They refused to let go of the other, as if stuck in an intimate embrace. I struggled to separate them, my eyelids, as I battled that strange, falling sensation.
I had just regained consciousness.
“Where am I? What is this place?” I wondered, feeling lost. I forced myself to think back.
Bright lights, chaotic movements, loud voices jostled to grab my attention.
I had been attending a party in Bhubaneshwar and was heading home with a friend, riding my brand new Kawasaki Ninja on National Highway 5 — the undefeated title holder of the ‘busiest road’ championship.
A final year student of engineering, I was a week away from walking into a new life. I had got a call from Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. Hence the celebration party.
They say a flame burns brightest before it dies. Destiny too, it seems, had other plans for me.
A drunk driver slept on the wheel and crashed into my bike. I had seen the vehicle rush towards me with the speed of a herd of elephants, but I was helpless. I could feel the crunch as I was thrown towards a dense group of vegetation dotting the side of the highway.
And then, there was nothing.
“Where’s my bike?” I shouted out, just as I saw a crane lift a piece of crushed metal from the road — my bike, the prized possession everyone in college drooled over.
It’s dark, I suddenly realised. It was pitch black where I was lying. I couldn’t see myself. I tried to call out for help but in vain. I could not get up, was unable to walk.
I couldn’t feel my body.
I could hear a siren at a distance. A police van rolled onto the scene with an ambulance.
The dark woods were beginning to scare me. The thought of poisonous snakes was freaking me out. This scary thought pushed me to battle my weakness and I finally managed to stand on my feet. A gust of wind made the trees give way to the faint, silvery beams of moonlight which illuminated a part of my arm, cutting through the dense canopy of leaves above. I could see my gravely injured arm, no skin on it, but it was painless.
Strange. Definitely strange!
I saw some people running towards me with huge flashlights in their hands. I let out a sigh of relief.
One of them ran towards me but halted a few meters ahead.
After staring at me for less than sixty seconds, he shouted, “Found him.”
“Hey, please ask them not to take my bike away, it’s my life and I’ve got something important in that bag,” I pleaded to the man.
There was no answer.
Too weak to speak out loud, I tried again.
“They are taking my bike away. The bag on the bike has my semester fees. Tomorrow is the last date to deposit the amount. Please ask them to hand it over to me.”
No response again.
I saw six other people running towards me with a stretcher and flashlights, including a doctor and two nurses.
I felt better.
“Hey, I’m fine. We can do this medication bit later. Please ask them to bring that bag safely to me. My career is at stake now. “
But they ran past me, only to screech to a halt behind me. There was someone lying a few feet away from me. The doctor checked his pulses and confirmed death.
I started trembling. I had forgotten about Rahul, my childhood buddy, who had been riding pillion.
I gathered my corroded courage and dragged myself to the spot where he was lying dead. It was a heart-rending sight.
There lay a blood smeared body, face unidentifiable, his head smashed, one of his eyeballs drooping out of his sockets.
“How can death be so cruel? Did he deserve such a death?” the police mumbled.
The constable found a wallet from one of Rahul’s pockets and pulled out an ID card.
Aman Sharma, Student, Chem. Engg. Dept. of NIT Rourkela — the constable read out.
I was taken aback and staggered.
“How can it be Aman Sharma? Aman Sharma is ............”
I heard a cacophony of voices engaged in a busy discussion behind me.
I turned around.
There was a group of awful, deformed, ghastly looking faces, standing there mocking me. Someone placed his hand on my shoulder and whispered into my ears,
“Welcome to our world, brother Aman!
My identity has been removed from that world forever.
I am dead!