“Good morning, Mr. Vice President.” Jaimin spoke loud enough for the whole office to hear.
Alap Mehta, the new V.P. of one of the biggest credit rating company in India and a close friend of Jaimin walked with a smile in the office accepting greetings from everyone.
“Look around mate, every eye is trying to get a glimpse of the young, dashing V.P.” Jaimin winked as they shook hands. There was a faint smile on Alap’s face
“What is it that you want now buddy? Just look around.” Jaimin said swiping his eyes across the office and continued.
“Every single chic in the office wants to be with you and wanna go on date you.” Jaimin said while putting his arm around Alap.
“Except one.” Alap rolled his eyes and asked Jaimin to follow him into his cabin.
“Don’t tell me you are talking about Nikita.” Jaimin sipped some water and glide his body on the comfy office chair. Alap sat on his chair on the other side of the table.
“I never wanted to do that, but I had no choice.” Alap sighed and closed his eyes, leaning back in his comfy royal chair.
“Oh come on boy, you can’t mix your professional life with love life. It’s always a mess if it gets tangled.” Jaimin replied assuring Alap that whatever he did was apt.
“Her performance was not matching the targets for last six months. Everybody knew that. And it falls under the company’s policy that any employee who is an under-performer has to undergo PIP.” Jaimin leaned forward and reminded Alap that they are not the company, they are working for the company.
“I know, I know but… I should have helped her in achieving her targets to save her ass. And after PIP, she has cut all bonds with me. She is thinking that I have purposefully done it.” Alap sighed again and sipped some water.
“Why don’t you talk to her about it? Just make her understand that the ruling rein is not what you carry alone. Is it that complicated to understand?” Jaimin asked with a raised eyebrows and twitched lips.
“But she doesn’t even want to talk to me.” Alap with his hand on his chin replied.
“You are boss now. You can always ask her to come right here and talk.” Jaimin spoke wryly. Alap thought for a while and spoke.
“I’ll do it before this weekends. Till then, I need to focus on the work. It is piling up like a mountain of hell.” Alap pointed to the stack of files on his table.
“Your call buddy. And now, I should get back to my work before the new V.P. kicks my butt.” Jaimin winked and left for his desk.
Alap got back to his work but his mind was not ready to part off the thoughts of Nikita. It’s not that Alap had not tried to explain this to Nikita some time back, but she never conversed with him since the day of PIP. But now, according to Jaimin, talking to Nikita in office was a better option, with a private chamber as a cherry on the cake.
Days kept passing and Nikita purposefully avoided any contact with Alap and his close buddies, especially Jaimin. It was the last working day of the first week of Alap as V.P. He sent a peon to inform Nikita that she has to meet Alap at 6:30 p.m. Office staff generally leaves before 6.
Nikita cursed Alap under her breath, as she had weekend plans with her other friends which were all spoiled now. Nikita picked the file of the client, Alap had asked for and went to meet him.
“May I come in, SIR?” Nikita asked in a sarcastic tone with one hand holding the handle of the door, half open. Alap had all eyes stuck on his screen.
“Please come in.” Alap moved his eyes from the screen to her and welcomed her with a smile.
“Sir, I have gone through all the reports submitted by the client and have even taken the follow-ups. I have passed the case to our analyst team and they will let us know about the tentative rating for the company.” Nikita was curt and crisp. She opened the file and turned it up to Alap.
“Nikita, that’s stale info. I already know this. I have called you to talk about something else.” Alap sighed. The smile on his face disappeared as he closed the file and kept it aside.
“What else SIR?” Sarcasm was now overloaded in Nikita’s words.
“You need to understand this dear, it was not my decision to put you in PIP. The decision came from the senior committee members. They…” Nikita cut him short in between and added.
“Is there anything else that I can do for you, sir? If it’s all done, should I call it a day and leave for my home?” Alap sighed and was about to say something when Nikita spoke all this.
“Thank you, SIR.” She left without even turning back.
“Damn it. Why can’t she understand such a simple matter?” Alap, murmuring to himself, leaning back in his chair.
Alap was in no mood to go clubbing that weekend but Jaimin dragged him. On the floor, they were eye-catching. Alap, with his perfect dance grooves, made every single person on the disk to turn their heads to him. Some chics even tried to hit on Alap but he was not yet out of Nikita.
Nikita too was there with her friends and was pretty drunk. For a couple of times, they had close intimacy since both were not in much of their senses. Drunk and exhausted, Alap headed back home with Jaimin. Though drunk, Jaimin was in far more senses than Alap.
Alap had dozed off long back. All of sudden, he saw his hands-on fire. He was trying desperately to get his hands off the fire but he couldn’t.
Jolted by this dream, Alap woke up and sat on his bed, gasping for the breath. He looked at his palms. They were turning red as if blood was gushing through them with all of the speed it can, making it feel warmer. He walked to the sink for that splash of water which might work some relief. As the water started running down, the burning sensation took the toll over it. Fumes started rising from his hands. The more he rubbed against the running cold water, more they burnt.
Alap hurried to the kitchen and pulled out some ice cubes from the freezer and clenched them tightly to get rid of this pain. The pain was kinda subsiding, rather the ice was making his neurons numb to feel anything. Alap took a deep breath and tried to comprehend what was happening to him. He tried to recall the events of last night but couldn’t. The alcohol has made his voluntary senses to shut down.
Alap walked back to his room to check his cell phone. As he reached his pocket he could feel something abnormal. The next moment he was pricked by a needle like object.
Startled, he emptied his pocket and everything was on floor the next moment. He found red chilli flakes and a few needles. He threw the denim in the bathroom and turned the tap on it. He was bedevilled. The other thing that he failed to notice was in the other pocket, it was a lemon sprinkled with red colour and a pin inserted in it.
His head was now getting heavier, hangover being another cause. He quickly made a coffee for himself and kept scrolling the messages. Nothing that would find a place in his head was visible. The rest of the day passed with ease but his mind was not yet stable. He thought of talking about it with Nikita, which he always used to do. But then, he realized that they are now …EX …for each other.
After the weekend incident, Alap was now a bit busier or maybe, he chose to be busy. One day, after his hectic work schedule, while heading towards the parking lot he was taken aback by something. A few glass vials were lying on his way. It appeared to be very weird
Next day, Alap was down with the fever. He called his office and informed the same to Jaimin. Jaimin visited him in the evening and found Alap terribly sick. He rushed him to the hospital. Doctors examined him thoroughly but couldn’t find the cause. Alap stayed in the hospital for a couple of days and was finally discharged.
Weakness was something that had to be worked upon but rest was fine. The next day when Alap stepped into his cabin he found few ants crawling down through his drawer. He rushed to open it and found a ball of wax coated with honey in it. Alap was now out of his control and called out for his office boy and the cleaning staff and bashed them real hard.
“Who the hell stepped into my cabin and opened my drawer?” Alap’s eyes were fuming with anger. The sweepers stood with shaking feet.
“Sir, cleaning staff used to enter your office in the morning as per protocol. Rest of the day, Nikita ma’am and other staff members use to ….” One of the sweepers replied.
Alap thought of asking about all this to rest of the staff but kept mum. He then gestured them to leave. It was getting creepy and weird. Things that he dreamt off were turning real. He turned his laptop on and googled about it. After a lot of random searches, he found that this was déjà vu. Sometimes we see things as dreams in our heads before they happen in reality.
Gathering all the strings and then putting them in a bin, he got back to his work. But things didn’t stop here. Whatever he dreamt off came to reality in a couple of days. This was disturbing him to the core. Jaimin was the one who was witnessing the change in Alap but he kept quiet. He waited for Alap to share with him as Jaimin himself was not sure of things.
“What’s bothering you, buddy? I have been observing it for a couple of weeks.” Jaimin asked, sipping his Jack, on one beautiful evening while smelling the blue sky all above them.
“I don’t know man. It’s pretty insane.” Alap took a long drag of his smoke before sipping his drink.
“I am all ears.” Jaimin spoke raising his glass high. Alap took a deep breath and narrated whatever had happened, right from the first time he felt it, till the last incident. Both were sitting silently for a while before Jaimin spoke.
“I don’t know whether I should or I shouldn’t. Whether you’ll take it or not but I’ll advise you to see some astrologer or maybe, tarot card reader.” Jaimin gulped down his drink and lit a smoke for him.
“That’s bullshit. We are dwelling in a so called modern society and you want me to go to a palmist who himself is not aware of his future. And moreover, is there someone who would believe it?” Alap, as expected waved of Jaimin’s suggestion.
“I know, I know. It just crossed my mind so said.” Jaimin twitched his lips and smiled. They both kept silently drinking for the rest of the evening.
The incidents continued happening to Alap and no matter whatever he tried, nothing worked out. Finally, one day, he thought to give a shot on what Jaimin advised that evening. He googled for one of the best tarot card reader in the town and fixed an appointment with her, Neha Khandelwal. After the preliminary discussion, Neha did what she was best in. Her eyes were left wide open when she read the cards for Alap.
“I don’t know whether you’ll believe it or not but …” With twitched lips, she continued.
“Have you heard of black magic? Do you have someone who is very close to you and yet very much jealous of you?” Neha asked with her eyes still fixed on the cards.
“What???” Baffled Alap asked.
“Are you sure?” Alap was now a bit shaken aback and was trembling yet maintained his calm. He never believed that something like black magic exists in this world.
“I may not be sure but my cards never lie.” Neha pointed at the cards and explained the meaning of every card that lay open in front of them.
“And one more thing I’ll like to add.” Neha paused for Alap to respond.
“And what’s that?” Alap asked with a heavy sigh.
“Listen, there’s nothing like impossible. Who so ever is doing this is very smart and at the same time is perfect in doing it. It’s done so accurately that this person’s identity in terms of gender even is not getting revealed. So technically, I can’t figure out whether it’s a male or female.” Saying so Neha, gathered back her cards.
“So what should I do, now?” Alap asked.
“You need to figure out this Alap. You will have to keep an eye on every person who is close to you and check for any suspicious behaviour from them.” Neha suggested.
“Thanks.” Alap paid the fees and walked out. Neha’s last words kept pricking his mind. He kept on thinking for the whole night about who that person could be.
Alap had his dinner and sat at his study table and made a list of people who were close to him. He then started striking out the names on the list.
“Oh man!” The last name that stayed was Nikita. She has a motive for doing all these. She was jealous and now they are no more in the relationship too.
“Makes sense.” Alap said to himself as he tore the sheet of paper into pieces and dumped it into the dustbin. He remembered how even the cleaning staff of his office mentioned about Nikita coming in his chamber when he was admitted to the hospital. Alap thought of discussing it with Jaimin but then dropped the idea.
“I need to do it all for me. I can’t trust anyone as of now.” Alap muttered. He made up his mind to stalk Nikita as she was the prime suspect in his list.
Nikita had been visiting various temples and was into a lot of spiritual things. Finally, Alap could corner her outside one of the temples, while she was on her way back home.
“I never thought you would be doing all these things to me Nikita. What wrong did I do to you, dear?” Alap grabbed her tightly by her shoulders and spoke straight in her eyes. Tears started rolling down her eyes. Her sobs stopped her words from coming out.
“I tried to explain you the situation and this was the only way to pull you out of it. But you had decided not to listen to me at all. I never knew that you hate me more than you ever loved me.” Alap’s angry eyes turned moist. He still loved her but never ever thought that it will be Nikita who’ll be doing all these shit on him.
“I know, whatever I’ll say, you never gonna believe it.” Nikita wiped her tears and spoke her heart out once they both were in Alap’s car.
“Try it.” Sarcasm was now from Alap. His heart, already pounding hard and his mind, running wild in the woods of thoughts.
“That night in the club, I saw someone slipping something inside your denim pocket. You were too much drunk to notice it.” Nikita paused for Alap to respond.
“And who was that someone? As far as, I remember, I was with Jaimin and no one else.” Alap responded. He thought for a while and then remembered that it was the first time, he felt that fire on his palms.
“Swear on God, I am saying the truth but you not gonna believe it.” Nikita was dead sure. The person she had seen doing it would be the last person, Alap will ever doubt.
“Right now, I had been through so much that I can’t assure you anything. Everything is very much surprising for me at this moment.” Alap sounded despair. They both were staring ahead, silently and breathing heavily, Alap with anxiety and Nikita with insecurities.
“I saw that person doing it for the first time and immediately realized what it was.” Nikita spoke. She tied her hair back in a ponytail and continued.
“I have read a lot about it during my college days. Believe me, I do not practice it but yes, it did fantasize me that made me read a lot about it too yet…” She turned to look at him. He was already looking at her.
“Since then, I started keeping the track of the moments of that person. Every time, I see that person planting something to make you suffer, I tried all to nullify it with whatever way I could.” Nikita took another deep breath and closing her eyes leaned back.
“Who is that person?” Alap’s fingers gripped tightly around the steering wheel.
“It’s JAIMIN…” Nikita spoke with a heavy sigh.
“WHAT the crap? Do you have any idea what are you saying?” Alap was baffled. He couldn’t fathom what Nikita just said.
“I know you won’t believe it and that’s why I was not naming out the person.” Nikita started sobbing again.
“This can’t be true. How could Jaimin be doing all these? This is insane.” Alap punched the steering wheel.
“Unfortunately that is true. Jaimin is the one who is responsible for where you are or say your situation.” Nikita kept her hand on Alap’s shoulder. Silence persisted with heavy breaths from both the ends.
“Let’s check out his place tomorrow, when he is still in office. I am sure we will find something at his place.” Nikita was playing hard enough to convince Alap. And her shot worked.
“Okay, I will pick you from your house tomorrow after 10 in the morning.” Alap was still not able to take the reality but he has come so far on this that there is no turning back.
“But how are we gonna manage to get inside his house?” Nikita asked.
“Leave it to me. I have a spare key of his flat and so as he has for my flat.” Alap brought the car to life and they both drove back to their homes.
As per the plan, the next day, Alap picked Nikita from her place and headed straight to the Jaimin’s flat. Jaimin had a client meeting scheduled and he was on his way to the client’s factory. They parked the car behind the building and walked past the security personnel of the building. The guard didn’t stop them as Alap often use to come when Jaimin was not home. They unlocked the door slowly and walked cat feet inside.
Alap looked around and called for Jaimin a couple of times. He was not there. Nikita walked past him to the kitchen, while, Alap scanned the bedroom. Nikita knew exactly what to search for and probable location of it. Finally, she found what she was searching for.
While they were engrossed in their search, the doorknob of the main door clicked open. None of them missed the sound. Their hearts pounding like hell. They both walked out to the main hall, with something clutched in Nikita’s hand. Jaimin was aghast on watching both of them.
“Care to explain this?” Nikita showed the voodoo doll held in her hand.
“How dare you step in my house?” Jaimin stormed towards her to grab it from her hand. Alap stood in between looking straight into Jaimin’s eyes.
“I thought you are my bestie but I never had a clue. I always took you as a brother from another mother.” Alap’s fingers clenched into a fist and was about to land a heavy punch on Jaimin’s face.
Before he could do so, a needle from somewhere pierced his neck. Now Alap lay paralyzed on the floor. Everything around him started fading away. His eyes were trying to stay open but all in vain.
A couple of hours later, Alap regained his senses back. He found himself tied to a metal chair in a farmhouse, located somewhere in the outskirts of the city. Jaimin was sitting in front of him, smoking and sipping his Jack. A campfire was lit near him.
“What the fuck did you do to me? Where is Nikita?” His eyes were searching for her. Alap’s head was still heavy with pain.
“I am here darling.” Nikita rolling her fingers across his temple, spoke in a husky tone.
Alap was appalled on seeing the grin on her face. Nikita passed him and went and stood behind Jaimin, she then slowly wrapped her arms around Jaimin’s neck. She leaned forward and kissed Jaimin. Alap’s world came crashing down on him. The earth beneath him started shaking. He could not believe that Nikita was with Jaimin. Tears started rolling down his eyes.
“Why?” He asked in a broken voice and moist eyes.
“You’ll never understand what a woman wants.” Nikita winked at him. She was still holding the voodoo doll in her hand which has a cloth piece from Alap’s shirt, tied around the doll’s neck.
“See you in the hell buddy.” Jaimin finally winked and Nikita tossed the doll into the fire.
In no time Alap found fire all around and was soon gulped by the flames. Alap was now just a heap of ashes…
Written by: Hemang
Edited by: Pratishtha Shyam
Sketch: Paranj Sankdecha