Story Contest 2017 #2 - Outstanding Stories (Senior) » Two and Two make 2017


“Two and Two make 2017” is one of the outstanding stories of the second biannual International Short Story Contest 2017 written by Ayush Sachdeva, India.

Two and Two make 2017

The colour of the sky changed from light blue to mellow yellow and so did my heart. I heard the clock strike thirteen. Ding-Dong. It was curfew time and I had to rush back before my mother started to worry.

I found him when I was young. Flourishing hair going down his muscular arms and his chimerical facial features attracted me to him like a moth to a flame. Language became vein of our communication and I know that everyone communicates using language but this was different; he was different. I have never found difficult words annoying, only those who are too afraid to use them do. We talked in English but even if native speakers sat in on our conversations, they would be lost like any needle in a haystack for, our words had more mellifluous’s, hiraeth's, and petrichor’s than most dictionaries would define. His words came out of his mouth like honey pouring into my ears for he gave me a sense of calm, a sense of freedom. Oh yes, freedom is hard to find here, very, very, hard. Every single phonetic that came out of his mouth seemed so surreal that I wasn’t sure if he was real or an apparition. Whenever I asked him about his life he’d always laugh and tell me that the irony was rich. I obviously didn't understand but I eventually shrugged off and we got back to our discussions. However, sometimes our discussions carried us to some “grey” areas. Once while talking about the current regime, we wandered off to discuss the relationship between the government and the people. And at that point in time, I heard something that I’ll never forget. He said that, “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its people.” I was shocked at his absolute audacity and recklessness. For all we knew the government had placed bugs in the restaurant seats. God was a fearless man.**

“What world was this girl living in?” pondered Detective Shelby. Countless details of her conversations with “God” are documented in the same diary. Anne Elizabeth Smith died yesterday. Nobody had any clue who she was. She came into restaurants and just sat alone having coffee. She had minimalistic food in her house. No friends. No family. She worked at the Department of Religion and Global Affairs as a clerk who registered “Civilian Grievances” but no-one at the office seemed to know anything about her. Shelby’s victim was a ghost.

“Words. Look at the words, Shelby. They are the answer.” Shelby woke up with a throbbing head and a clue. Going through her diary, he found that she had an excellent grasp of the vocabulary. Words that Shelby didn’t understand but knew what they meant even without knowing they meaning a library. She must have been enrolled at a library in order to have had such an excellent “lexicon” (Yes, Shelby looked up the meanings.) Next morning, uniforms find the library. Her list of issued books is surprising : The Open Society and Its enemies, Darkness at noon, V for Vendetta. “This lady was either psychotic or an oracle. The latter was a bit unnerving.” Shelby thought to himself. Of course, at the time, he had no clue as to what he was getting into.

“Where’s the rest of the story?” exclaimed the editor frantically turning pages looking for the next chapter. “Ahh, for that I need a confirmed deal at the press office and an assurance that my stories would be a weekly feature in the newspaper.” squeaked Billy. “Have you gone nuts? We don’t have permanent writers. Freelance : God’s holiest creation.” the editor burst out. Very calmly, Billy said, “Well, you don't have them now, but I’m sure you would if I told you that I’ve already got an offer from The Times for the same and they have already reserved a spot for me on page 5. The only reason I’m here and not there is that I know how you guys work and I’m comfortable but you have no idea of how much comfort I would give up for a permanent position.”

“He’s gonna think about it.” Billy told himself. “Who is gonna write him a story inside of a story? And that too in my imaginary world. Books and libraries! Who else can think of stuff like that?” Walking home, he sees several people get arrested for buying “criminal” diaries. Stupid People. But again, a couple of years back he was stupid as well. The things have gotten better since 1984, definitely better. Two newspapers opened up. Yes, government censored but newspapers nonetheless. And yes, the icing on the cake is the weekly “fiction” column which is not censored. Books are still not allowed, obviously. But it doesn't matter much because “the best bookstores are those that tell you what you already know.” The darkness is still there. The everlasting drought of freedom still prevails. And I’m quite sure that Big Brother is still watching me. You might feel pity for me, but think about it, are you sure your world isn’t all that different? Think about it, and forget about it. This is our secret. And you know how to keep a secret right? You hide it, even from yourself. So that when they come, and they will come, you really have no clue what you did wrong. Ding-Dong. The clock strikes thirteen.***


* The Title alludes to the famous Orwellian quote -

“You are a slow learner, Winston.” "How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.” "Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

**The man referred to in the paragraph is, in fact, god.

*** This story has a lot of allusions to George Orwell’s 1984