All Consuming Guilt

His heart throbbed in his ear, he pleaded her for mercy, he was ready to do anything if she spared his life. Her sadistic laugh echoed through the deserted road, she looked at him right into his eyes, “Tit for tat remember? Do you want to be free? If yes then run away, run as fast as you can”, she told.

He looked at her stone cold face, fearlessness shone in her eyes. It is like that day, only today the roles have been reversed. He turned his back towards her and ran, ran as fast as he could. His pace picked up but then he heard it, a gunshot, after which 4 followed, his pace slowed down, he looked at his blue shirt now stained with blood and fell on the freshly laid tar road with a thump.

He woke up with a start, screaming, his wife immediately got up and brought him a glass of water, she hugged him tight and whispered,” You’re safe, I’m here” and repeated it till he calmed down. He settled down in a while and fell asleep, she lay awake, this was a thing with him everyday.

Every night a nightmare, but he wouldn’t tell her what was bothering him and neither would go to a psychiatrist.

“Mad people go to a doctor like that, do you think I’m mad? Leave me if you think that way, I don’t want to live with a woman who thinks her husband is weak. I’m in the police for god’s sake!” he screamed at her when she suggested the same.

The next morning he woke up, took his bath and got dressed in his uniform. He opened the safe of the almirah in the bedroom, he found the gun in it, he still didn’t dare take it with him to work, he shuddered at its very sight. He banged the door shut, his wife silently heard all this, she knew of his daily routine but didn’t say anything to him. 

He acknowledged his wife with a courteous nod, picked up his lunch and left for work. He sat in his cabin all day long, alone, reading a book at times and surfing the internet for holiday destinations, 26 days to go he counted. He walked around in the corridor, greeting the other officers present on duty and went into the chief’s office.

“Still having problems sleeping, Eh?” the chief asked.

He nodded in reply.

“What if we get caught? The case has already reached high court. They have started a crackdown on all the fake encounters.” he asked nervously.

“Don’t worry. Till we have Bade Sahab’s hand on our head nothing will happen. Let this election get done, he surely will win and sit in the big chair and then reward us handsomely for our efforts. You should not have any slip up’s now, I have made sure that you don’t handle any cases, just a few more days, hang-on.” the chief advised him.

He looked at the time on the clock, it was 5 already. He packed his bag and left for the day. This was his schedule for quite a few days now, but the only thing that changed was the amount of soul that his guilt ate up.

Whenever he shut his eyes, all that he could see was that day. It started like any other day, but mid day there was a buzz in the air, chatter all around, frantic phone calls were being made across departments. The chief summoned him to the privacy of his cabin and informed him of a job that had to be done, he was briefed very little. The location of a few terrorists had been found, they had been travelling on road towards the outskirts of the city and were stopped, he had to go there and verify the details. He along with a senior inspector and a 2 other encounter specialists were assigned to the job, it was his first job of this nature.

He reached the spot to find a woman in her 20’s and 3 men, presumably of other faith since they carried the distinct identification objects of their religion, kneeling down on the road with their hands up in the air. As he began verifying their details, he got a call from Bade Sahab, they had to be executed instantly. He was left in a state of shock, each officer had taken their target and proceeded to stick in 3 bullets each, the girl’s face turned white with fear, she begged him for her life, he could not kill her. He asked her to run, just as she turned to run, one of the officers took hold of the gun in his hands and pushed his finger on the trigger. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; he counted the gun shots fired in horror as he looked at her body twist and fall.

His heart beat fast and he sweat rapidly, he looked around his house and breathed a sigh of relief, no dead bodies lined up on the corner of the road, the girl’s wailing mother and brother not in sight and no pool of blood.

He thought of how he was promoted to the higher ranks in just a few years, of how much power was handed over to him, of how he was cheated. Nobody in the police tells you that once you fire a bullet and kill a person, a living breathing fellow human being, a part of you dies.

He popped in the muscle relaxants and took out the little bottle of sleeping pills, kept it carefully, finally tonight he would get a good night’s sleep. 

Later that evening he attended a party in the police officer’s mess. He drank his second drink, neat, he felt his thoughts swaying in the abyss and his body felt light instantaneously. Nothing could bother him now, not the noise, not the false friends, not the gossip and definitely not that girl. His wife kept track of the number of drinks he took from a distance, she knew he had his shares of troubles, having troubles while sleeping at night and not being sensitive to people were the biggest repercussions of his job.

They reached home late, he sat in front of the TV and tried to tire himself out physically and mentally. His wife went to sleep, hardly married for 2 years she was fed up of police officers, fed up because they expected her to understand his situation since she herself was the daughter of one. She shut her eyes closed and forced herself to sleep alone, she thought of putting forward her proposition to leave the police, it would be for his own good she thought.

He fell asleep on the couch, suddenly he heard her voice. “Please let me go, I have done nothing wrong. Please!”, her shriek echoed throughout the room. He was shit scared, he felt like she was around, she had come back for her revenge. He had killed her for no fault of hers, only religious hatred, his guilt haunted him, every waking second. He picked up the bottle of sleeping pills, emptied all of it on his hands and swallowed them at once. 

That night he finally fell asleep, without a nightmare.

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