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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1870625-The-Shadow-Zone
by Farooq
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Thriller/Suspense · #1870625
A dark psychological tale of two brothers.

The young lad climbed the stairs like a prowler; his body growing tense from the negative emotions. With care, he pushed the heavy curtain covering the window that led to the roof. He saw his adversary sitting on the edge of the roof, dangling his legs, exhaling smoke. Crouching his body, he approached with stealth. Raising both hands, he pushed his tormentor and scampered back, his face breaking into a devilish grin as he heard the bone crunching thud.

Veer Suri's stood at the soccer goal post, his eyes following the player, who raced towards him with the ball. The player deftly dodged the others as he dashed towards the goal post. In perfect motion he gave the ball a powerful kick. Veer lunged to save the goal but the ball arched and hit the net. A cry of jubilation filled the air as the striker's team-mates stormed towards him and hoisted him on their shoulders.

Veer watched with a sinking spirit, as he squatted on the ground. He cupped his hands over his face, feeling safe in the dark hollow of his palms. The darkness acted as his shield from reality.
“Killer shot man! Don't sweat it. No one could have stopped that one,” one of his teammates said, patting him on the back.
With a strained smile, he rose.
“Wow! That was a vigorous match.” A female voice called out. He turned. Gehna, a girl from his neighborhood smiled at him. His face grew flush with embarrassment as he realized he was staring at her full figure.
“I…I didn’t know you were watching.”
“I’m a football freak, you know. You play pretty good.” She said.
He ground his heel on the grass. “I gotta go.”
She nodded. “Let’s hang out sometime.”
He turned, perplexed. Was she inviting him on a date? With a half nod, he scurried away. What did she want? A strange mix of fear enveloped him, as he neared the dressing room.

From the corner of his eye he saw Dario watching him from the sidelines.
“What a lousy miss. Soccer's not your game.” Dario said.
“Not now, Dario.” he said, and hurried away. His twin brother followed, never missing a chance to put him down.

In the shower, he lowered his head, and placed his palms on the wall, allowing the scalding hot water to sting his back. Wasn’t saving two goals good enough? So what if they lost the match? Dario’s belittling comments always caused an anxiety in his solar plexus. How I wish, Dario was never born.

He stepped out drying his hair. Boisterous voices of his team-mates drifted in the room. Issam Ansar, his friend, stood with his hands on his hips ogling at a semi-nude poster of a girl. “Doesn't she give you the hots man?” He winked. "Hey Veer we plan to get sloshed at the pub. You comin'?"

Dario held Veer by his arm and leaned close. "Avoid that bunch. They just wanna make fun of ya. Remember mother's waiting.” Pointing a finger at Veer, he strode away.
Veer sighed as he walked over to Issam, “Sorry guys. I am bailing out again.”
“Don’t be such a tight ass. Be a sport man,” Issam said.
“I gotta be somewhere. Some other time, Nyan.” Veer said, making a hasty exit.

Dusk fell as he trudged up the cobblestone path to the lone house. Veer was twenty-eight and held a job as a desk clerk in the town of Neral in India. A light breeze played with his long wavy hair. He adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses that sat on his slender nose.

Dario stood at the entrance of the house. Veer walked past him and opened the door. A dank smell assaulted his senses. Holding his breath he raised a window to let in air. His cat mewed as she glided into the room. He picked her up with an embrace, “You are so warm," he said, rubbing her under the chin.

He avoided Dario who watched him with shifty eyes. Of late Dario spoke only to admonish Veer.

His mother Seera lay on her bed curled in a fetal position. He shook her gently. She stirred in her sleep, her hair falling over her face.
“Wake up ma. It's time for dinner.”
She opened an eye, mumbling to herself. She suffered from acute schizophrenia and the medication made her drowsy all the time.
"You need to eat ma," Veer said softly. "Food will make you feel better; you're weak and it will give you more strenth. Come sit at the table."
She seemed groggy as she rose.
"Veer, where is your father? We fought today... Did he seem angry when you saw him? Did he leave us?"
“We’ll talk about it later, ma.”
He looked around the room desolately. Clothes were strewn everywhere. The water bottle had tipped spilling its contents. A dinner plate with dried food lay on the table Everything in this house smells of defeat

He warmed the food and set the table. We must have a semblance of a normal life. The least we can do is have our dinner together.
Seera came to the table with unsteady movements and stared at the chair before sitting.
“Ma, a strange thing happened today."
Seera looked up from her dinner plate.
"I got a call from a lawyer. The guy had a hard time tracking us. He informed me that Grandfather died last month.”
“Father came to see me last night to forgive me. How did he die?” she looked askance.
Veer gripped his spoon. His mother was disoriented and detached from reality; a common thing among schizophrenics. “In his will he bequeathed everything to us. We’ll be able to afford things now, ma.” She chewed on her food and didn't respond. The sounds of cutlery hung in the air for awhile.
“Veer lost the game, mother,” Dario said breaking the silence.
She jerked her head. “Life is full of failures, son. Look at me. Being alive is a curse, a punishment.”
“That’s what I told the good for nothin' fool.” Dario said picking at his food.
“Failures, unhappiness and misery -- that’s life,” she snarled, thumping the table.
“Does it mean we'll just sit and await death? 'Nyaro', we have to go on living as best we can,” Veer said.
“Stop with this ‘Nyaro’, ‘Nyan’ thing,” she said.
Veer thought about his soft-toy giraffes who had had lovingly named 'Nyaro' and 'Nyan'. He had lost them when he was a child. He remembered holding them tight against his chest when he was in pain. Saying their names calmed him. The conversation made him sick, and he tried to gulp the unsavory food, but it stuck in his throat. He pushed away his plate, cleaned the table and retired to his room.

Throwing himself on the bed, he buried his face in a pillow. The sound of crickets and night flies filled the dark. He looked out the window at the starry night, his cheeks glistening with the flow of tears. Moonlight filtered through the darkness falling on an old photograph that hung on the wall. His mother, a bashful girl in her teens was smiling, her hands resting on his father's thin shoulders. Behind them sat a brightly lit stage with dancers in various poses. He was fraught with melancholia as thoughts of his mother's life seized his mind. He recalled the time when she had first recounted her miserable life story. He was eight then. Instead of listening to fairy tales, Veer heard the story of his mother, his young mind battered by the images of her suffering.

Seera told him about her passion for dancing. Cradling Veer's head in her lap, she said, "My father was a strict disciplinarian and denied us the simple pleasures of life, something as simple as having an ice-cream." Her eyes lit-up as she continued. "A fair once came to my town. A major attraction was a dance troupe of which a young man was the choreographer. My eyes filled with stars as I saw the scintillating dances. Before I realized I found myself in his room backstage. His dreamy brown eyes! I simply melted and surrendered to his charms. My subdued life transformed into a dream in that short span." She sighed. "But my happiness was short-lived as my father discovered our affair and threw me out. I had no place to go so the young man took me in."

The lines near her eyes deepened, and her voice turned low. "We moved to Pune. Things were great for awhile but soon he tired of me. He began seeing other girls. How shamed I was. But I did nothing. What could I to do? Crushing my self-respect, I clung to him." She wiped her eyes with one end of her dress. "Pathetic isn't it?"

"When I informed him of my pregnancy he was elated and brought me gifts. I was so happy that day... " she smiled at the good memory. "Not for long though. Some days later he left. Just like that."
She hid her face. "There is nothing more painful than a broken heart my dear... and to add to my woe complications developed in the pregnancy. I had no money, no job and no friend to help me. Life had kicked me hard, son."

When Veer was eleven, he returned home, holding a trophy he won for a spelling bee contest. He bounded to his mother’s room and found her lying unconscious in a pool of blood. Her body lay limp, and he started to weep. He poked her with his finger afraid to discover the truth. Her eyelashes fluttered, and he cried with relief. The incident left an indelible mark on his fragile mind and damaged his young psyche. He grew close to Dario in his grief and together they took care of her. Seera was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A non-government Organization took them in and helped with their mother’s treatment. Veer became a loner. The boys at school picked on him so he dropped out. Dario’s influence grew stronger and he filled Veer’s mind with negative thoughts of resignation and defeat.

When Veer turned eighteen, he struggled with odd jobs and saved enough to move into a small house far from the city. He was happy to see his family together again. This tiny achievement brought in him a sliver of confidence and sprouted desires. But Dario hung like a cloud questioning and impeding his every move. His mother supported Dario as she identified with him.
# # #

The following week, Veer returned home carrying groceries. I can start life anew, now that I have money. But first I have to deal with Dario.
He entered Dario’s room and paused to adjust his eyes to the dark. Everything in his room was in black; from his bed covers to clothes and his footwear. Hideous looking paintings lined the walls. “Who am I?” “I am tired,” “Beginning of the end,” “Last ray of twilight,” were scribbled on the wall.
Veer sat on the bed, and roused him.
“Dario, we’ve been through a lot,” he said.
“Cut the mushy talk and get to the point,” Dario said.
“During bad times, Nyan, you took care of me. You made me take refuge in the darkness of my thought, but also taught me to revel in self-pity.” He hesitated, unsure of Dario’s reaction. “Today I feel victimized and feel ashamed of what I have become. I’m a hapless loser with no friends and no life. But now…” He wavered. “Things are different. We should… move on.”
“Umm…whadaya want from me?” Dario asked in a barbed tone.
“That we…”
“Say it!”
“I am buried in a heap of monstrosity, Nyaro, and need to find my own way.”
Dario slapped his knee and hooted. “You gullible fool. Just because you got some dough doesn’t mean you can live on yur own. Want to dump me?” He spat on the floor with vengeance. “Some things never part.”

Flustered from the conversation, Veer walked back to his room. Lying on the bed he tried hard to sleep. After tossing and turning for awhile, when sleep still eluded him, he decided to take a walk.
The ferocious barking of dogs rent the balmy air. Dario is playing with my head. How hard can it be to just leave? He pressed his palms to his eyes to dull the anguish.
A girl jogged in his direction her hair bobbing. As she drew near he recognized her. Gehna stopped, out of breath. She bent her shapely body and rested her hands on her knees.
“Hey Veer, come jog with me.” Sweat flowed from her neck and trickled down her heaving bosom.
To his horror, he felt himself blush, so he quickly averted his gaze.
“Nyan, some other time perhaps?”
“How about tomorrow evening then? I’ll come get you.”
She chuckled at his sheepish grin, and continued to sprint.

Veer shut the door behind him, inhaling deeply. His breath grew warm, as he placed his palm on his chest, feeling his nipples harden. He had watched her at the mall the other day, where she was hanging out with her friends. She squeezed a guy’s butt, slapped another’s back and licked ice-cream from another’s cone. The ringlets in her hair danced, as she strutted and laughed.  Her free spirit was palpable, and he admired her. He moaned as his hand slid to his groin. To his amazement, he discovered a massive hard on. She had aroused desires and feelings that were alien.

The next morning, he woke up with a boulder in his head. He rubbed his eyes, but stopped midway, as his eyes froze in a glassy stare of horror. His cat was plastered to the wall in its own sticky blood. A deluge of pins and needles attacked his body. He threw away the covers to rise, and fell from the wobble in his knees. Wild with fear, he looked up, his stomach turning to ice. There was no doubt about the tormentor of the animal.

He stormed into Dario’s room and shook him with violence.
“You killed a defenseless animal!” he hollered.
“I tried it once before and almost succeeded.” Dario smirked. “Umm, remember Ronish?”
Veer’s face crumbled. He remembered the class bully who had beaten him up. Several days later, Ronish had fallen from the roof of the school building and was in coma for the past several years.
"My poor cat, Dario. How merciless of you! Are you going to take away everything dear to me?"
“The cat's a warning. Don’t ever think of leaving me.” Dario hissed.
Like the cold breath of a grave, Dario’s words cut his soul. In that moment, Veer realized that his brother was a murderer; he wasn't afraid of anything
# # #

Tired after the day's work Veer stood under the shower. The doorbell sounded. Damn! He waited; hoping whoever it was would go away. It sounded again. Grabbing a towel he stepped out dripping. Shivering from the cold he opened the door, and recoiled at the sight of the visitor.

“Well… aren’t you going to invite me in?” Gehna ran her eyes over his half-naked body. Water trickled from his forehead, and she reached out to wipe it. He drew away.
“I…I forgot you were coming.” He fidgeted seeing her wicked smile. “Come in. I’ll be right back….”

He returned, dressed in a white shirt and blue jeans, his hair tousled.
“You are a beautiful man.” She said, patting the space beside her on the sofa.
He sat apart from her and placed his hands in his lap.
“Do I intimidate you? You are squirming!”
“No, Not at all. I…I am not used to having visitors.” He chewed on his full lower lip.
“There is certain vulnerability on your face that I find appealing,” she flirted.
Veer stole a glance at her, taking in the wide eyes, the sexy olive skin, the pouting lips. Her puka necklace shone, and her large round earrings added to her sexuality.
“I heard your mother isn’t well.”
He nodded, not wanting to dwell on the topic. “We’ll be moving soon. My grandpa left us a huge inheritance.” He smiled wanting to impress her. “I'll get you something to drink."

He handed her a drink, and she enwrapped her palms around his hand. Her touch burned his skin. She tilted her head, and brought her lips to his. Veer stiffened, and shut his eyes. Images of shame assaulted his mind.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asked.
He shook his head vehemently while rubbing his wrists. She took his hands in hers and whispered. “It’s okay to tell me. I can help.”
The sincerity of her voice touched a raw nerve, “I was abused...” He said, furrowing his brow.
She patted his hand encouraging him to continue. He turned his head to the side, and shut his eyes tightly to erase the memories. “I... can't”

She stroked his handsome square jaw, and looked at him with a softened expression. Taking his cold finger, she placed it in her mouth. He opened his eyes, startled by the moistness and warmth of the touch. With wet lips, she kissed the nape of his neck, and he shuddered from the sensation. He encircled his hands around her back, and tightened it into a fierce embrace.

Dario watched their slithering naked bodies, hidden behind a curtain. He felt flush with desire. His eyes unflinching, he undid his pant buttons, and played with himself vigorously. The explosion of emotions propelled him into dimensions beyond, and he lay panting. A feeling of guilt tinged his pleasure. Why did he enjoy watching them? Shouldn’t he be worried about the girl’s seductive charms stealing Veer away? He had to separate them. But wait. He had reveled in the sexual romp. Damn! Just one more time, he promised himself.

Later, Dario looked at Veer knowingly. “Umm, you are intense.”
“So you were watching!”
“Be careful. She's evil. I wouldn't allow her to pull you by your dick.”
Veer kneeled and implored him. “My life stinks, Dario. I beg you; allow me to have her."
Dario stood unmoved, his arms folded.
Veer begged. "Don't you realize, she is good for me? She released me from the curse of abuse?"
"No one is good for you bro, except me." With a sneer, Dario stalked out.

“You look ha..happy, Veer.” His mother said at the dinner table.
It’s time to broach the topic of Gehna. “Ma... I've met a girl.” He drummed the spoon on the table.
His mother looked at him bleary eyed trying to understand. Dario watched.
“I am in lov—”
“Don’t utter those disgusting…vile words. Your father… I… I loved him… and yet…” She started weeping. “Those … whores... no love in this world... only lust…”
“Ma, everything doesn’t turn out the same for everyone, Nyan.”
Her face went blank, as she turned her gaze to the ceiling. Without warning, she picked a dinner plate, and smashed it to the floor.
“Stop that drumming!!” She ran across the room, her hair thrashing in the air. Veer rushed behind. Seemingly blinded with emotions, she knocked against a wall, and collapsed. Her brow bled, as she held onto Veer’s shirt collar, and wept. “Why are you angry? Why did you abandon me—?”
“Ma, I am Veer.”
Her eyes turned bloodshot. “I am alone… No one loves me.” Her grip weakened, as she blacked out.
# # #

Veer listened to the doctor who informed him, that his mother had suffered serious brain abnormalities. With medication and therapy, she would be able to control her symptoms and gain independence. This entailed a long-term stay at the hospital, he said.

Dario sat cowering inside the blanket, holding his breath. His head swirled at the thought of his dear mother who was snatched from him. Unable to hold his breath, he exhaled, his lungs filling with much wanted air. Why did Veer have to tell mother? He is a selfish dog who wants happiness for himself. My power over him is weakening. He'll try to get rid of me too. Veer doesn’t care as long as he has that bitch. I must do something!
Dario padded softly near the sofa. Veer's head rested on his chest as he dozed. How can he lie so peacefully while mother is battling her life? His heart raced, as he raised his hands and positioned the knife.

Veer awoke with a start, and saw the knife coming towards him.
“Nyaro!” he shouted. He held on to Dario’s arm, and struggled before wresting the knife. Dario pushed Veer to the floor, and pinned him to the floor.
“Ya kno’ who took your ‘Nyan’?” he sneered.
Veer yelled and kicked his legs. The revelation filled him with anger, giving him a new-found strength. He freed himself from Dario's fierce grip and pushed him away. Gripping the knife, he thrust it into Dario's stomach. Dario fell in a heap. Veer dragged himself to a corner, gasping for breath. What have I done? Murdered my twin? Trembling, he gnawed at the back of his hand. He thought fast. No one would miss Dario, as none noticed him. He rose, and dragged Dario to the backyard, dug a hole, and pushed the body in. I needed you, but not anymore, Nyaro.

The next day he met Gehna.
“I want to marry you. Will you?" He implored her.
She looked surprised. “What? I hardly know you. And then, what’s your hurry?”
“I…I love you and want you in my life. You make me feel good.”
She looked uncertain.
“My mother is in hospital, and this place doesn't agree me. What say, we’ll set up a life elsewhere, somewhere like..Bombay?”
“But, what about your—“
“Please say yes. I am rich. You can live like a queen. Take my all. I only need you.”

A year later…

Gehna pushed away her drink. It was too sweet for her liking. She adjusted her coolers and checked out the backside of a guy passing by the pool. Hmm, nice.

She pondered on her life. Veer was a good man, a bit too good, perhaps. He had extreme moods; brooding, silent, sometimes full of vigor. At times he looked scared like he had seen a ghost. He was too dull for her liking, and she rued her decision to marry in haste. But the lure of money was too powerful to refuse. She felt guilty at her thoughts. I can’t have everything; a dashing rich guy with humor and charm. Veer is not too bad though. I should make it work, she thought. Just then, the person she was waiting for, walked in, and her heart skipped a beat.

Veer looked in the mirror and ran a brush through his hair. Marriage has worked well for me, he thought. He had gained weight, and became a regular in the football club. His heart gave a lurch. Why couldn’t he embrace happiness? Why did the memories of his troubled past still surge beneath? The shadow of Dario constantly haunted him. At times he thought he saw him, but dismissed it as a figment of his imagination.

Gehna was a good companion. Sometimes she gave the impression that, all she was interested in, was his money. Of late, she would be gone for hours, and when asked, she would smile and chide him for being possessive. His broke into a sweat, as thoughts of her leaving him, filled his mind. I am determined to be happy unlike mother and Dario. Gehna makes me happy and that’s it. Nyan!
* * *

Issam strode into the pool area. He visited Bombay for his business trips, and often dropped in at Veer’s house. He thought of his visit, when Veer was away to meet his mother, and Gehna was alone. On her insistence, he had agreed to stay the night. God! she has not lost any of her sex appeal, he had thought, having dinner with her on the roof. He should have pursued her a bit more aggressively. But then, what were his chance, against all that money? Of course, she chose Veer, he thought.

The seductive fragrance of Jasmine flowers wafted in the air. Before long, they found themselves in each other's arms. Unable to control their passions, they met a couple of times. Each time, his conscience pricked him, as Veer had helped finance his business, and was a good man. He felt extreme remorse at his behavior, and decided to end seeing her. We must do something unforgivable in life. That’s how we go on living, he thought.
* * *

Startled at the sound of the doorknob, Veer dropped the brush. His body tensed at the premonition, and he cupped his palms on his face.
“Till when you’ll escape me, bro?”
Cymbals crashed in his mind. With quivering lips, he widened the crevice of his fingers, and saw Dario standing with his arms outstretched. His eyes were death-like; his face looked hideous.
“And you thought you killed me? You retard.” He said shaking his head. “What a sloppy job! In your heart, you wanted me to be alive and hence the half-hearted stabbing, the superficial burial. Umm, in your eagerness to see me dead, you gave me life.”
Veer braced himself against the wall, avoiding his eyes. Nyaro! He was perplexed that some part of him was happy to see Dario.
Dario circled around him. “I bring bad tidings, bro. Listen carefully, umm?”

* * *

Issam put his hands to his head. “Gehna we can’t do this anymore. I feel so wretched.”
She chewed her lips. “Sit down. Let me order something for you.”
Her forehead wrinkled. “I feel repentant too. It’s unforgivable, what we did. But what’s done is done. Let's pretend it never happened.”
* * *

“Where’s your wife umm?” Dario asked.
“Don’t dare talk about her,” Veer said in a whisper.
“Do you know what she’s been upto?”
“Stop that, Nyaro! You are frustrated and want to mess my life.”
“She's cheating you, bro.”
Veer’s face crumbled.
“This is her mobile bill. Check her calls. She is seeing Issam,” Dario said.
Veer gave him an agonized look.
“I followed her to Issam’s hotel. Not only that, I saw them here, on your bed.”
Veer looked at the bills, and broke down, “Why did you tell me? I am happy in my world, even if it’s fake.” His face clouded with worry, “What if she leaves me?”
* * *

Gehna was placing her order with the waiter, when Issam’s mobile rang. “Hey Veer… Yes I'm in town… What?”
Issam gave a short laugh “Gehna? No she isn’t here…Why would she?” He looked at Gehna, and put his finger to his lips, motioning her to be quiet. “Outing? Tomorrow? No Veer I am busy… have to fly back… Oh? Ok man… Anything for you.” He clicked the phone shut.
His hands on his hips, he stared at his shadow. “He has invited me on an outing with you.”
“What? He didn’t tell me anything,” Gehna said.
“It’s a good opportunity to make amends. Then I’ll disappear from his life.”
* * *

The sun shimmered on the gushing water of the beautiful Kune waterfalls. The water crashed towards the earth with a deafening roar. The chirping of birds echoed through the wind swept trees. There was no one around to enjoy the harmony of nature, being the off-season.

Veer and Issam played a rigorous game of football, egged on by Gehna's chirpy banter. Later, they sat down, exhausted by the release of nervous energy. The tantalizing spread of food looked inviting.
"Slow down Veer." Gehna giggled, watching him wolf down large portions of food.
“Fresh air is good for the soul, Nyan. See how ravenous it makes me.” Veer said, gobbling a piece of chicken.
“It’s nice to see you happy,” Issam said.

Later, Veer lay resting on the mat, his hands under his head. A plane traced its path in the distant sky. The smell of wet grass drifted in the air.
“About time you got married Issam.”
“Am not the marrying kind.” Issam said biting into an apple.
“Yeah, that’s reason enough for you to fuck around.”
Issam stopped mid-bite and chuckled. “Jealous?”
Veer moved his fingers through Gehna’s hair. “Do you regret marriage, sugar? I literally begged you.”
“Don’t talk rubbish.” She admonished Veer, and glanced at Issam.

The sky rumbled as a fork of lightning flashed, causing a crack to form.
“It’s amazing how weather changes. Like people.” Veer fixed them with his stare.
Issam rose, dusting his trousers. “Looks like it will rain. We should leave.”
“C’mon,” Veer drawled. “Stay. Today is a great day. You'll see. Let’s take a walk.”

They were silent as they approached the falls, the spray of water, soothing their sun-warmed skin. Light rain fell in a drizzle. They stopped near the area, where the earth jutted from the ground to reach out to the water. Veer stood near the railing, and spread his arms to embrace the water-spray. “C’mon you both. Don’t stand gaping.”

The three of them stood awkwardly admiring nature’s beauty.
“How dare you screw around with my brother, umm?”
Gehna and Issam whirled. Veer had moved behind. His eyes crinkled, and burned with fury. The veins in his neck throbbed as he gnashed his teeth, and screamed in a raspy voice.
“You are a bitch Gehna! Veer loves you, but you gladly spread your legs for this trash?” Veer jabbed a finger at Issam.
They stared at him, confusion writ large on their faces.
“Veer, what brother? Whose brother?” she stammered.  “You sound creepy in that changed voice.”
The rain turned into a downpour. Issam squinted at him. “Man, I knew something was wrong with you.”
“You phoney bastard. He helped you, and in return you screw his wife.”
Issam looked dumbfounded. He reached out his hand to Veer. “I…I won't deny it man. We are guilty and deserve your scorn—”
Veer flailed his hands in the air, “Don’t touch me, you filthy mongrel! You deserve nothing but death!”
“Look Veer—”
“Umm, I am not Veer. I am Dario, the powerful one. Veer is a weakling.” He dug his hands in his pocket, and pulled out something wrapped in leather. Undoing the cover,, he walked towards Issam. "From now on there will only be me and not that nincompoop."

Issam saw the movement of his hands and stepped back. In a swift move, Veer pulled out a sharp knife, leaned forward and dug it in Issam's ribs. Stunned by the blow, Issam staggered, clutching his stomach. He lifted his head with a incredulous look, and dropped to the ground.
Gehna stood rooted to the spot. “Anyone there? Help!!”
Veer held her throat in a vice like grip.
“I am sorry.” She squalled. “Forgive me Veer…I…promise to be a good—”
“Umm. Shut up, hussy!” He yelled, “Dont you see, am not that wuss you call Veer. I am the real one, Dario.”
She thrashed her legs. “I’ll never do it again. I realized my mistake. Believe me.” She choked on the words.

He looked at her for a moment, and then, grinding his teeth, pushed her. A piercing cry rent the air, as she crashed into the water. Veer tilted his head and grimaced. Turning around, he leapt in the air, and clapped with glee. He stopped suddenly, and blinked his eyes like awaking from a dream. Seeing Issam, his face broke into concerned expression.
“Dario what have you done?” He cried, looking at Issam. “You tricked me Dario. Nyaro!”
“Who is Dario? I don’t see anyone else here.” Issam quaked.

Veer’s voice changed to a raspy tone again. “Look bro, I set you free from all of them. No more pain. I am taking over fully, umm?” Veer looked like a zombie talking to himself. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Issam speaking on his phone. He lunged, and snatched it away, shouting. “Did you call the police? No. No. No... They’ll put him away. I need him. He needs me. Dario…oh Dario!”

Three years later…

Issam looked at the doctor, pondering the wiseness of his decision. Though Veer had tried to kill him, he felt guilty and blamed himself for what happened. He remembered that fateful day when the police had arrived and taken Veer into custody, and later to a psychiatric facility.

“We are discharging him this week. He has done a full recovery.” The doctor informed him, resting his hand on the table. “He asked us to contact you and gave consent to discuss his case.”
Issam gave a terse smile. He wanted to help Veer in whatever way he could.

The doctor said, “Let me explain his condition in a simple way. Veer is a normal person, but he had a troubled childhood. He never saw his mother happy, and was traumatized when she tried to kill herself. As a young boy it was too much for him to handle. He feared for her life, and had separation anxieties."

The doctor referred to the file. “Fear is the path to the dark side. It leads to anger and anger leads to hate. He was separated from his
mother and put in a facility where the older boys abused him sexually. Unable to cope, Veer began lapsing into a self-hypnotic state, called disassociation. It's a defense mechanism that protects the child from feeling overwhelmingly intense emotions. It’s like disconnecting and locking the memory or pain in a suitcase and storing it in the back of the brain. These distinct emotions developed into a new personality with its own memory and characteristics which we refer to as an ‘alter’. Veer identified him as a twin brother – Dario – his father’s name. The ‘alter’ thrived on hatred, and became darker and acuter with time."

“With time, Dario grew stronger, and rebelled against everything Veer did. He fed on Veer’s fear, and wanted to suppress him completely.

“Dario discouraged him from socializing or making friends. His mother supported Dario, as she identified with his nature. Dario’s behavior took on a malefic streak, as he resorted to physical harm when he sensed danger.

“After acquiring money, Veer gained in confidence and wanted to be in charge. When Dario tried to thwart his plan, he fought and killed his ‘alter’.  But the dark side never leaves. It has to be constantly suppressed. Dario re-surfaced when Veer feared Gehna would leave him. Many times the ‘main’ cannot remember when the ‘alter’ takes over and at other times they are fully aware and have conversations."

“We treated him with long-term psychotherapy, hypnosis and developed a trusting relationship between him and his ‘alter’. Once that was
established, both were encouraged to communicate with each other, in order to integrate and come together.”

The doctor looked at Issam who was listening with keen interest. “Are you ready to help him Mr. Ansar, considering the history of your relations?”
Issam cleared his throat, “Yes. My business is thriving, and it’s all because of his help. I owe him big time.”

# # #

The next day Veer walked into the waiting lounge. He looked gaunt in his closely cropped hair. When he saw Issam, he smiled cautiously, fighting to control his emotions. They stood for a while, trying to blur the passage of time. Issam came over and they hugged.

“I've arranged for your accommodation. You can stay as long as you like.” Issam said in the car.
“Thanks. I want to meet my mother.”
"She's doing fine. I met her, and told her of your recovery. She will be very happy to see you."
Issam revved the engine and started driving. Just then, another car sped past, nearly colliding with theirs. He brought the car to a screeching halt. “You crazy asshole!”  He cursed clenching his fist at the driver. “Are you alright Veer?”

Veer sat with his palms cupped to his face feeling safe in the dark. “Nyaro!”
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