Death on a Yacht

 

Don Eduardo decided to kidnap Death.

When he first got the idea, he nearly smacked his forehead in delight. It was so fucking simple! And as he sat back and tried to steady himself, he wondered in amazement why nobody ever thought of it until now.

All he needed was a solid cricket bat.

And yeah, a human guinea pig.

The sun had barely set in the sea and fireworks were already lighting up the sky. The don stood on the lavish fifty foot deck of his yacht and looked at the proceedings on the beach with disdain. He hated New Year’s Eve. People from every hole in the country swarmed to Goa like they would die if they didn’t get wasted on the cheap liquor and cheaper hookers.

Damn tourists, he muttered under his breath.

“Boss”

The don turned around. It was Razor, his trusted right-hand man.

“The doctor has arrived.” Razor said.

The don nodded. He flung his cigar into the sea and turned around.

“Time for some real fireworks, eh?” the don said.

Razor laughed. But inside, he was terrified.

Kidnap Death? What the hell!

It sounded so foolish to even utter the words aloud. The idea was fucking crazy; it was nothing more than a drug-fuelled fantasy. And the don thought that he was the next Einstein.

He probably would be; if Einstein did drugs, shot people and escaped from prison thirty-two times.

Someone would die before the night ended; Razor was sure of it. He just hoped it wouldn’t be him.

When he opened the door to the cabin, the don was shocked to find a commotion. A dozen thugs (all their own) were crowded in the room, shouting at each other. At the centre of the action was the doctor.

He was flat on his stomach with a gun rammed against his head. His glasses were hanging on his face at a crazy angle and he was trying to shout through a balled up sock in his mouth.

“What the hell is going on?” the don said.

Jonnydepp, who held the gun to the doctor’s head, spoke up.

Of course, his real name was not Jonnydepp.

Someone once mentioned that he looked a little like Johnny Depp from one angle. The guy was teasing him but the name stuck.

But unlike the well known pirate, the name was pronounced as a single word without any pause in between: Jonnydepp it was.

“Give me permission to shoot this fucker, boss.”

“You do realise that the experiment cannot take place if I let you kill him, right.”

“But he has no faith in-”

“First lift him up and remove the disgusting thing from his mouth.” The don said.

Jonnydepp reluctantly lifted him up and put him into a chair. The doctor gagged while pulling the sock out of his mouth.

“So you don’t think that the experiment will work.” The don said, drawing up a chair close to the doctor.

“I am sorry to disappoint you but it is impossible. In twenty years of medical studies, I have not encountered anything of this sort.”

“And even after twenty years, doctors haven’t found a cure for AIDS.” Jonnydepp shouted.

The doctor looked at Jonnydepp like he was a raving lunatic.

“How’s that relevant here?” he said.

“Shut up, Jonny.” The Don said.

Jonnydepp shut his mouth.

The don brought out a cigar box from his coat and offered one to the doctor.

“No, thank you.” The doctor said, still rubbing his injured throat.

The Don lit one for himself and smiled. “When a person dies, the soul goes out of the body. Even science agrees to this phenomenon. Studies have shown that the human body becomes lighter by 21 grams immediately after the death of an individual.”

“Well, that’s not entirely-” the doctor began but Jonnydepp slammed his head with the back of his gun. The don continued as if he was not interrupted.

“So how does the soul go out?” He asked. Nobody answered.

“Well, this is where religion steps in.” He said, looking at everyone, as if giving a lecture to a bunch of undergrads.

The doctor didn’t know where the line of argument was heading but he didn’t dare open his mouth again.

“Every religion says that the god of Death comes and takes the soul. So when he comes tonight to take a soul, I intend to kidnap him.”

The doctor was stunned.

“You mean…you- are you going to kill someone?”

“Relax doctor; I am not going to commit a murder tonight. In fact, you are going to help me prevent one.”

“And in what capacity do you think I can assist you?” the doctor said.

“In your capacity as a doctor.” The don replied. “If you just step into the pool room, you will see what I am talking about.”

The don opened the door to an adjoining room and motioned for the doctor to step in.

“You see, the boys have done a great job. You will find that the room will suit all your requirements.”

As the doctor stepped in, he realised that the don was right. The room looked exactly like an operation theatre in a hospital. It had the latest equipment imported specially from Germany. But for some strange reason, the bulbs in the room bathed the entire room in an eerie blue light.

Either the thugs saw too many horror movies or they were idiots.

Probably the latter.

“Do you like it?” the don said.

“Yes, but how are you going to summon death?”

“Jonnydepp” the don shouted in response.

Jonnydepp walked up to the don and kneeled in front of him.

“Yes, boss,” he said, without looking up.

“Do you believe that we are going to capture Death tonight?” he asked

“Yes boss!” Jonnydepp shouted.

“Are you prepared to sacrifice yourself for this cause?”

“Yes boss!!” Jonnydepp shouted, if possible, even louder this time.

“Good.” He said.

The don looked at Razor and gave a slight nod. Razor came forward with a brand new cricket bat.

“Now listen carefully doctor.” The don said, twirling the bat in his hands.

“First, you are going to hook up Jonny boy here to these machines.”

He looked at Jonnydepp and continued: “Jonny, why don’t you lie down on the bed so that the doctor can start his work.”

“Should I remove my shirt?” Jonnydepp asked.

“Yeah, go ahead,” the don said.

Jonnydepp removed his shirt to reveal finely chiselled abs that started immediately under his nipples. He lay down on the operation table and stated attaching wires to his head and body.

“Once you are set up, I am going to beat up Jonny boy here within an inch of his life.” The don said, tapping the bat on the wooden floor. “During this time, you are to check his vital signs very carefully. As the readings drop, I shall amp up the intensity.

“And just when Death is about to suck his soul, we give Jonny an electric shock so massive that Death gets electrocuted. And before he recovers, we tie him up and throw him into a dungeon for the rest of eternity. That, my friend, is how I shall capture death.”

The doctor was too stunned to even nod his head.

The don snapped his fingers in the doctor’s face.

“Understood what I said?” The don asked.

“Absolutely.” The doctor replied, as he sprung back into reality.

The situation was so fucked up that he decided to play along with the don and get the hell out of there as soon as possible. It wasn’t his head under the bat anyway.

“Alright, then!” The don announced. “Time to play a game of cricket.”

The don approached the operation table and swung the bat.

“Stop!!” shouted the doctor.

The bat froze in mid air.

“If you are hell-bent on going forward with this madness, there is no point in bashing him up” the doctor said.

“What are you saying doctor, I can’t afford to waste any more time,” the don said.

“What I mean is, there are more efficient ways to kill a person. You really don’t need to spill out his brains.”

The doctor removed a small vial from his coat pocket. Inside it were a few drops of a colourless liquid.

“It looks like water, but trust me, it isn’t. Out on the street, it is known as Death Wish. Very popular among assassins. This little compound here needs just forty-three seconds to kill an average sized human.”

“Doctor, are you telling the truth” the don asked.

“I swear on the grave of my grandmother.”

The don thought for a moment and slowly lowered the bat.

“Forty three seconds, doctor.” He said. “I am starting the timer.”

The doctor quickly injected Death Wish into Jonnydepp’s arm.

The room immediately became deathly still. It seemed as if the fireworks on the beach stopped too.

Only the sound from the don’s wristwatch could be heard.

Tick, tick, tick…

Forty seconds to go.

On the operation table, Jonnydepp stopped moving. His heart rate and pulse slowed down.

Five seconds later, he slipped out of consciousness.

“Get ready.” The don said.

The doctor switched on the defibrillator and picked up the pads. He put the meter at 200 volts. The don pushed his hand away and increased it to 1000 volts.

Twenty seconds to go.

All the vital signs started falling.

Fifteen…ten…five…

The doctor could hear his heart pounding in his rib cage.

Three, two, one…

Don Eduardo looked at the readings.

Jonnydepp’s body weight changed from 80.457 kgs to 80.450 kgs.

And it was falling even lower.

Death had arrived!!

“NOW!!!” he shouted.

The doctor took a deep breath and pressed the pads on Jonny’s chest.

The force of the current pushed Jonny out of the bed and into the air. His arms and legs flailed like they belonged to a limp doll. The doctor pushed him back onto the bed and rammed the pads harder into his chest.

Jonnydepp’s skin sizzled and the smell of burnt flesh wafted under their noses.

The weight machine indicated that Jonny’s weight fell by another ten grams.

Don Eduardo twisted the knob to the extreme right. A total of 2,500 volts passed through Jonny’s body each second.

Fumes started to emanate from his body and pretty soon, the entire room was filled with white smoke.

The doctor started coughing loudly.

“I can’t do this anymore!” he said between coughs.

“Don’t stop!” the don shouted.

“I have asthma. Can I step out of the room?” said a thug.

“Stay wherever the fuck you are!” the don replied.

“Boss-” started another thug. But the rest of his sentence was drowned out by a loud bang that pierced the eardrums of everyone in the room.

“What happened?” someone screamed.

“Was that a bomb?”

“Shut up, everyone!” the don said.

“The defibrillator has broken down,” said the doctor.

“Switch on the fans and open the doors,” ordered the don.

A few thugs went around opening the doors and switching on the fans.

The rest of them huddled around the operation table.

Everything was still hazy but the don let out a wild roar.

“Eureka!!!” he shouted.

“Did it work?” asked Razor

“It worked, it worked.” The don screamed in happiness. “I am a fucking genius.”

As the smoke drifted out, the doctor was shocked to find a tattered black cloth covered on top of Jonnydepp’s body.

With trembling hands, he pulled down the hood and what he saw froze his sperm forever.

A thin bony face was stuck onto Jonny’s face in a deep dark kiss.

Death had come just as the don said and Death had been electrocuted just as he predicted.

The entire situation seemed like a nightmare caused by a drug overdose.

Death looked so small and pale; like it was underfed or something. And despite the commotion going on, it didn’t move.

If it wasn’t Death itself, one could have assumed it was dead.

“Tie him up and throw him in the storage room.” The don said as he opened a champagne bottle.

“But what about Jonny?” Razor asked.

The don gave one look at Jonnydepp. His hair had burnt down to a crisp and his skin was a ripe orange colour, as if cooked on a slow fire.

“Throw him down too.”

“Okay, boss,” said Razor. He pulled the two of them apart and threw Death on his shoulder. Another thug followed Razor carrying Jonny in his arms.

“Come on lads, it is close to midnight. Let’s go on the deck and celebrate the New Year.”

As they were climbing up the steps, a huge blast violently rocked the entire yacht.

The don tumbled and landed on his face.

“What the fucking hell!!” said the don.

A thug rushed down from the deck with bullet holes in his body.

“It is Naga’s gang. They are attacking us.” He said.

Just then, a whole bunch of thugs descended down the flight of stairs with machine guns.

The clock struck twelve and the fireworks started.

Naga, the rival don and his thugs pulled out their guns and started shooting.

For the first time in his life, the don understood what it felt to be hit by a bullet.

The bullet went right through his throat and blood gushed out like someone pressed the flush button on his head.

It was complete madness. Nothing could be heard apart from the sound of gunshots.

A thug from Don Eduardo’s gang named Goli was cornered by a rival thug. He emptied the entire magazine into Goli’s head.

“Die you bastard, DIE!!” he shouted, as the bullets tore Goli’s skull to shreds.

However, the poor bastard was still alive. His eye sockets were nothing more than bullet holders and his nose was on the other side of the room.

Yet, he didn’t die.

“Kill me!!” Goli screamed from the hole that was once his mouth.

“What else am I trying to do, you idiot,” shouted the thug.

He clipped a new magazine to his gun and pressed the trigger once more.

Forty more bullets went into his face but he didn’t die.

“What the fuck is happening, man??” he shouted.

“These bastards are not dying!” shouted another thug.

He had his gun pressed to the heart of his victim and squeezed bullets continuously but he didn’t get the result he wanted.

The yacht was filled with deathly screams but nobody was dying.

Meanwhile in the store room, Death opened his eyes to find Jonnydepp inches away from his own face.

He immediately jumped up in fright.

“What the hell are you doing man?” Death said.

“I want to kiss you,” said Jonnydepp.

“Are you out of your mind?” Death said.

“No, I am in love.” Jonny said. “And it is because of you. That kiss of yours back there stole my heart forever.”

The passion in his eyes could have burnt a hole in the yacht.

He approached Death with open arms.

“Get away from me, dude.” Death said, trying to squeeze himself in a corner.

“I want to be with you no matter what anyone says.”

“Fucker, I am going to kill you if you touch me”

“And how are you going to do that. With a kiss on my lips?” asked Jonny, with a smile.

Death was stunned.

It was true. The only way he could kill him was to plant a kiss on his lips.

In another corner of the yacht, Naga found his arch enemy. Eduardo lay on the ground, bleeding heavily from his wounds.

“Goodbye, Eduardo. You are about to meet death in a few seconds.”

But before he could raise his gun, Eduardo jumped up and sliced Naga’s head with a Japanese blade that emerged out of his sleeve.

“You are a bit late to the party, sucker. I already met him.”

Naga’s head rolled on to the ground and another body fell on top of it.

“Move your ass, idiot. I am suffocating here,” he said.

Jonny moved closer to Death.

“Alright, I confess. I always feared that I had a thing for men. Now, you entered my life and confirmed it. But then again, you are not a man, right.”

“Please man, I beg you. Don’t do this to me.” Death begged.

But without his only power, he was rendered defenceless against the big brute. Death resigned to his fate and surrendered.

But just as Jonny was about to kiss him, something miraculous happened.

A giant hole blasted through the wall behind Death, throwing him into the open sea.

Frustrated beyond words, a thug had tossed a dozen grenades at another guy. The fellow didn’t die but it destroyed the yacht.

Without stopping for a moment, Jonny jumped behind him. But Death was nowhere to be found.

Jonny searched frantically in the dark waters with no result.

Conceding defeat, Jonny came up to the surface. The yacht was completely destroyed. Nothing remained of it apart from broken wooden planks.

But the worst part was the bodies.

More than thirty bodies floated all around him. All of them were bloody and broken and very much dead.

Don Eduardo had succeeded in kidnapping Death but not for long. Now he sank slowly to an unmarked watery grave.

Death had made good with its escape.

And he took the souls of everyone on the yacht…

…except for one: Jonny’s.

Jonny turned towards the skies and screamed out in anger.

Love could be so cruel.

—————————————*—-*———————————————

A few years later…

A baby fish swimming in the Arabian Sea found a pearly skeleton floating in the waters.

It swam up to the skeleton and tickled a foot bone with its gills.

The skeleton jerked away in reflex.

It was Jonnydepp and he hated to be tickled.

After the terrible blast on the yacht, Jonny decided to give up on life. He floated aimlessly in the water waiting for Death’s embrace.

At first the fishes were afraid of him but slowly they started nibbling at him. A tiny piece here, a tiny piece there.

But when Jonny didn’t react, the fishes jumped in with glee. They tore out huge chunks from his body and feasted all day long.

Soon, there was nothing left of Jonny except for his skeleton. The fishes had gobbled every organ including his liver, brain and heart.

Still, Jonny was alive. His soul continued to reside in his bony skeleton as death refused to come anywhere near him.

The baby fish tickled him again.

“Daddy, come look at this skeleton. It is moving when I tickle it.”

Daddyfish was tired of his son’s lies.

“Shut up kid. That’s a skeleton. It is dead. IT CAN’T GET TICKLED!!”

It was alright for children to have a wild imagination but this was becoming too much. He just wanted to nap for a while but the kid kept waking him up for stupid reasons. Tickling skeletons! What nonsense.

Was a nap too much to ask for; a simple fucking nap??

Babyfish ignored his dad and turned towards Jonny again.

“It’s okay, whiteboy. We both can continue playing. Forget about daddy; we won’t include daddy in our games anymore.”

He drew up his fin and tickled Jonny’s foot again.

But Jonny couldn’t take it anymore.

“Touch me again, and I will kick you in the balls.” He said and watched as the little fish swam away, petrified.

If only he could suck out his own soul, he sighed.

——————————————–*-*————————————————

 

Conjuring 2 at a Hyderabadi Single Screen.

It was five minutes past ten and we were nowhere near the theatre. The movie was scheduled to begin at 9:45. “Probably they are still showing ads,” one of my cousins said hopefully. “Yeah, right.” I thought. This wasn’t Chennai where you could breeze into PVR thirty minutes late and still be in time to catch a couple of those propaganda ads for the CM.

Cousins’ night out. First get together. Second show movie. Conjuring 2!

It sounded brilliant on paper. Just like the Deccan Chargers team before the first season of IPL. You only had to wait for the tournament to kick off to discover what a disaster it was. So when a group of eight plans something as simple as watching a movie in a theatre, you learn why some countries aren’t such big fans of democracy.

It was a Sunday and all the multiplexes in Hyderabad were booked. The only viable option was a single screen near BHEL; twenty minutes away from our house and we were twenty minutes late!!! Go figure.

By the time we entered the hall, a ghost was already tormenting one of the kids. Damn! We had missed the initial faux-scares inherent in all horror movies where you hear a loud bang and it turns out that somebody just sneezed or something. And since I am no Woody Allen, I didn’t stomp out of the hall for missing nearly a quarter of the movie. I did the right thing and stayed back. It proved to be quite an education.

James Wan certainly didn’t have a Hyderabadi audience in mind when he made the movie. The hall was a riot during the first half. You could hear laughter break out when it was least expected. Any stand up comedian would have killed for such an audience.

The scene where the devil reveals its name to Vera Farmiga was quite frightening but guys were rolling around in their seats and the in-house comedian commented on the terrible state of the ghost’s teeth, advising it to make an appointment with a dentist.

Another thing that surprised me was that people were having conversations with each other across the hall. When the ghostly nun appears for the first time, one guy from the front end of the hall shouted, “Damn, this ghost looks really scary!” And pat came a reply from the other end of the hall: “Yeah, it looks like your WhatsApp DP.”

Another guy probably forgot that no matter how much you shout at the characters on the screen, they can’t hear you. He went on for a full five minutes cursing the little girl who tied her hand to the cot so she wouldn’t sleepwalk again. “Why do you even bother, girl. You know you are going to sleepwalk again.”

Lights were switched on at the randomly placed interval and I finally got a chance to find out who the fanatic screentalkers were. Engineering students…obviously. They probably got a night out pass from their hostel and were making the most of it.

Post interval, the movie played out quite quickly. A couple of good scares, a terrifying climax followed by an obligatory romantic kiss, and the movie ended. Lights came back to life and everyone started to shuffle towards the exits and for once, I witnessed the entire audience stop in its tracks to wait for the credits to roll out. There wasn’t a standing ovation or anything. It was simply because the credits were accompanied by the traditional real life vs. actors photographs that feature at the end of any movie based on real life incidents.

This doesn’t prove anything, except that the movie held its own as a horror flick. If the film sucked, people wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass how the real Ed and Lorraine Warren looked. They would be racing each other to the parking lot, cursing the fucking ghost for being such a douche bag.  Apart from a few guys who acted macho and looked around with bored eyes like they tackled psychotic ghosts daily at lunch, most of us were visibly relieved that the movie had ended with the protagonists alive and ready to tackle another bad-ass ghost next year.

Okay, it didn’t have the best plot and the evil ghost’s destruction was a bit anti-climatic (It isn’t a spoiler…did you really expect the ghost to win in the end). But hey, this is a genre movie and it provides the thrills to justify the ticket price (Unless you live in Bangalore and pay 500 for a single ticket).

As we drove away, I realized something. The hall was completely silent during the final half hour of the movie. No sarcastic comments or loud laughter or talking to the screen.

James Wan had succeeded in conjuring the toughest audience. And though I hate to admit it, I was a wee bit thankful for the running commentary that accompanied the scares during the first half of the movie.