H is for Help – #AtoZ2018



‘Suicide Helpline, this is Mike. How can I help you?’

‘You cannot help me, Mike!’

‘Ma’am, please tell me your name.’

‘Shut up and listen, Mike! I have only fifteen minutes.’

‘Ma’am, please let me know your location. I’ll send one of our grief counsellors right there.’

She snorted, ‘I knew this was a mistake. I shouldn’t have called you. Goodbye, Mike!’

‘Ma’am, please, I apologize if I had insulted you in anyway. I just want to help you. Please, let me.’

‘Alright, Mike! Is Mike even your real name? Whatever. I want to talk to someone before I press the big shut-down button.’

“Ma’am, I can send our most experienced counsellor to your place.’

‘Nah! I’m ok talking to you! You don’t mind, do you? Do you have somewhere else to be?’

‘No, Ma’am! I’m a forty-year-old single guy working the helpline. I have nothing better to do!’

‘That’s exactly what a girl loves to hear!’ She laughed mellifluously, ‘Alright, then! Mike I’ll tell you my story. I don’t care what you make of it or how you judge me, but listen. And, I don’t want to be interrupted. If I hear as much as a peep from you, I’ll end the call and then I’ll end my life. Agreed?’

He nodded, rather needlessly. ‘Absolutely, Ma’am!’

‘I was born to good people, Mike. Pop worked two jobs, and Mom worked as a maid in the neighbourhood and took care of the kids. I had two sisters…had? Maybe I still have sisters, I’m not sure if they are alive or dead. Ah, well! It’s better to assume that they are still alive, right? My childhood was filled with love, and poverty! I hated it! God I hated wearing the hand-me-downs from her employers Mom would produce with a flourish. Are you still there Mike?’

There was no sound. She grinned, ‘that’s good, Mike! You can keep quiet. I like that. Where was I? Oh, Yeah! I hated those clothes. They were out of fashion by at least three years, but still better than the best clothes I owned. I hope you are still on the line, Mike… Heh heh! I’ll keep testing you, Mike.’

She paused and listened. There was no sound from the other side. She continued, ‘My humiliation was complete on the day of my Prom when one of my classmates pointed out loudly that I was wearing the dress her sister wore to hers five years back. I still remember the alcohol-laced laughs, Mike! That was rather rude of them, right? Mike?’

She started talking in an unsure voice, ‘I don’t know if talking to an unresponsive counterpart is productive. Mike, I think I should end the call and just proceed on to the grand finale! What say?’

‘Sonofabitch! You are good, Mike. I was just funnin ya!’ She let out a nervous chuckle, ‘That night I decided to run away from my poverty and my borrowed clothes. I took the first bus out of town. My plan was set, I’d decided to become an actress. I was beautiful, talented, desperate and willing – usually a deadly combination for success. The funny thing is all these qualities will help you only if you come across the right people. Long story, short – I didn’t!’

‘But, luck was on my side! I never became an actress. But I did become a trophy wife to a geriatric playboy. You might think why the hell is this woman planning to commit suicide? Well, my path to my current position in life…. Mike, the story is over. You may speak.’

‘Thanks for sharing your story with a complete stranger, Ma’am!’ Mike sipped his coffee, ‘I indeed am thinking about that. You are a made woman. Why do you wish to die?’

‘Because, Mike, I have hurt people, real bad. Not physically! I don’t have the stomach for violence. But I have trampled on lives to reach my current position. That disturbs me, they haunt me.’

‘Ma’am, death is not the solution. Nobody is perfect, everyone has issues. Life is all about having the heart to forgive ourselves for our mistakes.’

‘That’s it? Oh, Marya! You’ve led innocent men to their ruin while you sit in your flatulent husband’s mansion sipping Dom Perignon. But you know what? You are fine, just forgive yourselves and then everything’s just fine and dandy!’ She laughed harshly, ‘Mike, Mike, Mike! You are just another preacher in the pulpit, aren’t you?’

‘Marya, I never said that things would be fine if you forgive yourselves. What you’ve done and their consequences are crosses that you have to bear forever. But by forgiving yourselves, you’ll find it easy to bear them.’

‘So, that’s what you are doing now, Mike? Bearing your crosses?’

‘Indeed, I am! I have too many crosses to bear, Marya. That’s the reason I volunteer at the helpline. If I can help save one life, I feel blessed and my crosses weigh a little less heavy.’

‘Well, you do have a point.’

‘Marya! You seem to be a wonderful, albeit a bit flawed woman. But who isn’t flawed in this world? I’d like to meet you and talk to you further. Please don’t be alarmed, I can send our counsellor if you wish.’

There was a long silence, ‘I’d like to meet you too, Mike. How about this Saturday?’

‘Saturday works perfectly, Marya. I hope to see you smiling on Saturday. In the meantime, try getting in touch with your family. If you feel the urge to do something stupid, call me. This is my number, day or night, call me. Alright?’

‘Alright, Mike! It was good talking to you.’

‘It indeed was, Marya. I’m glad that I was able to help you. Take care!’

Mike hung up and shifted tabs to the tracking software. Marya’s location was displayed on the screen. No one had found out yet that he had hacked into the local Suicide Watch Helpline’s phone network. He looked at the sinister looking glass jars with the names of his previous victims written in his neat handwriting. He smiled and pulled out his tool-kit.







  1. Brilliant. My hearts beating so fast. It’s not just the unexpectedness of the ending, it’s the twist expressed with ease in one paragraph that made me read it twice to believe what I had read. The most gullible people of all are those who wish to commit suicide…what an insight! But you know your readers like me are just as gullible I think. I know by now that things are never what they seem to be in your stories and yet I believed. Cuz you mad me. Amazing writing skills.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Omg. I thought that was an uncharacteristic lovey- Dovey happy ending. Turns out I should have trusted my instincts. Too clever by half! Way to go Varad!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think this is the best one from you so far. Of course, it always boils down to the twist in the last paragraph. But this one was a mite different. I really thought it would be Marya who would be the source of the thrill. I automatically assumed Mike was genuinely from the suicide watch line. Great going Varad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really thought Mike was her husband, and that Marya had changed her name, and Mike and she would probably work it all out. Or may be not that, but something else equally fun and interesting that would put a smile on my face. But this life me agape. I actually had to read that twice just to maike sure I had read right! Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was thinking that Mike was perhaps her husband who would want to track her down..you are a great storyteller Varad..you keep your readers engrossed. I guess I didn’t bat eyelid till i reached the end. Keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are going to meet, much before Saturday. But how it will turn out might be another story altogether. Thanks for the comment, Shipra.


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