With trembling legs for support, Anshuman followed Kasim through the first floor to the corner-most room. The door was shut and Anshuman typed in a code for digital access. There was a beep and the door clicked open accelerating Anshuman’s heartbeats. The unfailing antiseptic odor hit him first followed by the stead-fast beep of the monitors in sync with what looked like a ventilator. Right in the middle of the huge bed there lay a frail body or what remained of a body… it was more like a skeleton. Anshuman’s legs gave away and Kasim held him to steady him as his body was wreaked by sobs. He held the foot bar of the bed and cried watching what remained of his sister.
She could have easily passed off as a carcass… if not for the beeping of the ventilator. He wished for once she could be freed from the torture of being forced to breathe. The facial skin and muscle were barely there and everything had sunk in. Contractures had formed in her wasted limbs which were bent and stiff under the thin cotton blanket. The eyes were shut but were sunk deeply into their orbits… there was barely any hair on her scalp and her lips were partly open where the tube was put in and it was a miracle she had sustained so far… Oh Meera… what was her destiny…? Her life had ricocheted in so many ways he didn’t even know where it had landed or what she was destined to face even when she was not living. He had desperately wished to see her but not like this. At this moment he wished she were dead… that brought about a fresh bout of tears.
“…Why Kasim… why…? Why Meera… why did she have to suffer like this…?” he wailed sitting on the floor beside the bed.
Kasim patted his back. “… Anshuman I am taking her to the UK with me … I will arrange for the best care for her… though she can’t… I mean… I will see to it Manpreets knows her…”
Suddenly Anshuman looked up. “…Manpreet… has he seen her…?”
Kasim shook his head. “…No not yet… he had been crying incessantly while Simrat tried to fight off my men… we had to sedate them…they are fine… I had a doctor see them…”
Anshuman rubbed his face. “…Though I want to hate you Kasim… I love Meera too much for that… I know she was very happy with you… I saw a picture of you two together… Simrat had it but your face was not clear… she looked… at peace…Kasim…? Can I request you something…?”
Kasim looked at him and nodded. “…Anshuman, Meera adored you… said you were a father figure to her and she often spoke about you whenever we talked… so I have the utmost respect for you… just tell me man…”
Anshuman stood up and walked towards him. Keeping a hand on his shoulder, he inhaled deeply. “…Kasim… just… please… let her go…” Anshuman swallowed hard as he tried to take control of his failing emotions.
Kasim jerked away and his hand fell to his side. “..what the hell Anshuman… do you know what you are saying…? She is your sister…”
“…Look at her Kasim… she is vegetative… my heart breaks too… I have lived the last decade looking for her… do you think this is easy…? But Kasim… she is in pain… even if she can’t feel it… she doesn’t know anything that’s going on… its injustice to her… she is gone already… let’s release her body…Kasim… free her from the torture… she had had enough…” Anshuman held his face n his palms as he cried his heart out.
“…Anshuman… I have lived all these years only in the hope of seeing her and Manpreet… Meera was my Oxygen all these years… at least I know she is here physically…”
“…Please Kasim… oh God… help my sister…I can’t bear this…”
Just then as if the heavens answered his plea, the instruments started to beep frantically and before they could react, Meera flatlined.
Kasim screamed into his walkie-talkie to call for the doctor while also calling out Meera’s name as if she was just waiting to wake up from the deep stupor. Kasim started pacing berserkly with tears streaming down his bearded cheeks… “…No…Meera Don’t… don’t leave me… please… NO…” he wailed with flailing arms.
Anshuman stood transfixed and suddenly the door opened and Simrat rushed in… followed by his guards. She stood rooted near the bed and stared at Meera’s corpse… Anshuman moved towards her and he didn’t know who moved first but they were in each other’s arms as she cried into his chest. Finally, the gravity of the situation started to sink in and Anshuman sobbed into her hair… He had not expected to see Meera and since December he had assumed her dead… but now as Meera’s mortal remains lay before him he couldn’t contain it. It was as if she was waiting for him to breathe her last… she waited for a decade for her loving brother…
Just then there were sounds of shots fired and Kasim looked around confused. Anshuman looked at Simrat. He silently asked about Manpreet. She nodded which meant she had it under control… how did she get to the room escaping Kasim’s men was beyond him. But he was grateful she was here sharing his turmoil. Kasim brandished a pistol and pointed towards them. “…I didn’t want to do this Anshuman… but looks like you have given me no choice…” He was hyperventilating as if ensnared by some evil forces… his bloodshot eyes threatening to fall apart the look on his face blank…as if he was on some hallucinogen… What was going on…? The door burst open and Amandeep along with two other men barged in with blazing guns.
Simrat pushed Anshuman to the floor. He heard Amandeep’s voice. “…Drop it Kasim… it’s over now… we have Manpreet safely back with us…you are under arrest… we have recovered evidence against forgery and forceful occupancy of Passion…then money laundering and fake identity… the dead bodies of Ruby and other members of the sleeper cells have been recovered but one of them survived and he gave us the location of the hidden ledgers… so it’s game over Kasim… enough…”
Kasim laughed hysterically. “…I have lived all my life for my father… that old bastard took control and later that swine Haider… but no more… no one can control me anymore… Anshuman… man… take care of Manpreet… I know you will… I am joining my Meera…”
Anshuman scrambled to get up just to see Kasim pull the trigger on himself and his lifeless body and gore fell on the bed next to Meera.
Anshuman stood fixed to the ground shocked at the events that transpired, even as Simrat and other members took control of the situation. Very soon it was time to move the bodies and Meera’s corpse was handed over to him for the last rites.
Later early in the morning, a shocked and confused Manpreet lit the pyre to the ongoing chanting of hymns. Anshuman and Simrat stood on either of his sides and though dazed the boy demonstrated a matured poise. as the flames rose to the skies, Simrat shed tears for the departed soul and Manpreet hugged Anshuman. They waited till the embers faded and Anshuman looked up towards the sky saying a silent prayer. He hoped Meera would now rest in peace…
Anshuman thanked the villagers of Sancoale especially Abenazer, Beatrice, and Albert for their vigilance and support to the SOP. Rewa and Amandeep had left after completing the formalities. Kasim’s identity was not revealed to the villagers and the army retreated the way they had come without anyone knowing about the classified operation. The bodies of Kasim’s men were also taken away by the army to identify and go ahead with other proceedings they deemed fit.
Closure finally came in from all directions….
©priyagole. No part of the story can be copied or shared anywhere without the consent of the writer.