The phone rang. “Hello”, I said. “Hello”. No one responded. I hung up and all the lights went out. Nothing to worry about. Just a power out rage. I reassured myself as I had my palms curled into fits, cupped over the other, placed on my chest. The maintenance company I hired to keep the house in habitable conditions at all times must have forgotten to deliver their service for the week or month or God knows how long.

10:00 PM. It was useless to drive to the city and get someone to fix the issue. More than an hour’s drive was not reasonable at that time. But I couldn’t sit in this absolute darkness. Picture this. A 26-year-old young woman, full of dreams and a long life to live is stuck in a farmhouse, miles away from the city, lonely and abandoned, with a lake not far off, that lurks with spirits of the dead. No other human could be possibly present within that vicinity, no network to make calls and obviously, no access to the internet. The phrase ‘middle of nowhere’ was meant for this location. Oh! To add to the fun of it, this woman has poor vision at night. Recently diagnosed with night blindness, I was still trying to cope with the treatment process, going back and forth to consultation for a surgery.

I traced along the edges of the desk on which the landline was kept. My phone must be here somewhere. Yeah. Got it. I turn on the flashlight and look around. It was the hideout of a cartoonist and a painter. An escape house for isolation and to be cut off from the noisy civilisation. Of course I had a stash of scented candles somewhere.

Although I sold my paintings under a pseudonym and never revealed my true identity, my best creations came to life in this house. I sat under the moonlight, the room lit by candles, bright enough for me to see the plain white canvas in front of me and I would let my hands glide as though it was one magnificent performance of ice skating. Graceful, calculated, precise and captivating.

I noticed the ten percent charge alert on my phone and hurried into my office. I opened a few cabinets under the bookshelf, not being able to recollect where I put my little treasures. I found them in the cabinet attached to my desk. Six candles in all. It should be enough to last me till morning. I arranged them on my desk, knocking over a stack of paper – my drawings and doodles mostly, to find inspiration. I always have a lighter in my back pocket, convenient when I need to take a puff of cigarette to ease my nerves. Weirdly, it looked like I was going to have a witchcraft session there. Summon some evil spirit or maybe a sacrifice to the devil to help him rise to power.

The cartoonist in me should have been kidnapped and tied to a chair with plaster on Jessie’s mouth. Isn’t this how the stories start? A character alone and accidentally encounters things that are beyond the ability to be comprehended by our human mind as it exceeds the capacity of reality. Anyways, I didn’t ask for a manga inspiration in the dead of the night, so I should probably sit in silence to watch the candle wick burn, melting the wax around it, creating a small crater in the middle. I leaned back and dissolved into my chair, tired after the day’s journey.

I was supposed to be back in the country the next day but I changed my mind. Ah. How have I longed to run away from all the socializing and keeping that smile on my face. It’s too tiring to pretend. Not that I hate people. Socializing for me is like a vampire sucking out human’s blood. I get drained. So when I need to recharge, I fly thousands of miles just to be here. It is so quiet that if I concentrate, I can hear my heartbeat. The night crickets chattered occasionally, like they were following a beat to compose songs of their own. Who knows if they are having a party, celebrating something?

A gust of wind blew, that was strong enough to rattle the window in my study. The leaves rustle near the window. It was definitely not the wind. Silence evaded the room again. Could be a rat. I ignored. Couple of minutes passed into what felt like an hour or so, I heard the rustle again. This time it was steady, rhythmic and at spaced intervals. Similar to a person taking careful, small steps, delicately so as to not attract any attention to their presence. I saw it. I am not mistaken. My vision is certainly poor at night but there is enough light in the room for me to notice the shadow of someone’s head. Someone is outside. And they saw me. There are three categories of people who lurk around at this hour.

One, could be a burglar, two, a murderer who has dragged a dead body to dump it in this place hoping no one is going to find out long enough for the body to disfigure and three, a serial killer who just noticed and took interest in his next victim. Praying for least damage, it should be a burglar. He must have noticed a well furnished house with no one living in it and decided that tonight was the night to bring plans to action. Just take my car please. Spare me. There is nothing valuable in the house. Unless the person is interested in selling art pieces worth millions of dollars. No. No. Damn it. What was I thinking?

Adrenaline surges through my body, my heartbeat was similar to a car slowly picking up speed, my hands were cold and sweaty, my feet shook involuntarily and suddenly, that chair was the most uncomfortable seat. I turned away from the window, picked up a candle and hastily made my way out the door. I shut the door behind and closed all the blinds in the living room. I placed the candle on the table in front and walked towards the sliding door in the kitchen. The kitchen and living room were separated by a counter meant for dining that was barely used which made the room look huge and spacious. I then slid the curtains, creating a small peep hole for me to look outside.

All I could see was the headlights of a car. Not mine. Five figures gathered in front of the lights carrying bows and arrows, one had a crossbow and got into deep conversation. Looked like they were going over their plan. They must be here for the paintings. But no one knows that! The only people who know about me working as a painter under a different name were very few. And this place was supposed to be a sealed secret between me and my best friend. Unless… no. It can’t be. She wouldn’t do this. Would she? I watched motionless. They kept their heads down and nodded at times. One of them swung the bow over their shoulder, dropped the arrow on the ground and went back to the car’s trunk. They walked back with a bag in their hand. It looked big and heavy. More weapons? What is this? Planning to wipe my house clean?

My system activated the flight response at the wrong time. I hurried upstairs instead of making a call for back-up. Wait. If I remember correctly, the telephone was a dummy. I had brought it for the sake of aesthetics. How did it ring in the first place? I was too tired to pay attention to it. Now that was scary. My heart hammered against my chest. Sweat dripped from my forehead. I hadn’t realized how much I had sweat in that chair. The back of my top was almost drenched. I flick my lighter to trace my way into my art gallery. It didn’t help much.

I wouldn’t notice if someone was standing at a distance, watching me feel my way to the room, struggling to map my way along the walls with a lighter as if that would help me any better. Something is better than nothing. I whisper to myself. I turned the knob and entered the room that smelled like a mix of citrus and alcohol with a hint of metallic, the maintenance must not have been here for months. If the room is left with proper ventilation then this odor wouldn’t hit my nostrils that hard.

The room was partially visible, credits to the moonlight that broke through the glass rooftop. It was shaped like a tent top, half glass on both sides, allowing natural light to fill the room. I inched closer to the walls and traced the borders of the two huge portraits that were suspended on the walls. Those were my best masterpieces. One was worth a whopping two billion. The deal was signed and I had to send it to the buyer next week. That was the best auction deal I had secured so far. It had officially made its mark in the $63 billion art market. The rest were left to rest on their respective stands. The not so expensive ones. But still the pieces were worth a good fortune. How long would I sit here? If they found me here and had me cornered then that was the end for me. I had to go outside. I could drive away. My car keys were still in my pocket.

And it was too late. I stood by the door, with my ear pressed on it, focusing hard to hear anything other than my heavy breathing and the pulse that seemed to echo in my ears. The floor resonated with the marching footsteps. Unmistakably, one was the click clack of heels. They were here. The heels came to halt right outside the door. The silence was horrifying. A faint creak of the bow being drawn managed to sneak into the room through the cracks at the door. Seconds of stillness and the heels clicked farther away into the corridor.

I had to find my way back down while they were busy in the corridors. It takes me minutes to turn the knob and frantically pray that the door doesn’t give away my safety as it opens. I can’t see a thing. The corridor is as dark as the inside of a cave. The stairs are on my left and the predators to my right. Probably in one of the rooms, hunting for something valuable. I don’t know how much time I had. I had to trust this. I get on all fours and crawl my way until I reach the first step. I steady myself by gripping on the staircase. I fumble my way down. Just as I was about to celebrate freedom of getting away from a bunch of thugs, a male voice yelled, “someone is there! Go! Go! Go!”

Rushed footsteps were behind me, I broke into a run and bumped hard to the marble counter. My leg is hurt, my run is now limp. The headlights of the car were still on. I ran out of the door and locked the door from outside. I got closer to my car and noticed the tires deflated. A knife struck out from one of the tires. The driver seat in the other car was empty. I heard screams and mad fists punching the door. I did not have spare time to look back. I hopped into the car and raced to the highway. My body had not settled in, all sorts of fears creeped in. I didn’t dare look at the backseat. I would rather not look in the eyes of someone who would hold me at gunpoint later. My eyes remained on the road and I hit the accelerator, releasing it only when I had entered the city. I found a bar open in the street where every other shutter was pulled down. I killed the ignition and half limped, half ran to the counter.

I put some spare change on the counter and asked if I could use one of their phones. The guy seemed too surprised to question and pushed his keypad phone towards me. I dialed my best friend’s number.

“Hello. Hello? It’s me. Jessie.”

A concerned voice responded from the other end.

“Jessie? Who’s phone is this? Where are you? What happened?”

“I…I went to my usual place and saw some people armed with bow and arrows. I freaked out and I ran. My car… the tires were slashed. I drove away somehow. Help me now!”

“Wait. Wait. That was you? Weren’t you supposed to come tomorrow?”

“What do you mean?”

“Answer my question.” She demanded. I thought she had lost her mind. “Yeah. I wrapped up my work sooner than expected. So, I changed my plans and arrived a day early.”

“Oh.My.God. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I would only arrive in the evening, so I thought to call you in the morning.”

“Okay. It’s okay. Wherever you are now. Calm down. It was me back in the house.”

“Are you nuts? What period drama was set up? Archery and bullshit. Why did you go there without telling me?”

“Relax. Relax. I will tell you everything. Tomorrow is 15th October.”

“So?” I was starting to lose my cool.

“It’s your birthday dammit! I came to decorate the place and throw a surprise party for you since you were coming tomorrow. So I brought over our friends to help me. We planned to throw a themed party based on the character you had created. Remember your work? ‘Invincible Warrior’. We saw a car parked outside and thought it was a robber. So we decided to catch him in the act. But that was you?”

“Seriously? What robber would drive a fancy car?”

“Fancy? Honda Civic is not fancy. Which era are you in Miss. Millionaire?”

I felt my system readjusting itself. I took a few deep breaths, the wind outside was strong enough to freeze my beads of perspirations into little pearls of ice.

“I couldn’t find anything else to rent, okay? So you made the phone call on the landline?”

“What? Where are you? Are you in shock or something? That is a dummy phone for your so-called ‘aesthetic’ obsession.”

“Yeah. That.. I just freaked out.”

“Jess. You are delusional. Breath in. Breath out. And get back here. Also switch your ride tomorrow. It’s a shame for a famous personality to drive around the city in an outdated junk.”

I let out a laugh. “ How about a limousine, ma’am?”

“Will do.”

I hung up and hit the roads again. I rolled down the windows, wind blew over my face and I felt better. That was a bad scare. But one thing still stands out. I get goosebumps just by the thought of it.

The phone rang.

2 thoughts on “On 14th Of October

  1. Literally the ending was unexpected bro and It’s not the end of story. I’m eagerly waiting for next part.

  2. The story keeps you hooked and the level goes up with the story progress .and goosebumps garunteed. Great work

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Tue Sep 20 , 2022
Truecrimenerds About me Tejashwini P Hiremath here! I am a believer of, ‘paper has more patience than people’ as quoted by Anne Frank. I have […]

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