Z for Zero-sum (Part I)

Freida Dantas stepped out of the queue to look around. The machine wasn’t that far from here–only a few hundred more. She looked behind. The queue went on for as long as she could see. She too had started from the end of the queue many hours ago. The machine took only a second to judge, so the queue had kept moving continuously. But she worried if there were more hopefuls in the queue than seconds in a day. She had been queueing up religiously for her pronouncement every day since she had died.

She’d learned of the system the day she had arrived at the purgatory. Learned is probably not the best word to describe the process. She had woken up in the purgatory a week ago knowing about it instinctively, with no recollection of her prior life. She knew exactly when and where to queue up for the machine. The machine would tell her if it was her time to ascend to the heaven yet. She’d witnessed thousands of ascensions on her first day. The ascendants one after the other had stood under the

Politics

 
    “Yes?”

    “Sir, Mr. Tiwari is here. Should I send him in?”

    “Hmmm… Okay. Send him in”
    
   Moments later, the door opened, and a middle-aged man walked in. Mr. Tiwari was dressed to the nines in a suit and polished shoes.

    “Namaste Joshiji.”, he said, his palms pressed together in a traditional Indian greeting.

    “Namaskar, Tiwariji”, the minister said, “Take a seat”

    “Thank you.”, Tiwari said, pulling up a chair for himself. “I believe you know what I am here for.”

    “Yes. I do. And I have already told your people that this project is not possible.”

    “This project is very important to me. I would even say that I’m very sentimental about this project.”

    “Then make the changes we have suggested, and we will let it be built”

    “You know it just as well as you do that we won’t be able to afford to make the changes so late in the project.”

    “My hands are tied, Tiwariji. Your project poses a risk to the public. If it collapses, we will both get in trouble. I can’t permit it.”

    “I believe I have something that can change your mind.”

    “You know better than to offer me a bribe, Tiwari.”

    A man walked into the room, a white cake in hand. He placed it on the table and left.

    “I’m not offering you a bribe.” He smiled. “I wouldn’t imagine a vanilla cake would be enough to corrupt you. That is, unless you just love vanilla. Do you, Joshi?”

    “What are you trying to do? What is this?”

    “This? Well, we are celebrating the launch of Vriddhi City”

    “You cannot launch it. You’ll have to make the changes before the launch. I will close down the whole project if we find any problem in the construction quality.”

    “No, you won’t, Joshi.”

    “Who will stop me?”

    “You. And for your own good." Tiwari thrust his hand into his pocket and produced a green earring. "Technology has progressed so much, hasn't it? It feels right out of science fiction. We now have microphones and cameras the size of a button, or in this case, an earring." He pressed hard with his thumb, and the cover of the green earring came off. Underneath the green shell, was a tiny circuitry that brought a microphone to life. “How much an aware citizen can do with just a smartphone and a wireless mic, isn’t it?”. He adjusted his Rolex.

    “You pig! You want to blackmail me? Me? Gajanan Joshi?! You have no idea what you are getting into!”

    “I’m perfectly aware of what I am getting into, Joshiji. I did not want to, but you forced my hand. You left me no option.”

    “She was flirting with me. I did not even touch her! I have not done anything wrong! You can’t prove anything!”

    “Prove? I wouldn't need to prove anything. It’s you. You would need to prove your innocence in every itty-bitty news channel in the country. But an image is fragile, Joshi - like glass. One cannot put back shattered glass. You know it just as well as I do, with the vidhan sabha elections so close, that is not a chance you want to take. For you might be incorruptible and progressive, but the public does not know you; it’s your image that they vote for. And if this audio clip gets out to the news channels, even I cannot stop it from spreading.” He smiled, and lifted up a piece of the cake. “Did you want the cake? No? Your loss. The cake is delicious.” He bit a part of the piece. “I will get you one when you come for the launch. It is this Sunday. The muhurtha is for ten in the morning. You are the chief guest. I think you have some thinking to do. I will leave you alone”. He got up. "It's nothing personal, Joshiji—just business." He walked out - a purposeful smile on his face.


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.
This weekend we have a picture prompt for writing.

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