This story contain no graphic scenes of sex
This story contain no graphic scenes of sex
ALL STANDARD DISCLAIMERS APPLY
The young man sat up with a horrified gasp, eyes wide with terror, drenched in sweat...
But no, he was in a small room, sitting on a bed... everything quiet and peaceful. And as he looked around, wondering where he was, he heard the hurrying footsteps.
"Hello, young man," an old gentleman with a shock of white hair, dressed in a white cloak greeted him, a young nurse hovering right behind him, "how are you feeling now?"
"Where am I?" the man asked.
"You're at my clinic, young man," the man replied with a smile, taking his wrist, "and I'm Dr. Kaprekar."
"No, I mean, where am I?" he repeated, but the doctor hushed him, checking the pulse before looking down at him and smiling, "As I already said, at my private clinic," and then laughed out loud, "oh, well, some people got you here last evening... you had passed out on the street. But now that you are awake, everything is fine!"
"Doctor, I know, this is your clinic, but where am I... I mean, where... which city?"
"Why, Pune, of course!" the doctor replied, giving him a curious look.
"How did I get to Pune?" the youth asked in wonder, "I never went there!"
"Young man, I don't know where you went, but you are in Pune. By the way, what's your name, you had no ID on you when the men brought you here, and so I couldn't call your people!"
"Salil," the youth replied, "But doctor, I went to Hyderabad... and... and... how did I get here?"
"Hyderabad? And when was that?" the doctor asked, suddenly serious, pulling up a chair and sitting down.
"Yesterday, I guess..." Salil shrugged.
"No," the doctor shook his head, "yesterday you were in Pune, passed out on the street..."
"How did it happen?"
"Well, from what the men said, some kids threw one of those vile cherry bomb as you passed, you know, one of their juvenile pranks... sick children now-a-days, they go wild during Diwali! Anyway, the sudden shock made you black out and some passers-by saw you fall and brought you here. Luckily you didn't hurt yourself, just a slight concussion, nothing serious!"
"Did you say Diwali?" Salil asked, curiously looking at the doctor.
"Of course, yesterday was Diwali and no decent person could relax with the racket that these young men and children were making!"
"Wait, doctor... you say it was Diwali yesterday?" and as the doctor nodded, Salil asked, "What's the date today?"
"Why, 10th November..." he paused for a moment and then with a sly grin added, "Two-thousand and seven!"
Salil stared at the doctor for a while, his jaws dropping, "10th November, 2007!" he finally cried out.
The doctor nodded, slightly taken aback.
"What happened to September and October?" Salil asked in panic.
"They came and went, as they were supposed to," the doctor chuckled.
Salil gave the doctor a disdainful look, "Doctor, you don't seem to get it, I was in Hyderabad on 25th August, and you tell me it's 10th of November today, huh?!" he shouted, trying to get off the bed.
"Now, young man, relax..." Dr. Kaprekar said, holding him as he nodded at the nurse.
"No, doctor, you don't understand!" Salil cried, shoving at the old man.
"I do, I do..." the doctor said, taking the syringe from the nurse, "and now, just relax and get some rest..." he whispered softly, plunging the needle in, injecting the liquid.
Neeladri sat up with a start... he had actually fallen asleep after he spoke to his mother... and looking at the watch he noted the hour with horror - it was noon!
Quickly getting out of bed he took a shower and rushed out, straight to the police station.
There was a new set of faces now, and they all looked at him curiously... the station in-charge shuffling through the papers and files on the table, pulling out the slim folder with Neeladri's previous night's report, reading it.
"Yes," he finally nodded, "we've been in touch with all the hospitals, but no one was brought in that fits the description you gave of this man, um, Aahan," he looked up at Neeladri, "and that isn't his real name either..." staring at him, the look questioning.
The young doctor groaned silently, wondering if he had to go through another round of incredulous questioning.
Luckily the officer didn't pursue the matter, "And none of the unclaimed bodies at the various morgues match Aahan's description," he said, closing the folder and sitting back. "We have to wait, after all, he's a grown up man, not a child!"
"You're a doctor, isn't it?" he asked after a brief pause, adding, "Could it be that he suddenly remembered his past and went home?"
"Not exactly," Neeladri replied, "it doesn't happen that way, but even if it did, he had nothing on him, as I explained yesterday. Aahan left his wallet in the room, and he had no money on him..."
"He could call home, and they could book a passage for him," the officer stated, "after all, this is the cyber age!"
"Can't you find that out from the railways or the airport," he asked leaning forward, his heatbeat suddenly rapid, "um, airlines?"
"With what," the officer countered, "a name that isn't his? And you don't have his photo either!"
Neeladri sat back, defeated.
"Well, we are on it, and we'll keep you informed," the officer stated, the tone clearly suggesting the closure of their brief conference.
"But... but," Neeladri hesitated, "sir, he could be ill, you know, have one of his..." he trailed off, noting the look on the officer's face, and really tired of repeating himself. "I'm leaving for Hyderabad today," he finally stated, "it would be nice if I had some information before I left... or could take him back with me..."
"We are the police," the man replied with a condescending smile, "not wizards or magic-makers - 'poof' and we produce Aahan for you!"
Neeladri kept quiet, suddenly very angry, but also aware of his own vulnerable position.
"And yes," the man continued, "you can leave; we have no reason to hold you back. We're already in touch with the Hyderabad police, and we have your contact, we'll get in touch when we have some information."
Neeladri slowly rose, the officer too standing up, "By the way," he suddenly smiled, "you never mentioned you had friends in high-up places, huh?" the tone almost sneering.
And as the young doctor looked at him in incomprehension, he added, "Have a safe journey."
"Sorry, Ma," he apologised, "I fell asleep and woke up late. I'm checking out now and going to the airport..."
"What's wrong with your phone?"
"Um," he mumbled, "I'm on roaming and after all the calls I made yesterday..." he trailed off.
"Okay, after you check out, get a recharge, and call us once you're home."
"Yes..." he nodded.
"Well, we're stuck at the Delhi airport," she said, sounding exasperated, "no available seats on any Hyderabad flight! We even tried taking a round-about route - via Mumbai, or Kolkata, whatever available - but nothing. It's probably the Diwali season, everyone is returning to their workplace after the weekend break! But we got seats for tomorrow, evening flight..."
"Thank you, Ma," Neeladri said, "I'll be home tonight..."
"And please, don't worry, your father already spoke to a few of his friends in Pune, and they're doing their bit, already in touch with the police Headquarters, the officials there, and all the hospitals, we'll find him, I promise!"
"Salil, my boy, you don't seem to remember how you got here, how can you be so sure that you had been to Hyderabad?" Dr. Kaprekar reasoned.
It was evening and Salil was awake, sitting in the tiny room. They had been talking, going over the same thing, again and again.
"I don't know doctor," he finally sighed, for the first time totally confused.
"Salil, I suggest you contact your family..." the doctor repeated.
Salil remained silent, looking out of the window, listening to the birds in the garden outside as they returned home for the day, "I've told you, I have no family..." he finally said, shaking his head, looking at the old man.
"Then how can I just let you go?"
"Doctor, how can you hold me? You said I'm fine, and healthy, so why do you want to keep me here, huh?"
"Yes, you are physically fit, and fine," the doctor replied, "but you seem confused, and I feel responsible..."
"No, doctor, I need to go," Salil interjected, "I need to find answers... what happened that evening after I sat down to eat? I'm so sure I went to Hyderabad, then how come I'm in Pune?"
"Exactly, and to clear all those doubt and confusions, you need rest... clear you thoughts before you can..."
"I just want to get back... go and find out what happened. " he said even before the doctor could finish.
The doctor sat silent for a while, pondering, and then looked up, shaking his head, "Listen, Salil, what I understand, and you say there was some kind of explosion before you passed out," his hand on Salil's shoulder, "it's suggestive of post-traumatic amnesia. So, what we need to do is contact the police, they can help. They'll get in touch with their counterpart in..."
"No, doctor, not the police," Salil exclaimed, afraid that he wouldn't be able to bluff them about his family, their persistent questioning would reveal the truth, and he didn't want to face his parents, wasn't prepared for it, not yet!
"Where do you want to go, home?" the doctor finally asked.
Salil looked up at the doctor and then nodded.
"You didn't have anything in your pockets, no papers, no ID... and no money, how will you go?"
"I don't know, but I MUST go!"
Dr. Kaprekar nodded, "Fine, I can give you some cash, but not much..."
"Thank you doctor, but I want you to lend me the money, and please give me your business card, I'll be back, I'll pay you back..." he paused for a while, before adding in a low voice, "I owe too many things to too many people... and I need to repay all my debts!"
The doctor nodded, patting his shoulder, "Well, I'll drop you at the railway station."
Neeladri tried all the airlines, but none had a flight to Hyderabad, "Nothing in the evening, sir," they all smiled.
"The last flight took off just half an hour back," the lady at the last counter informed him with a regretful smile, "But if you want we can put you on the Mumbai flight that leaves at 8 PM, and you can take the 9:30 flight to Hyderabad from there."
He wondered for a moment, and then nodded, "Okay, give me one ticket and book me onwards, to Hyderabad?"
"Yes, sir," she smiled.
He looked around and spotted the pay phone, but as he approached he saw the tiny notice stuck on the instrument - 'OUT OF ORDER'. Cursing silently he returned to his seat... well, he'd call them after reaching Hyderabad, tell them he was home.
And as he sat, checking the time every few minutes, wondering when the call for the final security check would be announced, the public address system crackled and a voice informed the waiting passengers that the flight to Mumbai had been rescheduled - the craft had been delayed on another route, and the new, tentative, departure time was 2100 hours!
He rushed over to the airline's information counter, "Sorry sir, the flight has been delayed," the lady gave him a faint smile, "it's expected by 2045 hours and should depart by 2130."
"Nine-thirty?!" Neeladri exclaimed with horror, "Then, I'll miss my connecting flight to Hyderabad!"
She nodded, "I'm sorry, sir," giving a shrug, "but the fare will be reimbursed."
"Don't you have any other flight that I can take, you know, after I reach Mumbai?"
"No sir, that's our last flight..."
"Can't you book me with some other airline?"
She tapped the keyboard and then looking up gave a regretful smile, "No flights after 9:30..."
"So, what do I do, how do I get to Hyderabad?"
"Sir, you could still take this flight and we'll put you on the first flight to Hyderabad in the morning!" she replied, smiling brilliantly.
He thought for a moment - what was there to do in Mumbai... sit at the airport the whole damned night?! It would be better if he stayed back... at least he could meet the police in the morning and see what they had, maybe some news by then...
And there was that remote possibility - a flicker of desperate hope - that he'd find Aahan, see him somewhere, maybe unlikely, but still... and then, the two of them could take the morning flight... go home together!
"What about tomorrow, when does it leave Pune?" he asked the lady.
"There's one in the morning, at 1130 hours, and of course, 1700 hours, in the evening."
"Give me the 11:30."
to be continued...
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