“… And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
The last house on Maidan Street was abandoned for over a hundred years. It was an important household in its time of glory and was filled with visitors and guests. But that was a long time ago. Legend has it that the housekeeper killed his mistress after she refused to sleep with him. He cooked her and served the meat to the guests. When inquired about the mistress he only laughed and said, ‘she is with you. She will always be with you.’ A week later he went missing. Some thought he went mad and ran away, others who had heard him die never said a thing. But when they looked at each other their eyes seem to say the tales of horror that house held. Those who heard him die heard him shriek in agony of pain and denial, ‘I killed you! I served you to your guests! I killed you! You cannot be alive!’, they never steered from their beds or chairs. They knew what was happening. They knew it will happen again and again and again.
A shrieking silence pervaded the house and if anyone passed by it they did not remember or could not remember or would not remember if they saw something. Kids would dare each other to look inside the house and whosoever looked, always saw an incandescent green light. It made them sad and miserable and many kids later tried to commit suicide. Two died within fifteen days. They had burned themselves. One was five and another seven when they found their mangled bodies, meat cooked and smelling like feces thrown in blazing fire. People of Jhunsi like others in world living near such houses knew that the house was haunted and would never talk of it, not even if someone died.
On one gloomy day with sun hiding behind the clouds who grumbled angrily and wind dead in some remote corner of the world, Priya (who went to Kidz Academy and studied in grade two and had pretty brown eyes with ‘soft plump cheeks’ as her mother used tell her friends) played with her friends Manish and Nikita on the street while their parents slept or did whatever adults do when kids are not home without knowing what horror lurked by the corner of the street. Manish had sent the ball flying in the ‘Creepy House’ as the kids called it and it was decided that all would go to search for it. No one seemed to remember that the house was haunted or if they did they did not believe it or if they believed they did not care.
Priya looked at both sides of the wall which was once painted orange and had now turned ugly yellow with green patches of guilty moss sprouting from various places. The house looked as if a troll slept under his bridge and would wake up any moment if he heard some nasty kid trip-trap on it. Eerie green light seemed to illuminate it against the dark clouds. The children pushed the old rusty iron gates open and it shrieked angrily, its rotten hinges giving way miserly. They stepped inside quietly. There were dead and broken leaves and branches in weeds and they were afraid to make any noise. Priya turned her head to look around her to make sure no one was watching them. When the utter stupidity of her action struck her she uttered a high-pitched laughter but stopped suddenly as she heard many voices laughing with her, dry and cold voices they were. Rotten and dead voices coming alive from some spell broken by an ignorant child who walked into the castle without a thought. The laughter stopped when she was silent. Probably the echo, she thought. Manish and Nikita glared at her and told her to shush as they moved forward.
‘Is somebody here?’ Priya shouted and as she realized how dry and hoarse her throat was she shuddered. ‘Is somebody here?’ her voice echoed like cackling of wolves. She wanted to get out now. It was too much for her. But she wanted to go in too. The house looked so beautiful, so inviting, so cozy. (She wanted to get out. Why was she here anyway? To get a ball? No. To get… To get… She did not know. She could not remember.) She moved towards the towering house tugging at her golden black hair as she went. Her white frock trailed behind her. ‘Are you mad?’ Nikita whispered loudly. ‘What are you doing?’ But Priya did not care, she wanted to go in the house. The house was beautiful and inviting. ‘Let’s get out of here, I am scared,’ Manish spoke with a quavering voice. ‘Priya, let’s go,’ Nikita tugged at her hand. Priya looked at her gloomily and pushed her away. She said after a moment, ‘You go, I’ll follow,’ her friends turned away and ran out. The old rusty gates closed swiftly after them. They shouted for Priya to come but she would not listen. She could not listen. The house wanted her. The house was calling her.
She turned away from the gates and looked at her beautiful house. Yes, it was hers, if she wanted it. She moved slowly and stood on the porch stairs. (Why was she here? She did not know.) Somewhere far away she heard clouds rumbling. Clouds? No, it was the house, the house was breathing. It was waiting for her to come back. It was lonely without her. Now that she was here again it was happy, it was breathing and it was coming alive.
She looked at the black windows and saw smoking yellow light with green fumes coming out of them. There were some people looking at her gloomily. (Who are they? Why are they sad?) She looked away and fixed her gaze at the wooden door with monster faced handles to knock. The monsters were laughing at her, daring her to come inside, telling her that she will have fun. Many other kids did too. They were inside. They were playing. They were waiting for her. (Why was she here? To get a… only if she could remember.) But she did not want to remember. Oh it was so good to be numb, to get lost and not care at all. She wanted to go in the house and play with other kids. But her friends were outside. What friends? Those friends will grow up. These kids will not grow up. No one here grows up. And anyways they did not care for her. If they did they wouldn’t have left her in here. But why did they come here? (To get a… she could not remember.)
She stepped on the stairs and heard it crack vehemently under her tender pressure but she did not seem to care. She wanted to go in. She wanted to be with others. She wanted to have fun and play and dance. Dance? But there was no music? (She came here to get a…) She heard music roll out of the windows, out of the creeks of the door, out of every pore of the house. The house was inviting her. She was special. It was her house. She wanted to dance on the tunes. The tunes were enchanting, unharmonious. The music was so good, so unearthly, so soothing. She wanted to lose herself with its tunes. (But she came here to get a…)
She stepped further on the stairs and lifted her hand to hold one of the buckles so she could knock, she could join the fun. Her feet felt something. She looked down. There was a spherical thing rolling softly. She picked it up. What is it? (She came here to get a…) She tossed it out and heard some children shout. Who were they? Why were they shouting near her house? What is out? There is no out. There never was an ‘out’. There never will be. What children? It was just the wind. There is no one except her and this beautiful glowing house. It is her house if she wants it. There was everything inside if she wanted it. She could have it, she could have it all. She knocked heavily on the doors with its monster handles beating on their faces. The house groaned and shrieked and shook by the noise. The wooden doors flew open with a loud noise in complete darkness; all she could see was black. Priya gazed into the dark and saw her eyes going on and on in search to fix them on something. She gazed into the abyss for long and then abyss gazed with two red fiery eyes at her.
She was suddenly gripped by an unknown fear. Her legs trembled and she sweated furiously. Her teeth began to chatter and she found it hard to breathe. She could smell it. She could smell the eyes, like rotten meat but much worse as if it was being burned, as if poop was thrown in fire. She gasped as she saw the eyes grow wide and wide. She wanted to run but she couldn’t. (She came here to get something, what was it? What was it?) The meat burned and her nostrils flared by the smell. The eyes moved closer and closer. The eyes grew wider and wider. She could see the hunger in them. She could see the lust in them. She could feel deadly anger in them. She felt her limbs go numb. She wanted to run but her legs were paralyzed. They wouldn’t move. She wanted to shout but no words came out of her, only a gurgling noise. She turned to run but stumbled and fell on the ground and her face hit the wooden stairs sending crashing pain through her jaw and into the skull. Her mouth was filled with dirt and wood chunks. She spit it out with some blood, she had cut herself. She touched her face and her hand felt warm liquid gushing out of her cheeks (soft and plump). It was blood. Her dark-red blood was on her hands, on the stairs, in her mouth. As she tasted her blood she could sense the eyes on her, they were coming closer. They were coming for her.
She came here to get a ball. She realized with horror that she had it. She had it but she threw it. She lifted her frozen legs again to run. She took mouthfuls of dank and rotten air with the smell of burning meat and burning poop mixed together and tried to move as she felt hot wind on her neck. Except that it was not wind, it was breath of the monster. She turned and saw the monster with burning red eyes and sharp yellow teeth protruding from its rotten mouth. Before the monster lifted her off the ground and dug its claws in her she saw its scarred face from which little pieces of meat dangled like ribbons of a careless girl. Priya smelled the monster and for a fleeting moment was reminded of dead roses. It ripped her head off and crushed it as the blood spurted on its face which started to change. It sunk its sharp teeth in the red flesh of the girl’s meat and drank her blood with slurping noise, like a cat enjoying her daily milk. As the blood revitalized it, it began turning more rapidly. An eye of Priya saw a woman in white gown with golden black hairs with brown eyes and soft plump cheeks standing with her dangling body before it too lost all consciousness.
People of Maidan Street went to console the child’s parents and saw them hanging together by the ceiling fan. Police searched both the houses and found no trace of blood or anything suspicious. A report of missing child like many in India was filed and the case was considered solved or not worthy to be solved like many others in this unfortunate country. When the police left, Nikita and Manish saw Priya standing at the gates of ‘Creepy House’ and jeering at them. But she was much different, much beautiful, unearthly and dark. She was calling them to have fun like other kids did, like she did. They looked away but they would come, they would come another day. Priya knew it. They knew it. Next day everyone returned to their work as usual and children played without a care in the world. No one talked about it ever again, even when Nikita and Manish died and some families who were lucky enough managed to leave. The house was coming alive while children continued to die.