Welcome dear sojourner to our little space in the void - Unseen Fiction.
We are very excited to be bringing you the next volume of our Flash-Zine. This season we will bring you art and stories from South Asia, often with algorithmic help.
We have two stories for you, one about a reality that seems imminent and the other about a future transformation.
Stay awhile, and listen.
Guddu the Constable
by: MOHAMMAD SALMAN
When Guddu the constable swings his baton, he imagines revenge against his merciless father. The four-foot piece of bamboo becomes a brush with which he paints a mural of retribution. Oiled before every use, it splinters wrists, shatters shins, slashing and swinging day after day, Guddu dancing to its rhythm. His mind's eye replaces his victims with the long-dead man who raised him. That man screams and begs for mercy. Some days, his skull cracks and he dies, and Guddu sleeps better for it. His duty is done.
When Raja's scooter sputters into the narrow bylanes where his enemies live, he closes his mind to the squalor that is much the same as his part of town. His duty is greater: revenge against the invaders who looted his great land. Sometimes Raja cuts them down with swords, on other days he uses steel rods. But he lives for the petrol bombs, reveling in flames roar through homes, shops and telephone booths, melting signboards bearing profane names.
Somewhere between Guddu's beat and Raja's route there is a wall behind which there lives a cat. She hides from dogs, vehicles and thrown projectiles, coming out only when Sunny walks past.
Sunny is kinder than Guddu, who swings his lathi at the poor animal, and Raja, who always has something to throw at her. He feeds her everyday before going to the protest at the other end of the street. When he was six, Sunny saw his family look the other way when a mob killed a neighbour. Thirty years later, he makes it his duty to never look the other way.
This morning is different. The acrid smell of burning tyres and plastic wafts in from the market nearby. Shouts and screams have not allowed her to sleep all morning. The cat wonders if Sunny will come. Sunny has every intention of making his appointment. He has stayed at the protest overnight, fearing an attack. A mob comes as promised, and the protestors flee for their lives, seeking refuge with the police. The police see things differently. They've picked a side, and it isn't the one sandwiched between them and the mob. On the frontlines, Guddu's lathi prepares to sing. His mind's eye can already see his father begging for mercy, and the lathi picks Sunny to exact this day's revenge.
CRACK. CRACK. CRACK.
The bamboo sings and catches Sunny on the arm, thigh and head. Blood streaming down his face, he stumbles back towards the attacking mob. As the police pushes the protestors back, Raja imagines a vast field of battle, armies massed on both sides, noble patriots charging hard into the ranks of the vile invader. Sunny stumbles into his field of vision. "A mighty general!", Raja thinks. He is glad today is sword day. He does his duty. A body falls. Crimson blood soaks cat treats wrapped in a brown paper bag.
A few hundred yards away, the cat stops waiting. “Maybe he’ll come tomorrow.”
About the author: Mohammad Salman is a development communications professional and speculative fiction writer from Lucknow in north India. His work has appeared in Kitaab and other anthologies. He is working on his first comic for the upcoming Indian quarterly magazine Comixense. Salman counts Terry Pratchett and Isaac Asimov among his inspirations, dreaming of creating a legendarium of his own one day. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi and holds a Master’s Degree in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia. He shares his home with his wife Anam and son Anwar, though it is in truth the dominion of their cat, Alif.
Whatever Floats Your Goat/Boat
When the sea swallowed the city, I was there. And I made sure we won.
It was a long time coming, really. People had been slow to relocate. NotunKolkata was halfway built when the Really Bad Summer year had come in, melted a significant bunch of icebergs, and culminated in the nuclear solstice where the sun released a CME that heated Antarctica at the same time. Things that generally tended to happen, as things do.
Sea levels rose abruptly, and there was general pandemonium in other cities in the world. Not in Kolkata though – oh no. If not for people like me we would have drowned like Jakarta or Singapore. When toxic water replaced much of the pavement in Park Street, if society had gone the way of the usual problem solvers, we would have drowned just like the other cities.
I remember the day very well. The Chief Minister called a general strike – not to protest anything (not this time, thankfully), but to generally have people stay home and figure out exactly what needs to be done to keep the city moving.
I was still at Writer’s Building, working late into the night on a new tender for this whole water swallowing up the city thing and figuring out new licenses for buildings when a veritable dam of ideas broke inside of me.
What if – the Kolkata Municipal Corporation did its job for once – and created a licensing scheme for boats. Boat taxis and boat buses – the Venice of the East like what they claim other cities to be. Now that Venice was definitely out of the picture (one would assume), we really had something new to do here.
It took some work, some strings pulled, and some general handgrease quotas to be assumed but in just a week we had floated a completely different tender.
Yes there was chaos, and yes there were diseases. But for those four years where Kolkata became the new Venice, there was a handsome pile of cash in my bank account.
The city still drowned though.
About the author: Kaushik is one half of unseen fiction
From the Editors:
The soundtrack for this episode is Haunting by Kaushik
Images were generated by Kaushik with MidJourney
We hope you enjoyed these stories.
Twice a month, Unseen fiction brings you speculative flash fiction crafted in South Asia. Follow us on twitter - - @UnseenFic for updates.
We are accepting stories here! Email us at unseenfic at gmail, write a comment here, or drop a hello on twitter if you have feedback, would like to collaborate, narrate, sponsor or just say hi. (We’re working on getting shorter sentences)
See you next time
This work including the artwork is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License.