Tag Archives: Fiction

This Light Between Us

Sprawled in an ungainly fashion on the windowsill, he observed the world outside through the frosty pane of glass and reminisced of times past. There had been instances when he had lost all hope of successfully engineering his way through the hurdles, and yet he recalled how he had stood tall in the face of the most adverse circumstances. Nevertheless, it seemed to him his current dilemma was one that happened to be unprecedented both in nature and intensity. He thought of how he had secretly felt in control of every situation that had threatened to get out of hand in the past. Deep in his heart, he had always held the belief that everything would set itself right somehow and he would pull through in the end. And he did. This time around, however, he could not bring himself to feel optimistic. He closed his eyes.

***

Apollo was a nineteen-year old with a penchant for reading and writing. From a very young age, he had been taught to read stories for children. By the time he entered his teenage years, he was an avid consumer of fiction and non-fiction alike. Some writers he read fascinated him and aroused inside him emotions he never knew existed; they instilled in him a desire to express himself in the most vivid manner possible. He had an unquenchable desire to distinguish himself from the crowd; to travel places unexplored and write on themes never discussed before. His high flying aspirations were kept in check by his unparalleled ability to procrastinate at the worst of times; he possessed a great deal of ambition but lacked motivation. Apollo felt he could convey himself more clearly in writing than in speech and took to writing fiction as a means to escape the occasional bouts of depression and self-doubt he suffered from. Ideas came to him naturally and he translated them into eloquent prose; his professors praised his efforts and told him he had a rare gift. His rebellious nature and inclination to challenge authority often landed him in trouble. He could not bring himself to submit to what he called the ‘rigid, monotonous’ guidelines set out by elders and liked to think of himself as an artist and his seniors as antagonists who were bent on putting restrictions in place in order to curb his creativeness and ingenuity.

Apollo had a mess of black hair that fell across angularly on his forehead and light brown eyes that boasted of a serene intelligence. He was tall and had an athletic build for his age. Being extremely particular about his attire, he dressed to impress. A number of girls in high school had hinted at their interest but he had preferred to remain aloof and ignorant. He liked being detached and distant and had taught himself to find solace in his solitude. The idea of giving up on his interests and making compromises for another individual did not appeal to him and he felt no need to enter into a voluntary commitment to allow someone else control over his actions. His pledge to keep himself at a distance from the opposite gender lasted till he laid his eyes upon her for the first time.

***

There was a loud thud and Apollo’s eyes snapped open. He realized he had fallen asleep on the ledge and had gained consciousness by crashing to the floor. He pushed himself up in an effort to regain his composure as his eyes adjusted themselves to the gaping darkness surrounding him. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his left shoulder, he went outside to switch the porch light on. His parents had gone out and would not be back any time soon. Apollo did not mind being in the quaint little house by himself. He had grown up inside these walls inventing games that required the participation of only a single individual and conversing with himself when he felt in need of a companion. Although he enjoyed the company of his friends occasionally, he felt truly at ease in the comfort of his room with his attention focused on an intriguing book. Throwing himself on the couch, he let his mind wander. He thought of how it was as dull and depressing a winter season as any he had ever seen. It seemed to him as if time had almost come to a standstill. The events of the previous winter were still clear in his memory. He wondered if he would remember them as clearly in a few years’ time.

***

It was a chilly winter evening of an unusually cold December. An icy wind blew in sharp gusts and stabbed at the faces of those individuals who had either been brave enough to venture out of their cosy dwellings or were unlucky enough to be unable to associate themselves with one. A famous musical act was in town and a concert had been hastily arranged in an attempt to benefit from the opportunity. Apollo and his friends had decided to attend the event and were looking forward to it despite the hostile weather. As the group made their way across town to the indoor arena where the concert was scheduled to be held, Apollo noticed flocks of people travelling in the same direction. It seemed as if people from nearby towns had made the journey to the local neighbourhood only to catch a glimpse of the act. Apollo had never felt truly at ease in large gatherings.

(to be continued…)

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Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case – A Review

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It is strange how a particular place can invoke a plethora of memories and bring about a nostalgic rush at the same time. It seems only yesterday I was travelling to Styles for the first time, foolishly believing the best years of my life were behind me. Little did I know at that time I was on my way to meet a man whose influence over me was to mould my entire being and change my outlook towards life; and here I was once again, travelling to the same country house in Essex. The prospect of seeing Poirot again kept me animated through the dreary journey. I had missed him dearly.

Hercule Poirot. His egg-shaped bald head, magnificent moustache, penchant for order, and famous ‘little grey cells’ were renowned the world over. Over the years, we had been inseparable as Poirot had built himself a reputation for solving the most challenging of cases as a private detective after his retirement from the Belgian police force. I had last met him over a year ago, and it had saddened me immensely to see with my own eyes the devastation old age had wrought upon him. Crippled with arthritis, he had to move around in a wheelchair with his valet having to cater to every need of his. His face had become wrinkled and lined, and he had lost his plump frame. I had learned that Poirot had been living in Styles for some time, and my heart yearned to enjoy his company once more.

Poirot had written a letter asking me to join him at Styles on an urgent errand. On my arrival, Poirot told me to my great surprise that he was on the trail of a criminal mastermind whose pursuit had brought him to Styles. Five unrelated murders had taken place, and Poirot was convinced that his suspect was linked to each one of them. It was Poirot’s belief that this mysterious villain, whom he referred to as only ‘X’, was present among the occupants of the guest house that Styles had been transformed into.

In the beginning, I had my doubts about the whole business. In the case studies of the five murders Poirot had shown me, it was evident that the guilt of the murderers had been proven beyond doubt. After I had been introduced to all the guests occupying Styles, my scepticism increased further. They all seemed nice, friendly people and I could not bring myself to believe that one of them was a maniacal serial killer who had already committed five murders in cold blood and was planning another while at Styles, according to Poirot. I remembered a case Poirot had once recounted to me upon my insistence that there must have been an instance when his little grey cells had failed to function properly; the case of ‘The Chocolate Box’. I thought to myself it was only natural for Poirot to be imagining crime everywhere he went in his old age since his whole life had been dedicated to fighting crime and evil. However, I dismissed these unpleasant thoughts from my mind and reminded myself of Poirot’s unparalleled ability to solve the most baffling cases throughout his distinguished career.

Poirot had asked me to become his eyes and ears at Styles which is exactly what I did. I reported every incident that took place around the house to Poirot and kept him aware of daily developments. Poirot had always been secretive in his ideas and theories but the complete lack of information he provided irritated me beyond measurable extent. My misgivings were laid to rest and Poirot’s theory was proven correct when an attempt on an occupant’s life was made. Poirot told me then that this would be the last case we would solve together and that at the end of his career, he had finally come across the perfect criminal. What began as ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ would fittingly end at the same place as Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case’.

At the end, all I recall is Poirot signing off our first adventure at Styles with “we shall hunt together again”. The end of Poirot’s manuscript read “We shall never hunt together again, my friend.” Grief overtook my senses as my mind wandered off to memories of all the cases we had solved together. Poirot always said I had too trusting a nature. Maybe he was right. I never guessed. I never guessed…

(Written from the perspective of Captain Arthur Hastings, companion-chronicler and best friend of Hercule Poirot throughout his detective career)

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