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by Satyarth Nayak (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 24-Jul-2015

TUESDAY 2.25 pm

 

‘PASS! PASS!’

Sancharika watched in glee as Mahi’s manicured fingers gyrated riotously over the result sheet on the college notice board. It had been just over a month since Sancharika had joined the city college and the two girls had forged an instant bond. Mahi had been dreading the semester tests and had even received a threat or two from her parents to perform well. Now this carbon stained paper was proclaiming that more than just scraping through, her percentage had soared higher than ever.

‘You liar! You told me you were going to flunk,’ Sancharika pinched her arm.

Mahi squealed in delight, ‘Guess I was underrating myself. This is such a relief. My parents are gonna love me to death.’

‘Now what?’

‘The canteen. This calls for a celebration. Where’s everyone?’

Moments later nine noisy souls were gathered around a red plastic table that could barely support its humungous load of deep fried noodles, steamed momos, chicken sandwiches and bottles of suspicious black fluid passing itself as Coke. They had all cleared the ‘sems’ and the world had become a giant carnival for now. They hardly noticed the canteen manager who was quieter than usual since his child back home was sick since last night. They hardly noticed the seventy year old lecturer who was dragging herself up the stairs to the principal’s office to plead once more for her pension. They also did not notice the two girls distributing yellow college pamphlets. Suddenly a hush descended as a pamphlet landed on their table.

‘Naved.’

‘Yes. It’s his memorial tomorrow at the auditorium.’

Sancharika picked up the paper. ‘I have been hearing about him. Last month right?’

‘Happened three days before you joined,’ Mahi shrugged. ‘Fell off the third floor of the main college building. They found his body early morning. Some say accident. Some suicide.’

‘He was a nice guy. Stayed two rooms away from me at the boy’s hostel. Quite studious too. Used to study late nights a lot,’ a boy chipped in.

A girl shivered. ‘Wonder if we shall ever know what happened that night. Things that can’t be explained are the most terrifying. Like déjà vu. What the hell is that? I keep getting it all the time.’

‘They even say our college grounds are haunted,’ someone whispered. ‘Some age old spirit I hear who knocks at hostel doors at night.’

Sancharika nodded. ‘I know. I was recently driving mom and dad back from a late night wedding and we were going past the college. I swear it felt like someone banged on my tinted windows. I simply fled.’

Mahi thumped on the table. ‘Zip it. I hate this stuff.’

‘What about you Mahi? Anything weird happened to you?’ someone asked.

‘Weird things don’t happen to Mahi. Weird things are done by Mahi,’ Sancharika giggled. ‘Tell us you freak. How weird have you gone? LSD? Heard voices? Sex with a zombie?’

Mahi made a face, ‘I have blood on my hands. Weird enough for you?’

Everyone erupted into a collective ‘ooooooh’.

‘And whom have you killed you monster?’

‘You! Mahi kills Sancharika. That’s gonna be the headline tomorrow if you don’t shut up.’

The group broke into peals of laughter as Sancharika turned the selfie mode on her phone and wiped her greasy lips with the yellow pamphlet.

TUESDAY 10.08 pm

Striker sat staring at the white and blue Facebook page. He opened his mouth and a red tongue protruded to coat the screen with a layer of saliva.

‘Striker! You filthy animal!’ Sancharika smacked the lhasa apso on her lap as she wrote a nasty comment under Mahi’s new profile picture. The dog whined and snuggled deeper into Sancharika’s arms.

‘Sorry baby. Look at Mahi. What the hell’s she wearing?’

Striker did not answer. Sancharika was looking at Mahi’s friend count.

531 friends … and she had 423

Suddenly a notification sound blasted through her headphones. A red alert had materialised above the friendship icon. A new friend request. Sancharika clicked.

‘Devan. Who the hell…?’

The profile picture showed no face. Just an enormous bicep with a curious aquamarine heart tattoo. Sancharika smiled. ‘Really?’

She scrolled up and down but the account did not yield a single image of Devan’s face. Just a lot of muscle and aquamarine hearts plastered all over. And then the chat window popped up. Devan was online.

HI … ADD ME

Do I know you?

NOPE ... THAT’S PRECISELY WHY ;)

Don’t think so ... you might be a loony stalker … or crazed killer

ARE YOU AFRAID TO BE MY FRIEND?

Sancharika’s fingers hovered over the keyboard. Then she replied.

Are you afraid to show me your face?

NOPE ... VERY SOON.

Why this mystery?

WILL YOU BEFRIEND THIS MYSTERIOUS MAN? WE CAN PLAY GAMES!

Games? Creeping me out!

WILL YOU PLAY?

Sancharika squeezed her pet’s fur. ‘What do I do Striker?’ She was staring at her Facebook page. ‘I can always unfriend the idiot.’

She clicked CONFIRM REQUEST. A new message beeped.

GAME ON.

 

WEDNESDAY 12.06 am

‘Devan? Is he hot?’

‘No idea,’ Sancharika whispered. ‘No mugshots on his profile’

‘You are crazy,’ Mahi coughed. ‘How can you befriend some random guy online? What’s wrong with you?’

‘He won’t exactly be gum in my hair Mahi. I can always delete him right?’

The college auditorium was packed for Naved’s memorial. Besides students and teachers, Naved’s parents were also present. A huge LED screen displayed the unfortunate student’s image. Sancharika had never seen Naved. She was watching his face.

Poor guy … looks so decent

The Dean was speaking now. Sancharika was still staring at the screen. She froze.

The LED screen was splitting into two. One half was still showing Naved’s image but the other half was displaying a page. A Facebook page. Her Facebook page.

Then a chat window opened.

It was Devan. He was typing…

READY TO PLAY?

Sancharika felt the auditorium swirling around her eyes. Her hands clutched her stomach as the muscles inside cramped violently.

My Facebook page?

She turned towards Mahi. She looked at her and smiled.

My god … my god ...can’t Mahi see it?

Sancharika looked at the screen again. It was there. Her Facebook page. The chat window.

Am I hallucinating?

The Dean was speaking. They were all listening. Students. Teachers. Parents.

What’s wrong with you guys? Can’t you see it?

The Facebook window. The message box. Devan’s profile picture.

She gasped.

Profile picture … his profile picture…..

The aquamarine heart tattoo. She had seen it somewhere. Somewhere right now. The heart. Somewhere…

There

She saw it again. The heart. The same aquamarine blue heart-shaped locket. The locket dangling from Naved’s throat.

Sancharika’s mouth opened involuntarily to scream but no sound came out. Her fingers clawed at her throat as wave of terror sliced through her body. She was gaping at something else. Name. The name.

NAVED

Her eyes picked up the five letters. They were rearranging them. One by one. In reverse order.

DEVAN

The red alert on her Facebook page echoed through the auditorium. She saw his message.

GAME ONE BEGINS TODAY

WEDNESDAY 3.33 pm

 

Sancharika sat staring at her reflection in her laptop screen. The auditorium was still clinging to her eyes. She had returned home and shut the bedroom door behind her. Her palm was suffocating her laptop mouse. Then she switched it on and logged onto Facebook. A red notification rested on the chat icon. He had messaged. She opened.

WATCH

A video clip was attached. Sancharika clicked.

She was watching Naved. It was the night he died. Someone was dragging him. Dragging him right through the deserted college lawns towards the main building. Naved was trying his best to wrench himself free but to no avail. The red cloth clasped around his mouth was muffling his pathetic screams. Nearing the main building, the attacker and Naved vanished into the darkness. The clip ended but not before she saw the other man’s face. The college watchman.

Her Facebook pinged. A new message.

KILL THE WATCHMAN.

Sancharika’s spine coiled in horror. She stood up with a jerk and her chair crashed behind her.

‘What?’

He was typing again and again.

KILL THE WATCHMAN.

‘You are crazy!’

KILL THE WATCHMAN.

She opened his Facebook profile and clicked ‘Unfriend’. Nothing happened. She kept pounding on the mouse. Nothing. Again. And again. Her nails were digging deep into the mouse now. Nothing.

‘Damn you! Get out of here.’

KILL THE WATCHMAN.

‘I am not killing anyone. Buzz off.’

Sancharika slammed the laptop down and left the room. Her mother was watching television in the living room. She flopped on the couch. Her mother handed her a mug of coffee. Sancharika was not looking at her. She was watching the TV screen. The mug smashed on the floor.

The serial had vanished from the screen. It was her Facebook page again. And a notification appearing again and again.

Devan poked you.

Devan poked you.

Devan poked you.

Devan poked you.

Devan poked you.

‘What is it Charu? What’s wrong? You are trembling.’

Sancharika was glaring at the television. She did not speak. Not a word.

Devan poked you.

Devan poked you.

Devan poked you.

She was silent. Still glaring. Moments later the Facebook page faded. She was looking at the serial again. She smiled.

‘Nothing mom. Sorry about the mug.’

Her phone beeped. It was Mahi. Sancharika returned to her room.

‘Hey Mahi. What’s up?’

‘What’s up with you? Have you lost it?’

‘Sorry?’

‘How can you put up such a sick picture on FB and tag us all?’

‘What picture?’

‘Striker’s pic. Is he all right?’

‘Striker?’

‘Yes Striker. What happened?’

Sancharika was not listening anymore.

Striker

She dashed towards her laptop and opened her profile.

‘Striker! Striker!’

It was her dog’s picture. The lhasa apso. Charred to death. The image was on her page. And she had tagged all four hundred twenty three of her friends.

Sancharika felt a rush of nausea churning inside her body and exploding through her mouth. The comments of her friends below the image were ripping her apart.

What the hell? Is this for real?

You are sick. Get a shrink Sancharika.

OMG … the poor animal.

Attention FB …  freak alert.

And a comment from Devan. A single word.

SAD.

Sancharika turned slowly. Her eyes were scanning the room.

‘Striker.’

Her bed. Her closet. Her bathroom.

‘Striker.'

As she opened her bedroom door, the smell of burning flesh ravaged her nose. Coming from the kitchen. She stood still for a second fighting the tears scorching her eyes. Then she dragged herself towards the stench. But the kitchen was clean. Nothing on the gas. Nothing on the floor. Her mother was there opening the windows. Then Sancharika saw it.

The oven.

There was smoke billowing from it. Her hands shuddered as she opened the oven door. Her mother was screaming. The next moment Sancharika collapsed on the floor.

 

THURSDAY 1.52 am

It had been a while since the clock struck one. Sancharika was slipping into her jeans. His message was still watching her like a one-eyed Cyclops.

KILL THE WATCHMAN.

‘You killed my dog but you can’t kill the watchman?’

GO PLAY.

Sancharika put on her black leather jacket. The night was chilly and the jacket had space enough to hold the knife. An eighteen-minute walk brought her to the college gate. The watchman sat on a chair puffing cheap tobacco. The red cloth around his neck was glistening under the street light.

The cloth he had tied around Naved’s mouth.

She stood watching him from behind. Then she took a step. Another one. And more. Her hands dug inside the jacket grasping the knife’s handle viciously. The cold metal was resting over her heart throbbing wildly against her rib cage.

KILL THE WATCHMAN ... KILL THE WATCHMAN.

Her heart was hammering faster now. Was the watchman hearing her heartbeats?

GO PLAY…

Screaming loudly Sancharika grabbed his hair and pulled his head back plunging the knife into his mouth. The man’s hands flew violently in the air trying to grope his assassin but she thrust the knife deeper and deeper and deeper.

‘I am sorry! I am sorry!’

The man was gurgling as Sancharika’s hand twisted the knife round and round inside his throat flooding his windpipe with blood. He dug his teeth into her hands but she pulled his head more to slide the knife further down. A minute later he was silent. She was still babbling frantically.

‘I am sorry! Sorry!’

The knife’s edge was peeking out of his neck. She pulled it out and looked at the bits of flesh and skin clinging to it. Stashing the knife back in her coat, she dragged the body and concealed it behind the bushes. Then she swerved around and puked.

 

THURSDAY 9.00 am

The corn flakes were turning soggy now.

Sancharika was watching a new video file.

The watchman had dragged Naved inside the main college building. He was now climbing up the stairs with him on his back. First floor. Second floor. Third floor. The third floor balcony. The watchman turned. He was staring at her. Not her. Someone else. There was someone else there. Another man was walking towards the watchman. She saw Naved staring at the man. The Dean. He gestured and the watchman hurled Naved off the third floor.

The red alert was on again.

KILL THE DEAN.

‘The Dean? The Dean murdered you?’

KILL THE DEAN.

Sancharika was pacing up and down her room. She folded her hands before the laptop.

‘Listen Naved. I understand your rage. Your pain. What happened to you is beyond horrible. They destroyed you and you want to do the same. But spare me. I can’t. I can’t go through this again.’

KILL THE DEAN.

‘No. I can’t. I won’t. Why me? Why me?’

IT CAN ONLY BE YOU.

‘I have done what you wanted. It’s done. I won’t anymore.’

YOU HAVE KILLED ONCE. YOU CAN KILL AGAIN.

‘I can’t.’

I CAN POSSESS YOU.

‘What?’

POSSESS YOU AND MAKE YOU DO IT. SHALL I?

‘You won’t dare.’

I DON’T NEED TO. YOU WILL KILL THEM. KILL THEM ALL.

‘Never. Never again.’

KILL THE DEAN.

She slammed her laptop down and pulled the plug. The next moment her phone buzzed. Her Facebook page had opened up there. An attachment was blinking in her inbox.

Her mother. Poisoned. Stretched out on the floor. Eyes bulging. White foam covering her mouth.

SHALL I UPLOAD IT AND TAG THEM ALL AGAIN?

‘Mom…’

NOT YET

SHE WILL STAY IF YOU PLAY…

 

THURSDAY 11.34 am

The peon outside the Dean’s office was humming a tune. He did not know that Sancharita was knocking on the back door and that the Dean and got up and let her in.

He did not know that she was telling the Dean what she had seen in the video clip. And that the Dean was denying it all and calling her a raving lunatic.

He did not know that the Dean was extending his hand to ring for him. And that Sancharita had lifted the giant brass paperweight and trampled his palm underneath.

He did not know that she was still grinding his palm under the paperweight and his finger bones were turning into dust. That the Dean was scratching her face with his other hand when she lifted the paperweight and smashed his skull. That she was smashing it again and again until his brain had turned into red jelly.

That she was saying Sorry.

That she had left the room through the back door and no one had seen her.

No one except Mahi.

 

THURSDAY 4.05 pm

Sancharika was standing under the shower. She had plugged in her laptop. The Facebook page was eyeing her naked body like an adolescent voyeur. There was no red alert yet. The only red was in the water cleansing her hands. She stepped out and lay softly on her bed. Her cell was ringing.

‘Mahi.’

‘Where are you?’

‘Home. Feeling unwell.’

‘The Dean is dead.’

‘Dean?’

‘Yes. Murdered in his room. Skull caved in with his paperweight.’

‘That’s horrible.’

‘You want horrible? Someone’s killed the watchman too. They found his body in the bushes with a gaping hole in his throat.’

‘Damn! Do they know who killed them?’

‘The police are everywhere. Asking all sorts of questions. I saw you coming out of Dean’s room today? What were you doing there?’

‘I…’

‘And why back door?’

‘I was…’

‘I called out but you just walked away. What were you … Sancharika? Hello? Are you? Why are you crying? What’s wrong?’

‘Mahi … I … I need to meet you.’

‘Of course.’

‘Tell you something.’

‘Tell me what? You are scaring me. What’s going on?’

‘I am coming. Are you there?’

‘Yes. In my hostel room. Calm down.’

‘It’s that guy. Na…’

Sancharika stopped. She had heard something. The Facebook ping. Him again. Messaging again. Disconnecting the phone, she clicked on the red icon. Another video clip.

Now what?

She was looking at Naved’s body again. The watchman and the Dean were looking at it too from the third floor. She squinted her eyes. Was his hand moving? Yes. He was moving. Groaning in pain. Not dead. Not dead yet. Someone was walking up to him. The Dean? Watchman? No. They were still standing on the third floor. Watching him writhing on the ground. This was someone else. Someone who picked up a rock and crushed Naved’s face. His body jerked in a single spasm and then lay still. The killer was looking up at the two men. She was smiling.

Mahi.

Sancharika was staring at that face with blank eyes.

Mahi.

The red alert lit up. She knew what the message was.

KILL MAHI.

She did not open the message. She was thinking of something.

What had Mahi said?

 

THURSDAY 5.22 pm

‘What had you said Mahi?’ ‘What do you mean?’

Sancharika had slammed the door to Mahi’s hostel room behind her. Mahi was gaping at her friend’s pale face and the dark circles under her eyes.

‘That day at the canteen. What had you said?’ ‘Canteen?’

‘You said you have blood on your hands.’

‘Did I?’

‘Not a joke.’

‘Of course it was. Just fooling around.’

‘Blood Mahi. Naved’s blood.’

‘What?’

‘You killed Naved.’

‘You are crazy!’

‘You killed Naved. He told me everything’

‘Naved? You spoke to Naved? You are insane. Get out of my room.’

‘You killed him, you devil!’

Sancharika’s fingers pounded over Mahi’s keyboard. A Facebook video had opened up on the computer screen.

Naved … the watchman ... the Dean... Mahi.

‘There. It’s you. You murdered him. This is all your doing.’

‘What is this? This video?’

‘You killed Naved and now Naved has made me a killer. The watchman. Dean. I killed them all.’

Mahi covered her mouth. Her hands were shivering. ‘You? You killed them?’

‘No. It’s all your fault. Why did you kill him?’

‘Shut up.’

‘Why? Why?’

‘Why?’ Mahi shrieked. ‘Because the idiot caught us. Me and Dean. That’s why.’

‘You and Dean?’

‘Yes. I knew I was flunking the sem. My parents would have butchered me. Everyone knew the Dean was a bloody pervert. He promised me the question papers if I pleased him well. We were in his room that night and Naved saw us.’

‘He always studied late night.’

‘Yeah. He must have seen the light go on and off in Dean’s room. He caught us and threatened to expose us the next day. We had no choice. The Dean had almost strangled him but he escaped and fled towards the college gate. He got out of the campus but the watchman dragged him back. That old fellow was loyal to the Dean and understood what was going on. Now you see why?’

‘You killed a man to clear an exam? A silly exam? You were my friend Mahi. You shattered my life.’

‘I had no idea. I had no choice.’

Sancharika nodded. ‘I know. I have none either. I am sorry.’

Mahi ducked in terror. ‘No. You can’t. Please.’

‘Sorry Mahi.’

‘I will confess. I will confess it all.’

‘I kill you or he kills me.’

Mahi’s eyes dilated as Sancharika’s fingers loomed over her face and coiled around her neck.

‘I am sorry Mahi.’

‘Wait.’

‘I am sorry. Are you sorry too?’

Her grip curled tighter and tighter. Six minutes later she was walking down the stairs hearing the commotion behind her.

 

THURSDAY 6.03 pm

They were having tea in the living room. Sancharika smiled. She hugged her dad and planted a kiss on her mom.

‘What’s up Charu?’

‘Nothing.’

She closed the door and crashed on her couch. It’s over. Getting up she signed into her Facebook account and opened Devan’s chat window.

‘All done.’

IS IT?

Sancharika frowned. ‘Of course. Mahi’s dead.’

I KNOW. HERE YOU GO. THE LAST ONE.

She gritted her teeth. Another video clip. Naved again. Naved running. Running towards the college gate. Out of the campus into the street. Looking at something. What was it? A car. A car was driving towards him. As soon as it got near, Naved banged on the car windows. Banged hysterically but the car did not stop. She saw the watchman dragging him back. She saw the car driving away. She saw the car and the car number.

‘My car.’

YES.

‘It was you.’

YES.

‘That night.’

YOU DID NOT STOP.

Sancharika’s breath was creating a wet film on the screen. She had asked him that morning ‘Why me?’ And he had replied: IT CAN ONLY BE YOU.

Not the watchman. Not the Dean. Not Mahi.

‘Only me. It was all my fault.’

She sat motionless. Then her lips moved. ‘Now what? You want me to kill myself?’

YOUR WISH.

He was messaging her again. A picture file. Clipping of a news report. She read the headline.

Student hanged for triple murder

YOUR WISH SANCHARIKA.

She was staring at the report. Listening to the loud banging on her door. ‘Sancharika. Police. Open the door.’

YOUR WISH.

‘Open the door Charu. They are asking for you.’

YOUR WISH.

She turned. Her clothes were tied together and hanging from the ceiling fan.

‘Sancharika. Open this door now.’

She was gazing at the fan. And the banging on her door. ‘Sancharika!’

WILL YOU DO IT OR WILL THEY DO IT?

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Author
Satyarth Nayak

Satyarth Nayak

Written: 3 Stories

Member Since: 19-Jul-2015

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