This story contain no graphic scenes of sex
This story contain no graphic scenes of sex


TUM   BIN...
[ Without You... ]

Part Four

"FUCK!" Neeladri exclaimed in fury, slamming shut the laptop and heard the giggle behind him, spinning around to see Aahan standing near the doorway, grinning. "What's so funny, huh?" he asked, still flustered.

It was early Sunday morning, and the young doctor was in the den, alone, desperately trying to resurrect the stubbornly unresponsive laptop...

He wanted to read the files Dr. Mathur had given him, asked him to study - case files - but the bloody thing refused to respond. He didn't understand anything about computers, other than getting the contraption to do stuffs for him, and he never, ever, had any problem with one.

Aahan went on grinning, like a thrilled school kid suddenly privy to some dark adult secret, "That word," he finally managed between giggles, "sounds outrageously funny, coming from you!"

"Very amusing!" Neeladri scowled, "Why, am I some sort of a ferocious ogre, huh?"

"No," he smiled, walking in and sitting down opposite Neeladri, "but you're always so... um, impeccably perfect... so calm and sorted, so 'in control'..."

Neeladri let out a grunt, and then calming down a bit, said, "It's this bloody comp, it just shut down on me, and I can't seem to raise it!"

"It happens," Aahan said looking at the laptop, "most do tend to eventually crash... but, you're not supposed to slam it like it's the hood of your car!"

"You know about computers?" Neeladri asked, suddenly keen, "You can fix them?"

Aahan shrugged, "Don't know, but computers do have problems, you know... malicious codes... maybe faulty drivers, memory problems, even a loose RAM module... uh," and then went blank, the eyes suddenly unfocussed.

Neeladri noted the abrupt changes and was curious, wanting to ask more questions, but seeing the glazed look decided not to pursue the matter any further, at least, not at that point of time...

"Had some important case-files to read, and I don't have copies saved on the desktop," he said with a shrug, "Oh well, guess I'll have to search and download whatever I can find."

"Was it urgent," Aahan asked, leaning forward, "like, very important?"

"Not exactly 'urgent', but wanted to read those case studies, get to know the details before..." he broke off, smiling, "Anyways, let's have breakfast and go..."

In the two weeks that Aahan had been with him, they had set up a routine for the week - Aahan accompanying Neeladri for his morning jog, and then spending the day at home... mostly in the library, reading, or out in the garden, chatting with the gardener, surprisingly knowledgeable about plants and manures, according to Ahmed. And once Neeladri returned from the hospital, they went out for a walk, or drive, or just hanging out at book and music stores. The young doctor amazed by Aahan's impressive knowledge of jazz; stunned as he recited details of its roots, history, development, genres... and other obscure trivia - wondering if the man was some sort of musician!

Sundays were reserved for their foray into Aahan's past - leaving home after breakfast and driving around different residential areas of the city, Neeladri observing him keenly, watching for any hint of remembrance... any sign of recognition. Having lunch outside, before catching a movie... then a walk by the lakeside... and back home for dinner.

"And where are we going today?" Aahan asked as they drove out.

"To meet a couple of my old friends - Harish and Radhika," Neeladri answered, driving swiftly down the empty streets, "we were in school together. Both did their computer science, got jobs in the same firm, got married and moved here!

"It's sort of a ritual with us, meeting every second Sunday and spending the day together," he said, looking briefly at Aahan, "alternately visiting each other; last month they visited me, so this Sunday it's my turn to visit them."

"So you only meet once a month?" Aahan asked.

"Of course not, we keep meeting regularly, but these lunch sessions are exclusive, just the three of us..."

"Oh, then how come you're taking me along?" Aahan questioned, looking at Neeladri, "won't they... um..."

Neeladri shook his head, smiling, "Relax, they already know that you're with me, and they're expecting you!"

Aahan nodded, smiling back.

"A beer before lunch, Neel?" Harish asked, getting up.

"Sure," Neeladri nodded.

"And what about you, Aahan, a beer or would you prefer somethi..." but Neeladri quickly interrupted, "No, no alcohol for him!"

"Oh, of course," Harish mumbled, giving Neeladri an apologetic look, walking over to the bar.

"Nobody even bothers to ask me," sighed Radhika, picking up the empty plates from the coffee table.

"C'mon, let me help," Neeladri offered, taking the plates from her, grinning, "and why does he need to ask or offer you, huh, this is your home, you take and have whatever you want!"

"You know," she grinned back at him, "alcohol and I don't really get along well."

"Then why tease the poor man," Neeladri smiled at her as they entered the kitchen, "did you ever notice the hurt-puppy look he gives you each time you say something like that?" making Radhika giggle, and as he put the dishes in the sink, she grabbed his arm, squealing, "I'm so glad for you, he's gorgeous, I like him!"

"Radhika, I've already told you, he's my patient!"

"Oh, c'mon," she giggled, "he's NOT your patient, you're just taking care of him, 'protecting' him from being sent away to a Home," waving her hand impatiently as he started to say something, "Harish may fall for your silly crap, but I can see it in your eyes, you're in love; and, he's totally smitten by you!"

Neeladri laughed, "You girls, gosh, he doesn't even know who he is, and you say he's 'smitten'?!"

"Neel, have you observed the way he constantly looks at you, huh? He just can't seem to take his eyes off you, hanging on to every word you say. And each time we ask him something, anything, he just shrugs, mumbles a 'uh, don't know...' and looks up at you, like wanting you to tell him what to say... seeking your approval."

Neeladri let out a condescending laugh, "Radhika, sorry to ground your flight of fancy, but the reality is that he's like a lost child, bewildered and unsure, about everything; you ask him anything, absolutely anything, and he'll just shrug and say: 'I don't know...' And since I'm the only person he knows, is dependent on, and probably trusts in his present helpless condition, he, as you put it, 'seeks approval', NOT because he's 'smitten'. "

"Hah, I don't know all your deep medical matters of the head, but I sure do understand matters of the heart, and you're just fooling yourself if you deny what's so obvious," she declared.

"For God's sake, the man doesn't have a clue to anything," Neeladri hissed in a low voice, "doesn't even know who he is!"

"I don't care," she retorted. "What's passion without the excitement of the forbidden seasoned with oodles of lust; raging desire garnished with a dash of guilt... ah, that's the real spice of love, there's nothing wrong with it!" she squealed, her eyes sparkling. "He's simply amazing - smart, intelligent, and drop-dead gorgeous!"

Neeladri grinned, "Does that mean Harish now has competition, after all these years, huh?"

"Fat chance," she grinned back, "I'm bloody hooked to that devoted 'puppy'!"

After lunch, while Radhika took Aahan to show him her puppet collection, Harish cornered him, "Dude, you said he has amnesia or whatever, but he's intelligent and very well-informed. You asked me to talk to him about the IT industry, discuss without asking, and gosh, it's amazing the way he can converse..." shaking his head in astonishment, "well, he could convince anyone from the industry that he too is a professional!"

"Yes, I know, he's intelligent, sounds educated and always talks sense. He's also got an amazing sense of humour, and you should actually hear him talk about music, especially jazz, you'd vouch that he's an expert, even wonder if he's from the music industry!" Neeladri shrugged, "But he simply doesn't remember anything from the past. Talk to him about the past, about himself, and he goes absolutely blank... can't say a thing!"

"Can't you doctors do something, huh?"

"Not much, really," Neeladri shook his head, "It has to come back on its own. Of course, taking him back to his family would help, and probably speed up the process..."

"The police still don't have a clue?"

Neeladri shook his head.

"Sad," Harish observed, refilling their glasses.

It had been a lovely day - Harish and Radhika as warm and welcoming as ever; and Aahan seemed so relaxed and comfortable, almost normal, laughing and joking as they talked. Neeladri felt very nice as he stood on the veranda talking to Radhika, watching Harish and Aahan walk up to the car, deep in conversation.

"Neel," Radhika said, touching his arm, "it's been nearly two years now... it's over with Abhi," she paused for a moment, turning to look at her husband and Aahan and then added, "I really feel that you should now move on... He's a nice guy; and you two would make a very handsome couple!"

"Radhika, he could have a girlfriend back home, or even married with a kid for all we know," Neeladri replied, "what happens when it all comes back to him?"

"Oh, God, why does life have to be so bloody complicated?!" Radhika sighed, looking out at the men.

"Tell me!" Neeladri grinned at her, both walking down.

Remembering what Harish had mentioned, about Aahan's impressive knowledge of things related to IT, Neeladri took numerous diversions while driving back home, pointing out the buildings and the sprawling, upcoming campuses of major IT and ITES firms, watching Aahan closely as he nodded, peering out curiously.

The curling tendrils of fog twirled around him... rising up... chilling, as it swirled about, gradually taking the shape of a hideous human face... a horrific mask... the mouth, a gaping maw... hissing venomously...

The young man struggled, screaming... his powerful body twisting and jerking as he fought to free himself, his arms flailing wildly... but the twisting cirri held him, gripping him tighter... the pressure relentless as it pulled him down... his thrashing body slowly sinking under the enveloping smog... The voice suddenly loud, screaming at him: "GET OUT! GET OUT!"

His nostrils flared as he gasped for air, but he couldn't breathe... his struggle getting weaker as his strength seeped out... everything turning black.

And that's when he heard the sound... a faint voice from somewhere far, floating in through the murky haze... a name... someone calling him. With one final surge of demonic force he lashed out at the invisible monster trying to throttle him... screaming with all his might.

"Aahan!" he heard the cry, much closer now... felt the warm hands on his bare shoulders, gripping him, jerking him.

He blinked his eyes opened and looked up... seeing Neeladri, bent over him, calling him, "Aahan, wake up, can you hear me?"

Suddenly awake, he sprang up, flinging his arms around Neeladri, clinging on, "She'll kill me..." he cried, "she'll kill me..."

"Aahan, relax, calm down," Neeladri whispered, hugging him back, "What was it, another dream?"

Aahan was soaked in perspiration... shaking all over... his voice quivering, "It was that face again, she's trying to kill me..."

"Shh..." Neeladri whispered, sitting down on the bed, gently rocking him as he held him tight, 'It was a bad dream, and now it's over, she's gone..."

It was a while before the shivers subsided, the breathing slowly returning to normal, and then Neeladri disengaged... but Aahan grabbed his arm, "Please," he pleaded, "don't go, please don't leave me..."

"I'm going nowhere, just relax..." Neeladri smiled, reaching over and picking up the glass from the nightstand, "Here, have a sip," he said offering the water to Aahan, "and take this tablet."

Without questioning Aahan popped the tablet, drinking like a thirsty traveller... spilling the water as his hands were shaken by sudden, uncontrolled tremors.

Neeladri took the empty glass back and smiled, "Now, lie down and try to sleep."

The eyes instantly widened, laced with terror, "No..." Aahan shook his head, "she'll be back!"

"Aahan," Neeladri said in a low, soothing voice, caressing his face and head, "it's over now, she won't return, sleep," and then smiled, "Don't worry, I'll be right here, sitting on that chair!"

He sat, watching the sleeping man... his eyes caressing the beautiful form... yet his mind in turmoil...

He knew the responsibility he had taken... was aware of the challenges he had accepted; but it was a conscious choice... he had chosen to take it!

He had discussed the case in detail with Dr. Reddy, and Dr. Mathur... had talked about all the possibilities. They had agreed that Aahan was perfectly healthy, had no ailments, no physical injuries... but... there could be moments, moments that couldn't be predicted, and both doctors had warned him.

"He's like a child," they had said, "a lost child... uncertain and confused, and you'll need a lot of patience, and fortitude."

They had also told him that a person, though he usually retained his basic character traits and acquired skills, may sometimes take on a new personality, become a totally different person... a gregarious individual becoming withdrawn, while someone shy, become bold, "They can be unpredictable... can even turn violent!" Advising certain medicines for such emergencies.

And who was this 'she' of his dreams - was she his girlfriend... or wife? Did something happen, a terrible row perhaps?

Was that the reason that Aahan had nothing on him - no wallet, keys, ID or cards? He must have stalked off in a huff, and unwittingly became the victim of a terror attack... But then, why hadn't the lady looked for him, reported him as missing?

God, what an enigma!

Well, it was time to talk to Dr. Reddy once more, tell him about the latest dream...

to be continued...            

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