“Hey, you know I don’t like watching scary movies. Can’t we see something else?” cried Ruchi.
“Please honey, I’ll turn the volume down. Its been ages since I saw ‘The Omen’ !”, Amit replied, grabbing out for the packet of potato wafers that was lying on the table.
It was a normal Saturday night. Little Parth was fast alseep in his high-rail bed, surrounded by stuffed teddy-bears and soft cushions. Ruchi and Amit were enjoying a nice candle-lit dinner, after a week of hard work.
The movie went on for another hour, while Ruchi picked up an Anita Desai novel. For every page she seemingly read, she couldn’t resist peeping at the TV screen a couple of times. “How can such a little boy be so weird..so scary ?!” she thought to herself. “And what’s wrong with the men ? Their attention is rivetted on violence, horror and sex!”. Everytime Ruchi looked up at the TV screen, she shuddered with the piercing look from Damien. Damien looked so innocent, at the same time, his visage radiated an unknown evil, sending a chill down her spine. “Can this be true”, she thought to herself.
Finally, Ruchi and Amit retired to bed too. It was a cold, dark night. Suddenly a gust of air blew in from the window. Ruchi turned, and her ears perked, by habit, to hear the beat of the night-watchman. “Tap..Tap..Tap”. Feeling slightly safe, she went back to sleep. Then again, a gust of wind, this time, stronger. The curtains flew up, and there was this tinkling sound of a window shattering.
Ruchi jumped out of her bed, and looked around (a little selfishly) to see if their windows were still intact. “Tap…tap…tap”, the beat was still on. Suddenly, she noticed a ray of light streaming in down the hallway. “I am sure I switched off all the lights. Why is it on…did Amit go in for something ?” she wondered. She wore on her worn-out blue rubber chappals.
Those unbelievable stories of strange shadows in the dark, white figures without feet, tinkling sound of anklets, and disappearing faces, that she and her sister had heard in their childhood, had left an indelible mark on their innocent mind. As she grew older, she tried to convince herself that all that was only a figment of one’s imagination. Secretly, however, she was still afraid of empty rooms, of open spaces, and of the dark. Even when she went to fetch a drink of water at night, she looked straight ahead, turned on the lights, and only then entered the room.
She walked gingerly towards the kitchen, from where the light was streaming in. She saw a shadow traversing the entire length of the wall. Who could it be at this time of the night.. some prowling thief ? There was a tinkling sound, then a rustling, crinkling sound. “No, this tinkling..what can this be ?”, she gasped, in fear and excitement. Her heart pounded so heavily she could hear her own breath. There was nobody in the kitchen, but she could still hear the crinkling ! Perspiring, trembling and trying to be cautious, she grabbed the knife, and very slowly turned around, afraid of what might be. And there she saw, Damien standing right in front of the door. He was dressed entirely in white. His eyes were piercing hers. His lips were red and quivering, as if to speak out. His face was drained white.
“Shit”, Ruchi screamed and stumbled backwards, and the knife crashed to the floor !
“Parth, what the hell are you doing in the kitchen ??” she shouted, quickly realising the boy was only her son, who was supposedly in his bed.
Parth, probably more frightened than his mother, dropped his tinkling cushion-rattle to the floor. “Mummy, Daddy didn’t give me potato wafers, so I climbed up the pillows and came in to nibble some…”. The packet of Lays was still crinkling in his left hand.
“Phew”…Ruchi sighed…both relieved, and strangely, a wee bit disappointed. She grabbed the packet from him, threw it into the bin, and yanked him to their bedroom.
As she entered the bedroom and tucked Parth into his bed, she heard a “Click”. Turning around, she noticed the kitchen light had just been turned off. No more tinkling, only the tall shadow of a little boy, moving towards the balcony.