(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
Ayush Kumar Singh is an eleventh grader at Delhi Public School, Dwarka, Delhi. He became a published author at the age of fifteen with his book, ‘Adventure Stories’ (2016), published by The Readers Paradise. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
A Close Encounter
When Mark stepped out of his house, everything seemed calm and quite. He didn't understand if it was a hot day, or that his inch thick sweater was burning him up on a winter morning. Anyways, he had to get to school, frozen or roasted. He didn't want to go to school. If fact, he had made every possible excuse to his mom; from stomach ache to being crushed by a giant hailstone. And it wasn’t even raining that day!
It seemed normal. Just like any other day. Americans were going to schools, offices, shops and other workplaces. Lucky Americans were sleeping in the warmth of their beds. Unlucky Americans were sleeping in the warmth of the seat of a subway which had taken them ten stations away from their destination. Smiling to himself, Mark placed himself in the ‘normal’ category. Being filled to the brim with optimism, he always hoped something happy, something new would happen every day. But today, it seemed to be usual as ever.
He had hardly walked down a couple of blocks, when a short, wrinkled old woman appeared before him.
‘Son, it would be really kind of you if you guided me to the World Trade Centre.’
Mark waited for her reaction. But the lady was blank. So, thinking not to disappoint the lady on her ill joke, he gave a sarcastic laugh.
‘Good one! Now if you excuse me, I need to go to Mars for school.’ said Mark and smiled at his comment. But the lady seemed to be utterly shocked. She didn't seem to process the reply, so she simply ignored it.
‘Please, Can you locate it for me? I am new in this city and I want to surprise my son who works there.’
Mark began to get sick of this joke. But the lady looked dead serious. She was firm and certain. So he thought to handle the situation differently.
‘Ma’am, are you sure that your son works at the World Trade Centre?’ he asked calmly.
‘One hundred percent sure! I am old, but not stupid.’ was the reply.
Mark examined the woman again. She didn't look like someone who had run away from a mental hospital. She didn't seem like a trickster. If she was one, she was a pretty good one. She was also well dressed. A surprise wouldn’t be a bad excuse for the dressing. After taking his time, Mark decided to tell this old woman. The possible consequences seemed to be; either he would make a big fool out of himself, or give the woman a stroke. The first one seemed more plausible. But he did it. He told the obvious fact to the woman that the World Trade Centre didn't exist anymore.
Her reaction was nothing compared to what Mark thought. She simply smiled and told him to just show her the place. Mark was dumbstruck. He couldn’t believe his ears. Had the lady just said that? Not knowing how to react, he slowly checked his digital watch. He was already late for school. Deep down, something in him urged him to take the woman to the place where the World Trade Centre once stood. But it was so senseless. Why would anyone in the right mind do that?
‘Excuse me? Are you still here? Please, just take me to it.’ said the woman after the long pause.
Mark felt a bit less confused now. Maybe it was just a lost woman. A lost, crazy woman. Maybe she would understand if she sees the realty. So to answer his curiosity to find the woman’s reaction, he led the way. He guided the woman to the place where a new building had taken shape. It was only a couple a minutes from here. She followed him eagerly all the way.
Mark was so sure of the way; he didn't even need to look forward. The place was only about twenty metres away when Mark looked up. What he saw was something his mind absolutely refused to process. He stopped dead. His jaw fell and he felt limp. Before him, stood the mighty towers of the World Trade Centre, parting clouds apart.
Was this really happening? How could this be happening? A voice pierced his thoughts. It was the lady.
‘Isn’t it the World Trade Centre, dear?’ she smiled.
‘Yes’, his answer was involuntary and spontaneous.
‘Thank you son, I can find my way from here.’ she said and started walking towards the tower. Mark’s mind was taking in too much at once. He saw the woman confidently pacing towards a building that, for Mark, did not exist a minute ago. It was Mark’s turn to follow.
Everything seemed normal. But people rushing in a building that should not even exist, was certainly not normal. He simply followed the woman in the tower and then an elevator. About ten people had crowded in the small elevator. The woman had no idea about his presence. She pressed the button and they began to ascend. A few people, including him, got off at her floor. As soon as he got off, the woman was lost. There were many people there. Some were working on computers. Old computers, with giant desktops. Some were talking on the phone. Big old phones. Then Mark’s eye caught something that pulled out all the breath in him. The digital calendar showed the date bright and clear. 11 September, 2001.
At this point, his mind had given up. Everything around him paused. From the window, he could make out a small object beaming with an exceptional speed towards the building. His body had become rock. He couldn’t move an inch. His throat had gone dry and he could think of nothing except the growing size of the plane. When the plane finally hit the building, everything went bang! And then blank.
Mark woke up with a start. It took him sometime to realise he was in his bed. It was a dream. Just like every other thrill story. He begged my mom to let him skip school that day. She agreed! He had just experienced a past known destruction and had no intention of forgetting the feeling. So without a second thought, Mark went to become one of the lucky Americans!