Whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential. Ayn Rand (Fountainhead)
I don’t remember the precise moment when The Decision became a living entity amongst us.
It came home with us that night and none of us questioned its right to intrude upon us that way. We accepted its presence wordlessly.
Next morning Aditi, Raunak and Ritika produced three sleeping bags, four haversacks and four large ground sheets between them. Avi and I went shopping for the rest. The day after that we were on our way. That’s all there was to it.
It was a perfectly ordinary Saturday night. We were hanging out together, the five of us. Our usual hangout was the pool room at Balwant’s. Actually, it was Raunak who triggered the events that snowballed into this trip.
Raunak believed he was an expert at pool. Most of the regulars at Balwant’s didn’t mess with him. But that night, a stranger got into conversation with us.
He was a compelling presence, Aditya. When we asked him what he did, he grinned at us and said, “I live… something most people don’t do.” His words were thrown to us in a deliberate challenge.
He had a strange face. The wrinkles around his eyes were like a sun-burst. His smile was the radiance of the sun brought to earth. His teeth, startlingly white against his dark skin, had spaces in between them. He would make the most hilarious quips with a straight face. For all his rollicking humor though, he was a very serious man- as we found out later.
I still don’t know what make Raunak challenge him to a game of pool. After losing two rounds with relative ease, Raunak should have understood that he had met a greater expert. Instead, he begged a last game- a wager.
Aditya scoffed at the money Raunak wished to bet. “I want something more than money and I want it from all of you”, he said as he looked around at us all. I don’t know why, but I had the same feeling in that moment as I have when I am standing on the diving board of the pool, waiting to plunge into the cold water at the deep end. When I looked round at the others, I know they felt the same.
That sentence of Aditya’s was the seed of The Decision thrown into the fertile soil of our minds, waiting for the touch of dawn to make the seeds burst forth.
We reached Lahoti on Wednesday evening after travelling on foot for two days, camping in the chilly Himalayan wilderness for one night.
For the next twenty days we ‘lived’ in the earthquake torn region of which Lahoti was the epicenter. When Aditya joined us two days later, he found that we had already taken over the entire relief and rescue effort.
That’s when we understood what Aditya had meant by ‘living’.
Flash Fiction: Words: 499
This was a picture challenge. There are two more stories which are part of this challenge… both with their own pictures. They did not ask the writers to tie up the stories or to find a common thread to run through them, I just added that bit of twist for myself. 😀 The other two stories are called Phase Two: Midday and Phase Three: Sunset thus completing the set. More coming up… soon.