A short story adapted from one of my movie scripts...
He can still see the look on her face as he left her standing there an hour ago. It hovers in front of him in the back of the taxi as he comes west from Mayfair to Richmond. She stood there, waiting for him to turn back, but he didn't.
Richmond Park just before dawn has always been one of Vikram's favourite places. Except right now, nothing matters but the look on her face. The taxi drops him off outside the park gates. He walks into the foggy woods; overcoat, scarf, cigarette. His anger melting into regret. Deer, stag, squirrels sleep, hidden from view. He comes to a bench. Sits. Crushes the cigarette under his heel. Still she lingers in his mind. Asha, stood under the streetlight. A red silk shawl wrapped over her black sari. Hair swept back. Face glowing with perspiration. Chest rising and falling as she caught her breath from running after him. Brown eyes. Caramel skin. Asha. So beautiful it hurts, and he left her standing there.
Dawn breaks over the park. The darkness fades. Streaks of purple stretch across the sky, then turn blood red. Vikram senses a presence. Looks around, sees nobody. He decides to walk. Brisk, fists clenched, head up. He comes to a clearing amidst dozens of oak trees. Branches overlap creating a canopy overhead. At the far end of the clearing, opposite Vikram, an enormous curtain of water pours down from the branches: a waterfall, as wide as the clearing, roars with energy.
Vikram stares, astonished. The water cascades down into the ground, filling the air with mist, the particles float across the clearing, collide gently with his face. He looks around. A waterfall in the middle of Richmond Park. How can it be? And then an eagle flies out of the waterfall, straight at him. Massive wings. Eyes glowing. Beak snapping. It swoops at him. He drops to his knees. Talons clutch at his face. He skips away, punches aimlessly, head back to protect his eyes. Again it comes at him. Again he swings at it. The bird rises effortlessly. Alights on a branch. Vikram keeps an eye on it as he catches his breath. Behind him, a horse snorts. Its hooves thud on the ground. He turns to have a look...
Govind rides out of the waterfall on a winged white stallion, bare chested, regal. Youth personified. As beautiful as he is menacing. His upper body lean muscle, toned and sculpted. His pastel blue skin glistens with moisture as he approaches.
Vikram, speechless, looks up at Govind as the stallion slowly circles around him. "Tell me Vikram, do you feel alive?"
Vikram rotates with the stallion, keeping Govind in view. "This is a dream. You're not real. I'm asleep on the bench. You can't do anything to me in my sleep." Govind smirks, amused by Vikram's confidence. "You live only by the grace I give you. The dream has become your truth. And yet still you doubt me."
"Who are you? What do you want?"
"Do you not know? Are you not ready? Did you not prepare?" Govind nudges the horse towards him. Vikram retreats but slips, falls flat on his back. The horse stamps its hooves around his head and torso. Vikram curls into a ball as the horse thuds around him.
"I come to claim what is mine. You are destined for the perfect death. It will make your perfect life seem like a trifle. A blink of a blind man's eye. A song. On the tongue of a mute." Govind slides off the stallion. Vikram rolls away, sits up on his knees. Govind whispers in the horse's ear. The horse rears up, disintegrates into thousands of butterflies. They settle over Govind, melting into a beautiful velvet cloak.
Vikram stands. Soaked to the skin. Incredulous.
"Die for me, Vikram."
"Eternity is but a ripple on an ocean. I can wait for you. But you cannot escape me. Run. Run into the waterfall. Run like you've never felt so alive. Run, Vikram."
Vikram looks towards the waterfall. Considers his options.
"Go. And be ready. On this day of a red dawn, prepare for a white night. I will come to claim what is mine. Prepare to lose hope."
Vikram, hesitant to turn his back on Govind, walks backwards. After a few paces he decides to go for it and turns and sprints at the waterfall. Govind turns his palm up, catches a particle of water. Blows on it gently. It flares up into a ball of fire. A firebomb. He raises his arm, pitches it at Vikram. Like a baseball. Vikram looks over his shoulder as he sprints. The fireball is coming straight at him. He can feel the heat on his neck. He charges into the waterfall just as the fireball explodes behind him.
Vikram wakes with an almighty jolt, drops to the ground, gasps for air, choking with fear. He looks around. The sun shines brightly. The park is as it should be. Relief. He gets to his feet, brushes himself off.
"Prepare to lose hope." whispers Govind. Vikram spins around. No sign of him, but his words linger in the cold morning air, invisible, and terrible.
Thoughts of her flood his mind again. Asha, under the streetlight, desperate to tell him her secret. If only he'd given her a chance. If only-- and then suddenly, it all makes sense. It's her. It's her name.
Asha means hope. "Prepare to lose hope."
Vikram looks up; millions of snowflakes float down from the sky. A white night lies ahead...
Copyright material. All rights reserved. Copying, downloading, distributing without permission is prohibited and liable for prosecution.