The ATKT.in Cypher is an exclusive community of some of our favourite artists and talent across categories of artforms.
For the month of July, here’s the submission of Isha Mahajan from Vidyalankar Institute of Technology Mumbai, a member from the ATKT.in (Writers) Cypher on the topic – ‘Magic’.
THE BLACK CAPE
It’s in the air and it’s in my soul,
in the blooming flowers and stories untold.
It’s in the warmth that shields us from the cold,
It’s out there, protecting you, nurturing you,
giving you it’s never ending warmth.
Arya glanced at the sheen of precipitation settled on the water tap and contemplated whether she should check out the apartment Dhiraj had suggested or go home and have a warm cup of Darjeeling tea her mother had bought for her just last month. Ever since she told Dhiraj about her landlord confessing his love for her and proposing for marriage, he had took it upon himself to find a decent home for her.
She didn’t want to stay at that place anymore; not because her landlord had been pestering her but she had settled on that apartment a few years ago as she had been running low on budget unlike now and would prefer a better home with better locality since she could afford it.
Her schedule was packed to the brim on week days and she had to visit her sister on the upcoming weekend who was expecting twins in a few months. She had no choice but to check out the apartment today itself. Samuel, a mutual friend of her brother and Dhiraj needed a roommate to share the rent with and had promised Arya that she would love the apartment. Since her brother spoke highly of him she decided to give it a try.
As she walked towards 47th convey street, her mind was filled with questions. If she did like the apartment, would she be able to live with a guy she knew nothing about? When she finally arrived at the building, she seemed a little nervous.
“Excuse me? I’m here to check out apartment 413B,” she told the security guard.
“Your name, Ma’am?”
“Your name is listed under the visitors. Mr. Henderson will be expecting you. Go straight through the gate. On the left you’ll find block B at the end,” she said with a kind smile.
Her mobile lit up and she saw that she had three messages from Dhiraj asking if she decided to check out the apartment. Stepping into the elevator, she replied to his texts and pressed the button for fourth floor.
The door to apartment 413B was wide open. She pressed the doorbell and waited for a few seconds but nobody came to greet her at the door. She pressed the doorbell again but saw no sign of anyone. She wondered if she should just turn back and go or wait for a few more minutes. Her gaze swept through the living room and the corners of her mouth lifted up in a small smile. It was glaringly obvious that a man lived here, since it had simple masculine touches. Barely noticeable for the decoration in the room wasn’t much.
A large abstract art hung on the farthest wall. The room was furnished with a round table and three sofas arranged in front of the flat screen television. A single book lay on the table with a protruding marker. Sliding glass doors gave view of the nearby lake and garden beyond which, lights twinkled from various buildings and stores. She could see the rush of traffic on the highway and didn’t realize when she had stepped inside and walked towards the sliding doors.
At first she hesitated, feeling stupid for invading someone’s privacy without invitation but then her curiosity won and she wandered down the corridor starting from the living room. A few paces away was the kitchen. She almost gasped out loud from shock for it was so clean and also had state of the art equipments, some of which she had seen her sister use who was a renowned chef.
She stepped into another room, this one as big as the living room but equipped with gym instruments. She could see a treadmill, chest press, shoulder press and a stationary bicycle but what surprised her the most was the sweating man doing pushups single handedly with another hand folded behind his back.
Now that was a sight to see and she wouldn’t have minded checking him out if not for the fact that he didn’t give her a second’s attention even after she had cleared her throat. Twice. Not a single twitch or a blink. He was as focused on his work as the legendary spider trying to weave its web for the hundredth time. He didn’t even notice her standing there.
“Excuse me?” she started walking towards him and he cocked his head to the side, looking at her from the corner of his eyes. He pulled out two earplugs from his ears and stood up frowning at her. His eyes were obsidian black and too intense for her liking. He was tall, lean and broad shouldered but not in a brawny way.
She stood there dumbfounded in stony silence with a shirtless man who looked hot enough to melt an Ice Glacier and cold enough to freeze Sahara. She stuttered for a moment, not understanding what to do. Here she was in a stranger’s home who acknowledged her silently and yet made her feel invisible at the same time.
“I’m sorry to have intruded upon you in such a way but-“
“-You could not help yourself?”
“uh, I just thought- ”
“Please continue on your tour.”
She paused, expecting him to laugh any moment now. Did he even know who she was? was he being sarcastic and indirectly telling her – now that she had ventured into his home, she might as well invade further? or was he being totally serious?
“Would you just let a stranger wander in your home unattended?” she asked him, her tone incredulous.
He looked at her as if she had grown two heads.
“You are my best friend’s sister and I hope earning enough that you wouldn’t feel the need to steal from me. Also I just assumed you were well cultured, was I wrong?” he asked and now she knew without a doubt that he was being sarcastic. She smiled forcibly, feeling stupid and offended.
“Of course not.”
“Great. I’ll show you the rest of the apartment.”
“This is my room,” he held the door open for a moment to let her have a brief glance and closed it shut. She rolled her eyes at that. Geez, private much?
“This is another room. If you decide to stay, it can be yours.”
She stepped into the room and walked towards the huge glass windowpanes. It offered the same sight as the one from the living room except it lay partially hidden by a large tree that grew in the compound. The perimeter of the area was surrounded by trees and the biggest one just happened to be outside her room but she couldn’t complain since the view was still beautiful with the addition of flora next to it. She loved the room. The walls were whitewashed like the rest of the apartment and her room had a big king sized four poster bed which she absolutely loved.
It was great to see that the furnished room was absolutely to her liking as if it had been made to feel her comfortable. The guest room was comfortable as well and by the time she had finished the tour she was looking forward to taking a long warm shower in those lovely bathrooms; hers even had a claw footed bathtub.
“I love it. I’d like to share this apartment with you,” she said with a small smile and he blinked.
“Good. We should negotiate some conditions first,” he said and she nodded. She had been thinking the same.
After an hour she was ready to drop down from exhaustion. Her impression of him was like a death eater; he sucked her liveliness and made her want to scream; she couldn’t handle his stupid jabs anymore. She wasn’t impressed with the kind of company her friend and brother been keeping. Like they had agreed, they started with the negotiations with-
“you will not enter my room without permission,” he said and she rolled her eyes.
“what do you take me for?” she scoffed.
He looked at her pointedly and her cheeks burned with heat as she realized she had barged in here without being invited inside. She tried to look him in the eye as if they had no effect on her but she couldn’t seem to hold his gaze, they were just too intense.
“Of course and the same goes for you too.”
“Secondly. I’ll be the one cooking dinners and breakfasts, I don’t have a problem cooking for you if you’ll do the rest of the work. If you want to make your own food, we’ll have to divide the rest of the work equally.”
A moment of silence reigned as she contemplated her options.
“I’ll only do the laundry and wash the dishes. You do the cleaning.”
She looked him in the eye this time and he smirked.
“That’s a little unfair. You do the cleaning and wash the dishes, I’ll do the laundry and the cooking.”
He challenged her with his eyes, daring her to go against his terms and she made a face.
“No bringing one night stands in the apartment,” she stated firmly and he smiled.
“I couldn’t agree more.”
“Do not host parties without informing the other first.” He nodded.
“That is enough for the primary rules I guess. We can always negotiate later if we come up with something else,” he said and that was her cue to leave. They hadn’t really conversed much but you could tell they didn’t seem overly friendly with each other. She gave him half the deposit money so that he won’t be able to worm his way out.
On the 1st of October Arya shifted her stuff to 413B, 47th convey street to live with Samuel Henderson who in her opinion seemed like a man who was so straightforward, he could come off as rude. She didn’t really understand why they hadn’t clicked so well together or how they went from polite to sour in an instant.
The first day was pretty much uneventful for Arya. Her mother had visited her and seemed to get along with Samuel better than she did. She was telling him about some of her embarrassing habits and he had a genuine smile on his face as he laughed along with her.
After she waved at her mother’s retreating form and closed the door she remembered she meant to ask him something.
“call me Sam.”
“Okay, Sam. What is it that you really do? I remember vaguely recall my brother talking about your business.”
“I own a ballet academy,” he said and her eyebrows shot through the roof. He owned a ballet academy? Somehow she had a hard time believing that.
“And do you also know how to perform ballet?’ she asked, leaning slightly towards him, curious to know the answer.
“Yes,” he said, lifting an eyebrow. His eyes were narrowed as if gauging her reaction so she tried to keep the shock suppressed. Him? and dancing ballet? pfft. The image almost made her laugh out loud but the seriousness of his expression conveyed the truth and helped her to keep her mouth shut.
“I’ll go make dinner,” he said.
“what can I do to help?”
“It’s your first day here so for now you can just unpack your stuff.”
She allowed herself a small smile as she unpacked a few boxes and went to help him in the kitchen. The aroma was heavenly and she was shocked to discover him handling the kitchen so well. She was trying to retrieve a plate when a knife nicked her fingers. She yelped loudly and he rushed to her side and it seemed to have numbed to a dull throbbing within a few seconds which shouldn’t have been possible.
The cut wasn’t that deep but it wasn’t a small nick either. She should have been in more pain but felt thankful for the loss, maybe it was due to the adrenaline. He brought a bandage wordlessly and handed it to her.
“Thank you,” she said, albeit shyly. She was only trying to help but in the end ended up sitting idle like a damsel in distress while he like a knight saved the day. There was no dining table. He had his dinners on the counter and she followed his tradition. She must say, his cooking skills were second to none.
She slept soundlessly that night despite the change of location.
The next few days went in a blur, a whirlwind of work and getting used to living with a man, that too a man like Samuel Henderson who seemed to know what she was feeling and spoke before she could ask “unnecessary questions” as he had quoted.
Several times she had almost been on the verge of a heart attack when in the morning she’d go in the kitchen and find him already working on the breakfast with only a towel around his waist and that glistening wet skin as if he’d recently had a shower. It seemed like a wonderful show to watch a man like him work in the kitchen but he had no qualms about it. In fact this one time she didn’t realize she had been staring at him for too long to be considered polite.
“If you could stop ogling me, maybe we could have our breakfast someday soon.”
After that she had stopped her foolishness. Just because he was attractive didn’t mean he was a nice guy and just because he cooked everyday for both of them also didn’t mean he was a nice guy and just because he gave her the space she needed, didn’t mean that he was a nice guy because he was not.
Just today she was passing by his room when he stepped out and suddenly collided with her. A charge of shock shot through her arm where he had been holding her to keep her from falling. His mouth hung open for a fraction of second before he released her. His eyes took her breath away. He looked at her like a hungry man and she had never blushed so hard in her entire life. Even thinking about the way he looked at her sent a delicious shiver down spine.
The phone on her desk ringed and snapped her out of her thoughts.
“Ms. Saxena, bring me the Ava project files.” A voice greeted her as she picked up the phone.
She stepped into her boss’s office and handed him the files. Roy Schuyler was a formidable man no older than thirty and ran the most powerful enterprise in upcoming technologies. Not only that but he was also involved in various other trades as well. More often than not he was merchandized to the public as the symbol of youth. What they didn’t know was that he was a terror in his office. Demanding work within time limits that only fictional people with power could perform but all the employees must be superheroes because they didn’t give him a reason to fire them or maybe he just chose people he knew would satisfy him.
She was his personal secretary and knew the risks that came along with it. The paparazzi pestered her for insider information about him but she was a loyal secretary and would not supply the dirt on him, something which he had piles of. Filed under that ambitious and successful man was a greedy bastard but she worked for him because he paid her a heck load of money which she rarely wasted. She spent only as much as she needed and lately she had been thinking about buying herself a home somewhere on the sea shore but that would take away a lot of her savings and then she’d have to start all over again from the scrath, which she wouldn’t do.
“Have you booked the hotel for next Thursday?” He asked without looking up from his papers.”
“Yes, sir. I’ve also informed Mr. Rathi to attend tomorrow’s meeting in your stead.”
“Anything else, sir?”
“That will be all.”
She arrived home in an exhausted heap of muscles. The meeting Mr. Rathi had attended was successful and they got another big budget project. She had been fixing Mr. Schuyler’s schedule for the next month and kept her mouth shut about the anonymous meetings he had with someone shady. She knew it was shady since he never mentioned the person’s name. He coded the name with numbers and letters, something she didn’t dare decipher even though she had it learnt by heart now.
After the initial awkwardness they seemed to have gotten better at communicating with each other in effectively. It was 10th November today which meant it had been over a month since she started living with him. He was still the same annoying, mysterious and hot Samuel Henderson she had met a month ago but now he was Sam- kind when he wanted to be, helpful when you needed him the most and she really never had to explain anything to him, he just understood it.
There were times when she’d fall asleep watching a T.V show and when she’d wake up in the morning, a blanket would’ve been draped over her. They had once been on an online shopping spree. He’d tease her relentlessly when she’d cry at an emotional scene in a movie. They had gradually progressed from strangers to good friends.
“I’m here!” he called out from the kitchen.
She padded barefoot towards the kitchen and walked over to where he was standing.
“So, what’s the menu for today?” she asked and he smiled.
“Brinjal, Pumpkin, Ladyfinger, Drumstick-”
She pretended to gag and he laughed. She threw a pea pod at him and he shook his head in amusement. She threw another and another until it began to annoy him. Sometimes she just loved annoying him, his face would get screwed up and he’d have this really big frown on is face. He looked at her with an annoyed expression and she threw some flour on his face.
“You didn’t just do that,” his voice sounded ridiculously calm for an annoyed man.
“I believe I just did,” she replied smartly. Normally, he’d leave her be but she saw his hand moving towards her and darted out of reach. She ran screaming for her bedroom as he pursued her. He blocked her way towards the rooms so she ran into the living room. After a game of cat and mouse he finally decided that she’d had enough fun and caught her, throwing her onto the sofa. He came down on top of her since her hand had been fisted in his shirt.
Her breathing almost stopped as his lips brushed against her. Her heart started beating wildly in her ribcage as they continued to look at each other. Neither of them dared to speak in fear of ruining this moment. She felt how fast his heart was beating under hand and smiled.
His hand flexed against her waist and she held in her breath as he leaned towards her. Every touch sent a jolt of electricity down her body and when he molded his lips against her there was nothing else but him. His lips were soft but firm at the same time, asking and demanding more. Their bodies fit together like completed puzzle. She gasped as he bit her lip. Then the phone started vibrating in her pocket and ended the magical moment. The kiss was over as suddenly as it had started. They were both breathing heavily by the time they untangled themselves from each other.
The next day she was sitting on the Sofa when the doorbell rang. A postman stood at the door with a letter addressed to Sam. She called out his name but he didn’t answer so she received the letter and closed the door before calling out his name again.
When he still didn’t answer she knocked on his bedroom door and entered the room without another thought. As soon as she did, everything went black for a few seconds and she panicked before her vision returned to her.
“what just happened?” she asked herself before turning to look at Sam who for reason seemed too serious,
“There’s a letter for you,” she said, handing him the letter.
He caught her hand before she could retreat from the room.
“Are you okay?” he asked and she frowned.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Don’t worry,” she smiled at him and walked back towards her room.
Arya was preparing the documents Mr. Schuyler needed when she got a call from him saying that he wouldn’t be able to visit the office until that evening so she could go early if she needed. She was happy for the rare chance she was given and finished filing the papers before entering her boss’s office to place the files on his desk for him to review.
While retrieving her hand, she accidently knocked off a box from his desk and an opal stone fell out. It was a clear stone but embedded in it was a whirlwind of rainbow. The stone glittered in the strangest way and seemed to call out to her. She picked it up and placed it back in its box after a moment of admiration. What would he do with a stone like that anyway?
Discarding that thought out of her mind, she skipped her usual work and went home early. Sam wasn’t back from work yet so she decided to prepare dinner today. She was still preparing for dinner when he arrived. Ever since the intimate moment they had shared a few days ago, it had been overwhelmingly clear that they seemed to be pulled towards each other as if two ends of the same thread; little did she know how true it was turning out to be.
Usually he was the one to prepare the dinner since after a few days it was glaringly obvious that she was a clumsy person and by the time dinner was prepared, the state of the art kitchen seemed like a street stall but since today she had arrived early, she thought it would be a good idea to start with the dinner, knowing that he’d take over after his arrival.
They worked side by side in contented silence. They didn’t pretend that nothing had happened between them, they just chose to ignore it for a while. She wanted to pour some more oil into the pan when she accidentally spilled cold water. Drops of hot oil burned her hand and she cried out in alarm.
Sam rushed to her and checked her hand. Suddenly she felt static in the air and he recoiled from shock. She looked at him in obvious bewilderment. What the heck was that? He kept looking at her as if he couldn’t believe what was happening.
“What just happened?” she enquired but he was still staring at her in a manner that seemed so out of place for him. She snapped her fingers in front of him and he seemed to come out of his stupor. Suddenly he held her hand and dragged her to the sofa in the living room. Taking a deep breath, he looked at her with conflicting emotions.
“What’s the matter Sam?”
He held her hands and looked unsure whether or not he should tell her. She encouraged him with a smile and he nodded as if he had made his decision.
“Have you seen any opal stone recently?”
She frowned at his odd question but then remembered the stone she had seen in her boss’s office and nodded.
“yes, how did you know?”
He avoided the question and looked at her in the eye.
“Do you believe in magic, Arya?”
“what kind of question is that?” she asked, but saw no sign of amusement in his eyes. He was totally serious about the question.
“I don’t know if it exists or not but I do love the idea of magic.”
“Are you so sure that you’ve never experienced it?” he asked in the know-it-all-manner. It reminded her of Hermione Granger. He expected her to change her answer because he thought the answer wasn’t correct and she should come to the conclusion herself.
As if on cue, she remembered the various incidents she had deemed as ‘weird’ and her brain had decided to discard whatever irrational theories it had conjured up. The one thing she realized was that every time Sam was present with her, her pain always seemed to have dulled. She always thought that was due to the her being distracted by his glorious self but the direction in which her thought process went was that somehow somewhere magic had been performed. At least that was the answer he expected.
She contemplated calling an institute for mentally retarded when Sam squeezed her hands and forced her to look at him.
“You know me and so you must know that I don’t believe in speaking unnecessary nonsense. I have magical abilities and on various occasions I’ve used them against you.” He paused then to let it sink in. She tried to wrap her mind around it, but considering everything he had told her yet, it seemed logical. In fact she seemed stupid for not identifying it earlier that there was something fishy about him. Instead of running away for the hills, she found herself getting excited over the idea of magic existing in real life. When he was assured that she was listening carefully he continued with his explanation.
“I have a magical power. I can control people’s senses. Turn them deaf, dumb, blind. I can’t toy with their thoughts but I can plant ideas in their mind and make them forget something which I have witnessed along with them. I can also sense people’s mood. Your boss Roy Schuyler has magical powers as well.”
“What?!” she exclaimed in shock.
“Please let me complete. Roy had been my friend once but after coming second to me every time he developed a keen hatred towards me and trapped my powers in the crystal opal that you earlier touched. It’s not just a power, that magic is an ancient one and has its own consciousness. Roy couldn’t cultivate the power for himself from the crystal because it didn’t deem him worthy of inheriting it but when you touched it, it must’ve recognized the traces of magic present in your body when I used them against you and must’ve deemed you a perfect host to inherit the powers. I am sure you’ve inherited my powers because I can no longer use them against you.”
“Should I be grateful for that or not?” She laughed and he looked at her in awe. Wondering if she didn’t understand the true extent of this information and was still in shock or was just handling it better than most people he knows.
“Is there a way for you to take this power back?” she asked with a thoughtful expression.
“No. The magic has identified you as it’s host. If I take it away now, there’s no guarantee you’ll come out of it alive. If you were able to handle this power perfectly then perhaps I could trap the power in an opal and snatch it away like Roy had done with me but we can’t do that here.”
“Teach me then,” she said without a moment’s hesitation. “Teach me how to control the magic.”
He gave her a heated look of appreciation, she should’ve been immune to it now but it didn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.
“I won’t go easy on you.”
Day 1 of the lesson:
“First rule. You cannot control magic. You can guide it as per your imagination and instruction but you cannot order it to obey your commands since it has a conscience of its own.”
He not only explained her the concepts but made her exercise for straight two hours in a gym.
She was ready to drop dead at any moment.
Day 5 of the lesson:
“Imagine you want to make that plant bend.”
She did as he instructed and pumped her hand in the air. Achievement unlocked. And then he rolled his eyes as the plant snapped back to its original position.
“Do not lose your concentration under any circumstances.”
Day 10 of the lesson:
“Bend it to your will. It is my power but powers vary according to the person’s strength and will.
She tried to make her toe numb and almost succeeded.
Day 15 of the lesson:
“Don’t stress your mind so much. You just have to instruct it on what to do and it’ll do the work for you. Just try to recall the memory I had edited. Remember the first rule. Magic cannot be controlled. Let it flow.”
She nodded her head like a good decibel.
Day 20 0f the lesson:
“You are ready. For me to get my power back we will have to teleport to a place that Roy has the key of. Remember to bring the port key today. He has it somewhere in his office. Without that key we can’t reach that place and if we don’t reach that place then I can’t take my power back.”
She nodded and almost shat herself with nervousness. It was her first time stealing something. Seemed more like a crime than adventure.
Roy Schuyler was attending a meeting in Paris as she sauntered into his office. She was sure he wouldn’t keep the port key in his desk drawer but still checked there, just to be sure. Even though she knew no one would barge in his office just like that and the man himself was not here, she couldn’t help but feel nervous.
A month ago if someone had told her she’d have magical powers and would perfect using them while being just as good at physical combat, she would’ve laughed like a hyena; if hyenas laughed like a lunatic filled with laughing gas.
As expected the drawers didn’t contain any port key. She checked all the usual places like the file cabinet and beneath the desk and under the sofa. She even checked if there was loose floorboard which was the most unlikely thing but she still couldn’t find that damn port key.
“Searching for this Ms. Saxena?” A familiar voice filled her with cold dread. She turned around to find Roy leaning against the wall with a glowing key around his fingers. His hand holding the key seemed to be wrapped in a black mist. A lump of dread formed in her throat and she tried to swallow it as he looked at her with calculating menacing eyes. His eyes weren’t the normal brown colour, they had turned an unnatural shade of green. Sam had explained that magic could be manipulated depending on a person and their character and told her about Roy’s abilities.
He could turn invisible when he wanted and knew what a person was going to do three seconds before they did anything and he could read minds.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t find out what you’ve been up to? Samuel always did underestimate me, didn’t he?” he shook his head in mock sympathy. A gasp escaped her lips when a few men bought in a badly beat and bloodied Sam.
“Don’t hurt him!” palpable anger brewed under her skin and she barely held herself in check.
“Ah, young love.”
He nodded as if talking to a child who would do just as he had expected but he was about to receive the biggest shock of his life and he did when she suddenly rushed towards him in the blink of an eye and punched him in the gut.
What Roy didn’t know was that, not only she had inherited the powers of Sam but she had manipulated his magic to suit to her own character. It didn’t seem as simple as it sounded; she had worked on it for hours until she could do nothing else. Her reaction rate was faster than half a second so Roy was at a serious disadvantage and she could also control stationary objects.
In the few seconds it took for Roy to recover, she had freed Sam from his binds and he was engaged with the people who had captured him. There were five in total excluding Roy.
He turned invisible but she manipulated the temperature to drop and the sudden cold fumes in the room helped her to track his movements. When he realized that he had been bested yet again, he rushed towards her in anger probably forgetting her faster reaction rate. While he was focused on her, she saw that Sam had already taken out the five guys out of equation but she had no time to wonder if they were dead or merely unconscious. She saw him moving towards Roy and imagined the port key to fall into her hands. Just as he was about to take a swipe at her, she moved out of reach and let Sam tackle him to the ground.
In a single strike Sam wrapped his power around Roy like a creeper, which tightened as much as he moved. Slowly his eyes started drooping and it creeped her out when she saw the look on Roy’s face. Too late she realized what he intended to do. Sam was so focused on harming Roy that he forgot to shield his mind.
In an instant he was free off Sam’s grip and vanished from the sight. Sam cursed loudly and closed his eyes. She placed a hand on his shoulder and motioned for him to move. It wasn’t safe staying here anymore.
They reached their apartment in record time and he threw open his bedroom door, flinging aside a painting and revealing a locker. He placed the key in the locker and turned to look at her. The holding end of the key looked like a black cape, it gave out a dark light almost black which is really impossible but maybe it was high time she discarded her opinion of what she thought about magic.
“You wanted to know where I came from, right? well, would you like to take a look yourself?” he asked, a small smile playing on his face.
He turned the key and time seemed to stop as she remained suspended in air for a moment before free falling down. She clutched his arm tightly and when the sensation stopped he nudged her to open her eyes. She went numb with shock at the beauty of that place. The raw magic she felt in the air tingled against her skin. It was as if heaven had manifested itself on this place.
That magical sight would forever be engrained in her memory.