Short Story 2018 Longlist, Mauli Joshi

The Sane One

“It’s a fib! She is absolutely insane,” said the brunette with a forlorn expression.

“Ann, when will you accept that someone can be better than you?”

Ann took a deep breath as she knew where this conversation was headed. When has it ever been an easy task to explain Amy, a brilliant hacker but a naive 21-year-old when it comes to new software or escape plans?

“Ann, I know what I am doing. You gotta put your faith in me,” Amy tried to reason with Ann.

Ann was a duplicitous art handler but with her vim for greatness, she started her own business and that’s what brought them to the current impasse or at least that’s what she thought. She observed the sagged shoulders of her sister and realized that this could be their last chance to escape.

“Alright! Tell me… What did Zillah tell you,” asked Ann after taking a defeated sigh.

The sisters were waiting for the mastermind of the whole plan, Zillah, who always had this charlatan air about her. They barely knew her and were yet to figure why she was a part of this hellhole.

Amy saw a silhouette coming towards them and ushered her nonchalant sister towards it.

“Ann, please be nice to her. She is helping us to break out, to get away from all this and to start a new life'” requested Amy before her sister could pass a nasty comment.

Ann could not stop herself from rolling her eyes. Didn’t she teach her sister during their first major art theft that there are no free lunches? Her baby sister is yet to learn so much about life, art theft and people who have stayed in jail for months, thought Ann.

“We never got to know what got you here,” enquired the skeptical sister.

Zillah gave a sardonic smile, “Why don’t I shepherd you guys through the gates of hell and we can talk all about it over a bottle of beer.”

The plan was simple, all three of them had to take three different routes. Ann and Zillah will distract the two main guards Zack and Fred present for the night duty and Amy will shut down the alarm system. To believe Zillah, the plan was one of the best plans ever made and the execution will be as easy as ABC.

“Ann, use the cleaning bucket at the north-west dorm to distract Zack, he’ll be the one who’ll come first. I will try to scare the fatty Fred with his favourites…..” smirked Zillah.

“And Amy you will have three minutes to get the keys and to shut down the alarm system. Ann will come and take the keys from you to get us the guards’ uniform–”

“Then et voila! We all will meet at the south door to get out and will be free forever,” — interrupted Amy who had a cheeky smile plastered on her face.

Zillah shook his head in annoyance, “Ann, guards’ uniforms are really important, from their caps to their badges–”

“Yes, I am aware. Else we would not be able to get out and will get caught. Thanks, smartypants,” interrupted the older sister.

Zillah internally cursed the sisters, why do they both have a habit of interrupting, she thought.

The slippery floor worked wonders, the sleepwalker, Sally fell on the floor catching Zack’s attention and the mice charmed the fatty Fred and his musophobia quite well. Hacking into the system was a child’s play for Ann and she quickly gave the keys to Amy.

Amy ran to the locker room and found three pairs of clothing. She rushed to the south exit and waited for the two of them. Mere three minutes of the wait was an incendiary warning for Ann. All her fears came true as her sister could not reach her before the alarm system did what it is best known for.

“Emergency! Emergency! At the South exit.”

A ruckus was created and Ann could see her last hope dwindling down.

“It is a shame, I liked her. But I must say it was a diabolically brilliant move!”

“You are embarrassing me now Zi.”

“Careful! I told you no rash driving. Let me live a little. I just got free.” Amy slowed down the black truck. She remembered how she lured Zack into her plan and took his truck.

“You know she said that you were lying and that you were insane,” Amy told Zillah remembering how she convinced Ann for the plan. The same Ann who for her dreams of having the grand art theft put both their lives in danger and even put her younger sister behind the bars.

“It was your plan to escape and throw all the attention on her. You set the timer on the computers and lied to your own sister. That makes you insane,” said Zillah.

Amy knew better. She was no insane. She was the sane one, simply making her a better liar. Just one more lie, she thought. She glanced at Zillah, her next problem, her next lie. The vivacious woman looked around for a soul and then at Zillah with her devious smile.

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