The stranger

It was rather quiet for a summer night. When it started, the whizzing of the air conditioner and the wheeling noise of the pedestal fan as if had found soul mates in each other. After a while however the raucous noise had melted into the humid walls turning my ears receptive to sounds beyond the unkempt room that made up the most used half of my resting abode. Did I hear something?

I turned my gaze back to the novel, adventures of a certain sleuth, who with his famous accomplice would tackle the most intriguing cases with an ease of a seasoned artist. Quite a page turner, at the same time the fast pace soon had me feeling exasperated. I could feel a tiny drop of sweat forming on my temples and realised I was in urgent need of a glass of water.

The proverbial glass of water that lures one on a dark night to cross one’s safe boundaries of a bed to unchartered territory – a fridge in the kitchen, which may well be followed by an urgent visit to the dreaded toilet. The impact doubles after reading a particularly scary piece of work and when it is well past human waking hours. Not to mention the countless horror flicks one has seen which have popularised the situation to the point of a cliché.

Ah it is just a glass of water, and it’s just in the kitchen.

Beyond the safe realms of the bedroom, across the side length of the dining hall overlooking the balcony, in the corner of the kitchen where stood the tall white fridge which would have the much needed drink.

Just go and grab a bottle off the fridge and walk back to the bedroom.

Walk out of the bed; switch on the bedroom lights, then the dining hall, then the kitchen. Not to forget after getting the bottle, one has to switch off the lights in reverse order, ensuring the darkness follows you.

It’s not even a minute walk from the bed.

The comfy bed, which one has to get down from, watch one’s own shadow in the table lamp taking an oblong shape as you walk away from it, face the semi darkness of the room for a moment to reach the right corner of the room where the switch lay for, er, just the bedroom light. Not to mention in that journey the adamant need to peek a glance at the dark dining hall and beyond.

What seemed like ages, I kept on weighing the pros and cons of taking this now arduous and adventurous journey.

With a prayer on my lips I made up my mind.

The warrior in me marched ahead, switched on the bedroom light which immediately flooded the room and partly beyond in its yellowish white glaze. The irrepressible peek at the dining hall was impact less. After I had chartered a quarter of the journey, I was filled with hope and was raring to go beyond.

It was rather uneventful for the entire dilemma I had dealt with moments back. Walked straight across, didn’t bother to switch on dining lights, into the kitchen (again didn’t bother switching on the lights, bedroom lights had illuminated part of the dining and kitchen already) and opened the fridge. I grabbed the bottle and was about to move away when something made me look to my left, beyond the fridge, where lay a tiny window. I could hear rustling of the branch of the big Acacia tree that marked entrance to the apartments. I must close the window, it looked windy outside. I reached out to left half first and brought it close to me. Next was the right half of the window, but I realised then, once the left half is closed that would give a peak to the balcony. As if forced, I looked towards the left at just a part of the balcony that was visible.

I had not anticipated this. I felt trapped now.

In the clear moon light I could see silhouette of a male figure standing right at the right-edge of the balcony, which made him fully visible from the little kitchen window.

What made matters worse; he was looking away from me. Which meant the implications were countless.

I was sweating and knew I had nowhere to go now. What seemed a cakewalk moments ago now seemed a question of life and death.

Should I or should I not?

With little choice in hand, I repeated the prayer once more. Then surreptitiously I walked, with bated breath towards the kitchen door. The first step in the dining hall was the one which will decide my fate in this journey back home. But the irrepressible peeking desire cropped up its ugly head again. I looked to my right, towards the balcony which was just seven steps away.

The silhouette was unperturbed by my presence there, now again looking away from me, his back facing me.

Attired in what appeared like striped pyjamas it was the male figure, hands probably resting on the balcony. At least it was not the clichéd white clad whatever.

In next few moments I shocked myself. I was actually inching towards the balcony now, for what I didn’t know.

Still no change. He was still as before.

I took a chance. I stretched my horror stricken hand and gently tapped his shoulders.

In a flash, as if anticipating this, the figure turned around with an incomprehensible agility.

I had terror in my eyes, with mouth agape I watched the most horrific vision I had ever witnessed.

I saw me, smiling at myself.

****

I woke up from the hospital bed the following morning.

****

Fear is a strange emotion. The object it attaches itself becomes coveted yet despised in the same breath by the subject. What happens when the subject and the object cross their boundaries? Mayhem? You decide.

 

© “And Life Unfolds” and Subhendu Mohanty, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Subhendu Mohanty and “And Life Unfolds” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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