[Bleach Fanfic] THE FINAL BATTLE

Back in 2006, I wrote a fanfic where Ichigo’s hollow form kills aizen, most of Soul Society is wiped out in the fallout and Rukia is Captain Commander, 10 years later. Then after Isshin’s backstory was releaved, I wrote this.
Goodbye, Bleach. You shall be missed.

The First Death

He awakens to screams in the distance; his eyes slowly focus on the world around him. Continue reading

HAT AND RIPPLE – A Discworld fanfic [Chapter 1]

Granny Weatherwax woke up not long before dawn. Putting aside the sign she had been holding in her hands which read in prominent if slightly crooked letters, ‘I ATEN’T DEAD’, she walked to the porch door and silently opened it, doing her best to not startle the owl sitting on the banister. The owl was out way past its bedtime, and the sky was already taking on colour. Granny was not surprised to see the half-dazed-half-sleepy bird though; she knew it would be there. She placed a bowl out with some birdseed and water, and then silently closed the door again. The bird would probably end up spending the day in one of the trees in her own garden, she mused. Continue reading

And There are no Words, part 1 of 4

This is a story told through letters. Written from the points of view of different people at different times, they tell parts of the same story. However, they will not fit neatly together as if pieces of a jigsaw. Like almost every story, this one will have a lot of rough edges and gaps. These might be construed as the signs of a lazy author or one who has not thought this through. Alternatively, you can just fill up the gaps with your own imagination 🙂

Thank you Rashi (aka Rashi-chan’s Art) for illustrating this. ^_^

note:

This year I have headed back into familiar murky territory, prose. Never particularly good at it, I have nevertheless been trying to get out of my comfort zone and write stories in whichever way they can be expressed best.

One of my better ideas has been to work with different artists on my stories; this way, any deficiency in my writing can at least partially be smoothed over by their art. And there are no words is one of those experiments. Each of the four parts will be illustrated by a different artist. As a start, I’m super glad to have finally been able to collaborate with Rashi. The remaining three parts are also in great hands, and working with them has already opened up new doors for me in the way I put down thoughts as words 🙂

A Door in the Rain

reetam draft 4

The bus stop where I’m at is a tiny little place – a bench wide enough for three people, with a roof overhead barely keeping the elements out. It has managed to fend the rain away so far though, if only just. The occasional gust of wind still has it lashing out in all directions, leaving trails of spray on the guitar perched beside me. It is always raining here.

Oh, I haven’t told you about the guitar, have I? I wonder whether I had brought it with me, or whether someone else had left it behind. It’s been on this bench for as long as I’ve been here myself, I think. The details are a bit fuzzy, but it couldn’t just have appeared, you know? Someone must have brought it along at some point. Ah well, who cares? It doesn’t matter, really. I do feel like picking it up and playing it sometimes, but I refrain – I’m not very sure whether I can play it to begin with, and finding out can surely wait for another time.

It’s already August, so shouldn’t the rain be letting up about now? It feels like it has been August forever, though. Have I been here long? Days? Months? My recollections are vague at best, but I like the rain so it is okay either way. The rains usually make up most of my surroundings, but sometimes I can see the hills on the other side of it. The lights go on and off; smoke signals as indecipherable as the patterns of the rain. Sometimes it feels like the city is trying to send me a message.

I am mostly on my own, although I do get company from time to time. It’s a nice change of pace. While I don’t really mind being alone, someone to talk to is okay too. Company usually comes in the form of a dog taking shelter from the rain, which is all for the better since dogs tend to be really attentive listeners. Like that lab who comes by now and then and curls up under the bench, his head grazing my leg. He sleeps most of the time, and then when he wakes up he sits beside me to stare out into the rain, pausing occasionally to yawn or scratch the back of his ears. The corner of my mind which makes up the stories opines that he’s a messenger, coming and going as he pleases. Maybe he has better luck figuring out what the elaborate cipher of lights really means; maybe the smoke signals are for him to read.

Buses pass by from time to time. Some of them stop. The doors open though no one ever steps out. After a while, they shut with an almost imperceptible sigh and the bus leaves. I suppose I could get on one of them.  I mean, I am sitting at the bus stop – the logical thing to do, sooner or later, would be to hop on. It’s almost like every bus is imploring me to do so. I cannot shake off this notion that none of them go to where I need to get to, but I think I might get on to the next one anyway.

reetam draft 1

When the bus comes to a halt, I walk out of the door and into the tiny bus stop. He looks up and notices me; uncertainty is followed by recognition, which in turn is followed by a look of incomprehension. I sit down beside him, six strings separating us. It’s a pretty guitar; I wish I knew how to play one.

He sits very still, lips pursed and eyes hesitant with all the turmoil that must be going through his mind right now. I am ready with the answers while he is still figuring out the questions, so I decide to help things along.

It’s okay to be confused. Go on, I know you have a lot of questions , I nod encouragingly towards him.

Who are you? Are you…

I’m you, of course. Is that so surprising?

But, how can you…

Why not? Did you think there was only one of you? Of me? Like everything else that exists, we are infinite. I am just another possibility, like you are. And just like you are unique in your universe, so am I in mine. Here, however, we’re all the same.

Where is ‘here’, then?

This place? Here is where everything is connected; here is the only place when we can meet. It’s a knot of sorts, I suppose? Here is whatever, whenever you want it to be. Any question we can ever possibly ask can be answered at this one time and this one place. That is also why this place is so important; why one of us must always stand guard. So that it is never lost. You have kept watch for a long time now; it’s my turn now.

What happens to me, then? Where do I go from here? Do I die?

Not if you don’t want to. You could go into some other possibility, some other answer than the one you came from. Death of course is one of them; where you go from here is for you to decide.

I can hear the next bus coming. Are you ready?, I ask him.

He smiles and nods. Do I leave the guitar for you?

Nah, you take it. I don’t know how to play it anyway. You don’t happen to have a harmonica on you, do you?

He reaches into his pocket and hands me the harmonica which has always been there. His face shows only the barest hint of surprise – he has started to realise that here, every answer is equable.

The bus’s door closes. The universe stops, and the bus disappears, leaving a door through the raindrops frozen in place. He picks up the guitar and walks through. A few moments later, a gold lab trots up from behind the bus stop and follows him through…

The sea, even at high tide, manages only to graze my feet. It is dusk now, and I wonder how long I have been sitting here with just a dog for company. I contemplate playing the harmonica on the bench beside me, but I cannot remember whether I know how to play it. For now, I am content with the melody of the crashing waves and the patches of sunshine sparkling off it.

It is always dusk here.

reetam draft 2

——————————

Thanks to Mrinal Roy for working and re-working the images for me through his busy schedule. 🙂

Undream (Part 2 of 3)

It’s taken me almost a year to continue writing this. I should wrap this up as soon as I have some idea of how it’s supposed to end. 😀
Oh, in case you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.

____________________

4.

The distance between the Uninet and real life slowly started increasing as time went by. Some people left the Uninet, scared how else it might mess with their brains. Most sought refuge there to escape from the changing world. It took almost three decades for the world to reach some sort of stability. The hysteria died down, and slowly the populace recovered. Mankind had always had an irrepressible urge to survive, and this was no different. Society learned to scoff at people who spoke about the old times as a knee jerk reaction to what they had lost and could never get back. The younger generations who had grown up dreamless were first fascinated and then frustrated at the old world – and soon they archived away everything they could and tried their best to start afresh.

The changes happened slowly. Old music started disappearing off the Uninet, books from that era or before were taken off shelves and slowly stored away in parts of the Uninet which were either not easily accessible or discouraged people from being too curious. Public opinion changed from scoffing to ostracising people who clung to the olden times. Activist groups emerged with the sole intention of trying to discredit or dispose of anything to do with the olden times in an effort to convince themselves and the world that they were better off now than than they were before; that it’s best if we forget the past and just moved on.

The world survived, but at a steep price – self delusion on an unprecedented global scale.

5.

Within 60 years, human society had changed completely. Breakthroughs in nanotechnology led to improvements in fields like medicine and communications and its effects were visible in every sphere of human life. Nanites injected into the brain could finally do for humans what hallucinogenics had been doing all this while – provide the closest approximation of sleep. By switching off optical circuits and spontaneously creating the illusion of dreams based on extant memories in people, tripdreaming became new the rage and the new release. The definition of what it meant to dream changed as mankind started the era of tripsharing – a real-time interchange of nanites between two people who were faux-sleeping, thus resulting in tripdreams which both could experience at the same time. These sessions could even be recorded if so desired and released either to be seen visually or experienced by someone else when they were tripdreaming. Of course, the black market was soon rife with people selling hacked tripdreams and people willingly selling off their private moments for money.

A hundred years down the line, children were born with nanites which were injected during embryonic stages. They became the new generation of humans – faster, stronger, tireless, but also more disconnected from their pasts. The boom in space exploration finally happened, but Shakespeare was performed no more. Everyone had forgotten who the Beatles were. The disconnect with the 21st century had finally grown irreversible.

One might go as far to say that the definition of of humanity had started changing by then.

Undream (Part 1 of 3)

1.

And then one day, people stopped dreaming.

It took months for the world to notice; in retrospect, it’s surprising it didn’t take them longer.

The first ones to really notice were the kids – the minority not hooked up to the Uninet, whose sleep was not aided in any way. Dreams for them were still an essential part of life, yet something they were not old enough to take for granted. Parents and doctors unsurprisingly attributed their claims and complaints of not dreaming any more as results of stress or sleep disorders. Some went as far as to prescribe medication to help them sleep better.

Attention was finally drawn when three groups of neurologists, working independently to determine the effects of prolonged presence inside the Uninet on the human brain, noticed that their subjects had ceased to show any signs of neural activity associated with dreaming.  Their surprise increased manifold when, upon publishing, it became clear that the approximate time that all subjects had stopped dreaming coincided to a 24 hour sleep cycle. The mainstream media was alerted to this, and amidst the torrent of voices confirming (once they had shut down their Uninet access to check) that they too had stopped dreaming, it took barely a fortnight for the penny to drop for all humans – no one dreamed any longer.

Extensive research was done over the course of the next year to determine why this had happened, whether it could be reversed, and how the world should cope if it couldn’t. No conclusive cause or remedy was found. One commonly held theory suggested that the Information War and the consequent wiring of people to the Uninet, even during sleep, had somehow fried the part of our brain circuitry responsible for dreaming. Of course, this did nothing to explain why people who had never plugged on to Uninet ceased to dream too. This has always remained unexplained.

2.

Soon, effects of this phenomenon started being felt across every sphere of human life. Student performances, especially among kids who were still in school, showed a noticeable decline. It took a year or two to register this and attribute it as an effect of not dreaming, and a few more years for the world to completely revise its syllabi and methods of teaching to cope with this unforeseen change.

The artistic communities were affected much faster and in a more noticeable manner. Music, art, literature – all hit new lows in terms of both quantity and quality. The quantity recovered somewhat later on after a few consistent years of diminishing production of artistic content. According to people who had at some point of time lived in a world where everyone could dream, however, the quality of art and music was never quite the same. While it is commonly held that these people exaggerated this effect out of nostalgia, it cannot be argued that dreams often used to form an important part of the creative process for a lot of people, and their creative output was definitely affected once they stopped dreaming.

Children born after the event never dreamed, or at least had no remembrance of dreaming once they were old enough to be asked about it. It also became a fast rising problem for parents to explain to their kids the concept of dreaming. This was partly because there was no way for these kids to understand what they could not physically experience. It was especially distressing because grownups would go on and on about dreaming while being unable to explain to them in coherent terms what it really meant. They might as well have been trying to teach their kids the colour of the breeze or the taste of a distasteful word. Dreams are hard to recollect and remember at the best of times, and for a world which could not dream any more, it was ever fading and always an uphill task.

3.

Not surprisingly, the demand for synesthetic experiences and the use of recreational drugs increased manifold. Within half a decade, the industry was at par with the worldwide prescription drugs’ industry. This was not surprising, since hallucinogenics provided the closest alternative to the experience of dreaming. People clamoured towards new drugs which promised synaesthesia and dream like experiences. Drug related deaths also increased at an alarming rate. The recreational drugs’ industry went unchecked until governments worldwide saw wisdom in ceasing crackdown and embracing the reality that drugs would be a necessary part of human existence like it had never been before. In a series of sweeping reforms, several drugs which were banned till then were legalised across the world – MJ became a prescription drug in most countries, an over-the-counter drug in many others.

Depression and other psychological problems also hit record highs alongside the increased drug usage. So did the number of suicides. For the first decade, the number of suicides was higher than deaths by accidents, homicides or natural disasters. The world’s population and food problems looked like they would get solved any day – just not in a way anyone could have expected even a few years back.

It was a cold, quiet world.

The Last Song – Chapter I

This shall be the last song for the night.
Ryan’s voice did little to bring me back from the world I had lost myself in the moment I walked into the crowd. This was our last gig on this tour, and my last gig with the band. Yeah, I know what the people present would think if they knew, is this going to be the end of Scatterbrain, or will they recruit another guitarist and move on?  Well, to be honest, I didn’t really know. And I didn’t particularly care either. I just knew that this is the last night, the last time.
It started a couple of weeks ago, somewhere within the first few days of our touring. I remembered the last tour, our first set of gigs. I couldn’t wait to get on stage every night. This time, it was different. It was not as if I hated to get on stage or I hated to play music. Just that one fine day, I realized I was growing apathetic to this life. The theatrics, the screaming fans, the women, the highs, the whole deal. It took a bit of time to sink in, but once it did, it was a thought which took root inside my head and just wouldn’t let go. Night after night, on stage, in bed, through strange highs, I tried to convince myself this was not so, but the mirror which had always been my harshest critic now gleefully turned my biggest detractor. And now it had come to this. I still loved my mates, so I thought it fair that I go through this whole tour before I leave. And tonight I had told them, right before coming on stage.
You’re kidding, right?
Duuuude, you sure you know what you’re talking about?
Hey, you can have as much time off as you want. But don’t go.
They were surprisingly supportive. Maybe they had noticed it too? But I made it clear that this was it. That I would be leaving by the night’s train. That I needed a lot of time to figure this out, and they were welcome to move on without me. No hard feelings.
And so on and so forth.
So, this was our last show together.
The implications of my actions hit me only when I walked on for this show. I could see the tensed expressions on Ryan’s face. He always worried too much. Gus looked sad. He had always been the softy. Only Bryan had it right. He was energetic as ever behind the drums. We all wanted to make it our best gig ever. But my mind had started to wander by then. To the past. To the future. To every moment possible except now. Every place in the world but here. My fingers moved across the frets with practiced ease. I even occasionally heard my own voice sing out, backing Ryan’s whiskey vocals. But it couldn’t possibly have been me. I was there in the crowd, watching the band drift through the night’s playlist. One can’t possibly be at two places at once, right? The performance was tight, flawless. And all of them, knowing that this was it, were giving it that extra bit which probably made this a seminal performance, but I wasn’t sure it was me there with the band. Just a stranger who knew the right notes and the right moments to sing along.
The last song was our current trademark, a cover of one of Solace’s best known tracks, just if. It was somewhat prophetic, since this was part of the last record Solace had out before they split. And this had been the song which had, in a very roundabout and obscure fashion, if I might say so, had brought us together.
If I could have just one more dream/ a last poem put to song/ I don’t care if I dunno what it means/ but I don’t mind singing along.
This was how my favourite part of the song went. The guitars went silent. The bass just played the skeleton notes first time around, and then during the repeat pass, all the instruments would come in one by one till at last the lead guitars would come and lead to a short but devastating solo. We regularly covered this song, and had even played an acoustic version of it one time when a lot of our gear got misplaced right before a show and all that we had left were a pair of acoustic guitars. This was one of those songs that start out humble. Like, while being written, nobody really expects it to do very well. But somehow it ends up becoming one of those songs which defines careers. In this case, this ended up being Solace’s swansong. But as with swansongs, it ended there for Solace.  And would end for us, too.

Last Train Home

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 15; the fifteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

He slowly walked across the platform and sat down on the same bench as every day. The clouds seemed to follow him overhead. It started to drizzle, almost imperceptibly. The same time. Same bag with him. He sat there, waiting. Dusk would wrap her blanket around him in sometime.
Maybe she will come today…

1.
She woke up to raindrops on her face, stealing glances at her through the train window.
I must have dozed off.
 

Instinctively she reached inside the pages of the book on her lap. To reassure her that the letter was still there. That was her fragment of hope. Her hope to find what she was looking for.


Sylvia had grown up without a father. Her mother had never tried to hide anything from her, and as soon as Sylvia was old enough to understand, had explained why her dad was never around. We had a huge row, she had said. Your father was a good man, and we loved each other a lot. But someone got it into my head that there was another woman. I confronted him. He denied it. I didn’t believe him back then. So he stormed out and never came back. And then the war came and everything was lost. I found out much later that I was wrong. But neither of us knew you were coming, back then. Not till a few weeks after. Maybe things would have been different then….

But her mother had never let her feel the absence of a father. She had not remarried. Her daughter had been her life from then on. Sylvia, she had named her. I have had the most amazing mother ever. And i miss you so much now, Mom.

2.
The station master had gotten used to the man sitting on the bench at the far end of the platform. He could see him if he looked out of his window. He remembered the first time he had seen him. And then, every day after that, day after day. It had been over a month now. He had tried asking him after the first couple of days why he came there every day. I am waiting for someone, that was his reply. The station master had been unable to get more out of him.

He came there every day a few minutes before the evening train arrived and sat down on the same bench. Right after the train left, so would he. Sometimes he would seem to look intently at one of the passengers, but it might have been his imagination. The station master knew him by name, of course. It was a small place. He had worked in the only hotel in town. Till back then, of course. Maybe it has got something to do with the incident there, the station master thought absently, getting back to his book.

3.
Dear Martha, the letter started…

It had arrived a few weeks after her mother’s funeral, with the first rains of the season. It took her a few minutes to realise that the person writing the letter was her father. In an instant, the sound of the thunder and the rain and the windows banging against the frames had all ceased. There seemed to be a hushed silence in her world at that moment. Her heart had either stopped or was beating really, really fast; there was hardly any difference between the two at that moment. She had had to hold on to the banister for support before she could continue reading.

How can I ever apologise enough for leaving you? I was so angry when you did not believe me that night. Something came over me and in a drunken fit I went and conscripted myself. By the time I had come to my senses, the ship had set sail. And then when I returned, the house was gone. Since then, I have spent all these years looking for you. All this time. Believing that you were out there somewhere.
Carefully formed letters. Slightly halting. As if carrying a burden of guilt. 

I still stand by what I said that night. You have been the only one in my life. I have spent so long trying to find you. And now I have. I may have failed you as a husband, but will you give me a chance to make amends now?
Her hands shook as she read the rest of the letter.

The next day, she wrote back.
My name is Sylvia. I am the daughter of Martha Robinson. I am really sorry to have to tell you this, but mother passed away last month. However,…..
She mentioned her phone number in the letter. A week after sending the letter, her father called. Both their voices were shaky. She felt strange at having found a parent right after losing one.

4.
Keith remembered the man perfectly. Somewhere in his sixties. There was a strange shine in his eyes, like a kid being taken to the carnival. He had checked in that evening. Didn’t carry a lot of luggage. Just one bag.  Can I make a phone call, he had come down and asked later on. Sure, Keith had replied back from behind the counter.
Sylvia, it’s me.
Yes, I’m in a hotel for the night. Mayfair Lodge, I think the name is. 
Yes, I’ll be taking the early morning train. It is the only one which goes towards that direction, anyway.
Me too. You do not know how much I am looking forward to this. I will see you tomorrow. Good night. 
Returning the telephone, he had remarked, that was my daughter. I shall be seeing her for the first time tomorrow.
Keith had looked duly curious. The old man had noticed that look and gone on to tell him the story of his life. Of the woman he had loved and lost, of the war, of coming back and looking for her year after year, never giving up hope. Of finding her, only to know that she had passed away. Of the daughter he never knew he had.
The two of them had talked late into the night. Talked about a million things.Two strangers brought together by a quirk of fate and tied together by the ticking clock for a few fragile chance moments. And then the old man had said good night and gone back up to his room, wishing tomorrow to come as soon as possible.

5.
They had spoken for hours. Conversation was a bit stilted in the beginning, but they had soon grown comfortable talking to one another. He called her again the next evening and told her that he would be coming down immediately if she was okay with it. Start the next day and reach on Sunday. Then he had called her on Saturday night from some town where he was staying in overnight. Said he would catch the early train next morning and reach the same evening.

And then he had disappeared. When he didn’t come the next day, she assumed he might have missed his train. Days passed by and he still did not arrive. Or call. Or write. A million possibilities flashed through her head, none of them pleasant. But she was determined about one thing – she was not about to lose her father again.

She had only the name of the hotel his father had been staying in to go by. She did not even know which town it was in. It had never crossed her mind to ask him. It took her almost a month to find out where the hotel might have been. A town not far from her own, half a day’s journey away. A little place called Alston, tucked away in the countryside. Only one train from there to where she lived. It all fitted. And so she was on her way to Alston, apprehension and hope fighting for space in her rapidly beating heart.

6.
Keith had dozed off at the counter. The burning smell that woke him up was overpowering. Everywhere he looked was thick with fumes. Shades of orange flickered all around him. He somehow made it out, groping in the darkness. Only the staff and the guests on the ground floor were able to get out before the building collapsed in a heap of leaping flames and cinders. Everyone on the first floor was lost in the fire. Nobody had any idea as to how it had started. But all he could think about was the man who would now never meet his daughter.

He had gone back amongst the debris the next day. Not much was left of the old man’s room. He had still looked and looked till he found a tin box with a few of the man’s possessions; a photograph of the man when he was young, holding hands with a pretty girl, the edges of the photo charred. A couple of letters, a few more photos, a silver pocket-watch. The box was itself charred and had become disfigured in the heat. He had kept it with him. Every single day after that, he went and waited at the station in the evening. Waiting for the man’s daughter to come. Something told her she would. So he waited.

7.
She looked out of the window as the train slowed down. The sky was overcast, and it was still drizzling. There did not seem to be a soul in sight. Just a man sitting at the far end of the platform on a bench, watching the train coming in. She got off as the train came to a halt and walked towards the station master’s office. The man on the bench slowly got up as well and started walking towards her…

He saw her get off the train. He knew it was her. She looked just like the young lady in the photograph. Dreamily, he stood up and walked towards her.

Sylvia?
Sylvia stopped dead on her tracks, and stared at the person standing in front of him. Thin and about her age, looking pale in the failing light, with blue eyes that were sad and distant. How does this man know my name? How did he know I would be here now?
You’re Sylvia, aren’t you? he asked again.
Yes? Who are you? Do I know you?
No, but I know a bit about you.
I don’t understand.
I knew your father… for a little while.
He took the tin box out of the bag and held it out for her.
This was his. He would have wanted you to have this. 
I don’t understand. Where is my father? How do you know him? How did you know I was coming?

And then she noticed the box properly for the first time, blackened and distorted. She could still make out the Jacques Robinson etched on the cover. With shaking hands she took the box from him and opened the lid. Right on top was an old photograph of a woman she knew was her mother with a man who she realised must be her father.
I am sorry, the man broke in softly, but your father never made it past the night he spoke with you last. But he really, really wanted to meet you. You meant the world to him.

I… she looked at him, her brain refusing to form coherent thoughts. He looked right back into her eyes, and a deep sadness that had been there since the day of the fire passed through the miles separating the two of them and into her eyes. And she knew. The wind had suddenly picked up, as if realising the turmoil in her heart, their hearts. Words failed her as comprehension started to dawn, like a bitter pill being pushed down her throat. Her legs were no longer able to take the weight of the emotions heaving through her, and she sat down on the platform, a blank look on her face. Keith bent down and gently brought her back on her feet and started walking her towards the shed.

It had started raining heavily, so he couldn’t really tell if she was crying.
Or maybe she is, he thought, looking up at the skies breaking down on them.


 Thank you Sayali for helping me write this out and not give up midway.

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