This story was written during the Duckbill Workshop in Delhi. The participants were asked to complete a story in a given genre. This is Tanu Shree Singh’s horror story. Our thanks to Tanu for allowing us to use this story.
They just stood there looking at each other.
“Why the hell can’t you jump a little higher?” yelled Sid.
“Why do you have to hit so hard?” squealed Gappu.
“I’ll deal with you later! First, you have to get it out of there.”
Gappu went pale. “ Bhai please. …not there. I will buy a new next month from my birthday allowance. I promise.”
“Now Gappu! Right now.” Barked Sid, now rolling up his sleeve. He was getting ready to try the new wrestling move he had ‘mastered’ from last night’s WWE match on TV. He called it the Death kick.
With tears welling up in his eyes, Gappu dragged his feet towards the wall that seemed higher than it had ever been. He walked around it and stood rooted in front of the rusted gate. The broken lock was still dangling from latch. Although, it had been ajar for years no one dared to set a foot in. They said, years ago, on a moon less night a thunderbolt had struck the lock. The peculiar thing was, Shakku Bai had told him one day while mopping, that it was a clear quiet night. The stars had been out and not even a single cloud had visited the night sky. Yet out of nowhere.
Gappu shivered almost hearing the bolt striking. The house from a distance looked like any other house in the lane. A closer look revealed the neglect on withering walls, peeling paints and decaying doors. The weeds in the garden had a life and will of their own. The walls once white were now a sinister grey with dirty green algae creeping up and muddy streaks of dirt crawling down.
Gappu’s clammy hands pushed the gate letting out a loud shriek from the never moved hinges. The top hinge gave away and the door screeched to a halt against the broken gravel pathway. He slid in. He was hoping that Sid would change his mind as he turned to look. Sid was there, his arms folded, sleeves still rolled up.
He was still contemplating that blow and Gappu knew it yet he decided it to give it another shot.
“Bhai can I please come back in the morning? It’s getting really dark…”
“Now! You wimp!” Sid snarled threatening him with clenched fist.
Few more steps, and the gate disappeared around the corner as he turned to face the wall that the ball had chosen to fly over. As twilight hit, the wall just looked even higher and darker. Gappu couldn’t see the wall anywhere near the wall.
“Where did it go?” Gappu’s choked voice croaked.
There was only one place left to check. With eyes firmly shut, he slowly turned around to face the house. Afraid of making even the slightest noise he held his breath. “Please God please not there.” Gappu mumbled as he opened one eye ever so slightly. His other eye popped open and his held breath was now more of quick short bursts of air as saw his worst fear come alive in the form of a gaping hole right there in front of him. The window already full of wild cracks running across now had a neat hole cracked right in the center.
With a whole army of butterflies fluttering in his tummy, Gappu advanced towards the dark hole and weighed his options. He was going to die either ways he figured. Still stuck in his thoughts of getting the death kick from Sid, he peered through the hole.
He pressed his nose against the glass but all the years of layers of dirt had made it impossible to get a clear view. Gappu fished his pocket to take out the neatly folded handkerchief mom had stuffed in. He wiped a neat circle at the corner of the window. Feeling somewhat bolder, he pressed his nose against the now clean patch, his breath nearly normal now. With a bolt, he fell back all air sucked out of his lungs. Peering through the neat circle was another face like him but with hollow eyes and missing nose.
“Have you seen my nose?” The boy’s icy cold voice hissed through the broken window.