When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
- Ernest Hemingway
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Lies. That’s all what have been told to me ever since that fateful night ten years ago. That nightmare of a memory is still fresh as a burning wound in my memory. It feels as if it was only yesterday that I had received the news of my parents’ untimely demise. It had been a chilly, moonless night. There had been an uncanny stillness to the dark that somehow warned of an impending doom. I had been staying with my aunt. My parents, being the technological wizards they were, had always been chased by one IT tech or the other. So I was used to staying with my aunt during their corporate trips. That night my aunt had received a phone call and I had eavesdropped only to overhear that my parents had been in an unfortunate car wreck and hadn’t made it. I had always been closed to my parents. We had always been able to tell what the other needed without even saying a word. We were each other’s building blocks. But that news had brought my world tumbling down; it had been a seismic level shock to my fifteen year old self. For days I had felt numb to the world. People had milled around offering their sympathies, wishes and help but I was oblivious to them; conscious only to the fact that I no longer wished to live with the same life. I had no desire to smile, nothing to wake up for the next morning, simply no reason to move on. And I wouldn’t have either, had it not been for the newspaper article I read about the accident.
It reported of a pile up on a Mumbai highway just like what everybody believed. Little did they know that it was no accident; that my parents were never in Mumbai in the first place. The mobile tracking app installed in my phone by my mother confirmed their location in delhi at the time of the accident. Little did they know that it was all a lie; that ten years later I would receive a box with a note from my father’s attorney as a part of his will to look for the real cause that stole the most precious pearls from the necklace of my life…..
I sat staring at the box lying on the dining table in my home. I had no way of opening it since I had received no key with it. Either my parents wanted me to die of curiosity or they believed that I already had the key. If so… where could it be? I drummed my fingers on the table and absentmindedly ran my other finger along the edges of the box. It was pretty yet plain like any other mahagony wooden box except for the endearing yet dreadful heart shaped key hole. It must have been custom-made; sculpted specifically for a purpose. This only strengthened my speculations that I had it. The lock was quite beautiful just like that of…….my pendant? It was my mother’s gift to me when I was young. I immediately removed it, fit and turned the key.
I removed the lid and scanned its contents. There was just a book inside “For Souls To Rest”. How odd? I flipped the pages till I found a picture in the book. My eyes widened to the size of saucers when I saw my parents with two strangers in a place that I knew and yet did not know. The house was definitely the old one I lived in. it had the same paint and texture I had specially designed for it but none of the settings matched any of the décor of my old home. The date in the corner indicated that the picture was taken only a few days after the accident. Without any second thoughts I grabbed my car keys and rushed to my old home.
I sat in my old home taking in the damp cold aura of the desolation that the house emitted contrary to the warmth it once cocooned me in. the longer I sat there, the longer my mind wandered and the more I was assailed by the forgotten memories and doubts. What if this was all just wild goose chase? What if in the end I regret ever coming here? What if I prefer not to know the truth than to hear the one that is too hard to bear? I gave a short laugh. My father always preferred harsh truths to merciful lies. His honesty had been one of the few things I liked. I smiled ruefully as my mind drifted to a conversation I’d had with my mother many years back when she could not find anything I liked.
“Is there anything you like?” she had asked with a smile.
“Yes, rain, books, you and papa” i had replied.
My mother had smiled knowingly and pointed to a place between the bookshelf and a window where I had spent countless hours reading and said, “Well from there you can see the rain, there are your precious books. Here, somewhere, is a perfect nest ……..for souls to rest”
Wait. I sat up straighter. What was the name of the book again? I leapt up from my chair so fast I almost gave myself a whiplash. Could this all be connected? I went to the corner and looked about. There must be something. I looked at the book in my hand. It has to be the missing piece of the puzzle, I yearned to solve. I opened the book to the page where I had found the picture.
Happy moments, like a river
Nourished the future
With memories of the past
Or could it be ……..movements?
I looked at the only movable object in my vicinity and immediately started pushing the bookshelf. After several back breaking tries, I finally got it off only to find an automated door in the floor with a three tries numeric password. Okay, people generally use important dates as passwords, don’t they? May it was mom’s birthday or dad’s? No, too evident. May be my birth-date, it was always my mother’s favorite number. I entered it only to have a red sign appear. Okay, If not this, then uh… probably my favorite number. Yes this has to be it. I entered it and wrong again. Oh drat! Last try! Shoot! I squealed through my clenched teeth. I brought my fisted hands to my mouth and cursed softly under my breath. This has got to be my father’s doing. God! His actions had always been the hardest chapter to read….chapter to read… I jumped and flipped to the same page of the book and slowly went through it. There was just some old man moping about his money but there was no number there except for chapter 7 and page 86.
7 and 86.
786, The Holy Number. There was absolutely no way that this was all just a coincidence. I entered the number. Lo and behold, the door opened. I bolted downstairs only to stop dead in my tracks. The room brimmed with arms, ammunitions and whatnot. On the walls were hundreds of articles stuck together in collages. Some were caked with dust while others were worn at the edges. On the table in the corner were, what looked like a dozen, no doubt, fake passports. And suddenly the truth hit me right in the face with the speed of a freight train.
“Counter intelligence….spies” I heard myself say in words that were no more than a whisper. It was the perfect explanation to everything, their athletic builds, untimely trips and perfectly indestructible alibis. The way they used to sit with their backs to the wall and assessed every person they met as if looking for a chink in their armour. I couldn’t believe it. With mind spinning I sat on a chair near the table with my head in my hands. Above the passports was something like a journal. But it was empty except one entry in my mother’s elegant writing. I read it as tears welled up in my eyes and were flowing freely by the time I finished it. My parents never went to Mumbai. There had been in Delhi on one of their missions. They had chosen to sacrifice themselves for the sanctity of their nation. Sobbing hard, I went upstairs and closed the door. My emotions were a mangled mess. I sat there for what felt like hours and pondered over the events of the day, systemizing the feelings back. I was saddened that I had been lied to all my life yet proud of having martyrs for parents. I mourned the loss of my angels yet somewhere I was contended for now that the ghosts of the past have finally been laid down to rest.