The Power of Certainty by Eva Bell

Reggie had set off to work as usual that morning. I had waved him off with a kiss before I began my own preparations for the day. We had been married for three years and were very much in love. He would call me up a couple of times from his office, just to show he was thinking of me. He said hearing my voice would put him in a pleasant frame of mind and would send him back to his desk with more enthusiasm.

But that particular day there were no phone calls, neither did he come home that evening. I wondered what happened. Did he meet with an accident? I hovered by the door, frequently looking at the clock. But at midnight, I knew that something was definitely wrong. In desperation, I knocked at my neighbour’s door to ask him for his help.

We drove to the Police station to ask for help. The Inspector was quite rude.

“It’s not yet twenty four hours since the man is missing. He might have gone off on some important work. Perhaps the phone lines there are dead and he cannot contact you.”

Seeing my agitation, my neighbour Sam said, “We’ll do a round of the hospitals and enquire at the Emergency Department if there had been any major accidents involving Reggie. But in all the hospitals we visited, the answer was in the negative. Sam then drove to the mortuaries attached to the hospitals. We were assured that no bodies had been brought in, that particular day. So he drove me home in the wee hours of the morning.

“You try to rest now. Think positive. I’m sure Reggie will be back with a legitimate reason for his silence. If not, tomorrow we will file a ‘Missing Persons’ complaint at the Central Police Station and ask them to start investigations,” Sam said.

Reggie had vanished without a trace. The hunt had been carried out for a week with no success. The police promised to keep looking for any clues that could be useful. Many of my friends believed that Reggie had eloped with another woman.

“He ditched you Rosy. He’s not worth mourning over. You’re still young and good looking. In time, you will find someone who will really care for you.”

My parents wanted me to come home and stay with them for a while.

“I’m not going anywhere. I know Reggie will contact me sooner or later. I know that he truly loves me and will come back to me someday. I have faith in the strength of our relationship.”

Days turned to months and then to years. I refused to give into despair. Within me was an inexplicable assurance that he was not dead. Both Reggie and I were a religious couple. We believed in the power of prayer. One day when I was reading my Bible, I came across this verse in Psalms 34:18.

“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Then Reggie’s face suddenly flashed through my mind. “Have faith,” he said.

It was as if this message had come from his mind into mine. This was the first of many messages I believed came from Reggie.

I went about my work enthusiastically with a light heart. My friends wondered whether I had any heart at all.

“How can she be so cool and light hearted when her husband has deserted her? She doesn’t believe that she’s a widow either.”

I didn’t tell anyone that Reggie was somewhere and reaching out to me time and again. Sometimes it was a visual image of him that disappeared in a flash. Sometimes it was a sound or a voice assuring me that he was alive.

At one stage, I began to wonder if these were mere hallucinations and the onset of mental illness. I consulted a psychiatrist who did a series of tests on me and pronounced me normal. He was also someone who was studying parapsychological phenomena.

“I think I can understand why you are experiencing these connections with Reggie. You were very much in love with each other and communicated well within your relationship. Reggie is trying to connect with you through telepathy. He must be somewhere and does not want you to give up on him. I don’t believe that Telepathy is a pseudoscience.”

This was the happiest news I had received. The psychiatrist had confirmed my own conviction that Reggie was somewhere and would return.

But the wait was long and lonesome. Months dragged into years and I began to wonder if I was a fool to live in hope. Perhaps all this telepathic nonsense was a sure sign of my deteriorating mind.

One evening, five years to the day Reggie had disappeared, I was sipping on a hot cup of coffee and looking longingly at our marriage photograph, when the doorbell rang. The man who stood outside was a stranger with a thick moustache and an untrimmed beard that camouflaged most of his face. A cap covered his forehead. Thinking it was either a thief or a beggar man, I was about to bang the door shut when he called out my name.

“Rosy darling, I'm home.”

Could I ever forget that voice? It had haunted me all of five years.

“Oh my God! Reggie!” I cried, throwing myself into his arms. “You’ve come back to me?”

I led him indoors. For a long time neither of us could speak, being overwhelmed by our emotions.

“It’s a long story my dear,” he said. “But I thought it could wait. I just wanted to savour the joy of his homecoming. Nothing seems to have changed. It looks like I’ve never been away,” he remarked and proceeded to the bathroom for a shave and a shower. His old clothes that had been neatly hanging in the cupboard for all these years, now hung loosely on him as he had lost considerable weight.

Reggie’s story sounded something like a suspense novel. When he left home for work that morning five years ago, he was kidnapped by a recruiter for the Army Intelligence.

“I was spirited away to a distant destination in Punjab and given three months of intensive training in photography. I enjoyed the course alright. My only grouse was that I could not communicate with my loved ones or friends. I was to stay incommunicado because I would soon be going on a secret mission across the border.”

Reggie was trained to identify military vehicles and strategic installations. He was given a new identity with a Muslim name Mohamed Saifullah and even circumcised, so he could masquerade as a Muslim. With this new name and identity, he had to make repeated forays into Pakistan.

“My job was to collect information about the number of enemy units close to the border, their movements and the nature of the work they performed. I was given an imported, sophisticated mini camera for my work.”

Reggie had to live in a one-bedroom house near the border and was given a modest sustenance allowance. He had to make repeated trips into Pakistan and his main business was to click pictures of enemy activities.

“I made several successful trips and returned safely with pictures of tanks and military equipment in use. My handlers were happy with my work. But one day when I ventured deep into enemy country, I was caught by a Pakistani Intelligence Officer with my camera and my pictures, and thrown into prison where I languished for five long years without any hope of release. I was subjected to frequent interrogations, flogged, starved and had to suffer all kinds of indecencies. But I never squealed on my handlers in the Indian Military Intelligence. I knew they would deny any connection with me. There was no way I could communicate with you except through my thoughts. I survived on prayer and faith.”

Reggie’s good behaviour and firm denial that he was a spy, eventually caught the attention of a Human Rights activist lawyer, who worked for his release on humanitarian grounds.

“Thoughts of you and my fervent hope of coming home kept me alive. I held on to that hope and prayed for my release. Here I am at last,” he said, drawing me close into his arms.

How glad I was that I had never lost hope and lived with certainty that my husband would come back to me.

Selected: March Short Story Contest
Published in Issue #28

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