The Chirping sparrows, dew struck tender leaves, slowly creeping warmth of sunshine; giving a silent promise of a bright day ahead. But Danny, the 12 year old, was still under his bed covers drawing them closer to cover his face in a pretence that dawn was still far from reality. The cosy warmth of morning was too overwhelming a reason for his laziness.
Like the sudden leap of a predator, he found his bed covers flying to one side, exposing his vulnerable self.
“What time do you think it is, Danny?” echoed a women’s stern voice.
“Maa, why do you always trouble me with these same words every day? Instead take a break and give me one just for today” retorted an irritated voice back, half rising from the bed, reluctant to open his eyes.
“When will you learn to take care of your things my boy?” she said in a defeated voice, “it’s today that you have to join the new boarding Danny”
Her words like a thunderclap brought Danny to that terrifying reality again. He gave her a startled look pleading with his eyes, longing to hear that it was a lie. That old fear of being left alone was creeping back again.
“Get ready soon; papa is already fired up” called back the leaving figure of a lady, bringing Danny back to his senses. He looked out through his window glasses stained with droplets weeping for him to stay back. The backyard with the willow slightly moving her leaves with the wind waving him good bye.
Danny sighed deeply, unsure when he will get a chance to see them again. His room… his world…..
Danny stood glued to the point, watching the old car taking its last turn, and disappearing from his eyes. His vision was blurred by the salty drops brimming to roll down and reveal his shameful self.
“Yes its really painful to watch them leave”, murmured a friendly voice at his side. Danny turned to see a boy no more than his age standing beside with a broad kind of grin and an extended hand, “hello, I am Luther, what is your name mate?”
Danny and Luther’s friendship grew in a level so profound that both thought they can’t live without the other. Luther was that kind of a friend Danny was waiting all his life. He felt like they were tied by a bond more than what others can understand and now he was thankful for this stay away from home, which is now an unrevised part of his memories.
That day like any other Luther was being loquacious about his friend tom, his favourite subject. Tom was like the third one in their circle, whose existence even Danny felt through tom’s words. Luther even had a picture of his with tom, which he prized more than anything kept behind the glazing inside of his wallet.
“Danny, These days tom is interested only in you. Today when I called him we were just talking about you” tom was telling Danny who had just reached after an extra hour of class.
“You are too unfair Luther, how many times have I plead to you for a personal talk with him!” said Danny in a dejected tone.
‘’it’s not time yet, my mate” said Luther staring at him, lost in thought.
That evening Danny had to make an urgent call to his mom, since it was her b’day and he had forgotten to wish her. Thinking how to cover up for the situation, he took the phone and a long beep sound greeted him. He hung the phone back and tried again, but futile.
“That bloody thing is in repair since last Sunday. And I haven’t heard my mom’s voice ever since”, a passer-by was muttering to himself seeing Danny’s attempts.
Danny was shocked and stared at the boy who was walking away from him. Luther’s words echoing through his mind “today Tom was only interested in you……………” Doubts and uncertainties about Luther’s mysterious calls and recitals started flooding his mind.
Danny walked aimlessly back to his dormitory, lost in thought.
“oye.. Watch it….what happened to you dude? What are you thinking about?” Danny almost crashed on to Luther who was searching for him.”
“Oh! Nothing”, Danny told startled.
“Anyways….. Know what tom is coming this weekend to see you. He told me just now that even he is desperate to see you” Luther told in a jolly mood.
An ice cold chill passed through Danny’s nerves, forcing him into more dilemmas. Why is Luther lying to him? Was everything a fake…….
Danny forced back a grin at Luther’s face who was starting to suspect something, hoping that it was not grim and they walked back to the dormitory without the usual fights and talks.
That night Danny could not sleep. His dreams turned into nightmares where that photograph of Danny’s priceless possession tried to strangle his thoughts, driving him mad.
“Danny get up dude, you are already late” told Luther as he forced Danny out of bed
“I am not feeling well today. I will catch you after lunch” told Danny, still under the covers.
“U lazy buffalo! Anyways don’t forget, the exams are just a fortnight away and take good rest” told Luther as he patted Danny at his back and left.
Soon as everyone left Danny got up from his half faked sleep. He went up to Luther’s bed and searched his belongings. He found an old suitcase, rust stricken, with a small jammed lock to it. Danny tried to force it open, but his efforts were in vain. As he was frantically trying to open it, he is eyes hooked onto a glistening piece of metal. He took the silver key and opened the case.
The case was littered with torn pieces of paper. As Danny went through each and every piece he realised that they were jig-saws of a single page. He tried to arrange them back but it was near to impossible. He could just make out word….”tom I’m sorry”…..it’s my entire fault”………”tom you made me”…..
As Danny took out the last pieces, he saw an old photograph of two boys standing hugging each other. One of the faces was blackened with ink and the other was the same face that Luther preserved in his wallet.
As Danny turned the card his breath caught in his throat.
It was written in bold: IN THE LIVING MEMORY OF TOM DANIEL (1996-2006)
The picture fell from Danny’s hands as he felt adrenaline taking hold of his body. His hands dead cold were clinging onto the side rails of the bed for support as a wave of fear started engulfing his self.
“Danny you are cleverer than what I had anticipated” said an amused voice from behind.
Danny jolted back to see Luther smiling wickedly at his back. He staggered onto the floor trying to catch hold of his breath.
“You…you… you lied to me.” Danny spat at Luther’s face struggling.
“Ha! Ha! Ha... you were an easy prey Danny” Luther recited back with sarcasm, “but now since you know my secret…..” his voice rung like a threat under his crooked smile.
“For you tom”, screamed Luther as a plunged onto Danny.
Danny found himself struggling for breath under Luther’s strong clasp. He felt his head going light and his efforts failing as everything as turning dark.
Nobody knew what had happened to Danny. Someone entered the dormitory that evening to find him unconscious on the floor, strewn with paper bits. He was speaking incoherently; “Luther”…. ”tom”….”he was a cheat”…….
Danny as his classmates recalled was always a lonely boy. He had no friends, no social ties, always in a world of his own, chanting and murmuring things to himself. And all they knew was that his parents were called upon and he was taken back.
Watching the boy lost, chanting to himself, inside the stinky cell, Dr.Jenny sighed to herself ’yet another prey of solitude………………’
“So Jo that was Luther’s story and ma narrow escape from his clutches” Danny chanted to the emptiness.