Suicide Point | Short Story by Neil D’Silva
Sahil put the phone down and resumed driving, a smile dancing on his lips. It was past 10:00 p.m. now; he hoped he could make it in time to wish his wife on her birthday. He had cut his tour short by a day to be with her. It would be a shame if he didn’t reach her in person before the day got over.
The call had been to her. She had told him not to hurry; it was all right if he reached late. He had to drive carefully; that was all she needed. However, those words made him feel guiltier. Here he was, a failed college dropout and a flopped businessman who had somehow landed with this wonderful woman. A woman who never needed anything, never asked for anything, was always with him through any situation. And, most importantly, a woman who loved him.
He hoped he could wish her on her birthday.
He looked at the seat next to him. A shiny rectangular box with a label—To Mala with love, From Sahil—lay on it at the moment. How he hoped she had been sitting next to him on this long drive… But that box was a symbol of her too. It was his gift; a diamond bracelet. He had spent a tidy sum on that trinket, but he didn’t mind. She was more precious than anything he could hope to have.
The highway narrowed down now. Surrounded by jungle on either side, he needed to keep his eyes alert. He saw a sign that told him to beware of deer and foxes that could suddenly spring in his path. He didn’t care though, nor did any of the other drivers on the thinly trafficked route.
It crossed his mind that the box was too shiny to have on such display during a lone night ride. It bore the name of one of the priciest jewelers in town. He reached out and grabbed a newspaper that lay on the seat behind him, and placed it on the box, hoping that the camouflage would be enough.
It was that morning’s paper, which he hadn’t found time to read yet. But now, a headline caught his eye:
18 Suicides on Suicide Point.
And then he realized—this was Suicide Point! He had read about it in the papers a few days ago. In fact, Mala had read it out to him. He recalled snatches of the article—a gnarled banyan tree from where people hung themselves to death, their bodies found in the mornings, on this very same route that he was on.
It sent a shiver along his body. Eighteen suicides meant eighteen unhappy spirits. He wasn’t squeamish or superstitious, but he had a sinking feeling in his stomach all the same. How he wished there’d be some more light on the road…
There was a bend up ahead, snaking into an unknown territory that he knew he must take. He held his steering wheel tightly, and braced himself to maneuver the curve. There was about an hour and half left to midnight; and if he drove at this speed, he’d be home soon. Keeping his eyes on the road and slowing down his car, he turned.
It was when he was turning that he saw a sight that made him place his foot on the brake.
There was a woman sitting by the roadside. She was dressed in white, definitely a bad choice for a night out in the jungle, and she had primly positioned herself on one of those stone fences that are built on the sharp turns along highways.
Sahil should have ignored her and gone ahead. He had every reason to disregard this woman and move on. Apart from the fact that he had absolutely no time to spare, there was also the fact that everything about this woman seemed wrong. He was reminded of the horror movies in which witches cruised along highways in such white attire and feasted on the bodies of the unfortunate people who stopped to hear their tale. She could have very well been a spirit of one of those hapless eighteen that had taken this route as a shortcut to hell.
Every shred of wise counsel in him told him to carry on driving. He even stepped on the accelerator and, as the road straightened, prepared to give his engine a boost of energy.
However, at that moment, he committed a mistake.
He looked into the rear view mirror.
Now that he saw her clearly, he saw her crying. He could not see the face, but her moving shoulders left no doubt as to the agony she experienced sitting there on that cold night.
He just couldn’t go on after that sight. Always known as the one to help others in need, he couldn’t let this one pass. And there was nothing such as spirits anyway. No ghosts, no ghouls. He wasn’t going to leave a woman in distress just because of some silly folk tales.
Slowly, he took his foot off the accelerator and pressed the brake again.
Sahil parked his car carefully and walked up to the lady. He put his hands in his pockets for it was a cold night. His steps were brisk. He intended to find out where she stayed and call up her folks or the police.
“Is there a problem, miss?” he asked when he was so close he could smell the jasmine in her hair.
She looked up and he saw her face. One look at that face and all his apprehensions were put to rest. The face was innocent, almost like a child who has lost a favorite toy. There was nothing insidious about it.
“Please tell me, miss,” he repeated, “why are you crying?”
“Sumanlata,” she said.
“That’s my name. You may call me by name.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I am Sahil. But why are you here on the roadside? Haven’t you heard about this place?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Then you know it isn’t a good place to hang out, right? I don’t intend to be nosy, but please… what are you doing here?”
“This is Suicide Point, I know,” she said distantly.
He nodded, and then it dawned upon him. His eyes grew wide in alarm. “Oh no! Don’t tell me! Are you here to… to… sorry if I am wrong… end your life?”
She let out a feeble smile. “He married another.” Her voice was more distant now.
“I gave up everything for him, you know? I was learning to be a nurse, gave that up midway. There’s nothing in being a nurse, he said. All you have to do is clean people’s vomit and poop and piss. I gave it up. Did what he wanted. Went with him wherever he went. Stayed with him in hotels. And he gave me this.” She passed her hand on her belly.
Sahil did not know what to say. There was an urge in him to somehow wrangle out of this conversation and head back to his car, but that would be so mean.
“What am I to do with this?” Her hand was still on her belly. “He’s going ahead and marrying that other woman. That slut. Who is she? What has she given up for him?” She again broke out into a cry.
“Listen…” stammered Sahil. “Listen, miss… Suman… Sumanlata. I don’t know who you are talking about but I understand your pain. He has been cruel to you. A very bad thing has happened. However, that doesn’t mean you should end your life.”
The crying didn’t stop.
“Crap!” mumbled Sahil. “I absolutely suck at this stuff. But, hear me out, Sumanlata—give up your crying and return home. Tomorrow will be a better day; you shall see.”
Continue reading Suicide Point. Part 2 of 2.
(c) Neil D’Silva. All rights reserved.