Seven years of a good marriage is enough for a couple to develop telepathic connection. So attuned can you get to each other’s energy rhythms, it is possible to be together and alone at the same time. Ratan was an early to bed, early to rise disciplined professional while wife Meeta kept owlish hours for her creative output. On most days, he would be winding down about dinner time just as she would be going amber, ready to turn green as night fell.
“I missed my morning walk today. What’s the time? I could swing it even now” Ratan glanced at the ticking clock right behind her on the wall, “Nine, it says! You’ll do your usual two rounds I suppose. I might be flat out when you return" he forewarned her.
“Not to worry, I better grab the moment” Meeta trotted towards her bed room busily. Slipping into her jogging gear, she let herself out into the windy dark, “Please don’t latch the front door by mistake Ratan. I hear lightning outside and I might cut the stroll short.”
"It is a flaky kind of night to step out,” the husband called after her. He had driven home under an overcast sky, the breeze was angry and twigs had danced on his car bonnet. The rain gods hadn’t made up their minds yet! “Our campus is quite safe though with the two guards at either gate” he decided to turn in. “She is carrying her mobile phone in any case,” he was not one to fret.
Placing thoughts of his wife aside for the moment, Ratan began his nightly ritual. He approached the refrigerator to fetch a water bottle for his bedstead. A printed sheet under the Chinese magnet caught his eye. It looked fresh. The type style was bold. A security alert! Strange, he thought. Meeta must have missed it; the helper had likely received it and placed it under the magnet, having forgotten all about it during the day’s events.
Intrigued by the unusual heading, Ratan plucked the single leaf and ambled to the silent study. He was not unduly concerned. This was a secure cantonment, what threat could the security people be warning them about? The clap of thunder and falling water bothered him more.
Pushing the typed notice under the lamp, he reached for the switch. His chest felt it had been hit by a train. He nearly fell back in horror then dived for his phone, pressing the quick dial with a trembling hand. There was no answer! He redialled, willing her to pick up. “This can’t be happening!” he dialled the guard room. “Yes sir, Madam walked past gate number two some twenty minutes ago,” the soldier reported from his post.
Ratan made a dash for the garage. Meeta took fifteen minutes to cover one loop, she was five minutes late. The water would have slowed her down, she was not carrying an umbrella. The rainstorm had gathered force and silver blue streaks were propagating in the carbon skies above. He pulled onto the road, headlights blazing, wipers at maximum speed, unsure if she had taken her regular path. An asphyxiating emotion had begun to weigh him down as he drove past gate number two for the third time. There was no sign of her. He parked his vehicle, alighted, raised his face to the downpour and howled her name. The phone circuit went berserk with the neighbourhood up, alerts were sent out, there was shock and alarm.
A grown, GPS-ed, facebooked, credit rated, emailed, PIN ed mother of two had vanished into thin air that harrowing night. No sign of her. He fractured in the head and heart with ache at the mystery of her disappearance. For him, there was no closure, ever.
When the hurt became unbearable, he would pull out the phone they had found lying in the grass by the road that day, about two hundred meters from the guardroom. He would jab the voice recorder fearfully and listen, heart in mouth, to her last recording, “This stretch feels spooky somehow. Maybe I should head back home. But wait, the trees make such a picturesque archway as far as the eyes go. The leaves are spinning in a vortex. There is a muddy wetness, the wind slaps my limbs. I feel very alone. What is that coming round the corner? Motor bikes, in this weather? The riders are hooded, there seem three. They could be youngsters visiting a friend except that there is something menacing in their approach. They seem to be slowing down.”
Several seconds of static followed not unlike Ratan’s own mind, silently hissing with questions.
Meeta was a writer and often dictated stories as she walked. Was this for real?