Jennifer couldn’t control her excitement. All that happened at the NCP was fresh in her mind. What she saw there still had not sunk in. She hailed a cab and gave the driver the address of the one place where she wished to be at that time.
At the Dutta Mansion Tara was ready with dinner when the door bell rang.
“I’ll get it,” called out Shekhar.
He opened the door to find his old friend at the other side.
“Jenny? What a surprise? You never told me you were in Mumbai. When did you come?”
“Are you going to ask everything here or will you let me come in?” asked Jenny with a smile.
Tara was happy to see Jennifer after a long time. They had not met in years and had interacted briefly over emails. Throughout the dinner Jennifer was thinking about some chance of privacy with Shekhar. Shekhar noticed the restlessness in her but didn’t understand what was making her impatient.
Roohi insisted on some story time with Cyrus after dinner. Cyrus happily obliged to Roohi’s demand of story time.
Tara, Jennifer and Shekhar moved out to their garden for a stroll, taking in the fresh cool sea breeze. Not everyone in that crowded city was privileged to stay by the sea in his or her own bungalow and enjoy the zephyr. They spoke for long catching up with Jennifer’s life and projects but Shekhar noticed Jennifer was not her usual calm self.
“Let me go and check if Roohi is asleep. Hope she is not troubling Cyrus,” said Tara, excusing herself into the house.
Jennifer was waiting just for that moment of isolation.
“Shekhar I want to talk to you, can we go to your study?” She asked.
Why is she sounding so excited suddenly?
In the study behind closed doors, Jenny’s eyes twinkled with excitement. Shekhar didn’t remember the last time she was that excited.
“Shekhar you know where I went last evening?” she whispered.
“To the FOTA conference!!”
“What?? Was the FOTA conference in Mumbai this time? And then?”
“You won’t believe what happened there,” she said, grabbing his hand, sounding even more thrilled.
“What?” he asked. His voice was thick with anticipation.
“I saw…. I saw him… he was right in front of my eyes!” she said animatedly finding it hard to control her excitement.
“What exactly are you telling me?” Shekhar asked skeptically.
“Shekhar they do exist and I saw one with my own eyes!” she couldn’t control her exhilaration.
“Ohh My God!” Shekhar said, with his eyes wide open. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Jennifer narrated everything that happened at the conference animatedly. She hardly thought about the oath of secrecy. Shekhar was stunned when she recounted how the speaker ended the seminar with his dramatic exit.
Jenny was Shekhar’s childhood friend and both of them had shared the enthusiasm for aliens for as long as he could remember. That enthusiasm had stayed with them even when they grew up.
Jennifer spotting an actual alien felt like an achievement for both of them. Shekhar was thrilled but also was thinking of something. Jennifer noticed Shekhar went into some deliberation.
“What are you thinking Shekhar?” she asked.
“Jenny I have to tell you something. Since the last few days, something weird is happening around the house. I saw some strange blue glare a few nights ago. It vanished as swiftly as it came. It was quite late in the night. I didn’t understand what it was. And….”
“And what Shekhar?” she asked promptly.
“I am working on my next book and every night my manuscripts are turning into ashes.”
“What?” asked Jenny loudly, disbelieve clearly audible in her voice.
“Yes that’s what. I have tried locking the manuscripts in the safe there, but nothing helps. Every morning I wake up praying at least today someone will not burn my work, but it’s always the same case. I know it’s strange, it’s weird but that is the reality,” explained Shekhar.
“Who all knows what the book is about?” She asked.
“No one. Not even Tara”
“Then how is it…”
“Exactly… how is it possible?” Shekhar completed before she could finish.
“Shekhar do me a favor, install a camera in this room, you can monitor who comes in and goes out. You will get to know what happens to the manuscripts at night.”
“Hmm…Sounds okay to me,” Shekhar replied nodding his head.
“And why on earth are you still using this old type writer? Why don’t you write in the laptop? You’ll not have ashes at least.”
“It just feels good. But I think you are right. I need to switch over to this little box of intelligence. Tara had gifted me one that I rarely use. I’ll start writing in it. I hope the laptop doesn’t turn to ashes one morning,” said Shekhar and they both broke into a laughter.
“What are you writing on by the way?” she asked.
“Ahh… You’ll know when my book is published,” said Shekhar with hesitation. Jennifer noticed the sudden discomfort in his voice.
At the study room window, a shadow lurked listening to their conversation.