The relentless past

by swethakp
As she took her last breath, she had only one thought. Not remorse, not guilt. Not shame, not anguish. She was at peace. Finally.

Two weeks earlier…

Radha and Raghav had been married for four years and they had had a son in their first year of marriage.
Abhijit, their son, had been a cheerful lad until his fourth birthday. Since then, he had not spoken a word. At first they had assumed it to be random prank. But by the next night they became anxious.

They took Abhijit to doctors, and when that proved to be in vain, priests and so-called spiritual people. There was nothing wrong with their son’s health and no one could imagine what could send a four year old into depression. The fear and anxiety drove Raghav and Radha to the edge of sanity.

Then one day, Abhijit spoke his first words in almost a week.

“Raghav, I need to talk to you.”

Torn between relief that he had finally spoken and shock that his son had just addressed him by name, Raghav turned to look at his wife. The look on her face told him she was as torn as he was.

“What is it son?” managed Raghav, making a massive effort to suppress the pandemonium of emotions within.

“Alone,” came the reply.

With a reassuring nod to Radha, Raghav followed his son into his room.

Half hour later, when Radha saw her husband emerge from their son’s room, she knew something was terribly wrong. She had seen tears in his eyes only once before and that was when his mom had died.
She noticed that he had a gun in his hand.

“Raghav, what’s wrong? What did he tell you? And where on earth did you get a-”
The remainder of her question got stuck in her throat as Raghav pointed the gun at her.

“Shush… Do not say my name. Do not say anything.”

Raghav’s eyes were popping and Radha stood still as a statue, not knowing who the person standing in front of her was, not anymore.

“How could you, Radha? HOW!!"

Wiping away the tears spilling with the back of his arm, he seemed to have made a resolve.

“I'm not sorry. Go to hell!”

Radha heard the gunshot and a searing pain in her chest where the bullet hit. As she fell, she saw Abhijit come out of his room behind Raghav.

He did not seem rattled by the sight of his mom dying on the floor. She saw him grab the gun from Raghav and shoot him. Unable to move except flail her arms as if that would undo all that happened, she watched helplessly as her husband collapsed in front of her.

Abhi approached his mom, knelt beside her with a satisfied grin on his face.

“Death is painful, isn't it?“

Radha was writhing in pain and Abhi's words were a mere rumble to her.

"When you killed me six years ago, I had a whole family who depended on me for their survival. With me gone, with no one to support them, my wife and my girls killed themselves. "

The bitter look on the face of the child she had mothered wrung her heart as her brain fought to process what he had just spoken. And then she knew.

Before they had moved into that town, Raghav and Radha had had an entirely different life. They had deceived, tortured and hoodwinked people for money. When one of their acts had resulted in an unprecedented murder, they had stopped it all. On Radha's insistence, they had moved to a new town, gotten married and settled there, leaving their past behind for good. Or so they had thought.

"You never thought you would see me again, did you? At least not reborn as your son, you wouldn't have!"

He had started getting flashes of what felt like another life since his fourth birthday. For one whole week he had fought within himself, struggling to understand what all the bits and pieces meant as a whole. And that morning he had finally understood it all. He had managed to nick a gun from the policeman who lived next door.

"B-but---- R-Raghav---?" Radha managed with the little life she had left.

"You want to know why he killed you, when in fact he had been a partner in your crimes too? I told him nothing of what I told you. I simply told him I wasn't his son. That lie seemed to do the trick. "

With that, Abhi stood up and walked out of the house. He had come with a purpose -- to avenge his family. And it was done. Without a last glance back at the house, he walked ahead. Towards a new life. A new beginning.

Radha had managed to forgive herself for the many, many people she had cheated. But the murder was something that had never let her sleep.

As she took her last breath, she had only one thought. Not remorse, not guilt. Not shame, not anguish. She was at peace. Finally.
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