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A partner she didn’t know how to find. In all these years, she had never encountered anyone else roaming the streets like her. There was some whispers about a dark, angry woman. But she had never seen her and she was not willing to believe the rumours. She needed proof. However, if she was bitter then Eve couldn’t work with her. Her code was the very foundation of why she began to take to the streets. She remembered the many months she had spent reeling in her anger. Anger would turn her bitter and this world had enough of bitter folk. She needed to channel her energies to achieve greater good. As gratifying as it sounds, it isolated her from maintaining any close relationships. Initially, she would be furious and lose control of her powers. It would result in loud noises, harm to herself and a suspicious landlord. Her first few suits also didn’t have the finish and class that her current suit has. It was also badly coordinated. Red, blue, black were all overdone colours. She needed to mark her personality and create a space so comfortable that she would be able to unleash her powers.

She always feared that someone, anyone, would see through her clothes and notice the scars on her body. From the excessive working out, occasional bruises from her encounters with the crime, her body did not look like it could be. Her day job involved selling art pieces at a gallery. The money from it helped her get by. She also could lay low when she got hurt badly. More so, very few people who came to buy the art pieces would ever recognise her in a suit. As she sold a piece and got out of work for the week, she marched quickly towards her place. She needed some secluded thinking today. She changed into her suit and gravitated to her hide out which was a water tank kms away from the city. She couldn’t think in her room as the noises from the outside world distracted her. She would be on guard in the midst of a sentence. She didn’t like the disturbance.

She sat down amidst her thoughts and stared at the city lights. This city had become her life. Dedicating her life to saving it was magnanimous but she couldn’t remember exactly why she had done so. She needed to find a way to do more, even as she spent less time on the job. Her moist eyes continued to gaze over the people of the city as she accepted that even heroines can sometimes falter.

3/ n

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Eve flew back to her one room apartment to take off her suit. She was half-machine, half-human. Her warm side urged her to go out each time and save a few lives; her metal half enabled her to do so. She couldn’t remember how she developed her machine side. No matter how hard she tried the memory was far too blur. All she recollected was being locked alone in a room with fumes that she now related to alcohol. Still, she couldn’t smell a bottle of whiskey without going weak in the knees.

Over decades of having rescued people from moments of peril, she had gained a few mentions in the paper. But it was always disbelief. No one truly quite understood what was the machine, woman or object that saved them. Once a child spotted her landing on the rooftop opposite his balcony. It was the sole description that matched her image in reality. Children don’t lie then, she had thought. Her description was then carried in the next day’s newspaper’s lead story. She had cut out the paper and pasted it on her vanity mirror. Living a stealthy life meant she had no friends or family to talk to. This made her dedicate all her time to improving her suit which eventually led to her being narcissistic. She read closely through comic books to be inspired by the gadgets used in them and recreated them to fit her requirement. Despite the bad-ass image she developed, she was against killing or other violent acts. Violence violated her code of ethics and honour which were an essential part of her being. She merely rescued those who needed her help.

When she first began her crime fighting role, she was forced to patrol the streets and find the victims. Later on, she hacked into the police’s equipment. This lasted a short while. She felt that the information that reached them was not enough. Eventually, she learnt to tune her hearing to sense vulnerabilities. She sat in her balcony, wearing her suit, and listened to the sounds around her. For many days all she heard was cars honking and trucks. Slowly, her hearing tuned out the superficial sounds and taped in on the deeper sounds. She couldn’t grasp her own ability to do it. She sensed that her radar didn’t go further than 7kms. She found new spots for her to focus on every night.

This routine during the night resulted in her looking pretty pathetic without her mask. Since she had a human role to keep up, she wore heavy duty make up to cover her dark patches. She, obviously, slept poorly. She could use a partner to lessen her load and help innovate her costume.

2/n

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She stepped out of the apartment’s gate onto a deserted street. The street lamp illuminated a little circle near the gate; the rest of the street was in darkness. There was nothing surprising about this. Living in a remote nook of the city allowed Meera to get by with little rent but it meant irregular power supply, poor water supply and no public amenities. It also meant extended travel time to work. She took that chance knowing it was the only choice she had. She struggled for a while after which she formed a routine around it. She never left her house too late in the night and avoided returning late as well. But that day was different; she needed to buy some medicines urgently.

She walked a while humming a tune to calm her frightened nerves. She saw two lights approaching her from a distance. She moved to the corner of the footpath and walked cautiously. The car went past her; five men were screaming and loud music reverberated from the vehicle. They hooted as they passed her. She ignored them and picked up her pace. The medical shop was just around the corner. She heard the car skid and turn around. They were coming back. She wanted to run but didn’t want to give in to her fear. She kept up her pace. The car stopped a few feet behind her and the men got off. They walked towards her unsteadily, screaming to attract her attention.

Her anger got the best of her and she turned to face them. Her face was violent. She was overpowered and there was close to no escape possible for her if this turned ugly. She resolved to fight it out. It didn’t even cross her mind that she was over reacting. The drunk men waddled towards her and she used her kick-boxing training to knock two of them out. But the others caught hold of her. She struggled in their tight grip. She screamed but all around her there was silence.

They teased her a while before they dragged Meera, who had now given up, to the car. They were two feet away when a loud thud scared them. They let go off her and turned around.

A tall, well-built woman dressed in purple body tights hovered in front of them. Her eyes shone in the darkness of the street. Her face had a mask. Her hair was tied in a neat bun. She had a black arrow on her chest and legs. She wore red gloves and red socks. Her cape flapped around in the wind. She raised her right hand towards the men and red rope flew out. The ropes tied each of the men up, individually and together. She moved her left hand twice and their mouths were taped shut.

She flew down to carry the limp Meera to a hospital. Parts of Meera’s dress was torn. She watched Meera being treated and lingered till she regained consciousness.

“Who are you?” Meera whispered as she spotted her saviour hanging out by the open window.

“Devious Eve,” the rescuer responded as she flew into the now empty room.

“Thank you!” she replied.

“It is my duty, Meera,” Devious Eve said with a smile.

Her job for that moment was done. She wrapped her cape around herself and spun round. She rose into the air before she vanished, as quickly and noisily as when she appeared.

Meera watched her disappear her mind full of questions. Would they meet again, she wondered?

1/n

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I hadn’t realised how much like her I was till I noticed the look in her eyes; it was a familiar one for me. It was the instantaneous reaction to the sorrow and pain. She couldn’t control it all the time. Her words never bore those emotions though. Her eyes betrayed her temporarily. Everyone has these moments of complete breakdown. The reflexive and hyper state of mind, right? So what makes this moment special for her and me? She knew it tied us together. She spent many hours hiding behind her emotionless face. She was engrossed in being strong for everyone around her, all the time. It was just a momentary lapse and she willed it to go away. It was a trait she did not embrace. When I saw the look, I knew what to do. I held her hand, kissed it and reminded her it was all okay. She was strong, feisty and a superwoman. But even she needed to be reassured of that. Perhaps, she was too adamant to voice that. Perhaps, I had gotten accustomed to her being strong for me all the time and refused to see. Once in a while, she must want to share her load. In the silent moments when I had her hands in mine, we conversed. And she drifted off to sleep.

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“Do not talk about it. It is private,” he said as he hit me.

I resisted but remained silent. I had heard similar lines before too.

“Don’t tell anyone. It is our secret,” as he forced me to abide.

It was all the same. Through multiple channels, I was taught to remain silent. My mind inertly quietened the problems, calmed my heart and went on with life. No one should know how messed up your life really is. The words changed forms but the sentiment stayed the same. I was to not speak. I mustn’t come forward.

Even after years of education, reading and cultivating a sense of life, my silence continued. It was to save me from the harsh glares of the judgmental folk. It was to shield me from being considered pointless. It was my only layer of protection, my mask.

In 78 years of my life, I never voiced my pain. I grew to be my own comforter. I found that no one around me urged me to speak. No one said that if I raised my voice, I would be safe; that I must fight and if I did, I would win.

They were afraid and unconvinced. They hesitated and my pain stayed hidden.

Today, I stop. My silence did not protect me. Your silence will not protect you.

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I could sleep tonight and never wake up. It could all be over in the blink of an eye. Tomorrow, I could be hovering above people watching them weep. Or not. It could happen. I cannot predict that far into the future. I never had a crystal ball to peep nor did I believe in leaving my destiny in somebody else’s hands. If tonight is the big night, would I have done everything I wanted to do? Accomplished my life’s mission? Told the stories I wanted to? Cliche thoughts are supposed to pass through one’s head when one is preparing for an ultimate end. This would entail living a life where every moment is seized; grabbing opportunities to do what pleases me in that moment. I can count the number of times I have done this. Not even one full hand, ironically. Living in the moment entails letting go of inhibitions, restrictions and discomforts. I have spent many years building walls to hide precisely all of this. Why would I bring them down? To merely enjoy a few moments of mindless freedom?

I wonder if I could.

I could sleep tonight and wake up once again. This pointless cycle could continue. Tomorrow, I will wade through life clueless as I was yesterday. Or not. It could all change. I don’t want to predict that far into the future. All this life requires is for me to continue living one day at a time. Not anticipating my continuing existence nor my premature death.

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Part one here

In a flash, a green animal with red eyes emerged from the trees. Our jaws dropped as we stared at it approaching us slowly.

We were glued to the ground in shock. The animal agitated, at its space being encroached, made a loud screeching sound. I moved closer to Tim and held onto his hand. Somehow, running seemed a bad idea so we just continued to stare.

I could see its claws glow in the moonlight. It looked creepy and fascinating at the same time. The large animal edged towards us. It was on fours and took each step hesitantly. Either the animal was scared or it was preparing for an attack. A few seconds later, the animal had charged forward and grabbed a surprised Tim by his leg. Then, the monster galloped away. I was terrified to move or even scream. I just watched this beast run with Tim dragging along behind. I ran into our tent and dug around for my phone. I hurriedly called for police help from the neighbouring station. They said they couldn’t get there for a while and asked me to keep calm. Keep calm, at a time like this. They expected too much. The night air that was filled with Tim’s screams had turned silent. The green animal was gone. So was Tim. A few flattened leaves could be seen where the animal had entered from. The giant footprints of the animal near the clump of trees could be seen. The depth of the markings looked like it had waited for us to emerge, disarmed.

I contemplated going into the thicket after the animal. I couldn’t just wait. So I took the flashlight from the boot of our car and followed the animal. A fat tree branch was in my hand for protection. The animal looked fit enough to maul me and without backup, Tim and I would both be dinner. As I walked on for a while, there was no sign of Tim. There was also no sign of blood. So, I kept my hopes up. There were no other footprints of the animal to follow. It seemed it only left them when it stood a while. I walked deeper into the forest. Steadily the number of trees reduced till they opened up into a circular open space. Many trees had been cut and hence the breathing space. I sat down on a tree stump and stared at the moon. I was helpless and looking up gave me no solace. The moon looked gorgeous though. We would come out a lot early on in our marriage. I had loved the starry nights of the wilderness. My mind drifted into pleasant memories as the thought of the animal forced me back to reality. It moved fast and could be far away now. I was tired but I couldn’t give up. Not yet anyway.

The thought hadn’t finished crossing my mind, when I saw man and animal walking towards me. The glowing claws proved it was the animal. But the red eyes were lower than earlier. In fact, they weren’t on the head of the animal. The previously green animal had developed black hair on its head. Laughter broke the silence and my restlessness as two men emerged. One was Tim, the other a man in a green suit. My mouth dropped. I had been tricked.

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She lay down, her hip in a cast. She felt a deep ennui. She could convince herself it was the world at large. But it was something far more personal. She was too worn out to pray. So she stayed in bed and wept. The tears were ones of frustration, of hesitation, of years of silence. She lived a private life without allowing others to see her fears. She never vocalised the fears from the fright of never being rid of them. She occasionally let God into her thoughts. But her faith had taken a beating with that fall.

How could she give up dance? It made her spirits rise and fall with each motif. Her emotions converted robotic steps to elegant movements. She felt rhythm accelerate her heart beat and send her body moving across the stage. But, dance, she had to give up. Few things had consumed her the way dance had. Nothing had meant as much.

She watched Shariff clean up the room around her. He gave her a faint smile. He knew she would be broken. He switched off the lights in the room, opened a curtain and kissed her forehead as he left. He loved his sister but he couldn’t understand Sophie’s pain. He knew that she had overheard the doctors tell the family that the prospect of future dancing was close to zero. No one had the courage to break the news to her. Everyone knew it was a part of her. Tragically, it was taken away. Her eyes, ever since the realisation, displayed deep sorrow and restlessness. He hoped she would see the rays of light and not spiral into an abyss.

He envisioned that someday she would be able to dance again. Till then, she just needed to recover and find something else that got her through.

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I had never met anyone who took pleasure in cruelty. Until I met her. She was intelligent, affluent and beautiful. Her cruelty added a dangerous spark to her frequently mistaken docile appearance. She was in a position of authority and she used this position to inflict fear. She breathed fire and lived off the scent of others’ vulnerabilities. Her actions displayed no guilt; her heart showed no remorse. She tore apart anyone who worked for her, with her or above her. She spared no one whether it was a man, woman or animal. In fact, the plants in her office didn’t survive for more than two weeks. Everyone got the same harsh treatment. They called her the witch with a ‘b’ behind her back. She knew she was hated though. How could she not be aware?

No one smiled; everyone quit; people left her office in tears. It was like she sucked the positive sentiments when she walked into a room. Yet, she was never fired. Her impersonal, anarchic,  ruthless nature got the work done. Many others together couldn’t replace her ability to complete tasks. This was the call the company made despite numerous complaints against her. So she stayed and continued to receive a yearly 30% hike. It was part of an unsigned agreement.

I loathed her. But I was forced to abide and conform. I stayed on and observed her for many months. Months turned into years and I didn’t quit. I assumed someday I could write a book on her robotic skills alone. It was mesmerising to see how she handled herself. Never did anyone spot a moment of weakness. I found that alluring. 

After two years of working for her, I resembled a zombie without a goal in life and energy drained from my every pore. I didn’t care enough to quit anymore. The job got me a hefty pay. Working for the witch paid handsomely as I would have it. I was willing to sacrifice the pursuit of greater happiness. Happiness was elusive and unimportant anyway. Even she would agree.

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When four people conversed with each other, she zoned out. She wasn’t necessarily part of the conversation always. People tend to lose her in the crowd. She just looked blankly past those present; her thoughts were far away too. Their lips moved but she didn’t hear a word they said. If they spoke to her, she don’t notice. She barely made an impression when others met her for the first time. She was an odd one. She had been told that her behaviour was often rude. In large gatherings, there was a formality to abide by. There was a need to smile, a fake one at the very least. This made large parties or meetings uncomfortable for her and she avoided them to her best. Or she went to them and disobeyed the ‘normal’ code. After a while, she presumed, the ‘normal’ bend would tip. There must be many more of her kind who reacted in similar fashions. They would force the attitudes to alter in her favour. Until then she would just have to force some socialising on her self. She couldn’t guarantee her attention though. Sometimes, she had no control over her mind. It drifted on its own.