The Himalayan valley, alluring and charming……. there were tall trees, as if they are trying to reach clouds in the sky. Ahead, far away, the slope of the valley was shining, as if it was covered with pallid snow. And somewhere, midst those shining slopes, a rivulet was originated. It was flowing swiftly, taking enthralling snake turns around the valley, and making melodious, pleasant sound.
Tall trees, chirping birds, , melodious sound of the flowing river, it was difficult to judge, at least from the atmosphere, which era was going on. Since thousands, rather millions of years, this natural phenomenon must be going on and on. Had there been absolute deterrence from humans and their so called ‘progress’, there would have been no difference in old untouched era and this new era as such. . At the bottom of one of these tall Himalayan hills, an ancient cave was nestled. The cave was surrounded by tall grass, waving with the chilling breeze. In the cave, a rishi was engrossed in meditation. Long hair plaits on the head, long beard, long mustache, all hairy, as if tired of growing. Out of long meditation, an aura, a deep seriousness, was developed on and around his face. Ignorant from the atmosphere around, in fact ignorant from the era, the place and his body, his soul would have been traveling through the ages. While traveling through eternal, infinite ages, at last, his minuscule soul had entered the modern age ....
An evening in America. A footpath of one of the crowded roads of a crowded city. People were walking, and their modernity was reflecting through the way they were walking on the footpath. Vehicles were rushing on the road. People were so occupied with themselves, that they were not even looking at the other companions walking beside them. Everything was systematic, as if preplanned, like self-driven machines or robots. They were looking straight ahead along the line of their noses, as if it is against their manners to look around. In this herd of people, a beautiful, slim lady Angeni was walking along, holding a jam packed shopping bag in her hand. She must be around 25 and had an everlasting sweet smile on her face. . She meticulously took care of the hair locks coming on her face with the other hand. Although she must have almost completed her shopping which was evident from her shopping bag, she turned to enter a shop. Suddenly a police vehicle rushed on the road making annoying high pitch siren sound. The mob walking on the footpath got disturbed. Anjeni stopped abruptly on the entrance of the shop, turned and started looking around to check what had happened? All people started to look around in inquisition , few of them stopped while few turned and kept walking. . It seemed like their mechanical faces were having this very emotion of fear since long. Some people were still successful in hiding their expressions, as if reacting did not fit in their “manners”. Police van vanished in the speed with which it came. Road was disturbed for a while like a stone creates ripples in water. Again everything came back to normal, like a machine, as if nothing had happened. Anjeni turned and entered the shop. How could she know that the van, that just passed by, had some connection with her life?
Police van stopped by an apartment in a rich lavish colony. Some residents of the colony, who were relaxing in their balconies, started looking at the police van in confusion. There was an unnatural silence in the colony. John and his team got down and rushed to the apartment lift. The driver parked his vehicle in the parking lot. As John and his team reached the lift, they were disappointed by not finding the lift in place.
“Shit...” John said in annoyance, pressed the lift button and waited for the lift to come down.
John was impatiently pressing the lift button again and again. After some time the lift came down. John pressed the button again; door opened. A person wearing black T-shirt came out. Some white letters were scribbled on the T-shirt, which caught John’s attention. It was ‘Zero’ written in white letters. John and his team entered the lift at once. John pressed the button having number 10 written on it. Lift closed and started running upwards.
Lift stopped at the 10th floor. As all of them including John rushed out, they saw an open flat in front of them, they darted towards it. When they reached the open door, they slowly, cautiously entered in, covering each other. Finding nobody in the hall, John and his two associates turned towards the bed room. Rest of the team started searching in the kitchen, study room and other rooms. Kitchen and study room were empty. While entering the bedroom John realized that most of the things in the bedroom were lying around clumsily, probably thrown by somebody. He signaled two of his associates and they started heading towards the bedroom carefully, covering each other. As they entered the bedroom, they witnessed a terrible scene, worse than they expected. A badly injured man was lying on the bed with a pool of blood around him. His body was still , might be unconscious or even dead . John went to him and checked his pulse. He was already dead, probably quite some time back.
'' Here ... here it goes'' John's associate said, calling others. Other team members immediately joined them. John looked around inspecting to find any evidences. Suddenly a wall adjacent to the bed caught his attention. There were blood spots spread around on the wall. As he looked at it carefully, there was something written on the wall with blood…….. a circle was drawn.
“What does it mean?”John’s thought-process accelerated.
“Whose blood is this? – corpse’s, killer’s or someone else’s.”
Whether the circle was drawn by the killer or the victim himself, just before he was dead.
'' You people carry on'' John instructed to his team to carry on their usual investigation procedure.
His associates started the jobs assigned to them. John again observed carefully looking around the bedroom. There was a study table in the corner, with a photograph of the victim on top of it . There were various post envelopes scattered around on the table. John picked up one randomly.
It read, “To Sani Carter” .
Victim's name must be Sani Carter, as those were the letters arrived to him through post. John picked up the bunch. Going through those envelopes, he casually walked to the window and looked outside. Wow.... there was a beautiful lake outside, surrounded by pleasant greenery. For a while John forgot the atmosphere around and got engrossed in the stunning scene outside. While looking at the lake, something suddenly connected him back again to the activities in the room. What was it? It was the shape of the lake; it was nearly a circular lake.
John started thinking again, “ What is it, that is drawn on the wall?'
Suddenly a thought struck him-
' Does it mean Zero?... yes it must be a zero'
He spoke aloud ''Sam and you... Dan''
''Yes sir'' Sam and Dam came forward.
''While getting into the lift, we saw a guy wearing a black T-shirt ... and there was 'Zero' drawn on it... are you aware of?'' John asked them.
''Yes sir... I remember his face'' Sam said.
''Yes sir... I also remember" Dan also backed up.
''Good... quickly go down .... and get him... come on …… go ... quick... still he must be around...''
'' Yes sir''
Sam and Dan darted out to get him.
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Mugdha Apte