceptance. After taking another sip and a bite, the officer asked, ” the black and white photos on the wall, did the Hollywood folk actually dined at your establishment?” The owner proudly replied,” Back in the heyday, every one of them came here after the shoots”. The owner now inquired, ” you solving some case at this hour, inspector”. Officer answered with slight hesitation,” pal, beat cops don’t catch criminals, we catch colds and misery”. The officer sat slouching, enjoying a warm mug and chocolate-coated loaf, he turned his head around and something irked him. He saw a big wooden door, varnished black as the devil itself. The door did not match the joints appearance, it felt jarring and incoherent with the nostalgic tone. He asked the owner, ” Pal, whys there this ugly door here”. The owner said,” Nothing officer, just the restroom”. The officer frowned and said,” Is it open, I’d like to use the restroom”. The owner swiftly brushed the question aside, “It’s clogged and jammed, officer”. Officer got irritated and said, ” Pal, open the door, I’ll see for myself what’s in there and maybe do you a favour by plumbing it”. The owner answered back, ” office, would you be kind enough to unlock it yourself while I wash the plates here”. Officer mumbled sure and picked the keys, the owner placed on the counter. The officer stood, turned and marched towards the door, carelessly. A loud crack was heard and a shotgun shell had entered officer’s skull, obliterating its backside completely open. The owner stood behind the counter with a shotgun smoking just like a hot cup of coffee. He pressed a button just below his side of the counter and two men dressed in black came out of the hideous, almost ominous door and dragged the corpse inside. While the owner moved towards the bloody mess with a mop and bucket. Now what was behind the door, my guess is as good as anyone else. Drug den, the lair of evil, exquisite yet illegal club or the inferno hell itself, nobody knows. Just as this happened, dogs outside the diner were howling and whimpering, because of cold, hunger, maybe loneliness, who knows maybe they had witnessed something.