Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ctrl Z...? (redux)


Guru turned the car onto the main road and checked the rear view mirror. No trail. The cops would be left groping in the dark, as usual. He smiled and continued driving.

The drizzle had now turned to a steady downpour. The road was dark, illuminated only by the head-lights. There was no power in the area he was passing by, he could tell.

He turned from the main road, and would've missed it had his eyes not caught the car from the corner of his headlights. Probably skidded off the road before nose-diving into the canal. As he pulled over, he saw some movement inside the car. He looked around, squinting his eyes through the fat rain drops blinding him. The road was deserted. Should he, shouldn't he? He thought about the contract he'd taken on the builder. He had to do it tonight. Oh, what the heck, one good deed for a sin - He parked a little further and got out. Drenched, he slowly got to the side of the car and wiped the water from the window. He could see it was a woman, still breathing. The door was jammed. He quickly found a rock and broke the rear window, not wanting to hurt the driver.

"Hello..? Can you hear me?" He shook the woman's shoulder. She groaned in pain.

Aside from that, no response. Was she sinking? Without wasting another moment, he reached in and caught hold of her shoulder, pulling her toward him. She groaned in pain and the car jerked to a side, the rear wheels threatening to pull the car completely in. Steadying himself, he pulled her slowly until she was away from the wheel. And then, he heaved her out. The sudden shifts and movement had rendered the car imbalanced and it fell further into the canal with a huge metallic thud, muted in the rain.

An hour and a half later, he drove out of the hospital compound wordlessly. He'd paid for her treatment. Doctors said she would pull through. He felt strange when he turned to the main road once again. He looked at his watch. He still had an hour to do his job.

***

Dinesh pulled out the wad of notes from the drawer and out-stretched his hand toward Guru.

"You know Guru, I was after this guy for the last one month, but somehow he always smelled it out in advance, the little rat. You did what the others couldn't. Here...your 6 lakhs, as promised."

"Leave it, Dinesh bhai. I don't want the money this time."

Dinesh chuckled and looked at his cronies, not believing his ears. He then turned to Guru. "What happened? I thought you killed only for money."

Guru just shook his head and left. He walked out into the sunlight, his back aching. He walked to the lakeside and sat down on the bench, watching the ducks. The calm lake should've soothed his nerves. Instead he felt sick. Sick all over. Sick from head to toe.

His mind kept going back to the builder. He had caught him in his living room. It looked like he was about to leave home. Guru was quick, as usual. And then as he pointed his muffled gun at the man's head and pumped in two quick shots, point blank, he saw a picture on the shelf. He stepped closer to get a better look. He looked down at the builder he'd just bumped. And back at the picture, shining his cell phone's flash light. It was the builder and his wife.

The woman he saved that same night.

****

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Happy Birthday


It was little Avantika’s 5th birthday, and the first one in her new home. They moved here a week back and had just about finished doing it up. Her mother, a beaming Pooja, slowly entered the living room, cake in hand. The children, all 30 of them, shouted in unison. Pooja laughed and gently placed the cake on the center table.

She arranged the plastic knife alongside the cake, asked her daughter to come stand beside her. Pavan, who was busy welcoming other guests, heard the kids shouting and guessed it was cake cutting time. He turned around to see Pooja beckoning him. He nodded and made his way to the cake. Arpita, Pooja’s sister, was the lens woman, taking pictures with her D-SLR. She had also been Pooja’s right hand all through, arranging and looking after all the details.

Everybody milled around the birthday girl who was resplendent in her new white gown, looking like a little fairy.

“Come on, children, closer now..” Arpita said into the lens, as she focused the picture.

She took her eye off the camera for a minute and smiled. A couple of other kids Avantika’s age were jostling for space near her, wanting to cut the cake as well. Kids, she thought shaking her head. Finally, it was all settled and Arpita clicked pictures as Avantika cut the cake, fed her parents and then all the children by turns.

The rest of the evening was filled with cries of joy and excitement, some happy conversation, and lastly a long picture session with the tiny tot. Arpita’s finger ached by the end of it all. The last of the guests left a little after 10 pm and soon, it was just the family.

Avantika had dozed off at the couch. The adults were chatting, milling around to clear the table and clean up the mess the children had made. It was a memorable evening. Arpita came into the kitchen carrying the empty cake tray.

“What a party. Phew.”

Pooja  hugged her. “All thanks to you, sweetheart. I don’t know what I would've done without you.”

“Drama queen,” Arpita said, giving a peck on her older sister’s cheek and continued cleaning.

The men were discussing politics and sports outside in the living room. Pavan was on a ladder bringing down the wall decoratives. Pooja and Arpita, done with their cleaning, sat at the dining table. Pooja had  carried some wine along.

“Boys..join us for some wine?” She said, smiling at her brother-in-law Rajesh. Rajesh’s eyes lit up.

“Wow, Bhabhi, you sure know how to make a tired man happy.” He ambled over to the dining table and motioned Pavan over. He was Pavan’s younger brother and Arpita’s husband. It was a really close knit family. Arpita and he hadn’t had kids yet, so they showered all their love on little Avantika.

The four of them sat and sipped quietly for a while. Arpita looked lovingly at her niece, who Pavan would later carry to her bedroom. She had taken care to clean up her bed a while ago.

***

It was really hot in this house, and Arpita and Rajesh were holed up on the first floor room. Around 2 am, her throat parched, Arpita decided to come down to the kitchen for a glass of water. She’d forgotten to keep her usual water bottle by the bed side. She came to the stairs sleepily and stopped.

She sensed some movement in the living room. She slowly got down the stairs. Was Ammu still in the living room? But she remembered Pavan carrying her along earlier. There was a zero-watt bulb on in the hall and Arpita stood dead in her tracks. The hall was partially visible from the staircase, but she could make out clearly.

A little girl in a green frock, humming the birthday song softly, was circling around the center table where the cake was cut.

Oh my God, someone’s kid got left behind.

The girl saw Arpita and froze, shocked. Arpita smiled. ‘It’s ok child,’ she whispered, walking down the stairs.

‘Mommy papa didn’t come to pick you up?’ she asked all the while wondering how on earth would anybody forget to pick up their own child. And how did they miss her? Even Pooja didn’t mention anything about her.

Arpita came down the stairs. She made her way to the switchboard at the bottom of the staircase, switched on the lights. It was Avantika.

‘Ammu, it’s you! What is it baby, why’re you standing here all by yourself?’

Avantika made a sulking face and spoke out – ‘want cake’.

In an adult male voice.

***

Monday, January 13, 2014

Back in business


It has been a busy 2013 and I'm guessing 2014 would be busier.  And while everybody's busy talking about making resolutions, breaking resolutions, and even not having any resolutions, I thought of sneaking back here quietly and having a word with you guys.

I know, I know..I've been away a long time now. And by that I mean, with stuff that I originally used to write here, and not just plonk outtakes of my book or repost old stuff. Yeah...I know, 'yawn'. I was beginning to feel so myself. So yeah, 'malignant humor' hopes to return with a brand new flavor this year. Of course, good ol' spook will always be around to tingle those spines once a while, but I'm seriously hoping to come up with a lot of different stuff this time round.

They say you achieve a lot when you're the busiest. Couldn't be truer. In fact I think if I want to continue blogging here, I should find something that'll keep me busy as hell. Well, not difficult considering I have a new project at work to sink my professional teeth into, a psychological thriller waiting to be written after hours, impatiently waiting for the words 'The End' on its last page, and a whole lot more waiting to be brought to closure in my personal life as well. Phew!

Oh, and hopefully this space will also see a makeover. If all goes well. A very dear blogger friend is doing it for me.

Happy new year, guys. I've missed you all. :)

***

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mukti


Reposting this with some changes. Removed the old one.

Prateek fumbled for his cell phone, and finally managed to pull it out of his pocket. As he spoke into it, the waitress came by to pick up his empty plates. She smiled at him, and he smiled back, his eyes following her as she turned and walked away with just the right amount of sway in her hips. His voice was into the microphone of his cell phone, but his mind had long since left the conversation. It was now hovering around the waitress. There was something so familiar about her. It was near impossible that he'd even known her personally, but...his thought hung.

Mukti. Ah, yes, that's what she'd told her name was when she came in to take his order earlier. He had nothing against names, but he thought the name was a bit morbid. Just like the soul that waited to reach its final destination, her name hung in the air, waiting to get 'Mukti' from its own self. Prateek felt stupid at his own little joke.

He also normally didn't fancy stepping into a pizza parlor for supper, but there was no other eatery in the vicinity. The Americans knew their market well, and bang in the middle of (almost)nowhere, where inter-state lorries and cars whooshed by on the four-lane tarmac, was this lone pizza parlor, indeed looking like a beacon from a light-house. He'd spotted it from afar and decided to stop by, his stomach growling in protest. But now it was silent, while the mind wandered around Mukti, much like his six year old nephew, who absolutely had to go wandering around a restaurant after a meal.

He signed on the counter slip and their eyes met for a fleeting second again. He had the pen and the counter slip in his hand. She stood patiently waiting.

"Oh..oh I'm sorry. Here you go," he smiled, feeling stupid again.

"It's ok, sir. Hope you enjoyed your meal," she replied.

"Of course, of course," he rubbed his palm over his tummy. "sumptous," and chuckled.

"Thank you sir," she said and turned to leave.

"Uh, excuse me..."

"Yes sir?" She turned back.

"Do I know you from some place?"

All those gruelling training sessions on 'be patient with a customer, no matter how weird he or she behaves, service with a smile', and all that jazz, came in handy now. She had a straight face. Not for long though, it broke into a smile but not without a question mark curving her brow.

"Me sir? I don't know..I don't think so. I..." For once, her perfectly intonated almost-answering-machine-perfect voice quivered and she hesitated.

"Oh, it's ok. It's perfectly ok. It's just that..you have a very familiar face," he said smiling.

"Maybe, sir," she smiled back and left.

He hung around for a few minutes, looked back at the restaurant, let out a long sigh and drove out to the highway.

*********

A month later. Prateek shut his laptop and rubbed his eyes, a loud yawn escaping his lips. There. That was done. The final version of the script for his movie was ready. He had to reach it to his child hood friend and director, Yogesh Viraj, the next day. This was a dream come true for him. In a way for Yogesh too. Yogesh was a couple of movies old, and he'd promised Prateek a break once he'd established himself.

He walked into Yogesh's office and they went over the script again, one last time. The next job was to make copies and hand those over to the actors.

Lunch time.

"Yaar Yogesh, something's eating me the last couple of months. Ever since we completed casting etc. Tell me something, is Merilyn really our Disha?"

"What's this? All of a sudden. We hit the floors Monday, pal." Yogesh gawked.

"I know, I know..and..I also know Merilyn was the best among the lot, but..it's just that, our Disha is someone else. Someone..someone.." he left it hanging, his mind wandering back to the drive he had on the highway that night. He then shook his head.

Yogesh walked over to him and patted his shoulder. "Chill, writer saab. This is it. Don't think a lot. Merilyn will deliver the goods. She's excellent, man. Didn't you see her in that anger scene we screened her for?"

Prateek nodded. They'd screened close to a hundred and fifty girls and guys for the movie. It took a team of more than 10 to finally arrive at the lead actors. Both of them knew the trouble they took to get the perfect cast.

Yogesh was done with his meal and he rose. Then he stopped to remark, "Of course, there was this girl too who came a close second. Actually, I even thought she was better than Merilyn. I'd wanted to tell you that day itself. You left early because your sister had sprained her ankle, and your dear bro-in-law wasn't in town. Remember?"

"Hmm, yeah. So, what about that girl, why didn't we choose her instead?"

"Arre, our man friday Amol lost her number. And she'd not left any other information, address etc."

"Damn."

"Yeah, interesting name she had though. I remembered, because one of my aunts has the same name."

"What's it?"

"Mukti." Yogesh replied, bringing a wide grin on Prateek's face.

"Apparently she works in a Pizza joint or something, but how do we...what?" Yogesh said chuckling at Prateek who was now laughing, shaking his head.

"Nothing," Prateek replied, laughing a little louder, holding his head. Ah, Disha. No wonder he felt it when he first saw her.

He patted a puzzled Yogesh's cheek, grabbed his car keys and rushed out.


******

Monday, September 30, 2013

Closing soon...


From the Frankly Spooking outtakes

They ate steamed corn and walked over to the main lounge on the second floor. It was a new mall; a lot of shops were yet to come up. The shape was a funny hexagon, and seemed like the shops would never end. But when they came back to where they started from, Deepa heaved a sigh of relief and laughed. Ashok shook his head too. “Phew.”

Just then tucked away between the wash-rooms and the audio shop, in an L-shaped corner, was another shop. Deepa craned her neck to see what it was. Looked like a garment store. Ashok was looking the other way, at the Apple store across the circular lobby.

“Baby, I’ll just step into that shop for a second?” She said, tugging at Ashok’s sleeve.

“Hmm? Oh, ok..I’m at that Apple store,” he said.

She smiled. “Okie dokie.”

***

Deepa pushed the glass door and stepped in. There was nobody in the store. Maybe they'd stepped out for a break. Deepa looked at the dresses on display and started browsing. Impressive. This was really good stuff. They were all arranged on stands in neat rows. She went on seeing, and after a while, it was like a maze. There were so many designs, so many colors, it blew her mind.

Wow..this is some collection.

She never realized the time. Oh, there was another room inside.

She stepped into that room and her jaw literally dropped.

Was this even possible? This was like a dungeon of dresses. How come they had such a humungous room here? She thought they were on the far corner, where at the most, the store front was all they could manage with that space. This was endless.

Deepa stepped in further, and several lights came on at once, bright and shiny. Automated lights. Not bad. She started walking along the rows of cloth-stands. She had never seen so many designs in her entire life. She considered herself an avid shopper. Even by her standards, these designs were all unique. She sighed. Oh, if only she had the dough to pick up everything. Like a school girl, she giggled and moved on inside.

She approached the end of a row, near the other end of the hall when the lights went out.

Oops.

She waited for the backup lights to come on anytime now. That never happened. She let out a loud sigh.

“Hello,” She turned in the direction of the store front. Maybe they were back and would step in any moment now with some sort of a backup light and an explanation.

But nobody came.

Just then her phone rang. “Oh thank heavens,” she said out loud. It was Ashok.

“Where are you?” He said, sounding a little impatient.

“I…I’m right here Ashok. The damn lights’ve gone out. I’m coming out. You done?”

“Done? Deepa, it’s more than an hour since you went..”

“What? No, impossible. It’s just been like what..10 minutes?”

Ashok laughed. “Come on, honey.”

“No really. Ok, I’m coming out,” She said and started to make her way out, but she just kept on walking.

“Funny, I could’ve sworn the door of this hall was right here,” she muttered as she thought she’d approached the doorway. Ashok was still on the line.

“Any problem? I’m coming there,” he said.

“Yeah..could you please? Nobody was here when I came in. Please call someone and tell them the lights aren’t coming on either.”

“What lights?”

“Hasn’t there been an outage?” Deepa asked, sounding a little worried now.

“No.”

“Shit..something must’ve happened here then.”

She reminded herself not to step into a new mall, still half way in development.

She hung up and pointed the cell phone’s light at the rows of dresses, to make her way around. She could see the wall on the other side. Strange. The hall didn’t seem so large now. Maybe it was the semi-darkness. Maybe there were mirrors. She couldn’t care less now. She wanted to get out.

Ashok called again.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Where are you? Which shop is it?”

“Arre, the one beside the wash-rooms – It’s called..some “Mirage..something…you can’t miss it, sweety.”

“I’m standing right beside the wash-room area, Deepa. There’s nothing here.”

“What?”

“Yeah.”

“No, no..that can’t be. It has to be there. Just ask someone around na?”

She could hear him asking someone. He came back online.

“What did you say the name was…?”

“Ashok, how the hell does it matter what name? The shop’s right beside…wait. I can see a light come on. I’m coming there.”

She found the door and walked through. The store looked different now, and the lights were still very dim. She found the familiar rows of dresses and started walking. She reached the front portion and let out a sigh.

“Ah, I’m here..see, I see you there. Come on in.” She waved at Ashok, who was outside the glass door and looking everywhere else but at her.

Ashok looked around, looked through her, and then back at something else.

“Arre, Ashok…I’m here,” She said and stepped towards the door. But there was none. It was all a glass wall.

What the hell was happening. She was getting irritated now.

“Where?” Ashok asked.

“Turn to your right.”

He turned at looked straight at her. She looked at him and waved. But he kept on looking through her.

“Where?”

“Ashok, you’re looking at me. Hellllloo..” She waved frantically. He looked puzzled.

“Where are you? I’m just staring at a wall here.”

Wall? Her heart racing, she slowly came to the glass wall and touched it. What the hell was Ashok saying? She was looking right at him. Why couldn’t he see her?

She called out to the store keeper. “Hello. Hello, I’m stuck here. Where are you?”

No reply.

She looked back at Ashok.

“I…I’m right here, baby, please don’t say you can’t see me” she said. Her voice had dropped down to a whimper now.

“Sweety, don’t worry, I’ll get to you..just tell me where you are.”

“I’m right here, damn it,” She shouted.

“Hello?” Ashok said.

“Ashok…can’t you…can’t you hear me?” She said, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Hello?” He repeated, looking at his phone and again putting it to his ear.

She banged the glass wall, sobbing.

“Please…let me out of here…”

“Hello, Deepa..Deepa?” Ashok kept on saying.

Exhausted, she hung up and turned around. The walls of the store were now closing in on her and the lights getting dimmer. She turned to look at Ashok, who was still looking around frantically. He was talking to one of the house-keeping staff, pointing to where Deepa was.

But the other guy was shaking his head, as if to say, “No, there’s nothing behind this wall, no shop.”

And then, Deepa remembered the name of the shop.

Mystic Maze.

****




Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ceasefire


From the Frankly Spooking outtakes

The quiet of the night was shattered by a rudely loud “You bloody bitch”, the last word rising a few decibels higher than the rest.

A door opened and slammed somewhere, and many girls, standing and chatting in groups, in the corridors of the working womens’ hostel, could see a figure emerge out of that door and move rapidly towards the far end of the wing.

Comments ranged from hushed tones to audible banter.

“Who was that?”

“Oofff..the drama has started again.”

“It’s Neha. Stomping off to pick a fight with someone, I’m sure. Wonder who’s the target this time.”

For the uninitiated, the object of gossip here was Neha. She was known for her wicked temper, manipulative demeanor, and a vicious “I-hold-a-grudge-against-anyone-crossing-my-path” attitude. Her latest target was apparently Ankita, her colleague and more importantly team member. The hostel grapevine had it that Ankita was a better performer at office, than Neha, and this more often than not, landed her in the direct line of Neha’s sarcastic fire, sometimes leaving a dazed and hurt Ankita silently licking her wounds in the bathroom. A recluse, Ankita hardly ever shared her sob story with anyone in the hostel. And whatever little was known, came from Neha’s roomie, who would invariably let out nuggets of the office war to the others. Some were true, some made up purely for dramatic effect, and some, well, totally hogwash.

But on this calm and quiet October night, Neha’s ire was a certain missive she received in her inbox, from their boss Vikram Deshpande. The email was obviously a result of Ankita’s report of Neha’s disgusting behavior and a few minutes after her storming out the room, word went out that Neha had been fired on that very email.

“Oh my God, poor Ankita. I hope she’s not in the hostel tonight. This one’s going to kill her for sure.”

And well, they might not have been entirely wrong in speculating that one. Neha was indeed on fire.

“Where’s she?” She stormed into Ankita’s room and came out.

“Kusum, where’s Ankita?” Neha literally caught Kusum’s collar and asked.

“Hey, let go Neha…I don’t know.”

Letting her go, Neha stomped towards the bathrooms.

***

She found Ankita in the first bathroom, standing in a corner, hiding her face and sobbing.

“Ah, the great Ms. Spitfire is here, huh? Or shall we say, the squealer? You bloody bitch…”

She waited for a response but Ankita continued sobbing.

“Oh stop it Ankita. Stop being such a saint. The whole world knows what you did with my boyfriend. And now this. How…how dare you. How dare you go and tell all that nonsense to that fucking creep, Vikram. What on earth made you think you could get away with...”

Just then a blood-curdling scream from the adjacent bathroom made her jump and she walked out to the main corridor . She saw many girls running in the direction of the scream. Neha went with them to have a look. “I’ll deal with this scum later,” she thought.

She elbowed her way in with the others. Collective gasps, wails, moans, and assorted screams escaped the girls’ lips as neared the scene. Neha slowly made her way in and came to the spot. An involuntary gasp escaped her lips as well.

There, in one of the small clearing areas, hanging from a hook on the wall, was Ankita’s limp form. Her eyes were almost popping out, and her broken neck all but managed to hold the rest of her body together.

Neha, disbelief, shock, and a host of other varied expressions darting across her face, slowly walked back looking down at the floor and stood outside the bathroom. Many more women hurried past her, some pushing her in the process. But Neha was oblivious. She kept looking at the floor blankly.

She then looked up and toward the other bathroom where she’d just blasted Ankita.  She slowly walked in that direction, her steps almost zombie-like. She peeped into the the bathroom and slowly entered. She stood in the place she thought she’d seen Ankita. She had seen her right here, by the basin mirror. She could swear she had seen her. Sobbing away like she usually did. Making the whole world hate her (Neha). And now…

She bent down and splashed some water on her face. And when she rose…

She heard a giggle, and looked behind her in the mirror. Ankita.

Her heart leaping to her mouth, she swung around sharply. Nobody was there.

Then the lights went out. And the bathroom door slammed shut.

****

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Attic


From the Frankly Spooking outtakes

It was not the first time Aabha heard sounds coming from the attic. It could’ve been rodents – her mom always thought it was that, her dad would always shake his head and continue reading the newspaper, paying no attention whatsoever to whatever Aabha had to say after he was done shaking his head.

So there.

So it was on a Sunday afternoon, Aabha – armed with two to three packets of rat kill tablets, a canister of ‘hit’, and bread crumbs, climbed the rickety stairs to the attic. She always wondered what the attic contained.

“Oh, some old stuff from your great-grand father’s time, a trunk full of junk, and then some,” her father would shake it off.

Strange. Why didn’t these guys realize that an attic with relics such as those had a good chance of having stuff worth over lakhs of rupees, to say the least. And she wouldn’t let all that crumble to dust just because some gluttonish rat decided to make it an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet paradise.

“Here I come, Jerry.”

She pulled the cloth mask over her nose and mouth, and stepped into the attic. It was dark, though some light did come in from the squarish window on the far side. She flicked on her cell phone’s torch and searched for the light switch. It would be a wonder if it worked. But it did. A dusty 40-watt bulb flickered itself on. There were assortments. The odd trunk, everything covered in cobwebs, of course just like in the scary movies. The dampness inside made her suffocate. Luckily she’d sprayed on some fragrance into the cloth mask. She coughed her way around, looking for her enemy.

“Come out, come out..wherever  you are,” she whispered. The floor beneath her creaked.

“Aabha,” her mother called from below.

“I’m here,” she hollered back.

She could hear her mother cursing her for climbing up there.  She’d done it a few times as a child, but soon after had lost interest in it. Now, after almost 10 years, she had somehow decided that something really vintage was lying around there. And she decided to clean up the place, have an auction perhaps. In the garage.

“You’re nuts,” her best friend Aarti had told.

“Tell that when I laugh my way to the bank.”

Goodness..I can’t believe we live right below this trash can. It needs a thorough vacuuming.

She shone her torch at all the the nooks where light didn’t make it. No movement, just the good old cockroaches and lizards flitting around. Then she heard a distinct thump behind her, to the right.

 Aha.

 She turned slowly, crouching, and placing a few poison pellets below a smallish table, from where the sound seemed to come.

“Here ratty, ratty, ratty…” she whispered, and pulled back, waiting for the creature to come out. She sat still for a while, sweat breaking out on her brow. She breathed heavily, and looked around; mentally calculating the amount of time it would take to sanitize the place.

I’ll have to ask Rohan to get some guys. We need to take down the trunk first. And then…

She heard a thump from inside the heavy wooden trunk right behind her, against which she reclined, making her jump.

Shit, what was that…

She stood up and looked at the trunk. The thumping continued. She pulled the heavy latch out, and slowly opened the lid, shining her torch at the contents inside. The thumping was coming from a box. Her hands shaking, she clutched the handle of the box and pulled it out, placing it on the floor.

She then took a deep breath. Here goes…

She opened the lid. It was empty. What the…

She looked inside the trunk again. If it wasn’t the box, where was the sound coming from? She looked back at the empty box. The thumping went on. She frantically looked behind the trunk now, the suspense getting to her.

Come on…

She turned to check on the pellets. Looked like a whole colony of rodents in here. She walked over to another corner where she hadn’t checked. But the sound definitely came from near the trunk. She walked back and stood with hands on her hips. Hmmm.

She squinted her eyes, the dim light from the bulb making it all very hazy, but did she just see the box move? She crouched and kept looking at the box.

It did move!

She shook her head, tied back her hair tighter and positioned herself properly, on her knees. She shone the torch at the box now. Her heart pounding, she watched the box slowly changing its shape, while the sound continued. It was as if something invisible were squeezing the box right in front of her eyes. So it wasn’t wooden after all. Felt like it, though.

She watched as the box got squeezed some more, like dough, and melted onto the floor. Holy shit...

The light went out suddenly, making her drop her cell phone. She patted the floor around her to search, but she couldn’t find it. Damn, damn, damn. She was now scared to cross the ‘box’ or whatever it had turned into, and reach for the door, which she’d closed behind her. That was dumb, Aabha.

She cleared her throat and tried to shout her mother’s name, but nothing came out.

She then felt something cold, something liquid move across her feet. She pulled back with a scream that now escaped her lips, hoping her mom would hear her at least now. But the cold fluid just kept coming at her. Breathing heavily, almost weeping, she shrank back, trying to shake it off. But she couldn’t.

Caught unawares, she felt something push her roughly as she fell back.  She tried to get up but the force just kept pushing her down, until she was lying on her back,  unable to move her limbs or face. The cold liquid engulfed her.

****

Aabha’s mother stood below the attic and called out. She’d heard Aabha cry out. Not that it was anything new. She’d been hearing her scream ever since she was a small girl. But she didn’t reply now.

“Aabha, what’s it baby…are you ok?”

No reply.  She turned and left.

****

The light came back on in the attic; the small box had come back to its original shape, and was now rolling back into the open trunk.

But the thumping continued... a bit faster now.

****