“Cranberry juice” said Mukesh with a smile as he handed the stained white sheets to the dry cleaner. The man on the other side of the counter took the sheets with a rather skeptical look on his face. “Kitna hua” asked Mukesh. “Do sau pachaas” said the shopkeeper. “Hein itna mehnga!?” retorted Mukesh. “Sau mai kar do nahi to mai isse leke jaunga”. Mukesh’s sister had taught him well about bargaining. Oh she knew very well how to bargain. She always found a way to get Mukesh out of their parents’ scoldings. She had her way with words. She was from Purani Dilli afterall.


Mukesh got to the farmhouse and plopped on his couch.He fine tuned the radio to a frequency where he could hear the song properly. It was a Kishore da song. He got to work. Mukesh knelt in front of the man who was trying to scream. His voice was muffled however. “Such a pity”,thought Mukesh to himself and smiled.


“Aap ki aankhon mein kuch mehke hue se raaz hai” came Kishore da’s voice, smooth as silk from the radio. Mukesh hummed along with Kishore da as he delicately traced the man’s skin under his eye, caressed his cheek ever so gently and then just as the line ended,Mukesh plunged the knife into the man’s eye socket. The man tried to scream,but to no avail. Mukesh flicked the knife in one clean stroke and popped the eyeball out. A few droplets of blood splattered across Mukesh’s face.


Mukesh chuckled and didn’t bother to wipe the blood off his face. He held the man’s face in his hands and made him look at the knife. And then Mukesh made the man look into his eyes. He took in the undiluted fear in the man’s eyes. God he ravished it, he deserved it. Every single bit of what he was going to unleash on him


Mukesh smiled a wide smile that didn’t reach his eyes  and batted his eyelids.

“Such dirty,hideous little eyes you have,Jiju ” said Mukesh before plunging the knife into the man’s other eye. “Oops, or should I rather say- Had. Hehe” giggled Mukesh and popped out the other eye too. He carefully put the knife aside and got up from the floor.


Anshuman, his jiju (brother in-law) was squirming as he felt the pain engulf his body. Mukesh grabbed a bottle of Absolut. Anshuman’s favourite vodka. “On the rocks,jiju?”, asked Mukesh plainly. “Just like how didi was found,mmm?” followed Mukesh. He poured himself a drink and sat next to his jiju who was writhing in pain. “Absolut hai. Aapka favorite”, said Mukesh.


Anshuman was crying. Begging for mercy. Mukesh heard nothing. Did his jiju care when his sister had begged him for mercy? Did he listen to her plea? His brave beautiful sister so full of light so full of love was now nothing more than dust, all because of a scoundrel that did not deserve to live. He’d avenge his sister. Blood for blood. For every tear she’d ever shed, for every broken whimper that was unheard, for every second his sister had to live in fear of this man. This dastardly filthy piece of human flesh and bones. He owed it to her. Mukesh very gently poured the vodka over Anshuman’s now bloodied eye sockets.


The song had changed. It was Lata Mangeshkar’s voice cooing from the other side of the radio now. “Ajeeb dastan hai yeh. Kahan shuru, kahan khatam”. It was his older sister’s favourite song. Hansa di. His Hansa di. They said it was suicide. That she was doing drugs. That she had been mentally sick. That she was a coward. That she couldn’t take it any more. Lies. All of it. Pathetic, despicable lies. Is that why she jumped off the 10th floor of her apartment and landed on the rocks in the garden below. At 3 am. In the midst of a power cut. “Huh. So much for calling it a suicide”, said Mukesh to himself. The autopsy said concussion.It definitely was one. It was clearly a use of blunt force.


Mukesh swung the cricket bat at Anshuman’s face but stopped dead in his tracks when he saw his jiju staring back at him with his hazel brown eyes. “ Wait. Didn’t I gauge them out just a while ago?” said Mukesh to himself in disbelief. Anshuman broke into a hysterical laugh. “Ye kya hua? Kaise hua? Kab hua” sang Anshuman with a cynical smirk on his face.


Mukesh stood there perplexed looking at the sudden turn of events. Was he dreaming?. He heard a robotic female voice say “Battery low. Connect to a power source”. Mukesh could see his vision going murky and all he could hear was Anshuman’s laughter. Mukesh jolted awake with a gasp, it took a while for his eyes to adjust to the light and God, why were there so many people surrounding him? Their voices were too loud and his head hurt like it was being drilled into and he heard a familiar voice. It was her. His Hansa di. “I know you’re feeling very disoriented right now. It’ll pass”. Mukesh was too stupefied to make sense of what was going on around him. “Hansa didi, aap yahan pe? Kaise? Kahan hoon main?” inquired Mukesh. Hansa helped Mukesh sit up while she untangled the wires around him and explained that there was a momentary glitch and he had to be unplugged from the system. “What system? What glitch?”, thought Mukesh. “Uth gaya mere sher?” came a booming voice from the door. It was him. The very man who Mukesh had tortured just a while ago. He was too fatigued to distinguish between what was real and what was not.


Mukesh noticed a syringe filled with a weird green liquid in Anshuman’s hand. Anshuman tapped the syringe lightly and walked towards Mukesh. He stood next to Mukesh and held his hand ready to inject him. Mukesh looked at Anshuman with petrified eyes as Anshuman started humming, “Aap ki aankhon mein kuch mehke hue se raaz hai ” with a smirk on his face. Mukesh screamed as he felt a stinging pain when the needle pierced his skin and injected the fluid into his bloodstream. Anshuman just smiled and caressed Mukesh’s forehead. Mukesh could feel himself black out. “Battery charged. Simulation ready” is all he heard before losing consciousness.


“Cranberry juice” said Mukesh with a smile as he handed the stained white sheets to the dry cleaner.

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