Sunday, May 29, 2011

Still in the past...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lost and found...

5 pm. The medical college canteen. Nishant sipped his coffee in solitude, mulling over the day; and it hadn't ended yet. He planned to head back to the hostel for a quick bite, check emails, and then back to the college. He had to collect the one book he'd been gunning for, the past month or so - Atlas of Human Anatomy.

His usual gang - Amit, Tejas, Meera, and Anushka had decided to catch a late night movie, but he wanted to have that book at any cost.

"Carry on, guys,I have some work" he'd told them, amidst sniggers and raised eye-brows.

He stepped out of the canteen, to his bike in the parking lot, when he heard a voice behind him.

"Excuse me...son."

Nishant turned. A frail looking man in his fifties. He looked familiar, but Nishant couldn't place a finger on his face. Probably one of those patients he'd to take care of in the afternoon.

"Yes?"

"Son, I'm Mohan Rao from Vijayawada...and I want to go back home."

Vijay looked around to see if the man was accompanied by care takers. He certainly looked frail, and looked quite lost.

"I'm sorry, I don't think I understand. You want to go home...?" He said instead, waiting for the man to complete the sentence, perhaps.

The man advanced slowly. Something was wrong with his walk. Nishant cleared his throat.

"Sir...are you with somebody? Maybe I can inform at the reception. Come with me..." He started.

"No no. I'm fine, I just... just want to go home. I'm..I'm Mohan Rao."

"Yes sir, I got that," Nishant said, slowly.

"I need your help, son."

Just then Nishant spotted Amit and Tejas walking by. They spotted him as well.

"Hey, Nishant. You sure you don't want to join us?"

Nishant looked at the pale face of Rao, and then his friends.

"Uh, sorry guys. I have to get a book."

They waved him away and continued.

"Yeah, so Mr. Rao..." Nishant turned, only to find the man gone. He looked around, his eyes searching, but couldn't spot him. Maybe he'd catch him on his way out and offer him a lift or something. Then he chuckled to himself - not all the way to Vijayawada though.

*********

Canteen, the next day. They were talking in hushed tones, when Nishant arrived, and fell silent as he neared them. He was famished. He sat down with a loud sigh. "I could eat an elephant."

He looked at the silent faces around him. "What's up, guys?"

Tejas shook his head silently, and the others toyed with their respective plates and cups.

"Did I miss anything?" Nishant smiled. "How was the movie?"

"Boring," Meera droned.

"Yeah?"

Tejas was solemn. "There was a cop here today."

"What for?" Nishant asked, placing his books on the empty chair beside him.

"He was talking to the principal, I believe...about some unclaimed body."

"Unclaimed body? Here? What, one of the cadavers?"

"Yeah, the one we'd been working on."

"Oh, shit," Nishant said. "And..?"

"The cop was saying, the body belonged to some guy from Andhra. His relatives were apparently enraged. Said they'd not signed on any paper authorizing the body to be given to the college. Apparently our Princi too didn't know how it came to us. So, there was a show-down between the relatives and the cops."

Anushka said, "Anyway, the real zonker is - the body's gone from the hospital as well."

"What? How can that be? Gone, where?"

Everybody shrugged.

"But I thought, we got bodies only after all the paperwork, right? Maybe the cops only arranged for its disappearance," Nishant said and got up as the boy behind the counter waved at him to come get his lunch.

He turned to leave but stopped. "Wait a minute. Where did you say the body was from? Andhra, huh? Uh, where in Andhra?"

Meera said "Vijayawada. Some guy called....Mohan Rao?"

Nishant wasn't hungry anymore.


******

Thursday, May 26, 2011

'Back' from the...

 

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

 

Now a Frankly Spooking outtake

****************************************************************

"Are you sure you want to do this, Kishore?"

He patted her shoulder. "Trust me."

"But it looks desolate, honey. It might be spooky, for all you know." Preeti pulled her shades over her head and winced at the large, greyish two-storeyed building. It was evident that it was an abandoned structure, the tall bushes and dry leaves all over testimony to the fact.

"Yeah, but just look at the weather. It's all nice and sunny," he chuckled. "Have you ever been scared of a building on a day like this? It's all about the darkness, the rains..and of course, the background score." Now he laughed, but Preeti was not amused. She followed him inside reluctantly.

The iron gates, so archetypal of spooky stories, groaned and they walked in. No watchman, no caretaker. This building sure was nobody's favorite legacy.

"You know, it's bang in the middle of the city. I've been watching this place ever since I came here. 10 years ago. That's a long time for something to be left untouched. Not in an area like this. And whenever I passed by, I swore that one day I'd come in and snoop around. It's a childhood habit I can't help." Kishore parted the bushes with his bare hands, making way for them.

Preeti frowned, looking around. It almost looked like the set of a scary movie. Only, the crew had left it as it was, without bothering to clean up behind them. Outside, the sound of traffic reassured her that all was fine, and they could just leave whenever they wanted.

The door was obviously locked. It didn't take much for it give away, as Kishore tugged at it a few times. He smiled at Preeti, who just shrugged. They stepped into the ruins. She turned back, almost expecting the door to shut behind them...and then shook her head at her own silliness. This wasn't a scary movie after all.

"Hmm...," Kishore picked up a vase lying on the floor. It was muddy, but he could tell from the doors and other fixtures that it had been the dwelling of someone wealthy. He wondered why such a magnificent house was abandoned this way. Well, the reasons could be many. The living room was bare, but the windows were open, letting in the light. That helped. There was wild growth all around...the damp smell of earth coupled with bird droppings. A couple of sparrows fluttered around, as if annoyed with the human visit.

Thankfully,the stairs didn't creak, but the cracks showed. "Careful," Preeti whispered, but Kishore kept his head up. The first floor was different. It was darker, and the windows were shut. There were two rooms right across the landing, one on each side. The space in the middle was a corridor that led to the balcony, or sitout, he guessed.

"Let's first take the rooms."

They entered the first one. Not much different from the one below, except this one didn't have undergrowth, but still a few leaves from the ceiling hinted at the green invasion pretty soon.

Must be the peepul tree outside, Preeti thought. The room itself was pretty spacious for a bedroom. A closed wardrobe on one side...and..Kishore started moving toward it.

"Kishore, don't..." Preeti started.

"Why? You're afraid skeletons might come out?" He laughed at his own little joke and pulled at the door. It came in his hand, with a ball of dust escaping the wardrobe. he shook it off and covered his mouth.

"Did you hear it?" Preeti said.

"Hear what?"

"Shhh.."

It was coming from the other room. Like a groan. Must be a tramp, come in for shelter, thought Kishore. They stood still for a while. A sparrow flew in and out of the room. They tiptoed out and across to the second room. The door was ajar. Kishore pushed Preeti behind him and pushed it further.

Nothing. Nobody.

They looked around. Up at the ceiling. Down the rails at the living room.

"Huh." Kishore frowned.

"Kishore?"

"Hmm?"

"Chalo. Let's go..I'm not liking this."

"Arre, it wasn't coming from this house. Maybe the neighbors. And moreover, we've not yet explored the terrace."

"Whatever, I don't want to be here."

Kishore was rubbing his right shoulder.

"Are you ok?" Preeti patted him.

"Yeah..don't know why, looks like I have a muscle pull here."

"Doing what?"

"Beats me. Ok, let's go. I'll come back later some day."

They walked back to the car. Kishore was rubbing his left shoulder now.

"What, the other side paining as well?"

"Hmm, looks like. It's nothing anyway..". He started the car. Preeti looked back at the house. Her eyes roved over the walls, the building itself and then the terrace. She clutched at Kishore's hand so hard, he scowled. "Ow..what?"

"I thought somebody was watching us from the terrace."

Kishore chuckled. "yeah, probably it was him we heard."

She turned back and frowned. Did she really see somebody or was it just her imagination? Anyway, they were out and away. And that's what mattered.

******

Probably the pain, Kishore felt heavy and his walking was laboured, as they opened the gates and walked in.

"Still paining, sweety?" Preeti rubbed his shoulder. " Don't worry, a couple of pain-killers and a hot-water bag should do. I'll give you a massage as well" Preeti said, with a naughty wink, as they entered their home. They'd visited friends after their adventure and returned late. It was past nine. Kishore had as usual showed off about their snooping around. "Will take you guys there the next time."

Now, as Preeti prepared the hot-water bag, he stood at the sink and washed. As he dabbed his face, he noticed small drops of blood on the basin. He saw himself in the mirror and touched his nose. No, wasn't his nose. And he'd not cut himself. He bent down to wash his face once again, for good measure. Then he did a double take.

There in the mirror he saw a boy, not more than eight, sitting on his shoulder, smiling. Blood trickled from his mouth. Instinctively, with a gasp, Kishore tried to shake him off, but his hands just went through the boy's legs.

And then, the boy tightened his legs round Kishore's neck...smiling all along.

******

Past tens....continues

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Duck..?

Ashish's eye flew open and his heart leaped to his mouth. Damn, he should've set his cell's profile to silent. He quickly reached to his side and flipped it open. Through groggy eyes, he tried to identify the number, and frowned. What the...

There went his siesta.

"Hello?"

"Ashish?" Whoa, the voice was sexy.

"Yes?" He was wide awake now.

"Hi Ashish, Mrinalini here."

Mrina...oh, Mrinalini. The RJ!

A second, and he was all ears. In fact he was all everything.

"Uh, hi! Hey..thanks for calling."

Finally, all those emails paid off.

"You wanted to meet?"

He fell back on his pillow. Ahh!

******

He looked at his watch for the 500th time. Was he looking good? He checked his breath, ran a hand through his hair. The usual guy things. They'd agreed to meet up at Ulsoor lake. They could've met up in a cafe, but she preferred it that way. And he was ok with it so long as she agreed to meet him. And then she walked in. Oh boy, was she beautiful or what.

She came up to him, with a faint hint of short breath. Maybe she walked a bit. He didn't seem to notice any car outside. Good. He could give her a ride home. They sat on the bench.

He smiled at her. She smiled back. He smiled some more, nervously now, not knowing what to say. She raised her brows and smiled again.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"So, say something."

He was sheepish.

She turned to him for a better view and threw her hair back, which almost killed him. No, not the hair..his heart stopped for a fleeting second that is...

"Do you know how many emails you sent me?"

He shook his head.

"54, to be precise."

He grimaced. That's all? So much for being an admirer.

She read his mind.
"Well, I've received more fan-mail, but you were different."

Ah, so it proved it. He had a way around girls. He settled in now.

"So, what is it that you 'so badly' wanted to talk with me?"

He scratched his head. "Don't know, Mrinalini. I just...love your voice. I mean, you're so damn good." She raised a single eye-brow. He bit his lip. Damn good? all those rehearsals in front of the mirror and all he could come up with was 'damn good?'

"Err..what I meant was..it's..it's - wow!" He chuckled.

"Thanks." She smiled coyly.

"So..what is different in my emails?" His turn to interrogate. Anyway this is how any real conversation could come about. So he played it straight, like her.

"Ummm, don't know. The way you use your words, perhaps?"

"How do I use my words?"

"Ashish.." She frowned mockingly.

"Ok, ok."

They spoke about themselves, he about his personal life, interests etc etc..and she followed suit. To cut a long story short, they got comfy with each other.

She looked in his eyes for a moment and turned her gaze on him. "You know, I wanted to meet you. At least to see who you were. At least once. I really liked the way you persisted in your emails. Maybe you should try your hand scripting my shows."

"Sure! But why did you want to meet me only once?" He feigned disappointment.

She smiled. "Once is enough, don't you think? You've met me, so my inbox can breathe now."

"Don't be too sure." They laughed over it and she looked away dreamily at the ducks in the pond.

"It's so calming to see them, na?"

"Who?"

"The ducks, stupid."

"Oh, the ducks. Hmmm, yeah." He gazed at the birds now.

"Sometimes I want to jussst float along, like these guys."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Have you ever..?"

"What? Floated? NO way!"

"Offoh! No, I mean thought about floating..like them."

He shook his head.

"Well, you could try."

And then, with a heave she shoved him into the lake.

"What the..."

*****

"Wake up, you lazy oaf. We've a movie to catch."

Sudhanshu, his roomie stood over him, with a mug of water in his hand.

"And who's this Mrinalini huh?" Sud had a smirk on his face. Ashish grabbed the cell from his hand and read the messages. Gosh, 2 messages and a missed call.

He clicked to view the message - Please don't sent me any more emails or I'll have to call the police - Mrinalini.

*******

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Past tens....continues

Saturday, May 28, 2005

"rain rain, don't go away..."

(Pleasant rain outside...this story just kind of sprung up in my head).


It was five in the evening and the one kilometer walk to the library was turning out to be really pleasant. It was then Gautham felt the fat drops of water fall from the sky like marbles being dropped from atop a building. He looked up, squinting his eyes and had to bring his head down the next instant. He started heading to a temporary shelter nearby, but stopped.

"Hey, let me enjoy this."

He loved the rain. It had been a long time since he got drenched. The last time was when he was a small kid, returning home from school. He'd dance and jump with glee, splash through the small puddles in the road. He was probably was the only little Johnny who wished the rain won't go away.

Now he stood on the pavement, as amused onlookers in cars and rushing bikers looked at him. He smiled back and then turned his face to the heavens, enjoying the shower, spreading his hands, trying to soak it all in. He smiled. Because he'd always wished he met the girl of his dreams on a rainy day like this. He looked up, reminding God about this small favor.

*******

He reached office and got down from the auto to pay, when the girl came running from nowhere, almost colliding with him.

"Auto bhaiyya? Basavangudi?"

She held the sides and looked at the auto guy and then at Gautham impatiently.

"Excuse me, may I...?" He pointed at his open wallet, eyebrows raised.

She rolled her eyes and stepped aside. Some cheek, Gautham thought.

He walked across to the pavement, and started up the office stairs , already planning for the day ahead, going over his presentation one more time. Goodness... the presentation CD. He'd forgotten his backpack in the autorickshaw. He ran back out, almost running over a short, stocky old man. He muttered an apology and tore past to the main road.

"Shit, I didn't even note the number of the auto." And why would he, the auto guy hadn't knocked him down. Well, the girl had, almost. He held his head, thinking fast.

Please, not on a Monday.

A hand tapped his shoulder. Anil.

"What's up, Gautham?"

"Arre, I left my bag in the auto yaar. Stupid girl, rushed him off."

"Anything important in it? I notice you normally have only your lunch box and novel in that. And why an auto today?"

"That's a long story. Now how do I locate this guy? I had my presentation CD in it. I don't even have the time to rush back home to make another copy. The Owl's gonna kill me." Owl was short for Chandramouli - his boss.

It was as good as gone, they both decided. His bag... and his promotion.

******

Later that evening, he sat at his computer, staring at the copy of the presentation. He looked up thankfully. If Owl hadn't called in sick, he would've. Saved by a rat's whiskers. He looked out the window. Dark clouds had loomed up again. He sighed at his narrow shave and nodded. His cell rang.

"Hello?" It was an unsaved number.

"Uhh..am I speaking to Gautam?"

"Yeah? Who's this?"

"I'm Neha. Did you lose a bag this morning, or someone you know who lost a bag?"

He sat up. Great. Ms. rush hour.

"Yeah, it is mine. If only you'd been a little patient this morning, I won't have left it in the auto."

He waited for a reaction. None. Maybe he should've toned down a bit. He didn't care.

"Anyway, where can I come get it?" He wondered how she got his number.

"Uh, do you know this Cafe Coffee Day outlet in Jayanagar?"

******

He arrived five minutes late. There was no sign of her. She'd insisted on telling him what she'd wear etc, but he had waved it aside. "I'll carry a red helmet. And I'll recognize you" was all he said, hoping she'd remember him too.

He paced outside impatiently for a while. And then he saw his bag. Inside the cafe. She was sitting beside it. Ah! She must've walked in from the other street. He pushed the door and walked in.

He approached her and stopped in his tracks. Hey, it wasn't her.

She stood up. "Gautham?"

"Yeah."

"Neha."

They shook hands awkwardly and sat facing each other. He smiled sheepishly. Who the hell was this girl. And now he bit his tongue for having said all that to her on the phone.

"You know, I thought..."

She smiled. "Yeah, that was Asha, my younger sister. She didn't trust the rick guy and brought your bag home instead. I saw your CD labeled 'presentation'. So I thought maybe it was important."

"Yeah, it is..but...thanks." He smiled. How did she get his number?

She read his mind. "Your business card was in the bag."

He wondered when he'd slipped his business card inside the bag. Anyway...

******

They walked out an hour later, laughing and chatting like old friends.

"Can I drop you home, Neha?" He knew now that she didn't stay very far away. It was the least he could do for the trouble she took.

"No, it's ok... I'll walk."

He looked up.

"It might rain any moment now, are you sure?"

"Precisely. I love getting wet in the rain." She smiled, looking up longingly.

"Hey, me too," he said

"Really?"

"Um hm"

"Nice"

"Ok, then let me walk you home?"

She continued smiling, puckering up her nose...unsure. "Ummm..."

"Come on," his eyes pleaded.

She smiled. "Ok."

And then it poured. They started walking slowly, oblivious to everything else.

Gautham looked up and smiled. "Thanks," he mouthed silently.


*********

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Past tens....continues

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Gale mein khich khich..."

Nirav heard someone cough in the adjacent room. It startled him, because he was alone and his college going brother was out partying, as usual - he was sure he wouldn't return till dawn. But you never knew, sneaked in like a cat most times. Maybe it was him.

"Nikhil?"

No answer. He went to his brother's room and switched the lights on. Empty. But he was 100% sure he wasn't hearing things. He had distinctly heard a cough. He scanned the room. The windows were closed, so it couldn't be the neighbors. He felt like an idiot. He switched the lights off and went back to his room.

There had been reports of thefts in the area lately, but he knew a thief would be much smarter than to be just coughing around the house he came to burgle. He smiled and got back to his novel. Maybe it was a character of the novel, which jumped out of his brains. He chuckled to himself.

He heard the cough again.

He jumped and sat up.

He grabbed the flash light by the bedside and swiftly tip-toed to the door, his hands a little shaky. He didn't want to forewarn the intruder, whoever it was. He just sneaked to the door and looked out of the room. The silence screamed in his ears. He felt like an idiot again. He waited five minutes. Silence. He slowly stepped out of the room, and positioned himself against the wall outside Nikhil's room. The glow from the street light outside spread vaguely on the bed. Did he see something move? His hand slid on the wall to the switch board. Click. Empty again. Damn, he could've sworn someone coughed in there.

He stood there silently for a while, straining his ears. Then decided to sleep in his brother's room with the lights on.

******

The doorbell rang continuously. He got up startled, but still groggy. The clock on the wall showed half past seven. He walked to the front door. His brother barged in, shaking his head. Should he tell him about the weird incident last night? Ha! That'd be suicidal. His 'cool dude' kid brother would rib him no end. He closed the door behind him and followed him instead.

"You know what bro, I left my cell here last night," Nikhil said. "I can't believe I did that. I must've got a zillion messages." He grabbed the little instrument on the study table and started checking.

"That's funny; only two messages." Nikhil said, pushing his hair back. "Hey, did you sleep here last night?" He looked at the crumpled sheets.

Nirav opened his mouth...and a new message flashed on Nikhil's phone.

A cough.

"Cool sms tone, huh bro?" Nikhil smiled at his brother, who looked as if he'd swallowed a lot of tooth paste.


*******

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Free ride

Abhilash stood under the bus shelter,shivering. The power had gone out in the neighborhood. He cursed Shiva under his breath. Son of a gun had flicked his bike in the last minute. "Dude, Sarika just loves Matt Damon, dude. Please understand".

If she was so fond of Matt Damon, why did she pick this kanjoos, he wondered. Anyway, pointless now. He huddled to a corner. He was alone. He'd tried to hitch a rickshaw an hour ago in vain. "Two hundred," the ricky had blunty asked, like it were two rupees. And he had just a fifty in his blasted wallet, and the remaining had been pulled out of his hands by Shiva, courtesy Matt Damon's lover. A second rickshaw was yet to make the grand entry. So then - bus. The paan bidi bloke a hundred meters away had signalled '10' with his hands (his mouth was full of what he sold for a living. Pan). Now Abhilash wondered whether he meant 10 minutes or hours. He didn't have the patience to walk back to confirm.

Well. He huddled some more and looked around. Nothing much to look except it was some godforsaken area. The only proof of civilization was a huge apartment complex coming up at a distance, with a few small shop-like establishments thrown in as garnish. The complex showed itself large once a while when the lightning struck. Looking at the surrounding, he wondered what lightning was going to strike the occupants, or what had already struck them in case they'd booked flats there. He was thankful for the bus shelter.

The lightning flashed again, bathing the building in white. He would've almost turned away, had he not seen something. It looked like someone had jumped from atop.

Shit. Must've been seven or eight floors up. He kept looking at the building blankly for a minute.

Then, someone sobbed behind him.


*******

Monday, May 16, 2011

B(l)ogged down by it...

I get a nagging feeling these days that blogging isn't all that gratifying for folks as it used to be, say, even 2 - 3 years ago. That said, I myself have been a victim of this 'on and off the blog' syndrome. Well, to be very honest, it's not as much the 'familiarity-breeds-contempt' thingy as most would like to admit, as it is being pre-occupied with work and other things in the real world. Which brings me to another interesting fact that emerged out of a few blogs I visited. Some of them, avid bloggers, and wonderful writers to boot... decided to bid good-bye as they felt their online and offline worlds colliding...overlapping, getting too close for comfort etc etc.. But hey, that really depends on us, right? Technology has now made it possible to appoint those online 'bouncers' outside of our blogs. Then why fret? Of course, it kind of takes the thrill out of creating something spontaneous and fun as blogging, but hey, everything comes with a price tag, huh?

But moving on from that thought, when I started blogging eight years ago (yes, you heard me right -eight), it all started with a germ of curiosity in my mind. A weblog (yes, folks - the word blog originated from 'weblog', meaning an online log book of sorts, a diary if you will) of my own sounded a little vain, but as I continued posting month after month, year after year, it grew on me and my online world grew around me. My initial posts were just those little thoughts, observations, and happenings around me. Turning to stories happened along the way, and even then - I did manage to keep the balance, until a few years ago when I actually ran out of the usual 'rant' posts and decided to just post stories.

Somewhere in between, the pace slackened, my regular co-bloggers who were also visitors, kind of faded into the virtual horizon, and things just moved on. But I know it'll happen again if I want it to. And that's the wonder of this online world - it's like a laser-light illusion one can throw up on a screen any time one wants to, and turn it off. And then turn it on again. Wonderful, isn't it? Like playing with the bedside table-lamp switch.

Social networking, according to me, is another reason why blogging isn't such a cool thing anymore. For some (or most...as you look at it), blogging could've started as a way of connecting with like-minded people. Social networking or tweeting sites help you do that at less than half the word count, and quicker also I'm guessing. So then, why not? But yes, blogging will still be dearer to folks who really want to connect in terms of content - exchanging notes so to say. For me, it's always been, and will be - to experiment with my wacky imagination in the form of my stories, and unleash on people who want to read that kind of stuff, and of course, hear from them.


PS: My online and offline world did collide once...and how!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rain-dropped

Karthik stepped back a bit to make way for another biker. There wasn't much room left on the pavement, below the railway bridge. The rain got heavier by the second, the traffic slower by the minute due to the virtual heap of two-wheelers blocking half the underpass, and the soaked motorists none the better as vapour gushed in from all sides. The honking got louder.

Quarter to two in the afternoon, and the dark sky felt like evening. Then he saw the girl, not more than six or seven, he thought - standing away from the crowd on the far end. In fact she stood a few inches out of the shelter, looking up at the sky and quite enjoying it.

Kids, he smiled, shaking his head. She was now looking at him. He tried to wave, but couldn't get his hand out of the 'sardine can'. He shrugged and smiled. "Enjoying it?" His eyes asked her. She smiled back and looked up at the sky again. He was still smiling. He'd seen her somewhere. Where? And wasn't she with anyone? He noticed nobody tried to pull her back into the shelter. He craned his neck, searching - maybe her father or mother was short, but all he could see was a bunch of loud teens. Strange.


*********

The TV blared on about the sudden deterioration of weather, cyclone effect, trees uprooted and on and on it went, in a loop. Karthik had almost dozed off, the memories of the wet afternoon almost fading away. He looked up at the wall - oops, midnight. Still groggy, he reached for the remote and pointed it at the TV, silencing it. The day's newspaper had scattered on the floor. He picked up the sheets absently, stacking them all up in no order, on the center table.

Then his eyes went to a particular photograph on the bottom right hand side of one sheet. The obituary column. "Baby Nikita - The Lord called her sooner than expected. We miss you sweetheart." Her parents' names.

His hands trembled as he kept looking at the little girl's photo, his mind still in a daze.

A splash of water hit his face, followed by a shrill kiddy laugh. He looked up.

"I love the rain, uncle. Do you?"

********