Mahul’s published short story “Dark Web”

Four minutes before Now. A few kilometers away from Milan:

I felt a sudden numbness in my chest. Followed by an excruciating pain, shattering my breastbone. It was like molten lava searing my chest burning my heart, lungs. I felt the taste of hot blood. And finally heard the gunshot. A bullet travels twice as fast as sound…school-level physics.

Five hours before Now. Duomo, Milan:

Her name was Rebecca. She was my date. We first connected online a week back and decided to meet at the Duomo, at 5pm. The city was getting ready for the Euro Cup. Crowd is good for me.

I saw her walk towards me. She was so beautiful in her red dress. She was in her late 20s. Fair, brunette. Oddly, she was carrying a leather duffle bag. She told me she was in Florence for a day and thus the luggage. She apologized for the misfit. “I know it’s not appropriate for a date. I am sorry.”

My name is Rafiq, I was born in Lahore. I am a techie at an MNC bank in Milan, living here for the past 6 months. Single and a loner. Not particularly social. These dates are my only social release.

However, I have another identity. I am a professional hacker. During my college days at MIT, it was just for fun but very soon I realized I was very good at it. I needed a day identity so for everyone I was just a techie. At night, I was Dark Web.

I like crowd; I hide behind them.

Rebecca told me she was in the marketing department of an FMCG firm. She also lives in Milan.

I was lost somewhere between her deep blue eyes and the lingering smile between her red lips.

“I wish I could get rid of it,” she said. I offered her help with the bag.

I knew the perfect solution. “Let’s get into the mall. We will park it in one of the stores. We can pick it up later.” I suggested.

Her eyes glittered. She loved my solution. I took the bag and parked it in store on the ground floor, while she waited outside. I handed her the token.

Her hands were finally free. Free for me to hold them. I slowly did it. She smiled. We walked around the Duomo. Hand in hand. Talking about our lives. My day life.

Something about her had almost forced me to meet her. I don’t know what. The long chats, the sharing of our tiring and boring days. Didn’t seem like a week. And this was not me. I usually keep my conversations to a minimum. These dates are just for sex. This was different.

I realized both of us spoke more than usual while we were typing our thoughts to each other. There was no hesitation. No inhibition.

We sat in a quiet corner. Suddenly, her deep blue eyes looked straight into mine. She leaned and kissed me. On the lips. Our lips lingered with each other, taking their time. I held her close to me and we kissed passionately.

She was way out of my league. Girls never find me attractive. I was never the guy who can pick up the girl from a party. I never had any steady relationship. I was clueless what was happening. Allah must have felt pity and had sent her to me.

She told me, “Rafiq. I need to make a confession. I find you attractive.”

I didn’t know how but I responded with “I love you.”

She smiled. I apologized. I felt terribly embarrassed to ruin the moment by saying something stupid like I love you.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said. “I live nearby.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. This is Jannat. Rebecca is the one.

It’s my lucky night.

15 minutes before Now. A few kilometers away from Milan. Rebecca’s apartment:

I woke up. She was fast asleep, beside me. Naked. She was so beautiful. Perfect, in every way. Rebecca, my love. My Angel.

Could this be real? Or this is a dream. I pinched myself.

I looked at my phone. Three hours have passed. There were 10 missed calls from Ammi. My phone was silent.

I carefully left the bed, didn’t want to wake her up, so I went to the other room and called Ammi. “You okay beta? Why weren’t you taking your calls? I was scared to death,” she was shouting.

“What happened Ammi?”

“There has been a bomb blast at a mall opposite Duomo in Milan. You are safe beta?” I immediately disconnected and switched on the television. The news showed the blast site on one half, on the other there was my picture with Rebecca’s duffle bag entering the store. Captioned: Prime suspect.

My head was reeling. Suddenly her voice startled me. “Hey baby, I would have told you. Sorry. You were too tempting, didn’t want to miss the sex.” Rebecca was standing behind me. She was naked, pointing a gun at me.

“Alvida Dark Web. It was a job, nothing personal.”

And I saw the .45 caliber hand gun fire at me.

Now. A few kilometers away from Milan. Rebecca’s apartment:

I could just utter, “Why?”. It all went dark. The last thing I saw was her lingering smile between her beautiful red lips.

This is the end, my friend.



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