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I stumbled into a gang initiation, and now I about to become their victim

I stumbled into a gang initiation, and now I about to become their victim


Estimated reading time — 18 minutes

My hand was resting on my thigh, nervously caressing a little box tucked away neatly in a corner of my pocket. My date for the evening was sitting on the other end of the table and was animatedly talking on the phone.

Well, not my date exactly – Chloe and I have been seeing each other for more than 5 years now. But this was where we first met, right here, by the patio of this cozy little café – on a blind date set up by friends.
We had just returned from a movie, a whodunit mystery and Chloe was going over the story with her mother, completely ruining all the suspense for her. Every time she updates her online status about a visit to the cinemas, you can be rest assured her friends will make themselves scarce for the next few hours at least.
And she’s always been this way – spontaneous, impulsive, excitable, and yet kind, compassionate and earnest. She likes to act on impulse, and worry about the consequences later.

Good or bad, she needs to get everything off her chest, which is in complete contrast to me.

I, on the other hand, am known for being reserved, restrained, shy, even stoic under pressure, and yet, always brooding underneath the surface. A state of mind that is constantly striving to combat a form of pensiveness.

At least that’s the general impression people have of me, I think.

But it was not always this way. I used to be a fun loving kid with a normal childhood who used to love the outdoors.

But something happened to me on my 9th birthday when I was returning home from school, and I suddenly experienced a panic attack for the first time in my life.
Since then, I have experienced many more.

Over the years, I realized I was increasingly prone to an attack when my mind was under stress. And this would ultimately lead to what has now become a familiar sequence of symptoms that would course through my body, leaving me feeling utterly helpless.

My legs would first go stiff, as if being weighed down by lead. This was followed by an acute dryness that would grip my throat, leaving it parched and instantly yearning for a sip of water. The hands at my sides would start to tremble next as I tried desperately to recover from a severe shortness of breath. Meanwhile, huge beads of sweat would have already formed around my forehead while I felt my heart pound away in my chest.
But what scared me the most was the very thing that triggered the panic attacks.

I would start seeing strange visions unfold in front of my eyes that often made me question my own sanity.
These manifestations would occur randomly, seemingly out of nowhere, and I would immediately start experiencing the physical symptoms. It was as if my mind was ready to tap into the portal of a different dimension at that very moment.

I would then stand transfixed in horror, unable to move, as the anxiety quietly took hold of me, crippling both my body and mind, eventually leading to a blackout.
When my parents became aware, they grew consumed with worry. My dad finally even quit his job and relocated our family to the suburbs, in the hopes that a change of scenery in a quieter place would turn out better for my mental health.

And it did help in my recovery because it brought me in contact with Coach Riley, my physical education instructor at my new school.
A deeply spiritual man, Coach Riley introduced me to the benefits of meditation and encouraged me to adopt a disciplined lifestyle.
Despite my initial doubts about his methods, I eventually realized that the panic attacks were slowly fading away with time. And that provided me with the necessary motivation to follow through on his instructions with devoted commitment.
I meditated and exercised every day and gradually embraced a regimented lifestyle that would continue well into my adulthood.

By prioritizing my mental health, I managed to minimize my exposure to triggers that could lead to such attacks. This involved limiting frequent visits to crowded or unknown places to the extent possible without undermining the quality of my life, and by also creating safe spaces that I could regularly visit.
I also abstained from all forms of intoxication and avoided the party scene entirely. Thankfully, I cultivated a small but loyal circle of friends who consistently made me feel valued in their presence.
Although, there have been times when I have wondered if I was being too hard on myself and forgotten what it meant to have a good time. But I can’t fault the method because I know it has been working.
I haven’t had an episode in over 10 years now.

So, when Chloe came into my life it was like a breath of fresh air, igniting a spark in me that I thought was buried away for good.

Being around her rekindled the inner child in me and I wanted to experience the world with her. For someone, who saw himself as generally unlucky in life from a young age, it was as if Lady Luck had finally decided to shower her blessings on me.
And I began to grow as a person, strongly fuelled by a burning desire to be a better man for her.
As a result, I became more outgoing, even willing to spontaneously suggest a visit to the cinemas, or take a leisurely stroll down a market with her by my side, or simply lie down at the beach, soaking in the sun and enjoying the waves. I also secretly saved up enough money over the last few years by working overtime to buy a new home of our own.

As Chloe sat engrossed on the phone, she suddenly became conscious when everyone at the café began to stare at her. And I saw her jaw drop when she turned around in her seat to find me down on one knee, holding a ring.

Her eyes quickly turned moist as she immediately cut the call. She cupped my face with her hands and said, “Yes. Yes. Yes! Took you long enough!”
As we kissed and hugged, the whole café erupted into a wave of applause. Her mom’s return call remained unanswered, as the two of us stood there locked in a tight embrace. The mother would have to wait now to get to the rest of the story.

Just then, an elderly lady came over to our table and offered to take a photo to record this moment for posterity, and we were only too happy to oblige.
A couple of clicks later, we requested one more and decided to stand right next to the café’s large nameboard on the wall, since this was where it all began.
The old lady holding Chole’s phone moved back a little, so that she could also accommodate “PROVIDENCE CAFE” into the frame – to feature alongside the newly engaged couple.
Just as she was about to take the picture, a young kid around 12 years of age, ran into the elderly woman causing her to stumble and fall. I quickly ran towards her to help, while the boy merely stood and watched from a distance.

To my surprise, there was not a hint of remorse in him. He even smirked as he scooped up the phone when it bounced off the floor. This was deliberate on his part.
Chloe noticed this as well and looked livid. She walked towards the boy and demanded that he apologize to the old woman.

He just stared back at her, the smirk on his face now widening into a grin.
“Chloe don’t….. get back!” I yelled, but it was too late.
He attacked her, and she hit the pavement hard. Before I could make another move, he managed to kick her in the stomach and face. And then ran back 20 feet.

When I got to her, I saw blood streaming down her nose, her face was already swollen and she was bleeding from the gums as well. A volcano of anger erupted within me.
I felt an unbridled fury simmering in my head, as I watched the boy laughing from a distance holding up Chloe’s phone, dangling it by his fingertips.

Chloe clutched tightly at my arm and said, “Honey, don’t. He’s just a kid. Let’s just …..”
But I was already half way across in pursuit, running as fast as I could.

The kid was quick on his feet and zig zagged his way through the bustling sidewalk, casually pushing unsuspecting pedestrians, and toppling trash cans along the way – all in an effort to slow me down. But I managed to keep pace with him.

A couple of blocks later, he took a sharp left turn to enter an alleyway and looked back to check if I was following.

He then slowed down to a saunter, mockingly gesturing to me with his hands that he was waiting for me to catch up, before turning a blind corner and disappearing from view.
The alarm bells began to immediately go off in my brain. I was standing in a deserted alley chasing a kid, who clearly was up to no good.

Every instinct in me warned that I was walking into a trap, but my legs defied reason as I continued to move forward.
All I could see was Chloe’s face in shock, looking bloodied and vulnerable, and I couldn’t shake that image out of my head.

I wasn’t even sure what I would do if I managed to get a hold of the boy, but I continued on anyway and turned the corner. It led to a dingy parking lot where close to 10 people lay in wait.
I saw the boy standing next to a man dressed in a dark grey hoodie with the hood pulled up, obscuring part of his face in the shadow. The man, unmistakably the leader of the pack, was resting comfortably against the bonnet of a car.
For a second, I contemplated turning tail and making a quick retreat. But three of his henchmen were ready and had their guns trained at me.
I felt like a little rat that had been lured to the edge of a cliff, only to realize at the last moment that there was no way back.

One of the henchmen, a chubby figure, walked towards me with his gun pointed at my face.
He was clad in a black leather jacket adorned with silver studs. He had rings on all his fingers, and a thick gold chain swung around his neck.
As he frisked me, the henchman fumbled my wallet, causing it to slip and fall to the floor.
With a frustrated grunt, he swiftly swooped down to retrieve it before resuming his search for weapons.
Finally satisfied, he grabbed the back of my shirt and pushed me forward to continue walking.
“Stand right there!” he said, as I reached the middle of the parking lot, surrounded by gangsters on all sides, dressed in oversized hoodies and baggy jeans.

“Yo, Jamal, what’s the move on this one?” he inquired, waving his firearm in my direction.
The leader of the pack got down from the bonnet and slowly stretched his limbs.
He was a well-built man in his early thirties with heavily tattooed forearms. His baggy jeans hung low on his hips, emphasizing his muscular frame, while a pair of black combat boots added to his imposing demeanor.
My eyes next darted to the two people flanking him on either side. To his right, was the kid who had lured me in, and was still looking mighty pleased with himself.

The guy to his left, however, wore a worried look on his face and was about the same age as the gangster. He was dressed in a crisp white shirt, seamlessly tucked into sharply creased trousers, and paired with well-maintained Oxford shoes. He stood out in this milieu like a sore thumb.
“Jamal please …. don’t do this,” he suddenly spoke while adjusting his horn rimmed glasses, desperation evident in his voice.

The gangster casually threw his arm around the little kid and smiled at him.
”Rashad, what’s the matter with your brother?” he asked in a soft voice while feigning an air of innocence.
“He seems all wound up. Is he always like this at home too?”

The boy rolled his eyes and nodded in acknowledgment, as if he had been waiting all day for someone to ask him that very question about his brother. He replied, “Like, all the time! It’s so annoying Mr Jamal”
“Sunny, you catch that? Your kid bro ain’t givin’ you much credit huh?”
“Someone’s really turnin’ a new chapter here,” Jamal quipped, while casting a quick glance at the person standing next to him.

Sunny just dropped his head in silence. The weight of the moment hung heavily on his shoulders, and a sense of impending doom settled around the desolate parking lot.

Lines of worry were etched across his forehead, and it was clear he would rather be anywhere but here.
“Please Jamal” he begged, as he continued to look at the floor and that was all he could muster.
“What!” the gangster asked all fired up.
“You are one who came into my office today after all these years. You wanted me to go easy on your lil brother… let him break free from the gang…. right?”
“RIGHT?” he repeated again, demanding a reply from him this time.

Sunny simply nodded his head a couple of times in silence.
“A’right, I hear you. I hear you!“ remarked Jamal, fervently nodding back in acknowledgment.
“So here’s your shot. Take him out,” Jamal said, pointing his finger at me. “And then take your brother home. And that’s the end of that.”

I felt a bottomless pit in my stomach when I suddenly realized I had walked into a gang initiation, and that I was their lamb meant for the slaughter this evening.

All this while, I had feared a robbery was about to take place, accompanied possibly by a vicious beating. But this was turning out to be so much worse than I had imagined.

“We ain’t got all night Sunny. You need to make a choice. So what’s it gonna be?”

“ Your brother Rashad’s freedom for this man’s life. Ain’t gonna get simpler than that,“ Jamal declared in a matter of fact manner.

Sunny finally lifted his head and began to speak, the strain in his voice slowly fading away as he summoned the courage to voice his thoughts.

“Jamal, that is not how things are going to play out. And you know that, and you know that I do too. If I were to shoot this man, whom I have never met in my life before, it would anyway be recorded on a camera by one of your boys.”
“And it would be later used as leverage to get me to work for you permanently. So how is this going to work?” he asked, his voice tinged with frustration.

“Alright, you got me, I confess!” Jamal said, sarcastically throwing his hands up in exasperation while also casually winking at a nearby crew member.

“So, here’s what you can do. You can simply trade your freedom for your brothers’ by takin down that man. I don’t care either way. It’s the best deal you gonna get,” he said, pointing his hand at me a second time.

“Jamal, please, … listen..” Sunny began.

“Listen to what Sunny?” Jamal snapped back in anger.
”You think I’m some kinda fool?”
“This ain’t some whorehouse that you can come and go as you please. I got a rep to protect here. If you think my world is so damn bad, you should’ve schooled that kid better. And I ain’t gonna push him away if he lands at my doorstep on his own. This is on you, Sunny, for not holding it down as his brother.”

Jamal leaned against a car, casually bidding his time amidst the uneasy silence that followed.

He was holding Chloe’s phone, and kept turning it subconsciously with his hand while glaring at Sunny.
The two clearly had a history that stretched back many years.

I could also see that he was a calculative man, aiming to arrive at the best possible outcome in his favour. And he had Sunny exactly where he wanted, and was now slowly turning the screws on him.
“What can I do to make this right, Jamal?” Sunny finally asked a few moments later, determined to work out a solution.
“Come work for me. Be my numbers guy. I always knew you had the smarts.”
“In fact, you was supposed to roll with me in the game, promote my product, and help me expand our operations.”
“I invested in you Sunny, thinking you had the loyalty to rise with me and even sent you to a fancy school, all on my own dime. But nah, you had to suddenly catch a conscience outta nowhere, and look where it got you.”
“I paid you back in full for my education Jamal, and that too with interest” Sunny interjected.
“This ain’t just about the money, you fool!” Sunny shot back.
“I treated you like my own brother. You were my homie, and you turned your back on me and the crew.”
“All for what?”
“ For a piece of ass?”
“And where she at now? She’s dead and buried six feet under.”
Jamal then turned around in his tracks to face his crew and started speaking again in a slightly mocking tone.
“Our man, the hot shot banker here, then quits his job and permanently walks away from the corporate scene. Only to hit up the same public school his girl used to grind at, now dealing day and night with them tough kids from the street.”
“And homie’s been busy ever since – forever, living under his dead girl’s shadow.”
Jamal slowly turned around to face Sunny.
“And what do you have to show for it huh?”
“Your own brother’s knocking on my door, hungry for a slice.”
Jamal’s gaze bore into Sunny, the weight of his words hanging thick in the air.
“We could’ve ruled the streets Sunny. Lived like kings. But nah, you had to throw it all away.” Jamal said, shaking his head, making sure his disapproval was known for everyone to see.

“Anyways, that’s enough chat for the night. Give the man his piece. Let’s get the ball rolling.”
One of his henchmen then removed a sidearm from the small of his back and forced it into Sunny’s hand.
“I can’t go through with this Jamal,” Sunny said, finally locking eyes with his one-time friend.

“You don’t have to. You’re free to leave. But your brother? He’s staying.”
“Got some big moves planned for him,” Jamal responded, breaking into a grin.
“Yo, young blood. You down to hustle and earn your spot?” he queried out loud to Rashad.
The kid fervently nodded back. The young boy’s face immediately lit up when Jamal directly addressed him.
“You really need to leave my brother alone, Jamal. Your beef is with me, and I’m here. You can take it out on me. Let him go. He needs no part in this.” Sunny spoke, still trying to be the voice of reason.

“Stop wasting my time Sunny. What needed to be said has been said. Now either get to it, or leave,” Jamal retorted.
He flicked his fingers again to signal one of his boys who came and stood next to Sunny, and aimed his gun a couple of metres away from his head.
A few seconds of silence followed as Sunny assessed the situation while holding a gun in his hand.
“How am I supposed to shoot this man? I don’t even know him.” he suddenly protested, waving his hand in my direction while looking at Jamal.
“Oh, like you would have otherwise jumped into action if it was a rival? You’ve always been the squeamish sort when it comes to confrontations.”
“So, I told Rashad to pick a noob from the street …… just for you.”
“Thought it would help ease the friction between you two. You know, foster a bonding moment between siblings,” Jamal remarked with a smirk, leading to small fits of laughter all around.
“But hey, you really wanna know about him? I got this right here.” Jamal said while holding up Chloe’s phone in his hand, and started scrolling through it.
“Well, well, well…. what do we have here ….Look!” he said, turning the phone towards us.
It had a picture of me and Chloe beaming, with her pointing towards the new rock on her finger.
“Our man just got engaged today. Timestamps say Chloe and Marty here.”
“Congratulations Marty!”
“Cute couple! I must say!!”

Sunny’s shoulders sank further as he stood gripping the gun in one hand, his eyes shut in contemplation, while the other hand pressed hard against his temple as he massaged it.
Things just got more awkward for my only well-wisher in this isolated parking lot.
“Enough with this shit” Jamal said, putting the phone away.
“KENNY, START THE COUNTDOWN.”

When Kenny emerged from the side-lines, I realized he was the same gangster who had first frisked me when I stumbled into the parking lot.

“TEN!!” the man yelled at the top of his voice, as the countdown started.

“NINE!!”

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“EIGHT!!”

All eyes were on Sunny now. The gun in his hand was still pointed at the floor, but the man was deep in thought despite the pressure building around him.
Sunny then slowly turned around to face Jamal. His face for the first time looking calm, but serious.

“So this is how it’s going to go down. After all that we have been through, after everything my family has done for you, this is how you repay my mother. She took you in when you had nowhere else to go. She clothed you and fed you when you were abandoned by your own folks and this is the gratitude you show to her, to her family?” Sunny asked, his voice was calm, yet ice cold.

“I DON’T OWE YOU OR YOUR FAMILY SHIT!!” roared Jamal suddenly standing upright.
The sarcasm and the half smiles were gone, replaced instead by an intense anger that travelled deep.
He walked towards Sunny and grabbed his shirt, slamming him against the hood of a nearby car.
Jamal had his fist raised in the air ready to strike, but continued to glare at Sunny.

“When you wanted to call it quits, I let you go didn’t? I never bothered you thereafter. Even when you lost everything and wound up a loser, I let you be and your family be.”

“And what you expect for gratitude huh? You want me to roll over on the floor cos your mommy fed me some sandwiches and lemonade for a few weeks?” Jamal asked, as he finally let go of him.

“Nobody gets to leave my crew once you’re in. But I made an exception for your sorry ass.”
“ Nah, I don’t owe you or your family nothin no more.”
“But you did me dirty with this cheap talk and I am pissed now.” Jamal said walking to and fro, his frustration mounting with each step.

“SEVEN!!”

“SIX!!”

“SHUT YOUR MOUTH KENNY!!”

The parking lot suddenly became deathly quiet while Jamal took a moment to compose himself.
His henchmen looked nervously at each other while their boss stood in silent contemplation.
Jamal then turned around and slowly walked over to his old friend and began speaking again.

“Tell you what, terms have changed. Now you and your brother are both gonna work for me. There’s no escape. And you still have to take that man down. If you don’t, you and Rashad both will catch a bullet to the head.”
“So what’s it gonna be Sunny?” Jamal asked after a moment’s silence.
“One for the price of two, or two for the price of one?”
“I’ll let you decide.” Jamal finished, the street’s cold logic echoing in his ultimatum.

He then instructed one of his henchmen, Kenny, to go and stand behind the boy. The pudgy gangster didn’t look happy at all with the new task at hand.

“But boss, he’s just a kid…” Kenny said, expressing concern.
“Do as you’re told Kenny!” Jamal barked at him.
Kenny groaned and deliberately dragged his feet, making a point to express his discontent regarding his latest assignment.
Jamal just stared at Kenny in silence, his eyes piercing like a thousand daggers, hinting of future repercussions.

The boy Rashad looked bewildered and confused as well, when he saw Kenny approach him with a gun aimed at him. He really wanted to protest but decided to keep quiet for the moment when he saw the look of fury on Jamal’s face.

Two more henchmen joined the fray next.

One had his gun trained at Sunny, while another walked over to my position, aiming his weapon at me.
Another took out his phone to film the event that was about to unfold.
Jamal then yelled “KENNY!” and the countdown started once again.

“TEN!!”
Right then, I knew my time was up, and there was no way out of this mess now. I looked at the man standing just a few feet away from me.
“Sunny” I called out to him.
“It’s okay” I said, nodding my head to reassure him that it was fine, and that it was not his fault. He looked me in the eye and asked me only one question.
“Do you love her?”
“Yes.” I said, and he simply looked down while silently nodding his head in acknowledgement.

“EIGHT!!”

“Please close your eyes, Marty,” Sunny said, holding his gun up at me. I could see his hand mildly tremble as he aimed the weapon at my chest.
I clenched my fists into a ball by my sides and closed my eyes, waiting for the moment to pass. Each second felt like forever, while the heart in my chest pounded like a drum.

“FIVE!!”

“Bro! What you doin? Pull the trigger!” Rashad suddenly exclaimed in exasperation.
“What you waitin for? Hes’s got a gun to my head. Your own flesh and blood. And you are debating whether to pick me over a stranger!”
“Come on Sunny!! SHOOT THAT MAN!!”
Even with my eyes closed, I could feel the tension in the parking lot as the kid kept screaming at his brother, urging him to pull the trigger.

“FOUR!!”

“THREE and THREE QUARTERS!!”

“THREE and a HALF!!””

“KENNNNYY!!!

“THREE!!
“Dad always knew you was weak. He said you didn’t have what it took to survive in the streets. I feel him now. I really do”
“Pull the goddamn trigger Sunny!!”
“For once in your life, like dad always used to say – Be a Man!!”
. “MAN UP SUNNYY!!!”
“MANNNN UUPP!!”
Rashad was practically screaming now at the top of his lungs
“TWO!!”
Even as I stood with my eyes closed, waiting for the inevitable to happen, I suddenly heard a metallic object drop to the concrete floor.

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BANG!!

BANG!!

I immediately opened my eyes, desperately running my hands over my chest to check if I had been shot, and saw Rashad’s body on the floor with a bullet to his head.

“What the fuck Kenny ….what did you do!” screamed Jamal rushing over to where Kenny stood.
Kenny looked around with a bewildered look on his face.

“I don’t know boss…I was sure I heard a gunshot from behind me or somewhere.” he said, still looking around puzzled.

“No you dumb ass, look ….” Jamal said clutching Kenny’s chin and pointing it upwards.
There was a sudden burst of fireworks in the sky. It probably startled Kenny, causing him to accidently open fire on the kid.

“How was I to know that boss …. It all happened so …suddenly” Kenny protested, looking equally upset.
Jamal let out a deep sigh and turned around to see his old friend seated on the floor, clutching at the lifeless body of his brother.

He sat with his head arched back, his eyes wide open and submerged under an ocean of sorrow.

Everything around him had come to a standstill, as he gasped for air to come to terms with his grief.
The gun he had dropped to the floor, by refusing to engage, still lay in front of him just a few feet away.
I continued to watch helplessly, even as I felt sick to my stomach, overwhelmed by an outpouring of guilt within me.

And then, just like how the high tide eventually gives rise to the low, Sunny began to come to terms with the reality around him.

I realized in moments like these, people first shut out the world by building a wall around them, allowing grief to engulf them completely.

Even the conversations happening around them fade into the background becoming like distant echoes.
But the sounds do not simply dissolve into the ether, they instead hover around patiently waiting for the right moment to re-engage.

And when the wall finally breaks down, they surge right through, engulfing the senses in a cascade of raw emotions.

In a split second, I saw a madness for vengeance ignite in his eyes, and Sunny swiftly reached for the gun.
But Jamal was ready and fired three shots in quick succession, killing him instantly.

The sound of gunfire this time being drowned out by the continuous explosion of fireworks that had by now, become a constant presence across the night sky.

Jamal’s broad shoulders drooped as he stood by the lifeless body of his one-time friend. He then quickly turned around and walked towards me with gun in hand.
He caught me by my hair and yanked my head back, shoving the barrel of his gun into my mouth. As he continued to stare at me, I saw a tear trickle down the corner of his eye.

“What am I to do with you Marty?” Jamal asked me.
“On any given day, I would’ve just taken you out when shit went sideways, but you’re knee deep in this mess now. A payment has been made to keep you breathin.”
“A new bond has been forged between the dead and the living.”
I remained motionless not knowing how to react. One of his goons then urged him to deal with my situation quickly, cautioning the cops could arrive at any minute.
“Are you planning on becoming a problem, Marty?” Jamal asked me softly. I slowly shook my head from side-to-side signalling no.
“You walkin a tight rope Marty, I don’t wanna see you slip.” he warned me, and I slowly nodded in understanding.

Jamal removed the gun from my mouth, and put it back in his jacket. He got his guys to return Chloe’s phone and my wallet back to me.
“Well then, one for the price of two it is!” he said, before turning around to walk back to his car.

As he moved away, my eyes darted towards Sunny’s body and I felt my stomach twist into knots again.
I knew I had a huge moral dilemma on my hands that would leave me sleepless for many nights.
‘Should I walk away without looking back? Or should I try and fight to get justice for the man who’s the reason I am alive right now?’

I realized going to the cops could be risky since it would not only endanger my life but also the lives of people who were close to me.

‘What are you going to do, Marty?’ I asked myself in silence.
As I contemplated my future, Jamal reversed his car and slowed down his vehicle to speak to me one last time.
At that very moment, a familiar dread slowly began to seize my body. My throat started to go dry as my legs suddenly turned stiff, as if being weighed down by lead. While my hands trembled at my sides, I saw a pale translucent figure sitting in the backseat of the car.

As beads of sweat formed around my forehead, I stole a glance at the spot where I last saw him lying lifeless on the floor. A couple of goons were busy at work, lifting his body and loading it into the trunk of their vehicle.

With my heart pounding rapidly in my chest, I looked inside the car again to find Sunny, in his new ghost-like form, sitting calmly in the backseat. The palms of his hand were resting lightly on his knees, but his gaze was all focussed on the person sitting in front of him.

Meanwhile, Jamal was looking at me, totally oblivious to the other passenger in his car.

“Happy New Year!” Jamal said to me, before driving off into the darkness.

Credit: Ananth Ram

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