The many deaths of Anita Rai.

New York. 8 AM, 17th December 2016.

An alarm went off waking Adam Briston. Adam opened his eyes, lifeless they were. He didn’t bother to get up from his bed. His face was colourless his eyes dead. He kept staring at the ceiling. Waiting.

Mumbai, 8 AM, 20th January 2017.

The alarm went off at 8AM and Anita Rai woke up screaming. Her breathing was rapid and shallow, her heart was beating like a hammer, her palms covered were with sweat and her face was drained of all colour. Her hands frantically searched her stomach, there was no wound, no blood. That’s when the surroundings hit her — she was in her bed, in her room, in her pyjamas. It was a nightmare, she realised. She covered her face with her hands, her breathing slowed down.

She got up and went to the washroom. Turning on the tap, she took some cold water and splashed her face with it. She grabbed a towel and as she wiped her face, she looked at herself in the mirror.

The nightmare flashed in front of her face — She was walking back from work, when she was stabbed by a mugger. The mugger left in a hurry, leaving her to die slowly and painfully on the street.

She still couldn’t shake off the fear. The nightmare felt too real, almost like a memory. It was too lucid and she remembered all the details. The attacker’s face, clothes, the knife he used, the pain she felt, her blood on her hands. “When did I come home? I don’t remember coming home. I must have had a blackout for some reason, better get it checked”, she thought. She stepped out of her washroom, went to the side table next to her bed and picked up her phone to make an appointment with her doctor. As her phone came to life, a chill went down her spine — “20th January 2017”, it said. Taking a deep breath, she muttered, “Relax Anita. The calendar must be broken.“. She went to her settings and adjusted the date to 21st January. She made an appointment for 7PM with her physician and started on with her routine.

She reached work around 10AM. She had worked till late last night, finishing up on a presentation for a meeting on the 22nd. “I will make the final touches and send it across for a review”, she thought. She opened her laptop. “Where is the file?”, she thought. She searched her entire computer and she couldn’t find it. “Shit, I think it crashed or I forgot to save it. Argh! I will have to do it all over again.”, she thought. She picked up her phone and dialled a number. “Hey Ramya, cancel all my meetings for today. I have some work I need to finish.”, she told her assistant. With a sigh, she rolled up her sleeves and started working on the presentation. Rest of the day went by without much excitement. She wrapped it up at 6 and left for her appointment with Dr. Rajan. She reached his clinic at 6:50 PM.

“Hey, I am 10 minutes early for my appointment. Is Dr. Rajan available?”, she asked the receptionist. “Yes Ms. Anita, he is waiting for you”, she said with a smile. “Great, thanks”, Anita smiled back and went to the consultation room.

At 7:30 PM, Dr Rajan wrote a prescription and handed it to Anita. “Anita, everything looks fine to me. Stress or Anxiety can cause memory relapses sometimes. I have prescribed some mild medication, nothing serious. Take it for the next 3 days. Hopefully nothing will happen after this. If something does happen, we will get detailed tests done. You know where to collect the pills from”, said the doctor. “Yes I do. Thanks doc.”, said Anita and stepped out.

Dr Rajan’s clinic had a small pharmacy attached, she went there and looked at her prescription. She noticed that Dr.Rajan had got the date wrong, 20th January 2017, the prescription said. She shrugged it off and bought her pills.

She called a cab for her home. The cab reached after 5 minutes and she got in. As the cab drove away, she stared outside her window, tired. Really weird day it had been. And then it happened, 8:15 PM — a kid trying to cross the road suddenly stepped in front of the speeding cab, the driver tried to steer the cab away and applied the brakes to avoid hitting the kid and the lost control.

The car crashed on a side bolder, flipped and landed with a thud. All of this happened in a second. Anita felt the flip and then a blasting paid through her body. She was beneath the car, her body crushed under it. She tried screaming but nothing came, only tears rolled down from her eyes and blood from the rest of her body. After a few seconds it was all black.

Mumbai, 8 AM, 20th January 2017.

The alarm went off and Anita Rai woke up screaming. Her breathing was rapid and shallow, her heart was beating like a hammer, her palms covered were with sweat and her face was drained of all colour. She frantically checked her body. No bruises, no pain, no blood. She was fine. She was in her bed, in her room, in the same night clothes as yesterday. She rushed to the washroom to examine herself in the mirror, to double check. Nothing, she was absolutely fine. It again seemed like a nightmare. Something was off. Very off. Her head felt dizzy and she she sat, knees down on her washroom floor. Her head was spinning, she had not idea what was happening.

She remembered being in the car crash on her way back from Dr. Rajan’s. Just like she remembered being stabbed. “What the hell is happening!? There is something wrong with me. I have to call Dr. Rajan”, she thought nervously, got up and rushed to grab her phone. As she punched in her code, her phone went live and it said, 20th January 2017. “What the fuck is wrong with this stupid phone! The calendar keeps breaking”, she barked, stressed out. She ignored it and dialled Dr. Rajan;s number. After 6 rings, the doctor picked up.

“Good morning Anita. How are you doing?”, said Rajan. “Doctor, I had an incident again last night, I dreamt about being in a car accident and I can’t remember anything after that. A complete blackout. All I can remember is the nightmare. I can’t even distinguish it from my memory”, Anita kept going.

“Anita, anita. Hey listen to me. Calm down, okay? I am here. Okay?”, said Rajan in the most soothing voice he could manage. “Okay”, muttered Anita. “Now, describe it to me calmly. The incident. And what are these pills you are taking?”, asked Rajan. “What I explained to you yesterday, the same thing doctor. The same thing happened again. I don’t remember anything after 8:15 PM. And I woke up with a nightmare of me dying, which feels very real. I don’t remember if I took the pills you gave me yesterday, I don’t even remember coming home.”, Anita said.

“Yesterday? Anita, what are you talking about? I haven’t seen you in a while now. I didn’t prescribe you any pills yesterday either.”, said Rajan slowly. “What are you talking about Dr. Rajan? I was at your clinic, at 7 PM last night.”, said Anita confused. “Anita, I want you to calm down and listen to me. You were not there in my clinic yesterday. I think there is an issue going on here. I will be in my click at 9, I suggest you skip work and come down immediately.Okay? We will fix this.”, said Rajan. “Okay”, said Anita slowly.

She got ready quickly, her head was still spinning. Everything felt unreal and strange. “It’s okay. Relax. Something is wrong with your mind and Dr. Rajan will fix it.”, she told herself as she took some deep breaths. She did not like driving but she didn’t want to get inside a cab. So she decided to take her car. She grabbed her keys and walked to the elevators. Out-of-order — it said next to both the elevators. “The hell”, sighed Anita. She went to the staircase and started climbing down.

She lived on the 16th floor, so the flight down would take her some time. She was on the 14th floor when it happened — The cleaners had just finished cleaning the stairs and there was some soapy water left, Anita didn’t notice as she was lost in her thoughts and her foot slipped. She fell head first and screamed. She kept falling and landed at the end of the 20 stairs. The staircase was spattered with blood. The cleaners down on the 3rd floor heard her scream and ran up. She was dead by the time they got there.

Mumbai, 8 AM, 20th January 2017.

he alarm went off and Anita Rai woke up screaming. Her breathing was rapid and shallow, her heart was beating like a hammer, her palms covered were with sweat and her face was drained of all colour. She frantically checked her head. Nothing, no blood. She rushed to the mirror and saw herself, as tears started rolling down her face. She was physically fine and was losing her mind.

She dragged her feet to the side table, picked up her phone and punched her security code. The screen went live and read — 20th January 2017 and she looked at it in horror. She dialled Dr. Rajan’s number. “Good morning Anita, how are you doing? Everything all right?”, asked Rajan. “No, I think I am losing my mind.”, said Anita sobbing. “Anita! What is the matter? Relax and talk to me”, said Rajan urgently.

“Please answer a question for me — did I come to your clinic or spoke to you on phone yesterday?”, asked Anita slowly. “No Anita, I haven’t spoken to you in a long time. Can you please tell me what is wrong?”, asked the doctor. “Doctor, what’s the date today?”, asked Anita. “20th January. Anita, please, let’s talk about you.”, said Rajan. “Doctor, I think I am losing my mind. Please, I need your help.”, said Anita. “Yes, I am there. I will be in my clinic by 9. Just come and I will see you.”, said Rajan. “No, I cannot do that. I don’t want to step out of my house. Doc, can you come over for a home visit? Please?”, requested Anita. “Okay, I will come over by 5 PM. Try to relax, till then.” said Rajan.

After hanging up the phone, Anita dropped on her bed, grabbed her phone, opened google and typed — what’s the the date today. 20th January 2017, it said. She dropped her phone and her sobbing increased. She had died 3 times or she felt like that. She had relived 20th January 3 times, or she felt like that. She was definitely losing her mind. She crawled up on her bed, afraid and waited for Dr. Rajan to come over.

At 4 PM, she got up to get herself some water from the kitchen, when it happened. She could feel a sudden tightness in her chest, followed by pain in her chest, left arm and her neck. She found it difficult to breathe and collapsed on the kitchen floor. After 3 painful minutes, the heart attack stopped her body and her pulse, she was dead. Then nothing.

Mumbai, 8 AM, 20th January 2017.

The alarm went off and Anita Rai woke up screaming. Her breathing was rapid and shallow,her heart was beating like a hammer, her palms covered were with sweat and her face was drained of all colour. She reached for her phone and punched in her security code. 20th january 2017, it said. “No!”, she screamed, started crying hysterically and threw her phone.

As she cried and screamed, Death watched her. He was standing leaning on a wall and looked bored. “What a waste. This one will go insane sooner than the last one. Humans are pathetic, they can’t even entertain me properly.”, he thought. As she cried and screamed, he yawned and disappeared.

London, 7th February 2017.

Death appeared in a small cafe in central London. He looked at the left corner, 5 people were sitting. He lifted his finger and waved it left to right, until he stopped at one. “You are next. Lets see how you perform”, muttered Death with amusement. He clicked his fingers and a new death loop started. “I should think of a new game after this one.”, he thought and disappeared.