The Right Swipe

Vivek’s finger moved across the phone screen in a rhythmic dance that had been perfected over many a bored night.

Too tall. Left swipe. Too thin. Left swipe. Too short. Left swipe. Obscure quote. Left swipe. Pet as their profile picture. Left swipe. Too out of my league. Left swipe. Too…

Just right.

Trying to reign in his excitement, Vivek clicked on the icon to bring up the profile information.

His heart sank when he read the first line.

Sorry, but I’m not here for hookups.

Vivek shook his head in disbelief and swiped left. His betrayed mind wrestled with a lot of questions.

Why would anyone using this app say such an absurd thing? What were these people even using this app for? And which app DID they use for hookups?

His gaze moved to the night sky that streamed in through his bedroom window. His fingers did not stop even as his eyes latched onto something in the darkness.

A shooting star. Or at least it looked like one. It wasn’t a regular occurrence in the city’s polluted skies. In fact, now that he thought about it, Vivek realised that he’d never seen one in person before.

Maybe I should make a wish.

Vivek chuckled to himself, acutely aware of how childish that thought was. His reverie was interrupted by a loud ding from his phone.

It’s a match! You’ve both liked each other.

Vivek felt the familiar rush of dopamine which always accompanied that notification. It was instantly replaced by the also usual mixture of dread and despondence.

Probably a bot, a man masquerading as a woman, or even worse – a crazy, desperate woman, he sighed, completely missing the irony in the last bit.

He wished it was someone likeable for once. Someone funny, intelligent, beautiful, and crazy, smoking hot. Someone he could finally quit the app for.

The screen flickered. Vivek adjusted his glasses.

Well, that’s never happened before.

He thumped the phone on the side with his palm – an instinct that had carried over from the days of bulky malfunctioning television sets.

The screen stopped flickering. The notification popped up again. Vivek quickly clicked on it to bring up the profile – a little more anticipation than usual writ on his face.

Violetxa Archionniz, 145.

Uranian. Pilot. I hate people that discriminate on the basis of species. Interested in males with two legs/tentacles and compatible reproductive paraphernalia. Strictly no Martians – I’m allergic to their tongues, bad breath, and general lack of intelligence.

Vivek smiled. In his experience, a weird sense of humour usually translated to a penchant for weird things in other departments.

He scanned the screen for the option to send her a message. To his bewilderment, he could not find it anywhere. But, he did notice an option that he’d never seen before.

Bl454Hasdsadrwk, it read.

That makes no sense.

Putting it down to a glitch in the system, Vivek clicked on the unintelligible option anyway.

He let out a scream as an invisible force lifted his body off the bed, suspending him in mid air, his loose pyjamas dangling off his scrawny legs. He swirled in the air for a long couple of seconds before vanishing into the proverbial thin air.

When Vivek reopened his eyes, a universe full of darkness stretched before him in every direction. His legs flailed in a futile attempt to find the familiar comfort of solid ground. A few silent seconds, maybe even minutes, passed by as Vivek called out into the dark void. And then, an unfamiliar form materialised in front of him. His eyes finally had something to focus onto.

The thing, or creature, looked nothing like he’d ever seen, or even imagined, before. It was majorly composed of what could only be described as sharp, pointy, drill-like things whirring on the ends of several tentacles.

The creature bellowed. A petrified Vivek couldn’t even figure out which part of the creature that eerie sound originated from. One of the drill-laced tentacles stretched towards him, doing a strange dance. The creature bellowed again.

Come to me, you handsome piece of meat.

A bewildered Vivek looked around instinctively to see who said that. There was no one else around.

Come to me, human. Don’t make me wait.

That’s when it dawned on Vivek. The voices came from his own head. The creature put them in there somehow – maybe it was telepathic.

Violetxa doesn’t like to wait.

Vivek looked at the tentacles that made their purposeful way towards him. He put up his hand and opened his mouth to speak. There was only one thing left to say.

“Sorry, but I’m not here for hookups.”

The Rewrite

She showed him the horror again.

Clear as crystal. His own. It can really affect you, that.

It was the curse, she told him.

He had heard about the curse before. From her as well as the elders. Three centuries ago, an ancestor had burnt a witch in cold blood. The witch’s sister, who plied the same trade, hadn’t been impressed. Every male heir since then had met with a gruesome, albeit creative, end.

He believed what he’d seen. He believed in the curse. But he also believed that he could undo it.

*****

It had required a lot of effort, but it was finally ready. He sat at the controls and drew in a deep, purposeful breath. This was it. He was ready to rewrite history, and his own future in the bargain. He pressed the button, the science did its thing, and the machine hurled back into time.

*****

He peeped through the window again. The witch still lay asleep. There was no sign of any tip-toeing ancestors in the vicinity. He guessed he had some time to kill before he’d have the opportunity to prevent the deed from being perpetrated. He sat down in the bushes, lit himself a cigarette, and waited.

The screams jolted him out of his nap. He rushed to the source. The machine was up in flames. So was the witch. She must have gotten inside, curious to determine what the contraption was. Maybe she had fiddled with the engine. Maybe there had been a short-circuit. It was too late to save her, or the machine, which would soon become her coffin.

A cold tap on the shoulder caused him to turn around. It was who he’d thought it’d be. And she was mad.