Sun’ya Dina


“Please shut the door. It’s getting cold now.” The man’s crisp British accent betrayed his wealth. Shankar, the Nepali man, stared at him blankly. “Now.”

Shankar shook his head, letting out a rapid-fire response in his native tongue. Across the room, Isabella looked up from her newspaper, laughing. “He doesn’t speak English, you know.” 

Mark rolled his eyes before reluctantly closing the door himself, clicking the padlock shut. He turned to face the window. Staring dully out towards the mountains, his vision refocused until he was met with his own pale reflection. A young face of 30 years watched him through the glass. Startlingly dark eyes peered out from behind his carefully combed-back hair. Shaking his head, Mark turned his attention back outwards. A single, distant van rattled slowly down the bleak, empty road. Gray, afternoon skies swallowed the Himalayan peaks, overshadowing the dilapidated vehicle. 

Isabella slowly shook her head. “I’ve worked with people like you for 35 years. Young, posh, naive, overly ambitious, and utterly stupid.” 

Mark snorted.

“Oh dear. The Lhoba girl ran away again.” She tossed her paper into the weak fire. “What a shame.” As Isabella rose, forked flames twisted around carefully printed Tibetan scripts, consuming the inked passages. The photograph of the Lhoba girl crumbled into ash. Isabella slid her fingers through her graying hair, biting her lip in deep thought.

Shankar stood up, straightening his orange robe. “Kāra chittai ā’ummdaicha.” 

Isabella checked her watch. “Dhan’yavāda. He’s right.” She rose and walked towards the window. Her tired, teal eyes flicked around the landscape, analytically pausing in some places, passing through others. Pulling out a small monocular, she peered towards the far-off van. “Ford E-150. The 2004 make, I think. Tall, powerfully-built man at the wheel, judging by his facial features and clothing I’d say Baltic. Nigerian man in the second seat over. Definitely smaller, fidgety, appears nervous and inexperienced. That’s them.”

Isabella reached for her rifle while Shankar doused the hearth. “Mark, make yourself useful and carry my coffee.” Shankar unshackled the door and held it open. Mark shivered as the wave of cold air hit him. “Right on time, as always.” Isabella smiled, shouldering her weapon.

The weathered, white van was approaching in the distance. Isabella opened the rifle’s bolt and loaded a round. “Ten…” She pushed the chamber back in. “Nine… Eight… Seven…”

The van sped up. Isabella clicked off the safety, sighting the driver down the barrel.


Mark’s teeth chattered. The corners of Isabella’s mouth turned up into a slight smile. 

“Three… Two…”

Shankar lifted his eyebrows in anticipation.Śūn’ya dina.” A loud shot cracked the air. The windshield shattered as the driver’s head jerked back. The van swerved, nearly tumbling into the empty valley bordering the road. As it skidded to a stop in front of them, Isabella grinned and flicked open her knife.