Dear Stranger

By Aditya Deshmukh


For days I hated you. What gave a stranger the right to keep me from taking my own life?

Dear Stranger,

I never meant to write this letter, for you may never receive it.

I do not know who rules over this infinite realm of existence that we call the universe. Is it God—the all-knowing, all-powerful being—who governs every aspect of our reality? Or is it some planet-sized machine that controls our world, which is a mere simulation, based on some computer logic?

Neither a God who writes destiny in indelible cosmic ink, nor an intricate complex computer algorithm that no one can violate, can make our meeting possible. This event was probably neither fated nor coded, for you are a stranger and what are the odds of our paths crossing again? There is no need for us to meet, just a desire, and this indifferent God, this computer code does not heed desire, only need.

But I hope there is a flaw in the cosmic ink, a glitch in the code, or something that transcends these powers and allows my letter to reach you. Perhaps there is, for I believe the universe has a soul of its own, a soul which is beyond God’s will or computer logic, a soul that listens. And I hope the universe is listening to me as I write this letter. I pray that my voice will one day reach your ears, and that it is not lost to the cold, dark kingdoms of void.

There was a cloud blocking my mind. It took birth that fateful day to shield me from the brutal memories. It was a thick, heavy, fattening stretch of fog through which nothing could pass. Fragments of memory whirled and drowned in this ocean of mist. For days, I let it grow and expand. I despised those memories. I shunned them.

But today, I was ready to accept them.

I swam in the ocean, trying to find the fragments. But I couldn’t navigate this maze. The cloud had blinded me. Every piece of memory remained separated from me, and I just couldn’t remember.

However, the fog started to thin. I came across shapes. They were vague but they were there, and they led me to these swirling ghosts of memories.

Sometimes the ghosts whispered. Sometimes the fog lifted. Sometimes, I saw.

I saw rain pelting down. I saw my town crumble beneath a legion of murderous dark, heavy clouds. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead as the winds danced around a shuddering bridge. It collapsed right before my eyes. It went down along with a dozen cars and disappeared beneath the raging mud-waters of the flooded river. I was standing at the edge, staring at this destruction, praying. I prayed with my hands pressed against my ears so that I wouldn’t hear the screams of those who drowned. But I heard them, loud and clear, right until their screams too drowned in the laughter of thunder.

I saw a mother wailing, her son’s corpse lying in her lap.

I saw some survivors gather on the roof of a sinking bus. A two-storey high wave came and swallowed them all. I couldn’t bear to hear their screams, and shivering and crying, I walked towards the edge.

I wanted it to stop. The shouting, the screaming, the wailing. I wanted everything to stop. Begging for a moment of peace, I jumped into the angry river.

I woke up with a jolt. My sheets were drenched in cold sweat. My heart beat faster than a metro, and the only sound I heard other than the throbbing pulse was a blood-curdling scream. My scream.

My brother rushed into the room, a baseball bat in his hand. “What’s wrong?” He asked after scanning the room for a possible intruder.

I told him the chilling nightmare. He didn’t quite understand. He simply ruffled my hair. “A dream is just a dream.”

Months passed. It was when the nightmare had almost completely faded from my thoughts that disturbing incidents started occurring on a global scale. It confirmed my fears. The repeating dream I had was something more than just a dream. If I believed in premonitions, it was one. A glimpse of a possible future. But an inaccurate one.

Perhaps the universe feared the dark side of humanity would trump over the good side, turning humans into selfish, vile creatures. Perhaps that’s why in my dreams it decided to erase mankind by summoning earth-quakes and storms. No, universe wasn’t cruel. In fact, it was giving a much kinder death than what was happening around the world.

International peace had become a myth, and entire countries were turning into dust. While many men fell with their nations, some survived. They were forced to illegally enter other countries and live a humiliating life there, if they were lucky. Otherwise, they would hide in the graveyards of their nations, scavenging for resources that simply weren’t there. They would lose their minds because of despair and start seeing the ghosts of their dead brethren. And they would kill themselves, tempted by the idea spirits needed no food and knew no hunger.

The age of terror had come.

Terrorist organizations were powerful enough to bring leagues of nations to their knees. Madmen were being elected as presidents, and they would then drag their countries through filth. With the decline of global population, kids orphaned because of war were put in cages and sold to rich countries so as to maintain their population level. Cultures bought other cultures, and those not willing to become slaves were tortured and killed.

Earth was dying.

The human mind is delicate. There’s just so much it can bear before it snapped like a twig. Over the years, things added up. I willfully ignored the very real possibility of mankind’s extinction. Ignorance gave me a sense of hope. If I didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t happen, right?

The events continued, my mental barriers collapsed, and I realized how naive I was. I could no longer ignore the darkness.

Nothing had affected me directly. Being powerful, my country had a dominating position in world politics. Attacking us would be folly, and every nation understood that. Unlike others, I had the privilege to feel security. I had no reason to be agitated.

But I had a mind that couldn’t stop thinking. I couldn’t shut myself to what was going outside. I knew this wasn’t a fight between nations, but a manifestation of humanity’s internal struggle of light versus darkness. The outcome would affect us all. It was high tide, we all were trapped in the same ocean, and the dark waters were rising.

At the very brink of Nuclear War, one of the warring nations surrendered. Peace returned. It seemed the high tide had passed without taking any more lives. I suddenly had this great hope in humanity. I knew the rest of the governments would soon come to their senses.

But this was simply the silence before the storm.

On the very night the nation surrendered, it nuked its enemy nation.

The explosion shattered my soul into a million shards that could never recombine to form a whole. The darkness snuffed my light, and I lost all desire to live.

Next day, I took off early from work after watching on television that my nation was also dragged into the war. It was the final push to my impending breakdown. Halfway home, it had started to rain. When the sky turned black, I wondered if this was it.

The car radio announced that if we didn’t surrender within five minutes, the enemy nation would nuke us too. Tears filled my eyes. I reached a crossing. The traffic light shone red. My heart was racing. I stomped the accelerator.

A truck hit me. As it sheared the rear half of my car, my head slammed against the dashboard. I touched my bruised head. Blood didn’t trickle down my face. I had no fatal injuries. I punched the dashboard. I got off the car and ran into the rain. The truck driver yelled at me, but I was too sad and angry to care.

I jumped off the road and sprinted towards the river. When I was at the edge, I removed my phone. I opened a news app and swiped through the feed. Thirty seconds for the attack. I tossed the phone into the river and watched it vanish beneath the raging waters. Crying, I neared the edge. I felt my feet slipping against the wet rock. One more inch, and I would fall. One more inch, and the pain would stop.

But you grabbed me from behind. You put your arms around me and pulled me back. I struggled out of your grip, and fell on the rock. I lost consciousness.

When I woke up, I was in the hospital.

For days I hated you. What gave a stranger the right to keep me from taking my own life? I couldn’t bear the pain. I wanted it to end. But you dragged me back to this fucked up world. I wanted to confront you and demand an answer, but you were long gone. You were a stranger; I had no way of reaching you. I would never get my answer. And I hated you more.

Then I watched the news and my anger dissipated. Dozens of nations had come together to form an invincible organization dedicated to prevent the Nuclear War. Our attacker was forced to surrender their weaponry. All threats were neutralized. Peace had finally returned.

I now understand what was needed to calm my inner turmoil was not suicide, but hope. That day, you saved me. You brought me back to the world I had lost faith in. And now I see that because of people like you, the good side of humanity will always trump over the bad.

I want to thank you, truly, for now I have life as well as hope. And now I know that it doesn’t matter what’s written in our destiny. It doesn’t matter what’s next in this simulation. As long as we believe in hope, we have the power to write our own story.

Yours Gratefully,

An unbroken soul.


Aditya Deshmukh

is a mechanical engineering student who likes exploring the mechanics of writing as much as he likes tinkering with machines. He writes dark fiction and poetry. He is published in over three dozen anthologies, and has a poetry book “Opium Hearts” coming out soon.