Chapter 1-The Dream
“May I have your attention please, train no. 06948 with the destination to Vasco da Gama railway station started from Hubli Junction station via Dharwar station at 02:15 is going to depart from platform no.2”
The announcement is repeated in Hindi and English many times before the speaker goes off.
My shoes glide against gravel and dust creating a rough sensation as I keep walking towards the bench. I keep my eyes on the two women sitting on the bench near the middle of the platform, busy talking to each other. The blinking light from the broken tube light lights up the station which has only three platforms and a small shed. The sound of the cricket reaches my ear and the smell of the morning dew surrounds me.
I stop before the women and try to call them out, "Excuse me, can you tell me the name of this station?"
They keep talking without giving me a single glance.
"Excuse me, ma'am?"
Despite my continuous efforts, never even once did they spare me a glance, just like the last 3 times. I give up after my 5th attempt and keep staring at them confused. Why is this happening to me? Why can't no one hear me?
I rub my forehead and throw my glance at the other people standing at the station. Most of the people have a dark complexion and some are wearing a dhoti. Judging by the looks, complexion, and dress they are definitely South Indian. Other than that I can't still figure out where exactly am I?
And why can't I remember how I got here? What is this weird feeling? I look up at the lightning sky before looking down at the only thing I am carrying other than the ticket.
A hardcover red book.
Without any name, design, summary, or anything, it's just a simple red book. Where did I even get this? I take a seat beside the women who are still not aware of my presence and put the book on my lap. I look around for few seconds before opening it.
Oh, it does have something written in it. I thought it was blank. I quickly skim through all the pages to find each and every page full. There is not even a single blank page.
Closing the book after a few minutes, I raise my other hand to look at the train ticket. By the looks of the people, who have started crowding near the edge of the platform, the train should be arriving any minute now. As soon as I hear the sound of the engine, I stand up and quickly move to join them, while fixing my focus on the number written on the coaches.
Once the train stops, I quickly take my place in the line forming in front of the entry of my coach. Since there is no board or screen for the information, I don't know for how much time the train will stop, so I better take my place as soon as possible. The lack of crowd assures me that I will able to board the train since the crowd is a common occurrence while boarding a train if you live in India.
Railways carry the most percentage of traffic in India since it is affordable and convenient. I have been traveling by train for my whole life so I am well aware of how congested it can get. The person in front of me moves forward and I take her place. There are three people in front of me in the line.
Once the man in front of me steps in, I grip the handle and climb in. After passing some compartments, I step to the side to let the others pass and check the ticket in my hand. I get back in line after confirming my seat once again and step out as soon as my eyes lay on my seat number.
Once I take my window seat, I look at the ticket again, and is then that I catch sight of the name of the station. Wait a minute...why didn't I think of looking at the ticket before? I must have lost my brain cells. Now the name of the station confirms that I am in South India, at least I managed to figure out something.
I put aside the ticket and turn towards the window. Since this is a sleeper class so there is no glass window, the window is open with few rods that do not let me peek out fully. Not that I want to peek out, I might lose my head if I ever try such a thing. But I am thankful that it’s a sleeper class since it will allow me to view scenery easily, though the blowing wind during the ride will surely make my hair as good as a bird's nest. And I will have to use extra effort to untangle them but it will be worth it if I get to enjoy my ride.
As the sky is still dark, I switch on the light, lean back and make myself comfortable for the ride. Just when the noise settles and an old lady takes her seat beside me, the train starts with a jerk. I reach for my book to pass time. What else should I do when no one can even talk to me?
While I am invested in the book, the train slows down and stops at one point. I look out of the window. We have stopped at a station. I peek out again but I can’t see the name of the station which is at the end of the platform.
Shaking my head and look at the people in my compartment, there is a snoring old lady above me and a young man in front of the old lady. Almost everyone has already pulled up the seat to sleep. There are three seat beds on one side, the middle seat can be folded down to take a seat in the morning and bed in the night.
Except for the seat directly in front of me, all seats in the compartment have been occupied. A total of 6 people can sit in one compartment so there are still three seats left. In the silence of the night, the snores of people who are sleeping in the nearby compartment reach my ear.
After observing my surrounding for a while, I go back to my book. Just then I hear the sound of the door opening and the footsteps. The footsteps stop in front of my compartment and the owner of the footsteps move in. I am aware that someone has taken a seat in front of me but I ignore them and keep reading.
The plot of this book is good. Well, I have to admit I thought it would be insipid when I first saw the cover but it turned out to be better than expected. The introduction is also interesting but it does give a hint towards a tragic ending. The story starts with the introduction of a curse that was placed on a royal family. Under this curse, the heir of the family will meet his/her soul mate and fall in love with them but because of the curse, their soulmates are destined to die a tragic death before they could attain the 30.
Unfortunately, the member of the royal family will unable to love another for his/her whole life. The story starts with the tragic death of the empress who was the soulmate of the emperor. The next time I look up, the sky has lightened, it should be around 5-6 am and the sound of falling water catches my attention.
I quickly put aside my book and look out of the window once I notice a waterfall on my side of the bridge. Wow, it's my first time seeing a waterfall from such a close distance. I keep watching the waterfall which is surrounded by green vegetation as the train crosses the bridge.
It is a gentle sort of waterfall with a stream cascading over the rocky outcrops and it should be around 310m in height. Once the train is near the waterfall, I start feeling the coolness of the water in the air. I take a deep breath despite my shiver.
Nature and being away from city life always give me a sense of freedom and calmness. And the type of sight never fails to bring a smile to my face. I turn my head without thinking, still smiling, to look at the person sitting in front of me but my smile disappears as soon as my eyes land on the person. My mouth falls open and my breath hitches.
Who is...he? Why does he look familiar?
I don’t know him but I do know one thing, in front of me, is one of the most handsome people I have seen since birth. Soon I notice he is also staring back at me. He is wearing a white shirt with a band collar and slim jeans with casual white sneakers, his skin color is fair in contrast to my light brown skin. And he has black hair and dark brown eyes like me.
There are so many emotions in his eye. But I can’t find myself to name even a single of them. Nadya, have you gone mad? Why are you staring at a handsome stranger with googly eyes? I try to look away, I never succeed. Why can't I look away?
I put my hand on my racing heart and tear my gaze away forcefully. I would surely remember a guy as handsome as him if I ever met him before. Have I really not met him before? But how could I have forgotten him if I have met him before? Or maybe we did meet but I forget? Uhm...but that’s very unlikely since looks are not something I can forget easily. So did I really not meet him?....
But why is he still staring at him if we have not met before? I can clearly feel his gaze scanning my face before coming to rest on my lips. I look at him from the corner of my and look away quickly. He didn't notice that I was looking, right? I hope not.
I am still lost in thoughts when a bright light makes me close my eyes. Once I open my eyes, my gaze falls on a golden antique Georgian hand clock that is rested on the boy’s lap. I look out of the window at the rising sun before looking back at the clock, the glass of the clock must have reflected the sunlight.
The clock is adorned with a long golden chain that can be used to hang it around the neck, a golden pin on the side to adjust the time, and another one on top to act as a stopwatch. The clock is still ticking even though it looks ancient. It looks expensive as well, where did he buy it?
I always wanted a watch like this one. But it is so difficult to get such a clock nowadays. He must be rich to be able to afford it. Wait....should I ask where he brought it? He looks kind of cold but I think he will answer if try to talk to him.
All of a sudden, under my gaze the needle stop ticking. My brows furrow in confusion. Huh? What happened? Did the battery die? Before I could think of another reason, my eyes widen as I watch in amazement and horror as it starts ticking in an anti-clockwise direction.
What is happening? Why did it start ticking backward?
Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock, Tick....
What the hell is this clock?
And all of a sudden the world suddenly turns black.
Just then I hear someone shouting in the distance. The voice was not clear, but it becoming clearer as it was coming closer. It sounds....very familiar, then I hear it...
“Nadya, wake up...”
My lids flutter open, the light blinds me for a few seconds but after few seconds everything becomes clear and I see my mom looking down at me while standing by my side of the bed.
“Huh” I mutter in my half-asleep state and slowly turn my glance towards the clock, it is 11:00 already. Damn, I am late again.
I am a late riser, especially during vacations. And I consider this as my ‘somewhat vacation’ as I have just passed my 12th grade and recently started college. Today I don’t have any classes so I am kind of free.
“Get up, freshen up and eat your breakfast”, My mother leaves after waking me up. Being a late riser, it is normal for me to eat my breakfast during lunchtime. And since I am already skinny and easily get sick, I am not allowed to skip breakfast, even if I am late. Slowly, I get up and go to the washroom while my mind was still occupied by the boy in my dream. I take out my toothbrush and apply the toothpaste, placing the brush in my mouth as I look at myself in the mirror.
I get lost in my thoughts, trying to remember every detail of the dream. I don’t want to forget that dream and especially his face. I am having a feeling I will meet him soon. I want to every single detail. I don’t even know why I am feeling like this.
After brushing my teeth, I try to stop myself from dreaming and focus on the day. I still have many things to do. Day went by as normally it always goes. Studying, painting, a small argument with my father, and sleeping most of the time. It was the same old day but my mind was constantly wandering towards the boy in my dream.
At around 17:30, I call Misha to meet in front of my house. I wanted to share that strange dream I had today. There is a park in front of my house, where we usually take our evening walk while talking.
We first met in 9th grade when she was a new student. Once by luck, she became my seatmate and we became acquaintances but later when I changed my seat, we stopped talking altogether and things became awkward between us. Then one day I was sitting beside her, we didn’t talk much but after knowing that we held a common interest in watching anime, it was the start of our friendship.
After 4 long years here we are, practically sisters we never had. Fortunately, she shifted near my house so it was easy to meet up.
“It is unusual of you to call me.” She says as soon as she matches my step. She is right, she is the one always calls first. And she is the one who is more talkative among us.
“I want to tell you something,” I tell Misha. “You know, I had a strange dream today.” I get straight to the point, I want to tell her the dream before I forget it. I tell her every detail about the dream, especially about the boy I have never met. It is not easy for me to take interest in boys because of my high standard, even when they are handsome. Looks are never enough for me. And I am sure I have never met him, so how can my mind form his face in my unconsciousness?
“Maybe you saw him in the crowd or streets” Misha try to reason. “You know our brain is very advance, it can memorize someone’s features in a very short amount of time, so it is not much of the deal if someone we don’t know appears in our dream, you must have seen him somewhere you just don’t remember.” I don’t correct her but I knew that was not the case. It is normal for anyone to get to that conclusion and it’s logical so it is the only explanation. But I don’t feel that way. In crowd or street, I will always find him, it was as if something will always attract me towards him.
The topic changed and we started talking about something else. We walk for a while before deciding to go to a family diner for a change. Before we often went out with each other but now due to our studies it is not possible to spend time with each other as much we did before. I did not forget to inform my mother where we are going to avoid what happened last time. She thought we got kidnapped. I am still confused, how did she come to that conclusion last time?
Coming back from a diner, I take out my books to start studying. I study for 4 hours and go to bed. I lay on the bed, I think of the dream and what Misha said.
Maybe Misha was right....it was just a dream. Maybe I hoped for too much. It could be just one of my dream. Why am I thinking of something special?
Slowly, days, months, years passed and I started forgetting his face.....And before I can realize it myself I forgot him completely.