“Exquisite” Sarah told herself loud. Old couple who sat in the corner looked at her. She pretended that she didn’t notice. They resumed eating. In the back of her head, something reminds that she wasn’t supposed to be here. That she needs to settle her business with him. And when she could no longer bear her own voice within speaking again and again, she prefers external noise to mask her thoughts which she couldn’t stop. “Shut up” she shouted. Too many people noticed her this time. She placed bills over the table and left the place. Restaurants she visited were expensive, yet she almost always left her meals, unfinished.
She couldn’t help but notice her gradual emaciation. And she needs to tire herself throughout the day in crowded places and feel extreme physical exhaustion or she couldn’t sleep. And sleep couldn’t help her. She had been having strange visions since she came to Vienna. She’s losing her sense of reality, despite the therapy and medication she took.
She slept at an untimely hour with much difficulty and something jolted her. Her body was paralysed. A man in leather robes stood at her side by the bed. He was abnormally white and his eyes, blood-red. She could see, hear and feel everything happening. She couldn’t move. He stood by her bed side and stabbed in her stomach before he spoke. He twisted the knife and pulled it out. He shook the knife at the wall and it sprayed thick blood on starving walls. She looked into the corner of the room and saw her own blood drip down the wall, some of it, down onto the floor. Her head is bursting with a scream she couldn’t make. She has never seen him before and she will never see him again.
“Time and tide waits for none, Sarah. It is time now.” She knew the voice, yet she couldn’t recall anything.
“Who are you? How did you get in?”
He smiled. “You know all the answers. Questions are superfluous now. I know how it’s going to end. Yet I’m curious to find out how long you will last before that.”
She couldn’t make any sound, still he understood her every thought precisely. She’s terrified. “I’m not going to die”.
“That is true, Sarah. You are not going to die. If you do, you’ll be freed. I plan not to allow that. I should rather be inclined to like to see you reach your climax. That was the deal.”
“We have met before, haven’t we?”
“Of course, we have met before. But you are just saying it. You do not know that you know when or where. Do you? It doesn’t matter one way or the other. You are here at my mercy. And that is precisely what I shall not offer.”
“You stabbed me. Now what? Am I supposed to plead you to let go? Pleading part is to come before the stabbing part. You are a novice. Apparently this is your first time.” She faked courage.
“Of course this is my first assignment. And that shouldn’t concern you. Because you are acting exactly in the way I want you to. You can only be as good as I would expect. And are you not losing yourself in boring rhetoric? The game has just begun and it won’t stop till you reach your climax.” His voice was clear and calm.
He inserted two fingers through the wound he made in her stomach and started pulling out her intestines. She never thought pain of such degree is physically possible. Her body shook in convulsion, despite being paralysed. The man was pleasantly surprised. He smiled.
“You see? How you are wishing now that I should have just cut your throat before you could speak a word. You want to plead now, don’t you? Would you pray tell me whether the pulling part is to come or not after the stabbing part? You wouldn’t, would you?” He was genuinely joyful.
“Please stoooooop” she couldn’t take it any more, and he is giving more.
“I’m a sensitive being. Screaming would disappoint me. You have to stop it and ask me nicely.” He paused a moment. “You should have repaid before you met me, Sarah.” There was complete silence in the room.
People on the street outside were busy in their mundane work. Dog which was slept till then by the side of road woke up and started walking. By the time it reached the footpath on the other end, Sarah broke. “I’ll reeepaaaaay….Todaaayyyy.” The bed is drenched with her blood.
He pulled harder and laughed. He is playing with all his fingers now. “How disappointing, I expected that we can play a little more.” He made a knot in her intestines. A moment later, all traces of smile over his face were gone.
“You can’t untie it. I can. I give you exactly 13 minutes. Repay, and I’ll untie. I’ll know when it is settled.”
She opened her eyes. He was not to be seen. Semi-dark room, elevated heart beat. Normal surroundings, no blood anywhere and no wound. She stood up and ran out of the room. She logged into her account and transferred 13 million USD to Arman Industries. Something she would have done several months ago. An hour passed.
Mr. Arman received an alert on his mobile. He was watching football tournament. His franchise won. Crowd was cheering. He turned back and his secretary bent down. “It is done. Call him off.” His voice was soft.
Secretary nodded and texted in his mobile. “It is done. She is no more a concern.” Sarah died in her apartment in Vienna, after a week. The man in leather robes never came to untie, and excruciating pain took over her whenever she tried to doze off. She begged at walls in her apartment for his return for days, and moments before her death, she recalled his voice. It was the voice of her therapist.
Doctors who conducted her post-mortem found abnormal levels of adrenaline in her blood stream. They concluded that she died of severe hallucinations. Tests were not yet developed in Austria to detect heavy traces of P-8 that her therapist gave her over the past few months. The therapist worked for R&D wing of Arman Industries. P-8 is an experimental drug, which allegedly induced severe visual hallucinations by contriving imagination of the subjects and make them abnormally receptive to hypnotic suggestions.
Sarah was a coding prodigy. People who were once close to her claimed that when she was 12, developers at Google used an algorithm she developed for optimising user search. Her parents died in a car accident when she was 14 and left her a fortune. Soon she started doing drugs regularly and by the time she turned 16, she stopped coding. When neighbours and friends at school, who were once close started to avoid her, she started swindling the savings her parents left for her education to make new friends by throwing expensive parties, and she succeeded. But when the clothes she wore and parties she threw grew less expensive, her new friends started ignoring her invitations. And few ones who were still as friendly as ever were the men who spent with her during late night parties, mostly when she was out of her senses, and left her with pregnancy the next morning. She had undergone 4 abortions over a period of 18 months, when she finally realised that there was barely sufficient amount left in her bank account to clear the bills for next month.
Then she had a plan and started making trails at giant MNCs which she once rejected to work for, asking for investment in a startup that offers software-support for ease in overseas business management. She claimed that it was going to revolutionise overseas marketing. Any company would have believed her and offered anything, only if it was a few years ago. Now everyone doubted her ability to deliver the results she claimed. After all, it had been 5 years since she produced any results anywhere for anyone. Her background check reported her compulsive addiction to drugs and alcohol, chronic blackouts and black medical history. Any affiliation with her, they thought, would seriously jeopardise their reputation, keeping aside the risk of losing investment. It was at that time she received call from the secretary of Mr. Arman, citing interest of Arman Industries in her venture and fixed an appointment with him that afternoon.
He watched her carefully as she spoke. She was a chronic liar and clearly faked smile and cited many good intentions she didn’t mean. Ignoring a lot of filler stuff, he could see potential in her idea, which was spectacular. It was an idea which she had many years ago, before her parents’ death. She spoke for half an hour straight, when she realised that he hadn’t uttered a word. Yet his eyes were politely fixed on her. “Well, that was all” she said, and fell silent and started to think whether he understood anything of what she said. She always thought people are too dumb to understand her thoughts.
He didn’t say anything. He tilted his hand, and his secretary who stood beside him showed her documents. Despite her history, Mr. Arman was to invest 13 million USD in her venture. Mr. Arman never invested in scrap ventures. She immediately signed the papers and at that instant, she genuinely felt gratitude and almost told herself that she’d make money for him.
But such emotions were always fleeting, at least for Sarah. She had a fortune she wished for now, to resume her previous life style. The next four months, she spent to divert the company assets to external channels, all of which led them to an obscure bank account in Austria, with no trace left anywhere about this. The amount of coding she did to accomplish that was far more complex than what she had promised Mr. Arman. Officially, she lost the money in doing poor business, and the share value of the company fell drastically. She was surprised that Mr. Arman didn’t object her actions at any time. Citing reasons of lack of potential in overseas industry, she declared insolvency.
“I wish I could repay your investment, Mr. Arman. But I’m sorry, I couldn’t. I have miscalculated.” She was openly faking an emotion she didn’t feel. The secretary was irritated at her behaviour, but Mr. Arman seemed calm. “Yes, you have miscalculated,” he spoke plainly. “So I’m giving you another chance. You have three months. Calculate well this time and deliver what you promised, or repay the debt before I take action.”
“You are free to take legal action. But Mr. Arman, I have nothing left on my name.” She almost smiled and stood up to leave.
“I never said legal action” Mr. Arman spoke softly as the door closed behind her. She didn’t pay attention. Mr. Arman smiled. It was a smile of pity. A kid with tremendous potential for an obviously promising career. He didn’t like seeing talent go waste. Yet, she left him with no choice. No legal action was taken by Arman industries. And no one ever deciphered, how Mr. Arman got back his lost investment. Few years passed, and no one remembered that there lived a girl called Sarah, and that she was a genius.