The 7 Innocents

John 7:24
'Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.'



Isaiah 64:6
'But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;'


It was when their problems seemed to wane that they escalated. The Australians all disappeared, and the seminary shut down. They were told to run for their lives. Told if they didn’t, their families would die. Told if they did, their families would still die.
They endeavoured to solve the mystery – one that threatened to destroy them and their families – but soon realised that to end it all, they must first find the Australians. But the closer they came to finding them, the more they began to see they should run and never come back.
The question, of course, is why they didn’t call the police.
The answer is simple.
You can’t avoid being condemned unless you’re innocent.
And these men are not.

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28. Chapter Twenty-Seven: The 7 Listeners.

 

 

I hate my job.

          Gopi turned in his bed, unable to sleep. Too many images were flashing through his mind, constantly drawing him away from rest. It was a fairly typical routine now – ever since three years ago – but he had just run out of sleeping pills. Not they ever seemed to work anyway.

          I have no choice. I have to continue…

          But I don’t want to. I want to run away now in terror. I want to flee what I’ve started and avoid all consequences. What have I started? How many deaths have I caused? How many deaths am I about to cause?

          He curled up a little more and tried not to cry. He would not cry… he would not.

          What am I doing?

          What am I even doing?

 

It was just before lunch that Karuna poked her head into the lounge room.

                'Does anyone want to come?' She asked. 'We are going to meet friends at the park.'

                There were half-hearted shrugs, and everyone followed.

                The park was full of children, some of which Arjun knew, and young adults. There were many adults a little way off, and Arjun's parents went straight there. Much to his horror, Suneep found he was swarmed by about twenty children at once.

                'Why is it always me?!' He cried as he was knocked to the ground.

                Alyssa laughed, remembering the man's discomfort and near fear of children. 'You love it, dai.'

                'Don't say that!' Suneep cried, and Alyssa was not entirely sure what he was referring to.

                Chandan, Josha, Mehmet, and Bikram mixed naturally with children, and soon had some ridiculous game going. Bikram was more of a talker than a player, and let some eight year old try on his sunglasses.

                Arjun briefly played with a few children he knew and then began speaking to a girl. Pretty soon he was in a circle made up entirely of girls. He didn't have to speak much – just smile and laugh.

                'Arjun always talks to girls.' Suneep muttered, dusting himself off as soon as the children jumped off him.

                Alyssa shrugged. 'Not always.'

                'Most of the time.' Suneep corrected himself.

                As the day continued, Suneep began to feel sorry for Alyssa, and refused to leave her side. Chandan, Josha, and Bikram were preoccupied with the children, and paid her no attention. Mehmet avoided her – probably because she was Ardi's cousin and he wanted to talk to Sara. Danny managed to wriggle his way into Arjun's group, and seemingly forgot about Alyssa. As for Arjun, he seemed to be shunning the girl.

                Suneep tried to make up for everyone, and was surprised when Alyssa said, 'thank you Suneep. But you don't have to talk to me all day.'

                Suneep raised his eyebrows. 'But I want to, friend.'

                Alyssa smiled. 'Thank you, Suneep.'

                'Tell me, are you married?'

                'Do you think I am?'

                Suneep shifted nervously. 'I hope not.'

                Alyssa seemed uncomfortable with this topic. 'Why?'

                'Because.'

                'I would not marry someone I did not love, if that is what you are worried about.'

                Suneep shook his head, but continued staring at his feet. Suddenly, he turned around and glanced at Arjun. 'He does not look at you anymore.' Suneep observed. 'He always used to just stare at you, smiling amusedly. Why does he not anymore?'

                Alyssa shrugged. 'I don't know, dai.'

                'Do not say that.' Suneep muttered, as Alyssa continued speaking.

                'Maybe I'm just not amusing anymore. Have I changed at all?'

                'You're better.' Suneep replied, looking at her again. This time he did the opposite of before and would not look away. 'So?' He asked, as Alyssa looked away uncomfortably. 'Are you married?'

                'Does it matter?'

                Suneep smiled. 'Yes.'

                'Why?' Suneep only smiled at her mysteriously – something he knew drove her insane. 'If I were I would not tell you.' Alyssa replied.

                'Why? You know I can keep a secret.'

                'Yes, I know.'

                'Then why won't you tell me?'

                Alyssa smiled teasingly. 'So. You are curious, dai? Cannot bear not to know things.'

                Suneep frowned. 'Do not say that.' Alyssa laughed. 'Will you tell me if we are more isolated?'

                Alyssa frowned now, and Suneep worked out his answer. 'Okay, let's go for a walk.' He wrapped his arm around Alyssa's and placed his hands in his pockets. Then the two casually walked around the park. 'You are, aren't you?' He began.

                Alyssa nodded. 'But you must tell no-one. I don't want him to be in danger.'

                'Must not even tell Arjun?'

                'He knows. But do not tell him I told you.'

                Suneep smiled. 'What is his name?'

                'No, I cannot tell you! I must not even tell you what village I am in – it is too risky.'

                Suneep nodded slowly. 'So... do you have children?'

                Alyssa nodded. 'Two. A boy and a girl – but I must not name them.'

                The two continued walking, and Suneep seemed quite sullen.

                'Why did you do it?' He eventually asked, kicking a pebble. 'Did you need to stay in Nepal?'

                'Yes, I did. But I did not marry him for that reason, though sometimes I wonder if that's why he married me.' Suneep continued staring at his feet as they walked, and Alyssa feared she knew what was wrong.             'How are you?' She asked. 'You seem mature, dai.'

                'Do not say that.' Suneep muttered again.

                'What is that – your new favourite phrase? I have good reason to believe you are more mature.' Alyssa stopped, as she realised she may as well be talking to a brick wall. 'Do not be so shocked, dai.'

                'Do not say that.' Suneep muttered again, more viciously. Then, in extremely quick Nepali, he muttered, 'stop it! Stop it, Suneep!'

                'Stop what?' Alyssa replied, also speaking quick Nepali.

                Suneep was surprised at how good she had become at Nepali, and stammered, 'nothing.'

                Alyssa frowned. 'Are you all right, dai?' She asked, withdrawing her arm.

                'Do not say that!' Suneep cried, letting out his frustration. 'I have asked you so many times!'

                Alyssa froze a little, as it dawned on her what Suneep meant. 'Suneep, it is the truth.'

                'It should not be!'

                'But it is! It always has been. Do not be confused, dai. I missed you, and you missed me.'

                'Do not say that!' Suneep shouted again, beginning to look teary. 'I am scared, Alyssa. I lost Shaktiah, and then you, and I don't want you to go again!'

                'Suneep, you don't need me.' Alyssa suddenly snapped. 'You know that. The only reason you are confused now is because I bring the past back to you. Just stop it, dai, like you told yourself.'

                'Do not call me dai!' Suneep screamed, frustrated.

                Alyssa frowned at the man indignantly. 'But that is what you are – do not try to believe otherwise.'

                'Well I have to be now, don't I?'

                'No, you are. You always have been. And I can prove it to you!'

                'Alyssa,' Suneep sobbed, 'do not reject me. I do not want to lose you again.'

                Alyssa smiled evilly at the man and gave him a push. Shocked, Suneep sat on the park bench. Then, to his surprise, Alyssa took his shoes and ran off screaming, 'dai, dai, dai, dai, dai!'

                Suneep stared after the girl in complete shock, and did not move for a very long time. Then he ran.

'Give me back my shoes!' He cried. 'Don't make me run on dirt!'

                Alyssa laughed. 'Ha ha! No, dai, I will never give you back your shoes. You must come and get them.'

                Against his will, Suneep smiled. 'Friend!' He shouted. 'You know I can catch you.' Alyssa only sped up in reply. Suneep laughed, and felt relieved to see Alyssa was right. 'Bhainee!' He cried after her. 'You are right! You annoy me very much – I am a fickle fool! Please, come back and bring the shoes to your dai. I promise I will not think I love you anymore.' Alyssa laughed mysteriously and continued running. 'Bhainee!' Suneep called, beginning to whine. 'Okay, fine, I do love you, as a sister. Isn't that what you wanted? Come back!' Alyssa still would not come, and Suneep became angry. 'Alyssa!' He shouted crossly. 'Bring me my shoes! See? I am not even chasing you anymore! Alyssa. Alyssa, you are the most annoying person I know!'

                'And you are the moodiest!' Alyssa shot back.

                Well, he couldn't argue with that. Suneep sighed, and began running after the girl to get his shoes. By the time he had caught up he was laughing. 'Okay, fine, I am emotional wreck. Just give me my shoes.'

                'Say please!'

                'Please!' Alyssa did not stop quickly enough for his liking, so Suneep simply picked the girl up and ran back to the park with her screaming. 'See how strong I am?' He teased, as Alyssa clung onto him for dear life.

                'If you drop me I'll kill you!' Suneep raised his eyebrows and loosened his grip. Alyssa screamed, as she fell millimeters.  'Suneep!' She screamed in terror. 'You are the most annoying person I have ever met!'

                Suneep chuckled. 'Thank you, bhainee.'

                'You are welcome, dai.'

                Upon reaching the park, Suneep let Alyssa down carefully and snatched his shoes from her. As he put them on, the girl watched him sadly.

                'You are very confused, dai.'

                Suneep shrugged. 'Not completely. I know one thing.'

                'And what is that?'

                Suneep stood up and wrapped his arms around her shoulder. 'I missed you very much.' Pulling the girl towards him he kissed her on the side of her head and walked off. 'I'm not talking to you anymore!' He cried as an afterthought. 'You are too annoying.' Turning around he revealed his cheeky grin. 'And you are married now so it would be inappropriate.'

                'Suneep!' Alyssa cried. The man instantly covered his mouth, and began laughing nervously. 'You're impossible!'

                Suneep chuckled, and ran to join Arjun before Alyssa could tell him off.

 

Bikram and Chandan tore through the circle, followed by several children. As the group separated, Chandan continued running, whereas Bikram pulled Arjun aside.

                'Why aren't you talking to Alyssa?' He asked.

                Arjun was taken back. 'Why aren't you?'

                'I did not bring her to my house for the day! You did that!'

                Arjun shrugged. 'She was talking to Suneep.'

                'You can't just leave her with Suneep!'

                'Why not? He is the one she wants to talk to, not me.'

                'Because, it is unkind and it makes them look married!'

                Arjun looked out to the oval and saw Suneep tearing after the girl without any shoes. 'They are fine.' He said, not sounding too sure of himself. 'They are brother and sister.

                'Bhai, not even you are convinced!' Bikram cried. 'Why are you shunning her?'

                'Because.' Arjun cried. 'I want to talk to other people.'

                Bikram was confused. 'Don't you like Alyssa anymore? You were friends, weren't you?'

                Arjun shrugged. 'We still are. But why do I have to always talk to her? I brought her here to talk to you.'

                'While you talk to Astha.'

                Arjun frowned. 'I told you, she has a boyfriend. '

                'Yes, this mysterious boyfriend.'

                'Bikram, even I do not know who he is. I told you what they told me.'

                'I don't believe you.'

                'Why not? This is what her uncle said!'

                'Look, I will find out.'

                'Bikram!' Arjun cried, as the man walked confidently up to the girl. Bikram managed to find Astha by herself, which Arjun figured was a mercy.

                'Do you have a boyfriend?' Bikram asked, completely surprising the poor girl.

                'No...'

                Bikram turned to Arjun. 'See?!' He shouted, making Arjun tremble in embarrassment. 'She is single – available, just like I said!'

                'But her uncle...' Arjun hastily defended himself.

                Astha laughed. 'Uncle John? That is what he always says – ignore him.'

                Arjun's colour had changed, and he did not look too well.

                'Keep talking to her, bhai!' Bikram cried, walking off. 'And ignore Alyssa!'

                Arjun completely froze, and Astha seemed incredibly amused. 'People are funny.' She mused before graciously leaving Arjun alone.

                Bikram watched Suneep walk over to Arjun and wondered where Alyssa had gone. He found her a little way off and began to run to her. He was surprised by his anger. He had never been angry at Arjun before – usually he always did the right thing. Now, though, he was just being selfish.

                'Alyssa!' He cried, stretching out his arms. 'I will talk to you!'

                Alyssa smiled. 'Why thank you, Bikram.'

                'Arjun is being horrible and ignoring you.'

                'He is allowed to ignore me, dai.'

                'Yeah, but all he does is talk to Astha all day.'

                'Do not be so angry, Bikram. I am fine.'

                Bikram turned to face the girl and smiled. 'I suppose he is not so bad then. So are you married?'

                Alyssa laughed. 'Why does everyone keep asking this question?'

                'Oh, you see, Chandan, Josha, and Suneep had a ridiculous notion that you married Arjun.'

                'That is ridiculous.'

                'I do not believe it. I mean, he is ignoring you and talking to Astha...' Bikram stopped. Slowly, he asked,                 'Arjun is not married is he?'

                'You don't think he married Astha, do you?'

                Bikram watched the two speaking and began to shake his head. 'No, that is even more ridiculous. Basically the only reason anyone is suggesting Arjun is married is because Liberty put the idea in our minds.'

                'I think she was trying to tell you something.' Alyssa replied.
                Bikram was intrigued. 'Tell us what? That he is?'

                'No! Think about it, Bikram. She may have been giving you information about some-one else completely!'

                'Okay, bhainee, now you have confused me. Who is married?'

                'No, Bikram! Think, what did she say exactly that put the thought in your mind?'

                Bikram thought hard. 'She said, 'I would never marry someone I didn't love. Would you?' The way she stared at him just put the idea in our minds.'

                Alyssa began moving excitedly. 'That is about Ardi!' She cried. 'Think of the one person you know who could convince people she liked them when she didn't and the answer is Ardi!'

                Bikram frowned. 'So Mehmet is married?'

                'Ardi is married!' Alyssa cried. 'Ardi – she knows about Ardi!'

                'Then why didn't she just say so?'

                'Bikram, you know how dangerous everything is. Besides, how hard can it be to find Ardi – married Ardi?'

                Bikram blinked. 'Very hard.'

                Alyssa laughed. 'Very easy!' She corrected. 'Come, help me round up the others. I've just worked something out.'

                Bikram was confused, but followed the girl obligingly. 'Gee,' he muttered, 'just as well we found you. Otherwise we would be giving Arjun a real hard time.'

                'I think we already have.' Suneep put in, joining the group.

                Looking over at the man, they saw he sat isolated and embarrassed. 'Okay, okay.' Bikram agreed. 'Do you think he will accept an apology?'

                Suneep only raised his eyebrows.

 

 

 

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