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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!


We checked into a guest house of the academic institution after eight in the evening. Somehow at that particular moment I couldn’t remember the exact details of our prior journey, just concentrating on getting settled there. Why I was there that too I didn’t quite bother about. However, since my colleague came along with me I was confident enough that it was an official trip. That it was a bit odd not to remember anything about the trip or the purpose of the visit didn’t cross my mind either.

The room was rectangular and looked fine, a little more spacious than standard rooms. From the entrance on the left segment of the room there was the double bed; on the left side of the bed there was a sliding glass-paned window giving a view to the front side of the guest house; a cupboard at the corner opposite the bed; on the right there was a table with three wooden cushioned chairs and beyond that there was the door to the rest room. I got curious when I saw another closed door on the left side of the rest room door, that is to say, on the farthest right hand corner from the entrance. From the design of the floor I was sure that the additional door couldn’t connect to another room. I decided to find out later what that interesting door led to. There was one more window on the right side from entrance; all curtains were drawn across since the AC was put on.

My colleague Srijay asked me repeatedly if I was comfortable and if I needed something more. Getting assured from my answers he left for his room reminding me to order supper positively before ten o’clock at which time the limited dining facility closed down for the night. I saw him to the door thanking him for his concern. As I closed the door suddenly I felt someone’s presence in the room. I whirled around to my left, and for a moment I was paralyzed with an uncanny feeling.

Standing before the drawn curtains of the window a short, stocky and dark skinned boy smiled up at me. I stared at him, nothing coming out of my frozen vocal chords. The boy grinned at me and said,
“Sir...you must’ve forgotten me! Why...I was the room service when you came here last time!”
Yes, I came here earlier too, but somehow I couldn’t place that boy, not able to remember if I met him last time. More than that I was very much occupied with the thought about how he got in. The attendant left after putting my luggage in order, and no one came after that; I was there with Srijay only. The fact that my mind was already a little blurred I took special care now to put things in proper focus, and my mind started racing which was interrupted by the boy again.
“Sir, don’t worry...you’ll remember later, of course. Please call room service if you need anything...and I’ll come again” With that the boy unlocked the door, went out and closed it from outside, all in a languid motion.

I stood there motionless for some time. Finally I forcibly put it out of my mind, and at the same time I decided to explore everything about the room. Immediately I headed for the interesting door past the rest room. I moved the door knob giving it a mild push to know if it was locked from the other side.

No, it wasn’t. I pushed further and the door opened into a sizable space giving the impression of some sort of a store room. But, why a store room was attached to the main room? Such a facility was never offered in any hotel or guest house where I stayed in the last few years. The room had some old wooden furniture and few wooden racks scattered here and there. Straight ahead there was another door, and immediately I moved towards it to find out what was lying beyond, my curiosity at the peak now. As I neared the door something moved on my right. There was a big old wooden rack covered fully with a white sheet from top to bottom, and below the bottom shelf the cloth was hurriedly pulled inside. Someone must be hiding under it! I got really scared now, a chill running down my spine.

“Who the hell is there?” I shouted at the top of my voice. Nothing happened for a few moments. And then, the cloth was thrown aside, and there emerged the frame of frail old lady with unkempt hair, sunken eyes and protruding cheekbones glaring at me, and in a flash trying to jump on me. She called out in a sick shrill, “Give me money...give me food...now...or... I’ll devour you up, you wicked man!” More in fright than the danger of a physical assault I instinctively rushed towards the door as the sickly woman charged after me. In a flash I opened the door, pushed the rushing figure through it and locked it from inside. I had no time to see what lay beyond that door as I planned to earlier. I’ve locked this door, and now I’ll keep that ‘interesting’ door of my room permanently locked never bothering about it, but I’ll surely report this matter to the manager, I promised myself.

Outside the door the shrill rose to a crescendo now, and I hurriedly turned around heading back for my room. I took only a few steps when I heard a scratching noise slowly rising in volume. I whirled around again looking at the door. Someone was trying to crush open the door. Who could it be? That frail lady couldn’t possibly emit so much force? I stood there transfixed. The scratching became a hammering now. The door started shaking violently.

My God...it was giving away, I watched in horror! The top door hinge was almost gone; the middle one was getting jerked uncontrollably. If that gave away the single-piece door would come off. I must do something now...and fast.

Instinctively again, I rushed towards the door. My plan was to push the door out along with the intruder to the other side, possibly crushing her or him under the door, then rush back to the room, locking the ‘interesting’ door securely and call reception. Only one factor was beyond my control—I didn’t know what lay beyond that door, and what was the number of my foes, only the lady or more...  
                                                                                                    ...(To Be Continued)

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