THE CLOSET

49

I was on my way to my birthplace after a long time. I made a list of places where I wanted to visit. The topmost word was ‘Home’. “Flight attendants, prepare for the landing.” The Captain announced. Looking out of the window, the view seemed like a stretched quilt of golden, brown and green squares held together by the thick green stitching of the hedgerows. It rose and fell like giant waves on a gentle ocean and was dotted with animals. Occasionally there was a wood that separated the fields, or a farmhouse or barn. I took a cab and headed home. The sun was a radiant, all-watching eye, its light creeping into every corner, bathing the whole world in a warm glow. The car cruised down a twisting road, grassy, forest green hills looming over the mountainous drive. Somewhere in between praising the nature to myself, I dozed off.

“Madam, we have reached.” Someone was calling me but I was so sleepy that I turned a deaf ear. The voice called me again, nearly shouted, and I woke up with a jerk. Ivy and ferns grew through the crevices of the old winding stone path, which led directly to the colossal structure. The mansion loomed proudly behind creaky tall iron gates from where I used to swing to and fro. We had reached home. I paid the driver and got off the cab. I went inside, headed straight to my room and opened the door. The dust that was inside the room was now all over me. The once frilly net curtains at the window are thick with over a decade of grime. The light that struggles through fails to reflect from the once white carpet that is more like a forest floor in both colour and texture. The walls could be any shade at all, I can’t tell. My thoughts were interrupted by a sound from the closet. I tried opening it but my efforts went in vain. It didn’t even budge. The sound stopped and so did my efforts. I was more tired than curious. Cautiously, I removed the bedspread and dozed off within seconds.

The raucous sound that lightly danced in the closet was enough to send my back straight as a cold sweat washed over my face; my heart trying to escape through my throat the first chance it could get. The sound was getting louder as time passed by. I was reminded of the movie ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. Will I land into a whole new land through it? I laughed off my thoughts. With the closet nearly rocking by now, my thoughts came to a halt. I rose up and tried opening it but the outcome remained same, it didn’t open. I banged it very hard. In hunger and frustration, I left the house.

Reminiscing about the time when me and my friends used to hide in that closet while playing hide and seek, I went searching for nearby eateries. When I found nothing, I knocked on my neighbour’s door. A not so overly old lady greeted me by the door. Occasional strands of her once golden hair could still be seen though the lifeless grey mane limply framed her aging face. Her forehead was wrinkled by many peaks and trenches. Her entire face seemed drained of any signs of joy and amusement. I told her about the closet and to my astonishment she closed the door on my face. I could hear her shouting to her husband, “I told you that house has a ghost.” I facepalmed and headed back to my home. Slowly I made a move towards the door of my room and took a glance into it. The closet was ajar. I went in and saw a few disfigured humans with nameplates of my friends and a human toy lay brutally tortured at a corner with my nameplate. At the other corner, I saw a creature heading towards the human toy. It was almost devoid of skin. Without eyelids the milky blue eyes stared at the toy while the lipless mouth hung open. It’s presence felt like every warm feeling and thought was sucked out of me leaving me icy cold. It took a sharp knife and stabbed the toy mercilessly. The creature was brutally making cuts and jabs. My throat burned as I tried to speak or shout. I ran out of the house and locked the door with a relief. I heard footsteps. I wrapped my arms around me and let out a sick whimper. I wasn’t brave enough to look. A voice spoke, “Aren’t you leaving too soon? My collection is not yet complete.”

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THE PORTRAIT

90

It was a typical Tuesday night but something was strange about the darkness. Living in the heart of a city, I had grown used to having the warming, orange glow of street lights outside my window, their light filtering in through the gaps in the curtains. This was a blackness that I couldn’t recall seeing before – one that was almost absolute. I took my bike out for a ride. Bike rides have always been a therapy for me. The cool breeze caressed my face. As I paced, my hair fluttered in the air. It felt like I was talking to the wind and for that moment my agony perished away. Everything felt so good, so beautiful. The trees were swaying slowly yet gracefully, but not for a long time. Soon the trees were violently rocking. The wind was so fierce that it nearly tore my skin apart as it touched me. I had to negotiate with the storm.

I found a bus stop at the end of the road and decided to wait there till the storm ended. I sat there and checked my phone. I was so much engaged with it that I didn’t even notice that someone came by and sat a few inches away from me. I couldn’t clearly see his face because the place was quite dark and street lights were not working. His silhouette revealed his strong built—a wide chest and strong muscles. I guess he had sensed that I was staring at him for a long time. He turned towards me. I could only see his eyes in the dark. His eyes were grey, not the beautiful kind. They were very pale, as if almost all the color has been sucked out of them. They seemed somewhat familiar to me but I couldn’t recall where I had seen those eyes. I felt quite uneasy when they gaped at me. “Umm….H-Hi!” I spoke to break the awkward silence. My phone flashed at that time. Someone was calling, probably my parents checking on me. I was about to take the call but then I noticed that the person who was sitting a few inches away from me was then sitting right next to me! I could see his face clearly through the light of the mobile. I couldn’t believe my eyes or rather I refused to believe my eyes. I could realise only then, why those eyes seemed familiar to me.

There was a hurricane inside me. The panic began like a cluster of spark plugged in my abdomen, tension grew in my face and limbs. Breathing became more rapid, more shallow. My heart was hammering inside my chest like it belonged to a rabbit running for its skin. I felt my ribs heaving as if bounded by ropes, straining to inflate my lungs. My head was a carousel of fears spinning out of control, each one pushing my mind into blackness. I wanted to run; I needed to freeze. The oxygen in the air was not enough for me. I was having a panic attack. He sat in silence and watched me struggle, with satisfaction. As I calmed down, I stood up and ran to my bike and rode off. I glanced back, and to my surprise that person was running at the speed of my bike. I was struggling while riding because of the attack I had there but somehow managed to increase my speed.

Finally I reached home. A very disturbing image flashed in my mind. A knife stabbing in the throat, oesophagus and arteries sticking out so much like corrugated and rubber tubing. I shuddered. I ran upstairs and rummaged in my room for the portrait I had made before murdering my boyfriend on his birthday, a year ago. And there I was, so right about my thoughts. It was him. He was back! I turned around and saw him there carrying the same crooked smile on his face, which he had before he died. He had a knife in his hand. It was déjà vu. Only this time the knife was for me instead of his birthday cake.

A FEAST

83

I was on vacation, so I decided to pay a visit to my friend and stay there for a day or two. I packed my bags and the journey started. The weather was gorgeous that day, which means a high pressure front, right? Blue skies, no wind, ambient temperature – well it was more like an absence of weather really. I reached my destination in the evening. The house was exactly the way he had described to me. A royal mansion stood before me. I went inside and found my friend at the door. What an amazing sight! I had never seen a house that big in reality.

We had a cup of tea and the details about the house. He showed me my room. It was big enough for a nuclear family to live. A comfortable couch, a big double bed and in front of that an enormous mirror like they have in those dance rooms. When you sit on the bed, you can praise your reflection in that mirror for hours. There were some pictures of the family who used to live here. “John, why haven’t you removed these pictures?” I asked out of curiosity. “I have not yet seen all the rooms. This is the first time I entered here.” He replied. There were around a dozen rooms and he had just bought it a few days ago. Later I came to know about the tragic death of the family who earlier lived there, from the domestic help.

I was too tired to talk with anyone so I went to my room and pour myself into a book. I was reading the classic, Little Women. I was so much involved with the characters of Little Women that I had no idea about the time. It was three in the morning. I decided to sleep. I went to bed and glanced at the mirror. To my astonishment, I didn’t find my reflection. I saw the family, who used to live there, in the mirror. One of them threw a knife right at me! Fortunately it hit a few inches beside me, on the bed. Before vomiting my heart out, I managed to find John’s room and told him everything. He was too scared to think about anything, so he ran to my room and tore all the pictures of that family and even tried to break the mirror. Nothing happened to the mirror, not even a single crack! We went to sleep. I slept in my friend’s room as I was way too scared to enter my room.

When I woke up in the morning, the other side of the bed was empty. I was very hungry as I hadn’t had my dinner last night. I went downstairs and decided to eat something first, then find John. My legs refused to go down the last two stairs. I just couldn’t move. That family was waiting for me at the dining hall. “There is a big feast for all of us, today. Come and join us.” The father said. The lady came to me and was about to take me to the table, when I signalled her that I can go on my own. Even though with each step, I felt like my death was nearing but still I kept walking because I thought maybe if I stopped then death would consume me then and there. I sat on the chair. As soon as they lifted the lid of the dishes, I lost my appetite. I wanted to scream but no sound came out which made my throat pain. I couldn’t sit there any more to see my friend’s body parts on the dining table!

MYSTERIOUS PARCELS 

155

I bought a new apartment. There was nothing about it in the very least picturesque or attractive, for it was the just an ugly speckle of the society. Yet to me, it was really sweet and fascinating or probably just the cheapest one amongst all I had seen. There were some strange stories about it, which I decided to turn a deaf ear to. From the very first day I received parcels of flesh, human flesh I guess and the boxes would always be empty by the next morning. I called the police. Nobody ever visited my house because of all the stories.

I have a habit of hanging my hand, while sleeping, at the edge of the bed. Many a times I felt like someone was trying to grab it. I always believed that I was dreaming. There were times when I used to notice a spot of blood or two and at other times there were bits of skin on my hand when I woke up. Obviously I was scared but it would probably cost an arm and leg for another apartment. One day, at the dead of night, I heard a munching sound from under the bed. I thought it might be the thieves. I leaned down to have a look and was terrified. I immediately withdrew. A person, who didn’t seem like one, was eating the flesh which I receive every day. A cannibal lived with me in my own house. After a moment, I intentionally hanged my hand at the edge of the bed. My doubts were clear now. He tried grabbing it. I was too scared to get down from the bed. A bearded, muscled man, or whatever he was, was under my bed. He seemed more like an animal to me because of the way he was eating flesh. It appeared as if he hadn’t eaten for days, but then it struck to me that he always eats the flesh I receive. My heart thumped against my chest. My stomach churned into tense cramps. I crunched my teeth over my lip and salty liquid filled my mouth.

Before my sensory receptors could tell me about the blood in my mouth, I realised that the munching sound had stopped. I had this curiosity to look under the bed but somehow my neck just got stiff and refused to have a look. I didn’t posses that much courage to look. But my curiosity was greater than my courage and finally bowed my head under the bed. There was nothing, neither the cannibal and nor the flesh. I was relieved and thought it was an illusion. I was about to go back to sleep but there I saw something which made me feel gravity never existed. There it was on the ceiling standing upside down, ready to grab me!

THE CREAKY DOOR 

75

A week ago, my newborn sister entered our house. As she entered, she passed such a sweet smile, probably her first smile, that the house was filled with a kind of pureness I never knew existed in the world. When she was born, our house was under renovation. A thick front door was built with no sign of newness. It was scratched and dented with chipped brown varnish with a brass coloured lock and a dull door knob. It was just like a cuboidal box along with a safety chain dangled at the side of it, a pointless gesture for such an extraordinarily thick door.

My parents had to go out of town for some urgent work so it was just me and my sister in the house. The door was peculiar. It used to swing on its own when my sister used to move. It used to creak when my sister made noise. Its creaking sound seemed like a dying animal, crying out its pain and sorrow with its last breath. People advised to break the door as it gave out negative vibes but I turned a deaf ear to them. For me, they were nothing more than naive superstitions–until that evening.

That evening I had to go out for some work and locked the door from outside in case my sister toddles out of the house. When I returned I unlocked the door but it was jammed. My sister made a gesture with her pink small hands from the terrace, which probably meant “welcome back”. I waved back. I pushed the door many times but all of my efforts went in vain. Somebody suggested breaking the door. Honestly I didn’t really want to break it but I was left with no other option, so I got some tools from the shed and after numerous failed attempts, I finally broke the door. I found something or rather someone. I don’t know what it was but it surely looked like my sister, as if they were twins but this thing had cuts and bruises. It stared vacantly at me. It had no lips; I could see those teeth stained with blood. Its appearance made me feel like a thousand tiny spider legs went scuttling down my back. I’ll be haunted by the sight of it to my dying breath. My reflex action made me take a sharp tool and chop off its head! Its head landed on one of my hands. After a few nanoseconds, my sister’s head tumbled down from the terrace on my other hand!

CORPSE’S MESSAGE 

35

A cosy couch, a velvety blanket, a hot cup of coffee and an amazing book means a perfect Saturday night for, at least, a bibliophile like me. But as it is said that perfect things hardly last; so, mine was interrupted with the sound of flowing water. I went to check the bathroom in case I left the shower on, but there I stood terrified near the door of the bathroom. What was a masked man doing in my bathroom? Bathing, that too with blood? Yes, blood was flowing through my shower! I could only see his eyes because of the mask. Within a few minutes, the flesh from each part of his body shredded into pieces, while passing through the bathroom strainer and down the pipe. The strainer literally seeped the man before my eyes. I could hardly believe my eyes. Slowly, I went inside to look through the strainer. Those fiery red eyes glared at me. At once I withdrew.

The whole incident scared the hell out of me. I wanted to believe it was a dream but, I could see the blood flowing through the shower which was still on. When I was about to turn off the shower, I noticed it was already in an off position. I felt blue, but somehow managed to reach the drain where all the waste gets collected from my bathroom. I leaned forward to have a look at it when someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned around to face that someone. Suddenly I wanted to scream but my efforts went in vain. There he was, the masked man with each part of his body properly attached. The images of the incident which took place in my bathroom a few minutes ago flashed in my mind. “Were you searching for me or my shredded pieces?” he asked in his husky voice and passed a devilish grin.

Between huffs and puffs, I reached home. A headstone caught my attention at my backyard. It was a grave. I never saw it in months’ time. Grabbing some courage, I dug it to find a large brown coffin. With shaky hands, I opened it. A dead body lay there peacefully, but it was not just any other person’s corpse, it was the masked man’s corpse with open eyes, those fiery red eyes which haunts me till date. The gravestone said he died 10 years ago.

I wondered if it was a hallucination. I went up to my bathroom. By that time the flowing blood from my shower had stopped, but my bathroom looked like a swimming pool of blood. There I realised it was not hallucination. My bathroom walls were stained with bloody hands along with a message written with blood: “You’re the next to be seeped up!”

BIRTHDAY GIFT

50

I used to visit the graveyard once a week to put a rose in front of each gravestone to show my respect towards the dead ones. The coming week was full of work so I decided not to go there. The week passed and I received an audio clip from a private number. I played it. “Why didn’t you visit me this week? I miss you.” I wondered from who this clip could be. From that day onwards I felt like I was not the only person living in the house. It seemed someone else was also there like a shadow, that never left me. I could feel his respirations on my shoulder, like he was leaning over me, but I never succeeded in finding him. My extrasensory perception told me it was a ‘he’. A month passed and I couldn’t visit the graveyard for some reasons.

Finally my birthday arrived and I decided to visit the graveyard in the wee hours, after a long time. “Welcome! At last you’re here.” I looked in the direction from where the voice had come but found no one. This made my blood run cold. I was about to run for my life but there stood a cadaver in front of me. It was not a skeleton; I could see his pale skin, dried blood all over his face. I guessed he had attractive features when he was alive which were now spotted with angry bruises. Suddenly the air was no more fresh. I could smell rotten meat, a typical butcher shop’s odour. A blood curdling scream escaped my oesophagus. The moment I came back to reality, he was standing next to me. “I won’t harm you, I just want us to be together”, he said.

He forcefully made me watch a movie. The movie was all about a corpse in love with a human and wanted to be together, so he killed the human and their corpses lay in one coffin. “A happy ending”, well, that was what he believed. For me the movie was definitely creepy. “Can I make this fictious story into a real one?” He passed an evil grin to reveal his dirty black teeth smeared with red. Probably it was blood. It was the hair-raising sentence I had ever heard. He wasn’t expecting a reply, I supposed, nor was I in a state for that. “Here take this gift and a very happy birthday to you”, he handed me a big box. An invisible force made me open it or maybe I was somewhat curious. A chopped off head. The box was filled with blood; I couldn’t see her face as her hair was in front of it. Slowly, I removed her hair to reveal my face! Wait…what? My face? It was indeed my face.