This article has been submitted by Heema Shirvaikar for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
Murthy was euphoric. Just a few minutes more, and the world could have its next big invention, right here, in his room. Tiny beads of sweat appeared on his balding forehead as he fervently scribbled down the last of the formula that could create history; or rather, it could even change the history! The chair he sat on was old and rickety. It creaked with the force of his rigorous scribbling. Other than a few writing instruments and empty cups of coffee, papers with indiscernible mathematical symbols lay strewn across his table. A trail of ants quietly marched towards the plate of day old leftovers of the dinner on the table. Somewhere, in the debris of papers, pens and crockery coated with leftover food, sat Murthy, wide-eyed and intense, absorbed in working the formula, which if completed, would mean that the world would never be the same again. And that moment wasn’t very far.
Murthy hadn’t slept for quite some days now. He would occasionally doze off for a few minutes, his human body too limited in comparison to his superhuman brain. His eyes were swollen and puffy and had deep dark circles under them. His thick fat glasses left deep marks on the sides of his nose, indicating that he seldom removed them. He looked unhealthy and frail. His muscles ached from lack of movement. He hadn’t had a bath for quite a few days; neither had he changed his pyjamas. His clothes were ragged and stained. His hands were covered with blots of ink and lead. His hair, whatever little of which was left on his balding scalp was a tangled mess. His skin had become sallow and had a visible yellow tinge to it. But health or cleanliness was least of Murthy’s concern. All he wanted was to stay able enough to complete the formula. Yes, that would be enough. Once the formula was complete, it would all be worth it.
The formula had been Murthy’s brainchild for the last fifteen years. He had always known it would work. He had been ridiculed, disparaged. His colleagues had made a mockery out of his life’s work. But this had been Murthy’s dream project ever since he could remember. He had quit his job, put all his life’s savings at stake. He knew it would work. And today, finally, the wait would be over. He was close, so close! The formula was the key to making the time machine. Once the formula was derived; everything else would be a cakewalk. The time machine, once built had the propensity to benefit and destruct the world in equal measure. Murthy did not want it to reach in the wrong hands. More beads of sweat accumulated on his forehead even as he dabbed it with the back of his hand. No one had believed him when he had tried to convince everyone that this was possible. His applications for a loan had all been rejected. At last, it had been a senior colleague of his, Dr. Mohanty, who had agreed to lend him the money; more out of pity and for the consideration of their friendship, than any conviction in Murthy’s grand plan. Everyone had been convinced that he was running after a lost cause. But now he would prove them all wrong.
It was sunny outside. The weather was musty and humid. Murthy broke out into a fresh sweat even as the fan in the room creaked uselessly. There was a slight movement outside his window. Murthy, too engrossed in the formula, did not hear the faint click outside the window, as a man, dressed in black, holding a high end Colt AR-15 semi-automatic .22 calibre gun in his black-gloved hands, adjusted a well aimed shot, its bullet pointing straight at Murthy’s head, right between the eyebrows. The assassin was still, but extremely alert. He had been observing Murthy for quite some time. Murthy did not appear to him as a particularly difficult target owing to the fact that he barely left the table except to occasionally visit the bathroom, that too, when it was extremely unavoidable and necessary. He had been given clear orders: to shoot the target only after the formula was successfully completed. And the moment did not seem very far, considering Murthy’s increasing excitement.
The door to the room creaked open and Lata, his maid, entered the room. “Saar, Coffee,” she croaked. “Keep it here on the table,” Murthy said without looking up. Lata had felt overworked lately, making coffee for her sir day and night, bringing him his food in the room and trying to keep the house clean. Murthy never let her touch anything in the room, let alone clean it; so she had completely given up that part of the house. The only reason for her to work, unpaid and unappreciated, was the thought of what would become of her sir if she were to leave. He would surely die of starvation, she thought. Lata kept the coffee on the table next to his papers and collected the ant ridden crockery from the debris on it. She warily looked at the room. Her eyes briefly caught a shadow at the window. Surprised by what she thought she had seen, she swiftly walked to the window and peered out intently. There was nothing. Must be the shadow of the tree outside, she thought and brushed it off. Yet, somewhere at the back of the mind though, she swore she’d seen the shadow of a man. Maybe she was hallucinating. Maybe it was because of the sun. She shrugged and left the room, closing the door behind her.
Murthy was getting excited by the second. The assassin could see him animatedly muttering to himself. The formula was almost complete. And it was infallible. Murthy was at the edge of his chair, the only thing keeping him there were those last few strings of the formula. The assassin could feel his own fervour building up as his hands clutched the gun tightly. He had been sitting outside the window for a long time now, the sun blazing down his neck, his knees were scratched from squatting and crouching on the ground below and the muggy weather made him sweat profusely in his skin-hugging synthetic black outfit. He knew that the wait would be over, any moment now. His fingers tightened impatiently around the butt of the gun, the finger on the trigger twitched a little. His eyes tensed at the target. He quietly muttered an apology under his breath. He was, after all, about to kill an innocent man. He genuinely felt sorry that he was about to blow to a million pieces, what could be the world’s most brilliant brain. Murthy was about to conclude the formula. He could feel a drop of his sweat about to fall on his precious formula. He raised a trembling hand to wipe the sweat off his forehead, and accidently knocked the cup of coffee on the table. It all happened so fast, yet in a painfully slow motion, each and every second emphasized vividly.
The cup of coffee overturned, its contents rapidly pouring out of it and on the table, soaking the debris on the table that was Murthy’s formula. The cup rolled across the table and crashed on the floor, the glass shattered to bits. The steaming coffee spilled all over his papers. His formula, the one he had worked on for years, now dripping of the coffee. Murthy violently shook his now burnt hand as he let out a series of loud curses. In between all the chaos, the man outside the window was startled. He retreated his gun and quietly fled the place, taken aback by the sudden turn of events.