She walked on the pristine beach looking helplessly dragging herself wearily. She was tarnished with fatigue as her throat beseeched for some water. Water! Water everywhere but not a drop to drink, the sand that stuck to her wet self, seemed so heavy that she could hardly carry herself. She dropped on her knees on the sand with absolutely no controls on her body. As she lay there under the scorching sun with her tears evaporating in the humid hot airs her mind reeled back in time.
Dharavi, you are not going to do any such thing without my permission, do you hear that? Do you even know that it could be life threatening? Her mother had yelled at her. But Dharavi was an adventure lover and would go any extent to live her dream. She had decided to sky dive along with her friends much against her parents’ wish, that too without their knowledge. She was smitten and surrounded by rich brats all the time who didn’t mind paying for her.
The tears now seemed to become extinct but she couldn’t stop pondering about the sudden hostility life had presented her with, I deserved it she thought. She had broken her mom’s trust, she had lied to that mom whose only purpose in life was her daughter’s well-being. Dharavi remembered how she used to peacefully sleep on her mom’s lap while her mom held her veil against the sun’s rays to shield her darling daughter on those several hot bus journeys. What ifI had listened to my mom instead of my mind would I be left to die like this? What if I had refused my friends would they not continue to be my friends? Friends!! A shrilling chill ran through her, she had last seen the fireball. Her eyes were still, as all those moments came haunting her.
At 5am she kept striding in excitement in her congested room. Seeing the lights on, her mom had knocked the door to check if everything was alright because she was one sluggish person who had never seen sunrise. “Nothing mom, it’s just that I am going to Divi’s house for combined studies and will have breakfast there itself, also I am going to come back late today”. Her mom had smiled stroking her hair heaving a sigh of relief.
The four friends knew no bounds of their joy when they buckled their belts as the mini bird took off.
A concocted feeling of excitement, fear, thrill and guilt chilled their spines as they exchanged smiles with risen brows holding each other’s hands. They reached the said height and could hear the rotor swindling noisily cutting against the gushing winds. Their guide had given them all the guidelines, he had advised them to just let go of all uneasy feelings and simply live the moment. He now signaled to them if they were ready, with knees shaking and heart thumping fast they nodded.
The winds were getting little stormier and seemed unsuitable for a jump. The flight took few rounds waiting for the winds to calm down but as luck would have it they had to return back as weather was getting worse. The guide consoled them and asked them to come back the next day.
Suddenly there was a terrible rattling sound, the pilot panicked, he tried to control the machine but was unable to detect the snag soon there was smoke. The crew decided to simply take the leap for which they were actually here. Life was certainly not an architect’s drawing board where everything gets meticulously planned. It was as if God had cut a cruel joke at their expense as if to say after all you wanted to experience thrill right so now go for it. There was no time for anything really, the guide just pushed them and plunged along. The fierce winds ripped them apart scattering the group and carrying them miles away spinning 360 degrees without a clue of where they would land.
Dharavi was a strong girl with lot of presence of mind she pulled the parachute ripcord but it was all tangled. Fret, fear or just freeze the free fall what could she do? She looked down, it was deep blue and unbelievable but the pandemonium in her heart didn’t let her enjoy the moment. At a far off distance she could see the aircraft reduced to a ball of fire.
Their eventful landing was supposed to be on the seashore but here she was gazing at the endless vast stretch of the sea underneath her which she was heading at an unimaginable speed, she remembered there was a spare emergency parachute as well she pulled the cord and it seemed to work decelerating the speed but she came down crashing on the waters.
She gasped for breath after that plunge sticking her head out like a little lost duck as the waves kept drifting her. She waded herself whichever way the winds took her, the scorching sun glare almost blinded her, she could not remember for how long she had been swimming now yet there was no hope no sign of land, no rescue in sight and she was already drained out.
Would it be like a crisis driven English movie or a harsh reality that she was left to face, what if I were to be eaten by some shark, what if I did not live to see life tomorrow, “No, I don’t want to die such a hopeless death”, she sobbed in her heart but I am alive today and I shall do justice to it, ‘what if God had given me another chance’ she thought.
Drifting amidst the many lifts and falls in the waves she found a tree bark floating, she quickly held on to it. She looked around in desperation feeling hungry and weak but soon fell asleep involuntarily letting go of the bark, as she began drowning she opened her eyes and saw that she was at the bottom of the sea next to some rocky thing which looked like the mouth of an ancient coral cave. She crept into the cave it was very narrow and dark inside. The strangest part was that she could breathe here and there was no water inside it. The wall of the cave was coarse with many icicles like rocky edges which actually helped her to climb up further, she kept climbing and wondered where would it end what if this was some sea monster’s oesophagus? By now her eyes had got adjusted to the darkness. The climb led her to a dead end she leaned her back on the wall thinking what next but to her astonishment the wall that appeared like a dead end gave way to a much wider path which was also dimly illuminated devoid of any marine life instead she saw some weird inscriptions . But whatever terrible waited at the end seemed more acceptable than drifting away at the mercy of the waves. At least she could breathe here but how was it possible she wondered. After hours of crawling and when she could take no more she simply curled up and slept. When she woke up she saw that the maze like path was brighter now she curiously began heading towards the source of light that filled her with hope for the next 10 hours. Then suddenly the path was tapering leading to a steep ascent with the same icicles like rocky walls, she dreaded if it was water again, all that hope would be shattered but she didn’t have a choice. She trekked up carefully holding the rocky grip and it was suddenly very hot and bright. Her eyes were so accustomed to the darkness that she could not open her eyes for a while. The narrow path opened to some marshy patch. It was getting too narrow now she almost squeezed through like a worm to reach the end but this was the most slippery part and she had to be cautious.
She gathered whatever little energy she had and raced against the steep ascent that stood like a slide slipping which the fierce darkness would consume her back again. She dashed against the damp mound pushing herself up and clanged like an iguana. She pulled herself out and what did she see! It was glittering white sand. Eureka!! She had reached land, it was unbelievable.
An unexpected free fall to a dangerous ditch into the sea bed to a fairy tale escape route and coming back alive to see land was completely unimaginable. She crept out and tried to walk but collapsed, she lay flat facing the sun remembering her mom.
Her body ached as if she had received a thousand whippings. But her mind was fearless now. She had given a slip to death and still pinched herself to believe it. She could not remember for how long she lay there, when she sat up and looked at the mouth of the tunnel it was all covered up in sand again as if nothing ever existed there. She wondered if it was some mythical underwater tunnel or else how could she breathe underwater. She looked around, it was a beautiful island. She licked some sand to get a taste of some salt she would turn squint any moment now. She thought of her friends, where would they be, were they safe, were they home already or ….she dreaded at the thought. She now knew only one thing and that she had to get back home. She thought she heard something.
At a far end there was a ship anchored and she saw some movement. She ran towards it calling them to wait for her. The hunger, the blazing sun devoured all her energy, everything was black she fainted.
The sun had set and the cool breezes stroked her tanned weak body, she opened her eyes. She was lying on the docks of a ship but could not see anybody around. Who had put her on board? Where was this ship heading? All these thoughts made her weak. Her eyes fell on a carton that indicated some food in it. She tore open the box and mauled it like a scavenger. Feeling better she stood at the deck rail, the ship was still anchored in the same shore, she turned around and saw that at the other end of the ship strange looking creatures were carrying a tribal man from the ship and tying him upside down in a fireplace. She watched in horror as they lit the fire and the man was reduced to a mass of roasted flesh. She covered her face and sat down shivering with goose bumps all over her. She felt something cold on her elbows. She was resting her hand on a metal mesh tiara like thing the same headdress that the creatures had fixed on the man’s head she shuddered and froze as she realized she was in captivity and was next.
She dived into the shallow waters in front of her with a big splash that alerted the creatures. The creatures swarmed behind her like a dust storm she ran as fast as her feet could take her, towards the tunnel. She had reached the spot where she thought she had come out from but she could not find the mouth of the tunnel. She dug up all around the place, the creatures were close but she was still digging. Where did the tunnel disappear? There was a deafening sound coming underneath her she panicked and rose to flee but skidded and fell with a thud hitting her head against the side table beside her cot. The deafening sound of the alarm had gone into the snooze mode and her mom was screaming ‘I am packing only Alu parantha today’. She looked at her hands they were still soiled with sand. What if she had really travelled in her sleep?
(This post was originally written for the ‘what if somewhere sometime’ contest by tumbhi)