Saturday, 5 November 2016

Innocent Justice

A short story by Prashant C. Trikannad

The old proprietor of the country liquor shop on Market Road dropped the coins in the drawer and handed Kiaan a bottle of hooch wrapped in a plastic bag.

"Now you be careful with that, son," he said, leaning over the counter and pulling the young boy's raincoat together.

Kiaan nodded without looking up.

"Tell your father I said hi."

"He's not my father," the boy said.

"Uh, okay. You take care," the barman said. "The rain gods are in a foul mood tonight."

Kiaan gripped the bottle by the neck and went out into the night. Rain was falling hard and the narrow bridge leading to the other side of the creek where he lived was dark and deserted. The storm had taken out the street lights. As he sloshed through the rain, murky waters swirled around his legs and escaped between his wet shoes, which made a sucking sound.

The night was eerie and strange. It was like walking through an old desolate house and sensing a forbidding presence. Another kid would have shivered with cold fear. Not Kiaan. All he felt was anger and hatred, a burning desire to kill his stepfather. He wasn't sure how he was going to do it. He shook involuntarily and his fingers tightened around the bottle of cheap Feni.

Tonight would be the last night his stepfather sent him out to fetch the bottle. As he walked the bridge, he looked at the ghostly shapes of trawlers bobbing in the distance where the creek joined the Mandovi River.

His father had died when he was six. Four years later, his mother had married his father's best friend. She told him she took the step for his sake, because he needed a father figure in his life. His stepfather turned out to be opposite, a violent alcoholic whose sadistic abuse of his mother started almost immediately after they returned from honeymoon. Night after night the boy cowered under his blanket, trying to drown out the unnatural sounds from the other room, and cried himself to sleep. Till, one day, he swore to kill the man who’d destroyed their lives.


*          *         *

Kiaan crossed the creek, turned into a dark lane, and stopped. The rain was coming in torrents. Lightning waltzed through the sky and a thunder of applause rent the air. He looked down and found himself in knee-deep water. It felt cold against his skin and he shivered momentarily. He waded through long shadows of dilapidated buildings on either side, their windows in wartime blackout. Suddenly, he gave a startled cry when he felt something crawl over his feet and crawl back again. Terrified, he ran, splashed, ran as fast as he could through filthy water and floating junk, clutching the bottle tightly in his right hand. 


When he reached the end of the lane, he turned left, clambered up the uneven footpath, and entered the last building. Light from a ceiling bulb danced in the pool of water on the floor. Flecks of yellow paint peeled off the walls. An ‘out of order’ sign hung on the metal-caged lift. Pigeons cooed in the ventilation above the doorway. The storm intruded on the stillness in the gloomy hallway.

The kid pushed back the hood of his raincoat and carefully removed the bottle from the plastic bag. He went to the entrance, dipped the bottle into the water, and smashed it as hard as he could against the wall. It broke on the third blow. When he lifted it again, he was holding the neck of the bottle with jagged edges dripping blood and water. Tears rolled down his face as he pulled out a shard of glass from his hand. He wiped his face on the sleeve of his wet raincoat and hurried inside. 


He waited at the bottom of the stairs, his eyes searching for movement. Finding none, he began to climb, one step at a time — holding the bottle away from him, like a blood-stained knife after a murder.

*          *         *

Kiaan stood outside his door at the end of a dimly-lit corridor. He was breathing heavily and his heart was racing. Just like it did every night his stepfather returned home reeking of cheap liquor and stale smoke, and went after his mother. For the first time since he'd left the bar, he was frightened. He knew what awaited him on the other side of the door. What he didn't know was what would happen after he went in.

With tears in his eyes and a quivering hand, he inserted his key in the lock and turned it slowly when the door flew open and slammed against the wall. Kiaan pulled back with a start and dropped the bottle. The storm drowned out the crash of splintered glass. No doors opened. He stood there, frozen.

His stepfather was just inside the door, swaying on his feet. He was clutching his throat with both hands. Blood, the colour of dark red cherry, oozed through his fingers and trickled down his arms and smeared his bare chest.

“Kiaan, my boy!” he croaked, like a raven, and fell on his face at the boy’s feet.

At that moment, lightning flashed through the living room like disco lights. At first he thought he was seeing a ghost. Then he saw it was his mother. Only now she wasn’t his mother. She was something else. An apparition of a beautiful woman without a soul.

“It’s over, Kiaan.” She reached out with her hand.

Trembling, the boy backed away till his hands found cold wall.



© Prashant C. Trikannad, 2016

24 comments:

  1. Liked the story very much! I thought it was going to end in another way though!

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    1. Thank you, Mystica. I spent days pondering over the ending, which was predictable any which way I thought about it. In the end I decided to add a little twist.

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  2. Powerful, Prashant. That creepy, crawly thing going up and down his leg. Ugh. And the setting reminded me of those abandoned mills of Mumbai.

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    1. Thank you, Neer. Part of that came from my own experience walking through the flooded streets of Bombay, on my way to school and back. Of course, my circumstances were entirely different, and certainly happier than Kiaan's.

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  3. Very good story, Prashant. With a terrifying ending.

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    1. Thank you, Tracy. A story can be written and rewritten in a hundred and more ways, and that's my dilemma.

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  4. Very nice work, Prashant. The child’s rising anger was well done. The storm, the lightning, and the rain and running water were vivid.

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    1. Thank you, Elgin. I appreciate your feedback. Improbabilities in a story bother me. For instance, can a ten-year-old actually be in this situation? From what I have heard people tell, he can. The next questions is how best to capture it. Well, one writes and learns.

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  5. What a powerful story, Prashant! You really convey the boy's feelings effectively, and I like his sense of protectiveness about his mother. Even the small part of the shopkeeper is done well. I'm impressed with your use of atmosphere, too. I really felt the boy's mix of fear and hatred and determination.

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    1. Thank you, Margot. As I noted in my reply to Mystica's comment, I struggled with the ending, and frankly, I'm still not happy with it. I'd love to know how published writers, like you Margot, would've ended it. The boy sets out to kill his stepfather and is suddenly confronted by the horror of seeing his mother do the deed, and he can't accept it. It is not easy to draw human emotion, especially children's.

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  6. Top story, Prashant - well done! Great atmosphere to it.

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    1. Three big scores for me — thank you, Col! The problem with flash fiction or short story are ruing over elements that don't go into the story because there isn't enough space. Everything seems important.

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  7. Wow, this is really good. excellent details. I could feel it all.

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    1. Thank you, Charles. I appreciate your positive feedback. Next I want to try my hand at fantasy or science fiction. But first I'll have to oil my imagination really well, and then the writing, of course.

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  8. Terrific story, Prashant and a nice twist at the end.

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    1. Thank you, Oscar. I'm happy you liked it. The twist is in the tail — how do I end it? — which, for me, is the hardest part of writing a story.

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    2. Endings are tough,but you did fine on this one.

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    3. Thanks, Oscar. I feel encouraged; of course, to do better in my future stories.

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  9. I'm with Charles. Like the details.

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    1. Thank you, David. I feel like an explorer in the realm of short stories, discovering something new as I go into uncharted territory.

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  10. Terrific, Prashant. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Patti. I have been inspired by your own short stories as well as those by our blog friends, Charles, Margot, David, Oscar, and many others.

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  11. The best of yours I've read Prashant - incredible atmosphere, and details, and tension. I could picture it all. Really excellent.

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    1. Thank you, Moira. That means a lot to me. I need to introduce Indianness in my stories. Somehow that isn't coming through, perhaps because I'm far too influenced by Western settings and atmosphere.

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