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Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello and welcome to OBSCURUS. My name is Biswajit Banerjee, and I am your host for this show. Today, I will narrate part 2 of the three-part story about a girl in love with her old professor.
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We will continue from where we left last time. If you haven’t listened to the first part of the story, I urge you to catch up with that episode first. Okay, Scarlet visits Professor Richard Walters’s bungalow. James calls to tell her she is not in good company. Is she in danger? Come, let’s find out.
THE EQUIVALENCE PART 2 00:03:26
Written and performed by Biswajit Banerjee
After finishing her soup, Scarlet felt more youthful and energetic than usual. The soup probably contained a substantial quantity of carbohydrates, she reasoned.
"The soup was terrific, Richard; I am feeling so good."
"Oh, I am glad you enjoyed it."
"Everything you do, you do very well, I believe."
"I don't know why Scarlet, but I love to hear you praise me. When others say good things about me or my works, I do not derive much joy from their words. But your words ... they are magical; they fill me with bliss."
"Richard, I say what I think; I never sugar-coat my ideas."
"Yes, I am sure you always speak your mind."
"You are worthy of praises, Richard; I am a huge fan of yours."
Scarlet watched a lovely smile form on Richard's face. The professor's age had no effect on him; he had the appearance of a man in his mid-twenties, she thought. How did he remain so young? The taut skin on his face, neck, and hands made him appear extraordinarily handsome. She locked eyes with him and wanted to reach out and touch him. Something inside her spoke of the need to touch and caress him. Only if he took her in a tight embrace. Richard's radiant eyes seemed to suggest Scarlet were the only girl he needed, as if he loved her, and he belonged to her, and she was finally in her true home.
"In my forty-odd years of teaching career, I never met a student like you. Any professor would be pleased to find a scholar like you in the class. Scarlet, you are brilliant. And like you, I too don't sugar-coat my ideas."
"Thank you, Richard, those words are so musical."
A minute passed before the professor spoke again.
"Destiny often plays cruel jokes. When I was young, I didn't find someone like ... oh, I am sorry. What on earth am I saying?"
"Please complete that sentence, Richard."
"No, that sentence has no relevance to the purpose of your visit."
"Your words might give me joy."
"Sorry, Scarlet, I can't finish that sentence."
Those unspoken words belonged to her — maybe the forty-year gap between them prevented Richard from expressing his feelings. But she gave two hoots about his age. Was there a way she could get him to vent his heart? How about telling Richard she loved him too? No, that would be too premature; she needed to be sure Richard loved her before making any such move.
"No problem, Richard," Scarlet said, "I won't force you to say it."
"Thanks. Now, I will tell you about my thoughts on mass-energy equivalence. Your primary purpose for coming here is to discuss that, isn't it?"
Scarlet nodded with her heart saying — No, Richard, I am not here to learn about your thoughts on the mass-energy equivalence. While I love to listen to anything you say, so when you talk about your ideas on the concept, I will enjoy them for sure; the true reason I am here is to express my love for you and ask how you feel about me.
"Go ahead, Richard. Tell me your thoughts on this revolutionary concept."
"Mass and energy are inter-convertible, we know that — my primary interest lay in the conversion of energy into mass. As a college student of physics, I used to imagine a chunk of energy solidifying into matter."
"Sounds interesting, Richard, but as far as my knowledge goes, we only know of processes whereby matter gets converted into energy. We don't quite know of phenomena wherein energy gets converted into matter."
"No, Scarlet, the truth is very different from what you just said. The big bang, now believed to be the beginning of our universe, illustrated energy getting converted into matter. Of course, this conversion happened on a colossal scale. The primeval atom that existed before the massive explosion we call the big bang consisted of energy alone. After the explosion that happened around 13 billion years back, matter formed due to rapid cooling."
"Have scientists been able to generate matter from energy?"
"Some claim they have achieved it."
"Is there truth in what they say?"
"Well, I haven't studied their papers to arrive at an opinion. But at least one person …"
"At least one person on earth has successfully converted energy into matter."
"Who's that? Are you suggesting …"
"Yes, Scarlet, that person is me."
"Incredible, you are indeed a genius. Can you demonstrate the process to me?"
"Of course, I can demonstrate the process to you. That's precisely the reason I invited you to this place. Before the demonstration, let me give you some background understanding about my work."
"Please go ahead."
"The other day, I told you I would explain how I used the concept of mass-energy equivalence in an inter-disciplinary way to build a device that could help one understand the essence of life."
"Yes, Richard, I remember. Have you made a machine or something?"
"What does it do?"
"Before I answer that question, I need to explain a truth about life."
"Okay, I am all ears."
"After close to three decades of research, I realized life is also a kind of energy. Apart from existing in chemical, gravitational, nuclear, thermal, and mechanical forms, energy could assume another form — life. Yes, life is nothing but another form of energy. And just the way any form of energy can be converted into matter, life can also be converted into matter. So, in one sense, I connected bio-sciences to physical sciences. This is the reason I call my work inter-disciplinary in nature."
"Fascinating! Let me take a guess — the machine you made can convert life into energy."
"Indeed, you are spot on, Scarlet."
"This work should have got you a Nobel Prize for Physics ."
"Well, I didn't get the Nobel Prize for Physics, but I did get condemnation. The so-called experts on mass-energy equivalence mocked me for suggesting life to be a form of energy and that it could be converted into matter. Sadly, the scholars of life sciences were also not kind to my ideas — they too thought of my works as stupid. Some scientists called my papers on life-matter equivalence as works of science-fiction."
"But didn't you demonstrate the machine that can convert life into energy?"
"When the scientific community rejected my paper, the machine wasn't ready. I made the machine long after the supposed experts rejected my work."
"Richard, you can show it to them now."
"No, Scarlet, I won't do that. Recognition from the world has no value for me. My works are no longer for the world that consists of goons posing as scholars — they are meant to quench my thirst for knowledge. The papers I write are for my own consumption. But I always wished to share my findings with the woman …"
"You just left another sentence unfinished. Come on now, say the whole sentence."
"Okay, Scarlet, as you say — But I always wished to share my findings with the woman I … I love."
Scarlet was overjoyed by the words she just heard.
"Richard, you shared your findings with me."
"Yes, I did, Scarlet."
"So, I am the one you love?"
"Well, my heart says 'yes,' but my mind …"
"What does your mind say?"
"It says I am not allowed to be in love with you because of the gap of forty years between us."
"Listen to your heart, Richard, and ask your mind to shut up."
Scarlet moved close to Richards and planted a kiss on his lips.
"I love you too, Richard. We belong to each other"
They kissed passionately and for what seemed like an eternity.
Soon they were in bed in the adjoining room. "Richard," Scarlet whispered, "I want you to swirl all your imagination and experiences around this one thought — I love you and want you to see me as the one you love."
The world of matter puffed out of existence as they melted into each other.
But then the creaking of the bedroom door and the sounds of quick footsteps jarred them back to reality.
"There's someone around, Richard."
"Oh, looks like an intruder, Scarlet."
"Did you leave any door unlocked?"
"No, I had locked all the doors. Somebody might have got in through a ventilator. Wait here, I will check."
Richard moved out of the bed and put on his clothes and slippers.
"Don't go alone. I will come with you."
"No, Scarlet, the man might be carrying a weapon. Just stay here and lock the door from inside."
"But I can't let you go alone."
"Don't worry, I will be careful."
Scarlet locked the door from inside after Richard walked out of the bedroom. The anxiety in her nerves grew with each passing moment.
Several minutes passed by. Shouldn't Richard have been back by now?
Then the muddled voices of two men flowed in from the next room — the one Richard had told her was his study. One of those men, Scarlet was quite sure, was Richard. A minute later, she heard a loud thud. Somebody, it appeared, had fallen on the floor of the study.
Scarlet jumped on two feet, her heartbeat pulsing inside her eardrums. Was somebody attacking Richard? Was Richard …. dead? She put on her clothes and sandals and unlocked the bedroom door.
The study, though windowless, was well-lighted. Lots of bookshelves lined the walls on all sides of the room. A large antique cabinet stood in one corner, and a leather sofa was in the diagonally opposite corner. An ornamental table was roughly in the center, and half a dozen old-fashioned chairs dotted the room. There were, however, no signs of Richard or the intruder. Some books lay scattered on the floor and on the sofa, but they hardly served as clues to what might have happened in the study minutes ago.
As Scarlet inched her way around, her eyes fell on what looked like a mid-nineteenth century wall clock which showed it was a little past 8 p.m.
It was getting late. The hostel gate would be closed at 11 p.m. sharp. If Scarlet didn't reach the hostel by then, she wouldn't be allowed to enter the premises. The next day the college authorities would ask her to explain why she broke the students' code of conduct. If her answer didn't satisfy them, they might initiate disciplinary proceedings against her. Even Richard would not be able to help her if things took such a bad turn. No, she couldn't afford to be in such a mess.
But she couldn't leave Richard in possible danger, could she? First, she had to ensure the professor was safe.
As she stood still pondering over what to do, a door on the far side of the room, almost hidden by a movable wooden bookcase, caught her attention. If the door had not been open by an inch or two, she couldn't have spotted it. What purpose did the door serve? Did it lead to some secret space?
Scarlet moved over to the door and pulled it open. The space it led into was dark. After turning on the flashlight of her mobile phone, she moved into the space.
"Richard, are you here?"
The silence in the darkroom was as deafening as a scream.
"Richard, please respond."
The flashlight beam was too weak to pierce the vastness of the dark space. Nothing other than the dust motes swimming in the air was visible.
"Where are you, Richard?"
A minute later, a loud noise pierced through the silence of the space. Scarlet turned around. The secret door had closed, leaving her trapped in the darkness. With her heart in her mouth, she rushed to where she thought the door was. The mobile flashlight did serve some purpose, and she located the doorknob. Tugging at the knob didn't help — the door was perfectly shut.
No response followed.
"Please help me; I want to be out of this place at once. Please, Richard," Scarlet said as her voice broke.
After a hopeless hour in the darkness, some semblance of calm dawned on her nerves. The first thing Scarlet needed to do was to locate the limits of the room. Unless Scarlet understood the space she was in, she couldn't think of how to get out of it.
With the mobile flashlight turned on again, Scarlet walked forward.
"Where's the damn wall," she said as she sped up her steps.
The space appeared to be endless.
"Richard, Richard, please help me."
And then she stumbled over what felt like a human body. The mobile phone slipped out of Scarlet's hand and crashed several feet away from where she fell. Its parts, she could sense from the crashing sound, had disintegrated and scattered on the floor.
As tears escaped her eyes, she wondered what was it she stumbled over? Was it Richard's body? Quickly she crawled to where she thought her mobile had fallen and frantically moved her hands around on the floor. A good deal of search led to success. Her fingers touched something hard. Yes, it was the frontal part of the mobile. She moved her fingers over the battery space — it was empty.
If Scarlet could locate the battery, she would be able to switch on the flashlight again. The rear side of the phone only served as a cover for the instrument. She didn't need it to make the phone operational.
Now, she groped for the battery. After another long search, she did find it. As she pushed the battery into the phone and pressed the on-off switch, the screen came alive. In the dim light offered by the phone's flashlight, Scarlet looked for what she had stumbled over.
Okay, we have reached the end of this part of the story. We shall catch up again next week for the concluding part of THE EQUIVALENCE.
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!