The Adventures of Amolika Mangal
by Zeb Carbaugh
The street lights failed to illuminate the neighborhood. Their glow was drowned out by the fiercely cold autumn rain. The storm muffled nearly all sound, not that there was much to hear at 3AM. I was in my element.
Just home from the late shift, I sparked a joint, poured a glass of scotch, and settled in to wash off the daily woes of a dead-end job. My hair was still damp from my nightly hot shower as I took the first sip of Glenlivet 12. The thought of anyone awake at that hour never entered my mind.
The TV had just turned on when I heard a loud knock at the door and I jumped out of my recliner. Microwave dinner spilled all over the carpet. Even the gold fish I had won two years ago at a county fair stirred in his cramped fishbowl. I answered the door with a freshly microwaved Lean Cuisine stain on my Pajamas.
On the other side of the door I saw a short middle-aged man wearing a cheap white uniform with “Streetmen Special Delivery Service” embroidered in green on his lapel. He was soaking wet but still managed to keep up his professional façade with a smile peering through the rain on his face.
This thin delivery man spoke to me with a bit of a shiver, “Good evening sir. I need your John Hancock at the bottom of this form here.”
Tensions are always high when interacting with people in the dead of night, but his clip board was the same color of his uniform embroidery. It indicated he was with a legit delivery service or at the very least that he was dedicated to his method of deceit. Still signing the form, I asked, “Who’s it from?”
“It looks like the package is from Turkey and there’s just one name. It reads ‘Amolika’ which is a Hindu name I believe.” He seemed well educated. Had the package been from anyone else I might have picked his brain a bit more.
Excited, I handed the delivery man back his matching clip board and took the package from his grasp. “Thanks a-million,” I replied awkwardly and quickly shut the door. I hadn’t heard from my old friend in years. How she even got my current address was beyond me. In an age where everything is sent digitally, I knew this was by far the most interesting thing ever to be sent to me in the mail and I hadn’t even opened it yet.
The return address read “Harran Üniversitesi Osmanbey Kampüsü, Merkez Mahallesi, Şanlıurfa Mardin Yolu, 63000 Haliliye/Şanlıurfa, Turkey.” The only thing I understood was that it from a University in Turkey. Amolika signed her name in black ink and drew a small symmetrical heart next to it.
My apartment’s filled with hunting knives, so I grabbed the closest one to me. It was an 11-inch bowie knife with a handle made of elk antler. It was a bit overkill to open a cardboard package with a Crocodile Dundee knife, but I was too excited to take the time and find a pair of scissors.
I started to piece together a mental picture of my old friend Amolika as I opened her mysterious parcel. Her eyes were a darker shade of brown than her skin. It made the whites of her eyes stand out through her thick black curly locks. Her hair had so much bounce to it that her curls always reminded me of giant springs dangling from her head. She stood at about 5 feet 8 inches (or 1.7 meters as she always corrected my measurements to the metric system). Compared to most women I’ve met, she dressed quite simplistic, but she certainly wasn’t devoid of her own unique style. She usually wore an older style of wireframe eyeglasses. They were the subject of my curiosity on more than one occasion when I was in her presence. My mind had formed a complete picture of her from memory by the time I had unfurled the contents of her package.
Upon opening the cardboard box, I noticed there was a note written on an unfamiliar thick form of paper. The note was covering the other contents of the package. She wrote in her natural chicken scratch handwriting with black ink:
It has been a long time since we last saw each other in France, but I have a favor to ask of you. Keep the contents of this parcel safe, read my journal, and wait for me to arrive at your door. I hope to see you soon
Thank a million,
P.S. If I don’t show up within the year, publish the contents of the journal online for the world to see.”
The note piqued my interest even more. Upon further inspection I found a large leather-bound journal with two gold letters “NM” pressed in to the cover. As I took it out of the box I noticed it was heavier than I expected. To the right of where the journal had been, laid a cylindrical light gray rock about the size of an ear of corn. It too was heavy and had many strange engravings covering it. The one tip of the rock had a carving of a man’s face pointing straight out. He looked stern and it creeped me out bit. This package was the coolest thing in my apartment and it had only been inside for a few moments.
Setting the package and its contents down on my coffee table, I took a step back to process what had just happened. Whether it was the late-night booze or the spliff that was still burning on my ash tray, my mind started to doubt any of this was even real.
I took one of the largest gulps of scotch I have ever taken in my life and picked up Amolika’s leather journal. This time, with the intention to begin reading, I lifted the journal at an angle. A photograph slipped out from behind the front cover and landed face up on my lap. I recognized it instantly. Staring up at me were the faces of all my dearest friends from my time at the Collège International de Cannes, including Amolika’s and my own. A wave of nostalgia passed over me. Then, at 3AM covered in my pathetic excuse for a dinner and in the middle of a downpour, I began to read.