The Present

“Time of death, 10:39 pm, Thursday, 25th June 2015”, Dr. Sagar looked on passively, “cause of death: Multiple organ failure”, Sister Nalini continued, “Sir, sign”..”here”, Sagar signed the papers and turned his back towards the dead body of Cariappa and walked out of the ICU. This was the third death in his department today, “This is terrible, I can’t continue like this anymore” Sagar thought as he paced through the corridor with his head bowed down, making sure he avoided eye contact with everyone. “Sir”, Shit, not him again, “Sir, I just heard about Mr. Cariappa”, Rudra was Sagar’s deputy and second in command at his department and someone whose over enthusiasm Sagar hated the most.

“Yes, he passed away a few minutes ago, very unfortunate”, “That’s the third case today sir, seventh this week already”, “I know my numbers Rudra, do you have anything material to say, I have some urgent work in my office”. “Sorry sir, but I really need to talk to you”, “I got five minutes, be quick”, Sagar was getting impatient and irritated, “Sir, do you think we should order an autopsy? He was doing fine till afternoon, when I last saw him, I need to know what caused sepsis again…”Rudra”, Sagar firmly interrupted him, “he came to us with a kidney the size of a football, we tried our best to recover him, but once sepsis sets, you can’t do anything”, “Sir, this is the third sepsis related death and we..”, “so let me get this right” Sagar said firmly, “you want our already overburdened and understaffed autopsy department to conduct autopsy on a clear cut kidney failure case, and you want the family of Cariappa to receive his body mutiliated and violated, and you want to answer the board when they ask you about the reasons for autopsy”, “Sir, that’s not what I meant, I just…”, “Listen, you are very young, you will get many such days where you just sit by seeing a seemingly healthy person walk in the jaws of death and you wouldn’t be able to do a thing” She must be waiting for me, “Calm down, and ask Nalini to clean-up the ward thoroughly, have the support staff checked for any contagious diseases. Even common cold can develop into pneumonia in their already fragile bodies and cause sepsis”. “I already did that sir” Of course, you did you overzealous sonofabitch, “alright then, I will be in my office till late, goodnight” It’s already late, hope she hasn’t left, Sagar thought as he walked away from Rudra and entered the lift that will take him to his floor.

Fuck, if she’s not there now, Im gonna kill Rudra, Sagar thought as he broke into a run towards his office. It was a good thing the corridor was deserted at this time otherwise it would have been a very unusual sight for the consultant doctors to see an otherwise cool and calm Sagar to break into a mad run. As he reached his office at the end of the corridor, he pulled the curtains over the door that he had placed only a few days back and switched off the lights, “are you there?” he said looking at his empty office which was now engulfed in darkness, “Please, don’t go, I’m sorry, it was that stupid Rudra that held me up” he was now shivering, “Please, oh please be here” there was just silence in reply.

Sagar slumped in his chair in front of his desk with his head hanging behind, what have I done, what am I doing, this is crazy, I shouldn’t….but where is she…she promised me everytime I…but I shouldn’t..must not..must never..”So you were missing me, eh” he felt the touch of her hands around his neck as she whispered in his ear, her lips brushing on his earlobes and her breath falling on his cheeks. Sagar felt a sudden relief as his breathing calmed down, “I thought you left…”, “You have been a good and faithful servant. You make me happy” she cut him and came in front of him. Sagar could see her pale white face quite clearly even in the darkness. She lifted her hands and stroked his face with her long fingers, her deep blue eyes looking at him directly and her thin black lips curved in what seemed to be a smile. Sagar could not hold her gaze and looked down, she took his face in his palms raised his head so that he is looking into her eyes again. “You knew the price, and now that you have paid it, time to enjoy your reward” and as she said this the black robe covering her slipped off her body smoothly. Her pale white lean body was glistening in the darkness of the room without any source of light. She’s so beautiful and she’s mine, she’s my reward, Sagar thought as she pressed her tongue inside his mouth and slipped her hands in his trousers. Never knew death would be so beautiful, so intoxicating, so stimulating. Death. Death, Oh Death! Sagar thought as he felt his head filled with warm spirit and passed away.

Ohhh that was good, so good, Sagar was lying naked on the floor of his office breathing heavily and covered entirely in sweat. His first instinct was to look at the door, still closed, still covered, good, he got up and looked around his empty office, never see her go away. He picked up his phone which was buzzing, “Hello..”, “Sagar, what is this, at least mesaage to kar dia karo if its getting late” Chitra was angry and annoyed, “I will take another hour” he looked at his watch which was now showing 00:30, shit, ofcourse she is angry, “Kam se kam 30 missed calls kare hongey”, “yeah, I was busy in the ICU, bad day today” Sagar said putting on his trousers, “will be home in an hour”, “Ok, Im waiting” Chitra slammed the phone shut. What a bitch, shouldn’t have listened to my parents and married, Sagar thought as he slumped back on his chair. But even a call from Chitra was not enough to keep his mind away from her, death…what a wonderful mistress.

He had first seen her a month back, hovering around the ICU, disappearing behind the bed curtains, and then again appearing on some other side. Initially he thought it was just his long working hours playing tricks with his brain, till he saw her that same day in his office. “I know you can see me” she said even before he could react to her presence, “very few can, you are very lucky”, “What are you”, Sagar demanded, “I’m death…. actually, Im not..I’m just one of death’s servants, taking souls for him as a present, just like you”. “What do you mean” Sagar was taken aback by the accusations, “did you not give morphine to Sukhi”, “How do you….”, “answer”, Sagar had slumped on the sofa completely befuddled by the events and mesmerized by the pale white women standing in front of him. She moved effortlessly behind his chair to besides him and stroked his shoulder with her long white fingers and said “you did a good thing, painless death is a blessing”, “well…she was dying, she was suffering, and she was only 8”, “yes, I know” she said as she got closer to him, “you have offered me a present today, death was very happy to receive her soul”. Her hands were now cupping his face, her deep blue eyes, “how come I never saw you before”, he asked, “because you never looked for death” she replied still looking deep in his eyes, “are you here to take me”, “hahaha, take you? To the master? No. Your time is not yet come” , “what do you want then”, Sagar was still a little scared but was also aroused by her closeness to him, “I want to give you a present for what you gave me today” and she pressed her lips against his and Sagar felt his head fuzzy and warm.

He had woken up that day in the same way as he did today, naked, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. He hadn’t felt this good since ages, the pressures of working long hours in a hospital, seeing people die around him, a hypercompetitive junior and a cold heartless wife at home had taken whatever joy was left in his life.

I want to see her again, be with her every day, all the time. He saw her again in the ICU the next day, sitting near the head of a 50 year old patient, “he will not survive” she said as he was giving instructions to Rudra, “Rudra, why don’t you go and check on Cariappa, I will fill the daily chart here”, as Rudra walked away, he went near her and asked her “when can we meet again”, “we are meeting again, are we not”? She replied, once again her deep blue eyes boring into him. “Like yesterday, I mean, that was, that was…”, “really good, I know” she continued, “but death demands presents from his servants”, she got up and whispered in her ears, “so when is my next present”.

Two weeks later was Sagar’s first real kill – a patient he knew he had a realistic chance of saving, morphine overdose, no one suspects anything, easy and painless, he thought as he plunged the syringe directly to the patient’s heart. As he lay naked in his office that night after yet another encounter he had broken down for the first time in years. This is not me, Im not a killer, what am I doing this for? For yourself, he himself answered, all these patients- failed kidneys, swollen livers, they are not going to live for long even if I save them now. They are all presents to death, Im making it painless and easier for them…and for her…yes…making it easier for her….won’t let her go now whatever it takes.

Knock Knock, the sound on the door startled him, “who’s there”, “Rudra, sir” That sonofabitch. He opened the door and let him in “I didn’t knew you were staying late, saw your lights open”, “Naah, I just wanted to be alone, pretty rough day, eh”, “Yes, I myself was thinking about all these cases”, “What is there to think?” Sagar suddenly got defensive, “these people drink and smoke and come to us when their livers and kidneys are a waste”. Rudra now leaned forward on the desk and said in a hushed tone “you know Dr. Sagar, the common symptom across all these deaths in the last week have been irregular breathing, pinpoint pupils, seizures..”, “what do you mean” Sagar interrupted him, “..intestinal spasms, bluish fingernails, bleeding from the throat”, “what are you coming at, Rudra”, Sagar was now shaking. “Morphine poisoning, Dr. Sagar”, “What sort of nonsense is this? Do you think you can upstage me and impress the board with all your bullshit, Im going to have you..” Before Sagar could complete, he felt a sharp needle hit his heart, he looked up as Rudra pushed the syringe in, “that will be the end of it, Dr. Sagar”.

Sagar felt his entire body on fire as he woke up, where am I? what is this? What is happening? He struggled to get up. He felt as if his body was on fire from the inside stop. Stop. Please stop this. There was pitch darkness and he could not see anything in front of him and all of a sudden light started streaming in front of him what is this? Am I behind a veil? Sagar looked outside and saw a familiar sight, this is Rudra’s office? What? And then he saw her, leaning onto Rudra, her robe slipping out of her body as she cupped his face in her hands and said ““you have offered me a present today, death was very happy to receive his soul”.

“Im sorry, Chitra”, Dr. Goyal sat her down on the sofa and continued, “but we need to know, did you had any idea your husband was consuming any sort of narcotics? Morphine, cocaine, anything”, “No, not at all” Chitra was still sobbing. “We found stashes of morphine hidden in his office”, Dr. Goyal continued, “his consumption was very high, his heart was of a person who has been taking heavy dosages of narcotics. Last night he took an injection straight to the heart, died in under 15 minutes”. “Rudra was able to break the door open and get him out, we tried our best, but it was too late”, he added.

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