The loud shrill of the alarm was adding to the pain of my serious and critical hangover. I tried to silence it but couldn’t swipe the damn screen the right way. It kept on ringing and ringing and my head throbbed like it wanted to leave my body. I tried to sit myself up but my body parts had stopped coordinating with each other. Without any prior notice, of course.
What came to my mind next was to throw the phone away. I threw it on the hard tiled floor and heard a crack but the bloody alarm was still going. And now it was far from my reach. So, now I would have to get up, walk a few feet, pick that bitch up and swipe the alarm icon to the right or left. Whatever. I groaned at the thought.
Images from last night started flashing through my eyes while I picked up the phone. It's screen had cracked but it was working. A tall guy with spiked hair. I’m making out with him. I smash a whiskey bottle on his head.
I finally managed to turn off the alarm and headed to the washroom. When I splashed my eyes with cold water the bleak images got clearer. I could figure out a face. Though I couldn't recognize the guy.
My eyes then fell on my reflection in the mirror and I noticed a cut on the upper left corner of my forehead. I sighed. Obviously, last night didn’t go well. But fortunately, I had woken up in my bed and not a police station or an ugly shack so I was happy.
I walked out of the washroom and pushed back the curtains. It was eleven in the morning, sunny and bright. With screeching, honking, yelling and fighting noises mixed in the air like nitrogen.
The hustle bustle of a street in New Delhi isn’t what you would want to set your eyes on first thing in the morning but it helps in truly waking you up. The numbness from your eyes and ears go away in just a couple minutes.
Amongst the swarm of people moving to and fro, I noticed a man dressed in a blazer and tie. “How the hell do they wear blazers in May,” I scoffed and turned back to make coffee. “Is promenading in suits on Sunday mornings a thing? Or is it a Monday?” I asked myself. “No,” I replied. Yesterday was probably Saturday so today must be Sunday. Right? Wrong. Just to be sure I checked the day and date on my phone, it said Monday, May 11, 2015, 11:23.
Holy cow. This was bad. Really bad. I was supposed to be at work and here I am sauntering around my room and wondering why people wear blazers. Shit. This could be the end of my career. Another career. Once again. I couldn’t let that happen.
Out of my last seven jobs, I’d been fired from five of them. But I couldn’t let that happen again. Because my eighth job was my favorite. Reporting for a magazine that has Fair&Lovely and Dettol ads on the back cover and local celebrities posing on the front cover is more than I ever hoped for.
If I let this job go, I would be the biggest fool in the world. I put on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans and picked up my handbag which still reeked of alcohol and vomit. Forget the bag, I reeked of alcohol and vomit. I walked out of my apartment anyway carrying the stench with me. Add to that some body odor and foul morning breath. I was hauling along with me the perfect recipe for my 'termination'.
But in my case, showing up with this cocktail miasma was better than not showing up at all. So I hijacked a cab from an elderly woman and dashed myself off to work. I sneaked in without a trace of shame or fear in my eyes.
“Look who’s here” whispered Pooja to the guy behind her as I walked across. Little info about Pooja here, she’s good looking and sexy and believes in using that sex appeal for professional purposes by attracting men to the curvy parts of her body which she usually does by wearing clothes made of as little fabric as possible. Basically, she's a total slut.
Also, her work is completely shitty. Her idea of writing an article is picking up some good magazines and rearranging a few points from three or four different articles and pulling the result off as her hard-work.
We have the same designation and had joined the company at exactly the same day so there’s some ugly competition going on between us from day one.
But forget her, she’s not important in any way to the story I’m going to tell. My story really starts now. The turning point of my life about comes when my boss calls me. Little info about my boss Mr. Chopra here, he’s an ugly rotten pervert and never favors a woman who doesn’t intentionally show him her cleavage by ‘accidentally’ bending in front of him. And that is not me. So you can understand what I’m expecting from him now dressed in my stinking pair of jeans and a polo t-shirt. Wait, this t-shirt, I don't think it's even mine. Nor my roommate's. Whose t-shirt could it be? Boy, my life's a mess.
And now I have to beg this jerk and cry and play the lonely and helpless card to keep my job. I might even have to give him false hopes of sexual favors. But here’s the thing, as I told you, my life's about to change.
“Good Morning, Sarvagya. It’s so very good to see you…umm…sober. Ha ha,” he cackled.
“Sir, I’m sorry. This won’t happen again. I don’t know what I did at the office party the other night but I promise, I’ll be a good girl now. I’ll be in the office by nine in the morning, meet all my deadlines, never misbehave in celebrity interviews. I’ll literally do anything you want. Just don’t fire me. Give me this last chance,” I pleaded.
“Fire you? No way. In fact, I’m sending you for a very important assignment. Which I know no one can do better than you,” he smiled a fake smile.
"A very important assignment for a very important reporter."
"If you're giving me an assignment, it's not important. You're being funny right?"
"No, not at all. In fact, this is going to be our cover story in the next issue. Remember that story from the local newspaper about that fortress, what was its name…umm…S something,” he murmured scratching his head.
“Ramna fortress in Singhua. The haunted place outside the city. Where all those tourists died last month.”
“Yeah, that. So, it’s simple Sarvagya. You go there, make a nice report about that place. Interview a few local people. Add some related historical facts and stuff. Take pictures and mail the final article to me by Wednesday. And you can go home and freshen up now. Looks like you had a rough night,” he turned his attention towards his computer screen.
“But why me?”
"Honestly," he looked up at me, "because no one in this office is ready to step foot in that spooky place. But you're the rowdy one. I assumed you'd do it. Otherwise, what's the point of having you here? I mean look at your clothes Sarvagya. I don't understand how to deal with you."
"If I do this well, can I have a clean slate after that? I mean I want to start afresh."