Vishal, Project Manager for Focus Software, Inc, was at a party to celebrate the successful release of a software application. Every member of his team had worked oneself to the bone and their toil had finally borne fruit. One of the senior client members, Angela, even joked to Vishal about the birth pangs and stretch marks that were evident at the product launch. “That’s gross, but thanks”, said Vishal! She appreciated the commitment and single minded focus of the team. They managed to defy odds and create a product that would bring about a paradigm shift in the way their client’s customers did business. Vishal and his team were more relieved than thrilled. Two years had gone by at a frenetic pace and yet it felt that the passage of time was excruciatingly slow. Mixed emotions filled the air. Ravi apologized to Iqlaq for being tough at times, Roger thanked and apologized to Anita and Bob. Chandrasekhar was happy he could go to India and marry the girl his parents had ‘arranged’ and were raving about her beauty for the last four months or so. Phew! Even Stuart, the discourteous, hard-boiled, hard-nosed, mean Global Product Hed was seen smiling. Rose was busy clicking pictures on her new camera. Such moments were priceless. Wicked Stuart had become a hero and he wore the smile of a delighted man.
The music, dance, food, congratulatory and thank you speeches had a catalytic effect. Everybody realized that it was indeed an opportunity to let their hair down after what seemed like an eternity. Thankfully, they grabbed this opportunity and the rejoicing continued until, one by one, they began to disperse.
Vishal had parked his car that morning in his office parking garage and his client, Chris dropped him at the garage entrance around midnight. Vishal entered the garage and realized that he had forgotten to collect the car keys from the parking attendant’s office before going to the party. The rule was that one had to collect the keys before 8 pm else come back the next day! He had remembered to do this but it was Chris, Iqlaq and Ravi, who had convinced him that they would be back by 8 and Rose had even said that usually the car keys could be found in the car under the driver’s seat. That liar, Rose!!
Realizing that there was no use crying over spilt milk, he came out of the parking lot utterly dejected. It was very late, snowing and extremely dark. The cold air remorselessly struck his face with an intensity that he hadn’t felt ever before. Vishal was certain that an unseen cruel vicious force was hurling thin sheets of ice at him. He felt extremely stupid having forgotten his weather proof jacket and cap in his car. Without wasting any time, he began to run towards the bus stop. Catching the last bus was his only hope. During his sprint, he experienced total nakedness – he wondered if the chill had pulled out all his flesh and was licking his naked skeleton! Vishal could also feel a dance that his bones indulged in – a dance that could please the Devil! He heard the eerie background score composed and played to him by the friction of his own bones rubbing against each other. His teeth chattered and to add to his already pitiful state, the bus authorities continued the malevolence. The last bus had left!! He didn’t know what to do! Frantically searching his pocket, he managed to pull out his phone to call a taxi. The phone was running out of charge and he was finding it difficult to hold the phone still.
Out of nowhere, a huge man with black jacket and hood mysteriously appeared and stood in front of him. The giant didn’t seem to mind the cold, somehow. What Vishal observed was that the behemoth monster was dancing to a hip hop song that only he seemed to hear. He said, “Hey braadhar, whazzup maan? Howz it going? I like your ring. Can you give it to me, quayatlee and hurry up, pleez?”
Vishal froze! That was his wedding ring and of immense sentimental value to him and his family. There was no way he could part with that. This Colossus was about two times Vishal’s height and width. There was no escape route – it was check mate. Vishal he felt his body go numb, his blood sucked up by his fear and a drop of sweat trickled from his forehead and slid on his nose. More sweat beads appeared. He looked up and mustered every bit of courage that he could, “But this is my wedding ring. I can give you whatever money I have but can you do without taking this ring?”
The big robber laughed, it was a maniacal sinister laugh that was very loud and pierced Vishal’s head like a thousand needles. By now, Vishal began to shiver and sweat at the same time. He took out his wallet clumsily and showed that he had about thirty dollars. The monster took the money and patted him on his shoulders gently. Vishal couldn’t believe he had gotten away so easily. Even before he could switch from a state of shock to that of relief, the man pulled a revolver out and gave a menacing look. Vishal fell at the man’s feet and pulled his ring out. Tears flowed from his eyes and before he could utter a word, lights flashed everywhere around him.
Vishal was motionless and dazzled by the lights! To his bewilderment, the big man hugged Vishal and apologized. The camera crew was seen exchanging high-fives on another successful shooting of an episode of ‘Scare The Hell Out’.
Stuart, Angela and Chris had masterminded the plan and Vishal’s team mates had co-operated with them to organize a ‘scare’ for the popular programme ‘Scare The Hell Out’.
Iqlaq and Rose emerged from Vishal’s car and handed over his keys. Vishal gently nodded and asked Iqlaq to drive him home. The others came up, hugged and said sorry or relax or take it easy.
Two weeks later, on Sunday evening, Vishal, his wife and a few friends were watching that ‘successful’ episode on TV. Vishal had two thoughts on his mind – vengeance and Wicked Stuart!