Jay was habituated to stare at his laptop screen, after it had shut down. It was the only part of the day, where he could look at himself really. A square-jawed face, with brown eyes, and dark, curly hair reflected back at him. There was Still some cuteness in the face which proved his 15 years of living. The clock chimed 12 times to tell him that it was midnight. How much he loved this clock! It was a reminder of those days, some 10 years ago, which gave his life a sudden jolted twist. He still couldn’t believe how clearly he remembers that day. Wasn’t he just six? But he remembered the panic in which the door was thudded. Policemen scoured their house, the neighbors had came out of their houses, some of them crying. And then he saw it, a glimpse which was enough to be distinct in his memory. People say that they have seen tragedies; people say they are upset, but what he felt that day was beyond imaginable. Some moments, tragic or joyous, are meant for the deepest corners of our minds. Not to be shared, not to be confided in anyone, they were completely ours. This was it. But the clock was the only artifact common between his both houses and their fates.
Thirty minutes later, Geeta did her usual inspection of Jay, and found him sleeping. Ironically, Vidya’s tragedy was a stroke of luck for Geeta. They got a son. And they made sure that they always treated him as their own. They admitted him into the best school in the city, La Martiniere For Boys. Naturally, they thought, given what Jay had passed through at such a small age, he would struggle academically. Not that they cared(only a person devoid of a certain thing, knows its value and doesn’t judge it), but it was one fact they were completely wrong. Jay excelled as a student. His sincerity unmatched. He was hardly 13, when he would stay up at nights to study. He said, it gave him some kind of peace, like it takes him to another parallel universe. A universe completely created by him.
There was one particular thing about him. He could spend a lot of time with himself. He didn’t have any friends. He hardly talked. Naturally, Geeta and her husband decided to talk to a psychologist. “Well, the fact that he performs well academically do not prove the fact that the incidents have not affected him. Deep inside, I see some pain which Jay has covered with a mask. A stoic mask.” The female psychologist said after some fifteen sessions with Jay.
Ever since Geeta had this habit of sneaking into Jay, expecting someday to find him unmasked. Maybe smiling. Maybe crying. Just any sort of human emotion at all.
As the years passed, Geeta only once, saw the mask unmasked. It was the results day of IIT entrance exam. He had passed through. Just for a moment, a small second, a smile had erupted on Jay’s face. But in a split second, it was gone. Like it went deep into a well of emotions that he had saved all these years. But it was enough to bring out the tears of joy, in Geeta’s eyes.
Jay chose Kharagpur, as it was closest to Kolkata. Among all the changes in his life, it was the only thing that he had loved throughout. And, his choice of branch was easy. Chemical Engineering. He had loved the subjects ever since he was a child.
But his four years at Kharagpur were more marked, as it was there where he met Anushna. Never before her, had Jay felt the need for company. He went through it as technically as he could. He put around a research about her, how she was, where she lived, etc etc. Creepy? Yes. But he never knew how to woo a girl. But slowly she felt too, how much Jay knew and remembered about her. At the end of the day, what a soul has ever needed than the need to be felt special. And Jay did just that. Nobody had ever believed Jay Chatterjee would ever have a girlfriend. When he told Geeta, she hadn’t been prouder.
The final year was always marked for the rat race of scoring placements. Jay joined a chemical company, at Haldia, Kolkata. The plant was new, and he got a much higher post than the other offers. It also meant he would be staying in Kolkata.
The next two years, passed on with a robotic time table. Wake up, Go to work, Come back, Sleep. For once, the absence of any kind of social life haunted Jay. He couldn’t study anymore. He could never go back to his own world. The small world he had created for himself, where things happened how he wanted them to. The only happiness he could ever get was the two hours he spent with Anushna every week. She stayed in Kolkata too, to pursue higher studies.
It was one fine romantic evening at Ginger where he popped the question to Anushna. With tears in her eyes, she nodded in the affirmative, and hugged him. That day, there were no split-seconds about his smile. It was the biggest he had ever given in his life.
Two days later, when Jay walked past the security entrance of Johnstone Chemicals, Pvt. Ltd, he heard a slow blobbing noise coming from the inside. He informed the security that he wanted a look inside, and retraced his footsteps backwards. He followed the noise the main chamber, where usually Hydrofluoric Acid was stored, for production. He swiped his card, and entered the main chamber. The problem seemed to be in the third tank. Do not get confused with the word tank. They were large electronic containers with a digital passcode. Currently, there was a red light beeping on it. Jay looked around. No member of the staff was present anywhere around. And he could never leave Tank 3 beeping. If anything Chemistry had taught him is that the smallest of things could lead to miracle or chaos. He looked closely on the mainframe of the tank. He tried to touch it, but suddenly there was a seeping noise coming out of it. Then a white gas poured out of the tank.
What happened next, Jay didn’t know. It felt like his face was on fire. He shrieked in agony, it seemed as if someone was eating his face out. He fell on the floor, and crawled till the fire alarm. The last fleeting memory he had was of smashing the glass pane, with his other hand on his face. The whole plant erupted with the fire alarm. What happened next, Jay only remembered in fragments. He saw the security guy picking him up, sliding across the floor. He remembered perspiring a lot. But when he saw at his hand, it wasn’t sweat, it was his skin. The horror made him lose consciousness, but he was sure he heard a distant siren of an ambulance approaching.
Sometime later, Jay tried opening his eyes to a lot of white light. There was constant monotonic thud, around the place he was. Was this heaven?