- Gary Beck
Me and OCD - Meygan Cox
The God Thing - Matthew Harrison
Hinge - Robert Beveridge
Half Life - Neera Kashyap
Bonsai - Pooja Sharma Rao
I Don't Think I'm Okay - Nick Manzolillo
Rajani - Kalyani Dutta
Coffee House Feedback - Marc Carver
Shackles - Natalia Suri
Beautiful Stranger - Mrinalini Harchandrai
Looking Glass - Sheila Martin
Anti-depressant - Rana Bitar
Normal - Shubha Menon
In the Jungles of the Night: A Novel about Jim Corbett
-Stephen Alter (Binoy B Agarwal)
Amba: The Question of Red
-Laksmi Pamuntjak (Isha Aggarwal)
The Golden Legend
-Nadeem Aslam (Devalina Kohli)
Loitering with Intent: Diary of a Happy Traveller
-Ritu Menon (Wafa Hamid)
Murder in Mahim
-Jerry Pinto (Mariam Karim)
Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi
-Swapna Liddle (Paulami Biswas)
-Hirsh Sawhney (Sheila Kumar)
The CEO Who lost His Head
-Aditya Sinha (Mohd Farhan)
The Sari of Surya Vilas
-Vayu Naidu (Isha Aggarwal)
These Circuses That Sweep Through the Land
-Tejaswini Apte-Rahm (Mariam Karim)
How I Became a Tree
-Sumana Roy (Wafa Hamid)
- Gary Beck
I got this weird email and was about to spam it, when the questions caught my eye.
‘Is your life an emotional rollercoaster?’
‘Do you feel overwhelming anger?’
‘Are you characterized by impulsive behaviour?’
Then I read:
‘If you answered yes to these questions, you may qualify for a Phase 3 clinical drug trial, sponsored by a not-for-profit agency.’
After a quick look I had to admit to myself that I had answered yes to the questions. I responded by pushing the button for further information and received a more detailed questionnaire. I filled in the personal data section, then got to the other questions.
‘Do you fear Abandonment?’
‘Do you have painful feelings of emptiness?’
‘Are your relationships rocky?’
‘Is your thinking usually black or white?’
‘If these terms describe how you feel you may be eligible to participate in a behavioural study that may offer select candidates various options to address these particular problems. We are involved in studying people with different types of personalities. If you are between eighteen and sixty-five years of age and medically healthy, we would be interested in interviewing you. Participants will be remunerated.’
Now they had my attention. I phoned the information number and after a brief discussion with a member of their staff, I was given an appointment the next day. I didn’t sleep much that night, thinking about how they really summed me up. Did they have a new wonder drug that would make all my problems go away? Would it make me even angrier? I had to laugh at that. I couldn’t get much angrier. I finally fell asleep and had the usual bad dream, which I promptly forgot.
Their office was in a non-descript building on Third Avenue and East 45th Street. It looked like any other business office, except the receptionist was a big, tough looking guy. He took my name, told me to take a seat and that someone would be with me soon. He kept looking at me and it started to piss me off, but I just smouldered, instead of saying something. A few minutes later a tall, efficient-looking woman in a white lab coat came for me.
‘Mr Selinka? Please come with me.’
She led me to a small room with a table, instead of a desk, and two chairs. She sat behind the table.
‘I’d like to ask you some questions.’
Her name tag said ‘Medwin’, so I replied:
‘Go ahead, Doctor Medwin.’
‘Are you tired of being rejected?’
‘Are you full of rage because you’re unappreciated?’
‘Are you fed up with being scorned?’
‘Would you say you’re frequently angry and frustrated?’
‘Are you ever suicidal?’
I didn’t want to answer that, but she waited patiently and I finally muttered ‘yes’.
‘I understand these questions can be disturbing, Mr Selinka. Just one more. Are you mad enough to kill?’
Now this one I really didn’t want to answer, but she kept staring at me and it felt like she was peering into me, so I whispered ‘yes’.
She wrote some notes on a pad then smiled at me, but it didn’t feel friendly. But she didn’t seem angry when she said:
‘If the questions struck a chord with you, then it’s possible we may be able to offer you some options to resolve your problems.’
Now I was curious. ‘Like what?’
She smiled that cold smile, then replied:
‘There are two types of men with your anger issues. One type gets mad, grabs a gun and shoots whoever caused his anger. The other type is motivated by a deeper rage. He will be much more controlled and will plan an attack of vengeance carefully. Which type are you?’
This was really getting strange, but I didn’t have to think about it for long.
‘I’m more the planning type.’
‘Well you certainly fit the profile we’re looking for.’
‘Oh, yeah? What’s that?’
‘Someone who would kill himself to get back at all those who offended him.’
‘What are you talking about? You don’t know me.’
‘On the contrary, Mr Selinka, we know a great deal about you.’
‘You don’t have any family or close friends. You were a below-average student, were rejected for military service, have a low-paying job as a shipping clerk and have not been able to maintain a romantic relationship, despite trying different dating services.’
Holy shit! It was like all my dirty laundry was dumped on me.
‘How do you know all that?’
‘Government and school records. Employment history. Social media.’
‘But I just called you yesterday.’
‘We are very efficient. Do you agree we have an accurate assessment of you?’
‘I guess so. What’s next?’
‘You decide if we go further with this interview.’
‘Sure. Go ahead.’
‘If you could get back at the kind of people who made your life miserable, but had to blow yourself up to do it, would you?’
‘You mean like a suicide bomber?’
This was freaky now. What kind of place did I come to? She just sat there staring at me with that cold smile. I though about how it would feel getting even.
‘Then if you want to prove how smart you are, act out your anger, get payback, we can arrange a scenario where you are regarded as a hero.’
‘So you want me to blow myself up and take others with me. Are you CIA?’
‘No. We’re a private organization that solves problems. Now if this interests you, come back in the morning and we’ll arrange some more tests, then discuss things further. Thank you for coming.’
She stood up and I followed her out the door. I had a thousand questions, but she disappeared through another door and the reception guy was standing there, looking mean and impatient.
‘This way out, Mr. Selinka,’ and he opened the door.
As I rode down the elevator I said to myself, ‘These guys are crazy’. Then I admitted they knew all about me and how meaningless my life was. She said I’d be a hero. All I had to do was go out with a bang. Could I do that? Well I didn’t have anything else going for me. I had a lot to think about.