Neel Dervin and The Dark Angel

He was a teenage super soldier.
There were certain questions that fourteen year old Neel Dervin had never thought to ask himself.
Like how much pain he could endure before passing out. Or how many times he could be shot and still keep running. Or how often he could lie to his friends and family without feeling remorse.
But then that one fateful day changed his life forever, and set him on a path towards immeasurable power as well as inconceivable terror.
Now the only people who can help him deal with the situation are complete strangers who are using him for their own ends. Trapped in circumstances beyond his control with abilities he barely understands, he must navigate a treacherous path mired in betrayals and difficult choices to take back control of his life

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4. CHAPTER 3- Unfamiliar Territory- Part 2

 

CHAPTER 3- Unfamiliar Territory- Part 2

He got up from his bed and walked slowly over to the end of the room, absent mindedly checking the textbooks that were kept on the shelf and wondering how much work he had missed out on at school. He glanced at the clock on his table. They had arrived at seven. It was now almost eight. The doctors had advised him plenty of rest, but he did not feel remotely tired. He paced the floor slowly. The bizarre, two dimensional view of the world that he had experienced even since waking up made the room feel like a cage, and Neel felt a great desire to be in a more open space. He came out of the room and was making his way up to the nest when the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it." he called out to his mother as he made his way down again.

He went to the door, and as he opened it, a female figure almost ran inside and threw her arms around him.

"Thank god!" Priyanka exclaimed fervently. "We've all been worried sick about you. I couldn't believe it when your mother told me about your accident."

"All better now." Neel said as he returned the hug and grinned at his best friend. "It wasn't anything too serious. How come you didn't visit me at the hospital?"

"Of course I did! Aryan and I came to see you at the hospital the night you had the accident!" Priyanka said, stepping back and looking him up and down as anxiously as Neel's mother had done at the hospital. "But you were unconscious at the time. You were covered with bandages and stitches. I was so scared! And Aryan was absolutely terrified! We all thought you were going to die." Her eyes had suddenly become bright with tears that alarmed Neel more than the bandages had done. Priyanka was not usually the weepy type.

"Come one, all those things were just precautions." Neel said in a low voice, laying a hand on her shoulder tentatively. "Really, I'm completely fine. I know you were all worried but…" he sighed. "I wish I could tell you just how well I am. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with me now." He spoke as earnestly as he could.

"I'd never seen your mother cry the way she did that day." Priyanka said quietly.

Neel nodded and looked away, wishing intensely at the moment that he could tell the complete truth to Priyanka, to his mother, to Aryan and all those who had been worried for him. But again, Doctor Fahim's instructions held him dumb.

"Do you remember anything about the accident?" Priyanka asked him.

"Not much." Neel said, so relieved that she had changed the subject that he did not even mind talking about a memory that seemed to fill him with dread even now. "It was all over so quickly. One minute I was cycling, the next I… I hit that woman's windshield." He remembered just in time what the revised version of the accident had been. "But now, I am one hundred percent all right, so there's no need to worry any longer." He led her into the living room, where the light coming from the tube light brightened the gloom of the darkened sky outside.

"Is that Priyanka?" His mother looked out of the kitchen with a smile. "So good to see you, dear! I was going to tell Neel to go to your house after he'd rested a bit."

"Mummy saw the gate unlocked, aunty, so she sent me to check if Neel had returned. She says to bring you both over for dinner." Priyanka said, trotting into the kitchen after her.

"Thank you, dear. But I'm not sure if Neel should eat anything too rich for a few days." His mother looked at Neel questioningly.

"I think I can handle it." Neel said quickly. "All I've had till now has been that hospital food." He looked at her hopefully. His mother was a fairly competent cook, but not in the same league as Priyanka's mother, who was famous for her excellent culinary skills.

"Very well." His mother turned the stove off and began to put back the utensils. "Give me two minutes to put everything away."

While Neel and Priyanka waited for her to finish, he told Priyanka about his week long hiatus from school.

"A week away from school?" Priyanka said in amazement. "I could never do it! Won't you get bored staying at home all the time?" Priyanka attended a different school from the one Neel and Aryan went to, and it was a constant source of bafflement to them that she seemed to actually enjoy going to school. Aryan had long had a theory that the teachers there used brain washing techniques on the students to make them like classes.

"I think I'll keep busy." Neel said truthfully. "And a week passes pretty quickly."

When his mother was done, they locked up their house and made their way to Priyanka's house next door. Neel could smell a delicious scent emanating from the kitchen. His spirit rose as his stomach growled.

"Mum, Neel's back." Priyanka called out as they entered.

"I can see that, Priyanka. There's no need to shout." Her mother said as she came out to greet them. She was a tiny, plump woman, and had the same mischievous twinkle in her eyes that Priyanka did. Her tall, thin husband rose from the sofa and walked up to them with a warm smile.

"Glad to see you on your feet, son." he said, clapping Neel on the back. "You don't seem much worse for wear."

"It wasn't anything serious, uncle." Neel grinned back.

"I'm so happy to see you're all right, Neel." Mrs. Ghosh said, giving him a hug. "We were all so worried about you."

"Thanks for having us over, Amodita." Neel's mother called out to Priyanka's mother after greeting her father. "I wouldn't have had time to make anything too fancy tonight."

"I know, Nisha. Now just sit at the table with Neel and relax." Mrs. Ghosh said soothingly, steering them towards the dinner table. "Priyanka, help me get everything ready."

"So he's completely all right now?" Mr. Ghosh asked Neel's mother.

"The doctors seem to think so." Neel's mother said, looking at him doubtfully. "They all said he's recovered very well. And he does seem very healthy. But they had to perform surgery on him, and that's what worries me the most. Although they said it was just to push the arm back into the socket properly."

"Young people are very resilient." Mr. Ghosh remarked. "Neel and Priyanka and Aryan have had no end of accidents on the terrace over the years. Remember when all three rolled down the steps all the way from the top? They usually manage to recover well."

"I suppose." Mrs. Dervin sighed as Priyanka brought in two large casseroles. "Amo, at least let me help set the table."

"I told you to relax." Mrs. Ghosh bustled in carrying plates and crockery. "I know how tired you are. You've been travelling nonstop from your office to the hospital for days. You need to rest, too."

The phone rang, and Priyanka went to answer. A grin appeared on Neel's face when he heard the caller's voice. "Yes, he came back today." Priyanka spoke on the receiver. "He says he's fine. Yes, hold on." She looked over her shoulder at Neel. "Aryan's on the phone."

Neel was already walking towards her. He took the receiver and heard his other best friend shouting to someone on the other end.

"Yes, mom, he's back, and she says he's fine." Aryan was saying. Then, in a more serious voice, "Hello, Neel?"

"So I had surgery and you just call me up on the phone to check on me?" Neel said lightly.

"Oh, come on, dude. I just wanted to make sure you'd come back, and then I was going to come over." Aryan said defensively. "But mom says I should let you rest for tonight instead, just in case."

"Well, I've rested plenty, and as tired as I am, I think I'll manage to find the strength to eat the food that Priyanka's mom is making." Neel said. Aryan laughed.

"Okay, then. Have fun stuffing your face, and I'll come over tomorrow." Aryan said. "You'll be at school?"

"No, not for a week." Neel said quickly. "Doctor's orders."

"I thought you said you'd recovered completely?"

"This is just to make sure I don't have a relapse or something." Neel said, trying to be as vague as possible.

"But you'll be back in time to see the match against St. Joseph's, right?" Aryan asked.

"Of course, no way I'll miss that match." Neel said enthusiastically. "It's going to be pretty close. It's not like it was easy last time. Our team barely made it and the score was only zero to one." He stopped suddenly.

"But this time we've been practicing really hard." Aryan was saying equally enthusiastically. Neel tried to pay attention, but his thoughts were on another track.

He had always been interested in sports, and football was his favorite. Aryan had gotten into the school team recently, and Neel had been hoping he would be able to get in next year if he practiced really hard. But now a completely different worry had suddenly appeared in his mind. With his new strength and speed, could he still play? He could crush iron with his bare hands. What if he got carried away and kicked the ball at someone really hard?… What if he crashed into someone by accident?…

It was an unpleasant thought and he pushed it aside, deciding to think about it later.

"So you're sure you're all right?" Aryan was saying.

"Oh, yeah. Totally." Neel said.

"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow night, then. Take care of yourself. And mom and dad also told me to tell you to take care, and not to overexert yourself, and get plenty of rest." Aryan said. "Oh, and Prince is looking at me like he wants to tell you to take care too, so a wag from him. Good night, man."

Neel was grinning as he put down the phone and returned to the table. Dinner began, and soon the plates were piled high with toasty Aloo Paranthey, gajar halua, paneer and other delicacies that Priyanka's mother had 'managed to throw together'. The talk shifted from Neel's health to Priyanka's school, to Mr. Ghosh's job and Mrs. Dervin's boss.

"He's been surprisingly understanding through this whole thing." Neel's mother remarked. "I think it's because he has children too. But from tomorrow, I'm sure he'll be back to being a mix of Napoleon and Genghis Khan."

"Well, Neel seems completely fine now." Mrs. Ghosh said. "The situation is under control, hopefully. And we're right next door if there is any unexpected emergency."

"Neel?" Priyanka looked at him as he sat staring at the centre of the table. "Are you all right?"

Neel looked up at her, a strangely contemplative expression on his face. Ever since waking up in the hospital he had felt confused and terrified. Alone in his room, the sense of loneliness and fear he had experienced had been almost overwhelming. But now, sitting at the table with his family and friends, surrounded by good will and concern, he felt a burst of happiness and comfort. Tomorrow he would see where the serum would take him, but tonight he would sleep better knowing that he wasn't as alone as he had thought, and that he had so many people in his life who cared about him.

"I'm fine." he said with a smile as he reached out for yet another parantha.

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