“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” – John 16:22
“I don’t think I can do it.” She kept repeating the same thing over and over.
“You are overthinking sweetheart.” said the voice on the other end. “He needs to die. Take care of it and collect your money. We will meet you there.” the call got disconnected. She felt a lump in her throat.
She was hired to kill a man three weeks ago. Jack McBrayer. A rising star among the environmentalists in the country. The media loved him as he was extremely intelligent, young and charming. A research fellow from the state university, he was instrumental in the court ruling against the Mercury poisoning of tens of lakes in the southern states. After becoming an instant hit overnight, he was called in to fight against waste disposal in the northern hills by the fertilizer company. He readily obliged unaware of what was waiting for him.
When she first met him in a pub, he was attracted to her grace and charm. She was beautiful. All she had to do was seduce him and kill him, making it look like an accident. It was a difficult task but not for her. But it is a strange thing this Love. Happening to the most unlikely people at the unlikeliest of times. Each time he touched her, she felt his hands touching her soul and not her body. She was surprised at her ability to fall in Love. For two weeks she put the mission on hold giving her employers all kinds of reasons. He was always under public attention. Attending meetings and giving lectures. The children followed him everywhere. She was running out of time.
After dinner one night, they walked in the cold on a rugged path covered by the lush canopy of the Deodars. She thought about telling him the truth but could not bear the idea of him hating her. He looked at her like no one less did. Deep down she knew he deserved a lot better than a prostitute turned killer. She already killed seven people. She wanted to become a better person because of him. Love can do that to anyone. She was in search of redemption in the midst of Love and Death. It surely gives so many things, Love: Joy, compassion, kindness and redemption. But the biggest is undoubtedly, suffering. Nothing gives suffering to the soul more than this madness called Love.
“If you do not do it tomorrow during the trek, I will send someone else to take care of both of you.” her instructions were clear.
She knew that her dream wasn’t going to last forever. She had to eventually wake up. Her past will keep haunting her no matter what. They woke up early in the morning and started to pack their things. It was only the two of them. He seemed more determined than ever. This wasn’t like the other treks that they went on during the past couple of weeks. He was going to collect water samples from the springs near the factory outlets. A place prohibited for general public. He needed proof. It was her job to prevent this from happening but she ended up accompanying him.
It was still dark when they started and all throughout the trek, she could not stop looking at him. He held her close not letting her take a single wrong step. He was an expert mountaineer and she was an amateur. She did not know if he loved her the way she did. She did not want to know either. They took a few breaks in between mostly because she was exhausted. He poured her hot cups of tea and they both sat in silence looking at the sunrise as the clouds began to descend upon the valley. It was a dangerous trek and where they were headed, the cliff was steep which meant one wrong step might prove to be fatal. That was why he insisted he went alone but she was stubborn. She looked at his face in the silence and decided there that no matter what happens, she was not going to harm him. She would give up her life fighting for him but would never let anything happen to him. Love can give that kind of courage.
Within a hundred yards from their destination, they had to shift trails in order to reach the factory outlets and the path was dangerous. They could hear the springs from a distance. As they walked one step at a time, a shikra, an indigenous bird of the mountains flew past them, throwing her off balance. She slipped and twisted her ankle. Instantaneously, Jack tried to grab her arm and push her away from the edge but lost his balance and slipped off the edge. It all happened so quickly that when she looked into his eyes as he fell, time froze for a few moments. He for the first time seemed helpless and scared floating in mid-air trying to latch onto anything that was within reach. But the efforts were in vain. Jack McBrayer, the 32 year old, who gave meaning to her life just fell off a cliff into the thick canopy below while trying to save her life.
She could not comprehend what just happened but knew that it was impossible to survive the fall. When she looked around blankly, a group of people were coming from the factory. They looked at her from a distance and waved at her. It was the men who hired her. They were watching them from a distance and were now celebrating as the mission was a success. Jack died in a trekking accident while trying to enter uncharted territories on the hills. He would be remembered by the people as a beloved activist who lost his life doing what he loved. But not by her. Jillian Michaels, who loved him more than anything else in the world, looked at the men walking towards her, then looked at the sun, which meant so much more just a few minutes ago, then looked down into the valley and jumped. As the cold mountain air brushed against her face, she closed her eyes and saw his smile, his hands and his loving eyes. She begged for his forgiveness.
Weeks after the incident, it became clear that it was impossible to retrieve the bodies of the couple. The authorities however set up a committee to study waste disposal units in the factory and its report suggested that the factory was causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem there. Children in the villages below sang during the winter months sitting around their night fires, songs about the brave young man who died fighting for them and a young woman who gave up her life for love.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.