THE OTHER BOY



(This story I wrote for an online short story contest some time back. It was rusting in my old blog. I am reposting it here. A lot of my views have changed since I wrote this. Still it is my first (and only ) story. So I am troubling you with it.)

“Yes, I’m waiting here.. Yeah.. I’m ok.. But come soon.. Where are you?..Hello..”

The line went dead. The familiar voice of his mom was still alive inside . Outside the sounds were unfamiliar. The sound of footsteps. Not the happy footsteps of children running back home. But confused footsteps. Footsteps spreading out in all directions. He could hear a pair of legs runnning towards him. He came out of the school building.A father was grabbing his girl and running towards his car. There goes the last one he thought. Now he was all alone in this building. He could hear army sirens far away. He felt dizzy. He couldn’t make sense out of any of this.
It had all started just two days ago. His father told him that someone had written nasty things on the walls of their sacred shrine. It was believed to be one of “them”. That was indeed a bad thing to do. They deserved to be punished. That was what he thought first. Till it began to get scary. He had seen his neighbours packing things and leaving in a jeep that morning. They are one among the others Mom told. Now he couldn’t really understand what was other about them. But he was happy that he was not one of the others.
Later in the afternoon , the teacher announced in the class that school would close early that day and that the students would need to go straight home with their parents. No one was supposed to come out after that. “It’s a CURFEW” he said. Just as he opened the dictionary to find out what that meant, he heard a loud scream. He saw a group of boys running with sticks in their hand. One had a gun that he had seen only on tv.They were breaking into the bakery opposite his school. The baker was a nice man. Was he an other too?
All that seemed like years ago now.He had been watching his friends leave one by one. He felt like he could break down and cry any moment. Where was mom?
He thought he heard a sound.He was not alone. Who was that? It was then that he saw the boy sitting near the clock tower. He had not noticed him before. Was he waiting for someone too? So he had company. He felt a bit bold now. He seated himself on a bench facing the boy. The boy lifted his head for a while and then went back to play with some interesting thing he had in his hand.
In the minutes that followed not a single word was uttered there. Each found safety in the other’s presence. A safety only human eyes can give.
Then suddenly they heard footsteps. Not one but several. He ran and hid inside a classroom.The other boy was not to be found in his place . Three rough looking men entered the school. He hid behind a door and waited. They seemed to be waiting too. An army jeep passed by. The men left soon after. He came out after a few minutes. The other boy was back in his place already.
Another awkward silence followed. Then footsteps again. But single this time. A lady entered the school. Was it the boy’s mom? He hoped not. He did not want to be left alone again. The lady came straight towards them.
Thank God, the boy didn’t run towards her . She had not come for him. She went inside the school.
She returned alone after some time and sat down on a bench. He could hear her sobbing. She left after a while. After this every time he heard footsteps his heart would skip a beat.He would pray that it should be his mom. If it was not, he would then pray that it should not be the boy’s mom either. His first prayer was neglected and the second prayer answered three times. He told the last man that his son had gone with the teacher. He felt proud when the man smiled and thanked him.
The gate creaked . Footsteps again. This time he only prayed that it should not be for the boy.

It was not. It was for him. It was his mother. He ran into her arms.
As they walked towards their car he turned back to see the boy. The boy lifted his head for a while and then went back to the thing in his hand. He suddenly felt very sad. He asked his mom if they could take the boy home too. She thought for a while and then agreed.

As he walked towards the boy he felt heavy. Unable to look into his eyes he somehow manged to ask him “coming with me?”. The boy’s head made a slight movement. A small sway from side to side. He looked at the boy for a while and then tried to say something. Then suddenly there was a loud siren..
“It’s time… Let’s go.” “Just a minute. Mom..” ” He won’t come with us. See his dress. He is one of “them” ”
There was siren again..
“It’s the army. We’ve to leave” He found himself inside the car. Through the window he could see the boy looking at him. He waved his hands. The boy waved his too. He watched him disappear out of sight.
As the car moved he saw a woman running towards the school.
He closed his eyes and prayed that it should be the boy’s mom.

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