Runner-Up of Bound’s Dystopian Fiction Short Story Competition

 

The halogen streetlights blurred into each other as the lone black car snaked down the streets. Inside, the gentle thrum of the engines sounded like a lullaby to Avni but she violently rubbed her eyes and forced herself back to focus. KK had passed out almost an hour ago, one hand firmly down his crotch and soft snores sneaking out from somewhere behind his thick moustache. Duty called for the two of them to patrol till sun up and patrol she would.

The streets all looked the same to her – de-peopled, decaying … dying. but it wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, Mumbai was one of the noisiest cities in the world – the city that never slept. Now, it looks like it’s in a fucking coma and it’s all their fault.  She could feel it, her mouth turning into a snarl, gritting her teeth and it building inside her. The counter on her hand-pulser was climbing quickly and any moment now it would hit rage and she would get a dosage of electricity yet she just couldn’t stop herself from the rising fury. Luckily, as the car turned the corner, she saw his face on the billboard, that beautiful, benevolent smile beaming down on her and suddenly, everything was alright.

The streets all looked the same to her  –  de-peopled, decaying … dying.

A small, shy grin crept across her lips as her mind raced back to the day when he had looked at her for the first time. The Supreme Commander, in his starched uniform, resplendent … almost blazing like the sun. Like a goldfish, she had stood there gaping at him, along with the rest of the members of the academy. Oh, how much she loved him! He was a father, a brother, a lover all rolled into one – and she would do anything for him.

He was smiling that day, she remembered, smiling as he began his address – the words swaying the soldiers gathered there and the hundreds of thousands of followers watching on their TVs and mobiles. He spoke of the horrors of the past, of the friends and family members that they had lost, of the blood that had been spilled and of the shame of it all. And then, it happened …. “Friends,” he had said “It is time we acknowledge that it was us who gave shelter to these snakes. Snakes who entered our homes, bit our wives and ate our babies. But we have had enough. It’s time to crush the evil head of terrorism.”

A cheer had gone up in the crowds gathered, as they began to anticipate the words that were coming.

From this moment”, he had continued, “All Class M, Class C and Class B citizens are given a 48-hour notice. Get out of our country or you will be shot on sight!”

There was a pause, a stillness, almost deathlike, and then the crowd exploded with joy, whooping and celebrating the death sentence. In the midst of that melee, Avni was the first to raise her service pistol to the sky and fire it. In that one instant, he had locked eyes with her and smiled approvingly as everyone else followed suit and emptied their guns into the naked sky. Oh, what a fantastic decision!

From this moment”, he had continued, “All Class M, Class C and Class B citizens are given a 48-hour notice. Get out of our country or you will be shot on sight!”

Of course, Tarana hadn’t thought so. Tarana was always the rebel. Always wanting to be anti-establishment. It had been one of her more alluring traits in the beginning, but now it was just annoying. Even as Avni stood in the doorway with a bouquet of yellow lilies, hoping to celebrate, she could see that Tarana had already gone off the deep end.

“Where are they supposed to go, Avni?” Tarana asked, her tawny eyes turning into little white bolts of anger.” Do you think it’s easy to just uproot and march over to another country? And in just 48 hours! Does the other country even want to accept them? And why should they go? It’s not their home. THIS IS!”

Avni had tried to shut her up by kissing her. She started with her neck and then down to her shoulders, gently slipping her hands down her back, along her spine and then Tarana had pushed her away.

“Avni, I’m serious… what are they supposed to do?”

“Not my fucking problem!” had been Avni’s only reply which caused Tarana to launch into a massive diatribe about injustices and human rights violations and blah blah blah. Infuriated, she tossed the lilies in the trash and simply marched offThree days later, they had found Tarana strung from a lamppost with something in Arabic written on her naked body.

Her throat started to tighten at the bitter memory and once again she could feel the rage rising inside. Quickly, she rolled down the window and lit a cigarette, inhaling the noxious fumes and expelling her own poison with it. “Is it morning yet?” KK muttered and almost immediately Avni smiled, knowing that she had escaped thinking about Tarana… atleast for the moment.

“Not yet,” she said, “We’ve still got a few hours to go”.

Three days later, they had found Tarana strung from a lamppost with something in Arabic written on her naked body.

“I don’t understand the point of this patrolling. I mean…” he said, sitting up “… it’s not like we’re going to find anyone. The last Class M sighting was four months ago. If they haven’t escaped or been captured already, they’re dead.”

“My trigger finger has been itching since morning. I have a feeling we are going to spot someone today.”

“Why didn’t you say so earlier!” KK bolted up, wide awake. “If you’re itching, that means evil is afoot.”

As she continued maneuvering the vehicle, Avni grinned at him. Krishna Kumara was as primal a creature as one could find. Maybe he was good looking, but who could tell underneath that mass of unkempt and perhaps unclean hair, always grunting and farting and being a beast to people around him. And whenever he found a Class M or a Class C, the methods of torture he employed were almost demonic. He had his reasons. He was only four when he watched his entire family get slaughtered by Class M’s. Now, he didn’t just get his revenge, he inflicted it.

“If you’re itching, that means evil is afoot.”

“I’m thirsty. Can you check how much longer?”

KK opened the glove compartment and pulled out the water bottle inside, a display on it glowing. “Another hour and twenty minutes,” he said, tossing it back inside.

“I wonder who came up with the idea of ration-able bottles?”

“Whoever it is, I’m sure they have fountains of sanitized water in their homes while us poor bastards have to wait for a computer program to decide how much water we get to drink.”

“Has anyone ever tried breaking one of them open?”

“Yeah. There’s a toxin inside that’s released immediately. Spreads about fifty meters either side too.”

“That means even people around you die too?” she shuddered.

“Yep. Price of disobedience.”

A cold silence followed for the next few minutes as Avni focused on the road. KK realized that he was both hungry and horny. It wasn’t a new feeling for him, but tonight the latter feeling was stronger than ever. He glanced at her, eyes travelling over her form-fitting uniform and settling on her perfectly rounded breasts. What a waste of tits.

“If you see what’s inside you might die of an erection.”

“Like Atilla the Hun?” he replied, not backing down.

“Like Atilla the Hun.” She smiled.

He grinned in return. Avni was one of the cool ones. Over the years, KK had earned enough respect within the team to be able to choose who he worked with and while there were a lot of choices, KK had grown fond of Avni. She was an equal in most ways, better in some too and that made her a worthy partner to have. As long as we’ve got work, that is.

“Can I ask you something?”

“I am not showing them to you!”

“As great as they may be, everything isn’t about your tits.” He paused for a bit, trying to frame his question. “What happens after?”

“After?”

“Yeah. I mean … like I said… there hasn’t been a Class M spotting in over four months. Class C and Class B have also been cleared out. What if there’s no need for us anymore?”

“I guess we retire.”

“I’m too fucking young to retire.”

Avni pulled the car over to the side of the road and looked at KK, noticing that for the first time, he was afraid. Was he was really scared of the future?

“Look. Whatever it is, I’m sure the Supreme Commander will think of a way to keep us occupied. He can’t just let us die, can he?”

“No. I know he won’t. But we got to earn our keep, right. We are hunters. If we don’t hunt, we die.”

“My cousin was telling me about his crew being shipped to Damascus to fight against the Syrians. Maybe something like that?”

He shrugged but Avni’s words didn’t comfort him. He got out, taking the cigarettes with him. Sitting on the hood under the open sky usually made him feel peaceful and that’s what he needed right now. He climbed onto the hood and lay there, spread-eagle, puffing smoke rings into the night sky and watching them disappear into the great abyss of nothingness.

“Yeah. I mean … like I said… there hasn’t been a Class M spotting in over four months. Class C and Class B have also been cleared out. What if there’s no need for us anymore?”

Clank.

He sat up. It was unmistakable. His ears would never deceive him. Pulling out his gun, he motioned to Avni to follow him and like a panther he hit the asphalt. Years of training had taught him to stay in the shadows while approaching his prey. He walked up slowly towards where the sound had come from, motioning for Avni to enter from the opposite side.

Scrape.

There was definitely someone there. But she had to be cautious. A few years ago, cops had entered a similar alley way and had been blown to smithereens by a homemade IED. She had no intentions of dying tonight. Cautiously, she turned the corner peering into the darkness. Something moved. Was it her imagination? She wasn’t sure. She made out something – a figure, in all black, formless clothes. She tapped twice on her communicator, letting KK know that she had found something. She moved closer. It spotted her and reached for something. Without even thinking, Avni saw her own left-hand cup the barrel of the revolver in her right as the hammer crashed into the chamber.

BANG!

Before she heard the gunshot, she saw the bullet tear through the figure, dropping it to the ground where it lay, still. Avni could hear it breathe. Gun still pointed at it she stepped forward. By now, KK had turned the corner and was closing in as well.

He kicked the figure once. Nothing. He kicked it over to reveal a girl, barely over twelve. “Did you have to shoot her down so quick?” he asked as he sat down to check her pulse. The girl stirred. “Hey! What do you know… the bitch is alive!” He reached down and checked, the bullet had hit something inside her jacket and she was untouched, just winded by the impact.

KK grinned as he pocketed his gun and slid an arm under her, lifting her up like she was made of straw. He slammed her into the wall. “What class?” The kid was silent. “You got papers?” No answer. With his forearm pressed against her neck, he ran his hands over her clothes, rifling through the pockets. Nothing. “What’s your name?” No response. “Are you deaf? Is she fucking deaf?”

“I know what will make you talk.” With a gun to her forehead, KK put a hand inside her dress, sliding it upwards. The girl winced her eyes shut at first and then finally screamed.

“So, you can talk.” He grinned maniacally, “What’s your name, bitch?”

“Fa… fa … Farhana…” the words were barely a quiver.

“Farhana!” KK laughed as he realized that she was a Class M. “Where’s the rest of your team hiding?”

She shook her head. With the butt of his pistol, he cracked her lip open, the blood landing on the wall behind her. Subconsciously, Avni’s eyes turned to the blood, aware that something was stirring inside her.

“God is fucking awesome, you know, Farhana? I was feeling horny all day and here you are! It’s like a gift, isn’t it? And a gift shouldn’t be wasted.” KK unbuckled his belt and dropped his pants to the floor.

“Listen, I’m going back to the car. Take her blood sample before tossing her in the bin.” Avni said as she turned away from the girl’s scream.

“No dustbin for this bitch. I’m gonna string her up for everyone to see.”

Subconsciously, Avni’s eyes turned to the blood, aware that something was stirring inside her.

For the first time that night, her rage sensors went off, but Avni didn’t notice. She didn’t remember pulling her gun out nor did she remember emptying the entire contents of her revolver into her best friend. All she knew was that he was dead and Farhana was alive.

     “Go!” she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

     “No!”

Avni watched in shock as the girl walked over to KK and kneeled down beside him, gently closing his eyes and saying a prayer. Her eyes widened further when Farhana reached inside his jacket and pulled out his gun, slowly turning it to Avni.

“Do you know what Farhana means? It means happy” She laughed, bitterly. “Happy? My mother was burned alive in the riots of 2043 and the people that found me, they named me and took care of me. But when he made his announcement, they were shot, right there” She pointed to a spot on the crossroads. “In a country where your religion is everything, I don’t even know my real name! I don’t know if I am a Class H or a Class M or a Class B or what! All I know is that I don’t belong —

And with that, she turned the gun towards her own temple and pulled the trigger.

For how long Avni stood there, she didn’t know. Eventually she did get up and start to walk back. Something caught her eye. A graffiti, incomplete. Someone had written A Z A on the wall. Still in the same zombie-like state, she walked over to it. It was fresh. She could still smell the paint. Was this Farhana’s work? She saw a cannister lying on the ground. D I. She completed it before walking away.

“Do you know what Farhana means? It means happy” She laughed, bitterly.

As she walked back, she knew that something inside her had broken and the helplessness of it all caused the levee to break. Out came all the tears that she had held back, from the night Tarana was killed till tonight. It came like a flood, barreling out from her chest in huge sobs.

The sound of the alarm caused her to snap out of it. Leaning over to the glove compartment, she pulled out the bottle of water. The countdown had ended and it was time to take a sip, yet suddenly her thirst was over. She tossed the bottle onto the seat and gunned the engine. It was her duty to patrol till morning and patrol she would. It was all she knew.

Not wanting to look at the passenger seat or burst into tears again, she turned on the radio where the familiar voice was being cheered on. She had completely forgotten about tonight’s program. The Supreme Commander had a new important announcement. She listened closely, hoping for her prophet to speak the words of wisdom that would help her fight the seeds of doubt that were growing inside her, would bring her peace.

“My friends, for too long they have gone against the will of the gods. They are a blemish and must be eliminated. From this moment Class H citizens that are not heterosexual will be deemed Class HB citizens. They are hereby given a 48-hour notice. Get out of our country or you will be shot on sight!”

It took a second for it to sink in. And then her hand-pulser rose all the way to maximum and started electrocuting her. But Avni just kept laughing. And laughing. And laughing.

As she walked back, she knew that something inside her had broken and the helplessness of it all caused the levee to break. Out came all the tears that she had held back, from the night Tarana was killed till tonight. It came like a flood, barreling out from her chest in huge sobs.


Whilst in school, teachers used to ask Affy to tell stories to the classroom during free periods or if it was raining during his Physical Training periods.
He’d probably laugh at the stories he told then, which were largely improvised and had zero depth to them.
After spending nearly 20 years working in Private FM, he decided to leave the corporate slavery and try his hand as a wordsmith – aiming at becoming a screenwriter.
It was only after a Bound retreat that he has taken prose-writing a little more seriously and he is currently working on a collection of short stories.