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*** Today's Maynia Prompt: insulting***
*** Today's Daily Freewrite Prompt: night gown***
Writers can choose to use one of the prompts, both the prompts or not use the prompt at all. It is all up to you!
I wish to make this into a sci-fi novel. Let's see how it progresses! 😊
Half-Past Eight - Day 29
Continued from Day 28. You can read it here.
Time: 11:45 a.m.
Day: 15th May 2015
Norman was driving with a bit of caution because of the condition of the road and the stranded vehicles. The way from Vinstor to Anushakti Nagar was a reasonably straight one. He would come to a junction with a one-sided flyover bending to the left. That road was going to Vashi, but he had to take a right at that point and continue straight to the gate. As Norman was on his way, his mind was trying to figure out as to what those fumes could be. It was in fact, growing thicker and blacker by the minute and Kiran was restless on the bike. Animals, by instinct, run away from the Source of Fire and here Kiran was driving straight into it.
Because it was a hot season and most of the trees had shed their leaves, there was a possibility that he was looking at a wildfire. But then wildfire was never a reality of Mumbai, even in the hotter days. Now, with the weather being so pleasant, it hardly was a possibility. The next possibility was that these fumes were, in fact, coming from the Atomic Center, which means the nuclear reactor was growing unstable, and the temperature went up beyond control. That again, if it had to happen, would have happened, at least a couple of months back, soon after all the humans disappeared. Why now? Norman did not mind this situation becoming true, because that would mean a nuclear blast and riddance from his solitary life.
But wanting to stay a bit more practical, Norman realized that Nuclear catastrophe was also a faint possibility, then what could it be? The other option was that some creatures also survived the event and could have caused the fire. How exactly was still to be examined, but that was the only possibility in the current scenario. Norman reached Anushakti Nagar gate and continued on the straight path inside. Usually, the gate had checking, and he remembered stopping there during his college days. Now, it was different - no one to check and nothing to be checked.
Now the black smoke was clearly visible, but the source of the fire was still hidden behind a tall building on Norman's left-hand side. Kiran at that moment, jumped off the bike and climbed up a tree.
'Poor thing. How long could it have fought instincts?' he thought. Once Kiran was safe on a tree, Norman continued to ride. He was getting closer and closer to the smoke, and he could feel a change in temperature. It was getting warmer, indicating that he was almost there. Then he came to the hard left, and he took it and there it was. There was a car on the road which was blazing to glory. If its fuel tank was full, then the chances are that it would blow up, causing some damage to the neighbourhood but more importantly burning them down too. With no one to check the spread, it should continue raging as long as possible, and though it was a distinct possibility, it could reach Bandra too. It was possible since there were so many cars with fuels strewn across the road, easy fodder for the fire.
Norman saw a pool of water nearby and also a can lying there. He filled the can with water and poured the water on the car. The flames didn't even flicker. He had to continue pouring water, he thought. He ran and did the drill five more times, and now the fire appeared to quell. Norman was aware that if now the car was to blow, it would take him with it. He was curious to know who could have started it, if not for the vehicle bursting up by itself.
While Norman continued with some success, he now started to pour the water over the fuel tank. His only worry was the water in the small pool or rather the ditch over there drying up. His mind was racing to pour water, find another source of water and at the same time, figure out who could have done it. In the middle of all these thoughts, Norman realized that he was standing in Anushakti Nagar. Most of the building would be having fire extinguishers, which he also recollected seeing when he used to visit Alain's place then. He ran to the closest building and indeed saw a fire extinguisher there. He removed it from its hold and ran towards the car and pushed the knob and there was a continuous flow of froth, which initially Norman could not control and therefore, it got wasted. Whatever did fall at the right place, had a decent effect. Much better than the water being poured on the car. The flame, though continued. Norman saw five buckets of mud hanging on a nearby pole, again a crude fire extinguisher. He ran towards it and then put it on the car, once again. Seemed to work. He ran and put the other four on it too. For the first time, the fire stopped. There was still smoke coming out but a lot lesser.
Norman knew that smoke is still bad news since a good gust of wind can start the fire once again. The car had to be cooled and entirely out of smoke. Now that only smoke was coming out, he could run to the next building and got the fire extinguisher from the ground floor. He started jogging to the next building, which was about 400 meters from where he was standing. Midway through, he realized that there would be fire extinguishers in all floor and he just had to run to the first floor of the closest building. Anyways, he continued with the jog and entered the building and luckily found the fire extinguisher right in front.
"This time I am not going to waste you," he said and started jogging back. As he came out of a gradual bend, having full sight of the car, he saw the most unexpected sight in the whole world. While thinking about the cause of the fire, he had discounted this possibility completely. Three months of isolated life had him believe that there was no one other than him and Kiran in this world. But he was in for a surprise.
Norman continued on the jog and was sure that he would not be the only one surprised. He came to the back of the car and once again pressed the knob, and immediately the spray started, and Norman held it in position this time. His was not the only fire extinguisher doing the spraying. That's when the other surprised soul spoke.
"I am Ranganathan," the person said while still holding a fire extinguisher himself. "I honestly did not know that there was anyone other than me alive on this planet."
"A while back, even I had the same impression," Norman said. "And I am not the only one. There is a companion too."
"Where the hell were you guys?" Ranganathan said.
"Looks like you created the smokescreen to get our attention," Norman said. "Oh, by the way, my name is Norman."
"Hi, Norman. I did create the smokescreen but due to a mistake. Had I known I would have company, I would have created this long back." Ranganathan said.
"I ran back to get all the fire extinguishers, I could lay my hands on, and that is what took time. I was so wrong. If not for you, the place would have turned horrible." Ranganathan did have some eight to ten fire extinguishers in his car. He must have done a mighty job of collecting it from all buildings, Norman thought. The smoke was dying down. Ranganathan did not stop at that and went on using up one fire extinguisher after another.
"Just to ensure the bugger stays down." He said.
"Alright, I think it's over. Any more and the car will get a cold." Norman said. Ranganathan burst out laughing.
"You do have a sense of humour, Norman."
"Yeah, that's what my wife says too."
Ranganathan was sweating profusely, maybe because of the running. He went back and leaned on his car.
"Thanks, man, for the timely intervention. I thought I was surely going to die today," Ranganathan said with his apparent Tamil accent – a south Indian language.
"What happened here?"
"Actually, I drove this car since there were so many around to go to my place from the other apartment near the gate. It kind of just burst into flames. I am not certain how but it started from the engine. Luckily, I could get out in time."
"Where is your friend?"
"My friend?" Norman looked at him.
"Yeah, you said you had a companion," Ranganathan said.
"Oh, that! There is certainly a companion but not human," Norman said.
"No. I found it or rather it found me. It's a rhesus monkey." Norman said.
"You have got some guts to raise a monkey. I honestly, get spooked by those creatures."
"Me too, but I am sure if you had met him as I did, you would have become pals with it."
"Oh, now I have a recommendation too," Ranganathan said.
"Sort of. It must have been a pet. Seemed to be well-trained."
"So, where is the guest of honour now?"
"He was with me till the gate, but then the smoke and fire scared him off. He must be there on one of the trees near the gate," Norman said.
"He abandoned you?"
"No, he was brave enough to accompany me from Vinstor to here, much against the natural instincts," Norman defended Kiran. "His name is Kiran, by the way."
"Kiran. Hmm." Ranganathan once again started looking at the charred car.
"Oh, I did not introduce myself," Norman said. "With an empty world, I forgot the basics of interaction. I am a businessman by profession and live in Bandra. I had a great family, my wife Caroline and my son Jerome and now all are gone. I have been searching for answers and thought I was the only one alive, until now, of course."
"My life is somewhat similar. I work with the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC). I am a scientist by profession and was into research involving gamma rays. My wife Shanti and my daughter Lakshita went missing too."
"Yeah, about the World. What do you think happened?" Norman asked
"Not sure. Somehow I survived and now you too," Ranganathan said. As on cue Kiran jumped from across the tree and startled Ranganathan. He appeared to have come to investigate since the fire had died down. Kiran then jumped on the car and then on to Norman's shoulder.
"Of course, he survived too." Norman introduced Kiran to Ranganathan. "He is Kiran."
"He is fine with us. No fear." Ranganathan observed.
"Yeah, like I said he must have been a pet. Somehow, he survived, and so did we. Did you see what happened? I was in the bathroom, and by the time I came out, it had happened. I could not find anyone." Norman said.
"Same with me, I was in the lab, and there was some sort of energy wave which turned hazy and then the power went down. I remember trying to find the source of power failure in the lab and then after sometime when I came out, the entire office was deserted." Ranganathan said. "I was running about madly for a few days hoping to find someone or something. No one, absolutely no one. I was distraught at losing my family but then somewhere found the strength to live on. After about a month, I kind of accepted the new reality."
Image Courtesy: Pixabay