Short story

Madhubanti Mitra Ghosh

The Realm of Red

It wasn’t complete darkness just because of the street light entering the room through the window standing ajar. Within that darkened reality stood the man drawing himself to his full height. The shadowy figure didn’t hide the muscular build of the man’s body. His face was pointed below with a nearly distorted expression. His eyes were glaring down with limitless loathing, perhaps the gravest contempt those could muster- mirthless and severe that look was.

At his feet lay curled up a very pale, shadowy figure. A closer look told us that the figure was of a woman: misery and fear clouding her bruised face making her whiter and paler as if her face has been sapped out of blood and vitality. She was looking at the man with blank yet frightened eyes, eyes which might bulge out of their holes. She was trying to speak, but could not gather the strength. Once or twice she mumbled something incoherent. But that could do nothing to penetrate the fearsome silence between these characters (only interrupted by frenzied wind blowing outside the room).

The man broke the silence through gritted teeth: ’15 years’, he said. ’15 years it has been that I have waited to meet you once more. You know what I did all this time? I thought about revenge. I thought how I could avenge my mother’s death, my broken heart and my ruined life. 15 years of sleeplessness is going to end tonight.’ He laughed ruthlessly, but wasn’t there a bit of a teary air in that laugh? He felt in his jacket, while the woman on the floor tried to get up in a fiasco. The man had hit her hard making her thrash against the stone floor. The scene is going to make you wince, for sure.

In the mean time, the man has taken out a bunch of withered, dried up dead roses. ‘You remember these?’ he boomed. ‘These were the red roses I was bringing to you, for you loved red roses and I loved you’, he continued over the emphatic sobs, now coming steadily out of the woman’s voice. ‘Oh, I was wrong! I returned that day only to find my beloved mother dying a pathetic death: YOU KILLED HER!’ he bellowed over the sobs, the roaring wind and slow back ground music. ‘She saw us… us having…’ sobbed the woman uncontrollably. ‘Oh yes, oh yes! I remember very well’, cried the man, sarcasm dripping from his voice, ‘She caught you red-handed romancing that buffoon!’ ‘He loved me’, cried the woman with all her might. ‘Cut the crap’, roared the man. ‘What was I doing then? You hungry old slu-’ he could not complete his sentence as he looked up at the table placed nearby. A sudden flash of lightening has revealed a medium sized yet heavy (from the look of it) hammer lying on the table. The man’s eyes flushed. He picked it up while the woman beneath screamed the most horrible cry. The man laughed mirthlessly. “You remember this? This looks very much the same with which you broke my mother’s skull. And today I’m going to avenge her death with this.”

The woman continued to scream but the man tightened his grip on the hammer. The woman was struggling her way out of the man’s reach, in vain. Every time she writhed against the floors, the man kicked her to stillness. At last with a final kick on her face (perhaps breaking her nose), the man held the hammer high over his head, about to strike.

At this moment I switched off the TV. I don’t like too much violence in a movie. On top of that my washing machine was signaling that it has finished rinsing. I touched my forehead. There were droplets of perspiration there. I wiped my face and smiled nervously, all to myself. Then I got up (as if with much difficulty) and started walking towards my washing machine. The roses my husband brought me yesterday were bright and red against the white vase just beside the washing machine. I love red roses and he loves me. By the time I reached the washing machine, I found my phone lying on top of its lid. I picked it up. One WhatsApp from Prateek was waiting there: ‘Meet me today at 9 PM. I have bought the movie tickets. Tell your husband you have office party this eve. Wear the red one piece. You look stunning in it.’