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The Ink Chase


The Ink Chase
by Nidhi Singh

The road was there, I was there, we met, and it was good.

My strides swallowed the black tarmac, the dappled starlight, and the dry tamarind leaves that crunched beneath my feet. Headmost wild boars tilted their heads aggressively – their sounder halted and fidgety behind them – but let me pass before they crossed the road. Itchy mongrels chasing gophers snapped at me, but stayed well out of reach of a sound kick on their butts. Shy blue bulls shrank in alarm from the brush they were munching, and bolted, their hog tufts bristling in the muggy air. As the road narrowed and meandered into a gravely dust track, the menagerie of critters fell behind and left me in peace. Or so at least I thought.

Other than the thump of my feet pounding the road and the rhythmic breathing, something else began to fill the silence of the crepuscular night. Sometimes it was a rustle in the grass and sometimes wood clanking against wood. It ran alongside, a susurrus dashing portside before looping astern to starboard, and then like a flying pennant flapping overhead. I held a steady keel, my vessel grim and daring. It chased me now and then raced ahead; its arms aloft it scrambled up banana trees and slithered down telephone cables before swinging from verdegris light poles. It bounded over wooden benches and dived under stone culverts, now like a crazed hound racing spray-curled in the wind, and then, a sepulchral creature of the dark rearing against the pale moon, silent sometimes, sometimes gnashing its teeth. I sensed it reluctantly falling behind when I hit the beach with the blue sea on one side and the tall, puce-colored compound wall of the penal colony on the other.

But it was back again when I met the road that took me through the gloomy woods the next evening…and every evening after that. It was getting impatient, audacious, with each passing day, licking at my heels, caressing my sweaty nape, an inky shadow skimming the road and the moonlight in my wake, waning into the moldering heap of dewy turf whenever I jerked back in growing dread. I soon realized the wild creatures of the night weren’t avoiding me; they were fleeing the shadows that pursued me.

* * *

But it was nice and calm when later I sat out in the verandah, with Diane and a tall scotch and ice. The lambent moonbeams braided the shadows with their silver thread, while the stars above weaved a shiny web against a clear sky. No inky phantasmagoria there, just a plain rustling in the leaves and the simple smell of rain in the winds coming in from the Andaman Sea.

“How was the run today,” she asked, moving her hand in slow circles over her belly.

“How is the baby?” I leaned in and briefly placed my head in her lap. The bairn was up and kicking.

“Another three months…why don’t we move into the islands till it comes? It’s a lot healthier, and the infirmary and doctors are all there,” she said, swatting a whining mosquito off her pointy knee.

“Maybe.” I tilted my cane chair, and placing my feet up on the bamboo railing, rocked lazily. “A lot easier for me to manage things here on the mainland. The monsoons are here, the seas are very rough – I don’t want to risk a sea journey in your condition.”

“I hear the prisoners work the gardens and get you the best fish.”

“Why, isn’t the long line of servants here quite enough?”

“Yeah…but there is no one for miles around – just this grand, Governor David Barry’s Bungalow, its high walls, and its silence. Out there you have rows of quaint cottages up on the cliff with their bright flower gardens and…the women’s gossip.”

“I could ask the officers to send in their wives to visit you. And fill you in on the natter.”

“That would be so colonial, David…and obvious!” she swung her fair mane and looked away.

“I am sorry – I’ll try to stay more at home then – keep you company. I’ll even try to keep an ear out for tidbits – we have a fair amount of scandals going on all the while. And the prisoners in the cellular jail lead a pretty colorful life themselves! Oh, I could even ask mamma to sail down from Largs.”

“No thank you, she doesn’t keep so well herself – the journey would kill her. I am fine – I’ll manage.”

I smiled at her. “I know.” I clasped her hand and her fingers wound tightly around mine.

“It’s a bit loud today, unquiet,” she observed suddenly.

“Why, I haven’t noticed anything at all.”

She cocked her head. “Listen – the birds are still wakeful at this hour. Uneasy – calling out to each other.”

“There must be a leopard prowling – or a python climbing up to warm eggs in a hornbill’s nest.”

“No – then it would be one tree, or two. It’s like the whole jungle stirring – and the shadows – look they’re longer – it’s so dark all of a sudden!”

I peered into the dark; a whirling mist, like black hair floating in the rain-tossed wind, loomed above the treetops, and then climbing down to the grey parks it smothered the white jasmine swathe, strangling it of its sweet perfume. Misty blue ink suffused the trembling dew on the grass blades and like a fast spreading oil-swill it gathered together and headed towards us.

“What is this vile mass that marches onward? Is it a locust swarm?” Diane grabbed my hand and pulled me inside the house. She watched with baited breath through the door’s wire mesh. The mist curled up like a black cat at the staircase, lingered awhile and then swept away in a flurry of flying black fur.

The moonlight glowed through once again; the stars shimmered in relief, and the wailful choir of the redbreast ceased, while the fragrance thankfully returned to the night.

“What was that?”

“Black storm clouds…playing on our mind probably!” I draped my arm around Diane’s waist, and kissing her in the hollow of her neck, steered her away to the bedroom.

* * *

Next day at the office it was back to backbreaking paperwork; overseeing of the harbor construction by the prisoner chain-gangs; a visit to the Panopticon – a 100-eyed monster watchtower designed for gaining supremacy of mind over mind, in a measure so far without compare. It grimly surveyed prisoners immured in bleak and comfortless structures – a vast mill for grinding rogues authentic. There were no demons here – no inky phantoms of the night – just plain, brutal humans crushing free will and dignity.

Salaam, Governor Barry sahib,” Radhe, the stick orderly saluted, smartly catching the white toupee I tossed at him.

“Salaam. Nimbu paani – chilled,” I ordered, inserting a finger in my starch collar and prying it away from my sticky, perspiring neck. I was thankful to be back in the cool of the khus-tutty’s wetted shade, and the punkah’s lazy breeze.

I got so caught up in work I didn’t know when the sun went down and when it became dark. I looked out the window and it seemed the clouds had appeared from nowhere, with the air smelling heavily of black.

“It’s going to rain,” I muttered to the coolie who still tugged at the punkah’s string with his big toe though he was fast asleep. I walked out and saw a few perplexed brown clerks staring at the sky above, looking for the clouds that weren’t there: just a black pall shrouding the firmament – not a tear of rain on the fevered skin. The sun was a black disk like the underside of a stovetop kettle. I wondered if it had anything to do with me. I suddenly thought of Diane and a strange, speechless fear gripped me. I ordered for the motorcar to be placed.

As we rode home the pall lifted and the skies opened up once again. But soon the shade overtook us and moved overhead as we went down the sunlit street – a solitary black cloud following me in a bright world. I brought the darkness home and slamming the porch door, drew the curtains on it.

“Is it going to rain?” Diane, happy to see me early, began to open my shirt buttons. “My, you are so wet. You smell of the sea – and prison. Been out at the harbor again?”

“Work as usual,” I said, splashing myself down at the sink while she stood behind with a towel and a clean shirt.

After lunch and a long nap I walked out to the lawns where tea had been laid out. It was bright and sunny again, and the repose had cast aside the shadows that’d been haunting me.

“Weather’s been funny, playing tricks, isn’t it dear,” Diane commented as she poured out steaming cardamom tea.

“Damn tropics – none of the balmy English weather,” I said, and we laughed. Diane looked frail – she had been having a lot of sick spells lately. “You’ll have plenty on your hands once the baby arrives.”

“You think everything will be fine, David,” she asked, her brow clouding.

She’d had a miscarriage and I was worried silly. I noticed the blue tinge around the fingernails and the pallor in her baggy eyes were getting darker. “I’m sure, darling. Dr. Watson said so, didn’t he? You just take rest and watch your step – that’s all.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to take another…”

I rose and placed a finger on her lips. “Shush…” I stood over her and caressed her neck and shoulders. She nestled her head against my thigh, gripping my hands. “I promise my dear,” I said, raising her face up toward me and looking into her eyes, “with all the power, love, and faith dear god has vested in me – I will make it right this time.”

Diane smiled, a tear clung to the brim of her eye and she kissed my hands gratefully, and crossed herself. “I believe – I believe in you first, and in dear god above next.”

* * *

At dusk it grew cool. After Diane moved inside the house, I took to my road. The jog helped clear my head and forget the bleakness of my charge.

At the forest edge my feet hesitated, but I decided to press ahead. It was time to end the chase and face my stalker. In the dense grove, where dark foliage interweaved in one unbroken gable of leaves, under whose sleeping eaves even the shadows dared not stray, where a million dragonfly wings stirred in the moonless haze, such a piteous weeping, such a creeping murmur, and such a demented choir of wailing bullfrogs possessed the bog that I was chilled through and through. I halted. I turned.

A few feet behind me floated from head to toe a protean, tangled mass of misty hair. My throat went dry and I stood transfixed. It waited to see if would flee, but seeing me determined to stay my ground, it retreated a few steps and then waited. It seemed it expected me to follow, and follow I did. It led me deep into the woods and my feet began to sink in the quickening sand. We had reached the edge of the tidal swamp, and dark pools formed everywhere. Tired grey trees hoisted stark forms in the hazy sky. Blackened, mud-logged roots thrust from the turgid waters. Killer vines bent trees in their tenacious grip, and bright white swamp lilies and scarlet hibiscuses lay scattered about tree trunks like precious garlands. I followed the ghoul to a giant Bunyan grove looming above the foggy swamp. Its trunk was parted to reveal a black hollow. The ghoul waited by its entrance. I saw I really had no choice if I wanted to end this. I ducked and entered the black cave.

A strange green glow on the giant trunk, which rose all around me like a dungeon well, revealed a staircase that seemed to wind down to the rank bowels of earth. I went down it, clinging to the trunk for support. Soon I came upon the landing and a vast clearance beyond. An eerie black-blue dome seemed to illuminate the field, and I faced a giant, crooked, castle-like structure, much like a Halloween spooky house sketched by a diabolical mind. I pushed open the door that had been left ajar to enter a vast living room. A few effervescent, pale glowy candles lit up the dim hall. I blinked, trying to adjust to the semidarkness.

I jumped at a voice that suddenly came from the far corner, addressing me. “Welcome, Governor David Barry, to the humble abode of Chedipe. At long last, we have the pleasure of making this acquaintance.” A deathly white lady dressed in yarns of indigo silk, emblazoned with black flowers, was seated on a throne of gnarled bark draped in mangrove branches. At her feet was a glistening crocodile skin.

“Was it you that had me brought in here?”

“Yes, it took some convincing though. No harm done, I suppose?”

“Why did you do it? Who are you? What unearthly place is this? Who was that creature? What do you want of me?”

“Easy, David. Since you do not believe in the civilized courtesies of a longwinded formal introduction, I shall come straight to the point, as you choose. I need someone you have in your care – a raving-mad scientist, an alchemist with sharp practice.”

“Who?” Did I know of anyone like that? I figured not – there’d been a mistake – a misunderstanding. Surely she wanted someone else.

“A villain that goes by the name of Harry Harlow – Dr. Harlow.”

“Beats me if I know such a man.”

“His parole papers are lying on your desk, Governor, rejected by the parole committee. I want you to overrule the recommendation and release him.”

“I don’t remember him. What possible use could you have of a common convict, an outcast, in this sorry world of yours? You seem pretty able to ferret people out with your dark minions – he must be incarcerated on the islands – why don’t you get a gofer out there and heave-ho him yourself?”

“My ink doesn’t work on water, Mr. Barry. It mixes, it thins. And that’s where you come in – you will bring him to me.”

“Ha! As if!”

“Then I’m afraid I can’t let you leave here. You could linger awhile, and keep me company.”

I fidgeted. “You can’t stop me!”

“Oh, really?” She waved an arm and a spill of blue ink appeared at my feet and touched my toes. A jab of pain took my breath away, as I felt my metatarsals freezing and cracking up. I removed my shoe and flung it – my foot had turned blue and lifeless and it seemed it was about to snap off.

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I yelled.

She waved her fingers languorously and the pain disappeared. Color returned to my foot and it became comfortingly warm and alive again.

“I hope you understand I mean serious business, Mr. Barry.”

“Yes – but how can you be sure I would return here once you let me go?”

She sighed wearily. “I knew you would require an incentive – how’s Diane doing by the way, Mr. Barry?”

“How do you know…leave her out of this – you Ched…Chedipe!”

“But we can’t, you see. She’s now very much part of the plot – my vile design – as you would put it. Has she been keeping well lately?”

“No, she hasn’t – if you should have anything to do with her –!”

“Here, give her this.” she tossed me a vial with a colorless liquid in it. “It will make her instantly better – and the baby will be safe. My ink has touched her – albeit unwittingly. Beware – the vial contains only a couple of doses, not a permanent cure. When Dr. Harlow is beside me, you shall have the permanent dose – and Diane and the baby can be on their way, without a care in the world.”

“What if you don’t keep your word?”

“What if I do? You will never know until you carry out your little errand, Mr. Barry. Now please be gone, this tiresome conversation is killing me.” She tilted her head to a side and closed her eyes. The rustling rose beside me again – the shadows were back, beckoning me to leave. I pocketed the vial and rushed home to Diane to give the spell.

* * *

“Find me a Dr Harry Harlow’s papers – he is up for parole,” I said to my head clerk, first thing as I barged into office. “And get the jail warden in here – now!”

Diane was instantly better with just a drop of the potion I’d given her last night. The mother’s glow had returned to her. I’d carefully stored the vial in the safe. It would last a month on tops, I figured. I had to now keep my word, and make the witch keep hers, and get the whole damned thing over with. I could deal with her later. Or perhaps not. The writ of our law did not run large over creatures of the dark and the underworld.

Johnson Kombian, the jailer, was in my office by the time I’d finished combing the chemist’s file. Harlow seemed to have been put away for nothing more serious than scalding society women with his ointments, potions and divers sun lotions! Of course, there were so many complaints, and some of the ladies had never truly recovered, either from the effects of his quackery, or from the natural blemishes of the ageing process – his bloomer lay in the fact that a judge’s daughter, betrothed recently, an ugly, acned girl to begin with, as he’d claimed, had also been among his clientele. ‘My Experiments with the Truth,’ is how the fool, quite removed from reality, had defended himself at the trials!

“Why did they reject his parole,” I asked Kombian.

He shrugged. “Bad behavior.”

“Like?”

“He annoyed the committee by insisting that he’d not been provided for – with a white apron and glasses while in jail, as behove his status. They thought he was loony.”

“And?” I was beginning to get a little annoyed now. Was the man jesting?

“And for bursting firecrackers on Halloween and giving the islands one helluva grand show.”

“Where on earth did he lay his hands on explosives?”

“He didn’t. He made them – from stuff in the kitchen and the infirmary.”

“All right. Now, I’m not asking for a recommendation here, but what do you make of this man?”

“A little wacky, but harmless – he gives no trouble to the turnkeys. The other prisoners think highly of him, due to the aforesaid fireworks show. The guard’s wives at the isles swear by him though.” He loosened his collar and cleared his throat. “He makes wonderful homemade beauty potions for them that really work.” He shifted a little in the cane chair. “In fact they’d rather he stayed there.”

“Are we going to run this prison on ladies’ whims now, Jailor?”

“No Sir, it’s your call…he should be let go.”

“Have I asked you?”

“No Guv’…”

“Well, that will be all.” I pounded a ‘GRANTED’ stamp on his parole application. “When can you bring this peddler of beauty here?”

“To your office, Sir?”

“Yes. I would like to motivate him to make something of his life. Can’t let talent waste now, can we?”

“No Sir. I shall personally bring him in the noon ferry.”

“Be quick then.”

The doctor was brought before me at dusk. He was a mild, quivering man with fair hair, wearing a mussed striped suit and cracked glasses. In his hands he clutched a canvas bundle, out of which peeked a sheaf of notes, tin boxes, jars and more rags. He’d probably perfected his recipes on the jailors’ wives on the islands – he’d spent his captivity in good custom.

“Sit,” I ordered. “Someone wants to meet you desperately – they’ve in fact strongly recommended your freedom. You’ll be dropped at a place, where you’ll wait for me. I can’t be seen escorting you out of here. Then I shall take you to your benefactor – got it?”

The relieved man, who couldn’t believe his luck at being released, nodded. I couldn’t have revealed any more to him in the fear he might well bolt right back to prison.

I thumbed the bell. Radhe rose at my elbow. “Put him on your bicycle and leave him near 38/6 KM Stone on the banks of North Brother Swamp – you know the place?”

“Yes, sahib.” The orderly salaamed, a little puzzled. He’d never seen a convict getting dropped anywhere before.

* * *

I brought Harlow before the witch. “Here’s your man. Now the spell, please.”

Harlow’s mouth was agape as he stared before him. “It’s you!”

“You two know each other,” I asked, looking from one to the other. They seemed so completely immersed in each other; they’d completely forgotten me. I was in a hurry; I didn’t want to spend a minute there longer than necessary, away from my Diane, in the company of these two shambles of humanity.

“Is it you that freed me?” Harlow, in a trance, his arms spread before him, shuffled toward the burlesque queen of the underworld.

“Stay!” She thrust out a shriveled, decayed, bleached hand at him. She swung a wand in the air – a luminescent wisp of blue gleam trailed it – other than the spectacle, no real damage was done. I guessed it was just a moody habit. “Look what you did to me.” She waved her long knurled fingers in a wide arc about her, in a general reference to her blanched persona.

“I tried my best to help you dear – but I wasn’t ready – now I believe I am. I have spent years finding a cure for you, I think I might have it.”

“If it be so – I must allow you a chance then – to exonerate yourself.”

“Exonerate – I saved you! Has this dark, watery grave robbed your mind of all memory, and things wholesome?”

They could have sorted matters between themselves till the cows came home. But Diane would be getting worried. “Excuse me,” I said, “but could I have my prescription – I am done here. I really should be…”

“Silence,” the witch shrieked, “impudent man! I have no further use for you – perish now!” She thrust her wand at me and the blue spill began to advance menacingly on the wood-planked floor toward me.

“Stop,” Harlow shouted, jumping in front of me, covering me with outstretched arms. “Or strike me down as well.”

“Argh!” the witch snarled, and the bubble vanished.

“You gave me your word – you, madam, are a liar and a slave to the evil ways,” I said, as Harlow gripped my arm and stood beside me. “Clearly, no man will be impressed with your winsome ways,” I added.

“Who said I want to win someone over, you namby-pamby!”

I jabbed a thumb in Harlow’s direction. “Clearly, under all that carefully cultivated austere visage and mournful countenance, even a blind fool can see there is a little lurking affection you conceal for this man. With your powers, your dark magic, you have little use for his immature remedies!”

“You fool,” she tore open her blouse to reveal a frosty, silvery bosom, “see what his silly brews did to me? I feel faint, my skin tingles and burns, my heart pounds, I fear I may be turned to dust if I expose to the sun. I do not fear sunlight just because it lights up a miserable world – I am confined to this black, watery world because of the balms he’s rubbed on me!”

“It’s not my salves, dear,” Harlow replied, in a lover’s plaintive, groveling tone, leaving me quite shaken. “It’s what the scorching sun did to you – remember, they tied to you to a stake out in the burning desert for days, before I risked my life and slashed down the ropes that bound you and brought you to my home? Have you forgotten how I nursed you back to health? Your condition is all in the mind. I think…I think you might have developed Phengophobia - a fear of the sunlight - because of that terrible ordeal. Give me some time – I can help you, in the mind as well as the body, with these…” he said, digging into his satchel and holding out divers bottles and jars of ointments and potions he’d perfected on the islands. “Please, let the Guv go,” he begged.

“That is quite out of the question. He is a man of the law; he will soon have his screaming and leaping ruffians hunting me down. I have earned this peace,” she surveyed her realm, “and I intend to keep it.”

“I give you my word – I have no truck with you or your floating phantoms,” I said. “You need fear nothing from me.” You couldn’t chain a shadow to a wall, could you? There were no bars of stout steel that could mew a mist in a cage.

She shook her head, unmoved with my defense.

“You need to let him go, for your sake.” Harlow spoke up, after some thought. “There is an apprentice I need. A convict, whom I patiently trained, without whose help I cannot mix these recipes. He’s also up for parole. The governor must go and free him for me to help you. You may do as you like with him once you’re cured.”

“Is your alchemy superior to my magic – what good is your glop where my sorcery has been thwarted?”

“You confess it hasn’t worked. So I am your only and last resort. Please, Chedipe, release the Guv.”

“Who is this prisoner?” she deigned to ask.

“Scrota Deek.”

“Scrota Deek,” I repeated in disbelief. Who didn’t know him? He was the most notorious prisoner on the isles – a miscreant, a radical, and a suspected sympathizer of the freedom fighters. To free him would be high treason. And even then, I was not going to trade in another man, howsoever debased, for my life. “Never – upon my life, and honor,” I exclaimed.

“There – that settles it,” Chedipe said, smiling wickedly.

“Look,” Harlow whispered to me. “We’re just gaining time – I don’t really need him. I’ll figure out a way to help him escape, later. And worse, if I can’t, then the British Empire will only be one rogue short.”

He made sense. If I had time, even I could find a way out of this. “Alright then,” I moved away and addressed Chedipe. “But on one condition then – I go out only with the permanent cure for the spell you have cast on Diane. And don’t tell me I have your word – I have obvious reason to believe you will not keep it. ‘Tis better we end this now than prolong her misery.”

“You’re hardly in a position to dictate terms to me, Mr. Barry,” she said, scorn flashing in her eyes.

“Have it your way then. As I see it, I’m only getting in the way of a lover’s tiff; it were better I was gone, and you could get back to your nitpicking.”

“You promise to bring this man to us?” she relented finally. She longed to be alone with her mad scientist, her savior, of that I was sure. And she was keen to make a good impression, for all she might deny.

“Upon my word.”

She threw another vial at me. “Let her stand barefoot in a wet bed of barley sprouts, face the moon and swallow it in one go. The spell will go. And now leave, I must account for this man’s deeds,” she said and turned to Harlow who’d walked up the steps to her throne and kneeled by her side. As I was leaving, her hand had slowly and hesitatingly moved to Harlow’s head, and begun to caress his tousled locks.

* * *

After I’d administered the dose to a panic-stricken and sleepless Diane, who’d dashed search parties after me, we sat out in the verandah once the lights had been put out on the grounds and calm had returned to the large house.

“Give me a minute,” I squeezed Diane’s hand and walked into my study. The head clerk usually sent over the day’s unfinished Dak for me to go over at home. I searched among the pile of papers and found Scrota Deek’s parole prayer.

My hands were firm when I picked out a ‘REJECTED’ stamp from the drawer, and wetting it on the inkpad, firmly put it on his application. I poured a stiff scotch for myself and walked back out.

“How would you like to settle down on the islands for a while?” I asked. Chedipe had said her ink didn’t work on water.

“Really?” Diane squealed and hugged me tightly. “Oh my god, I was really terribly lonely here. And I hated the idea of my baby growing up among servants only, with no one of its own age to play with!”

“I have arranged for the first ferry to take us out at dawn. You may send for your stuff later.”

* * *

Life on the islands was indeed happening, as Diane had said, surrounded as she always was by a doting drove of friends and flibbertigibbets. Three months later, she gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl.

A week later we had a visitor, standing nervously at the jetty. The small boat on which he’d rowed over was tethered to a rock close by. It was Harlow, all spruced up, and clean behind the ears, shyly clutching a huge bouquet of brilliant swamp flowers.

I see you still keep at the same address. Well, how are things?” I thumped him on his back and we strolled along the craggy shoreline.

“They’re getting better. She steps out in the sun ever and anon, only briefly though.”

“Has she taken it badly – my not sending your apprentice over?”

“No, she says she always knew it was a trick. We never needed anyone else in our life anyway. She sends her greetings.”

“Oh, really,” I said, relieved. “Are you happy?”

He grinned from ear to ear. “Never more”. We walked some more and then it was time for him to leave, before the tide got nasty.

He paused just as he was about to shove off the boat. “I was wondering…do you have the powers to officiate weddings,” he asked, blushing crimson. “I guess no church would have us – for obvious reasons. It was her idea.”

“Gladly,” I said, as he rowed away, happily. Anything was possible on the colonies!

* * *

Nidhi attended American International School, Kabul, before moving to Delhi University for BA English Honors. Currently, she lives with her husband in Yol, a picturesque cantonment, which was a British POW Camp housing German and Italian soldiers during both the World Wars.

More than 50 of her short stories have appeared internationally in Body Parts Magazine, Military Experience and the Arts, Grey Wolfe Publishing, Expanded Horizons, Vagabondage Press, Rigorous, TQR, SPR, Fantasia Divinity, Fiction on the Web, Storyteller, TWJ Magazine, Indie Authors Press, Flyleaf Journal, Liquid Imagination, Digital Fiction Publishing Co, LA Review of LA, Flame Tree Publishing, Four Ties Lit Review, The Insignia Series, Inwood Indiana Press, Bards and Sages Publishing, Scarlet Leaf Review, Bewildering Stories, Down in the Dirt, Mulberry Fork Review, NY.Press, Fabula Argentea, Aerogram, Fiction Magazines, Flash Fiction Press, The Dirty Pool, Asvamegha, Thurston Howl Publications etc.

She has also authored several translations of the Sikh Holy Scriptures.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

When I have a bad dream, I know I’ll have a good story in the morning. This story came to me when I used to jog in the evenings through a particularly lonely stretch in a coastal town. Most of the sights and sounds in the setting are actuals. I just wrote down my fears and one thing led to another.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Start small. Dream big. Writing is no different than any calling – it takes patience, perseverance and sweat. And time. You have to start at the bottom of the food chain and gnaw and claw your way to the top. Try and write around a 1000 words each day. If you aren’t happy with your initial work, it means you’re improving. It should take a  good eight years before you become any good – debut successes are against the order of nature. I published three novels before I realized I was no good and needed to hone my skills. So I began to write short stories to sharpen my craft. Fifty published stories later, I feel I’m still not there.

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